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Monday, January 31, 2005

What a Big Girl! 

So I get a call from Evelin around 2:00 p.m. saying that she's talking Celeste to the doctors' office. Of course, it wasn't anything as tragic as dropping CDs on her head, just that it looked like she had a clogged tear duct and the office said to have her come in for a look-see. It turns out that is the problem — no big deal, we just have to give Celeste some eyedrops until it clears up ... which probably means some crying from her, but maybe that's part of opening those ducts up.

But the fun part is that Celeste got an official weigh-in: 13 pounds, 10 ounces. I could tell she was getting heavier and bigger, but it's always good to get scientific confirmation. And she's not only doubled her birth weight, she's only 3 pounds, 1 ounce away from trebling it ...

Oh, and on Friday, she turns five months old. It's hard to believe ...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Cold Weather and Cookin' 

For the second weekend in a row, we're getting a nice snowstorm. Luckily we also are, once again, above the sleet line. Actually, a little bit of the precipitation last night came down as ice, but there was a little bit of snow down first, so it wasn’t too bad to shovel or clean off the cars (just crack the ice layer and lift up; the snow below kept the ice from sticking to the walk).

I have a bad habit of sometimes buying cooking magazines and even cookbooks because a pictured recipe looks too good to not try. The March issue of Fine Cooking is a case in point with its red potatoes roasted with lemon & olives cover shot. Last night, we tried that recipe for dinner and it turned out pretty good.

Evelin was making some applesauce to freeze for Celeste, so she had all the attachments for the KitchenAid out, so I decided to see if the roto slicer could speed up the prep some. It made quick work of slicing the potatoes, but it made a mess of the lemon. In the end, the potato slices would have worked better for a gratin or something; they were a bit too thin for this dish, but it still ended up tasty.

The recipe isn't online, but it's fairly straight forward: 2 pounds of red potatoes, sliced; one lemon thinly sliced; olive oil; 14 cup chopped parsley; 2 toes garlic, minced; salt; 13 cup black olives. Toss everything except the olives with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then spread evenly into a well oiled 9×13 inch pan and bake at 425°F for an hour or so, stirring everything every 20 minutes or so. The olives get thrown in for the last five minutes or so of cooking. The recipe called for oil-cured olives, but I went with kalamatas instead ... it's just what we on hand and they were already pitted.

The potatoes are supposed to crisp while the lemons caramelize, but since the potatoes were so thin, they didn't really crisp they way should. Still it was very tasty (Evelin compared the flavor to a shaker lemon pie, with potatoes instead of eggs), and it worked well when paired with φασολάκια. Actually, I just improvised the φασολάκια, so it ended up not having the dill in it, but the tastes complemented the potato nicely.

Next time, I think I'll try some oregano in the potatoes; I think that'd be a nice with the lemon and olive flavors. I'll also cut the potatoes by hand.

After dinner I ran out and picked up some baklava and Super Size Me — really funny and scary at the same time — and I started soaking the beans for today's cooking fun.

As yesterday's to-do list noted, I need to make a mess of red beans today. It could be Louisiana chauvinism or parochialism or something, but only Camellia Brand Beans will do for red beans and rice. Usually, whenever we're running low (and not headed back South for a while), I'll ask my mother to bring or send some up (that and big jars of Zatarain's Creole mustard), but it looks like Camellia beans are also sold through Amazon now.

I set up 2 pounds to soak overnight and this morning I started cutting up three onions, about six ribs of celery, a few scallions, some parsley, a few bay leaves, and three toes of garlic. All that is cooked down in some olive oil until everything's wilted and the onions are nice and translucent. Then I add the beans and about 15 cups of water and start it to cooking. I let the beans simmer for about a couple of hours or so, until the liquid has reduced enough and the beans are super tender. And, when it seems like things are about an hour or so away from being ready, I scoop out a cup or so of the beans and mash them up; when added back to the pot, it makes things nice and creamy.

Despite the snow outside, the red beans on the stove, the increased humidity level in the house, and the Mardi Gras music in the CD player are making it a nicely Louisiana feeling day.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

From the Comments 

Evelin said
Hellllloooo! I think you need to mention how I saved you from spending lots of money, uttering lots of curses, and generally being a cranky-pants because things were easier than you thought they were....
Okay, this is about the phone wiring: When we moved in to this house so long ago the two upstairs phone outlets didn't work. I figured things were wired for two separate phone lines, and we didn't really stress over it. The cordless phone could go anywhere in the house and that was good enough.

So anyway, once I cleaned up the rat's nest of wiring in the guest room, putting in a junction box so to keep things safe from little fingers that maybe crawling around soon (and from big fingers that used to be able to knock out the phone service while setting up the guest room ...), I still had to replace the jack/outlet in Celeste's room (it was detached from the wall and the wires needed to be tacked back down). I also thought I'd try to bridge the black and green and yellow and red wires at some point in the line to get all the outlets working again. My thinking was that if one line in the house was red-green and the other yellow-black, I could get them all working if red was tied to yellow and green to black.

Before I could put that plan into action, Evelin suggested (okay, insisted) I test the upstairs outlets. Walking around with our non-cordless phone, I tried the jack in the bedroom and in the nursery and both worked. Even the jack in the basement now works.

So that one junction box upstairs fixed all the outlets (actually, a year or two ago, when I did a very half-assed clean up of the wires, they might well have been fixed, but we just never thought to check). I still had to get a new jack/outlet for Celeste's room, however, and since the wires were a bit on the short side, a few curses were uttered ...

Things to Do 

√ Finish Humidifier Project
√ Cleaning Up Phone Wiring
    Have a Good Nap
    Make a Mess of Red Beans
Working my way down the to-do list, I think it's shaping up to be a good weekend ...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Humidity, in All It's Drippy Glory 

Success at last ... or at least another way that worked. I don't have the humidifier tied into the fan control; instead, I installed a sail switch (basically a plastic bag kept rigid by a wire that, when air is racing through the return duct, changes position and completes the circuit) and we have a working humidifier.

I'll probably keep checking it tonight to make sure there aren't any leaks, and I need to replace the drain line (the old one works for now, but it's got the detritus of the years in it and I'm sure it'll clog or something at some point. The kit did include 10 feet of drainage tube, but that's not long enough if I want to follow the old drainage tube's run (which isn't efficient, but it is out of the way).

I might try to tap into an existing drainpipe or something (right now it dumps into the sink), but I'm not sure. The closest place to use would be the same pipe that drains the AC's condenser coil to the outside, but I (thankfully) realized that that cool water draining outside during the winter — when it's likely to be below freezing at least some of the time — would be a bad idea.

Tomorrow, I'll probably play with the drainage setup and try to clean up the phone wiring upstairs ... with all that humidity, it seems like a good time for a project or two.

[UPDATE: Okay, a new short temporary drain line is now in place: There was some nasty crud in the old line, and it was backing up. I caught it just in time. The compression fitting at the saddle valve needed another twist or two with the pliers; there was a small bead of water dripping from it. Hopefully that's the last of the excitement and the house will start getting less dry.

Actually, I'm a little curious about how much water flows through the drain line; the more humid air should make the house feel warmer, and maybe we can set the thermostat a little lower (don't tell Evelin ...). At the same time, we're going to get at least a little bump in the water bill. Maybe I'll try to measure how much water is flowing out during the typical furnace cycle ...]

In the Morning, All Is Well 

Celeste made it through the night. Actually, she fought going to bed for a long time last night (leading to a very overtired, cranky baby), but after a feeding at 4:30 a.m. or so she decided it was playtime. We had her in our bed and she kept whacking my face with her helicopter arms. Adding to the helicopter imagery were the grrrrrrrrrrrr and bhrrrrrrrrt soundeffects she was making. She finally fell back asleep a bit after 6:00, after I'd gotten up and was getting ready to go to work.

