Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

I observed something this morning that helps make a lot of things about our Christmas make more sense. Emmett apparently received a tooth for Christmas! He already has 12 teeth, but none of his canine teeth had come in. This morning I saw that the "fang" on his right had poked through. I couldn't help thinking of that song, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth," except that I was thinking, "yeah, that's not really so fun in reality, is it?" A few of Emmett's teeth have come in without drama but the most recent ones have arrived with a fair bit of crankiness. He had a few periods of crankiness yesterday and I feel better knowing that there was an underlying physical reason behind it.

One of the periods of crankiness was when we all first got up. It was earlier than I would have liked (5:30ish), but I thought, "surely when I bring Emmett into the living room and he sees all of the presents, he'll cheer up!" but he didn't have a major reaction. It was clear that he didn't quite know what was in store for him. With no one begging us to open presents as soon as possible, we managed to wait until around 7:30 a.m. to get started. The first gift that he opened was a stocking stuffer glitter wand that cost under $2. It actually ended up being one of the biggest hits of the day! (He had played with one in a store for a long time, so I sought one out while Christmas shopping.)

I wanted to take an unrushed approach to gift opening, so we let him play with things as they got opened and took breaks to eat meals (homemade crepes for breakfast!), take nap-inducing drives, and so forth. At about 5:30 p.m., I was ready for him to be done with gift-opening, so I helped him try to start opening the very last two presents (a set of blocks and a book entitled Cool Daddy Rat). He just lost it while we were opening the books, crying and wailing and pulling my hair. (See above about being glad that we have teething as an explanation!). We finally got those presents opened at 7:30 p.m., meaning that we actually spent the entire day opening gifts. What's a little bit funny is that today he's spent probably 65% or more of his time playing with things he already had and a smaller portion of time playing with new things. I like to think that this means something, perhaps that when he makes new friends, he'll still pay attention to old friends, or something like that.

A few weeks before the holidays, Adam and I'd talked about how we wanted to have a nice non-commercial Christmas, but I think that we both got caught up in the whole "must buy this cute thing for the boy that we love so much!" aspect of the holidays. He didn't necessarily seem completely wowed by his day necessarily, but it definitely was special for him and relaxing for us. Not traveling this year was different and I missed the company of family but I also wanted to make the best of things by not getting too caught up in what wasn't there. And of course, sappy as it may sound, at the various times that Emmett was sitting in various emptied cardboard boxes, I found myself saying, "Yup, you and Emmett are mommy's favorite gifts, Mr. Monkey."

Monday, December 19, 2011

What a Year!

My year in review: I worked a lot. Sometimes I slept.

Emmett's year:
He started rolling over! He started sleeping in his own bed! He began to be able to hold his head up unassisted! He started sitting up without being propped up! He started eating food that didn't come out of my mammary glands! He started floor-swimming, which soon evolved into crawling! He started standing up while holding on to a couch/chair/ottoman/friendly mutt! He fell down a lot! He started eating food that wasn't mush! He began taking steps while we'd hold his hands or while pushing something! He had his first LocoPop! He won his first trophy! He traveled internationally! He turned one! He took a few steps! He got some spectacular forehead bruises! He took more steps! He got good at walking and started exploring playgrounds! He decided to wean himself! He discovered that our house has an upstairs!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Emmett's First Movie Theatre Experience

Kermit

Emmett saw his first movie in a theatre today. Given that we dressed him up as Kermit for Halloween and (in general) are trying to give him a very muppetational childhood, it's probably obvious that we would choose The Muppets as his first movie.

If I had abundant free time and was willing to wait a week or two, I probably could have taken him to a sparsely-attended showing where I wouldn't have had to be concerned about whether he'd get antsy or loud during the movie, but I really really wanted to see the movie this week, the week that it opened. We went into it all with low expectations of being able to see the whole thing, and while I'm happy to report that we both saw most of it, I don't quite see myself repeating the movie theatre experience real soon (though I do want to see this particular movie again in order to catch anything that I missed).

There were some great little moments, like how he waved at the screen when we first saw Kermit, but it was good that I had an aisle seat because he spent a lot of the time sitting in the aisle or being held while I stood next to my seat. The movie itself was so enjoyable that I really didn't want to get up even when it was advisable to do so.

There were at least two times where we almost lost his right shoe (in the end, we stopped putting it back on him and one of us would just carry it; afterwards, I found out that Adam had thought ahead to bring a small flashlight along) and we had to sneak in goldfish crackers and cheerios to buy some calmness. A lot of Emmett's most attentive moments were wasted on the commercials before the previews; I imagine that he might have made it all the way to the end of the movie if those hadn't been so lengthy. It's clearly been ages since I've gone to a first-run movie at all because I didn't realize we'd be contending with previews and commercials.

I'd joked beforehand that I should bring him to the movie in his Kermit costume, but I'm glad that I didn't attempt this after all because I think he would have been extra-miserable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our second Thanksgiving with Emmett

What I remember about Thanksgiving a year ago: Emmett had definitely gotten the memo that the holiday was all about eating. I remember spending a ridiculous amount of the day nursing. I even had to nurse while eating dinner. Somewhere there's a picture of me sitting on the couch with a plate of food balanced on the Boppy while Emmett is latched on.

This year, Thanksgiving started with something that felt like a miracle: Emmett slept until 7 a.m.! He typically first wakes up sometime around 5, and sometimes even earlier than that, so this was unexpected and delightful. How nice to actually wake up after there's daylight!

I'd gotten a head start on cooking the day before (daycare was open but my workplace was closed), and it's a good thing that I did because as soon as I started cooking again, I found myself wondering, "How on Earth did I think I was going to be able to cook with the boy running around the kitchen, playing with the dog's dishes, knocking things over, etc.?" The answer, of course, was to take him out of the house altogether. The weather has been beautiful this week and Adam and I both spent time with Emmett outside while the other person cooked or straightened things up.

I was interested to see what Emmett would eat since many of the Thanksgiving menu items other than potatoes (sweet and mashed) were ones he hadn't had before. I was a little surprised that he didn't get more into the sweet potatoes since that was one of the first foods that he really loved. Whether he likes regular potatoes or not seems to vary from day to day and this was apparently a bit of an off day. He ate a bit of turkey-shaped marinated baked tofu, and while he didn't like the stuffing when I served it to him, he ate a fair amount of it when he was able to gra it off a plate next to his high chair try. Just on a lark, I gave him a bit of Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish, a recipe involving onions, horseradish, cranberries, sour cream, and sugar served in a slightly frozen state and he really surprised me by wanting more. He ate like four or five big spoonfuls of the stuff. A day later, it looks like the stains on his clothes have mostly come out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Talking About the Toddler?

I'm starting to think that "Talking About the Toddler" is a more accurate name for what's going on with Emmett than "blabbing about the baby." He has been doing fewer and fewer baby things and more toddler things lately. Many consider the start of toddlerhood to be the start of unassisted walking, and this makes sense when we think about the meaning of the verb "to toddle." That's when Adam started calling Emmett a toddler. I think of this period as his "walking and stalking" phase. He tends to follow me around from room to room, not unlike his canine sister. It's cute, but it's also good that I don't feel the need for major amounts of personal space.

For me, the onset of toddlerhood has more to do with the end of bottles.

A few Fridays ago, I picked Emmett up from daycare and they told me that he had drunk all of his milk out of a straw cup instead of a bottle. His teacher congratulated him with, "No more bottles! You're a big boy now!" I was still pumping milk into bottles, though, so it didn't really feel like the end of bottles for me.

Then, on September 15, he had a really rough night with lots of crying where he Didn't Want to Nurse. I took him to see the pediatrician because Not Nursing was very out of character for him; I suspected he might have another ear infection or something like that (though he'd nursed through his other ear infections). She diagnosed him with coxscackie virus in the mouth, suggesting that his mouth pain was causing him to not want to nurse. I gave him several opportunities over the next week to start nursing again, but it was as if a switch was flipped and suddenly, that was something he wasn't going to do anymore. I was quite surprised (and was even beginning to think that I'd still be nursing him into his 20s at the rate we were going!), and it took my body quite a while to adjust to the change.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Day

Today is World Breastfeeding Day, and as of 10 a.m. today, we are celebrating it in much the same way that we celebrated last year: with Emmett spending copious amounts of time on the Boppy, and with me trying to type and do other things with just one hand while he nurses.

