November 22, 2004

Inept Already

So I don't remember if I mentioned this here or not, but a couple weeks ago, our washing machine broke. (A week to the day, incidentally, after our dryer had been repaired. Why, oh why, couldn't they have both broken—and been repaired—on the same day? I mean, they were obviously scheduled to break after four years, right? How hard would it have been to make sure that they broke on the same day?)

I'd been washing the second and final load of baby clothes (and drying a load of regular clothes) when I noticed a burning smell coming from the laundry room. Of course I assumed that it was the dryer burning, since that had just been fixed, and I wasn't entirely convinced that it had been fixed properly because the Check Lint Screen light remained on even after the repair. While sniffing around behind the dryer trying to discern from whence the burning smell was emanating, I noticed that the washer was in soak mode (that is, it was just sitting there, mid-cycle). I figured this was normal for delicates, but as I continued searching for the source of the burning smell, I realized that the washer had been in soak mode for a LONG TIME, and that the lights on the control panel actually indicated that it was Spinning, not Soaking.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've found the source of the burning smell.

I ended up having to fish all the baby clothes out of the washer (which, thank god, had already run through the rinse cycle), wring them out as best I could, and dry them for about two hours. I then called Sears, scheduled a repair, and bailed out the washer *almost* all the way (the belly made it difficult to reach down to the bottom, and after carrying six buckets to the bathroom sink, I was tired). What usually happens when you schedule a repair with Sears (or at least, this was my experience with the dryer) is that the repair guy comes out, looks at your machine, declares that you need some part that must be ordered, and says he'll be back in a week. If you happen to get *our* repair guy, he will also call at 7:15 on the morning of the scheduled 8-12 repair window and say he'll be there between 7:30 and 7:45.

This is indeed what happened with the washer. After arriving at 7:45am last Monday, poking around in the control panel for a while, and asking to see my manual, the repair guy declared that we needed a new motor (something I could have guessed for myself, based on the burning smell and the fact that the washer would neither spin nor drain). He said it would come in a fairly large box and be heavy, and that he'd be back in a week to install it. (Keep in mind that at this point, we'd been laundryless for a week already.)

Twice last week I had to push my little-old-lady wire basket down to the laundromat at 21st and Sansom, contracting all the way, to do a total of four loads of laundry, so I wasn't the least bit annoyed when the repair guy called at 6:55 this morning to say that he'd be there between 7:15 and 7:30. Who cared that this man obviously had no sense of which hours actually fall between 8 and 12? I WAS GOING TO BE ABLE TO WASH CLOTHES AGAIN. IN MY OWN HOME. No tokens required, no funny smell on the clothes from the super-perfumed detergent the guy before you had used, no freaking out when a piece of your clean underwear falls onto the skanky laundromat floor as you pull your things out of the front-loaders. THIS is why you become a homeowner: To have your very own washer and dryer.

So the repair guy gets going around 7:30 this morning, and at quarter to 8 he comes upstairs looking for me. "Are you done already?" I ask, since it usually doesn't take him long to install parts. "Almost," he says, "but you've got something stuck in your pump, so I'll have to replace that too. I'm going out to get one off the truck [he actually had a part with him! it's a miracle!]; while I do that, can you find me a tub that's lower and smaller than a bucket?" I tried showing him a few options, but he didn't like any of them. He ended up asking if he could use a container that had a bunch of random desk stuff in it instead. I dumped it out, handed it to him, and said go ahead.

While he struggled with the basin and the pump, I asked how the pump could have gotten clogged. "Overloading the washer, usually," he replied. I assure you, people, that this is something I NEVER DO. And I certainly hadn't done it with the baby clothes load... hm, wait a minute. Baby clothes. Small items. Is it possible something small had been sucked into the pump? Those of you with psychic powers already know the answer, right? Well, for those of you without psychic powers, the answer is YES! Yes, it is possible that something very small can be sucked into the pump EVEN IF YOU DON'T OVERLOAD THE WASHER. That small thing turned out to be... a single blue sock. "Oh," I said, when the repair guy told me that the sock was the culprit. "I guess maybe I have to hand wash those?" "Nope," he replied. "Just get one of those mesh bags. See ya."

So it turns out that Sears is off the hook for not properly coordinating their washer/dryer breakdowns. They may have been at fault for the dryer, but it was me and my inept baby sock handling that took out the washer. I haven't even had the baby yet, and I'm already fucking up as a parent. This tip about the mesh bag wasn't in any of the books I've read so far (although it's true I haven't finished any of them yet). I called my sister to see if this was common knowledge among parents who do laundry, and she said, "oh, I knew about the mesh bag, but I always thought it was so you didn't lose the socks." Right, INTO THE PUMP. So for those of you pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant people who didn't know about the mesh bag, now is your chance to buy one and USE IT. You'll save yourself a lot of hassle with Sears (or with the owner of the laundromat if you're doomed to do your laundry in public). And, of course, you won't be stuck with one mateless blue sock.

Posted by Lori at 8:13 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
December 4, 2004

Birth Announcement

Austen

Austen
November 30, 2004
3:36pm
7 lb. 2 oz. ~ 20 inches

Mom: Swollen, sore, covered in bruises from failed attempts to place an IV, and completely ecstatic.
Dad: Already a stunningly good diaper changer and swaddler, and quite possibly even happier than mom.

Gory details to follow when everyone's had more sleep.

Posted by Lori at 10:37 PM
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December 7, 2004

Help Around the House

burrito rollI'll continue with the Gory Details posts shortly, but I wanted to give a quick real-time update first. Austen turns one week old in less than an hour on this, his original due date as calculated by the LNMP method. So far, so good. I am regularly violating the "sleep when the baby sleeps" rule—apparently I value time to myself far too much—so Al has proposed that I limit my computer use to one session a day without the power cord. When the battery runs out, my time is up. (No fair using the Dell with the backup battery in the CD drive slot, either.) For this reason, blog posts and e-mail replies will be sporadic. I still have to squeeze in occasional showers in my time spent not sleeping.

my mom and dad enjoying AustenMy mom is here helping us for a week or two; when she realized that Al would be staying home from work during the same time, she wanted to know what we needed her for, and wondered whether it wouldn't have been better to come in January, when Al's back at work. I think she understands exactly what we needed her for now: Mostly, an extra set of hands and feet. Al and I are doing really well caring for the baby, but I'm still limited in how much I can get around in what our contractor calls The House of Stairs. Mom has been charged with picking up painkillers and baby supplies at CVS; entertaining Austen while I'm in the shower; running up to the nursery (which is on the third floor, along with the guest room) to bring down more Onesies and bathing supplies and diapers; washing baby clothes in the kitchen sink and our things at the laundromat (yes, the washer is STILL broken; I finally lost it with Sears this morning, and they apparently heard the desperation of a new mom suffering through one diaper malfunction after another in my voice and agreed to come out this Thursday rather than making me wait until December 14—WTF???—which I was told yesterday was the first available service date); bringing me food and tea in the master bedroom; and helping me sort through the two boxes of baby clothes and paraphenalia that nj and Morrisa sent us (thanks, guys! I had no idea we'd need so many Onesies).

Val made this Onesie at our baby showerDad stopped by last night on his way home from a jobsite to see the new kid, fix our garage door (the spring and cable snapped on one side about a month ago), and help Al get a Christmas tree at Home Depot. He stayed overnight and then left around noon today. As you can see, I have a very helpful family: My sister, who drove my mom up on Friday, brought us a ton of food, some diapers, and some Christmas clothes for Austen, and my aunt Jancy came by on Sunday with some extra newborn gowns and more food for the fridge. She and mom also did a Trader Joe's run for us, so we're set on the yogurt and snack front as well.

Austen is as cute as ever, and seems to get cuter every day; I really could stare at him for hours. It's fun to watch him growing and changing right before my eyes. Breastfeeding, which resulted in cracked in bleeding nipples in the first few days, is still somewhat painful, though only for the first few minutes after he latches on. He now seems to be on a regular schedule of feeding every 1.5 to 3 hours, with one 5-hour-or-so stretch per day (and I do mean per DAY; we're hoping that it moves to nighttime soon). He's regained most (but not all) of the weight he lost in the first few days after birth, but he's still definitely newborn size. blogging and breastfeedingEveryone warned me about how he'd probably never need Newborn size diapers, and not to buy too many size 0-3 months clothes because he'd only wear them for a week, but he's really not very big. He's at the low end of the growth charts, and with the aforementioned diaper failures, we're changing outfits almost as often as we're changing—yes, Newborn size—diapers, so we exhausted our supply of 0-3 month clothes by Sunday morning. (Why I lost it with Sears should now be obvious.) Thanks again to nj and Morrisa and to Jancy for supplementing our supply.

My hands and arms are still covered with bruises, and my feet and ankles are still so swollen they look more like polar bear claws than my usual slender-heeled 7-and-a-half Ds (ironic, considering that I didn't swell at all during the pregnancy), but the swelling in my upper legs has gone down a bit, and I'm down to one Percocet every 4 hours instead of two (plus one fat Motrin every 6 hours). Yesterday I also got to see the kitchen (two short flights of stairs down) for the first time since Saturday, and I've since visited it TWICE (!) more.

The battery life on the Powerbook is draining steadily (and so is my right breast, necessitating one-handed typing), so that's all for now.

Posted by Lori at 2:50 PM
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December 8, 2004

The Things You Do

I can't believe I just got down on my hands and bare knees on a hard wood floor, with my exposed right breast hanging dangerously close to the dust bunnies and old Wall Street Journals that I never got around to reading this summer, just to fish the tube of Lansinoh out from under the bed.

Posted by Lori at 11:30 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
December 11, 2004

Oh, The Difference a Week Makes

Things I can do this Saturday that I could not do last Saturday, the day we were discharged from the hospital:

  • Ride in a car on pothole-infested Philly streets without crying.
  • Distinguish my ankles and the tendons in my feet (and, it follows, fit into my shoes).
  • Get on and off the toilet without assistance.
  • Climb stairs one leg per step without relying heavily on the handrail to pull myself up.
  • Get up from my chair while holding the baby (well, most of the time).
  • Get into bed by myself.
  • Get out of bed by myself (most of the time).
  • Fit into my H&M maternity courdoroy pants with the adjustable waist (they're even loose now, and the waist is being adjusted inward on a daily basis).
  • Walk—albeit very, very slowly—to Whole Foods and back.
Posted by Lori at 11:06 AM
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December 19, 2004

For Jean: A Post Featuring Photos of Al and the Baby

Austen and dadI'm obviously behind on the blogging; there's one more installment of The Gory Details to post, some more recent photos of Austen are in order, and I have some bathroom reviews waiting in the wings (the reviews will now include an assessment of the changing facilities as well as the paper goods). I hope to rejoin the Washington Post- and New York Times-reading public in the near future, and to resume commenting on politics, government, and Philadelphia soon.

Right now, however, my focus is on getting used to parenting and tending to Austen's every need. Tomorrow parenting may well consume me entirely, leaving nothing but ashes behind by the time Al gets home from work. Yep, that's right: Tomorrow Al goes back to work. I'll be here by myself. (Well, for most of the day; I expect the washing machine repair guy to keep me company for at least 15 minutes, and if the washer isn't fixed by the time he's done installing yet another motor and a new control board, he'll be held hostage here all day until Sears agrees to get me a new washer IMMEDIATELY.)

Al watches TV with AustenAnyway, I'm a little nervous about being left here alone with the baby tomorrow, but hopefully I'll be able to manage. I (and Austen) may just have to endure a little more crying when I put him in the bouncy seat or the Pack 'N Play instead of handing him off to Al when I have to pee or refill my water bottle or get something to eat. Actually, judging by how erratically I've been eating even *with* help in the house, being alone with Austen might mean that I don't eat at all.

We just tried out the Baby Bjorn on me, and we found that it's not an option for now as the straps fall right on an extremely sore part of my anatomy. So there goes my mobility tomorrow. :( Al suggested that the car seat might be the best option for moving Austen around the house with me without having to hold him, but I reminded him that I'm still not supposed to lift anything heavier than the baby—and the car seat is pretty heavy on its own, even without the baby in it. Rats! Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out how to get out of the house for a walk, seeing as how the front steps are very steep and shallow (and there's no handrail), and the egress from the garage is blocked by the combination of the car and all the plywood and drywall that's being stored there by the contractor for our closet project.

I might be stuck in the house tomorrow, alternately feeding the baby and, if I'm lucky, blogging. Eating and peeing and running the dishwasher will just have to wait.

Posted by Lori at 6:25 PM
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December 20, 2004

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

  1. Breastfeeding is both painful and wonderful.
  2. As soon as the baby latches on, you will have to pee.
  3. It's easier to change a diaper than to change the sheets.
  4. As soon as the guy from Sears leaves, the washer will start to smell like it's burning up.
  5. When you finally get a chance to sleep—and you MUST SLEEP—you won't be able to.
  6. Even if you go to bed at 6pm, you won't actually put your head on the pillow until after 11.
  7. Big boobs are a total nuisance.
  8. If you had a relatively normal figure before pregnancy, you will have Jane Mansfield's figure while breastfeeding. Alas, you will not have her wardrobe, and all your clothes will look ridiculous on you.
    • Corollary: If you had Jane Mansfield's figure before pregnancy, you will have the figure of a porn star while breastfeeding. Your clothes will look ridiculous on you whether you have the porn star's wardrobe or not.
Posted by Lori at 10:07 AM
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December 25, 2004

Mother and Child

Austen and dad

Merry Christmas from Lori (l), Austen (r), and Al (photographer).

Posted by Lori at 8:03 PM
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December 30, 2004

Serving Eighteen to Life

Dear Friends:

After one month, I can tell you that parenthood is fine; it is pretty much what I anticipated. The best news is that Austen is both cute and relatively healthy. (The worst is that I now understand what my friend Michele meant when she said that after her son Owen was born, she would fantasize about going to a hotel so she could get some sleep.) I have adjusted, however, and am very busy.

My world is like an old-fashioned college campus—without the freedom, of course. Where I once used to walk all over the city and stay out for hours, I now limit trips to about 10 blocks in length or one hour in duration. This lessens the chance that I'll have to use any of the supplies in the diaper bag or bust out a boob in the middle of the CVS. I know that eventually I'll have to change my baby in public (for the record, I had to change an extremely poopy diaper in the Ladies' room at Sears last week—mainly because the Men's room didn't have a changing table—but I enlisted Al's help that time. Anyone who had a problem with it could find another bathroom, dammit), but I'm trying to postpone that day for as long as possible.

I am fine, really. I look forward to Al getting home from work each day, to getting back to my valuable blogging, to creating, baking, and taking photographs. I have not had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, or time to eat anything but chocolate, but I have had time to swear at the top of my lungs at 3am and to contemplate the future (and at 3am, it makes my hair stand on end). I've had my work here too. Feeding has been my job—first the left boob, then the right, then the left again, for hours on end, with only thirty- to sixty-minute breaks in between—but there's also diaper changing, laundry, soothing, rocking, singing, walking, and much more. But like every other new parent, I would rather be doing all of this during the day, and sleeping at night.

I want to thank you again, and again, for your support and encouragement. You have been so terrific to me and to Al. I appreciate everything you have done, your emails, your comments, and your kind, kind words.

Happy holidays,

Me**

Posted by Lori at 9:17 PM
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December 31, 2004

The Indispensibles

Austen wearing the babyGap hat while in the fleece-lined carseatAl and I were talking over the past couple days about the baby clothing and supplies that we've found most useful (and that we've wanted more of), so I decided to share our list. Your mileage may vary, of course; a few of the things we've liked best were specifically dismissed as useless by Baby Bargains, the pediatrician who spoke at our childbirth class, and relatives. Likewise, a few recommended items have gotten almost no use at all. Remember that every baby is different—and that stuff that might be great for a city baby born in November or December would be superfluous for a suburban kid born in July. These are just our observations.

Herewith, our list of The Indispensibles:

The gray felt BabyGap hat Allison and Lester got us. They also got us a matching coat, which we haven't had occasion to use yet, but the hat gets daily use. Austen seems to like it when the brim falls down over his eyes when he's in the car seat/stroller, and that same brim helps seal out the cold when we carry him in the Baby Bjorn outdoors. The handy chin strap keeps the hat on, unlike the hats we got from the hospital, which constantly ride up and eventually fall off.

The bundleMe fleece carseat liner we inherited from nj and Morrisa. I don't know if they ever used it (it's possible; Northern California winters can be damp and chilly), but it's absolutely necessary here in frigid Philadelphia. (Well, usually frigid; for some reason, it's been near 60 lately.) Austen seems very cozy and happy in it, and when we zip up the sides, it bunches up nicely to form a windbreak in front of his face without impairing his breathing.

Several mid-weight suits with feet, preferably with easy access to the diaper area. Al prefers the ones with zippers; although I am completely inept at working the snaps, I like the ones with snaps across the crotch and down both legs because they provide better access to the diaper. I don't mind the zipper ones, even though you have to unzip the whole suit to change a diaper, but I have no use for suits that snap only down one leg. We have about five suits in Austen's current size, and we bought another one today because they're easily soiled with spitup and diaper leaks. Why we like them: They're perfect for around the house, which we like to keep at a brisk 65-70 degrees, and for under the fleece carseat liner when we go out for walks.

The hooded terry-cloth towel Jean got us. This was the only hooded towel we received as a gift, and I don't know why it didn't occur to us to buy more before Austen peed on this one right after it came out of the wash. We got a second one today with the same giraffe design that's on the shirts, booties, and bib Jean also got us, so that we'll always have a clean one ready at bath time.

The pile of spitup bibs that everyone got us. This is one of the things that Baby Bargains said was virtually useless, so I didn't tap our stash until recently. I finally decided to give them a try when I got sick of running through all our footed suits in one day because the collars were soaked with spitup, and I've found them quite useful. I prefer the ones with velcro closures to the ones with string ties (easier to get on and off a wiggling child), and my favorite is the SUPER soft fuzzy blue one with the bear face on it, which I think my cousin Margaret my sister got for us (thanks, Lisa!). It's not only incredibly cute, but also fairly absorbent and soft enough to wipe a newborn chin with.

Baby socks. I live in perpetual terror of one of these accidentally making it into the wash outside of the mesh bag, but they're essential enough that we've set up a system where baby socks go in a separate laundry pile rather than discontinuing their use. These are the items that the pediatrician declared to be useless, because "babies kick them off anyway," but Austen keeps them on long enough to do some good (and often for all of the 48 hours or so between baths). When the washer was broken we often ran out of suits, so Austen would hang out in a Onesie or a gown, and his feet would get cold. We still use the socks when Austen wears a gown, and also under the footed suits if we're taking him outside in the Baby Bjorn. (Thanks to my sister for getting us about 8 pairs, and to nj and Morrisa for giving us another dozen more.)

The aforementioned mesh laundry bag. Without this, I'd have to hand-wash the baby socks or risk losing another washer to the black hole known as Sears Repair Service.

Super-soft baby washcloths. We haven't been able to find anything like these in the stores around here, so we're grateful to have gotten about four or five of them in the boxes of hand-me-downs from nj and Morrisa. They're small, thin, and as mentioned, super soft—easy to manipulate during bathtime, and not too rough for Austen's delicate skin.

The peri bottle we got from the hospital. This was supposed to be for me to use post partum, and if I'd realized when Al stashed one in the suitcase that he intended to use it for Austen's bath, I would have horked another one. As it is, we're currently sharing. Anyone who's had a baby will know what I use it for (hint: it's called a "peri" bottle for a reason); at bathtime we use it as a hand-held shower to rinse any soap off the kid.

Fleece sleeper bags. These are similar to the suits, only without the feet. They obviate the need for blankets, keep Austen cozy, and also give his feet room to move—but not too much room. We had one (the first article of baby clothing we ever got), and we bought two more today.

In addition to the above items, we're grateful for our large stash of Onesies (thank you Lisa, nj, and Morrisa), which are great alone and under suits, and t-shirts, which are perfect under the sleeper bags. We also recommend:

  • The Diaper Dekor diaper pail (thanks Lisa!), which is easy to use and good at containing smells, though since it's the only pail we've used, we have nothing to compare it to (well, it's DEFINITELY better than a plastic shopping bag from Whole Foods hung on a doorknob).
  • The bouncy seat (thank you Tony and Maria) is also a key apparatus for any mom who wants to take a shower or pee without holding the baby while doing it. For obvious reasons, we keep ours in the bathroom.
  • A Boppy (thanks Mom and Dad), which saves my arms while breastfeeding. Al uses it too, when he's trying to calm Austen at night (mine aren't the only arms that get tired holding a kid). Some people swear by the My Breast Friend nursing pillow, which I haven't tried, but the Boppy works fine for me.
Posted by Lori at 11:36 PM
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January 5, 2005

New Year, New Life: The One-Month Bonanza of Randomness

It's a brand new year, and 2005 brings a brand new life (and lifestyle) to the Hylan-Cho household. It mostly involves getting by on less sleep, eating with one hand, and lots of baby-calming trips up and down I-95 for Al and walks around town with the stroller for me. In fact, I find I can function without a daily nap, but I can't function without a daily walk. Why? Because if I didn't distract Austen with a walk, he'd want to eat all day—and frankly, my nipples can't take it. (Neither can his tummy; we're going through spit-up bibs and footed suits at a phenomenal rate.) Anyway, Austen had his one-month checkup at the pediatrician today (even though he turned one month old last Thursday), so I decided to post about where we are after a month.

Al and I had a bet going about how much Austen weighed; we could see that his cheeks doubled in size overnight last week (it was almost alarming), that his arms and legs now had rolls of fat where once they were skinny, and that his Onesies and footed suits no longer hung on him, but we weren't really sure how much weight he was expected to gain in a month. Last week we decided that the over/under was 10 lbs., with me voting under and Al voting over. When we moved decisively into the size 1 diapers over the weekend, however, and as the pains in my upper back became more acute as I carried Austen around the house, I started to think Al was going to win this bet. He did, handily: Austen was 10 lbs., 10 oz. today. He was also 22.25", which was a stunner for me. We knew he'd gotten taller, because he bumps his head on the wipe container when we change him on the Pack 'N Play, but I honestly had no idea he'd grown almost two and a half inches. Good lord!

What's shocking to me is that some people's babies are BORN THIS SIZE. Personally, I'm glad we had a medium-sized baby, even though being able to push him out turned out not to be a concern. It's hard to imagine *starting* at this size and missing the month of tinyness that we enjoyed. I'm also not sure I could have carried a baby this big around in the first couple weeks after the C-section, but I'm sure people do, since a huge baby is often the cause of a C-section.

I mentioned that we're getting by on less sleep in the first paragraph, so please don't ask if Austen is sleeping through the night yet. He isn't, and frankly, we didn't expect him to. He is smiling now, though, which makes all the screaming, the waking every three hours to eat, and the thrashing and snarfling in his sleep seem like not such a big deal. Between the smiling and the SpongeBob-like snoring he effects when snoozing in the Baby Bjorn, I want to kiss him so much that I've practically worn a bald spot into the top of his head. (I only scream "AUUUUUUSSSSTEN, WHAT DO YOU WANT???" every other day or so; the kissing is a daily affair.)

As for me, I gained 35 pounds with this pregnancy, and I've lost a little over 20 of them, which my friend Eric the math whiz could tell you leaves 15 pounds to go to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. None of my regular pants fit yet (actually, I only tried the largest pair, and I only did it for shits and giggles—I didn't expect them to fit), but the Gap Body yoga pants I wore throughout the first trimester fit great, feel comfortable, and look nice, so I'm in no hurry to return to my skinny jeans. I'll get there when I get there. In the meantime, I've invested in a couple pairs of Old Navy jeans (on sale for $20 this week!) in a size that fits, so I have something warmer to wear than the yoga pants when it's 20 degrees out and windy.

I sometimes worry that I'm a little too subdued for Austen; that is, I'm a loner by nature and like the quiet and solitude afforded by my non-working lifestyle, and I wonder if he finds me boring, or whether he'd rather have a mom that tried to engage him with toys and that scheduled play dates with other new moms. I try to remember to read out loud to him instead of just to myself, but invariably when I reach a longer magazine article or pick up a book, I revert to my old silent, reading-without-moving-my-lips habit. I do sing to him regularly, however, sometimes even actual songs with lyrics that go beyond the "Annie boopster, Annie boop-boop-boop-boop-boops!" ditties that I used to sing to our beloved feline friend, and he seems to like that. He also seems to like Soul Coughing songs, which is a good sign; in month two, I'm going to try out Radiohead on him.

Oh, and we do have a new washer now. I'm very grateful for this, but as I discovered as soon as the Sears guys finished installing it last Tuesday, doing laundry while holding a baby (whether he's just in my arms or in a front carrier) is extremely strenuous. This is why, when Austen fell asleep after the 8am feeding one morning last week, I stuck him in the Pack 'N Play and dashed down to the basement to get a load out of the dryer, move the last load from the washer to the dryer, start a new load, and sort the remaining dirty items instead of going back to bed myself. (I did eventually get another 90 minutes of sleep after Al left for work.) This is also why I gave Al an extremely dirty look when I woke up next to a puddle of leaky-diaper pee the next morning and his response to my lament was, "at least we have a functional washing machine!" Great, more laundry for me. >:( The good news is that after a few days of laundry hell and with Al's assistance over the weekend, I'm now caught up. We even have enough of each kind of clothing for the moment that I can wash clothes every other day as I used to do pre-baby. Yay!

Posted by Lori at 4:58 PM
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January 11, 2005

The Borg and The Bunny Dip

Today I have two observations on parenthood: one from me, and one from Al. See if you can guess which one is which:

Observation #1: Austen is like the Borg. Not in that he's trying to assimilate everything and everyone, but in the way that once you use a weapon against the Borg, it adapts, and that weapon is never effective again. This accurately describes our experiences in trying to get Austen to sleep each night. There's not much that's routine yet in our house, but if there's one thing we can count on, it's that Austen will go ballistic—whimper, scream, nurse, thrash, wimper, scream, repeat—sometime between 8pm and 10pm and stay in that mode until midnight or 1am, when he drops peacefully off to sleep, looking so sweet that you can't quite believe he ever cries or even soils a diaper. In trying to get him into this peaceful sleep state, we have tried swaddling, rocking, walking, side-lying, pacifiers, shhhing, turning on the vacuum cleaner, driving up and down I-95, and drowning out his sobs and screams with our own. What works one night won't work the next... but it might work again next Thursday with some slight modifications.

Observation #2: In order to get anything done while wearing the Baby Bjorn, you must become proficient at the Bunny Dip. Remember A Bunny's Tale, that TV-movie based on Gloria Steinem's experiences as an undercover Playboy Bunny, with Kirstie Alley as Gloria Steinem? Anyway, one of the things Gloria learns as part of her Bunny training is how to place a drink in front of a patron without her boobs popping out of her costume. Instead of bending forward at the waist as any normal waitress would do (and as the waitresses at Hooters do in hopes that their boobs *will* pop out of their costumes), Bunnies are taught the Bunny Dip: standing with your right hip adjacent to the table and balancing a tray in your left palm, you remove the drink with your right hand, slide your right foot forward, arch your back, reach behind you, and place the drink in front of the gentleman.

A similar maneuver is required when putting away laundry, loading the dishwasher, and doing other household chores while wearing the Baby Bjorn. The Baby Bjorn Dip goes something like this: standing with your right hip adjacent to the dresser and holding baby's butt through Bjorn with your left palm, slide your right foot forward, arch your back, reach behind you, and place the sock in the drawer. Unfortunately, performing this move while wearing a Baby Bjorn rather than a Bunny costume won't earn you any tips.

Posted by Lori at 3:08 PM
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January 15, 2005

I Hate That Fucking Sling

On the advice of a coomenter, and because I'm willing to try just about any solution that costs less than $40, I went out and got a NoJo BabySling. Oh, how I hate that fucking sling. It's supposed to be SO WONDERFUL for the baby that on top of feeling thoroughly frustrated by my inability to get the damn thing on and him in it at all, much less without hurting my back and shoulder, I also end up feeling guilty that I'm denying my child this incredible developmental experience. The only factor mitigating that guilt is that Austen so obviously hates the sling, too. Of course, the knowledge that I'm causing his frantic screaming by trying to wedge him into the freakish contraption brings on an even bigger tidal wave of guilt and insecurity, not to mention a flop sweat.

The "instructional" video that came with the sling (which, like the chapter devoted to babywearing in Dr. Sears' Baby Book, is more promotional than instructional) says that with a little patience, babywearing will become easy and enjoyable. I already suspected that I was too impatient to be a parent, but thanks, Dr. Sears and NoJo for making me feel too stupid for the job on top of it.

Honestly, I'm trying, but I don't know how many more chances I can give this fucking piece of crap before I toss it into the fucking fireplace.

Posted by Lori at 8:44 PM
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January 16, 2005

Austen Interactive

I'm excited to report that Austen, while still mainly an eating, sleeping, and screaming machine, has lately become much more interactive. He sits in my or Al's lap for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, several times a day, and stares, smiles, makes faces, and coos at us. It's captivating.

coycluelessquestioningadventureouscutesurprisedcurioussillystarving

Posted by Lori at 5:11 PM
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January 20, 2005

These Dreams

In the past week, I have dreamed the following:

  • I met Dooce. I knocked on her door, asked, "are you Heather?", introduced myself, and the next thing I knew, we were going on a girls' night out with some other women. Dooce was pregnant again and looked great. I was surprised that she'd decided to have another baby so soon, but I didn't say anything (except that she looked great).
  • I was lying in bed one morning, with Austen on his back next to me, looking like his normal six week-old self. He turned to me and said, "Mommy, can we please cuddle?" followed by another phrase I can't remember now. I do remember telling Al what he said later on in the dream.
  • I accidentally screwed up a setting in the Movable Type preferences, and when I went to write a blog post the next morning, I found 25,312 spam posts on the site. (Not comments—POSTS.) Interspersed with the spam posts were entries from well-meaning regular readers attempting to alert me to the problem. I couldn't believe that many entries were added without filling up the server (and therefore corrupting all my MT databases).
  • Austen (again, his normal six week-old self) climed out of his Pack 'N Play and stood up on the changing table. Alarmed, I told Al that we'd need to find somewhere else for him to sleep—preferably some kind of crib or pen with higher sides.

I had several other dreams that I can't remember the details of now, but what they all had in common were themes and subjects that I've never dreamed about before and no source in reality that I could discern. Normally my dreams have regular themes, and I often dream of the same places or situations repeatedly. I remember waking up after each one of these recent dreams thinking, "wow, that was a strange thing to dream about" or "why would *I* dream about *that*?"

I wonder if it's because I'm so sleep-deprived. I remember reading an article once about a study that showed that after being awake for an artificially long time (e.g., 24 hours straight), people would drop directly into REM sleep. That would certainly account for an increased number of dreams, but does it also account for the increased variety of dream themes? Perhaps I've been dreaming about these weird subjects all along and just didn't remember it because I wasn't being awoken several times in the middle of the night by a hungry baby. Anyway, it's a puzzler.

Posted by Lori at 8:30 PM
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January 21, 2005

One of Us is Tired, The Other is Sleeping

I'm exhausted, Austen's sleeping

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January 24, 2005

Trapped

I have two rather long blog posts half-written; I'll post them as soon as I get enough free time (and free hands) to finish 'em up. At the moment a blizzard has trapped me indoors with the kid for the second day in a row (although yesterday Al was here to relieve me). Today we are enjoying the view out the window and seeing who can cry louder.

Posted by Lori at 3:53 PM
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January 26, 2005

We're Out!

I managed to get the car out of our snow- and ice-covered alley driveway, so I'm able to send greetings from the Apple Store at the King of Prussia Mall. If you count double strollers as two instead of one, there are more strollers in the mall than people. Is it always like this? I'd never noticed before. Anyway, I can't get anyone to help me at the moment (apparently Macs and iPods are in high, high demand), so I have time for a bathroom review.

Nordstrom
Location: King of Prussia Mall, King of Prussia, PA (2nd Floor)
Shortest route to restroom: Enter from the top of the parking deck, and make a sharp left. From the mall, make a left at the piano and walk toward the glass doors. The restroom is on the right.
Ease of access: Excellent.
Quality of facilities: Excellent. While this isn't the cleanest restroom I've ever been in, Nordstrom is the gold standard in terms of Women's Lounges. There's a Mother's Room complete with a padded changing table, sink, and chairs and couches for nursing. There's also a general lounge area, which is where I sat to nurse Austen (I liked the big brown couch). There are paper towels, seat covers, automatic faucets, and plenty of soap—not to mention the lovely, live piano music that's piped in. (Caveat: When thr piano player takes a break, Nordstrom pipes in the same dorky instrumental music that The Weather Channel plays during Local on the 8s.)

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January 26, 2005

Mall Material

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I LOVE THE MALL!! Our trip there today totally changed my outlook on life. I went from feeling insanely sleep deprived, cooped up, cranky, and just plain insane to feeling cheerful and productive. It's probably because the baby slept almost the entire time we were out—even through a diaper change. He woke up to nurse and to smile at me periodically, but there was no crying. Amazing how the absence of crying can improve one's mood.

I know I'm going to pay for all this sleeping later (by not sleeping at all myself), but boy, did we have a good time. The best part is that Austen's wide awake now and charming the pants off me by mimicking my every move, from sticking his tongue out to flailing his arms (I'm sort of dancing in my chair). He's even cooing in response to my singing. Wouldn't you be happy, too, if you had a day like this?

Posted by Lori at 5:31 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 27, 2005

So Close, and Yet So Far

I mentioned in a previous post that if we didn't get out of the house at least once each day, Austen would want to nurse practically non-stop. (This is the main reason I've been going so nuts with the snow-in.) If we can't get out (or in between outings, if we can), I spend all my time either nursing him until he conks out or trying to make him think of something other than nursing.

It occurred to me this afternoon that walking Austen around the house in the Baby Bjorn isn't the best way to distract him. I used to think that when he rubbed his nose violently back and forth against my chest he was just restless, but I now think he's hoping to wear a hole in my shirt so he can get to a nipple—trying to dig his way to China, so to speak.

I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out, especially since I've long been able to distinguish the "I WANT TO NURSE!" cry from any other. It's more of a bark or a roar than a cry (or a bark surrounded by a cry); phonetically, I think it'd be spelled RRAHR. If I deny him for too long and then finally offer him a nipple, he'll often RRAHR at me one last time before he latches on to let me know that HE'S BEEN WAITING, DAMMIT.

Last night when I tipped him on his side and held him in the crook of my arm (otherwise known—to him—as "nursing position") in an attempt to soothe him to sleep, he started shrieking OPEN THE FLAPS! OPEN THE FLAPS! like a hysterical Han Solo. Or at least, that's what I thought he said; it might have been "nyah! nyah! rrahr! nyah! rrahr!" Hard to tell on so little sleep.

We occasionally try to pacify him with, well, a pacifier (binky, dummy, nuk-nuk, whatever), and sometimes it works so well that we can't quite believe it: he's asleep in seconds, and stays that way for hours (6 in a row, in fact—a new record!—last night). Other times, he howls angrily as soon as the silicone touches his lips. My favorite reaction—or at least, it would be if I weren't already at my wits' end with all the screaming—is when he accepts the binky for a few seconds and then spits it across the room as if to say WHAT IS THIS FRAUD YOU HAVE PERPETRATED UPON ME? To paraphrase a former boss of mine (who actually said what she said in an official review): my son does not suffer fake nipples gladly. Bring on the skin, baby. RRAHR!

Posted by Lori at 4:37 PM
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January 30, 2005

Leaky

Whenever the subject of breastfeeding comes up, my mom likes to tell about how when I was a baby, every time I cried milk would shoot out of her breasts in response. As horrified as I'd been by the prospect of projectile breastmilk, I tried to prepare for the possibility. (I'm happy to report that as of last Sunday, when I originally started writing this post, it had never happened to me.) What I hadn't prepared for was the constant leaky faucet-like dripping that seems to defy any containment system.

I first learned of the leakage issue when Dooce mentioned it on her site (and re-reading the post now that I have an 8 week-old baby, I realize how true everything she said is); I'd never heard of breast pads before that, or considered why one would need such things. In my 9th month of pregnancy, however, I decided to buy a box of 40 Avent Breast Pads just in case I, like Dooce, leaked at night.

At the time I remember thinking that 40 was a lot—and that "breast pads," while an accurate description, sounded (a) gauche, (b) like "maxi pads", and (c) confusing, given that so many other maternity-related items were also called "breast this" and "breast that". I announced that in our household we would call them "coussinets", which was the French translation on the box.

Fast-forward to my first couple weeks home from the hospital, which included lots of incredibly painful breastfeeding (YES, I CHECKED THE LATCH! sheesh!)... and an enormous amount of leaking. I went through all 40 of those Avent coussinets in no time flat. Luckily I remembered that Morrisa had included a couple boxes of the Medela brand (120 total) in the box of baby clothes she'd sent us, and I sent my mom up to the third floor to get them.

When I saw how thin those Medela coussinets were, I was fairly skeptical. I tried them, though, and found them to be much more absorbent (and comfortable) than the Avent brand (although the word "coussinet" appeared nowhere on the Medela box; thank god we bought the Avent ones first, or we never would have known about the French translation). Unfortunately I didn't really get to take advantage of that extra absorbency because soon after switching to Medela, I read that the pads should be changed as soon as they got damp to prevent chapped nipples. (And boy, did I have chapped nipples!)

After almost three weeks of breastfeeding, my nipples were still so sore that after a nursing session my bra felt like it was made out of fire ant-infested fiberglass insulation. I got some breast shells to give them a break—and to provide some protection from the ill-placed straps of the Baby Bjorn. Note: It's important that you know, in case you didn't follow the link above, that these shells are "vented on the top to provide proper air circulation" and come with "highly absorbent foam inserts protect against leaking." OK? OK.

The first time I put the breast shells on, I thought, "wow, these things really work! My nipples don't hurt nearly as much!" (Never mind the angry red circles that appeared around the nipples; I didn't notice those until I took the shells off, and they didn't actually start to hurt until the circulation returned to that area.) I was thrilled. Yay, breast shells!

I'd had the shells on for about an hour that first time when we decided to take Austen out with us to run some errands. Al got him in the car seat and set him on the floor next to me. I bent over to put on his hat... and promptly spilled like a liter of breast milk through my bra, through my sweater, and onto the floor. (OK, maybe it wasn't an entire liter, but it made a huge puddle.) See? Aren't you glad you knew that the shells were "vented on top to allow major spillage when you bend over" and come with "easily overwhelmed foam inserts that do nothing to prevent leaking"?

I had to learn the hard way that (a) the extra foam inserts weren't included in case you lost the first set, (b) the shells needed to be removed every 30 minutes or so and the foam inserts wrung out, and (c) I shouldn't plan on bending over with the shells on unless I had a couple of the coussinets stuffed in my bra as backup. I eventually decided that the shells weren't worth the trouble and abandoned them.

I am still so leaky, however, that I haven't been able to abandon the coussinets, despite the fact that they, too, sometimes fail me. (Or I fail them; TWICE last week I accidentally put them in backwards, with the adhesive side facing in. OUCH, OUCH, OUCH.) I think I've gone through 5 boxes of 60 Medela coussinets, and I'm halfway through box number 6, despite attempting to conserve (i.e., screw the chapped nipples). I've been advised to try the washable cotton inserts, but I can't help but think that I'd need like 40 pairs in order to keep up with the leakage and the laundry.

Think I'm exaggerating? Last Sunday morning, around 3am, I woke up in that puddle of breast milk Dooce mentioned in her post: the one the coussinets were supposed to prevent. This time it wasn't my fault; I hadn't put one in backwards or upside down, and neither had the adhesive failed, causing it to slide out of position. No, what happened is that I SOAKED THROUGH THE DAMN THING. It was so saturated that it couldn't hold another drop of milk, and again I ended up with a wet bra, a wet t-shirt, and this time, wet sheets.

This weekend saw a repeat of last Sunday—as well as an episode of the dreaded projectile milk—thanks to a combination of Al's soothing and Austen's sleeping that allowed for 6- and 7-hour breaks between feedings. My breasts have obviously not adapted to such a long stretch of disuse. The good news, if there is any, is that I was actually able to collect almost 4 oz. of milk over two nights just by standing over an open Avent bottle, no pumping necessary.

Posted by Lori at 10:38 AM
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February 7, 2005

More On Sleeping Through the Night

Austen slept for 7 hours straight on Saturday night (and I didn't soak the sheets with breastmilk!). It was lovely, for a couple reasons: (1) I also got to sleep for 7 hours straight, and (2) I didn't end up lying awake in bed at 4:30 in the morning thinking about missing files.

This morning Austen woke after only 4 hours, and after an only partially-successful attempt at feeding him in the side-lying position, I found myself awake—with pasty mouth, burning eyes, and swirling thoughts. I finally managed to finish the feeding at 4:45, but despite a desperate desire to get back to sleep, I couldn't help mourning lost belly photos.

And then I thought, "I *know* I burned a CD off my Windows machine before the baby was born." So I got up, went downstairs, and prepared to pry open the CD burner in search of it. No need: When I removed the stack of papers waiting to be filed from on top of the burner, the CD revealed itself, gloriously labeled with phrases like "belly_web", "remodel_web", "cruise_web", and "blog images".

It's not everything, but it's a start. The belly photos I'd been trying to re-construct for the pregnancy archives were all there. Annie's memorial pictorial was there. Our trip to Mechanicsburg. The photos from our "last hurrah" cruise and kitchen remodel (links coming as soon as I rebuild the ~ lori and al ~ blog). As soon as I finish uploading, I can go back to bed.

Of course, that's when Austen will wake up.

Posted by Lori at 5:36 AM
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February 7, 2005

Apologies for Anxiety

To those of you who started visiting avocado8 during the pregnancy (or the election; they were going on at the same time)—and also to those who've been reading this blog for years—I want to apologize. Not for all the broken links, but for blogging about all the broken links. Just because they're tormenting me doesn't mean they should be tormenting you.

To attone for my recent bout of manic-depressive blogging, I offer this photo of Al and the Beaner watching the Super Bowl last night. (Too bad the Eagles didn't win!)

Al and the Beaner watching the Super Bowl

Posted by Lori at 9:17 AM
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February 8, 2005

Our Newborn is No Longer Newborn-Sized

When Austen was born, he was a very average newborn size—and next to me and Al, he was downright tiny. We could hold him in one arm with no trouble whatsoever. He wore Newborn size diapers and Newborn size clothes. Many of his 0-3 month sleeper suits were too big. At six days old, his head circumference was in the 10th—the 10th!—percentile, news that almost made me wish I'd been able to have a vaginal birth. His height and weight were somewhere around the 16th or 17th percentile.

At his one-month checkup (which he got at 5 weeks old), Austen had lept into the mid-30s percentilewise and was fast approaching 11 lbs. It was around this time that I remarked to Al that had the Incredible Hulk been born rather than developing as the result of an overdose of gamma radiation, Austen is probably what he would have looked like. I could swear I could see Austen's clothes shrinking and ripping as his little body expanded.

At 8 weeks—just after the big blizzard—I had to make an emergency run to the Baby Depot because Austen outgrew even the biggest of his 3-month sleeper suits, and both of the 6-month sized ones we got from nj and Morrisa were in the wash, the victims of spit-up and diaper leaks. He never even got to wear a few of the 8-11 lb. onesies his cousins made for him at our baby shower, and I think he only wore the suits his godmom bought him for New Year's a couple times each.

Over the past three weeks or so my back has started to ache so badly that it often wakes me up at night, and I began to think that perhaps Austen was expanding faster than I could build up the muscle strength with which to lift and carry him. (For those of you thinking, "lift with your knees, not your back!", I've been doing that, and now my knees hurt, too.) We knew Austen had to be at least 12 lbs. because of the way his clothes fit, but since our pediatricians' office is quite busy, he won't be weighed officially until he gets his two-month checkup... at three months. We decided to try the step-on-the-scale-alone-and-then-step-on-with-the-baby method after his bath on Sunday to get an approximate weight. Ladies and gentlemen, that scale said he weighed 15 POUNDS. Granted, this probably isn't a very accurate method, but as my friend Shannon said recently... holy crap, Batman!

Austen is 10 weeks old today, and he's now straining the Velcro tabs on his size 2 Huggies. The snaps on his 6-month suits are about to pop around the diaper area, and they already have around his neck. (Like both Al and me, Austen's torso is long for his overall height, so he still has a little room in the suit legs as long as he doesn't point his toes.) Everyone who sees him comments on how big his cheeks are, and every woman who even peeks into the stroller—complete strangers on streetcorners, I'm talking about—asks me if I'm breastfeeding.

It's starting to wig me out a little. All I can do is reassure myself that Austen's healthy, alert, and interactive. He sleeps and eats well. He poops and pees normally. And he's super cute.

Austen on 02.04.05

Posted by Lori at 9:01 AM
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February 9, 2005

Yummy!

I now understand why mothers are always talking about eating their babies—noshing on chubby thighs, swallowing cute little cheeks whole, nibbling on tiny ears. It's because BABIES SMELL SO DARN TASTY.

Posted by Lori at 1:47 PM
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February 15, 2005

Sunshine Day

When I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts, we'd always look forward to the day when you could finally go outside without your coat after a long winter. Usually that day would be in the 50s, a temperature that would cause you to don your coat in fall but that in spring felt wonderfully warm. Today was that day here in Philadelphia.

I managed to get outside for no less than *three* walks today, which probably accounts for my good mood despite a relatively sleepless night. (The sleeplessness was my fault, not the boopster's—he slept for about six hours straight.) Austen was also in a fabulous mood today, whining only rarely and crying only once, if I remember correctly. [Aside: It always bugs me when people ask if Austen is a "good baby", as if there's such a thing as a "bad baby", but I suppose the people who ask are imagining a string of days like today when they think "good".] Austen seems so far removed from the squawking little alien we brought home from the hospital 11 weeks ago.

Austen, alert in his strollerIt's not just a size thing, although he is, admittedly, huge. It's that he's alert and hyperinteractive and vocal and happy. There's more to him now than just sleeping, eating, and crying. He now has smiling and singing and flailing to his very own iTunes playlist in his repertoire. He spent an amazing amount of time awake in the stroller today, which made the walks even more enjoyable. And to top it off, we explored a new neighborhood and took some photos for about town II (I'll post them over the next few days). Yay, it's a sunshine day!

Posted by Lori at 8:38 PM
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February 27, 2005

The News From Babyland

The title of this post is what I say to Austen when he babbles at me while getting his diaper changed: "Are you giving me the news from Babyland? Well, what's the scoop? Give me the dish!" Here's what's been going on:

Austen with crazy scientist hairA sign that perhaps I should dial back the junk food consumption
Al, while changing Austen's diaper: "There's a little spot of poop on Austen's onesie. Do you think I should change it?
Me: "Nah, not if it's just a spot."
<LATER>
Me: "Yeah, good call on not changing the onesie. That's not poop—it's chocolate."

Once a dad...
Last Friday night I was still awake (and working in the living room) when Al got home from hockey. I heard the garage door open, but I didn't notice if it shut or not. I know I didn't hear Al come in. Next thing I know, I hear Al shrieking. Thinking that he's being attacked in the back alley, I leap out of my chair and race down to the garage... where I find him struggling with the car seat base in the back seat of the car. The shriek was a shriek of frustration.

hands... yum!"Did I wake you up?" he asks. Me: "No, I was working. I thought you were being attacked... I... I need a moment." Because my emotions are very close to the surface these days (closer than usual, even), and I can't shake the image of my husband being hurt or killed, I start to cry. Al takes me in his arms... and starts to pat me rapidly on the back. I lift my head off his shoulder and start laughing. "That only works with the baby," I say.

And for dessert?
While I've been feasting on chocolate, Austen has been feasting on his hands. (Apparently I'm not the only one to whom they look tasty.) He has them as an appetizer before meals, for dessert after eating, and occasionally as a mid-meal palate cleanser. The drool is starting to puddle on the floor around him.

Austen camping out on the couchNo more slouching, but lots of tipping over
Austen's latest obsession, besides his hands, is with sitting up. The bouncy seat he used to love hanging out in is no longer in fashion, as it only allows him to recline at an angle. He either cries when we put him in it, or spends the entire time in it struggling to sit up. This week I was able to sit him up on the couch by himself a few times, although eventually he'd keel over to one side or the other, hands in mouth.

I want to be a part of it!
Yesterday we made the trip we'd planned to make last Saturday but cancelled after getting very little sleep the night before: We drove up to NYC to see Christo's gates. It was Austen's first trip to New York (and our car's), and it went pretty smoothly. As for the gates, they were more impressive than I'd imagined they would be. I'll be posting the photos we took over at ~ lori and al ~ later this week.

Posted by Lori at 8:27 PM
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March 3, 2005

Two-Month Checkup (@ Three Months)

munching the bjorn Austen went to the doctor for his latest well-baby visit—the first one involving shots—this morning. The over/under for his weight was 15 1/2 pounds (it was going to be 16, but both Al and I voted under, so we backed it up to a point where one of us was under, and one of us was over). Technically Al won again, though we were both so far off that I'd say there was no winner this time. I guessed 15 lbs. 4 oz., and I think Al guessed 15 lbs. 13 oz. Austen, at three months old, weighed in at 16 lbs. 15 oz. Yes, people, that's 1 oz. shy of 17 pounds. The nurse was a bit surprised, especially since her 6 month-old daughter had just weighed in at 16 lbs. 13 oz. the day before.

This massive weight gain has put Austen off the growth charts for weight. He measured two feet exactly this time, so he's only in the 75th percentile for height, but even that was a big jump from last time. It might be time to move to the size 3 diapers... and to wash the 6-9 mo. clothes the nice people at Perfect Order got us. (I'm also starting to wonder whether Austen was so small—and breech—at birth because my uterus just isn't very big. Maybe he had to wait until he was on the outside to catch up with all the other huge babies that run in my family.)

Anyway, Austen actually tolerated the shots (three of them) pretty well. He cried, of course, but as soon as each needle was removed, he'd back down on the volume. By the third shot he was a little annoyed—and probably wondering how many more sticks were coming—but he only let out a couple residual roars after I picked him up. A few minutes later he was cooing happily and eating his hands. Honestly, I think the dose of Tylenol bothered him more than the shots did (cherry-flavored medicine has nothing on breast milk, it seems). Perhaps those hamhock thighs provided some cushion against the sting of the injections.

The doctor had asked me at Austen's one-month vist whether he startled at loud noises (he did), but in the past couple days I've noticed that he's much more sensitive to them now. When we went to our first Reel Moms movie in Cherry Hill on Tuesday (it was Sideways, which I really liked when I saw it with Al last month), they apparently forgot to turn down the sound to the promised baby-friendly level, and at the first cymbal crash (during the "visit the concession stand!" promo), he jumped a mile and started SCREAMING in terror. Similarly, it used to be that I could holler Austen's name in frustration when he wouldn't sleep at night, but when I did it last night I got a repeat of the popcorn promo reaction. :( Today he startled a couple times (but didn't cry) when I raised my voice while recounting a story over the phone to my sister. I wonder if I've made him nervous that he'll get shouted at again...

Meanwhile, I was reminded of my friend Shannon this morning when I considered the fact that after three weeks of going to bed between 9:00 and 10:30 every night and then sleeping 5-7 hours straight, Austen suddenly wants to stay up past midnight again. Shannon had been feeling some pressure to get her baby on a schedule, but her pediatrician said that it's really not worth the trouble. For the first few months babies are developing so rapidly that by the time you get them on a schedule, they change—and you have to start all over again. Although Al and I never really tried to get Austen on a schedule, I guess we thought that the previous sleep pattern was pretty predictable—and that it would only improve over time. In reality, it's more like a three steps forward, two steps back kind of thing. (And really, I shouldn't complain too much: Although it took five tries between 8:15 and 12:40 to get Austen to sleep last night, he didn't wake up in the middle of the night. I had to get him up at 7:20 this morning because if we didn't get a feeding in before heading to the doctor's, my boobs were going to explode.) I'm very interested to see what happens tonight, especially since the shots could throw him off his game completely.

Posted by Lori at 12:08 PM
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March 4, 2005

Thank God That Baby Bjorn is Washable

Austen just vomited up the entire contents of his stomach while facing me in the Baby Bjorn. I was so stunned a first that I froze, but when I heard the splat, splat of curdled milk dripping onto the kitchen floor through the legholes, I sprang into action and dashed upstairs. I got Austen out of the Bjorn and his sleeper suit (luckily the vomit hadn't soaked through his onesie), tried unsuccessfully to rinse the giant splotches of spew off my shirt in the bathroom sink (I finally just Shout-ed the heck out of it), scrubbed the tentacles of white goo that had crept down my pant leg with a wet washcloth, dressed Austen in a new sleeper suit, donned a new shirt myself, and called Al to tell him what happened—all in the space of five minutes. I've obviously moved on from Motherhood for Beginners to intermediate level.

I'll know I'm ready for Advanced Parenting when I no longer freeze before running up the stairs.

Posted by Lori at 10:56 AM
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March 8, 2005

Screening Day

Instead of driving over to Cherry Hill to see a Reel Moms movie I'm only vaguely curious about, I decided to attend a screening at a venue that also has a changing table set up, baby-friendly lighting and volume, popcorn, and—unlike the Loews Theater—really good hot chocolate and a Boppy to support my arms while nursing. Yep, I decided to avoid the icky weather and stay home.

The rain changed to snow earlier than predicted, and the wind is howling past the chimney, but we don't care. Austen and I are busy watching the second season of Sex and the City on DVD (which I bought it four years ago and somehow never got around to watching) and snacking on tasty treats like yellow peppers stuffed with smoked salmon salad, hot chocolate made with dark chocolate imported from Spain, and California navel oranges at the peak of sweetness.

Who needs Chili Palmer and a cupholder when you can have Carrie Bradshaw and your own cozy couch?

Posted by Lori at 11:34 AM
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March 11, 2005

The Claw and the Kung-Fu Grip

It's been a busy week for Austen and me. In addition to contracting for a couple hours a day for my old company, I've also managed to get out to the endocrinologist, the Philadelphia Flower Show, and the King of Prussia Mall, in addition to my regular haunts. Meanwhile, Austen has exhibited a bundle of new behaviors this week.

Although he's been grabbing my thumb with one hand while digging his fingernails into my boob with the other every time he nurses since birth, Austen just this week started grabbing things purposefully—and, oddly, raking his fingernails across everything he can find, including the Baby Bjorn and my arms, face, and neck.

Austen attempts to swallow Mommy's bear whole From purposeful grabbing and gripping it was a short leap to stuffing things in his mouth; first into the maw was the silly monkey toy his cousin Henry (aka Henry's mom, Tris) got him for Christmas. (I was lucky enough to catch this event on video, the first we've shot since we brought Austen home from the hospital.) This morning he moved up a weight class and took on my teddy bear, but I think the bear got the best of him. He'll be moving back down to silly monkey class after this, I think.

Also new in Austen's repertoire is a "shy baby" routine. He pulled it on Al the other night, burying his head in my chest and then peeking out when Al greeted him. Very surprising—and very cute.

Oh! And Austen celebrated his 100th day on the outside yesterday, something my father-in-law assures me is a very big deal in Korean culture. Does this mean the honeymoon is officially over?

Posted by Lori at 10:33 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
March 15, 2005

More Austen Updates

Austen's body clock got a little messed up last night. For the past couple weeks it's been taking us 3 to 5 tries to get him down for the night, but once he finally conks out for good, he sleeps until at least 6:30am. Last night he fell asleep while nursing at 8:30, so I put him down... and he stayed down. We went to bed around 10:45, congratulating ourselves on a baby well managed and looking forward to almost 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

No such luck. Austen woke in his usual good mood, squawking and cooing to himself for a good 10 minutes before changing over to extended, "ok, COME GET ME" groan-whines... at 2:56am. He obviously *thought* it was 6:30, because he was wide awake and didn't cry when Al changed his diaper, which is his usual up-for-the-day M.O. We couldn't convince him that it was too early to be up, and that mommy and daddy were non-functional zombies who were not ready to play games.

I spent the next 6 hours alternately feeding him and dozing before I was finally ready to face the day, and I know Al held him and did a diaper change or two in there somewhere before heading to work. Tonight, I suspect that Al and I will be ready for bed at 9:00, and Austen will want to stay up until midnight.

Because Austen and I were slow getting out of bed this morning, we decided to forego the Reel Moms movie ("Robots") and instead spent an hour or so grabbing each other's noses and cheeks. (Gotta be careful if a baby finger makes it up your nose—those fingernails are sharp, and you could end up with a cut that hurts like hell and takes forever to heal. I learned this with my niece and nephew 10 years ago.) Although Austen's grabbed/scratched my face before, this is the first time his aim was sufficiently accurate to get my nose, eyes, and mouth one at a time. Pretty neat.

Oh, and here's something that's totally freaking me out: Austen appears to have at least one tooth coming in. He's been knawing on everything he can get his mouth on and drooling up a storm for a couple weeks now, and this weekend I thought I saw a little white speck on his lower gums. I felt around in there with my finger, and sure enough, there's a sharp bump. FREAKY, I tell you. He's only 15 weeks old! As if his enormous girth weren't astonishing enough... I'm seriously starting to wonder if my breastmilk is radioactive or if he was exposed to gamma rays in the HUP nursery. It can't be all the chocolate, can it?

Posted by Lori at 12:59 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
March 16, 2005

Tumbling

The thing I've been fearing would happen just happened: I fell down the stairs while wearing the Baby Bjorn. (Actually, my worst fear was falling down the stairs while carrying Austen in my arms, but this was almost as scary.) Luckily I only fell down the last two, and I seem to have instinctively twisted onto my side to protect Austen, who was unhurt. He seemed startled and puzzled, but he didn't cry, even when it took me a few minutes to get back up.

I banged my left knee and my right elbow pretty hard, and I seem to have twisted my back and my right ankle, but I'm still mobile (and still wearing the Bjorn), so the injuries must be very minor. Next time I will make sure that I really am completely down the stairs before I start reading the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by Lori at 11:31 AM
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March 21, 2005

Growth Spurt -> Stroller Shopping

I think we might have discovered the reason for Austen's run of sleepless nights last week: Somewhere during that time he grew another 2", give or take a hair. That means he's roughly 26" long now, the limit of the infant car seat that we've also been using as a stroller bassinet. Consequently, Al and I spent Saturday afternoon stroller and convertible car seat shopping. (Last night my friend Jean pointed out that as long as Austen doesn't mind sitting in the infant car seat, we can continue to use it on the Snap 'n Go stroller frame; we just can't use it as a car seat beyond 26" or 20 lbs., which Austen must also be getting close to.)

We actually performed this exercise last weekend as well, but we ended up not buying anything because (a) at the time, Austen had yet to undergo this crazy growth spurt, and (b) we didn't find the stroller of our dreams at Babies 'R Us. We did find a convertible car seat that we liked (one of the Graco ComfortSport models), but again, as Austen had yet to spurt, it didn't seem urgent to buy it that day.

Post-spurt, the pressure was on. Pressure sometimes makes me stupid, as is evidenced by the fact that when we went out shopping this weekend, I forgot to bring the Baby Bargains book I'd had on hand last week, and I also forgot to print out the specs on the strollers we were most interested in from the Zooper and Maclaren websites. Duh. These things probably would have helped, because the choice wasn't obvious.

It was pretty easy to rule out the Peg Perego and Ingelsina models we tried—they were too short for me. Ditto any brand of jogging stroller (although Zooper's Boogie was kinda cool)—too big and too heavy for daily use in the city. It really did boil down to the non-jogging Zooper and Maclaren models, but which model and which manufacturer?

We tried out a floor model Zooper Swing, which was on sale for the incredibly low price of $149. Although we liked how light and steerable it was—and the fact that it included all kinds of accessories—we abandoned it as an option because the access to the basket area wasn't great, and (more importantly) one of the pegs on the reclining seat didn't fit properly in its notch. Seemed like a defect—and therefore a deal breaker—to us. Because we only saw the Swing and the Boogie on the floor, we asked if the store (a Babyland USA) had any other Zooper models. We expected to be told WYSIWYG, but one of the sales guys said he thought a whole shipment of Zoopers had just come in. Another sales guy was kind enough to remove a Waltz from its box and assemble it for us to try.

While he was working on that, we tested out a Maclaren Techno Classic (I've looked at the product comparisons on the Maclaren website, and I honestly don't know what the difference is between the Classic and the XT). I loved the fact that the handles were adjustable... except that raising them to their full extent didn't stop me from kicking the wheels as I walked. Al fared better with the handles in their lowest position and had no complaints about wheel kicking.

Both of us loved the clear plastic peek-a-boo window on the hood, as it gave us a clear view down onto Austen. This is an important feature for me, as I'm not sure I'm quite ready not to see Austen when we go out on our walks (currently he faces me in the Snap 'n Go). We also both appreciated the sleek, no-nonsense styling and especially the compact fold.

Next we tested out the Zooper, and I found that while the handle bar was 1.5" lower than the lowest Maclaren handle position, the fact that it stuck out rather than up meant that I could walk more upright. That, coupled with the wider wheelbase and single rather than double rear wheels, also meant that I didn't kick said wheels when I walked. Brilliant. I also preferred the single handle bar to the separate handle grips; it made it easier to steer with one hand, which is key for someone like me who makes an almost-daily trip to Starbucks and then continues on, pushing the stroller with one hand and drinking a hot beverage with the other.

Al and I made several trips up and down the aisle with both strollers, agonizing over the pros and cons of each as we went. Here's what our discussions boiled down to:

Maclaren Techno Classic maclaren techno
Pros Minimalist styling; compact fold; adjustable-height handles; great maneuverability; perfectly-positioned peek-a-boo window in canopy; foot-activated front wheel locks.
Cons Narrow wheelbase and double wheels leave little room for feet of driver; handles extend up rather than out, so I had to bend over to steer no matter what setting they were on; small basket with terrible access; high price that doesn't include accessories like boot, rain cover, or sunshade. [It seems the Classic does come with a boot and rain cover—they just weren't out with the floor model for inspection.] No napper bar.
Zooper Waltz maclaren techno
Pros Handle bar allows for one-handed steering; great maneuverability; wide basket with easy access, good for shopping; wide wheelbase and shallower handle angle allows for upright walking without kicking wheels; $90 less than Maclaren—all accessories included.
Cons All that extra stuff means it's bulkier, with a less-compact fold; peek-a-boo window in canopy not positioned directly over child; god-awful Fabreeze-like smell that gave me a headache and a mild allergy attack.

Overall, the biggest pro for the Maclaren was the minimalism (and related compact fold); the biggest con was the wheel-kicking issue. I was afraid we'd buy this stroller, and after kicking the wheels a few times, I'd be miserable. The biggest con for the Zooper, honestly, was the smell; the biggest pro was the fact that I could walk in an upright, relaxed position without kicking the wheels.

Since the wheel-kicking issue seemed the most important one, we ended up going with the Zooper. We're hoping that leaving the stroller unfolded in the basement or garage for a while will cause the smell to dissipate, and that even if it lingers for awhile, the fact that we'll be using the stroller outdoors will help keep headaches at bay. Surprisingly, cost didn't really matter too much; I think both of us were OK with anything under $300 (which of course ruled out the $700+ Bugaboo Frog right off the bat). It was nice to save a little money with the Zooper, though.

The real test will come when I get brave enough to actually stick Austen in the new stroller and take him out for a spin—and when we try to take the Zooper on an airplane. The latter will be happening rather soon, as I'll be booking plane tickets for an April trip to San Francisco tonight.

Posted by Lori at 3:04 PM
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March 23, 2005

Test Drive

I took the new stroller out for the first time today—in a driving rainstorm. I was so impressed with its performance! As light and maneuverable as the Snap 'n Go was, the Zooper was more so. It handled rough curb cuts and potholes so much better—no lifting of the front wheels necessary, no loss of steering control. And boy, was the ride smoooooth.

I think some of the improvement in handling can be accounted for by the shift in weight/center of gravity: In the Snap 'n Go, Austen was facing me in the car seat and was rather high up; in the Zooper, his weight is mostly back toward my feet and lower down. This means that there's not as much pressure on the front wheels, so they tend not to dive into divots and cause the stroller to tip forward as the Snap 'n Go sometimes did. (Btw, this divot dive causes the handle to come up while forward motion stops—meaning you drive the bar into your chest. Painful enough when your boobs *aren't* full of milk, excrutiating when they are.) The rest of the handling improvement is probably attributable to the larger, wider rubber wheels.

The rain cover fit very nicely (it gapped a bit at the sides, and I was afraid Austen would get cold or wet, but he didn't), and it was more flexible and easier to handle than the Graco one we bought for the Snap 'n Go. It was easy to lower the seatback when I noticed through the peek-a-boo window that Austen had conked out, and to raise it when he woke up. (Austen *loves* sitting up, though he tends to slump to one side a bit. Part of the reason I decided to go out in the rain is that I put him in the stroller inside the house to see how all the straps worked, and he showed every sign of being completely happy—no screaming fit when I buckled him in as with the car seat.)

I was hoping to test out the steering-with-one-hand-while-drinking-coffee scenario, but I don't think today's weather really permitted a fair test—I had to expend some effort to keep the gusty winds from blowing the rain cover off, and that same wind make it challenging to steer, period—so I didn't really get to steer properly with one hand.

The only things I missed about the Snap 'n Go were its narrower width (I did manage to squeeze through the checkout at Trader Joe's, but it was tight) and its cupholder. The latter was like the space between the front seats in a minivan—it regularly held the garage door opener, my cell phone, my keys, and a little bowl of change. There's a mesh bag for my cell phone on the Zooper, but I didn't use it today because of the rain. I zipped the garage door opener into the pouch on the back of the canopy, but sadly there was no place for the change bowl. :( I might see if I can buy a cupholder attachment or something, as it was nice to spend my change rather than have it pile up in drawers around the house.

For my next adventure, I'll try out the new convertible car seat. I just have to figure out what to do with Austen when we get where we're going (unlike the infant car seat, I can't take the convertible out of the car and snap it on the stroller frame or a shopping cart). Since the Baby Bjorn is now too heavy for me with Austen in it (as of yesterday), I may have to resurrect the fucking sling as a means of strapping him to my hip.

Posted by Lori at 7:09 PM
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March 27, 2005

Test Drive II: The Mall

I took the new stroller out to King of Prussia Mall on Thursday—which means I also tested the new car seat. Austen still hates being strapped into anything, but he seemed to prefer the more upright ride of the convertible car seat to the infant carrier. I was a little unnerved by the fact that his head flopped forward onto his chest when he fell asleep on the way to the mall, but he didn't seem to mind.

I've gotten the hang of folding the Zooper, and it's not super heavy considering all the stuff that's on it, so it wasn't too hard to heave into the trunk and back out again. Getting Austen out of the car seat and into the stroller proved no more difficult than taking the infant carrier out of the car and strapping it to the Snap 'n Go frame, so it turns out I was worried about nothing there.

I was surprised to find that the Zooper was harder to steer in the mall than in the city; apparently its suspension and tires are better suited to rough terrain than smooth. This theory was confirmed when I followed the pedestrian path from one mall building to the other, as it happens to be paved with an uneven brick design. What used to be uncomfortable with the Snap 'n Go, the Zooper handled like a champ.

The Zooper also proved difficult to steer with one hand (unless you're going in a straight line—but then, that's not really steering, it's pushing), but I think this was partly because the stroller was harder to steer in general on the smooth mall floors. The wider stance of the Zooper, which I love because it prevents wheel-kicking, was a bit of a liability at the mall; I ran into more displays than I usually do with the Snap 'n Go.

On the plus side, Austen seemed to enjoy facing out, and he got a lot more attention than usual because people could actually see him. Overall I'd say that while the Zooper is easy enough to get in and out of the car and is comfortable for the baby in the mall, it really is better suited for the Urban Jungle than the Mall Crawler [these are Baby Bargains terms].

This impression has been confirmed in the couple times I've taken the stroller out and about in Philadelphia since the mall visit. The Zooper seems to beg for rough terrain; it loves potholes, uneven pavement, cobblestones, you name it.

I also got a chance to try one-handed steering when it wasn't rainy and blustery out and found that it's almost as hard to steer with one hand in the city as at the mall. Part of this is probably due to the fact that the baby's weight is lower down and further back than in the Snap 'n Go (that is, what you gain in curb-jumping ability, you lose in one-handed manueverability). I did discover yesterday, however, that one-handed steering improves with a lighter touch. A common move for me is to back out the door of Starbucks with a coffee in one hand and to swing the stroller around to forward-facing position with the other, and at first I found it almost impossible with the Zooper. Loosening my grip a bit solved the problem, and I can now perform the same trick almost as easily with the Zooper as with the Snap 'n Go.

One thing I've been disappointed about with the Zooper (though I don't think I could have done much better with any standard stroller): the basket accessibility. I somehow failed to notice a silver support bar below the seat and above the basket (I think it was obscured by the back of the canopy), which makes the opening to the basket fairly narrow. I wasn't able to get my two bags of Whole Foods groceries into the basket on Friday without unpacking them. (Actually, this might save some bags, and thus the environment; I can just throw everything into the basket loose and forego the bags entirely.)

Posted by Lori at 2:28 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
March 30, 2005

Oh, and Austen Rides In It, Too

I've talked at length about how the new stroller handles, how easy/difficult is to push, etc., and after all that, I realized we didn't have any photos of Austen *in* the stroller. To rectify that oversight, I took the following photo of Austen, who is 4 months old today, on our way back from meeting Al for lunch.

in_stroller_0330.jpg

Posted by Lori at 2:35 PM
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April 5, 2005

Travel Preparations

We leave for San Francisco tomorrow at 6:45am. Part of me is happy/excited, and the other part is anxious because I have so many little things to do before we go.

The big things have mostly been done: laundry, packing, taking Austen to the doctor to make sure the hacking cough and snarffle-y nose he got from me weren't serious (they aren't). I still have to take a shower, clear off the camera's memory card and charge its battery, throw various toiletries into the suitcase (we bought a Wheely Beast to use as a family suitcase so we'd have fewer things to carry), get the car seat out of the car, take the car into the shop, oil my shoes, find the card reader (or else the CD withe the camera software on it), and give the kid a bath. I think that's all...

Meanwhile, between nursing a sick baby round the clock (apparently sleeping through the night goes out the window when babies are sick), working, and trying to sort out our taxes, I haven't had time to blog about the daily doings. Here are the headlines:

austen propped up on his elbows Austen rolled over for the first time this weekend. He's also grabbing with more accuracy, propping himself up on his elbows when on his stomach, and raising himself from a reclining to a sitting position.

I can finally fit into my size M+ Bravado nursing bras again. This is something all the books I'd read (and the Bravado website) said would happen 4-6 weeks post-partum, but it took me 4 months. I'm not sure whether it's due to the fact that I'm making a final push to lose the remaining 12 pounds of pregnancy weight (6 down, 6 to go), or whether my breasts are becoming engorged much less often now, but it's probably some combination of the two.

Austen got weighed at the doctor this morning, and he was a little lighter than I thought he'd be: 18 lbs., 9 oz. That means he gained a little less than 2 lbs. in the past month, as compared to the 3+ he gained in each of the previous months. I'm glad the torrid pace of growth is finally slowing a bit.

The nursing station, which I'd planned to write about back in January but never did, has been dismantled. It was the perfect setup for the first few months: a comfy chair set next to a wheeled cart that held snacks, pens, paper, coussinets, water, Kleenex, and (of course) computers. I now have my old desk set up in the gallery (the small space at the top of the stairs, outside Austen's room), and I nurse Austen in whatever chair/couch/bed happens to be nearby when he's hungry. I don't even use the Boppy most of the time.

By the time of its dismantling, the cart had moved to the right side (of the person in the chair) and had gained a monitor stand and two more laptops, but in January, it looked like this:

Posted by Lori at 2:54 PM
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April 6, 2005

PHL to SFO

The car is being repaired, the house is being watched, and we have made it through airport security (no mean feat with an infant, a stroller, two carry-ons, and two laptops). All that remains is to get on the plane.

Austen is being even more talkative than he was yesterday, which was a new high water mark. I can't tell whether everyone's staring at us because they're trying to gauge how awful it would be to sit next to us, or because they find my purple hair intriguing. Probably both.

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April 7, 2005

Time Zone Trauma

We were hoping that somehow flying six hours across three time zones wouldn't affect Austen's body clock, but of course that was a totally ridiculous notion. The poor boopster is still sleeping at the moment, probably convinced that it's the middle of the night. He woke up at 3:30am screaming; Al hypothesized that he was just waking up at his normal 6:30am ET, but as the person he was sleeping closest to (he kept pursuing the boobs with such zeal, even in his sleep, that he had me hanging off the side of the King-sized bed), I can confirm that his nasal passages clogged to the point where he couldn't breathe. The scream was a scream of panic.

We've been humidifying his room at home for the past couple nights because he caught the respiratory infection I had, and the doctor said a moist room would help him breathe. I think between the airplane and the extra-dry hotel room, the snot in his nose solidified and his delicate nasal passages swelled to the point where it was like trying to breathe through a coffee stirrer. I got him up, steamed up the bathroom, and sat in there for a while with him, which seemed to help. I'll be buying a small humidifier for him today.

Oh, he just woke up. Good morning, sunshine!

awake_040705.jpg

Austen's also probably all out of whack because of the extra stimulation he got yesterday. Between smiling at everyone in the airport and on the plane and playing with half my former colleages at Macromedia (the other half were working at home yesterday), he was pretty exhausted by the time we went out for dinner at around 6. (A big hooray again for Taylor's Automatic.)

OK, the kid is now well and truly awake, so I'd better get on with the diaper changing. We're going over to Oakland today to see Morrisa and Miranda—yay!

