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Monday, June 27, 2005

To Forget About Poison Ivy ... 

... just burn the hell out of your hand. Nice grilling accident; I can still type, but it's been a grumpy evening. Details later, unless that'd just be gross.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sleeping in Chairs 

I'm sure part of it is just everything catching up with me and my body working overtime to fight this poison ivy, but I've fallen asleep in an armchair every night this week. Tuesday, Evelin came home and I had Celeste not quite asleep in her crib while I was sacked out in the Barkaby in her room modeling good sleeping behavior. Last night and Wednesday night, I ended up in the garage-sale Ikea recliner (I can't find its Swedish name at the moment), and Evelin had to wake me up to send me to bed.

As for the poison ivy, I'm on to yet another group of products to try and kill the itching: Ivy-Dry Super worked great on drying up the rash and the first day or two it felt good, but either it or all the other stuff I tried before it really dried out the skin, which meant some serious burning when I applied the Super Ivy-Dry. Right now I'm trying Sarna, but I also have some Aveeno 1% hydrocortisone with oatmeal to try ...

At the risk of jinxing things, I am not the only one who's falling asleep a lot in the house. Celeste is doing a lot better overnight. She still wakes up a few times — and she's up for the day around 5:30 a.m. — but she's dropped one overnight feeding and either self-soothes or can be soothed back to sleep relatively easily. She does have occasional middle-of-the-night freakouts, but generally she's sleeping pretty well and giving us good four- to five-hour stretches of sleep.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Baby Crack 

When greg.daddy labels something as "baby crack," believe him. Yesterday, Celeste and I picked up some Veggie Booty for her to try; I figured it couldn't be as addictive as Daddy Types made it sound and it would expose her to spinach, kale, corn, and a few other new things.

Wow. Her first bite was a little uncertain, but after I ate one, she dug in. And it was the first time in a month that she's made anything close to the MORE sign. Celeste must have had 10 pieces, at least and almost all of it went into her belly (as opposed to into her new crumb-catcher bib). She also tired quickly of the peaches and cottage cheese and even the sweet potato chunks, but as soon as she saw another piece of Veggie Booty ... watch out!

(Actually looking back, it was Mary Elizabeth Williams writing in Salon that used the term "baby crack" for Veggie Booty. No matter who came up with it, the label fits.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Itchy, Itchy, Itchy 

I am a dermatological mess right now. Not only have I been using duct tape [PDF] to attack two small warts, but I seem to have strayed into some poison ivy or something last week … and it took me a few days to realize it. I just thought it was some bug bites or something, but it's since spread across much of my torso, to both arms, and a bit on my legs.

While I seem to have gotten this all over myself, Celeste and Evelin have been spared, thankfully.

I had been trying Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel, which worked a little bit, but this morning I switched over to Calamine Spray, which is basically calamine lotion in a spray can. I'm not sure if it's messier than the lotion or not, but being able to basically spray paint myself Pepto-Bismal Pink has to be an advantage, right?

My guess is that when I hopped the neighbor's fence to do some quick weeding among their azaleas — they're on the old side and have given us permission to knock down things on the hill next to our house — I must have gotten into something. I don't see anything over there, and the vines I pulled up didn't look like poison ivy, but who knows … I obviously got into something.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day 



Apparently, it took a few shoots, but Evelin and Celeste put together the coolest father's day present for me (and for Celeste's grandfathers). And, since Evelin had her book club that morning, Celeste and I got to spend a nice chunk of time together. We went to the farmers market and to the carwash.

