Friday, June 29, 2007

Finally making good use of all that hair...



Doesn't she look about two in this picture? Honestly, she's only 10 months...

Monday, June 25, 2007

With Daddy

Three quick pictures from a moment I loved watching:


Play ball!

Sofie went to her first baseball game this Sunday. Overall, she did great! We left during the seventh inning but really that was more about avoiding the sell-out rush at the end of the game than about her tolerance -- she could have easily made it through the end of the ninth. While I can't say that she really watched or was in any way aware of the game, she made lots of friends in the stands and seemed to find any social occasion where people clap and cheer for fun to be a rollicking good time.

At home, ready to go in her Mariner's gear


In her seat


Watching the game with Dad


Flickr pictures from the day can be found here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day off!

I had a half day off today -- left the hubby and the baby listening to music in her room and took myself out for a few hours of recharge time. And man, was it great. I went to see the movie Brett saw last weekend (Ocean's 13) at the Majestic Bay in Ballard -- silly movie and not especially noteworthy, but it was frothy and unchallenging and fun. Add in the most comfortable movie seats ever, popcorn and diet coke, and almost no one there and you have a nice way to fritter away a couple hours.

After that I walked through a few stores I'd never take a stroller into -- you know the type, fancy home accessory stores with glass shelves and breakables everywhere just begging for a nine month old to pull the old grab-and-drop. And then I went to The Secret Garden, a great kids' bookstore, and picked up a few new books for Sofie.

As my last hurrah, I went to the grocery store. Alone. Without having to get a cart to put the baby in. Without amusing a nine month old. Without making sure she doesn't fall out when she starts trying to stand up in the seat. Just in... and out. Simple as pie.

Sounds dull? Well, it felt like heaven to me.

I was thinking about how I used to feel slightly uncomfortable going to movies by myself, like people might wonder what I was doing there alone. These days, not only have I completely shed that level of self-absorption (and high time), I was inwardly giggling. If only all those couples knew how FREAKING great it feels to go to a movie by yourself once you have a baby. I was 90% sure I was having a way better time than anyone else there, thankyouverymuch.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Half full, half empty

There's an interesting debate raging over on Surburban Turmoil that started up when the poster had the nerve to say that stay-at-home-mommyhood was... gasp... not that hard. The comments started out polite and devolved into sniping, as these things often do.


But it's got me thinking. I relate to a lot of things people on both sides of the debate are saying about being a stay at home parent.

On the one hand, I have many, many moments where I'm surprised to find myself thinking how easy this is. A large portion of my day involves napping with my daughter, spooning applesauce into her eager little baby-bird mouth, walking in the sun, playing on the front lawn, rocking her while we listen to songs on her French CD, or meeting up with the occasional buddy. I have many heartfelt moments where I can't believe my luck -- this is the most fun I've ever had, and honestly most of the individual moments aren't that difficult.

I even - dare I say it? - get to read a little bit, now that she's able to crawl around. We spend a part of most morning in her gated-off playroom, where she happily explores her toys at my feet while I sit in the rocker and read or blog. This doesn't last long, but it does a lot to recharge the batteries for a long day ahead.

On the other hand, while the individual moments are easy, the days can be quite exhausting. There's little down time. I'm busy from six a.m. until about nine p.m. most of the time, with maybe a half hour to myself somewhere. Even the easy activities I listed above have unseen complications: napping peacefully is proceeded by an hour and a half of feeding, clothing, changing, and holding her while she shrieks and cries about not wanting a (yawn) nap! Feeding her involves fighting off the cat who's trying to steal her food when I'm not looking, wiping oatmeal off the walls when she flings it, and trying to dig all of the day's discarded cheese/apples/gunk out of the crevices of the high chair. Walking or playing outside involves careful preparation (is she hungry? dirty? wet? about to be any of these things? is it going to rain? do we need to take x, y, or z?). Meeting friends is a highly time-sensitive operation that only the other moms of kids this age understand. Nap times are wildly variant, so scheduling outings is tough. Add in housework and laundry, errands and shopping.

I feel busier than when I worked, I suppose because any leisure time has to be so carefully planned for and compressed. But it's also too easy, I think, to wax rhapsodic about how people at work get "down time". Working parents have it as hard if not harder, I think, in some ways. On the plus side they can go to the bathroom by themselves, eat lunch for an hour with friends, maybe take a walk, and occasionally just take a breather in the midst of a difficult project. On the negative side, the day doesn't end for them either when they get home.

Brett comes home wiped out from a difficult job and then has about ninety minutes before his daughter goes to bed in which he needs to a) play with his daughter, b) try to connect with me a little bit while eating dinner and c) take out the garbage or some other task.

