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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quinn: Pumpkin Fiend 

When I was a kid, the best dog in the world came to live with us. His name was Bo. Among his endearing traits was how he would always get "food lock" whenever someone was eating near him. He wouldn't beg, per se, but he would laser in on the food and watch the ice cream, for example, leave the bowl on the spoon and enter the mouth and then his eyes would follow the path of the spoon back for the next bite.

Quinn, too, has been known to use to food lock. Given her interest in what we're eating, we figured that's a sign she's ready to give solids a try. Thus far she's been exposed to pumpkin and applesauce (both full-strength and thinned with a bit of breastmilk). The video below demonstrates her zeal for food, even if she isn't quite sure how to get it all the way into her stomach yet. Celeste provides the commentary.


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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Quinn in Sepiatone 

Quinn in Sepiatone
I was sitting on the floor as Quinn chewed away at the elephant on her exersaucer and thought it was a cute shot; then I started messing with the settings on the camera too ...

All Great Relationships ... 

Well, it was bound to happen: Celeste and Dee Dee Bear had a falling out of sorts. Evelin noticed a day or two ago that Celeste has been actively avoiding Dee Dee Bear. If we'd ask about Dee Dee Bear, it was always, "No Dee Dee Bear!" Last night, when she asked me for more stories, I told her she could tell stories with Dee Dee Bear, Abe, and Ripley. She said, "Only Abe, Ripley, and Cup-Paci. No Dee Dee Bear!" This is hardly typical — or consistent, on Friday, I came home with a pair of khakis for her that had two bears embroidered on them and she IDed them as Dee Dee Bear and Tim Bear with no hesitation.

During her non-nap today, I was listening in to the monitor and clear heard her say: "Tim Bear sleeping bag. Debbie Bear sleeping bag. Puppy sleeping bag. Dee Dee Bear, NO!" Clearly we had to get the bottom of this.

When we finally gave up on the nap, I went upstairs to get her. Before taking her out of her bed, I asked about who had which sleeping bag. She'd placed some of her stuffed animals in a pillow to create their sleeping bags; others were sharing her sleeping bag — yes, she has a sleeping bag her grandmother gave her for Christmas that has become a regular fixture in her bed. Dee Dee Bear was sitting in the far corner of the crib being shunned (and I mean in a hardcore Amish shunning way).

While I changed her diaper, I asked Celeste if she was mad at Dee Dee Bear. She nodded yes. I asked why, and Celeste said that Dee Dee Bear had bit her (Celeste's) sleeping bag. I asked if Celeste had bitten Dee Dee Bear; she again said she had. I then went over and got Dee Dee Bear's side of the story and suggested they both say they were sorry and to make up.

Celeste spent a good chunk of the next hour or so hugging Dee Dee Bear and playing with her.

After the girls were in bed, Evelin and I were talking and I started wondering if maybe I had come between the two of them: A few nights ago, when Celeste was trying to argue against going to bed, I noted that Dee Dee Bear was tired and ready for bed. Perhaps that is when the friction started ...
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Friday, September 22, 2006

This Will Embarrass Her Later 

Celeste has been on a soymilk binge lately. She never really cottoned to cow's milk, but she enjoys soymilk and since it's nicely fortified and everything we don't mind her having a glass or three a day. However, maybe it’s because it's a different brand or maybe it's because of the quantity consumed, tonight she seemed a bit windy and the soymilk is the most likely culprit.

Celeste was squatting down while we did a puzzle and a rather loud noise was heard. (I'm trying to be discrete here.) I asked if she needed to use the potty or to have a diaper change. She sort of looked around quietly for a moment ... and then said, "Celeste hears train!" nodded and went back to the puzzle.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Please! 

Celeste has been surprisingly good about having to going cold turkey on giving up her pacifier. While in Maine, I think she was a bit shell-shocked for several days and held out hope that we'd have a replacement at home or something. (The first night back, in fact, she asked for a "yellow paci," one of the heavier duty ones we had laying around, but Evelin had already nixed plans to reopen the pacifier door, so those had to be lost ...)

The biggest problem is that the paci was a big part of helping her get to sleep; with the exception of long car rides (when we hoped she might sleep), paci use was only allowed in the crib for nap and night time. With out that familiar ritual, Celeste is having some problems with getting to sleep. She sleeps pretty well overnight, but those first 15 minutes to an hour can be bad.

Before Maine, we had a pretty well established bedtime routine with the story penguins — three stories (one per penguin) and then in to bed. If Celeste wanted more stories she could tell them to Puppy, Dee Dee Bear, and the other stuffed animals until she fell asleep — and often she did: We'd hear over the monitor, "Celeste, D.W. go to big swimming pool in College Park, uh-huh" or "Puppy big big dog go '*pant* *pant* *pant*'" or some other variant tale.