Posted by Lori at 12:20 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
April 8, 2005

Morrisa, Miranda, nj, and Austen

Had a lovely time visiting with Morrisa and Miranda (and nj, who was there for a few minutes before he had to leave for work) yesterday. It's so interesting for me to catch up and compare notes with my friends who've become parents in the past year or two (and there are so many of us!). I was so shocked to see Miranda walking and talking! Last I saw her she was only a little older than Austen is now. It's hard to believe that Austen will be at that stage someday... I try not to think about it too much, though, since living in the now helps keep me from being completely overwhelmed with parenthood.

nj and austen morrisa and austen
miranda

Today I'm meeting Jean and Ellen for coffee/breakfast, and then I'll hop over to Macromedia for lunch with Winsha. Unfortunately, it's raining—AND I FORGOT THE RAIN COVER FOR THE STROLLER. I'm such a freaking idiot! I had had every intention of bringing it... I guess I just forgot to think about where I'd put it, and so I didn't put it anywhere. Fart! After running a couple errands in the immediate vicinity of the hotel while wearing the Baby Bjorn yesterday afternoon, I can say definitively that the Bjorn would not be a good substitute for the stroller on outings lasting more than an hour (especialy when I'm also carrying packages).

I'm hoping that the rain is more like a drizzle, and that the combination of the sunshade and the canopy will provide sufficient protection for Austen. Unfortunately, I'm also down a blanket, since he kicked off the one we brought, and it ended up going under the wheels of the stroller (and my feet) on Market Street. Ew. While we weren't in the urine-soaked stretch of Market between 5th and 9th, I'm still unwilling to put the blanket back on the baby until it's washed. I guess I will hunt around the hotel room and see if there's a suitable substitute, like a towel or something.

Posted by Lori at 11:23 AM
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April 9, 2005

Dodging Downpours

Yesterday was a weird day weatherwise: It alternated between partly sunny and incredibly rainy. The valets/bellstaff at our hotel ushered me down to the garage to get into the car in the morning so I wouldn't have to load the baby and the stroller in a downpour (so nice!), so the only time I got wet was when I had to get Austen out of the car at Sally's. The rest of the day I managed to be outside only when it was sunny/cloudy, and not when the sky opened up.

Sally's was where I met Jean and Ellen for coffee, baked goods, and baby interaction. It was so neat to see Ellen in person at 7 months; we'd last seen her when she was only two weeks old, and I was at 7 months. :) I got advice from Jean about how to find a nanny to help me out one to two days a week (I think I'm going to continue contracting for a while, and the current system of Al working during the day while I watch Austen, and me working at night while Al watches Austen isn't sustainable), and we compared notes on everything from sleeping to soothing to installing car seats. We also did a lot of playing with the babies.

jean and ellen jean with the babies even ellen can't resist pinching austen's chubby cheeks mommy, why are you holding another baby? ellen gives austen a pat on the head me with austen and ellen

When Jean had to leave, I moved the car over to De Haro Street and then walked over to Macromedia to say hi to some friends and meet Winsha for lunch. On the way, Heather called, and we made plans for lunch on Monday. I love that we're here for a whole week! Incidentally, people keep asking why I'm here, and when I explain that Al came out for Flash Forward, meetings, and college recruiting, they seem surprised that I came along, too. One person even said, "well, at least you know people here, so you're not stuck in the hotel room the whole time." People, I wouldn't be stuck in the hotel room even if I didn't know a soul. If I don't stay in the house when I'm at home in Philadelphia, why would I do that here? I am someone who would explore any city I happened to be in, kid in tow. And as for tagging along with my husband, all it costs us is airfare and whatever I spend on food—and it doesn't cost his company anything extra, since they'd be putting him up in a hotel room whether I came or not. Let's see: Traveling with my husband to an interesting city vs. staying home alone with the baby for 8 days. Which would you choose? Throw in a ton of friends and former colleagues to visit, and if the choice wasn't obvious before, it should be now.

Anyway, there was a massive downpour while I was in the Macromedia building, but it stopped by the time Winsha and I went out the front door. We had lunch at Pazzo (tuna and avocado sandwiches for both of us) and caught up on work, commutes, and life in general while Austen kicked off his new socks, grabbed my napkin, fussed outrageously, and had his first taste of something other than breastmilk and Infant Tylenol: a bit of avocado smeared on my finger. (Seems fitting, no? :) We've never been able to get a good photo of Sad Face at home, but I managed to get one version of it here—I just missed the lower lip jutting out first. Austen's mood is no reflection on Winsha, whose cheerfulness and whimsy rank among the top things I miss about living here. I think Austen had just had enough of interacting with new people—and not quite enough sleep.

After lunch (which was fairly late), I drove over to the Herbst Theater to pick Al up from Flash Forward, and we had a little family time in the evening. We took a walk over to the Jamba Juice at the Macy's Cellar and to Starbucks for a Chantico, picked up water and wipes and a copy of Sideways on DVD, and then came back to the hotel. Al ordered room service, and I walked over to the Metreon with Austen in the Bjorn to get something for myself. (Our only complaints about this hotel are that the toilet seat is pretty cheap and ill-fitting, and that the room service menu is fairly limited and not particularly vegetarian-friendly. Otherwise, everything from the room to the bell staff has been fabulous.) I got some incredibly yummy (but at $9.49, outrageously expensive) udon with shrimp and tofu from the Long Life Noodle place. If price is no object, I'd recommend it.

We watched most of Sideways on my laptop before finally following Austen's lead and conking out. We finished it off this morning, and are now planning to head over to the Embarcadero for a walk before driving down to Los Altos Hills to visit friends for dinner. I leave you with this morning's cute-baby-in-bed photo:

austen has some tummy time first thing in the morning

Posted by Lori at 1:31 PM
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April 10, 2005

Exersaucer!

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday morning's post, we headed down to the Embarcadero to see the farmer's market at the Ferry Building and to have some more sweet potato fries at Taylor's. Austen was great through lunch, but afterwards he got grumpy, and his mood rubbed off on me. (Add to that the fact that I had to pee, and the lines were so long at the Ferry Building bathrooms that it wasn't practical to wait with a baby for the handicap stall to open up.) We bought a bottle of wine to bring to dinner at Craig & Nico's and some oranges at an organic farm stand, and then we headed back to the hotel (well, after a stop at See's).

with Mommy at Taylor's with Al at Taylor's
free fries and sweet potato fries
me pushing the Zooper

We were all a bit tired—Austen is sleeping in the bed with us, which means he wants to nurse every couple hours through the night—so we just rested for a while before driving down to Los Altos Hills. I think Al got actively sad as we drove down 280; the views were so spectacular that he couldn't quite believe we left them. This reminded us, too, that we'd picked up copies of the Real Estate Times to look through while eating at Taylor's, but we were so busy holding Austen while stuffing down fries that we never got a chance to open them.

When we arrived at Craig and Nico's, we found that Nico had gotten out some toys for Austen that her sons had liked but had mostly outgrown: a little tent to lie under, some colorful stuffed whoozits, and an exersaucer. Why it had never occurred to us that Austen might like an exersaucer—and that if he did, it could replace the swing and bouncy seat that Austen's now too big for—when his favorite thing is to stand up, I couldn't tell you. It seemed like the most obvious thing in the world as soon as we put him in it.

Austen makes a move for the teething toy of all the gadgets on the saucer, this bingo barrel was his favorite

Al and I looked at each other and declared, "WE ARE SO GETTING ONE OF THESE." Nico advised us to borrow one, if possible, since it's only useful for a few months and then must be stored or given away (and the thing is huge), but we'll probably end up buying one and then passing it on to our friends who are now pregnant.

We had a lovely dinner with Craig, Nico, Stosh, and Rey, and then all the kids seemed to get cranky at once, so we went our separate ways to soothe. Austen fell asleep in the car on the way back, and a walk to the Starbucks at the Metreon in the Bjorn cemented the deal. Al and I were able to stay up for a little while reading the Real Estate Times and uploading images to the baby blog for the grandparents to see. As for the former, it seems that every time we visit we discover that housing prices have gone up AGAIN. We are starting to despair that we'll ever be afford to move back!

Today I'm planning to hang out with Kristin while Al hits golf balls. I'm looking forward to heading west in the city and revisiting some old haunts!

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April 11, 2005

Available

I'll write more about what we did today in the morning, but I wanted to post a quick photo from the hour or so Kristin, Austen, and I spent in Dolores Park. Aren't they cute?

Posted by Lori at 2:12 AM | Permalink
April 11, 2005

Sunshine (and Overstimulation) in San Francisco

Had a lovely day walking around San Francisco, eating incredibly yummy chocolate pudding from Cafe Tartine, soaking up the sun in Dolores Park, drinking cappucino at Squat 'N Gobble, and just generally enjoying spending time with Kristin yesterday. I had less fun trying to get Austen to nurse properly at practically every place we stopped, but I got him fed and calm eventually. Everyone (including us) thought the long plane ride would be the hard part about traveling, but overstimulation has been a much bigger problem.

holding hands with Kristin
diaper change among the daisies  mmmm, cappucino!

We have loved introducing Austen to all our friends and taking him to our favorite Bay Area places, but we've learned that the little guy has limits: He can really only smile at so many new people each day before he melts down. By about 4pm yesterday Austen was done for the day, but we still had things to do and people to see. We drove to the Outer Richmond to see Beth & Matt (who served us wine and cheese in their lovely back yard), and then met up with Kristin again for dim sum at Ton Kiang. That's where the meltdown happened, unfortunately; the food was great and so was the company, but I felt bad for possibly ruining other diners' dinners when Austen started wailing. I know I would have hated it in my former childless life.

Today we're trying to spread out the activities and introductions a bit. After a quiet morning I had a really nice lunch with Heather and Derek down near the ballpark (it was my first time meeting Derek in person—such a great guy!); to my relief Austen was calm and smiley and sweet the entire time. I was glad to see that he could recover well from the trauma at Ton Kiang. Derek was more of a natural with a baby on his lap than he realized, and Heather impressed Austen with her knowledge of cartoon theme songs (I've now got the Banana Splits theme stuck in my head, too).

happy baby Austen likes the Banana Splits!
heather takes a photo of Austen with her cameraphone

While I was lunching with people from my early Internet days, so was Al: He and his friend Morgen, with whom he worked at @Home (and later at OSAF), were taking on tapas at the Thirsty Bear. I stopped by the restaurant so Morgen could see Austen, and then we went back to the hotel so Al could work and Austen and I could rest.

Al, Morgen, and Austen at the Thirsty Bear

I know we're pushing it going down to Palo Alto to have dinner with our friend Ken, but hopefully Austen won't go ballistic until the car ride home...

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April 13, 2005

Reel Moms and Real Work

The Loews Theater inside the Metreon, which is a block away from our hotel, is a Reel Moms venue, and since today is Tuesday, I decided to go to the movies. The film was actually one I was curious to see—Fever Pitch—since I saw the original British version recently, and I like Nick Hornby's novels. The original was really only a 2-star movie, but I figured that left room for improvement, and making it about the Boston Red Sox seemed like a smart move.

Oh, how I wish there were anything else smart about this movie. I'm not sure I can adequately describe how awful it was, but here are just a few of my complaints:

  1. Is it really that hard to find someone with a Boston accent for a movie about the Red Sox? They explained Jimmy Fallon's lack of accent by making him a New Jersey transplant, but they failed to explain why everyone else sounded like they were from California or New York.
  2. All the lines (yes, ALL of them—at least, all the ones in the first half, which is all I stayed for) sounded like they were one-off statements rather than components of dialogue. The characters weren't talking to each other; they were just talking. Stiffly.
  3. There were several moments of what was supposed to be high hilarity, but since these were as ill-integrated as the "dialogue", they just made me wonder whether the people behind this dreck thought they were making a romantic comedy or a Leslie Neilsen vehicle. Also, note to writers: People getting hit in the head, dropped from a great height, and punched in the face? Not funny.
  4. The product placements (HELLO, MARQUIS JET!) were even more ham-handed and incongruous than either the dialogue or the moments of "comedy", which is saying a lot. What exactly does Marquis Jet's promising business outlook have to do with loving math and numbers in general? The company's mission statement is articulated more clearly than how Drew Barrymore's character is putting her math degree to practical use (the demonstration of which is supposedly the point of that scene).
  5. I've seen Drew Barrymore perform admirably in a well-written film, but I've never thought she was that great an actress—and she certainly can't make a bad movie bearable. Quite the opposite, in fact.
  6. Can there really be someone in Boston who doesn't know who Carl Yastrzemski is? Especially someone over the age of 25?
  7. Drew Barrymore's friends in this movie are positively TOXIC. It's hard to believe anyone could think that women are this mean, spiteful, stupid, and obsessed with "tagging and bagging" men... except perhaps this guy or this guy. I'm seriously starting to worry that it's becoming socially acceptable to trash women (again).

I could go on, but as I noted in #2, Austen and I gave up and left about halfway through. He was hating the movie as much as I was. The only interesting part was comparing this venue to our home theater in Cherry Hill. Apparently the Metreon doesn't enforce the "under 1 year" guideline, as there were several children in the 1-3 range running around the theater. When I asked one of the other moms where the changing table was, she seemed surprised; her friend said, "we should ask them to put one in!" I thought they were standard at Reel Moms gigs, but I guess not. One thing that was the same, much to my dismay: They forgot (or never had any intention) to turn down the sound. Note to Loews: Lower the fucking volume, already! The mooing of the cows in the THX intro nearly blew out my eardrums, and Austen positively writhed in agony.

We emerged from the theater to find like eight Bugaboo Frog strollers parked outside, and when we hit the streets, we passed two more. Al and I have been looking for signs that the Bay Area economy is picking up; there've been several, but this glut of $700+ strollers may be the best sign yet.

After a couple stops to pick up presents for friends here, I went into the office to meet with my manager (the person whose budget my checks come out of? the person who tells me what to work on? as an independent contractor whose full-time job is raising a kid, I don't really think in terms of managers anymore...). He wants to extend my contract through August, and I'm interested in doing the work he described, so Al and I have agreed that we will try to find a nanny who can come to our house a couple days a week (I agreed to 15 hours, which translates to about two full workdays). This is a big step for me, hiring a nanny; luckily we discussed the possibility a couple weeks ago (I vetoed it vehemently then), so I've had a chance to roll the idea around in my brain for a while. I'll probably have more to say on this topic when I'm less tired and have had a chance to comb craigslist looking for prospects. For now, I leave you with the cute baby photo of the day, and the news that Austen rolled from his tummy to his back for the first time (and then several more times, once he realized he could do it) this morning.

Austen stuffing his hand in his mouth

Posted by Lori at 2:18 AM
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April 17, 2005

We're Back

After spending a week in San Francisco with friends I dearly miss (many of whom also now have babies Austen's age), I've been having fantasies about moving back there. Upon landing at PHL, however, I learned that Philadelphia had a plan to win me over with the same weather we had in SF (upper 50s and low 60s, bright sunshine, low humidity), lower gas and food prices, and a house we love. Of course, then I did our taxes and discovered that in addition to paying local wage taxes, we were also on the hook for over a thousand dollars in Philadelphia school taxes—and the schools here aren't even that good. Harrumph.

Anyway, we were so busy cramming last-minute visits and activities into our San Francisco schedule (and the line for the computers at Tressider on the Stanford campus was long on Wednesday), I haven't had a chance to write about what we did on our last day.

Al was scheduled to work a booth at a job fair at Stanford, so we went a little early and had coffee with Beth, who's a professor there. She and Matt got a dog since we last saw them, and every day Moxie makes the commute from San Francisco to Palo Alto with Beth.

Beth and Moxie outside Tressider studen center   us and our babies

After coffee Al went up to the job fair, and I went to Stanford Shopping Center to buy Austen some more cute Gymboree clothes (thanks to Al's parents for financing the baby-clothes shopping spree). I found a great hat and onesie from the same robot line as the bleep bleep shirt—on sale!—and also got him another cute golf onesie. When I got bored at the mall I went back to the Stanford campus and noodled around until Al was finished at the job fair.

From Palo Alto we drove down to Los Altos, where we met John and Kathy for dinner at the Los Altos Grill (formerly Bandera). Kathy is pregnant with their first child, and it was exciting to swap pregnancy stories and show them what'll be coming their way soon. :) What I didn't intend to show them was my complete ineptitude when it comes to changing a diaper in public. I left the wipes in the car and didn't notice until I had Austen on the changing table and undressed; luckily, I hadn't removed the poopy diaper yet (mainly because I normally get the wipes out first before removing the diaper). I had to come back out of the handicap stall (one of only two) so I could let the next person in line pee and so I could call Al at the table and ask him to go get the wipes. Of course, I had the keys to the car, so Kathy had to come get them while I held a squirming, half-naked Austen. Al returned with the wipes a few minutes later, I waited in line again for the handicap stall, and despite the fact that I blocked the lovely spot lighting in the stall every time I leaned over to wipe Austen, managed to get all the poop out of his folds (I think).

Anyway, after the diaper incident, dinner progressed normally. I had a wonderfully tasty vegetable plate, the corn bread was delicious, and the conversations about Project Greelight and parenting were stimulating as ever, if too short. Wish we had more time to visit.

outside the Los Altos Grill

Posted by Lori at 10:30 AM
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April 20, 2005

Leaky II

My friend Shannon and her baby, Madison, came over for a visit yesterday. It was a lovely day to be outside, so after chatting a bit and feeding up the kids, we grabbed some cool and refreshing chow at the Pad Thai Shack and headed to Rittenhouse Square.

It was great to catch up on all the goings on in our respective households; since Madison is exactly 6 weeks younger than Austen, Shannon and I do a lot of note-comparing on all kinds of baby subjects. One thing she asked me was whether I still needed the coussinets, or whether the leakage had stopped. I replied that it's mostly stopped, but since I still dribble a bit occasionally, I thought I'd just use up my remaining supply (I bought a new box of 60 when we got to San Francisco).

Apparently this comment angered the breast milk gods, because when I went to get Austen out of his crib this morning at 7am, I found that my nursing bra was wet on the right side (the one that's usually *less* leaky!). The coussinet inside was completely saturated—heavier than a full pee diaper, if you know what that feels like. Good thing I've still got 30+ coussinets left...

Speaking of leakage, here's a new example of Murphy's Law: We've noticed that every time we give Austen a bath, his diaper leaks the next morning. Why is that?

In other baby news, it seems my instinct to look for new earrings today was right on the money (I was trying to find some simple but pretty studs): While playing with Austen after shopping, he grabbed my face, turned my head so he could get a better look at my right earlobe, and then reached for the little ring in the bottom hole. Luckily I figured out what he was up to before he made the grab, so I was ready to catch his hand in mine to keep him from pulling once he caught hold of the earring. It's really amazing to me how good his grabbing skills have gotten over the past three weeks or so.

I mentioned that we'd planned to buy Austen an exersaucer when we returned from SF; we did indeed do that on Saturday. We couldn't find the exact one that Craig & Nico had (apparently baby toys rev even more frequently than software), but we picked out a model that had a gadget similar to the one Austen was so enamored with on it. I actually thought the model we picked had too many gadgets, but I figured we could just not install all of them. As it happened, Austen got the hang of turning in the little seat pretty quickly and expected to see some new toy with every quarter turn, so I kept adding toys until they were all on there. It looks overwhelming when he's not in it, but he seems to love it, so I can't complain. About half the toys were installed when I took this photo:

Interestingly, his favorite items seem to be the orange jester thing on the right, the frog (which tends to bop him in the head a lot, as if reminding him to stuff it into his mouth), and the king and queen (which I think are supposed to make sounds, but don't—to my immense relief). He hardly plays with the bead-filled cylinder that was our reason for picking this model at all. (Actually, I'd pick the orange jester over the bead cylinder, too.)

the frog heads for Austen's mouththe king and queen, in foreground

More later, when I'm not so tired (and when I don't have a million other things to do with my limited free time... oh, wait, that might be never. <sigh>).

Posted by Lori at 11:01 PM
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April 23, 2005

From the Car

I'm risking carsickness by blogging, but ever since I discovered I could blog from the labor and delivery floor on Nov. 30th, I can't resist the temptation to do it whenever Al hands me his Blackberry.

We're on our way to NYC to celebrate Al's dad's 70th birthday, and we'll stay overnight at Al's brother's place. Technically this will be the second time Austen has met his cousin Henry, but it'll be the first time he'll get to interact with him because Henry was recovering from a cold at Christmas, and Austen was really too little to know what was going on.

When we get back from NYC, a new person will enter Austen's life (and mine): I found someone to babysit for him two days a week while I work. I'm still a little nervous about it, even though I'll be in the house the whole time, I'll be handling feedings, and the person I hired has agreed to take it one day at a time.

I'm excited about getting some work done, and about Austen spending time with someone who knows a bit about child development (and who speaks fluent German!), so I hope it works out.

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April 27, 2005

Treats

Thanks to our new babysitter, I was able to spend time with Austen yesterday *and* get a full day's work in. It felt like a revelation.

k_and_a_0426.jpg

Today ratphooey and Alexander came over, so I got an extra dose of cute baby, some stimulating conversation, and an excuse to buy (and consume) yummy baked goods.

babies427.jpg

And although last night was a rough one, Austen and I got to sleep in this morning—which meant I had the energy to cook a delicious dinner of pan-fried salmon, wilted spinach, and miniature butternut squash ravioli, share it with my wonderful husband, and then go for a pre-bedtime family walk.

I'm so lucky.

Posted by Lori at 8:53 PM
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May 5, 2005

5 on 5.5.5

Austen went for his 5-month checkup today. The weight over/under was 21 lbs., with our specific guesses being 20 lbs. 6 oz. (me) and 22 lbs. even (Al). I usually get killed by going under, but this time I won handily. At first the nurse declared that he weighed 17 lbs. 8 oz, but both of us said, "that can't be right!", so she weighed him again (much to his dismay—he screamed loudly and peed all over the place in two great bursts). I don't know what was wrong the first time, but the second time he was clearly over 20 lbs. (20 lbs. 2 oz., when the nurse finally pressed the Hold button).

Al won the height category, but it was close. I'd guessed 26 3/4" and Al guessed 27"; Austen was just a hair under the latter. He jumped from the 75th to the 90th percentile in height, and his weight moved back onto the 95th percentile curve from its previous position in outer space. The doctor mentioned that his weight is likely to drop into the 70-75th percentile by his next visit because he'll be more mobile and will burn more calories during his daily activities. (The exersaucer might even be the reason he's not gaining so quickly anymore.)

We didn't really have any questions for the doctor; instead, we mostly answered hers. Is he blowing bubbles? Yes. Can he grab things and hold onto them? Yes. Does he roll over? He can, but he'd rather not most of the time. (He can also sit up on his own for short periods, and he even stood up from a seated position on my leg this weekend.) Is he eating any solid food yet? No. Are we going to stick with breastmilk only until 6 months? Yes. We mentioned that he's started biting me during feedings, and we discussed teething rings (all the ones we've found are rather heavy, and we've noticed that Austen prefers gnawing on his key ring; the doctor also recommended refrigerating a damp washcloth and letting him chomp on that).

This was another shot visit (five vaccines administered as three shots, same as last time), and Austen handled it about the same way. The only difference was that he was already upset about being left, cold and naked, on the scale—twice!—so he was in no mood to be put down. I ended up nursing him while the nurse stabbed him with the needles, and before and after the squirt of Tylenol (which he cried over, but didn't seem to be as bothered by as last time). He hollered for a couple minutes when I had to pop him off and put his clothes back on, but when I flipped him into the Bjorn, he returned to his usual amiable self. He later slept for two hours in the stroller while I ran errands on foot, and he woke up happy.

At the moment the little guy is in the exersaucer, sucking his thumb, listening to iTunes, watching the photos from the camera get imported into iPhoto (I wonder if he recognizes himself—like, "hey, I know that guy! I've seen him in the mirror!"?), and looking very fashionable in his first pair of Robeez, which I caved and bought for him this weekend. He can now stand almost flat-footed in the exersaucer when it's on its highest setting, believe it or not.

Meanwhile, the babysitter arrangement continues to work well, though I am having some work/life balance issues as a big milestone approaches (er, that would be product development milestone, not baby development milestone). I am feeling alternately exhilarated by the amount of work I can get done, guilty for the amount I am not able to do, and like a horrible person/mother for sometimes giving my computer more attention than I give my child. (This last observation was made by someone who didn't *intend* to hurt me, but it nevertheless wounded me deeply. I very nearly called a halt to the contracting because of it, and it's been in the back of my mind every moment since it was uttered. I'll probably write another post devoted solely to my angst over this issue at some point, but not right now.)

In summary: Austen is "perfect", according to our warm and enthusiastic pediatrician; he's healthy, happy, and huge. I am doing almost as well, although there's this gaping wound in my heart that I have to do something about. And K, our babysitter, is great. She's coming again tomorrow, when I hope to carve out some time to post more photos and write about the weather.

Posted by Lori at 3:37 PM
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May 6, 2005

My First Mother's Day

I think of Mother's Day as my mother's day, probably because her birthday (May 9) often falls on Mother's Day, and even when it doesn't we usually celebrate the two occasions together. But since ratphooey just IMed (while I was in the kitchen doing dishes and not in front of the computer, sadly) to wish me an early Happy Mother's Day, I figured I'd acknowledge that ping here and say a few words about what it's like for me to be a mother.

joyful . wonderful . amazing . sweet
tiring
time-consuming
enlightening . maddening . emotional
heart-rending . hopeful
educational . endearing
unnerving
unending

This year we will not be celebrating Mother's Day in my honor. It seems a little strange to pick one day to acknowledge my motherhood, when I'm reminded by it—rewarded by it and rent by it—every day. Someday, maybe, when Austen is old enough to make me a card at school, I will celebrate Mother's Day for me. Until then, the day belongs to mom.

Posted by Lori at 8:48 PM
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May 9, 2005

Leaky III: Revenge of the Milk (and the Pee and the Poop)

I could easily write a lengthy post on this topic (well, if I had enough time with two hands free), but since Austen will likely only amuse himself in the exersaucer for another five minutes or so, allow me to summarize:

  • Both boobs leaked more milk than the coussinets could absorb last night, and I woke up at 3am with a completely saturated bra (luckily, I was on my back, so I didn't soak through my shirt and the sheets).
  • At the 6:30am feeding, I grabbed Austen's side to roll him toward me and found that his diaper had leaked. His suit was soaked on the right side. I did a very bleary-eyed diaper and onesie change at 7:00am, and when Austen wouldn't go back to sleep (or stop kicking and punching me), I plopped him in the exersaucer next to the bed.
  • At 7:30am, after much grunting and squealing (and therefore no more sleep for me), Austen started to scream that he wanted out of the exersaucer. Al was good enough to lift him out, and when he did, I smelled poop. "Check his diaper," I said sleepily. "I smell poop." Al replied that he didn't smell anything (but then, he almost never does), so he put Austen back in the bed. A few minutes later, Al said, "oh, I smell poop now, too." Well, ladies and gents, there was a reason for that: Austen's diaper had leaked again, this time utterly ruining one of the cute Gymboree onesies that Larry and Kaori got for us (and which I'd finally found a pair of pants to match on Thursday). <sigh>

For those of you who prefer to skip to the punch line, I now present a summary of the summary:

LOTS OF LEAKS, NOT ENOUGH SLEEP.

Posted by Lori at 11:31 AM
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May 9, 2005

Not What I Had in Mind

We were planning to start Austen on solid foods when he turned 6 months, which is at the end of this month. I was thinking we'd try avocado, since it's mushy and nutritious and he didn't seem to mind the little taste of it I gave him when we were in California. If avocado didn't go over well, I figured we'd try sweet potato. (I was planning to avoid rice cereal; too conventional.) I liked ratphooey's choice of gelato for Alexander (because they were in Italy at the time) and considered trying something uniquely Canadian while we're in Vancouver at the end of the month. I've been having a brain block, however, and haven't been able to think of any food that's uniquely Canadian besides back bacon.

Anyway, it doesn't much matter now. Austen has taken the choice of his first food out of my hands by snarfing down my Hockey North America Summer League flyer. I wonder if he'll be horrified to know, when he's twenty, that his first food was... paper.

Posted by Lori at 5:45 PM
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May 11, 2005

In the Park

in_the_park

Austen and I spent a little fresh-air time on a park bench in Rittenhouse Square earlier this afternoon.

Posted by Lori at 4:20 PM
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May 20, 2005

It's All Just a Dim Memory Now

On the day I went off the pill last year, I started a private blog about our quest for a kid (it's not online at the moment; I never reconstructed it after the rm -r debacle). The "baby blog" was the outlet for all my fears, anxieties, and excitement about the prospect of becoming a parent, a place where I could say I'M PREGNANT! before I could really tell anyone besides Al. And because only Al and I were reading it, there was no thought I couldn't express for fear of hurting someone's feelings or inviting a barrage of critical comments.

austen in my arms, about 14 hours oldI honestly can't remember whether I'd intended, when I started it, to keep writing in the baby blog after the baby was born, but I know that I spent the first couple weeks of his life wishing I had the time, energy, and free appendages to record what was happening. I know I wrote about some of it here (thank god), but I have this vague memory of wishing I had a private place to tell all without shame or guilt. I wish that even more now, when so much of that time is slipping from my memory.

You know how people say that you forget the pain of childbirth? I think it's more that you remember that there *was* pain, but you can't remember exactly what it felt like... and that the same is true of the first weeks and months of caring for a newborn. It's only when Al and I think very hard and remind each other of specific moments that we can piece together what it was like to be at the hospital those first four days, to be at home with Austen those first two weeks, to have Austen sleeping in the Pack 'n Play at the foot of our bed for four months. There *was* a time when we never slept more than 2-3 hours at a time (and when I could hardly sleep at all), when it was so painful to breastfeed that I cried every time Austen latched on, when I was so swollen from the IVs that my feet looked like bear claws, when a trip to Maryland took 5 hours instead of 2.

Al remembers that he used to drive Austen up and down I-95 so he'd stop screaming (and so I could get some sleep), but he'd forgotten about the times that he'd fallen asleep himself with his arm hanging over the side of the Pack 'N Play, holding the binky in Austen's mouth. I'd nearly forgotten that the reason for my twice-daily walks used to be that it was the only way to keep Austen from nursing every hour (now it's more to give my arms a rest). I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, which makes me a bit sad, but I suppose it's the only way we can move forward with enthusiasm. For most people, it's probably also the only way they can consider having another child.

That's partly why we keep having these "remember when" discussions; we want to make sure we don't do something insane like get pregnant again. (When I was the age Austen is now, my mom was three months pregnant with my sister—thanks to some misinformation about the efficacy of breastfeeding as a means of birth control.) While I purposely didn't have my tubes tied during the C-section—I wanted to keep my options open, given that I never thought I'd have even one child—I think we'll probably count ourselves incredibly lucky to have gotten such a beautiful, healthy baby the first time, and not tempt fate (or our capacities for patience and lack of sleep) by trying for a second one. We admire people who can do it, but I don't think we're two of them.

Of course, we could always change our minds... though with this post here to remind us, the memory of how hard it was to care for an infant *without* a toddler in the house will never fade completely. This cute photo will be here to remind us, too, should Austen someday become a two year-old tyrant, why we decided to have even one. We love you, buddy. And that's something we'll never forget.

austen in the exersaucer, 5.5 months old

Posted by Lori at 3:21 PM
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May 24, 2005

Recent Events

Remember how I said Austen's first food was paper? It's also been his second, third, fourth, and so on: If he's in the Bjorn when I'm opening the mail, he'll grab it and stuff it into his mouth with stunning quickness and force. (It reminds me a bit of a shark attack: one minute he's eyeing a solicitation from Capital One calmly, the next minute he's ripped it out of my hand and shoved it down his maw.) He regularly gnaws on paper towels, and he's made a meal of several napkins (to the amusement of both us and a waiter at Hamburger Mary's, and to the horror of my mother-in-law).

austen, snarfing down a napkin

The other morning when Austen awoke at 5:30 or so, I discovered that his sleeper suit was wet (yes, he'd had a bath the night before, and as usual, his diaper leaked; he's definitely not drinking the bath water, and we put a larger size diaper on him, so we're still going with the penis-in-the-wrong-position theory). I was too tired to re-dress him, so I stripped off the suit and onesie and tossed him into our bed semi-naked. I don't think I've seen him asleep half-naked since he was in the hospital, so I snapped a photo.

austen, unclothed

On Saturday we joined in a neighborhood sidewalk sale and managed to get rid of about half of the extra stuff that doesn't really fit into our lives/house anymore. Al snapped this photo about an hour in, I think:

austen and I try to attract customers

During the sale we also managed to snap photos of each other with the same enthusiastic smiles on our faces:

me at the sale
al at the sale

On Sunday morning we drove down to Virginia to visit Al's parents, and we spent the night so I could get to an appointment nearby more easily on Monday. We had some extra time before the appointment, so we stopped at a local mall and got me a new pair of glasses (I tried contacts for all of two days last week, but I found that I could neither tolerate them for more than two hours, nor see well enough to work, so I'll be returning them to the eye doctor tomorrow).

my new glasses

Upon our return on Monday evening we discovered that the rhododendron in our front garden had bloomed for the first time since we moved in 18 months ago. (Yay! It likes us! It really, really likes us!)

the rhododendron in all its glory

In honor of the occasion, I dyed my hair to match.

rhododendron hair

Posted by Lori at 10:46 PM
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June 4, 2005

Anakin and Austen

Al and I went to see the last Star Wars movie tonight. I'll spare you my review (I enjoyed parts of the movie very much, others not so much, but as it's been analyzed to death in newspapers, magazines, and the blogosphere by now, I'm sure I'd be adding nothing new) and instead say a few words about what it was like to see it with Austen.

Overall he was very well behaved, and, except for the time he poked me in the eye, the time he bit me while nursing, and the time threw up on me, pretty good company. He watched the first 15 minutes or so quietly and without protesting the fact that I had my hands clamped firmly over his ears. (We found the sound level to be a little quieter in the back of the theater, where we'd moved after a few deafening previews, but I was still concerned that it was too loud for a 6-month old.) I then felt his body start to relax and asked Al to check his eyelids; Al indicated that they were wide open, and that he was watching intently. I had Al check two more times in the next 10 minutes, and the third time, he was definitely asleep.

I think he slept for about 15-20 minutes on my shoulder, and when he woke up, I nursed him on the right side. He was almost completely asleep—and I'd let the jacket I'd been pressing against his exposed ear slip—when Chancellor Palpatine let out a howl and attacked Mace Windu & Co. Austen started to howl right along with the Chancellor, and it took a minute or two to convince him that he was OK, that nobody was coming to attack him with lightsabers.

Once we got him chilled out again, he knelt on my lap for a while with his body toward me and his face toward the screen; it was very important, apparently, that he not miss anything. I then had Al hold him for a bit so he'd remember seeing Star Wars with his dad. When he fussed a little, Al handed him back, and I nursed him on the left until he bit me. At that point I tipped him up, and he watched a little more of the movie facing forward, barely glancing away as he threw up on me. I'm not sure what we missed in the frantic attempt to fish some kind of tissue, napkin, or towel out of the diaper bag; probably not much.

About the time that I started getting into the movie (I couldn't have cared less for most of it, but the last half hour sort of summed up all the backstory I'd heard about Star Wars between 1977 and 1999), Austen lost interest in it, and instead decided to focus on my face. He laughed, giggled, squealed, grabbed my nose, and poked me in the eye (hard enough to make my left eye water for several minutes, and it still hurts). I wished I'd put my glasses back on when Austen first removed them instead of handing them to Al, but I figured they had so many fingerprints on them that I wouldn't be able to see anyway.

We've been playing a game lately where whenever Austen shouts/growls/groans/auoogahs, I shout/growl/groan/auoogah back in exactly the same fashion, and at this point I think he decided that he would play it with the sound-effects-laden movie. At first he responded to the screen, and then, as I do with him sometimes, he anticipated the groans, shouts, and other sounds and managed to make the same ones in unison with it. Sometimes he also inserted his own sound effects, which is what eventually led me to take him down near the exit, so I could dash out if necessary. I didn't, because I wanted to see what was going on; Al said he could still hear Austen auoogahing (not surprising, since the theater was stadium style, and we were directly below where Al was sitting), and that his timing was sometimes hilariously spot-on.

We left the theater with Austen laughing, and he laughed and played in his carseat all the way home. There was only a little protest when Al put him to bed (Al ended up giving him a little speech about how all the images he saw tonight were just pretend, and that he shouldn't worry about them in his dreams), and he's been fast asleep since. All in all, a successful Star Wars outing.*

*Unless, of course, he wakes up at 2am screaming about the dark side, battle droids, or lava creeping up his legs.

Posted by Lori at 9:22 PM
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June 7, 2005

Breastfeeding in Public

A friend sent me a link to a New York Times article called 'Lactivists' Taking Their Cause, and Their Babies, to the Streets (free subscription required to view), and it made me realize how lucky I am—and how nonchalant I've become—when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

The list of places I've fed Austen is probably shorter than the list of places I haven't, with the former including at least four different airports; several restaurants; random benches at the mall and the park; my local CVS pharmacy; the car; the ice rink; and the lovely 2nd floor bathroom at Nordstrom King of Prussia. Just yesterday I fed him at the Starbucks at 16th and Market while drinking a cappucino and eating an iced lemon pound cake, with no complaints.

In the first weeks of Austen's life the UPS man saw me nursing him on an almost daily basis; a spate of new baby and Christmas gift deliveries combined with Austen's every 90 minutes eating schedule meant that I was always answering the door with a baby on the boob. His response was exactly what you'd hope for as a nursing mom: he'd sign for me, put the package inside, and never, ever stare. I love my UPS guy for that.

I'm aware of how uncomfortable witnessing a breastfeeding mother makes some people. I was uncomfortable myself when my sister-in-law fed my 18 month-old nephew at the dinner table in Hawaii once, in fact. I tried to analyze what about the situation made me uncomfortable, and I realized that it was the fact that he was playing more than eating, leaving the giant nipple exposed and pointing at me most of the time. I couldn't understand, at the time, how my sister-in-law could continue talking to the rest of us as if her boob wasn't hanging out for everyone to see. (I can now, of course; when you're feeding an infant every 2 hours, you get used to going about your business while doing it, and you sometimes forget that you're half-naked. :)

To lessen the chance that I'll make others feel the way I did in Hawaii, I close up the shop if Austen shows more interest in looking around than in eating, even if he fusses. I never leave the boob exposed if I can help it (when the kid pops off, the shirt comes down). If I have a choice between a table in the corner and one in front of the door, I'll take the corner. But I also don't make a bigger deal out of covering myself up or hiding from view than I need to. I don't want to invite stares, but I also don't want to suggest that I'm doing anything odd or dirty. I figure the more women who breastfeed in public without making people think, "good lord, put that thing away!", the more comfortable everyone will be with it in the long run.

So thanks to my so-far positive public breastfeeding experiences, I won't be taking to the streets in protest. I'll just continue doing what I'm doing and try to return the consideration folks are showing me. But for Barbara Walters, and the guy complaining loudly on his cell phone about the breastfeeding mom across the aisle, I have a message: Yeah, I know, our exposed breasts are uncomfortably close to you, thanks to sardine-style airplane seating. But which would you rather have: An infant eating quietly on the ascent and descent, or one screaming his lungs out because his ears won't pop? I'd take the exposed breast and the quiet baby any day... but then, I'd also take the screaming baby over you and your shouted cell phone conversation, too, asshole.

Posted by Lori at 4:27 PM
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June 7, 2005

My Little Sweet Potato

sweet_potato face

Posted by Lori at 6:41 PM
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June 15, 2005

Batbaby, Batbaby

It's another hot day in Philadelphia, and I woke up wondering how Austen and I would spend the 10 hours or so until Al got home without overheating or going bonkers. My usual diversion, a nice long walk with Austen in the stroller, didn't seem prudent in the heat, and I didn't want to spend the whole day trying to work while fighting to keep Austen's little hands away from the trackpad buttons. (He's on my lap at the moment, but he's busy with a frozen washcloth.)

I managed to get us both dressed and fed by 10:30am, so I checked moviefone.com to see if there were any interesting films playing at the Cherry Hill Loews (which, as host of the weekly Reel Moms, is relatively baby-friendly). I noticed that Batman was opening today, and a quick visit to rottentomatoes.com told me that the movie was surprisingly fresh. We decided to go.

Long story short, since the wascloth is wearing off: I thought Batman was wonderful. OK, yes, it has a few flaws, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the movie that all the others should have been, IMHO. Since I'm no fan of superhero movies in general, and I didn't know that the movie was directed by the same guy who did Memento, my expectations were fairly low despite the fresh rating from rottentomatoes, and Batman Begins had no trouble exceeding them.

Austen was pretty well-behaved through the first two thirds of the movie and fast asleep in the Bjorn for the last third (I stood in the entry aisle for that, but I didn't miss anything). And like our Star Wars outing, he emerged from the theater exceedingly happy, and he's been cheerful ever since. I ought to take him to the movies more often!

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June 21, 2005

I Want to Vomit... All Over the Babysitter

Well, I'm gratified to know that my instincts are spot-on. What I'm nauseated about is that I don't follow them. I want to get this whole sordid story out of my system, mainly because I think that vomiting it up will make me feel better, but all I can muster right now are a few bullet points:

  • The babysitter quit last night, via e-mail. Stated reason: The internship she interviewed for on Friday unexpectedly started this week.
  • I've had concerns for a while about said babysitter's honesty and reliability, but I sat on them because (a) I had a sense that confronting her about lying, even just to say, "you know, I'd rather just have you tell me the truth, even if it's not as pretty" would burst some reality bubble around her and cause a mess, (b) I need a babysitter, and I'm too lazy/face-to-face-meeting-averse to want to look for a new one, and (c) Austen seemed to like her.
  • Austen is fine. She played nicely with him and never hurt him in any way. I suspect, however, that the child development courses she said she'd taken were as imaginary as the flat tire that made her 15 minutes late one day (a flat tire makes you 30, 45, or 60 minutes late, not 15).
  • Closing an e-mail with "Respectfully," doesn't make it respectful. Just so you know.
Posted by Lori at 10:21 AM
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June 22, 2005

Antidote

I think it's a little hard to understand while I feel literally, physically sick about the babysitter situation without knowing me—and, more importantly, without knowing all the details. I just can't bring myself to go through them all here, however; suffice it to say that there's more than irresponsibility involved on the babysitter's part, and a painful history of being made a fool of on my part.

The best antidote for the gnawing nausea is my amazing husband, followed closely by the ever-cute Austen. I probably don't mention enough what a truly great person Al is, and how glad I am that I married him. Sometimes I'm just knocked back by what a great match he is for me. We're so similar it's scary, though he's more patient and kind than I am. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

sweet_chos.jpg

Both Al and Austen, who are never stingy with their love, were also unexpectedly generous with their time yesterday. Al normally watches Austen when I'm at the dentist, but he went above and beyond yesterday afternoon when it took an hour and a half to shave down a tooth in preparation for a crown. Meanwhile, Austen set a new nap record—three hours in the morning, and 45 minutes in the afternoon. I was shocked to find that I could get in a full day's work (though it was accomplished in several shorter bursts rather than in long stretches), a dentist appointment, and a family walk without the aid of a sitter and without going crazy.

I should also mention that the rest of my family is also incredibly supportive; both my mom and my sister offered to help watch Austen until I could find another sitter. Mom is willing to come here, and Lisa offered to host me and Austen at her house. I need a fast Internet connection to work, so unfortunately Lisa's house is out, but wasn't it sweet of her to invite us down? I may try to work something out with my mom, though, since I know she'd consider it a treat to spend a week with Austen. :)

Today I was supposed to meet with a new babysitting prospect, but she had a family emergency last night and had to go out of town. No worries; it just means I'll have time for lunch with my husband! Yay!

Posted by Lori at 9:13 AM
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July 6, 2005

I Forgot What I Was Going to Say

Last night I thought of like five different things I wanted to blog about (some parenthood-related, some politics/media/news-related), but I figured rather than trying to type while holding the baby, I'd wait until I had both hands free today to blog. Of course, now I can't remember what I was going to say....

Random results of the Google search I'm running on my brain in the background:

  • We found a new babysitter on Friday, and she started today. So far, so good.
  • The alarm system went off in the house at 10:40pm on Friday (when we were in Baltimore) and caused a bit of a panic on our part. The police still hadn't responded 40 minutes after the alarm company notified them, so we asked an amazingly understanding neighbor to have a peek at the house for us. She reported that no windows were broken and house looked intact, and also mentioned that there'd been a hellacious thunderstorm at 10:40, which is probably what tripped the alarm. Phew.
  • Live 8: Glad we were gone. Was the TV coverage as bad for Live Aid? Al and I seem to recall that it was...
  • We're being jerked around by Sears again, this time for the dryer. We had a repair appointment for 8am-12pm on Friday; when the guy hadn't called or shown up by 1:15, we left for Baltimore. He called my cell phone at 2:20pm to say he was ready to come over. I said too late, we'd left when he was only an hour late. He said that 8am-12pm really means 8am-5pm. Me: "Really? Then why tell me 8am to 12pm?" Him: "I'm just telling you the company policy, m'am. I can come back on Tuesday, 8am-12pm." Me: "Which means you'll be there by 5pm?" When he hadn't turned up by 2pm yesterday I called to find out when he was coming; turns out that he meant NEXT Tuesday, not this one. Fucker. And by the way, this is the same dryer that Nick, the old repair guy, "fixed" back in October.
  • Sandra Day O'Connor. Hmmmm. I'm not sure I was totally on board with her case-by-case ruling style, but I'm glad she had the opportunity to serve. I'm curious to see who makes it through next... and I think I'll opt out of the partisan rhetoric (nay, hyperbole) this time around. One thing I will say: How about keeping to the spirit of one of O'Connor's rulings and using race and gender as only one factor among many when choosing a new justice?
  • I'm looking forward to Austen's next doctor visit at the end of this month. As of right now, the over/under is looking like 23 lbs. As usual, I'm going under.
  • Foods Austen has tried so far: sweet potatoes, peaches, plums, prunes, rice, rice cereal, bananas, avocado, apples, applesauce, watermelon, and organic vanilla-flavored teething biscuits. And paper, of course. Lots of paper.
Posted by Lori at 3:05 PM
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July 8, 2005

The Nightmare Scenario

Greetings from the Internet Lounge at Flash Forward in NYC. Al is giving a presentation in about an hour, and the plan was for me to visit my favorite New York spots while he got ready. I'd watch the preso (if Austen cooperated), and then we'd all go up to his brother's apartment in the evening and spend the weekend. The plan did not include rain.

Rain, however, is what NYC is getting right now, in torrents. Oops, and poop is what Austen's delivering right now... hopefully not in torrents. Back after a diaper change.

Posted by Lori at 12:24 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 8, 2005

The Nightmare Scenario, Continued

So as I was saying, it's pouring here in New York, and pouring rain wasn't part of the plan. I am wearing a skirt and neoprene flipflops. I suppose as raingear goes, these choices aren't so bad; the skirt material doesn't absorb water, and neoprene is what wetsuits are made of, so that's something. At first I was a little weirded out by walking through NYC puddles in almost-bare feet, but when the curb cuts disappeared under 2' wide, 6" deep white-water rivers I figured there wasn't any use worrying about germs anymore. I was literally ankle-deep in them, with the non-absorbent skirt plastered to my calves.

Austen, meanwhile, was managing to stay mostly dry beneath the rain cover on his stroller. I had to tilt the seat back a bit to keep him from trying to pull the cover off and eat it, and the (as far as I'm concerned, unnecessary) airholes at face level let in some of the downpour, but for the most part he seemed to be enjoying himself. At least, that's what passersby told me.

I never did make it down to the Magnolia Bakery (though I did get a couple cupcakes at Billy's yesterday; I just wanted some Magnolia ones to compare) or to Tea & Sympathy to stock up on Typhoo Decaffeinated, and I never did find an Adidas store (I want to see if I can find some lime green sneakers). In fact, I only made it 10 blocks before I caved and came here, to the conference hotel. I am finally mostly dry (except for my feet), and Austen's on his second nap. Al's preso is over (I saw about a third of it before Austen woke fully from his first nap and wouldn't stay still and quiet), and he just needs to make some calls before we leave. Sadly, it's still raining, so there's not much we can do in the way of kicking around before we head up to his brother's.

It's a funny thing, rain. I grew up on the east coast, and I've been back here for almost two years now, but still I never seem to expect it. Instead, I expect the endless sunny (or at least non-rainy) days that grace Northern California from mid-April until November.

Posted by Lori at 3:45 PM
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July 9, 2005

Chelsea, Saturday Afternoon

I'm not sure if I explained properly yesterday why a downpour in New York was the nightmare scenario, so let me address that omission before I talk about what we did today: Basically, a downpour meant that I was trapped—with Austen, and without any of the tools for entertaining him or giving my arms a break that I'd have at home. Being wet as well just made things even less comfortable.

Today dawned better and brighter (and cooler and clearer). Al, Austen, and I were up early, so we walked down to H&H Bagels and got some breakfast for the household. On the way there and back, we stopped to pet about a zillion dogs, and I remarked to Al that if we ever move to New York I'm going to get a dog just to ensure that I get out early every morning. New York is so cool in the morning before everyone is up.

broken brella well-behaved boston terrier

After snarfing down the yummy bagels, we took the subway down to 14th Street and walked toward the Bleecker Street playground. On the way we stopped at Mary's Off Jane for a mojito limeade (a little too tart for me, but very fresh—a couple packets of sugar would have smoothed it out nicely) and a slice of devil's food cake with "American buttercream icing" for later. (I just tried it now, and it was excellent: The cake was dense and chocolatey but still cakelike, very similar to my Aunt Judy's Black Cake, and the frosting was fluffy and sweet, a perfect balance of butter and sugar.)

At the playground Austen got to try his first swing; he was a little wary at first of being released into the black rubber contraption, but after a few pushes from Al, he really got into it. I have to say, whenever I have the opportunity to visit a playground in New York, I think how lucky are the kids who get to grow up here.

austen on his first swing Austen on the swing

After the playground we had a delicious lunch at Mi Cocina on Hudson Jane. I had the Frijolades Oaxaqueños (spelling approximate) and a strawberry lemonade; like the mojito limeade, the lemonade was too tart, but the entree—two white corn tortillas stuffed with queso fresco and covered with a black bean sauce and a pepper-studded cylinder of scrambled eggs—was mouth-wateringly wonderful. I can still taste it in my mind. YUM. We then ambled over to a part of town I don't think I'd ever been to before this visit, surprisingly: Chelsea.

We crossed through the old meatpacking district to the bike/skate/pedestrian path that led to the Chelsea Piers and then walked out onto the piers themselves. Cool complex! If it weren't for the fact that I don't think we could afford to live in Manhattan on one (or even one and a half) incomes, I'd be scanning the real estate section right now. (Of course, I can picture myself living in lots of cities; our visit to Vancouver actually *did* spur me to scan a few real estate listings there. :) I love the West Village, what I've now seen of Chelsea is intriguing, and my brother-in-law's neighborhood up in the 90s between Central Park West and Columbus is also charming. I think it'd be as hard to narrow down what part of the city I'd want to live in as it was when I tried to move here back in 1995 (I overshot then and landed in Norwalk, CT).

carl and al pushing strollers through the meatpacking district abstract art pigeon herding

We didn't get to stay in Chelsea long, as an approaching thunderstorm chased us back up to the West 90s (I'd left both the umbrellas and Austen's rain cover out to dry in the apartment, and I had my fill of rain yesterday, so I wasn't eager to get caught in another downpour). I hope to explore more of Chelsea and the West Village next time we come up. If nothing else, I'll be going back to Billy's for the cupcakes—and, if I have room, down to Jane Street for a giant slice of cake from Mary's!

Posted by Lori at 6:01 PM | Permalink
July 13, 2005

Food News

All kinds of food items to share today, from the gastronomical delights of our last hours in New York this weekend to local Philadelphia finds. First, New York: Al and I got up early again on Sunday (though not quite as early as on Saturday) and made it out for another morning walk, this time with Al's brother Carl for company. We walked down Broadway to the Starbucks at 81st, where I ordered a cappucino and (as usual) got a latte. The coffee was smooth and the milk heated to perfection, however, so I didn't complain.

From there we crossed the street to Zabar's, but since it was only 8:30 and Zabar's opens at 9am on Sundays, we weren't able to browse or buy. Instead we cut over to Amsterdam so Al could get a bagel sandwich at Barney Greengrass. On the way there (at 83rd, maybe? somewhere between 81st and 86th, anyway) we passed what appeared to be a new outlet of Le Pain Quotidien and picked up a couple pain au chocolates, a blueberry muffin, and a banana chocolate chip muffin. Al then got his bagel sandwich ("for $11, this better be the best bagel sandwich ever"), an extra plain bagel, and a package of Tate's chocolate chip cookies, and we headed back toward the apartment.

Luckily the street we chose to walk down was the same one that Tris and Henry had taken to walk toward us, and we ran into them about halfway up the block. We determined that we had enough baked goods to have a breakfast picnic, so instead of going home, we went to the hippo playground (real name: Safari Playground) in Central Park to eat at the picnic tables.

I had the banana chocolate chip muffin (wonderfully dense and flavorful... but how did they manage to get the batter so yellow—and so completely devoid of those little brownish-black fibers that are the hallmark of banana bread?) and a couple bites of Al's bagel, which was piled with three slices of the freshest-tasting nova lox I've ever had. Al declared the sandwich to be absolutely worth $11. Austen, meanwhile, noshed on a bit of his first-ever NY bagel (the plain one).

the $11 bagel sandwichmommy eating a muffinbagel boy

After breakfast, we played with the kids for a while in the canoe and among the hippos, and then we climbed up to one of the treehouses and chased each other around. (Had to burn off breakfast so we could make room for lunch!)

Henry and me in the canoeAl introduces Austen to the hippos
Al and Austen in the treehouseHenry comes down via the chain ladder

And speaking of lunch... As soon as we'd had a proper rest back at the apartment, we trekked back down to 83rd and Broadway to eat at Artie's. We'd been promising Henry a bowl of matzoh ball soup all weekend, and it was time to make good on that promise. (All that promising had given Al a craving for matzoh ball soup, too.) Instead of the cheese blintzes I'd planned to order (and which I'd so enjoyed last time), I decided at the last minute to get chocolate chip pancakes instead. (I later completed the chip trifecta by having a Toll House cookie bar for dinner.) Al got the soup, a potato knish, and a chocolate egg cream, and both of us noshed on the communal cole slaw and pickles the water guy had brought to the table. We agreed that the cole slaw was excellent—creamy-tasting but not dripping with sauce—but we split on the pickles: I prefer the "new" (half-sour), and Al prefers the "old" (full-sour). I don't mind trading a little bitterness for extra crunch.

stroller parking at Artie's
Artie's is popular with the stroller set

The chocolate chip pancakes were yummy, and the matzoh ball soup and egg cream very filling, so Al got the knish to go. We ate it for dinner when we got home, and I can say without reservation that it was the best knish I've ever had. As I said to Al, "this knish is to ordinary knishes what Mama's falafel is to ordinary falafel"... which brings me back to Philadelphia food news. I've been meaning to mention Mama's here (though Al has been begging me not to, lest it get more crowded than it already is :) for a while now; it's the best falafel I've had since college, when I used to haunt the Gyro Wrap on Broad Street in Athens, GA. Most falafel is dense, hard, and sometimes dry, while Mama's is crispy-crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. I could eat the falafel balls with no toppings or salads whatsoever and enjoy the heck out of them, but the fact that both the Mama's Sandwich and the Mama's Platter come with hummus, tahini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a wonderful, slaw-like cabbage (not to mention a homemade pita baked in a special oven from Israel) make them absolutely heavenly. Try the sandwich or platter with a grapefruit drink (I forget the name of the one we like, but it's in a clear, nubby bottle with an orange cap), or make your own grapefruit spritzer with equal parts unsweetened grapefruit juice, Sprite, and plain or lime selzer. Very refreshing! Oh, and if you get a chance, try a "cigar"—a miniature egg roll-like snack that's filled with a potato mixture—for an extra $1. It was the perfect antidote to my knish craving on Monday night.

Sadly, I discovered yesterday that another Philadelphia food find (and hip hangout) is no more: Hamburger Mary's on Chestnut Street (and the Dragonfly Lounge above it, home of the city's best Lesbian dance party, according to Philadelphia Weekly) is now closed. We only got to eat there once, but I've been making a homemade version of their bleu cheese (veggie) burger ever since. HM's had avocado on it, but since a good, ripe avocado is usually hard to find when I have a craving for the bleu cheese burger, I make mine without. The recipe is simple: microwave a Boca burger for 90 seconds while you toast a sliced Kaiser roll. While the burger rests, spread bleu cheese dressing (I like Marie's) on each side of the roll, and then squirt a bit of ketchup on one side and a bit of mustard (I like a grainy horseradish version I buy in Canada) on the other. Stick the Boca burger in the middle, slice with a serrated knife, and enjoy. It's messy but oh so delicious.

Finally, I forgot to mention that Austen has also tried yogurt and ice cream in addition to his regular fruits and veggies. I've read that you're not supposed to introduce yogurt until 9 months and other dairy products until 1 year, but he seemed so interested in Al's ice cream on our trip to Vancouver and my yogurt last month that we let him have some. Both dairy products came right back up within a few hours, so we're going to wait until September to try again. In the meantime, Austen has lately been making a meal of his feet; I saw him try to shove his toes in his mouth last week without success, but on Monday he finally got the hang of it, and he's been noshing on baby toes and doggie shoes ever since. Yesterday he also tried a bit of my Kaiser roll and seemed to enjoy it. Ummmm, white bread: just like paper, only better.

yummy white breadeating kaiser!

Posted by Lori at 9:56 AM
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July 14, 2005

Carrots For Breakfast, Plums For Lunch

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July 20, 2005

On Babysitters, Blogging, and A Hard Day's Work

This whole nanny blog thing just creeps me out. (The nanny in question's actual blog is here.) Possibly because I had a dodgy babysitter experience; possibly because another potential babysitter happened to include her blog link in e-mail correspondence, and I had to fight not to be unnerved by what I read; or possibly because I myself am a regular blogger (and I've posted about the vomitous feeling the dodgy babysitter inspired), I've been thinking a lot about the article and the response over the past couple hours.

There are many things to be creeped out about in Helaine Olen's piece, but the three I find most creepy are (a) that Olen read the nanny's blog so obsessively, (b) that she doesn't seem to see the hypocrisy in writing about her experience—hyperbolically and occasionally libelously—in the New York Times, and (c) that the straw that broke the camel's back—the thing that led to the nanny's firing—was that the nanny considered watching Olen's children "work". Um, I've got news for you: caring for children *IS* WORK.

I know that some families want a babysitter/nanny "who'll be part of the family," as one of our current sitter's references put it, but the fact is that you are PAYING this person to watch your kids. (Incidentally, we weren't looking for someone to be part of our family, though I can totally see how our sitter would fit that bill if we were.) This person may love your children and treat them as if they were her own, but she's not your mother or your sister or your aunt. She's trying to earn a living watching your kids, not doing you a favor.

Watching kids is hard. Keeping them entertained, interested, fed, changed, and generally cared for requires patience, imagination, strength, and stamina. How do I know? Because when our sitter isn't here, it's what I do—and it's at least as challenging as the software engineering that I do when the sitter *is* here. It's actually surprising to me that babysitters don't charge more per hour for all this effort. When I first talked to my friend Jean about how to go about hiring a sitter, she mentioned that the going rate in San Francisco was $50/hour. This would have been tough for me to manage, but honestly, it wasn't completely shocking. I was prepared for anything. It was only when Jean mentioned that some nannies charge $20/hour for two children that I realized she'd said $15 for one, not $50.

Would I want my babysitter to blog about us? Well, probably not. But if it were really important to me, I'd probably make it a stipulation of employment: no blogging about this job. I think I'd feel somewhat hypocritical doing it, however, given that I write about so much of what's going on in our lives here, so I've never made such a request. (I did request that the former babysitter not post photos of Austen on her site, however.) As for blogging in general, what our babysitter does on her own time is her business; I'm actually more comfortable not knowing all the details of her life, so if she had a blog, I wouldn't seek it out anyway. I know enough to feel that Austen's safe and well-cared for in her company, and I see evidence of her common sense, good judgement, and strong work ethic on a daily basis. Anything else I need to know, I'll ask her. And as long as she never lies to me, tries to pass off complaining as conversation, or asks me to write her another check because she misplaced the one I wrote her yesterday, I'll never vomit on her—in person, online, or in print.

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July 23, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day

Austen found his voice recently—and it's very shrill. Sometimes he babbles pleasantly, saying things like "ay ya ya ya ya ya" and "hey da da da da da", and it's super cute. Other times, he SHRIEKS. Loudly, shrilly, earsplittingly. It's annoying enough at home, but in public it's stressful in the extreme. I'm horrified and embarrassed that I might be bothering other hotel guests, restaurant patrons, and driving range golfers, and that I can't get him to stop. I used to think, "geez, can't you shut that kid UP?" when I heard toddlers shrieking in stores, and now I know that the answer is NO. I also understand why those mothers didn't even seem to be trying: Because as a parent, you have to tune some of the shrieking out in order to preserve your sanity. You know there's very little you can do, so you save the little amunition you have for when it actually might do some good.

shrieky boops

So anyway, after collapsing, exhausted, onto the bed last night at 7:30 and failing to convince Austen to (a) sleep or (b) stop shrieking, Al finally took him and let me conk out. They apparently jumped up and down on the couch for a while, and then Al snuggled Austen in next to me for his bedtime nursing at 8:45, and then got in bed himself at 9. We got up early, as planned (though Al and even I could have used another hour or so of uninterrupted snoozing)—early enough to get into PJ's Pancake House on Nassau Street for breakfast before a line formed out the door. From about half a block away I saw a large guy standing in the doorway with a cigarette, and I muttered to Al, "who smokes in the doorway?" As we approached, prepared to dash around him quickly to avoid the cloud of stale smoke, he said, "two? You can park the stroller right out here..." Apparently this was PJ, or at least the owner or manager of the place.

He ended up letting us take the stroller inside, where we folded it up and stashed it next to the table to avoid blocking the aisle, and PJ (or whoever he was) brought us a little baby seat that attached to the table. (We'd seen one like it on our NYC weekend when a couple brought their own to a Korean BBQ place on West 36th Street.) It was totally perfect for Austen; he got to sit at the table right next to me, but the sides were high enough that he couldn't quite reach onto my plate. Instead he amused himself with my empty creamer containers while we ate. I said to Al that this could possibly be the best meal I've had with Austen in attendance, even though the chocolate chip pancakes weren't quite as good as (though they were more expensive than) the ones at Artie's. The best thing we ordered between us was on Al's plate: the "mashed browns", which contained peppers and onions. The coffee was also quite good, especially with cream.

elbow to elbowthe creamer kid

From PJ's we started our tour of the Princeton campus. I already knew the stroller-friendly routes to the bookstore and the train station, and those for the most part also turned out to be the shady routes. We got a couple shirts for my sister's kids at the bookstore, walked down to the train station and had a rest on a bench there, and then walked back up to Nassau street via Alexander Street. By that time Austen had fallen asleep, so we sat on a bench between Mercer Road and University Place to give him time to snooze. From there it was to the CVS to buy a couple miniature notebooks for me to carry with me, and on the way back we passed the coolest little table and chairs outside Nassau Interiors. Both of us liked the set instantly, and the price was very reasonable, so we bought it on the spot. I'll drive back up on Monday to pick it up, as there isn't room in the car at the moment.

We detoured down Tulane Street on our way back to the hotel on the advice of a sign, which pointed toward The Little Chef pastry shop. An worthy detour, I'd say, as it led to a wonderful little shop full of French pastries baked by a gentleman with an actual French accent. I should have asked his name and where he was from, but I didn't. I did ask if he did all the baking himself, and he said yes. We purchased an apple-apricot brioche (a small bite of which I've just taken, and so far, so delicious) and a chocolate croissant for later, looked in another furniture store for a baby-safe ottoman/coffee table for our living room (the glass one with the pointy metal frame that we have now is really Austen-unfriendly), and then returned here to the room. We're about to go out again for lunch and a drive around the area, so there'll be more food news later...

Posted by Lori at 12:30 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 29, 2005

This Week...

  • Our babysitter (whom the Beaner and I really, really like) was on vacation.
  • Our Mac Mini had a serious hard drive error that prevented it from starting up, that required a three-hour visit to the Apple store just to get most of the data backed up, and that required a complete reformat of the hard drive. Luckily, almost all of the photos I've taken over the past 8 months were salvaged, as was all the iTunes music. We'll be backing up more regularly now, of course.
  • The Beaner fell out of our bed when a midday phone call from a fucking telemarketer woke him from a nap. He has a bruise on his elbow and his hand, but otherwise he's fine.
  • We are trying to establish a new nap routine (Pack 'n Play or crib only, not our bed), and the angst involved is really wearing me (and the Beaner, I imagine) down.
  • The Beaner has screamed so loudly and piercingly that my ears have shut down several times. It's like going momentarily deaf.
  • I had a migraine.
  • We ran out of Advil. (Not that it really helps anyway.)
  • I won the over/under. At today's 8-month doctor visit, Austen was 22 lbs., 7 oz.
Posted by Lori at 12:36 PM
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August 3, 2005

Let's Sing Along With the Bees, Shall We?

The Beaner has a Pooh bear that sings (why is it that in-laws always buy NOISY toys for your kids? at least this one is cute...) a catchy little tune about bees: "The BEES in my shirt are shining brightly" — and here Pooh's shirt lights up with little bee outlines — "oh so LIGHTLY! shining BRIGHTLY! The BEES in my shirt are shining brightly, oh my twinkle BEES." Then Pooh says something like, "bees, bees, silly bees," followed by "Let's sing along with the bees, shall we?" (twice) and "buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz, etc." to the same tune. There's more buzzing (from the bees this time), a giggle, and an assertion that "oh, I think the bees LIKE you" before Pooh moves on to his second little ditty: "Bees twinkle brightly, that's what they do; bees twinkle brightly, that's what they do; bees twinkle brightly, that's what they do... and they also love to buzz." All very charming.

Until the bees invade your house, that is.

We knew our back deck had a bee problem as early as last summer, when I was growing tomatoes and peppers out there. Large wasps would hover around me as I watered the plants, and they stung my sister-in-law as she stood next to Al while he was grilling one night. We didn't know where they were coming from, but we figured there had to be a nest.

Ladies and gentlemen, there were FOUR. Al found them when he finally got the combination of time and weather he's been waiting for to tackle his deck projects. He went through a can and a half of wasp and hornet spray taking them all out, though four or five bees survived and hovered around his head, asking for spare change with which to pay for a room, while he painted the railing. A couple got in the house, but we were able to shoo them back outside.

Since Al had to move all the pots and outdoor furniture into the house to clear the deck for cleaning, I weeded out all the pots indoors while he scrubbed and painted outside. We agreed to put the white plastic outdoor tables—of which the bees seemed especially fond—out with the trash on Sunday night, though for some reason Al didn't put the matching chairs out with them.

The deck didn't dry in time to stain it on Sunday, and we decided we wanted to go with a different color of stain anyway, so the deck project was put on hold until next weekend. The pots, chairs, and decorative table all stayed inside (though I moved the three pots with actual flowers in them to the front garden). I was a little eeky about having the pots stay inside for so long because I found a weird little bug in one of them while I was weeding, but rather than have to re-prep the deck again next weekend, I figured I'd try to get over my bug phobia.

So Monday passed without event; the babysitter came and played with the Beaner while I worked in the living room with the pots. I didn't see any bugs. Then on Tuesday, while I was holding The Beaner and simultaneously checking my e-mail in the living room, I noticed a bee on the sliding glass door. I thought, "huh, I wonder how he got in here?" and started formulating a theory about the bee squeezing in through the weatherstripping between the doors. Then I saw another bee crawling on the sliding door track. I called Al and asked where the wasp spray was.

By the time I located the spray, stashed the Beaner in the Pack 'n Play in the bedroom, and returned to the glass door, there were no less than FIVE bees in sight. I sprayed them all, wigged out, and called Al again. He said he'd come home as early as he could, but since it was only 3pm, I was on my own for at least a couple hours. About 20 minutes later I spotted another bee crawling up the leg of one of the white plastic chairs, and a new idea occurred to me: Maybe it wasn't the tables the bees were so fond of. Maybe there was a nest UNDER ONE OF THE CHAIRS. Which, of course, were in the living room now.

I killed the bee on the chair and another that had been playing dead (but who really wasn't! faker!) next to the doormat with the spray, but I didn't want to ruin the lovely fabric window blinds by spritzing the one camped out there. I was also reluctant to use a fly swatter on him because a bee authority (OK, the guy who ran the lemonade stand at the Maryland Rennaissance Faire) once told me that bees can smell bee blood, and it drives them nuts—kinda like how sharks smell blood in the water and get all attack-y. If my theory about the nest under the chair was correct, then smashing the bee on the blinds could cause all his buddies to come swarming out for vengeance. Instead, I cowered in the basement and in the bedroom, hoping that the bees, who seemed half-starved and a bit lethargic, wouldn't realize that there were other rooms in the house (including a kitchen full of tasty treats like lemons and peaches).

When Al got home, he carefully inspected the white plastic chairs and confirmed my theory: one of them housed a fifth wasps' nest. He gingerly carried the chair outside, sprayed the nest... and watched another TEN bees fall out of it. He didn't manage to get the bee that had been hanging out on the blinds, but I discovered another corpse by the sliding glass door this morning, so I'm hoping all the little buzzers are accounted for.

Amazingly, none of us was stung.

I still can't get the Pooh bee songs out of my head, but now the words go something like this: Ohhhhhhhhhhh, BEES freak out Mommy, that's what they do; bees freak out Mommy, that's what they do; bees freak out Mommy, that's what they do... and they also love to nest. Bzzzzz!

austen_and_pooh.jpg

Posted by Lori at 9:38 PM
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August 7, 2005

The Beaner at Eight Months

When the Beaner was only a couple months old, it was hard to imagine a day when he would be big enough or coordinated enough to ride in the front of a grocery cart.

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It's weird to think that he'll be talking before long, and walking probably even sooner. (He's already standing up against the furniture and indicating that he wants to get down and walk around by diving toward the floor when someone's holding him.)

walking_assisted.jpg standing_at_activity_board.jpg

He's now eating a surprising array of foods, including a little ice cream now and then; he even had his first taste of meat this weekend when Al gave him a bit of pork from his sandwich. (He tried salmon last weekend when he shared a few bites of my entree at a new restaurant around the corner... more on that later.) His new favorite food appears to be Cheerios, which he now gets as an appetizer while I defrost cubes of pureed nectarine, plum, peach, or banana for his breakfast. He actually started flailing his arms and legs in excitement when he saw me get out the yellow box on Friday morning—and he'd only seen it twice before that.

eating_cheerios.jpg

The Beaner is now an odd mix of clingy and independent; he seems to want to be held (by me) all the time, and he cries when I leave the room or even move more than 20 feet away... and yet I know he can play quietly by himself for 15-20 minutes at a time (I've seen him do it), and he has hours of Mommy-free fun with our babysitter.

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For all the I-want-my-Mommy screaming that the Beaner does these days, I think it's actually Al who soothes him better. Al does what I always said I would do but sometimes can't manage when the clinginess and the crying overwhelm me: He talks to the Beaner as if he can understand every word, patiently and quietly explaining that we love him, that it's time for bed or that Mommy needs a break, and that delayed gratification is a wonderful thing.

crying.jpg al_and_austen.jpg

The Beaner is as charming around strangers as ever; he tends to be super smiley when we're out in public (as long as he's in my arms or in the Bjorn), and people often ask us, "is he always this happy?" We usually say yes or "most of the time." No one really wants to know that he can turn into a monster with snakes coming out of his ears when he's really mad or overtired. (The poor girl I sat next to on the train from NYC on Friday evening got to witness the transformation from cute and smiley to seething and screaming when we passed that invisible, mutable line known as "bedtime". She was pretty shocked.) For some reason, however, people keep mistaking him for a girl—which is totally puzzling to us. Perhaps it's his longish hair? We're not sure, but it's only started happening recently.

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For a kid who started teething so early (3 months!), we've also been surprised by the lack of actual teeth in his mouth. He's got one coming in on the lower right side that looks like a canine, though canines aren't supposed to come in until the upper and lower front teeth do, so we might be wrong about that. Otherwise, he's all gums (and all drool).

all_gums.jpg

In the first few days and weeks of the Beaner's life, people asked me all the time how long I was planning to breastfeed him. I always said I'd play it by ear; it might be two months, six months, twelve months, or maybe more. Those first two months were so hellishly painful that it's a wonder I kept at it, but here we are at eight and a half months, and the Beaner hasn't had an ounce of formula since the day he was born. (Al tried to give him some once, and the Beaner refused it rather vehemently.) I still don't know how long we'll keep at it; some days I'll nurse him only once in the morning and once at night and think that we must be tapering off, only to have the next day be one where he wants to nurse every two hours. On the days he bites and pulls and claws and scratches, I think that I'll be glad when it's over. On the days he snuggles into me and strokes my shirt or my face, I know I'll miss the closeness when we finally make the break.

at_custard_corral.jpg

Oh, and I think his height measurement at his recent checkup might have been off. He measured a little over 27", which means he really hasn't grown at all since his last visit and has dropped to about the 70th percentile in height. I suspect that he's actually a bit taller than the nurse gave him credit for, because he's now standing flat-footed in the exersaucer. As should be obvious from this photo, he's still in the 90th percentile for weight.

chubby_legs.jpg

Posted by Lori at 8:26 PM
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August 13, 2005

Baby's Got a New Pair of Shoes

The Beaner finally outgrew his second pair of doggie Robeez. I resisted the urge to buy another identical pair in size 12-18 months and instead got these charming goldfish. Aren't they (or at least, the one you can see) cute?

