Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our son, the genius

Yesterday, Dan and I were listening to Johnny Cash as I was stalking Dan and trying to find the exact right moment to slip a shirt over his head. He darted away and headed for the laundry hamper as we listened to "Sunday morning coming down." Just as the Man in Black was trying to find his "cleanest dirty shirt," Dan began rifling through his dirty clothes hamper, apparently trying to find his cleanest dirty shirt. Coincidence? Probably, but we prefer to think genius. He methodically removed one piece after another and stopped after he came upon the second white sock with a gray heel. He looked at the pile on the floor, picked up the first white sock with a gray heel and stared at the two as he held them in his hands. Dan found a match!

Genius, I tell you!

Now, we're working on cause and effect. Jim and I bought him a remote control car for Christmas. At first, he just watched us play with it. Then, he began trying to catch it. For a while, he would pick it up by the antenna and swing it around like a baby King Kong. This morning, I gave him the remote and pushed the button with his little fingers. The car moved, but I don't think he understood that he was making it move. He toddled around the living room and down the hall pushing the button and giggling the whole time, oblivious to the car that was following him around.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

This was Dan's first semi-cognizant Christmas. Well, he was selectively cognizant - aware of everything but the things we wanted him to be aware of, namely, his presents. Eventually, we had to confine him to his high chair so we could open presents and try to get him to open presents. Here are some photos from our trip to Maryland to visit the Meehans:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On a roll

Dan finally discovered toilet paper. Babbling once preceded his new discoveries, but, alas, not this one. We've found him silently unraveling toilet paper on several occasions. I had thought just putting the roll on backwards would help. It always worked on the cats, why wouldn't it work on him? Well, he's apparently smarter than the cat. At first, he unrolled about a fourth of the TP before we could get to him. Then, Dan managed to steadily deplete the roll throughout the evening. Ack!! Wasted toilet paper. Well, I guess it's not that big deal ... we do shop at Sam's Club (36 rolls for $15). But, it's the principle of it! We gathered up the piles and perched it on the towel bar above the toilet.

I wondered aloud if there was maybe some contraption that could keep him from unraveling the paper. Jimmy knocked on the bathroom door and said, "Uh, it's called a door."

Well, we can't shut all of the doors all of the time. But two of the three bathroom doors do stay shut (and, thankfully, he can't yet reach doorknobs). The third is to the guest bathroom where Danny takes his bath. It's basically his bathroom, so I can't very well keep the door shut. So now, I have to find a way to keep him from unraveling the toilet paper.

Meanwhile, as I drew Dan's bath, he was running around naked upstairs. Next thing I know, he's peeing on the bathroom floor. Good thing I had a pile of toilet paper at the ready!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Running on fumes

When my nephews were younger and would visit our house, I was always fascinated by how little they actually ate. We'd make them half a PB&J; they'd eat half of that. We'd pour them half a cup of milk; they'd drink half of that. It drove me nuts. I hate wasting food. In fact, when I was pregnant, I threw up food only a handful of times (yes, you can vomit without food coming up, but that's a whole 'nother story). Whenever I felt nauseous, I would tell the baby "We don't waste food. You're not going to make me throw up!"

Well, Dan wastes food. It makes me nuts. He no longer sits in his high chair for meals. Oh, he'll sit for a few minutes, eat a few morsels, then very methodically start throwing food on the floor. He then loudly announces, complete with wild gesticulation, his desire to get down. It's not that he's not hungry; he just doesn't want to be confined. His first move when he's been released? He eats the food he just threw on the floor. I've resorted to putting his high chair tray on a shelf on the baker's rack where he can just graze while we eat our dinner in peace. Earlier in the day, there's an ice cube tray filled with little snacks like raisins, cut up apricots, goldfish crackers, Cheerios, diced up banana and diced up cheese. He eats to his heart's content, all the while scooting around the house. This is probably a choking hazard. But what's a momma to do? Of course, after a while, Dan starts carrying the ice cube tray around and ends up spilling all the little snackies I put out for him. If it's just going to end up on the floor anyway, why don't I ... oh, nevermind. You'd probably call the child welfare people on me.

I know Dan is getting what he needs nutritionally from breast milk and what little he chooses to eat during the day. All the food he gets is healthy (except for the little strawfuls of Sprite he gets from Daddy). Everything I've read about this stage indicates that this is developmentally normal. But that still doesn't stop me from being annoyed and perplexed. Where the heck does he get the energy to go all day with just a 90 minute nap, a 10 minute catnap and very little food?

Requiem for a washing machine

Our washing machine finally died. We've been resuscitating him with "chest" compressions mid-cycle for months now. Tonight, he just gave out. Jim said he smelled burning rubber. Our dryer still works, sort of, but she's really on her last leg and deserves to be buried with her partner. It's the least we could do for her.

So tonight, we went to Lowe's to buy a new washer and dryer. The new couple arrives on Friday. Meanwhile, I'll be doing something I haven't done since college ... laundry at mom's house!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Turbo tot's wake

A quick, 20-minute cleanup every night reveals a lot about what Dan's been up to all day. Last night, several of my spices turned up on my nightly jaunt. The turmeric was on top of the entertainment center, the sage was on the baker's rack. Good, I thought, he can reach only the S through Z spices. The rest of my spices are still safely alphabetized. There was a grilled cheese crouton stuck to a cat's toy, several balls hiding beneath the kick in the kitchen, and all the animals from Noah's Ark marching two-by-two across the play mat side-by-side with little farmers and policemen. A little anachronistic, but we'll go with it.

We've been rocketed into full blown toddlerhood. At this time last year, we were adjusting to a newborn, a complete stranger and shock. Right now, I feel just as much like a fish out of water as I did then. I wonder how long it will take to adjust to the new normal. After his birth, it felt like three months before I could meet his ever changing needs. In short, I accepted fluidity as the norm.

So I've been reading about toddlers, their eating habits, temperaments, sleep and nutrition needs. It's actually hard to find good nutrition information for toddlers as most "experts" assume that you've weaned your child and are giving him milk. We're not doing that. Cow's milk is for baby cows and besides, pasteurization is such a bastardization that the end product no longer resembles milk. I grew up on raw milk and didn't die. Obviously, we can't find raw milk, but cultured dairy products are much better, so that's what he gets. Because we can find out so much about our food, breast feeding throws me off a little bit now. It's the uncertainty. Let's face it, there are no nutrition labels on booby juice. And on the days that Dan decides to eat only fruits and vegetables and a few handfuls of goldfish crackers, I wonder, is he getting enough calories?

The conventional wisdom on toddlers' eating habits is that they usually eat more in the morning and early afternoon than they will at dinner time. Dan's eating habits have become strange to us. Sometimes he throws down food and other times he throws his food on the floor. Right now he seems to be on a carb and meat strike. He'll eat only fruit and vegetables. Not a bad problem to have, but I worry he's not getting enough iron or calcium or fiber in his diet. He's happy, though, and moving around quicker every day.

And we finally got around to childproofing the china cabinet. Dan is pretty ticked off about that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where's the baby's off button?

Hint: It's not on the baby monitor. I've tried that one. All it does is mute the baby.

Dan's off button is in his ears. Don't worry, I'm not going around sticking my fingers in his ears willy nilly. When I'm nursing him, I often take the opportunity to clean the wax out of his ears. As soon as I start messing around in there, his eyes begin to droop. Excellent.

Dan story of the day

Jim and I were sitting in the living room reading the paper while Dan was doing his evening laps and making pit stops along the way. He travels down the hall, bangs on the return that we had to screw shut, goes into the dining room, looks out the front window, squeals and then proceeds to the china cabinet and throws the gravy boat around. Tonight, he found my sushi dishes. Next it's on to the kitchen where he peruses the spice rack. All my spices were once arranged alphabetically. Obviously, I've given that up. When he didn't return to the living room in his usual time, we checked on him. He was quiet but there was an occasional clink of metal. That's when we found him. He had made a ramp by propping the top piece of the broiler pan on the edge of a basket and was trying to climb up to reach the top shelf.

Jim was practically bursting with pride. He said, "He's done his first constructioneering project."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dan's adventures in photos


Adventures of snooger bot

Jim and I always said our son would be running by his first birthday. And we were right. Even though he's got a cold, he's a quick little snooger bot. Those wise to spoonerisms will understand the nickname. Hey, it's better than dingleberry, which I found out its disgusting definition only after calling him that for a few weeks. Look it up ( ... I'm not repeating it here.

Dan has a cold, or, as overzealous doc calls it "an upper respiratory infection, and he's cutting two teeth and he's trying to run. He's snotty and drueling and coughing and has at least four bruises on his forehead - from falls and banging his head on the wall. You'd think a sick baby would sleep, but not my child. Dan is an awful lot like me. He fights everything ... sleep, direction, suggestions, sickness.