Neither one is easy. But whatever the sacrifices, financial or personal, I'm making to be home with Sofie for these few years, I feel thankful every morning that I'm able to do this. And I'd have to say the 'easy' outweighs the 'hard' for me right now. Or, possibly, the truth is that overall the whole experience of being home with her is so meaningful for me that I don't mind the hard parts so much. I'm finding resources in myself I didn't know I had, depths of caring and patience, outpourings of fun and attention and goofiness that my daughter soaks up like a sponge. I can't imagine doing anything else right now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gadget envy

I want one of these camera collars for my cats! Check out Mr. Lee's photo gallery from his trips around the neighborhood, from watching the lovely neighbor girl kitty from afar to drinking from someone's pool.

What would we find out if we put one on Cassie? I suspect she spends a lot of her day doing wacky, secret things. And I also suspect we'd find her digging through the neighborhood trash cans for food.

Now this I can heartily endorse

If only I'd seen this Finnish study while I was pregnant, I would have felt a lot less guilty about the amount of chocolate I'd been eating. Turns out, there's some research to show that women who eat chocolate during their pregnancies may have happier, more positive-responsive babies:

The women were asked to rate their stress levels and the amount of chocolate they ate. Thewomen were surveyed again six months after they had given birth. This time they were asked to rate their infants behaviour. The scientists found that women who regularly ate chocolate while they were pregnant were more likely to say their babies smiled and laughed a lot. They were also more likely to say they were active.

The scientists also found apparent differences between the babies of stressed women who ate chocolate and stressed women who didn't. Stressed women who ate chocolate were more likely to say their babies were less fearful in new situations. Stressed women who didn't eat chocolate said their babies were quite fearful in new situations.


Have to say, Sofie's been an unusually happy, perky baby right from day one. Perhaps I owe it all to the M&Ms and chocolate ice cream I kept eating while she was in utero?

Now if they'd just come out with a similar study about caffeine, women all over the world could feel just a little more comfortable during their pregnancies.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Categories at work

According to Wonder Weeks, one of the truly useful parenting books I've come across, the cognitive leap that's keeping Sofie awake at night is categorization -- the ability to understand and group like things. Such as -- an apple, oatmeal, and spinach are all food. A kitty, a doggie, and a duck are all animals. Etc.

She got some special practice in this concept trying to sort out the fact that "grandpa" is a word that can be applied to two different people at once.

My two grandpas

Sofie has long understood that Grandpa Shult is her grandpa. "Where's grandpa?" you ask and she swivels her head around until she finds him and then fixes him with a smile. But this weekend Grandpa Art came to town and she had to expand her definitions. Who was this new person with the white beard? Is he Santa Claus? No, he's also Grandpa.

She was a little scared of him at first, but she came to like him just fine.



The concept of Grandma is simpler, since there's (sadly) only one of those.



We had a great Father's Day with all the grandparents here for a barbecue. Brett got to see a movie, Brett's dad got to get a massage at a local spa, and everyone had a great meal.


Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2007

I should be cleaning

I should be mopping my kitchen floor right now. Right this very minute. My father-in-law arrives tonight, and I've cleaned and straightened and vacuumed and put out the sheets and the towels and I really, really should just bite the bullet and mop. But instead I did a half-ass swipe of the floor with a couple of bleach wipes, just in the dirtiest spots, and left it at that.

I'm tired, you see. The young'un got up at 4:30 today. That's a.m. if you're wondering. Yesterday I had a weird bout of insomnia. So that's about five hours of sleep a night for two nights running. The floor is just going to have to wait.

Remember this post, in which I talked about the daily cleaning routines I was supposed to be doing, and this one, where I waxed on lovingly about cleaning the kitchen in the evening, and actually said this:


In the evening I clean the kitchen, reverently, like a call to prayer, and I find it meditative and calming to set it in order for the next day. Clearing the counters, washing the table, starting the dishwasher, sweeping (especially sweeping) - it calms the soul. That half hour of quiet setting the house to rights before bed gives me such a deep sense of satisfaction that it's become hard to go to bed without it. I turn out the lights when I've finished and head upstairs full of peace and ready to get up tomorrow and start over again.


Yeah, well, that was then, this is now. Oh sure, I'd still like to do those things in the evening. But gone are the days when Sofie sweetly goes down to sleep at 7:30 and stays that way until dawn. Gone, mostly, are the breaks in my day when she naps quietly by herself in her crib (except, oddly enough, for right now, thank heavens) and I have the energy to leap to it and scrub the floors and tidy my nest. Sofie is delightful and funny and wonderful, but above all of this she is an unstoppable ball of energy. There are no breaks, not anymore, not since she learned to crawl and decided that naps would mostly take place in my arms if at all.