The Beaner's new goldfish shoes

Posted by Lori at 8:17 AM
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August 22, 2005

The Beaner

Believe it or not, the Beaner already has some new behaviors to report on since the Eight Months post—and I intend to post about them as soon as I have a chance. In the meantime, here's a shot taken yesterday that shows him looking more like a little boy and less like a baby.

The Beaner

Posted by Lori at 6:53 PM
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August 24, 2005

Grateful

Whenever I think I'm not going to be able to make it through the day, Austen gives me the gift of a two-hour nap. Funny how a nap can improve one's outlook, even when someone else is doing the sleeping.

Posted by Lori at 12:56 PM
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August 29, 2005

Education's in the Air

The very day that Michele commented about Quaker schools on my Independent Study post, and I responded that the nearby Friends Select School would be at the top of our list, cost permitting, I noticed that the cover story in this month's Philadelphia Magazine was a ranking of the area's top public and private schools. (This is probably no coincidence; what better time of year to write stories about education?) Since I'd failed to find any mention of tuition or fees (other than a few words on how to apply for financial aid, and who's likely to get it) on the Friends Select website, I thought I'd pick up a copy of the magazine in case the school and its tuition were mentioned. They were, and I'm afraid Friends Select is no longer at the top of the list.

I'm as encouraged as ever regarding the quality of the education Austen would get at Friends Select, which is number 28 on PhillyMag's list of top 50 private schools, but the tuition for day students is listed as $18,125. That's 10 times what my annual college tuition cost at the University of Georgia (granted, we're talking 15 years ago), and what a year of grad school at Stanford cost Al back in the mid-90s. There's no way we could afford that and still have money left over to send Austen to college. (I haven't actually run the numbers to see what we'd need to do to afford it—how much we'd need to set aside, what we'd have to do without, etc.—and I probably won't. I just object to K-12 education costs that high on principle.) The one upside to the high cost of Friends Select is that the average of the highest teacher salaries is $74,792, according to PhillyMag. I think of this as an upside because I believe teachers in general are underpaid, and private school teachers are usually paid less than public school teachers. At least some of the tuition money seems to be going to the staff.

Regarding Clem's question about what my home-schooling curriculum would look like, I don't have a specific plan yet, aside from the plan to do a lot of reading on the subject over the next three or four years. I do know that I don't believe in pre-school education per se (though the Montessori* approach mentioned in PhillyMag's "The $12,000-a-Year Pre-School" sounds close to my philosophy that play = learning), so aside from watching Sesame Street, singing everything from Aimee Mann to Ella Fitzgerald, reading books out loud, listening to Harry Potter and other audiobooks, and playing on the floor, I don't plan on educating Austen before age 4 or 5. [*Link goes not to the school mentioned in the article, but to the Montessori school that's just around the corner from our house.] This is actually one of many reasons why home schooling is appealing: If Austen doesn't have to compete to get into a public or private elementary school, I'll be less likely to cave to the prevailing societal pressure to start schooling before Austen is technically school age.

One idea that sounds appealing, either on its own or as a supplement to a home school curriculum, is online learning. More and more K-12 schools, both public and private, are offering courses online, which seems to me to be a good way for students to determine their own pace of learning and to be more self-directed while still getting the benefits of a tested curriculum and the guidance of a qualified educator.

Of course, Austen could turn out to be more like his dad, who enjoyed classroom learning far more than I ever did, than like me, and thus he might tell us when he's 5 or 7 or 10 that he *wants* to go to a regular school. There's a brief profile of a student who decided to attend public high school "after feeling he'd hit a wall with homeschooling" in the "Tales Out of School" story in PhillyMag, and I don't doubt that this would be likely with Austen as well—even if he turns out to be more like me—given that I'm probably unqualified to teach most subjects beyond the elementary level. I know I'll be relying on Al to give Austen an introduction to physics, for example, and I'll probably need someone else to handle biology, which I suck at. (For some reason I don't find botany nearly as confounding as biology, so I could probably cover that, if necessary).

I'm probably getting a little ahead of myself here; I know that Austen will need to learn how to add and subtract before he learns algebra and calculus, so I probably shouldn't worry that my math skills are a little rusty. This is where downloading or purchasing some established home schooling curricula will really help, since I'm not exactly sure at this point what kids are expected to be learning at each grade level. To a certain extent, a little ignorance of expectations is a good thing—expectations can as often limit growth as encourage it—but I don't want my first mistake to be to overwhelm my child with too much information.

ANYWAY! As usual, I'm overthinking this, I think. :)

One more thought on education before I conclude this post: I'm still not entirely clear on how the Philadelphia school system works, but I got a little information about it from two cashiers at Whole Foods and the woman behind me in line this morning. Apparently kids are assigned to schools by district, but there's also a certain amount of choice: My cashier said that there are special (magnet?) schools that kids can get into based on good grades, good attendance, or good behavior, and these are in addition to charter schools, which the woman behind me in line clarified are funded with public school money. You apparently apply to them (the charter schools, I mean) like private schools—and some have waiting lists a mile long—but they don't cost extra. I obviously need to find out more if we're going to stay in Philadelphia for more than a few years, but that's a start.

Posted by Lori at 10:07 PM
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August 30, 2005

Nine Months

After nine months of pregnancy, I'd started to believe that I was going to be pregnant forever. Now I can hardly remember being pregnant at all... but I'm starting to believe that Austen's going to be around for a while. What's hard to believe is that he has now been on the outside roughly the same amount of time that he was on the inside. Some observations from Austen's ninth month:

We don't need no stinkin' bouncy seat. Austen's been sitting up on his own for a couple months now, but for some reason it didn't occur to me until a couple weeks ago that I could just set him down on the floor when I went to the bathroom. I think it was one of Dooce's anecdotes popping into my head one day—a story that involved Leta pulling things out of the bathoom drawers while Heather was on the toilet—that made me think, "why am I still using the bouncy seat? It rests on the floor [due to Austen's bulk] instead of bouncing as advertised anyway these days." So now whenever I have to pee, Austen sits on the bathroom rug, happily pulling the toilet paper holder to his mouth like a microphone stand, and then unraveling as much of the roll as he can before I scoop him back up.

We see teeth! That's definitely a canine coming in on the lower right, and we can now clearly see two more bottom teeth coming in. Austen's now chewing like a champ, too (mainly Cheerios, bread, rice, and pizza crust, though you can shove just about anything in there). Austen's eating so many different foods that it's hard to list them all anymore, and he's started eyeing whatever Al and I are eating, too. He actually tried some of my sweet potato-chipotle soup with mint cream when we were at Devil's Alley the other night, and the slow burn of the peppers didn't deter him one bit from begging for more. (I gave it to him.)

eating bread at Kibbitz Down the Shore

At some point, I'm going to need to go on a diet. It just occurred to me today that hockey isn't the (sole) reason I'm pretty much able to eat whatever I want without gaining weight these days—breastfeeding is. Suddenly, continuing to breastfeed for another few months seems much more appealing, despite the teeth marks on my nipples. And speaking of breastfeeding, Austen has a goofy new behavior on that front. When we're at home I almost always nurse him in side-lying position, mainly because he usually falls asleep, and he's more likely to *stay* asleep if I just roll away from him instead of moving him somewere else. (We've returned to the habit of letting him nap in our bed; we just barricade him in with pillows and other parephenalia and listen closely for the sound of him waking up.) Anyway, sometimes instead of going to sleep, Austen will pop off, roll away and onto his tummy, give me a big, evil grin, and start stalking the nipple. He creeps forward on his elbows like a cat, grinning like a maniac the whole time, and then dive-bombs the boob. He thinks it's hilarious, so I usually let him do it a couple times before calling a halt to the nursing session (though the face-first position is surprisingly effective for milk delivery, it's uncomfortable for me—and annoying to boot, because he keeps popping off).

lori eating ice cream at the custard corral
austen eating ice cream at the custard corral
Austen dives face first into my cone at the Custard Corral.

He waves! The weekend before last, I picked Austen up after changing his diaper and carried him into the bathroom with me so I could wash my hands. As soon as I flipped on the light, I saw Austen wave at us in the bathroom mirror. I stood there with my jaw hanging open for a couple seconds...and then I waved back.

I think we got our first word. Austen's been babbling ma-ma-ma-ma and da-da-da-da for a while now, but there haven't been any distinguishable words until today. I wasn't even sure he'd said what I thought he'd said when I first heard it this morning, but when he bumped his head again this afternoon, it was unmistakable: "Ow." I'm just glad it wasn't "fuck!", which is what I usually say.

We've reorganized the kitchen cabinets for Austen's benefit. When we remodeled the kitchen, we made a big deal out of planning where everything would go. We wanted maximum accessibility and usability, and we got it. Enter Austen, who now knows how to open cupboards and who will sit on the floor playing with whatever he finds in them. Baby safety is now ranked above accessibility and usability on the priority list, which mostly means that all glass items have been moved to upper cupboards. Oh, and the toaster has, too.

pie plate standing in cupboard
extracting toaster

Val came to visit. Val, who last saw Austen 9 months ago, when he was just a lump inside my belly, got to meet him in person when she came down from Maine for a visit. We walked all over town, stopped for some playtime in Rittenhouse Square, ate at Devil's Alley and Morimoto (the funky booths turned out to be very adaptable to high chairs), and played on the floor in our living room. Fun! Val brought us some amazing homemade blueberry jam (made with wild Maine blueberries), plus some sweet L.L. Bean clothes for Austen. Look for photos of Austen in the sweater around Christmastime. :)

Val and Austen in Rittenhouse SquareVal gets an early start on her teaching career

Austen's a hit in Chelsea. Earlier in the month Austen and I took the train up to NYC to meet up with Kristin, who was visiting for the day. We went on a major food binge, walking around to places that Shuna recommended (plus a few places we found on our own, like the Chocolate Bar, where Kristin got Austen this cute "chocolate baby" t-shirt). Austen was a big hit in Chelsea; the bakers at Billy's came out to admire his rosy cheeks, and the host at Diner 24 played with him while Kristin and I sipped cocktails. (Photos from the day with Kristin on are on Flickr.)

chocolate baby

There's now a baggie with some of Austen's hair in it. I've been wanting to cut Austen's Gollum strands off for a while now, and I spent the past couple weeks planning how I would do it so that he wouldn't look like he'd been mowed with a Flowbee. (I often cut my own hair, so I have some experience in this area.) Of course, when I finally got out the scissors on Sunday morning I discovered that babies cannot be expected to sit still while you move a sharp object toward their temples. We tried the distraction method advocated by the Baby Owner's Manual (there's a diagram of one parent holding a teddy bear in the baby's sight line while the other parent snips), but it didn't help much. Suffice to say that Austen's cut isn't particularly stylish, but at least the Gollum strands are gone.

bad haircut

Posted by Lori at 9:31 PM
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September 21, 2005

I Need an Editorial Calendar

I have so many things I want to blog about that there's a sort of logjam in my brain. It's kind of like how when I have a ton of things to do, I often get completely overwhelmed with the length of my To Do list and end up doing nothing. In college I combatted this tendency to become overwhelmed and just go back to bed by scheduling my days in 15-minute increments so I could see that it was technically possible to get through my To Do list in a single day. Usually I'd only get through 70-80% of it, but hey, that's better than 0%.

The blog version of the schedule in 15-minute increments would probably be an editorial calendar. I guess I have something like an editorial calendar already, in the form of keywords scribbled on hotel stationery (for example, "40 y-o virgin", "stout at Legal", "no 2T at MIT", and three pages' worth of additional notes on Austen's 9-month milestones, written when he was napping and I could find nothing in the room to read except the TV Guide) and in the little spiral notebooks I've sprinkled around the house with CAR, NIGHTSTAND, DIAPER BAG, and STROLLER scrawled in black Sharpie on their covers.

The problem is that not everything that's interesting at the time is blogworthy when I get in front of the computer, or worse, it becomes less blogworthy over time—when I procrastinate so long that the window of opportunity to write on a topic closes. What I should probably do tomorrow (ha!) is write one bullet-point post that briefly explains all the keywords I've scribbled on pieces of paper over the past two weeks, and then move on. If the next post you see here is entitled Impressed With the Breast, then you'll know that I was overcome with laziness (or overwhelmed by the length of the keyword list) and didn't do it, because Impressed With the Breast is the next topic on the editorial calendar I've been formulating in my brain as I write this.

In the meantime, if you've been coming here looking for new posts and have been shocked and apalled that there haven't been any in two weeks, allow me to direct you to my Flickr photostream, which I've been updating with photos from our trip to Boston last week as well as other adventures (the latest three photos are what appear in the three squares on the front page of this blog); the ice hockey escapades, where after listening to the nagging of my teammates I finally got around to posting news from the four most recent games I played in; and about town II, where I've recently posted some shots taken during a family walk at sunset. Oh, and here's a recent photo of Austen, who is now "furniture surfing," as one of Al's work colleagues calls it (you can also see our new, child-friendly cube ottomans to Austen's right, which we picked up on Saturday):

furniture_surfing.jpg

Posted by Lori at 10:56 PM
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September 23, 2005

Those Keys Look Tasty

Yes, I *am* going to write about all the stuff I've got jotted down on pieces of paper around the house, but I thought of something else I wanted to mention first: Austen managed to pry the Ctrl key off my laptop keyboard the other day (and of course promptly stuck it in his mouth). After 20 minutes of fiddling with it I managed to wedge it back on, but it's not quite as functional as it used to be.

I always feel a little bad when I have to reach around Austen to use the computer, and now it seems he's dexterous enough to have his revenge. I can't even read blogs—much less write in my own—when he's playing nearby anymore; I have to wait until he's down for a nap or the night. (I've tried reading/blogging while feeding him, but he gets annoyed if I don't keep the spoonfuls of food coming at a steady pace.)

Anyway, the Ctrl key incident inspired me to add a new item to my cafepress store (betcha didn't know I even had one, did ya?):

ctrl_shirt.jpg

It's an infant/toddler t-shirt that says "Mommy may have all the other keys, but I've got Ctrl" on the front, and "www.avocado8.com" on the back in smaller type. I've already ordered one for Austen; if you want one for your little one, they're $10 each over at cafepress.

Posted by Lori at 9:20 PM
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September 27, 2005

Mama

Austen called me "mama" yesterday. He's been saying "mamamama", "dadadada", and "babababa" for a while now, but yesterday he clearly associated "mama" and its variations with me. When he woke up from his nap, he called "mamamama" instead of crying. While playing, he'd pat my knee and say "mamama". And when we were at the ice rink watching a practice last night, he leaned out of Al's arms, reached for me, and yelled "MA!" several times.

I don't know if the fact that I've been trying to teach him to say, "Mommy, can I please have some more food?" instead of grunting angrily when he wants another spoonful of strained fruit has anything to do with the new "mama" talk, but I kinda suspect it does. The reason? He's been calling "mama! mama! mama!" every time he's ready for another spoonful this morning. [I can't wait for the Black Eyed Peas to go on Sesame Street and sing "hey mama, I want some more pears and raspberries/mama! I want some more fruits and vegetables."]

I also got a spontaneous game of peekaboo out of the boopster yesterday. I was sitting on the couch, and he furniture surfed around one of my knees, ducked down, and popped up. I yelled "peekaboo!", so he ducked down between my legs and popped up again. He kept doing it, varying the length of time he stayed down, and the speed with which he popped up. SO CUTE.

Posted by Lori at 10:06 AM
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September 30, 2005

Perfect Ten

So yesterday it was Ten Things, and today it's ten months: Austen turns ten months old today. Such a sweet kid he is, too. He's gotten really good at going to bed in the past month; I nurse him for a little while, and whether he falls asleep with the nipple in his mouth or ends the session by rolling onto his hands and knees and giving me a big grin, he knows that when I pick him up and carry him up to his room, it's bedtime. (He also probably knows by me saying, "it's bedtime, boo", but more on that in a minute.) I hold him for a minute or two, give him a snuggle, tell him that I love him, and put him down. Al then covers him up with the blanket, I raise the crib rail, we tell him we'll see him in the morning, and that's it. He's down for 8 or 9 hours at least. At most there's a small whimper.

hands on knees

I mentioned in the Boston post that Austen seemed to understand me when I told him that he had to leave his hat on if he wanted to stay on the swings, and now I'm certain that he's understanding at least some of the things I'm telling him. Today he sat down hard on the floor and bonked his head on the couch, and it couldn't have hurt that much—the couch is soft—but I think it startled him. He started to cry when neither Al nor I picked him up immediately, and then he positively screamed when it was Al who reached for him instead of me. When he started to go into hysterics, I motioned for Al to hand him over, and I sat him on my lap facing me and let him put his head on my shoulder. He huh-huh-huh-waaaaaaaaaaaaahed for a little while with me murmuring in his ear, "it's OK, sweetie. You're fine, mommy's here" (and whispering to Al that this was more of a mind-running-through-all-the-horrible-things-that-could-have-happened cry than an I'm-hurt cry). I then sat him up and tried to get him to make eye contact with me, and when he continued to cry, I said, "do you want a drink of water? Would that make it better?" He immediately looked toward the water bottle lying on the couch, and then he reached for it. See? The kid was paying attention. I gave him some water, and the episode was over. He also knows the word "peekaboo" for sure, and will duck behind my leg, my laptop, or a towel to play, popping up at varying intervals to try to surprise me or Al.

peekaboo!

Austen is seriously making strides in the walking department. (Oops, yes, I guess that's a pun.) He's furniture surfing with gusto now, boldly walking the length of the couch, circling the child-friendly cube ottomans, and looping the cherry side table to try to squeeze between the couch and the window. This morning he pushed the lightweight leather ottoman (which we usually use as a shoe-donning station) around the kitchen while holding a wooden salad spoon in one hand. In fact, he often has something in one hand these days; he'll find something interesting and hang onto it for hours. Today it was the wooden spoon, then a Sharpie, and then a set of chopsticks from the Han Ah Reum (which he refused to let go of even when we put him in the tub); yesterday it was the X-10 remote that Al donated to his toybox; the day before that, it was my old hairbrush; and the day before that it was a set of baby nail clippers. I'm not sure whether the precious object fascination has anything to do with him no longer insisting that we hold both of his hands before he'll take a step, but he's definitely (a) not releasing the precious object, and (b) not waiting for us to grab both hands before he takes off. He tends to overthink the stepping motion a bit when getting an assist from only one side, causing him to move more sideways than forward; I know it's more of a mental problem than a physical one because I've seen him just do it—walk normally—when his attention is focused on something other than his feet.

cruising
precious object: hairbrush
precious object: remote
walking

Meanwhile, Austen is also getting more mobile when he's not on his feet. He's not crawling yet; though he often gets on all fours and wiggles a lot, he doesn't go anywhere from that position. Instead, he'll either roll onto one hip and scootch forward using one arm and one foot, or he'll roll onto his belly and wriggle backwards. He can get really far either way, as well as by ooching forward on his butt (i.e., by using his heels to drag his butt forward).

all foursup on belly

On the same day Austen clearly said "Mama" for the first time, I also thought I heard him say "up-pa" when he wanted to be picked up. I wasn't sure, though, especially since I couldn't remember ever saying "up" to him when I picked him up. When he said it again the next day, however, I started paying attention to what Al and I were saying so I could figure out where he'd gotten it. It turns out that I do ask him, "do you want to be picked up?" quite a bit, so that's probably where the association came from. In any case, he knows "up" now. I think I also heard him say "Papi" when David Ortiz came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning tonight, but I can't be sure. I'll have to test that theory tomorrow afternoon. ;)

watching the sox

One of Austen's bottom teeth has pushed its way up past the gumline, and its partner is now just breaking the surface as well. Meanwhile, the canine that started the teething bonanza is also sticking up/out, and once in a while, when Austen tilts his head while eating, we can see the top two teeth working their way down. The overall impression when you look at his mouth is that there are teeth, plural, even though it's really only the one sticking up significantly.

teeth!

This has been my first month of full-time stay-at-home momhood since Austen was three months old, and it's been an adjustment. Today I'm feeling fairly positive about my mothering abilities, perhaps because Al took vacation and was around the house most of the day (except when he went out to play pickup hockey), but there are days I feel like a completely crap mother—especially when I can't actively play with Austen all the time like the babysitter did. I find I need to break up my week somehow, or I'll go bonkers. In the past couple weeks I've driven down to Maryland to visit my parents for a couple days mid-week, and to visit our friend Allison and her new 6 week-old, Nora, on a Thursday. (It helps to know that Allison was desperate to see us as we were to see her. :) I also met in person here in Philadelphia a woman I met online through this blog on a day when we both desperately needed some adult interaction.

in the car
playing piano with grandma
nora
austen, sharon, and shoshy

When I can't think of anywhere to go (or I can't justify wasting gasoline just to save my sanity), Austen and I walk to Schuylkill River Park, our new favorite place to play on the swings. I like it better than the park at 23rd and the Parkway partly because the walk there isn't uphill, partly because there's rarely a line for the baby swings (despite there being only two), partly because the walk there is longer and more peaceful, and partly because the park is big enough not to feel crowded even when the dog runs, the basketball courts, the open grassy areas, and the playground equipment are all occupied. Austen is starting to get into the toddler climbing gym as well as the swings, and he gets really excited when other children get on the gym with him. He really wants to play.

schuylkill swing
on the gym with mom
behind bars

We're still using the Bjorn occasionally, but it's more rare now. I mostly either carry Austen in my arms or use the stroller, though I did buy a Kelty Kids hiking backpack at REI this month. (I was mostly inspired to do this by our walk around Walden Pond; I'd like to go on other hikes with Austen and be able to see my feet.) So far I've only used the backpack once, when I needed to vacuum the house this week and didn't have anywhere else to put Austen while doing it. (The Exersaucer was retired last month; Austen's gotten too tall for it, but more importantly, he started to see it as a confining device rather than a source of freedom as he once did.) I found it quite strenuous to crouch down to suck up Cheerios and other debris in the kitchen and dining room, but other than that, the backpack worked like a charm. Austen just sat up there playing with the baby nail clippers, and he only pulled my hair once or twice.

backpack baby

Posted by Lori at 11:49 PM
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October 3, 2005

Gigantor

When I went down to see Allison and her 6 week-old, Nora, a couple weeks ago, I was struck by how tiny Nora was. It was odd thinking that Austen was ever that small, but of course he was born even smaller. When Austen hit 10 lbs., I remember worrying that I wouldn't be able to lift him at all if he got any heavier, but I could hold 10-pound Nora in one arm. (Obviously, my body has adapted as Austen's grown; I actually have functioning biceps now. :)

Most of the time Austen still seems little to me, but I think it's because I measure him against me—and next to me, he *is* pretty tiny. Next to Nora, however, he looks like he swallowed something radioactive, as this photo (taken by Allison) attests:

nora, me, and austen

Posted by Lori at 9:24 PM
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October 4, 2005

Hurry the Fuck UP

If the fucking UPS man doesn't show up in the next five fucking minutes, I'm going to go round the FUCKING BEND.

I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE.

Posted by Lori at 3:30 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 4, 2005

When Life Gives You Lemons, Call Your Husband to Come Home Right Away and Then Make Lemon-Colored Frosting

yellow_frosting.jpg

Posted by Lori at 6:34 PM
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October 6, 2005

Hurricane Beanboy

In the time it took me to put on my makeup this morning (i.e., about 4 minutes), the Beaner:

  • Emptied the "safe" cupboard in the bathroom of a giant container of Softsoap, a lightbulb, an old (but unused) ovulation predictor stick, and a package of pantiliners
  • Dumped the package of pantiliners all over the floor and scattered them as widely as his little hands could manage
  • Unraveled an entire roll of toilet paper, then ripped off two sheets and ate them
  • Dismantled the standalone toilet paper holder and dumped the various small parts amid the pantiliners
  • Raised himself to a standing position with the aid of the toilet
  • Flushed the toilet twice
  • Worked his way around the toilet to the (very heavy) magazine basket and pushed it aside like it was a Kleenex box
  • Grabbed the bag lining the trash can and started reaching for the mounds of icky crap inside.

That's when I finally put down the mascara and called in the National Guard.

Posted by Lori at 3:40 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 6, 2005

Good Plan

I'm going to try this: Instead of writing in the little book beside my bed each night what we did that day, I'm going to write what we did tomorrow!

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October 10, 2005

Get Up, Stand Up... Scare Your Mom To Death

I was saying in an e-mail to Valerie tonight that I only seem to have time these days to write about Austen's milestones OR mine, not both. (Hopefully our new twice-a-week babysitter will help me remedy that, though part of the reason I searched for a sitter in the first place—so I could attend open hockey sessions at UPenn during the day—will also generate more hockey blog material with which to keep up.) In any case, since Al is refusing to switch from Monday Night Football to The Apprentice: Martha Stewart on TiVo, and I've lost interest in the game because I've already won my two fantasy league games, I have time to blog about Austen stuff right now.

I mentioned that Austen's been getting on all fours and wiggling around a lot but rarely going anywhere (except backwards), but the other day I actually witnessed him crawl across the bed to get to my nightstand. Al didn't believe me that he'd crawled —or at least, he wanted to see it with his own eyes before he'd confirm than an actual forward crawl had occurred. On Saturday he got his chance: While we were waiting for a table at the Rock Bottom Brewery, Al set Austen down on the floor...where he crawled around in a circle and then over to me. It's weird that his crawling skills seem to be developing in tandem with his walking skills (which are really getting good—he's now taking independent steps between the furniture instead of securing a handhold first).

A quick aside to mention our experience at the Rock Bottom Brewery before I continue, mainly because I know if I don't write about it here, I'll never write a separate post about it. We thought it was a fluke when the service completely sucked the last time we ate at the King of Prussia Rock Bottom, but it now appears that it's company policy (a) to understaff the dining room, making for long seating waits despite the many empty tables, and (b) for servers to take drink and appetizer orders and then return 10 minutes later, sans drinks or appetizers, to take entree orders. Both last year's visit and this one had us imploring the server to PLEASE bring us our drinks before putting the entree order in. Sadly, at this visit they'd also run out of the house-brewed root beer (at 4pm!), which is the main reason Al wanted to eat there. The good news is that the appetizer I ordered, a cheese and beer sampler that included apples, grapes, grainy horshradish mustard, summer sausage (which I gave to Al) and lavosh crackers in addition to three kinds of cheese and three kinds of beer, was excellent. One of the cheese types was a little pitcher of fondue, which inspired us to try making fondue for the first time ever on Sunday... but that's another story.

Austen, who'd finished his Cheerios and baby food before the drinks arrived, was cruising around under the table when another couple with a 10 month-old was seated next to us. They had a very similar experience to ours in that their baby finished his meal before any sign of adult food or drinks arrived; unlike us, they showed some sense and left when the baby started to squirm (without eating or drinking themselves). They missed out on the excellent cheese and beer sampler (and the $8.30 gallon of the Rocktoberfest brew—bargain!—that I got to go), but I still think their course was the wiser one. We'll be making our own cheese platters at home from now on (and getting the beer to go) rather than sitting down at Rock Bottom.

Anyway, back at home, for the second time in a week we had trouble getting Austen to bed. It's been the norm for a couple months now to nurse him for a little while and then put him to bed asleep or nearly so with no fuss. One night last week, however, he was refusing to settle down, so we put him in the crib at 8:30 and let him cry for a while. I figured I could take the opportunity to vacuum the house, since I wouldn't be keeping him awake, and the vacuum noice might even soothe him. After 30 minutes, however, he was still screaming inconsolably, so I went into his room to pick him up... and the smell hit me as soon as I opened the door. He'd apparently worked himself into such a frenzy that he pooped. I changed his diaper, nursed him a little more, and then put him to bed without incident.

Saturday night was a repeat of the previous incident, only without the vacuuming. Even though Austen seemed to be shouting more than screaming inconsolably after 30 minutes, I went up to check on him just in case all that red-faced hollering had resulted in another poopy diaper. I was already saying, "OK now, what's all the fuss about?" as I opened the door, but "it's bedtime" turned into "it's bedARIEEEEEEEEEEEEEAUGGGGHH!!!!" Austen's crib is just to the right of the door, and there he was—the VERY SCARY BABY—standing up at the end of his crib, shouting. Of course, my screaming and leaping about five feet forward into the room scared the crap out of him as well, and he switched from shouting to crying again. It turned out he *had* pooped, though whether his diaper was dirty because he was shouting, or he was shouting because his diaper was dirty, I couldn't tell you. It's also possible that I really did scare the crap out of him; the timing is a little unclear.

In any case, I changed his diaper and let him sit on my lap and play for a while, and then Al put him to bed at about 9:30 (after a long speech about the power of meditation and self-soothing). Al says Austen wasn't asleep when he put him in the crib, but that he was calm. We didn't hear another squeak out of him until 6:30 on Sunday. Needless to say, between football games and fondue on Sunday, Al went up to lower the mattress on the crib from level 3 to level 4.

Eerie aside: On Friday night I dreamed that I asked Al to lower the crib mattress because I was afraid Austen would stand up and fall over the side. Thank god there was no falling involved when Austen did stand in his crib for the first time—only a near heart attack, and that on my part.

Posted by Lori at 11:29 AM
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October 11, 2005

Gratuitous Site Plug

I almost called this a gratuitous baby photo post (a phrase stolen from ratphooey), but really it's more of a gratuitous site plug that just happens to be on a baby.

www.avocado8.com.jpg

Posted by Lori at 11:05 PM
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October 24, 2005

They're Sharp!

I've been trying to get a good shot of the Beaner's teeth with the 10-D, but it's difficult—he'll only display the chompers when I'm not hiding behind the camera. Today I got lucky with the cameraphone, though: A missed headshot while the Beaner was swinging resulted in a closeup of all three of his bottom teeth.

the teeth

Posted by Lori at 2:46 PM
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October 30, 2005

11 Months

Austen turns 11 months old today. He took his first real steps on Friday, getting bolder with each run between the ottomans and the couch (a run that got longer each time because the babysitter kept moving the ottomans :). Sometimes he'd sort of plunge forward, and other times he'd really get the hang of walking completely upright, taking full, confident, heel-to-toe steps. It's hard to believe that this time last year, he had his head, feet, and hands all stuck underneath my ribs, and that despite his hearty thrashing, he couldn't even turn himself head-down, much less cruise around the room without me. In eleven months, Austen has gone from a tiny, grunty, swaddled little newborn to a sturdy, vocal, corduroy-wearing toddler.

courduroy.jpg

On Thursday he went in for another well-baby visit with the pediatrician. We never got around to determining the over/under ahead of time; instead, we just looked at each other and said "how much do you think he weighs?" right before we plopped His Nakedness on the scale. Al's guess was 23.5 lbs, and I threw out 24 just for variety. I wouldn't have been surprised at anything between 23 and 24.5 pounds. (He was 23 lbs. 10 oz.) For the first time, he was allowed (or able?) to sit up on the scale instead of being forced to lie down. He seemed to tolerate the weighing better this way, though the socket into which the scale was plugged was in far too convenient a spot for a sitting 11 month-old who loves power cords. (Our first disciplinary battles have been over the touching of cords and diaper pails.)

Anyway, while I hadn't anticipated being able to sit Austen up on the scale, I *had* thought they might stand him up to measure him. No dice: He had to lie down, which seems like a great way to get an inaccurate measurement, if you ask me. This month's seemed more accurate than August's, however. I suspect that the August one was off because it indicated that he'd grown less than 1/2" since his 5-month visit, and this one indicated that he'd grown over 3" since August. My bet is that he grew about an inch between 5 months and 8 months, and about 2" between 8 months and 11 months. That he'd grown some in the last month or so was definitely noticeable; when we switched to long pants (size 12-18 mo.) in September, they had to be rolled up, but by last week this was no longer the case.

Partly because of the wonky height measurement at 8 months, and partly because Austen's much more mobile now (have I mentioned before that he's a very proficient crawler?), his dots on the growth charts have flip-flopped: Whereas at 8 months he was in the 90th percentile for weight and the 75th (or 70th?) percentile for height, at 11 months he is in the 75th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. In short, he's tall, and he's growing faster than he's gaining weight (finally).

crawling.jpg

Austen is on target with all the developmental milestones, says the pediatrician, and from my own observations and others', he's happy, interactive, silly, curious, and amenable to new people and places. It's still easy to strap him into the stroller or the car seat and head out on errands or other diversions, and it's almost as easy to leave him with the babysitter for a couple hours at a time while I go out to play hockey. We even left him with the sitter for 7 hours AT NIGHT! on Wednesday when Al took me to a New Jersey Devils game for my birthday. Of course, I missed him nearly every moment of those 7 hours, but I only worried about him a little.

lens_cap.jpg

I used to wonder why a stay-at-home Mom who didn't work would need a babysitter, but now I know: Without help a couple days a week, nothing would ever get done. Even though Austen naps fairly regularly, and it's easy to take him on errands, it's no longer possible to cook, bake, or clean the house without someone else watching him. He can still technically fit into the Bjorn, but it's not particularly comfortable for either of us, and cleaning or cooking with him in the backpack carrier is a bit too strenuous for me. I'll admit that cleaning and cooking weren't the main reasons I hired a babysitter at the beginning of the month—hockey was—but they're the reason I asked the sitter to come twice a week instead of just Fridays.

sponge

I still struggle occasionally to get through the non-babysitter days; they're even a bit tougher than before I had help because Austen tries to make up for lost Mommy time by being clingier. You'd never know that he missed me at all when Hannah is here—they play and laugh non-stop—but as soon as she leaves he wants me to hold him all the time. He'll often wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning on Wednesdays and Saturdays (instead of his usual 5:30 or 6:30) so that he'll get some extra snuggle/nursing time in our bed. Basically, under the current arrangement both my highs and my lows are magnified: On the bad days my crankiness, my frustration, my anger, and sometimes even my despair seem overwhelming. On the good days, though, the joy is pretty limitless.

This week will be an interesting one because Hannah is away for a long weekend and won't be coming on Tuesday, and Austen and I leave Wednesday for Valerie's house in Maine. I debated for a long time about how to swing this trip, especially after getting some good advice about driving alone with a baby to Maine from my friend Shannon ("DON'T DO IT!"). I looked into flying, but in the end I decided to try something a little unconventional but possibly fun: I'm driving, but making frequent stops. On Wednesday we'll be driving from Philadelphia to Danbury, CT; on Thursday we'll go from Danbury to Lexington, MA (where we'll hopefully have dinner with our friends Anne & Peggy); on Friday we'll head up to Portland, where we'll stay until Sunday morning; and on Sunday we'll drive from Portland down to Springfield, MA. (These legs are all designed to be between 2 and 3.5 hours, which is about Austen's range in the car.) After checking in at the hotel in Springfield, we'll make a short drive down to Hartford, CT to pick Al up at the airport, and on Monday morning the three of us will head back to Philly. This last leg is the longest, but it's also the one where I'll have help—one of us can sit in the back seat with Austen if he starts to wig out.

stroller_smirk.jpg

I don't think I've ever been to Portland before (I might have been as a kid, but I don't remember), so I'm looking forward to seeing it, and of course to seeing Valerie. I'm also interested to see what it's like to go on an extended trip with Austen by myself. I do worry a bit that Austen will miss Al, especially since Al now gets up with him every morning so I can have a little extra sleep. Both of them really enjoy their morning time together; the father-son bonding has been spectacular. It's so cute when Austen wakes up/stops nursing, rolls over, sits up, and starts patting Al on the shoulder (or in the face, if the shoulder gets no response), saying "Dadda! Dadda! Up!"

on_dad.jpg

When I get back from Maine, we'll need to buckle down and start planning Austen's first birthday party. As I've probably said many times before, first birthdays are a big deal in Korean culture, so it won't be your average kiddie party. The two things we've settled on are the date (Dec. 3 instead of the Saturday after Thanksgiving, for reasons that were obvious to everyone but us until recently) and the location (our house, because we can't find a good Korean restaurant in Philly); the rest is all up in the air. At the very least we need to figure out the food and lodging arrangements asap.

OK, before I go off rambling ad nauseam (too late!), I want to leave you with a perhaps-clichéd analogy: Parenthood really is like the Army, from the boot camp-like early days to the sometimes monotonous patrol duties to the singing of songs while marching around (I think only current parents will understand that last one). It certainly changes the way you look at and interact with the world, and it is indeed the toughest job you'll ever love.

11mo_closeup.jpg

Posted by Lori at 10:20 PM
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November 1, 2005

Scary Halloween Photos

I still have some half-written entries to publish to the all hallow's eve blog, which by and large was not a great success this year. Between the mobs of kids who all came together and having a hungry toddler in a shark suit to manage, I had a hard time keeping track of the parade of costumes, the candy choices, and the funny kid quotes.

I've posted a few photos of Austen's costume on Flickr, of which the following is representative:

da duh da duh

Posted by Lori at 5:13 PM
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November 5, 2005

!Vacation

I had intended to blog about each day of our trip in the evenings after Austen went to sleep, but I've been too tired to keep it up. I've found that the toughest thing about this trip is not the driving—that's the easiest part, in fact—but being the only parent on duty for the other 21 hours a day. How do single parents do it???

Posted by Lori at 8:30 AM
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November 5, 2005

Maine

Austen and I left Lexington, Massachusetts for Portland, Maine at roughly 8:45am yesterday. The tree colors as we traveled north moved more to the orange-umber end of the scale, with an occasional shockingly white birch trunk sticking out like an exclamation mark amid the brittle-looking browns. We made it to Portland at about 11am and headed straight for the Eastern Promenade (Valerie's "nice day" suggestion). Sadly, the nice weather only lasted long enough for me to get Austen out of the car seat and into the stroller (i.e., about 5 minutes of serious whining and wiggling). The sun went in as we locked the car and pushed off toward Casco Bay, and no sun + freezing wind = only 15 minutes at the playground along the Prom.

swinging on the eastern prom finn and austen

From our spot on Congress Street we backtracked to Cumberland and the Portland Public Market (Valerie's "icky day" suggestion). I bought two bottles of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale at the Maine Beer & Beverage Company stand and then continued around the market looking for lunch prospects. After a few loops, I settled on a potato-leek soup from Stone Soup (I think that's what it was called) to accompany my one remaining cinnamon-raisin peanut butter sandwich on Metropolitan Bakery sandwich wheat bread (I made three of them for the trip). The soup was a little thinner (and therefore drippier) than I like, but other than that it wasn't bad.

portland public market my name is charlie
get real, get maine

We did a few more loops around the market just for fun, and then we went out into the chilly-raw air of downtown Portland. Since buying the Pumpkin Ale had put me in a beer mood, and I don't think it's legal to drink beer in the open market, I had in mind searching for a good pub. I never did find one, but I did find some cool graffiti, the Portland Pirates' store and administrative offices (where I bought a t-shirt), and other random local color worth photographing. At around 1:30 we finally decided to get out of the cold and head to Valerie's house.

appeal
response
photography spoken here

Once we'd located the keys Val had hidden for us and then determined which door of her duplex she lived behind, we went inside and were immediately greeted by Bonita, Val's cat. More doglike than catlike, I'd say, and obviously not familiar with the whisker-pulling, eye-poking, fur-ruffling ways of toddlers. Even when she had familiarized herself with these toddler techniques, however, she still seemed more inclined to hang around Austen than to run away. Doglike, I tell you.

bonita walks into a trap austen springs the trap

Val came home from school at around 2:20, and we hung out and chatted until her violin students started showing up at 3:45. Austen was mesmerized by Val's pre-lesson warmups, which included stretching on the floor and playing a few scales and short songs on her violin.

small audience

Posted by Lori at 3:09 PM
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November 11, 2005

And... We're Back

Austen and I returned, along with Al (who flew up to Hartford to meet us on Sunday), from Maine on Monday. We had great weather every day except Sunday (which was foggy and drizzly), and especially on Saturday, when the air was brisk but not cold, the sun was warm but not roasty, and the wind was cool but not frigid. Perfect Dreamweaver fleece weather. Val, Austen, and I started the day with a hike around Mackworth Island just north of Portland in Falmouth, Maine. Fabulous and varied views and terrain; it was somewhat similar to our walk around Walden Pond, only with the water on the outside of the loop rather than the inside. (Walden, if you'll recall, was what prompted me to purchase the Kelty Kids backpack, and I wore it on this hike with pretty good success. I had considered going over to Walden while we were in Lexington, Mass, btw, but I went to a playground instead.)

mackworth island, ME
val still
the bench I would sit on every day if I lived here

From Falmouth we drove to the opposite end of Portland to visit Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth. The spectacular weather really enhanced the experience of visiting the lighthouse and the park around it. Austen fell asleep in the car on the way there, so he didn't get to admire the lighthouse or the amazing view, but I've shown him the photos.

danger, sleeping baby winter approaching

After all the beautiful views and brisk weather, we went to Silly's, a local Portland eatery, for lunch. There was a Magic 8-Ball on the table, and Val offered to get an answer for any question I cared to ask, but I found that I couldn't come up with anything I really wanted to know. (Guess I'm finally living in the moment!) Austen was another story; he was very eager to know when he would be walking on his own, when I'd let him drive the car, and especially when he'd get to eat.

consulting the magic 8ball
becky gibson we owe you $10 dollars

I fed him a jar of apples & blueberries while we looked over the menu. Val ordered some crab-stuffed mushrooms to share and a greek salad with the feta on the side, and I got a giant Harvest Burger with BBQ and bleu cheese sauces (yeah, I'm really that decadent) and sweet potato fries. The fries were EXCELLENT; I had no trouble finishing them, especially since Austen ate quite a few. They were fried with their skins on and tasted more like baked sweet potato strips than french fries. Yummy. The Harvest Burger was homemade and HUGE, and although it was delicious, I couldn't finish the whole thing. Ditto the pint of locally-brewed root beer.

After a sufficient interval, during which we played with Austen in the house and napped, Valerie made the most awesome zucchini-onion-broccoli-mushroom-tomato soup for dinner. How something so simple (and so vegan) can taste so delicious, I'll never know; credit Valerie's talent in the kitchen and experience with fresh fruits and vegetables.

On Sunday morning Austen was up at 6:30, as usual (well, he wakes up and wants to nurse before that, but he usually sits up and starts poking me—or Al, if available—around 6 or 6:30). Luckily Valerie also rises early, so we didn't interrupt her sleep routine too much by being in the house. We went downstairs to say good morning, brush teeth, etc., and then I took Austen back upstairs so I could get dressed and pack while Val cooked breakfast (wheat-free apple pancakes for me, and homemade applesauce for Austen; now that I know how easy applesauce is to make, I've made three batches since returning home :). This is when the crying started.

Val was being kind, or at least circumspect, when she said "Austen gave us a glorious example of the highs and lows of a day in the life of raising a toddler." She definitely got to witness highs and lows throughout the weekend, but the low I suspect she was referring to here was the non-stop crying jag-turned-tantrum that Austen threw when I put him down so I could pack. At first I set him on the floor, but he kept UNpacking the suitcase while screaming, so instead I put him in the Pack 'n Play not one foot from where I was standing, got dressed, and tried to pat down my sticking-up hair. This was when I realized that my arms were so sore from carrying him for the past four days that I couldn't hold them over my head, and when Austen decided that I was going to leave him there and never come back. Or maybe he noticed that I couldn't get my arms over my head, and despaired of ever being picked up again. In any case, the screaming reached a fever pitch.

I relented and lifted him out of the Pack 'n Play and stood him up at my feet. He hugged my knees and clawed my thighs and screamed even louder. With my hair still looking like shit and makeup on only one side of my face, I picked him up and tried to console him. He scratched my face, pushed against me with his feet, and tried to strangle me. These are indications that I have become both his tormentor and his savior. He wants me to help him, to fix him, to MAKE IT BETTER, but at the same time he hates me for any number of crimes I've committed against him. He ends up looking like the Exorcist baby, writhing, crying, and clawing, giving both "PUT ME DOWN" and "DON'T YOU DARE LET GO" signals. I got down on the floor with Austen and tried to snuggle him, to jiggle him, to kiss his forehead and tell him I love him, but he wasn't having any of it. And after 10 minutes straight of screaming, I called Al.

Usually I can last at least 20 minutes before going round the bend, but after four days of being the only parent on duty, I was already near my wit's end. (This happens at home sometimes, too, when I don't get enough of a break to completely regroup: My anger and despair stay just beneath the surface, waiting to be roiled up by a Difficult Child Attack.) I needed help, moral support, another parent. Unfortunately, when I reached Al he tried to comfort Austen via phone, instead of trying to comfort me. I think I said the reason I was calling was that Austen was throwing a tantrum, but I didn't make clear that it was I who needed soothing, not him. Austen threw the phone across the room as Al said, "it's OK, buddy, it's OK", and that was it for the call. Neither of us called back.

As Austen continued to thrash and scream, I started to wail, "Austen, you HAVE TO STOP CRYING!", and then I started sobbing. The initial shock of seeing me blubber caused him to dial it back a bit at first, but then he continued the tantrum where he left off. It was time for desperate measures: I was going to have to impose on Valerie. I brought Austen downstairs, tears streaming down both of our faces, and managed to whisper, "can you take him for a little bit? I need to regroup." Valerie gave me a hug and took Austen from me.

When I came down about 10 minutes later, dressed and packed, Austen was sitting on Valerie's hip while she made applesauce. I said to him, "will you give Mommy a hug and tell me all is forgiven?" He reached out for me, put his head on my shoulder, and squeezed me around the neck, lovingly this time. Then he struggled to get down so he could play with the jars and containers under Valerie's sink.

After snarfing down applesauce and pancakes, I loaded up the car with our luggage and a much-coveted jar of Valerie's blueberry jam, took some final photos of Valerie and her lovely house and yard, and Austen and I headed out for Springfield, Mass. The goal was to get to the hotel around 3pm, feed Austen lunch, and watch a little football until Al's plane arrived at Bradley International Airport at 5:50pm. We made it with time to spare, at around 2:30pm. Austen ate a bunch of cheese, some more baby food, and some of the applesauce Valerie sent home with us, and then both of us got restless. I decided to just walk to the end of the street to see if there was a Starbucks nearby, but I ended up going completely around the block (no mean feat while carrying a 24-lb. baby). Good thing I did, because I noticed that we were adjacent to the Mass Mutual Center, where the Springfield Falcons hockey team plays... and that there was a game at 4pm.

I realized that Austen probably wouldn't last more than a couple periods anyway, so it was probably feasible to take him to the game and still pick up Al at the airport. I went back to the car, got the Bjorn and a sweater out, strapped Austen in, and walked back to the Mass Mutual Center. We ended up getting a seat right in front of the visitors' goal, which was a mixed blessing; great view, but I had to worry about one of us getting beaned by a misfired puck.

fight! watching hockey

Luckily we didn't incur any injuries, though we did have to endure some loud and inane screeching from the teenage girl behind us, and some scary shouting from a 50 year-old guy in the next section over who wanted a specific Springfield player to know just how much of a pussy he was. That, and some ridiculously over-the-top cheering every time a fight broke out. This is the thing I'll never understand about minor-league hockey: Why do the teams, the leagues, and the fans all encourage—even promote—fighting? Go to a boxing match if you want to see a fight, for pete's sake. I want to see skating, passing, and shooting, thank you very much. In any case, it made me re-think the idea of taking Austen to minor league games in the future, even though they cost a fraction of NHL games.

We did indeed manage to pick Al up at the airport, and we had a nice evening together before heading back to Philly the following day. We made the requisite stop in Norwalk to visit Stew Leonard's and stock up on everything from asparagus to scones, and we even got the perfect photo of fall foliage when we put on the four-way flashers, rolled down the passenger window, and pressed the shutter button exactly once on the Canon 10-D before continuing on our way back to I-95:

vestiges

Posted by Lori at 2:42 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 18, 2005

It's Cold, So Please Touch

Today, as it was yesterday, it is cold here in Philadelphia. On Tuesday (which was decidedly warm) I had taken my bicycle in to Trophy Bikes on Walnut to get a baby seat installed on the back, knowing full well that doing so would cause a cold snap that would mean the end of bicycling season. Ah well, at least I'll be ready for spring.

Anyway, having taken Austen out in the frigid weather yesterday, I knew it was really too cold for him to be out at the playground with the babysitter today. We were discussing possible indoor activities this morning when it occurred to me that Austen is now probably old enough to enjoy the Please Touch Museum, which is currently located 1 1/2 blocks from our house. (It's moving down near the Art Museum at some unspecified point in the future.) I figured that if an annual membership were $100 or so, it'd probably be worth it.

It turns out that a membership for 4 people (any four people over 12 months of age) is only $75 a year—a total bargain, IMHO. We walked over there together, I filled out an application, and violá, Austen and Hannah had an indoor acitivity. I can't wait to hear how he liked it, and to visit with Al on a weekend. Woo hoo!

Posted by Lori at 11:42 AM
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November 21, 2005

This Boops Was Made for Walking

In three weeks, Austen has gone from three or four steps in a row to a walking MACHINE. He crosses rooms with confidence and without a specific destination in mind, swerves around obstacles, carries precious objects with him, and is unfazed when he trips. I could sit and watch him run circles around the living room all day.

walking to grandma 1 walking to grandma 2

It's particularly endearing (and amusing) to watch him amble around in just a onesie or just a diaper, with his sturdy, chubby legs poking out and his butt doing a little Nancy Sinatra waggle as he approaches the intriguing contents of a closet. (I don't have any photos of this scenario at the moment, so you'll have to take my word for its cuteness.)

At the moment Austen is careening around the living room, tripping over his own feet, pieces of string, and more substantial obstacles like bits of alumninum foil. I failed in my attempt to get him down for a nap an hour ago, when he gave every sign that he desperately needed one, which means he is now acting like a stumbling drunk. He's really too tired to stay on his feet, and yet he persists. I know I should pick him up and try again to get him to nap, but it's just so damn funny to see him wobbling around, bouncing off the furniture.

Posted by Lori at 11:23 AM
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November 21, 2005

I Have to Work At It

I'm thinking about going back to work—traditional, for-pay, intellectually-stimulating work, as opposed to the heavy manual labor I do at home for free. At the moment I'm feeling too mentally and physically exhausted after a difficult day with Austen to explain how I came to this decision (or maybe I just did :), but suffice to say it's something I've been thinking about for a while. I think I'm finally at the point where I want to describe publicly what I'm looking for, and to post my resume.

Ideally, I'd work part-time (3-4 days a week), although a full-time job where I work at home at least two days a week might suit as well. I'm leaning toward technical writing for a software/web engineering audience—API documentation, feature specifications, internal process documentation, etc.—but my experience would probably fit other positions as well. I love writing sample code, tracking down and fixing bugs, and explaining how and why things work the way they do. I love watching (and helping) ideas evolve; in my 6 years with the Dreamweaver team I wore many hats, but I was probably most valuable as a combination of devil's advocate and team historian.

Anyway, I've posted my resume [link removed] if you want more details about my work history. If you have any questions—or know of an interesting job opening—feel free to e-mail me at lori at avocado8 dot com or comment on this post. I'm obviously living in Philadelphia, but I'm open to jobs in other locations if the employer is OK with me working remotely most of the time.

Update: I've gotten a new job, so I've removed the link to my resume and closed the comments. Thanks to everyone who forwarded me openings and suggestions! -- Lori, 01.27.06

Posted by Lori at 5:44 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 29, 2005

Shopping

My favorite phonecam photo from yesterday's trip to the Please Touch Museum. It looks like an action shot you'd see accompanied by a news article about an approaching snowstorm.

shopping at the please touch museum

Next time I'll bring the Canon and try to get some high-quality snaps; this trip was a spur-of-the-moment thing where I walked out the front door with Austen on my hip, so I didn't bring any accessories (or even a diaper bag). Last year at this time our Please Touch days seemed so very far off, and now here we are enjoying our proximity and shiny new 4-person membership. Hard to believe that tomorrow Austen turns ONE YEAR OLD. Wow.

Posted by Lori at 5:10 PM
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November 30, 2005

One

Austen turns one today. At 3:36pm, to be exact. The Thanksgiving weekend brought back memories of this time last year, when I was debating whether to run errands or sit on the couch, but now that Austen's birthday is finally here, it's difficult to connect it with November 30 of last year. I was awakened at 5:30am this morning just as I was last year, but this time it was by a hungry Austen rather than my alarm clock. Around this time (10:30am) last year, I was asleep in a hospital bed; today I'm blogging in the dining room while Austen sleeps in the stroller. I guess that's mostly what's different: I'm at home. I'm not pregnant. I'm not anxious. I'm not hungry. Oh, and it's not all about me anymore, much as I'd like it to be; there's the little matter of the Beaner who follows me around.

boops behind me

It's difficult to completely reflect on the full year gone by in the sleepy state I find myself (mostly because of a late hockey game last night), but my overall impression is that it's been interesting. I might be able to blog more effectively about this crazy year tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe on December 4 (which is the day we brought Austen home last year); right now, all I can really describe is how I feel... well, right now.

When Austen smiles, he can light up a room (not to mention my heart). When he buries his head into my shoulder and squeezes me around the neck, I feel so loved that I want to burst. When he laughs that full, throaty, gaspy, whole-body laugh, I can't help laughing too. I love inspecting his teeth and stroking his chubby little cheeks, chasing him around the kitchen and dining room, and holding him upside down. I don't mind taking an hour to go five blocks because he wants to walk next to the stroller.

On the other hand, when Austen smashes his head into my cheek or my chin, he can completely ruin my day. It seems odd to say it, given that I still remember well the incredibly painful early days of breastfeeding, the Sleepless Nights of Solidarity, and being snowed in back in February, but I think this past month has been the hardest one of all so far. I'm sure I'm just forgetting how bad it was at times over the past 12 months, and I'm sure some day I'll look back and laugh that I thought this was tough. But for now, it is tough.

The sunny disposition Austen shows to practically every friend and stranger we meet tends to disappear behind the clouds when we return home. While most days are partly to mostly cloudy, there are days of extreme overcast and sudden thundershowers. On more than one occasion this month, Al has come home to a driving downpour, unsure of whom to console first.

This has been the month when all the reasons I didn't want to become a parent have been smacking me in the face on a daily basis. (My cheeks are pretty fucking raw, I must say.) The days of, "hey, I'm pretty good at this after all!" seem to have been some kind of cruel April Fool's joke. My emotional barometer seems to be stuck in the low-pressure zone of frustration, anger, and guilt, with occasional dips into complete inadequacy. I'd say I was suffering from post-partum depression, but after 12 months, that doesn't seem very likely.

It's hard to reconcile all these sad-end-of-the-scale feelings with my love for Austen, and I'm afraid with all the morose introspection I've been engaging in lately (mainly as an alternative to screaming, yelling, and crying), I'm going to miss some really great moments and milestones from this stage of his life. I've already noticed that I have fewer photos of him from the past month than I've taken in previous months, though to be fair that's partly because he doesn't sit still anymore. It's much more difficult to take photos of a baby who's (a) running at you; (b) might dash into the street while you're lining up your shot; (c) sticks his hands in the VCR or pulls plugs out of their sockets while you're reviewing the last couple shots you just took; or (d) won't stop crying. I suppose taking photos of the tantrums might be worthwhile for historical purposes, if nothing else, but all that screaming tends to chase thoughts of the camera out of my brain.

I did get several photos today while the babysitter was here to help corral Austen and keep him from running into the street; I'll post those with notes about this month's developmental milestones later tonight. As you'll see from those photos, he was pretty cheery today. And thank god, because a little sunshine goes a long way.

austen year one

Posted by Lori at 11:11 AM
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November 30, 2005

Twelve Months

Today isn't just a yearly milestone for Austen; it's also a monthly one. And this month, it's been all about the walking. It's hard to remember a time when Austen *wasn't* walking, but it was only at the end of October that he first put three or four steps in a row together, and the second week of November (the 11th, to be exact) when he really took off. I knew we had reached the point of no return when he crossed a Starbucks on the morning of the 12th to beg another patron for her baked goods.

give me your baked goods!

This means, of course, that it's often a struggle to get him into the stroller now. I think some experience working with mental patients and straight jackets would be helpful at this stage, and unfortunately I have none. I have gotten rather deft at preventing Austen from slipping under the napper bar on the Zooper while strapping him in by using my arm as a center post, but the Maclaren, which has no napper bar, presents more of a problem. The good news is that once you get him in there, usually all it takes to keep him happy is a Starbucks cup or a cell phone.

feed me! nice lens!

The other night when we took Austen to the park (for the first time in a couple weeks), Austen didn't want to swing for very long, and he showed no interest at all in the slide. Instead he wanted to push the stroller—or at least, he wanted us to push the stroller so he could walk alongside it. We crossed from the far end of the park to 25th Street this way, and when we got to the crosswalk he seemed to understand when I said, "you have to hold Daddy's hand when you're crossing the street." I don't know whether he thought it was a one-time thing, whether he hadn't really understood the first time, or whether he really just wanted to DO IT HIMSELF, but at each subsequent crossing he would whimper, whine, struggle, and cry when we tried to hold his hand. And god forbid should we try to pick him up. It was after dark by the time he finally relented and let Al stuff him in the stroller just short of 19th Street. It was so cute to see him walking so determinedly that we probably would have waited all night for him to get tired enough to stop.

walking next to the stroller this takes concentration

Fewer and fewer people have been asking me "how old is she?", but I still occasionally hear other parents admonish their children to "be nice to her, she's just a baby" or compliments that my daughter is very cute. The babysitter also remarked on this phenomenon today; apparently someone in the park also mistook Austen for a girl. Neither the babysitter nor I can figure out why; maybe it's just that we already know Austen so well and know him to be a boy, but we can't see anything girlish about him. That mullet is all boy for sure.

mullet

I mentioned in my last post that I don't have that many photos of Austen's twelfth month (or I didn't until very recently, anyway), mainly because it's hard to take pictures of an entirely-too-mobile toddler. Older children know to stop and pose for photos, and they know not to wander down a flight of stairs while you're focusing the camera. I learned this weekend, when I asked for Al's help in holding Austen still so I could take a Christmas card photo, that the trick to getting cute photos of a toddler is to have help. As long as someone's around to steer Austen away from the stairs, the street, the outlets, the VCR, the edge of the deck, the gas tank under the grill, the compost pots, the wet pile of leaves in front of the house, and any number of other things messy and dangerous, it's actually possible to get some reasonably cute photos—and even some not-too-blurry action shots.

hi, mommywet leaves, cute kid

I'm sure there's some major milestone I'm missing in this summary—like maybe that we're doing well with the weaning and are down to only one nursing session per day (the one he wakes up at 5:30am for)—but there are only two others that I have photos of to jog my memory. One is that Austen has finally learned how to use a sippy cup properly. Many months ago our pediatrician asked us if he could hold a bottle by himself, and we shrugged and said, "yeah, I guess"; we didn't know for sure because we never really gave him bottles. He either nursed, or he took sips from our glasses or water bottles. It was only when he started eating more and more solids and I wanted to give him water that I noticed that he didn't really know how to hold a bottle.

I got him a couple sippy cups last month because the bottles we have are for newborns, and he was making too much of a mess with regular glasses (he kept sticking his hands in them). He long ago mastered the use of a straw, so when he saw the spout on the sippy cup he immediately tried to suck it like a straw. For two or three weeks we had to tip the cup up every time we wanted him to have some water or milk, and each time he would drop his hands and let us do it for him. I was getting tired of assisting in this manner, so this weekend I handed him a sippy cup full of water and let him try to figure it out, no pressure. After walking around with it for about an hour, he finally realized what he had to do to get the water out, and he's now a sippy cup pro.

sippy cup

The other big thing I've noticed—and it was only today that I was sure that's what he was doing—is that he's picking up books and "reading" them. He'll open one of his board books and start saying "da dat dat da da, da dat dat dat dat dat da da," as he turns the pages. He usually reads to someone—in the photo below it's Hannah, our babysitter, who's sitting off camera—and by the end of today he was responding when I said, "can you read your book to grandma/aunt Lisa/[whoever happened to be calling to wish him a happy birthday]"? He also did something interesting on Monday: When I said, appropos of nothing, "Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep on a hill that's steep!", he rummaged through his toy box, found his Sheep in a Jeep book, and brought it to me. Huh.

reading

Posted by Lori at 9:43 PM
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December 7, 2005

Better

I was planning to dash off a quick post last night to let regular readers of this blog know that I was feeling better, but I ended up using my hour or so of after-dinner computer time to read blogs from my Bookmarks list and noodle with my Fantasy Football lineup. I had planned to write a few lines about how ratphooey's short but pithy remark on my One post had really struck a chord and made me realize that much of my discontent could be traced to my failure to adapt to The New State of Things. How I took a good hard look at Austen from his eye level, relaxed, and let him tell me the news from babyland. (Indeed, much had changed since the last time I had gotten an update.)

I had planned to write about how the prospect of returning to work soon has made me want to cherish my remaining days as a stay-at-home mom, and how when I realized that I was not only not going to have to hold Austen forever, but that I wouldn't be able to hold Austen forever, I started not to mind doing it so much. I was planning to say that the head-butts aren't so day-ruining when I'm not already edgy and angry about the clinginess and the squirming during diaper changes. (We had a talk about that squirminess, and about why Mommy yells sometimes—it's when he doesn't listen that I get mad. Moral of the story, kid: Listen up!)

I was planning to write all this, and then the sleepless night happened. Well, not completely sleepless, but still, enough to make me wonder, at 1:48am, after holding Austen for 40 minutes and failing three times to get him to sleep in his crib, what ever made me think things were better. All the anger and frustration came back in a flood.

Interestingly, though, when I started to lose it, Austen seemed to consider his options and decide that he had it pretty good already being held by Mommy, and maybe he would stop all the kicking and crying. So that's a step forward. That, and the fact that this one crying-at-1am-and-needing-to-be-held night was a total outlier. On Monday night he slept from 7:15pm to 7:15am with only a no-intervention-needed squeak at 10:15. By the time I sat down to write this post (many hours ago—I've got so many items on my to-do list, things keep intervening), I'd already quite recovered. I'm a little sleep-deprived, but otherwise I'm in good humor.

While Austen was taking a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute nap this morning, it occurred to me that last night's trauma might have been connected to a growth spurt in his body, brain, teeth, or all three. I do know that he ate an ENORMOUS quantity of food yesterday, as if he were carbo-loading for a marathon. And after the nap today, he was thoroughly cheerful and especially talkative. (He doesn't say anything recognizable beyond "mama", "dada", and "uh-oh!", but he chatters quite a bit.) There was no 5pm meltdown, and he was relatively pleasant on the car ride to and from the mall (where we dropped off Al for some Christmas shopping) and to the ice rink (where I went to get a skate sharpening). He only grunted loudly and annoyingly for a few minutes (it's this screechy, throaty "UHHHHNHHH!" sound that sometimes makes him cough afterwards), and he stopped when he realized he was really starting to piss me off.

So anyway, things are better, despite the hour-and-a-half of baby wrangling at 1am. I'm starting to adapt. I'm getting what I can done around the house when the babysitter or Al is here, and I'm getting down on the floor and playing with Austen when they're not. I'm losing it less and less, and sucking it up, coping, and enjoying Austen more and more. Oh, and the first birthday party that I was stressing about for the past month went stupefyingly well on Saturday. I'll write about that (and post photos) next time.

Posted by Lori at 11:02 PM
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December 12, 2005

Our Incredible Hulk

So I'm now 100% positive that the reason for Austen's cranky night—and the two 12+ hour nights on either side of it—was that he was having a growth spurt. When I tried to dress Austen on Friday, I had trouble getting his sweater over his head. We thought it was a fluke, that maybe the sweater had shrunk, but after three days of *every* shirt and sweater getting stuck, his pants and pajamas unsnapping whenever he moves, and his hat barely reaching over his ears, it's time to face facts: he grew. I couldn't get his beautiful new Jacadi wool coat zipped today without taking off the button down shirt he was wearing underneath it, for crap's sake.

I fear that all his lovely 12-18 month size clothes will be put in the Give Away pile soon. <sigh>

Posted by Lori at 8:08 PM
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December 13, 2005

Weaning

Yes, I know—I still need to post about Austen's birthday. Unfortunately, the photos that go with that post are on the Mac, and I'm here in the dining room writing Christmas cards next to the PC laptop, so updates are of the Random Thoughts variety until all the cards are finished.

I wanted to mention, for my own historical record more than anything, that weaning is going well. We had been down to one nursing session per day since Austen and I returned from Maine (this coincides with when he started walking for real, though I'm not sure whether the two events are related), but this weekend he went an entire day without nursing at all.

The feeding we'd kept was the morning one, since Austen would wake up at 5:30 or 6 a little out of sorts and seemed to benefit from the snuggle-nursing. Books I've looked at since recommend keeping the bedtime feeding and then gradually reducing the duration of that feeding until it can be skipped entirely, but Austen didn't seem to need the nighttime feeding to go to sleep, so it went even before the naptime sessions did. We figure we missed a couple opportunities to wean him last week, when he slept until 7:45am; we realized afterwards that Al should have just brought him downstairs to play or have breakfast instead of putting him in bed with me, since he woke up cheerful both times and didn't really *need* to nurse.

Austen seemed to decide for himself on Sunday that he'd rather just snuggle than nurse, however, and I haven't nursed him since. We happened to be in a hotel room that morning when he woke up at 6:30, so the strange environment might have been a contributing factor; on Monday morning, when he got up at the same time, he cried when Al bypassed our bedroom and took him straight downstairs to play. He got over his dismay in a few minutes, however. This morning he woke up all cranky at 4am, so we dosed him with Tylenol, I snuggled him until he fell back to sleep, and then Al took him downstairs at 6:30 as usual.

I was thinking that the boobs were probably about done anyway, and that if Austen really wanted to nurse again this morning there wouldn't be anything left, but judging from how tender they are at the moment, I'd say they're a little puzzled that they haven't been called up for duty in over 72 hours. I'm sure that'll pass, though, along with the slight nostalgia for the bond Austen and I have shared these past twelve and a half months. I think both of us were 90% ready to move on, 10% clinging to the past, and it was time.

I wonder if I'll ever get used to sleeping without a bra on again.

Posted by Lori at 1:04 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
December 15, 2005

Slow on the Uptake

Does the fact that I'm an idiot make it more likely or less likely that I'll be picked for a jury today? I ask because I'm leaving for the courthouse in 10 minutes, and I need to know whether to arrange for backup childcare.

The evidence that I'm an idiot? Remember how I said (I did say this, right?) that getting down and playing on the floor with Austen instead of trying to get things done around him had made things much better around here? Luckily, I figured that out shortly after his first birthday party. What took me until yesterday to realize was why Austen was making the "pick me up" gesture and then struggling to get back down as soon as I picked him up. Turns out that he wasn't saying "pick me up"; he was saying, "come down here!" So I was right about getting down on the floor making all the difference, but I was still missing the signal for I NEED YOU TO GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW.

Judge, I'm too slow to serve on a jury. It will take me forever to understand the evidence, and even then I'll misinterpret it. If you're really lucky, I'll realize my mistake three weeks later, after the defendant has been released and has killed again. Please send me home where I can torture just my child and not eleven other jurors. Thank you.

Posted by Lori at 7:29 AM
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December 27, 2005

Christmas Week Weeding

We actually managed to fill our digital camera's memory card this weekend, which made me realize that I should have asked for a second card (and a second battery, for that matter, since the current one doesn't hold a charge very well anymore) for Christmas. D'oh! I guess we can look for cards and batteries at the after-Christmas sales this week (if we ever make it to the mall).

I'd planned on writing a post about our Christmas in Virginia and filling it with photos from the aforementioned memory card, but at the moment Al is hogging the Mac so he can sort out which of the 30GB of music and audiobooks in the iTunes library he wants for the 4GB Nano I got him. That post, which should logically preceed this one, will instead follow it.

The other plan that changed this week was the one that involved us driving up to Boston for a few days. On the way down to Virginia on Saturday we made a list of all the things that we wanted to weed/reorganize in the house (everything from Austen's toybox to the cookbook shelf in the kitchen), and we realized that we'd rather spend this week working on the weeding than sitting in traffic or finding that the friends and relatives we'd hoped to see had left town to see other friends and relatives.

The Christmas/New Year's week seems like a good time to take stock of our lives as they are and how we'd like them to be, and to determine what's really necessary, what's nice to have, and what goes under the heading of "what the hell were we thinking when we got this???" How fitting to start the new year appreciating the things we have and not drowning under mounds of things we no longer (or never did) need. As such, we will be passing on a box of infant clothes, bottles, (unused) breastmilk storage parephenalia, and toys to friends who've had babies recently or to local charities. We will be donating books and videos to the library and its used bookshop. We'll be putting the racing snowboard that Al bought a few years ago and realized he would never use up for sale on eBay.

For every new something that we've received for Christmas (or bought recently), we will attempt to get rid of any item the new item has superceeded. (For example, I finally got two the half-sheet baking pans I really wanted, and I will donate to Goodwill three nonstick cookie sheets that I'll probably never use again.) We will refuse to be guilted into keeping a couple gifts that are just so not us and will attempt to trade them in for something that we will use every day, like good measuring spoons or a 3-qt. saucepan with a lid. I know how sad I was when Al returned the first iPod I attempted to give him (for his birthday in July), so I'm conscious of the fact that I might be hurting some feelings by trading in a gift, but I'm hoping that the giver (a) will never know, or at least (b) would be happy to know that we're using something we wanted rather than letting their goodwill gather dust in an upstairs closet. [Al traded in that original iPod for the driver he wanted, and he's got a Nano he loves now, so it's all good.]

As part of this weeding process, we'll also be reorganizing what was once a perfectly-arranged kitchen. What's changed are not our cooking or eating habits, but rather the makeup of our family: We now have a toddler who can get into all the lower cabinets and the bottom half of the pantry. We're perfectly happy to let him have all the plastic containers, empty butter boxes, pots, and spatulas he wants to play with, but we'd rather he didn't crush all our cookies and crackers or empty bags of flour onto the floor. Sadly, the Snack Drawer's days are numbered.

I promise that in between all the weeding this week there will eventually be posts with photos, including Austen's thirteen-month update. Stay tuned!

Posted by Lori at 6:30 PM
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December 30, 2005

Lucky 13

Austen finally turns 13 months old today. I say "finally" because there've been so many developments and hilarious moments since the twelve-month update that I've been dying to write this one for at least two weeks. I wish now that I had started writing earlier—I have so much to say that it'll be a race to get this post in by midnight. (Thank god for back-dating!) I'll put the best news up front: This month has been infinitely easier than the last, mostly because I finally adapted to the New State of Things (which of course will become the Old State of Things in another month or two).

I never wrote about Austen's first birthday celebration in any detail, and since it started off this month, now seems like a good time to do so. We ended up moving the party from our house to a local hotel because we realized there was no way we'd be able to fit the 30 people who'd rsvp'd into our living room for the Toljabee event. [We still can't believe our luck in finding a hotel that had a room available on a Saturday in December at all, much less one that was perfect for us in every way. A shout-out to the Hotel Sofitel in Philadelphia for the fabulous space, food, and especially the service.]

austen's first birthday

Austen didn't seem to mind being dressed in the traditional Tol-bok—he even kept the hat on for the entire ceremony and then some, to my astonishment—though I found out later from my mother-in-law that I put the clothes on incorrectly. Apparently the blue vest was supposed to go over the peach jacket. Oops. In any case, it was fun to see Austen's reaction to the Tol table and to the audience arrayed around it (he kinda freaked at first). Once he stopped clinging to Al for protection, he actually made his way around the table by himself (tradition dictates that the father is to walk the child around the table, and that dad is also supposed to put the things he wants the child to grab closest to the edges, where the kid can reach them easily). He picked up the knife first, indicating that he'll be a good cook, and the caligraphy set second, indicating that he will be a scholar. Perhaps the combination means that he'll be a cookbook author? We're not sure. Only the first and second items grabbed have any real significance, but in case you're curious, he did pick up a rice cake—and promptly throw it on the floor—next. He steadfastly ignored all of Grandpa Cho's encouragements, both verbal and physical, to pick up the money.

the birthday boy with mommy
the tol table daddy and a startled austen
mac the knife championing education
aunt lisa and austen
pushing presents

Austen started going to the Please Touch Museum at the end of last month, but I think we more than got our yearly membership's worth in the month of December alone. Early in the month shopping was his favorite activity, but Al reports that on his last couple visits he didn't want to shop much at all. (This could be because I've started taping up empty butter boxes and soup cans in our own kitchen, and he got a little shopping cart for Christmas, so he no longer needs to leave home to indulge his taste for groceries.)

wrestling the cart selecting cereal carrying to cart tossing it in now for the milk!