So, it seems no long lasting damage was done, although we'll see how she feels about Ricky Skaggs, Nick Cave, and those Living in Oblivion '80s comps over the next week or so ...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Paging Child Protective Services ... 

Officially, I am a terrible father. A danger to Celeste. I should be working normal hours (or probably any of her waking hours, just to make certain I am not left in a position of responsibility again).

It's cold today, 19°F or so, so going outside with Celeste means a snowsuit of somesort, which means she's too bundled to fit comfortably in the BabyBjörn and even the carseat is a struggle. That's where the problem starts.

Given when Celeste was sleeping and eating, I thought we'd have time to run to the grocery. All was going okay (she was protesting the snowsuit + carseat situation), except that I was trying to hurry things along while getting the straps snapped and the carseat bumped the CD tower, which is in a terrible place and it didn't help that a small stack of discs (in jewel boxes) was sitting atop the tower.

Before I go any further: Celeste is okay. I however am psychically scarred.

Several discs fell down into the carseat, with at least two striking Celeste on the head. There was that mamasecond of a pause before either of us realized what had happened and the crying started. Needless to say the grocery trip was postponed.

I got Celeste out of the bucket and tried to comfort her. Finally a lot of soft talking, expansive apologies, and a pacifier soothed her enough to ditch the snowsuit and to settle in for some quiet sniffling.

That's when I started checking the books. Surprisingly enough, neither What to Expect the First Year nor The Baby Owner's Manual has "CDs Falling on Head" in the index. Checking the "bumps and bruises" and "head injury" sections, I checked the danger signs vs. Celeste's symptoms. It looked like things were okay, but I also googled baby hit in head. (This was probably the most helpful result.)

As suggested everywhere, I tried a cold compress, but that just started the crying again.

After more comforting, I put her in her exersaucer and she seemed happy enough, except that she refused to look at me. I'd scoot into her line of vision, and Celeste would turn and look at the toy to the left or right of me.

I called Evelin, who said to call the doctor if I thought it would make me feel better. I tried, got the answering service, but didn't leave a message. Scanning their list of emergency signs, none of Celeste's symptoms matched, so I didn't think I should take up a place in the queue that was needed by someone with a real emergency. I called Evelin back, and at this point she was teasing and laughing at me a bit.

Truth be told, Celeste's probably had harder blows when she headbutts my chin, but those don't make me feel like I'm doing a very good job as a caregiver either ...

Baby Spit Up My Nose 

(important clarification, baby spit not baby spit up)

Since on Tuesday the first feeding for Celeste was a bit rocky, Evelin and I decided to split 8 ounces of milk into three bottles: 2 ounces, 2 ounces, and 4 ounces. The idea was to not spoil a big bottle if Celeste was going to fuss instead of feed.

Well, around 12:20 p.m. or so, Celeste as stirring and probably could have calmed herself down to continue her nap, but Evelin thought she'd sneak in one more feeding before leaving. So Celeste got some milk and I got a baby who was okay playing/talking in her crib for a little while, but she wanted up by a little past 1:00 p.m.

We had some good playing — a little bit of rolling practice, some cheek and finger nibbling, some time on the playmate — until it looked like she was eating her hands more for sustenance than for sport. I set up a 2 ounce bottle and we settled down for a quick feeding. Celeste made short work of that, but didn't seem to be searching for more, so we started playing again.

She was propped against my chest and I was making snuffing noises at her neck, cracking her up, when she shifted her head and tried to latch on to my nose. It was a good attempt, but my nostrils kept her from latching on properly. However those same nostrils were very handy for depositing about a pint of baby slobber. And, of course, I'm laughing so hard that I just stuck the drool in deeper.

After a good sneeze, I asked Celeste if she wanted MORE EAT, MORE MILK. She really looked hard at me, like she knew my hand gestures were supposed to mean something, but she couldn't work it out (or she couldn't work out why I was playing finger games when I should be getting her some MORE MILK to EAT).

The second 2 ounce bottle did the trick; she fell asleep nursing and is now down <touch wood>for at least an hour or two</touch wood>

Sleep & Sox 

Whenever I tell someone about my new work schedule, the first question is “How do you like it?” or “How's that working out?" followed very quickly by "When do you go to sleep?"

My answer is, "Let's just say I don't watch Law & Order any more."

In general, I am getting tired a lot earlier, but that's okay; I just find myself reading in bed an hour or so earlier than I might have otherwise. Right now I'm reading Faithful, and King and O'Nan are talking about the West Coast games with 10:05 p.m. start times, which got me thinking — what am I going to do come baseball season? (Pitchers and catchers report in 19 days!)

Last year, I found myself more than a few times staying up until the wee hours of the morning either listening to the Beloved BoSox on the radio or using MLB Gameday to "watch" the action. Now, I might find myself being able to catch the end of a West Coast game that goes into extra innings when I'm waking up to go to work. It's going to take some willpower to go to sleep during a tight East Coast game ... or I'll just have to be tired. (Of course, being tired seems to be par for the course these days, so I'll be tired and happy so long as the Sox are winning ...)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not a New Suit 

This morning, I had to go out to a client's site to present the preprint pages for a contract publishing project for a final proof. I've worked with this group before, but the people I'm dealing with this time around are almost all new (plus it's a fairly conservative organization), so I decided I'd better wear a suit.

I work in a casual office — the last major dress-code revision came down a few years ago when torn jeans were barred — so my usual morning dressing routine is finding a T-shirt (short-sleeved for warm days; long-sleeved for cold) and pulling on a pair of jeans. This morning, I had to dig into the back of the closet for a suit. Also (because I had to go by the office to see if there were any changes to the page that happened after I left at noon yesterday and to print out clean color pages), I was trying to do this in the dark so as not to disturb a partially asleep Evelin too much.

Since I don't wear suits very often, I don't have too many. And the ones I do have tend to not fit very well. I bought them either when I was at my heaviest weight or my lowest or when I was in high school or whatever. After starting to put on my tuxedo by mistake, I ended up with the high school suit; it fits well enough (the jacket is a little snug across the shoulders, but not badly so) and is a fairly classic cut, so it doesn't look too out of date or anything. However, it is a tropical-weight wool, which is great for a warm summer day, but not so nice for the middle of winter ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dear BabyBjörn ... 

... so why don't you have some sort of quick and quiet release for gently dropping a sleeping babe in her crib? As you might guess, at the half-hour point I tried to put Celeste into her bed, and she woke up. Actually, we had some fun play — nibbling on fingers, tickling toes, sticking tongues out at each other — accompanied by some good talking on Celeste's part.

We were trying to hold out until Evelin got home from work, but she was eating both fists pretty hard, so I decided to give her another bottle. This one she took without any problems. When Evelin got home, she was just getting into her bath.

After a quick top up, Evelin is getting her to bed right now. I'm having a bit of scotch: a 12-year-old single malt, The Balvenie DoubleWood (first an oak bourbon barrel followed by an oak sherry barrel). It's quite nice, and I'm thinking it would be a nice one to have more than an airline bottle of; super mellow and rich, a nice hit of wine and oranges with some oak and toffee rising later.

It's Never "Just a Day" 

... when Celeste is around.

Everything was fine until the bottle around 3:00 p.m. I don't know if it was too cold, too hot, too not straight from the source, too who knows what. She was fine until I sat down with the Boppy and was getting her into position; all of the sudden tears start. I figured I'd waited a few minutes too long, and she did start to eat, but it was broken up with crying.

We went downstairs to check the temperature of the bottle — 82°F, a little on the cool side, but not too bad. I started running hot water to warm the bottle some more, and Celeste was fussy, but not crying.

