Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More About Feeding Celeste

She used to be so clean while eating. Maybe, if she was tired, she'd go to rub her eyes and move the slightest dribble of sweet potatoes from her chin to her cheek. Not any more. I don't know if it's an assertion of independence or just some overtired reactions or if she just really, really doesn't like green beans, but Celeste has gotten quite messy while eating.

Some days, she'll start off okay, and she is pretty good if she really likes the food (or at least I think that's what's happening), but the rest of the time it's hands flailing in front of face, spoon grabbing and flinging, and gobs of food pretty much everywhere if her hands close over the bowl of the spoon before I can move it out of the way.

Evelin thought more finger foods might work for her, so I started off this evening with some bits of brown rice cakes and dices of cheddar cheese. The cheese is a semi-new introduction, but she seemed to go for it. I made sure to buy mild orange cheddar (the cheddars we usually get are white and on the seriously sharp side) so it would be visible against the highchair tray, and she did see it and grab it. The first piece did what the rice cakes were doing — a few bites and then back out onto the bib or into her lap. The second piece of cheese, however, stayed in and got some good chewing. A little dribbled back out, but the rest disappeared.

While she was working on cheese and rice cakes, I defrosted some mango for her. Evelin's been making pseudo mango lassis for her, mixing the puréed mango with some ΦΑΓΕ yoghurt. Since she was already getting a bit of dairy with her meal, I decided to forego the yoghurt and to give her the mango straight. Big hit. She did grab the spoon once (and ended up shoving it too far into her mouth), but she ate all of it without any problems.

I next tried mixing up some potato with a few smushed peas. That did not go nearly as well. Hands were flying, potatoes were flying, peas were flying. It got ugly. They were eventually scrapped in favor of a few Cheerios (which, like the rice cakes, for the most part went into the mouth for a few chews and then popped back out) and a little more cheddar while I loaded the mesh finger feeder bags with some peach slices. Those were received much more graciously; I guess she likes orange fruit.

Earlier in the day (and let me say, she was sooooooo sweet today — playing quietly by herself for a bit, playing nicely with me, big smiles for everybody, traveling well to Whole Foods and back), we harvested a bunch of peas from the garden. (It turns out one of the pea plants is producing snow peas instead of the Sugar Bons the rest of the bed is producing.) Celeste gnawed on a few pods on and off; I think some actually went down, but most of it was just gnawing to generate a lot of drool and scattered bits of peapod.

Once, Fish Lived Here

Well, there was a bit of a frustrated freakout when I realized there is no way we'll be able to just spread all that dirt around this weekend, but part of the P³ has reached completion. On Monday, what was once the pond was seeded, watered, and covered with a protective layer of hay.

As for the rest of the project (do I officially change the name from P³ to P² or should I call it P³-P?), I removed a few more timbers, found a subterranean course of timbers, got quite frustrated, and then did a lot of talking with Evelin and we think we have an idea for the size/shape of what will eventually be built.

Now, like a bit of topiary, I think I will try to carve away the dirt that doesn't fit that eventual structure and see what happens. There is a low part of the upper garden that will be able to take some of the dirt. The rest maybe will be shifted into part of the area recently uncovered but that will be below the structure yet to be designed.

Is it obvious I'm winging this?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Short Hike

Despite being stuck in a lot of traffic thanks to Rolling Thunder, Evelin, Celeste, and I took our first real hike as a family. Sure it was only a mile or so around Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac, but Celeste rode in the Piggyback nicely for almost all of it (as we were getting back to the footbridge — and debating whether or not to hike up the parkway and across the Roosevelt Bridge to watch the dragon boat races — she started crying, leading us to pause at the memorial for a while so she could have some time out of the Piggyback).

We ended up skipping the dragon boat races and headed home via the Beltway, and Celeste spent a good bit of the drive home crying. She might have been hungry or tired of being confined (first in the car, then in the Piggyback, and then in the car again) or who knows what, but she was happier once we got home.

After we got her to sleep for the night, Evelin and I watched The Station Agent, which was really fun and well done. It had lots of humor, pathos, good emotion, excellent acting, ...

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Celeste: Minion of Chaos

I don't remember from my D&D days whether or not alignment is something fixed at birth or if a character develops it over time, but right now, Celeste is definitely either Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral. She will not stand for any form of order.

If you dare present her with her stack-up rings on their post, her driving mission is to disassemble them and to toss them every which way. Stack up blocks; they must be knocked down, no matter the cost. Attempt to put the singing animals in their proper slot on the Sparkling Symphony Compose 'n Play Orchestra; all must be destroyed.