It seems that a lot of the "first experiences" I share with Celeste end up scaring her a bit (I'm thinking particularly of that MARC train a few weeks ago). The carwash was a touchless drive-through type and I thought Celeste might be interested in seeing the water spraying the windows and such. When the first presoak/soap stage flew past the back window, her interest was piqued, but something — the noise? vibration? boredom? — started her crying when the high-pressure rinse cycle started. She would cry while the water was on the hood and front of the car, and then freeze with a look of horror on her face as it passed along the sides and rear of the car (she is still in a rear-facing carseat, so the back window is what she could see best). I had my seat back and was talking to her, but she didn't want to be comforted. As soon as the carwash was finished, she was okay with things ... maybe she was just embarrassed by how dirty the T.R.U.C.K. was.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Six Hours 

21,600 seconds = 360 minutes = six hours = a fourth of a day = 0.0357142857 weeks = 0.0178571429 fortnights = 0.00821372779 months = 0.000684477316 years = 0.000171119329th of a presidential term = 6.84477316 × 10-05 decades = 6.84477316 × 10-06 centuries = 6.84477316 × 10-07 millennia ...

After a day it starts to become meaningless, but when Celeste managed to go to bed a little before 6:00 p.m., wake up a little before 10:00 p.m., feed somewhere around midnight and then wake for the day at 5:47 a.m. ... well, six hours is a significant period of time.

Before, she would go to sleep sometime between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., wake to feed sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, wake to feed sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., and then up for the day between 5:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Last night we started what will hopefully only be a weekend project of getting her to sleep through the night more.

She was tired before Evelin got home, so I fed her a bottle and got her to sleep before 6:00 p.m., she peeped around 8:00 p.m. and a little before 10:00 let loose with a lot of tears. I went in and tried to give her a pacifier, but she kept swinging her arms at me. Eventually, I got the pacifier past her wails and she quieted right down. I spent a little time patting her back, but did not pick her up, and she stayed quiet.

About 10 minutes later, after I'd brushed my teeth, I went in to check on her and she was wide awake, but quiet, just playing with her blankie. Within a half hour, she was back asleep.

Around 11:30 p.m., Evelin poked me to and try to sooth Celeste back to sleep again, but she wasn't interested in the pacifier this time. I did get her to calm down, but she continued to whimper for a while and Evelin went ahead and fed her around midnight. (It had been six hours since she'd last ate afterall.)

At about 5:30 a.m., we started hearing some noise from Celeste's room. It was gradually building, but we wanted her to wait until after 6:00 a.m. By 5:45 a.m., however, it was clear that she wasn't going to just play quietly, so we started the day.

I'm sure I am jinxing things by blogging it — why should this time be any different? — but if my soothing her at that first wake forestalls the first night feeding enough to drop the second night feeding, well, then six hours feels a lot like a full night's sleep to me. (Of course, the real test will be if my leaving to go to work at 3:00 a.m. becomes a cue for her to wake or not ...)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

No! You Feed Me! 

A week or two ago, it seemed that Celeste wanted nothing to do with the spoon during mealtime. She'd pick up her Cheerio's, slices of cheese, and so forth, but anything on a spoon was suspect and deserved only to be swatted at and smashed across the face (hers or mine; it didn't seem to matter).

Today, she would pick up Cheerio's, banana slices, etc., but it would go maybe into the mouth, maybe straight to the floor. And if it did go into the mouth, there was no guarantee it would stay there for long.

However, if I would let her bite the piece of strawberry, for example, off my fingertip, then 90% of the time she will chew it up and swallow it (especially if I model chewing and swallowing for her). Even the mesh feeder bag ... she wanted me to hold it up to her mouth instead of holding it herself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Employee Discounts 

Apparently, wearing a Hawai'ian-print shirt is not enough to get you an employee discount at Trader Joe's. You actually have to work there or something. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Celeste Loves a Pratfall 

... or something like that. She seems to have a pretty broad sense of humor, which isn't at all surprising considering that she's only 9 months old, but she did seem to enjoy dropping her mesh feeder filled with some half mushed mango chunks on my head this afternoon. Sure she acted all innocent and "Oops, where did my mango go?" but I think she knows what she was doing ...