Now the third story is followed by a request by "Dada [or Mumma], tell Celeste more story, please!" If we give in to a fourth story, there's a demand for a fifth, then a sixth, then a seventh, ad infinitum. However, we're working had with Celeste and manners right now. She's getting a lot better about saying "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "sorry" — usually with prompting, but increasingly spontaneously. (She used to be pretty good about signing PLEASE, but it was often in the context of "I want," so I'm not sure what meaning she associated with the sign.)

The dilemma is that I want to reward the "please" with an additional story, but that one penguinless story seems to lead to a greater bedtime tantrum than if the stories are capped at three.

Add to this the loss of the paci and you can understand why she's standing in her crib screaming/sobbing: "Celeste need more story! Please! Celeste big, big girl! Celeste wake up now! Morning! Celeste want more num-num! Celeste big, big girl! Celeste go downstairs, play! Celeste need more story! Please! More story!"

It's heartbreaking and guilt inducing, but there seems to be a steady downward curve in intensity and duration of these tantrums since Saturday night, so hopefully she's finding a way to ease herself into sleep ... and then we can work on improving the nap routine.

[ASIDE: This afternoon, Celeste was tired but resisting her nap. Unlike bedtime, for naptime we let her take some books to her crib and after a half-hour or so of quiet time, she started saying she wanted to get up. She'd skipped her nap on Monday, and was supercranky by the time I got home. I thought I'd see if I could get her to stay in bed a bit longer, so I picked up the Beatrix Potter books she'd dropped over the edge of the crib and handed them back to her and she settled in to reread Tom Kitten. There was a little protest when I left to check in on Quinn, but pretty soon there was no noise coming from Celeste's room. A while later, I peeked in: She was slumped over asleep on top of her book — very cute and definitely a trait inherited from her old man.]
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Flavors 

Evelin and I have a long running kitchen debate about flavors. When I have time and energy, I enjoy making dishes with a fairly complex range of flavors. I love simpler fare too (what could be better than fresh okra simmered in tomatoes with onion and corn and a dash of Aleppo pepper?), but sometimes I like to layer and expand the mix of flavors in a dish. After about four strong flavors, in one dish, Evelin has reached and sometimes surpassed her limit.

When we went to Monument Grill in Massachusetts on Friday, they had a pumpkin-ricotta ravioli on the menu that looked good to Evelin, but she didn't order it because she's avoiding dairy for the near- to mid-term future (Quinn reacts poorly to the milk proteins when they're filtered through breastmilk).

Sunday, Evelin decided she wanted to make pumpkin ravioli, which lead me to thinking about what could go with/on/in it. In an autumnal frame of mind, I thought of walnuts and eventually we decided to Google around for a walnut-parsley pesto (sans cheese). I was thinking we could blend the pumpkin with the pesto to make the filling, could roll some chopped sage into the dough, and then serve the ravioli with some caramelized onions and olive oil.

After I found a walnut pesto recipe at Waitrose.com that looked promising, Quinn and I ran to the grocery store to pick up some walnut oil, parsley (ours died back during the heatwave; actually, it might have regenerated some over the past few weeks, but I dinnae check), and other missing ingredients. While the girls napped, I made the pesto. I liked the strong hint of lemon that came out of it and then faded into a bit of walnut and a hint of mint and other flavors. I put a little pesto on a spoon with a little pumpkin (we just used Libby's canned pumpkin), and Evelin felt the pesto's flavors totally overwhelmed the pumpkin. Plus she thought it was too lemony.

After a little back and forth, we came up a new plan: Use the pesto as a sauce and add chopped shallots and sage to the pumpkin. It was too late to take the lemon zest out of the pesto, but I added some more walnut oil and salt and that helped the flavor in Evelin's esteem.

The shallots, I sautéed on medium heat in a bit of olive oil, and added a heaping tablespoon or more of fresh minced sage and some salt and pepper once they were wilted. I then let it all cook for a bit longer. I only had three shallots on hand, and they weren't very big ones, so next time we'll need to cook more so that we can make more ravioli (Evelin liked having a greater shallot:pumpkin ratio than I originally envisioned.

The walnut pesto was bit thick, so it clumped a bit on the ravioli, but the flavors went together well nicely, I though. Evelin thought it was okay, but liked them better without a sauce. I think less lemon zest and maybe some olive oil or more walnut oil (or even a little of the cooking water) to thin the pesto and it would have been perfect.

With the leftover pasta, Evelin made a few ricotta-parmesan ravioli for me, and used some Trader Joe's tapenade to fill another bunch of ravioli. By the way, Evelin felt the olive ones held up better to the flavors of the pesto.

Walnut Pesto
(modified from Waitrose.com)Pack all ingredients into a food processor and blend until reasonably smooth.

