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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Waaaaaaah! 

I miss Celeste's nap. Maybe she's not done with it entirely; she definitely still needs one. But yesterday and today she powered through with just a little quiet time (and a good bit of late afternoon crankiness). She also dropped her nap last Thursday or Friday while my mother was here, but we could run a one-on-one defense against the girls; without an extra hand during the afternoon, Evelin or I am outnumbered.

Which leads to something like this ...
It is Possible
I'll admit it: I've been curious about the possibility of carrying Quinn in the BabyBjörn and Celeste in the REI Piggyback at the same time. When Quinn fussing needed the BabyBjörn and Celeste's crankiness needed something (and my sanity needed to get out of the house), I figured Celeste wouldn't say no to a backpack ride.

Getting Celeste into the Piggyback wasn't too bad with Quinn strapped to me, and lifting her up to my shoulders wasn't too bad either. But getting all the buckles buckled and straps adjusted was a bit of a pain. Plus the BabyBjörn was pulling my back and shoulders in one direction while the Piggyback pulled in another.

We only went on a little hike through the neighborhood (passing a couple of big construction/destruction sites, which Celeste thought were cool), but it was long enough for Quinn to fall asleep and me to feel like I tweaked something in my lower back (hopefully the Pendleton will help with that).
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Big Girls 

Yesterday was Celeste's two-year check-up (a week or so early) and Quinn's four-month check-up (a week or so late). They're both growing well.

Quinn was 16 pounds, 6 ounces (90th percentile) and 25 inches long (75th percentile). Her head circumference was 1612 inches. By comparison, Celeste was 18 pounds, 14 ounces, at her nine-month check-up; Evelin notes that is probably why Quinn fits well into Celeste's hand-me-downs from last summer.

Celeste was 27 pounds and 3412 inches tall. Evelin said she read somewhere that if you double a two-year-old's height, you get an approximation of his/her adult height: If true, Celeste will be a respectable 5 foot, 9 inches. This Children's Adult Height Prediction Calculator, she'll probably be closer to 5 foot, 4 inches, but it looks like it (or any of the other ones I found) isn't really set up for working with kids younger than four.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Stories 

After Celeste's allotted three bedtime stories this evening, she asked for another. I pointed out that she'd already gone through her three story penguins and that it was time for bed, but then added that she and Dee Dee Bear and Tim Bear and her other animals could tell each other stories. Celeste corrected me, saying that her stuffed animals didn't tell stories.

As I put her in her crib, Celeste listed all of her animals — Dee Dee Bear, Tim Bear, Night Bear, Cut Passy, Passy, Blankie, Puppy, Pinkie, Spotty Puppy, Lamba — and then said that she would tell them stories. And that's what she did. As soon as I put her down, she rolled up to a sitting position and helped me arrange the animals around her and then she started telling them about how she went underwater at the big big pool and about Bambam Bimbim* and Celeste at the zoo.

*Bambam Bimbim, Celeste tells us, is a man who lives at the National Zoo. He knows all the animals there and is a very good friend. He started popping up in her story requests as we were leaving the zoo on Saturday ... I have no idea how he got his name.
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Earlier Today ...

... I started a post about Katrina, but after reading through my posts from last 29 August and the next few days, I didn't really feel up to revisiting it; just reading back over it and thinking back to how I felt for those three days (and it felt like a lot longer) not knowing what was going on with my family ...

This past weekend, my mother was up visiting and in between playing with the girls and catching up and talking about this and that we talked a bit about how the recovery is going, both for my extended family that's in New Orleans and for the region as a whole, and we kept a wary eye on Ernesto and what that meant in terms of evacuation for friends and family in New Orleans ...
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lost and Found 

Last night I had a little adventure. D--- and S--- and their kids (age 7 and 5) drove down from their vacation in Atlantic City to spend the day with Evelin and the girls. As soon as I got home, we jumped out for a quick, fast dinner so they could get back on the road. In the chaos of gathering together a 7-year-old, 5-year-old, (not quite) 2-year-old, and a 4-month-old, Celeste's purple cup must have ended up on a tray that got dumped into the trash bin. By the time we realized it was missing, there was no sign of it.

Evelin and I figured it was no big deal: After the girls went to bed, I could run out and pick another one up.