I was trying to gather some of the various Cheerio's and bits of cheese, sweet potato, and everything else she'd moved from the highchair tray to her mouth to the floor and therefore was probably begging to have the mango-and-spit conditioner added to hair.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Nine Month Check Up 

Celeste is three-fourths of the way through her first year. Back when we went for her first doctor's appointment, she was at the bottom of the charts; today, she is right on the 50th percentile for height (27.5 inches) and weight (18 pounds, 14 ounces), and in the 75th percentile for head size (17.75 inches). Evelin has dug up my old baby pictures, and it looks like Celeste has my big baby head. She got one quick shot, kicked the nurse who gave it to her, and didn't cry too much — all in all a pretty good check up.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Parenting Advice 

Before one starts putting outlet covers on every electrical outlet in the house, one really should make certain that so-called "child-proof" products will not also prevent adults from accessing said electrical outlets. I'm just saying.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Artichokes 

Celeste was a bottomless pit this afternoon and, after her bath, she extended her meal to fifteen courses* with yet another new food ... artichoke. She's getting older and we're getting a little more cavalier about waiting three days between new foods, especially when she's so gung ho to try new things.

She was wide awake after her bath, so Evelin and I had her sit down for dinner with us. She munched on a piece of whole-wheat rotini, but she watched us dipping the leaves into some lemon juice and melted butter and was pretty soon making grabs at the artichoke. I tried scraping some meat off the leaf for her, but she wasn't interested in that, so — watching her very closely — we gave her a leaf. She started chewing on the edible end (I'd snipped the thorns off, so there wasn't a chance she'd get poked) and pretty soon had stripped most of the meat off of it and was ready for another and then another.

I tried giving her a bite of the heart, but she wasn't interested. Maybe she gets that from me: When I was a kid, I used to eat down to the thin, prickly leaves and then want nothing to do with trying to get the choke out of the way. I don't remember my mother ever complaining that I didn't want to eat the heart ... more for her, I guess.

Just about every time I eat a whole artichoke, I go back to one memory: I was visiting J---, a friend who was studying in Sweden for a year (this was April 1994), and she took me to a gasque (formal dinner party) at Norrlands Nation. One of the early courses was an artichoke and J--- and I tried to discretely look around to see what the protocol in Sweden was for eating these things. (I'd earlier made a food faux pas by eating my potatoes without peeling them.) We quickly realized that pretty much everyone else was doing the same sort of looking around to see what others were doing, so prodding some Finnish friends of J---'s who were there with us, we all started diving in with our hands.

The other funny story from that trip was that the Swedish new wave/punk band KSMB — whose name is derived from Kurt-Sunes med Berits, and not the radio station in Lafayette, Louisiana that first came to mind when I saw their name — was on a reunion tour at the time, and they were playing an after-gasque party. I'd made the mistake of asking one of the people in J---'s dorm what Kay-Ess-Em-Bee sounded like, and he gave me the oddest look. It took a little while for us to figure out that I should have said Ko-Ess-Ehm-Bah. It seemed pretty funny at the time; also, the guy thought I was German for some reason ....

*It was about 4:30 p.m. when Celeste ate, and she hadn't had anything since about 12:00 p.m. When I got home, we played for a little while, and I saw some eye rubbing so, around 1:30 p.m., I tried getting her to go to bed, but she wanted to run a crib marathon instead, so around 2:00 p.m. I put her down next to me in the big bed and we both slept for about 90 minutes. After that, she played for a while, but started getting a bit fussy, so I signed EAT to her and she went bonkers.

Nearly an hour later, she was finishing up (and I'm not sure she was entirely sated). She ate: Cheerio's, some cheddar cheese, a tiny broccoli stalk/floweret, one cube of green beans mixed with ricotta, a few sweetpotato chunks, one cube of applesauce, three peach slices in her mesh feeder bag, two pieces of rotini, half of a little strawberry (it was tart), one cube of parsnip thinned with a little apple juice, and two-thirds of a Stage 2 jar of carrots thickened with some multigrain cereal, all washed down with some water.