So this morning, I just let him play until he started getting clumsy. I found him rooting through my china cabinet, happily tossing about a metal hors'doevres tray and a gravy boat. I decided to leave him be since he hadn't gotten to the fine china yet. A few minutes later, he howls. He's under the dining room table with his bum in a soup bowl. Not even sure how he physically got in that position. Okay, china cabinet roulette is over. Time for the next adventure. He toddles all over the downstairs, then checks that I'm still where he left me before resuming his travels. Sometimes I try to gauge where he is by the sound of his footsteps or some little noise he makes. Lately, though, when I call out to him, he goes into stealth mode. He's learned how to hide from me. Great. Even though there are baby gates in strategic locations, my heart is still in my throat when I can't find him right away.

Anyhow, we went to the doctor's office this afternoon and he mentioned the dreaded A word (Jimmy's first guess was a--hole). Asthma. Since Dan had an upper respiratory infection when he was six weeks old, he now has a history. The doctor says we'll just have to watch him, he may have mild asthma. Seems a bit of a stretch to me, but we have a nebulizer and a humidifier. We've nebulized him once today and it made a world of difference.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happiest season?

Try as I may to keep cynicism at bay during the holidays, the onslaught of seasonal schmaltz is a merciless tease. A Christmas song bleated from my car radio today about "the hap, happiest season of all." And, ever the contrarian, my first thought was "bull dookie." Okay, I didn't use the word dookie, but I'm trying not to curse like a sailor, it being the holidays and all.

So, it's the happiest season, presumably because we all march like lemmings to retailers and spend money to create the perfect Christmas - which, of course, includes jewelry-bearing husbands, a surprise visit from a relative who wakes the household with fresh brewed Folgers and a small child or a lost pet who shows us all the true meaning of Christmas. Ever notice that the moral of made-for-TV Hallmark movies is always about gifts not being the true meaning of Christmas, yet every commercial urges you to buy, buy, buy? No wonder we're all so confused and agitated these days.

You see, I'm just not big on superlatives. They set up expectations and, lately, I've not been able to rank events in my life as better or worse, more or less fun, happiest or saddest. There's connection among events, one supports another. Events, seasons, situations ... they're all building blocks. I enjoy Christmas nowadays because I've cultivated relationships with my family and friends all year long. In years past, I've not been so lucky.

Yep, I got all that from a cynical reaction to a Christmas song. Oh, and I think I may have also broken out in hives.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dan turns one ...

Over the weekend, we celebrated his first birthday. It was a busy weekend with a family gathering on Friday night, a family wedding in Chapel Hill on Saturday, his birthday, and his birthday party on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, we had 15 adults and 10 little kids over for chili, cake and football. Five minutes before the party started, I mentally counted up who we were expecting and then proceeded to ask my sister, "Am I crazy??" But it was so much fun. Dan was thrilled to have all his buddies over. Jim and I were so happy to celebrate Dan's first year among the people who helped us survive it.

Here are some photos from the weekend:

Forced car repairs

This morning, Jim went to get the car inspected. The mechanic deemed that the serpentine belt needed replacing and failed the vehicle. The mechanic told Jim that the state of North Carolina allowed him to fail a vehicle for this purpose. So basically, our car was held hostage for $120.

"Do you want to see the book?" the mechanic asked. Of course, I would have made him show me the book. But Jim eventually took his word for it and we have a new belt to go with our new inspection sticker.

Jim first told the mechanic he wanted a second opinion. He went to the parts store down the street and asked the guy: "So, what's the worst that can happen if a serpentine belt craps out while you're driving?"

The car stops and you have to pull over to the side of the road, he said. He added that inspectors are failing more and more cars lately for issues that are not safety related, like a worn serpentine belt. After deciding that replacing the belt himself would be too difficult, Jim went back and had the belt replaced.

Our questions are these: Since when does the state have the right to dictate what repairs we get to our car and when? and What is the state's motivation here? Now, I understand that certain repairs, like brakes, brake lights, wipers and headlights, are safety issues. Checking emissions, great. But a serpentine belt? Give me a break.

We moved here from a state that didn't do these annual vehicle inspections. Every three years, we were required to get an emissions test done. That was it. Now, every year, we end up spending money to get our vehicles to pass inspection. A few years ago, one of our cars failed because the gas gauge was broken and then again because of carbon buildup in the fuel line that was causing the vehicle to stall. The emissions were fine. Basically, if the check engine light was on, we couldn't pass, regardless of whether the issue was safety or just disrepair.

What's next? Annual home inspections that you can fail for not using compact fluorescent light bulbs. We primarily use the CFLs, but because we can afford it and because we chose to do so. That's the point here. Freedom to make choices, even the bad ones that hurt no one but us.

And beyond that, there's the possibility that forced car repairs are a racket born of corrupt politicians. I try not to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, but what if the auto mechanics pressured the state to expand the reasons to fail vehicles to increase business? Actually, it's not too far fetched in a state where an optometrist in state government succeeded in passing a bill to require eye exams for all kindergarteners and another bill to help chiropractors who had given him campaign money.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In the moment

It's 12:01 a.m. on December 1st as I begin typing this entry. A year ago at this very minute, with the help of a morphine shot and IV fluids after my first 18 hours of labor, I was just drifting off into the last seven straight hours of sleep I've had since. Last night, I wailed to my husband that I haven't really slept in a year and, I fear, may never sleep well again. Years ago a colleague told me, in that you-mark-my-words tone, "You'll be amazed at how well you'll function on so little sleep."

I feel oddly unemotional about the fact that our son is now a year old. Am I suppose to be verklempt about this? I'm just not. The one thing I do feel is pride. I'm proud of our family and the life we've created. I can't even say that we worked hard to create it; really, we've just made good decisions based on our values. I'm proud that Jim and I chose natural childbirth and paid more money to have the experience we wanted. A few months after Danny's birth, it occurred to us that a hospital delivery would have been by C-section. Instead, at the birth center the midwives presented options that did not include major abdominal surgery. No hospital would ever let a woman labor for 40 hours. I'm proud of myself for doing it and proud that my husband supported the decision. I'm also proud that we live well and debt free on one and a half incomes and that our son has thrived on my milk. I'm proud that, in the first year of his life, our son was cared for solely by his father and I and a few trusted relatives.

Maybe I'm not emotional about this because, more than any other experience in my life, becoming a parent has forced me to stay in the moment. It's taught me how to plan, but not plan the results and to be prepared to throw the plans out the window. So, after a year of moments that I've been present for, it's not so surprising that he's one, that he's thriving, that he's gotten so big, so smart and so beautiful. I notice these things every day, every hour, every minute that I'm with him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It never fails ...

On Friday night, Dan had a very sleepless night. He was up every few hours. He didn't want to go back to sleep. By 5 a.m., Jim got up with him. They had breakfast and went to Lowe's. Later that day, he began walking. We should have known ... sleepless nights precede major (and sometimes even minor) developments.

Actually, he's been taking steps since he was eight months old. But on Saturday, he finally began pulling up, letting go and practically running around the house. He's doing what Jim calls "room to room transfers." He walks from room to room to room. This weekend, he was crawling as much as he walked. But today, I barely saw him crawl at all. All this activity is exhausting him. He's been taking good daytime naps and sleeping well at night.

Up till now, the only shorties roaming around the house were the dog and the cat. Seeing him toddle around is hilarious. He's eye-level with the dog and he loves it. And he's finally taller than the cat. In fact, the first time I saw him walk across the room, he was heading for Bob the dog. He gave Bob a nice pat on the snout, and buried his hands and face in the dog's furry neck. Then, his next stop was Smug the cat. He squatted down beside her while she was eating and started petting her back. We've been working on the concept of "gentle" - for petting the animals, our faces and our hair. He gets it when we say "gentle Dan," I think. Anyhow, he hasn't pulled my hair or poked my eye out lately.

The best part of staying home with Dan is watching him accomplish feats big and small. Today, he seemed to get better at walking with each passing hour. His balance has improved enormously in just three days. He can stoop down to pick up toys, stand back up from a squat, shlep steadily through toy piles and even carry rather large toys while walking.

No wonder he's exhausted.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Jim, Danny and I spent Thanksgiving with my parents in Raleigh. Here are some photos from Dan's first Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Maybe this will work ...

Dinner time has become a battle to keep young Dan from purposely throwing food over the side of his high chair. Tonight, it occurred to me, "If there's no 'side' to throw the food off of, maybe he won't throw the food."

So, instead of eating food off his high chair tray, he ate food from a plate on the table. Maybe it was the novelty of eating at the table, but it seemed to work. He didn't throw his food.

See more photos in the series and the video below.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The baby has left the building ...

Click here to see several new photo albums.

Enter tempestuous toddler Dan. He is just a few weeks shy of his first birthday, but it's pretty clear that we no longer have a baby on our hands. He's rocketed into full-blown toddlerhood, complete with tantrums and defiance aplenty. And if this isn't full-blown toddlerhood, but just a warm up, boy, are we in BIG trouble. Because he's smaller than most kids his age, it's easy to still treat him like he's a baby. It's dawning on us that he understands way more than we thought - which is a mixed blessing.