The last two nights, Brett has taken Sofie out for a short walk or a trip to the store right before bedtime, and I've realized that instead of the meditative cleaning I used to do I'm now engaging in speed-cleaning of a caliber that could qualify me for the olympics. In the 20 or 30 minutes I get, I can now clear the table /wash the bottles / sweep up the cheerios Sofie dropped / wipe down the highchair /pill the cat/ unload, reload, and start the dishwasher/ clean off the island / bring up the laundry and fold it / recycle the papers / pick up the contents of three different toy baskets in three different rooms and put them away and do a few other much needed tasks. All at the speed of light.

But today I'm just going to lie here and read blogs. And read my library book. And pray that this is one of her long naps (two hours? please?) instead of the more common thirty minute variety.


Vocabulary building

Sofie's added another word to her vocabulary -- "book." I'm inordinately pleased that her first two words (aside from mama and dada) have been "cat" and "book." If she follows that up with "Can I have a nice glass of red wine, please?" she's covered most of the major pleasures in life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Should I be worried?

Sofie likes to pull our books off the bookcases up in the master bedroom and play with them on the floor. But yesterday, I found her carefully leafing through The DaVinci Code, page by page.

Isn't she a little young for hack, pseudo-religious, poorly written thrillers?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The memorial

Sofie and I went to the zoo today, mostly to visit their fabulous rose garden, one of 23 All America Rose test gardens in the country. On the way, though, we wandered through the elephant barn to view the memorial to Hansa. Which made me sad, but I was glad to see it.



I was touched first of all that such a memorial exists, and that people are continuing to drop off flowers and notes and hand-drawn pictures. And oh, the content of these little missives, put together painstakingly by Seattle area kids who loved the little elephant. Here are a few examples:



Monday, June 11, 2007

Playdate

Last week, Sofie's buddy Molly came over to play for a while, and for the first time they actually did seem to play with each other (instead of just next to each other) a little bit:



Sunday, June 10, 2007

In memory of Hansa



Herschel is deeply, deeply sad today about the death of Hansa, the Seattle Zoo's baby elephant. I keep finding the computer open to the memorial page and getting asked questions about where elephants go when they die. (New Jersey, I tell him.)

I'm sad too. Like most Seattleites, I remember when she was born and have watched her growth over the years. My friend Robin and I spent an afternoon a year or two ago watching Hansa dive in and out of her wading pool, rolling over onto her back in the water and waving her legs around in the air with abandon, and I've visited her on many visits since. Sofie and I watched her just a few weeks ago for a good long while. While I have mixed feelings about zoos, I do think that the zookeepers here do a good job with their habitats and breeding programs and did the best they could to keep her alive. I hope the backlash isn't too bad.

I have to admit to tearing up on reading about it today -- mostly because of the image of the keepers finding her in the morning with her mother standing guard over her body. And I was moved by this, from one of the news reports:
Out of respect for the other elephants in Hansa's herd, the zoo's Elephant Forest exhibit was closed for the day, and possibly longer.

Hansa's body was left undisturbed for the morning, so the other elephants could pay their respects. Social animals, elephants are known to grieve losses in their family


Goodbye, Hansa...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Baby Products I Wish Someone Would Invent, Pt 1

What I wish existed: an alarm that can be attached to a crib and will beep if you walk away without raising the side of the crib.

Every night, I lower Sofie into her crib, ease the side up, and go to bed. I do this by rote, because she'd break her neck in the morning if I left it down - she's tall and wriggly and likes to climb and I knowknowknow she'd fall right out.

And about twenty minutes later, because I did this by rote, I lie in bed and wonder if I put the side up or if I just THINK I put the side up. And then I try to peer over there in the dark and see it and I can't. And then sometimes I say, "Of course you put it up" and roll over to go to sleep, but most of the time I get up and go look.

A simple alarm would eliminate the guesswork. Of course I put it up because if I didn't, it would be beeping, or a blue light would be circling the room, or music would be playing, or something.

Useful, no? Although perhaps only for neurotics like me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

On power struggles

I've recently passed what felt like one of my first real challenges in parenting, in which I had to figure out how to handle something better for both my sake and Sofie's.

Sofie has recently developed what seems to be a real aversion to diaper changes. Where she used to either love them (when she was very small) or at least tolerate them patiently, now she cries and howls and tries to turn over as soon as we put her down and all but climbs away if we let her. It's messy. It's difficult to deal with. And it's deeply, deeply annoying.

This threw us both for a bit of a loop at first, because the change was so sudden and she was so fierce about it. The whole situation quickly deteriorated into what may be the very first power struggle of my relationship with my daughter.

The doctor, earlier this week at her nine month appointment, asked if she's starting to show any temper or interest in getting her own way.

"Yes, diaper changes have become a little slice of hell" I told him.