Skipping from the foodie side of blogging to the family side, while Evelin was assembling the ravioli, I was watching both girls. Quinn was tired and grumpy, but not wanting to sleep, and Celeste kept wanting me to read Brush (or at least, she wanted me to keep reading page of Brush). After the Maine trip, I was just beat and at that point, it all started crashing around me. As soon as Evelin finished in the kitchen, I am ashamed to say, I had to head down to the basement to hide for about 45 minutes.
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

We're Back 

I wouldn't say well rested, but we did have a good break away from work and all the normal day-to-day stuff. I blogged most of the trip in the early morning, usually before Celeste was up, maybe while Quinn was taking an early nap after having gotten up quite early, with some additional blogging/editing during naptime and/or after the girls were in bed. I didn't timestamp the different parts of the entries however, so there may be some discrepancies in tense within some entries ...

The links below connect to each day of the trip, or you can start here ....

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Return to Maryland 

Our plan for the return to Maryland was pretty simple: When Quinn woke for her morning nursing session, we'd get on the road. We were on our way by 4:45 a.m., which worked out pretty well. Celeste woke up when we tried to move her from her crib to her carseat, but she started off in a good mood, and both girls (and Evelin) managed by the time we were on I-84 to fall back asleep, at least for a little while.

All in all, it was a pretty decent ride back; Quinn got quite fussy toward the end (probably because she didn't nap much/well in the car) and Evelin ended up having to spend much of the ride from Delaware to our house squeezed in the backseat to help entertain/occupy the girls. Still, we were home before 1:00 p.m., which considering we had to make three stops for Quinn to eat wasn't bad at all ... although Celeste ended up not having a nap at all.

The afternoon was spent shoveling clothes into the washer and trying to manage our fatigue. As soon as I get this posted, I'm going to bed ...
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Friday, September 15, 2006

Maine Day 6: On the Road Again 

Getting out of the camp was a bit hectic. We tried packing up the night before, but with the Pack 'n Plays needing to go into the T.R.U.C.K. first, we couldn't load things up until the girls were awake ... and both of them decided to get up on the earlier side of things. After packing, making sure the fire was out, cleaning everything up, turning off the main electrical supply, and putting the kayaks in the cabin, we headed out a little before 9:00 a.m. We decided against stopping at the Children's Museum and against going back the more scenic route through New Hampshire, and made it to Evelin's folk's by 1:00 p.m. Although not as bad as our drive up from Maryland, the first two hours were a little trying ...

Celeste & Quinn (1 of 3) Celeste & Quinn (2 of 3) Celeste & Quinn (3 of 3)


Definitely, the highlight of the trip for Celeste was the Bridgton Public Library, followed distantly by getting to look out the camp windows at the ducks. Quinn managed to figure out how to start sucking her toes while in Maine. The three photos above are unfortunate for Celeste in the first two and unfortunate for Quinn in the third, but still a cute snapshot of the two of the at two years and five months respectively.

At the grand'rent's, I ended up disappearing for a nap, while M--- got some granddaughter time. Later, D--- stopped by to see the pictures of his rockwork that we'd taken for him and to see how our stay had been; while I was e-mailing the pictures to him (and checking my e-mail and catching up on the news we'd missed), Evelin's grandmother came by to see the girls.

We also got to see the fruits of my father-in-law's long labor of love: That One Glorious Season, a look at 21 ball players (1950–1961) who had a single spectacular season. He's been working on the book as a hobby for longer than Evelin and I have been married, and now the book is finally a printed work. I've read bits and pieces of chapters over the years, so it'll be interesting to read the finished work ...
That evening, Evelin and I snuck away once the girls were in bed for a dinner out at Monument Grill in Leominster. Evelin had a big New York strip steak, and I ordered the three-cheese spinach pasta, which was nice although because of the big E. coli O157:H7 scare they had to substitute broccoli for the spinach in the dish.
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On to Day Seven

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Maine Day 5: Splashdown 

Okay, I definitely don't know what I'm doing with a wood stove. Previous nights, I've built a decent little fire that warms things up some, but last night I built a fire for midwinter. Maybe it was because we didn't open the windows in the afternoon or I don't know what, but I built a pretty big fire in the stove with plans to light it before we went to bed. Apparently I missed that there were some smoldering embers still in the thing because about a half hour later we heard a little popping noise and I opened the stove to find quite the little blaze going. By the time we were ready for bed (the girls were already asleep), it was roaring and throwing out a lot of heat. The loft was stifling. We opened a window upstairs and turned on the ceiling fan in the great room. We also pulled Quinn's Pack 'n Play toward a cooler corner of the main room. I ended up hanging out downstairs next to another open window for a while, eventually falling asleep on the couch, while Evelin read upstairs. Eventually things cooled down a bit, although the window upstairs is still open.

Tonight, I need to figure out how to build a big enough fire to keep away the chill overnight without leaving so much debris in the stove that we have to worry about embers still glowing by the time we are ready to leave in the morning.

Beyond the thermal issues, overnight was rough for Evelin. Quinn woke for a small feeding around 1:15 a.m. and then Evelin couldn't get back to sleep until 4:00 a.m., which is when Quinn wanted more to eat. I stayed up with Quinn at that point and she ended up falling asleep on top of me for a little bit, but that meant I was pinned down when Celeste woke at 5:30 a.m. or so. Evelin came down and lay with her for a while in Celeste's room, but when Quinn woke up, I went and got Celeste, giving Evelin maybe an hour of sleep to herself.