This morning, Dan and I were playing with the shape sorter. I held up a square, gave it to him, showed him which hole matched and he would put it in. Then, on to the circle. When we got to the triangle, I began to sing the triangle song (Cousin Kelley knows about the triangle song, it's her favorite, right Kelley?). The triangle song is from a large stuffed block with shapes on each side that plays a song for each shape. Dan loves it; we tolerate it and often find ourselves singing the different songs. Ugh. Anyhow, as I sang the song, Dan crawled away from our activity. He went straight for the block and pulled it off the shelf. The triangle side was visible from where we had been sitting. He gave me a wide grin as he banged the triangle side and made the song play. His face said, "See, I know what a triangle is, mommy."

Great. Now, son, do you know that we don't want you to throw your cup off your high chair during dinner? Handing it to us or setting it down would be just fine. And sometimes he does. Some nights, however, he looks straight at us and does it anyway. Tonight, we started taking him out of his high chair, putting him on the floor and telling him to pick up his cup. When he did, we put him back in his high chair and continued dinner. We repeated it three times tonight.

Does he know that the CD racks, the stereo, the stairs, the dishwasher and the fridge are off limits? Of course, he does. He just doesn't like to hear the word no. I'm really not looking forward to spending the next two years telling him no and getting angry red-faced screams in response. I was just starting to really enjoy him. Now he has a will of his own. And it's not always in line with what our will for him is. Isn't he going to get weary and discouraged at the constant redirection? I'm afraid he's not to going to like us very much over the next year.

I'm going to really miss my little baby.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What I've learned so far

Tonight I had a flashback. We were getting ready to take a walk in the chilly early evening. I got out Dan's stroller bunting and quickly slipped it in the stroller, pulled the seat belt through the bunting and buckled Dan in.

Our very first walk with Dan wasn't so simple. It was December 10, it was cold and it was my first mild exercise since Dan's birth. We bundled 10-day-old Dan up and then spent nearly a half hour trying to figure out the stroller bunting. So, eleven months into parenthood, one thing I know for sure is how to attach the bunting to the stroller in less than 30 seconds.

What I don't know could fill an entire blog, but here's a start:
  • How to dress my son without him screaming or going rigid
  • How to snap the baby's pants while he's trying to crawl away
  • How to diaper a baby who's trying to crawl away (Here's an idea for a baby shower game: Diapering cats.)
  • Why he sleeps through some nights and not others
  • Why he stops what he's doing suddenly and just shrieks
  • Why he poops three times a day no matter what he eats
  • What the fascination is with the refrigerator, dishwasher and stove
  • Why he looks up in wonder, coos and waves at the ceiling fan
  • Why he doesn't take a morning or afternoon nap some days
  • Why, after a trying day with him, I still feel compelled to check on him while sleeps, just because I miss him.
The stroller bunting, I have that down. Now if I could just figure out how to dress him without the drama.

Scarred for life ...

... or at least the next few days.

Poor Dan. Today Jim found him with his little finger closed in the bi-fold door to our linen closet. He must have screamed for a good three minutes while we both tried to comfort him. When he had been sufficiently soothed, he got busy playing again. As he crawled past the closet door, he started to cry and crawl faster. He did this once more as he passed the offending closet.

Maybe he won't play with the bi-fold doors anymore.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Halloween, the begging holiday

As my husband Jim points out, Halloween is the only night of the year when you willingly open the door for masked strangers. I remember my mother was not very fond of Halloween and I thought she was such a wet blanket. Well, guess what? It's my least favorite holiday, so I guess I've turned into my mother.

I worked on Halloween night, so I didn't get to witness the parade of masked strangers begging for sugar. Dan is too young to trick or treat or even enjoy getting dressed up. And judging by his response to the trick or treaters, if we had dressed him up, his own reflection might have terrified him.

Jim had Dan in his arms as he answered the night's first doorbell. Dan took one look at these masked marauders and began screaming. By now, he's learned certain things about the appearance of humans, and what he saw on our front porch just didn't fit with his ideas. The second batch of trick or treaters elicited the same response. So Dan played in his funtime playland while Jim attended the beggars, er, I mean, kids.

What bugs me the most about Halloween is the complete lack of manners. In years past, there have been some kids who don't even say "trick or treat." They then reach into my basket before I can hand out the candy, pull out several pieces and then leave without saying thank you. They barely make eye contact or smile. What's worse is their parents stand at the end of our driveway, not even bothering to come up to enforce basic manners or speak with us, their neighbors.

This year, our neighborhood agreed that trick or treating would happen between 5:30 and 7:30 and only at homes with porch lights on. So, Jim turned off the porch light and began getting Dan settled for bed after 7:30. Dan was nearly asleep on Jim's shoulder at 7:45 when some little brat rang the doorbell over and over and over again. Guess who woke up?

When Jim told me this, I asked if he got the door. Of course, he didn't because he now had a wide awake, crying baby on his hands. But if I was home, I might have gone down, opened the door and given them one hell of a Halloween scare. That's what Halloween is all about, right?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Running on instinct

Dan is 11 months old today. So, I did my monthly perusal of The Books. You know, the ones that tell you what your child should be doing and what to expect in the next month. I've had to limit myself to reading once a month and only the parts that apply to Dan's age and/or stage. No reading ahead!

As I read about 11 month olds, I realized just how dead on my instincts have been. Usually by the time I read about an age or stage, I'm already doing a lot of what's suggested for Dan's developmental stage. In the past week, I've started giving him more direction and telling him what's going on using adult phrases followed by a simpler version using just key words. This is something The Book suggested. I didn't read about it until yesterday.

The technique comes in handy when closing the fridge or dishwasher. These two appliances are the most fascinating thing EVER for Dan. He makes a bee line for the kitchen when he hears me open those doors. If I open them while he's in his high chair, his eyes light up and he starts fidgeting. So, I usually let him play a bit and then tell him "Mommy needs to close the door now. Say bye bye to the dishwasher." This has dramatically reduced the drama surrounding the closing of the fridge and dishwasher.

Another interesting development is that he hands objects to me instead of taking them away or holding onto them. Now when he's gotten a hold of contraband I can just sweetly say, "Dan, can Mommy have that?" And he hands it over! I also use this strategy to keep him from throwing or dropping his sippy cup on the floor. I might as well take advantage of it while it lasts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Short attention span theater

"Read to your child, 15 minutes a day."

PBS Kids taunts me with this line every day. I can't get my child to sit still long enough to change his diaper, let alone read to him for 15 minutes a day.

This is one of the few child-rearing issues that cause me a certain degree of angst. I want Dan to enjoy reading, as his father and I do. For us, reading is the ticket to learning anything we're curious about. We plan on homeschooling and I often fear that he won't learn to read under our guidance. I've wanted to incorporate reading into the bedtime routine for a long time. Early on, we tried reading to him, but it never held his attention, he squirmed in our arms, he grabbed at the pages.

His relationship with books has gone through stages in the past six months. His first interaction with books consisted of knocking them off shelves and crawling all over them. Then, he moved on to chewing the books. Recently he's taken an interest in how the pages turn and sometimes he gives a three-second glance at the pages.

How to get him to the next level, that was the question.

One strategy of the baby marketing machine is to show the same episode of a children's program several days in a row. This builds familiarity with the characters and story. If you don't believe me, watch PBS Kids sometime. By week's end, you'll know the lines by heart.

So, I decided to employ the strategy with a book. I chose The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. It has attractive art work, a recurring verse and a surprise ending that Dan has learned to anticipate. The story is simple and sweet ... a young cricket longs to make a sound by rubbing his wings together as many other crickets do. But, alas, he can't until nightfall and then, as you turn to the last page, you hear the sound of a cricket’s song.

Now, finally, he sits still for five minutes or so while I read to him. Then, when we're done, I go back through the book and point out objects like the sun, the moon, an apple, a luna moth, the grass, etc. He digs it. He even laughs at certain parts when I do different voices for the different insects.

What a relief. There's hope for him after all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The accidental kitchen renovation

We weren't planning on renovating the kitchen just yet. It just kind of happened. And it all started with the dishwasher.

I went away one weekend with the baby and came back to a new stainless steel dishwasher and a man with a plan. And much to my surprise, the plan included buying two more brand new appliances. The new dishwasher didn't match with the nearly two-year-old stainless steel stove and our old white fridge, so those needed to be replaced. Then, it turned out the new stainless steel fridge wouldn't fit in the allotted space.

No problem, Jim says. We'll just knock out the walls, reroute the plumbing and dryer vent, rebuild a wall and install shelves in the newly opened space. Cool! I'm so glad I have a husband who can do these things. Incidentally, this is the same man who replaced Masonite siding with hardyboard on about 75 percent of the exterior. It took him three years to finish it and paint the entire house. Hopefully, the kitchen renovation won't take that long! He probably saved us $30,000 in the process. Now that he's torn down walls without bringing down the entire house, I have a few more ideas for the kitchen.