Of course, a year ago Emmett didn't do much at all other than eat and sleep. These days, he can do all kinds of other things (including partial headstands while nursing!) and he eats an increasing variety of non-liquid foods. However, nursing is still a big part of our lives, especially during a week like this one where he has been a bit under the weather. Before he was born, my goal was to nurse him for at least a year if possible. When I returned to work and had pumping issues, I revised that to "at least six months" and doubted that we would even manage that, but we worked through the issues and here we are, still nursing after his first birthday. With the exception of times when I get woken up for a third or fourth time in the night, I enjoy the closeness. (And even then I enjoy it if the boy manages to catch a bit more sleep.)

Of course, it's not always been easy. I seem slightly prone to getting blocked ducts, which can be really painful. The best remedy for this affliction is to keep nursing but it's hard to nurse when you're in pain. Early on, we dealt with several bouts of thrush, including one bout right when I'd been planning to do some serious work towards a pumped milk stash for my return to work. While I was OK with gritting my teeth through nursing with thrush, I did not want to pump while that was going on.

I was surprised to find that the emergence of teeth didn't necessarily mean that the end of breastfeeding was near. Babies don't necessarily use their teeth in the nursing process. I did get bitten a few times here and there, but it was usually during a Rather Bitey Phase where I'd also find my shoulder getting bitten.

Around this time last year, I remember sometimes feeling a bit stressed out over whether the boy was nursing too much, and I wish I had just relaxed about that whole issue. It was very hard for me to believe the idea that the baby knew what he needed. I also was very reluctant to nurse in public at first. After I prepared myself with a short list of snappy comebacks, I felt better about public nursing and I now think that it's something that should be considered as normal as drinking a Diet Coke in public.

I am lucky to have had a lot of support for breastfeeding. A nurse in the recovery room at UNC hospitals helped me make sure that Emmett had a good latch from the start, and that made a huge difference. Friends and family have been great as well. If someone in your family is nursing, be sure to continually offer to bring that person food and drink. Nursing can make you ravenous. I sometimes feel like I've subjected friends and coworkers to far too many conversations about breastfeeding, but I tend to joke that it's like conversations about working out when you're doing a major training program--when you spend so much time doing something, it's hard not for it to creep into your conversations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What We've Been Waiting For

Yesterday afternoon, I was playing in the living room and Emmett stood up, took three steps, and then plopped down. He's been standing on his own for limited amounts of time for a little over a week now, and he's occasionally taken a lurching test step here or there, but this was the first time I'd seen him take multiple steps. Of course, he didn't do it again and for all I know, it could be days before he does it again. However, I started thinking about how parents really need to savor these and other milestones. Soon enough, the kid will be doing stuff like this constantly and you'll start taking these newfound abilities for granted.

When I talk to other parents about Starting to Walk, people tend to go on about how "now your life will really get complicated!" and I'm sure that that's true. It certainly was the case with crawling and other movement-related milestones. At the same time, I do get a little tired of the "parenting is a hassle" approach to baby-related conversations. I'm sure that I do it, too, without even noticing it, and I bet that a lot of parents don't mean to make it sound like they think parenting is one hassle after another. I've been trying to watch myself to avoid this, though.

The big thing for me about walking is that with all of the time that Emmett is spending upright, it seems that it's something HE really wants to accomplish, and while I don't want to rush him into anything, I know that one of my jobs is to help him have a sense of efficacy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Firstborn Fridays

My workplace was closed on Fridays from mid-May through today, as an attempt to save some money on utilities during the hottest time of the year. When the free Fridays started, I had all sorts of ideas of how I would spend the time--maybe I'd do volunteer work! Maybe I'd really get the house in order for once and for all!

After the first Friday off, it became clear that I probably wasn't going to get as much done on these days off as I expected. The days tended to just fly by and I'd be scrambling to get things done before picking Emmett up from daycare.

The two things that I wanted to do with my free time were to spend quality time with the dog and work on some artistic stuff. When we first started this "summer Fridays off" thing at my workplace (two years ago), I started using the time to practice the art of bento and I decided that I'd try to do a bento for Lucy most Fridays this year. I had to take a couple of weeks off while we were traveling, but it was fun to have more than enough time to think of an idea and bring it to fruition.

Several of these bentos for Lucy were inspired by children's TV or literature, including this one of Red Fraggle (from Fraggle Rock):Or this one of The Lorax from Dr. Seuss.Other inspiration came from animals. One week I did a bento of a liger (part lion, part tiger):
This week, I made one of an owl. By the way, when I did the animals, I often used pictures from Emmett's clothes for inspiration.
I think that my favorite one is from last week, where I used some pictures from some Northwest Coast First Nations art to make this moon bento:

We are starting to give Emmett some food (mostly fruit pieces or crackers or mini-pancakes) in bento boxes, and in Vancouver I picked up some fun new bento supplies. It's hard to do artistic bentos while tending to a kid of his age, though.

I've been glad to be able to spend extra time with Lucy. Her mellow companionship is lovely at the end of the workweek.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Emmett's Birthday: How We Celebrated

I took the whole day off work on July 27th because (like on the day he was born) I wanted to spend every minute I could with him. It occurred to me that he would probably have fun being with his comrades at day care but I think the first birthday is about the parents as well as being about the baby. I felt thrilled for Emmett that he was experiencing a birthday, but also thrilled that he'd already fared better than my houseplants ever have and that we didn't end up dying of sleep deprivation or anything. We all made it to one year. Woohoo!

It's funny, on Mother's Day and on my birthday, I remember secretly thinking, "Hey kid, if you really want to give me a present, you could sleep for an extended period of time." And on both of those occasions, sleep was pretty terrible, enough so that I didn't even bother wishing for a good night of sleep before his birthday. But lo and behold, Emmett slept over nine hours straight on the night of July 26th! What a great way to start the day.

Before Adam left for work, we had him open presents from Grandma and Grandpa and I read him the Dr. Seuss birthday book. Adam came back from work early but having him go in for some period of time was unavoidable. Here I will admit that there are times when I've been alone with Emmett for a whole weekday and would find myself at a loss for what to do all day, but this time around I did some planning ahead of time to avoid this. In fact, I may have overplanned a bit because I didn't get to everything on my list, but that's OK because we have the weekend to do other things.

The first thing on my list was that I was going to bake him a cake. I thought about buying a cake, or at least using a cake mix, but in the end, I had this weird sense that baking a cake from scratch was this thing that I ought to do. In the days leading up to his birthday, I spent a lot of time pondering cake recipes, but in the end, I just used the recipe on the cake pan. I'd bought a cute cake pan that makes cakes in the shape of animals, figuring that if the cakes were in cute shapes, it would make it easy to avoid going crazy with frosting-making and frosting-eating. As always happens, I had most of the ingredients except one: milk. I've obviously read a few too many pieces of pro-breastfeeding literature because I momentarily looked at the expressed milk in the fridge and thought, "hmm, there's at least half a cup there!" Luckily for mankind, I snapped out of it and used some vanilla yogurt instead.

Next, I took Emmett to a storytime event at The Children's Store in Chapel Hill. This storytime was targeted more towards older kids but Emmett did well: he didn't start wandering away until after the third of four books that they read. Given that the store has a lot of cool toys as distractions, I was impressed. Of course, I ended up buying him another present while we were there. I was going to go around to a few other stores in the general area with him but then had a brief "OMG, I don't think I have wipes in my purse" crisis and felt it best to head home. While we were driving around, I made a point of playing various birthday songs on CDs on the car stereo (including tunes by Justin Roberts and Roger Day).

In the afternoon, we got together with some of his and my friends that we haven't seen much of lately, and the afternoon flew by. Adam came home early and we pondered going out to eat, but decided that it would be better to give him lots of time to play with new toys and we ate at home. We managed not to burn the house down during "cake with candle" time. (He actually had 2 opportunities for candle time--one was at Elaine's house earlier in the day--so I got to blow out one candle for him, and Adam got to blow out another one. It's good to share these important parenting duties.)

It was very funny to watch Emmett eat his cake because he basically just picked the whole thing up, held it in his fist and kind of gnawed at it. It was denser than I planned (not using that recipe again!) but tasted pretty good. Avoiding frosting was a good idea at this stage of lief. I probably could have written a novel in the amount of time it took him to finish "eating" it. Much of it ended up in his bib.