After her bath, Celeste had some milk, stole some of Evelin's toast, ate three artichoke leaves, and capped it all off with a teething biscuit. Hopefully she's just storing up for a growth spurt, otherwise we are in serious trouble.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

It Grows Here 

Back on 1 June, I started writing an entry about how the garden was doing but got distracted and never finished it. Back then, we were at what we would soon learn was the tail-end of our long, cold spring. Now, we are a good week into summer with temperatures in the high 80°Fs to high 90°Fs.

A few blueberries and raspberries seem to be setting on the plants, but the power grower this year has been the strawberries. There were a few in the front bed when we moved here, and we've added a few that we picked up at the USDA BARC Field Day over the years. This year, they're all cropping pretty heavily.

This afternoon, Evelin and Celeste were outside picking berries (well, Evelin was picking and Celeste was watching) and Celeste was adamant that she needed a strawberry. They weren't on her food list, but Evelin couldn't resist the happy, insistent face and Celeste apparently loved them. So, we'll watch for a reaction over the next few days while she pigs out on strawberries.

The peas have been growing nicely and for longer than we originally expected. The cool weather has extended their season, but that means we can't put the tomatoes in that bed yet. The leeks and carrots are showing their tops, and the cucumbers are developing nicely. The garlic will probably be wilting soon, which will mean we can harvest them in a month or so, and the bok choi isn't growing as quickly as advertised (10–14 days to harvest), but it's definitely there.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Third Tooth 

During her bath, Celeste decided to gnaw on my hand a little bit. The two very sharp teeth on the bottom jaw I was expecting; the eyetooth that poked the top of my finger, however, was a surprise. We've figured she was cutting a tooth or more for the past few weeks, but it is there, clearly visible and sharp. She may or may not be pushing through the complementary tooth on the other side of her mouth, and there might be the upper incisors coming too (it's hard to really tell), but she definitely needs to spend all that time chewing her toothbrush ...

Other news from the world of Celeste: She is getting close to figuring out this movement thing. She can still breakdance a little bit, but she's finding it easier to roll from back to stomach and back again until whatever she's grabbing for is in reach. She also is pushing herself along the ground on her back to get places.

Today, she moved a good meter and a half on her back, rolling over occasionally to check her direction, to get to her book basket where she tried to pull out Buzz-Buzz, Busy Bees. I had to adjust where it was in the basket, but she eventually pulled it out.

There also is the crib marathon. She was acting sleepy, so I tried to get her to go down for a nap. While I sat in her room reading, she pushed/pulled/rolled herself around the perimeter of the crib twice — we're talking a good 20 minutes of solid movement punctuated by the occasional grin or squeal.

There also was at least one point where it looked like she'd managed to pull her knees into a crawling position. I don't know if she didn't manage to crawl because her head was up against the bars or if she couldn't get her hands into position or her belly was in the way or what ... but it's probably going to be happening sooner than we're ready.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Asparagus 

I've made many of my own disasters in the kitchen, and some of them have turned out to be decent (albeit not always recreatable), so I was a bit intrigued when I read about Edible Tulip's unintended experiment with asparagus. (Via Too Many Chefs)

I'd picked up some asparagus as the farmers market on Thursday, so with nothing else in the plans for dinner, we gave the non-recipe a go: Set oven to 400°F, oil and salt asparagus, walk away and forget. I left them in for about 20 minutes, and they didn't quite match the visual description Edible Tulip gave of her asparagus, but they were pretty tasty with a crisped skin and a melty inside. I might want to try a little less oil next time, but I think this is one where there is room for a next time.

Other Stuff

CELESTE: She had a short morning nap and a long afternoon one and went down pretty well after her bath ... and we haven't had a peep out of her in over two hours. Could we have reached a turning point? Or will the thunderstorm wake/disturb her? Or is my blogging this certain to lead to a backsliding? I guess only time will tell.