Austen was lucky enough to discover snow this month, and he totally loved it. It turns out that our back deck is the perfect spot for making snowballs and snowangels (the snow collects really well out there, and there's no chance that he'll run into the street while we're playing).

austen in the snow laughing at Hannah

I've been keeping a list of the quirky behaviors that Austen exhibits, but I realize now I don't have any photos of him doing these things—either because they're noises, or because I'm in close as a participant, or because a still photo just wouldn't do it justice. Case in point: the Kramer Entrance. This is Austen's way of bursting into the master bathroom when we've forgotten to latch the door completely. He sweeps the door wide with his right arm and then leaps into the room, planting his feet like a superhero. If one of us is in the shower or on the toilet, we'll greet him the way Jerry Seinfeld did Newman. "Hello, Austen."

beep beep

Other items on the list include the way Austen uses one of his three words to prove that he knows how the Sheep in a Jeep story goes (I say, "Beep beep! Sheep in a Jeep on a hill that's steep!", he yells, "UH-OH!", and I continue, "the Jeep won't go!"); the way he'll stop and boogie to anything that has the faintest of beats; the way he puts things in my mouth for safekeeping (not the smartest of moves); the way he's finally learned to "hand it to Mommy" when he doesn't like something he's been given to eat insead of throwing it on the floor; and the way he rearranges all the cupboards and drawers. He especially likes to pull things out of my nightstand, and as a consequence several medicines have gone missing recently. (Luckily, we found the most expensive prescription ones; the children's Motrin is still MIA.) There are socks in my t-shirt drawer and tubes of Lansinoh in the laundry, so "IT. COULD. BE. ANYWHERE." is a common refrain around our house these days.

mid waggle
the former snack drawer

One behavior I do have a photo of is the "pot/stirring fascination". I was making Austen some stuffin muffins one morning when he asked me to pick him up. I did, and then continued stirring my stuffing mixture. He reached for the spatula and gave it a few turns. In the interest of speeding the muffin-baking process, I handed him a pot and a wooden spoon and set him down on the floor. At that moment, our little chef was born. (Or maybe it was when he picked up the knife at his Toljabee?) He pulls pots and pans out of drawers, begs for the ones that are in the upper cupboards, likes trying out new utensils, and knows how to sample his pretend creations. He's taken to setting his pots on the ottoman by the front door and jiggling and stirring them like he's standing over a stove.

fry it up in a pan looking for pots pot and pan bonanza

Austen's looking more and more like a little boy and less like a baby, and I'm starting to notice the resemblance to Al more. Everyone—especially members of my family—have always said that Austen "looks just like a little Al!", but until now I haven't really seen it. To me he looks like a mix of me and Al, plus a hefty dose of Original Austen. The top photo below, however, made me change my mind about whom he favors most. As for his laugh, however—well that's pure Grandpa Cho.

father and son
evil austen sweet austen
little man

The other big event—after the birthday party—for this thirteenth month was Austen's second Christmas. He was less than a month old for his first (and consequently, he slept through most of it), so this was the first Christmas where he really got to open presents and enjoy the day. He received several books (including Sheep Out to Eat, two Carl the rottweiler stories, two Eric Carle color books, and an Applebee the Cat pop-up), a scary stuffed monster from his cousin Henry, a Thomas the Tank Engine toy (the first of the Thomas toys that I've found clever and fun—pressing on the conductor's head makes the train go), and his two favorites: the little shopping cart, and a Mozart music box. He was also rather enamored of the atrocious counter-spinning hubcabs on the giant remote-controlled F-150 truck that Henry received from his grandparents, but as that was Henry's favorite present, most of the time Austen had to admire the hubcaps from afar.

christmas morning
opening presents mozart music box puzzling present
austen gets a turn with the truck
shopping in the dining room

Last, but not least, Austen is finally getting some more teeth. They all seem to be coming in at once, which has made for a few feverish nights recently, but he's been such a champion sleeper for the past couple months that it's really not that big a deal. Most notable are the two front teeth, which seem to drop down a couple milimeters every night. The best way to get a good look at them is to blow raspberries on Austen's belly after his every-other-evening bath, as this makes him laugh heartily. Even the prospect of a belly blow will cause him to squeal and giggle in anticipation, making it a wonderful way to end the day.

Posted by Lori at 10:58 PM
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January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's just starting to sink in that it's 2006 already, and especially that it's January now, not December. We returned from a family-friendly New Year's Eve gathering at Matt and Shannon's house at around 10pm last night and were in bed, asleep, by 11:20pm, which is probably why we failed to notice the turn of the year. Today we drove down to Maryland for the day to play a game of Trivial Pursuit with my parents and our good friends Anne and Peggy (a New Year's Day tradition) and to eat a huge spread of food prepared by Anne and my dad. (Back when I was in college and later when I would visit as a singleton, I was part of the buffet preparations, too, but now I'm just an Eater of the Bounty.) Both nights we changed Austen into his jammies before heading for home, and both nights he did not wake when we transferred him from the car to his crib.

As I write this the Mac screensaver is showing me my favorite photos from the past year on the TV (which we use as the monitor); it's so weird seeing Austen grow from tiny baby to active toddler. There's the one where he first learned to stand, the one where Alexander is looking on as Austen sticks out his tongue, the one where he's bald and beautiful at the Philadelphia Flower Show. There's his first experience in an Exersaucer, the days when he fit on a forearm, the messy first feedings, his first pair of shoes. Oh wow, I'd forgotten about his frog hat, and the early post-partum days when I'd dyed my hair purple. It's been quite a year here at Casa Hylan-Cho.

Hope 2006 brings all of us peace, prosperity, and perhaps a little adventure. If you want it, that is.

Posted by Lori at 8:45 PM
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January 4, 2006

Austen Has a Long-Lost Twin Named Charlie

I got hooked on a little pregnant back when I was, well, pregnant. Julie was due exactly two months after me, and it was fun and interesting to follow her pregnancy as I lived and wrote about my own. Needless to say, I was shocked when her son Charlie was born three days before Austen instead of two months after him.

I've been amazed to discover, despite Charlie's prematurity and attendant health issues, how much the two kids have in common. Although Austen doesn't eat at Friendly's regularly (it was one of our first meals out after he was born, but the service at the Friendly restaurants in our area is so abysmal that we don't bother anymore), almost everything in this post could be said of Austen as well. He is SO much more outgoing than either Al or I. It's one of the things I love about him, one of the ways in which he's made my life better—I'd be far more surly, far less interactive, far more awkward and fumbling if Austen weren't by my side, trying to engage every single person he sees.

I know it's New Year's, not Thanksgiving, but I just want to say how thankful I am that I got such a wonderful kid for a son—and how thankful I am that Julie did, too.

Posted by Lori at 3:36 PM | Permalink
January 10, 2006

Mmmm, Mmmm Good

I feel like monthly updates are just not frequent enough to document Austen's development anymore. Perhaps they never have been, and I've just convinced myself over the past few months that I have to save everything up for the end of the month. Well, no more: I can't let another minute go by without detailing some of the amazing things I've seen in the past couple days. (Of course, they will be amazing to no one else, but I will relate them anyway.)

Mmmmmmmmmmm ~ When Austen started playing with pots, I would occasionally stir the pot for him and bring the spoon or spatula to my mouth, pretend to taste what was on it, and then say, "mmmmm, good!" He thought this was SO COOL and would occasionally poke me in the mouth with the spatula to get me to make the slurpy tasting sound. Within a few days, he was tasting the contents of the pot himself. When I said to him, "what are you cooking? Can Mommy have a taste?", he'd bring the spatula to his own mouth, chew on it for a second, and then say, "Mmmmmmmmmmm". It was a short leap from that to saying "Mmmmmmmmmmm" every time he ever ate or drank anything (and sometimes even just when sitting in his car seat, in an effort to engage me).

Tonight, Austen graduated from "Mmmmmmmmmmm" to "áhh!", which he correctly identified as the appropriate noise to make after taking a sip of a particularly refreshing drink. It's not that "Mmmmmmmmmmm" is wrong after taking a swig of milk or fizzy water or homemade chai eggnog latte (which we shared while playing on the floor after dinner tonight); it's that "áhh!" is more specific.

Bottle skillz ~ Remember how I said we weren't sure whether Austen could hold a bottle by himself, and how relieved we were when he finally figured out how to use a sippy cup? Well, he's now drinking out of 25 oz. sport-top water bottles all by himself. He even knows how to close the tops so they don't spill (though he doesn't always do it). It's a sight to behold... which of course means I don't have a photo of him doing it.

Push-ups ~ I noticed yesterday that Austen is finally using the technique I saw Miranda employ way back in early April last year when he falls and needs to get back up: Namely, he pushes himself up into a sort of downward dog pose and then stands from there. Previously he'd been shuffling over on his butt or knees to the nearest wall, toilet, bed, or other stationary object and using that as leverage to pull himself up. This, it strikes me, is progress.

It was interesting just now to read the first paragraph of the April post I linked to in the previous paragraph and realize that Austen is now the same age Miranda was then. At the time, I hadn't wanted to think of Austen at this age; now it's hard to remember a time when he wasn't walking and babbling and telling me in his own version of sign language and grunts that he's hungry or thirsty, that he wants a different pot, or that he's ready for bed.

He actually did this on Saturday night, incidentally: He ASKED to go to bed. He got Al to pick him up and then led Al, by swaying his body, to the stairs, where he rubbed his eyes and reached upward with both arms. The signal was unmistakable—as unmistakable as when he clapped his hands and then rubbed his eyes, clapped his hands and then rubbed his eyes again as I finished changing a poopy diaper at 11:15am yesterday. He'd obviously been postponing nap time—which is usually between 9:30am and 11:00am—until he could get a poop in, and now that the poopy diaper was taken care of, he wanted to go down asap. "MORE SLEEP, Mommy! MORE SLEEP!" (He was out cold by the time we got to the end of the block in the stroller a few minutes later.)

I'M FRUSTRATED!! ~ One of the other unmistakable non-verbal communiqués Austen's been sending us lately is the one that means, "I'M FRUSTRATED!!" (It can also mean "I'M ANGRY!!") He squats, balls his hands into fists and shakes them, and grunt-screams. He'll sometimes do it repeatedly, turning redder and redder each time. We're trying various methods to break him of this habit, including ignoring him, asking him to tell us what he wants, explaining that temper tantrums are not acceptable, or whatever seems appropriate at the time. We're hoping that as he acquires more vocabulary (currently we're still on "mama", "dada", "uh-oh", and an occasional "Hannah" and "nana"), he'll also have less need for such a simultaneously hilarious and annoying gesture. [I just totally cracked Al up by imitating the "frustrated" gesture in an attempt to accurately describe it.]

Posted by Lori at 8:51 PM
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January 16, 2006

Surprise!

I remember being in the car with my mom one time, back when I was in college, when she expressed surprise at some detail or other I'd just related about my life. This intrigued me, and I asked her what else about me surprised her. She responded, "well, if the list were very long I'd have to say I didn't know you very well." I wonder if more about me would surprise her now, or whether I've become more predictable over time. I certainly suspect that in the early days of parenthood the surprises came fast and furious.

This is my experience, in any case; as well as I think I know Austen, he's developing so fast that there are times when he'll do something that just makes my jaw drop. There are other parenting surprises as well—perhaps the biggest one of all being that I actually have a parenting instinct—ranging from things we thought we knew but didn't to things we thought would never change but did. Some recent surprises:

Austen is watching. I knew that I could demonstrate behaviors and eventually Austen would learn to repeat them, but I didn't realize how closely he was watching me when my intention was not to model behavior. For example, last week I noticed that when he's "cooking" on his ottoman, Austen will tap the spatula on the edge of the pot when he's done stirring and then move the spatula to another pot. I do this when I'm cooking: I tap the excess food off my spatula, and then stand it up in an empty can or measuring cup. I've also noticed that he's picked up my stirring and scraping techniques. [This reminds me of the time my sister and I were in a supermarket with her two year-old son, chatting while we inspected the mangoes. We would sniff each one to see if it was ripe, and if it passed muster, we'd put it in our cart. The next thing we knew, J, who had his own little kid-sized cart, picked up a mango, jammed it up his nose, and then tossed it into his cart. My sister and I looked at each other with our eyes bugged out for a second, and then we CRACKED UP.]

Austen is expected to drink two cups of milk a day. I remember reading somewhere the question, "how much milk should I give my baby?", but I don't remember the entire answer. I only remember that there was an admonishment not to give too much, since cow's milk is designed for the nutritional needs of fast-growing calves, not slower-growing human babies. I found out at our doctor's visit on Friday that the cup to a cup-and-a-half that I rather guiltily admitted to giving Austen was actually insufficient. Apparently he needs at least two cups a day, unless he's eating two or three yogurts a day. (Luckily, most days he *is* eating two yogurts a day.) I realized I'm sort of winging it on the nutritional front, figuring that if Austen eats better than I do, he's ahead of the game. Honestly, though, I should never be anyone's nutritional standard, much less a growing child's. I'd say it's probably time to read up on child nutrition, but my instinct says to just keep feeding him a wide variety of stuff, and he'll probably turn out OK.

My, that's SALTY. I've definitely experienced the increased sensitivity to sugar that comes from not eating sweets, but I've never really believed—or had the opportunity to experience for myself—an increased sensitivity to salt. Compared to Al and his family, I'm a saltaholic... though compared to my own family, I eat hardly any. (My mom instituted the policy of "separate salt and pepper shakers for each person," probably because she could never wrest the salt shaker away from my dad. Mom salts EVERYTHING from cantaloupe to ice cream, and my dad can't eat anything unless it's covered in a crust of salt and pepper. For the record, all three of us have blood pressure that's normal to low.)

I've never been a big fan of salt *in* food, but I do love big, crunchy kosher or sea salt crystals on top of pasta, lentil stew, soft pretzels, eggs, and more. Since Austen started eating off my plate a few months ago, however, I not only stopped adding any salt to foods I was cooking (any recipe that said "salt to taste" or "season well with salt and pepper" got none), but I also stopped adding so much salt on top of the food. Sometimes I add a bit to half the plate, but more often than not I just don't add any. As a consequence, when we stopped at Tampopo for sushi a couple weeks ago, I said to Al, "something's wrong with this soy sauce. It's SUPER salty." Al laughed and said that that's the way it'd always been—I'd just never noticed before. Needless to say, it's now almost impossible for me to eat my parents' cooking, and I was a bit sad to discover that the two potato knishes I bought at Artie's in NYC on Friday were much saltier than I'd remembered. They were still the best knishes I've ever had, but so, so salty.

Austen can reach doorknobs, tabletops, and cooktops now. I should have known this day was coming, but it still caught me by surprise. I think what changed—in addition to Austen growing about an inch in the past three months—is that he's become very proficient at standing on his tippytoes and reaching. He's also become quite a climber (he tries to climb into the tub himself now), and he'll stand on anything that will help him reach his goal, from pillows and boxes to my laptop. =:o This new reach combined with his love of pots has required me to emphasize that he should NEVER, EVER grab a pot off the stove. I've also tried to teach him that the red lights mean that the cooktop is HOT. I hope he's soaking in this information.

Posted by Lori at 2:04 PM
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January 17, 2006

Kneebouncers

Ann, the babysitter who worked with us this summer (and who was filling in with us yesterday), noticed that Austen was a BIG fan of typing on my laptop (and of prying off the keys—yesterday he got the F key, and on Friday he'd gotten the spacebar) and recommended kneebouncers.com as a site Austen might like to visit. It's a site designed by a group of creative dads who noticed that there's not much on the web for really little kids and decided to do something about it. They created a bunch of Flash games that respond to any key press (and often in a different way to multiple keys pressed at once). Don't worry if the games don't seem to make any sense; your toddler will still be mesmerized. Oh, and be sure to turn on the sound!

Posted by Lori at 9:21 AM
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January 20, 2006

Sick

We are all sick here at Casa Hylan-Cho. Austen has been sick almost continuously since he caught the cold I had at Christmas, and I have been sick off and on with various chest and sinus afflictions since before that. At the moment, Al's the sickest of us all; he's been home from work for a couple days now. I've been washing my hands like a maniac, but as I've said to Al, that doesn't help so much when your infant son is sticking his boogers up your nose—booger-to-booger contact being the #1 method of disease transmission. I'm hoping that since we all seem to have the same thing now that we'll all get better at the same time, and that we'll stop giving this virus a chance to mutate and attack again.

Meanwhile, we're going through Kleenex (both the Lotion and Anti-Viral varieties) at an alarming rate, especially since Austen finds great joy in pulling as many of them out of the box as he can at one sitting. The other night I found him in the linen closet, attempting to pry great wads of tissue from under the plastic wrapping that covered one of the stand-up boxes. This morning he seemed to get the hang of the whole Kleenex Conservation thing, though: He pulled one out of the box, held it up to his face, made a noise that sounded like "ahroooooo", and then held the tissue to my face and gestured as if to say, "now you!" I guess it's better than having the boogers shoved directly up my nose.

As much icky goo as is coming out of Austen's nose, I think more of it's going down his throat and into his stomach. Yesterday morning, after waking up at the completely normal time of 6:10am, he rather abnormally screamed for 20 minutes and then conked out again on his sheepskin rug in the basement 'til 9:30. Al watched him sleep for two hours, but I only lasted 30 minutes before I had to get things done up in the kitchen. When I finally heard him stir, I called, "good morning, sleepyhead!" and headed down to get him. As I reached the gate at the bottom of the basement stairs, he said, "Uh oh! Uh oh!" and then horked all over the sheepskin rug. I quickly climbed over the gate, at which point he started to say "uh oh!" again but was interrupted by a heave. It was so cute how he was obviously fighting the urge to vomit (and he was largely successful—although he heaved a bit more, only a little dribble came out). Luckily, he held his breakfast of milk and Bear Naked Triple Berry Oatmeal down just fine.

Tomorrow we are all driving down to Wheaton, MD so Austen and I can get our hair cut by my favorite stylist, Toni at HUGO Salon. We're both looking rather shaggy these days; Austen hasn't had a proper haircut since I cut off his Gollum strands back when he was seven months old (which I guess means he's never had a proper haircut), and I haven't had one since my hair was purple back in May. I have some nostalgia for both that cut and the purple color, but I'm reluctant to dye it when we're about to take a vacation that will involve lots of swimming and sweating, and I'm not sure Toni will feel as inspired by my plain white hair as she was by the purple. I guess we'll see... I'll hopefully have some before and after photos of us to post tomorrow night.

Posted by Lori at 5:42 PM
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January 21, 2006

Haircuts

As promised, here are the before and after photos from Austen and Lori's Haircut Adventure. The cut I got is very similar to the one I got in May, only with shorter bangs and the part on the opposite side. (I kinda wish she'd left the bangs a bit longer, but I think she did it this way to even them up—they were shorter on the right than the left.) Austen got his cut while sitting on my lap (good thing we brought a spare shirt for him to change into, because we didn't bother with a drape). We distracted him with a cell phone while Toni made a few strategic snips.

before the cuts #1 before the cuts #2

after the cuts #1 after the cuts #2 after the cuts #3

Posted by Lori at 10:29 PM
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January 23, 2006

And More Sick

From about 9pm to 1am last night, I was plagued with what I can only assume was food poisoning. I'm guessing—but cannot prove—that the culprit was a Brazilian Shrimp Burrito from Whole Foods; I got a bad one once before and almost swore off them completely back then. I *will* be swearing off them completely from now on. I was worried that I might never be able to eat another orange as well after last night's drama—an orange being the last thing I ate, in an attempt to soothe myself, before the vomiting started—but I don't feel the same aversion to them that I did at midnight, thank goodness. California navels are in season right now (for east-coasters who are used to getting California oranges year-round and were unaware that there *was* a season, it usually runs from late January through March), which means they're cheaper, sweeter, and more abundant than usual. I've been known to subsist entirely on oranges when the CA navel season and a particularly stressful period at work coincided, so giving them up would have been so, so sad.

Although I find myself with no particular aversion to oranges this morning, I don't think it would be in my best interest to eat one for breakfast. I seem to be done with the vomiting, and I *am* starving, but it's hard to imagine actually eating any of the foods we have in the house at the moment. Maybe if I hunt around a bit more, I'll locate some saltines.

I think one thing that's adding to the lingering nausea is the fact that we have a temporary babysitter today; Hannah doesn't start full-time with us until next week, and I'm already working, so we needed to cover today and Thursday of this week. The temp sitter is totally fine, but as I hadn't met her before today, I have more butterflies than usual when Austen's out of my sight (as he is now—they're out with the stroller). I'm sure everything's OK, but I'm still fighting the urge to call her cell and tell her to COME BACK RIGHT NOW so I can hug my kid.

Posted by Lori at 10:34 AM | Permalink
January 27, 2006

Stories from the Street

Recently I ordered Austen a copy of Songs from the Street, and it arrived yesterday. I popped Disc One into the Mac and pressed play in iTunes... and Austen kinda freaked out. He knows that when he sees the iTunes interface that he's about to hear some music, but this music usually means that there's a big yellow bird, some kids, some blocks, and Central Park up on the screen. WHERE THE HELL WAS BIG BIRD?

Austen looked stricken for a few seconds, and then he ran over to the table where I'd left the CD box—a table that's above his eye level—and started fishing around with his arm until he hit the box cover. He pulled it down, recognized his friends Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, Oscar, Elmo, and Cookie Monster, and he sighed with relief. He then brought the box cover over to the ottoman and pointed to each of the characters lovingly. All was suddenly right with the world.

commandeering the box pointing to his friends staring at the photos while the music plays

Austen, as you might have guessed, is a total Sesame Street addict. He now brings me the TiVo remote both in the morning and at bath time—basically whenever we're in the master bedroom for an extended period—and gestures for me to turn on Elmo. He knows that the TiVo remote in the living room (an older model that's a different size and color, but the same peanutty shape) does the same thing as the one in the bedroom, and he'll make the same "turn on Elmo!" gestures when he comes across it. He'll sometimes run to get his Elmo doll when Sesame Street comes on, so they can watch together. More often, he prefers to sit in my lap for at least a segment or two (he especially likes watching the Count reveal the Number of the Day this way, perhaps because I sing along as the Count serenades the Countess, or because I shout, "oh, the suspense is killing me!" when the Count plays the organ).

I loved Sesame Street when I was a kid, too, and I'm loving it now all over again. There are minor annoyances, of course—some of the human characters say their lines a little too exaggeratedly for me, and Baby Bear's baby voice and adult vocabulary used to unnerve me at first (though he's grown on me lately)—but mostly there's so much to enjoy and appreciate. Aside from the Count, I love the science experiments (seeing what items float or slide, playing the Grouch game "What Happens Next?"), Elmo's World ("it's Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle!"), anything that happens in Gina the Vet's office, and the adventures of SUPer Grover. (I look forward to Journey to Ernie, but I wish that the segments were a little more consistent.)

This morning I got one of my favorite combinations: a scene in Gina's office that involved Grover. After watching for a few minutes, I realized that, skinny arms and blue fur aside, I AM GROVER. Whenever Grover gets something wrong, he says, "why did you not TELL me that this was so?", which my husband will tell you is exactly what I would do. It's not MY fault I got it wrong—in fact, I'm always right!—so it must be you. Good grief! Well, at least I don't have Oscar's misanthropic attitude Elmo's self-centered worldview Bert's preference for reading over parties Telly's obsession with triangles!

Posted by Lori at 2:03 PM
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January 30, 2006

Update Coming

Austen turns 14 months old today, but in the interest of being able to spend some quality time with my husband before we both collapse from exhaustion, I will be writing the update tomorrow. See you then.

Posted by Lori at 8:49 PM | Permalink
January 31, 2006

Begin the Beguine

Avid fans of Sesame Street will recognize the title of this post as the line that the Count sings to the Countess after the number 14, which makes it appropriate for a summary of Austen's 14th month of being. (It's also, incidentally, the title of a Cole Porter song.)

This update is likely to be as much about me as about Austen, as this is the month I started working full-time again, under the best possible scenario: The team I worked on for almost 7 years when we lived in California had an opening right when I decided I wanted to work again. I get to work on a team I love, doing work I enjoy, creating a product I actually use (I'm using it right now, in fact)—and all from home, where I can take Austen breaks instead of coffee breaks. It's taken a couple months to get all the paperwork processed, but that gave us time to sort out our nanny issues. I'm thrilled to say that after many frustrating weeks of combing craigslist and being unable to find a good match for us, our current nanny decided to come on with us full-time. This is a good thing for me, of course, but it's also fantastic for Austen because Hannah and he have similar social-butterfly personalities. They're out right now playing with another nanny and her 16 month-old charge, in fact.

you are my sunshine

We also have Hannah to thank for the fact that Austen is now enrolled in a music class for toddlers; she did all the research, located a class near us, and called to see if we could come watch a sample class before deciding to enroll. I went to the first three or four classes, and they're really fun. We got a songbook and CD to play at home so Austen can become familiar with the songs, and now that he recognizes the tunes and the activities associated with them, he's TOTALLY INTO MUSIC CLASS. The great part is that even if I can't make it to any more classes, I can still sing and play with Austen in the evenings because I know the songs now, too.

putting away percussion instruments listening to John can I play?
[photos added 02.01.06, after this morning's Music Class]

In addition to the music and the activities—perhaps more than the music and the activities—Austen likes music class because it affords him the opportunity to hug and kiss other little kids. He's been hugging (and knocking down) other kids since before he could walk, and over the past month he's started trying to kiss them, too. He started by practicing on me a couple months ago, and once he got the hang of closing his mouth more and not probing with his tongue, he decided to spread the love around... which, now that I think of it, is probably why we've all been sick since Christmas. On Sunday he enountered an 8 or 9 year-old at the ice rink in Aston who crouched down and smiled at him, and Austen immediately moved in for the kiss. Unfortunately, the kid was wearing a skateboarding helmet on which Austen bonked his head every time he leaned in. Didn't stop him from trying five or six times before Al finally suggested to Austen that he give up.

mug shot

After experimenting with a few different formats, we've settled into a regular routine around here now. Austen now gets a bath every night (unless we're out late) instead of every other night; Al gets in the tub with him and then takes a shower while I put Austen's jammies on. We watch a little Sesame Street together, and then between 7 and 8pm I say, "ready for bed?" Austen lifts his arms up in the "pick me up!" gesture, I say "kiss Daddy good night!", Austen kisses Daddy, and I take him upstairs. On go the HEPA filter and the humidifier, and then I carry Austen around the room while singing a series of standards and lullabies. The last tune is always the classic lullaby, though I vary the lyrics from night to night. I've settled on these two verses at a minimum, however:

Lullaby, and good night
In your crib you'll be sleeping
With your eyes closed, fast asleep
We'll be here when you wake up

Close your eyes, little bean
We'll be here in the morn
Sleep 'til seven or eight
And we'll come get you then.

The whole put-down routine takes from five to fifteen minutes, depending how ready for sleep (and how snarffly) Austen is. If he's especially resistent, I sing more animated songs first and then work my way to the slower ones.

Despite the admonishment to sleep until 7 or 8, Austen's up between 6 and 6:30 most mornings. Al gets up with him, plays with him down in the basement, and feeds him breakfast while I sleep a while longer ('til 7:45 most mornings, 7 on Mondays) and then get dressed. We trade off at around 8 or 8:15, and Al gets ready for work while I get Austen dressed. (Mondays are a little trickier, because Hannah comes at 8 instead of 9.) So far it's working really well for us, though I'm sure Al could use more sleep than he's currently getting. He much prefers getting up with Austen to putting him down, however, so I think the division of labor suits us.

Austen seems to be adapting fairly well to the fact that I'm working and that Hannah is here more often, although I think he's a little sad that he doesn't get at least one day alone with me during the week. The other day I held him while Hannah got her coat on in preparation for taking Austen out in the stroller, and Austen waved bye-bye at her. I said, "oh no, honey, she's not leaving yet. You're going out together." He waved again, more firmly this time, and both Hannah's and my hearts broke a little. He couldn't have been saying, "Mommy's here now, you can go" more clearly. I was secretly glad when we had an uncovered childcare day last week (Hannah wasn't full-time yet, and the temporary nanny got sick), so Austen and I could spend the day together running errands. I'm also making sure that I get down on the floor and play with him whenever I'm not working.

austen and elmo

Of course, that means there's no time for chores. Obviously weekday baking has fallen by the wayside (though I can sometimes squeeze in a batch of muffins on the weekends), and the laundry tends to pile up now. I have figured out how to incorporate Austen into a couple chores, however; it started with stirring pots on the stove, and then progressed to unloading the dishwasher (perhaps because he realized that's where his beloved spatulas come from). I do all the dishes and glasses, and Austen unloads the silverware. He started by handing me one knife or fork or spoon at a time, which I would put away in the drawer while saying, "thank you!", but the other day he carried several spoons in a row to the drawer and tossed them in himself.

extracting spoon yaaaar! putting away silverware
closing drawer

Austen also likes it when I vacuum, though the appeal of the vacuum cleaner is the exhaust that blows out the front—which means he's constantly standing right where I need to vacuum. We've worked out a game where I chase him around with the vacuum cleaner, and in this way he gets his hair blown back as desired, and I eventually get the whole room cleaned.

austen and vacuum ah, the wind blowing through my hair
all riiiiiiiiiiiight!

Posted by Lori at 10:04 AM
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February 2, 2006

Chocolate Pretzel Trauma

Austen just had a total meltdown, both literally and figuratively, over a chocolate pretzel. Hannah got us some at Maron Chocolates, and I'd just pulled one out of the bag when Austen grabbed it and ran off. I chased him, because that pretzel was NOT A TOY, and I didn't want it to melt all over the place.

I managed to wrest it away from him... and he promptly went ballistic. Cried, turned blue, the whole works. I tried to give him a taste of the pretzel to appease him, but what he really seemed to want was to HOLD it. I finally shoved a little piece in his mouth, ate the rest, and then just held him until he stopped crying.

post chocolate pretzel trauma

Posted by Lori at 4:50 PM
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February 5, 2006

The Accidental Litterbug

When I left the house for my usual weekend-morning walk with the Beaner, he was wearing a bib. Sadly, not the Korean bunny bib with the two snaps that he can't get off, but a disposable Pampers bib on which it's frustratingly easy for a toddler to pop the velcro. It wasn't until he started begging for the cream-cheese brownie I'd bought at the Metropolitan Bakery just south of Rittenhouse Square that I noticed that the bib was missing. Well, FART. Not only would he be getting mixed berry fruit bar crumbs all over him (I'd planned ahead and stashed one in the bottom of the stroller so I wouldn't have to share my chocolate treats), but I'd also managed to contribute to the piles of trash that deface Philadelphia.

At least I could blame that first bit of littering on the Beaner. The second bit (at least, I think it was the second bit; it's entirely possible that I left an entire trail of old wrappers and receipts in my wake) I can only blame on the 21st Street windtunnel and my poor positioning of the Starbucks coffee cup that said Beaner had been playing with before he conked out. As soon as we stepped into the jetstream at the corner of 21st and Market, the cup flew out of the bottom of the stroller and down the sidewalk. I chased after it for a bit, but when it went out into Market Street I decided to abandon the pursuit and return to my sleeping baby. FART! Again I say, FART! I've got to come up with a better way to secure my trash (as well as my non-trash parephenalia, like my only copy of our auto insurance cards—the ones with our address and insurance numbers right on them—that becomes trash when it blows out of the stroller).

In happier news, I learned from Hannah that the Beaner met The Baby, who was out and about with his Auntie, in Rittenhouse Square on Friday. Apparently much hilarity (not to mention memory-searching) occurred when Hannah recognized The Baby, and the SIL/Auntie recognized the Beaner, but Hannah and the SIL didn't recognize each other. It was finally determined, just before ratphooey and Mom Phooey showed up, that the SIL recognized Austen because Austen attended The Baby's birthday party (which was held at her house), and Hannah recognized The Baby because The Baby was at Austen's birthday party (and because two cute photos of his 7 month-old self show up now and then on our Mac screensaver). The SIL and Hannah, only having had attended one party each, had not met each other.

In any case, much fun was had by all, especially since there was a violinist performing in the Square at the time, and both babies love music.

Posted by Lori at 11:58 AM
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February 19, 2006

Vacation Summary, Part 1

So I didn't mention that we were going on vacation before we left for a couple reasons, but now that we're back it's probably safe to say that we were in Hawaii with both my parents and Al's. Al's parents go every year for a couple months (they're retired), but my parents had never been. Whenever we mentioned it, my mom would say that Hawaii was a place they'd go "someday."

We pretty much had to demand that they come, and even once they agreed, my mom was a bit nervous about what they would do, what they should wear, how much it would cost, etc. About halfway through our stay, however, I caught both of my parents saying, "next time, we'll...", so I think there's a good chance they'll go back with us in a couple years. I hope they do, because having both sets of grandparents there for what was also Austen's first visit was so cool. We all got time with the beaner, time to play golf, time to ourselves, and time all together. It was awesome.

mom and dad in matching aloha wear

A few of the highlights (er, yeah, highlights):

Tuesday
We arrive in Kahului after a 9-hour flight from Chicago, during which Austen didn't cry at all. Yay, grandparents! While waiting in the Lowe's parking lot for Al to buy a HEPA filter, Mom starts playing a game with Austen that involves a Kleenex and ridiculous questions—to which the answer is always "nOOOoooo."

grandma eating Austen's toes

Wednesday
I catch Austen practicing "nOOOoooo" and angry face (aka Hulk pose) in the mirrored closet doors in our bedroom.

Thursday
Al and I play our first round of golf, on the Village Course. I'm +30 through the first 9 holes; by the time we finish, we've lost 6 balls each. The Village is the easiest of Kapalua's three courses.

7th hole, Village course Al, outside the Village clubhouse

Friday
Austen signs "please" for the first time. It looks like he's making a slashing motion across his throat, or adjusting a collar that's too tight. Mom, Dad, and I take a golf lesson with Jerry King. I already love Jerry for what he's done for my game; by the end of the lesson, Mom and Dad love him too.

dad gets a golf lesson

Saturday
Austen says "grandpa" clearly for the first time while Al is changing his diaper at 6:15am. We play the Plantation Course at 6:50am with our dads; despite two errant shots (one into the road) on the first tee and the difficulty of the course (which I was playing for the first time), I improve by 8 shots over my Thursday Village score.

admiring the view

Sunday
While our parents are out playing golf together, Al and I decide to take a drive so the beaner can have a nap. Al suggests taking the North road to a little artist colony to get banana bread for his brother; he denies that driving any part of the North road will violate our rental car contract. I swear I saw some red zones on the rental map of this area, but Al says no.

After several sharp turns (preceeded by signs instructing us to BLOW HORN) and major twists that have left me a bit nauseous despite the fact that I'm the driver, not the passenger, I ask Al if this banana bread recipe really differs all that much from my own. He replies that it's advertised as the best in the world, and that Carl has requested that we FedEx a loaf to New York.

After 20 minutes of twisting and turning, we round a bend and find ourselves on the downhill slope of a giant, one-car-wide U. There's a sheer rock wall on one side, and a sheer dropoff on the other. There is no guardrail, but there *is* part of a palm tree blocking 1/3 of the roadway about 20 yards further on.

Long story short: I make it to the bottom of the hill OK, but I burst into hysterical tears when a pickup truck with big tires and a lift kit meets us head on about 100 yards from the top of the U. I start screaming, "I CAN'T DO IT! I CAN'T DO IT! HOW DIFFERENT CAN THAT BANANA BREAD RECIPE BE FROM MINE ANYWAY???" and take my hands off the wheel. The driver of the pickup (whose right front tire is halfway over the edge of the road) waves me on, and Al encourages me to inch past her. I do, despite continuing to insist that I can't, and I manage to get to the pull-off at the top. I sit in the driver's seat screaming and crying for a full five minutes before Al talks me into moving to the passenger side for the return trip. We make it back OK and with only minimal hysteria, but there will be no banana bread for Carl (and no nap for Austen—I woke him up only 25 minutes after he fell asleep with all my screaming).

Posted by Lori at 10:50 PM
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March 6, 2006

15 Month Update (and Vacation Summary, Part 2)

I think I'll remember month 15 as the one in which Austen learned to sign "please" and say "no". These two additions to his vocabulary have made a tremendous difference in his ability to communicate his wants and needs; when he points up at the kitchen counter and says, "uhhn," we can now hold up any items in the area one at a time (me: "sippy cup?" A: "no." me: "banana?" A: "no." me: "glass of water?" A: "no." me: "you want me to put on my glasses?" A: [smiles and makes sign for "please"]) and know for sure when we've hit on the one he wants. Of course, he also answers "no" to lots of questions to which he should really be answering yes, such as "did you poop?"

playing with ice cubes fish sandals

As I mentioned in the first (and so far only) installment of our Vacation Summary, Austen also knows how to say "grandpa"; we clearly heard him say it at least twice while we were in Hawaii. I also heard him say it the other night when he was looking through the latest issue of TIME magazine (Austen loves to read magazines, especially TIME and Martha Stewart Living). He'd gotten to the last page, which had an ad that showed a man of about 60 with close-cropped gray hair in a suit. He made the "I know that guy!" sound (it's similar to the "I want that!" uhhn, but with a different inflection) and pointed to the guy in the suit. I don't think Austen's ever seen my dad in a suit, but I suspected that that was who he thought the guy was. "Who's that?" I asked. "Grandpa," he said softly, staring lovingly at the photo. "No, that's not grandpa, but it does kind of look like him," I said. Oddly, he doesn't usually say "grandpa" when photos of my dad (or Al's) come up in our Mac screensaver rotation, but he does make the "I know that guy!" sound. I guess you have to ask him "who's that?" to get "grandpa."

grandpa Cho and Austen Austen spots the giant birdcage

I'll also remember month 15 as the one in which Austen had his first ear infection. It happened in Hawaii, and our first indication that something was really wrong was when Austen woke up on Wednesday morning at 3:30 am with a raging fever. I'd noticed he was a little pink (and warm) the night before and figured that despite our best efforts to keep him covered with clothing, sunscreen, and a hat, he'd gotten a sunburn while we were out whale watching. I'd given him some Tylenol in case it would help, and put him to bed as usual at 7:30. When he woke up with the fever at 3:30, his skin was a fiery red, and I was sure I'd been a rotten, irresponsible parent and totally sunburned my child. We were a little panicked; Austen had never had a fever (or a sunburn) before, and we were very far from home.

never look a gift cannon in the mouth blue-hatted beaner and me
sleeping beaner and me whale tail

Luckily Al realized that with the time difference, our pediatrician's office would be open at that hour, so we called. The nurse who called back seemed to ignore my news about being out in the sun (maybe it's difficult to imagine getting a sunburn when there's 2' of snow where you are) and asked if he was pulling his ears or acting cranky. I said, "well, he's screaming now, but I suspect that's because it's 4am and he's burning up." She suggested that we go get some Children's Motrin (it's apparently better than Tylenol at controlling fevers), and while at the store, to pick up a thermometer. "It'll help put your mind at ease, for one thing," she said, "and it'll also help you figure out if the fever's going down. If it's not, or if you notice any behavioral changes—lethargy, etc.—then you should take him to a doctor."

We drove to Safeway and got an ear thermometer and some Motrin; the reading was 103.5. We dosed Austen with Motrin and let him sleep in the bed with us for the next couple hours, and when he woke his fever had broken. He also wasn't nearly as red/pink, which should have tipped us off that this wasn't a sunburn we were dealing with. So anyway, we went on with the day as scheduled and drove to Mama's Fish House in Paia, where we had an amazing lunch (with even more amazing views). After lunch Al and Austen played in the sand on the beach, and then we drove around Kahului and Wailuku for a while in a futile attempt to find malasadas. (Sweet Treats had closed, and The Home Maid Bakery only serves them from 5:30-9:30am and from 4-10pm; we arrived at 3pm.)

outside Mama's Fish House #2 postcard
chocolate kuau pie playing in the sand with daddy #3
money shot

When we arrived back at Kapalua around 4:30 or 5, we noticed that Austen was really hot again. We took his temperature with our handy ear thermometer... and promptly flipped out when the reading was 104.5. I knew from reading nj and Morrisa's account of Miranda's high fever (I can't find the entry now, but it was when Miranda was less than a year old, I think) that brain damage wasn't necessarily imminent, so I was able to calm Al down a little. We called the Doctors on Call number and got the office in Ka'anapali (for some reason the one at Kapalua was closed that day), and we made an appointment for 6:20. We dosed Austen with some more Motrin and then headed out the door, figuring there was no harm in getting there early. On the way there I called Morrisa to see if she had any advice; she confirmed that while there was no need to panic, we were doing the right thing by going to see the doctor.

at the doctor's office in ka'anapali

Getting to the doctor's office early did indeed work in our favor; we were seen a little before 6, and the young doctor (who told us he had a 17 month-old) quickly figured out that Austen's left ear was infected. (He also wasn't the least bit skeptical about our 104.5 reading, thank god—most doctors seem to think that the only readings that matter are the ones taken in their offices—and was pleased to see that the Motrin was already working, as the reading he got was 101.5.) He told us we could alternate Motrin and Tylenol (e.g., Motrin at noon, Tylenol at 4pm, Motrin at 6pm, Tylenol at 10pm, etc.) to keep the fever down, and he prescribed 10 days of antibiotics... plus a re-check on Friday to make sure Austen was OK to fly home that night. (He was, and he loved the strawberry flavor of the medicine; by day 3 he was bringing me the bottle and dropper first thing in the morning, so he never missed a dose. :)

ready for breakfast

Month 15 was also when I returned to work full-time. (I actually started on Austen's 14-month birthday, Jan. 30.) Obviously our arranged-last-August Hawaiian vacation interrupted work for a couple weeks, but the rest of the month went surprisingly well. Austen knows that I'm working—he's just as sad when I head upstairs to my office as when Al leaves out the front door in the mornings—but he really seems to like playing with Hannah all day, and of course he's always excited to see me when I come down for a hug break or some food. I miss the days of running errands when no one else was at the mall or the grocery store (now I go on weekends with all the other working people), but I'm glad to be working again, and I'm especially glad to have help. Al, Hannah, and I form a little child-rearing triumverate now; I don't feel like I'm shouldering most or all of the responsibility myself.

On the food front, Austen is still a really good eater. He eats just about everything, and he likes to graze. This month I introduced him to Jell-O, and though he was skeptical of the bright orange wiggly mass at first, it's now among his favorite treats. He especially loves it with fruit trapped inside. He also went wild for strawberries (organic, of course) this month, eating 5 or 6 of them at a time. Just to be silly I squirted some whipped cream on the one he had in his hand once, and he's now a total whipped-cream junkie. He begs to have whipped cream squirted on his hand, and more often than not he plays with it for a little while before he eats it (if he eats it at all; in the photo on the left below, he's smeared it in his hair like mousse).

taking a big bite for the camera whipped cream boops

Yesterday morning he begged me to squirt some whipped cream on his hand, so I gave him a small squirt. He pointed at the can, which I'd put back on the counter, and made the sound for "I want that!" I said, "I already gave you some. You don't need any more." At which point he made the sign for "please"... and smeared the whipped cream all over his chest. The look on his face when he realized he'd done it was priceless—a sitcom moment if ever I've seen one. I, of course, busted out laughing, which brought out the ham in Austen. He smiled devilishly and rubbed the whipped cream all over his stomach.

Finally, it looks like Austen shares my love of cozy little nooks; that triangular space between the baby gate and the wall at the base of the kitchen-living room stairs has become his favorite. It's where he goes whenever I give him a big enough piece of food to keep him busy for a while, and sometimes he just sits there when he wants some time to himself.

Posted by Lori at 6:44 PM
Comments (4) | Permalink
March 10, 2006

Trixie Tracker!

It's kinda too late for Austen (although the sleep telemetry might still be interesting), but the Trixie Tracker has FINALLY launched. If you're about to have a baby and you're (a) anal, (b) technophilic, (c) a fan of Edward Tufte, or (d) all of the above, get yourself over there and sign up. It's way better than writing everything on little index cards!

*Seriously, Benmac has totally outdone himself. The long wait was worth it.

Posted by Lori at 10:11 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
March 11, 2006

Yeeeesssss

So shortly after I posted the 15 month update, Austen acquired a new behavior: a slow, exaggerated nod that means "YES". He now signs "please" about half as much (i.e., only when he's asking for something, not answering a question about whether he wants something), but we can always teach him to put "yes" and "please" together later. For now it's just really gratifying to see him nod unambiguously when I ask him if he wants some yogurt or if he wants to play on the computer. He's also started responding with the correct answer when we ask him if he's pooped. (Not that I usually need to ask him, mind you; I can usually tell by the way he grunts or the way he smells.)

In not-so-positive news, I was shocked when I returned to work to find that the tendonitis that usually struck me only after long stretches of very intense work over a period of weeks had returned as well—with a vengeance, and almost immediately. I soon discovered the reason: I use those same muscles and tendons to hold Austen, especially when I'm putting him to bed at night. They were already being taxed pretty heavily, and adding 8-9 hours of computer work each day pushed them beyond their limit. I'm now stuck in that horrible RSI dilemma: How do I stop the pain when I can't stop using my arm?

I'm going to try stretching frequently and changing my desk setup a bit, but I also need to change the way I carry Austen. He's going to have to get used to being on the left side (he prefers the right), and instead of me walking him around the room and then rocking him while standing next to the crib at night, we're now going to be sitting in a chair until he conks out. (The irony is that the more my arm hurts, the less I'm able to support Austen in the position he wants to be in, and the longer it takes for him to get to sleep... which makes my arm hurt more. It used to take 5-15 minutes to get to get him to sleep at night; in the past week, it's taken me 20-30, and twice I've had to call Al to take over when I just. couldn't. do it. any. more.)

I'm hoping these small changes help, because I'm really not sure what else to do. I think some more regular exercise in general would help, but I find that after leaving Austen's room at night with my right forearm feeling like a throbbing, red-hot poker and my patience totally shot, I'm not inclined to go downstairs and do Pilates. Anyway, enough whining. Tops on my to-do list is to find some work-baby-exercise balance.

Tonight the work-baby balance wasn't going so well, as the meeting I was supposed to be in from 5pm to 6pm didn't start until 6:10, but when I did finally make it down to the basement to see Al and the Beaner, Austen was visibly thrilled. When he hasn't seen me for a while he likes to make—and keep—physical contact with me, I think to make sure I don't wander off again. Tonight I sat on the floor, and he stood behind me, walked around in front of me, flopped in my lap, knocked me over and sat on my head, kissed me, headbutted me, sat on my knee, stood with his hand on my shoulder, climbed onto my back... you name it. As long as some part of his body was making contact with mine, he was happy.

Part of his excitement in seeing me might have been because I walked in carrying the leftover sushi (two inari and one piece of California roll) from his and Al's dinner; he practically yanked the first inari out of my hand, and then tried to grab at the other pieces in the tray. I was able to fend him off by giving him a little of the rice from the California roll, and when we'd each finished our share of that piece, I gave some of the rice from the second inari. I was in the middle of taking a bite of that inari when he grabbed the entire wad of wasabi from the tray and stuffed it in his mouth.

I yelled, "no, buddy, that's too spicy!", but I had the tray and the inari in my hand, so I couldn't grab his hand before it reached his mouth. By the time I managed to put down the tray and the inari, he'd already bitten down. I scraped the green stuff out of his mouth when he opened it to scream, and when he realized that (a) Mommy tried to warn him, and (b) Mommy was now trying to help him (even though she was laughing hysterically at the same time), he chilled out. He did give me a "what the hell WAS that, anyway???" look, though, and his nose started running from the heat.

I was mostly laughing because the scene reminded me of one of my dad's favorite Lori Stories: namely, the one where I stuffed the scoop-of-butter nose from my IHOP Funny Face pancake straight into my mouth because I thought it was ice cream. (Hey, I was four or five at the time, and I'd never seen butter in anything but sticks and squirt bottles. I knew what a scoop of ice cream looked like, however, and that nose looked exactly like a miniature scoop of ice cream!) I figured out that I had a big wad of butter in my mouth at the same time my dad figured out why I'd just stuffed said butter into my mouth, and of course a fit of hysterical laughter ensued (on his part, not mine. I was just embarrassed, and a little confused.) Oh well, at least the butter didn't burn.

Posted by Lori at 12:10 AM | Permalink
March 12, 2006

Things That Have Occurred to Me in the Past 24 Hours

I keep remembering new behaviors that Austen exhibited for the first time during his 15th month of life which I neglected to mention in my 15 month update (or anywhere else—I haven't been writing in my little bedside journal regularly lately, either). I figure I'd better record them somewhere before I forget, and here seems as good a place as any. The main three that have come to mind in the past 24 hours:

  • Blowing raspberries ~ I think this started while we were in Hawaii. I've been blowing raspberries on Austen's cheeks, hands, feet, and belly forever, but one morning after Austen got in bed with us he blew a raspberry on my belly. It totally cracked me up, which of course encouraged him to do it again. It's now his favorite playing-with-mommy game after...
  • Bellybutton! ~ Again, this is something I've been doing with Austen for a while: every time he touches my bellybutton (or I touch his), I shriek "BELLYBUTTON!" Usually he'll press three or four times in a row, and each press gets a "BELLYBUTTON!" shriek. What's changed recently is that he's now acutely aware of his own bellybutton. He can locate it right away, and he'll often alternate between pressing his and pressing mine. He also likes to cover mine up and then go hunting for it again.
  • Knock, knock ~ Austen started closing doors on us months ago, and I'd always knock on the door and ask, "is Austen home?" before opening it up for him. Now whenever he closes a door, he knocks (and then either twiddles the knob himself or waits for me to open the door). He knocks whether he's the one inside the room or outside it—I guess he just assumes that a knock is the precursor to opening a door.

In other news, I am happy to report that though my tendonitis isn't improving yet, asking Al to move the Clipper chair into Austen's room so I could put him to sleep while sitting down turned out to be a Very Good Move. The bedtime routine is now back to 5-10 minutes instead of 20-30, and there's no additional stress being put on my arm (or my nerves). The shorter, less stressful routinue meant that I had the energy for Pilates tonight, and I think that is something that could make a positive difference in the tendonitis situation. I could feel all the knots in my back when I was doing the Rolling Like a Ball exercise, and I felt more relaxed after completing the 20-minute workout.

What isn't going to help my tendonitis is Super Tetris. I hooked up my old PowerMac 7500 to the monitor with which my employer was kind enough to supply me, and in addition to finding a few missing avocado8 files on there, I also rediscovered Super Tetris—also known as Super Sucker of Time. I LOVE that game, and I can spend HOURS playing it. Or at least I could before I became a web/software geek and began spending 8-12 hours a day actively working on a computer. Thirty minutes of playing tonight had my right wrist and elbow in knots, sadly. I wonder if I can learn to play left-handed?

Posted by Lori at 9:50 PM | Permalink
March 17, 2006

Faaaaaaaaaaaaart!

One of the bummers about working full-time is that I don't get to witness all of Austen's new behaviors firsthand. Luckily Hannah gives me regular reports (and sometimes Austen even re-enacts the behavior as she's describing it), so I don't feel totally out of the loop, but it does still mean that I write less about new developments.

In an effort to keep up, I'm going to record the one that Hannah just told me about now: Apparently Austen was drinking out of a regular glass down in the basement, and Hannah said he had this "hey, look at me! I'm a big boy!" expression as he was doing it. And then, of course, he dumped the whole glass of water down his shirt. "Faaaaaaaaart! I thought I had it!", he scowled. Truly, his expressions are, well, just that expressive. The other day when his cousin was crying loudly and lengthily over something or other that didn't go his way at lunch (in a restaurant), Austen just sat there staring at him. I swear to you his expression said "what's up with you?", and, as the crying went on and on, it morphed into "come on, you're embarrassing us."

Posted by Lori at 2:26 PM | Permalink
March 17, 2006

Flicker

Al usually preceeds me home from work (that's what we call it, even though I work from home; if I don't come down within about 10 minutes of Hannah leaving, Al will shout up the stairs, "honey, when are you coming home?"), so it's Al who gets the scoop from Hannah about what she and Austen did that day.

Tonight I happened to call it quits about 10 minutes early, after Al had gotten home but before Hannah had left, and as I came down the stairs, Al said to me, "honey, watch this!" Hannah turned to Austen and said, "where's your nose?" Austen very carefully slid his finger up from his chin to his nose, and when he reached his nostril, he slid his finger about a millimeter inside and gave it a triumphant little flick, ending with his finger pointing out. And then turned to me and grinned.

Posted by Lori at 9:01 PM | Permalink
March 24, 2006

We're in San Francisco!

Austen, Hannah, and I are all in San Francisco this week. I'm here working, and Hannah and Austen are busy climbing hills, chasing pigeons, admiring the views, and taking public transit all over the place.

It's been a nutty week so far; I kinda wish I'd skipped that hockey game on Monday night and come out last weekend. (It wasn't a particularly joyful hockey game, and I didn't get enough ice time to work up a sweat, anyway.) I would have had time to see more non-work friends, and I also think I would have gotten more work done. I didn't count on running into 5 or 6 people a day who hadn't seen me in forever and with whom I'd want to spend a few minutes catching up—it really eats into spec-writing time!

Also, traveling with the Beaner means I'm a little less flexible about where I can go and when I can get there... though I probably wouldn't have as many people lined up to see me if I hadn't brought him. I'm not fool enough to think that *I'm* the draw. :)

I haven't had a chance to take many photos with the 10-D, but I'll post what I've got when I get home (I didn't bother bringing cables, since I only have my work machine with me). I *have* had a chance to take a few snaps with my new Razr, though, and I'm posting those to Flickr as I take them.

N Judah taylor's automatic eating breakfast stock pots!

I ended up getting the new Razr as soon as the Verizon Wireless store opened on Wednesday morning because Austen broke my old Samsung phone on Tuesday night. The bottom half of the Samsung still works, but the top half—the part with the display and the earpiece—does not. This means that, on the plus side, I have a lightweight, awesome new cameraphone; on the minus side, I've lost all the phonebook entries I had. If you suspect you were among my contacts, please e-mail me your info again. Thanks.

Posted by Lori at 12:21 AM | Permalink
April 1, 2006

Pizza Boy

Al wanted a night off from cleaning the kitchen, so tonight we had dinner at King of Pizza in New Jersey. We left at 6:45pm, knowing that (a) Austen would probably not get to bed until after 8pm, and (b) that the clocks roll forward tonight, so 8pm really meant 9pm. As I buckled Austen into the car seat, I told him where we were going, as always. "We're going to eat pizza!" I said.

When we arrived at King of Pizza, Al whipped out the individual container of cottage cheese and the turkey slices he'd brought for Austen. I usually don't bother bringing food for Austen unless I know there's nothing on the menu that he'd like (a rarity), though I do usually have a fruit bar or some raisins in my purse in case of emergency. Having some Austen-friendly food on hand is never a bad idea, however, so I didn't think it odd that Al had brought some. Austen took a spoonful of cottage cheese and promptly spit it out, I assumed because he was expecting yogurt (the containers look the same). But when he rejected the turkey, the blueberry fruit bar (he *never* rejects fruit bars), and the cerignola olive (his favorite!) we offered him, we started to worry a bit. Then he started to cry.

Al and I immediately went into, "tell us what you want, sweetie" mode, trying to be both rational and calming. The snarky sideways look Austen gave me when I said, "how do we ask for what we want?" (the proper answer is to sign "please") totally made us bust out laughing even though we know we're not supposed to do that. Good parents remain stoic and firm in the face of inappropriate but hilarious behavior, but only Al was able to pull the poker face on command.

The crying continued until the waitress came over and offered him some Italian Wedding soup with pastini in it. "I don't know if he's crying because he's hungry, but I thought I'd bring him a little soup," she said. He stopped crying long enough to try to charm the waitress, but as soon as she left he clamped his lips shut and refused the soup. When he noticed that soup was all we had to offer, he started to wail again. The waitress returned and asked if she could bring him a taffy, which caused us to stare at her blankly. "You know, a lollipop," she said. We shrugged and said OK.

Austen's never had a lollipop before, so when the waitress brought him two DumDums, he promptly tried to stick them in his sippy cup (which he'd been playing with in between—and during—screaming fits). I caught them before the candy heads slid into the water and set them aside. We tried again with the soup, but nothing doing.

A few minutes later the red clam pizza arrived, and Austen suddenly calmed. He opened his mouth willingly when I held out a forkfull of pizza (though it was a bit too hot, and his eyes watered as he swallowed; he took subsequent pieces in his hand so he could test their temperature first). He ate slowly but happily, to our amazement, and didn't fuss again until, at 7:45pm, we tried to pack up the four slices we couldn't finish. He gave an anguished squeal as Al slid the pizza into the box and closed the lid. "I think he wants more pizza," I said to Al. Austen nodded vigorously in agreement. "What do you want to do?" I asked Al. Al voted that we just head home, since it was late and it was already likely that we were going to have to skip bathtime. I told Austen we'd feed him some more pizza in the car.

I ended up feeding Austen another half slice of clam pizza (which was studded with garlic, I might add) in the car on the way home. He conked out with a piece in his hand, and bathtime was indeed skipped, though I did wipe the tomato sauce off his face. I remarked to Al after Austen was safely down in his crib that it's easy to forget that Austen understands a huge amount of what we say, since he doesn't say much himself. He'd obviously understood me when I'd said we were going out for pizza, and he'd cried because he thought we were renegging on the offer. He'd been promised pizza, dammit, and he wasn't going to settle for cottage cheese, turkey, fruit bars, olives, lollipops, or soup.

Posted by Lori at 9:12 PM
Comments (2) | Permalink
April 3, 2006

Austen's First Bike Ride

Although I've taken my bike into the shop twice since moving to Philadelphia—once to get a tune-up and once to get a child-seat installed—up until yesterday I'd yet to actually ride my bike here. Consequently, Austen had never been on a bike ride, either. Yesterday that all changed when Al, Austen, and I braved the incredibly crowded bike path along Boathouse Row (hello, people: KEEP RIGHT!).

040206_11021.jpg 040206_11181.jpg

Austen wasn't too crazy about the helmet or the foot straps, but he really seemed to enjoy the ride. (I tried to forego the footstraps, but he kept kicking my heels as I pedaled. Too bad there were no hand straps, as he also kept poking me in the butt.) His eyes watered from the wind, but he seemed to find the ride relaxing—in fact, he fell asleep on the return.

Posted by Lori at 3:54 PM
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April 8, 2006

The Moral of the Story Is: Don't Whine

I am standing in the bathroom, dabbing Neosporin on the bloody patch where my teeth scraped a layer of skin off my lip. Miraculously, this is the first time Austen's managed to draw blood with one of his heat-butts; surprisingly, this is one of the few times he didn't draw tears. I knew the skin was gone immediately, and it hurt immediately—though the sting is just starting to build up steam now—and yet I calmly said to Al, seconds after it happened, "I'm going downstairs to get some ice."

Austen is running around the bedroom with a piece of apple in his hand, and between Neosporin dabs I say, "Austen! Stop running around with that apple! You're going to choke!"

It's been a trying day. I mentioned a couple months ago that I wasn't sure whether to wish that Austen would hurry up and start talking, or whether I should be grateful that he wasn't driving me nuts with chatter all day. I can now claim to be firmly in the HURRY UP AND START TALKING camp. I am sick to death of the whining and the gesturing and the melting down when I fail to guess what he wants in three tries or fewer. (I can also do without the tantrums when I guess what he wants right away, but there's no way in hell he's getting it, but that's not related to the not talking.) We all know now that when my patience wears thin it's not good for anyone in the household (or anyone within a 30-mile radius, for that matter); how this managed to remain a secret for so long, I'll never understand, but the point is that Al at least is now well aware of the consequences of wearing on my last nerve. Austen should know, too, and yet the whining continues. Yes, I see you signing "please". Please WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT???

We were supposed to go see the Red Sox play the Orioles down at Camden Yards, but as it was pouring rain at 2pm (the game was scheduled for 4:35, and Baltimore is 2 hours away), and the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees, we decided to hope that our $120 worth of tickets would be redeemable on another day (although probably not for a Red Sox game). We were at the mall listening to Austen whine and cry and sign "please" and gesture vaguely when we heard that after a 90-minute rain delay, the game had started. The erosion of my patience had left a gaping wound into which this announcement was poured like a ton of salt.

It's 7:30pm now, and I have fed Austen dinner—or rather, he fed himself a container of unsweetened strawberry applesauce, a Cerignola olive, and half of a cannoli. He ignored the two pieces of pineapple he fished out of the container himself because I stuck a fork in one of them for him. He refused milk because I poured it, and avocado because I handed it to him on a toothpick. These days, he wants nothing unless he can get it for himself without interference.

I have also bathed Austen myself tonight because Al is out of commission with either food poisoning or the general malaise (fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, and nausea, on top of a lingering sinus infection) that has been plaguing me for the past week. The pre-bath routine involved more whining, crying, and vague gesturing on Austen's part and outright shouting on mine. I tried to be reasonable, to try to explain that all the whining was getting to me, and that I WANTED to get him what HE wanted, if he would only TELL me what he wanted, but of course it did no good. I finally managed to get him into the tub, calmed down, cleaned up, and out again, and after another short crying jag while I tried to get his pajama bottoms on, we were finally playing happily on the bed. This was when he bashed me in the mouth with that enormous noggin of his.

So anyway, Al is flopped on the bed looking like death warmed over and handing a very hyper Austen pieces of apple. I am inspecting my wound (the physical one, not the psychic one) in the bathroom mirror. Austen is running around the room, shrieking through his mouthful of half-chewed apple, even though I have explicitly shouted STOP RUNNING AROUND WITH THAT APPLE! more than once. Suddenly there is a crash and an apple-choked scream, followed by serious, "I'm injured!" crying. Al crawls out of the bed to pick Austen up off the floor, and I dash over and start fishing pieces of apple out of Austen's mouth so he doesn't inhale one of them. He reaches for me, of course, and I take him. I doubt he understands why I'm unable to comfort him properly, or what I'm talking about when I mention the boy who whined wolf. He does, however, understand that it's time for bed. He kisses Daddy good night and waves goodbye, and we go upstairs to his room. I don't sing because of my raw and stinging lip and my just-under-the-surface irritation, but he falls asleep in my arms within 10 minutes anyway. Hopefully by the time Al brings him to me for his morning cuddle tomorrow, my patience will be full up again.

It'll also help if he's learned a few words.

Posted by Lori at 9:56 PM
Comments (2) | Permalink
April 11, 2006

Neck Obsession

Austen is obsessed with my neck. I'm not sure why, but he loves to knead his fists in the little divot where my collarbones come together, and he loves to pat from my shoulders to my jaw with his palms. He gets upset if I have on a fleece that zips up to my chin, and of course lately upset = whine, then cry, then full-on meltdown. It feels almost cheap of me to unzip just to get him to stop fussing.

Posted by Lori at 1:46 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
April 11, 2006

What Happened to the 16 Month Update?

I realized last week that Austen turned 16 months on March 30, and I let the milestone blow by without an update. Every day since then that I've failed to produce an update I've regretted it more, because the developments of last month are quickly being overwhelmed by current cirumstances. I can no longer remember what happened for the first time in March; I only know for sure what's happening now.

I'm *pretty* sure that Austen started making the Oh My! face for the first time in his 16th month; I only have one photograph of it, and in it he's facing mostly away from me, but basically it's his version of the face I've been making at him since he was a tiny baby. Emoticonically, it'd be represented by :o, or o face if you use Trillian. In lieu of photos of the Oh My! face, I present Sly Eye and Mischievous Look.

sly eye mischievous

There's a big milestone that I want to record but that I'm reluctant to mention here because (a) it might attract purient Googlers, and (b) it would totally embarrass Austen later in life (not that all this other stuff won't), even though it's totally normal. I hope that's enough information that when I re-read this two years from now I'll go, "oh, right!" rather than, "what the hell was I referring to there?"

Last month was definitely the one in which Austen got practically proficient at walking up and down stairs. He's always been a big fan of climbing stairs one foot at a time—since before he could walk—but of course back then we had to hold him up, and the feat required him to lean practically horizontal. A couple weeks ago I caught him holding the railing and walking up the steps himself. He still requires some assistance going down, but he's pretty sharp about the adjustments necessary to descend while holding a sippy cup in one hand vs. when that same hand is free to hold the railing.

I'm not sure exactly when Austen decided he must become a Big Boy—was it prior to March 30, or just after?—but I'm hoping that this DIY fervor will eventually lead to toilet training before age two. Currently it's leading to occasional moments of triumph and delight (look at me sitting in a chair at the table ALL BY MYSELF! if I stand on my tippy toes I can reach the handles of the stroller and push it JUST LIKE MOMMY! this milk tastes even better drunk from a REAL GLASS! oops.), and, more often, to moments of extreme frustration when he can't reach, manipulate, carry, or balance what he wants. He knows how to screw the cap on a bottle, for example, but when he can't line up the threads just right, or he forgets that he has to turn the cap counterclockwise to get it off, he flips out and starts flailing.

pushing stroller

Speaking of flipping out, it turns out that the chocolate pretzel meldown wasn't a one-time thing. When he sees me eating chocolate, he wants some too—but he wants to hold it rather than eat it. If I deny him this messy obsession, he goes nuts. We happened to be in the Mission Police Station in San Francisco a couple weeks ago when he caught me trying to eat a piece of See's candy and started gesticulating wildly. I said, "OK, you can have some, but mommy will hold it while you take a bite." This was NOT GOOD ENOUGH, so I caved a bit and said, "OK, you can hold it, but you have to eat it." He took the candy, held it in his hand until it melted, and then melted down himself. WTF?

such a face

There was one other development that occurred to me while we were out for a family walk tonight, but of course I've forgotten it now. Better just get this out before he turns 17 months, and I miss that update, too.

hannah and austen outside taylor's automatic

Posted by Lori at 9:57 PM
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April 14, 2006

Another Checkup at CHOP

Austen went in for another well-baby visit today (I can't remember which one it was supposed to be—maybe 15 months?). Dr. Everly pronounced him "still perfect" and pretty much on target with all the milestones and growth charts. At 26 lbs. 14 oz. and 32 1/4", he's now in the 75th percentile for both weight and height (and head circumference, too, though I can't remember what that measurement was).

While Dr. Everly was gearing up to ask us all the milestone questions, Austen marched over to the door, pulled down on the handle (it was an L-shaped one), opened the door, and left. "Well, I guess he knows how to open doors," Dr. E said, "so that answers my first question." I clarified that he can't quite turn round knobs, but he tries. Al chased Austen around the hall while I answered the milestone questions... most of which I can't remember now.

I know she asked whether he puts two words together, and I said, "no, he doesn't really talk yet. He's more into signing." "Signing counts!" exclaimed Dr. E. "Oh, then yes, he's put two words together. He signs 'more, please'." He got full marks for that, which made me feel a bit better—not because he passed a test, but because it didn't seem to matter that he's not really talking.

We also talked a bit about the fact that Austen's been whining, crying, and melting down lately, and my best guess about what's going on. I came to the conclusion the other night that he's trying to determine what the appropriate response is to different situations—and to determine whether *our* response varies according to the situation, or just to how loud he cries/how much he fusses. "That's exactly what he's doing," said Dr. E. While the whining and crying is still extremely annoying, once I was able to break down what I thought he was up to, it became a little easier to deal with. I also made up my mind about how to deal with it—when I'd be solicitous and when I'd walk away—but I think Al had a slightly different approach in mind. I didn't mention this to Dr. E, but when Al came back into the room with Austen, she said to him, "you have to resolve to be firm, to stand your ground. If you cave once, it's all over." I wonder how she knew he'd be the most likely to cave? :-)

Austen took his last shot until age 4 like a man, ripping the Band-Aid off as soon as the nurse stuck it on, but he whimpered a little when he had his blood drawn for iron and lead levels. He ripped that Band-Aid off right away, too, but there was less bloody mess than there might have been because I was prepared for the move. I grabbed the gauze and applied pressure until the bleeding stopped. After the blood draw he wanted to be picked up—by Daddy, not by me, of course. I'm the one who'd held him during the draw, and I think he was a little mad about that. By the time we arrived home he'd forgiven me, though, and he helped me vacuum and mop while we waited for Hannah to arrive. Such a good kid.

Posted by Lori at 10:08 PM | Permalink
April 17, 2006

Four Cute Things

1. One of Austen's favorite things to do is stand on the counter in front of the spice cabinet and shake the spice jars. On Sunday morning, Al was the one making sure he didn't fall off the counter when Austen leaned his head back to open the cabinet door... and bonked Al in the face. "Uh oh!" said Austen, and he turned to kiss Al and make it better.

2. After breakfast we went out onto the back deck to plant the squash and tomato plants I'd bought, and Austen helped me turn the compost and shovel the dirt into the pots. He got *really* excited, however, when he saw me water the seedlings with the hose. He stuck his hands in front of it and squealed for more, even though he was getting wet. After a few minutes of on-off-on-off with the hose and more giddy squealing, I gave up on keeping him dry and let him have all the water he wanted. Al got some great snaps of the fun, including these (links are to the large versions, which show the best detail):

IMG_6653 IMG_6659 IMG_6670

3. When we got done with the gardening, we decided to go out and try to get some errands done (forgetting it was Easter, of course; we quickly changed plans and went to Princeton for lunch instead). I brought Austen up to the bedroom for a wardrobe change, since he was totally soaked. That mission accomplished, I went into the bathroom to put on a little makeup. I dabbed some foundation under my eyes and then covered my blemishes (zits! yes, I still get zits at 37, sheesh!) with a salicylic acid concealer. Apply concealer, pat pat pat, apply concealer, pat pat pat, etc. I capped the concealer stick, set it aside, and reached for the loose powder. I was dusting my forehead when I noticed Austen to my right in the mirror, poking himself with the concealer stick and then pat pat patting his face with a fingertip. Poke poke, pat pat pat. Poke poke, pat pat pat.

4. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to introduce the concept of peeing in the toilet to Austen long before we actually expect him to do it. I suggested that Al pee before getting into the tub with Austen each night, so Austen could see how it worked. After about a week of saying, "look, Daddy's peeing before he gets in the tub!", we brought in a stepstool, put it in front of the toilet, and said, "do you have to pee too?" We'd lift Austen up onto the stepstool (for some reason, he usually lifts his feet; I think he thinks we're putting him into the toilet, like it's the tub), get him to stand on it, and then say, "ok, your turn to pee!" He never does, of course, but the ritual is fun. (He does know where his p____—I'm not using the actual word because I'm trying to avoid coming up as a Google result for it, not because I'm shy—is, btw; I asked him "where's your p____?" one night, and he bent over, spotted it, and pointed. I'm just not certain whether he knows how to use it to pee, consciously.)

Anyway, it's probably a good thing that Austen hasn't tried to pee in the toilet yet, since there's still a large gap between his p____ and the bowl even when we push the stepstool as close to the toilet as possible. Because of this gap, Al decided to buy Austen his own potty on Saturday. We tried it out for the first time on Sunday night, when, after announcing, "look, Daddy's peeing! Do you need to pee too?", Austen nodded vigorously. I turned him toward the potty, but he turned back, climbed over me, and ran out of the bathroom. I poked my head out to see where he was going—I had visions of him trying to pee in the laundry basket or something—and I saw him heading for the stepstool, which we keep over by the closet when not in use. "He's getting the stepstool!" I whispered to Al. We giggled quietly and then straightened our faces as Austen marched into the bathroom with the stepstool and plunked it in front of the toilet. He still didn't pee, but hey, it's a start.

Posted by Lori at 10:38 PM
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April 20, 2006

The Talking Has Begun

Austen's been saying—and, more often, signing—individual words for a long time now, but recently I've noticed him actively trying to acquire vocabulary. A couple weeks ago he started pointing out trees to me: He wouldn't say anything other than an "eh!" to get my attention, but he'd stand under a tree and point up. "Tree," I'd say. He'd nod thoughtfully; you could see him filing it away.

On Monday afternoon after Hannah left (she's only here from 8-3 on Mondays), I decided I was too lazy to walk down to the Old Navy at 11th and Market, so Austen and I took the bus. "We're waiting for the bus," I said to him as we hung out at the corner of 21st and Arch. He then pointed out every 48 bus that went by us on Arch Street (we needed a 48 heading south on 21st) and yelled "ba!" He did the same this morning when we went out for coffee at 8:30 and ran into a cordoned-off Market Street (rumor in the crowd of people milling about, waiting to get into their office buildings, was that there'd been a bomb threat). There were detoured buses stacked up amid all the other traffic, and Austen shouted gleefully, "ba! ba! ba! ba!," pointing at each one.

There've been other vocabulary improvements as well. His "no" is now much clearer—a real "no" instead of a "nah"—and yesterday when I tried to get his attention after he woke up kind of dazed from a nap by pressing his bellybutton and yelling, "BELLYBUTTON!," he gently pushed my hand away, shook his head, and said "no no do."

Posted by Lori at 9:21 AM
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April 23, 2006

Blah Blah Blah

I was just sitting down to write this post when I saw Josie had commented on the last one. Her comment is directly relevant to this post, so I'll quote part of it here. Regarding toddlers beginning to talk, she wrote:

...it is so awesome when they begin repeating what you say and actually knowing what it means! And then they get that "oh look at me, I'm so smart" look on their face!

Austen did indeed get that "oh, look at me, I'm so smart!" look on his face this morning, when he realized he could TELL US WHAT HE WANTED and that WE COULD UNDERSTAND HIM. The floodgates opened while he was waiting for Al to use the bathroom this morning (it's usually Al who gets up with Austen and feeds him breakfast). He turned his head in my direction (though I don't think he looked at me directly, maybe in case he got his first attempt at using REAL WORDS wrong) and said "go...down...stairs." I couldn't believe my ears, and I shouted to Al, "he just said 'GO DOWNSTAIRS!!'"

Apparently encouraged by our enthusiasm, Austen didn't stop there. When I got up about an hour later and joined Al and Austen in the kitchen, he wowed me with the following short sentences: "no, this one" (referring to a box of veggie sausages), "big one" (referring to the one sausage we hadn't broken into little pieces), "you eat that one" (referring to that same sausage), "I do" (said several times, when—as is usual these days—he wanted to do something for himself instead of having help), "pick up" (when he wanted me to pick him up, obviously), and something that sounded like "I want another piece [of watermelon]."

Of course, I'm not sure anyone other than I, Al, or Hannah could have understood him; it's not like all of his words were clear as a bell. His intent, however, was. It was so clear that he was trying out sounds that he'd heard before—sounds that he'd guessed had certain meanings—and that each time we seemed to understand him, he was emboldened to try out some more sounds. It reminded me of someone trying to learn a foreign language: I'm very tentative in Spanish, for example, even though I know quite a bit, and it takes some positive reinforcement in the form of a native speaker understanding me before I'll feel confident enough to utter more than the most rudimentary sentences.