This is simply the way it must be for Celeste. We are helpless before her.

(Celeste's too young to take it, but here's an online D&D Alignment Test for those who can type and read. I scored Neutral Good.)

Letting the Dirt Settle

Well, I think the pond is no more. Last week's rain soaked in an helped the dirt settle some more, so I worked this morning on shoveling in more dirt, racking it smooth, tamping it down, and adding more dirt on top of that. It's starting to rain now (and more is predicted for this evening), so we'll see how it continues to settle. There is plenty more dirt available, and once it seems stable, we'll put down some grass seed to hopefully at least cover the area until we know what we're going to do with it.

I also took a few shovelfuls of dirt to fill in a depression in the front yard; I imagine I'll be spending some time loading up the wheelbarrow and wandering through the yard looking for soft spots, dips, divots, and other holes. And there will still be plenty more dirt available.

While Celeste took her morning nap, Evelin helped move bricks and we now no bricks on the patio. I also removed a few more of the timbers, which revealed one problem: While the ties are held together with 1-foot pieces of rebar, the bottom course is secured to the ground with some pipes that are nearly a yard long (or at least the one I was able to get out was that long). They're making that bottom course (and in some places bottom two courses) quick difficult to pull out.

Now the question remains: What to do with all that remaining dirt? One suggestion has been to just leave much of it there and to build a deck over it. That just seems messy to me, but it may turn out to be the best solution, particularly if the deck is at the level of the old patio or even a little lower. We could have the sides solid or latticed (instead of having a deck up on stilts), which would hide the dirt nicely.

So ... I guess our next step is to keep shifting dirt around to be able to pull out timbers and to knock down the level of the dirt, and to figure out if we want to try and build something ourselves or if we call in professionals.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Long Weekend?

With our weather staying on the cool side for most of the spring, Memorial Day has kind of snuck up on me. We don't usually do anything special for the three-day weekend, but I expect I'll be spending at least a little time with a shovel. Over the past week-and-a-half — between Celeste's illness, a lack of sleep, and the weather — I haven't done anything on the P³, so I need to catch up on things to get back on track.

Celeste is definitely back. Evelin said she had an overall good day: Lots of playing and general happiness, as well as three walks (mostly in the sling because I forgot to take the stroller out of the T.R.U.C.K. where I left it after taking Celeste to the farmers market on Thursday).

Last night she slept pretty well (either that or I was totally out of it because of the Tylenol Allergy and Sinus I took), waking up twice to feed, once for repacification, and then trying to wake up for the day a bit past 5:00 a.m. Okay, that last part wasn't so good, but the rest of the night went well. Evelin said Celeste took only three naps today (for a total of about 234 hours of sleep); that's not so good, but it isn't too far off from what her typical sleep habits.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Feeling Better

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and knocking wood as I type this, but I'm pretty sure Celeste is feeling better. Her nap was a respectable 90 minutes without being too long, and she seemed to be having fun for most of the afternoon. We played with her toys, bounced in the exersaucer, took a stroll around the neighborhood, and even ran over to the farmers market in Riverdale Park.

However, as the day progressed, she did get grumpier and grumpier. I tried to get her down for a short nap around 4:00 p.m., but a former neighbor stopped by to pick up some flowers that were left with us last night (she moved a few months ago, but apparently whoever was sending the flowers hadn't gotten the change of address notice); the doorbell spoiled any hope of a nap.

Complicating judging Celeste's recovery is that we're pretty sure she's in a developmental leap at the moment, which means she's going to be fussy and have difficulty sleeping and a bit of regression on some things. Right now, the big one is her sleep — and I know our trying to deal with her sore throat set her back with that — followed closely by eating solids (which could also be a hold over from her sore throat). Where she used to eat up to four ice cubes of food at a time, now we're lucky for her to take one. She's still nursing (and, because of the fever she was getting breastmilk pretty much on demand and a little bit more), so nutritionally, she should be fine, but it'd be nice if her solids meals didn't turn into a big drama scene.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spoke Too Soon?

I need to remember that if I write something about Celeste on here, she is going to try to contradict me as quickly as she can ... even if she's really too young for me to resent the fact that I'm invading her privacy by blogging about her.

Yesterday, I said she was doing better, well, last night she woke a little before 10:00 p.m. and refused to go back to sleep until after midnight. We tried all the usual tricks and nothing worked. In the end, she fell asleep on me for an hour or so, and immediately woke when I tried to shift her off my chest and on the mattress. At that point, Evelin picked her up, becoming the bed for the rest of the evening.