P³ UPDATE: Evelin recently discovered Freecycle and has managed to get two no-longer-needed humidifiers and some Ikea sheets she hated out of the house. She also put out a notice that if anyone wanted free dirt we had a lot ... and we actually had a taker.

Okay, so the Freecycler who was interested in some dirt didn't show up on Sunday, but Evelin did talk to a neighbor across the street who recently had some trees taken out of his front yard and it turns out he needs some dirt to help fill things in. I took six wheelbarrow loads over there after work (and before the rain hit) and hopefully one of us will see him tomorrow or Wednesday to find out how much more he wants and where he wants it. We have so much dirt to give.

WEATHER: After a very cool spring, we finally turned on the AC on Sunday. The temperature wasn't too bad that morning, but the humidity was up to 94% (and inside the humidity reader was scoring 75%). The timing was pretty good because that afternoon it was in the upper 80°Fs range and today it hit 98°F (albeit a little less humid). I don't know if we're into summer heat from here until October or if this is just an early June heat burst, but the AC is working, which is always a nice thing to discover after it's been off all winter (kind of like finding out that the furnace is working when that first cold snap hits in November or December).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Rest of the Weekend 

So, how does one cap a day centered around a trip into the vaults at the Folger Shakespeare Library? Watching the Nats beat the Florida Marlins, of course.

While Evelin, Celeste, and M--- stayed home, my father-in-law and I headed out to RFK to see what seats were available for the game. Not wanting to spend $190 for seats right behind home plate, nor wanting to be up in the upper atmosphere, we opted for some decent seats on the mezzanine level above right field. It was much easier to judge where balls were flying than when S--- and I saw the Nats–Mets game back in April. It started off pretty slow, but the game turned out to be a pretty decent one.

On Sunday, we took a quick trip down to the Mall and the National Museum of American History to view the Whatever Happened to Polio? exhibit and to run through the bookstore there before R--- and M--- needed to head to the airport.

Afterwards, I spent a little time on the P³, shifting four wheelbarrow loads of dirt to a low spot in the upper yard, spreading, tamping, and seeding. As I have been digging, I've had a recurring fantasy of discovering one or more bodies buried in the dirt; the big hope is that a CSI team would then have to come and finish all the digging for me. No such luck, however; all I've found thus far is one old beer can, a few empty cigarette packs, and various other bits of trash/debris.

Today, however, I hit two bags of sand — sealed plastic bags of general-use sand. Maybe they were put there to help stabilize things during the original construction, or maybe they were accidentally buried and the guys decided to just leave them there. Just another instance of what were they thinking ...

The one really crazy thing that went on to today is that Celeste was back in her refuse-to-sleep mode. She woke really nicely at 6:00 a.m. (almost on the dot) and was tired by 8:30 a.m., but she refused to go to sleep, we tried to get her to sleep a few other times during the morning and hoped she'd pass out on the drive down to the Mall ... no such luck. She did nod off on the way home, but as soon as we were home she was up.

Tonight, after her bath, the real drama started; she did fall asleep while nursing, but was wide awake and crying after only 45 minutes. Celeste was almost panicking every time Evelin was out of eyeshot, and, while she would snug down into her blanket, she kept popping her head up to look around, intermixing goos and laughs with tears. Finally, Evelin got her down ... now the dread is how will she be overnight.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Give the Girl Some Culture 

This afternoon, Celeste became the youngest person ever admitted into the vault at the Folger Shakespeare Library ... and, while it looked for a moment like she was going to try to chew on one of the library’s copies of the First Folio, she behaved herself quite well.

A while ago, Evelin's mother won at a charity auction a tour of the library guided by the head librarian, so M--- and R--- flew in this morning and Evelin's sister, M---, drove down last night and we all, Celeste included, went for the tour.

We've seen a few exhibits at the library and one performance, but this tour gave us a look at a lot of the behind-the-scenes spaces and a lot of the art that's spread throughout the facility, including the earliest known sieve portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (painted by Plimpton in 1579).