"Well, that's going to get a lot worse," he said, "before it gets better."

The first few times she balked at a diaper change, it was new and not that bad, but it soon got under my skin. She'd wait until I got her diaper off, then wriggle free, often with disastrous results -- either she was dirty and would get it everywhere (clothes, walls, furniture), or if I decided to let her go for a moment before getting the new diaper on her she'd pee on the changing table. Arg. And the struggle wasn't good for either of us. She'd be upset, I'd be upset, and it was just an all around awful experience for us both.

When we could, Brett and I would change her together, one person holding and one person wiping and changing. But I had to come up with a better way to handle this on my own, pronto, because most of the time I'm alone with her.

So I thought about it a bit, and I realized that this doesn't have to be a power struggle unless I agree to make it one. It sounds strange, but changing my attitude and response to it solved the problem almost overnight. I decided one day that I was not going to struggle or engage with her -- I was simply going to gently and firmly be the one in charge. My goat, so to speak, was no longer going to be gotten.

And what do you know, it worked! All week we've had diaper changes that, while not perfect, are much easier to handle and don't dissolve into unpleasantness. When I lay her down, she starts to wriggle over and I gently hold her shoulders in place and tell her that no, we're going to change her diaper. And then I wait, and when she's still, we proceed. After a couple days of this she hardly even resists anymore.

I think the fun of resisting was probably seeing how riled up she could get me, and now the enjoyment of that has gone out of it because I'm not playing anymore.

This strikes me as a realization that's going to be pretty useful as she moves into toddlerhood.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I hate poppies

We came home to a profusion of flowers and vegetation in the yard. In the five days we were gone, temperatures topped 80 every afternoon, and the tomatoes shot up by as much as a foot in some cases, all the roses burst into enthusiastic spills of bloom, the eggplant sent out two shy little blossoms that will someday become enchanting little violet-colored eggplants, the earliest of the early tomatoes sprouted little tiny fruit, and the big huge oriental poppies that I have such a love-hate relationship with finished the five minutes of the year in which they actually look good and started dropping their petals and flopping over with despair.


My yard is plagued with the big bright orange poppies, two feet tall and profligate as sin. Each year I pull them out by the truckload, not necessarily trying to eradicate them completely but more like just trying to keep them to a few simple clumps here and there. But the poppies outwit me every year, sending out ten, twenty, thirty new plants in all directions.


Why do I hate them so? For one, I don't like the color orange much in my garden. Does everyone have a color they just dislike in plantings? And second, they're so messy. As I said before, they look nice for a few weeks of the year, and thereafter they look like hell. About ten seconds after they bloom they turn brown. And then they just seem to rot in place. So you're left with either ugly foliage for the rest of the season or big holes when you pull them out. Ugh.


This year I ordered a few of the dark red kind, hoping to maybe displace the bright orange variety with these whose looks I prefer. All spring I've been watching them grow with anticipation, hoping they'd be beautiful and spread their little seeds with abandon. And sure enough, they bloomed while I was gone -- and you know what? They were ORANGE. Red, my foot. So off to the compost heap those little suckers are going soon.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Reading

Sofie did a lot of reading on the flight home:



Who cares if the book is upside down?

The full set of pictures from the Maine trip is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettmegan/tags/maine2007/.

The rest of the weekend...

The rest of the weekend went great and flew by really quick. We spent most of our time at the AD house rather than at campus events. Sofie took well to the fraternity life, entertaining everyone with table dances and viking imitations:




I got to catch up with my old friend Jennifer, who was my best friend in junior high and who, in a true small world coincidence, ended up marrying one of Brett's fraternity brothers:



Monkey and Herschel made the trip with us, although we didn't see much of them -- but we did run into them at L.L. Bean, in Freeport:




Brett had a great time, I met all kinds of people, and we managed to fit in a little bit of touring the Maine coast in between all the get togethers. It's a beautiful area, and I love the architecture of the older houses with all their stark saltbox edges and connected passageways connecting former outbuildings to the main house. And of course I had my first traditional "lobstah dinnah" that one can't leave Maine without -- yum! Between the steamed lobster two different nights of the weekend and the lobster rolls for lunch, I made the most of the culinary opportunities we had.

Here's a picture of Brett and some of the members of his pledge class at AD -- plus Dave, in the white shirt, who's Jennifer's husband and not a member of this class, which is I guess why he's being pointed at:



We plan to go back next year for a full week so we can fit in a few other things -- a visit to some family we'd like to see in Connecticut, more exploration of Maine, and maybe a cabin rental for a few days before the reunion. Now that we know what a good traveler Sofie is, we're feeling a lot more able to plan more and longer trips, but we just weren't sure this time how much she could handle. The answer? A lot! She just did a stellar job the whole trip. What a little trooper.

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