After cake time, we assembled his big present and gave him some time to play with it. We bought him a water table to play with outside. It gets so hot here in NC that it's good to have some sort of water-based toy, and I didn't want to get a baby pool since he's cried the few times we've tried those out. However, he did like the water tables at the Carrboro 4th of July celebration and I also thought that it was an appropriate gift for him since one of his hobbies is sticking his hands in the dog's water dish...the water table is like a really big dog dish in some ways. It was slightly uncertain whether the table would actually arrive on his birthday or at some later point, but it arrived while we were out at storytime that morning. He had fun and got very messy, but if you don't get messy on your birthday as a baby, you probably aren't celebrating hard enough.

He conked out after his bath while I was reading him a Sesame Street book about birthdays (The Case of the Missing Duckie), and I was optimistic about another great night of sleep, and well...let's just say that I'm pretty convinced that he's getting a new tooth. (Hmm, that would explain the all-day drooling...) I really enjoyed spending lots of time together and am so happy that this little guy is in the picture. We just love him so much!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(Being) One Is Fun

It's hard to believe that a year ago, my day started like this:


And then, just a few hours later, I was doing this:


And now, it's time for this big guy:


to do this:


Happy Birthday to my sweet boy Emmett! Hippo Birdie Two Ewes, Hippo Birdie Two Ewes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh Canada!

Around this time last year, while I was extremely pregnant, Adam flew to Vancouver for his sister Robin's wedding. Some parts of this year's trip involved me doing some of the things that I missed out on by not accompanying Adam last year. Other parts of the trip involved introducing Emmett to aspects of his paternal culture. Most importantly, it was Emmett's first time meeting Aunt Kelly, Aunt Robin, and Uncle Step.

Our border crossing experience on the way up was quick and hassle-free. We stopped at the Peace Arch Visitors' Centre briefly. Adam loved that the parking area on the Canada side had an electric vehicle charging station; I dug the in-bathroom Canada trivia questions. On the return trip, our wait was longer but it was also pretty seamless. My US passport, Emmett's certified birth certificate, and Adam's green card were sufficient to be allowed back into the USA. You never know how much or how little a hassle border crossings will be. On the way back, there was a dog show going on at the border. If the crossing had taken longer, I might've gotten out of the car to check it out.

One thing that is nice about being in Vancouver is that Adam knows the city well and much of it is also familiar to me after repeated visits. It would've been expensive to use some of our fancy phone features like navigation while out of the US, but we mostly didn't need to since we knew our way around. We stayed at The Sylvia Hotel on English Bay and loved being in such a great location. There are cafes, restaurants, and even grocery stores within walking distance and it's right near the entrance to Stanley Park. The hotel is even the setting for a few children's books about a cat who named Mister Got To Go who used to live in the hotel. We ended up buying a copy of one of the books for Emmett because the story was sweet and because it was fun to see art with both animals and the actual hotel.

I immediately had Adam take Emmett right up to the ocean (Emmett has visited the Pacific Ocean before setting foot in the Atlantic Ocean!). Right across the street from the hotel are both grassy and sandy areas near the beach. On several evenings, we would take Emmett out to the grassy areas for walking practice. People were especially charmed when he'd use the umbrella stroller as a walker and push it along the grass.

One of the first ways that I relived Adam's trip from the previous year was to have us all visit the Vancouver Aquarium. Last year, Adam went there and took pictures and videos and bought otter-related souvenirs, but I really wanted to see things for myself, especially the otters holding hands. Also, we were excited about having Emmett see his first otters, so we watched them first. We also spent a lot of time watching the belugas. One of the baby belugas was pretty close in age to Emmett. There was a funny moment where the baby was trying to nurse and the mama beluga was trying to swim away. The aquarium also has a very nice kids' play area that includes a space where kids can do x-rays on stuffed animal versions of seals. I have to admit that I wanted to play with a lot of that stuff!

Another day, Robin suggested that we check out the baby-friendly matinee of a show at the Arts Club on Granville Island. It was called "Mom's The Word: Remixed" and was a funny and poignant show about various aspects of motherhood. Several of the actresses in it were also the playwrights and I especially liked that the play had certain Vancouver-related elements to it. I'm not 100% sure, but Emmett may have been the only baby who stayed in the theatre for the whole performance--not that he was silent or sitting still the whole time (he in fact spent a lot of the second half crawling around the back of the theatre). Still, I was impressed with how well he dealt with sitting through a play. We haven't even yet taken him to the movies (not because we haven't felt it appropriate, more because of being unsure it'd be worth going since we're not sure we adults would stay awake).

In the program for the play, I saw an ad for a show at the Museum of Anthropology about Japanese-influenced Inuit art and suggested that we go to that museum another day. Besides the special exhibit, I wanted Emmett to see some of the totem poles and other First Nations art there. We also spent some time on the campus for the University of British Columbia and Adam got to see some of the things that had changed since he'd studied there.

Another big highlight of the trip was something that wasn't entirely planned. On our last full day in Vancouver, we were hanging out near Chinatown and it was raining hard enough that we didn't really want to be walking outside as much as we had on other days. When we realized we were pretty close to the Vancouver Public Library's central branch, we decided to go in and check out what the children's section was like. I went from being in a terrible mood to being really happy and excited. First we spent some time in an area with a lot of wooden puzzles and puppets. After being camped out in that section for a while, I decided I wanted to see the rest of the kids' floor and I found an enclosed space with lots of mats on the floor and toys for building and playing. After several days of having Emmett play in our hotel room, it was nice for him to have the chance to play in an area like this that was meant for play. I really love the libraries that we visit locally in North Carolina, but this one had some impressive options.

That same day, we had another fun surprise. We'd gone to Stanley Park to go see the totem poles and it turned out that there was a "Celebrate BC Parks" event going on right nearby. As we arrived, there was a kids' play going on where a beaver and a raccoon debated who was better equipped to be Canada's mascot. Some audience voting was involved and consensus was that the beaver was most appropriate. There were also tables from various organizations available, including one group that brings a full orca skeleton around to school groups and has kids put it together. They were giving out paper beaver masks at most of the tables. As we were leaving the park, we actually saw an adult raccoon with two babies.

Much of the rest of our time was spent on shopping and dining. We went to quite a few baby/kids' stores. One favorite was Kidsbooks on West Broadway. Everyone there was super-nice and we found some cute early birthday presents for Emmett, including a Haida-inspired beaver hand puppet.. We also went to a couple of fancy pet-related stores in order to buy presents to bring back to Lucydog. In terms of dining out, eating early and quickly proved to be a good strategy for a trip that involved a lot of restaurant meals. We tended to bring a variety of items along to help amuse him during meals and this worked out pretty well.

Having a baby along meant that this trip was much different from previous Vancouver trips, but it was more fun in a lot of ways. Many people would start conversations with us about Emmett wherever we went and being with him around the clock was good in terms of bonding.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trip Summary: The Washington Portion

Although Washington wasn't our main destination on this trip, we had a lovely time there and I'm glad we spent a few days there before heading to Vancouver.

We flew from NC to Seattle (via JFK) on July 7th and arrived at my aunt's house in Bellevue at something like 2 in the morning. It's interesting to me that Emmett's first flight had the same destination as my first flight. My first time on an airplane was when I was about 11 and my mother and sister went to visit my cousins in Washington state. Aunt Susan lives in the same house and it was nice to have that first destination be so familiar. We were a little bit torn between talking a lot and catching up then and there and just going to sleep, but of course sleep was badly needed.

On that first full day of vacation, we managed to see 4 of my five cousins and several of their kids. It was especially interesting to see the contrast between two of the female second-cousins...my cousin David's daughter Grace loves babies and loved holding and entertaining Emmett, whereas Dawn's daughter Kate had the "babies scare me" mindset. I suppose I can relate...babies kind of terrified me for quite a while there, too. It was really fun to see everyone. We had dinner out at a restaurant called Szechuan Chef, and Emmett surprised me by enthusiastically eating a spicy potato dish that Adam ordered. Before this, he'd seemed affronted by spicy food. I think the trick is to let him discover things on his own. In this case, he was sitting close enough to the potatoes to grab and start eating them.