About 90 minutes, three Safeways, two Giant Foods, three CVS/pharmacies, two Rite Aids, one Target, and one Toys “Я” Us later ... nada. I only saw two of the Gerber soft straw cups during the entire outing (both were blue, not purple) and those were at the Safeway around the corner from our house. This morning, I tried the Safeway near work, as well as another Toys “Я” Us and a Babies “Я” Us ... nada.

At the last stop of the night last night, I picked up a Playtex QuickStraw bottle. I thought the purple top and the dogs would be interesting to her, and it seems to have worked today. Evelin explained that purple cup was lost ("lost" is a concept Celeste probably gets at this point; she's been obsessed with D.W.'s Lost Blankie), but that the purple dog cup was here. Celeste seemed okay with that.

As for the found, we had an appliance guy come in to look at the dryer today: Turns out the dryer is probably okay. One of the circuit breakers burned out instead of just tripping. I'm waiting on a callback from the electrician as to when he can come out to fix it. I'm also a bit curious as to whether or not the panel is up to the task of the load we place on it given all the various baby-related and modern-life things that we have plugged into the walls.
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Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Koi Whisperer 


This morning we took the girls down to the National Arboretum to feed the koi (錦鯉, ornamental Cyprinus carpio). Evelin's taken the girls down there a couple of times in recent weeks, but on weekdays the koi food dispensers are usually empty. (They only refill the feeders on Saturdays so that the fish don't burst.) A koi feeding frenzy is quite a sight and, as the above clip shows, Celeste was happy to encourage all the activity. Quinn acted as assistant cinematographer and key grip for the shoot.
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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Swings! 


Quinn got her first taste of one of Celeste's favorite activities this morning ... the swings!.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

What Was I Thinking? 

So here it is: I'm home; the girls are both napping; I've had lunch; and what am I doing? Work: arguing 2007 editorial calendar dates/items with the publisher; looking at the redesign of some elements of the paper that haven't been updated in a decade (and reading a pretty interesting article on newspaper redesign mentioned on NewsDesigner.com); answering e-mails; etc.

Clearly there are more important things to do ... like update this blog.

One thing I've been meaning to mention is Celeste's fondness for reporting the world around her. She spends a good bit of time narrating what she, Quinn, me, Evelin, some random thing, is doing. It's really cute and gives her a chance to showoff her rapidly expanding vocabulary.

She also has been categorizing things and the way our family breaks down is that Celeste is a "big, big girl;" Quinn is a "big girl;" I am a "big, big boy;" and Evelin is a "mumma." And it's not just Evelin: If we ask about C--- and her mother, G---; C--- is a "big, big girl" and G--- is a "mumma." We've tried it with other families and the same breakdown: boys, girls, and mummas. (Although she did say Evelin's cousin-in-law, J---, was a "man." Hurm, I'm not sure what to take away from that ...)

[UPDATE: (3:05 p.m.) To keep me on my toes, Celeste (who awoke about 20 minutes ago) just told me that I am a "big, big boy;" she is a "big girl;" and Quinn is a "little girl." Evelin remains a "mumma."]

[UPDATE DEUX: Audio (MP3)]

The other thing is that while the new stove is doing well, something's up with the dryer. Evelin said there was a "something died smell" in the basement this morning (late she said it could have been a burnt rubber smell), and that the dryer wasn't working. I'd started the dryer before leaving for work at 5:00 a.m. and apparently it worked for a little while before cutting off. Now it won't restart. The circuit wasn't tripped and there is power at the outlet, so it could well be something overheated in the dryer.

Of course about two weekends back, I took things apart to vacuum out anywhere where lint might be building up in the line and filters and exhaust, so maybe I dislodged something that shouldn't have been dislodged and that caused the problem.

I printed a bunch of stuff of the succinctly URLed http://www.do-it-yourself-washing-machine-and-dryer-repair-help.com/ and tonight after the girls go to bed I guess I'll be seeing if I can figure out what's wrong. If not, I guess I need to find a dryer repair guy and/or an electrician.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dude! You Got a Dell 

Steven forgot to warn us back in 2004 that when we bought a new Dell Inspiron laptop it might end up exploding. Or, more accurately, that the battery might explode [ c|net | Post | NPR ].

I half-heard the story on "Morning Edition" while driving in this morning, but missed that it applied to less-than-recent laptops, so I didn't look anything up. But the IT guy in my office remembered I'd bought a Dell a while ago, and forwarded me the link Dell is using to check battery packs — http://www.dellbatteryprogram.com/. (He'd bought a new Dell about the same time and had just checked his batteries.)

