Friday, December 29, 2006

Post holiday shopping

I've now completed my favorite post-Christmas ritual - poring through various local department stores to buy Christmas decorations at 50-90% off. My sister got me hooked on this years ago, and it's become a tradition for me, although one which Brett wishes I'd never heard of. More Christmas stuff? Really? Don't we have enough?

Hahahahahaha. You can never have enough.

This year, though, I have an extra sense of purpose, because I've realized that next Christmas we'll have a walking, active toddler who will be molesting my Christmas tree at every opportunity. Therefore, I need some unbreakable ornaments and pronto. I could wait until next year and buy a whole bunch of them at full price, or I could buy them now. Say, for example, these (which I bought four boxes of), which cost only $5 instead of the $12 they cost before. I've picked up probably a few dozen ornaments, enough to ring the bottom couple feet of the tree next year, I hope.

Strapped in

Sofie, out of the blue, has become scarily mobile. Isn't it a little early for this? In the last week she has:

  • Discovered that she can use her feet to push her highchair (it's on wheels) back from the table, during dinner.
  • Discovered that she can roll off the couch if left alone for even a fraction of a millisecond. And that rolling off the couch is frigging scary. And that daddy comes fast when you scream like that.
  • Discovered that she can do a backbend, roughly, or its near equivalent by digging her heels into whatever surface she's on (bed, lap, cat) and lifting her butt off the ground. This, then, allows her to wriggle out of nearly anything - the swing, the boppy, the bouncy chair.

Dang! We are now religiously strapping her in to every piece of baby equipment that possesses straps. If that doesn't work we may resort to duct tape.

"Oh, I'll be good," she taunts us. "Just unhook the straps for a second. I promise not to do anything."

Yeah, sure, kid, like we're falling for THAT.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas report

Sofie's first Christmas was just great. Even though she had no real idea what was going on, just having her with us made for such a novel Christmas for us, and filled our heads with visions of the fun we'll have in coming years as she becomes more aware of what's happening.

It was an eventful few days! On the 22nd, we went to our neighbor Yetta's annual Hannukah party, where we noshed on her amazing brisket and potato latkes. Sofie tried to participate in the festivities but found it too loud and overstimulating and ended up going home early with me while Brett stayed for a couple more hours. I didn't mind - being a secret introvert*, I get overstimulated at parties too, and sometimes find the baby to be a nice excuse to go sit in a quiet room for a while when things get to be too much.

We spent Christmas Eve out in Issaquah with our friends Fran and Amy, who made an excellent roast and were kind enough to share the evening with us. Sofie did much better there, mostly staying in good spirits and allowing everyone to hold her for a while.


Fran and Amy's kittens check out the new toy


Sofie and Mom take a smile break before dinner

And then, finally, it was Christmas. The day started a little more slowly than it usually does -- I'm of the "leap out of bed on Christmas morning" school of thought, but regardless of what day it is or what presents abound, Sofie needs to be fed. And Sofie takes about an hour to get her breakfast finished, what with all the smiling and goofing around and stopping to stare out the window she does during it. So we did that first.


Mom and Sofie in their santa hats

Sofie read the paper while she waited for us to finish our breakfast:


Geez, are we EVER going to get to the presents?


She received many excellent gifts, very few of which were from us. She's posing with her loot below:



We got her the blocks you can see just to her left and the stacking toy you can see on the far right, and a set of Olivia books which I forgot to get out. Everything else came from her relatives. Favorites of hers so far include the kitten puppet that she got from Grandma and Grandpa Shult (who joined us in the afternoon for a kick-ass roast lamb, thank you Brett) and the talking cat from Grandpa Art. She hasn't had a chance to play with the bigger stuff behind her yet as most of it needs her to be just a little bit older.

I've started a holiday scrapbook for her with her yearly Santa pictures and can't wait to see that fill up over the years. Definitely the best Christmas ever.


* In that I hide it well

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tagged

I got tagged by Mike in a meme to list five things that people may not know about me. Since I failed to participate the last time one of these came my way, I'm going to take a shot at being a good sport about this one. :) So! Here goes.