Dawn and Kate spent the night at Aunt Susan's house, which gave us more time to catch up in the morning, then we headed out to Bellevue Square Mall for a playdate. As it happens, one of my best friends from the Cornell art dorm days lives in Bellevue and has two kids, one of whom is only about a week older than Emmett. We met up at the mall's play area, which apparently gets kind of mobbed whenever the weather is crappy, which is a lot of the time (especially this year). The play area was adorable and it was a trip to see Jeremy. There was a surreal moment when a song by 10,000 Maniacs was playing in the background where it really felt like maybe 18 years hadn't gone by. We talked alot about mutual friends we'd seen in the intervening years and parenting stuff. After some playspace time, we all went out to lunch at Boom noodle, where I somehow managed to spill a sippy cup of water on the floor twice. ("Karin, I'm afraid we're going to have to cut you off!" Jeremy sort-of-joked.) I was lso amused by the moment where Jeremy and I were talking to each other under the table while we each cleaned noodles and things off of our kids' highchairs.

We hit the Bellevue Farmer's Market on the way back. I am always intrigued by the things that "foreign" farmer's market have. For instance, this market had soup. "Why doesn't ours have soup?" I wondered, temporarily forgetting all of the times that it's been too hot to even go to the market.

We spent the rest of the day having quality time with Aunt Susan. My cousin Doug and his sons visited for a while; we took the dogs for a walk and spent some time on the swings in a nearby park; and we spent some time that evening at a local shopping center called Crossroads, which has a surprisingly good and varied food court.

We drove to Vancouver the next day, stopping in Bellingham. We'd stopped there on another trip and I remembered the existence of a really great pizza place where we'd had rosemary lemonade. Unfortunately, I could not remember the name or location of the restaurant. Aswe looked for a place to eat, we crossed paths with the last five minutes of a gay pride parade, then decided to try a place called the Mount Bakery Cafe. This place was very family-friendly, with books and toys available and other babies and small kids present. It took us a while to get our food, but it was excellent: I had a portabella Benny (Eggs Benedict) and it was served on a savory waffle.

As it turns out, we found the pizza place (La Fiamma) on the way back to the airport, and it was as good as we remembered. We spent a bit of time in Seattle before heading to the airport on the following Sunday. My main goal was to get pictures of a building that has walruses on it, so we used the navigation capabilities of our phones to find the building. We also had time to visit the Elliott Bay bookstore (especially cool because it's dog-friendly!) and have a bite to eat at a vegan eatery (Plum Bistro). At some point, I imagine that there'll be a trip where we take Emmett to see more of Seattle's kid-friendly attractions, but with limited time and attention spans (including those of the adults on the trip), this worked out to be enough excitement.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little Nest

During our recent week in Vancouver, Emmett went to lots of different restaurants and tried a variety of types of food. Some of it he ate, some of it he smushed with his fingers, some of it he dropped on the floor. It was sometimes hard to tell ahead of time whether a restaurant would be family-friendly, so I was excited when my sister-in-law Kelly mentioned that her neighborhood had a restaurant that tailored to moms and kids called Little Nest. We went there for lunch with her on the same day that we visited the Vancouver Aquarium.

Usually when we go to a restaurant, the first question is whether they have a high chair available. This was not even a question at Little Nest--as soon as we walked in, we saw numerous vintage high chairs available. Kelly took a great picture of them that is available here. I snagged one and brought it to the table but was immediately drawn in by the play area.

Against the wall of the play area was a mini-kitchen that was actually better equipped than most of my grad student year apartments. I couldn't resist the temptation to look in all of the cabinets. When we first came in, this area was in heavy use but later on, Emmett had the chance to play there. It was a good place for him to practice his Favorite Thing Lately, which is Standing Up.

Another great feature was the wooden barn and the toy farm animals. There were enough toys there that even after we put aside the ones that Emmett had mouthed (for sanitizing by the restaurant staff), there were still lots around.

And the food was quite good! Kelly was even able to get a sandwich on gluten-free bread. Mostly Emmett just ate "the usual" but it was nice to be in a place where there was no question of whether it would be OK to nurse him publicly. (Little Nest: A Great Place to Lactate!) There were at least 3 other moms nursing during the time that we were there.

It was also nice to be in an atmosphere where kids were free to actually be kids. On the flip side, I imagine that non-parents would find the place chaotic, but hey, it's not like it's the only place to eat in the area. It's also within walking distance of about 3 different baby/kids' stores.

Of course, now I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to convince restaurants in my own area to be more like Little Nest. I've even contemplated building a play area in my own office with cool wooden toys.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Tips, Before I Forget Them

We recently got back from our first extended trip with Emmett. We spent about a week and a half in the Pacific Northwest, with a few days in the Seattle area and most of the time in Vancouver.

Before this, the furthest we'd traveled with Emmett was a two-hour (each way) car trip to the Ikea store in Charlotte, NC, so it was fairly ambitious to have his first trip be one that took us all the way across the country and then across an international border. However, I know that lots of people have taken babies even younger than Emmett on much longer trips and have more or less survived, and I reminded myself of this when I'd feel anxious about the trip.

I asked friends online for advice on flying with babies and got some very good suggestions, such as bringing extra clothes (for baby AND parents) in case of poopsplosion/vomiting and having the baby suck on something (pacifier/bottle/mother's breast) during takeoff and landing to help equalize pressure in the ears. My favorite suggestion, from my friend Peter, was to just have the spouse take the kid(s) on a separate flight altogether. Heh.

Many people advised me to buy Emmett his own seat on the plane, but he's been so clingy recently that I figured he'd be happier being held on the flights. I sort of feel like I should go on record and say, "Yes, you were all totally right about the extra seat thing!" but actually, on the very small plane that we took between RDU and NY city, there were only two seats on each side of the aisle and not having a seat for Emmett seemed fine with both of us sitting with/attending to him. It was harder on the longer flights where the row had three seats. Each time, the third seat was occupied (and the flights were too full to necessarily find a row with a free seat) and it was challenging. Emmett gets pretty wriggly at times while nursing or trying to sleep and I worried about him kicking the person in the neighboring seat. We were lucky that the seat neighbors were friendly people who liked kids--one told us about his toddler son and the other was about to visit grandkids--but we ended up putting Adam in between me and the other passenger so that he could be a human shield of sorts. Although Emmett slept almost continuously on the redeye flight that we took home, Adam and I didn't sleep that well and perhaps we would have slept better if he'd been strapped into a seat and we hadn't had to hold him. But holding him did make it easy to nurse him a bit when he started showing signs of turning into That Loud Baby.

One tip I'd picked up on a blog or somewhere was to bring extra earplugs and offer them to people in your surroundings. So we did bring these along and mentioned it to one person who didn't already have headphones on but didn't end up even opening the package. Emmett had fun playing with the unopened package (it now has baby bite marks on it). These days, so many people wear headphones while traveling (especially on a carrier with in-flight entertainment like Jet Blue).

I looked into different types of companies that rent baby gear to travelers (including one that would let you rent a Bugaboo stroller for $25 per day!), but in the end we just rented a car seat from the car rental company and rented a crib from the hotel. If you go this route, be sure to enter the situation with somewhat lowered expectations. The car seat thing was a little weird. We rented from Alamo and after they gave us the keys and had us sign the rental agreement, they just directed us to an unmanned small building in the parking garage that had a random assortment of car seats and boosters in it. The good thing about this was that we could choose a type and size of car seat that we were somewhat familiar with (after discovering that 1 a.m. is not the best time to try to learn to install an unfamiliar type of car seat). Perhaps when it's not 1 in the morning, it's less of a free-for-all? I have no idea. Anyway, I could definitely see the appeal of bringing one's own car seat after this experience. What can I say, we were trying to travel light.

In terms of life after you get out of the airport, I have a big piece of advice to share with the world. You know those plastic outlet covers? Bring 5 or 6 of them on every trip until your kid gets past the "I want to play with electrical outlets" stage. They don't take up much luggage space and might be needed. We were staying at a historic hotel in Vancouver, and while most of the outlets were located behind furniture, there was one outlet that was right on the wall in an area near where Emmett would play. I would end up sitting in front of it to keep him away from it. I almost bought outlet covers at one point but resisted since I have tons of them at home.

Although I brought enough clothes for Emmett to wear for the duration of the trip, it was only a few days into the trip that I realized I wanted do laundry anyway, because at Emmett's age, if he gets an outfit messy, he really gets it messy. Even though we brought bibs, he got a lot of food on clothes. On a shorter trip, we might've just let it go, but we were away for 11 days and decided to outsource his (and our) laundry a little more than halfway through the trip.