In the morning, I was sneaking out to work when Celeste woke up. We took her temperature and it seemed way too low (94.7°F, if I recall correctly) and she seemed to have a crazy rash all over her head. Not trusting the rectal thermometer we got from the hospital after the stay for jaundice or the stick-on strips, I headed out to the 24-hour CVS to buy a digital ear thermometer. (It turns out as quick as those are, they aren't really comfortable for a baby and don't make it too much easier to take her temperature.)

I also googled around about rashes and reassured both Evelin and myself that Celeste had a heat rash, most likely from sleeping all night on top of one or the other of us.

Still, we planned to call the doctor, and I called in to work to say that I wouldn't be coming in again (instead I ended up getting a fair number of articles edited from home). The other thing that factored into that decision is that Evelin had promised J--- that she'd take her to the airport that afternoon; considering how Celeste was feeling, we figured it'd be better to have me stay with Celeste while Evelin was gone rather than to have her crying all the way to Dulles and back.

As it was, Celeste was napping when Evelin had to leave, and I ended up waking her just shy of the three-hour mark. (I didn't want her to have too good of a nap for fear that it would mean she'd be up all night again — not that it seems to have worked. It's a little before 8:00 p.m. and Evelin just brought a very awake Celeste back downstairs, about 90 minutes after she went to bed for the night.) We had a little bit of playtime (including making pizza dough) until Evelin got home and I was able to return to my editing.

Asparagus–Mushroom Pizza

Since I was home, I got a chance to put together a real dinner — something that is harder and harder to do, it seems. (Sometimes, when things are going well, I manage to put together something on Tuesday or Thursday evening, but usually by the time I get home on other nights and Celeste has her bath and is in bed it's either 8:30 p.m. and we're too exhausted for anything other than a sandwich or bowl of cereal or it's 7:00 p.m. and we're too exhausted for much beyond a sandwich or bowl of cereal.)

Last week, Evelin picked up some asparagus and we ended up just having them for dinner on Sunday night, but they got me thinking ... asparagus pizza with mushrooms and parmesan.

So, after I woke Celeste from her nap, fired up the bread machine to make the dough. (It's a shortcut, but the machine does a decent job of kneading the dough.) I knew I wanted to do something with the dough to complement the toppings and instead of trying to mix in some herbs or something, I went with the following ...

Two-Thirds Whole Wheat Crust
  • 118 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup bread flour

  • 112 teaspoons sugar

  • 3 tablespoons dough relaxer

  • 112 teaspoons yeast
Which is all dumped in order into the bread machine and then run on a whole-wheat dough cycle.

Next I turned to the topping — asparagus and mushrooms.

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 2 toes garlic, pressed

  • 1 shallot, chopped

  • 13 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 pound asparagus, steamed tender and cut into 1 centimeter lengths

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • olive oil

  • white wine

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella

  • shaved parmesan
With a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan, add the onion, garlic, and shallot and sauté until golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until they lose their water. Splash in some white wine to deglaze the pan before adding the asparagus and vinegar, lower heat and cook, stirring occasionally until the asparagus are tender and warmed through. Season to taste and set aside.

In the mean time, the crust has been rolled out and put into a 350°F oven to start cooking. After about 10 minutes, pull it out and arrange about a pound of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly, across the top of the crust. Return to the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted. With the mozzarella melted (it may make sense to pour or blot excess liquid from the crust, depending upon how much water the cheese releases), add the asparagus–mushroom mixture and cover with shaved parmesan. Bake a further 15 minutes, until the crust is done, and the parm melts away entirely.

I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it was quite tasty. The crust was on the thick side; I think next time I'll divide the dough and make a much thinner pizza, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Feeling Better

While not out of the woods, I think Celeste is feeling better. This morning, Evelin took her temperature and she was 99.4°F, but she climbed back up to 101.2°F around noon, so she got a fresh dose of Infant's Motrin. Once I got home, even though she'd had a good bit of sleep earlier in the morning, Celeste was ready for a nap. By 1:15 p.m., she was asleep in my arms and stayed that way for about 45 minutes. I dozed some, too, but with my arm falling asleep, I tried to move her to her crib. That woke her up, so we moved back to the chair where we both slept (her more than me) for another hour.

[ASIDE: Getting the Ektorp was a much better decision than a glider — I can't imagine both of us napping in a glider the way we can in the Ektorp.]