With a slightly hot bottle (88°F), we settled down into a downstairs chair, got a few good sucks and then the tears kicked in again. After a bit of experimentation, we ended up on my and Evelin's bed, Celeste on a pillow, and almost holding the bottle herself. It took a while, but she drank most of it, but with lots of stop-squawk-start.

After the feeding, I started looking for some signs of tiring, and they were there, but any attempt to go to bed was met with screams and tears. In total, I think she lost in water weight the ounce or so she gained over the past week or two.

Finally, after about three hours awake, she finally fell asleep — on me, in the BabyBjörn. So we'll see if she stays down for the hour or more that she needs. I don't know if it'd be better to try to get her out of this thing or if she's just going to run around with me for a while ... (I know, Evelin did this for months; I shouldn't sweat an hour or so ...)

Just a Day 

Thus far it's one of those nice, uneventful days. I got as much as I could done at work (I'm missing a second or third look at some sections for a daily project and I'm slipping behind on assignments/planning for the next one, but there's only so much I can do until they perfect cloning or they hire someone to take at least one of my jobs away from me) before heading home. It's warmed up above freezing, so the snow is starting to melt, but it's not to the point where everything is slushy and gross — the roads and sidewalks are just looking clear and the rest of it is still white, albeit not as deep as it was last night.

Thinking of last night, we had a surprise visit from Evelin's folks. They were flying back to New England from Florida with a change of planes in D.C. that turned into a missed flight and an overnight stay. I didn't see them too much (getting up at 3:00 a.m. means I'm finding myself going to bed relatively early, and I was long gone when they woke and left for the airport), but it was a nice, quick visit.

We also had a surprise phone problem. Evelin called me at work and asked me to call home. The line was dead whenever she tired to dial out, so she wanted to know if there was a problem when I dialed in. (I got a busy signal.)

We thought it was maybe weather-related, so when I got home, I checked the outside wiring. There was a dial tone there, so the problem was inside.

Like a couple of other things in this house, the phone wiring has been done and redone and adjusted over the years, creating a situation that doesn't always make sense. We have some jacks that don't work and one or two rat’s nests of phone wire that's just spliced together. It turns out that when Evelin was quickly straightening up the guest room, she pushed the bedside table back into one of those rats nests and caused two wires to cross, creating a connection that gave us a busy signal from the outside and no dial tone from the inside.

After a little while with some wire strippers and electrical tape, I cleaned up the wiring a bit (I need to do a more permanent job with it, and put in somesort of outlet or junction box so we don't just have wires sitting there for little hands to tug in a few months) and we had phone service again.

Maybe I'll try to clean up some of those wires while Celeste has her nap ...

Monday, January 24, 2005

It's a Dog Toy, but Babies Like It Too! 

It's a dog toy, but Celeste likes it too!
Well, the Hol-ee Roller is a hit with Celeste. Just as I figured, she can pick it up and roll it a little bit, plus even Evelin agrees the icky taste seems to have faded (which is good, because Celeste has been licking it a lot).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Luck and No Luck 

Yesterday's weather system turned out a lot nicer than expected. The "wintry mix" seems to have stayed to the south of us and we got almost entirely snow. Some of it was fluffier than other bits of it, but with a total of 4 inches, I'm glad none of it came down as sleet or freezing rain.

Last year when a big weather event was predicted (Hurricane Isabel), we picked up a couple of movies and ice cream was on a two-for-one sale ... and our power went out and we were without electricity for four days. Needless to say, the movies did us no good and the ice cream melted that time. This go around, we were a lot luckier: no power problems.

So, last night we popped in the first DVD and watched I Was a Male War Bride. Evelin loves the old Cary Grant comedies, but neither us had particularly high hopes for this one when I brought it home. It turned out to be really cute and funny.

So that's the luck side of the equation. The no luck is, as might be expected the humidifier. It isn't working quite right, but I think the problem is in how the thermostat and furnace are wired up (and how the humidistat taps into that), but with anything I did. Of course, that makes it that much more difficult to diagnose/fix because at least I know what I did; it's a bit harder to work through what someone else did, especially with they way they tied back all the cabling. Sigh.

I'll probably try to poke around with the thermostat and the furnace some today to see if I can figure out what's been wired to where, but it's a bit disappointing to find that whenever the humidifier tries to click on the thermostat shuts off entirely.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

What a Good-Looking Median Cubital Vein! 

I've fallen behind in donating blood a little bit. I should have gone back in November, but I just always forget when I'm eligible and end up waiting longer than I should. This time, I got a call while we were in Louisiana asking me to donate, but was sick when we got back and decided to wait. Inova Blood Donor Services finally tracked me down on Monday and I made and appointment for Friday before lunch. It turned out to be a good day to go: They had some new T-shirts and GIVEBLOOD rubber wristbands. (Not that I donate blood for the tchotchkes ... I donate for the cookies ... but I do sometimes take a T-shirt.)

The phlebotomist was pretty funny. Originally, they were going to use my right arm, because, when they asked if I had a preferred arm for sticking, I mentioned that my vein had rolled a time or two back. I couldn't remember which arm that had happened in, so they wanted to do the right arm. I'm right-handed, and apparently the dominant hand's arm has greater muscularization, which means the vascular structure is a little better anchored or something, and thus the vein would be less likely to roll in that arm. I'd never heard this before, but it makes a certain degree of sense.

However, that plan went out the window when she noticed that I'd scratched up the venipuncture site during the humidifier project. So the focus switched to my left arm.

This is when the phlebotomist noticed my median cubital vein. Apparently it looked like a very good site to use and she said — before, during, and after the venipuncture — that it was a very good-looking vein. She also said that she probably sounded like a weirdo. I thought it was all pretty funny, and she did a good job because I bled fairly easily and filled up the bag in no time.

Other Stuff

HUMIDIFIER: I have no idea if it's working or not. I did set it to the highest-possible point this morning and that seems to have tripped out the thermostat. The fuse didn't blow this time, but when I lowered the humidistat and reconnected power to the furnace it came back on — so no damage, just questions.

There's been some water in the drainage tube, which would imply that water's going into the system, but since it drains into the same sink that our washing machine drains into, I guess there's also a chance that the water I'm seeing could have been drawn into the tube from the rinse cycle or something. I'm just not sure.

The house doesn't seem to be any more humid. In fact, the humidity level has dropped according to the humidity meter I bought, but at the same time the outside temperature has been dropping, so maybe it's related to that.

I don't have the humidistat set to the highest point any more, but I do have it higher than is recommended for the current outdoor temperature. Hopefully we'll see some indication that it's working soon; otherwise I may need to call in professional help...

CELESTE: I forgot to mention that on Thursday, after her nap, when I thought Celeste was starting to get hungry, I got her bottle from the fridge and showed it to her, asking if she wanted to eat. She hasn't picked up the signs we're trying to use with her (the main ones we're working with are EAT and MILK), but her eyebrows shot up and she got an anticipatory look as soon as she saw the bottle.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Olives and Blue Cheese 

Sometimes, the best part of a martini is the garnish. The other night, I found myself thinking that the big bottle of Gordon's London Dry Gin that J--- left here a while ago really needs to finished to clear out some room in the bar for a better gin. Of course, the best way to get rid of gin is with martinis, but we were woefully low in the garnish department. We do have some cocktail onions in the fridge, but I've really taken a shy to how blue-cheese-stuffed olives taste after a cold gin bath. And this is where improvisation can be a tricky thing.

We did have olives and blue cheese, so I figured why couldn’t I stuff my own olives. Well, they are kalamata olives, not the usual green ones used for garnish, and the cheese is a really nice and pungent Rogue Oregon Blue Vein (well worth trying outside of an olive).

The olives were already pitted, so I could skip that step, but trying to get the fairly creamy blue into the hole was a bit more challenging. I tried cutting a small stick that would fit in it, and that kind of worked, but a good bit of cheese still ended up smeared atop the olive.