When he was done rerouting the plumbing, though, he gave plumbers their props. He acknowledged that they earn every cent of their pay. The plumbing didn't go as smoothly as he'd hoped. Two of the joints had leaks and he wound up having to start over on one of the joints. So now, he's moving on to rebuilding the wall about three or so inches to the right of the old wall.

All the appliances arrived Saturday. The refrigerator is quite luxe, if I may say so. It has ice and water in the door, a water purifying system, pull-out bins in the freezer. Jim calls it a very expensive Brita pitcher. And, no kidding, there is an ice cream shelf where a half gallon of Breyers fits perfectly. The oven is a double convection oven and the stove is smoothtop with four burners that expand into eight.

Here are some photos of the new appliances and some of Jimmy's handywork.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dan's morning in, Mom's morning out

When Danny was about three months old, I got a waiting list for the Parents Morning Out program at our church. The program is for 1 to 5 year olds. It's a once-a-week, parent-run, three-hour quasi-preschool - which, incidentally, is as close to "school" as my children will ever get. Older mommies might recognize this format. It was once called Mothers Morning Out, but we can't call it that anymore (even though there are no father volunteers in the group.)

We were accepted into the program in September and Dan started on Friday. I know two of the women and their sons, who are about Danny's age. On Friday, the nursery was being (wo)manned by one of these women, so he was pretty comfortable there ... maybe too comfortable.

When we arrived, he looked around, took in his surroundings, gave them a thumbs up and he was off. I had planned to stay with for about 15 minutes. He barely noticed when I left, didn't cry while I was gone and barely noticed when I returned. Even his friend Louie greeted me with a "Wow" when I returned. Where's the love, kid?

As for me, I went to get my oil changed and while I sat in the glorious quiet of the mechanic's waiting room, I wrote out a menu and a shopping list for the next two weeks. Then I went to the grocery store, alone. I returned to the church 45 minutes early. The next two sessions, I will be there with him since I'll be working in the nursery.

Here are some photos from his first day at PMO.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dan at work

I caught Dan on video working on his blocks Thursday. Check it out.

The work of childhood

This week, when Dan fought his morning nap, I figured he was just trying to give it up for good. A lot of babies do at his age. He's been sleeping very well at night, but during the day, sleep just wasn't on the agenda. As I watched him play this week, I understood why.

A set of eight soft blocks with removable middle pieces fascinates him. This is the only toy I've bought new and, at $16.00, it's turned out to be a very good investment. Inside the blocks are see-through shaped pieces with objects inside - a key, a ball and tiny beads. Another three pieces are rubbery and textured. Until recently, Dan hasn't noticed the pieces unless I remove them. This past week, he's been intent on removing them himself.

Dan pushes the middle piece, realizes that it comes out the other side, turns the block, tries to grasp the piece and, in the process, pushes the piece back in. He repeats this several times then moves on. He would always come back to it, though.

One day, Jim lined up a few more blocks with removable centers and told him, "I want these done before dinner, kid."

Watching him this week has been a very good illustration of purposeful play, a concept pioneered by Maria Montessori. A little guidance and a lot of free time to discover goes a long way. Come to think of it, I never explicitely showed him how to remove the pieces. He must have seen me do it.

This morning, though, he finally got it. And he went down for his morning nap 45 minutes ago.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hidden motives

Certain foods disappear quickly in this house. Take a box of Triscuits, for example. One family size box will last two days if it's left in the TV room instead of put back in the pantry. So tonight, on a stroll through Target on an ice cream run, I picked up two boxes of Triscuits.

"Why do we need two boxes?" Jim asked.

"Because they'll last longer," I replied. "Maybe I should start buying two and hiding one."

"You already do."

"Where do I hide food?"

"I don't know, because you hide it."

I thought I was just putting the food where it belonged. Maybe I do hide the food, subconsciously. Is it hiding if I put the food in places he'd never think to look? After all, my husband would never look for crackers or chips in the pantry and sugar in the sugar bowl.

Yes, the sugar bowl is still an issue. But now I think he just does it on purpose. The first phrase I uttered one morning this week to my husband upon waking wasn't good morning, but "There's sugar in the sugar bowl, you know."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sickness is NOT the norm

It's been a rough weekend here. Dan has shrieked, fussed, cried and sniffled his way through the past two days. He's eaten very little and slept even less. This is only the second cold he's had since birth. And this time around it's a bit harder on us all because Dan is so mobile and curious. All he wants to do is play, when he really needs to rest.

He finally settled down a bit before bed tonight. Jim asked, "Is he actually playing quietly with his toys?" I responded, "Yes, but be quiet or you'll jinx it."

My doctor's office claims that the average child gets six to eight colds a year that last from seven to 10 days each. Something about this statement just seems off. By this logic, a child will be sick 1.5 to 2.5 months out of the year.

It's sad when being sick nearly 20 percent of the time is considered the norm.

Weekend theater

Scene: Early Saturday morning, mom and dad are just waking up, the baby starts to cry from his crib.
Jim: I think the baby's crying
Josee: We have a baby? When did that happen? Thinking: I really need to go to the bathroom, but if I get up, I'll be obligated to get the baby. If I don't move, maybe he'll go get the baby.
Jim finally gets up. Yes! Seems mommy has won this round!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The baby and the Bob

Bob the dog accidentally threw off the baby this afternoon. Danny was trying to climb over Bob as if he were merely a speed bump on the road to Danny's funtime playland. Bob decided he'd had enough and stood up. Howls ensued, from Danny, not the dog.

It wasn't malicious, and I could tell Bob felt bad. But it was definitely an opportunity to teach Bob and the baby the rules.
  • Rule #1: Don't treat the dog like a speed bump.
  • Rule #2: Don't treat the baby like a rodeo cowboy.

The perils of sleep deprivation

One early morning last week, I sleepwalked down the hall to retrieve one crying babe from his crib. I felt around for him in the dark and pulled him from the crib only to realize I had grasped his thighs and was holding him upside down.


Monday, October 08, 2007

The walking Dan walks

Bowie, Md. - In a surprise move today, Danny Meehan let go of the couch in Nana Meehan's living room and took at least five unassisted steps without falling, according to sources close to the baby.

Previously, a heavy noggin and jelly knees hindered his progress. Today's development comes after more than two months of cruising along furniture and taking several unsteady steps before crash landing in his parents' laps.

Over the past week, he's exhibited signs of readiness to walk, his mother said.

"He's been getting braver lately, and more balanced. We've found him balancing against windows and doors with his head," said his mother, who expects to soon lose 10 pounds just chasing Danny.

Upon hearing the news, Danny's father said he, too, had noticed signs of Danny's imminent mobility.

"I've noticed him trying to decide whether he wants to let go of the sofa," he said.

Learning to balance and to sit from a standing position was key to Danny's success. His breakthrough, however, was not without pain. The past few weeks, Dan has sustained minor injuries - mainly bumps and bruises.

"He's finally learned that sitting feels better than landing on his face," his father noted.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All caught up now

Dan's been sleeping pretty well lately. Two one- to two-hour naps each day, up to nine hours at night. All weekend, I slept when he slept during the day. Dan turned 10 months old on Monday and I finally caught up on my sleep deficit. Good thing, too. He's a bundle of energy and I've got my hands full trying to keep up with him.

On Tuesdays, I take him to storytime at the library. The group, misnamed Lapsitters, is tailored to six to 18 month old kids. My son hasn't sat on my lap since he was six months old. This morning, he was the loudest, wiggliest babe in the bunch. He shrieked his way through several of the songs, jumped up and down while I grasped his middle, and crawled all over, heading first to the big (covered) electrical socket in the middle of the floor. Actually, that's the first stop for every kid in the group. He also tried to climb on his friends, Carson and Louis, who are not so keen on his advances. Dan also auditioned some new mommies. He crawled up to various mommies and climbed on their lap. Me? I'm just chopped liver, I guess.

He just doesn't ever seem to stop moving. This afternoon, he was on the bed with Jim and I. He lunged back and forth between us, tried to climb the headboard, and tried to climb over us. And the walking ... he's walking farther and farther every day. We prop him up and let him go or he'll walk with us holding on to just one hand. He gets going so fast that I'm afraid he'll break into a run. He's had a few tumbles, but it hasn't deterred him so far.

Later on today, Jim took Dan up to the padded playground at Southpoint. Dan climbed stairs, and slid down and crawled up slides at least a dozen times, according to Jim. He was exhausted and ready for bed when we got home. Dan was actually still when I changed his diaper and didn't protest when I put on his pajamas.

So, now he's fast asleep. And all it took was nonstop activity all day long.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm glad I didn't worry

It seems young Daniel picks up a new skill just as it occurs to us (OK, it occurs only to me) that he's not yet rolling over, crawling, babbling, cruising, walking, eating finger foods, getting teeth, gaining weight, et cetera. Good thing I don't worry because before I know it, he's mastered one skill and is on to the next and the next and the next.