Speaking of foreign languages, if I ask Austen where his youngmal and kudu are, he'll first turn his palms to the sky as if to say, "how should I know?", but then he'll look around until he finds his socks and shoes. When Al asks him "subop juseyo?" he'll nod vigorously; he knows he's being asked if he wants some watermelon. He's never used Korean words, however, even when he got on his talking tear this morning. I woudn't be surprised if he used kudu in a sentence in the near future, but I think he's still only guessing that subop means watermelon. I suspect he'll wait until he's sure what the words mean before he tries them out. (It's also possible that since we only sprinkle Korean words into our English sentences from time to time, he doesn't hear them in context enough to infer their meanings with any degree of certainty—or that he's unsure why we sometimes say shoes and sometimes kudu.)

Anyway, Austen was obviously very proud of himself this morning and was all, "look at me! I can talk!" He became very hyper when he realized he was being understood, and he started backing up (also a new thing; he's never taken more than a step or two backwards, and this morning he was walking several paces in reverse) and then sprinting forward in a mad dash, giggling like a maniac. He did realize later that there was a limit to what we could understand; he's apparently not getting all of the sounds right, or maybe the sounds don't mean what he thinks they mean. He didn't seem discouraged, however, so I fully expect to hear more talking tomorrow. I can't wait to hear what he says next.

Posted by Lori at 9:27 PM | Permalink
April 25, 2006

Dumb

I just got a text message from Hannah:

This is what it's coming to: A just turned around, pointed at me& said "dumb." r we sure we want him2 "use his words"?
Posted by Lori at 10:53 AM
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April 28, 2006

Guess What a Dinner of Watermelon and Prunes Gets You?

We mostly let Austen choose what he wants to eat*, and last night he chose a jar of Earth's Best prunes and oatmeal (stocked in case of constipation, which is a rare but painful occurance for Austen) and half a large tub of watermelon from Whole Foods. Lest you think we don't feed him proper, balanced meals, he also ate some popcorn and half a piece of shrimp.

It probably isn't difficult to guess what happened today. Well, you might not have guessed that I'm behind on the laundry and that Austen only had one clean pair of pants this morning, or that we ran out of wipes last night. But you can probably guess the rest. Poor Austen.

*we do deny him unlimited supplies of whipped cream.

Posted by Lori at 12:52 PM
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May 5, 2006

Unscrewy

It's been a busy week here, both workwise and familywise; I can barely keep up with my personal e-mail, and I obviously haven't had time to write here. If I owe you an e-mail response, please sit tight (or send me a reminder). I'm going to use the time I would have otherwise spent on answering an e-mail or two to give an update here before I forget all the things I wanted to say. Be warned: this is going to be a really random post.

[Oh FART! I just realized that I blew by the 17 month milestone. Geez, that's twice in a row! I'm not sure I'm going to bother writing one, since I've posted about a lot of the stuff that's happened this month already, and I was planning to mention a couple more things in this post anyway.]

For probably the past 15 years or so, I've coveted the non-childproof caps on prescription bottles. The child-proof ones are often impossible to open, and it seemed silly for someone who didn't have—or want—children to have them. They're the default, however; you have to ask for non-childproof caps, and even sometimes when you ask you don't get one. The pharmacists are just too used to reaching for the childproof ones, I suspect.

Weirdly, I continued to covet the non-childproof caps even after Austen was born. At first, it didn't even occur to me that I might actually need childproof caps now, and then when it dawned on me that, hey! I have a child!, I rationalized that Austen couldn't even crawl yet. He wasn't about to go messing in my nightstand without my knowledge. Of course, all that's changed now; Austen's perfectly mobile, very nosy, and excellent at unscrewing caps. When my latest supplies of Zyrtec and Levothyroxin arrived a while back with childproof caps on them, however, I still felt a pang of annoyance: why had I not remembered to ask for non-childproof ones?

As it turns out, the "childproof" caps on the bottles that Caremark sends aren't particularly childproof anyway, unless you make sure to screw the cap on very tightly and then check to make sure it's secure with a counter-clockwise twist. (They're also far too large for the amount of medicine in them, which seems like a waste.) Austen has gotten the top off the Levothyroxin bottle several times, which usually means several minutes of me scrounging around on the floor and reaching under the bed and nighstand to fish out tiny green pills. Thank goodness Austen hasn't shown any interest in eating the things as of yet. He's more concerned about why his shaker isn't working.

Last Saturday, as we were getting ready to head down to Al's parents' house, Austen brought his stepstool into the bathroom, where I stood in front of the sink brushing my teeth. Instead of plopping the stool in front of the toilet, he tried to bump me out of the way so he could put it in front of the sink. I finished unscrewing the head off the electric toothbrush and then moved out of the way. As Austen climbed onto the stool, I said, "do you want to brush your teeth?" He nodded, so I got out his little kid toothbrush and put some training toothpaste on it. He shook his head no and did the reach-and-whine for my toothbrush head. "You want to use Mommy's toothbrush?" I asked. He nodded, so I handed it to him. He stuck it in his mouth and went, "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee". Apparently he thinks *I* make that buzzing sound when I brush my teeth.

Austen has become enamored of late with reaching his hand back as far as he can and then bringing his palm to my chest. He knows he's hitting me, and I always tell him rather sharply "you do NOT hit Mommy." If I see him winding up, I'll grab his arm and tell him NO. Whether he gets the first whack in or not, after the reprimand he tries to push it a little by patting me a little roughly on the chest. It's not really hitting, but sometimes I give him the evil eye or another reprimand to let him know it's pretty darn close. Unfortunately, I didn't see him wind up when we were celebrating Al's dad's birthday at Woo Lae Oak on Saturday, and this time he slapped me in the face, hard enough to leave a red mark on my cheek (not to mention knock my glasses askew). Obviously we were out in public, and I have no desire to spank Austen, but there was definitely a grab of both of his hands and a dangerous growl in my voice when I told him that he was NEVER EVER, EVER TO DO THAT AGAIN.

On a related note, while I had already picked out a specific chair in our house to be used as a Naughty Chair, I had hoped we wouldn't be needing it until Austen was old enough to sit still and not try to climb out of it. Now I'm thinking that we may need to rig a child-proof seatbelt on the thing.

Austen and I are both sick again with sinus infections. I'd finally gotten rid of the last of the green goo from the one I caught in San Francisco in March (yes, it took four weeks!) when this one struck on Sunday morning. I suspect the Spring allergens are partly to blame for inflaming my entire respiratory system, and I also suspect that Austen has allergies, too. The doctor says he's too young to have seasonal allergies, but he shows all the signs: red, itchy eyes; sneezing; and numerous respiratory infections.

I finally pulled the trigger and registered for BlogHer. I waffled for a long time about whether I really wanted to go, especially since I'll probably end up standing in a corner and not socializing anyway, but I figured that it would be useful for a project my team is working on even if I didn't actually walk up to Eden and say, "hi, I'm the nut who sent you Prep; thanks for sending The Curious Dog in return." (I recommend both books, btw; writing reviews of them is yet another thing I haven't had time for lately.)

I'm going to fly out to SFO on Thursday July 27th and spend the day in the office, and then I'll head down to San Jose for the conference. I should be at the hotel sometime Thursday night. Sadly, I couldn't extend my trip—Austen, Hannah, and Al are all staying in Philly—so I'll be leaving from SJC early Sunday morning. If you'll be at BlogHer, too, come say hi. I'll be the one standing in the corner, being antisocial.

Posted by Lori at 9:17 AM
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May 8, 2006

More Parental and Neighborhood-y Miscellany

Austen is getting his molars. We noticed the little white prongs sticking up when he opened his mouth (probably to laugh) about a week ago, and they've been coming in fast ever since. At least one on either side of his mouth is totally above the surface now. We don't know if the molars are the reason Austen's been waking up screaming at 5:45 lately (instead of 6:00, 6:15, or 6:45, as usual); it might also be the extra hours of daylight, or the asshole with the car alarm.

Speaking of the asshole with the car alarm, we were talking to our neighbor at the end of the block the other night, and she mentioned that she'd called the police several times about it. She also said that she'd talked to other neighbors who've called the police as well, but so far they've declined to do anything. Al noticed yesterday afternoon, however, that someone in the 'hood had finally taken matters into his or her own hands:

the asshole with the oversensitive alarm

This morning Austen wanted to come up to my office instead of going down to the kitchen after getting dressed. I let him sit in my new drafting chair (acquired a couple weeks ago when I realized that the fixed-position, non-adjustable metal stool I'd been using was contributing to all kinds of back and arm pain) and play Kneebouncers on my personal laptop while I checked my e-mail on my work laptop. The chair is quite high (because my desk is also quite high), but I was literally standing right next to him—the two laptops are less than an inch apart, and I usually have to bat Austen's hands away from my work laptop's keyboard. I should have paid more attention when he started pushing himself back from the desk and pulling himself forward, however, because all of a sudden he pushed back from the desk and managed to kick the chair out from underneath his butt. Of course he immediately dropped like a stone to the floor, and despite my attempt to catch him on the way down, he landed on his back and nailed his head on one of the chair's wheels. :(

Hannah arrived about 30 seconds later, and I brought Austen down to see her in an attempt to cheer him up and help him forget about the injury. I knew from the way that Austen was clinging to me that he'd been traumatized by the fall, but it was Hannah who noticed that his lips were totally white. I had to hold him for about 15 minutes straight before he was ready to get down and show Hannah his new bike:

new bike
austen's new bike yogurt mustache

We got the bike in Intercourse, PA, where we met my parents on Saturday for some grandparent time. It would have been a fabulous place to shoot had there not been about a zillion tourists all taking snapshots of all them quaint Amish, and if the Amish weren't photo-averse in general. I didn't want to be disrespectful, and I felt like I was being lumped in with every other camera-toting interloper, so I took very few shots. It'd be nice to return on a weekday and avoid the tourist areas, because the farmland, animals, and buildings were very cool. I *think* I could manage to get some nice photos without offending.

Two photos I didn't take because I was pretty sure I would offend: one of the sign outside the bridle shop next to Lapp's Coach Store, which said something to the effect of "NO TOURISTS (unless buying bridle or feed supplies) No Cameras" (had a young man not been tending to his horse outside the building, I might have attempted it, but I didn't want to be rude), and one of a farmer standing on his plow with a team of draft horses, having a shouted conversation with another farmer doing the same in the field across the road. That one we would have had to pull over to get, so there was just no way. But the broad smile on the farmer's face as he spoke is burned on my brain.

Hopefully, I'll have the photos I did take posted later today.

Posted by Lori at 9:16 AM | Permalink
May 12, 2006

Procrastinating

I'm not sure why I have enough time to read through my old blogger archives, buy a new webcam, revive (and redesign) the webcam archives (formerly "the gallery of silly faces," now dubbed "a history of hair", though there are plenty of silly faces still in there), and otherwise procrastinate, but I don't have time to write about all the new words Austen has learned, the fact that my upper back is ABSOLUTELY KILLING ME, the list of things Austen has spilled this week, how going to bed earlier so I can get up and go for a walk ALONE in the mornings has changed my life, how much I've been missing Annie lately, Austen's long-overdue new shoes, or the last 5 hockey games I've played (not to mention the tournament I'll be attending at the end of this month), but there it is.

I'm reluctant to promise that a post about all the things I should've written about but haven't will be forthcoming this weekend, as I suspect my back is hoping for some time away from the three computers at my desk. I *did* manage to post all my photos of our Saturday in Intercourse, PA to Flickr, however, as promised.

Posted by Lori at 4:51 PM
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May 13, 2006

The Magic Word

On Monday, while Austen and I were at the Wal-Mart over on route 38 getting an impromptu oil change and buying diapers and wipes, I spotted two more Sesame Street bibs like the Cookie Monster one we got him about a month ago (and which we are washing constantly because it's become our favorite). One had a pink background and Big Bird on it, and the other a yellow background with Elmo. Austen seemed to like them both, so I threw them in the cart. It's not like a little pink is going to turn my son into a girlie-man, and those rubber-backed bibs cover way more real estate than the tiny terrycloth ones we use most of the time.

While we were waiting in line a few minutes later, Austen started pointing at various tabloid covers. I assumed he wanted to play the game we play when I hold him in front of the pantry and I name the things he points to—sugar! salt! olives! sugar! beans! sauce! olives! salt!—so I rattled off the names of the people he was pointing at: Jennifer! Angelina! OJ! Angelina! OJ! Austen then turned around in the cart, pointed at the bibs, and said, "Elmo." It didn't sink in for a second; as soon as he turned his attention away from the tabloids, I'd looked up to see what was taking the woman in front of us so long at the self-checkout, so I wasn't giving Austen my full attention. "Did you just say, 'Elmo'?" I asked him. He pointed at the bibs again. "Elmo," he said.

When we got home from Wal-Mart I called Al and told him we'd meet him at his office after stopping to buy some bread, but half an hour later I had to call and revise the plan: Al should start walking toward Rittenhouse Square instead because we still hadn't made it there ourselves, and the bread store was on the other side of it. The reason for our slow progress was that Austen wanted to get out of the stroller and walk himself. This is a little dangerous with only one parent to mind both the kid and the stroller, but I let him get out anyway, and it worked well. It's not like we were in a giant hurry, and it was fun to see him point out every bus, pull every door handle (and say what sounded like "locked" when one door wouldn't budge), attempt a tantrum when I wouldn't let him go into Capogiro (I laughed and scooped him up when he plopped on his butt in front of the door and started to whine), and point at a pigeon and say, "bird".

Oh! And miraculously, Austen reached for my hand every time we got within 20 yards of a crosswalk. This was a major breakthrough of the "please" sort; it took weeks of dragging him across streets practically kicking and definitely screaming—not to mention a MAJOR meltdown at the corner of 11th and Market when I wouldn't let him step out into traffic—before YOU HAVE TO HOLD MOMMY OR DADDY'S HAND WHEN YOU CROSS THE STREET! connected with him. I'm not sure which was cooler: Having the street-crossing protocol acknowledged and accepted, or having Austen want to hold my hand.

In any case, we finally did intersect with Al shortly after making it to the Metropolitan Bakery, and we walked over to Rittenhouse Square so that Austen and Al could sit on a bench and eat their carrot cake and almond croissant. I filled Al in on all the neat stuff that had happened in the past couple hours, and when I got to the story about the bib, I realized I'd stashed the Elmo bib in the bottom of the stroller in case we decided to eat out (never leave home without a diaper, a bib, and a sippy cup, if you can help it). I whipped it out and said to Austen, who never performs on cue, "who's this?" My super-smart son instantly replied, "Elmo." I held out my hand toward Austen in a gesture that plainly said to Al, "QED".

Posted by Lori at 11:34 PM
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May 15, 2006

OK, Now Spit

I'm upstairs getting in a couple more hours of work while Al watches Austen. Al just whipped open the bedroom door and called up the stairs, "when he brushes his teeth, have you ever seen him spit before?" Me: "No." Al: "He's spitting now."

Posted by Lori at 6:52 PM | Permalink
May 16, 2006

Oh Yeah Yeah

I was planning on writing an entry this morning about how Austen doesn't just say "yes" and "no" anymore; instead he says "oh yeah yeah" and "no no no". I assumed that he'd gotten the "no no no" from a recent visit to Al's parents' house because that's what Al's dad said almost constantly when he was watching Austen: "no no no, no no no, no no no". (Actually, it sounded more like "nuh nuh nuh, nuh nuh nuh, nuh nuh nuh", which is a bit more gentle and non-specific than "NO NO NO".) Anway, what I was less sure of was where he'd gotten the "oh yeah yeah."

Before I could make it up to the computer this morning, I discovered the answer. Austen and I were in the kitchen getting breakfast and watching Elmo's World when I heard Elmo say, "oh yeah yeah". Well, duh, OF COURSE Austen learned to speak like Elmo: he watches Sesame Street very intently at least twice a day, and Elmo's World is by far his favorite segment. I just hope he doesn't start referring to himself in the third person.

Posted by Lori at 10:40 AM
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May 23, 2006

We're A-Walkin'

There's been a lot of walking going on here at Casa Hylan-Cho. It started a couple weeks ago, when I finally figured out how to work some exercise into my day: go to bed earlier. (Duh! Although, as you've probably noticed, going to bed earlier means less blogging.) I now get up when Al and Austen do, put on my exercise clothes, and go out for a walk/jog/hop/whatever. Usually I end my route at a Starbucks, where I purchase a decaf short latte for the return home, but not always; yesterday, for example, I walked over to the Art Museum, ran up and down the steps, and then walked home.

I love being out in the brisk morning air every day, but I especially love being out on weekend mornings. With far fewer people rushing to work, the streets stay quiet until 8:30 or 9 at least, and it seems I have entire neighborhoods to myself. (Of course, I still get asked for directions by someone—it's a weird, magnetic thing I have—no matter how otherwise deserted the city may seem. I've taken to noting the location of and route to every museum, government building, Wawa, gas station, grocery store, and on-ramp I pass so that I'll be prepared for the next lost soul.)

I'm enjoying the morning walks so much that I wonder what took me so long to JUST GET OUT THERE. I think I must've been thinking of exercise with a whine in my mind, like exersiiiiize, as in the kind you'd get at the gym. This is different; I feel no obligation to sweat (though I usually do), or to run if I feel like walking, or to stay out for a particular length of time. I just pick a direction and go. I know I'm doing some physical good because I can feel my leg muscles responding, but I think the real impact may be on my mental state. I feel so freaking FREE walking around the city by myself, with no purse, no kid, and no stroller.

Speaking of strollers, I've written so rarely lately that I don't think I mentioned that the Zooper was a casualty of Watermelon and Prune Day. It's not like the stroller's completely ruined; I just can't figure out how to get the seat cover completely off so I can throw it in the wash, and I've been extremely slow to wash it by hand. Luckily we also have a Maclaren Triumph, which we used to use as our travel/mall stroller and which has now become our primary stroller. I like the Maclaren, but it pulls hard to the left—it'll practically do a 180 on sloping sidewalks—and at the moment my left shoulder is severely out of whack, making the stroller struggle painful as well as annoying. I'm thrilled when Austen's up for a walk without it... which these days is most of the time.

If I could figure out a way to carry a ton of packages *and* Austen, I wouldn't bother using the stroller at all anymore. Austen can easily walk the 5 blocks or so to the nearest Starbucks, and Trader Joe's, at two blocks away, is a cinch. The last couple times we went to the mall we didn't bring the stroller. (I must say, holding the mall-entrance door for a woman pushing a six year-old in a beat-up Graco while Austen trotted alongside Al made my brain do a double-take.) It even crossed my mind while I was out walking this morning that Austen might actually walk instead of riding in the backpack if we ever manage to get out and hike the Wissahickon Gorge like we've been talking about. (Of course, I'd bring the Kelty Kids pack just in case; I'd just be so happy not to be lugging 27 lbs. of baby in it most of the time.)

The only downside to jettisoning the stroller is that walking with Austen is a bit like walking a dog who stops to sniff every hydrant, mailbox, lamp post, and park bench. Most of the time I don't care too much; if we've got an hour to kill, why *not* stop and poke every parking meter? It only gets old when bathtime is 5 minutes away and we're still 3 blocks from home, and I can't extract Austen from the hedge he's stepped into. For the most part it's entertaining and fun, and I don't mind carrying Austen for a couple blocks when his legs get tired. It's a good chance to make forward progress, not to mention snuggle my super-cute kid.

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Walking to Mother's Day brunch.
We brought the stroller this time because we didn't leave enough lead time for the leisurely, meter-beeping pace Austen prefers... although we didn't have to stuff him in it—against his will—until we got to 18th and Market.

Posted by Lori at 11:51 AM
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May 23, 2006

Look At Me, I'm Blogging!

I'm doing two builds at once right now and can't get any debugging done, so I'm using the time to update my sorely-neglected blog. Depending on how long the builds take, there MAY BE MORE, so stay tuned! Some highlights from the last sparsely-blogged month or so:

mother's day flowers from Hannah

I got Mother's Day flowers from Hannah. (Don't they look great in the vase Al's friend Fred designed?) Hannah helped Austen make a card, too—my first hand-drawn Mother's Day card ever. Do I have a great nanny or what? Al made reservations for brunch at the Sofitel, and as usual, they didn't confirm. (In our experience, you have to try a couple times to get the Sofitel staff's attention, but once you have it, the service is excellent.) The food, however, also as usual, was excellent. I can still taste the amazing pan-seared sea scallops in my mind (I ate four, in addition to many other lovely items). The continually-replenished fruit trays were Austen's idea of Heaven, and he practically slid out of his high chair with a moan of ecstasy when he realized there was an unlimited supply of whipped cream. (Hey, it was a special occasion.)

what's a little dirt in one's lap?

We've been doing a lot of gardening around here, and it's turning out to be one of Austen's favorite activities. I love finding new things we can do as a family because it means less stress on all of us—no tug of war over who's watching Austen, less yelling, "no, don't touch that!"—not to mention more fun for all of us. I discovered on Mother's Day that my smallest T-shirt, a GoGirl design that my neice gave me a couple years ago, worked well as a smock for Austen, who was already wearing his brunch clothes when Al decided to plant some basil and arugula.

helping daddy plant

In addition to basil, arugula, and flowers, I planted two kinds of tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and yellow peppers a few weeks ago, and they're growing like mad. Two small yellow squashes and one small zucchini are already visible, and the tomatoes are flowering. I'm telling you, composting works! Oh, and speaking of compost, there's also a plant growing out of one of our compost pots. It seemed determined, healthy, and not-at-all-weedlike, so I let it go. We've been dying to see what it is, and until Sunday, we were guessing it was some kind of melon or squash based on the shape of the leaves. On Sunday we met my aunt Jancy at the Custard Corral, however, and she suggested that it might be potatoes, "because that's what always grows in my compost pile." Somehow, I've gotten the idea that she's right (even though she hasn't seen our leaves), and last night I dreamed that I pulled up the plant to see what was under there, and sure enough there were MUTANT POTATOES.

haha, good one daddy!

With all the planting we've been doing, the umbrella we found for a decent price at Costco, the cute little table and chairs we bought in Princeton last year, and the successful bee eradication, our deck is becoming a *really* pleasant place to hang out, especially for breakfast. I sure do miss our friends in California, but the weather's been very San Francisco-like here this spring (60s-70s and dry with a brisk breeze), and my god but the living is easy in Philadelphia.

the boy's got moves

Austen and I went to watch Hannah play the first of what turned out to be three soccer games on Saturday (sadly, her team lost the third, championship game in the second round of shootouts), and afterwards Hannah let Austen kick the ball around. It turns out that the kid actually has some moves! He must've gotten them from Al (or, more likely, Hannah), because he certainly didn't get them from me. I still don't know how to play soccer, despite being on a team once when I was 10 (it was a fall league in Massachusetts, and I ended up missing half the season with pneumonia). The 7v7 version Hannah was playing looked like fun, though I think I still prefer skating to running.

the soap spike

And finally, every parent has a picture of her kid with the kid's hair spiked with shampoo; this is mine.

Posted by Lori at 2:04 PM | Permalink
May 24, 2006

Knob Update/Kid Update

The knob on my butt:

  • is getting bigger, not smaller.
  • has turned black at the bottom.
  • is very tender.
  • still looks like I'm trying to grow a third ass cheek.

The kid under my feet:

  • started saying "thank you" out loud yesterday.
  • now imitates us by shrieking "NOOOOOO" when he's about to do something he isn't supposed to do.
  • can say "ball", "PITsa" [pizza], and "pasta", among other things.
  • refers to every Sesame Street character, and the show itself, as "Elmo".
  • will point to Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and Oscar correctly if you say their names.
  • says "Elmo" and waves bye-bye at his bib (which might have Big Bird or Cookie Monster on it) when he's done eating.
  • learned how to go down the steps at the playground using only his feet/legs and without holding a handrail yesterday. Which is more than I can say for myself.
Posted by Lori at 5:56 PM
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May 26, 2006

Missing A Game (And Missing My Kid)

I was planning on catching up on all my e-mail on the plane and then sending the messages once I got to the hotel in Vancouver, but as you all know, plans change. My flight to Chicago at 8:30 was cancelled due to mechanical problems with the plane, and after many tears, several phone calls, and lots of running back and forth between United in Terminal D and USAir in Terminal C, I got rebooked on a USAir flight to Denver. I won't make it to Vancouver until after 7pm, and my first game's at 6:15, so I'll be missing that.

At the moment, I'm also missing Austen (and Al) terribly. I'm usually a "make a decision and don't look back" kind of person—I hate it when Al agonizes over what could have been—but I now find myself wishing I'd had the presence of mind to get out my laptop and check the game schedule, suck up the extra $30 to turn around and take a cab home again, and just take the flight they'd rebooked me on leaving tomorrow morning at 6:30am. I still would have made the 5:15pm second game with hours to spare, and I would have had more time with Al and Austen. Of course, that flight might have been cancelled too, and then I'd really have been fucked. Bird—or boarding pass, as the case may be—in the hand...

I'm hoping that the 24 hours of wireless access I just paid for here in Philadelphia will be valid in Denver, where there's also an AT&T wifi network, but if not, I'll probably suck it up and spend another $8. I've got a 5-hour layover in Denver, and I am *so* behind on my e-mail and blog-reading (not to mention writing). Might as well make good use of the time.

I miss my beaner!
Al just sent this photo to my phone. Breaks my heart.

Posted by Lori at 8:38 AM | Permalink
May 26, 2006

Now I Really Feel Like a Bad Mom

Al just called: Austen's running a fever. The first time I leave my kid, and he gets sick. Is the universe trying to tell me something? I tell ya, if this flight gets cancelled, I'm just going home.

Posted by Lori at 9:07 AM
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May 26, 2006

Updates

Well, I made it to Denver—40 minutes late, but with a 5-hour layover, who cares? The wireless access I paid for in Philadelphia is good here too (yay!), so I've been able to do some website maintenance-type stuff while I'm waiting... like putting ads on my hockey blog. We'll see how that flies. I'm not sure I want them here at avocado8; there's plenty of stuff already on the main page, and I don't want to clutter it up further, but I might consider putting ads on the archives as an experiment. We'll see.

My flight to Vancouver wasn't even on the board when I got here, which kind of freaked me out, but United's website was reporting no delays or cancellations. It finally showed up on the Departures board at about 2pm local time, at which point it was reported as being delayed 15 minutes. I guess there's no hurry, since I'll be missing the game anyway...

I've talked to Austen on the phone about a zillion times since I left this morning, and he seems in good spirits despite the fever. This is what it was like in Maui when he had the ear infection: other than looking a little washed-out and running a raging fever, he acted normal. Al says the fever went right back up to 102.1 five hours after the last ibuprofen dose, so he called the doctor. They have an appointment for 1:15 tomorrow to get Austen checked out.

Al reported that Austen had a strawberry crepe with whipped cream for lunch (courtesy of Hannah), and that they'll be having chicken and french fries for dinner, followed by ice cream. I said to Austen, "boy, you're going to want me to go out of town more often!" Al said he's just trying to be extra nice because Austen's sick. OOOO! As I was typing this, Al actually sent me a photo of Austen eating said chicken and fries (how cool is that??):

chicken and fries

Meanwhile I had lunch (dinner?) at—gasp!—McDonald's here in the Denver airport. I haven't eaten much today, and with the stress of the flight cancellations and delays (the Vancouver flight's now listed as departing at 5:50 instead of 5:15), I needed something quick and protein-filled. Filet-O-Fish and kid's milk did the trick. I'm just glad Austen didn't see me.

The knob on my butt shrunk a bit overnight; I suspect that the shrinkage has something to do with the fact that the blue-black area has spread upward and outward into the previously-swollen area. I still have a knob, but it's much less noticeable than it was.

I have another story to tell about the woman traveling with three kids on the flight from PHL to DEN, but my legs are falling asleep (I'm sitting on the floor, near an outlet), so I need to get up and move. More later.

Posted by Lori at 5:05 PM | Permalink
May 29, 2006

On My Way Back

I'm on my way home now, between flights at Chicago O'Hare. I'm waiting to see if Orbitz' "air traffic advisor" is right about late-afternoon flights being delayed by 45 minutes or more. So far, no posted delays on my flight to Philadelphia.

Unbelievably, I got all my game summaries for the Vancouver Tournament written and posted over at The Ice Hockey Escapades before I got home. That might just be first. The *overall* summary is that my hockey skills are better than I realized—I guess there's just something about playing in Philadelphia/the HNA that makes me feel like a loser on the ice—and that the hockey bug is back. Hope I can find more time to play with fun people like the Spitfires and improve my skating and hockey skills in general once I'm home.

Posted by Lori at 4:13 PM | Permalink
May 31, 2006

18 Months

Austen turned 18 months old yesterday. It's hard to believe he's one and a half already, and yet 12 months seems so long ago. He's such a different kid now. He talks, for one thing, sounding like nothing so much as a miniature surfer dude with his "whooaaa"s and "oh yeaaaaaaaah"s. We don't have complete sentences yet, but it's not that difficult to have a conversation with him.

One of my favorite words is something that sounds like "llol" or "llor", which seems to mean "stroller". The double-L is so clear...he just has it in the wrong spot. He learned "juice" (or "ju!") this weekend; I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I'm not a giant fan of giving him juice. (When he gets it, it's diluted by at least half.) I'm wondering when he's going to learn to say Perfectly Protein Vanilla Chai, which he likes even more than juice.

052706_11201.jpg

A couple weeks ago I thought he'd also learned to say "rats!" when something went wrong. He was trying to screw a cap on a squeeze bottle, and the darn thing kept getting away from him. He'd say what sounded like "rat!" each time. I said to Al, "I wonder where he learned 'rats!' from?" Al shrugged and said, "I don't know. Maybe Hannah?"

Just then Austen grabbed the water bottle off my nightstand, lost his balance (probably because he tripped on a pair of my shoes), and upended the bottle all over a bunch of books I had next to the bed. "Oh CRAAAAAAAAAP!" I intoned. "Rap!" Austen repeated. Al and I looked at each other; source found.

This was definitely another DIY month for Austen (I'm starting to wonder if all of them will be from now on). He pretty much wants to do everything himself, from eating to climbing and descending stairs to watering the plants. He's Mr. Independent, which suits me just fine, especially since he's not averse to giving me a big hug and a kiss before running off to do whatever interests him.

his favorite part: throwing away the cup in the magic trashcan
brushing teeth

This independence has made the past few days much easier than they might have been. I was away from Austen for more than 12 hours for the first time ever this past weekend, when I flew to Vancouver for a hockey tournament. I put him to bed on Thursday night, and I didn't see him again (except in photos Al sent to my phone) until he and Al picked me up at the airport on Monday night. When I grabbed him off of Al's shoulders and swung him around, I got the distinct impression that he was thinking, "it's nice you're here, but we don't really *need* you." (If you're thinking "awww, that's terrible!" right now, I wasn't offended. I was glad that Austen and Al had such a great time without me.)

052706_09571.jpg 052906_14261.jpg

It also so happens that Hannah left for Thailand for two weeks on Friday afternoon, so Austen's childcare arrangement has been different for the past couple days (and will continue to be until Hannah returns). It's a long story about how and when we found another nanny with a charge who's two months older than Austen and how Austen and the other toddler, Mira, became friends; the only thing that's important to know for the purposes of this story is that I've been taking Austen over to Mira's house so that Mira's nanny, Jess, can watch both of them. Austen hasn't seemed to mind one bit; when I drop him off, he kisses me goodbye and waves me off, and then he and Mira spend the rest of the day playing together. See how the independent streak makes things so easy?

052706_10261.jpg

I'd actually say that life is easier in general around here these days. Al and I have worked out a schedule and a division of labor that I really love. Al is basically the primary caregiver now; I feel like a 50s dad who gets all the benefits of a cute kid (snuggling, after-work chats, weekend outings) with hardly any real work. Partly this is due to Austen's easygoing nature and EXTREME CUTENESS, but mostly it's due to Al shouldering most of the household and childcare responsibilities in addition to his regular day job. It really does take a huge load off of me, and I couldn't appreciate it more (though I could probably *show* I appreciate it more). That's the good news. The even better news is that Al is *really good* at these things—better even than he realized. He and the Beaner had an awesome weekend together, and they really *didn't* need me.

Somehow, knowing that makes the snuggles and kisses and "pick me up" gestures all the more precious.

Posted by Lori at 10:58 AM | Permalink
June 3, 2006

The Hug That Didn't Happen

We're visiting family this weekend; we drove here from Philly, and another part of the family drove from farther away. With our shorter drive and our earlier departure time, we arrived first, of course. When the rest of the family arrived a few hours later, Austen, who'd already been having a great time playing with the older relatives, was thrilled to see a playmate his size—his almost 4 year-old cousin, whom I'll call C—come through the door.

Al and I were sitting on the bottom steps of the staircase, which starts its climb in the foyer, as C and his dad came in. Austen stood in the foyer and waited patiently while C removed his shoes, and as C entered Austen's orbit, Austen went in for the hug. He threw his arms open wide and leaned into C, who didn't respond in any way. He stayed half-turned away from Austen while Austen attempted the hug, and then he dashed back to the door. Austen lurched forward a bit, turned to follow C's path with his eyes, and scowled in obvious hurt and confusion. That's when I started to cry.

It wasn't a sobbing kind of cry; it was more a lump-in-the-throat-with-watery-eyes kind of cry, so Austen didn't seem to notice the tears when I scooped him up a few seconds later. I carried him into the kitchen, gave him a big hug, told him I loved him, and then kissed him and sent him back out to the foyer to attempt another greeting. Then Al had to hug *me* for a few seconds while I tried to get it together to go out and say hello to the rest of the clan.

To his credit and my pride, Austen didn't even glance in my and Al's direction when his hug was rebuffed, which I hope means that the indicident didn't immediately burn itself on his heart the way his scowl did on mine. I suspect for him it's just one of many experiences he's going to have as he develops and hones his social skills, and one he didn't take to heart. It certainly didn't stop him from trying to play with C (who finally acknowledged Austen's presence with a "stop touching my toy!" growl), or from trying to copy him (when C got a Yo Baby yogurt from the fridge and sat at the table to eat it, Austen did the same).

I firmly believe my job as a mother is to raise an independent child (who will become an indepdent adult), one who's equipped to handle any situation. I know it was probably smotherly rather than motherly to swoop in and snuggle Austen after the failed hug attempt, and I'm sure a better mother would have let him sort out what to do next on his own, but I couldn't do it. My heart broke a little in that moment, and I think I needed that snuggle more than Austen did.

Posted by Lori at 10:01 PM
Comments (2) | Permalink
June 6, 2006

Shoeless Joe

Jess (the nanny who's watching Austen this week while Hannah's away) called yesterday afternoon with some bad news: apparently Austen had thrown a shoe overboard while they were walking back from Seeger playground, and she didn't notice until she pulled him out of the stroller near Fitler Square. It's not surprising that she didn't notice; I usually don't unless I hear the clunk of his sippy cup hitting the ground or I trip over whatever it is he's dropped, assuming he drops it directly in front of him. We've lost at least two hats and a couple toys over the side in the past year or so, and Austen knows how to get his shoes and socks off himself now, so they were the next logical thing to go.

Suddenly the wisdom of buying two pairs of shoes in the same size when they were on sale for 2 pairs/$50 is clear to me.

Posted by Lori at 5:05 PM
Comments (2) | Permalink
June 7, 2006

Swag

I made these bibs on CafePress a long time ago, but every time I tried to order one, they were backordered. They're in stock now, so get 'em while they're hot! (Full disclosure: They're cotton and do not have a plastic backing, so for this cantaloupe-eating session I put a cheaper—and shorter—plastic-backed bib underneath the blog fodder one. This bib would definitely be the one I'd choose for meals that involve avocados, chocolate chips, or anything else non-drippy that Austen tends to smear on his clothes, however. It's extra-long and provides great coverage.)

blog fodder I

Posted by Lori at 10:55 AM | Permalink
June 10, 2006

Recent Developments

There's a lot going on in Austen's world, and I haven't written much about him in the past week, so I have some catching up to do. First, a recap of our two weeks with Jess and Mira. Overall, the experience was outstanding—about as good as you could hope for when your regular and beloved nanny goes on vacation. Al and I made a quick list of the pros and cons of the arrangement last night, and here's what we came up with:

Pros Cons
Jess
Jess is a great nanny: calm, soothing, sweet, and sensible. Never had a moment's worry leaving Austen in her care.
Handoff
Having to take Austen over to Mira's house in the morning and having him make a grand entrance via our garage at 5:45pm cut into my work time a bit, but it wasn't too bad. The extra walk in the morning was nice, and it meant I could stop at Trader Joe's on the way back if I needed anything.
Mira
Austen and Mira play together regularly—maybe a couple times a week—but they both seemed to love hanging out together all day, every day. Jess said they really played together, and they looked out for each other on the playground.
Cats
Ever since Annie died, I haven't been around cats much—which means my tolerance to cat dander went way down. Dropping Austen off at a house with two cats guaranteed me an asthma attack, itchy, swollen eyes, or both twice a day (he'd come home covered in cat hair).
Diaper pail
This is one of Al's pros, since he's responsible for emptying the diaper pail—and it's something he had to do less often because Austen wasn't here for at least one or two diaper changes per day.
Lunch
Hannah feeds Austen lunch 14 days out of 15 (once in a while I come down and fix something for all of us, or order a pizza), so it was a new thing to try to come up with a portable lunch for Austen every morning.
Cleaner kitchen
Another one from Al (he cleans up the kitchen at night, too). Because Austen and Hannah weren't here to eat and drink, there were fewer dishes to do.
 
Paul and Tracy
Mira's parents are similar in age to me and Al, and they also have similar work routines (he works up on the third floor of their townhouse, as I do, and she walks to work, as Al does). They're also enthusiastic, super nice, and most importantly, totally behind the idea of sharing Jess (and their house) with us. The only strike against them is that they're Yankee fans. (Can you believe it???)
 

I suspect I'll get the same late start at work on Monday even though Hannah comes at 8am, since I'll want to hear about all her adventures in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Bali over the past two weeks, and she'll want to hear about all the new stuff Austen's doing. Which brings me to my next topic....

Where to start here? Maybe with Austen learning to open doors with knobs on Wednesday evening. Shortly after Jess dropped him off with me upstairs, Austen dashed into his room, slammed the door, and then after a few rattlings of the knob, opened it himself. He was so freaking proud of himself that he ran out to my desk and babbled something like, "let's do that again!" We played knock-and-open—with Austen doing the opening—until Al came home from work about 10 minutes later.

The next day when Jess dropped him off, she said, "did you know Austen can open doors?" Me: "Oh yeah, he learned that last night." Jess: "Oh, because he opened the front door at Mira's house today." He'd never done that before, and Jess didn't know it was a possibility, so it startled her. Luckily, she caught him before he (or one of the cats) could escape. I actually suspect he'd been practicing on the front door knob at Mira's house, which is an old, old townhouse. The knob on the front door is lower than on modern doors and easier for Austen to grab.

I'm thinking he's also learning by watching; he's really interested in what we're doing and how. He also surprised the heck out of me when we were watching Sesame Street last night: The segment where Ernie teaches Bert how to pat his head and rub his tummy while singing came on, and Ernie said, "can YOU pat your head and rub your tummy?" I thought, "oh, that must be for older kids." I was busy puzzling out what age group Ernie was talking to —3? 4?—when Austen started to pat his head. He turned and grinned at me with a look that said, "hey look! I'm doing it!" and then turned back to Ernie for further instructions. The kid's a total sponge.

Yesterday Austen started saying MoM, with an emphasis on the second M, as if to let me know that he knows that there are two Ms in Mom. Before yesterday he called me Ma (or, once in a while, Mama). He said MoM, MoM, MoM over and over last night. So charming.

Less charming was the off-and-on screaming at 12:40am and 5am, which is pretty unusual for him. We assume it's due to teething, because he's got teeth coming in all over the place. Four molars have come up in the past month, and it looks like a bunch more bottom teeth are coming in now. Anyway, because he didn't go back to sleep—or even want to snuggle—after the 5am crying jag, both Al and I were exhausted this morning. After Al took him downstairs at about 5:30, I slept until 7 and then got up for my walk. Instead of going out by myself, though, I took Austen so that Al could get some sleep.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be to take Austen with me; I finally got around to washing the Zooper seat, and that stroller works surprisingly well as a walking/jogging stroller when the front wheels are locked. Austen was pretty chilled out for most of the ride, too, which meant I still got my quiet time—except when I ran across Spring Garden Street, and he got addicted to the speed. After that I had to run a lot more than walk. :) Luckily, Starbucks wasn't far away, and I was able to distract him by stopping in for a Horizon Vanilla Milk box. After that, I was allowed to walk. And when he finished with his milk, I got my treat—he handed me the milk box and said, "thank you, Mama." Can you blame me for crying?

And finally, Al and I realized today that we're no longer having "you take him! no, YOU take him!" arguments on the weekends. Instead, we're arguing over who gets him. Austen is so much fun to be around now, and so self-sufficient, that we find that we can get things done *and* have family time (usually at the same time, though sometimes we just screw the chores and play, play play). Plus, with both of us working, and especially with Austen being at Mira's house during the day for the past two weeks, we really value the time we have together. I know I've told Austen several times in the past week how glad I am that Daddy talked me into having him.

snack stop

Posted by Lori at 10:34 PM | Permalink
June 18, 2006

While We Were Sleeping

I got up with Austen this morning to give Al a chance to sleep in, so even though I'm not usually a napper, I felt the need to conk out while watching the U.S. Open on TV this afternoon. We were all watching in the living room (or rather, Al and I were watching, and Austen was alternately sitting with us on the couch and running around the room playing with various toys), so I announced my intentions, put my head in Al's lap, and was out cold until Austen felt the need to pinch my nostrils closed about 45 minutes later.

When I sat up, I immediately noticed that the storage dresser in the corner looked a little different:

dresser_full.jpg
dresser_closeup.jpg

Me: "Did you let Austen draw all over the dresser?"
Al: "Oh, he must have done that when I was asleep."
Me: "You were asleep, too?" I start scanning the room to see what else Austen might have done while both of his parents were out cold. Suddenly the nose pinch makes sense; he was probably just checking to make sure I was still alive.
Al: "Uh, yeah. He woke me up by trying to hand me the blue crayon. He was chewing, so my first thought was that he'd eaten part of the crayon, but his teeth weren't blue."
Me: "What *was* he chewing?"
Al: "Beats me."

Needless to say, Austen and I had a little talk about suitable drawing surfaces a few minutes later, though I think he knew that the dresser was off limits before he started scribbling. If he's not announcing that he's about to do something bad by saying "nooooooo" immediately before doing it, he's confessing the evil deed immediately after (hence the proffer of the blue crayon). Thank goodness for melamine and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Happy Father's Day, everybody!

Posted by Lori at 11:02 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
June 20, 2006

Two Blue Shoes

Al asked me yesterday morning, "have you written in your blog that Austen picks his shoes out now?", which made me smile. Al has never really understood the desire (or need) to blog, though for the most part he's very supportive of mine. Over the past 12-18 months, however, he's started to see this site as an important record, if not of my growth and development, at least of Austen's.

Which brings me to the shoes. I think I mentioned that Austen seemed to understand the concept of "two", having once pointed out two buses to me with "two!" instead of his usual "ba!" I often say to him, "one shoe, two shoes. Two blue shoes," so now he knows to answer the question, "how many shoes are you holding?" with "two" (when he's holding both of them, of course). He also knows that the New Balance sneakers are blue, whereas the Pumas are black. Personally, I prefer the Pumas, but ever since we managed to find another pair of the NBs on sale, he's wanted to wear those almost every day.

Austen started picking out his shoes last month. He'd bring me his fish sandals when he wanted to wear those, and sneakers (and socks!) when he wanted something with a little more oomph. The NBs are definitely his favorite shoes now, though; if we try to hide them so we can impose a little variety, he searches for them and then screams "oh YEAH!" like a tiny little Kool-Aid man when he spots them. At that point, it's the NBs or nothing.

Speaking of the blue NBs, Austen accidentally peed on them last night. We'd undressed him in preparation for bath time, and he was sitting on the stepstool in front of the sink, holding the shoes, when he started to pee. We said, "oh no no no, honey, don't pee on your shoes!" and rescued them from him. He seemed to take this (correctly) as an indication that he should stop peeing, period, so he did.

Al remarked when I was finished wiping down the shoes that Austen still looked like he needed to pee, so we stood him on the stepstool in front of the toilet and told him to have at it. He seemed intimidated, however, so I just plopped him into the tub, kissed Al goodbye (he had a hockey game), and started bathtime.

Austen was poking his p____ a bit, so I said, "do you have to pee, sweetie?" Austen: "Yeah." Me: "It's OK, you can pee in the tub." At which point he bent his knees a bit, stared down at his p____, and visibly concentrated until he produced a stream. I said, "yay, you're peeing!," and he smiled at me briefly before returning his attention to his p____. It may sound like nothing, but I'm pretty proud of him. I think this is the first time he's ever peed on command (and obviously stopped on command as well, a few minutes earlier), which means he's learning that he can control when he goes. I imagine that potty training will be a two steps forward, one step (or perhaps three steps) back affair, but at least we've taken our first step.

Posted by Lori at 1:48 PM | Permalink
June 22, 2006

Gooooooaaaaaal!

Hannah and Austen are down in the basement playroom watching the U.S. play Ghana in World Cup soccer. I keep hearing Hannah gasping, "oooh! oh! errrg!" and both of them yelling "yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!" I see the score at the moment is 2-1 Ghana; I'm hoping the U.S. can score at least one more so I can hear Austen shout "gooooaaaaaaal"!

Update: No goal. Ghana won. :(

Posted by Lori at 11:32 AM | Permalink
June 22, 2006

Time Out

I am listening to Austen scream and wretch through his first real time out right now, waiting for the magic word. An hour ago, that word would have been "sorry". He pinched my neck, hard—something he knows not to do—when I told him he couldn't have a second cookie, and when he refused to let go, I pried his fingers off. That's when he hit me.

Over the next 10 minutes I got avoidance, and then the toddler equivalent of a teenage "I'm SOR-RY!" in the form of a hard poke to the shoulder and then the chin. That's when Al and I agreed that he needed the time out. I'd have preferred not to use his crib as the time out area, since I don't want him to associate the place he sleeps with being punished, but when it came down to it, I couldn't think of anywhere else to put him that would communicate how serious we were (and that would keep him from tearing things up and/or just playing).

I can tell you that it fucking sucks to sit here listening to him scream and wretch and moan nononono, but I'm not going in there until he either gets control of himself or says the magic word—the word that would indicate that it's not all about him and the injustice of being plopped into his crib fully clothed, without any dinner or cuddling or singing. It's a word, unlike "sorry", that I know he knows how to say clearly and with full understanding of its meaning. (He usually expresses "sorry" by kissing or hugging, rather than saying the word.)

I hope I'm not waiting out here all night, and that he doesn't lose his voice from all the screaming before he has a chance to say it. I also wonder if he knows that it's in his power to end the ordeal right now. Come on, buddy, you can do it. All you have to say is "mommy."

Posted by Lori at 6:47 PM | Permalink
June 23, 2006

Resume Play

Right as I was clicking the Save button on the Time Out post last night, Austen said the magic word. I went in and got him, and we sat together in the chair for a few minutes talking about what happened. I wanted to make sure he understood the reason for the time out, though who knows what actually sunk in on that front.

He'd been unsuccessful at vomiting, try as he might, but he'd filled his diaper with the biggest poop I've ever seen, so I took him downstairs, changed him, and then put him in his high chair for dinner. He melted down twice in the space of 5 minutes—once when I went to wash my hands after the diaper change, and again when I strapped him into the chair. I ended up getting him out when he wouldn't stop screaming and refused to eat, and we sat together for a little while on the stairs. Finally, he leaned in for not one, not two, but 6 "sorry" kisses in a row. There was a little murmuring back and forth about being nice and showing love, and then we moved back to the dining room. He ate a full dinner of watermelon, corn, and Trader Joe's asparagus-asiago cheese chicken sausage while sitting on my lap.

After dinner we had an uneventful bathtime, followed by the usual Sesame Street->kiss Daddy->go up to bed routine. He requested songs with "ummmm...", but he vetoed every one I tried, even the old standards, and conked out after about 5 minutes. He slept soundly until almost 7am, and gave me my usual morning snuggle. Hopefully we've reset now, and there will be no more hitting tonight.

Posted by Lori at 11:25 AM | Permalink
June 30, 2006

Update Coming

It hasn't escaped my notice that Austen turned 19 months old today. Hopefully I'll have time to write an update later tonight (but first I need to collect all the little notes I've left around the house about what he's been up to for the past month—the ones that say things like "fork" and "highchair" and "talkative"). There'll be a whole mess of photos, too.

Posted by Lori at 4:55 PM | Permalink
July 6, 2006

19 Months

My friend Jean, who has a daughter three months older than Austen, and I were talking recently about how much fun our kids have become as they've gotten older. Matthew Baldwin described this stage as going from pet to person, and I think that's about right. It's a battle of wills sometimes (especially now that Austen has a very clear will and is not shy about exerting it), but the fact that he understands so much more means he can enjoy so much more—and we can enjoy him.

cool, daddy-o

The only problems arise when we take him out in public, especially to a venue that isn't particularly kid-oriented. We got a taste of this when we brought him out to dinner with us at the new Goji Japanese restaurant up on Hamilton between 20th and 21st. We loved the food—and so did he!—but for most of the meal he refused to sit in his high chair, he squealed loudly (too loudly for the subdued venue) in both excitement and dismay, and he dumped about 12 ounces of orange juice all over me and himself. It wasn't until we were out with my friend Valerie yesterday, however, and I saw her look of slight exasperation at having to move at toddler speed (and according to toddler whims) that I realized that this is the age where Austen's becoming more fun for us and more annoying for everyone else. (Both Al and Val laughed and agreed this was probably true.)

father and son

As for developments this month, there were so many that I'm not sure I'm remembering them all. Here are the highlights:

Austenglish
I think I've mentioned before that Austen can enunciate—we've heard him say "go down stairs", "shoes", "hot dog", and other words and phrases really clearly once or twice—but most of the time he sounds like he's trying to invent a language with as few letters as possible. I don't know whether Al and I mumble and he's learning by example, or whether he's just lazy, but once he learns a word, he immediately sets about shortening it. A few of the words in Austen's vocabulary:

Austenglish English Notes
klopelope cantaloupe sometimes shortened to just "lope"
yoo shoe  
llor stroller  
bapba grandpa, grandma  
tyacha cherry  
dit-dit cookie *see below for what Al and I call them
boofboo blueberries  
dat dyoo thank you  
mo more  
go car no matter how many times we say "car", Austen still calls it a "go"
mama milk I find this association interesting
whoa horse  
choo-choo train also used for toy cars and toy buses

Among the words he says clearly are "up", "down", "cat", "dog", "hi!" and "bye!", and he points out every cat, dog, horse, cow, train, and bus he sees. (He's been seeing quite a lot of trains lately, too, as Hannah's been taking him to 30th Street station to watch the commuter trains come in.) He also enjoys chatting with other kids, especially older kids. He often approaches groups of teenagers and just starts gabbling away, and his body language says, "hey, yeah, I'm one of y'all. Let's hang!" He'll lean against a wall or a railing if one is handy, trying to look casual.

Voldemort in the pantry
One of the words in Austen's vocabulary is so loaded that we try to avoid saying it around him at all. That word is "cookie", and it can make him forget any other word he knows (except "YAY!"), including "please" and "thank you". I made the mistake of buying Earth's Best Organic Letter of the Day Cookies (in the convenient 4-pack) at Costco after he recognized the box and started pointing and saying "dit-dit! dit-dit!" frantically. (He learned about these cookies at Mira's house last month.) On the plus side, the cookies are small and not too sweet, so I can give him two or three at a time without feeling too guilty (a serving size is 9, believe it or not). On the minus side, no matter how many cookies I give him, he always throws a fit when I tell him he can't have any more.

voldemorts

I've taken to calling cookies "those which must not be named"; Al has no patience for that many words (suddenly where Austen gets it from is becoming clear...) and just calls them Voldemorts. I'm trying to stick to "those which must not be named," as I think it'll take longer for him to catch on to what we're talking about. I'm debating about whether to just throw them out before they work any more dark magic on my kid.

Table for one
We have no idea how much Austen weighs, nor do we know how tall he is, but he's obviously growing. He moved to size 5 Huggies this month after about a week of leaking through every size 4 diaper we put on him. He's definitely sturdy, and with the size 5 diapers on, he just barely squeezes in behind the post in his high chair. We had planned on getting him a booster seat and giving the high chair away, but before we could find a booster we liked, we spent a weekend at my parents' house, where my mom set up a little wicker chair and table for him. Austen LOVED this arrangement, so when we got home we put our matching wicker chair in front of the cherry table that came with our couch, and he's been eating his meals there ever since.

little table horking chinese from Hannah

Also on the food front, Austen learned how to use a fork this month. It's now his favorite utensil. He still eats just about everything, from chicken satay and turkey jerky to cantaloupe (his new favorite fruit) and clam pizza, but he's decided he no longer likes cottage cheese.

lopelope those are so not kid size!

Veto power
Austen has very definite opinions about what constitutes good music, and like most teenagers, he will listen to a song ad nauseum for a while before deciding that it totally sucks. I've been trying to broaden his musical horizons a bit by introducing him to some of my favorite songs in between his Music Class tunes, but most haven't stuck. When we're in the car he routinely vetoes a selection with "no, no, no!" while pointing a finger imperiously at the radio. If we don't act quickly enough to advance to the next song, he can become hysterical. Also, even though he's been listening to iTunes on the Mac since he was tiny tiny tiny, he now associates listening to the music he likes with riding in the car. He'll often point to the garage door and shout "GO! GO!" to let us know that he'd like to go out to the car and listen to music.

veto power

New nap routine
Thanks to the two-week stint at Mira's house—during which it wasn't feasible for Austen to sleep in the stroller—Austen has finally learned how to have a normal naptime. After lunch each day, Hannah removes his shoes and shorts and changes his diaper, and then she puts him down on a soft blanket in the basement playroom. She tells him it's naptime, and she waits. He'll usually talk to himself or flibble his lips for a few minutes, and then he'll conk out. It's the bedtime/naptime routine we'd always heard about, but never experienced ourselves. Now, if it would only work at bedtime.... (Actually, it almost does; I usually sing and snuggle Austen because I like the bonding time, not because it's absolutely required. When I tell him it's time to go to sleep now, he's usually out within 5 minutes.)

nap time

Who's number one?
One night when we were giving Austen a bath, he threw one of his toys in the water, splashing both of us, and then threw his hands over his head and pointed to the sky in an unmistakable gesture of victory. I tried to scold him for the toy throwing, but Al couldn't stop laughing. He went, "who's number one?", and Austen responded by repeating the gesture and sticking his tongue out, Ozzy Osbourne-style. We were like, where the hell did he get that from? It occurred to me later that it was probably from watching World Cup soccer with Hannah, an idea that was confirmed by Hannah when she came the next day.

Ever since that bath, all we have to do is say "number one", and Austen shoots a finger into the air. He'll even do it when the context is wrong (as when I was relating a story to Al the other day, and I finished the first point with, "so the fact that she even considered it is number one").

number one

There's probably more that I'm forgetting, like the fact that Austen seems to have all his teeth now (though not all of them are in all the way), and the fact that though he likes all of his grandparents, he's partial to his grandfathers, but I don't want to keep this blog entry from getting posted any longer. As Austen would say, "bye bye, blog post!"

watering eeeeyaaaaah! grandpa knows how!

Posted by Lori at 6:03 PM
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July 11, 2006

Yoooos! Yooooos!

I'm feeling a little guilty today because I hid the loves of Austen's life: his two blue shoes. He walked around the bedroom this morning calling "yoooos! yoooooos!", and he removed every single item from the white wire basket into which we usually toss the shoes at night, saying "no yooo" as each item was laid aside. It about broke my heart, and more than once I considered retrieving the blue shoes from the top of my closet, but I stuck it out.

His toes appeared to be bumping the end of those shoes, and he was starting to walk funny again—the way he did when his last pair of shoes became too tight—so taking them away seemed like the only thing to do. Luckily, although he answered "no" when I held up the black Pumas and said, "don't you want to wear these?", he did not object when Al put those same black Pumas on his feet. (Ironically, the infant-sized Pumas seem to run a little big, whereas the adult versions run at least a half size small.) I figure we can get a couple more weeks out of the black Pumas, at least, before we have to move to the size 7 green ones. Al is lobbying for a replacement pair of blue NBs, but the current pair was tough enough to find. I'll try, though.

Posted by Lori at 1:26 PM
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July 18, 2006

Potato, Potahto

One of Austen's favorite songs (or rather, one of my favorite songs to sing to Austen, and one which he tolerates) is Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. You know, the "you say eether, I say iither" song. This weekend Al suggested that we could make up new lyrics to it based on Austen's current manglings of the English language, and I related this suggestion to Hannah this morning. The version we came up with went something like this:

I say water and you say li'lo
I say stroller and you say llor
Water, li'lo, stroller, llor
Let's call the whole thing off

I say cantaloupe and you say lopelope
I say car and you say go
Cantaloupe, lopelope, car, go
Let's call the whole thing off.

I could go on, of course. After weeks of Austen saying "ahdjuwah," I finally said to Al in exasperation this morning, "what the heck is 'ahdjuwah'? Do you know what 'ahdjuwah' means?" He did not. Hannah figured it out from the context when we were serving up melon in the kitchen later, though. Apparently she often asks him, "do you want another one?", so we now think that "ahdjuwah" means "another one." Austen nodded when we proposed this, so I think she's right.

Oh, and did I mention that Austen knows what a Saab is? Austen has been pointing out "go"s for weeks, but while we were on vacation in Maine we realized that he was pointing out very specific gos. It's uncanny that he can pick out 9-3 hatchbacks (like our 1999 model), 9-3 sedans, 9-5 sedans and wagons, even 9000s. Al said, "those are Saabs!", so now Austen will yell "ba!" (also the word for "bus", though "bus" is starting to have an "esh" sound on the end—all words that end in s end in esh for Austen, including eish, yesh, and reish) every time he spots a Saab. Occasionally he'll confuse a VW Jetta or a Mazda 6 for a Saab, but more often than not if he yells "ba!", there's a Saab nearby.

Posted by Lori at 9:26 AM
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July 25, 2006

News From Our Busy Weekend

So as I mentioned in the previous post, we had a busy weekend. I probably should have spent the weekend doing laundry and cleaning the house and bleaching my hair and making packing lists in preparation for BlogHer (I only remembered last night that I'd be IN THE OFFICE on Thursday and not calling into meetings, and that I'd need to have everything washed and ready to be packed on Wednesday in preparation for the 6:20am flight on Thursday), but instead I spent it getting my hair cut in the suburbs of DC, rocking and romping in Baltimore, and riding the subways and running around the West Village in NYC.

First, the new haircut. (This isn't really news anymore, since I jumped ahead and posted about d:fi, but anyway...) Toni always does an amazing job, but I've noticed that the less guidance I give her, the more likely I am to get what I want. This time I just said, "I like it pretty short, except in front—I need something to hang some color on there." What I got was this really cool "pinwheel" cut that two other stylists came over to ask about. It's exactly as requested—short everywhere except in front—plus it's spiky, asymetrical, and interesting, three other things I love.

listening to cool tunes austen learns the word same color, new cut what do you think, boo?

After the haircut we made a mad dash up traffic-choked I-95 to Baltimore for our first-ever Rock 'n Romp. I'd read about it on Tracey's site, and after clicking through to the sound clip of the Sick Sick Birds (who were scheduled to play on Saturday), I'd decided I wanted to go. The only thing that remained was convincing Al. He finally bent to my will when his brother proposed that they play golf together on Sunday; I think knowing that he could have a day to do what he wanted to do made a day of running around and being social bearable.

sarah white sick sick birds rockin' out
and the audience LOVES it
Sarah White | Sick Sick Birds
Danny

I think Al even had a good time playing with Austen and listening to the music. I really dug the Sick Sick Birds, as expected, and the lyrics to Danny's songs were hi-fucking-larious. I think even better than the music was meeting other alternaparents—though of course alternamusic was the reason for the plethora of alternaparents. I spent quite a while talking to a woman named Maryann (MaryAnn? Marianne? I should see if Tracey has her e-mail address...) who looked like a normal mom on the outside, but who turned out to be super cool. Her current haircut was deceiving; apparently, she used to have a bleached-white spiky do like mine. We also had our kids in common—or rather, the fact that we had to be talked into having them. For her, it took 7 years of convincing before she finally caved. We were also together in the "one and done" camp. I wish now that I'd introduced myself properly and gotten some contact info from her, even though she lives down near Annapolis (too far for regular schmoozing, sadly).

austen and al eyeing the slide the bubble table draws another crowd yay, I've got the bubbles to myself!
no touch, monkey down to the suds
That's Maryann in the blue sleeveless top (top left), and her son is in the blue Hawaiian shirt (bottom right).

Austen's favorite thing in the back yard was the giant, three-wand, no-spill bucket of bubbles. Actually, now that I think about it (and look at the photos), this was almost every kid's favorite thing. Another big hit was the super-cool slide, though the platform at the top was rather narrow and pitched slightly away from the slide. After racing down a couple times, Austen climbed to the top again with Al's help—and then promptly lost his balance, stepped back to right himself, and found his foot striking thin air. He disappeared off the platform rather suddenly (I was standing at the bottom of the slide, waiting to take his photo as he came down), and for a moment, I froze. I think I instinctively knew I couldn't get there in time to catch him, so I stayed exactly where I was, trying to see what, if anything, he hit on the way down. Luckily Al had ahold of an arm, which slowed his progress until Al had to let go (the post was between them), and another mom broke his fall slightly (enough to keep him from getting tangled in a swing or striking his head, anyway). Still, it TOTALLY freaked Austen out, and after that the only word he said for a long time was "go". As in "let's leave," rather than "there's a car!" It was a little heartbreaking the way he pointed to the gate.

the amazing slide al and austen listening to the sick sick birds

I finally convinced Austen that there was enough fun still to be had to make it worth staying for a little while longer (I *really* wanted to see the Sick Sick Birds, and Austen fell as Sarah White's band was breaking down). The butterfly bushes and other wonderful flowering plants in Tracey's yard really helped, as they attracted actual butterflies. Austen was enchanted by them, calling them "whys" and pointing whenever he spotted one. And of course, there was the big bucket of bubbles.

bubbles!

We left (after listening to a couple wonderful songs from Danny, his computer, and his accordian) when it became obvious that Austen was really done for the day. Quite honestly, we were too—the heat and humidity were tiring, and we still had a two-hour drive back to Philadelphia (in what turned out to be a scary series of thunderstorms). The triumph of the day for me was hearing Al say that he'd go to another Rock n' Romp event in the future.

On Sunday we all got up early (earlier than we usually do on weekdays) to drive up to NYC so Al could meet his brother for golf. My sister-in-law Tris, her son Henry, Austen, and I hung out and played in the apartment for a while—Austen and Henry had great fun chasing each other up and down the long hallway—and then we took the C train down to the West Village to visit Henry's favorite playground. We stayed there for at least an hour, maybe more; long enough, at least, for Austen to have several meltdowns every time he wanted to play with a toy that someone else was using (or vice versa). I literally had to pry him out of the extremely popular bug car a couple times, while he screamed and cried like he was being tortured. Several parents looked horrified and tried to interest their children in another toy, saying, "oh, no, it's OK, he can keep playing with it," but I just said, "he's got to learn how to share sometime!" while trying to fish him out.

the bug car bug car shopping
henry gets things rolling

Each time we gave another kid a turn, I'd have to hold Austen on my lap for a little while and talk him down. I explained about sharing, and how the toy wasn't his, it was for everybody to use, and that he could have another turn when the other kids were done with it. He finally sort of chilled out when I gave him a half a peanut butter sandwich (talk about weapons on the playground!) and he got interested in chasing Henry up and down the ramp and around the sandpit.

From the playground we walked over to John's Pizza for lunch. We ordered two small pizzas (one cheese, one mushroom), but when it came time to actually eat them, Austen refused to wear his bib. (Al later correctly identified the problem: Henry wasn't wearing a bib—he's 4, and much less messy—and Austen loves to copy Henry.) I insisted that he wear the bib if he wanted to eat pizza, and once I took that stand, I kind of wished I hadn't. It would have been so much easier to cave and just let him eat—we were in a public place, after all, with company, and he was totally making a scene—but once I pick a battle with my kid, I win it. Tris confessed that it made her a little bit happy to see other kids act out in public, as it made her feel less bad about Henry's antics, but I wasn't amused. I finally just ate my own pizza and left Austen alone until he started saying "UP! UP!" and motioning that he wanted to get out of his high chair.

I brought him up onto the booth bench with me, where he noodled about for a bit and then reached for some pizza. I said, "no, you have to wear your bib if you want some pizza," at which point he struggled and screamed and tried to twist away from me. I'd finally had enough, so I wrestled the bib onto him and then held it firmly in place so he couldn't yank it off, and then as he opened his mouth to wail—yes, there were actual tears rolling down his face—I shoved a little piece of pizza into his maw. He closed his mouth on it, sniffled, and then started to chew. "It's good, huh?" I said. He smiled sheepishly, and that was then end of the bib drama. He ended up eating two (small) pieces of pizza with the bib on.

austen loves playing with his cousin drumming on the seat
austen @ cones henry @ cones

After pizza we went next door to Cones, where Henry had a scoop of vanilla ice cream (his choice), and Austen had a scoop of watermelon sorbet (my choice). Since I wouldn't be eating the sorbet, I wasn't sure how to choose (usually Al and Austen share something, so Al chooses), so I just went with one of Austen's favorite fruits. He seemed to enjoy it well enough, though I could tell from the measured way he ate the stuff that he didn't like it as much as gelato from Capogiro. From Cones we moseyed back to the Bleecker Playground so I could change Austen's diaper on a bench outside the play area. Austen didn't want to ride in the stroller, and after a couple blocks Tris and I got tired of carrying him, so we assigned Henry the task of holding Austen's hand. Henry took this job very seriously.

waiting to cross crossing by themselves
sightseeing in the west village this went on for blocks

After the diaper change, the plan was for Austen to fall asleep in the stroller while we walked back to the subway via the meat-packing district, but Austen was in no mood to nap. I honestly think he was afraid he might miss something (especially an opportunity to mimic Henry). When we got back to the apartment Austen still refused to lie down, instead resuming the game of chase-Henry-up-and-down-the-hall that the boys had abandoned when we went out. I'd never heard Austen pant before, but he was puffing pretty loudly by the time we announced it was time to go home (Al and Carl came back from golfing about 15 minutes after we came in). We left with a giant bag of toys that Henry'd outgrown, plus a few items of clothing from Tris and Carl, plus Henry's push-tricycle. Total bonanza! The only thing we didn't leave with were bagels and lox; we were too tired to see if Barney Greengrass or H&H were still open. I regretted that on Monday morning, but I was thrilled to have such a happy, eventful family weekend. Yay!

hug break #2

Posted by Lori at 5:54 PM | Permalink
July 27, 2006

Home/Office

I can't believe I'm functional right now. I said to Al when I set my alarm for 4am last night, "watch, this'll be the night that the Boopster wakes up screaming in the middle of the night instead of sleeping until 6 or 7." Sure enough, at 3am, we heard him cry. Usually we let him settle down on his own, but within minutes his screams turned frantic, so Al went up and got him. The irony, of course, is that I'd just gotten to sleep myself when Austen woke up.

Usually I fall asleep easily and stay asleep until morning, but last night I slept lightly, if at all. Every time I could feel myself relaxing in preparation for a deeper sleep, Al would breathe funny or a car would zoom by, and I was wide awake again. Once Austen nuzzled into my shoulder I was able to fall asleep (and so was he), but of course by that time I only had an hour until the alarm went off.

My flight was uneventful, and I made it to the office in time to catch most of the weekly team meeting. I've got another meeting in 5 minutes, a code review to do for another engineer, and a bunch of bug fixes to check in (yes, I actually fixed bugs instead of sleeping for most of the 5 hr. 20 min. flight). I hope I can stay awake until at least 9pm, which is when I'm likely to arrive at the Hyatt San Jose. Unless there are some super-cool BlogHers ready to rally me when I walk in the door, I'm going straight to bed!

Posted by Lori at 1:49 PM | Permalink
August 2, 2006

Missing Mommy

I've got so many half-written posts queued up that by the time I publish them all, they won't even appear on the front page anymore. I didn't want serious writer's block on all things BlogHer to impede my posting on the heat (which is now up to 93°, with a heat index of 103° at 11:55am) and on Austen's latest clinginess, however, so I'm jumping in here with a kid update.

When I went away to Vancouver in May, it really seemed like Austen hadn't missed me much. He was happy to see me when I got back, of course, but in a subdued way. I figured this weekend away would be much the same, but as with all things parenting-related, it's when you think you've got things dialed in that they take a radical turn.

Austen was happy enough to be with his dad while I was gone, but Hannah reported that he was crankier and whinier during the day on Thursday and Friday. And remember how he woke up screaming at 3am the morning I was to leave for San Francisco? Well, he did that every night I was gone, too. I told Al when I got back that I'd like to nip the nighttime screaming to be picked up in the bud, so that Austen didn't get used to coming to sleep with us before 6am, but last night the screaming started at 2am again. We let him go for 45 minutes, after which he switched to shouting "mom! momma! moooooooooooom!" at the top of his lungs. I finally caved and went up there, but I didn't bring him down. Instead, I picked him up and sat with him in the chair for a while. He immediately burrowed his head in my shoulder and clung to me as if he might fall off of a cliff otherwise.

After much soothing, clinging, forehead kissing, and murmurings of "I love you, it's time for sleeping, Mommy's very tired, please get ahold of yourself, I love you, I'm not leaving you, I'm just going to bed, I love you, please go to sleep, I'll be here in the morning, calm down now, I love you," etc., I left him crying again and went back to bed. I think the soothing session helped, though, because he only carried on for about another 15 minutes (and he slept until 7:40!).

Meanwhile, Austen's been super-clingy during the day as well—and he completely FREAKS OUT if I try to leave the room, let alone the house. Yesterday he saw me head to the door with my purse and sunglasses (I had a dentist appointment in the morning), and he ran at me yelling "noooooooooo," tripped, fell, and lay there sobbing. It was the most pitiful thing I'd ever seen. He really seems worried that if he loses sight of me, I may never come back. I fear that we are entering that phase of Austen's life where his pain breaks my heart a little every day, and yet all the whining still drives me completely up a wall.

For the record, the need to cling isn't all on Austen's side; yesterday I had an almost overwhelming urge to go downstairs and just hug him for all he was worth for a little while. I may do that between meetings (me) and nap (him) today. Who knows? Maybe a little extra clinging during the day will help us both sleep through the night.

Posted by Lori at 11:53 AM
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August 11, 2006

Brand Recognition

Yes, I know I never did a 20 month update for the Beaner, and I'll probably regret it later when I have no record of the fact that the 20th month was the one in which he learned to say "please" out loud (or rather, "peeeeeezh!"), and that it was the month in which I suddenly realized why they always say the alphabet sooooo slooooowly on Sesame Street: It's so little kids can repeat the letters out loud (something the Beaner surprised us by doing one morning at around 6:45). Well, OK, now I have a record. Moving on...

I mentioned a while back that the Beaner had learned to identify Saabs. Last Monday when we pulled into a parking spot at the Cherry Hill Mall, he pointed at the car parked in front of us and said, "Ba!" I said, "No, honey, that's a Volvo. Also made in Sweden, incidentally, but not a Saab." "Ba!" he repeated. "No, Volvo. Vol-vo. Red Volvo," I said. We dashed into the mall, purchased a couple items at the Old Navy, and returned to the car. When I plopped the Beaner into his carseat, he pointed forward and said, "Volvo?" "Yes!" I said proudly, "that is a red Volvo." The Beaner repeated "Volvo, Volvo" to himself all the way home.

The next morning, the Beaner indicated that he would like to be taken out to our front stoop to look around. "Jeep!" he shouted, pointing to a green Cherokee parked on the corner. "Two Jeeps!" he squealed, moving his finger slightly to the left to aim at the gray Cherokee in the adjacent carport. He scanned down the street and then shouted, "VOLVO!" I was like, "where? Where do you see a Volvo?"... and then I craned my neck around our neighbor's flowers and saw that there was indeed a white Volvo XC90 (the same model as at the mall) parked midway down the block. I leaned into the house and shouted for Al. "You've got to see this!", I said. When Al came down, I said to the Beaner, "what do you see?" The Beaner fingered the white Volvo and shouted, "VOLVO!" Al was duly impressed.

A couple days later, the Beaner put his new letter-recognition skills to work and pointed out the VW logo on a Jetta parked around the block. (W has since become his favorite letter; he points it out whenever he sees one, though it's often difficult to determine that a W is what he's shouting about, since his word for W sounds extremely similar to his words for diaper, bubble, buckle, and pretzel.) He was off and running from there, pointing out every car he recognized, and asking "adjuwah?" for the ones he didn't. We'd supply the name, he'd memorize the emblem (though it took us a little while to figure out that that's what he was doing, since my sister insisted that he could identify cars when no emblem was visible. She was wrong about that; emblems tend to be plastered all over the car, including on the hubcaps, and the Beaner knows to scan the entire vehicle for a logo he recognizes), and then he'd point out the new makes along with the old. He now recognizes an impressive list of auto makes, including:

  • Saab (ba)
  • Volvo
  • Toyota (lolo)
  • Volkswagen (buhbu)
  • Honda (aitch)
  • Nissan (nitt-an)
  • Saturn (dat-turn)
  • Jeep (jip)
  • Acura
  • Mazda
  • Chevy (wee-vee)
  • Ford (doh)
  • Mitsubishi (mitsu)
  • BMW (momo)
  • Mercedes (Y)

Before he learned the Chevrolet emblem he'd often confuse Chevy SUVs for Jeeps (though never the other way around), and although he can pick out almost any model of Volvo, the Lexus RX300 throws him for a loop (he always misidentifies it as a Volvo). He's still working on Infinity (he knows the logo, but he hasn't come up with a name for it yet, so he usually just points and stammers). It's pretty entertaining, and of course his father and my father (both car nuts) are super proud of their little savant. My sister-in-law, however, would be horrified, I think; she's expressed dismay in the past when Al has pointed out BMWs to her son, as she'd rather not have him be brand-conscious.