Afterwards, she took a bottle and we played for a while. She is getting really good a high fives, and is apparently studying !Xũ or some other Khoisan language while Evelin and I aren't around. Over the past week, she's really kicked up the click consonants. She seems to have the postalveolar click (!) and bilabial click (ʘ) down, but is having trouble with her palatal clicks (ǂ). She's also starting to babble more (non-click) consonants, so we could soon be hearing something closer to English (or Spanish, French or Japanese, if the Babbler is doing its job) ...

Just before bedtime, her temp was actually below normal (97.1°F) an hour after the Motrin would have worn off. She had been sitting around in just a onesie after her bath, so I may have chilled her a little bit. Evelin put some pyjamas on her for bed (we've been leaving her dressed on the cool side because of the fever), so I guess we'll see how warm she is when she wakes for a feeding later tonight ...

Monday, May 23, 2005


Those Earth's Best Wheat Teething Biscuits taste really good.

We're Contagious!

After a long, but not too long, wait at the pediatricians, we found out that Celeste has a sore throat (which explains the lowered interest in solids) the etiology of which is probably viral in nature. Fifths disease was ruled out based on the lack of a lacey rash, and a quick swab test ruled out strep throat.

So, this means we could be dealing with/watching Celeste's fever for a few more days. (In fact, she's still considered contagious until she's had 24 hours of constantly normal temperatures.) We can use the Infant's Motrin to help relieve pain/fever and are to offer cold foods (peach-sicle, apple-sicle, etc.) along with lots of liquids. Hopefully, her system will burn it away in a few days ...

Long Night

It probably could have been a lot longer, but last night was pretty sleepless. We woke Celeste up around 9:00 p.m. because she'd sweat through her onesie and was due for a follow-up dose of Infant's Motrin. Around 2:00 a.m., Celeste was crying some and Evelin went to check on her. Celeste had taken the stick-on thermometer off her forehead at that point, and Evelin wasn't having much luck soothing her, so she asked me to try. I though she was feeling pretty warm, so we took her temperature; it was back up to 101.5°F.

At this point, Celeste was pretty confused. Usually, we didn't get this awake for her in the middle of the night ... and this time she was getting a 2:20-something bath? She had a pretty quizzical look on her face, but was game for splashing in the tub some, but she really didn't like it when Evelin tilted her back to wet her head. Around this time, I called the office and said I wouldn't be coming in today (or if I did, it'd be in the afternoon).

Giving the timing of the medicine, we had to wait until around 3:00 a.m. to give her another dose, so we had a little post-bath playtime and, once she was dosed, it took her a little while to get to sleep.

Around 5:00 a.m., Celeste woke up crying. She felt warm, but not overly warm and her onesie and the bed beneath her (we let her stay with us) was soaked with sweat. Evelin and I took turns trying to soothe her until Evelin finally figured out — *doh!* — she was probably hungry.

After nursing, Celeste and Evelin came back to bed and we all got some sleep for a little while. When I woke up around 7:00 a.m., they were both still fast asleep and Celeste felt a lot cooler. Maybe her fever broke before that 5:00 a.m. wake to feed. Or maybe the Infant's Motrin is taking full effect (she's not due for another dose until 9:00 a.m. at the earliest).

We'll see how she's acting/feeling when she wakes and then decide about taking her in to the doctor ...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

First Fever

Last week, I stupidly made the comment that we'd been really lucky in that we'd gone nearly 9 months without Celeste having any illness (excepting, of course, her second week hospitalization for jaundice). This afternoon, we had our first fever scare.

This morning, she woke up around 4:00 a.m. and did the inconsolable crying thing. Evelin and I took turns trying to soothe/calm her and, after a stint in our bed, Evelin nursed her back to sleep a bit past 5:00 a.m. I thought she felt warm at that point, but it was chalked up to her having been in snuggly pyjamas and with her blankie while I was just in boxers.

Flash forward to the afternoon: We'd been to the farmers market where Celeste enjoyed listening to the Banjo Man with a bunch of other kids, Evelin took her on a walk while I went to return the previous night's movie (National Treasure) and to run a few other errands. When I got home, Celeste was napping; they hadn't gone very far before Celeste started to fall asleep, so Evelin turned around to get her home to her crib.

It turned out to be not too long of a nap, and Celeste was pretty grumpy. She was playing on the floor with Evelin next to her reading and me across the room with the newspaper, but she kept fussing. We'd try some of the usual favorites, but she still was fussy. I kissed her forehead and thought she felt warm, so Evelin got the forehead thermometer, which was showed a high fever, so we decided to disturb her with a more accurate thermometer — 101.4°F.