This morning, we've been puttering around trying to figure out what we want to do today. We talked about maybe visiting the Children's Museum in Portland, but it's probably further than we want to go for just a little excursion, particularly as random as napping has been for the girls. Maybe we'll stop there on the way home ... Celeste is still uninterested in a boat ride, although she did like watching Evelin paddle a kayak around ... maybe this afternoon.

And it turns out we didn't have to wait that long. After Evelin's paddle about, she urged me to give the kayak a try (I haven't used a kayak more than once or twice and am more comfortable in a canoe, which is why I tried the rowboat yesterday). Since we'd already hauled it out to the water, I decided to give it a try and it wasn't too bad. I went around our end of the pond and through the channel into Hancock Pond and then circled one of the closer islands. A loon surfaced about 20 feet away from me while I was near the island, which was pretty cool.

I paddled back into Sand Pond/Walden Pond and headed for some rocks where I saw either some Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) or eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) and then watched a belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) swoop into a nearby tree before I headed back to the camp. Evelin, Celeste, and Quinn were watching me from the window and when I got back to shore Celeste surprised everyone (perhaps including herself) by saying she wanted to go for a ride. She put on the lifejacket and came down to the water, but started having second thoughts as soon as I pushed the kayak back into the water. We took only a short spin around the nearby rocks ducks roosted on.

Celeste tries kayaking


Righting Myself In the afternoon, Evelin and I both took additional turns with the kayak. Evelin, paddled over into Hancock Pond and then I discovered I was right to mistrust kayaks; I capsized while getting into the kayak, earning a few bloodblisters on one palm when I fell on the rocks in the shallow water. Of course everyone watched this from the window and Celeste decided her mistrust of the kayak was well placed.

Before the afternoon kayak misadventure, I took a run to the dump while the girls napped and then filled up the T.R.U.C.K. with gas. On the way home, I stopped at an estate sale where I found a small stack of books for the girls, and a few other little things.
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On to Day Six

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Maine Day 4: Paddling in Circles 

Considering the untimely demise of Celeste's WubbaNub, last night went reasonably well. She had a few sleep cries, but nothing she couldn't get herself back to sleep from until she woke up for good around 5:15 a.m. Despite asking her to be quiet, Celeste managed to wake Quinn by 5:30 a.m. or so, and Evelin had to join us by a little past 6:00 a.m.

chicken of the woods or sulphur shelf fungus (Laetiporous sulphureous), I thinkSince we were all up early, we decided to give another hike a try. The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer is not the best trail guide, at least as far as helping locate a trailhead and/or describing which hikes are what. We were aiming for Steep Falls, but never located an access point, so we turned and headed up to the Hiram Nature Study Area (missing Hiram Falls along the way). It proved a nice little hike up a small rise and then down to the Saco River. There were tons of mushrooms.

Afterwards, we headed home, Evelin and Celeste made some banana-blueberry nut bread, and I hauled the rowboat up onto the dock to dump the accumulated rainwater out of it. Of course, I managed to step off the dock into the water, but didn't fall all the way in — only one boot and my jeans up to mid-calf. I brought extra pants, but shoes ... the boots are sitting by the stove right now.

Across the pond seems to be the favorite hunting ground for an osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Evelin noticed it first on Monday, and I saw it yesterday for the first time; the distance is tricky to gauge and I thought it was too small to be an osprey, but the behavior and colors look right. He has a regular pattern of fishing in the reedy area across the way each morning, and then revisiting in the late afternoon. We can see him swoop down, and occasionally hovering before diving down again. It's very cool.

A couple of ducks are sitting on the rocks right in front of the camp. At first I thought they were mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), but looking at them more closely it looks like they're black ducks (Anas rubripes). I've definitely seen mallards on the pond, but these guys have whitish bills and don't quite look like female mallards. Thinking of birds, I've seen a hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) visiting the bird feeder, as well as Squirrel Nutkin himself, a little red squirrel with only a nub of a tail. Also, this morning we saw a fair number of turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) crossing the road on our way to and from our hike.

Celeste wasn't napping this afternoon, so while Quinn was out and Evelin rested, I took Celeste for a ride in the T.R.U.C.K.. The plan was to go to a playground I noticed on our way back from the morning hike, but Celeste was asleep before we hit the main road, so I figured I'd drive around and see what I could see. We made it up to Hemlock Bridge, an old (1857) covered bridge over the Saco. Celeste was still asleep, so we turned back around and headed toward Bridgton to take the long way back to the camp.