Overall, Emmett was great on the trip. We joke that he flirts with people (of all ages) wherever he goes. We'd be sitting in a restaurant and would realize that he'd be making eye contact and smiling at someone at another table, or in the airport he'd crawl up to people to say Hi. A friendly baby is a major icebreaker with strangers!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Patriotic Holidays

I can't believe that it's July already. Later this month, we have two milestone birthdays to celebrate (my 40th and Emmett's first), but we're already in celebration mode here.
We always do something to celebrate Canada Day on July 1, even if all we do is sit around at home eating vegetarian poutine and drinking Canadian beer. This year we decided to invite friends over after work to have Canadian drinks and snacks and it was pretty fun. Emmett dressed for the occasion in a cute Canada t-shirt that Adam brought back from a trip to Vancouver a year ago. We listened to Rush and the streaming version of a Canadian radio station. I think that having some recognition for Canada makes it easier for Adam to handle the rampant patriotism of the Fourth of July.

Our town has a fun Fourth of July celebration that starts with a very small parade. Kids decorate their bikes and walk a few blocks and end up near Town Hall, where a variety of games and music await them. In the past several years, Lucydog and I have walked in the parade along with our friends Elaine and Chas and their kids. Their daughter has a strong record of winning recognition during the decoration/costume contest that precedes the parade and this year she and her brother won a joint prize for bike decoration.

We decided that we should decorate Emmett's stroller at least a little bit, and Adam came up with the word "patrioctopus" a few days before, so the night before the 4th, I drew a cartoon octopus on some fabric (see photo). Our octopus is holding flags for both the US and Canada (as well as a firecracker). We used red duct tape to attach it to the stroller. While we didn't get tons of "Oh my God you're so clever!" comments, we amused ourselves and that matters.

Though it was ridiculously hot outside, we all really enjoyed the town celebration. They had a special "toddler zone" set up with large tinker toys, xylophones, water tables, and sandboxes and we spent some quality time there. In the heat, the water tables were especially fun.

Our friends gave us two great recommendations: check out the ska band, and enter Emmett in the baby crawling race. The baby race was set to start at 1 p.m., and we weren't sure that we'd be able to survive in the heat from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but the ska band played in between and was a great way to spend time (especially since they played in a shady area).

Once they were done, we focused on getting Emmett ready for the race...diaper change, a little breastfeeding (but not enough to make him sleepy), sussing out the competition. We met another race participant, Charlie, who was just a couple weeks older than Emmett and joked around with his parents about the upcoming race. The race itself was one of the funniest things ever. The babies only had to crawl about 5 or 6 feet, but somehow once it was "1, 2, 3, go!" none of them wanted to move. The baby next to Emmett started to cry and he watched that baby instead of moving. Eventually Charlie crawled across (the only baby to do so at all at that point) and secured first place--we were happy for him. The contest judges reminded all gathered that second place mattered, too, so we stepped up efforts to get Emmett crawling. Even though Adam was busy with the camera, I was yelling at him "keys! We need keys!" (since he's always trying to steal my keys). After jiggling the keys a bit, I gestured towards my chest and this got his attention. Having little Emmett crawl towards me with friends and onlookers cheering was its own reward...but as it turned out, both first and second place qualified for a trophy. So Emmett has his first trophy! We are flabbergasted by this. Already he has more in the way of athletic achievement than I have managed in my entire life. One friend warned me that Emmett now has a lot to live up to, which is probably true. As I was saying to Adam, "I didn't think that I cared about winning, but I'm pretty psyched about it."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day

Father's Day Bento
I made this bento for Father's Day. It's based on the book Guess How Much I Love You, which is unusual among picture books in that it has an involved father figure as a main character. I say "father figure" because it never states that the big hare is the little hare's father...and I like that. It opens up the possibility that the big hare is a cool uncle or stepparent or something.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Children's Book Week: Books and Babies

Around a month ago, I was at a baby-stuff store and I heard a conversation between two women where one of them was dismissing board books because it only takes a few minutes to read them. While I know that parents of babies are often in search of things that will amuse their children for a more significant portion of time, I couldn't help thinking that they were somewhat missing the point. At the same time, I do remember that when I started reading books with Emmett, I sometimes wondered, "Am I doing this right?" OK, I've wondered that about everything from swaddling to feeding to bathing, but I think it can be hard to figure out how to make reading with a baby a worthwhile activity. Here's what I've figured out about the process so far.

First off, if you think that holding the baby still as you read a book to him or her is the best route, you'll probably end up convinced that the kid is not yet ready for books. I mean, it may work OK at the stage where they don't move much, but you'll have better success if you let the baby move around and not worry (at least not yet) about whether they are looking at all (or any)of the pages while you read. (One exception: if you're trying to work some tummy time into the baby's routine, sometimes it works to have the baby lie across your lap and look at a book as you read it.) I've found that I can attempt readings of longer books as long as Emmett can do his thing while I read.

Sometimes the baby wants to manipulate the book so much while you're reading it that you can't actually turn the pages. Here, I think there are a couple of options. One is the "let the child play with one book while I read a different one" option, which can work fairly well. The other is to read the book anyway even without being on the right page. This only works with books that you've pretty much memorized (and I know, you're tired, you might think that memorizing something even the length of a board book is impossible!), but as you read some of these books over and over, they will get implanted in your brain and it'll be possible to "read" them without looking at every page.

(This may be a good place to put in a plug for Indestructibles, a series of books that are made to be chewed on. I remember being a little aghast the first time that Emmett ripped a book or nibbled some paper. The picture books from Indestructibles have gorgeous illustrations by Kaaren Pixton and can be chewed and easily wiped clean. Mine have gotten wrinkled but haven't gotten ripped. I keep one in my purse, one in each car, and others in various locations around the house.)

As kids get older and start paying more attention to the words and pictures on the page, there's lots you can do in terms of pointing out details in the illustrations, checking vocabulary by asking them to point at things, and so forth.

Right now, one of my favorite things to do is to combine books with songs. So, if I'm reading the Dr. Seuss ABC Book, I might sing a song like "A You're Adorable" or "Alligators All Around" before or afterward. After a book about farm animals, we might sing "Old MacDonald" or another farm song. You don't need tons of singing talent to do this, and if you don't remember all the words to songs, just make something up if you need to.

Anyway, don't worry about doing it wrong, but do read stuff to babies! I know it feels like you have to just have faith that they are getting something out of it at this stage, but it definitely matters.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Book Week: Skippyjon!

Since today is Cinco de Mayo, it seems like the perfect day to blog about the Skippyjon Jones books by Judith Schachner. These books are a lot of fun to read aloud, especially if you know some Spanglish. Skippyjon is a male Siamese kitten who has an alter ego as a chihuahua and has lots of pun-filled adventures in his imagination.

A few years ago, Judith Schachner made an appearance at the NC Literary festival and I met her during a book signing event. I remember being annoyed at how slowly the line was moving until someone pointed out that she was doing a little kitty drawing in each book that she signed. I remember her that during her reading, she talked about how she remembered having trouble staying focused in school and that she was often daydreaming or drawing when she should have been paying attention.

One of my favorite little things about the Skippyjon books is that Skippyjon's mother has all these goofy nicknames for him, such as "Mr. Kitten Britches" or "Mr. Fuzzy Pants." I always look forward to seeing what name she will use next.

Skippyjon does have some stereotypical Mexican characteristics that don't always appeal to everyone (especially those of us too prone to overthinking these things), but I remember that when I was waiting in line to meet the author, there were two elementary school librarians in front of me who were talking about how the Skippyjon books were the only books that some of the Spanish-speaking kids in their school got interested in on their own.

Children's Book Week: Revisiting Childhood Favorites

A few months ago, I went to a small exhibit of drawings from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and got reunited with a book from my childhood entitled Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni. The book starts with a young minnow and a young tadpole who are friends. After the tadpole becomes a frog, he has adventures in the world outside the pond and tells his friend the fish about everything he sees. The fish can only picture things like cows and people through his own fishy world view, so the images in his mind look like this. The fish learns to appreciate the beauty of his own world in the end. There's something very relaxing about Lionni's artwork in this and other books. As I read it again, I had the feeling that I'd read it as a kid. Sure enough, when I consulted a list of children's books that my parents have held on to, it was there so I had them send it to us.