For now the Beaner's talent doesn't bother me; it seems like a not-unhealthy way to observe the world around him. He doesn't seem to attach any kind of worth to the brands he's identifying, so I'm not worried that being able to identify so many auto makes is going to turn him into a label snob or anything. For what it's worth, he's as happy to identify letters as car emblems. I think this is something else that Sesame Street has taught him: That letters are everywhere. (My favorite alphabet segment is the one where they take letters from signs around Seattle.) The night before last, as he was running around pointing at every W he could find, Al remarked, "somebody's on an alphaquest!" Does it really matter if those Ws are on cars? I think not.

Posted by Lori at 12:19 PM
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August 14, 2006

Daytripping

Earlier this week, when I heard from the Weather Channel that it was supposed to be cooler and drier this weekend—and cooler and drier still in New England—I proposed that we drive to Connecticut to enjoy the weather and restock my supply of Decaf Chocolate Truffle coffee. (I mix it 3:4 with Starbucks Decaf Verona for a rich iced coffee treat, in case you're curious.) My original idea was that we'd stay overnight and then drive back on Sunday morning, but as Al's Fantasy Football draft was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, he wanted to make it a day trip. The draft was later postponed, but our daytrip plans stayed the same. After all, it only took us two hours and 45 minutes to get from Norwalk, CT to Philadelphia when we drove back from Maine.

We planned to get up as usual on Saturday morning. I'd take my walk and have a shower, Al would feed the Beaner and get him dressed, we'd throw a cooler, some icepacks, the Beaner's DVD bag, and the camera in the car, and we'd probably leave around 9:30am. Everything went pretty much as planned, though I took the time to burn a couple CDs of tunes to try out on the Beaner, and I also checked the diaper bag to make sure we had at least two spares and some wipes. I noticed that the extra pair of shorts in the diaper bag was too small for the Beaner now, so I grabbed another pair and a shirt out of the dryer, thinking of the major diaper malfunction that struck Al in Princeton a couple weeks ago. We pulled out of the garage at 10:06, and that's when the fun began.

Mmmmamama from Starbucks

11:45:09 ~ Grover Cleveland Service Area, NJ Turnpike
Al, the driver, is ready for some caffeine, so we stop between exits 11 and 12 on the Turnpike to get a Iced Grande Soy Chai, a Decaf Short Latte, and a Horizon Vanilla Milk. Whee, this is fun!

Al behind the wheel, stuck in traffic

12:49:50 ~ Somewhere on I-95, after the Geo Wash Br/Lincoln Tunnel split, but before the actual Geo Wash Br
Al catches me trying to take his picture and smiles. "Why are you smiling?" I ask. "I'm trying to get a photo of you looking defeated, exhausted, and annoyed at being stuck in traffic!" At this point the ridiculous backup we've been stuck in for about 30 minutes starts to seem funny. At the same time, it's so disheartening—so not what we had in mind—that we consider turning around. The only thing that's really stopping us is that traffic going the other way is just as bad.

  40 min upper/60 min lower: George Washington Bridge

12:56:20 ~ Still not to the bridge yet
Is this a good sign or a bad sign? Should we be encouraged that it's only going to take us 40 minutes to get over the bridge, or discouraged that holy freaking cow, it's going to take us 40 minutes to go about 5 miles?! Incidentally, it was pretty smooth sailing for us once the EZPass lane opened up on the left... about 5 feet before the actual toll booth.

OK, at this point, for some reason, I stopped taking photos for several hours. Maybe it ceased to be funny when we finally made it off the Cross-Bronx Expressway and over the line into Connecticut... only to be stuck again in stop and go traffic. The Beaner fell asleep at about this time, confounding Al's plans to have him sleep on the way home, and making us worry that even if we got there soon, we'd still be stuck driving around in an attempt to get him at least an hourlong nap. (What we didn't know at this point as that it was going to take us another hour to reach our destination anyway.) My theories about stupid Yankee fans were blown to hell (the first pitch of the game happened while we were on the bridge), and instead I started cursing all the people who were just out DRIVING AROUND because it's summer. Yeah, people like us.

The most likely reason I stopped taking photos was because Al had announced that he thought we should just get a room and spend the night. This announcement took much of the pressure to GET THERE off us, and so I think it didn't occur to me to document the crawl any longer. Instead of thinking about photos, we turned our minds to other topics: Was there anything we needed that couldn't be bought at a drugstore or mall? (Yes, some medications, but I determined that I could go a few extra hours without them.) And, more importantly, how were we going to find a hotel? We had no AAA Tourbooks, no laptops, and no Blackberry with us. (Funny that it's only occurring to me now that we could have stopped somewhere and asked for a Yellow Pages. :) I knew that there were some hotels in Norwalk because [a] I'd stayed in one for about a week in 1995 when I took a job in Westport before finding a place to live, and [b] I'd considered overnighting there on our way back from Maine last month (we ended up staying near my friend Sandy in Mass. instead). However, I couldn't remember where the hotels were or to which chains they belonged.

Somewhere around Stamford I asked Al if he'd be at all interested in seeing where I used to live in South Norwalk. I also mentioned that if he was up for it, I'd like to see if Sunshine Pizza was still just over the bridge on Washington Street. He said sure, and I instructed my bladder to hold on just a little longer. Now this is where I should really have gotten out the camera, but in my defense, I had a full bladder, dammit, and it was making me stupid. I neglected to take ANY photos of Washington Street, which looks as it did when I lived there, only a bit more vibrant, and with almost none of the same businesses in residence; nor did I take any photos of the river, with its cool drawbridge and colorful boat traffic; nor did I take any photos of the humongous new condo building that's going up behind what was, in 1995, the newly-converted-to-loft-apartments Corset Factory, where I lived for the first six months of 1996. I didn't take any photos of the Corset Factory itself (though I did point out the seven 7-foot windows that bounded my corner apartment), and I didn't take any of the place where Sunshine Pizza used to be (but where it is no longer, apparently; either that, or my memory is faulty).

Since lunch at Sunshine Pizza was now out, we continued on to Stew Leonard's, arriving around 3:30pm. Had we not stopped to tour South Norwalk (without getting out of the car, mind you), we might have made it to Stew's in just over 5 hours. Woo hoo! Only 2 hours and a few minutes behind schedule! The Beaner was still sleeping, so I just ran in to Stew's to pee, though on the way out I had the brillant idea to check near the exit for brochures for local attractions. I hit on something better: A free tourist map of the area, which not only had ads for local hotels, but also marked their locations on the map. By the time I returned to the car with the map, the Beaner was awake and cranky, so I had a bizarre conversation with the reservationist at the Hilton Garden Inn over which phone number might be associated with my HHonors account (it turned out to be my old Macromedia # from 1997-2003) while the Beaner screamed in the background. Reservation secured, we went back into Stew's to buy the coffee we'd come for, plus a few snacks.

Next stop: The hotel. On our way there, we noted the location of a couple drugstores where we could pick up supplies after checking in... and we also noticed that Norwalk seemed to have more than its fair share of places named for their owners. I remarked to Al that we should get some photos of said places on our way out of town the next morning. We then found the hotel (it was in the same area as the one I'd stayed in 11 years ago, though every hotel in the strip seemed relatively new), checked in, spent $62.90 at the CVS (luckily, it was all stuff we can totally use at home, too, like diapers and toothpaste and moisturizer), and then headed for the mall that our checkout lady at Stew's had recommended. Al and I each bought something to sleep in (the Beaner would sleep in the extra t-shirt I packed for him and then wear it the next day), and then we went back to the hotel and gave the Boopster a bath. Yep, I know—you totally envy us our lives of excitement and adventure.

the Beaner in the closet

20:23:57 ~ Hilton Garden Inn, Norwalk, CT
The hotel had a pool, but CVS had no swim diapers in the Beaner's size. No matter: he prefers playing in hotel room closets anyway.

fuzzy-headed boops

07:50:21 ~ Hilton Garden Inn, Norwalk, CT
Jeez, when did he get so BIG? Al and I were up before the Beaner, who slept soundly until after 7am. He woke up cheerful and tousle-haired.

breakfast of grapes

07:50:33 ~ Hilton Garden Inn, Norwalk, CT
Yay, grapes! The Beaner appreciates hotel-room picnics as much as we do.

Al's liquors

08:21:44 ~ Parking lot of Hilton Garden Inn, Norwalk, CT
Our first business named after its owner. I took this one out the driver's side window while at a full stop. Al took the remaining photos as we drove down route 123.

Bob's stores

08:25:01 ~ Route 123, Norwalk CT
BOB'S STORES. I think there's only one here, though.

Jerry's Artarama

08:25:09 ~ Route 123, Norwalk, CT
Al's quick (and almost indescriminate) with the shutter button. You have to be around here, or you might miss another name. Hiding behind the Panda Pavillion II is Jerry's Artarama.

Al's hobbies

08:25:31 ~ Route 123, Norwalk, CT
Apparently beer, wine, and liquor aren't Al's only interests.

Pasquale's Osteria

08:28:19 ~ Intersection of Routes 123 & 7, Norwalk, CT
Al curses the camera for not focusing fast enough. In the camera's defense, it was working under adverse conditions (namely, a moving car, a curved back window, early morning glare, and a trigger-happy operator). The object of this photo was Pasquale's Osteria, just to the right of the old chap taking his morning walk.

Tucker's cafe

08:28:27 ~ Route 123, Norwalk, CT
Tucker's Cafe out the driver's side window. Who had this stupid idea of taking photos of businesses named after their owners?

Bruno's barber shop

08:28:31 ~ Route 123, Norwalk, CT
Bruno's Barber Shop (and my head).

Stew Leonard's

08:30:37 ~ Route 1, Norwalk, CT
Stew Leonard's, the reason for the trip. We made one more stop for extra bagels, salmon cream cheese, and fried scallops before turning for home.

The return trip took the expected 2 hours 45 minutes (or would have had we not detoured to the King of Prussia Mall to pick up some pants at Nordstrom and a chair at the Crate and Barrel). Traffic was brutal on I-76 East, so we took Ridge Pike back home. Sadly, the camera was now buried under a mound of crap, and we couldn't dig it out fast enough to get any photos of the weird and/or interesting signs along Ridge Pike (like the billboard ad for a funeral home that showed a kid selling high-speed internet access for $.25 at a former lemonade stand and that said something about times changing... an example being that the funeral home had moved 7 miles down the road; and the bus stop bench that had a giant banner on it that said YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL). So I guess this entire boring story and its accompanying boring photos are by way of saying what I said to Al when he lamented that the Beaner wouldn't get to go swimming in the hotel pool: "Well, it's not like this is a real vacation or anything. It's just an errand that took too long."

Posted by Lori at 9:43 AM | Permalink
August 25, 2006

Letter O

Here it is, my first attempt in years (seriously, like 10 years) to create multimedia. I used my cell phone to record a voice memo of the Beaner watching Prairie Dawn introduce the Letter of the Day to Cookie Monster (CM: "Mmmm, cookie!" PD: "No, that is not a cookie, it's the letter of the day." CM: "But that look like cookie." PD: "Well, yes, yes it does." Prim Prairie Dawn is one of my favorite characters. :), and then I [a] e-mailed it to myself, [b] imported it into iMovie HD, [c] added titles so you'd know what the heck the Beaner was saying, and [d] exported it for the web. God knows if anyone will actually be able to see it.

Posted by Lori at 9:46 PM
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August 30, 2006

Here and There

The Beaner turns 21 months old today, and there WILL be an update later. I'm throwing down the gauntlet right now and declaring that I will not go to bed without posting one. (That's some incentive, because I seem to running on a sleep deficit that rivals the early days of parenthood. Well, maybe not THAT bad, but boy, is my ass dragging.)

In the meantime, you might want to check out a restaurant review I posted at PhillyMoms Dish, a new blog for parents raising kids in the City of Brotherly Love. (Yes, it's true, you can stay in the city after having kids!) I hope to be posting (or cross-posting) there fairly regularly on topics that would fit into both the parenthood and philadelphia categories here.

Oh, and geotagging? SO ADDICTIVE. Must. Stop. Now. (or else no work will get done today, and work must get done in order to allow time for blogging.)

Posted by Lori at 9:51 AM | Permalink
August 30, 2006

Month 21: Repeat After Me

Even if I hadn't skipped the 20 month update, there'd be a lot to write about this month. It hardly seems like the first week of August and the last have anything in common development-wise; if I'd written this update two weeks ago, everything would have been different. When we started this month, for example, the Beaner was still calling milk "mama". Now he says something that sounds more like the Swedish word for milk than the English one, but it's very clear that he's saying "milk" even when there's no milk nearby to help you guess from the context.

mama is his word for milk

Context is still pretty important in most cases; though he knows how to say "water", he prefers to call it "li'lo"—a word that's extremely similar to his words for stroller and Toyota. Sometimes it's necessary to scan the block for Toyotas, ask him if he's thirsty, and determine whether he's complaining that he'd rather be in the black stroller than the blue one in quick succession. Similarly, "momo" could mean BMW (he'll repeat the letters when we say them), watermelon, banana, or more. Meanwhile, he seems to be adding 5-10 new words a day to the mix, and not all of them are particularly clear. Most of the time we know what he's saying because he's repeating what we've just said—"umbrella", "cottage cheese", "time for dinner"—but sometimes he waits until hours or days later to spout a word he's heard us say back at us. The other night he climbed all over the bed intoning, "ben one, ben one, ben one", and I had to tell him that I had no idea what "ben one" was. He seemed rather put out by this; his face twisted into a grimace of consternation. It was only two nights later that I realized he'd been looking for the stuffed penguin that usually sits atop our headboard (he grabbed it and cheered, "yay! ben one!").

20 months

We're getting a few previews of the Terrible Twos around here; the tantrums can be loud, lusty, and long, and there've definitely been times where I lost it and started crying, too. Most of the time we're able to switch to Ignore mode, though, and he gets over whatever pissed him off on his own. Sometimes he even gets over it before he really gets started. Instead of throwing himself on the floor when he wants to have a fit, he has this hilarious habit of lying down ever so carefully and then positioning his legs just so for ease of kicking. By the time he gets all situated, he realizes he has everyone's bemused attention (he's fond of using the lie-down technique in public places), and he sort of kicks half-heartedly while gracing us all with an evil grin. I feel like his straight man when I announce loudly, "oh, are you going to tantrum now? OK, then, be careful you don't bump your head."

aaahhh! pushing buttons
and more lettuce head TWO steering wheels
Top: Terrorizing fellow diners at Friendly's; learning about animation at the Franklin Institute.
Bottom: Wearing his Whole Foods lettuce hat; using both steering wheels at Home Depot.

The fact that we're approaching two years old also has its upsides: in addition to the increased vocabulary, there's also more to do. He can run (the other night he ran all the way home—in a series of 50-yard dashes—from the Barnes and Noble on Rittenhouse Square), he's learning how to jump (he hasn't quite got the action of bending his knees and lifting both feet at once; instead he either scissor-leaps, or he free-falls with both legs together like he's participating in a trust exercise), and he's also learning how to drive (well, steer). And though he hasn't quite outgrown the Please Touch Museum yet, he's just as interested in the science exhibits at the Franklin Institute.

We learned last month that there are a few things he actively dislikes (and that totally freak him out), like the creepy Humpty Dumpty that appeared in a Sesame Street segment one morning, and anything else with a smile that seems overly large, fake, and slightly predatory, but for the most part he's pretty fearless at this stage. He can go up or down two flights of stairs without assistance (and he often does; I pretty much let him wander around the house as he pleases and only follow after he's had a few minutes on his own). He regularly climbs onto couches, chairs, stepstools, and ladders, too.

climbing up he actually climbed the ladder himself
Al's actually trying to get him to come down, not helping him up.
Believe it or not, he climbed all of those rungs himself.

As I write this I'm realizing all the ways the Beaner is like a sponge these days, and it's impossible to chronicle them all. The other problem (compounded by the fact that I skipped last month's entry) is that his skills are getting so deep and multilayered now it's hard to tell exactly when something started. We've been, consciously or unconsciously, showing him how to do things for months; when he noticed the patterns, and when he started repeating them, isn't always easy to distinguish. It's also true that he often makes a huge leap forward and then reverts to his old behavior for days or weeks before repeating the new behavior again. I intend to press on, however, and cover a few more anecdotes and milestones before I post and go to sleep.

foodie watching elmo
The Beaner's two favorite activities: reading and watching Sesame Street

Last night after bathtime, we were watching Sesame Street while lying on our bed as we normally do. Al laid down next to us and started talking to me about our budget and finances, and he and I started having a pretty serious discussion. Prairie Dawn and Cookie Monster were shrieking at each other about cookies in the background, and it all got a bit too noisy for me—I felt like Al and I had to shout at each other to be heard, and I didn't want the shouting to accidentally turn into a fight, so I grabbed the TiVo remote and hit the pause button so Al and I could try to keep a conversation about a touchy subject (for me, anyway) calm and reasonable. I only got about two words into my next sentence before the Beaner had retrieved the remote and resumed playing Sesame Street. We stopped our conversation for a moment, congratulated him for navigating the complex TiVo remote correctly, and then just turned the volume down.

vroooom

Last month the Beaner inherited a push trike from his cousin Henry, but he wasn't interested in riding it until recently. I'm not sure whether he's just more interested in wheeled things now, or whether he likes the idea of steering (though, thankfully, the front wheel locks, so it only requires minor adjustments to keep him moving forward without crashing), or whether he wants to show that he's a Big Boy, but he now enjoys taking the bike with us occasionally when we go on evening walks. He has a word for it that we understand as "bicycle" (he uses the same word when pointing at Hannah's bike, for example), but I'm not sure I could spell it phonetically right now. Too tired.

sweetie pie eye

Speaking of wheeled things, the Beaner has learned to recognize a bunch of new car models since I last wrote about his auto obsession, including Hyundai, Kia, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Mini ("mi-mee"), Lexus, GMC ("abc"), Subaru, and probably a few others I'm not remembering now. Al taught him to call a Mercedes a "benz" (easier to say than Mercedes), and he now refers to Mitsubishis by their full names rather than by "mitsu" or "bishi". Oh, and he calls Volkswagens "VW" instead of just "W"... though I fear we may have been too insistent on correcting him there: He now says "VW" for every letter W he sees. At first I thought the proximity of V and W in the alphabet might be confusing him, but he proved me wrong when my favorite Seattle alphabet segment came on Sesame Street, and he repeated the letters as T! U! V! VW! X! Y! Z! We're still working on separating V and W for him; I think the fact that W also appears in BMW with no V sound in sight is helping.

pointing out cars
Pointing out cars on 21st Street

The Beaner isn't just into cars and letters, by the way: He also loves to count. He pulled on the doors of the Please Touch Museum when we passed by on a family walk one night, and I said, "they closed at 4:30, honey, and it's 7." The Beaner responded, "8! 9! 10!" He does this pretty much any time a number comes up in conversation these days—he'll give the next three or four numbers after the one you mentioned, and then say "ah, ah, ah!" in a Transylvanian accent. It's pretty cute when he says "one Volvo! Two Volvos! Ah, ah, ah!" I think the modifying with numbers has helped him learn to modify with other adjectives as well; for example, he now identifies the black stroller (his favorite), says he wants a juicy peach, points out orange taxis, differentiates between the green watering can and the orange one, and knows that mangos and watermelon make him sticky. I guess most of his adjectives are colors ("purple Jeep! red Jeep! black Jeep!") or numbers, but he seems to delight in learning new ones like juicy, sticky, crunchy, and messy.

Oh, and one last thing: He knows his name now. Al told me he'd said it out loud a couple times this week, but today I heard it for myself. He pointed to me and said, "Mommy" (something he started calling me yesterday, in addition to the usual "Mom" or "Ma"), and then he pointed to Hannah and said, "Ann-nah", and then he pointed to himself and said, "Awh-toon".

picture smile
The Beaner inherited his picture smile from Al.

Posted by Lori at 11:30 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
September 9, 2006

My Turn

I know I haven't blogged since a week ago Friday; consequently, I have a bunch of stuff I want to talk about clogging up my brain... and keeping me from blogging. (Funny how that works.) Since I'm writing from the car on Al's Blackberry, I'll probably limit my remarks to what happened most recently—which also happens to be the cure for blogclog writer's block (i.e., start from where you are, not from the beginning).

We are traveling to State College, PA this weekend, and last night we stayed at a Homewood Suites in Mechanicsburg. The room smelled like there was a dead body stashed under the couch (I am NOT exaggerating!), but otherwise, it was OK. The Beaner spent all but 5 minutes of our time in Mechanicsburg (ok, now I'm exaggerating) whining "my turn! my turn! my turn!" and occasionally bursting into tears. We couldn't figure out why he was trying to pull the suitcases off the luggage cart as he yelled "my turn!"... until we passed an empty luggage cart in the hallway, and he climbed up on it and yelled "MY TURN!" triumphantly. Yep, he wanted a ride.

Posted by Lori at 11:12 AM
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September 11, 2006

For Josie: Further Proof That It's Not All Bad

This audio clip should require no captions. It's enough to know that the name of the file is "giggleboy".

giggleboy

Posted by Lori at 8:49 PM
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September 12, 2006

Letters and Numbers

Today's adventures in audio include the Beaner singing the alphabet song with me and following my lead as I count to ten, and the Beaner and I pretending to talk to each other on the phone. That's how I ended up getting a pretty good recording of his speech: I started out by trying to record him chatting on the hotel phone (he picked it up and started gabbling away while we were in the sitting area of the hotel suite), but when he saw me approach with my cell phone held out, he hung up the hotel phone and reached for the cell. He motioned for me to pick up the hotel phone, and we pretended to have a conversation—while the cell phone was still recording. He was talking directly into the mouthpiece, which is more than I could have hoped for. The alphabet is the second conversation. (The photos were taken at home, last night.)

chatting on mommy's cell phone

chatting on mommy's cell phone

Posted by Lori at 11:49 AM | Permalink
September 14, 2006

What's Going On

I have a little list of things I've been wanting to write about, but which I haven't had time to address as of yet (and yes, I'm still behind on my e-mail—if I owe you one, hopefully you'll hear from me soon). Part of the problem—which isn't really a problem at all, given that usually we're homebodies who don't do much of anything—is that we're too busy DOING THINGS and HAVING FUN for me to keep up with, well, writing about the things we're doing.

Some of the things on my list:

  • This one I don't need more than a bullet point to write about: I've been considering moving my about town and about town II photoblogs to Flickr for a long time because it's getting to be too much of a pain to edit and post the photos separately. (Consequently, the photosteams on the avocado8 home page—and the blogs themselves—are hopelessly out of date.) The only thing that's been holding me back is the thought of trying to find all the originals on backup CDs so I can upload those, rather than the medium-sized versions I've posted to the blogs. Now that Flickr has geotagging, though, I've finally decided to just bite the bullet, upload the medium-sized images, and move forward. I started the process yesterday and have uploaded about 20-30 photos from about town II (Philadelphia); obviously there are a TON more to get through, and I haven't done the geotagging yet, but eventually Flickr sets will replace the two about town blogs. (And if you're wondering why my photostream suddenly has a bunch of photos from 2003 in it, now you know.)
  • Running toward the street. This is something I want to write about for PhillyMoms, but I'll probably cross-post it here. It's about how I've been acutely aware lately that we are raising a kid in the city.
  • College towns: favorite haunts After our trip to State College (home of Penn State) last weekend, I've had college towns on the brain. Hopefully I'll get a chance to share my thoughts (and ask you to share yours, too)!
  • Labor Day Weekend Yes, I'm aware that this happened almost three weeks ago now, but it sort of epitomized the busy-ness we're experiencing around here. On Friday Al, the Beaner, and I drove down to my parents' house in Westminster, MD so they could see and play with the Beaner, and I could ride with them up to Rochester, NY, for my Aunt Anna's 90th birthday open house on Saturday. Mom, Dad, and I left at 5:30am on Saturday, and Al and the Beaner drove back to Philadelphia a few hours later. Mom and Dad dropped me off in Philly on Sunday afternoon, about an hour before Al's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew arrived. We went to the Franklin Institute on Sunday afternoon, and Al and Carl played golf on Monday morning while Tris, Henry, the Beaner, and I went to Schuylkill River playground (something else I want to write about for PhillyMoms—the playground has been renovated) and picked up lunch. All in all, a crazy, wonderful weekend.
  • And finally, we freecycled the high chair last week. The Beaner will still sit in high chairs in restaurants (occasionally), but he'd long ago started stiffening when we tried to force him into the one at home. He now eats at his little table for breakfast and lunch, and he sits in a regular chair at the dining room table when we eat dinner together. We looked for a booster seat a couple months ago, but we never found one we liked, and he seems happy to just sit in the chair, so that's the routine now.
  • Oh, right, one more thing: Our morning routine has changed AGAIN. For a while there the Beaner was waking up between 6am and 7am and snuggling in bed with us until Al was ready to get up (often until I returned from my morning walk), but this week he's started demanding that Al get up and take him downstairs after only a few minutes of snuggling. In other words, we've returned to the routine of a few months ago. We're also experimenting with naps (no nap at all / changing the time / waking him up after an hour) and bedtimes to try to come up with a magic formula that will get him to go down quickly and sleep past 7am. Oh, how much better our mornings are when he sleeps past 7am!
Posted by Lori at 11:37 AM
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September 16, 2006

List of Demands

This morning when I heard The Beaner howl, I poked Al, as I normally do, and mumbled, "he's up." Al responded with dreadful news: "It's 1:30."

Now, normally if The Beaner wakes screaming in the middle of the night, we let him cry it out. Occasionally, if it sounds like he's screaming BLOODY MURDER and the entire earth might split in two, one of us (Al) will go up and see if he's OK, and maybe even bring him down to sleep with us. The middle-of-the night screaming bouts are rare, however, and the ones that end up with him sleeping with us even rarer. I fully expected The Beaner to go back to sleep on his own.

That's when the screams turned into a list of demands, delivered while crying.

"Mommy!"
"Daddy!"
"Mommy, up!"
"Mommy, up!"
"Daddy!"
"Daddy, gooooo dooooowwwwwn staaaaairs!"
"Gooooo dooooowwwwwn staaaaairs!"
"Wal-KING!"
"Wal-KING!"
"WAAAAL-KING!"

For pete's sake, kid, be reasonable. And also? Start smaller. You could have stuck with just "Mommy!" and "Daddy!" for your first time yelling actual words from behind the closed door of your upstairs bedroom, and you would have broken our hearts. The demand to go for a walk was just over the top.

Posted by Lori at 9:18 PM
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September 19, 2006

Heath Hubris

Whatever could have possessed me to brag to my allergist that I hadn't used my rescue inhaler more than twice since I'd last seen him (3 months before), and that I'd stopped taking the Advair entirely—especially on the eve of the fall allergy season? Not two days after that visit, I started having trouble breathing, even though I followed his suggestion to start up the Advair again. Al thought it might be *because* of the Advair, which seemed a plausible theory, though it could just as easily have been the huge stalks of ragweed growing in our vegetable pots on the back deck.

About two weeks ago I caught a cold, and that's when the difficulty breathing *really* set in. The cold's mostly cleared up now, and my bronchi have finally loosened their grip on the clear goo they excreted in a panic during the first few days of the malady, but of course that means I still have to cough the shit out. And cough I have. The last two mornings I've been awakened by tight-chested coughing and wheezing fits that have had me fumbling in my nightstand for my inhaler just so I can breathe deeply enough to go back to sleep.

I love fall—it's definitely my favorite season—but this asthma and allergy stuff totally sucks. I hate being on medication, I hate being sick, and most of all, I hate the feeling that I am drowning or being strangled or sat upon. God, I hope The Beaner doesn't inherit my asthma. He started showing signs of seasonal allergies about a year ago (despite the fact that our pediatrician says that he's too young for them), and he's been rubbing his eyes and sneezing for a couple weeks now (though he doesn't have a cold). Please, please don't let him be doomed to twice-yearly guaranteed bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia. I promise I'll be good next time, and not brag about my ability to take a deep, medication-free breath.

Posted by Lori at 10:37 AM | Permalink
September 21, 2006

On Protecting The Beaner's Privacy

I have become very conscious lately that The Beaner is growing up and becoming a real person, a person who deserves privacy. Something Heather Armstrong said at a BlogHer panel on this subject really struck me, and I've been mulling it over ever since. She said, in reply to a question about whether she worried about her daughter hating her later, when Leta realized how much of her life was on the Internet, "I've already begun censoring what I say about Leta in order to protect her privacy. For the first two years, her story was the same as every other baby's, so I didn't feel like I was invading her privacy by sharing it." [Although I used quotes here, this is a paraphrase; it looks like the podcast for the session hasn't been posted yet, but I would have been too lazy to download and listen to get the words exactly right anyway. It's the gist I'm concerned with.] This quote struck me for two reasons:

1. I'd never thought about it before, but she's absolutely right: for the first two years, every baby's story is essentially the same. There are variations, obviously, but the developmental milestones and parental angst are pretty universal—and it's this universality that probably makes reading other parents' blogs so enjoyable for me. The majority of my blogroll is made up of blogs that make me feel like I'm not the only one out there feeling the way I'm feeling or doing the things I'm doing, that I am not alone.

2. I've been worrying and waffling over The Beaner's privacy since a couple days after he was born. At first I refused to post photos of him on Flickr, because it seemed too public (I had a password-protected site for family that I used for the first six months or so), even though I knew Flickr had privacy controls. (I didn't use them mainly because my family members aren't particularly Internet-savvy, and having them set up accounts anywhere is still pretty painful.) I wasn't sure how much of our experiences to share, which is probably surprising, given how much I *have* shared. (Believe it or not, there are still many things that have gone unsaid.) And now that The Beaner's approaching age two and making it more and more obvious that he is going to remember what we say about him now, I worry even more that I will embarrass him, open him up to ridicule, or make him a target of an unsavory admirer (a much more remote but very scary possibility).

So basically, I've been struggling with the privacy issue all along, even during the universal parts. It's why I started writing milestones in a little book in my nightstand several months ago—so I'd have a place to record them that wasn't public. Some of what's in that book eventually makes it into this blog, but most doesn't. Last night I ran for that little book moments after a major milestone occurred because I wanted to make sure I recorded it... and as much as I wanted to record it here, where I usually take the time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it, and where I know some of my close friends and faithful readers will be just as excited about it as I was, I'm just not sure it's something The Beaner would want me to share. If I see you in person, I'll tell you then.

What I will say here is that The Beaner has started to speak in short (but complete) sentences. Yesterday Al and The Beaner surprised me at the Starbucks while I was out on my morning walk, and Al went on from there to work and The Beaner walked home with me. After Al left us and before I totally melted town from having to carry a coffee, a bag of bread, and The Beaner's milk while trying to hurry him along so we could make it to the house before Hannah did, The Beaner said very clearly, "I want Daddy." He's also started saying, "Go walking and looking for Bobs [Saabs]", among other things. I hope the pediatrician is suitably impressed when we go in for our last well-baby visit for a while tomorrow. (We were supposed to go in July, but we missed that appointment due to a scheduling error on the office's part.) She hasn't seen him since April, and I think she's going to be pretty surprised by how much he's grown and how much more verbal he is now. Then again, she probably won't; if our experiences are as universal as Heather suggested, she's seen it all before.

Posted by Lori at 10:34 AM
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September 26, 2006

Apple Picking!

We've been shouting "APPLE PICKING!" at each other for about a week and a half now. At first it was in anticipation of the event—the first of two we hope to complete this season—which was scheduled for this past Saturday in Stow, MA. Ever since we got back, it's been to remind ourselves what a great time we had, and how many wonderful apples are taking up all the space in our fridge. (By the way, The Beaner learned "apple picking" right away, and he repeats it as often as we do.)

We met my friend Suzanne (from junior high!) and her family at Honey-Pot Hill, where we were amazed to find that the rain had not deterred at least 50 other families from picking apples or going on hayrides. I think if I'd not been away from Massachusetts for so long, or if we hadn't been the only ones picking in a downpour in Pennsylvania last year, I wouldn't have been so surprised. Apple picking is just one of the things you do in the fall in New England; it's as normal and expected as raking leaves or trick or treating.

Suzanne and I hadn't seen each other in over 20 years (though we have corresponded on paper and via e-mail occasionally in that time), so it was really fun to get together. She looked so fabulous, and she was was just as warm and real and fun to be around as I remembered. The Beaner and Suzanne and Tom's son G had an absolute ball chasing each other around the trees while munching apples and feeding the goats near the farm store. I would have taken more photos, but I was busy chatting up a storm (and probably boring Suzanne and Tom to death) and occasionally filling our 20lb. bag with Empires, Macintoshes, Cortlands, and Liberties. We'll probably be eating apples and making applesauce right up 'til Fuji season in late October, when we hope to make another trip to Weaver's with our friends the Otts. Yay, apple picking!

follow the leader
click the photo to launch a slide show of PYO goodness!

Posted by Lori at 9:59 PM
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October 1, 2006

22 Months

The Beaner turned 22 months old yesterday. Honestly, he feels so much like he's two already that by the time his actual birthday rolls around, it'll probably be greeted with a shrug. He's still pointing out cars like he's on a mission, and he's describing them in more detail ("gray Mini, blue Mini. Two Minis!", "wet Lolota, wet Baab, wet Mitsubishi. It's raining!", "oh Mommy, look, anunna VW!"). He asks to "go walking and looking more Baabs, more Jeeps" on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis. He tells us what he wants to eat ("more pee-each [two syllables]"), what he wants to wear ("no blue jekit, unge jekit!"), when his shoes are untied (I've noticed that he checks them regularly, and he reports "tie shoes on!" when a lace becomes loose), and who the people in his family are ("Mommy, Aw-ten, Daddy").

after dinner again! again!

He's still huge, and growing more so; we took him to the pediatrician last Friday before we went apple picking, and he weighed in at 30 lbs. 12 oz. (slightly over the over/under of 30.5 lbs.) and measured 2' 10.37" (almost 34.5"). The doctor reported that this put him in the 75th percentile for height and the 90th for weight, but when I went to the CDC website to verify that she didn't have the numbers flipped, it looked to me like he's in the 50th percentile for height and the 75th for weight. Either way, he's solid for his height. I asked the doctor if we should change what we feed him, and she said no, he's doing great. This makes sense, I guess; he's still within normal limits all the way around, he's healthy, and he's very active. He watches a good deal of Sesame Street, but he's hardly a couch potato—with Hannah as a nanny, how could he be?

woo hoo!

Speaking of Hannah, she'll be going part time with us starting this week, and The Beaner will be going to M's house for sharecare two days a week. We'll lose Hannah for good at the end of December, which, although not a surprising development, considering that we assumed when we hired her full-time back in January that she'd want to go back to school in September, is nonetheless a sad one. I'm both sad that The Beaner will be losing Hannah's company, energy, enthusiasm—in short, everything she brings to the door every morning at 9am—and sad that we'll need to find a new nanny. That's never easy to do, and it's especially difficult for someone like me who doesn't have much interest in meeting new people. My first reaction when we learned of Hannah's plans was to think, "oh, no, I'll never be able to find another nanny, and I'll have to quit my job." Then, of course, I realized how stupid I was being. One thing I should be clear about, if nothing else: I can no longer cut it as a stay-at-home mom, so quitting my job to watch The Beaner is simply not an option. (Plus, I love my job.) So we are now officially looking for a new nanny. The good news is that we have until January to find one, with some flexibility to hire someone sooner if the right person comes along; and we also have the option of hiring someone for three days a week (for example, a grad student who only has classes two days a week), since the sharecare arrangement should be available to us through July. I know we're incredibly lucky to be in this position, with an awesome sharecare *and* an awesome nanny, but I'm already mourning the impending loss of Hannah.

sharing the canvas intent on his art

OK, I'll stop wallowing and return to the well-baby visit to the doctor. She was suitably impressed by his language development ("it definitely looks like he has at least 8 words!" — and The Beaner was even being rather shy, so she didn't get to hear "painting", "shopping", "apple picking", "football", "running", "stop sign", "funny", or "scone"). The only real questions we had were when we should take him to the dentist (at one year, or whenever he gets teeth, so we're way behind there), and whether he'll need an eye exam (Al had a lazy eye as a child, so he's a little worried about it happening to The Beaner. Beanboy's eyesight seems really strong, though, so I'm less concerned). We'll go back for a flu shot in a couple weeks, and then we won't see the doctor again for about 6 months.

We talked at our last visit about all the ways he's been testing us, so we didn't bring it up again. These days he's doing things he KNOWS he's not supposed to do so often that we're starting to run out of ways to express our disappointment (and to disguise our annoyance). Al calls the stage we've entered the Testing Twos, and I think he's about right . The Beaner's certainly testing the limits of our patience (and probably our love); I'd say he's finding that I have no patience whatsoever, Al has quite a bit more, and that there's almost nothing he can do that will make us stay mad at him for very long. (So far my limit of being angry is about 2 hours.) I think the thing that's most annoying is when we yell "NO!" and "STOP!", and then he mimicks us, yelling "stop!" and laughing. It seems we have very little authority and even less credibility as parents. We are firmly in the "nip it in the bud" camp, though, so we plan to persist. We're going to have a well-behaved child if it kills us. (Hopefully it won't, because we want to live long enough to see this beautiful child grow up.)

by the front door

Posted by Lori at 7:09 PM
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October 12, 2006

A Weekend in Napa

Al, The Beaner, and I had a lovely weekend in California... and I'm still a bit heart-heavy about it. Truly, we had a wonderful, wonderful time: We got to see friends we don't see often, The Beaner got to play with new friends P and S, the weather was wonderful, my dress worked out great, The Beaner was more talkative than ever and used several new phrases, we got to eat great food, a good friend finally met and married the perfect woman for him, the plane rides went smoothly, and we all enjoyed each other's company immensely. The problem is, I'm now homesick.

I love our life here in Philadelphia. We have a GREAT house, a great neighborhood, two wonderful nannies, a city lifestyle, excellent working conditions, and we're living within our means. But oh, how I miss the Bay Area. I was suprised to find that my nostalgia and heartache were greatest when we were on the Peninsula, in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. I've always preferred the city, and when we lived in Mountain View I needed to go house-hunting in Palo Alto and San Francisco to cheer me up, to give me hope that we'd move out of the suburbs and into a college-town-near-a-big-city or into the big city itself. But here I was in the south-Peninsula 'burbs, feeling homesick. I knew the streets so well, I felt like we were just out running errands, and we'd be returning to Whitney Drive any moment.

I'm sure I'll get over it once I've been back here in Philadelphia for a few days, and I've had time to consider what a move back to the Bay Area would cost us (at least double what we paid for this house, for one thing). In the meantime, allow me to review some of my favorite things about this past weekend:

Spending time with my husband on our wedding anniversary (it was 4 years on 10.06.06). To celebrate, we staged a re-creation of our wedding night by having a picnic dinner in a hotel room. This time the food was from the Oakville Grocery in St. Helena (I highly recommend the tamales and the orzo pasta salad) instead of from our wedding buffet, and I refrained from eating any cake (Al got a cookie); also, the Beaner was around to join us, so we were three instead of two. Somehow, that made it even more fun.

grapes oakville grocery, st. helena
picnic at the Best Western in Napaal eating a tortilla chip

The wedding, seeing Craig & Nico and Tony & Maria, and meeting P. It was so lovely to be among friends, to see Ken & Corinne get married, and for The Beaner to find a playmate (he really, really enjoyed hanging out with P and has been talking about him since we returned). There's a funny story about how The Beaner went looking for P while repeating the phrase "P____ new diaper" over and over with various inflections, but it really needs to be told out loud. Suffice to say that when The Beaner denies that he needs a diaper change, all we need to do to get him to submit is remind him that P got a new diaper. "P____ new diaper?" he'll say. "[Beaner] new diaper!"

chatting with craig lunch @ Taylor's Refresher
corinne & ken after the ceremony nico & craig P peering over Maria's shoulder
see the whole wedding set as a slideshow

Grapes! There was something so pleasant about driving by row upon row of grape vines. Everywhere, there were grapes—including at the wedding, which was held at a small organic vineyard. The Beaner and P helped themselves, which made for another of my favorite moments.

see, you just grab and pull exactly!

more grape pilfering rosy cheeks and purple fingers

Fred reaching into the pool to retrieve The Beaner's toy Saab and coming up with his face dripping water. I really wish I'd gotten a photo of this, but I was so in awe of Fred's gallantry that I didn't reach for the camera. (This incident happened between the wedding ceremony and the reception, when we were all having cocktails around the pool. I'd been a bit paranoid that The Beaner or P would fall in, but in the end it was only the Saab—and Fred—that got wet.)

Hearing The Beaner say "excuse me." We've been trying to teach The Beaner to say "excuse me" when he wants someone to move and when he wants to interrupt a conversation, and although he's repeated the words back to us, he's never seemed to understand when it was appropriate to use them. We were in a cool downtown Napa toy store when he finally got the hang of it. We'd gone to the back of the store to play with the train tables, which were set up close to the Thomas and Brio displays (of course). The Beaner was moving around a table working the trains, and I was browsing through the Thomas paraphenalia when he suddenly needed to get by me, and couldn't. He pushed on my leg for a little bit, and I ignored him (not intentionally; it's more that because he's always hanging about my legs, I don't notice right away when he's actively trying to get my attention). Finally he said, "excuse me!", which got my attention right away. I moved, of course... and laughed delightedly.

choo choo!percy and gordon

One of the other things The Beaner said while around the train table was "Percy!", referring to the little green engine. I'm not sure whether he learned Percy's name from one of the other kids who came to play around the table (one little boy in particular named *all* the engines for me) or from a Thomas book we got for him at the bookstore recently (I think the latter's more likely, since Percy figures prominently in the story), but he said it so clearly that we couldn't help but buy him a Percy. We're suckers, I know. The day before, we'd bought him a little toy pickup truck when he correctly identified it as a Dodge.

old favorite and new acquisition I got two of 'em!

Visiting John & Kathy down in Sunnyvale. Here's were the nostalgia really kicked in, since we were driving around our old haunts on the way down as well as when we went out to dinner. Plus, talking to John & Kathy was something I could have done for days... so many interesting topics, from parenting to sports to television to finance & budgeting and tons of other things that we only managed to touch on briefly. I had this moment after talking with Kathy where I thought, "hey, maybe I could stay home with The Beaner full-time...", but then I realized, as I talked it out with Al, that it really wouldn't work for me with our current setup. If Kathy and I lived in the same neighborhood, though, I think I'd be willing to try it. She's so wonderful with S, and it's obvious he's thriving in the glow of her love and enthusiasm. I think I would, too. :) I can't wait for them to come visit us in Philly, so we can continue the conversation.

Kathy & S sweet S John & S
teeter totter

Edited to add: Visiting the BCBGMaxAzaria outlet in Napa. The dress I wore to the wedding was by BCBGMaxAzaria, and the cargo pants I got a couple months ago and love are too, so when we popped over to the Napa Premium Outlets to see if there were any kids' shops there and I spotted the BCBG store, I begged to go in for a few minutes. I left with two pairs of pants that fit incredibly well, feel like butter, and make my butt look great. Like all of BCBG's pants, they run a little long, but having to buy a new pair of boots to keep them from dragging seems like a small price to pay to make me feel like I have a normal body. Just about every other brand out there makes me feel like a mutant, while BCBG clothes feel like they were made just for me. Yay! Oh, and the Gymboree outlet turned out to be next door, so we were able to get a couple cute things for fall for The Beaner and S, too.

Posted by Lori at 3:21 PM
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October 27, 2006

3 Days

I left for MAX2006 in Las Vegas early Tuesday morning, before The Beaner woke up, and returned last night a little before midnight, long after he went to bed. While at the conference, I attended a few CSS sessions; talked to a lot of customers (something I realized I hadn't done—face-to-face, anyway—in three or four years); took lots of notes and filed a few bugs based on what I saw and heard; battled a cold, dehydration, and noxious clouds of cigarette smoke; saw the feature I've been working on get sneaked to a crowd of about 3500; danced the night (or at least the evening) away at the Palms; got to wear the new shirt I spent a fortune on (because Al convinced me that I needed one good shirt, and damned if he wasn't right—the thing fit really well and made me feel great); walked to the Bellagio to see all the Chihuly glass and to Walgreen's to buy Airborne (both walks took waaaaay longer than I'd anticipated, due to map scale being nothing like reality and sidewalks being clogged with shuffling tourists); and got to see many old friends, many of whom I didn't realize would be at the conference. (I wish I had more photos of all the old friends and cool customers I met, but I was so busy talking to them I kept forgetting to whip out the camera.)

Meanwhile, at home, The Beaner was changing. When I called from the cab to the airport yesterday, he didn't want to sing the Happy Birthday song he'd been rehearsing with Hannah all day, but he was more than happy to tell me, "I painted choochoo train!" and "Bye bye, Mommy! I love you, Mommy!"

When I went to get him from his crib this morning (at 8:02am), he felt skinnier, and longer. He was even more talkative than when I left, and his enunciation had improved. "What happened to Baab?" he asked me when I brought him downstairs. "What happened to Buick?" I said I didn't know, I'd been away. "Here ya go, mommy. It's Big Bird," he replied, handing me his Big Bird doll, perhaps as a welcome home gift.

He laughed and made little jokey references to a new book he and Hannah got at the library while I was gone (it involves sound effects, and he'd try one out and then smile slyly, waiting to see if we noticed and could identify it). He counted his shoes for me. He yelled, "yaaay! chocolate!" when I unwrapped the 88% cacao chocolate bar that Hannah got me for my birthday (she also got me a cool mug with caricatures of women authors—including Jane Austen—on it, and some decaf Kona coffee beans). He kissed me and said, "bye, Mommy" when I left at 9am for a massage, and he gave me hugs and asked to be picked up whenever I came down to the kitchen throughout the day, seemingly more to make sure that I knew he loved me than the other way around.

It's been an amazing three days. It's good to be home.

Posted by Lori at 11:59 PM
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October 30, 2006

The Beaner is 23 Months Old Today

...And hopefully there will be an update on all the cool stuff he's doing now that he wasn't doing a month ago tomorrow. There will be apple picking photos and complete sentences and singing. And possibly video, if I can figure out how to upload it.

Posted by Lori at 11:00 PM | Permalink
November 2, 2006

Halloween Roundup

Thank god for NaBloPoMo, or the Halloween update probably wouldn't be happening until next week.

So first, a bit of backstory. A couple weeks ago, Al and I happened to be at Toys 'R Us (I think we were buying a wagon to bring apple picking), and we spotted an incredibly cute Elmo costume in the Halloween section. It was labeled 6-12 months, I think, but Al tried to squeeze The Beaner into it anyway, just to see how it looked. It was obviously too short in the torso (The Beaner inherited a long torso from both me and Al), but otherwise it looked great. It became our mission to find a suit in The Beaner's size.

I checked on Amazon.com and found several suppliers of suits, but either the size was wrong, the size wasn't listed at all, or the price was astronomical ($52.99 for a toddler costume? are you kidding?). I noticed that the best-priced option was from Target, though the size wasn't listed. I tried the Target website to see if it offered more information, but I didn't see the Elmo suit listed there at all... so the next night we drove to the Target in South Philly to see if we could find one in the store. We struck out completely, but we got some cheap Kleenex as a consolation prize.

A couple days later I had a meeting-free morning, so I headed to the Target in Cherry Hill to pick up a few things (sandwich bags, baby wipes, pipe cleaners) and scout out the costume options. The Beaner was all cheerful when I walked into the garage... until he heard the car start, at which point he completely melted down. I stopped the car halfway out of the garage, and Hannah handed The Beaner to me through the driver's side window. I snuggled him and explained that I was just going to New Jersey, I wasn't leaving him forever, etc. etc., but he didn't cheer up until I asked him if he wanted to come. He nodded, and Hannah went back in the house to grab her shoes and bag. I continued pulling out of the garage, at which point Hannah returned and threatened to sell photos of me driving with my kid on my lap to the tabloids.

We arrived safely at Target 15 minutes later (The Beaner having been buckled into his carseat before we left the driveway), picked up our necessities (all except the pipe cleaners, which apparently are not as ubiquitous as they once were—to the extent that the teenage Target employee I asked about them referred me to the aisle with the Drano, and looked puzzled when I said, "no, the fuzzy wire things you use in craft projects"), and then headed back to the costume section. I did not find a zip-up Elmo suit, but I did find a furry Elmo candy pail and a sleeveless pullover with the same head as the zip-up costume we'd seen at Toys 'R Us. The pail was a huge hit with The Beaner, but the pullover... well, not so much. He cried when we tried to force it over his head, and I never did get the thing all the way on before admitting defeat and struggling to pull it back off again. "Too small!" The Beaner sobbed. "Too small!" (It was a size 3T, but it did indeed seem too small.) We bought the candy pail and the other stuff and called it a day.

On the way home from Target, Hannah and I brainstormed about other costume options. We came up with the idea of sending The Beaner out as Alphaboy, since that's one of his favorite segments on Sesame Street, and because we already have a bunch of foam letters (and numbers) that The Beaner delights in carrying around. "Letter P! Number 2! What happened to 3? Ooooooo, (V)W!" We figured Alphaboy's real costume (a hood and cape) would never fly, but that we might be able to sew, pin, or velcro letters to his shirt and pants and just call him Alphaboy.

As Halloween approached, I discovered that though Al applauded our creativity in coming up with the Alphaboy idea, he'd never really let go of the Elmo idea. When we found ourselves at the Christiana Mall in Delaware, where we'd gone to meet up with my sister, Al proposed that we check out the mall's seasonal Halloween costume store. Amazingly, only three days before Halloween, we found a zip-up Elmo suit in size 3T-4T. The Beaner only protested a little (mostly because we took his shoes off) when we tried it on him, though he began to whimper more loudly once we got him completely into it. The arms and legs were a bit too long, but the torso was just right. To me, however, the true test of whether the thing fit or not was this: "Are you going to wear this if we buy it for you?" I asked The Beaner. "No," he replied. I raised my eyebrows and looked at Al. "I still think we should get it," he said. I could kinda see his logic; agonizing over a lost costume opportunity was not what I wanted to be doing on Halloween night. I couldn't find a price on the suit, and thinking of the wide range I'd seen on Amazon, I asked what Al's threshold was. "$29.99," he replied.

The suit turned out to be $38.99, and Al still voted to get it. For me it was a bit tough to swallow, especially since I was fairly certain that The Beaner would not wear the costume willingly, but I figured what the heck: Maybe he'll want to wear it next year, or we can sell it on eBay next year, or something. And again, no moaning over lost opportunities. So I bought it.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. Al came home a bit early, and I stopped working at around 5:30 so I could set up the black light in the basement and check the lighting of the tombstones out front.

our front cemetery

When I returned from taking the photo above (which is atrociously bad; I don't think I had the anti-shake setting on), I found Al and Hannah crouched on the floor, trying to stuff a screaming Beaner into his Elmo suit. I joined the fray, helping to fit the straps around his sneakers and fight his arms into their respective holes. After a few minutes of struggling, I finally grabbed my red-faced, tear-stained, partially-fur-clad toddler and brought him up to the full-length mirror in the living room so he could see how cute he looked. Al had tried this same trick in the store when The Beaner had whined, and it did nothing to convince him of how cute he looked, so I didn't know why I thought it would work now. And of course it didn't, not least because The Beaner's eyes were shut so tightly against the horror that he couldn't see himself. Realizing that the suit wouldn't last long, I left Hannah to do the final stuffing and zipping and went to get the camera.

beaner? beaner?
elmo monster oh, the agony

After taking these photos, I scooped up The Beaner and tried to calm him down. He felt incredibly hot, so I took him outside (where it was actually not a whole lot cooler; it'd been in the low 70s during the day), and we started walking towards Coxe Park, where there's usually an informal Halloween gathering every year. He stopped crying when we got outside; we were about halfway down the block when he gave me the most pleading little look and said quietly, "no Elmo." I kissed his cheek and said, "you want to take off the Elmo suit?" He nodded and whispered, "yeah." I took him back to the house and stripped him of the suit, and Al got him a cookie from the cupboard. "Too hot," he said, referring to the Elmo suit. I looked at Al and said, "want to try Alphaboy? He's already wearing rocket-covered pajama bottoms, which seem superhero-y; I can get a t-shirt, and we can pin some letters on it." Hannah also leapt into action: "I have some extra felt from our pumpkin mask project," she said, digging in her bag. I asked her to cut out a large letter A, and went to fetch The Beaner's Red Sox t-shirt (it's navy, and worked well with the pjs when turned inside out). Al went in search of safety pins.

The Beaner started to wail again when I attempted to pin the lovely letter A Hannah had cut out to the front of his shirt, and he persisted in trying to tug it off. I didn't want him to rip his Red Sox shirt, so I said not to worry, I'd take it off. Then, when his back was turned and his attention was focused on his cookie, I quickly pinned the letter to the tag of his shirt. He felt me tugging on him and started to scream, but we distracted him with his Thomas trains, and I got away with the pinning.

happier now alphaboy shares his cookie with dad

Al then took The Beaner down to Coxe Park (where the festivities mostly included adults drinking beer and wine and kids running around in costumes), followed by trick-or-treating. The Beaner had been practicing saying "trick or treat" all day, but it turned out his "happy Halloween!", which we hadn't practiced, was much clearer. I sat out on the front stoop handing out candy (where I was joined by my next door neighbor, Olga) while Al and The Beaner went up and down the street; they rejoined me after only about 20 minutes, when The Beaner's pail filled up. (I had Al bring all the candy in the pail to work with him the next day. The Beaner doesn't need to know that Halloween candy lasts for weeks; as far as he's concerned, it's the one night of the year you can eat two pieces of candy IN A ROW, and then it's over.)

my scary face apparently isn't very scary pretzels were a big hit with the little kids
Olga going over the options mouthful of Twix bar
notice the cheeks full of Twix bar in the bottom right photo

We hung out on the front stoop together for quite a while, and then I took the Canon down the street with me to get some shots of various beautifully-carved jack o' lanterns. When I returned, Olga's husband Greg had joined Al, The Beaner, and Olga on the stoop, and as I walked up Greg plopped his witch's hat on The Beaner's head. The Beaner is no fan of hats in general (not even on other people), but he LOVED this one. Unfortunately the shot I took of him with a GIANT grin on his face is out of focus; in the dark, I didn't notice that the Canon had locked on the door handle behind him rather than on The Beaner's face. Fart. I did get a few more almost-as-cute photos of him in the hat, tho.

witch hat
the hat? still on. do you think we'll have enough candy?

I don't know whether it was the magic of the hat or just the thrill of dropping/throwing items into a receptacle, but after donning the hat The Beaner joined in the candy distribution with gusto. At this point in the evening most of our trick-or-treaters were adults and teenagers, so the photos I took of The Beaner handing out candy seem like some sort of weird parody. Kinda like a greeting card with a photo of toddlers dressed up in wedding attire on it.

handing out candy here, have another one

So anyway, despite the costume drama, we had a lovely Halloween. The warmish weather made it pleasant to sit outside and chat with our neighbors while handing out candy; The Beaner had a good time socializing and sucking on Tootsie pops; and the three of us got to go inside and eat homemade potato-leek soup together at the still-early hour of 7:15 when all the carousing was over. I'm already trying to think of costume ideas (for me!) for next year.

wink, wink

Posted by Lori at 5:54 PM
Comments (3) | Permalink
November 2, 2006

Alphabetical

I know I'm totally getting ahead of myself here—I haven't even written the 23-month update yet—but I have to write this down before I forget that it happened today. In the car on the way back from King of Pizza tonight, The Beaner said the entire alphabet all at once.

He's been saying it in segments for a couple weeks now—singing it, really—starting mostly at Q or S and then singing "now I know ABC next time sing w' me" after he hit Z. Tonight, however, he sang it like this:

A B C D E F G
H I J K ELMO P
Q R S
T U V
W X
Y and Z
Now I know ma ABC,
next time wonchu sing wit me.

That "ELMO" in the middle is what I was trying to prevent by enunciating carefully in the middle of every alphabet song I ever sang to The Beaner. Big Bird and Zoe and rest of the gang on Sesame Street—not to mention the singing ride-on toy my parents got him for his first birthday—have been undermining me, however, by pronouncing "L M N O" as "elemeno" when they say the alphabet. I found I didn't mind so much, though, when I heard my Beaner sing it all by himself tonight. ELMO P is fine by me.

Posted by Lori at 8:27 PM | Permalink
November 3, 2006

23 Months

The Beaner turned 23 months old on Monday, which means he's approaching the age I've been telling everyone he already is. I often refer to him as "my two year-old", and I find it easier to say "almost two" when people ask how old he is, rather than saying "22 and a half months" or "23 months". It saves them some mental calculations. Still, when I stop to think about it, it's darn hard to believe that eleven months have passed since his first birthday. Is it my imagination, or did the second year go by more quickly than the first?

What the 23rd month was most notable for was more language development. The Beaner tends to repeat whatever we say, and he files away words—and especially associations—for later use. All month long I was reminded of the story my mom tells of the day she registered me for Kindergarten. When my dad got home from work, he asked me what I'd done that day, and I replied, "Mom cashed me in." It took them a few minutes to figure out that I'd heard the term "cash register" and the phrase "cashed in", and I'd put the two together in exactly the wrong way when Mom told me I was being registered. It sometimes takes me and Al a few minutes (or even hours) to figure out some of the associations The Beaner's making.

A recent example (though it did not occur in the 23rd month, it's fresh in my mind) is when I asked him last night if he was interested in getting pizza. Al and I had King of Pizza in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in mind, but The Beaner had something else. "Mukskick," he said. Hannah was just on her way out the door, so I called to her, "hey, do you know what 'mukskick' means?" She didn't. Neither did Al. "We're going to have pizza for dinner," I repeated. "Mukskick!" The Beaner repeated right back. Then it clicked: Al had told me that he and The Beaner had ordered a pizza from Pete's while I was away at MAX, and they'd also ordered a milkshake (Pete's is one of those joints that has EVERYTHING on the menu). To The Beaner, pizza meant he was getting a milkshake. "Oh, no, Beaner," I said, "we're going to the place in New Jersey. I don't think they have milkshakes there... but there's a Friendly's across the street. We can have a milkshake after dinner." The Beaner smiled and repeated, more clearly this time, "mukshake!"

So, right, back to the things that actually *did* happen in the 23rd month. October was the month The Beaner repeated not just words, but whole phrases—mainly things I've been saying to him for weeks without any idea of whether he understood me or not. Example? One day he said to me, "no shoes on the bed!" That's right! No shoes on the bed! He tells me this periodically, just to let me know he knows, even when we're in the kitchen.

When he wants me to put him down now, instead of saying "down" or "put me down," he says, "uh oh, too heavy!" (It probably doesn't take much to guess where he got that from; obviously I say, "I need to put you down now, you're too heavy," when my arms get tired.) And he's now obsessed with where everyone and everything is: "what happened to Daddy? What happened to Hannah? What happened to Mommy? Where did Daddy go? What happened to Buick?" and on and on. Usually I say, "Daddy went to work" or "Hannah went home", but sometimes, when he's holding up his Saab and asking what happened, I say, "you tell me! What happened?"

October was the month The Beaner surprised me by saying "mommy play hockey!" He now knows what a hockey stick is, and he delights in identifying it whenever he spots it in the car or the garage. He also likes announcing at random times, "mommy play hockey!" What he doesn't seem to like so much is me *leaving* to play hockey. If he's allowed to come he's usually OK with it, but if I start dragging my bag to the car without inviting him, he starts to cry. He also melted down in the locker room in Lancaster, PA last weekend when I tried to get dressed for a game. He actually threw one of my skates away from me to keep me from putting it on. "Shoes back on!" he wailed. "Shoes back on!" I don't really understand what he was so worked up about, and why all the gear scared him so (he also tried to tug off my hockey pants); he's seen me on the ice in it several times, and he always smiles and waves. I ended up having to hand him out to Al, who soothed him by saying, "want to go to Home Depot?" "Home DE-PO!" squealed The Beaner. It's one of his favorite places, next to IKEA. (He sometimes announces, appropos of nothing, "bye bye, Mommy." "Where are you going?" I'll ask. "IKEA," he says.)

In October we also went apple picking twice more (I think we finally got our fill of apples for the year), and The Beaner couldn't stop raving about it. He probably announced, "went apple picking!" to friends and strangers alike last month more often even than "mommy play hockey!" He loves looking at the photos of his apple-picking adventures, and he can identify the two kids he picked with on separate occasions. "Ga-vwin! Mad-i-son!" He also perfected his picking technique; he'd apparently paid attention when the farmhands at Honey Pot Hill told him to "twist, twist, pull" because that's what he said when he grabbed his first Granny Smith at Terhune Orchards a few weeks later. Of course, he said it while yanking as hard as he could, but it's the thought that counts.

I'll add photos to this post tomorrow, time permitting; I need to get the darn thing submitted now, or I'll have totally failed in my NaBloPoMo mission only three days in.

Posted by Lori at 11:52 PM | Permalink
November 5, 2006

A Brief Review of My New Finepix F30

The day before I left for MAX, after dropping The Beaner off at sharecare, I went to the local CBOP Photo store and asked to look at point-and-shoot cameras that were small enough to carry in a pocket, that had image stabilization, and had the shortest shutter delay possible. I was shown three cameras: the Nikon Coolpix S7c, I think one from Casio, and the Fujifilm Finepix F30. I had also wanted to look at the Sony DSC-T9, but the store didn't carry any cameras from Sony.

Long story short, I narrowed it down to the Finepix. Even though the Finepix was a bit thicker and heavier than the other two cameras, I liked its ergonomics better (it was easier to hold, and the menu navigation was more precise), and I knew that my friends Jean & Sho got some really great shots with their Finepix F10. I also preferred the cables for charging the camera and downloading the photos to the cradles that were offered with the other two cameras (I often download photos on the road, and I'd rather pack cables than cradles). The Nikon really was a serious contender; I liked the thinness and lightness of it, and the LCD screen on the back was HUGE, but the placement of the non-extending lens meant that I was often sticking my finger in front of it. It's something you'd notice, obviously, if you were carefully lining up a shot, but the whole idea with a point-and-shoot is to snap quickly.

Which brings me to the biggest drawback of the Finepix, though it's a problem with every other point-and-shoot digital as well: the shutter delay. After shooting with the Canon 10D for so long, I can't get used to the gap between when I press the shutter release and when the camera actually captures the picture. The delay, though much shorter than with my old Olympus 3030Zoom, is still deadly when trying to capture the expressions and antics of a toddler.

missed opportunity because of shutter delay
He was looking at me a second ago, I swear!

The other problem I have with the F30 is the huge amount of digital noise in most low-light (and some not-so-low-light) photos. There might be a setting I can change to ameliorate this problem, and to be fair, the 10D also generates a significant amount of noise whenever I shoot in apeture priority or shutter priority modes, but it seems like the F30 could be a lot smoother when everything's set to Auto. (Click on the photos below to see larger versions on Flickr, where the noise will be really obvious.)

me and the beaner, with halloween shadows my favorite moo cards, set #3
lots of noise with low light (left) and not so low light (right)

OK, so now for all the things I *do* like about the F30 . First of all, it's small. It's not quite so small that it can fit in my back pocket without me noticing it, as my cell phone can, but it easily fits in my purse, my coat pocket, or even the front pocket of my jeans. Second, while its shutter delay makes capturing toddler antics extremely difficult, its movie mode is amazing for the same purpose. It records sound well, the picture is incredibly sharp, and with a 1G XD memory card, I can record longer than I can actually hold the camera up.


This one goes out to all my fans in Hoboken.

Third, the built-in flash is excellent. Fuji prides itself on its flash technology, and rightfully so. I've never seen light look so natural with a flash before, and it does a fantastic job of lighting not only the subject, but the background as well. The Canon's built-in flash is dreadful by comparison.

John is a member of my tribe

Finally, downloading the photos and movies from the camera is wicked fast. I'm not sure if this is a function of the camera hardware or the type of memory (XD for the Finepix vs. Compact Flash for the 10D), but downloading is much faster for the Fuji than for the Canon.

Overall, I've been happy with my choice, although it would have been cool if I could have road-tested a few different cameras for a week and *then* chosen which one I wanted to buy. I imagine I'll have more raves and complaints about the F30 once I've been using it for a while, but I think I can guarantee that owning the F30 means that there'll be more Beaner videos on this site.

Posted by Lori at 12:28 PM | Permalink
November 9, 2006

The Train is Leaving the Station

I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think, that Hannah would be leaving us soon. She went to a 3-days-a-week schedule in October (The Beaner goes to sharecare the other two days), and gave us notice that she'd be quitting entirely at the end of December. With her blessing, we started our search for a new nanny when Hannah went part time.

We ended up finding someone we really like who can work the exact days Hannah works now (which means The Beaner can still do sharecare), and she starts tomorrow. Tomorrow will be Hannah's last day. (They'll both be here to ease the transition for The Beaner and for the new nanny.) I'm excited about the new person—I really, really hope she turns out to be a good fit for all of us—but I'm kinda in denial about the fact that Hannah is leaving. It's hard to imagine Hannah not coming anymore.

I think the fact that she no longer comes every weekday has helped me get used to the idea that she won't come at all, but still, I will really miss her. I still think I never would have missed my first hockey practice if Hannah had been here that day, because we would have talked about it every time I went down to the kitchen. We're always chatting about politics or sports or women's rights or environmental issues or restaurants or travel or how she got that black eye and why I'm limping, what we did last weekend and what we plan to do this one while fixing breakfast or lunch. So despite the fact that I've had some time to adjust, I think I'm still going to be discombobulated when Hannah doesn't show up next week. The good news is that she'll still be available to babysit for us when we want to go out, and I know she'll come by to visit. She and the Beaner are great friends now (as are we), so she won't just disappear entirely.

I suspect also that she'll want to come by periodically to play with the new train set she bought The Beaner as an early birthday present. He was THRILLED when she gave it to him this morning, and it was a struggle to get him to leave it for a little while to go to the zoo. Al left before Hannah arrived this morning, so he hasn't seen the set in person; he asked me to take some video of it so he could see it virtually. I did that, and because I recorded for several minutes and wanted higher video quality, the resulting QuickTime movie is huge (13MB)... too big to include here on the blog. If you don't mind waiting a little while for the movie to load, you can click on the link below to see it.

The Beaner playing with his new train set (13MB)

Posted by Lori at 11:22 AM | Permalink
November 9, 2006

At the Zoo

Oh, it's movie central around here these days, isn't it? This afternoon's movie is courtesy of Hannah, who, as I mentioned in my last post, took The Beaner to the zoo today. Somehow, she managed to capture The Beaner in all his glory in only 17 seconds (whereas I took like 5 minutes to record the train movie earlier today). The Beaner helped, of course; sometimes he just summarizes his entire personality, as well as recent developmental strides, in 30 seconds or less.

The song Hannah's singing (and The Beaner is bopping to) is "At the Zoo", from the spring (or summer? in any case, it was the Frog Collection) Music Class CD.

Posted by Lori at 4:55 PM
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November 10, 2006

A Thai Goodbye

I was all set to write about the new coffeehouse that opened up in the former art gallery space next to the Please Touch Museum recently—I even had photos!—but we ended up taking Hannah out for dinner tonight after work, and I feel like writing about that now instead.

Hannah had recommended Chabaa Thai Bistro in Manayunk to me a few weeks ago, and Al and I had noted its location when we were in Manayunk a couple days later picking out tile for our bathroom remodel (more about that in a later post), but we had yet to make it out there for a meal. Well, tonight it seemed like the perfect place to go for a last-day-of-work dinner.

Of course, I'd eaten an incredibly late (and incredibly large) lunch, so I wasn't the least bit hungry, and The Beaner kept repeating "no Thai food, no Thai food, no Thai food!" all the way to Manayunk, but in the former case, that just gave Al some cover to order more than one entree and take the leftovers home, and in the latter, we just replied, "ok, no Thai food. We'll just have noodles and rice."

The decision to go out to dinner was a late one, and we didn't call ahead to make a reservation. We totally lucked out, however, in that the host agreed to squeeze us in before an 8:00 reservation. (He was at first reluctant to do so because he didn't want to hurry us, but we assured him we could eat in under an hour, and we did. It's not like you can linger over a bottle of wine when you have a toddler with you... and in any case, we didn't bring one with us to this BYOB.)

Since I wasn't hungry, I only sampled tiny amounts of the food, but I can attest to its freshness and especially its flavorfulness (is that a word?). Our waiter was friendly and efficient, and he and the restaurant totally win points for bringing The Beaner's Thai Fried Rice with Tofu out first, as if it were an appetizer. The intimate venue is definitely better for a couple or a foursome of grown-ups than for a family with small children, but we were made to feel just as welcome as any other diners.

Al had the Chabaa salad, which was like no Thai shrimp salad I've ever seen, with fresh mesclun mix, huge jumbo shrimp with a light brush of sweet-spicy glaze, baby corn, pineapple, peppers, and broccoli. I horked one of his shrimp, and it was delicious. Hannah ordered the Pinapple Fried Rice with Chicken, and it was presented as an enormous cylinder with the grilled chicken on top. Gorgeous (and delicious, according to Hannah). The Beaner had the aforementioned Thai Fried Rice, which he really enjoyed. He ate the broccoli and the cucumbers (which he calls pickles), and then he begged some pineapple from Hannah before snarfing down the rice. He wasn't so interested in the tofu tonight.

As for me, I ordered Al's second entree, the Pad Thai with Tofu, and basically let it sit there while I helped The Beaner manage his rice and vegetables. I finally tried a forkful and found it, too, to be fresh and tasty (and not at all pasty). When The Beaner was done with his rice he had a few forkfuls of pad Thai as well and seemed to really enjoy them.

Dessert was a pineapple ice cream made with coconut milk (and served in a frozen baby pineapple); the texture reminded me of the coconut milk-banana-blueberry ice cream that Matt made for us up in Maine this summer. The Beaner LOVED it.

When we left the restaurant, I said to The Beaner, "Thai food is pretty good after all, eh?" He shook his head and said, "no Thai food!" I said, "oh right, you just had rice and noodles." I think there are likely more fabulous rice and noodles in his future—especially if Chabaa offers takeout.

Oh, and that goodbye? As Hannah herself said the beautiful card she gave us at dinner, "it's not goodbye. It's just a change in the frequency of hellos."

hannah and the beaner at chabaa thai

Posted by Lori at 11:01 PM
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November 11, 2006

Let It Slide

After my hockey game tonight I came home to collect The Beaner and then walked with him down to the Cherry Street Tavern to have a beer with my teammates. We got there before anyone else, so we went across the street to Coxe Park to play for a few minutes while we waited for everyone to show up.

The Beaner started with the littlest Little Tykes slide, then moved up to the larger Little Tykes slide, and then announced his intention of going down the huge metal corkscrew slide with the nearly-vertical ladder. "OK, I said, "I'll climb behind you." About four steps up, I got a little nervous—on my own behalf as much as The Beaner's. "Are you a little scared, sweetie? Because I'm a little scared."

"Yeah," he replied, but kept climbing. I climbed with him, one hand on his waist just in case he slipped or pitched to one side. When he got to the top, I did my best to hang on myself while helping him get into a sitting position. And then down he went. I knew from Al that he'd been down before, so I wasn't worried about the descent; it was the climb and the manuevers up top that scared me.

"Again!" he said when he reached the bottom. "OK," I said, and we began the climb again. About four steps up, he turned to me and said, "OK, Mommy?" in a tone that expressed concerned for my welfare. "Yes, honey, I'm OK." "OK," he said, and climbed to the top. I helped him get into a sitting position again, and down he went. I climbed down and went to meet him at the bottom. He held up a finger in a gesture intended to cut off any protestations I might be about to make, cocked an eyebrow, and said, "ONE more time."

And so we went up again, with him checking to see if I was OK partway up. When he got to the bottom this time, he just giggled and said, "do again!" Before I could make any serious argument against it, he was partway up the ladder again. "OK," I said, "but this is the last time, so make it count!"

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!" said The Beaner.

Posted by Lori at 9:54 PM | Permalink
November 13, 2006

The Case of the Clingy Toddler

The Beaner is not a clingy kid. There are times when he doesn't want me or Al to leave him (for example, when I go to play hockey; for some reason, he loves to tell me and everyone else "Mommy play hockey!", but he doesn't actually want me to leave the house to play hockey), and he's been known to melt down if I try to run an errand in the car without him, but when I go up to work in the morning or drop him at sharecare, he gives me a kiss and a wave and says, "bye bye, Mommy!"

The last couple times I've brought him to sharecare, however, he's shaken his head when we arrived in front of the stoop with the red door and said, "no Muh-ma and Jess." (Muh-ma is his approximation of his friend M's name, and Jess is M's nanny.) Luckily, as soon as Jess opened the door and M shouted a gleeful "HI!", he forgot his reluctance and went inside to play. I wondered why he wouldn't want to play with M and Jess, especially since he's ALWAYS happy to see them on Fridays when Hannah and The Beaner meet M and Jess at the playground (or at our house, or wherever).