When I got home, I pulled the battery out of Evelin's computer and sure enough, it is a fire hazard. Dell is supposed to be shipping us a new one within the next few weeks.

One caveat: I initially thought the battery was okay (and so did Dell), but I decided to be safe and entered the BPPID number a second time, putting a zero (0) instead of a capital O as the first character in the last four-digit string of characters. OMGR was safe; 0MGR was bad. So be sure your Os aren't 0s.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

New Stove! 

New Stove! Thanks to my superwonderful grandmother, who offered to help us upgrade to the Maytag double-oven range we'd wanted for a while, our kitchen got a slight makeover today. It still has a ton of cosmetic and other problems, but the new stove ... W00t! As I blogged a few weeks ago, Evelin and had decided it was time to replace the ancient Montgomery Ward stove that conveyed with the house.

Evelin's must-have list centered upon a solid-surface ceramic cooktop and self-cleaning, and while the double ovens would be nice, we couldn't feel like we could justify the expense. After doing some research, we'd decided to go with Figidaire smooth-top range, but my grandmother saw the entry before we bought the oven and offered to upgrade us to the double oven.

So I had to go back and re-research things (it'd been a year or so since we'd last looked at/discussed the Gemini ovens), but ended up deciding to go with the MER2751AAW: two 9" burners, two 6" burners, and two ovens in the space of a standard range.

Of course, nothing could be too easy: Checking around online, Lowes had the best price, but in-store last weekend it was listed as a special-order item and cost about $200 more than the online price. The guy at the store was fairly nonplussed by that and said that I should just buy it online. Next I tried Home Depot, whose online price was $40 more than Lowes, but shipping was about $20 cheaper. Actually, the shipping turned out to be a lot cheaper ... free (well, it was $55, but with a $55 rebate). So I ended up placing the order, and the stove arrived this morning, six days later.

I checked out the installation manual online this morning, saw that I was going to need to get a strain-relief clamp to connect it properly (of course, the old stove wasn't installed with such a clamp, so I couldn't just reuse that one ...), so I ran out and found one before the truck arrived with the new stove.

They had the old stove out and the new one in in less than 10 minutes, leaving me to handle the hookups. Of course, the strain-relief clamp was the wrong size, so I ended up running around to several hardware stores before finding something that would work at an electrical supply store in the District.

It's been powered up for a few hours now and no smells of an electrical fire, so I guess I connected things properly. And for our first meal on the new stove ... we'll have to wait until tomorrow: It was so nice Evelin wanted to grill outside tonight.


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Trains and Scott Miller 

We made it to the farmers market today — a lot of okra, a giant cantaloupe, a watermelon, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes for Celeste — and were lucky enough to not have too long of a wait for a train. At first Celeste wasn't sure about waiting around for a train to pass, but she was glad we did: After about 10 minutes of standing on the platform and eating tomatoes we spied a big CSX freight train.

Celeste was excited, but got nervous as it neared and wanted me to pick her up (Quinn was in the BabyBjörn). Celeste did the universal blow-your-horn hand/arm gesture and got several loud toots. She kicked like mad and pressed her face into my shoulder with each horn blast. I couldn't see Quinn's face, but she didn't really react to either the train or the horn, as best I could tell.

As the train passed, Celeste talked about the train on her train suit and the various trains in her books, but then we got a whiff of something bad about this particular train — among the cars being hauled was a bunch of trash from New York City and New Jersey (based upon the stenciling on the cars). Eventually those cars passed and we were back to less smelly things, like molten sulfur.

Despite the smell, Celeste was impressed with the train and as soon as the last car past and she waved goodbye, she turned to say "More train!"

A totally off-topic train story: Apparently Scott Miller and the Commonwealth has used Amtrak as his tour bus for his two of his recent tours [ MTV | Mule Train MMIV ]. I encountered Miller's first post-V-Roys album, Thus Always to Tyrants, in a bin of discarded CDs at work. I then picked up Upside Downside. Both of them fell into that category of "really enjoy, but don't really think about until you run across the disc."