In the past two weeks he's added some new syllables to his vocabulary. I was beginning to wonder if he'd be stuck on da da indefinitely. But he came out with Bob and has even said mama a few times. When he's working on new sounds, he often uses his fingers to manipulate his mouth into making the sounds. He definitely has the timing down, too: he says "Ha" whenever Jim or I walk into a room. And Jim swears Danny asked for his bottle (as in "Dada wa ma baba") and tried to say "bouncy jail" while he was on his way to confinement.

Oh, let me explain bouncy jail ... we're not sadistic parents, we just need to confine him at least once a day in a seat with a spring that hangs in the kitchen doorway. By late afternoon, we're both weary from redirecting him before he learns how to remove the electrical outlet covers or topples a tower of CDs onto himself and tired of saying "No," "don't eat that," "what's in your mouth?" "No, that's Bob's treat," "Leave the CDs, the stereo, the remote control, the phone alone," and "Why don't you play with your toys?" He bounces, I get dinner ready and Jim gets to read the paper. (Yes, I know it all sounds very Ward and June Cleaverish. Oh well. I guess I'm way too secure in my femininity and happy with my life to worry about whether my home resembles a 1950s sit com. Maybe another post brewing?)

That's the funny thing about parenthood. It often seems he'll never outgrow some of the more annoying stages like shrieking because his tongue won't make more melodious sounds or wanting to be carried around all day long or needing to nurse in the middle of the night. Then there are the days I wonder where the brakes are on this ride. He's too precious, he's growing up too fast, he's starting to look like a little boy already, he no longer sits still with me, he practically leaps from the arms he once couldn't get enough of. On the nights he skips the midnight nursing, I miss him. Snuggling his warm little body in my arms almost makes up for the sleep disturbance.

Who am I kidding? It totally makes up for broken sleep.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Emergency bathtime

It's been awhile since we've had to sound the poop alarm. But today has been particularly poopy day. Come to think of it, it's been a particularly poopy week.

After dinner, as Dan was playing, I heard the very loud, familiar sound of, well, my son loading his diaper. Not again, I thought. This was poopy diaper number four. Yep, you read that right. And the worst part was that he soiled one of the cheap diapers that often leak. So up the stairs I go, again. Jim took one look at me, holding Squirmy McSqirm under my arm like a football, and shouted "Poop" as he pointed out the brown trail on his leg.


I held him at arm's length as if he were toxic waste. Jim took him and ordered, "Go up and start the bath." So, in the bathroom, we're trying to remove his clothes and socks without spreading the vile bile. I never thought it would take two adults to change one poopy baby.

I considered calling the doctor to ask if three to four poops a day is normal. But, instead, I just called my best friend, the nurse, and asked her. As it turns out, according to Nurse Jen, he could be teething. Yet another thing no one tells you ... babies poop more when they're teething.

I hate poop.

Monday, September 24, 2007

You can't afford me

This weekend, I attempted a feat I'd rather not repeat. I worked four days instead of my usual three days and had to attend a workshop for church. In short, I was busier than I like to be.

Here's what happened by weekend's end:

My house was a mess - the toys didn't get put away, the kitchen didn't get cleaned and swept each night and there was clutter everywhere. I didn't have time to think through dinner plans, so my husband ate junk all weekend and by Sunday night, he had bought a jar of baby food for Dan (not that jar food is the end of the world, it's just not my first choice). This morning, I was exhausted. Dan and I got up around 7 a.m. and both went down for a two and a half hour nap at 10:00 a.m. Oh, and, most important, I missed my son. I missed his first word. He said it while he and Jim were taking a walk Saturday morning.

When I got back from the workshop Saturday morning, my son was so happy to see me. He reached up his arms, smiled and laughed. And that made me feel sad because I had two more nights of work before I could redevote my full attention to him.

The extra money will help, but, for me, the cost is too high. We waited too long for him to shortchange him and ourselves by overworking. I've looked into doing some freelance work lately but have concluded that my time is worth too much to even put a price tag on it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sleepless in September

The only "sleep" theory that makes any sense to us is my sister's notion that frequent night wakings usually precede the emergence of a new skill.

This weekend, Dan came out with his first word. For a few weeks, he's been stringing together da da, but it's clear he doesn't associate it with Jim yet. Then, on Saturday, while Jim and Dan were out walking the dog, Dan began chanting "Bob, Bob, Bob." That's our dog's name and we said from the beginning that it would probably be his first word. Dog owners know that the dog's name is the most frequently spoken word in the house. Any commands regularly given to the dog are a close second. At least he knows who's important.

It does take some effort to say "Bob" since he has to primarly use his lips, not his tongue, to make the sound. If we chant the dog's name to him, he will look at us and bob his head for a few seconds before squeezing his lips together to release the sound, "Bob."

This may seem like minutiae to some of you, but I was an English major in college and I make my living as a word nerd. The acquisition of language, both physically and mentally, is fascinating. And to think, children learn this skill long before they ever enter a classroom. Amazing.

The photos are from a recent evening when Dan refused to sleep and quietly played on the family room floor for about 45 minutes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Please, don't lie to me

I get the feeling that some mommies out there are lying about their child's sleep habits or at least hiding the truth. Maybe they just don't want to admit that their child doesn't always sleep through the night. They cling to the notion of control, because after all, good parents are in control of the situation, right? Good parents put their feet down. They wont' be manipulated by their children. Some mommies will say "My son usually sleeps 10 hours a night." Judging by what happens in my house, usually must mean one week out of every month.

When my son was about 2 months old, my mom told me about a woman whose 2 month old was sleeping seven hours in a row. At the time, I was really angry at the woman. And by angry, I mean, hunt her down and smack-her-face angry (Sleep deprivation can make me very nasty.) I actually thought she had won some victory that had yet to be won on my battlefield. Seven months later, I realize that her so-called sleep victory probably lasted a week or less. She spoke too soon, a rookie mistake, one I seem to make over and over. Yes, I'm cackling at the idea that she's probably having the same struggles I am now and kicking herself for thinking she'd conquered the sleep monster at 2 months.

I'm also done with the books. You know, the ones that say by the age of nine months your child should be taking two 1 to 2 hour naps a day and sleeping 10 hours a night. Most are written by male doctors whose wives did all the nighttime (and daytime) parenting. Apparently, it's like a tree falling in the forest: if they don't hear it, it must not have made a noise. Just because they slept through the night doesn't mean the baby did. And my favorite category: the books written by moms who have not had an infant in 20 years. It's been 20 years since they sat on the top step listening to their child scream for the 10 minutes that seem like an eternity. I would sell the books, but I don't want to subject any other naive parent to these works of fiction. Maybe they'd make good kindling for the fire this winter.

In my favorite magazine this month, in an article completely unrelated to parenting, a woman recounted her bedtime ritual:

"I pray that tonight is the night my nine month old sleeps through the night."

Amen, sister. Thanks for keeping it real.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We call him the shriek

Dan is a Cheerios and goldfish cracker junkie. He likes to see how many fit in his mouth. So a few nights ago, I had to hide the goldfish crackers behind Jim's arm and ration them out. Dan craned his neck every which way to see and get at the hidden goldfish. He tried to pull Jim's arm away.

Clearly, he gets object permanence. We have entered age of the separation anxiety. And it's not just separation from Mommy that creates a panic. What's never mentioned in the books is that separation anxiety extends to anything the baby believes should remain in his realm.

Dan objects if Daddy, the dog or the cat walks away, if his toy rolls away, if he drops his sippy cup, if I take his sippy cup, if I take off his diaper, if I take off his clothes, if I take a leaf, rock, piece of bark, stick or clod of dirt from his mouth, if I take any of these objects before he gets them in his mouth.

So what happens next? Dan shrieks. In fact, we're just going to call him The Shriek.

Oh yes, we call him the shriek
Loudest thing on two feet
He's just as proud as he can be
Of his vocality

Dan shrieks when he's happy, too, and when he's just chattering or trying get our attention. He usually pairs shrieks with banging or shaking some other loud object. He's so loud that it hurts my ears and head, not to mention the toll its taking on my sanity. I may have to wear earplugs around the house. I think it's time to get the decibel meter out. Correct me if I'm wrong, but another Daoust child was recorded at 110 decibels.

*adapted from Ray Stevens, "The Streak"

Monday, September 17, 2007

One of those moms

As a newly pregnant or even a new mom, there was always this running mental commentary of things that my child wouldn't do and that I, as a mother, wouldn't do. On the top of my list: my kid would not be nursed all night and snacking would not be a pastime.

At mass, the toddlers and preschoolers are constantly snacking and sucking down bottles or on sippy cups. With childhood obesity being such a concern, I wondered (still do) if feeding children to keep them quiet or occupied was wise. I also hated the idea of having a child who won't sleep through the night with any consistency. But with a baby around, be prepared to throw consistency out the window.