Another book that I have been thrilled to be reunited with is I Am A Bunny, which is written by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry. This book has some of Richard Scarry's finest illustrations. The cover picture shows the bunny (Nicholas) keeping dry under a toadstool during a rain storm. The book describes what Nicholas does during each season. I imagine that my parents still know this book by heart. I remember reading it every time we were at my grandparents' house in Cranford, New Jersey. I used to think it was hilarious to say "In the spring, I like to eat flowers" instead of "In the spring, I like to pick flowers." I can't recommend this book enough (and I think I've already mentioned it in other blog posts).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Children's Book Week: Pouch!

I really enjoy children's books about the animals of Australia, such as Jackie French's Diary of a Baby Wombat (with great illustrations by Bruce Whatley), but I am especially fond of kangaroos. I remember hanging out with a lot of kangaroo moms and joeys at a wildlife park in Australia. The older joeys would often do a thing where they would hide their heads in mom's pouch or go in and out frequently. It may sound strange, but sometimes I wish that I had a pouch--it just seems like it would be easier than adjusting the straps on my baby carrier.

When I first saw the book Pouch! by David Ezra Stein, I couldn't help signing it out of the library (and later buying it). It's a simple story about a young joey's first few times venturing out of his mother's pouch. Whenever he gets freaked out about something, he goes "Pouch!" and runs back to his mother. Towards the end of the book, he makes a friend and becomes a bit more independent. It's a little bittersweet from the mom's point of view ("what, you don't need me as much?") but cute and happy nonetheless.

Emmett and I have enjoyed some other lovely kangaroo books. Recently we've read I Love It When You Smile, which is by Sam McBratney, the same author as bedtime favorite Guess How Much I Love You. Another good book for Australian animals is John Lithgow's Marsupial Sue. (This book, as well as Lithgow's I'm a Manatee, is also a song.) I don't always get on board with the "I'm an actor and now I have a children's book" thing, but Lithgow won me over with his "Singing in the Bathtub" children's album and now I'm a fan of his children's work. Marsupial Sue has a message about being yourself instead of trying to be someone you're not. Like many Books With a Message, it can come across a little heavy-handed, but the book has grown on me in subsequent readings.

Out of the kangaroo books that I've mentioned, Pouch! is the simplest and because every element of it works so well, it's my favorite...but I'm always on the lookout for more marsupial books!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Children's Book Week: Boynton Books

I was planning to just do one blog entry per day for Children's Book Week but it struck me as wrong that I've only posted about male authors so far. Few children's authors have infiltrated my life as much as Sandra Boynton has. Before I started reading her books with kids, I enjoyed her greeting cards and have been known to sing the words "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes" to the tune of the birthday song. I've been listening to songs from Philadelphia Chickens since early in 2003 and already owned her other book/CD combos long before Emmett's birth.

We often start our day by reading Hey, Wake Up and end it with The Going To Bed Book. Our bedtime ritual also often includes singing Pajama Time and Silly Lullaby from Philadelphia Chickens. During the day, we often read or sing one or more of her other books, with Barnyard Dance and Your Personal Penguin as current favorites.

What I love about Boynton books is the emphasis on silliness. Take, for example, a few lines from "Silly Lullaby":

The chickens in the bathtub
The closet full of sheep
The sneakers in the freezer
Are all drifting off to sleep...

The animals in Sandra Boynton's books have a lot of personality, whether they are show-stealing aardvarks or hippopotamuses who really know how to have a party. These books are fun to read over and over.

Children's Book Week: Pinkwater-Induced Blueberry Muffin Cravings

The first time I signed out one of Daniel Pinkwater's books from the library, I did it more to amuse my husband than anything else. Adam has fond memories of reading The Snarkout Boys books during his young adulthood, and I've given Adam various Pinkwater books as gifts over the years.

The first Pinkwater picture book that I signed out was Bad Bears and A Bunny: An Irving and Muktuk Story. I was curious about what made the bears "bad." At the time, I didn't realize that this was one of several books about Irving and Muktuk. I definitely recommend starting with Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears. I think that the stories make more sense (as much as anything in them makes sense) with that book.

Most of the Irving and Muktuk books involve plots to steal large quantities of blueberry muffins, and there's usually a major conflict between the polar bears and a bunny. The books are set in Bayonne, New Jersey, the blueberry muffin capital of the world.

Dang. Now I'm craving blueberry muffins.

Although Irving and Muktuk don't do anything much worse than stealing muffins, readers who want a more universally-likeable polar bear character might prefer the books about Larry the Polar bear. Larry lives in a hotel that was named after him (long story) and works there as a lifeguard. From the point that Larry's mom kicks him in the head and tells him to get lost to his first sleepover party, there's a lot to enjoy. I would be remiss if I didn't comment on Jill Pinkwater's wonderful polar bear illustrations--these really do help make the zany storylines work.

So, if you're in the mood for a weirder-than-average children's book and have a fondness for polar bears and/or muffins, check out the Larry books or the Irving and Muktuk books.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Children's Book Week: Mo Is the Man

For Children's Book Week, I am going to try to blog about a different book or author every day.

I find that when I go to the children's section of the library, I tend to seek out certain authors. One of my most sought-out authors is Mo Willems. Mo is known for books like Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny, but my favorite of his books is Leonardo, The Terrible Monster, which is all about a monster who wants to be scary but just isn't. My favorite bit in it is how he really wants to "scare the tuna salad out of" some kid. Is that how monsters think? I don't know. In any case, most of the books have a bit of warped humor to them that is appealing to people like me.

I also quite enjoyed Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, which has the same sort of weirdness as a recent favorite, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. I especially like reading the naked mole rat book to Emmett when he's resisting our attempts to put clothes on him.

Mo is both author and illustrator for his books, and long before Emmett was born, I read and was inspired by some of his thoughts on drawing in this NPR piece. I was thinking about it again recently. Specifically, I was thinking about what our babies see us doing in an average day and what effects that may have.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Emmett's First Easter

It's Easter Monday, which is a day off for some people around here (like me) but not others (like Adam). I suspect that the holiday exists so that people have an extra day to get sugar out of their systems. Easter candy is the best holiday candy, in my opinion. I was a bit stumped at first in terms of celebrating Easter with Emmett: it's much too soon to introduce him to candy, and we're not religious. We do love animals, so I bought him yet another bunny book. This one is called My World by Margaret Wise Brown. It's supposedly a companion book to Goodnight Moon. I'd been looking for it in libraries and bookstores for a while and was having trouble finding it. I suspect that it's hard to find because it's kind of dreadful. The writing is pretty clunky. When I first bought it, I was excited to see a daddy bunny and I suppose it's worth having it in the collection so that we can further ponder the little bunny's family situation, but it's definitely not going to be one of our frequently-read bunny books.

We made up for the disappointment of My World by reading various other bunny books, but the thing that really set apart Easter from other days was Emmett's first egg hunt. I had no idea whether an egg hunt would work with him at his age, but he's been pretty good at finding things I don't want him to find so I figured there was a decent chance it would be semi-successful. He actually did pretty great with it. Lately, his favorite "toy" has been a small Tupperware-type container filled with rice (it makes a satisfying sound when shook), so it occurred to me that the eggs would be enticing if they had rice in them, too (plus it got me around the candy thing). He loved shaking the rice filled eggs! He loved somehow getting them open and getting rice everywhere! He loved trying to eat the raw rice before we could get in and clean it up! Still, some eggs stayed closed and he amused himself for a while, looking for eggs, rolling them down the hallway, going after them, and so forth.

We typically go to our friends' house on Easter and hang out during their kids' Easter egg hunt and they invited us over again this year. It was lovely. The kids were eager to show us that the Easter Bunny left bunny paw prints on the table and we speculated how and why the bunny's paws had chocolate syrup on them. It's just part of the territory of his job duties, I guess. The Easter Bunny even left a basket for Emmett at their house, which was very sweet. And useful--one of the large plastic eggs in the basket had a cute/absorbent "Hoppy Easter" bib in it. Seeing that Greta was amused by the hoppy/happy pun, Adam decided to roll out some of his favorite puns and jokes for those present, wiith about a 15% amusement rate. Emmett got to participate in his second egg hunt, where he found one egg and was pretty content to just drool all over it all afternoon. Lucydog had fun running around the yard and stealing frisbees. It was a gorgeous day outside. After a while, Chas put up the hammock and it was cute--every time I sat down in it, Lucy would come running over full speed to jump up and join me in it. Emmett was less enthralled with the hammock but I'm sure that he'll like it more as he gets older.