After we got back, I tried to entice Celeste into a ride in the rowboat. She wouldn't have any of it. Evelin suggested taking Quinn (putting her carseat into the boat or something, but that just didn't seem safe either, so I went out by myself for a little spin. I wouldn't pretend to say that I was a graceful sight, but I managed to steer myself out around the little island opposite our camp and over by the osprey's fishing grounds. I then headed over to the little channel between Sand Pond/Walden Pond and Hancock Pond, where I beached the boat and walked around a little bit. Then it was back into the boat where I spied a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in a little cove and some other sort of heron on someone's swimming dock (I couldn't get close enough to identify it). Once I docked the boat and got back inside, I tried to convince Celeste (who'd watched at least some of the rowing from the window) to go out with me for a ride, but she was even more opposed to the idea.

Celeste wanted to go "out din-din," so we loaded up the car and headed in to Bridgton. I flipped through the phonebook, old copies of the Bridgton newspaper, and our AAA TourBook for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, but nothing really gave us a good idea of our options for a meal. We ended up at The Black Horse Tavern, which was really child-friendly and decent for a quick evening out; I had the Sunday River Alt, which was nice and slightly hoppy. There was a four-month-old baby at a table catty-corner across the room from us; Quinn started the meal asleep, but once she woke and shifted from her carseat to my lap, she was staring intently at the other baby. It was really pretty funny.
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On to Day Five

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Maine Day 3: Ah Wilderness! 

Quinn had a much better over night than last; Celeste, about the same. Both girls went down around 7:00 p.m. and Quinn slept through to around 4:00 a.m., when she needed a feeding. She fell back asleep, but I needed to come down to play with her for about 45 minutes or a half hour until she was ready to get back to sleep a little before 6:00 a.m.

Celeste had some rough patches. Around midnight or 1:00 a.m., I moved her from the Pack 'n Play to the big bed in her room and lay next to her until she fell asleep. However that plan didn't go to well — lots of tears, lots of shifting demands — eventually, however, she calmed down (singing "What Do We Do With the Drunken Sailor" helped soothe her). I think Evelin had had to go down a little earlier to check on her, too, and then she took a look at the 4:00 a.m. feeding and tried to get her back into her sleeping bag (Celeste'd crawled out). She woke again briefly when I came down to play with Quinn and build back up the fire.

The camp stayed a lot warmer last night. I lit the fire after Evelin and I came in from stargazing and stoked it and added a log in the middle of the night when I went to help Celeste. The first night here, since we didn't fire up the stove, it probably dipped below 50°F inside; last night, when I came down to play with Quinn, the thermometer read 56°F. Even if the thermometer only showed a few degrees difference in the morning, it still felt/stayed warmer overnight.

I do think, however, there is a different skill/aesthetic to building a fire for a wood stove versus building one for an outdoor firepit, campfire, or standard open fireplace. I'm not sure what the proper way to do it for a wood stove is, but I do wonder if a different mix of kindling and wood would have kept going longer/stronger/warmer.

After breakfast, we decided to make an earlier than not jaunt out. The one thing on my we-have-to-do list was take a hike. Since there'd been a bit of confusion about where exactly the camp was located, I didn't have the easiest time of pre-trip scouting possible/doable hikes, but I was pretty sure Sabattus Mountain would work for everyone involved. Looking at things on the map, although she was tempted by the covered bridge on the way there, Evelin thought Sabattus might be a little too far of a trip, so we opted for Douglas Hill instead. I'd seen the name of the spot before, we passed a sign for the trailhead on the way to the camp, and it was a good bit closer.

However, we had no trail map or any real ideal of which blazes were which trail. We thought it would be a short quarter mile hike with a 300-foot elevation change, but we ended up going for a bit longer hike than that and we never found the stone tower that is supposed to be at or near the true summit. We did get up to some good, albeit partially obstructed, views of Sebago Lake. We saw one pieleated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) and a few red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).

I carried Celeste and Dee Dee Bear in the Piggyback, and they did pretty good on the hike. Celeste spent a good chunk of the time up talking and this and that; on the way down she was quieter with occasional bits of "Celeste want go home now. We go in our gray car to Maine house." Evelin had Quinn in the BabyBjörn, and she was loving the outdoors. Every time I turned around to check on them, Quinn was bouncing, smiling, waving her arms and legs, and looking this way and that. On the way down, she ended up having a little 20 minute nap.

On the Hilltop


Thankfully, that wasn’t the only nap she got: After I made the lentil soup for dinner (it's always better if it sits for a few hours before eating) and we all had lunch, Quinn and Celeste both conked out for about two-plus hours, and I dozed for an hour or so. Evelin got some reading done.

Before I headed down for my nap, I took our trash to the local dump. After Labor Day, it's only open every other day or so and since there's no place to store trash outside here (much less wait for D--- to deal with it the next time he comes up to the camp), it had to go when the opportunity presented itself. I go there and the attendant was looking at my Maryland license plate when I asked him where I could drop the trash and he asked where it was coming from. I blanked on D---'s name for a moment before remembering and telling him that it was from D---'s place on Sand Pond. He looked at me and said, "Never heard of him," took a very well timed beat and then laughed and said to drop it over there, gesturing to one of the dumpsters.