  1. I play (have played) five instruments at various points of my life -- in descending order of seriousness and skill; violin, piano, trumpet, flute, harpsichord. Classically trained in the first two. Just dabbled in the last but it's strangely different enough from playing a piano that it seems separate to me.
  2. Despite all of that, I deeply dread ever having to go to the symphony again. I spent too much time going to symphonies as a child. You couldn't pay me to go now. Sad thing is, if I'd not gone so much as a kid, I'd probably really enjoy it now. I like the music, but I have a deep aversion to being physically present at the performance. (In fact, my best friend tried to get me to go with her over the holidays and I had to explain to her this gaping hole in my love of all things cultural. Despite her best efforts to change my mind, I did not go.)
  3. If my father had had his way in 1969, I would be named Janet.
  4. When I was thirteen, I insisted that everyone pronounce my name /Meh-gan/, instead of /Mee-gan/. But the second version is my real name. No one except family has called me that since 1981.
  5. In my life so far, I have had six dogs, four cats, two gerbils, and two sets of goldfish. I killed both sets of fish -- one through poor fishbowl hygiene, and one through an unfortunate electrical accident. Yes, I'm a fish murderer.

Ok - so, to pass this along, I'm tagging Marilyn, Kim (already tagged, I know), Brett, Michael, and ... well, I can't think of a fifth person right now.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry, Merry!

Merry Christmas from Sofie!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pictures

A few recent pictures of the young'un:

Reflective moment in her high chair:


Looking surly before leaving the house with Dad:


Asleep and watched over by the cat and tiger:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cookie Party 2006

Last weekend was the seventh annual Ugly Cookie party, memorialized in years past in this series of posts. I can't believe we've been doing this for seven years already! Wow. This year was a slightly more low-key event than usual, because a couple folks were missing, and a couple of us were bleary-eyed exhausted (me from childcare and Kim from sickness), but nonetheless we gave it our best shot.

In a few years, having exhausted everything that could ever be made from standard cookie cutter shapes, Ugly Cookie Day will probably devolve into just an excuse for six or seven of us to get together and drink too much wine while simultaneously eating big gobs of frosting. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Alcohol and sugar - that still sounds like festive Christmas fun to me.

And a question - why is it that dragees, those lovely little silver cookie-decorating balls that everyone likes so much - are packaged in a container full of warnings about how this is Not a Food Item and is not edible and do not put them in your mouth! Why? Whose brilliant idea was it to create a non-edible food decoration? What happens if you eat them? I've been eating dragees on Christmas cookies since I was a wee little kid, and nothing seems to be too wrong with me.

It's a mystery.

Anyway, on to the cookie party wrap up...

The Winners

Nicest cookie - a seal, by Bina (this is a sleigh cookie cleverly remade):


And this year's winner for the coveted "grossest cookie" title - Cesarian Section, by Jacki, in honor of our little Sofie:


Most popular - Fidel Castro, by Erica - note the 3D cigar:



The Cookie Makers

We had a few less people than we did last year - Robin wasn't able to make it because of the windstorm and power loss, and Erica's friend Kate wasn't with us either. Marilyn's plane was cancelled, so she was stuck in California. But the original crew who's been there for all seven years now was all there -- Erica, Jacki, Kim, Bina, and me. Bina even made it back all the way from Indiana for the event.

Bina displaying her school's emblem:


All cookie makers, hard at work:


Concentrating on our art:


Sofie and Erica take a break from the fun:



Cookie Shots
And now, the pictures you've been waiting for - more cookies. I'm not sure who made all of these, so they're not all attributed.

Crabs, by Jacki:


Tiny demon cookie:


George Hamilton - note the fake tan. By Erica:


Everyone's favorite dictator - Kim Jong Il, by Kim:


Michael Richards(Seinfeld's Kramer), spewing invective, also by Kim:


The Christmas lobster:


The Christmas monster, by me:


Rutting bears in a state of excitement:


Sofie the cookie, by me:


Britney Spears (by me) and KFed (by Bina) - note the manpris:

To the moon

Yesterday at work someone's daughter spent the day camped out in the back corner of one of our building's elevators. She was about eleven or twelve years old, all gawky and awkward and intense the way kids are at that age, all elbows and knees and braces, like they're half grasshopper. She was doing some kind of survey from her position in the back left corner, sitting cross-legged and writing down what people used the elevator for -- what floor did they enter on, what floor did they leave on? All very scientific.

It made me laugh because I was that kind of kid when I was her age. When I stayed home sick from school I'd inevitably launch into some huge project like tracking what happened on the radio all day -- how many commercials, how many news announcements, how many songs got played each hour? I'd write it all down on some huge piece of paper like I was discovering the secret meaning of the universe, and be all proud of myself at the end of the day.

Because she made me feel all nostalgic about my own kid gawkiness, I smiled at her when I got on and said hello to her.

"Big project, huh?" I asked her.

"Well, my power is out at home," she replied.

Not such a bad deal - if it's dark and cold at home, come ride in Microsoft's elevators all day and do an anthropology project. She also pasted tracking sheets on the walls in the other two elevators, the ones she wasn't personally overseeing, asking everyone to write their beginning and destination floors each time they rode. Most people did, but a few people wrote goofy comments or messed around with her data. Later in the day, I noticed that she started writing back to those folks.