So here's my confessional:

I give my child goldfish crackers or Cheerios to occupy him while I fix meals. But I will draw the line at eating snacks during mass. Anyhow, as any good Catholic would tell you, you're not suppose to eat one hour prior to taking the Eucharist.

My kid sometimes sleeps through the night. And I sometimes nurse him in the middle of the night just to shut him up, er, keep him happy. We're well on our way to having a one year old who doesn't sleep through the night. Horrors.

I guess I'm just one of those moms.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Keystone Docs

Danny had his 9-month check up this morning. The receptionist checked us in. While we waited, a child who got their after us was called. Later, I find out that Dan's chart had slid from the nurse's inbox so she didn't see it right away. Oh, okay.

Next stop, the scale. Naked, Danny weighs a whopping 16 pounds 7 ounces. I make the nurse weigh him again. Sixteen and a half pounds seems pretty light, especially since Jim keeps saying how much heavier Danny feels. The nurse records the weight on his chart, then notices something peculiar. The chart is pink, instead of blue. Apparently, for the past nine months, my doctor's office has been tracking his growth on a chart meant for girls. Great. So instead of being in the 50th percentile for weight, as we had thought all along, he's only in the 10th percentile. (For the uninitiated, this means that 90 percent of males his age are bigger than him.)

I'm not too worried about the weight. He's hitting developmental milestones, he's healthy, happy and eats like a horse. It's the inattention to detail that bugs me most. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. But these people's mistakes could literally kill someone.

Finally, at checkout, the receptionist asks, "Do you want to make his 15 month appointment?"

I say, "I should probably make his 1 year appointment first, don't you think?"

A friend warned that the receptionist at this particular office was a little bats. No kidding. My doctor's office thought my 9-month-old son was really a 12-month-old girl. Jim asked how thoroughly the doctor examines our son.

If I take a pain reliever ...

... will it make my son less of a pain?

I can rather quickly go from wanting to hold his warm sleepy body while inhaling his Ivory soap-scented skin to wanting to beat the wall and shout "shut up" at the top of my lungs. Oh, wait, I did yell "shut up" and beat the wall.

We're in the middle of one of his "bedtime is for sissies" weeks, I think. I've stopped trying to enumerate the nights in a row, the hours in a row, which weeks, which nights and so on that he sleeps. He's capable of sleeping through the night, but we always make excuses for him when he doesn't ... he's teething, his dinner didn't agree with him, maybe I had milk, maybe it's the full moon, the half moon, the crescent moon, the new moon, or maybe there's an ever so slight temperature variation in the house. Who knows? Tonight, he seemed to be testing different cries to see which frequency would bring him a warm body. I went to him twice, then I just had to let him cry. It was either that or I'd have to call in an exorcisist - for him and me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A busy, busy boy

Before the pitter-patter of little feet comes the steady slap-slap-slap of wee hands on a mission. When the slap-slap-slap stops, I have about two minutes before one of two things happens: Dan shrieks from beneath a piece of furniture or because the wall won't move out of his way or he remains very quiet. Either way, I'm on my feet before he does any more damage to himself or whatever he's gotten into.

Dan's a very busy boy these days which means I'm a very busy mommy. The day typically starts with a plaintive cry from his crib followed by the only diaper change of the day that does not resemble a rodeo. Once fully awake, he tries to throw me off like a bull throws a cowboy. Next, it's downstairs where Dan performs his first feat of the day ... the dump and dart. He dumps out the toys, plays for about 10 seconds then heads for the nearest staircase before I've had a chance to put up the gates.

Now it's time for breakfast. He gets bored after a few bites of cinnamon oatmeal with ground raisins and applesauce and plays hide and seek with the Cheerios or goldfish crackers in his high chair. Other fun games he plays throughout the day include:
  • Toy box boomerang: He dives head first into a large metal bowl full of his "kitchen toys," tipping it so the rim hits his forehead. He repeats this twice before I replace his toy bowl with a basket, which he again dives into. At least, the basket is little more hospitable.
  • Box pushing: A few boxes from recent purchases serve as mobility aids. A few months ago, I wanted to buy a piece of molded plastic with wheels to help him walk. Turns out, an old cardboard box works just as well and is probably much safer. He does well with it, but is still learning about immovable objects like the wall.
  • Bumper brains: He crawls underneath the furniture, usually the sideboard or a dining room chair. Trapped, he screams. He must be wondering why the ceiling suddenly got lower. He got himself in, why can't he get himself out?
And, of course, he helps himself to the all-day, all-you-can-eat kitchen floor buffet. Typical offerings included a raw oat with a string from a banana, a tuft of dog hair stuck to some cheese and three-day old Cheerios. I'm not sure how he finds these little morsels since the floor is swept at least once a day, sometimes more.

By day's end, I feel like I've had a workout - bending, lifting, chasing. It's too bad that any calories burned are offset by my daily reward of a bowl of ice cream once boy wonder goes to bed. Chocolate, of course. And, no, I don't feel guilty about it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The existential physicist

Dan finds an orderly stack of any object quite offensive. Jim and I play with him, building towers with his soft blocks. As soon as we get one block on top of another, he smites the contemptible mound. Sometimes I can construct an entire tower before he strikes. The weird thing is that he's nearly expressionless when he strikes. It's a vacant, matter of fact glance, as if this is just another chore for him. Is he an anarchist? Does he not like order? Will his room always be messy? Will he one day operate a wrecking ball? Or does he just somehow know at the tender age of nine months that chaos is inevitable?

Jim's answer: Dan subscribes to the chaos theory of the universe. Everything is constantly deteriorating, he believes. He's trying to alert us to the futility of creating order in the universe.

That explains why books can't stay on shelves, CDs can't remain on the rack, pots and pans must be strewn about the floor and newspapers can't be stacked. Our son is a budding existential physicist.

The 2 percent rule

Feeding my family the best food possible is important to me. I'm an avid label reader. I know the ingredients and their purpose for every food item in my pantry. It's about nutrition, but also about quality and economics. Okay, admittedly, I'm a bit of a control freak. Nonetheless, cheap ingredients make nutritionally questionable foods. Why would I pay for, let alone ingest, a product whose main ingredients add up to water, three different kinds of sugar, some preservatives and little if any nutritional value?

A book called Nourishing Traditions is one I turn to once in a while for nutritional guidance. The book contains dire warnings on every unnatural, better-living-through-chemistry ingredient concocted in the past half century. I agree that most of these chemicals have no place in our food. I've banned certain substances from our diets -high fructose corn syrup, white flour, trans fats, food dyes and additives. However, if you follow the book's every suggestion you'd be eating nothing but backyard chickens and their eggs, churning your own butter, and using only glass, ceramic and cast iron cookware over an open flame to prepare food. And if you don't follow all the guidelines, well, then your kid will likely be diagnosed with cancer in his forties and it'll be all your fault.

To prevent either of those scenarios, I've found a nice middle ground. It's called the 2 percent rule. The first ingredient listed is the dominant one and so on. Then there are the ingredients that add up to less than 2 percent of the whole. If the ingredients up to the "Contains 2 percent or less" are natural and whole, it's acceptable. If not, it doesn't go on our table or in our bodies. And, of course, none of the banned substances are allowed, even in the 2 percent.

This way, Dan can snack on Cheerios, bread or goldfish crackers and I don't feel guilty. The way I see it, 2 percent of something won't kill you, today or 40 years from now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Defending the castle

Jim and Danny often play in the living room in the afternoon. Danny usually knocks over Jim's towers as fast Jim builds them. Here Jim tries, and succeeds, in defending his creation. Apparently, Dan was sufficiently distracted by the spectacle.

Mr. Independence

Dan has been asserting his independence during mealtime lately. My usual routine has been to give him Cheerios or toast that he can eat himself while I fix his and my meal. But when it's time for the main course, he takes only a five or six bites from the spoon and then begins to protest. I thought maybe he was filling up on finger foods and water, so I switched the routine and offered the main course first. The results were the same.

Turns out, he just wants to feed himself. So tonight, for the first time in five months, Jim and I ate our dinner without having to take turns spooning food for Dan. I boiled some macaroni and mixed vegetables, drained them, mixed the reserved liquid with cheese and added it to the pasta and veggies. Voila ... veggie mac, a big mess and a happy baby. Dan fed himself the entire meal with his fingers, shoving his fist full of the morsels into the back of his mouth. Most of the food wound up in his mouth, not in the high chair, on the floor, in his hair or on his bib. And he didn't choke or gag once. Bravo, kid!

Monday, September 03, 2007

A slippery slope

Laws are very blunt objects. Using them to bludgeon people into certain behaviors puts society on a slippery slope. And at the bottom of the slope is a loss of our freedoms, even the freedom to make bad decisions.