Holidays are just so much more fun with kids and/or pets.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The taxes are done!

As people scramble to get their taxes done by tomorrow, I am happy to report that I managed to file mine after work this past Tuesday. I normally don't wait until April to file but things like this are hard get done with a baby in the picture, especially since (for space reasons) our filing cabinet is in Emmett's room and it's not advisable to just go in there for another piece of paperwork when he's already asleep.

I am glad that we can e-file. Just this morning I was paying some bills and Emmett found great enjoyment in chewing the envelopes and crinkling the little address window. I hate to think of the damage he might have inflicted on my W-2s.

I ended up doing that final submission of tax forms while breastfeeding, which is a level of multitasking that seems normal-ish to me now but that was unimaginable a year ago. Lately breastfeeding tends to take two forms: sleepy cuddly breastfeeding and contact-sport breastfeeding. I was able to file because it was sleepy cuddly breastfeeding time...in fact, Emmett fell asleep during the process.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Was Just A Matter of Time

I think I've mentioned that Emmett has developed some excellent crawling skills during the past month. He has started crawling from room to room, and at daycare he sometimes tries to crawl out of the classroom (who's becoming a big kid??).

But yesterday, he did something I knew would happen sooner or later...He crawled from his room into the kitchen, and went straight over to the dog's food and water dishes.
There was no food in the food dish, but he managed to splash some water around before I picked him up and redirected him. Lucy was upstairs when this was going on, luckily.

Stay tuned for "baby's first attempt at eating dog food." I'm so glad that we already spend the extra money for human-grade pet food...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Home Again

I spent two nights away from Emmett this week while I went to an out-of-town training for work. It's funny, on the second night, I went out to dinner with some other women doing the same training and when I mentioned it was my first time being away from my kid, one woman said, "Me too."

"Oh, how old is your kid?" I asked.

"Nine." I don't think I would really want to be someone who'd never been away from her kid until age nine, but in a lot of ways, it did feel like it was too soon to be apart.

I spent a lot of time and effort getting ready for the trip, including advance meal prep. I'd been doing extra pumping whenever possible during the weeks beforehand. While Adam and the day care providers knew I was OK with Emmett having formula during this time apart if need be, I was hoping it wouldn't be necessary. I'm happy to report that it did turn out that we were able to feed Emmett using the freezer stash and our assortment of solid foods. Another woman I met during training told me about the book of instructions she'd left for her husband, but that didn't seem necessary in our case; Adam's already directly experienced with every aspect of baby care other than lactating.

While I was away, pumping was a major hassle. During the daytime, I could only really manage to pump during the hour-long lunch break (and even then, I was rushing back to the hotel and eating fast food in order to get back in time) because the morning and afternoon training sessions only had 15 minutes breaks and it usually takes me at least 20 minutes to do any worthwhile pumping. I started running out of containers to put expressed milk in and ended up using Odwalla drink containers and things like that. For the last day, when we checked out of the hotel in the morning but didn't finish training until noon, I bought a cooler and made my own ice packs out of ziploc bags and hotel ice cubes. (Lesson learned: Always travel with lots of ziploc bags. You never know when you'll need them.)The training was in driving distance, so at least I didn't have to deal with taking the milk on a flight. I have to say that the whole aspect of fitting pumping into the schedule meant that I was distracted and that things felt rushed during the few breaks that we had.

With all of these constraints, there was definitely an aspect of "hoo boy, this all had better be worth it!" And luckily, the training was good in that every session had a good presenter and a lot of useful information. A lot of it involves further reading, which I suppose I'll get to when Emmett starts graduate school or at some point like that. One of the things that's hard is that I felt like I had to go this year since the state budget situation for next year is pretty bleak and the likelihood of going to an expensive training then is unlikely. And hey, it was only two nights away.

It was so strange yesterday when I did my first diaper change after getting back, to realize, "I've gone a whole two days without changing a diaper!" I am slightly surprised at how glad I am to be back to doing mommy stuff. For example, at midnight Lucy woke me up wanting to go out and do her doggy business. She was having some digestion issues and I knew that she really had to go, and while I was also sort of reveling in that "I love being in my own bed" feeling, once I was up and we were out, I thought to myself, "You know, it really is sort of nice to be needed."

Monday, March 28, 2011

There's a Song for That

After I dropped Emmett off at daycare today, I spent most of the drive to work thinking about what I wanted him to wear on Wednesday of this week, which is picture day. I feel like the boy should definitely wear something on the nicer end of his clothing spectrum, but I don't feel the need to go too crazy about it. After all, the odds are good that the outfit will have spitup on it before any actual photography takes place. So, I'm driving along thinking of all of this, and suddenly there's a song on the kids' CD I'm listening to called "Picture Day."

The CD, by the way, was by Justin Roberts, one of my new favorite kids' performers. He's going to be doing a concert at the Arts Center in Carrboro in May and I'm very excited about it.

I've started listening to quite a bit of new-to-me children's music recently and it sometimes seems like every conceivable song topic has been covered in some way. For instance, Roger Day has a song about "Brain Freeze." Recess Monkey has a song about losing stuff in "A Black Hole In My Room." Lunch Money has a song about spinning around until you get dizzy. And Jeanie B. even has a song called "Mommy's In Menopause."

I find it a bit frustrating that there are all of these really excellent children's songwriters out there, and yet I could go into a baby store with 3 zillion varieties of pacifiers and not be able to find any music other than stuff like Disney and the Wiggles. What is the deal? The thing about kids' music is that the stuff that is bad is SO BAD that it could make you want to avoid the whole genre, but now I'm finding that there's much more good stuff out there than I ever realized.

Eight Months Old!

As of Sunday, March 27, Emmett is now eight months old. When I started this blog, I imagined that I would post something every time that he hit a big milestone, but the milestones themselves are keeping me busy and I haven't been doing nearly as much updating as I would like.

The funny thing about milestones is how quickly you can go from "Awesome! How adorable!" to "Oh, crap!" For example, the first time that Emmett pulled himself up into a sitting position in his crib (on March 12, for the record), I took tons of pictures, emailed them to family, etc. etc. However, this behavior seemed a lot less cute at 3 in the morning when I wanted him to JUST sleep.

Around two or three weeks ago, he started crawling. Life will never be boring ever again, I guess. Even before he crawled, he would manage to move himself around, through a combination of rolling and scooting, then through floor swimming (sort of a flattened crawl). He really enjoys crawling in the direction of computer charging cables. These are apparently delicious.

He's had about 800 viruses in these eight months, though luckily most of them have just been the daycare equivalent of kennel cough. Sometimes we get sick along with him, like now. Cough. Sniffle. I spend a lot of time consulting lists like this one about how to tell if your child is too sick to attend daycare. Even with these lists, it's still hard to make the decision some days. I'm just glad I still have some leave time left after maternity leave.

The big thing, though, is that the older Emmett gets, the more ways we all can have fun together. He's gotten compliments at daycare on his dance moves and music appreciation, and he laughs out loud at various things now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sleep Superstitions

Note to self: even if you immediately knock on wood after saying it, on the same day that you tell someone something positive about sleep, a curse will descend upon your household. It's best just to avoid the topic altogether.

It happened again on Sunday night. My parents asked me how Emmett was sleeping these days, and I told them that he was still waking up in the night, but that "at least it's only once." As I was saying the words, I felt myself regretting it and I immediately called "Knock on Wood" and punched the nearest piece of wooden furniture, but forget it. While it could have been worse, that was the first night in a while that he'd woken up twice.

I try to make the most these sleep disruptions. I often catch up on some reading and/or do some bonding with the boy. Hey, at 4 a.m. on Monday morning, I noticed the beginnings of the emergence of Emmett's first tooth! Oh wait, that might explain a thing or two about the sleep...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dada!

Emmett's been doing the repeated syllable babbling thing a lot lately, going "bababababa" or "dadadada" regularly. There have been a few times when we've gone, "Hey, wait, did he just call Adam 'Da-da,' or is he just expressing an interest in dadaism?"