Library!Wow. Celeste ended up sleeping about three hours. After a post-nap snack, we headed off to Celeste's favorite part of any day: The library. There is a library in Denmark, but I wasn't sure where, so we went into Bridgton; I'd passed the library there on one of my slightly roundabout and semi-lost trips to the grocery store. Of course, we drove past it at first, but eventually found the place. The children's room downstairs was very nice, with some tiered seats for storytime and lots of books, some familiar, some not. Celeste spent a good hour or so pulling different books off the shelves, looking at pages, asking for the book to be read, putting them back, and so forth. Quinn fell asleep on the way to the library, but woke up after a little while.

After dinner, things seemed to be going well as far as bedtimes. Celeste and Evelin went out to the dock to watch the fading light; they got to say goodnight to some ducks that were swimming past, as well as to a bat that was flapping around. After they came back in, Quinn went down while nursing, and Celeste went to bed fairly easily ... until she started crying hard, "Mumma get Celeste paci!" Celeste chewed through the pacifier part of her WubbaNub. The things aren't supposed to be used after six months or when the baby gets teeth, but Celeste has been very attached to her paci (q.v., Poor Paci) and we haven't felt it necessary to make her give it up yet, despite the occasional talk of Suttetræ. Of course, the only backup pacis we have are Quinn's, so we might be in for a rough forced pacifier weaning.
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On to Day Four

We dinnae get as good a look last night as we did the first night. On Sunday, we had a good bit of time to stand and look up at the Milky Way and try to figure out what other stars/constellations/Messier objects we were seeing, as well as to look around the lake for lights to see who else was here. Last night, we turned off all the lights in the house to help brighten up the view on the land side of the sky and as soon as we got out to the dock and lay down to look up at the sky, Quinn started wailing (we carried out the baby monitor with us, of course). As soon as we got back inside, she was solidly asleep; all we can figure is she felt it necessary to deploy the sibling-avoidance system ...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Maine Day 2: Fire and Apples 

The first night in the camp was a bit rough. We didn't close a window in the loft (and didn't start a fire), so around midnight it was getting a bit chilly. Celeste woke up half-way, crying but we put her back in her sleeping bag and she got back to sleep for a few hours. Around 4:00 a.m., went downstairs and sat with Celeste for a while and she ended up spending the rest of the night in the big bed.

Around 6:00 a.m., I got up to see Quinn, who'd been making little coos and goos for a while; lit a fire in the wood stove; and played with Quinn as things got brighter. We saw a few ducks on the rocks in front of the camp and heard a loon calling. There also were some white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) and somesort of finch on the bird feeder. (Checking a birding book later, I think it might have been a Wilson's warbler (Wilsonia pusilla).)

Because of her pretty rough night, Celeste was still asleep at 8:00 a.m. when Evelin and I decided to wake her up if for no other reason in hopes that she'd have a somewhat normal nap/day. (After that little rough patch of not napping for a week or so, she's back to napping semi-well ... at least until we decided to take a holiday.) After breakfast and some playtime, we headed out to pick apples. I'd noticed a pick-your-own place, Five Fields Farms, on my way to the grocery store last night and thought the girls would like to give harvesting a try.

Weighing Out Celeste was interested in it, so long as she was being held. She picked one apple, a courtland by herself with only a little help and promptly started to eat it. Quinn was drowsy in the BabyBjörn and didn't make a grab for any of the apples. We only picked a half bag (which seems a shame at 60¢ per pound, but it's not like there's that much room in the T.R.U.C.K.) with the plan of making an apple pie to go with dinner (sautéed spinach and onions with a side of garlicky mushrooms in a white wine reduction).

After the no naps — at least for Celeste; Quinn got a half-hour or so of sleep, Evelin had a little rest but with the cries of "Celeste wake up now!" it wasn't exactly restful — I took Celeste into the lake for a wade. Originally it was going to be for a swim, but while the air temperature had warmed significantly from earlier in the day, the water was pretty bracing. Celeste wasn't really into it, and I was slowly easing myself in further just to be sure that I had swum in the lake while we were here, but that goal seemed diminish in importance as I grew numb.

The rest of the afternoon was a tea party, pie making, dinner, baths, and a rapid descent into bedtime. The sun has disappeared below the trees, leaving just a few painted bands in the western sky; stars will soon appear in the east.
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On to Day Three

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Maine Day 1: We Arrive 

After a leisurely breakfast with the grandparents and one great-grandmother, we were back in the car by 10:00 a.m. We had to make it up to Denmark to meet D--- by 2:00 p.m.; traffic wasn't too bad and we only had one feeding stop (unfortunately, both girls fell asleep about 20 minutes before we arrived at the camp and woke up as soon as got there), so we made it in plenty of time to get instructions about the wood stove, closing everything up when we left, and a short tour around the pond.

It was the first boat ride for Celeste and for Quinn, and neither of them was too keen about the life preservers. Quinn, I think, was a bit overcooled by the combination of drool and wind; Celeste was probably a little cool, a bit tired, and two years old.