A presidential candidate this past weekend asserted that everybody should have medical coverage. Good, good. He goes on, "[The coverage] requires that everybody get preventive care." We're getting a little further down the slope here, but I'm still listening. And here's the kicker:

"If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK."

A couple of assumptions here scare me. One, doctors don't make you healthy. Healthy habits keep a person healthy. You will never hear me use the word "health" to refer to the medical establishment. They treat you when you're sick. Staying healthy is your responsibility. Two, the candidate assumes that I even want to be part of the "system." He says everyone should be covered and that the coverage should require preventive care. So, who's going to enforce that? Is the government going to have access to my medical history and tell me when I need to visit a doctor? I wonder what the "Keep your laws off my body" crowd has to say about this one.

I often say that something about the delivery of medical care in this country has got to change in my lifetime. And it's easy too look at the current system and feel that government is the only solution to this problem. Notice I said "feel," not "think."

Because if you think it through, it's a very bad idea to turn over the delivery of medical care to the government. When government pays, they will have a say in your personal life. And here's what is at the bottom of that slippery slope:

Conservatives in Britain are proposing that patients who refuse to change their unhealthy lifestyles should not be treated by the country's nationalized health system. Certain treatments should be denied to patients who refuse to co-operate with health professionals and live healthier lifestyles, they say.

And those who do improve their general health would receive "Health Miles" cards. Points earned could then be used to pay for health-related products such as gym membership and fresh vegetables. Read more here.

Are you comfortable with that? I'm not.

And just for fun, here is a funny (and scary) example of what our future might hold.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

From the chronicles of customer no-service

... or just plain dumb service.

The scene: At Starbuck's, once again, where I now have to ask for a decaf coffee with two lids because the coffee jerks can't understand why I don't want stinky ink on my lid.

Me (as coffee jerk hands me a hot cup of coffee): Can I get a sleeve for my coffee?

Coffee jerk: There's some on the bar.

She must think these sleeves are just for show. Maybe she thinks its a little dress for the coffee cup. So, I carried the hot cup of coffee with my bare hand to get a cardboard sleeve to prevent me from further burning my hand. I just didn't have the energy to explain to her why I needed the sleeve in the first place.

Maybe she went to one of those schools that made Adequate Yearly Progress. They should make these kids wear AYP buttons so we know exactly what we're dealing with and can lower our expectations accordingly.

The bachelor's trash can has retired

You wouldn't think that the purchase of a new trash can at a steal of deal would be much to write about. Yet here you are about to read my neurotic ramblings about how a wonderful new addition to my kitchen has really put me in a good mood and signaled the end of an era.

For probably a year now, Jim and I have been stalking a stainless steel trash can for our kitchen. Jim's a chef, so he's in love with stainless steel, and well, over the years, the look has finally grown on me, too. We'd see these trash cans advertised for $60 (are you kidding me?), then lower, $40 (maybe, but still too high), then finally, we saw one advertised for $29.99 in a Labor Day circular. A 30-liter stainless steel step can with a bonus 3-liter step can. We also had a 20 percent off coupon for that store. Woohoo! Now, we have an attractive new trash can that we paid $25 for and I can use the 3-liter can to hold kitchen scraps for my compost pile instead of using old coffee cans or plastic vegetable bags.

How long have we had this ugly white trash can? Jim had it in his kitchen when we started dating eight years ago. We had to put this white plastic trash can in the pantry and close the door because a.) it was ugly and b.) it would get very dirty and c.) Bob would have a party with the contents of the trash if we didn't.

The whole experience is pretty indicative of how we operate around here. Even purchases as seemingly insignificant as a trash can are very carefully thought out. We stalk our purchases and go visit them from time to time. And when we do purchase something new, the old is not automatically discarded. The old white trash can is now in the family room where it will hold our recyclables.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Weeding, Jimmy style

I was preparing the garden for fall planting this afternoon. It was just too hot to go out for more than 10 minutes at a time over the past two months so, in my super fertile soil, this weed thrived. I asked for Jim's help to remove Tyrannosaurus weed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nothing's by the book

Dan has been sleeping through the night lately (and now that I've admitted this, he will probably stop). Last Wednesday, we finally just let him cry. Until now, I just didn't have the stomach for it and I knew he just wasn't ready for it. We knew he had been fed, changed, bathed and cuddled, and was sufficiently tired that night. It took 15 minutes and he was asleep - for the next 10 hours. The next night, he cried for 20 minutes; the next few nights, less than five minutes; tonight, no protests. Not only that, he has settled on an 8 p.m. bedtime and 7 a.m. wake time and takes 1 to 2 hour naps at around 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A friend told me today that Dan's new schedule is one that most babies settle in to eventually according to one of her baby sleep books. I guess Dan read the book. Good thing, because I don't read the books anymore.

The few times I've tried to be a "book mom" it has backfired on me. Reading about what my son should be doing by what age, how much he should be sleeping and what times and how I should be reacting just sets me up for resentment. Some moms can safely read the books. I can't. It creates a very unhappy home as I try to force my child to do what the expert says he should be doing. Then I resent the poor kid for not living up to the expectations of someone he doesn't know and, more importantly, doesn't even know him like Jim and I do. Luckily, this scenario has played out only a handful of times.

For the past nine months, we've had a very laid back approach to bedtime. We won't force him to go to bed if we know he's not tired. We won't refuse to feed him if he wakes at night, even if he just needs to nurse for comfort. Comfort is a legitimate need at any age. Period. We won't force him to be alone in his room when he'd rather be with us. After all, the adults and even the cat and dog don't sleep alone, so why should he? I suspect that this approach has kept him happy and able to trust us and his own body, and kept us sane. Now, after months of honoring his wishes - for companionship, comfort, food - we have a son who can put himself to sleep on his own, who will go to bed when he's tired, will sit quietly with us at night if he'd rather not be alone and actually has refused attempts to feed him in the middle of the night.

Someone once told me that an expectation is just a premeditated resentment. I've found that the only time I resent my son is when I'm expecting him to be a "book baby."

Monday, August 27, 2007

The worst that can happen

When you have a baby who gets into everything, you have to pick your battles ... as in, dog food, bad; dog's water dish, maybe. We've already moved the dog's food and water dish twice. Yesterday, I had to evacuate dog food from his mouth. He managed to find a piece on the floor where Lucy's crate had been.

This morning, Dan was tooling around the kitchen floor while I was making oatmeal cookies. The dog's food dish was safely closed in the pantry, but his water bowl was peeking out just enough for Dan to grab it. He dragged it out and began splashing in it. I was just about to separate the happy couple, but seeing how happy he was and not having had enough coffee to tolerate his certain protests, I asked, "What's the worst that can happen?" I returned to cookie making and was just about to congratulate myself on being such an easygoing mom.

Then I see a little river of water trickling toward the stove. Turns out, Dan had overturned the dog's water bowl and was sitting in the water. There was too much water to use mere dish towels. This was going to take a mop.

So, the worst that can happen is that you will have a freshly mopped floor at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. Ah, the power of positive thinking!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Well, I never ...

I'm beginning to feel like an old fart. Jim and I went out to Hillsborough on Saturday to run an errand and on our way home we stopped at the local Wal-Mart. As it was the weekend before school starts, it was mobbed. Good thing it was a Super-Wal-Mart with plenty of room to roam.

We strolled by the large displays of obvious back-to-school gear, notebook paper, soap and shampoo (gotta be clean), sugary drinks and snacks (to keep you awake in class), etc. Then, there in the middle of the aisle was a large display stocked with a variety of Trojan condoms.

I said to Jim, "I've never seen condoms displayed so prominently. What are they saying to their customers? 'Please, don't breed.' "

Well, maybe they're just talking to the school-age population.

Jim replied, "Gotta have your condoms for back to school."

Yet another reason for my strong belief that kids, especially teenagers, should not be age segregated. Humans naturally learn by watching others, so why would you put kids in a classroom situation where the only so-called role model is an authority figure that usually arouses resentment? They then get their ideas about appropriate behavior from the similarly immature children with whom they spend eight hours a day.

So that's my extremely simplified explanation for how condoms became a back-to-school must-have item.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Stairmaster

It's okay. No need to call social services on us. Dan has been climbing stairs for the past week, ALWAYS supervised, of course. The most he has climbed is three stairs before he realizes how high up he is. Then we are trying to teach him how to come back down backwards. We figure supervised access is better than no access at all.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that he's only eight and a half months old. I'm amazed at how mobile and agile he is. He's cruising along the furniture and has even cruised from one thing to another. He can stand on his own for a few seconds. He can even let himself down from standing without holding on to anything. I've been told this is not unusual for babies with Daoust genes, but it's still unnerving. Tuesday night's bath was a battle to get him to stay seated.

And he's also beginning to understand certain words, like dinnertime, bath time, nap time and beddie (which is Jim's word for bed). He associates being carried up the stairs with nap time or bedtime and it doesn't make him very happy AT ALL.