Oh well, the two olives fit nicely on a toothpick and ended up accompanying the drink well enough, but I'm not sure it put the flavors of any of the individual ingredients at their best. Still, it's hard to go wrong with blue-cheese-stuffed olives in a bath of cold gin.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Quite a Nap 

<touch wood>It looks like the leap has been made.</touch wood>

Celeste was been great all day, a lot less grouchy, tons of smiles, and — most impressive of all — a more than two-and-a-half-hour nap! It was a little unexpected, but it worked out well, giving me time to finish installing the humidifier. (I'm not sure it's kicking on the way it should — either that or it's way, way, way quieter than the old one — but <touch wood>nothing seems to be leaking, smoking, or blowing fuses.</touch wood>)

When she finally work up, we had a little playtime followed by her second bottle of the day and then we got to play "Cooking With Celeste" (which isn't quite as interactive as Cooking With Claudine), where I narrate everything I'm doing in the kitchen while making dinner to Celeste who is sitting in her bouncy chair on the floor playing with a whisk. Tonight's meal was Mrs. Thomas's Chili (named for a friend of mine's mother whose recipe I adapted); it's one of those recipes that involves opening a lot of cans — four types of beans, a big tin of tomatoes, a tin of tomato paste — plus chopping up onions, garlic, zucchini, and carrots, so there were a few things to tell her I was doing, but I'm not sure Celeste was all that impressed ...

Evelin got home as we were finishing up, and just as the fussing was starting ("Play with me, daddy! I don't care about learning how to sauté!") so while things finished cooking we had a little playtime before her bath. Now the question is how will she sleep overnight after such a big nap ...

Haircut (With Bonus Anti-Administration Rant) 

Apparently, the Korean Central Broadcasting Station (조선중앙방송) television show Common Sense (상식) recently started a five-part ambush makeover series, "Let's Trim Our Hair in Accordance With the Socialist Lifestyle" [ BBC | The Guardian | 통일뉴스 ]. Apparently, a TV crew is roaming P'yŏngyang and other cities in the north looking for men whose hair is longer than is allowed by the "socialist lifestyle."

Just in case any of those TV crews are in D.C., I decided to get a haircut this morning. I took the day off (well, I'm editing some stuff at home, but it's still a day off) because the inauguration has a 100+ block area closed off downtown with street closings and diversions stretching into Virginia. I figure I could have made it in with minimal disruption to be at my desk for 4:00 a.m., but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get home in time for Evelin to get to work by 1:00 p.m., so I'm not going in to the office. I did however get a haircut.

[RANT: I think the single biggest goal of this administration has been (and continues to be) to keep people scared. They seem to love big, public displays of insecurity — tons of fences, roadblocks, circling helicopters and fighter jets, metal detectors, etc. — just about everywhere.

Today's inaguration is no different. Fences have been going up since start of January (for the past two weeks, a six-foot chain-link fence has surrounded the Mall with only a few openings for traffic and near the entrances to various Smithsonian buildings); the entire parade route is apparently restricted to ticketholders only; police can stop and question people at will within the 100-block "secure" part of downtown. This is supposed to be a celebration of the peaceful changeover of power and all they want is a tightly controlled, scripted, heavily policed event that presents their insular happy view of how great they are. And they're sticking D.C. with the bill for all that extra security.

The same playing up to people's fears is evident in all the talk about a crisis with social security when there is no crisis and the administration's proposals are likely to speed up the drain on the system.

I'm really tired of the fearmongering and the lies.]

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

PSA: Furnaces Have Fuses ... 

... or at least ours does.

So back to the humidifier project: After Celeste's 4:00 a.m. feeding, she needed a diaper change, so I took care of that and decided that — since I'm trying to get up early so as not to create too great a disparity in sleeping habits on the days I have to be at work for 4:00 a.m. vs. the days I have to be at work for 8:30 a.m. — I'd go futz around some. After paying some bills and entering receipts into Quicken, I started thinking about the humidistat and decided to at least prep the wiring.

I figured I'd cut what I needed to size, strip insulation, and maybe connect the relay to the humidifier (leaving the circuit from the relay to the humidistat and the humidifier to the humidistat open). All was going pretty well until I connected the wire to the relay that would run to the humidifier.

The fan was running as I doing this and I didn't give it a second though, but, when the bare tip of the relay-connected wire brushed the aluminum duct housing and a nice blue spark popped out, I got very aware of the fan ... or at least of the fact that it was no longer running. At this point, Evelin heard floating up through the duct work: "Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! Shit! Shit! Shit!"

I checked the circuit panel and nothing was tripped. I ran upstairs and the display on the thermostat was dead. More colorful language. I tried switching the circuit breaker and the disconnect on/off to no avail. I then dug out the owner's manual. Actually, I couldn't find the owner's manual for the furnace (everything else that was installed along with it had a booklet in the folder, just not the furnace), but I did scan the thermostat's guide.

It first suggested checking the breaker panel. I'd done that. Then it said check the fuse. We have breakers not fuses, so I ignored that. It then ran though a few other things that didn't seem to apply or work.

I figured things were already shot, so I opened up the panels on the back of the furnace to see if any circuitboards were obviously scorched. This is when I find a little ATC slot-type fuse on the circuitboard — and it is as black as can be.

I go upstairs to break the news to Evelin and Celeste that they'll probably want to stay in bed because I broke the furnace. Since I was only 6:30 a.m., I decided to take a shower and to get ready for the day before trying to find a new fuse (given the time, what else could I do?). At 7:00 a.m., I'm in Home Depot looking at their pathetic offering of fuses — no 3 ampere ones. I head over to North Brentwood to a plumbing supply place I've passed on my way to work; again no 3 ampere ones. Then I start cruising around Brentwood, Edmonston, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Bladensburg, ..., stopping at about five plumbing, heating, and/or auto supply stores before finding one that had the fuse I needed and that was open.

Back home a little after 8:00 a.m., I snap in the new fuse and rush upstairs to find the thermostat still dead. I run back downstairs, remembering that I'd forgotten to reset the disconnect; back upstairs, it's still dead. I run back downstairs, remembering that there's a kill-switch on the furnace and it won't start if the back panel is off; back upstairs ... success! I can stop worrying about a frozen wife and baby!

Probably if I remember to turn the furnace off before setting up the humidistat, I'll probably be okay, but I am a bit worried ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Simpid Songs 

Okay, so I'll admit I can be a sap sometimes: I tend to like romantic comedies; I can be overly sentimental at times; and there have been a few times I've cried over things. (My mother a while ago reminded me that when I was a kid she once heard me sobbing late at night; I'd been reading past my bedtime and got to the end of Where the Red Fern Grows ...)

So Sunday morning, I'm surfing the Web, seeing if there's anything going on with the Sox and the Hot Stove League, reading blogs, and trying to figure whether I should repair or replace the humidifier. The radio is on in the background, tuned to "Stained Glass Bluegrass" on WAMU(FM). Out of the corner of my ear, I pick up a bit of lyric:
After four years of tryin'
And many nights of cryin'
Well, they said they might as well give up
And one day she started cravin'
Raviolis and raisins
And before too long they were buyin' baby stuff
Due date is January 9
I guess love does it every time
I missed any backannoucing of the title and artist, but found out thanks to some help at The Campground (the BluegrassCountry.org message boards) that it was probably "Love Does It Every Time" from the new Ricky Skaggs CD, Brand New Strings.

(All in all, it's a pretty maudlin song, telling three stories of salvation and answered prayers (the infertility bit is the third story), but I didn't really know that until Monday when I got a hold of the disc. The rest of the album is quite good, mixing old-time stuff with some new pieces that, for the most part, sound old-timey.)