Celeste Feeds Abe the Dog Among the instructions D--- left us is that Celeste needs to feed the dog. She is very happy with this, offering the big dog (who was carved with a chainsaw out of a log by one of D---'s sons) corn on the cob pretty much every hour.

It's a really nice little place, very quiet (most of the camps/houses around the lake are summer places and are vacant at the moment). There is the main bedroom, which is where Celeste is staying; and then one open great room with the kitchen, a breakfast nook, and a sitting/living room. Above the bedroom, and open to the rest of the house, is a loft with two beds. Evelin and I are up there; Quinn is staying in the main room. The sleeping arrangements aren't ideal (I can see myself sleepily falling out of the loft when headed down to help Quinn or Celeste in the middle of the night), but it makes the most sense as far as giving Celeste a place to fall asleep without us having to try carrying anyone up the ladder the loft.

Once we unloaded the car and D--- and B--- headed off, I drove over to Bridgton to pick up groceries for the week. We ended up grilling some fresh local corn and roasted some onions and Maine potatoes for dinner and after the girls went to bed, Evelin and I had a taste of some Blacksmiths Maine Raspberry wine. (Nice berry burst at first, but it quickly turned a little harsh.)

There are a fair number of common loons (Gavia immer) on the lake and we heard a few calling in the evening and saw one on our boat tour of the pond. D--- said we can expect to see a lot more during the week.
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On to Day Two

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Maine Day D−1: The Travel Day 

It's been a while since Evelin and I have had a real vacation (sorry mom, visiting family doesn't count) ... We've done a long weekend away here and there, but the last full-bore go-away-for-a-week-or-longer trip was our week in the Highlands back in October 2002. With the kids, however, spending a week driving in a Daewoo Matiz looking for Pictish stones, family graves, and various other things, wouldn't work too well.

Originally, we talked about finding a place to rent in West Virginia or somewhere else in the nearby mountains. After the June trip up to Massachusetts, we wanted to minimize the driving, but at some point we contracted amnesia or temporary insanity or something and Evelin inquired about borrowing her first-cousin-once-removed's camp on Walden Pond in Denmark, Maine.

We found a week that worked for us and that worked for D--- and his family and made plans to head north. Originally, we figured we'd take off early Saturday morning, but as V-Day approached, I realized there was no way I'd be able to get all the deferred yardwork and other chores, much less my work, done in time for us to leave early that morning. We had some back and forth about when we would leave — I was in favor of leaving at midnight or 2:00 a.m. and driving all night, stopping for breakfast at Evelin's folk's place; Evelin wanted to leave in the afternoon so we'd spend the night with her folks and then leave for Maine after breakfast.

We ended up leaving a little after 1:00 p.m. ... and those first two hours were a lot longer than 120 minutes. There was a lot of general crankiness from both girls and from both adults, but we made pretty good time. As we approached New York City, Celeste was getting fussy, so we offered her a choice: the George Washington Bridge (our usual route) or the Lincoln Tunnel. She chose the tunnel, which was a little slow, but I think the Hudson Parkway may have been a little faster than the Deegan, and it made it easier to stop in the Bronx when Quinn needed a snack. We made it up to Evelin's folk's a bit after 9:00 p.m., which was pretty good time considering the stops for feeding and the tunnel traffic.
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On to Day One

Google Maps and other sources I could find before we left label it as Walden Pond, but Evelin's father insisted it was Sand Pond. I found a Sand Pond on Google Maps, but it was a good bit south and a little east of where I'd thought we were going (and that in itself was further south and way west from where Evelin originally said the camp was, near China, Maine). The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, however, labels the pond as "Walden Pond (Sand Pond)," so it must have had a name change at some point or something and R--- and his family must have always known it by the parenthetical name. Or maybe Camp Walden pulled some strings to have the lake officially renamed but everyone locally uses Sand Pond; the map in the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce's "2006 Area Guide" labels it "Sand Pond" (no mention of the Walden Pond name).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Birthday (A Few Days Late) 

Celeste managed to stretch out her birthday for quite a while. First my mother was in town in late August, then there was the extended Labor Day Birthday Marathon with Evelin's family, and then some cards and gifts arrived Tuesday, and yesterday Celeste's favoritest present of the season arrive — a Little People school bus.

Celeste got started with Little People at Christmas, when my folks got her the farm playset. Since then, I've picked up a few other animal-oriented sets here and there as well as scored some good second-hand figures/animals/vehicles at the thrift store.

In Celeste's Little People world, the animals are the stars. The dogs and chickens are the only ones who drive the cars and tractors, and the other animals are the only ones who get to play. The few human figures she has pretty much stay in the toy drawer. (On Saturday, her cousin, K---, wanted Maggie or Sonja Lee to drive the blue car; Celeste protested very loudly.) Maybe we read her Farmer Duck a little too often.