I'm not sure if I'd say Miller is alt-country or southern rock or what, but he's good, and a few days ago I happened to be passing by the Live Music Archive and noticed a link for a recording of Scott Miller and the Commonwealth at The Handlebar and had to check it out. It's good, really good. I copied over several tracks to a USB stickdrive to play in my car on the drive home, and ever since it's been hard to not wander around singing "8 Miles a Gallon" [MP3] or "You Go On I Am Drunk" [MP3] (neither of which is a good idea to sing around someone who's picking up language as quickly as Celeste is) or his cover of Neil Young's "Hawks and Doves" [MP3]. The versions of both "8 Miles a Gallon" and "Hawks and Doves" on his latest album, Citation, are good, but these live versions add more cowbell to the nth degree. If you are even remotely interested in alt-country, southern rock, country, rock, whatever, it's definitely worth downloading the MP3 versions of the performance, or at least watch his "Studio 330 Session" on CMT (with the caveat that CMT stupidly requires IE and won't stream a simple Flash-based thing under Firefox ... but I digress).
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Blankie Power

We've always encouraged Celeste's security blanket, but sometimes I wonder. This afternoon, she bumped her head on the table as she was bending down and I asked her if she wanted me to kiss it better and she said, "No. Need Celeste Blankie." We found Blankie, and Celeste had it kiss her head. And only then did she feel better. At least Blankie can't read her a book ...
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Butterflies: Flippy-Flappy 

Today was the first time I've felt even the weest bit in control during one of my afternoons with the girls. Don't get me wrong, I'm hitting the whiskey but it's more in celebration than desperation tonight.

Things started off badly with Quinn waking soon after Evelin left for the office — and like last Thursday, she work crying. Actually, she didn't really want to be awake; her eyes were staying shut, but the screaming/crying wouldn't stop. So I ended up bringing her downstairs and putting her in the BabyBjörn. That calmed her (so long as I didn't sit still for too long), but she wasn't happy. Like last week, she ended up nodding off about an hour after the bad wake up.

And, of course, her return to sleep coincided with Celeste waking. And she only slept for about 15 minutes.

After everyone was up, changed, and downstairs happy, I looked at the time and realized we might be able to do something. I asked Celeste about butterflies and she sounded interested, so I put together some snacks, a bottle of milk, clean diapers, and a few other things and we headed off to Brookside Gardens for the "Wings of Fancy" exhibit.

[ASIDE: If you want to draw attention to yourself, show up at something — anything — with an infant in a BabyBjörn, a toddler on your shoulder, a camera dangling from your neck, and a bottle of milk in your pocket. For some reason, every single person feels compelled to offer a variation of "Wow, you have your hands full."]

Celeste wasn't too sure of the docent who ushered us into the conservatory, but she quickly got interested in the flowers and butterflies — "Flippy-flappy butterflies! Like on Celeste's dress, PJs!" For the most part, it went pretty well, except for when a morpho (Morpho peleides) took an interest in her yellow dress and kept circling her; that set Celeste off. The other problematic thing was the plates of rotting fruit set out for the butterflies and moths to eat; one of the plates was full of blueberries. It took a bit of work, but I managed to distract her from them ... several times. (She was also interested in the plate of half-rotted cherries, and she tried to shoo an American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis) away from a plate of sliced oranges.)
Celeste and the Butterflies
Along with the morpho, we saw tons of Baltimore checkerspots (Euphydryas phaeton), viceroy (Limenitis archippus), mournful owl (Caligo eurilochus), malachite (Siproeta stelenes), and others.

After some time in the exhibit, we wandered out into the gardens, where Celeste was immediately taken with the ponds and fountains. I found a shady bench near a raised pond and gave Quinn the bottle while Celeste ran around looking at the water, the flowers, the eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) and the various birds.

During the ride home, both girls seemed a little tired/stressed, but we had a decent time the rest of the day, and Quinn even took part of a second bottle before Evelin got home (which is quite an accomplishment, considering that there have been days when she's refused to eat the entire time she's with me).

The outing really helped make the day "work," but it's not the only thing. Last Thursday, I took the girls to the College Park Aviation Museum, and while we had a good time, I was not in good shape when Evelin got home. Today, Evelin could have made a very, very, very short stop on the way home and I would have been fine. I think.
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One Thing to Remember

As I pulled up in front of the house this afternoon and saw the neighbors' empty trashcans, I remembered Rule #1 for when one has two kids in diapers: Never forget to take out the trash. The next pickup is Friday; hopefully we can last until then ...
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Story Penguins 

We tried something new with Celeste tonight: story penguins.