Evelin was upstairs feeding Celeste, and when I went up to tell her about the song, I found myself really choking up thinking about how lucky we were to have Celeste and how I could relate all too well to the lyric.

Shorter and Shorter Naps 

I guess it's a leap or a phase or a growth spurt, but Celeste getting worse about napping. She just went down around 4:25 or so, but before that her only sleep since 11:00-something was 20 minutes around 1:30. And, of course, the worse she naps during the day, the more drawn out nighttime is for her too. But it's not like she's being super grumpy. She is a bit short-tempered, but it's more that she doesn't want to sleep because it's time away from Evelin and me. (Which is flattering, but not good for her ...)

This afternoon, for example, I was exhausted and would have loved to have her take a nap, but she protested every time I'd try to put her down. So we sang and danced and played games and read some Dr. Seuss. I got some smiles, one or two little laughs, and a lot of attention, but she was still tired and refusing to sleep. Finally she fell asleep in my arms, but we'll see how long before she wakes.

Adding to the sleep issues is that we decided last night to start scaling back the swaddling. Celeste seems to fall asleep more easily if she's swaddled, but she sleeps better with her arms free. (Part of the problem is that Celeste'll wave her arms around while awake — Evelin describes her as "helicopter girl" — which is distracting for her.)

Oops, she's awake again ... 4:55 p.m.

Package Routing 

[WARNING: A work-related post]

Last night before leaving, I burned a CD for a contractor and packaged it up for delivery today via FedEx. It's a fairly short trip from the Northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. to Warrenton, an exurb in Fauquier County, Virginia. According to MapQuest, it's a 41.81 mile drive door to door.

Here's the FedEx tracking report:

Jan. 18, 2005
8:47 AMOn FedEx vehicle for deliveryFredericksburg, VA
8:29 AMAt local FedEx facilityFredericksburg, VA
7:08 AMAt dest sort facilityRichmond, VA
5:24 AMDeparted FedEx locationIndianapolis, IN
12:42 AMArrived at FedEx locationIndianapolis, IN

Jan. 17, 2005
11:50 PMAt dest sort facilitySandston, VA
8:42 PMLeft originWest Springfield, VA
7:22 PMPicked upWest Springfield, VA
3:58 PMPackage data transmitted to FedEX;
package not in FedEx possession

This thing is getting more frequent flyer miles than I do. (According to Web|Flyer's MileMarker utility, the IAD-to-RIC-to-IND-to-RIC routing, which wouldn't include any of the driving distance, is worth 1,112 miles.) Actually, I shouldn't be surprised. There was a similar project last year where I sent a FedEx to Warrenton and it was routed through Memphis, Tennessee.

Updated table at 10:00 a.m. to reflect updated package status. Actually, this kind of reminds me of the MSN MapPoint directions for travel between Haugesund, Norway, and Trondheim, Norway, that's floating through the blogosphere at the moment.

Monday, January 17, 2005

(Not So) Handyman 

So Sunday I decided to tackle a long-standing, but low priority, repair: replacing our whole-house humidifier. It worked for the first two winters or so we had the house, but at some point I think the solenoid burned out and it was going to cost a lot to replace that and I just never got around to pursuing it. We've been using a small steam humidifier and Celeste has a Cool Mist one, but it'd be nice to not have to clean those every couple of days.

That morning, I was at Home Depot when it opened. I thought it opened at 7:00 a.m., so when I ran out at 7:30 a.m. to get a paper, I figured I'd flip by there to return some unused brass weather-stripping from another project. But it didn't open until 8:00 a.m., so I read a bit in the car and waited. After returning the weather-stripping, I went looking for some felt weather-stripping (the kitchen door has an annoying draft that the brass stuff wouldn't work for because of the locks, but some of the felt stuff has at least tamed the draft where it can't eliminate it) and for some reason decided to look at the whole-house humidifiers.

I didn't buy any humidification equipment, but I did go home to see what the cost of a new system vs. a solenoid repair would be. On its face, it was about $179 for a new one vs. $110 for a solenoid, so I decided to start a project. (I think it was the solenoid that was out, but I'd rather spend more for a complete system that should fix things instead of spending $70 less and have it turn out to not have been the problem.)

After running back out to Home Depot and then to Lowe's to compare all the available models, I found that only one was in the stores that would replace the current setup — a Honeywell HE360A. Its dimensions were a little off from the old unit (a predecessor to the Carrier SFP), but the physical installation of the unit wasn't that big of a deal.

The old plumbing fittings wouldn't work, so I had to run a new line from the hot water heater to the humidifier. Both the old and new systems used saddle taps to connect the line, so there was a bit of a mess in getting the old line unconnected and to line up the new tap with the old hole. I ran into one or two problems with the supplied compression connectors (in the end, I ran back out and got an icemaker connection kit, which gave me copper tubing for the line instead of plastic, and an extra compression nut), but I think the plumbing is all solid now. (I opened the tap this morning and a little drip of water came out at each fitting, but a little extra twist with a wrench seems to have fixed that. I don't want to leave the pipe pressurized all the time until I have everything working.)

Now the bit that's left undone is the electrical. I think I've figured out how the old humidistat was wired in, but the new one is a little different. Hopefully, I'll get it figured out tonight without too much trouble, but until I do, I guess I still need to refill the other humidifiers.

[ASIDE: Coming from South Louisiana, I still find the idea of needing to add humidity to the air nothing short of bizarre, but when we were at my parents' for Christmas, it was obvious how bone-dry the cold air was when it got cold and the heat was running so much.]

[UPDATE: I talked about this with a coworker this morning and walked him through how I thought I should wire things vs. what was on the schematics and (surprisingly unhelpful) installation instructions, and think I know what I need to do. He also loaned me a voltmeter (I melted mine a few years ago when I was replacing the fan in what's now the nursery with a light and needed to know which wire wasn't needed now that the fan was no longer there — I had it on the wrong setting and tried to change it while it was still connected to the wires; when I say "I melted it," I mean that all too literally) and I checked out things as Evelin adjusted the thermostat on/off.

The two wires that ran into the old humidistat seem to be connected to a relay so that when the furnace is on/off it will tell the humidifier to click on/off. When the furnace was on, the voltmeter'd read 24 volts (or so) and it would read 0 volts (or so) when the furnace was off.

So, I think all I need to do is run one of those wires to the humidifier, one to the humidistat, and then complete the circuit by connecting the humidistat to the humidifier. (I also have to cut a hole in the cool-air return duct to mount the humidistat, but I'm more worried about the wiring than that.)

Someone please leave me a comment if this sounds like I'm going to either kill myself or burn down the house. I don't know if I'm going to get to this until the weekend.]

More Miyazaki 

Last week's issue of The New Yorker has a great article about Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿), his work, and the Ghibli Museum Miyazaki designed. (The article isn't online, but an interview with it's author is.)

A while ago, Evelin and I rented Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) and were blown away by it. We next saw Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), which was beautifully drawn, but not as compelling.

After reading the New Yorker article, I really wanted to see Kiki's Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便), so that's what we rented this weekend. Fantastic: That's much more the sort of movie I want Celeste to be watching than the Disney Princesses stuff. (Okay, there are some spunky girl characters among the Princesses, Mulan in particular, but Kiki is factors of 10 a better movie.) I realize, having a little girl in this culture, I can't avoid some of the Princesses stuff (see "A Nation of Little Princesses" that ran in Salon last year), but it'd be nice to have films like Kiki influencing her, too.

[OFF TRACK: It's not about Kiki or Miyazaki, but thinking about Kiki does remind me (in that it is a cute story and involves witches) of Whispering to Witches, which I picked up for Evelin right before Christmas. It was recommended on "The World" as one of the year's best kids' books (which is also where I first heard of Harry Potter a long, long time ago). It was a real quick read, very cute, and a pretty neat cosmology to explain how/why witches are around.]