A quick check of our doctors' instructions said to worry/call if the fever was higher than 102°F, so we dosed her with some Infant's Motrin and, while Evelin fed her, I started paging through all the books. We gave her a tepid bath, which did help cool her off, and, after the Motrin'd had some time to work her fever came down to the warm stage. During the bath, I put a stick-on thermometer on her forehead so that we could get a rough idea of how she was doing without having to resort to more uncomfortable thermometer techniques.

Celeste With a Mild Fever

After a short nap on top of Evelin, Celeste was definitely feeling better: playing more actively and acting less crabby. By her bedtime, the forehead thermometer was registering a mild fever, but she was still acting better. Our plan is to watch her overnight and hopefully the fever will pass: It's possible it could be teething related, but it seems a bit on the high side for that ...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

New Carseat for Celeste

With yesterday's rain, the P³ area seemed a bit on the muddy side to work on (it's hard enough shoveling dry dirt), so my attention was diverted to other parts of the things-to-do list.

First up, to keep pace with Celeste's growth, we pulled her SnugRide bucket out of the car and put in her Britax Roundabout. This follows earlier in the week when we dropped her crib mattress one level; she's not pulling herself up yet, but she is scooting around the crib so we decided to move the mattress rather than waiting for an overly exciting moment ...

Celeste probably isn't up to the weight limit on the SnugRide, but it was getting more and more difficult to get her in/out of it, and we'd already taken to just leaving the bucket in the T.R.U.C.K. She still needs the carseat to be rear-facing, so it'll be a few more months until it's easier to turn and see what Celeste is up to, but the new seat does put her in a bit higher position from which she can look around at the traffic/scenery.

This afternoon, we tried to take a hike (both to get out and to give Celeste a chance to try out the new carseat). She did pretty well until we were about 10 minutes away from Sugarloaf Mountain at which point she started crying. Evelin, who'd moved to the backseat after some earlier fussiness, soothed her some and, as we were getting to the parking area, Celeste nodded off to sleep. So, we turned around and drove home where I got to cut the ogräs.

One bit of fun for Celeste when we got home: Evelin brought her out to watch me cutting the front yard and a neighbor stopped by to chat. While Evelin, M--- and Celeste were talking, two dogs (with walkers) came up. Celeste was interested and so were the dogs (a greyhound and a bloodhound) and they all sniffed one another and Celeste did some gentle petting.

After the carseat and before the attempt at a hike, I spent some time fiddling around on a few things, including taking apart the dishwasher to see if I could get to the source of its leaking. (I think part of the tub and/or door is a little warped, allowing water to spray up and drip out; I made some adjustments to the alignment of the unit, which seem to help some, but it's not perfect. I've already replaced the seal, so maybe I can add some additional (not-manufacturer-intended) gasketry to the door side of things or try to google around for ideas ...)

Friday, May 20, 2005

P³ Photos

Not to get all Flickr about it or anything, but I have been meaning to post a picture or two of the Pond/Patio Project.

I can't seem to find any pics of the pre-destruction patio, but here is a (slightly blurry) pic of the pond circa summer 2001:

The Pond, Summer 2001

Note the bits of slate that rim the pond: Evelin always hated those.

The first step in the P³, sensibly enough, was to drain the pond, which was accomplished by running a hose in the backyard and starting up a siphon. The next morning, the water was mostly gone and I had to take out the plants, which was followed by cutting out the liner (all of this has been gone over before). What was left was a big, pond-shaped hole in the ground:

Empty Pond

The next step was to start work on the patio — moving furniture, pulling up pavers, taking out the top course of timbers, etc. — to get at all the dirt that lay below. Once the dirt was exposed, the shoveling began. Here is a pic of the patio as of Saturday

Partially Deconstructed Patio/Partially Constructed Trash Pile

In the foreground are the timbers and some other P³-related detritus that will eventually need to be hauled away.

What has me worried, as one can see from the photo, the patio is at best two-fifths deconstructed, but here is the pond

Mostly Filled Pond

There's room for some more dirt, and today's rain will help compact things and get the dirt to settle even more, but there's a lot more dirt under the patio, or to express it mathematically:
I figure there's going to be lots of dirt left over to spread in various places throughout the yard or maybe I can put up the equivalent of a "Free Fill Dirt" sign on Freecycle ...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

P³ Update

Work continues around the house. Last night, I cut the wires for the electrical feed to the outside outlet that'd been installed on the patio. Because of where the line ran, I needed to take it out before I could take another course of timbers off the patio, and it just seemed safer to take the wires out at the on/off switch inside. I then pulled up the buried line.