However, yesterday it was pretty unmistakable. He was sitting in his high chair. I had just fed him some mushed-up peas, and Adam was about to feed him some rice cereal. As Adam sat in front of him, Emmett looked right at him and said "Da da!" with a big smile on his face.

"I think that counts!"

"Aw, that made my day."

Adam quickly started hinting to Emmett that he should start working on making mama-like sounds, which was sweet. I was warned by other moms that babies often say words like "dada" before "mama." This is apparently partly because the "m" sound is harder to make, but also because babies don't always think of mama as a separate entity at first. In addition, Emmett just has a special bond with his daddy, and I'm glad that he does.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

All this controversy over...eating?

Earlier this week, I got fascinated in a not-so-good way with the comments on this blog post about kids in restaurants. I actually hadn't taken Emmett to a restaurant since Christmas break (when we had family in town who wanted to visit some favorite local eateries) and the indignant responses of people who thought kids should only be in restaurants with a kids' menu made me really want to eat in restaurants more, in a "So there!" kind of way. I certainly have been wary of being That Parent With The Screaming Child, and most nights, I'd still just prefer to eat takeout at home than go out to eat--it's just easier. But somehow the idea that I should stay out of restaurants because I have my kid with me? Lame. Most of the times we've had Emmett with us, it's seemed like the restaurants needed our business more than they needed a kid-free environment. I'll be kind of ticked off if I avoid going places I really like during my kid's unpredictable years and then find that these places become more casualties of the crap economy.

Then there's the objection by certain members of a political movement that making breast pumps a deductible expense is making the US into a nanny state. I so don't get it. What I like about this potential deduction is that I remember spending lots of time at Babies R Us and Target trying to figure out if it was worth it to spend extra money on one of the nicer pumps (you know, the kind that actually work?). Anyone who has pumped for more than five minutes will attest that the better pumps are pretty worth it. If I'd gone into that situation knowing that certain expenses were deductible, the decisions would be easier to decide to buy a better pump at the outset.

For some reason, I thought that once I introduced Emmett to solid food, I'd be able to take some pressure off myself about All of That Pumping, but now I realize that I still am doing as much pumping as ever. I also now have a vague sense of...guilt? inadequacy? about the fact that No, I am not making all of Emmett's solid food by hand. We barely manage to feed ourselves most weeknights, so adding in the time to cook and pulverize fresh organic fruits and vegetables for the boy is just not likely to happen any time soon. When his diet is varied enough that he really can eat what we eat, perhaps it'll be easier to just mush some of the current meal up for him, but for now...no can do.

The first time that I fed him sweet potatoes was right around the same time that he learned to make "raspberries" with his mouth, and I was concerned that the entire kitchen would soon resemble a painting by Jackson Pollock. Luckily, he's gotten better about getting the actual food into his mouth.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Only Wanting To Mommy The Actual Baby

Wow, it looks like I just used "mommy" as a verb. Does that mean that I need some sort of intervention?

I am scheduled to go to a work-related leadership training event at the end of March. I had some reluctance to go at first, since it means two nights away from home and I tend to miss Emmett whenever he's not physically attached to me. At the same time, I've been waiting something like ten years for a chance to do some actual training of this sort, so I'm going. I feel like I've just muddled through management up until now, just trying to avoid really noticeable mistakes. That actually sounds a lot like parenting, but there's probably more available in the way of advice out there about being a parent (not that it's all good advice). I know, bookstores have whole sections devoted to leadership crap, but a leadership in education is its own complicated area.

Lately I feel conflicted about some of the roles available as a woman in leadership at work. As I see it, there are a couple of easy paths to take. One path is to just be a total bitch, and the appealing part is that it's probably pretty efficient to operate this way. I've attempted the "nice bitch" approach, hoping to be as lovely and likable as Glenda the Good Witch, and sometimes it's worked out OK, but I'd rather have the bitchiness be a tool that I pull out on occasion than my main style.

The other role that I see women with power at work falling into is Mommy. I didn't really mind being mommy at work before I had Emmett. In limited doses, being mommy at work can be satisfying, and a certain type of employee thrives in situations where there's someone playing that role for them. I can practically hear myself going, "It's OK, I'll take care of everything!" and really meaning the "everything" part. Shortly after Emmett was born, I realized that while I had more patience with him than I'd expected, I had very little patience with adults who couldn't/wouldn't just do things for themselves. In fact, I think that I can be a better mommy to Emmett if I don't have to spend the workday doing the equivalent of wiping people's butts for them.

So, I've been trying to figure out what my leadership style really is/should be, and it bugs me that it's not something that I can put into words. A few years back, I joked that I wanted my title to be "Queen of ESL." While parts of that appeal to me (heaps of power, looking awesome, and being sucked up to regularly), on the whole that doesn't fit, either. Perhaps during this training, some lightbulb will go off in my head and I'll get closer to figuring some part of this out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit Reading List

It's now the Year of the Rabbit, and one of my projects has been a reading list of books about bunny rabbits. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that I already had quite a few bunny books in my possession: Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Little Bunny Follows His Nose, Guess How Much I Love You, Rabbit's Good News, Pat the Bunny, and What Do Bunnies Do All Day.

We read most of these titles together during the first few days of Chinese New Year, then picked up a few others that friends had suggested from the library (notably, Knuffle Bunny, Not A Box and Bunny's Noisy Book), and then my parents and sister also sent along more bunny books, including Peter Rabbit. The collection didn't seem quite complete until I had a copy of I Am A Bunny, a personal favorite from childhood. For some reason, neither library I go to had that one (though there were countless other rabbit-related books available besides the ones I've mentioned).

We're going to skip Rabbit, Run and the other rabbit books by John Updike, though.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Amassing More Fairly-Useless Knowledge

I'm not going to say that pronunciation is not important. In my line of work, we spend a lot of time making sure that our students can avoid making embarrassing pronunciation mistakes (such as using the wrong vowel sound in words like "sheet" or "beach"). And while I think the pronunciation of names is extremely important when it comes to names of actual people that I'd actually talk to, I honestly get a little bit annoyed at the idea that--among everything else I'm supposed to suddenly know-- I am supposed to learn to correctly pronounce the names of all of the baby brands that are out there.

Basically, it seems that a vast majority of baby products either have Incredibly Stupid Names (such as Boppy) or names with pronunciation traps (like Chicco, which apparently does not use the "ch" sound in church). I was reminded of this when I read this blog post today. I'd read a similar article in one of those waiting room baby magazines around a year ago, and I think I recall seeing something similar on Babycenter as well.

I'm sure there are people who find these types of articles genuinely helpful, but really, not only do I not spend that much time talking about brand-name baby merchandise...I don't really want to BE someone who spends that much time conversing about baby products by brand name. I feel like I already am a lame enough conversationalist as it is without getting that particular about things. I actually found myself correcting Adam's pronunciation of a baby product name the other day and realize that I'd reached a whole new level of Mommy Information Overload.

I sometimes really miss my old brain. I used to be able to remember song lyrics really well. I used to retain information better. While I know that in theory there's plenty of brain space for all of the miscellaneous baby information I keep encountering, I really want to be someone who uses her brain space for things less trivial than the syllable stress of my stroller brand.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Around This Time Last Year

On the Friday before Martin Luther King day in 2010, I saw Emmett for the first time. That was the day that Adam and I went in for our first ultrasound and genetic counseling. I didn't blog about it at the time since my pregnancy was still classified information at that point. I remember being all vague at work about how I had to go to some appointment and wouldn't be back that afternoon.

When we first saw Emmett on the screen, I remember being just so surprised to see him moving around in there. This was long before I felt any movement at all, and I hadn't been feeling particularly pregnant up to that point (other than that whole "needing to pee constantly" thing). In these early ultrasounds, they need to take very specific pictures so that they can do measurements, and it can take some time to get pictures at the right angle, so we ended up getting to watch him for a long time, probably about 20 minutes. (I feel weird saying "him" since we didn't know yet that Emmett was male--that piece of information was revealed at the next ultrasound.) I definitely could have watched it all day.

The biggest thing about the experience was just how it finally felt real. I hadn't heard a heartbeat yet at that point, due to timing of appointments. We decided that we still wouldn't tell the masses about the pregnancy until after we got back the results from a blood draw, but I was practically bursting with excitement. We were at a really boozy party later that evening and it was really hard not to tell people right there and then.