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Celeste Goes to Sweden (Sorta) 

Celeste, Evelin, and my mother may have taken a trip to Ikea when she was about a month old, but Evelin can't remember for sure, so we'll consider this morning Celeste's first (or maybe second) post-utero trip to that little bit of Sweden in College Park.

Evelin's been wanting a new bookcase for the upstairs hallway; with the sudden influx of children's books (picture books, board books, parenting books, other books, ...) the waist-high bookshelf that's there is getting overloaded. (The books lined/piled atop it are now standing about chest or shoulders high.) We tooled around for a while and considered either a Markör or Alve unit (not the full system, shown in the link, just the bookshelf part), but in the end decided to keep looking.

What we did end up at the register with was a penguin-shaped Mumsa sippy cup. It's hardly spill-proof when the Hannibal Lecter-style ski mask is removed, but it's so darn cute. (We also thought getting a child-sized Öland chair, but decided to skip it for now.)

Once again, I tried to buy one of the Swedish kids' books (Godnattramsor by Lennart Hellsing, which was nursery rhymes translated from English so I could recognize some of what they were saying) they have as props and, after a few calls to the manager, was denied. I guess if I keep trying, one day they'll let me buy some of those books, right?

Friday, January 14, 2005

I Was Going to Blog Something ... 

... I just can't remember what it was. There were at least three things today that I made a mental note to file away as blogworthy, but I can't for the life of me remember what they were.

So instead I'll talk about tacos. That's what we had for dinner tonight, and Evelin and I approached the taco-layering debate (such as there is one) from moderately different angles. The available stuffings were: cheddar cheese, refried beans, lettuce, salsa (from a jar), guacamole (fresh), and sautéed onions.

Evelin would spread the beans across the interior of the taco, add cheese, onions, guac, lettuce, and then salsa. She would allow for some variation, but beans then cheese and salsa last are sacrosanct for her.

I'd put the cheese in first, followed by beans, onions, salsa, guac, and then lettuce. My feeling is that this let's the cheese melt some between the heat of the taco and the beans, the onion-salsa-guac levels are just as they are, but the lettuce last gives you something to push against/hold that won't be as messy as the salsa or guacamole would be.

I know, this making for such riveting blogging. Maybe I was going to write about sleep deprivation and my new work/life schedule ...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Few Bites and a Lot of Spitting 

Except for the fighting having to take a nap, Celeste is being a charmer again today. She's taken two bottles with no problems already, and she's had some fun playtime. But the real excitement is her second chance at a taste of rice cereal.

The other week, at her four-month check up, the doctor said we could let her try cereal and to see what she thought of it. Last week, she didn't think much of it; this week it was about the same. We figure there's no reason to force it on her, but a 12 teaspoon of cereal mixed with 112 teaspoons of breastmilk as a different experience can't hurt. And if she decides to actually eat it at some point, well, she'll let us know when that is.

As with last time, most of the cereal ended up on her bib. She kept acting like she was actually going to eat it and then, whoops, her tongue pushed it back out and onto her chin(s). One time she made this brrrrrrrrrrrurrrrrrb noise that she's been practicing just as the spoon got to her lips; that spoonful ended up spraying up over her face and bib. It was really cute, and it looked like she was having fun, but the very last spoonful, I think, actually got swallowed ... because she started crying and that ended that.

The rest of the day was peaceful, some playing, some reading (The Monster at the End of This Book), some practicing rolling over (if her arms were in the right position she could flip herself from her stomach to her back, but only the first two of three times did she seem to think it was fun; the next two put her on the edge of tears), and a lot of insisting that she wasn't sleepy.

I tried a bunch of strategies to get her to sleep — gentle bouncing, singing, quiet, rocking, laying on my chest, etc. — but nothing worked until we took a walk up to the grocery store. So I wouldn't have to deal with an asleep baby attached to me, we took the stroller instead of the BabyBjörn, and about a half-hour later (after we'd gotten to the store, bought some bread, mushrooms, artichoke bottoms (the were out of hearts), and an avocado) and partway home she zonked out. Right now she's next to me, still strapped into the stroller, seemingly asleep, but starting to stir...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

WHFS R.I.P. (even though it really died a long time ago) 

When I moved back to D.C.* after college, WHFS(FM) was the centerpiece of my radio diet. Yes, I listened to WAMU(FM) and WETA-FM for NPR programming, tuned to Pacifica outlet WPFW(FM) a lot, and tried to live close enough to College Park to pick up WMUC-FM, but WHFS was the mainstay.

Today, it became Zol 99.1, a Spanish-language tropical music station [ Washington Post | Baltimore Sun | The Diamondback | Billboard Radio Monitor | DCRTV ]. There's another similarly formatted FM in the market, La Mega, but 'HFS has better coverage of the market than it does so I can see how there's room on the airwaves for such a station, but it's a shame a station with about a 30-year history as a groundbreaking alternative station.

Sure, the real WHFS died about a decade ago when Infinity Radio bought it and started tightening the playlist. In recent years, it's degenerated into a testosterone pop station with ever-slipping ratings. For the most part it was unlistenable, but there would be moments where the old spirit showed through.

It would have been nice for a corporate owner to have tried to save the station by returning to its more freeform roots with a more varied playlist with less repetition and tighter stopsets (not to mention some presenters who were more interested in the music than in hearing themselves talk), but I guess that's not U.S. radio anymore.

At least I have the memories of first hearing Nirvana, my first (second and third) HFStival, the programming the night Kurt Cobain killed himself, bitching about how they'd play some poppy Siouxsie and the Banshees song ("Peek-a-Boo," IIRC) only to have the two-fer-Tuesday follow up with Siouxsie's version of "Dear Prudence," getting busted on by some friends after they heard me on air talking to Kathryn Lauren when I was working late one night, ...

So, rest in peace, the 'HFS I remember: Dave Marsh, Damian, Bob Waugh, Johnny Riggs, Gina Crash, Rob Timm, Kathryn Lauren, Zoltar Brother from Another Planet, Neci ... even Weasel. (But not Aquaman; I still can't forgive what a bad DJ he was ...)

[ADDENDUM: joedanger.us has an MP3 posted of the switchover from 'HFS to El Zol, with the end of Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye," the 'HFS top-of-the-hour legal ID followed by "Transmitiendo desde la ciudad capital de América: esta es tu nueva radio! Noventa y nueva punto uno FM," a moment of silence and then the ID and stinger repeat.]

*I like saying I moved back here after college, but I never even set foot in D.C. from about the time I was one until I was 22. My dad was stationed here when I was born, but we all transferred to England while I was still an infant. Still, saying "moving back" feels right.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

This Is How I Imagined It ... 

I know this is sure to jinx things, but today Celeste has been pretty much perfect. Sure, she should have napped longer than a half-hour, but she did spend nearly an hour in the crib — half of it asleep, the other half either "talking" a little bit or just looking around quietly while I sat nearby reading (Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage, which isn't as engaging as I'd hoped when I picked it up at a tag sale for 50¢).

Then, when she finally got up, we had a little play time, including a bunch of smiles and a few good laughs and chortles — for me, instead of just for her mumma! — before the signs of hunger appeared. Just as Evelin's crib sheet for today predicted "She'll be hungry ≈ 2:30–3:30." The bottle was ready and in her mouth at 2:38 p.m. Unlike the last three times I was left alone with her, there was no battle of the bottle; she was back to being the hungry baby bird she was when we were supplemental feeding to help knock out the jaundice.