Yesterday, however, she got the school bus from a friend, and Carlos the Bus Driver is being allowed (for the moment at least) to occasionally drive the bus. The dogs, chickens and pig get to do all the riding, however. I pulled out more people for her, but apparently they only got a ride straight back to the toy drawer.

[UPDATE: This afternoon, Celeste decided that, while the dogs and chickens are at school (or at least on the bus), the rabbits can drive the cars and the goose can drive the tractors. Hoofstock of any sort, however, is not allowed to ride the bus or in the back of the trucks.]

Other cool presents include her Do·A·Dot Art paint set from my folks and some dřevěné výroba wooden puzzles from Karel Makovský – Dřevovýroba that Evelin's parents picked up during their trip to Central Europe last month. The dog is cool, but Celeste is spending more time working on the car (which might have been from a different craftsman, because I can't find it on the Makovský site). She also wants us to open the boy, but it's being saved for Quinn.

The bubble mower we got her was a little disappointing; it doesn't really bubble well, but Celeste likes the noise and pushing it ... or at least she did when she first got it. I don't think it's been used much since then.

The bus on the other hand is in her hands constantly. Before naptime, she was busy holding it up to show Quinn: "Quinn see Celeste bus! Quinn see!"

We don't have a good cake story for this year, although Celeste definitely understands what cake is now. Last night, after her bath, she said, "Celeste want birthday cake."
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Backblog 

There's a ton of stuff to catch up on over the past two weeks or so, but the short form of it is: my mom was visiting, Evelin's parents (and sister and her daughter) were visiting, car battery dead, car battery replaced, Tropical Storm Ernesto, work, work, work, I haven't cut the grass, the burnt-out circuit was worse than expected and we were probably days away from losing the one that controls the air conditioning, the electrician had to swap around several breakers to more/replace the AC and dryer circuits, work, work, work, the dryer was still not working, that was because of my first attempt to figure out the problem, I managed to fix it, we have a leak in the bathroom that's dripping into the kitchen, hot water to the upstairs bathroom is currently shut off, plumber is supposed to come by tomorrow, both girls have little colds, work, work, work, and I still haven't cut the grass.

Oh, and yesterday capped Celeste's birthday fortnight. She had cupcakes and a little celebration while my mom was here and then another one with a cake on Saturday when Evelin's sister and her cousin were here, and another on Sunday with Evelin's folks (no cake), and then yet another little celebration with us yesterday, her actual retail birthday.

Despite the odds, both girls are taking really good naps at the moment, which is what I really, really needed them to do today (although I haven't cleaned up the house like I should have). Hopefully the past two weeks of bad naps are a thing of the past and Celeste has realized she still needs a nap, and Quinn is through the leap/growth spurt/whatever and is back to better sleeping ...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Glad-Handing 

Back in 1994, I shook the hands of Sharon Pratt Kelly (D), John Ray (D), and Carol Schwartz (R) during the course of the campaign (Kelly and Schwartz were during Adams-Morgan Day; I don't remember when I encountered Ray). Of course, the winner of the Democratic primary and then the general election was Marion Berry — who I never met or shook hands with.

Flash forward to Labor Day 2006: Celeste and I went to the Greenbelt Labor Day parade to see some fire trucks, bands, and the precision dog-walking team ... and a bunch of politicians.

First up among the politicos was Steny Hoyer, whose district line I am just barely part of. (I think the line between MD-05 and MD-04 is literally just up the street from me.) I didn't shake his hand, so he'll probably beat his only opponent, Green Party candidate Steve Warner, but he did take note of my Boston cap to make a comment about how he wished the Sawx would pull out of their slump. That was nice, but I'm still considering voting for Warner, since there's no chance the district will fall to a Republican.

Next up was Ben Cardin. His people gave Celeste a few stickers and while I will happily vote for him in the general election, I'm currently leaning toward Kweisi Mfume for Senate. Cardin's hand I shook.

Cardin was followed by Republican candidate for Senate, Michael Steele. Steele's people were the only ones who asked if it was okay to give Celeste some C-A-N-D-Y (the woman spelled it out, which was good because Celeste said candy and pointed at what was being thrown from some of the cars earlier in the parade; I didn't know she had that word yet). I shook Steele's hand and he bent down to talk to Celeste while someone snapped a bunch of pictures; now I have to keep an eye on the photo gallery on his website and prepare a letter asking him to remove any pictures of us if they show up ...

Next up were the local legislature officials: Paul Pinsky (shook hands, support, but he's unopposed); Tawanna Gaines (shook hands, support); Justin Ross (shook hands, not sure yet); followed by the sheriff, Michael Jackson (shook hands, support, unopposed).

Then we ran into Jack Johnson, the county executive. Counting on the mojo a handshake from me had during the 1994 D.C. mayoral race, I was happy to shake Johnson's hand.

Consider this an official endorsement from “Lifechanges ... Delayed”: Vote for Rushern Baker.

Celeste was ready to go, so we didn't get to see Baker or O'Malley, but we'll see if my glad-handing had any effect during the primaries next week and the general election in November ...
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