On at floor 1, off at the moon, someone would write.

Oh c'mon guys, she would write next to it in her childlike scrawl, this is SERIOUS!

Poor kid. But I give her credit for being willing to duke it out with the adults who were mocking her. I hope Sofie has half her spunk.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Work

The first day of returning to work was surprisingly good. I felt terrible when I left the house about leaving Sofie for a whole day, but I have to admit that when I got to work, I kind of enjoyed it. Despite my moaning about how I haven't been away from her for more than an hour for the last four months, the other side of that is that I haven't been away from her for more than hour for the last four months.

So, in a way, yesterday was kind of a nice little vacation. I got to slowly eat a healthy lunch, instead of grabbing for bread and peanut butter and wolfing it down in between baby needs. I got to go to the bathroom by myself and take as long as I wanted. I got to read mail and do stuff on the computer using both hands and without simultaneously feeding someone.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Of course, when I got home, I was so anxious to see/smell/touch her that I greedily snatched her up and didn't let go of her for hours. But overall she and Brett did just fine, and Sofie was happy (but not desperate) to see me when I got home. Work is in a manageable state right now with the impending holidays, without a whole ton going on. The commute has been okay. I think I'll survive this month just fine. And so will Brett and Sofie.

It also helped to discover that I accrued vacation while I was out, so I can now take a day or two off the week of Christmas. Yay, corporate policy!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Windstorm

Is it a sign when on the very day you're due back at work, the most horrendous windstorm ever to hit your state arrives, closing the bridge you need to drive across and knocking the power out for the entire Microsoft campus?

So I'm home for one more day. And pondering the hidden meaning in this storm. Because really, it's all about me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Endings and beginnings

A number of things came to an end today, in sort of a bittersweet day.

First, the mother's group I've been a part of for the last nine weeks had it's last meeting this afternoon. This group is one of Seattle's great Listening Mothers programs, and it's been a real lifesaver from time to time, especially in the early weeks. Getting together with a group of other new moms to hear that you're all grappling with the same issues can make the difference between remaining sane and, well, being decidedly less sane.

We're going to meet again in mid-January, at my house actually, to see how our babies have changed and catch up, and I'm hoping that will turn into a regular meeting. I really like these seven women and feel pretty close to them after mutually sharing our first months of motherhood. And I'm sad that we won't be seeing each other for a while.

We took a few pictures at the last session:

First the babies: Sofie (bottom left corner) and her baby friends - Ronja, Anna, Hazel, Hazel, and Molly.


The mothers got into the picture too - Kate, me, Deb, Laura, Erin, and Kate:


And second, today was my last day of maternity leave. Tomorrow I'm due back at work. The big news which I can now officially blog about, though, is that I've resigned and given four weeks notice, so I only have to go back for a month. Yay! But still, it's a month away from my baby. Yes, she's going to be cared for by her father, which is WONDERFUL and I'm very glad about that. But it's a month away from her. And I feel sad about that too. I wonder if maybe she'll wonder where I am tomorrow, or feel some kind of loss.

I know I will. In the last almost-four months, I've never been away from her for more than an hour, and even that only once or twice when I've gone to the store by myself. For nine months before that she was with me all the time. That's nearly a year of never once being away from her. It's very, very strange to realize how much that changes you.

I would guess that there will be little things I'll enjoy about my day tomorrow -- the chance to go to the bathroom by myself, without rushing, for the first time in fifteen weeks, the chance to have a nice leisurely (read: lasting more than two minutes) lunch, the chance to talk to grownups -- and things that I'll really miss - not holding the baby all the time, not feeding her, not smelling her sweet little baby head.

Thank god, thank god, thank GOD it's only a month, or I think I'd probably be doing a lot of weeping on the way to work tomorrow. As it is, I feel very, very fortunate and lucky to be able to make the choice to stay home with her - both to have a husband who supports and agrees with this choice, and to have the financial resources to make this possible for our family.

My fourteen, almost fifteen years in the corporate world are ending, and my life as a mom is still just getting started. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sofie's Ode To Santa

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

When Sofie Met Santa

T'was twelve days before Christmas, and all through the mall
Old Santa was selling fine photos for all.
And little Miss Sofie thought hard to herself,
I might be a baby, but I know he's no elf!

She got into line with the other young tots
And used all her free time to work on her plot -
When I get to his lap I'll kick him with glee!
I'll pull on his beard and I'll puke on his knee!