Of course, trying to coax her take her second nap of the afternoon was a half-hour affair, but I'll take that any day over the 40 minutes of tears and screams that were the bottle battles of last Tuesday and Thursday.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Lullabies 

I tend to sing to Celeste both as part of play and as part of calming/soothing. Evelin tends to sing only during play, so she's expressed concern that my soothing singing is having the opposite effect. Whether that's it or not, sleep is fleeting for Celeste these days: 30–45 minute naps and what seems like way too many awakenings during the night. I'm sure it's just a phase and she'll be a sleep champ in a few years or something, but in the mean time I'm laying off the lullabies.

Of course, my choice of lullabies has always been eclectic. The Smiths, "Cemetry Gates;" Billy Bragg, "A New England;" Billy Idol, "Dancin' With Myself" (with new lyrics to make it "Dancin' With Celeste"); Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues;" "16 Tons;" "Joe Hill;" or something, along with nonsense tunes that play with Celeste's name ("Celeste ... ial Seasonings is a tea that mommy drinks; Celeste ... ial mechanicals explains the motion of the stars; Celeste ... ial navigation requires an astrolabe; usw.") or that work in the phrase "fais-do-do."

Evelin is fond of the Sandra Boyton CDs, but I can never remember the words ...

Of course, the worst part of the singing is when you find yourself humming "Never Smile at a Crocodile" or, even worse, "The Wheels on the Bus" during the workday.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sunday Walk 

It was chilly and a little overcast, but we took a nice walk this afternoon through the neighborhood and down to the Anacostia, eventually ending up at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. In total, it was probably a few miles (and it got quite warm for me with Celeste all snug in the BabyBjörn zipped half inside my jacket), but I wanted to see if they'd finished the pedestrian/bike bridge across the river there. It's part of the planned Anacostia bike trail that will eventually lead downtown to the Mall.

It turns out the bridge is in place, and we got to walk around the waterfront a bit, too, but the coolest thing was when we crossed through a small wooded area just past the confluence of the Northeast and Northwest Branches. We saw some cardinals flying about in the brush and then, all of the sudden, this hawk smashed down into the woods not 15 meters away from us. He flew back up (it looked like he missed his prey) and perched on a branch before resuming a circling search pattern. We got some really good looks at him, and I'm pretty certain it was a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) based on the rust-colored tail feathers. We watched him circle for a while, gradually getting higher and higher, before he suddenly tucked and started a dive off in a different direction.

On the walk back through the same bit of woods, we saw three other hawks (not at all sure of the type) moving from branch to branch through the trees. I'm not sure if they were chasing one another away from a territorial claim or just moving through the area fairly noisily, but it was really cool.

Friday, January 07, 2005

"Better Than A Lava Lamp" 

One of those things that I missed blogging during my November disappearance was Thanksgiving. One of Evelin's maternal uncles, J---, has a restaurant in Roxbury and each Thanksgiving he opens the place up for the family. People arrive early and use the facilities to cook up everything, and by afternoon everyone is there for the meal and fun.

This year, Evelin's father's brothers and their families also came along, so it was quite a large crowd — 50 or so people (including three babies) and three dogs. For the most part, Celeste was good, but a bit overwhelmed. She tended to deal with it by shutting down and sleeping a lot. She also didn't like being passed around too much; she could stand being held by someone for about 5 minutes and then she wanted her mumma again.

Anyway, two of Evelin's college-aged cousins were watching Celeste sleep in her carseat (they're the oldest two of five, so they have a bit of familiarity with babies), and one of them made the comment "She's better than a lava lamp."

We certainly agree.

The other funny thing on the trip happened before I got there. (Evelin drove up early to spend some time with her family and I flew in on Thanksgiving morning — Celeste had no problems with the D.C.–New England drive, she slept most of the time with one or two stops for a feeding.)

Celeste's cousin, K---, who's about six months older than she is, was staring at Celeste in fascination one evening. They were both sucking on pacifiers and being calm when K--- started motioning like she wanted to pet Celeste. Evelin moved Celeste a little closer to K---, but instead of a loving caress, K--- grabbed Celeste's pacifier, yanked it out of her mouth, and threw it across the room. Celeste was a bit stunned and everyone else just laughed ... until Celeste started to cry ...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Relief ... 

Evelin's home, Celeste's been fed and bathed, and I've had a shot of tequila, El Tesoro de Don Felipe (Añejo). Technically, El Tesoro is a sippin' tequila, but a shot better suited my needs.

Around 5:30, Celeste's hunger beat out her aversion to the bottle and she downed the second 2-ounce one. (The first one had been out long enough to consider as spoiled.) She started it on the way out of the kitchen, sitting upright and propped against my chest — not an effective feeding position, so I shifted her when I got to a chair. That elicited a few protestations and I thought we were done with the feeding, but she calmed down and quickly downed the bottle.

Just as it was ending, Evelin called to say she was on her way home, so Celeste and I went out and watched the grader finish its work for the evening until Evelin got home.

I did a bit of reading in What to Expect the First Year and it did offer a little bit of enlightenment. I need to make less of deal about the feeding: If she ends up not eating for five-and-a-half hours, so be it.

For those babies who haven't been acclimated to a bottle, apparently, there are a few strategies to try, but each baby is different and not each method will work. One method is to offer a bottle after she's finished breastfeeding. That way the bottle is sort of a treat, not a threat to the usual nourishment source. The other method is to let the baby reject the bottle until she's hungry enough to take it. This seems to be Celeste's preferred method.

Next week, I just need to let her see the bottle and if she scrunches up her face at it, then I don't warm it up. If she gives the excited lipsmacking, then Katie, bar the door!

Hungry + Tired + Bottle = <shudder>Again</shudder> 

They're repaving a chunk of street in front of our house today to fix the patches that were left over from some sewer line replacement work in the autumn, but this means we have to park a block or so away. The signs that went up last night alerting us to the work said that things would be happening on Friday, but this morning, just as Evelin was settling down to feed Celeste, there's a knock on the door telling her to move the car.

[ASIDE: The workers offered to move it for Evelin, but since this is a rental (the T.R.U.C.K. is at the body shop this week) she didn't think she should let anyone else drive it. So two of the neighbors were outside and Evelin asked them to watch Celeste while she drove up the hill to park.]

So, when I get home a bit before 1:00 p.m., I have to walk a ways from where I parked and Evelin has to walk a ways to where she parked. Celeste is sleeping, so Evelin meets me on the porch to hand over responsibility saying that she left me a note on the computer.
Celeste will be hungry around 2:30–3:00
Watch for tired signs ≈ 114+ hours after waking.
2 bottles of 2 oz. each are in the fridge.
Cool: A crib sheet. So, when the crew outside shifts what it's doing at about 12:50 and Celeste wakes up (she sleeps through the noise fine, it's just a change in the noise:quiet or house shaking:house not shaking ratio wakes her), I figure I still have a bit of time before she's going to want to eat.

In retrospect, I should have realized the work outside pausing is what woke her because she was still a bit crabby even if she didn't seem sleepy. Instead, I tried a couple of games and toys (as well as a diaper change), and she settled into a pretty happy period.

The problem (as anyone who's already done the math has probably figured out), 12:50 + 75 minutes = a bit past 2:00, which is leading into the "probably hungry" time zone.

I saw some yawns and thought, okay, let's get a bottle into her and then it's off to nap land. About 25 minutes of screaming later, sleep won the day (or at least the next half hour). She woke with another pause in the work, and it's been about 40 minutes of sobbing and taking maybe two tugs at the bottle at a time in between. Right now, she's happy-ish in her bouncy chair, looking tired, but not falling asleep. And every time I offer that bottle she twists her head back and forth and gives it such a look of disdain... I wish she'd eat something, but I guess this is better than the screaming.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Guilty Dad 

Today was Celeste's four-month checkup ... and I missed it. I was feeling really bad about it, lingering around the house when I should have been starting my commute, because I really wanted to be there to comfort her after the shots and to try to be helpful. Plus, I kind of like the kid and these sorts of milestone things I want to be around for as much as possible. I must have gone back in forth in my mind ten or eleven times convincing myself that I could be late to work or that it would be okay to miss the appointment.