The coolest part (apart from talking with the librarian about the collection and the library) was the rare book vault. In addition to tons of Shakespeare — including 79 First Folios, about one-third of the copies known to be in existence — we got to see William Caxton's 1477 printing of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the first quarto of Titus Andronicus, Elizabeth I's personal red velvet-bound copy of the Bishop's Bible, a prayer book inscribed by Anne of Cleves to Henry VIII, and a 17th Century seven-language phrasebook (Flemish, English, German, Latin, French, Spanish and Italian).

Celeste did get a little restless and noisy while we were in the book vault, but otherwise she was very, very well behaved and really paid attention during some parts of the tour.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Sleep ... Precious Sleep 

So, I may have mentioned before that Celeste doesn't always sleep so well. However, her little bout with a fever combined with a leap have made the past few weeks even worse.

And, on top of that, on Wednesday Evelin shifted her bedroom around — the crib had to be moved because she was able to reach the curtains and, since we dropped the mattress, an electrical outlet was tantalizingly close — which seems to have left her sleep just that extra bit more unsettled.

So, since she's in the midst of all this change, we're also throwing some food changes at her. The basic rule of thumb we just learned is 0–9 months offer milk first then solids; after 9 months go with solids first. Yesterday afternoon, instead of her 3:00 p.m. (or so) bottle, Celeste had some cheese, Purely O's (the organic version of Cheerios), some sweet potato, and some apple ... followed about an hour later by a half bottle of milk.

Overall, that went reasonably well, but, since she didn't nap or anything, she was ready to head to bed well before the normal time. She was bathed and, by 5:40 p.m., I was feeding her an extra-tall bottle of milk, and she was asleep in my arms just a little past 6:00 p.m.

For there, she did pretty well, with some whimpering at the 90 minute mark followed by a full-blown wake up around 9:00 p.m. Evelin gave her a feeding at that point, and then the fun started: Celeste decided she'd only had a nap and was up for the next two hours. She fed again around 1:00 a.m., spent some time in our bed, and rest of the night is kind of uncertain. Evelin thinks there was a wakeup around 3:00 a.m., but neither of us are sure. She woke for the day around 5:30 a.m. Her first nap of the day came before 8:00 a.m.

Right now, she's asleep (with the occasional cry/whimper short wake) and has been for about two hours ... and, of course, as I type this a big cry is starting.... Hopefully it'll even out and the evening will go more smoothly than last.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Trainspotting With Celeste 

No, we didn't try to score some heroin or anything, but Celeste and I got pretty close to a MARC commuter train as it sped through Riverdale Park this afternoon. As I'm trying to do each Thursday afternoon, Celeste and I took a trip to the farmers market in Riverdale Park, which is held in a parking lot next to the CSX train tracks. Two weeks ago we saw a big freight train pass through. It was loud and we were watching from the parking lot and I'm pretty sure Celeste couldn't quite comprehend what was going past her.

This afternoon, I think the train just scared her. We were closer this time —— on the MARC platform —— and it was a really short three-car train. We'd already bought our strawberries, asparagus, and loaf of bread (it's still early in the season and this market is smaller than our Sunday one in Takoma Park), so we were taking a walk and went on to the platform. I heard a train whistle in the distance, so Celeste and I sat down on a bench and waited. I warned her what was coming, and Celeste was really interested when the crossing gates came down to block off the road.

Suddenly, the train was there. I cupped my hands over her ears, which probably startled her more than the train, and she just pushed back in her stroller and stared as the train whizzed by on the tracks closest to us. After it had passed, the wind generated continued to whip around us for a while and she eventually looked over at me with a "What the hell was that?!" expression.

A little while later, while I was getting her into the carseat to head home, I heard another whistle, so I held her up to see the train pass on the far tracks. Being further away, she wasn't as startled, but it did go by too quickly for her to really figure out what it was.

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