We now have to figure out how to outsmart him.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our son, the basketcase

Dan climbed into his toy basket the other day. We got several videos of him trying to climb out. This one is the cutest, and the only one where he's not screaming. The look on his face when he finally gets it is just priceless.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The well-groomed family

So, it's another 100-degree day here in North Carolina. This afternoon we ran an errand for a family member (FM). We picked up a very sweet, well-behaved dog named Lucy and brought her over to the halfway house, a k a our house. Seriously, in the past year, we've sheltered two cats, this dog, my brother, my cousin, and her friend, not to mention that baby we had in December. Not only do we keep taking in strays, we often serve as the I-40 traffic avoidance lounge as friends and family sometimes pass through around rush hour. It keeps things pretty interesting around here.

FM's e-mailed instructions read like a scavenger hunt. We picked up an Indian guy who had the key to FM's office. We followed his directions, in broken English, to FM's office to pick up Lucy's belongings. We took the guy back to his place and proceeded to the veterinarian's office to pick up Lucy. Next item on the list, contact the woman from Dalmation resue who will be taking Lucy.

Meanwhile, at home, we corraled Lucy in the den and unleashed Bob who had all but peed on the floor in his utter excitement. We gated them into the den to get to know each other. Later, outside, I turned to find Lucy swimming in the baby pool. Apparently, the heat was just too much for her. Jim took advantage of the situation and gave her a bath, washing all the kennel smell from her. Next, it was Bob's turn. He's not nearly as cooperative.

So after Dan, Jim and I also got our bath/showers, a very clean, well-groomed family took a walk around the block.

And here he is ...

Apparently, the link in that last post didn't go where I wanted. This is what happened when Jimmy opened the lid.
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

A bird in a cage

Saturday afternoon I was indulging in a nice hot bath when my husband came upstairs and said:

"You want to say good-bye to him before I send him back?"

Jim packed him up in a box and closed the lid. Dan kicked back, relaxed and quietly sucked his fingers. He carried him upstairs with the lid closed. Still quiet. He carried back downstairs, lid still closed. Not a peep. He took pictures of him peeking through the lid with his fingers in his mouth. Still cool. Maybe that's the key to getting him to calm down and go to sleep.

Then, as he opened the lid, guess what happened? Click here to find out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I need an island

(also the title of a great Heather Nova song, by the way.)

Have you been out in public lately? If not, let me tell you, it may be time to get your own private island and severely limit contact with the human race - if you can even call what I've encounter lately human.

Yesterday, I went to Harris Teeter (yes, I'm naming names) to pick up some items we need that happened to be on sale. Armed with the circular, I made the rounds. One particular item was nowhere to be found. I inquired at the meat counter. It turns out they didn't order that item this week. Do they not read their own circular? Then, I check out, pay and am informed that I qualify for a free sub at the deli. Super. Jim and I often get subs here because its a good, cheap lunch. I get my sub and take it to customer service so they don't think I'm just walking out with unpaid merchandise. The woman says if she scans the sticker on the package, it will charge me. Apparently, I can only get a free sub if it's a full-sized sub, not half sub (which is all I wanted anyway). So she leaves me waiting with a baby who's starting the launch sequence for meltdown, goes to the deli and gets the correct sticker to scan. And, God forbid, I should get anything for free. She scans the sticker and asks for forty cents in taxes.

Today, it got worse. At Kroger, I usually go through the self-checkout if my friend isn't working the register. I'd rather deal with a computer than a cashier I don't know. I press the touch screen, type in my phone number to activate my Kroger card and it asks me to wait for the cashier. Now, the cashier is standing at her post smacking her lips and stuffing her face, not paying attention to me at all. I have no way of knowing if she's done what I'm waiting for her to do. Then the touch screen blanks out and starts over. Now I'm confused. Do I need to type in my phone number again? Or do I just start scanning my items? I didn't want to leave the cart because my son was in the carriage. So I proceeded to speak to the woman from where I was standing, maybe less than 10 feet away. She finally responds by yelling to me, with her mouth full, "Just scan your first item." I pretty much snapped. I abandoned my cart full of groceries and just left.

You think I'm kidding, but an island in Canada is starting to sound really good right now. I even found a place to browse for my island. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where does it end?

The lucky chap who caught Barry Bond's 756th home run ball may not be so lucky after all. What could be a great story for him to tell his kids and grandkids is a likely source of financial ruin unless he antes up to the imperial federal government.

An excerpt from a Boston Globe story explains:
"Selling the ball for [around $500,000] would instantly put Murphy in the highest tax bracket for individual income, where he would face a tax rate of about 35 percent.

"Even if he does not sell the ball, Murphy would owe the taxes based on a reasonable estimate of its value, according to John Barrie, a tax lawyer with Bryan Cave LLP in New York. Capital gains taxes also could be levied in the future as the ball gains value, he said."

And the article doesn't even mention state taxes. So, he has to sell the ball or face financial ruin as he tries to pay off the government. By what right can the government lay claim to a portion of another person's property?

Maybe I have some valuables around the house for the government to assess. They could be missing out on a great opportunity to get more of my money. Of course, if the ball were mine, I would sell it and pocket the money but grouse endlessly about the Treasury mafia.

The government is pretty creative in finding ways to get deeper into our pockets.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Okay, I guess we'll make it official.

The baby is walking. He has been taking up to three steps at a time since he was 8 months old. There, I said it. I'm thrilled for him, really, I am. And just as he's gotten more independent, he has also been wanting me to just hold him for a few minutes. Normally, he doesn't sit still with me. It's nice to have a lap baby again.

Anyhow, our nightly routine has been to steady him and let go. He then gives a gleeful shout and propels himself toward us, taking a few steps before falling forward into our arms. Each night he gets steadier on his feet. Each night you can see he's thinking a little more about what he's doing. He can now balance himself after he's taken a step and before he takes the next one.

Today he pulled up on his toy box, turned, let go and took two steps to me. Then, as I tried to steady him for round two, he pushed my hands away and looked straight at me with his tongue out.

"I'll do it myself, thank you very much," his eyes said.

When did he get such a personality?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Top of the season to you

It's that time of year again. NFL pre-season began Thursday and it's been on every night since. Apparently, it's a multi-day, possibly a weeklong, manfest.

And this season, football seems to be holding Danny's attention. I tried to nurse him tonight on the sofa as we watched the Chargers play the Seahawks. He kept craning his head to watch. Apparently, the past few nights, while I was at work, Jim had been feeding him his bottle while they watched football. Not only that, but Jim has been sneaking him little sips of (caffeine free) root beer.

Saturday was the first Panthers game so Jim suited Dan up in his Panthers pajamas and they watched the game. Jim told me that Dan clapped his hands whenever football came on this weekend. I didn't believe him until I saw it for myself this evening. Maybe he senses Jim's excitement or maybe it's just something new and different for him to watch. Either way, it's absolutely adorable!

The bowl HAS to be clear

Jim just walked in the room and said, "Did you know we had peaches?"

Uh, yes, dear. I put them in a Pyrex see-through bowl, without a lid. I thought for sure he'd see them. But, alas, the bowl is not clear, it's tinted pink. Will I never learn?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The longest 30 hours

Check out a new photo album linked off of our photoblog.

This past weekend, I spent 30 hours away from my son. This is the longest period of time I've ever spent away from him. Jim drove up to Maryland with Dan on Saturday. I worked Saturday night and drove up Sunday morning. Jim had just enough milk to get Danny through Saturday, night and early the next morning.

Saturday was weird. I had the house to myself. I mosied through Target. I made myself a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. I packed, did laundry and then went to work. I called my husband just about every two hours to check on the baby. It's not that I didn't trust him with our son. It's just strange to be two states away from a child who was once a part of my body and who is still so dependent on my body for nourishment and comfort.

Sunday morning I was up at the crack of dawn and made the trip in 4 hours and 45 minutes at 80 miles per hour on the highway. When I arrived, Danny was half asleep, nestled in my husband's arm on the sofa. Danny opened his eyes slightly as if to say "Oh, good, my booby's back," then fell back asleep. Somehow I expected a little more reaction from him.

Sailing home on a river of sweat

This was also my first road trip with my beloved Volvo station wagon. I took Stuey in (yes, my Volvo's name is Stuey) to the mechanic last week for a check up. Stuey appeared to be overheating when the A/C was running. Mechanic replaces the temperature control sensor and sends me on my way. The problem seemed to be fixed. I made it all the way up to Maryland on Sunday with the A/C on and Stuey never overheated. Tuesday, on my way to Alexandria, I hit traffic and he overheats. On Wednesday, the first hour of the road trip went smoothly with no overheating.

Then he starts acting up again. So, in 100 plus degree weather, we rode with all the windows down and had to occasionally turn the heat on to cool the engine down. We stopped every half hour or so to get into an air conditioned building and rehydrate. By the time we get home, Dan and I are exhausted, hot, drenched in sweat and our hair is standing on end.

Today, it's back to the mechanic. I'll try not to strangle him.