Her eyes how they twinkled as she thought of her scheme
But alas, this mall Santa was not what he seemed!
When she yanked on his beard it stayed put just so,
And when she barfed on his lap all he said was "ho ho!"

Could it be the real Santa? Could it be she was wrong?
Could this be the hero of story and song?
Then she looked in his eye and saw true Christmas cheer,
And knew in a moment there was nothing to fear.

So she smiled for the camera and held the man's hand
This was clearly the moment to give up her tough stand
And when Santa asked what she wanted this year
She told him "A pony!" without even a tear.

She returned to her stroller, to her mom gave a whistle
And away they both went like the down of a thistle
But I heard her exclaim as the crowds they grew thick -
Watch out who you puke on - he might be Saint Nick!


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Most excellent nation of Kazakhstan

Although the fabulous Reel Moms theater program (which offered a special showing on Thursday mornings just for moms with babies) was recently canceled, Seattle still has three theaters that cater to new parents by offering a small, sound-proofed room in the back of a theater. We decided to try this out today, and therefore dragged our daughter off to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America To Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
`
Our daughter has now seen The Omen while in utero, and Borat, which might just be the movie with the most scenes in the worst taste ever. We are ALL about inappropriate movie viewing, yup.

Verdict on the movie: Pretty funny! Not great, but worth its weight in gold for the funny accent and mannerisms Brett is now affecting around the house, and being that we haven't seen a movie in nearly four months, it was lots of fun. Sofie, in particular, appreciated the naked wrestling scene. We noticed near the end of that interlude that things had gotten very silent in the viewing booth and looked down to find two little eyes just GLUED to the screen. Oops.

Verdict on the crying room: Terrific! The Metro theater has a decent sized room with seating for five, and we had it all to ourselves. Sofie woke up five minutes into the movie and stayed awake throughout, but she didn't cry at all, proving herself once again to be the Best Baby Ever. She's game for whatever we throw her way. (Sometimes I think she only falls asleep because she can't wait to see where she is the next time she wakes up. Life is an endless adventure.) Anyways, the room was comfortable, and the soundproofing means you can talk to each other through the whole movie. It's like the best of being at home and being at the theater, all wrapped up in one. We'll be doing this again.

Now if only one of these three theaters would show Casino Royale in their crying room. We're dying to see that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Popular girl

Sofia (albeit spelled more traditionally) showed up on a recent list of the ten most popular names of 2006 as the seventh most popular name for baby girls. Ironically, it came in one slot above the name we rejected for being too popular right now (Olivia), and two slots below the backup name (Isabella) we would have used if for some reason the baby didn't look like a Sofia when she was born. So I guess we're nowhere near as original as we thought.

At least we spelled it different, Brett notes.

***

In other news, a recent comment on my post where I jokingly referred to the baby turning my brain to mush led me to digging around on the Web a little bit, where I discovered this article from April, 2005 (and also this one, a little more detailed) about how scientific evidence actually indicates that the opposite might be true. Perhaps I'm getting smarter!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Full body happiness

Happiness for babies is a whole body experience that's amazing to watch. Sofie seems to have an emotional set point that's pretty much like mine - left to her own devices, independent of anything astonishingly good or bad happening, she tends to be pretty much content and quick to smile. Sometimes I'll have her in her swing for a few moments while I check an email or read something, and I'll look up to find her quietly watching me, mostly holding still.

Why hello, I'll say, giving her a great big smile.

She'll consider me for a fraction of a second, then flash a smile back that involves wiggling her feet, dropping her head over to the side, and kind of flopping her hands down into her lap in a very satisfied way. As if she's saying, I feel so much contentment that every muscle group must participate in its expression.

It's a nice feeling to bring such happiness to a little person, simply by saying hello. And I'd like to be so happy that my feet wiggle. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Less talk, more pictures

Sofie's week 13 picture and closeup, with her rabbit friend:



And today's gratuitously cute picture:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thinking about...

I use a nifty little tool called SiteMeter to see how many people are visiting and viewing my blog, and to track search words used to find pages. Growing Notes is a modest little blog, nothing like Dooce or the bigger bloggers, but still I average about 2000 unique visits and 3000 page hits a month, or about 80 visits a day.

So imagine my surprise when, in November, I suddenly went down to one visit a day. Every day. How is it possible that I lost every single reader I had, save one?

Took me about two weeks to realize that when I reset my template a month or so ago I wiped out the javascript dealie that makes sitemeter work, so nothing was getting counted. I reset it Friday, and now we're back, getting lots of readers and tracking appropriately.