In the end, Evelin did the right thing and shooed me out the door with a promise to call as soon as she got back from the appointment.

The official word is that the little girl is getting bigger: 12 pounds, 1 ounce (5.47 kilograms) and 24 inches long. Without adjusting for her early birth date, she's just under the 25th percentile for weight and just under the 50th percentile for length. Considering that she was off the bottom end of the charts at her first appointment, I'm pretty proud of well she's growing!

There were four shots, which Evelin said were very traumatic, but she seems to be feeling better this afternoon. And the doctor suggested starting some cereals if Celeste will take them. There was an attempt this afternoon to see what Celeste thought of chewing her lunch instead of just sucking it, and, Evelin reported, about 90% of the teaspoon or two of cereal ended up on the bib. We aren't in any rush to introduce solid food to her, but we'll keep trying every now and then; who knows maybe it'll make my Tuesday and Thursday afternoon attempts to give her a bottle seem less horrific...

To help assuage my guilt, I went ahead and bought her two Hol-ee Roller (size 3.5) balls. They're designed for small dogs, but I still think they'll make great kids' toys.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

It Was a Setup! 

The long midday nap was a setup. After awaking to a few nice smiles and a bit of play, Celeste wanted something to eat. This wasn't something I'd thought too far ahead about.

We had two 4-ounce bottles of breastmilk thawed in the fridge, but I knew from my previous attempt to bottlefeed her that it needed to be warm. Juggling a hungry (but not crying, yet) baby while trying to figure out how to warm the storage bottle and then set up the feeding bottle ... well, let's just say it didn't go well.

First the bottle's too cold, and then it's taking to long to warm, and then the tears start so I make up a bottle of formula (it's a last resort, but I was already there), but the first one made with hot water is too hot, so I make another bottle with cold water that's too cold. By this time, the milk bottle is too hot, and Celeste is still bawling.

About 40 minutes later, I finally get things kind of right: The pacifier calms Celeste down, we settle down in her nursing chair with her turned in a sort-of-normal nursing position — the pacifier is popped out the bottle goes in, there's a momentary hesitation and then she drinks. And starts to fall asleep.

That was actually kind of weird: watching her eyes roll up and around half open and then half closed.

So anyway, after about 3 ounces, the angle the bottle is being held at isn't quite getting milk to the nipple, so I tried to shift her and the bottle. The cries begin again. So we stop the feeding, soothe and decide to try a diaper change and some playtime.

That works pretty well for a while until I notice her smacking her lips and sucking on her fist. Those must be hunger signs, right? With a little less trouble, I get a second bottle of milk prepared (the formula bottles are sitting around neglected at this point; one is probably still too hot, the other still too cold), but it turns out she was tired, not hungry.

Nap number two only lasted 45 minutes, but we were able to stretch out some playtime, swinging on the porch, and a cooking lesson (if she's in the kitchen with me, I like to narrate what I'm doing for her as if she were watching some cooking show) until Evelin got home. It's probably wrong of me, but I was soooooooooo happy to hear her key in the lock.

Now I just have to get ready for Thursday ...

Sorta Stay at Home Dad 

Well, today, Celeste is four months old and it's a day full of adventure. Evelin is back to work, and I'm time-shifting my workday to help keep an eye on her. Evelin's office is really great; they're letting her go to half time (which is long enough to get the much better health insurance that her place offers) and she only has to be in the office 10 hours a week. The rest of the work she can do from home.

Those 10 hours, however, is where I come in. Long, long ago, we figured I could talk my employer into a four-day workweek or something, but with becoming editorial director, I need to have a presence in the office everyday (at least that's the feeling from upstairs). So, I am instead time-shifting my workday twice a week from the normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (although I never seem to get out of there by then) to 4 a.m. to noon.

I am generally a morning person, so the getting up early doesn't worry me, plus I can get more done without the knock-on-the-door distractions and it effectively puts me on the same time zone as our Italian office and my editor in Paris. This later benefit, I thought, was a good selling point to the plan, but this morning at least it conflicted with the "get more work done" objective. I had more back-and-forth e-mails from Italy today than I think I had all November and December combined.

So far (and this is sure to jinx things), she’s being very easy. Her noontime nap usually lasts only a half hour, but right now she's headed toward two hours. I don't know if she's just trying to be nice to me, or if she's setting me up for a rough stretch that will last until Evelin makes it home.

It's a mix of excitement and anticipation with a soupçon of dread, but hopefully the swings in my workday won't prove too demanding in the long run (and maybe Evelin's mom can coincide a visit or two when I have business trips so we don't have to figure out a different solution for those weeks).

Sunday, January 02, 2005

First Sniff of Mint 

We're still bathing Celeste in the kitchen sink, which sometimes means bath time crosses over with dinner-preparation time. Tonight, I was making şehriye çorbası (orzo soup, Mahi Koç's recipe, which I found online years ago and still love) and we bathed Celeste while the tomatoes and broth were simmering.

I had to step away to add the orzo and to stir occasionally, but the funniest bit was when I was getting out the mint. We have a big bag of spearmint we ordered from Penzey's a while ago (who knew an ounce of dried leaves would be so big; I made the same mistake with bay leaves, too), so whenever I make the şehriye çorbası, I have to break up the leaves by rubbing them between my fingers.

It leaves a nice smell on my hand, so I thought I'd see what Celeste thought. She was playing her favorite bath game (she puts her hands in the stream of water and stares at them until the perfect moment when she quickly tries to cram both hands into her mouth), and I stuck one finger that had been rubbing the mint leaves under her nose. She stopped what she was doing, got very still for a moment, and her eyes got wide. And then her tongue leaped out to take a quick lick or two.

I tried it again a little bit later, nothing. I guess the experience wasn't new anymore. Luckily we have a lot of spices, and dinner comes every night ...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

A New Year, Another Growth Spurt 

So by the time we were leaving Louisiana, we were pretty sure Celeste was in the midst of another growth spurt. She looked bigger than before and she'd wanted to eat about every two hours and not to nap for more than 45 minutes at a time.

She's 17 weeks old today (developmentally, she's about 13 weeks old based on her due date) and something's definitely up. Yesterday, I mentioned how she's been sort of sullen the past few days, well, it looks like that is part of the lead up to the next "wonder week."

This wonder week theory — outlined in Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij's The Wonder Weeks: How to Turn Your Baby's 8 Great Fussy Phases into Magical Leaps Forward — is kind of interesting, and seems to match up with our experience thus far. Basically, there are mental growth spurts just as there are physical growth spurts. Sometimes, the two coincide; other times they don't. But whenever one occurs, everything the baby has figured out about the world is turned on its head and she or he has to figure out how reality is constructed anew. It's frustrating and scary, ergo, the fussiness and other changes in behavior.

The book was originally published in Dutch as Oei, ik groei!, which translates roughly as "Oh no! I'm growing!"

Since we got back from Louisiana, Celeste has been fighting sleep, screaming whenever she's put down (to a much greater degree than can be explained by the horizontal alarm), and generally acting sullen, inconsolable, and unhappy. Sure, she's always had that "I'm out of here when I'm 18" look, but this goes beyond that. This morning, however, she was a bit more pleasant. We got some smiles and a good nap and even some solid playtime. No giggles, but there's hope that she'll laugh again.

It looks like she's in the build-up to Wonder Week 19, which would be a bit ahead of schedule since we figure she just hit Wonder Week 12 a little before Christmas, but the book does say the build-up could start as early as week 14. (Plus, at some point she's got to start closing that due date vs. birth date gap.) Hopefully, the transition will be a smooth one and we'll all be in an "uncomplicated" period again soon enough.

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