This morning I drove The Beaner (and Al) over to M's house because it was raining quite hard. When I went to pull him out of his carseat, The Beaner clung to the straps, shook his head, said "no Muh-ma and Jess!", and then started to whine and cry. It was horrifying having to pry his hands off the straps, but it got worse when we got inside. He WOULDN'T LET GO. M was happy to see him, and Jess was too of course, but The Beaner wasn't into it at all. At first he tried to convince me we should leave by pointing toward the door, and when I didn't budge, he just refused to participate. Jess tried every trick she knew (and she knows many), but The Beaner wouldn't let go of me.

I think if he'd jumped in and started playing, M would have too, and M's mom Tracey, Al, and I could have made our exits quietly. But when The Beaner went clingy, so did M, and it went downhill from there. It took over 20 minutes for Tracey and me to get out of the house (I'd sent Al out to the car as soon as Jess distracted The Beaner with a book), and when we left, The Beaner was crying and holding out his arms for me. I took one look at that weepy face and ran, knowing it was my only chance. If I looked at him any longer, I would have scooped him up and taken him home... and that wasn't in anyone's best interest.

I ended up sitting in the car for a couple minutes bawling in anguish, with Al rubbing my back supportively. I then got it together and drove Al to work, telling myself that The Beaner was going to be fine, that I did the right thing, and that he was probably happily watching Sesame Street and playing with M's toys within minutes of my departure. Still, it was incredibly hard, possibly because I have so little experience with this kind of situation. Every other time The Beaner's wigged out, I've just let him come with me to hockey or to the store or wherever. This time, I had to let go, and just leave.

Jess called in the afternoon to let me know that The Beaner was indeed perfectly fine five minutes after I left, and he got on the phone and told me himself "m' play with Play-Doh!" And when Al picked him up and brought him home this evening, he was cheerful and chatty and seemed to have completely forgotten the trauma of the morning. When I came downstairs from work, he sang, "oh look, it's Mommy! HI MOMMY!" and waved. "Eating gips," he said, holding out a grape to Al, who was sitting across the little table from him. Al clinked grapes with him, they shouted, "CHEERS!", and then The Beaner got up and gave me a giant hug. God, I love that kid.

Posted by Lori at 9:53 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
November 17, 2006

Hi-larious

Last night Al and The Beaner were playing one of The Beaner's favorite bathtime games: He hands a cup of bathwater to Al, who pretends to drink it and get grossed out. This game developed because The Beaner noticed he got a reaction—namely, ewwww!—when he drank the bathwater, and suggesting that he give the water to Daddy keeps The Beaner from drinking it himself.

When I heard how hard The Beaner was laughing with each pretend sip—and overreaction—by Al, I pressed the record button on my cell phone. Here's what I got:

the bath laugh

Posted by Lori at 12:44 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink
November 20, 2006

Shout

I'm going to write about this because it's bothering me, and because I want to record that it's bothering me. I'm turning off comments; feel free to judge me, but please don't let me know you're judging me. I'm also really not looking for support; I think telling me "it's OK, you're not a bad parent" would almost be worse than telling me how awful I am. So for now, please don't e-mail me about this or comment on other posts because comments are closed on this one. I thank you in advance for your reserve.

Those who know me well know that I'm... well, if not easily frustrated, then at least more likely to blow my top completely when I *do* get frustrated. I have been known to start screaming and throwing every single thing out of the closet when I can't take it anymore, when the toilet paper isn't on top where I can get at it, and the Swiffer has fallen on my head when I tried to dig through the mass of pillows and diapers and Kleenex boxes to get to the damn toilet paper. I have hurled even the heavy freestanding toilet paper holder across the room in anger.

It is probably not that surprising to learn, then, that when The Beaner frustrates me—when I'm trying to get him in the stroller and he stiffens and fights me, for example, or when he flails his arms and refuses to put on his coat even though it's 30 degrees out—I shout. I yell things like, "YOUHAVETOPUTONYOURCOATIT'SFREEZINGOUTFORFUCK'SSAKE!" Yep, I not only yell, I often swear. Al doesn't do this, by the way, and he hates it when I do it, and yet I haven't been able to GET A GRIP and stay calm for more than two or three attempts at getting him into the stroller or fighting his arms into his coat.

Some days I can last longer than others; some days I keep my cool for five or ten minutes or more, but I find that eventually I get so frustrated that I either yell or cry. (In The Beaner's twelfth month of life, I cried a lot more than I yelled; I think now I'm less willing to get to the point where I'm crying out of frustration. I just want to yell and release the tension sooner rather than later.)

This morning I yelled at The Beaner when he wouldn't put on his coat. It was cold and windy (I was wearing my winter coat, a scarf, and gloves), and he fought us when we tried to shrug him into his orange fleece jacket. (We still don't have a proper winter coat for him yet.) He wouldn't wear his hat. He screamed and cried and said, "no hood!" when I tried to put his hood up. And I yelled. He finally stopped crying and went very still. I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't answer me. It was the first time I was ever sure that he was pouting, that he was mad enough or hurt enough to give me the silent treatment. I finally got him to smile a bit after a few blocks, and by the time we got to M's house he had resumed eating his muffin, but I could tell he was still a little stung.

M's mom Tracey was still home when we arrived, and while I was getting The Beaner settled and Tracey was saying goodbye to M, Tracey reached for her coat. "PUT JACKET ON!" The Beaner screamed at her... and then he went back to coloring. My heart stopped for a second. M shrieked and started to cry, and Tracey tried to comfort her. Jess and Tracey both tried to convince M that it was OK that The Beaner was using her crayons, and that they could both color at the same time. No one but me, apparently, had understood what The Beaner had said. Tracey and Jess assumed The Beaner was yelling at M about coloring.

Jess said, "I think it's a power thing. [The Beaner] sometimes yells at M to intimidate her." I was horrified. This wasn't the first time The Beaner had yelled. The Beaner was yelling to intimidate and show who's boss. In other words, The Beaner was emulating me. My heart hurt. I felt a little light-headed. *I* had done this. My inability to control my frustration, my temper, was rubbing off on my child. I was teaching him that the one who shouts loudest wins. I think I knew that eventually the yelling would have some consequences, but I guess I figured I had time to sort it out—like I still think that I'll eventually stop swearing, once he starts repeating the cuss words. I shouldn't have let it come to this. I should have tried to get a grip earlier.

And, to be fair, I *have* been trying. I *am* getting more patient. I'm just not getting better at it fast enough. I don't think it's too late to turn it around, to explain to The Beaner that mommy was wrong to yell, that yelling isn't the way to solve problems. That I'm willing to listen to reason if he can explain why he doesn't want to do something, but that sometimes Because I Said So will have to be the final answer. I just won't yell it anymore. I will say This Is The Way It's Going to Be Right Now in a normal voice, and that even if he doesn't agree and yells and cries and stiffens and fights me, I will maintain my cool because I am an adult, because I want to set a good example of self-control, because I love and care about him very much. And because I don't want him becoming everything I hate about myself.

Posted by Lori at 10:42 AM | Permalink
November 23, 2006

I'm Thankful I Made It Through The Day

3:28pm We're at my in-laws' house in Vienna, Virginia. The Safeway "Thanksgiving in a box" turkey is in the oven (and thank god it was fully cooked before it went in, because when we arrived it had been "thawing" on the kitchen counter for two hours, despite the fact that it hadn't been frozen when it was picked up this morning). We brought some yukon gold potatoes, some wild-caught king salmon, a bunch of asparagus, various vegetarian stuffings and gravies from Whole Foods, and some homemade cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, and butternut squash down with us to augment the box of sides that came in the Safeway box.

With my additions I am trying to relive that wonderfully cozy Thanksgiving in Truckee where Ken (a meat and potatoes guy), Al (a master of Thanksgiving cooking), Kristin (an omnivorous gourmand), Valerie (a virtual vegan), and I (a fish-eating vegetarian) pooled our culinary talents to create a meal everyone could enjoy. Everyone's plate looked different, and all looked equally beautiful. (I have photos somewhere; I should post them.)

5:45pm The kitchen is in chaos. There's a logjam at the microwave as we try to heat the butternut squash and the two different gravies and also try to keep the mashed potatoes warm. My mother-in-law does not approve of the way I've boiled my potatoes, and she cares even less for the combination pan-searing/steaming I'm giving the asparagus. "No water!" she shouts, when I sprinkle a bit over the oiled asparagus, and it sizzles exactly as planned. My salmon is under the broiler, but I'm already unsure it will satisfy; it smelled a tad fishy when I unwrapped it.

6:04pm The Beaner rejects turkey, salmon, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and milk. Instead, he demands eggs. We did not bring eggs. He ends up eating the bowtie pasta I'd shoved into the cooler at the last minute out of its Ziploc bag. He also eats two asparagus spears and shreds two more.

My plate looks the best, I think, but I'm not finding the fish very appealing. Is it really not as fresh as I'd hoped, or is wild-caught salmon just more gamey than I'd realized? I eat a bit, but not much. Mostly I scrape the cranberry relish off the top (I had an amazing salmon filet with cranberry-orange relish at the Pillar House in Boston one Thanksgiving, and I've associated this dish with Thanksgiving ever since) and scarf that down along with a mix of mashed potatoes, wild mushroom gravy, butternut squash, wild rice stuffing, and cornbread stuffing, and a few asparagus spears. This batch of relish is the best I've ever made, I think.

6:42pm Ugh, maybe a second piece of apple pie wasn't such a good idea. I probably just should have cut the first piece slightly bigger, since I only really wanted like two more bites. "That's when you just stick a spoon in the pie plate and pick out a couple apples," says Al. The rum raisin ice cream was an inspired choice, however (I picked up a pint, along with a pint of vanilla bean, when I went out to Safeway to pick up a meat thermometer shortly after our arrival). I don't think I've ever had rum raisin ice cream before, but ever since our meal at Nobu (I *will* write about it eventually, I promise!), which ended with a dessert of sticky date pudding and crushed plantains with whiskey ice cream, I've been wanting to put alcoholic beverage-flavored ice cream on any warm dessert that wanders by. In the absence of a whiskey flavored option, and with no way to make brandy-flavored whipped cream (I didn't bring a hand mixer with me), I decided to try the Haagen Dazs rum raisin over the surprisingly delicious Safeway apple pie. GOOD IDEA. (That small extra piece of pie, though? Bad idea.)

7:20pm The Beaner is running back and forth between me (in the family room, watching Tony Romo rack up tons of fantasy football points for my team) and Grandpa Cho (in the living room). I assume he's telling Grandpa the same thing he's telling me. "Hug!", and, once he's gotten one, "one minute. No, two minutes. I'll be right back in TWO MINUTES."

7:40pm We take a sweaty, napless Beaner upstairs for a bath. After the bath he tries to don his jammie shirt by himself. (He gets the holes wrong, but I admire his effort.) He's so proud of himself for almost getting it that he runs back into the bathroom to find his discarded rugby-striped shirt and tries to put that on, too. He now has two shirts on... but refuses to put on his jammie pants. I finally stand him on his head while Al pulls the pants onto his legs.

8:33pm The Beaner is sound asleep in his Pack 'n Play after watching a segment of Elmo's World "onna DVD". I am fighting with the cable modem in my father-in-law's office; I need to get my blog post up before I pass out to remain in strict compliance with NaBloPoMo. (It's not enough just to WRITE every day; you actually have to POST every day.) I have a major case of the sugar sweats from the carb-heavy dinner and the two pieces of pie + ice cream. I will be getting up early tomorrow morning and walking to the 7-11 to buy eggs for The Beaner myself. I'll also be eating a plain Fage yogurt for breakfast in addition to the eggs. Mmmm, protein. But now, good night!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Posted by Lori at 9:33 PM | Permalink
November 24, 2006

Toddler Time

It's 8:18pm, and I'm exhausted. I had a shower at 6:30pm and was ready for bed shortly after that, but I still had The Beaner to wrangle. (He went down about 15 minutes ago, the earliest he's gone to bed in weeks.) I've been Beaner wrangling all day, actually, though it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. I think the fact that it's Black Friday had primed me for going with the flow; my expectations of getting anything on my list accomplished were already lower, so it was easier to relax and just spend time with the Beaner. (My normal mode is to try to get errands done while dragging him along, which isn't always the best thing for either of us anymore.)

My original plan was that we'd take two cars out in the morning so that Grandpa could buy toys for The Beaner's birthday (which we are celebrating with all four grandparents tomorrow), and then I'd stay at the mall with The Beaner, and Al and his dad could continue on to the golf course, where they were scheduled to play 18 holes at noon. That plan was foiled when Grandpa insisted we all go in one car and then come back. Of course, Grandpa's plan was somewhat foiled, too, when it turned out that the Toys 'R Us he was hoping to visit had become a Best Buy. We finally located a small, independent shop in Oakton, and Grandpa proceeded to buy The Beaner a HUGE truck, a medium-sized Lamborghini race car, and an Edward train from the Thomas stories. Al, who hadn't seen the train and the race car, also bought The Beaner a 1:32 (I think) scale VW bug. It was a little overwhelming.

We came back to the house, and Al and his dad left for golf. That's when I asked The Beaner if I could make him the promised eggs for breakfast ("no!"), and if he wanted to go shopping ("no shopping!"). Ugh. Go with the flow. Go with the flow. Go with the flow. I started flipping through the Weekend section of the Washington Post, and I noticed a feature on model train displays. I found one at Union Square in DC and formulated a new plan: We'd take the Metro from Dunn Loring to Union Station, see the model trains, eat lunch, and return. When I ran this by The Beaner, however, I got, "no ride onna train. Stay at gamma and gampa house." Are you sensing a pattern here? I asked him if he wanted to ride the train or go shopping about every 15 minutes, in case he changed his mind (as he often does), but I always got the same answer: "No. Stay at gamma and gampa house."

So we stayed in the house and played with the new VW for a while... and then he asked to go out to the car and get the Lamborghini. We played with that for about five minutes, and then he wanted to go back out and get the truck. TOO MANY TOYS, I thought. It seems like we're totally setting ourselves up for a raging case of Terrible Twos by giving him everything he wants and more for his second birthday; I can't imagine he'll appreciate what he has—or bother to take care of it—if Grandpa or Al or I am there to buy him something else. It made me feel icky. So I told him no, we weren't going to go outside and get the truck, that we had enough toys to play with inside.

That's when he opened the door anyway. "[Beaner]," I said firmly but still quietly, "we're not going out to get the truck. Close the door." "No," he said. Uh oh. "[Beaner], close the door." Beaner: "NO!" Oh, CRAP. Here we go: I've got to figure out how to get the upper hand here without yelling or wrist-smacking or otherwise losing my cool. How do I communicate that it is not acceptable to talk back like that, and get him to do what I want? I still have no idea, but this is what I did: I marched over to him, got down on my knees behind him, and hugged him so that his arms were pinned to his body. I told him he needed to listen to Mommy. I told him that it was not acceptable to shout—at me or Daddy or Grandpa or Mira, to which he added "or Jess". I told him he needed to shut the door. He told me no again, softly, and I said, "we're going to close the door right now." And I held out his hands for him and pushed the door shut with them. Whether this laid any groundwork for the future (positive or negative) I know not, but the episode ended there. He was smiling and playing with me again within seconds.

A few minutes later my mother-in-law announced she was going to take a nap, and I used this as an excuse to convince the Beaner that we should go out driving in the car and watch Elmo on the DVD player. (With no grandparents available as an audience, I figured he might find staying in the house less appealing, and I was right.) I drove to the mall, only had to search for about 5-10 minutes for a parking space, and then carried the Beaner down three flights of garage stairs to a mall entrance. On the way down, he said, "Ride the train?" Uh, Beaner, we're at the mall. "No mall. I wanna ride the train." Really? Because if I'd known that, we would have gone straight to the Metro station instead of fighting for a parking space. I told him we'd go into the mall for a few minutes, and then we'd ride the train. He said OK and added, "want french fries."

Luckily there was a steak & fry place at the entrance we used, so I had a cup of fries in his hands within a couple minutes. (Yes, since I was following Al's advice of just Spending Time With The Beaner and Not Trying To Do Anything Else—his secret to successful single-parenting when I'm out of town—I also decided to follow Al's M.O. of buying him whatever crazy crap food he wanted. I do understand that this completely contradicts the toy philosophy I outlined above, and that it might be putting my son's health in jeopardy to boot.) After that we shuffled at toddler speed to the Gap. There's something very Zen about moving at .25 mph and stopping every few feet to fish out a fry as hordes of holiday shoppers are rushing around you.

The Gap turned out to be far enough down one arm of the mall that after buying some underwear and stopping to hydrate The Beaner ("water, please", he said while I was getting my receipt), I abandoned all hope of making it to Gymboree and just shuffled back the way we'd come toward the exit. We made some woman in a Volvo very happy by vacating our parking space, and then we headed to the Metro.

I won't detail our parking adventures at the Dunn Loring station (they involved a Wonderland-type conversation with a parking attendant wherein she instructed me to go into the station to buy a parking pass... so I could come back and park and walk back to the station to actually take the train); suffice to say that we did eventually get parked and onto the platform. The Beaner yelled, "ALL ABOARD!" when he saw that a train was already in the station (heading the other way), which was good for a laugh. I taught him to watch the platform lights, which flash when a train is approaching. I showed him where to sit, and how to listen for the ding-dong that means the doors are closing. He discovered the window himself, and he delighted in looking out it until we went underground after East Falls Church. In short, the Metro ride in—including the transfer at Metro Center—was quite pleasant. So were the viewing of the model trains at Union Station, and the way The Beaner requested "pretzel, please" when we entered the food court.

the beaner and me on the metro shortly before the guard made them step back

His behavior took a turn for the worse when I treated him to a milkshake and then tried to take a sip myself. I didn't really want any, but I thought I should drink some because it was quite large—too large for a small child. He cried and grabbed the shake from my hands when I moved my mouth toward the straw. I said, "[Beaner], don't you want to share with Mommy?" Beaner: "No." Me: "Please share with Mommy. I just want a small sip." Beaner, sharply: "NO!" DOUBLE CRAP, I thought, here we go AGAIN, and this time in public. I decided to play the "it's either half or nothing" card. I told him he could share, or he could watch me throw the milkshake in the trash. He finally let me have some, but grudgingly. He whined and reached for the shake every time I picked it up... until he started getting full, that is, and he realized that there was more than enough left for both of us. At that point he started handing the shake to me and saying, "here ya go, Mommy." (By this time, of course, I'd had far more than I'd ever wanted, just so I could get him to practice sharing.) Eventually we each took a final sip, and I threw out the shake with 1/3 of it still left in the bottom of the cup. (I got his OK on this; I didn't do it as punishment.)

hogging the milkshake

There were definitely a few other moments when, if I'd been trying to get actual errands done, I would have been tempted to shout at him or drag him along or otherwise lose my cool, but since I was going with the flow and moving on Toddler Time, I turned those moments into games instead. When he pulled on my hand and refused to get off the floor, we played a floppy noodle game that sent him into fits of giggles (and eventually got him walking normally again). When he didn't want to hold my hand, I turned it into a run-and-stop game of tag. And so on. It made for a much more enjoyable day. I can't run on Toddler Time every day, of course, but I'm thinking I should be setting aside at least ONE day a week to do it—errands and housework be damned. With all the changes that have been going on in The Beaner's life lately, and with a new developmental stage approaching, it seems like the best thing we can do for him and for ourselves is to really be in the moment with him as often as possible.

Posted by Lori at 9:48 PM
Comments (3) | Permalink
November 25, 2006

Three Things I Learned Today

We celebrated The Beaner's 2nd birthday with both sets of grandparents today. I'll have photos to post tomorrow (both of the cake eating/present opening and of other events of the past few days—I brought my work computer with me to my in-laws', and I can't download photos with it). In the meantime, I'll mention three things that occurred to me today:

  1. Despite tales of terrible twos and willful guff, I have an awesome child.
  2. I want to spend as much time with The Beaner as possible.
  3. I want to spend a few days with my parents at Christmas, mainly to share the joy that is The Beaner with them.

Now that we're back in our own house, I'd like to go spend some quality quiet time with my husband. More news tomorrow.

Posted by Lori at 10:06 PM | Permalink
November 27, 2006

Contrary

Yesterday The Beaner and I had a lovely day together. We walked (or rather, I walked, he rode in the black stroller) to the bakery to buy some bread, and then we trekked down to the Italian Market to buy some more panettone cups from Fantes (I need them for muffin baking). On the way back we stopped at Seeger playground and played on the little toddler gym for a while (I'll post video tomorrow if any of the clips are decent), had a sharing showdown with another little girl over a doll-sized umbrella stroller that resulted in wailing on both sides, and then continued on to the Corner Bookstore (I think that's its name).

I couldn't remember which corner the bookstore was on, so we did a couple loops through the Fitler Square area until we struck gold at the corner of 20th and Pine. The Beaner was a little rambunctious in the shop, but I was determined to find a few new books to give him for his birthday or Christmas. The first few queries I put to the decidedly staid and not particularly well-informed (at least about children's classics like Sheep in a Jeep) clerk ended in disappointment. Titles could be ordered, of course, but hello, that's what Powell's and Amazon are for.

I ended up picking out Maisy's Morning on the Farm, which seemed like it would be The Beaner's speed, and a tale about potty training that I can't remember the name of now. As I did at the library the other day, I inquired about any books about hockey that would be appropriate for the under-5 set; I was told that most books about hockey were for older kids (which is what I found at the library, too). I'm thinking I might have to write my own "Mommy Plays Hockey!" book. If only I had any talent at all for illustration...

I was poking through the Caldecott Honor winners looking for something appropriate for 2-3 year-olds, and The Beaner was pulling random books and flashcards and wooden brain-teaser toys off the shelves when the clerk held up a book with a Caldecott Honor medal on the front and said, "have you seen this one? It's really cute." I said fine, I'd take that and the other two books, and then I tried to corral The Beaner while she wrote out the titles of all my choices longhand on a receipt pad.

When we got home, I decided to spring the books on The Beaner. He rejected the Maisy book so vehemently he practically cried when I didn't drop it immediately. Poor Maisy! Next we moved on to the potty training book, which he had me read twice. Yay, a winner! Last, he reached for the impulse purchase: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Since I hadn't looked at the book in the store or even read the back cover, I didn't know what it was about. I got the gist as I read, however.

The story is about a pigeon who wheedles and cajoles and fibs and throws a tantrum, all in an effort to get you to let him drive the bus. It's supposed to encourage kids to say "no!" every time he asks, and, I assume, to experience the thrill of being the boss. Here, finally, is a chance for my kid to yell "NO!" and not get in trouble! Seemed like a cute idea... except that my kid didn't yell "NO!" every time the pigeon wheedled and cajoled. He said "no" the first time the pigeon asked, but on the very next page, when the pigeon said, "pleeeeease?", The Beaner said, "yes." I was all, "noooooo! We're not supposed to let the pigeon drive the bus, remember?" Pigeon: "Don't you want to let me drive the bus!" Beaner: "YES!" And at that point, it was pretty difficult to read any further, because the rest of the story assumed we were saying "no" at each page.

Honestly, I could do without the two-page spread where the pigeon promises to be my best friend and give me five bucks anyway.

Posted by Lori at 10:49 PM
Comments (3) | Permalink
November 28, 2006

More Clingy Toddler Woes

Is it a good thing or a bad thing for Clingy Toddler Syndrome that I work at home? On the one hand, it means that The Beaner has access to me if he really needs it. On the other hand, when he needs it often, it totally interferes with my work. And then there are moments like right now, when he really needs my attention, and I need to be in a meeting. Thank god I have a headset with a mute button, because he is downstairs with both Aura and Al (who's home sick from work today) screaming hysterically right now.

Meanwhile, I'm getting nothing out of the meeting because the crying is so distracting. Would I be better off just going downstairs and trying to comfort him? I'm not really angry about the current situation, but I *am* frustrated. Incredibly frustrated. And I think if I go downstairs, the frustration will become anger... and that won't do anyone any good. There doesn't seem to be enough of me to go around, and both my work and my child are suffering. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!

Posted by Lori at 4:13 PM
Comments (3) | Permalink
December 1, 2006

How I Wonder What You Said

I turned in The Beaner's application to the nearby Montessori pre-school yesterday. (Long story about odds of him getting in; I'll probably explain in more detail at a later date.) Two of the questions on the Child Profile were "At what age did your child start speaking?", and the follow-up "Does s/he speak in 2-3 word phrases or sentences?"

I actually had to look up when The Beaner started speaking here in the blog (another reason I need to back up this site regularly: it's essentially our Baby Book), but the answer to Part B was a resounding yes. Every day The Beaner comes out with longer and longer sentences, and his pronounciation is improving by leaps and bounds, too. (Not everyone can understand everything he says, and we still sometimes have trouble with new words when they're said out of context, but his language skills are so far beyond what they were just a month ago that it amazes me.) He carefully repeats every new word we share with him, sounding like nothing so much as a student learning a foreign language. And then he stores it away, waiting for an opportunity to use the new word in a sentence. He's a vocabulary lesson cliché.

He still enjoys singing in almost-gibberish—and often as fast as he possibly can—but every now and then we hear a phrase come out so perfectly in the middle of a song that we do a double-take. This isn't the best version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star we've heard him belt out (he usually gets the part about "like a [mumble] in the sky" right, and he muffs it here), but it's representative of his enthusiasm for singing and his grasp of a few key phrases:

twinkle, twinkle little star

He seems to know it's the season for Christmas music now; whereas he rejected every one of my attempts to sing Winter Wonderland or Let It Snow back in October, he now eagerly requests "laughing all da way" (Jingle Bells) and "look at da show" (Sleigh Ride) when I snuggle him to sleep at night. He's also started a new bedtime ritual: the Slew of Questions. "What happened to Daddy? [He's downstairs, watching PTI.] Ooohhhh, PTI. What happened to Mommy? [I'm right here.] What happened to {beaner}? [You're right here, too.] Yeah, {beaner}'s right here. What happened to white Saab? [Grandma and Grandpa drove it home to their house.] What happened to black Jeep? [I'm not sure, honey. Maybe it's downstairs.] Maybe it's inna room. [It might be; I think I saw it in the kitchen.] Maybe it's in the chicken." (Inexplicably, he switches back and forth between "inna" and "in the".)

Yesterday after his birthday party, The Beaner also started calling his friend M, whom he's always referred to somewhat confusingly as "Muh-muh", by her real name. He's gone from saying "hep, peesh" (which sounded very similar to "up, please") to saying "I need help, please, Daddy." And then there's the ever-popular (and surprisingly specific) "I want watch Elmo onna DVD. No Tivo, no! DVD! What happened to DVD player?"

This newfound verbal sharing, the ability to have a conversation with our kid is why—among other reasons—this difficult month of parenting has also been one of such joy. It's really true: It does get better and better.

Posted by Lori at 11:01 PM
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December 12, 2006

Three Perfect Nights

I can't believe how fast I slipped back into my usual mode of having tons of things to write about, but not making the time to write about them. (Notice I said making the time and not having the time; I obviously made the time in November.) Before the backlog becomes crushing and I stop writing for weeks on end (er, too late), I wanted to write about three really great evenings we had last week. When you read about them, you might think, "what's so great about that?", but what I liked about each night was that it gave me a warm glow. Each night made me feel happy. Each night made me appreciate my little family. You can't get more perfect than that.

Tuesday
I proposed walking to the Children's Place on Walnut to buy The Beaner a winter coat, but as they closed at 7pm and Al didn't get home until after 6, the odds of us being able to make it down there in time to shop were slim. We were about to attempt it anyway when The Beaner insisted on going in the car rather than the stroller. At that point we realized a trip to Cherry Hill Mall would kill several birds with one stone: I'd been wanting to check out the sale rack at Gymboree (and use my 20% off your entire order coupon), both of us would rather eat a food court meal than cook dinner, The Beaner would get his ride in the car, and the Children's Place was open mall hours (until 9pm, I think).

I found two pairs of pull-on pants (key when you're toilet training), a hooded sweater, and a fleece pullover—all on the Sale rack—at Gymboree. All sale items were marked down an extra 20%, and I used my 20% off coupon, so despite Gymboree's notoriously high prices, we got a pretty decent deal. I'd received a $100 AMEX gift check as a reward for something I did well, so I paid with that (and got lots of change).

Next we went to the Children's place, where we found winter jackets on sale (I think they were 30 or 40% off). The Beaner protested, of course, when we tried to zip him into the jacket, but he eventually chilled out when I explained very carefully that we were just trying it on for size, and that we wouldn't be so silly as to make him wear a heavy winter coat indoors. The size 3T fit well with room to grow, so we got that, a pair of gloves (to see if he'd wear those instead of the mittens he's rejected), three pairs of socks, and an orange-and-olive striped sweater. I used the change from the gift check, and still had money to spare.

From there we went back to the Food Court, where we agreed that bean tacos and bean Crunchwrap Supremes would hit the spot. We also got a Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, a half-seltzer/half-Sprite from the Subway, and a vanilla milk from the Starbucks (for The Beaner). The kicker? I had enough money left over from the gift check to buy dinner. The whole trip to the mall was stress free: The shopping was easy, the cashier at Taco Bell was the friendliest I've ever encountered (I kinda wish I'd gotten her name, so I could say nice things about her to her manager/the company), we got everything we came for, and we had some lovely family time together.

Wednesday
I'd been craving lychee martinis ever since our dinner at Nobu, and for some reason I just crave alcohol in general during the holidays (it must be all those old movies where people ALWAYS have cocktails in their hands, because I'm usually just a half-a-glass-of-wine or two-sips-of-beer-and-then-abandon-the-bottle kind of gal), and I decided to do something about it. I proposed taking a family walk to the liquor store to buy a good vodka and some lychee liqueur, and to Tampopo to pick up dinner.

The only tough part about this walk was that The Beaner neither wanted to walk nor wanted to ride in his stroller, which meant I had to carry him. My arms cramped into twisted claws halfway to the liquor store, but I made it. Al and the stroller went to Tampopo to pick up the spicy pork, brown rice bibimbap with egg, and sushi rolls with egg cake and avocado that he'd pre-ordered by phone, and then he met me at the liquor store. Sadly, they had no lychee liqueur, but I made do with some Grey Goose vodka, a splash of dry vermouth, a generous dose of the liquid from the canned lychees I was using, and three actual lychees. Lychee martini + brown rice bibimbap + conversation with the family = LOVELY. Hm, I wonder if it'd be a bad thing to go make another martini right now...?

Thursday
I think we all ate separately, but we still got lots of family time in. While Al was changing out of his work clothes upstairs, I started unloading the dishwasher. The Beaner came over to see what I was doing, so I decided to try an experiment. "Do you want to help me unload the dishwasher?" I asked. "Yes!" said The Beaner. "OK, then, can you find all the plastic bowls and stack them together?" And he did. Just like that, he picked out only the four plastic bowls, stacked them, and handed them to me. He then reached for a porcelain bowl, tugged it out, and handed it over with a "here ya go, Mommy!" At first I thought, "oh no, what if he breaks something?" And then I thought, "who cares? He's obviously enjoying himself, and I really do want him to feel useful around the house—and to get used to helping." We ended up unloading the entire dishwasher together, with The Beaner handing me every glass, bowl, cup, lid, and utensil. Makes me smile just thinking of how well he did the job, and how proud he was when we were finished.

After getting something to eat, The Beaner voted to go out in the car again. I proposed that we go out to see some Christmas lights (which I prefer to do by bicycle, but The Beaner wasn't into that; I talked up the idea, though, so he'll be more excited about it next time). We drove up Kelly Drive toward Manayunk, and then into Manayunk itself. Sadly, we didn't get to see any real houses decorated for the holidays, but Manayunk's downtown was decorated nicely (I wonder if they got the balls that used to hang in Rittenhouse Square off of freecycle? ;). The Beaner requested "milk!" halfway up Kelly Drive, so we went in search of a Starbucks. We found one on the main drag, and I took him in to buy a vanilla milk (plus a latte for myself). It was a beautifully crisp, cold winter night, and the cozy coffee shop and the twinkling lights made me want to sing Sleigh Ride for the 100th time.

Al drove for the return trip, and he crossed Falls Bridge to get to West River Drive. I'd never been on that road before; I imagine as a commuter one would feel the urge to drive as fast as possible around its curves, but as someone who was in the mood to drive at a sleigh's pace, the 35mph speed limit seemed too fast. There was no one behind us, so I asked Al to slow down to 25. He did, and it was magical. Not quite as slow as a bike ride, but similar—and when the lights of Boathouse Row came into view, I forgot my earlier lament that we'd seen no houses dressed for Christmas.

---

So, were those three nights boring? Probably, to anyone who didn't experience them with us. But they're exactly the kind of December nights I could have over and over again, and feel like I was in a feel-good movie from the 1940s. Cocktails and sleigh rides in the stroller, anyone?

Posted by Lori at 1:44 PM
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December 19, 2006

Poop Dreams (And Nightmares)

I have a reputation in this household for always being right. Not in a "because I said so" way; no, it's more that I either know what I'm talking about or guess accurately most of the time. This reputation was shot all to hell (at least in my own mind) when we went shopping on Saturday, and The Beaner had to poop.

We're in the process of toilet training (something I haven't talked much about here, because I consider it to be a mostly private experience for The Beaner), so when I saw him get into pooping position in Jo-Ann Fabrics, I said, "do you need to poop? Do you want to find a toilet?" He answered in the affirmative to both questions, so I scooped him up and asked the fabric cutter where the bathroom was. Thus began the start of my series of wrong turns.

Well, actually, let me back up a bit. The first wrong turn had to do with the strategy of parking over near the Costco and walking to the rest of the box stores we needed to visit in the giant strip mall on Route 38. (It drives me nuts that you have to DRIVE from one store to another in a box store complex. It's enough to make me pine for old-school indoor shopping malls.) Al suggested that we bring the stroller to help us carry packages, but after ramming it into every display in the sporting goods store, I took it back to the car. I then walked back to the sporting goods store, and we continued on to Jo-Ann Fabrics.

OK, so here I am in the Women's room at Jo-Ann Fabrics (hey, at least they had a bathroom!), holding a toddler who's doing his best to hold in as much poop as he can while I put down a seat cover and figure out how to balance him over the gap in the seat. (WHY is there a gap in the seat, anyway? Can anyone tell me why commercial toilet seats are split in the middle?) I finally get him to put a leg on each side, but I can't scootch him back very far because his legs don't go that wide... and besides, I'm now contradicting his nanny, who tells him to keep his legs together while on the toilet so she can avoid being sprayed accidentally.

Meanwhile, Al has dashed back to the car to get diapers, because we didn't bring any with us when we left the car. Whose stupid idea was it to park the car and walk, anyway?

So I'm holding The Beaner up on the toilet and checking to see if he's done when I notice the water turning yellow. I immediately try to scootch him back a bit farther on the seat, but as I mentioned, there's only so far he can go with that gap in the middle. I look down, and sure enough, there's a puddle growing in his pants. While still holding onto him, I wedge my cell phone between my scarf and my ear as best I can, dial Al, and shout, "BRING PANTS!"

I manage to get The Beaner wiped and off the toilet, and I remove his shoes and pants and set them aside on the floor. It's then that I realize I'm in the Women's room, and Al is not a woman. I shout, "honey, are you out there???" He replies that he is, so I leave The Beaner standing, pantsless, in the middle of the bathroom while I take the diaper bag handoff from Al.

I seem to have taken over the whole bathroom, what with the pants and the shoes in one stall, the changing table in another, and The Beaner walking around half-naked. I get only halfway through undoing the strap on the changing table before deciding that The Beaner's probably over the weight limit for the thing and instead just change him standing up. As soon as I get the backup pants (thank GOD Al brought the whole diaper bag, and not just a diaper) on him and his shoes back on, I send him out to his dad and then start picking up all the detritus. Needless to say, my last stop was at the sink to wash my hands and to try to blot the pee stain on the inside of my right knee.

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I was all, "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, ASKING IF HE WANTED TO USE THE TOILET???" How do you carry on toilet training and still run errands? Does anyone have any strategies for balancing toddlers on public toilets? (I finally ended up turning him sideways, but then I got all eeky because his bare legs were touching the toilet—the turn fouled up the seat cover.) To my knowledge, only Babies 'R Us has a stall just for kids; I thought it was cute when I saw it, but now I'm wondering why every store doesn't have one.

Al said the adventure reminded him of the very first time we had to change a poopy diaper in public (that link goes to a post that was intended to be a parody of Martha Stewart's holiday letter from prison, but since the link to her "marthatalks" site seems to be dead now, it might not be obvious). He's totally right, of course. The only difference that time is that he came into the Women's room with me, other patrons be damned.

On a related note, I've been having a ridiculous number of poop-related dreams lately. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a dream about poop—that I can recall, anyway—until last week. I think it was before the Jo-Ann Fabrics Incident that I had a dream, just before waking, that was like the trifecta of poop. I dreamed I was on the toilet in the living room of a rented condo, chatting with someone (my sister?) while I pooped. Just then a work colleague walked in, and I was mortified. I'M POOPING, for god's sake! The horror didn't end there; it was like a messy diaper that requires 28 wipes to clean up. The poop was just everywhere, and no matter how determinedly I tried to wipe it away once and for all, I couldn't seem to do it.

There was a quick scene change at that point; I was off the toilet, and my work colleague and my sister had gone, but I was still in the living room of the condo. I looked around on the floor, and there were clumps of manure all over the Berber carpet. I yelled to Al, "good god, this is a rented condo! We've got to get all this shit cleaned up! OH MY GOD! There's manure EVERYWHERE!"

At this point I thought I woke up to Al telling me I had to get out of bed because The Beaner had a leaky diaper, and the poop had shot up into his hair. He needed help cleaning it up. It turns out that this was part of the dream, too; when I actually woke up, I was alone, and Al and The Beaner were still downstairs playing.

I see now as I transcribe this poop trifecta dream that it was as much about *cleaning up* the poop as the poop itself, which is interesting because I had two more poop dreams last night, one of which was also about getting stuck with the cleanup. In the first dream Al and I were trying to figure out how to manuever The Beaner on the toilet in either the Men's or the Women's room without any help from the other parent when I discovered that there was also a Family restroom. "GRAB IT!" said Al, and I did. Miracle of miracles, it was open.

In the other, which I had shortly before waking this morning, a cat who reminded me of Annie got away from me and pooped partly on the hardwood, partly on the rug before I could let her outside to do her business. Of course, I had to clean it up... and man, that was the biggest pile of cat poop I'd ever seen.

I'm wondering if these dreams are really about poop, or if they're more a message to clean the crap out of my life or something like that. They could also just be a message to clean the damn house, period...

Posted by Lori at 10:44 AM
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December 22, 2006

Jingle All the Way

I think I've mentioned here before that The Beaner's favorite Christmas tune is Sleigh Ride (also known as "look at the show"), though he's also fond of Jingle Bells ("jingle all da way"), Let It Snow ("weather outside"), and The Little Drummer Boy ("parum pa pa pum"). He's been singing a few selections at the top of his lungs lately; listening to a song 30 or 40 times in a row is apparently paying off when it comes to lyric memorization (or mangalization, as the case may be). It's pretty interesting, to me at least, to see what he gets wrong (and what he sings instead).


NOTE: I switched to Flash because not everyone could see QuickTime.

Posted by Lori at 4:04 PM | Permalink
January 5, 2007

Past Tense, Big Concepts, and Course Corrections

Al and I noticed last week that The Beaner has started using the past tense properly. I'm never sure whether we notice it the first time he does it, or whether he's been doing it for a while and it finally sinks in with us, but in any case, he's now saying things like "I already ate," or "I saw grandma yesterday."

It occurs to me that we noticed his correct use of the past tense after we'd spent a week trying to explain the concept of time to him, and that maybe the two things are related. Well, I should probably clarify that we didn't give him a Stephen Hawking book and point to the sky; rather, we tried to give him some sense of when he'd be seeing Grandma and Grandpa. We'd say, for example, "on Saturday we're going to see Grandma and Grandpa. Today is Tuesday; Aura is coming today. Tomorrow—Wednesday—you'll see M and Jess; on Thursday you'll see Aura again, and also on Friday; and then on Saturday we're going to drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house."

Actually, that's all future stuff. Where'd he get the past from?

Time isn't the only big concept we've been working on. Along with his future in underpants, we've been talking about:

  • how he's going to get a real bed soon (like maybe this weekend)
  • death (my grandmother died on New Year's Day, so we explained that Grandma and Grandpa were down in Florida saying goodbye to Great-Grandma)
  • where we live relative to everyone else we know

That last one came about because of the second item; I tried to explain that Grandma and Grandpa were driving down to Florida, and The Beaner kept saying, "no, FORD." He thought I was mis-pronouncing Ford. He even said, "I SAID Ford" in a rude and exasperated tone over and over, to our annoyance. We talked to him about that, too, but to help break the logic logjam, I grabbed my laptop and Googled for a simple map of the United States.

When I found one, I pointed to Pennsylvania and said, "we live here, in Pennsylvania." I then pointed out where Grandma and Grandpa Cho live (Virginia), where Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ken live (Maryland), and where Grandma and Grandpa live (also Maryland). I then pointed to Florida and said, "this is Florida. Grandma and Grandpa are driving the white Saab down to Florida." Al drove The Beaner's 1:43 scale 9-3 down the screen to demonstrate.

"No, I SAAAIIIIDDDD Ford."

Believe it or not, I did not lose my cool. I merely opened TextEdit (and ok, I almost lost my cool trying to figure out how to increase the font to a readable size), typed the word "Florida", hit return a couple times, and then typed "Ford". "FLOR-I-DA," I said, pointing. "This top word says 'Florida'. Down here is FORD. Flor-i-da, Ford. See how they're different? Can you see and hear how Florida is longer than Ford?" I then pointed to the map and repeated "Flor-i-da." He repeated after me and then said, "ahhhh."

When I mentioned Florida again the next day, he tried to correct me again, but I said, "no honey, I'm talking about the state, Florida. You know, where Grandma and Grandpa are right now." He smiled and said, "Grandma and Grandpa drove the white Saab to Florida. Grandma's white Saab. Grandpa drive a GMC." How we finally convinced him that the white Saab is Grandma's car, not Grandpa's, is another story—but at least he's got it straight now. Nice to know the big issues are taken care of.

Posted by Lori at 10:06 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 6, 2007

Non-Marking: No Fun

When we were in Napa in the fall, we went to a great little toy store downtown to see if we could find something for Tony and Maria's son P and John and Kathy's son S. I asked about Huggy Buggies, the squishy little cars that Craig and Nico introduced us to long before we had a kid, that we'd bought for the Beaner's cousin when he was little, and which the Beaner now owns thanks to hand-me-downs. I love them because they're squishy—if he throws them or hits me with them accidentally, neither I nor the car gets hurt—and because they go really fast when pushed.

We were told at the store that they no longer carried Huggy Buggies; instead they offered Chubbies, which the salewoman touted as having non-marking wheels. I see now on Amazon that parents and kids everywhere absolutely love them, and my point here is not to criticize these cars, which are probably great. They just weren't quite what we were looking for. When I showed them to Al and said, "this is what they have instead of Huggy Buggies. They're non-toxic, non-marking, and dishwasher-safe!", he replied, "sounds like they're more for parents than kids."

And that's what I want to talk about now. While the Viking cars may indeed be the best toy ever for parents *and* kids, I'm a little dubious in general of toys that seem to be made more for parents than kids. Case in point: Crayola's Color Wonder markers and paper. The Beaner got a couple sets of these for Christmas, and we just tried coloring with them now. I do realize that it's possible that he had much more fun with them than I did (in which case I'd be proving the opposite of what I intended); it's possible that he *liked* coloring for a few seconds and then waiting a few seconds more to see what and where he colored. My impression, however, was that he got bored before the ink could dry and reveal itself.

Even if he wasn't bored, however, it seemed to me that the delayed gratification involved in waiting for the invisible, "won't draw on anything except the special Color Wonder paper!" ink just encouraged him to scribble rather than draw. He attacked the paper as if trying to get an out-of-ink ballpoint pen to write. I admit that I did, too, when my initial attempts to color within the lines were foiled by my inability to see where I'd just colored.

In other words, while I am in favor of delayed gratification in general, in this case the lack of immediate feedback was just plain frustrating. When I paint or draw or even color with crayons, it's a very Zen activity for me—and I've seen that same look of relaxed concentration on The Beaner's face when he's drawing or painting. I didn't see it with the colorless markers. He scribbled for a few seconds, gave me a look that said, "what's the point?", and spent the rest of the time playing with the caps on the markers instead. I think from now on, we'll stick to crayons and colored pencils and paint—the threat of marked-up walls be damned.

Posted by Lori at 8:26 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 8, 2007

The Big Boy Bed

We've been talking about moving the Beaner out of his crib and into a bed for a while now, but this weekend we finally did it. After many discussions about whether to buy him a twin mattress and just try that out on the floor, or whether to just use the crib mattress for a little while to see how it went, on Friday or Saturday night I came up with a better idea: Why not take the relatively unused double/full size bed from the guest room and give it to the Beaner, move our still-serviceable queen up to the guest room, and get ourselves a new bed? We've been talking about getting ourselves a new bed for even longer than we've been talking about the Beaner's sleeping arrangements.

We agreed that this was a brilliant idea, and also that we should implement the plan in two phases (the latter was Al's sensible contribution). Stage 1 would be to move the double bed into the Beaner's room; if he made the transition from crib to bed smoothly, we could move on to Stage 2: shopping for a new bed for ourselves. As long as we don't host any company between Stage 1 and Stage 2—a very likely scenario, given that we rarely manage to lure guests to our home—we're all set. It was also Al's idea to leave the crib in the Beaner's room for a while, too, just in case. My husband is definitely a bet-hedger. Given that we'd have to take apart the crib to get it out of the room, any objections I had to this idea on principle were quickly overruled by the practicality of it. Plus, in the end I was able to arrange the room in such a way that the crib serves to block access to my project/framing closet—handy, since we weren't able to find an appropriate child lock for the closet doors in our first attempt.

the crib, blocking access to my project closet

Ah yes, the closet doors. I should back up a bit and mention that getting the bed into the room was just about the last step in the plan to move the Beaner from the crib to a bed; only putting the sheets and bedrails on it and setting up a little play area came after it. Before it came a host of child-proofing measures, including re-hanging the closet doors. I'd had Al take them off after watching far too many episodes of Clean Sweep in which the designer removed closet doors in favor of curtains. I was a little reluctant to admit, after installing the curtain rods and hanging the curtains myself, that I didn't really like the effect of the curtain-covered closets. Nevermind that they were absolutely impractical for keeping a toddler away from dangerous tools like the drill used for installing the curtain rods, a ridiculously large collection of frames and mats, various Exacto knives, disused calligraphy pens, heavy metal rulers, pins, boxes, bags, and bubble wrap. Oh, and the wireless router with a gazillion wires sticking out of it. (Irony!)

So anyway, task #1 on my list of childproofing measures was to re-hang the closet doors. #2 was to find a way to lock them (or at least one of them; the other could be limited to child-safe clothing and wee plastic hangers). #3 was to install a baby gate at the door. There's already a gate at the top of the stairs, but I need to keep the Beaner away from all the delicate, dangerous, and otherwise don't-mess-with-it stuff in my office, which is in the gallery space at the top of the stairs, just outside his room (which was formerly my office). For one brief moment I actually considered moving my office back into his room and putting his bed in the gallery space, but I decided it would be easier to keep him in his room than to keep him out of my office, the bathroom, and the guest room if he were out in the hall.

Al got the baby gate up first, sometime during the week, so that was checked off before the weekend. I'd also planned to clean out my project closet before hanging the doors, but then in a fit of laziness I decided that what was out of sight didn't really need to be cleaned. This brilliant plan was foiled when the closet doors ended up blocking access to the drawers of my IKEA utility cart, and I spent 30 minutes or so rearranging everything in the lower half of the closet so I could move the cart to the center of the space. By this time Al had drilled a hole through the wall to the gallery space, declared all the "manly" work done, and took the Beaner over to the Please Touch Museum so I could complete the transformation of the room from nursery to big-boy space.

After cleaning out the closets, I tackled the router-and-wires problem—and, at the same time, the rearranging of the cubbies. (Just about everything I did in this project involved killing two birds with one stone, it seems.) I unplugged everything, moved the power strip that had been in the second row of cubbies to the top row—where it will be out of reach for at least a couple months—and then started assessing what really needed to be plugged in, and where. I managed to get everything plugged into that out-of-reach power strip and put safety covers on all the regular outlets. (The power strip itself is plugged into an outlet that's behind the cubbies.) I then put a basket into the cubby with the power strip, so the Beaner couldn't see it.

the cubbies (and gate in the foreground)
The lamp is borrowed from the guest room; I wasn't able to find
one I liked at Home Depot or Bed Bath & Beyond on Sunday morning.

Next I re-routed the ethernet cables around the room and through the hole Al had drilled in the wall (they no longer cross the room, get caught in the door, or create a trip hazard at the top of the stairs). I did the same thing with a much shorter phone cable. I finally found a position for the router that allowed the ethernet cables (well, one of them, anyway) to reach their intended machines *and* the power cord to reach the power strip, but it involved scootching the dresser over to butt up against the cubbies. This turned out to be not a bad thing, as it allowed room for the HEPA filter to nestle into the corner by the heating duct (and, conveniently, keep the cables against the wall). It left nowhere for the backup box of diapers and pull-ups that we used to store between the cubbies and the dresser... until I finished the other child-proofing item on my list and cleaned out the dresser drawers (the top two of which were filled with random cables and wires from when the dresser used to be part of my office, back before I reclaimed the changing table as my project table). Now the bottom drawer of the dresser is full of diapers and pull-ups.

Finally, after dusting, Swiffering, and vacuuming, I was ready to move the bed in. I couldn't remember whether we'd decided to move just the mattress in or the mattress and boxspring, so I moved both. I used the boxspring to plan out where I wanted the bed to go—since the room is small, there was really only one position that made sense—and then I flopped the mattress down on it, stripped the existing sheets and mattress pad off it, and slipped on the vinyl mattress protector I'd procured that morning. I then re-mattress padded and re-sheeted the bed. I couldn't figure out how to install the bedrails (which had been in the guest closet since we removed them from our bed about a year ago), so I left those for Al.

Lightning McQueen chair
Those are framed subway maps (NYC, DC, and London) and transit passes above the dresser;
on top of the cubbies is a series of Paddington Bear prints;
in the corner are two Underground signs and a photo I took in London;
above the bed are two photos I took in Rochester, NY (city of my birth and my mother's childhood) and an embroidered art piece that a friend of the family's who died of breast cancer made for me. She wrote around the rim (hidden by the eyelet border): "Remember your roots: they give you wings to fly."
Between the closets (see crib photo, above) is a series of photos I took in New York.
The theme of the nursery was "oh! the places you'll go!"

When Al and the Beaner returned from the Please Touch Museum, I was sweaty, and the room was ready. I'd laid the road rug that my parents got him for Christmas on the floor, and I'd moved his Lightning McQueen chair up to the side of his bed. He was amazed—and pleased—but still a little confused. "What happened to crib?" he asked. "It's right there, in the corner," I replied. "You're going to be sleeping in this bed from now on." He walked over and patted the crib, as he had just before he and Al left for the museum, and repeated, "But...I neena crib!" "Nope," I said, "You can sleep here on the bed! And when you wake up in the morning"—here I demonstrated by lying down on the bed and then sitting up, rubbing my eyes, hopping off the end, and then leaning over the gate—"you can say, 'Mommy! I'm awake now!'" He loved this idea, and he spent the rest of the afternoon pretending to sleep on the bed, pretending to wake up, and then hopping off the bed and leaning over the gate to shout, "Mommy, I'm awake now!"

He went to sleep at a reasonable hour last night—and man, was it SO MUCH EASIER to put him to bed. This was actually what made me think of the double-bed solution in the first place: I considered what my ideal putting-to-bed scenario would look like. Part of the reason moving the Beaner from a crib to a bed became somewhat urgent of late is that he's gotten so heavy and so tall that even holding him in the chair—our brilliant solution when he became too heavy to hold while walking around the room—became impractical (and uncomfortable). Worse were the nights where I'd finally get him to sleep in the chair, only to have him wake up when I tried to transfer him to the crib. I endured many arm cramps and numbness in the process of getting him down for the night. (For what it's worth, the reason I never cut him off and just put him to bed is that I *like* the snuggle time we have together at night. The poking and head-butting and arm pain I can do without, but now that I work full-time, I value any snuggle time I can get.) Anyway, putting him down now involves the two of us lying down on his bed for a snuggle, and then me getting up when he conks out a few minutes later. Simple.

I'd warned Al that transitioning from a crib to a bed might be a traumatic step for the Beaner, and that our nights might be disrupted now that he can just get up whenever he wants. Last night was a normal one, however; the Beaner went down at about 8:30 and woke up at 6:50, crying as usual for someone to come get him despite all the practice bounding to the gate and shouting, "Mommy! I'm awake now!". I now suspect that the real night terrorism won't start until he figures out, while still half-asleep, that he can get out of the bed himself.

One other thing that happened as a result of the room-rearranging this weekend: He discovered the box with the Build-A-Bear that his cousin MG made for him in it. She gave it to him as a first birthday present, but he hadn't shown any interest in it at the time, so I set it aside in the corner, next to his crib. When I moved the crib, he spotted it and said, "what that?"... and was totally enchanted. It kinda surprised me, given the indifference with which he treated it this time last year, but I guess now is just the right time. MG had gotten both a hockey outfit and a golfing outfit for the bear; it was wearing the hockey togs when we pulled it out of the box. The Beaner had me help him get those off him, starting with the helmet ("hat off!"), and he requested that the bear don the golf attire. He didn't think the round golf shoes looked big enough for the bear's giant feet, however ("too small!"), so he asked me to put the skates back on. We worked on tying and untying the skates for several minutes, and then he requested a comb. "Fixin' his hair," he said, repeating a phrase he'd heard in a Sesame Street song.

fixin' his hair

Posted by Lori at 9:38 PM
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January 10, 2007

Glorious Sleep Is in My Future

Remember how I said that the Beaner slept through the night in his big boy bed the first night? Not so the second or the third night. On Tuesday morning he woke up at 4:50am, crying from his bed. I proposed that we let him cry for a few minutes and see if he went back to sleep, but alas, it was not to be. I went up there and got into the bed with him.

After about 30 minutes I tried to sneak out, but he caught me and cried, so I got back in again and just gave in to the overwhelming tiredness. Both of us conked out again until 7:40am.

Last night the crying started at 3:00am, when I was at my most irrational. I've been known to fly out of bed to rescue my son from his crib at 3:00am despite the ban I've imposed on intervening in the middle of the night because something weird and maternal pokes me out of a deep sleep and screams A RESCUE IS NECESSARY. FLY, WOMAN, FLY! FLY UP THE STAIRS! Last night, the weird maternal finger of doom poked me out of a deep sleep at the sound of my child's cry, and I leapt out of bed... and informed the weird maternal finger of doom that "Iihavetopee. I HAVE TO PEE!" Which I did, and then, without stopping to consider whether it was sensible, I went upstairs to halt the crying.

I got in bed with the Beaner again, and the crying ceased. I did not attempt to sneak out this time, but neither did I fall into that blissful heavy sleep that I had fallen into the morning before. Instead, I fell into a restless, freezing half-sleep, and when we finally crawled out of bed at 8:15 (the Beaner hopped out himself—proving that he does indeed know how to do it), I did not feel rested at all.

This is why Al has been put on notice that if there is any crying before 6am tomorrow morning, it'll be his job to deal with it (or not). The weird maternal finger of doom can just go to H - E - double hockey sticks, because I am going to get a full night's sleep.

(I hope those aren't famous last words.)

Posted by Lori at 9:49 PM
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January 11, 2007

The Missing Months

I didn't write a 25-month update on December 30th mainly because I hadn't written the 24-month/2-year update yet, and I haven't written the 24-month/2-year update for a few reasons. One is that privacy thing I first brought up back in September. Another is that his 24th month happened to coincide with NaBloPoMo, so I feel like that month got covered better than most others anyway. But for all I said here, there's so much more I didn't say, and mostly it's because of the third reason: There was a lot of upheaval in the 24th month, and I couldn't talk about it while it was going on. It was hard enough to deal with at the time; although writing about it probably would have helped me process everything, it also could have potentially hurt people who are very important to our family. I didn't want to do that.

Now that I have some distance from that time—and more importantly, now that we've survived it and come out OK—I think I'm ready to talk about the past couple months a little, starting with the similarities between the 24th month and the 12th. In re-reading my 1-year update, I guess what the two months had most in common was that they were damn difficult. I see from my own posts that I cried more in the 12th month (and I remember screaming incoherently a lot, too), and in the 24th I yelled more. It just required so much more EFFORT to parent in that 24th month than it had in the 23rd; add to that behavioral problems that cropped up left and right, and both Al and I were at our wits' ends most of the time.

I don't think it was until December that I realized why the parenting had gotten harder: namely, we lost our parenting partner, Hannah. Over the past year we had formed a sort of parenting triumverate, with Hannah taking about 40% of the childcare duties, and Al and I each taking about 30%. It was more than just child-watching/entertaining, however. Hannah really did talk about parenting issues with us. At first I wasn't sure how to take this; it actually made me a little uncomfortable, boundarywise. I realized after a little while, however—even before she came on with us full-time, I think—that I still had veto power over any proposal, and that Hannah had no desire to usurp my role as mom. We regularly discussed Beaner developments and brainstormed about strategies for getting him over various developmental humps. And even though Al wasn't there during the day, she made sure he got the "poop report" before she left each evening. (It really was a report about when he'd pooped, but it was also a "poop report" in the sense that she told him everything they'd done that day.)

Anyway, we lost Hannah in November. We knew it was a great loss for both us and the Beaner, but I think at first we thought of it like a good friend moving to another city. We didn't realize right away that what we'd really lost was the third leg of our parenting stool. When we did, it was a forehead-smacking moment: Oh, RIGHT! So THAT'S why parenting has been so much harder! And, as was the case in the 12th month, my frustration was mirrored right back at me by the Beaner. This time it wasn't just my frustration; it was Al's too. I was the only one shouting, of course, but all three of us were... the only picture that comes to mind right now is three hand-mixer blades coming together in flurry of thrashing, or maybe Laverne and Shirley having a slapping fight.

Luckily, the 25th month was a lot like the 13th: the calm after the storm. I held out hope that it would be, since I knew all that thrashing had to be good for something. It was: it helped us find a new groove. We learned to step up as parents, and I think not a moment too soon. I hope Hannah stays a part of our lives forever, and I know she'll always be a great friend to the Beaner (and to us). I also know that the timing was right for us to learn to do this on our own. (So many other things in our lives and Hannah's have fallen into place because of this change that I can't doubt that it was the absolute right thing at the absolute right time.) Jess and Aura still shoulder a huge part of the childcare burden—and are a huge part of the Beaner's life—but partly because they're sharing duties, and partly because we learned to Be Parents, things are different now than they were before.

There are probably a few milestones that I missed by not writing a 25th-month update, but I hope by writing daily I'll get caught up on most of them as the happen from now on. Here's to the third year of your life, kiddo.

Posted by Lori at 11:36 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
January 18, 2007

How Do You Do It?

I read the blogs of other parents on a daily basis, and despite knowing the favorite foods, least favorite activities, sleep patterns, and even the bathroom habits of many of the children of those parents (not to mention the parents themselves), I realized the other day that with a couple exceptions, I know very little about how these parents organize their days. Are they stay-at-home moms or dads? Do they go to offices during the day, every day? Only a couple days? Work from home? Who takes care of the kid or kids, regardless? What does a typical day look like for these other blogging parents, and how do they get through it?

For a long time I didn't really know Ratphooey's work/childcare arrangements, despite the fact that I read her blog daily and have interacted with her in person. I probably know the most about Juliloquy's daily routine because of her Day in the Life series, and it's been so cool to learn about it, not least because she also lives in Philadelphia and her Schmoo is a couple weeks older than the Beaner. I think what makes it most fascinating is that she goes into the kind of detail that other bloggers do not. I, for example, think that everyone MUST have figured out by now what my work/childcare arrangements are and what my routine is because I mention bits and pieces of it all the time... and yet, though I'm sure other bloggers would say the same about their lives and blogs, I'm here to tell you that I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS. Well, one major question: How do you do it? How does your family manage work/childcare/housework/all the other stuff that needs to get done?

I'm not sure I can answer all of that at once, but for the benefit of new and old readers alike, I'll try to give a snapshot. I'd love for other parents to do the same, either in the comments or in your blogs (leave a link in the comments if you end up posting about this!).

I guess I'll start with work. A summary of my work history is available on my about page; what's relevant now is that I work from home at a full-time job for a relatively large company. In other words, I'm a telecommuter rather than a freelancer. The rest of my team is based in San Francisco, CA (except for one other engineer who's also a full-time telecommuter; he's in San Diego). Al also works full-time, at an office here in Philadelphia. He's lucky to have a commute that takes 10-15 minutes, depending on whether he takes the bus or walks.

We currently have a nanny who comes three days a week at 8:30am and stays until 6:00pm. On these days, Al goes off to the office shortly after she arrives, and I start work anywhere from 8:45am to 9:30am, depending on whether I've managed to squeeze in a walk and/or what time the Beaner wakes up. I work upstairs in a messy office outside the Beaner's bedroom, and I generally stay up there whenever the Beaner and Aura, the nanny, are home. When I hear the garage door open and shut, I know they've gone out, and it's safe to go downstairs and get a cup of tea or something to eat. Although I occasionally do go downstairs while the Beaner is home and awake for the express purpose of giving him a quick snuggle, it's a dangerous proposition—I risk not being able to extract myself without tears. Still, sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes I really need it.

The other two days a week, the Beaner goes to sharecare. Enough people have looked at me quizzically or asked outright, "what's that?" that I'm starting to believe the term "sharecare" is not universally understood. Allow me to explain what I mean: We "share care" with another family that also has a toddler and a nanny. In other words, that family's nanny, Jess, takes care of both her regular charge and our Beaner, and each family pays Jess a slightly reduced hourly rate. This way, Jess earns more for watching two children than she would for watching one, and the two families each pay less than we would if we each had our own nanny. The kids love it because they have a regular playmate, so everybody wins.

On sharecare days, Al usually feeds the Beaner breakfast and packs his lunch while I get dressed upstairs. When I come down, Al does his final preparations while I get out the double stroller and make sure there are some Pull-Ups and a change of clothes in the Beaner's diaper bag (a clear plastic bag that I think a blanket came in). I then get the Beaner into his coat and into the stroller, and all three of us leave together. We usually try to leave by 8:45am, but sometimes we don't make it out of the house until 9:00. Al splits off at Market Street, and the Beaner and I continue on to M's house, which is a little over a half mile from our house. (If it's raining, the routine is a little different; in that case, I throw the stroller in the trunk and drive the Beaner over to M's house. It's rained on surprisingly few sharecare days; I think I've only driven him three or four times in as many months.)

The double stroller was a special purchase just for sharecare, by the way; it helps Jess get around to the playground and the Please Touch Museum with both kids. I don't think I've ever seen them both riding in it at the same time, however. Anyway, I usually spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes getting the Beaner acclimated at M's house (though yesterday he ran straight into the kitchen with M, so I left right away), and then I walk back home. I usually stop at Trader Joe's on the way and pick up a few things, and if I'm lucky I'm at my desk at 9:30am. If I'm unlucky, and the Beaner melts down (this really only happened during the month of November; he seems OK now), it could be 10am before I get to sit down at my computer.

The good news is that even though I often get a later start on sharecare days, I also usually get a lot of work done because the house is quieter. (I also tend to get some laundry done, too, because I can run downstairs to change loads whenever I want.) I also eat better, because I can come down and make myself something when I'm hungry, not get stuck eating corn chips, almonds, and LUNA bars upstairs because the Beaner's down in the kitchen, waiting to cling to my neck if I make an appearance.

Jess is only officially on duty with M until 5:00pm, so when M's mom comes home (or her dad, who like me works upstairs at their house) comes down, she packs the Beaner and his lunch and diaper bags back into the double stroller and walks him over to our house. They usually arrive anywhere from 5:20pm to 5:50pm; if it's earlier, they go downstairs to the basement to play. If it's later, they'll come up to see me in my office, and Jess will give me a rundown of how the Beaner behaved, whether he napped, and how often he went to the potty.

Whether it's a sharecare day or a regular day, Al usually comes home around the time the nannies are leaving, which is handy for me if it's not a payday—it means I have a couple extra minutes to finish up what I'm doing upstairs. My San Francisco colleagues seem to go on a tear after 4pm my time (i.e., after lunch their time), so I'm often consulting with one or another of them about a bug or a feature right when Family Time should be starting.

If it is a payday, at 6:00pm I'm downstairs writing a check. Al has written checks before, but I don't think he knows how to do the tax calculations if either nanny has worked more or fewer hours than usual. We have a service prepare our nanny taxes for us, and they give us a sheet with gross and net pay amounts for a regular week of work as well as a multiplier to use when the gross amount differs from the usual amount. Actually, it occurs to me that this alone might be news; from the postings on craigslist and other friends and nannies I've talked to, it seems that it's just as common to pay for childcare under the table. Although neither of us is likely to run for public office or be nominated for Attorney General, we wanted to be legal and above-board.

After the nannies have gone home, Al and I usually decide what to do for dinner (about 2/3 of the time we go out or order in, and the other 1/3 of the time I make something or we eat from the freezer). If we eat in we might go for a family walk afterwards or play in the basement together. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 we have bathtime, and sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 I snuggle the Beaner to sleep in his bed while Al cleans up the kitchen. After that I either work for another hour or two, we watch TV together (24, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Lost, or 30 Rock), or we have a Family Meeting. (We started meeting once a week before the holidays to talk about things like retirement planning, vacation planning, the budget, etc. Our first meeting, in November, was about benefits; our open enrollment periods happened to coincide, so it was a good time to figure out which health plan made more sense, how much to set aside for childcare FSA—the max, without a doubt—and healthcare FSA, etc.)

I'm running out of battery on my laptop, and in reading this out loud to Al I realize how boring it all sounds, so I won't bother covering weekends. Now, let's hear how you do it!

Posted by Lori at 10:33 PM
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January 22, 2007

Two Beaner Notes

Since I haven't been particularly good about posting developmental milestones in the past couple months, I wanted to write about a couple small things now, before I forget.

The Beaner finally learned to jump today. He's been leaping off curbs, doorsteps, stairs, and structures at the playground for months... one foot at a time. We would yell "jump!", and he would step off and start giggling, thinking he had jumped. We tried to tell him at first that it took two feet to jump, but after awhile we just cheered the big step and said to ourselves, good enough.

Well, tonight he started jumping with a vengeance—really jumping, with both feet. While I was unpacking my hockey bag on the landing outside the storage room, the Beaner jumped off the bottom step. I didn't see him do it; I just heard him squeal, "I jumped! I gonna jump AGAIN!" I said, "OK, but be careful," since the space available to jump in was tight. The second time he kind of chickened out and did a half jump/half step, and his indecision cost him: He ended up face-planting.

Undeterred, he assured me he was fine and got back on the step to jump again. He repeated the process over and over again, even after I'd said "OK, ONE more time" at least twice, and even after I turned out the light. I finally had to pick him up and carry him up the stairs to the tub.

After his bath, he wanted to try jumping some more. It totally reminded me of my childhood, of skills learned in giant breakthroughs and then repeated over and over again because I couldn't quite believe I'd mastered them... and also because I was afraid I'd forget. He jumped off the little stepstool at the foot of his bed about 20 times, occasionally falling backwards on his butt because he always landed stiff-legged, instead of bending his knees. I hadn't noticed the stiff-legged landings when we were downstairs, but as he was naked for half of these jumps and diaper-clad for the remainder, his knee position was obvious. I tried to demonstrate landing with knees bent, but he seemed only to be able to bend before he jumped and after he'd already planted, not as he was landing. Oh well: that'll just be the next thing to work on!


One night couple months ago, back when I was still snuggling the Beaner to sleep in a chair and then transferring him to his crib, I was trying to talk him down from a rather hyper state to a sleep-ready one. (He usually went in ready to sleep, but not on this night.) I forget how it started, but I ended up listing all the people who love him. "Daddy loves you, and Mommy loves you, and Grandma loves you, and Grandpa loves you, and Grandma Cho loves you, and Grandpa Cho loves you..." and on and on until he fell asleep.

Fast-forward to sleeping-in-the-big-boy-bed time. It's so much easier to put him to sleep now that I can just lie next to him and doze off myself while he settles down and starts in with the neck kneading. Usually all that's required is a few "it's time for sleeping" reminders, and then silence. Tonight I was actively trying not to doze off so I could get downstairs as soon as possible to watch 24, so I happened to catch something I hadn't identified as a pattern before: Not for the first time, I heard the Beaner whispering to himself, "...and Grandpa loves you, and Hannah loves you, and Daddy loves you, and Aunt Lisa loves you, and Mommy loves you..." as he drifted off to sleep.

Posted by Lori at 11:38 PM
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January 25, 2007

Maniacal Laughter In The Middle of the Night

In my last big boy bed update, I mentioned that the Beaner woke up screaming on nights two and three, and that Al was the designated soother for night four. Well, of course the Beaner didn't wake up on night four... and, in fact, has slept through every night since then until Monday.

On Monday night, he fell out of bed for the first time. I didn't hear the thud; I just heard the screams that followed it (and to which Al responded). [As I typed that last sentence, I heard his little toy Jeep fall over the side of the bed and hit the heating vent. :) ] When Al finally came back down after snuggling/sleeping with the Beaner for a couple hours, he said that the Beaner had fallen off the foot of the bed. It was hard to picture, given that he usually falls asleep stretched across the pillows at the head of the bed.

The next night I heard the thud; it happened just as I was "cueing up the Potter", as Al says. (We usually listen to the Harry Potter books on the iPod as we're going to sleep each night.) "What was THAT?" I said to Al. A few seconds later, my question was answered with toddler screams. Once again, Al responded. When he came back down, he said that the Beaner had apparently gotten thirsty and went in search of water... right off the end of the bed again.

Last night I tried a new strategy: I put a bottle of water next to the head of the bead, and I pointed it out to the Beaner as we were getting in for our nightly snuggle. "See this water bottle? I'm putting it right here, in case you get thirsty tonight." He seemed excited to have it nearby, and he went to sleep relatively quickly after I turned out the light.

At 3:30am, I awoke to screaming and assumed he'd fallen out of bed again, perhaps while reaching for the water bottle at the head of the bed this time. The instinct to fly up the stairs kicked in, and I raced up to the Beaner's room without waking Al. When I got to the door, I couldn't see anything in the room, so I swiveled my head blindly and said, "are you OK? Sweetie, are you OK?" There was a disconnect in my brain for a moment when it sounded like the crying was coming from the bed instead of the floor, and then I opened the gate and went inside, arms out and feeling around for the Beaner. He was indeed on the bed still, and as soon as I got near him, he threw his arms around my neck and dove for the pillows, dragging me down with him. I decided to go with the flow, and just said, "wait while Mommy gets under the covers." He was asleep in less than a minute.

I fell asleep, too, so I'm not sure how much later it was that the maniacal laughter started. It woke me, of course, and I think I said, "{Beaner}?" In response, he heeheeheed again. Er, OK. Quiet returned, and I dozed off again. Next I was awoken by crying. He didn't get completely worked up again; I think I was sleeping lightly enough that I heard the storm coming, so I was able to reassure him that I was still there and that there was no need to cry. When he started laughing again awhile later, I decided he was just having extremely vivid dreams, and that if I was going to be able to get up for court on time at 7:30am, I needed to go downstairs and get in my own bed. He ended up waking right as my alarm went off, no worse for wear.

I'm hoping tonight's a restful night for all of us, and that there's no falling or crying or laughing or snuggle-mugging. I don't have to be to court until 10am tomorrow, but it might be a long day—more on that once closing arguments and deliberations are over.

Posted by Lori at 10:37 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
February 1, 2007

26 Months

The Beaner turned 26 months old yesterday. I celebrated by giving him a haircut and putting him in underpants. He spent all day Saturday in underpants with only one notable accident, and after staying dry in his Pull-Up all day Sunday (when we went on a 3-hour car trip) and Monday, I decided he was ready for daily underpants. As on Saturday we had one notable accident, but other than that it went *really* well. We still have a little work to do before I'm ready to declare him completely toilet trained—he's still wearing, and wetting, a regular diaper at night, for example—but we're on our way, and we're very proud of him for what he's accomplished so far.

The fact that he's telling us when he has to go is HUGE. I still ask him occasionally, and I and the nannies always take him before leaving the house and upon returning whether he's announced he has to go or not, but the fact that, for example, he told me he had to go after about 20 minutes of bedtime snuggling last night was key. He did, in fact, have to go. Tonight he said he had to pee twice after getting out of the tub, and he went both times—once quite a bit, and once just a dribble. The important thing is that he knows what it feels like to have to go.

Anyway, enough of the toilet news. Also big in the Beaner's world right now is The Great Jeep Rescue (also sometimes referred to as The Grate Jeep Rescue). Observe the little black Jeep in the Beaner's left hand in the following video:


About 15 minutes after I shot this video, here's what happened to the Jeep:

jeep down the gratejeep down the grate
The first shot was intended to show the Jeep clearly; the second was intended to show how far down it was.
The second didn't really do its job, so I estimated for Al that it was about 6 feet down.

After taking these photos, sadly we had to abandon the Jeep. The Beaner never stopped talking about it, though. "The Jeep fell down the grate?" he'd ask, and I said, "Yes, honey, I'm sorry. Maybe we'll get another one someday." Al actually ordered him another one online that very night, but he also couldn't stop thinking about it. Two nights later he proposed that we stage a rescue.