This also, however, lets me track again the search words people put into Google that lead them to my page, which I find a little depressing -- because the second most popular search string people use to get to my pages continues, every month, to be "ways to hurt yourself." Which leads to this one, tiny, silly post I made two years ago about falling off a chair at the gym. NOT about suicide or self-mutilation or anything dark. But it's disturbing to me how many people, every month, are searching on that term. Is life that bad?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cleanliness, godliness

Since I'm currently playing at being a fulltime homemaker, I've decided that maybe I should get more skilled at this housekeeping stuff. Sure, I make the valiant daily effort to pick up all the stuff that's laying around, at least downstairs, and I'm certainly the only person who's ever run a vacuum in the year or two that we've lived in this house, but my cleaning skills are still somewhat lax.

So I heard about this thing called FlyLady.net, from some of the ladies I know online, who touted it as the ultimate way to get organized and get a routine. Flylady's concept is simple enough - get a morning routine and a bedtime routine where you do a few things consistently (for example, leave the kitchen sink clean before you go to bed), do a load of laundry every day, and divide your house into zones that you tackle on a rotating basis. Sign up for their service and they send you daily reminders of routine tasks and special once a day cleaning jobs that you follow along with.

However, I don't know how anyone with a baby (or a toddler) could possibly live up to even these simple expectations. Special task one and the starting point for the whole program is to "Go Shine Your Sink." This involves about eight different steps and results in the world's most startlingly clean kitchen sink.

So I gave it a try. And while I did indeed get through it, it took me the entire day to get enough time away from the baby to get it done. A few minutes of free time in the morning to do the bleach step. A few minutes around lunch to scrub. A few minutes later to dig gook out of the rim with a sharp edge. Early evening before I got to the part using windex.

It looks great. No, it looks FANTASTIC. But really, am I supposed to do that more than once in the next year? I hope not, because I can't spare the time.

Since then, I've been toying a bit with this idea of routines. Here's Flylady's idea of how my morning should go:

  • Wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
  • Leap out of bed and then make said bed immediately.
  • Shower, fix hair, put on makeup - looking good gives you energy.
  • Get dressed all the way to your shoes - shoes give you energy. (Oddly enough, this seems to be true.)
  • Empty your dishwasher that you ran before bed.
  • Check your calendar for appointments.
  • Have breakfast.
  • Get down to tending to the house.


Sounds nice and not too hard. But here's how my morning's REALLY go:


  • Wake up groaning at 7 a.m., every day, no matter WHAT time you went to bed, to a grunting, hungry baby.
  • Stumble to the bathroom, maybe brush your teeth, pick up baby from bassinet on return.
  • Feed baby for next 45 minutes, in bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at the breast. Hold her quietly for next half hour because she'll shriek if you put her down. Read, email, or watch tv.
  • Feed baby for another half hour when she wakes up.
  • Change diaper and outfit (baby), then quickly throw on some clothes (you). Shower be damned.
  • Play with your now wide awake, well fed baby for a half hour. Great fun.
  • Baby falls asleep again, this time not on you.
  • Race downstairs for Operation Breakfast, since it's now almost 10 a.m. and you're starving. Wolf down cereal, read one or two pages of the daily paper, toss these dishes in the dishwasher you DIDN'T run last night, and get back upstairs before the baby wakes. (Note, this operation has a 50-50 chance of being terminated early by waking child.)
  • Put baby in her bouncy chair in the bathroom and take a shower with an interested little audience watching your every move. Forget about fixing hair, putting on makeup, etc. Energy be damned.
  • Halfheartedly make bed.
  • Is it lunchtime yet? And where did I leave my shoes?


Evenings are better. I can definitely see the value of straightening up before bed, and with Brett around, I can usually claim a half hour to myself to do so. The house has looked subtly better since I started doing this every night. But this morning routine? Definitely going to have to wait until Sofie is old enough to amuse herself with a toy. Or until she can walk. Or until she's in school.

Or maybe never.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bumbo

Sofia is becoming stronger and stronger - she's pretty much got head control down now, and has recently started pushing herself up to standing while holding onto our fingers. "Stand up! Sit Down!" has now become her favorite game, followed at a close second by the rowdy "Stand up! Sit Down! Fall Over!" favored by her mother.

(At times I pause for a moment to be amazed at how this brain of mine which used to run a semi-large organization in the corporate world can now be endlessly occupied and entertained by game after game of Stand Up Sit Down. The rest of the time, I try to ignore the mush my brain has become. )

Because she's so strong and loves to be up and looking around, we recently got her a bumbo chair. A bumbo chair, as you can see here, is an oddly shaped piece of molded foam that helps a baby who can't yet sit up (but who can hold their head up) achieve a sitting position. The parents forum I'm part of online has endless people raving about them, and I couldn't resist.

Safe to say, I think she likes it:

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