Back when she was weaning, we tried substituting a bedtime book for breastfeeding, but it didn't work. Then (as now) she loves books and reading gets her wound up, not calmed down. It actually got the point where we took the bookcase out of her bedroom.

Lately, the "Dadda, tell Celeste story 'bout [Celeste, Dee Dee Bear go library/Panda-Bear-Eat-Bamboo that guy/Baby Quinn, Celeste go in our car/some other fond plot line]" thing has gotten to a similar point where the this-is-the-last-story caution does no good and much crying results. So Evelin came up with the idea of limiting things to three stories/books/songs/whatever.

Since this was sort of off the cuff, we dinnae have much planning going in and found ourselves just before bathtime explaining the new rule to Celeste and casting about for a handy trio to represent each story/book/song/whatever. Evelin asked, "What do we have three of," thinking a trio of physical objects would help Celeste with understanding/tracking the concept of three), and I remembered my Flying Penguini set of juggling penguins/balls. (Apparently, they're kind of rare or something.)

They are now the Story Penguins. We tried to explain to Celeste that she could trade one penguin for one story/book/song/whatever. (Evelin said they were representations of a story; I said they were sort of a metaphor for a story; Celeste just nodded.)

After her bath, I gave Celeste the three penguins. She gave me one and wanted a story about "penguin that guy." [ASIDE: She seems to be no longer using the word dave exclusively to mean all penguins ...] Since she was getting a limited set of stories, I tried to make sure it was a more involved tale, covering the geography of penguins, their natural history, and a few odd facts I could remember from March of the Penguins.

She got a little bored, and dumped the other two penguins on me and asked for a story about Dee Dee Bear.

After that story (and a third), I put her in her crib and she demanded another story, but I pointed at the penguins and reminded her that each one was a story. She then demanded the penguins join the rest of the menagerie in her bed.

Eventually, she fell asleep.
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Damage We Do ... 

Hopefully there won't be any lasting damage, but I have a new rhyme/song for Quinn that seems to amuse her:
10 babies on a log, Lookin' over the bog
In comes the fog, up comes a 'gator
Uh-oh baby, see you later!
And then it repeats, à al "99 Bottles of Beer," subtracting one baby each time until we're down to "No more babies on a log ..." Usually, I'm laying on my back with my legs crossed and Quinn is sitting on the leg that's parallel to the ground. Sometimes she looks worried; other times she's giggly about it.
Quinn on the Rockin' Pony
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bamboo! 

When Celeste was born, I was still a volunteer behavior watcher with the pandas at the National Zoo. Therefore, it is no surprise that she has a few panda-related items in her bedroom, including a fantastic panda quilt that a coworker of Evelin's made for her and a cuddly panda stuffed bear.

Among the information Celeste has picked up over her years (okay, 23 months) is that panda bears eat bamboo. Maybe she got it from one of her books or from a trip to the zoo or from me just rambling about something* in any case, a popular story request from Celeste these days is: "Daddy tell Celeste story 'bout panda-bear-eat-bamboo-that-guy" (pointing at the stuffed panda or, rarely, the quilt).

Yesterday, I decided we were going to have a stir-fry for dinner, so I ran to one of the Chinese groceries near my office and picked up noodles, snowpeas, bok choi, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and a can of bamboo shoots. I thought about getting some fresh bamboo, but the packages they had were a lot more than I thought I'd use and, to tell the truth, I'm not really sure how to tell if it's good bamboo or not. That night, while I was prepping dinner, I told Celeste we were having bamboo as part of our dinner and at first she was a little put off. But then I started talking about panda-bear-eat-bamboo-that-guy and she started to giggle at the idea. Turns out the bok choi was a little bitter for her and the carrots were too firm for her, but she loved the bamboo ...

Quinn, of course, didn't get any of the bamboo directly, but on Sunday I did manage to record a good 45 seconds or so of her giggling like crazy while Evelin tickled her. Here's the MP3.

*It could also be from my clever reworking of They Might Be Giants's song "The Vowel Family:"
Bears are important mammals. There's a bear in every woods.
Bears are important mammals. There's a bear in every woods.
Panda bears eat bamboo. Polar bears will eat you!
Bears are important mammals. There's a bear in every woods.
Bears are important mammals. There's a bear in every woods.
Black bears are hairy. Grizzly bears are scary!
I never came up with good verses to cover sun bears or sloth bears, however ...

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