We got an extendible pole from the garage, and Al stuck a wad of duct tape on the end of it. We tested it at home to see if it was strong enough to pick up a toy Jeep (it was), and I judged it to be long enough to reach down into the pit under the grate. Al got a heavy duty flashlight, and we headed out with our supplies, the Beaner, and the stroller. When we arrived at the grate, I started videotaping the rescue operation... and ended up capturing much more than I thought I would. A man shouted from across the street, "whatchu got down there? I'll go down there for you!" and, long story short, he did. He jumped six feet down, got the Beaner's Jeep, and hoisted himself back out. I recorded the whole thing, but I've been reluctant to post it in case we broke anything (including any laws).

The video may not be public, but it's been viewed dozens of times already by the Beaner. He asks to see it several times a day, and he's learned how to click the Play button to play it again when it reaches the end. He narrates for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. He anticipates all the dialogue and says the lines before the characters in the video (i.e., me, Al, and the man) do. And he tells the story to everyone he meets. He told it to Jess before I'd had a chance to fill her in, holding up the Jeep and saying, "dis my old Jeep [as opposed to the new one we might get someday to replace the old one, which fell down the grate]. The man got it for you." (He meant "for me," obviously, but "you" and "me" is kind of a hard concept to explain.) Jess, a bit puzzled, replied, "oh, really? That's great!" The Beaner seized on this and, thinking she understood, followed up with, "YEAH! It fell down the grate!"

As far as growth goes, the Beaner's now squarely in size 3T clothes. He's roughly 37" tall and weighs about 35 lbs. by our measurements. I haven't a clue how big his head is, but his winter hat is a size 4-6 (though it's a wee bit too big). I thought over the weekend that he might have gone up a shoe size, too, since he was limping a bit when he walked, but when we arrived at the shoe store, he still measured at 7.5 (his current shoes are an 8). The reason for the occasional limping is still a mystery; at first we thought it was because the eczema on his legs was so bad that his pants hurt. After several days of regular lotioning the eczema has cleared up a bit, however, but the occasional limping continues. He claims nothing hurts, so I guess we'll just have to monitor it.

I think that's about all I haven't covered in previous posts and want to publicly, except to say that he's as cute as ever. Oh, and that he now seems able to take direction when I whip out the camera. He actually posed for these yesterday morning:

the breakthrough session 1 the breakthrough session 2 the breakthrough session 3 the breakthrough session 4 the breakthrough session 5 the breakthrough session 6 the breakthrough session 7

Posted by Lori at 12:19 AM
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February 1, 2007

Why I'm Working on Replacing My Wardrobe

Have I mentioned that I'm in the process of replacing my entire stock of tops (shirts, sweaters, etc.) with offerings from Gap Tall? I'm doing this because now that I have three shirts whose sleeves reach my wrists, I WANT MORE. Suddenly all the shirts and sweaters that have always been a little short in the torso and the arms look even more ridiculous than they did before, because now I know that there's an alternative.

I used to complain about how nothing ever fit me, but somewhere along the line I got used to it. Somewhere along the line I also acquired a bunch of tops purchased from the men's racks at Gap and Old Navy (one of which I'm wearing right now), which solved the too-small-in-the-arms-torso-and-shoulders problems I was having, but which did nothing to make me look like a girl. Most of the time I look like a teenage boy, which is probably why it's not surprising that Aura pointed out to me, when I went downstairs to get something out of the laundry room and found Aura and the Beaner reading books, that whenever the Beaner sees a the pre-teen boy hopping over the fire hydrant on page 3 of Tana Hoban's over, under & through, he says, "dat Mommy!"

hydrant boy mommy_boy
Fig. 1

I am doing my best to pick out girlier options on the Gap Tall website, though I do still find myself gravitating to the simple t-shirts and thermals commonly found in the closets of teenage boys. I should also note that a couple attempts to go girly have been foiled by other tall shoppers with faster mousing fingers than I—apparently size M and L go VERY quickly among the tall—and that the Gap doesn't always have the widest selection of girly options. Ideally I'd find another online tall store that let me return anything that didn't fit my body or my style to a local brick-and-mortar store, as Gap does, so I could have a wider array of fashion options. (I'm done with returning purchases by mail.) Any suggestions?

Posted by Lori at 4:55 PM
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February 5, 2007

The Cure For The Winter Blues?

Did y'all know that Daylight Saving Time is being extended this year? Instead of starting on the first Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October, it'll now start on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. In other words, DST will start on March 11 this year instead of April 1, and it'll end on November 4 instead of October 28.

I'm trying to decide if this is a good or a bad thing. As someone who tends toward depression in the winter because of the lack of light—and as someone who's looked forward to Daylight Saving Time for her entire adult life the way I looked forward to Christmas as a kid—it seems like it would be a good thing. I'm so tuned to the way things are now, though, that I wonder if it will be a difficult adjustment.

I always know when DST is ending because I was born on the day the clocks changed in 1968. Thus, the weekend of or just after my birthday is the sad day when we fall back (though as a consolation prize, we gain an extra hour of sleep). I'm sure there will be other reminders in early November, but it won't be the same.

When I was in my early teens I used to have to get up for school ridiculously early (partly because I had long, incredibly thick hair, and it took at least 20 minutes to blow dry it), often before the sun was up. I used to look forward to March, when the days were starting to lengthen but DST had not yet arrived because it meant that the sun rose before I did. I loved the early morning light streaming through my windows. It felt peaceful and wonderful and renewing to wake up in that light. Daylight Saving Time's arrival was often a disappointment, plunging me as it did back into morning darkness.

Now I wake late enough that the sun is up before I am even in winter, so I don't think moving DST will make that much difference to my mornings. I also sit by a window all day while I work, so I maximize the light I get even on short winter days. I've been noticeably less chipper in the past couple months than I was in the preceeding fall or summer, but it's really not that bad. I think the fact that Philadelphia can be sunny even when it's bitterly cold outside (as it is now) helps a lot; I remember being more depressed in winter in San Francisco, where I also sat next to a window during the day, possibly because there were more overcast, rainy days. Ditto Boston, where it's more overcast than here.

Speaking of winter and bitter cold, today is a sharecare day, so I walked the Beaner over to his friend M's house in the stroller this morning. OH MY GOD, IT WAS COLD. We seem to have gone from merely freezing to absolutely brutal, and I was caught with no tights under my jeans. What was I thinking? Here's where, if you're a seasoned parent, you'll be saying out loud, "wait, you're worried about not wearing TIGHTS under your pants? What about your KID, freezing his ass off in the stroller?" And you'd be absolutely right.

I called Al after I left M's house to tell him how the Beaner refused the stroller cover halfway through the walk, even though he'd gone silent minutes into the walk (usually he sings until he gets too cold to do so, so he must have gotten cold fast), and how he'd started to whimper as we turned onto M's street. "Only a little farther, buddy!" I'd said. "Yeah," Al said. "As I was riding up the elevator in my building this morning, I remarked to a colleague how cold it was this morning. The colleague replied, 'yeah, it was so cold I had to drive my kids to school!'" We both paused for a second to smack our foreheads. We could have DRIVEN the Beaner to M's house. Duh. "We should pick him up in the car tonight," said Al. Um, yeah. Sometimes we are so STUPID.

13degrees.gif

Posted by Lori at 10:27 AM
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February 8, 2007

Updates from Beanerworld

The Beaner had his interview at the Montessori school around the corner on Saturday, and I have now gone from "whatever happens, happens" to "god, I hope he gets in." He so obviously LOVED it that I think I'll be disappointed if they don't take him. The good news is that I got a book on homeschooling Montessori-style and am in the process of formulating a backup plan for schooling him in the mornings before starting work should the school not accept him this year.

On the sleep/big boy bed front, I finally lost it the other night and declared that Things Must Change. The Beaner was staying up later and later, to the extent that there was no Grown-Up Time and no Work at Night Time before Al and I fell into a grumpy and exhausted sleep. We started a new schedule last night that involved eating dinner together as soon as Al got hom from work (i.e., around 6:30), starting the bathtime routine at 7:30, and getting in bed at 8:00. We figured we'd sacrifice a little sleep in the morning for more adult time at night.

A small wrench was thrown into the schedule when, after getting in bed and starting a reading of Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, the Beaner announced that he had to poop. Announcements like this at bedtime are becoming more regular, which is a good thing—except when you're getting in bed at 9:30pm or later. Good thing we got in bed at 8. So anyway, he pooped, he got back in bed, we finished reading our book, I turned out the light, and I spent about the next 40 minutes trying to convince him to go to sleep. He finally conked out at 9pm, after I employed my never-fail technique of threatening to leave.

We heard him crying a bit a little before midnight, but at that point we were in the middle of a full-blown discussion on the merits and drawbacks of cocktail playdates, so we ignored him. By the time we were finished and ready to go to sleep, he was quiet.

We fully expected to be woken at 6:50am or so, given that he'd fallen asleep a good 30-90 minutes earlier than usual, and his normal wakeup time is between 7:20 and 8:20am. When my watch alarm went off at 7:50am, however, he was still asleep. I got out of bed to shower at 8am, trudged up the stairs (since our master bathroom is out of order—though there's good news on that front in that our contractor finally responded to our desperate pleas and is ready to take our deposit and order cabinetry—we all have to bathe upstairs for the time being), noticed that I'd forgotten to close the gate in the Beaner's doorway, closed the gate, and then jumped in the shower, where I proceeded to drop razors and bottles and lids rather noisily.

While putting on lotion post-shower, I heard him cough and thought to myself, "wow, he's still up here." I figured he'd have woken and cried while I was showering, and that Al would've brought him downstairs. A few seconds later I heard the clank of metal against the gate and went to investigate. For the first time ever, the Beaner was standing at the gate, little black Jeep in hand, quietly waiting for someone to come get him. (Usually he sits in bed whining or crying—often with his eyes shut—until Al or I come to pick him up. We also usually have to go back later for the Jeep, which ends up stuffed under a pillow.)

I know it's only one night, and it's too early to declare victory, but boy, am I encouraged. Who knew that putting him to bed earlier could cause him to sleep LONGER? I'll worry about getting him up in time for school later... if he gets in.

Posted by Lori at 2:27 PM
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February 9, 2007

Do Two Days Equal a Pattern?

It was not a fluke. The Beaner fell asleep at 9pm last night, slept until about 8:20 this morning, and upon waking, got out of bed and waited patiently at the gate until his dad heard the metallic clunk of his little Jeep against the bars and went to get him.

Last night, we had time to:

  1. Eat dinner together (yes, we each ate something different, but we sat at the table together and talked about our days)
  2. Meet with the contractor about the bathroom and give him a deposit toward the cabinets and demo work
  3. Dance and sing, "Sing, sing with mom" (to the tune of "Sing a Song") at the top of our lungs in the kitchen
  4. Shower (Al and the Beaner)
  5. Watch Grammar Rock for the bajillionth time (my heart totally melted as the Beaner yelled out the chorus of the Interjection! song—so when you're happy (HOORAY!), or sad (AW!), or frightened (EEK!), or mad (RATS!), or excited (it's supposed to be WOW!, but for some reason he skips this one), or glad (HEY!), an interjection starts the sentence right!)
  6. Let the Beaner try to poop twice
  7. Check in a bugfix (me)
  8. Read a story to the Beaner
  9. Snuggle the Beaner to sleep
  10. Watch both Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars (me and Al)
  11. Read a chapter of The Omnivore's Dilemma (me) and You Gotta Have Wa (Al).

Yeah, baby! We're totally rockin' the new schedule.

Posted by Lori at 10:50 AM
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February 9, 2007

Complex

Overheard from downstairs just this moment: "I found my black Jeep, Aura!"

I mention this because it sounded SO CUTE to my ears, and also because I've been noticing lately how much more accurately the Beaner is describing things—even before the doctor mentioned last Friday, with some surprise, that she could understand everything he was saying, and before we had our interview at the Montessori school at which we were asked whether the Beaner spoke in simple or complex sentences.

He's using articles, adjectives, and other modifiers more frequently now. He doesn't just say, "what happened to penis?" anymore (and I am including the actual word here instead of substituting p____, as I normally do, because nothing CRACKS ME UP quite so much as thinking of the Beaner asking this question in his usual "what happened to...?" tone of half-excitement, half-alarm, and I wanted to share my amusement with you); he says, "what happened to my penis?"... and, somewhat sadly, the addition of the word "my" makes it sound like a normal question anyone would ask. Not nearly as funny, but I try to remind myself that it's an indication of development on the language front.

Of course he also asks about and identifies other items as well, often being very explicit about which thing he means in the process. "What happened to my blue cup?" It's in the dishwasher, I think. "What happened to my blue DORA cup?," he'll clarify. Oh, that's over here. "I like Jeeps. I like Jeeps and Saabs. Where's our Saab, the big one?" (This last point of clarification is necessary because he has several toy Saabs, and I'll go looking for those unless I understand that he means the Saab that we drive around in.) Appropos of nothing, he'll sometimes tell us what he's doing or where he is. "{The Beaner}'s in the car. In the back seat of the big Saab. That Mommy and Daddy up there. Daddy's driving. Mommy not driving."

My favorite language moments, however, are the ones in which he's being polite. The ones where he recognizes the difference between "I want" and "I need", and especially between "I like" and "I *would* like". "I'd like some tapioca, please" has never sounded so sweet.


At the end of a long session of sock puppetry, a request to play cars.

Posted by Lori at 4:03 PM
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February 15, 2007

Newsworthy

Al and I cannot stand the local news. We do not want to hear the gory details of all the murders, rapes, drive-by shootings, hit-and-run accidents, and drug transactions that afflict Philadelphia. We hate the hyperbole, the non-news, the on-location reporting when being on-location adds absolutely nothing (look, here's a shot of the street where the water main broke! you can't see anything now, but a few hours ago there was water here!).

That said, I have just set the TiVo to record the local news (channel 6) tonight from 5:00pm to 6:30pm. Why? Because the Beaner will be featured in a non-news story about the refurbishment of the boat river at the Please Touch Museum. Apparently they needed a kid to push the very first boat down the newly-refurbished river as part of a press event announcing Aqua's sponsorship of said refurbishment (as well as of the building of an even better water feature at the new Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall, coming soon). The woman in charge of the press event approached Aura and asked if the Beaner would be the boat-pusher. She said yes with glee, and then called me for my OK when they presented her with a photography/film release to sign. After talking with the woman in charge, I gave the thumbs up.

So anyway, my kid will be on the news tonight. The person you may or may not see lurking behind him will be Aura, not me (because I am home WORKING, not blogging or budgeting or anything else not work-related). If you're local and have any inclination to see the Beaner in action, may I suggest you do as we are doing and TiVo the news, so you don't actually have to watch it. You can just scan for his cuteness, watch the Please Touch segment, and then delete the whole shebang without even watching the weather report. Woo!

Update: They didn't run the segment, so now I'm happier than ever that I TiVo'ed the 90 minutes worth of traffic, weather, and manufactured drama instead of watching it live. The goody bag the Beaner received as part of the press hoo-hah was reward enough for his time in front of the camera, too—it contained a plastic sailboat and squeezy tug boat for playing with in the tub (now shower!), stickers, a MARACA (which I think is brilliant even if it *is* rather loud), bandaids, and a bunch of other random stuff.

Posted by Lori at 1:13 PM
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February 15, 2007

School Days

Just wanted to let anyone who was holding their breath in suspense know that the Beaner was accepted at the Montessori school for this fall. We are still trying to figure out all the things we need to commit to/pay for/sign in the coming days, but we're thrilled. I really think he's going to love it.

Posted by Lori at 4:26 PM
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February 18, 2007

Why and Other Words

You know the pilot episode of Lucky Louie that Mrs. Kennedy wrote about (transcribed, actually) way back in July? We saw that episode (or at least that opening scene) when it aired, and neither Al nor I found it funny. We found it annoying. Well, guess what? THAT SCENE IS NOW MY LIFE. The Beaner's favorite phrase used to be "what happened?", which could be annoying enough when repeated. But while "what happened" is still in rotation, it's been replaced at #1 by WHY? And not just one WHY?, but several, repeated after every answer a la that scene in Lucky Louie.

This will not be a surprise to any parent with a child older than 5 or so; if you've made it that far, you've already been through the endless WHY stage, and you're probably smirking right now. Heck, you probably found the Lucky Louie scene hi-fucking-larious. What I do find somewhat amusing about it is that Al takes the questioning as a parental challenge and answers each successive WHY with more and more detail—essentially re-enacting the Lucky Louie scene over and over on a daily basis. I do it too, to a certain extent, though at some point I usually cut the Beaner off with a BECAUSE.

At the mall the other day I actually had the temerity to ignore three WHYs in a row, and when the fourth one came, I responded with BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE. Which The Beaner found hilarious, and so a game of WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY...BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE ensued. If I forgot my line, the Beaner would prompt me: "No, {Beaner} says, 'WHY WHY WHY...' and then Mommy says, 'BECAUSE BECAUSE BECAUSE...'."

It can sometimes be fun to try to come up with enough detail to answer each successive WHY, so the question isn't *always* annoying. What *is* annoying is when the whole WHY set gets repeated, as in:

"Mommy, whatchu doin'?"

"Unloading the dishwasher."

"WHY?"

"Because the dishes are clean, and I need to put them away."

"WHY?"

"Because I need to make room for the dirty dishes."

"WHY?"

"Because I don't want them clogging up the sink."

"WHY?"

"BECAUSE."

[10 second pause]

"Mommy, whatchu doin'?"

"I'm unloading the dishwasher."

"WHY?"

And so on. After the third round of the same questions and the same answers, when he asked, "Mommy, whatchu doin'?", I said, YOU TELL ME. And he did... but then he said, WHY?, and I replied, MOMMY ALREADY TOLD YOU WHY. Which of course I came to regret. He spent the rest of the day saying WHY? and then, before I could fully form a response, answering his own question with MOMMY ALREADY TOLD YOU WHY. "Uh, Beaner? No I didn't. Not this time."

WHY isn't the only new word around here. He now answers requests with "sure" or "sure thing". He's started using the word "also" properly—as in, "Mommy putting on her coat? I put on my coat also." Aura mentioned that she'd heard him use the word "though", and then sure enough, I heard him say it the next day. Last night Al said to him, while we were eating Korean food for dinner, "you didn't like that pork dumpling?" The Beaner replied, "No. The rice is good, though."

Sometimes I can carry on such detailed, grown-up-like conversations with him that I forget he's only two. I'm brought back to reality when he answers WHAT. to perfectly reasonable questions, like "do you remember why you were crying last night?" (Not WHAT?, but WHAT.) Oh, and remember how I said I wasn't sure whether the requests to pee and poop at bedtime reflected progress on the toilet-training front or precocious procratistination? (No? Hm, maybe I never said it out blog.) Anyway, it's a little of both. He's become a total CHAMP at the potty. Even when he had a bit of a stomach virus last weekend, he managed to tell me BEFORE he had to go *and* wait for a stall big enough for the two of us to open up. (At the ski slope we visited last weekend, everyone coveted the handicap stall because it was the only one big enough to turn around in.) We don't have to ask him if he has to pee constantly because he tells us when he has to go.

Oh, but what I was about to talk about was the precocious procrastination. Last night, as usual, he announced that he had to pee after we'd been in bed snuggling for 15 minutes already. I sighed heavily and said OK, let's go to the bathroom then. We marched down the hall, I helped him off with his Pull-Up (we've switched from regular Huggies to Pull-Ups at night mainly because of this "I need to poop|pee" drama; Pull-Ups are easier to get on and off), and then I stood him in front of the toilet. He waited a couple seconds and then turned his head, the first sign that he's about to announce, "I don't have to pee." Instead, he started peeing—and exclaimed in surprise, "Oh! I *did* have to pee!" So there you have it: evidence that the nightly trips to the bathroom are more about procrastination than keeping his diaper dry. (Although he does keep his diaper dry about 5 nights out of 7. He's actually starting to wake in the middle of the night occasionally just because he has to pee.)

Let's see... oh yes, one more thing: He's finally started to get the concept of you vs. me. At least half the time he now says, "Grandpa got this for me" instead of "Grandpa got this for you." He practices sometimes, pointing at me and saying "you", and then at himself and saying "me". OK wait, that wasn't the last thing, this is: When his dad brought a corn dog for him down to the basement playroom (which is walled in mirrors because it used to be the previous owner's body-building gym) this afternoon, he said, "Daddy got me a corn dog," to me, and then he turned to the mirror and addressed himself: "{Beaner}, look! A corn dog!" And then he did a little dance of joy.

Posted by Lori at 5:11 PM
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February 21, 2007

Exit, Stage Right

The Beaner is a total ham who, like all kids his age, is very aware of the camera. He's particularly fond of the Finepix and its large LCD screen (the Canon 10D is a little less interesting because there's nothing to see until after you're done shooting—which suits me just fine), and I think he appreciates the Finepix most for the same reason we do: it takes great little videos.

watching himself

The first scene of practically every video I or Al shoot of the Beaner shows him reaching for the camera and saying earnestly, "I wanna see it!" It's become like the roaring lion at the beginning of MGM movies, except that I usually edit it out because I'm trying to capture some other moment, not the same one over and over. In the video below, I edited it out of the beginning (it was, again, the opening scene), but I left it in when he did it again at the end because it kind of made sense there (by that time, there was actually something to see).

So without further ado, I present to you "Exit, Stage Right".

Posted by Lori at 7:45 PM
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March 14, 2007

You Know What I Hate?

5:45pm pediatrician's appointments that end up encroaching on bedtime, that's what. Especially when you wait 90 minutes to see a doctor who pooh-poohs everything you say, does nothing except tell you to do what you're already doing, and then makes you wait another 15 minutes for your paperwork. I'm convinced that last wait would have been longer if the Beaner and I hadn't exited the exam room and plunked ourselves in front of the nurses' station, in full view of the doctor; she sort of gave a start when she finished her conversation with a nurse and saw us, reached for our paperwork (which had been sitting on the printer forever), signed a prescription, and handed the pages to us. GAH.

For the record, the Beaner is fine. We noticed he was warm the morning we left for Hawaii, and by the time we reached Chicago it was obvious he had a raging fever. We bought some Children's Motrin at a newsstand in the airport and dosed him every 4-6 hours with it (interval depended on when his temp seemed to be going back up). After a second day of fever we took him to a doc in Hawaii, who pronounced that one ear was infected and the other was on its way. The doc gave us Amoxicillin (which the Beaner also took the previous two times he's had ear infections).

On Monday night (this past Monday, more than a week after he started the antibiotics), the Beaner woke up screaming at about 11pm, and I was unable to console him for about 10-15 minutes. He didn't want to sit up, lie down, or let go of me. I asked him if he hurt, and he shook his head. I asked Al if anything unusual had happened that evening (I'd been out at hockey practice during the bath & bed routine), and he said the Beaner had had some bugbite-like bumps on him, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.

I finally got the Beaner to lie down with me, and I noticed that he was scratching a bit before I dozed off. I ended up sleeping with him all night... and totally oversleeping in the morning. I didn't realize it until I brought him downstairs to find our bed made, Al gone, and the clock reading 9:40am. "Aura?" I called, and she responded from downstairs. I quickly got dressed for work while she fed the Beaner breakfast. At about 10:30 she called upstairs to ask if she should give the Beaner some of the medicine in the fridge. I thought, "oh crap, that's right—Al couldn't have given him his morning dose of medicine because the Beaner was still asleep," and went down to dose him. That's when Aura mentioned the rash, and I saw it for the first time.

What the Beaner had all over his chest and hips were hives. They weren't super fresh hives, but I put a little cortisone on him anyway, and then I went back upstairs. About an hour later, the Beaner finally consented to get dressed, and Aura informed me that the hives were now all over his back and down his legs. That's when I called the doctor to find out what to do. The nurse told me to give him Benydryl, which was totally logical; not sure why I hadn't thought of it (maybe because we don't have any? I take Zyrtec for my allergies...), and asked us to come in to see the doctor at 5:45pm. That's where the aforementioned fun began.

Right now we're all assuming that he had a reaction to the Amoxicillin, given that the hives developed (and worsened) after doses of the stuff. However, it *is* a little odd that he would have a reaction on day 10 of the medication, especially when he's had it before. My harebrained, half-witted idea is that maybe the medication became contaminated by a not-washed-well-enough medicine dropper, and that some new mold/bacteria/fungus/whatever grew in there, and *that's* what he had a reaction to. Either way, we've thrown out the Amoxicillin, and his chart now has a note about a suspected penecillin allergy.

After another dose of Benedryl at bedtime, the Beaner's hives are now no longer swollen and white-centered; instead, they look like the aftermath of a picked zit (or rather, about 100 of them): His chest, back, armpits, hips, and legs are covered by irregular red patches. Hopefully these will fade some more today, and he'll be fine again tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a prescription for the liquid form of Zyrtec, which I can employ if the hives return.

Posted by Lori at 2:41 PM
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March 14, 2007

Hives: The Return

Note: Excuse the flurry of out-of-order postings and whatnot. I've got a bunch of half-written posts on a variety of topics that I'm trying to finish up, and some have more blocking issues associated with them than others. There will also be more photos from Hawaii posted later today (or tomorrow, given that I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, and I'm barely functional at the moment).

When we got the Beaner out of the shower tonight, I noticed several fresh hives on his back, and one on his left temple. Although the ones on his belly are fading fast, the ones on his legs and hips are not. Argggggh! We'll be writing down everything he eats or touches tomorrow in an effort to gather evidence as to cause.

Posted by Lori at 9:14 PM | Permalink
March 15, 2007

Chew, Chew, Chew

While we were waiting to see the doctor on Tuesday evening, I taught the Beaner how to chew gum. I did it mainly because his breath smelled so foul I couldn't stand it anymore (something I need to ask the dentist about when I finally get around to making his first dental appointment). Although we brush his teeth at least once a day (and sometimes twice), we're obviously missing something, and I figured maybe some sugarless gum would have a positive effect on his overall mouth freshness, and possibly its health.

I stuck a piece of Bubblemint Orbit into my own mouth and demonstrated chewing without swallowing. "See? See how Mommy's chewing the gum—yummy gum!—but not swallowing it? I just keep chewing. Chew, chew, chew." After doing this, I realized that an entire stick would be way too big for his toddler mouth, so I tore a piece in half, unwrapped it, and handed it over. "Now you: Chew, chew, chew, but don't swallow!"

"What is it?" he asked.

"Gum," I replied.

"Gim?" he asked.

"No, gim is green. Gim is seaweed. You eat it with your bop," I clarified.

We went back and forth on the difference between gim and gum and which one this was a few times, and then he chewed and chewed and smiled and chewed. When I was sure he had the hang of it, I let him return to playing with the other kids in the waiting room and started texting Al about the gum success. In the middle of thumbing out my text message, the Beaner yelled, "more gum!"

"You didn't swallow it, did you?"

"YES!"

I had to modify my text message slightly.

We tried again with the other half of the stick in the exam room, once it became obvious that (a) the Beaner's breath was still terrible, and (b) the doctor wasn't coming in anytime soon. With him sitting on my lap, we reviewed the basics:

  1. Chew.
  2. Chew.
  3. Chew.
  4. Do not swallow.
  5. Chew some more.
  6. When the gum loses its flavor or you get tired of chewing, spit the gum in the trash or hand it to Mommy.

This time the Beaner really got it. He chewed and chewed and chewed. Whenever he'd stop chewing, I'd ask to see the gum to make sure he hadn't swallowed it, and he obliged. He tried to get the mechanics of bubble-blowing, but he couldn't put the tongue-and-blow parts together (not surprising). Something to aspire to, I guess.

Finally the doctor came in, and we started going over the chronology of the hives and the antibiotics and whatnot. That's the moment the Beaner chose to remove the gum from his mouth and hold it up to my face. "I'm done, Mommy!" he said. That's my boy.

This morning, as I got out the ingredients for my breakfast—tuna masubi, the recipe for which follows below—the Beaner pointed to the package of gim in my hand and said, "gum?"

"No," I said, "this is gim."

"Gim is green," said the Beaner. "Gum is pink."

"Gim is always green," I clarified, "but gum is not always pink. The gum you had the other day was pink, though."

It's so cool to see him trying to describe his world this way. What are the absolutes? Which properties are relative? Tangentially related, this morning the Beaner had the following dialogue with himself: "This is my Saab. Where is Daddy's Saab? He lost it. At grandpa Cho's house."

Tuna Masubi

1 sheet gim or sushi nori
1/2 container microwave white or brown rice
dash of furikake (optional)
1/4-1/3 can Trader Joe's olive oil-packed tuna

The first three ingredients are definitely available at H Mart, a Korean grocery store, and may also be available at other Asian markets. I like the sesame oiled-and-salted gim, but you can use sushi Nori instead. I would not recommend using the TJ's microwave-in-bag rice; it's not sticky enough. The furikake is optional if you're using oiled-and-salted gim, but I think with plain nori it's really necessary. You want the kind with nori bits, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar in it.

Microwave rice according to package directions. Lay out the gim or nori on a bamboo sushi mat. Open the can of tuna and drain the oil. When the rice is ready, scoop out half of it with a fork and spread as thinly as possible on the gim or nori. Leave a bit of a margin at one end; there'll be a much larger one at the other end because you'll run out of rice. You can use more rice if you want, but I find that 1/2 a container is usually plenty.

Scoop out some tuna and spread out over the center of the rice, again leaving margins on both sides. Sprinkle with furikake, if using. Finally, roll up the gim or nori using the mat, just as you would a piece of sushi, squeezing as you go. Let rest for a minute or two to allow the steam from the rice and the weight of the roll to seal the gim.

I guess this is really more of a tuna maki rather than a tuna masubi, but the ingredients are basically the same as the Home Maid Bakery used in their tuna masubis when I got them at Kapalua's Honolua Store last year (they weren't available this year, sadly), so that's what I call it. I don't slice it as you would sushi; instead, I just eat it like a stick of string cheese.

Posted by Lori at 2:42 PM
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March 20, 2007

Observant

When we took the Beaner in for his two-year checkup last Friday, our pediatrician was half giddy, half amazed as his verbal and cognitive abilities. I tend to discount any assertions that the Beaner is smart, precocious, advanced for his age, etc. because really, who cares? If he's any of those things, the only reason to be glad of it is because it makes him a better conversationalist and more fun to be around on a daily basis. It's not like he's going to be applying to Harvard any time soon.

And besides, "advanced for his age" is really relative. Our doc said, "you don't realize how advanced he is because you have no one to compare him to. Wait until he goes to school." Now, technically, we *do* have other kids to compare him to—and all of them are at about the same level as the Beaner (at the same age), with some being slightly more verbal, others being slightly more musical, and so on. Maybe it's because our friends who are having kids right now are all wicked smart engineers, musicians, scientists, writers, or a combination of one or more of those? Maybe it's that all of these smart, accomplished parents actually talk to and play with their kids? Maybe it's that we all had kids when we were slightly older than *our* parents were, when we were more established, more able to provide for them, more able to arrange our schedules around them?

Who knows—and again, who cares?

Of course, now that I've said all that, LET ME TELL YOU HOW SMART MY KID IS. No, I'm just kidding. I mostly want to record that we're seeing more and more examples of him pointing out facts and details about his world like a crime scene technician circling shell casings and labeling lint. It's so neat to see him processing, thinking about how Fact 1 + Fact 2 must mean Fact 3 (even if he draws the wrong conclusion, which is often hilarious). He's also comparing things, which didn't strike me as odd until I heard him do it for about the fifth time this week. (This morning he said, "that pan is hot?", and when I said yes, he held up the pancake I'd flipped out of the pan about two minutes before and said, "this pancake is cooler?")

Yesterday morning, while Al was getting ready to catch a plane, I was getting ready for work, and the Beaner was running around the bedroom half-dressed, the Beaner said, "I have brown eyes."

Al: "Yes, you do."

Beaner: [You know what's coming here, right?] "Why?"

Al: "Because I have brown eyes."

Me, shouting from bathroom: "That's how genetics works: Brown eyes are dominant."

Al: "What color are mommy's eyes?"

Beaner: "Green."

Al: (to me) "Did you tell him that?"

Me: "No."

Which I guess just proves that the Beaner's eyes are not only brown, but also that they work.

Posted by Lori at 1:51 PM
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March 22, 2007

Neatness Counts (And So Does Age)

Two unrelated items:

Last night I got some baked beans out for the Beaner to eat with his veggie corn dogs (of which he ate three). When I set the bowl of beans down next to his plate and said, "here are your beans!", he replied, "May I have a bib first?" There was a brief pause while I parsed his sentence and then turned to act on it, and, thinking that perhaps his request needed some clarification, he followed up with, "Because I don't want to get beans on my shirt." I'm getting used to the longer, more complex sentences/dialogs, but this one knocked my socks off.

I pinged Al to let him know that our GEICO bill went down $100 this time around. "That's one of the advantages of having an older car," he said. We miss having an easy way to integrate our iPod into the car stereo and seat and mirror position memory, but other than that our 8 year-old Saab fits our needs nicely—and apparently the insurance to cover it gets cheaper over time.

Posted by Lori at 3:21 PM
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March 25, 2007

Hello?

While Al and I were in the kitchen cleaning out the refrigerator in preparation for Trash Night, the Beaner turned to his toy drawer to amuse himself. He pulled out his little Fisher-Price phone, held the receiver to his ear, and said, "Hi! My name is {Beaner}. What's your name?" Next he held the receiver out to me and said, "Do you wanna talk to the li'l boy?"

Posted by Lori at 12:46 PM
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April 9, 2007

Agita

I feel like I've been slacking off on the parenthood posts lately. I've abandoned the monthly updates—which is probably a bad thing, as they help remind me when things happen and how we got where we are now—and I don't blog most of the funny stuff the Beaner does these days. To assuage this guilt, here's something that happened tonight:

I came up to my desk around 7pm to check e-mail and see if there was any inspiration hovering about (it's been escaping me all day), and just then one of my team's managers pinged me to see if I was ready to meet tomorrow about an idea I've been working on. I rather hopefully said, "you don't need visuals, do you?" He responded with "well, that'd be nice." Uh oh. I suck at mockups. My only hope—and it was a slim one—was to find some graph paper PRONTO and start sketching out what I thought this thing would look like. WHERE THE HELL WAS MY GRAPH PAPER?

Within five minutes I was thoroughly stressed out, and after seven I'd given up the search for graph paper and pulled out a yellow legal pad. I started two drawings, then scratched them out. That's when the Beaner came up for bathtime and completely invaded my office space. He picked up the case for the little USB drive I got at BlogHer and said, "how you open this?" I showed him, and then went back to my legal pad. He closed the case and then said, "can you open it?" I opened it. He closed it again, this time pinching his finger. Oy. "Stop closing it," I said.

I returned to scribbling and scratching out. "What is it?" asked the Beaner. "What is it? [pause] What is it? Mommy, WHAT IS IT?" I looked up and saw that he was flailing the open USB case around. "It's a case for a USB... thing."

A few seconds pass, and he asks again, "Mommy, what is it?"

"{Beaner}, Mommy needs to get this work done. I love you very much, but I'm stressing out and you're not helping."

Al, from the bathroom: "{Beaner}, stop giving Mommy agita."

The Beaner responds by knocking over my tea kettle and spilling water all over the floor. I let out a growl of frustration and dash into the bathroom for a washcloth to mop up the spill.

"What happened?" Al asks from the shower.

I roar again and shout, almost coherently, "HE'S INVADING MY SPACE!"

Al: "{Beaner}, come in here and get ready for your shower."

I have about 10 minutes of relative quiet, during which a colleague tries to talk me off this mockup ledge I'm on, I try to come to some conclusion regarding the order of operations for the idea, and I read Maggie's birth story. The Beaner then pads over, hugs the front of me and the back of my chair, and leans his wet head against my thigh. "I love you, Mommy," he says. "I don't want your agita."

"Thank you, sweetie," I reply, understanding him to mean that he doesn't want to give me agita. "I love you, too." He squeezes me and repeats his anti-agita message a couple more times, then lets go. He's spotted something on the corner of my desk: The plastic maraca he left there a few weeks ago.

"There's agita," he says. And with an evil grin, he shakes it.

Posted by Lori at 10:19 PM | Permalink
April 11, 2007

The Beaner's First Barbershop Experience

I've been complaining about the Beaner's shaggy mop for a while now; my last attempt to cut it just made him look like a cross between Keith Richards and an early Beatle, and it didn't do much to get rid of most of the bulk. Several times I threatened to whip out my Wahl clippers if Al didn't take him to a proper barber, and over the weekend I actually got the box of clippers (I have two) and attachments out. Luckily, Al managed to hold me back, and he made an appointment with his barber for both of them last night.

nine years apart
Evidence of crazy mop.
all done with egg hunting

I brought the Beaner (and my camera, of course) to Maxamillion's Gentlemans Quarters on Chestnut Street between 20th and 21st at 6pm to find Al already in the chair. Within five minutes, Al was finished, and Steve had the little kid attachment propped onto the barber chair. He hoisted the Beaner up, and then the fun began. I really do mean fun; the Beaner really seemed to enjoy the experience, and Steve gave him a *great* haircut. The Beaner actually giggled at one point and said, "Daddy, look at me!"

"daddy, look at me!"

The folks at Maxamillion's (Maxamillion himself and Steve, especially) were extremely forebearing when it came to my near-constant camera-clicking. I was almost always underfoot or blocking the door or practically sitting in the receptionist's lap (I got a great shot of her super-cool shoes, tho, so it was worth it), but Steve just smiled, shook his head, and said, "Mothers."

Though the Quarters in question at Maxamillion's are a bit tight for a photographer, there's plenty of room for the grooming services (plus two cool chairs up front to sit in while you wait). Al really likes the haircuts he gets from Steve, too, and would recommend him highly. If you happen to stop in for a haircut, tell them Al Cho sent you. After two referrals, he gets a free haircut. :)

Posted by Lori at 12:10 PM
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April 27, 2007

The Beaner and the Bear

I mentioned in one of my bathroom progress updates yesterday that the Beaner has a teddy bear, and that he thinks of it as a her. My sister and my niece got the bear for the Beaner for his first birthday, but he didn't show much interest in it until his second. Anyway, it's a Build-A-Bear, so naturally my sister and my niece got a couple outfits for it (that's the whole point of Build-A-Bears—the clothing and accessories that go with them), both nods to Al's and my hobbies, hockey and golf.

This morning when I was getting myself and the Beaner dressed, he asked if the bear was in her jammies, too. I said no, that she didn't have any jammies, so she was still wearing her golf outfit (and, strangely, the ice skates from the hockey outfit). "Why doesn't she have any jammies?" the Beaner asked. "Um, because Aunt Lisa and M. didn't get her any. But I think we could probably get her some at the store."

The Beaner immediately lit up. "Can we get her some at the store RIGHT NOW?" I said no, it was only 7:30 in the morning, and the store wasn't open yet. But next time we went to the store, I promised, we'd buy her some jammies. Now, normally I'm kind of a hard-ass when it comes to the gift-giving and the treats and all that, but I was really taken with the ideas that (a) he thought of the bear as a her, (b) he had declared his undying love for her, and (c) he thought she needed jammies. I decided that I would run some errands in the car before starting work, and that I'd do my best to get his bear some jammies while I was out.

I left the house at 8:40am and did some banking, then continued on to the Target, where I'd wanted to go last night after Lowe's. I was kind of mad when Al vetoed the idea (ostensibly because it was too late, but I think more because he wanted to go to the Target in New Jersey, where he could get Mexican food, on another night), but actually it turned out swell, because I pretty much had Target all to myself at 9am on a Friday morning. I got all the stuff I'd come for, plus two Cars t-shirts and a pair of Nemo swim trunks (on sale for $1.98!!) for the Beaner, and then headed across the street to the Cherry Hill Mall.

I timed it pretty perfectly; I had a chance to pee and get a coffee at Starbucks, and by the time I'd taken my first sip of decaf double-tall latte, they were raising the gate on the Gymboree store. (Oh, right, I forgot to mention: I also needed jammies for *the Beaner*, as he's down to only two pairs that fit.) I found a cute short-sleeved shirt/bermuda-length shorts pair on sale in size 4T, paid for them, and then headed next door to the Build-A-Bear Workshop... where I was appalled to find that the only girl bear pajamas looked like something off a Bratz doll. The boy pajamas sucked too: my only choices were a Superman set and a Spiderman set. (The Beaner doesn't know who Superman is, but I'm pretty sure he'd think those jammies would look weird on his bear, and he's declared Spiderman to be "a little scary.")

After hunting around for a while, I finally settled on a plain white t-shirt (I thought of it as a babydoll-type girl shirt, but it might have been unisex—which, as far as I'm concerned, would be a good thing) for $4. As I took it up to the counter, I suddenly had an idea. "If you were going to put real baby clothes on a bear," I asked the woman there, "what size would you get?" She replied that she had no idea, "but whatever you get, it'd have to be small. Sometimes people come in and buy the bear outfits for preemies." I paid for the shirt and then went back over to Gymboree.

I found the 0-3 months section of the sale rack, and scanned for preemie clothes. I found about five or six options, all in muted shades of pink, yellow, and orange. The problem was that even on sale, most of the items were more expensive than the bear outfits. I finally hit on a winner, though: a pair of romper pants for $8. Wooo! Now the Beaner's bear could have a pair of pajamas that looked roughly like his own, instead of like a Vegas hooker's.

When I got home with all my loot, the Beaner gasped, "LIGHTNING McQUEEN!" when he saw the t-shirts... and then he looked at me with a puzzled sort of love, like "you did that for me?" when I showed him the bear's new jammies. That's when I knew I'd succeeded as a mom.

the bear, in her jammies
the beaner and his bear the beaner and the bear watch the red sox
"I love her so much! She's my beeeest friend."

Postscript: After the Beaner got out of the shower and he and Al were sitting on our bed with the bear, Al called out to me, "These jammies are really cute... but you know, I had no idea until now that this bear was a girl!" I replied, "Honey, COME OUT HERE THIS INSTANT," and a whispered conversation ensued out of earshot of the too-eager-to-repeat-every-word-we-say Beaner, in which Al was apprised of the recent "her" designation.

I have to say, after the Dora backpack debacle, I am thrilled for the Beaner to have a gender-neutral toy that he can play with however he likes, not how we too-eager-to-assign-gender-roles adults say he should.

Posted by Lori at 9:57 PM
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April 28, 2007

For 30 Minutes Outside Whole Foods This Morning

Apologies in advance to anyone visiting on a slow connection; the video that follows is 5.2MB and may take a while to download. It features my very cute 29 month-old, however, so I firmly believe the wait is worth it. Really.

Posted by Lori at 1:38 PM
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May 9, 2007

Up With Downs

Interesting article in the NYT today: Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus. Totally brought back memories of my own pregnancy, and the discussions preceeding it.

As someone who didn't feel equipped to parent at all, the prospect of parenting a disabled child left me shaking with fear. Before I agreed to try getting pregnant, Al and I talked about all the possible outcomes we could think of, and how we would react to each one. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page before we made what for me was an incredible leap of faith. One of the decisions we made was that we'd terminate the pregnancy if testing revealed Downs syndrome.

Fast-forward about 8 or 9 months, to when I was roughly 3 months pregnant. I still remember the day—I think it was after the amniocentesis but before we'd gotten the results—when we were at the mall, and we passed a parent with a Downs child on the escalator. That child was so beautiful. Functional. Happy. I squeezed Al's and hand and said, "I don't care if it's Downs. I think I could parent a Downs baby." Al said, "I was thinking the same thing."

Was I relieved that the Beaner was healthy and did not have an extra chromosome? YOU BETCHA. Would I judge anyone who terminated a pregnancy because of a Downs diagnosis? NEVER. But I also don't think I'll ever forget that little girl on the escalator. Somehow I get the feeling that the world is a better place with her in it.

Posted by Lori at 9:55 AM
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May 30, 2007

Prescription: Doughnut

The Beaner has always been what people call "a good eater". We don't have standoffs over what he will and won't eat, he's never gone on an all-white diet or a hunger strike, and the biggest food problem we've ever had is running out of his favorite fruit of the moment. (He doesn't seem to understand that we're not just denying him when we say "there is no more mango, honey.") He's a healthy, strapping, active boy who's at the top of the weight charts, but not fat.

The main thing I worry about, I think, is his sugar intake. Ever since Al and I started eating less of the stuff, I think we've been a little more eager to give treats to the Beaner—perhaps as a means of living vicariously through him. It's not a good idea, and I've been trying to get incidental sugars out of his diet as much as possible. (The food industry seems to be conspiring against me, however, in that I'm not able to find many portable foods in child-friendly serving sizes that aren't also loaded with fat, sugar, and preservatives. Thank god for portable foods like carrots, apples, and bananas!)

I mention all this in prelude to a little story that both made me laugh and scared me to my very core: On Sunday, after I'd played my last hockey game and taken the Beaner swimming in the hotel pool, he and I went out to an early dinner together. Al wasn't feeling well (he hadn't been all weekend, sadly, which made being the parent on duty a bit hellish), so he stayed in the hotel room to sleep. I got a sandwich to go from the restaurant so Al could have some dinner, too, and then I realized that we'd be passing a Tim Horton's on the way back as well. Al had expressed a desire to stop at Tim Horton's for a donut when we'd been out the day before, but we hadn't had time.

"Are we going back to the hotowel?" asked the Beaner.

"Yes, sweetie, but first I'm going to stop here for a second."

"Why?"

"Because Daddy's not feeling well, and I want to make him feel better." I don't think I even mentioned that I was going to buy donuts, but the Beaner had apparently been paying attention when Al connected the location with the word "donut" ealier.

"I think I need a donut, too," he said, "because, you know, I'm not feeling so well either."

HE REALLY SAID THAT. When I posted this photo from Pike Place Market on Friday, the connection between eating and "feeling better" that the Beaner often makes was already on my mind. Now he's thinking a donut is medicinal? Uh oh.

eat this... feel better

If I thought he would forget this donut = medicine idea, I was wrong. On Monday, he spent the day sneezing icky yellow snot from his nostrils, and by the late afternoon I was worried that his affliction was catching. My glands were a bit swollen and my throat was sore, so I unwrapped a Halls cough drop to suck on (why menthol works to keep colds away, I don't know, but often a little Vicks or Halls will do the trick). The Beaner saw me peeling the paper off the red square and said, "I want one!" I said, "oh, this is medicine, buddy, not candy. I'm taking it because I'm not feeling well."

"Maybe you should have a donut," he replied.

Posted by Lori at 12:06 PM
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May 31, 2007

Family Snapshot

We're back from an orientation at the preschool the Beaner will be attending in the fall, where we learned about the drop off and pick up procedures, what goes on during the school day, some the Montessori materials, that parents are expected to participate on the board and on committees, etc. I'm sitting at my desk, attempting to stuff an egg salad sandwich past the world's largest canker sore (thanks to a savagely bitten lip), and Al is going back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom, preparing for his shower and eating a chicken salad sandwich. The Beaner is in the tub, singing.

Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
life is down the drain.

Posted by Lori at 8:23 PM | Permalink
June 2, 2007

The Video Onslaught Begins

Between hockey and the Beaner, I have about a gazillion videos (and some audio, too) to share with y'all. Most of Beaner videos are a few weeks old, though if I get completely caught up, I'll have some from today to post, too. This first one is from the weekend that my mom and dad came up; my dad left on Sunday, but my mom stayed until Tuesday morning so she could fill in for a vacationing nanny on Monday. (My company now offers backup care with a really low co-payment, a benefit we took advantage of on Thursday and loved because we got a great temporary nanny, but having mom help us out this time seemed like a good idea. It would give us a chance to go out to mother's day brunch together, and it would give the Beaner extra time with his grandma.)

So anyway, the video. We have a long driveway that we share with four of our neighbors; most of us pull forward into our garages and then back out of the driveway onto a rather busy street. Al and I think of it as a relatively normal operation (even in a car without backup lights—we need to get those fixed!), but for visitors it can be a bit hair-raising. I think my dad probably would have been OK backing out on his own, but it made my mom nervous, so she did a little directing... with the Beaner on her hip.

Posted by Lori at 7:00 PM
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June 3, 2007

That Was Too Far, Daddy

Al likes to give the Beaner some room to roam, but he has a mental line that causes him to call, "that's too far, buddy!" I think it seems gentler to him to say "that's too far" than to shout, "{Beaner}, come back here!" as many a panicked parent would (and I sometimes) do.

A couple weekends ago we had walked to the bakery to buy some bread, and on the way back we went through Rittenhouse Square. At this point the Beaner was walking, Al was pushing the empty stroller, and I was taking photos of Al, the Beaner, and anything else that looked interesting (as usual). Al started to play a game of "chase me", and took off with the stroller. The Beaner had a panicked child moment, and ran after Al, waving his arms. Here's the clip:

Posted by Lori at 11:49 AM | Permalink
June 5, 2007

Jump In!

I've been waffling about posting the videos Al took of me and the Beaner in the hotel pool because in most of them I am so obviously giving Al a horrified look..and then giving my body an even more horrified once-over. I seem to be saying, entirely with my eyes/facial expression, "Jesus Christ, I'm in my bathing suit!" and "good lord, is anything incriminating hanging out?" The swimming videos are worse than the jumping-in-the-pool video, so I'll start with the latter.

I've been talking with a couple friends about this over e-mail and via Flickr comments recently, but I can't remember whether I've mentioned it here: After all the floating around and jumping in hotel pools we did on our latest vacation—and the avid interest the Beaner has shown in learning to swim (I wish I had video from the Vancouver hotel pool, as he was even more adventurous there)—I'm thinking it's time for swim lessons. The hard part is going to be finding a place that offers them to kids under 3 at a time when Al or I can take him...

Posted by Lori at 5:05 PM
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June 5, 2007

Two and a Half

I pretty much abandoned the Beaner updates around the time said Beaner turned two, and I've kinda regretted that. I've said it before, but this blog, in addition to being my place to rant about random political/news/media issues and rhapsodize about food, is our baby book. It's where most of the milestones have been recorded—with context that's often missing in an actual baby book. Partly I stopped with the updates because between work, hockey, and the actual raising of the kid, it was hard to keep up; and partly I stopped because the Beaner is much more a participant in events now rather than just a curiosity to be studied. Still, it makes me kinda sad not to have a (detailed) record of all the things he's learned and done over the past six months.

Yes, that's right: A half a year has passed since his second birthday. We've explained this to him, that he can say, "I'm TWO AND A HALF!" now instead of "I'm TWO!", though technically he is still two and not three, so "I'm TWO!" still works. (When we were in Vancouver he tried to convince me that he'd already turned three, but I wasn't buying it.) I often forget that he's only two and a half, actually, perhaps because the labels on his clothes tell me that he's 4. He's not particularly tall—in fact, he seems to be holding steady at between 36" and 37"—but on the morning of May 27th I found that I wasn't able to button any of his size 3T pants or shorts, and we had to make an emergency run to the Children's Place store at the Brentwood Mall in Burnaby. (Luckily Al had bought a mix of 3T and 4T shorts prior to our Hawaii trip in March "just in case", and we had a one of the 4T pairs with us.)

He still wears mostly 3T shirts, but the size XS (2-4) t-shirts that used to be huge on him now fit just right or even a little tightly. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really, as he moved into 4T pajamas, which fit more snugly than regular clothes, a few months ago. I suspect it won't be long before the size S (4-6) t-shirt his new school sent him as a welcome gift will fit.

Speaking of the school, Al and I went to a parent orientation last week, where we learned about day-to-day operations, got to fondle a few Montessori materials, and learned about how much they expected us to participate as Parents. It's weird that I'm now a Parent with a capital P... I was saying to M's mom that school not only separates you from your child physically, but categorically. I am now part of a larger class called Parents. We briefly met other Parents of children who will be joining either the toddler or primary programs at the school, though we didn't really get to interact with them. We will over the course of the school year (which starts at the end of August), however, at a series of Parent Potlucks and by participating in various Parent-led committees. If I sound sad or cynical, I don't mean to be; I'm very excited for the Beaner to attend school, because I think he's going to LOVE it. I'm just realizing that he's not the only one who'll be thrown into a whole new world.

I'm sure there are milestones associated with two and a half, but I'm not really sure what they are. I suspect that most things are subjective from here on out, and we'll only really hear about official milestones if he lags behind far enough to raise eyebrows. Just to give a snapshot (more for my own later reference than to prove a point or even—gasp!—brag), these are the skills and interests I associate with the Beaner right now, in not particularly parallel bullet points:

  • Still into identifying cars. He won't point out EVERY make and model anymore, but he'll say more about the ones he does point out. For example, tonight he pointed at a Toyota Highlander and said, "hey, that's just like OUR car that we had last week! In Vancouver!" Or, "there's a Saab 9-5 wagon, just like grandma's! Except grandma's is white, and that one is silver! But grandma's has silver wheels, though."
  • LOVES other kids, and introducing himself to them. "Look! There are some KIDS!" he'll say, if he spots some within a block of wherever we are. He now pronounces his name very clearly, and he asks other kids what their names and ages are. He knows that he's going to school this fall, and he can't wait because that's where the KIDS go.
  • Favorite phrase of the moment: "Because I'm not a baby anymore. I'm a big boy now." Alternatively, "I used to do that/like that when I was a baby, but I'm not a baby anymore." When I say, "that's right, you're a little boy now," he always corrects me: He's a BIG boy.
  • Totally into Dora and Diego. Vámanos! He surprised me the other day by counting to 10 in Spanish, but I recovered quickly and taught him 11-20. We now count to 20 together in both English and Spanish. I'm sure my mother-in-law would love it if he'd learn some Korean—and honestly, I would too—but since I already know quite a bit of Spanish (more than I realized—Dora has jogged my memory, and all kinds of phrases and verb conjugations keep popping into my head), it's fun that the Beaner's learning some, too. Our only concern at this point is that he wants to watch Dora and Diego ALL THE TIME. Are we bad parents for letting him watch up to three episodes at a time?
  • Asks all the time, "what's that say? What's that say?" It reminds me of when he was learning the car models, and he'd say "adjuwah?" whenever he came across one he didn't know. Now he's pointing to practically every word he sees and asking what it says. At the moment he doesn't have the tools he needs for reading, but he's memorizing the shapes of words, how certain combinations of words appear on labels, and what story words go with which pictures in books, and reading them back to us. "That says 'RICE'. That says 'CRACKERS'. That says 'PHILADELPHIA'." I used to find it kinda hard to read to him when he was littler, but now that he understands the stories and has begun to memorize them and ask questions about them, I find I want to read to him more often. It's nice.
  • Favorite foods: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, blueberries, strawberries, mango... basically any kind of fruit. Carr's whole wheat crackers, Sesame Street crackers, blueberry bagels, chocolate chip pancakes (and chocolate in general—oy!), avocado maki, veggie corn dogs, vanilla rice milk, miso soup, fish... ok, I guess the list of what he doesn't like would be a lot shorter. Actually, I can't think of much he doesn't like, except for really spicy and really sour foods. We're still on a no-milk-and-no-ice-cream diet because of the hives, but he seems to tolerate cheese without any trouble. Pizza and quesadillas are fine by him.
  • He's pretending up a storm. Really, it's gone to a whole new level now. I catch him making up whole pretend scenarios, complete with two- or three-way dialog, when he's in the bathtub or just playing quietly by himself. He'll also rope us into his pretending, too. Sometimes he'll create an adventure based on something he saw on Dora ("check my backpack and see if there's anything in there we can use!")—which threw my Mom for a loop when she was here because she hadn't seen Dora yet—and other times he'll come up with something on his own. Aura told me that today at the park he parked himself behind one of the cut-outs on the climbing structure and said, "I have a store. What do you want?" She asked for ice cream, and he said he was out. "But I can make some in my kitchen, which is over there!" he said, pointing to the toddler climbing structure. They raced over there, and he made pretend strawberry ice cream.
  • He's extremely nosy. He wants to know everything we mutter to each other ("what'd you say?"), what the people in the next booth are eating, whether that man who just got up from the table went home or just to the bathroom, who that woman is, what she's doing, what he's doing, what they're saying, and where they're going. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? He sounds like a pushy tabloid reporter most of the time. (It occurs to me now that if I put a toy camera in his hands, as I've been thinking about doing, he may join the paparazzi.) He also likes to repeat what we say to each other, as if I didn't hear Al or he didn't hear me. "Honey, what do you want for dinner?" / "I was thinking pizza." / "He say, 'I was thinking pizza.'" Yeah, thanks Beaner, I heard. Because he was talking to me.
  • He's singing a lot—and even starting to sing in tune. Even *Al* is starting to sing in tune, I think thanks to the many family sing-a-longs initiated by the Beaner. He's just completed what I think will be his last Music Class, but we now have several Music Class CDs in rotation, plus the Cars soundtrack (though he pretty much only wants to listen to Real Gone by Sheryl Crow—"The Race Song" because it plays during the opening race in the movie—and Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts). We've got lots of material to keep him on his singing kick, I think.
  • Oh, speaking of music, we took him to the Experience Music Project when we were in Seattle, and he LOVED playing with all the instruments—especially the drums. We waited for a booth with a full drumset, a bass, and a guitar in it, and we ended up having an impromptu—and REALLY FUN—family jam. He was such a natural with the sticks that Al's started looking for a scaled-down drumset for him, and Al's also gotten out his accoustic guitar and replaced all the broken strings. (I can hear him strumming on it downstairs now.) Coincidentally, I'd been itching to play my bass before we went to Seattle; the only thing that's stopping me is that it's currently buried under a mound of stuff in the guest bedroom closet. I'm going to have Al help me dig it out this weekend, and we'll continue the search for the kid drumset then, too. Hopefully there are some more family jams in our future.
  • After a couple months of taking showers, we're back to bathtime. The Beaner now cries when we pull the plug and try to take him out. We pretty much leave him in there to play with the cups and boats, and just poke our heads in now and then to make sure he's playing and swimming and not drowning.
  • I'm still snuggling him to sleep. He'll *sometimes* consent to let Al do it if I'm not here (and I'll be going to Germany for a little over a week at the end of June, so hopefully he'll accept Daddy as a substitute fairly quickly, or it will be a rough 9 nights), and he'll readily vote for Grandma to do it if she's available, but the nighttime snuggle routine is seemingly entrenched. I waffle about whether we should try to break him of it; mostly I don't see any harm in it, and I value the time as much as he does (most of the time). Sometimes I don't have the patience for it or just really need to work, and those nights, while rare, can be torture. One night I was in total windmill mode (as in "if you don't step away, I'M GOING TO WINDMILL!"), and I just laid there with tears rolling down my face as he rubbed his hot, sticky arms against my neck. I finally said, "Beaner, Mommy *really* needs you to go to sleep as fast as you possibly can," and I held his hand to keep it away from my throat. He was asleep in five minutes, and I fervently (but silently) thanked him for it.

Ugh, there are about a million other things that I'm not thinking of right now, but it's late, and I vowed that tonight I would go to bed EARLY. (It's 11:35pm, which I guess still qualifies as early because it's before midnight. <sigh>) Instead of trying to come up with more bullet points, I'll just include another video, which I think demonstrates his personality better than anything half-coherent I could write right now.

Posted by Lori at 11:39 PM
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June 6, 2007

More Swimming

Until we find swimming lessons (thanks, Marisa, for the tip about the Christian Street Y!) or a regular pool to visit (does anyone have information regarding rumors I've heard that some Center City hotels offer pool memberships to locals?), there's always the plastic baby pool that we picked up at Babies 'R Us for like five bucks. It was a total impulse buy; we sort of just shrugged and figured if the Beaner used it once, we'd have gotten our money's worth.

He's now used it not once but TWICE, and I suspect there are many more uses in our future. Hot Philly summers + a kid who loves to swim + a back deck just large enough for a baby pool = much fun for the kiddo. It's sort of the urban equivalent of suburbia's running through the sprinkler (something I grew up doing). And with the little cafe table and umbrella out there now, it's even fun for us. On Saturday I set up the pool, sunscreened up the Beaner, opened the umbrella, and brought my laptop out. I got a bit of writing done while he splashed around, and we both enjoyed the warm breezes and foot-cooling water.


In re-watching this now, I realize that he was asking me how to swim—as in "how is swimming accomplished, mother?"—rather than asking what I thought of how he was swimming. Duh.

And because I assume that if *I* cannot resist video of my child trying to soak the car (which was parked below the deck due to a garage door problem, now solved), you will not be able to resist such a video either, I present a second clip of the splashing. Come on, you know you want to watch it.

Posted by Lori at 11:13 AM
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June 10, 2007

Sprout

I took several photos of the Beaner yesterday, and I didn't end up posting a couple of them because although they were cute, they weren't particularly flattering. He looked kind of... chubby. Is this awful of me?

[Insert transition here, I'm too lazy to think of a good one.] This morning woke up to a very sticky Beaner in bed with me (he jumped in when he woke up this morning). Since we'd been BBQing with Al's cousins down in Columbia, Maryland until about the Beaner's bedtime, Al had just given him a baby wipe bath and dressed him in his jammies for the ride home. (He fell asleep on schedule 10 minutes into the 2-hour drive home.) The baby wipe had apparently gotten off the superficial dirt, but it left the sweaty, icky, sunscreen-y deep dirt intact.

When I'd finally had enough of trying to sleep next to the sticky, I popped him into the shower to scrub it off him. When I got him out, I noticed he looked... talller. Not chubby at all (I could see his ribcage), and definitely taller. Is it possible that he grew overnight?

We've mostly been measuring him down in the kitchen with his shoes on, and he's been holding steady at 37". This time I had him back up to the bedroom door barefoot and drew a pencil mark at the top of his head, above the latch. When I measured from the floor to the mark, I got a reading of 37.75". I don't know if all that growing was done overnight, but he's almost two inches taller than he measured at his last well-baby visit (a measurement also taken without shoes). It seems the old pattern of him fattening up right before a growth spurt continues to hold.

Posted by Lori at 4:08 PM | Permalink
June 14, 2007

Making Conversation

"Is it the end of the day?"

"Yes, buddy. It's the end of the day.

[To Aura] "You can go home now."

[Aura seems a bit offended by this dismissal; I explain that it's not an order, but his way of letting her know it's OK if she leaves. I'm not sure this explanation was satisfactory to her.] EXIT AURA.

"How is Aura gon' get home? It's too far to walk."

"I think she'll probably take the bus, honey."

"Daddy takes the bus to work."

"Yes, he does take the bus to work sometimes. And sometimes he walks. How does mommy get to work?"

"She goes up the stairs and works on her computer!"

"That's right! I do go up the stairs and work on my computer."

"How you paint that?"

"Paint what?" [I look around.] "How did I paint what?"

"Paint your hair! You painted your hair, and now it looks really nice!"

[I remember that the Beaner had watched me apply Manic Panic to my hair that morning with a brush.] "Oh! Thanks, buddy."

"You're welcome."

Posted by Lori at 10:00 AM | Permalink
July 2, 2007

I'm Back (and Kind of All Over the Place)

After a long layover in a smoky, under-construction terminal at Frankfurt airport and a 90-minute flight delay, I finally made it back to Philadelphia on Friday evening. I arrived home to a startled Beaner, who gasped, "Mommy!" when he saw me, but then froze on the spot. I scooped him up and snuggled him, so he'd realize it was really me.

He was trembling, either with disbelief or excitement (or possibly shock). "Look!" he said to Aura, "I said I wanted to snuggle Mommy, and here she is. I said I wanted to talk to Mommy, and here she is," as if he'd conjured me out of thin air with the power of his wishes alone.

I think I've finally posted all the photos of Hamburg that I want to post; a few I've saved just for Al and the Beaner because they're the only two people who would appreciate them. You can view the set as a slideshow here (click on the "i" icon that appears when you mouse over the current photo to see titles and descriptions as the slideshow plays):

ernst-merck-strasse
This is not Chicago.
(The above would be an in-joke with the Beaner were he able to read it; for some reason, he keeps telling everyone that I was in Chicago last week, that I bought the sandals in the photo below at a shoe store in Chicago, and that I brought him gummi bears from Chicago. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that he only has a U.S. map in his bedroom; it occurred to me while chatting with one of my colleagues in Hamburg that I was off the map. Imagining me in Chicago may have been the Beaner's way of pulling me back from the edge of the world.)

On Saturday we took the Beaner to see Ratatouille, but during the usual Pixar pre-feature short he announced it was "too scary," and then he repeated that mantra for the next 20 minutes, even from the safety of my lap. When it became clear that the movie was entirely over his head (though it was great fun for Al and me) and that the shouting chefs and flying kitchen knives were likely to be an enduring feature of the next 90 minutes or so, we finally agreed that it probably was too scary for him and made our exit. Al and I are now scheming over when we can get out to see the rest of the movie for ourselves.

It's been interesting to observe how well Al and the Beaner survived—nay, thrived—in my absence. I'd even go so far as to say that the Beaner only *really* needs one parent, and that parent is Al, though I am of course useful in certain areas. I am the preferred bedtime snuggler and teeth-brusher, for one thing. I also have a knack for figuring out what the major transitions are, and when to make them. (For example, I had a sense that we'd left him in night-time Pull-Ups too long, mainly because we didn't want to be forced to do laundry if there was an accident. This suspicion was confirmed for me when, after weeks of waking up in the morning with a dry Pull-Up, the Beaner suddenly had a spate of accidents that left his Pull-Up, pajamas, and sheets completely soaked. It might sound counter-intuitive, but that's how I knew for absolutely sure that we had to move to underpants once and for all. He hasn't had a night-time accident since.) I'm also the one who pays the bills every month (and by that I mean that I arrange for payments to be made, either through online banking or by check; I do not mean to imply that I am the sole—or even the primary—breadwinner).

at the fountain 2

Still, there is no doubt that the Beaner was *happy* to see me, and we've been having a great time playing since I got back. His imagination and pretending skills are getting quite sophisticated now, which makes spending long periods of time with him more fun. They're also useful for distracting him from something I don't want him to do or have; for example, rather than giving him the actual batteries he wants for the remote, I can say, "here, have a pretend battery!" and off we go into the Land of Make Believe. Wonderful.

We've had an amazingly cool, sunny, and dry couple of days here in Philadelphia, where it's usually unbearably hot and humid this time of year. I opened my office window today to enjoy the fresh breeze, and after a couple hours it became apparent where the pile of leaves we discovered in the corner of our back deck yesterday came from: A pair of sparrows is building a nest in the bend of a downspout just above and to the right of my window, and they've been using the leaves to line the nest. They work very hard to pack them in, but inevitably, many fall out... and land on our deck.

The two sparrows have stopped to rest on my window ledge several times today, sometimes with a sprig of leaves clutched in their beaks (on the way up), sometimes just to fluff and shake (on the way down). Unfortunately by the time I've turned on the camera and reached for the shutter button, they've fluttered away, so I haven't gotten a photo of them. They haven't seemed to mind the sound of my voice, however, and have cocked their heads to listen when I've said hello and asked how their work was progressing. I hope to have another chance to capture their efforts with the camera tomorrow.

Posted by Lori at 9:26 PM
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July 15, 2007

Word Association

Conversation tonight with the Beaner, as I was putting lotion on him:

Beaner: Look, TWO lotions!

Me: [Seeing only one] Where's the other one?

Beaner: Downstairs, in the bathroom! [He's right, of course; there's an identical lotion in the downstairs bathroom.]

Me: Your eczema is getting much, much better. Do you remember where you got the eczema?

Beaner: Uhhhh...

Me: From the pool and the sun, in Colorado. [My kid tans like his father, but he has my sensitive skin—and the chlorine and intense sun totally wrecked him.] Remember the night in Colorado when you were staying with Hannah, and the eczema sort of exploded, and you got a bit of pee on it, and you criiiiiiiied because it stung? And Hannah called us because you were inconsolable, and we left the movie early to bring you cortisone and a caramel apple and cards to play with? That's why we're putting lotion on you now: to make that eczema go away (and it's working, slowly but surely!).

Beaner: I don't like the mousawikiwi.

Me: Huh?

Beaner: The mousakiwi. I don't like that.

Me: Did you say 'mousakiwi'? I'm sorry, I'm not understanding you.

Beaner: <sigh> You know, where the mouse runs and runs and runs, and they throw knives at him, and he's running [he makes a circular gesture with his finger to indicate 'running']... I didn't like that.

Me: Do you mean Ratatouille?

Beaner: Right, yes. Ratatouille. I didn't like it.

Me: Yes, you're right—you didn't like it, and we had to leave. And you're also right that it was the movie Mommy and Daddy were seeing the night you were with Hannah and you criiiiiied when the pee got on your eczema.

We still have high hopes of seeing the ending to Ratatouille someday (we got about 20 or 30 minutes further into it in Colorado than we did at the first attempt in New Jersey). Al's thinking that maybe we can go see Harry Potter this weekend (we're going away for his 40th birthday and leaving the Beaner with my parents, his first time away from both of us at once) and then sneak into Ratatouille to see the end. He figures we only need to see the last hour or so, maybe less, and we've already paid to see it twice. We'll see how that goes...

Posted by Lori at 8:31 PM
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July 28, 2007

FILO

Al just remarked how funny it was that our first baby gate is likely to be our last. He's right: Since he took the gate off the doorway to the Beaner's bedroom (we've been leaving it open for a couple months now at least) this morning, the gates around the staircase in the living room and entrance hall were dismantled months ago, and I remember putting the basement playroom gate out for freecycling when it was snowing, we're now down to the single gate at the top of the long, third-floor staircase. That gate is essentially the only door to my office, which is in the open space outside the Beaner's bedroom.

We bought this one remaining gate not for the Beaner, but for his cousin, who was two when he first visited us and stayed up here in the guest bedroom (where we're sleeping during the bathroom remodel, which is oh-so-close to being done, and yet drags on; more on that later). The Beaner hadn't even been born yet. It's mostly stayed open in the three years since Al installed it, but we started closing it as a precaution when we left the gate to the Beaner's bedroom open. We didn't want him to get up in the middle of the night and stumble down the stairs. (Fat chance of that happening; I think he's only ever opened the door to his room and let himself out two or three times at most, and those times were all in the light of morning.)

I also started closing it during the day after I injured my ankle and saved a bit of energy by moving around the upstairs in my office chair; I didn't want to miscalculate my trajectory and accidentally launch myself down the stairs. <shudder>

I imagine that gate's got quite a future ahead of it still, as we move back down to the master bedroom, and the Beaner's still in danger of pitching down the stairs in the dark. And it is, as I mentioned, somewhat useful as an office door—at least in that it blocks the Beaner's and the nanny's access to me. Honestly, I don't want the former upstairs when I'm working or the latter up here at all.

Anyway, it might seem like a mundate observation, that the first baby gate in will be the last out, but I wanted to record it here because it marks a connection to the early days of parenthood, and also because I haven't been blogging quite as much about parenthood in general or the Beaner in particular as I once did. It's that he's got a personality now/he deserves some privacy now thing, mostly... or maybe exactly.

When I try to think of what else it could be, it all ends up coming down to the fact that our parenting experience is starting to feel mostly unique to this kid, rather than being universal to all parents of newborns and infants, as it once did. I want to share some of that uniqueness, but I also want to treasure it, to save it for us and those closest to us.

I do wonder what it will be like when the Beaner starts school (in almost exactly 1 month), and I have new experiences of his that I'll want to chronicle. Will I do that here on the blog, or will I keep my musings private? I'm not sure yet. I *am* sure that I don't want to embarrass him (or at least, to the extent that I can prevent that; I am a MOM, after all, and therefore prone to embarrassing my kid at every turn, whether I intend to or not) or make getting along at school any more difficult than it otherwise would be. I also don't want to endanger him or his classmates in any way (and you never really know if you're doing that when you blog about your kids). I'm also sure that school will utterly shake up our lives *again*—I'm not sure I'm quite prepared to be ruled by the school calendar, school hours, and school rules just yet—and that I'll have *something* to say about that here.

Anyway, sorry to turn this post into a random ramble about parentblogging. I really did intend to just write a one-paragraph post about the gate, and I'm not exactly sure where it went off the rails. I don't feel like editing or deleting just now, though, so out it goes into the world. For those of you interested in the bathroom remodel, which I abandoned chronicling long, long ago, I'll try to post about that tomorrow.

Posted by Lori at 10:32 PM
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July 30, 2007

My Little Independent Man

This photo makes me so happy:

riding the escalator by himself at nordstrom (3)

I can't explain why, exactly. It's partly his beautiful, shining face looking up at mine, it's partly his obvious pride that he's DOING SOMETHING HIMSELF, and it's partly something intangible... maybe a sense that oh my god, I created this amazing being (with Al's help, of course).

There are times when I forget how old the Beaner is, and when people ask I have to pause for a second to figure it out (sort of how I have to pause when people ask *my* age—on the one hand, I think 39 because I've had it in my head for a while now that I'm turning 39 this year, but on the other hand I think 36, because that's how old I feel. I never seem to come up with 38, my actual age). I keep thinking, for some reason, that he's 3-going-on-4, when he's really 2 years 8 months (today, in fact). I have actually answered "he's 4. No, wait! Sorry, he's two and a half" before. Maybe it's because most of his clothes are size 4T? And because I'm a total bat?

Things that remind me he's only 2 years 8 months:

  • He still wants me to snuggle him to sleep at night (and as often as possible during the day, too).
  • He now sometimes bursts into tears—which used to be reserved for I'M INJURED—when he doesn't get what he wants.
  • He can't tie his own shoes, and he still has trouble with buttons.
  • He hasn't mastered spitting after brushing his teeth, despite months of demonstration and practice.
  • His insistence that he can't do things, and that I must do them for him.

Things that make me forget he's only 2 years, 8 months:

  • The 4T clothes, as mentioned.
  • His manners, which tend to melt everyone within earshot when he uses them (sometimes he forgets).
  • The rapid expansion of his imagination, and the complexity of his pretend scenarios and dialogues.
  • His singing of Howard Jones, OK Go,