A lot of digging still needs to be done, as well as moving pavers and figuring out where the dirt will all go. I've been using a manual tamper to compact the dirt that goes into the pond, but I haven't been too systematic about it so the pond does have some shifting soil. It's supposed to rain tonight and into the weekend, so hopefully water filtering down will help compact things some, freeing up space for more dirt.

Even if I end up putting another 15 square feet of soil into the pond (and I don't think there's that much left to fill), I'll still have a lot of soil under the patio to dispose of. There are some low spots in the yard that we can put some of it in, and more will be needed to try to figure out the new grade for the upper garden, but we are likely to be left with a bunch of dirt. It could well be that we keep some of it under the deck (assuming we build a deck to replace the patio), but that still leaves the question of stabilizing it so that we don't end up with somesort of mini mudslide in the future.

Of course, the pond/patio project (the p³ of the entry's title) can't dominate everything: I still need to cut the ogräs, clean the gutters, and tend to other tasks, like the dishwasher, which has been overflowing a bit. Last night I replaced the door seal, which improved, but didn't completely solve things. I think this weekend I'll be checking the drain and other parts to see if I can figure out what might be the cause.

Celeste Update

Celeste must be entering another leap/stormy period. Her sleep has grown quite erratic. Actually, for the first half of the night, she's better staying asleep once she finally gets there, but she really fights going to bed. Plus, when she does wake in the middle of the night, it's more difficult to get her back to sleep; sometimes, she's up for an hour or three playing, crying, generally not sleeping ...

Hopefully, she'll ease into this phase and her sleep will even out in a few more days — usually the first two nights of a leap are really tough for her sleepwise — and she'll be able to focus on new developments (including her breakdancing).

Today, Celeste's big excitement was a trip to the farmers market in Riverdale Park, which is held in a parking lot next a CSX rail line. Celeste, who is always interested in big trucks, buses, etc., got to see a freight train pass within 10 yards of her. I'm not sure she was able to really process what it was, but she wouldn't take her eyes off it ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Breakdancing Baby

She doesn't quite have her hand glide down but Celeste started breaking today. Usually when we put her down in the living room, she is on the zebra rug, but today, for no particular reason, I put Celeste down on the hardwood floor ... and she took the opportunity to test her mad breakdancing skillz.

I gave her the smiley sun rattle thing that she really likes and the Chicco lion that she sort of likes and she started playing with the rattle. She was on her back and then dropped the rattle to the side and behind her a little. What to do? Well, Celeste rolled over to her stomach (and this from a girl who is not too fond of tummy time) and then used her hands to spin herself into a position where she could pick up the rattle. She played with it on her stomach for a little while before rolling back on to her back (I made sure to get a hand between her head and the floor so that she didn't hurt herself while flipping back on to her back).

She did the same hand-pull move a number of times and even once or twice looked like she might manage an army crawl. I was quite impressed — both by her ability to think of and do this and that she was letting me see a new trick for a change. (<insane jealousy>Usually, she likes to show her mumma these sorts of things first</insane jealousy>.)

The rest of the day was spent with a short (under 2 mile) hike at Greenbelt Park (Celeste is still not 100% sure the Piggyback is fun) and, after Evelin got home and Celeste went to bed, making a very tasty spinach-feta-potato terrine that fell apart when I tried to plate it but tasted exquisite.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Sleep Stories

All in all, Celeste's sleeping is getting better, but is far from perfect. My theory is that she just doesn't enjoy sleeping and would rather be doing something else — even if that something else is sitting on the floor watching groggy parents try to play with her while hoping she'll show some unambiguous signs of tiredness.

If she could form the words, I'd imagine Celeste would try Hannes' argument relayed a few weeks ago on Name that baby!: "It ain't nice to sleep ..."

In general, she's shifting her bedtime to about an hour later than it had been and she's having a rougher time going down for a nap. Evelin thinks part of it is Celeste's increased mobility: She uses the crib bars to walk herself along the mattress, making her bed a bit of a playground. The other option is it could be related to teething: she looks like she's cutting an eyetooth.

Once she finally does go down, she seems to be sleeping longer with less nocturnal crying, although she still gets two feedings per night.

This morning she was up around 4:30 a.m., crying, but she was dead tired. I went into pick her up and to try to calm her around 5:00 and she would snug down and fall asleep really quickly on my chest, but as soon as I'd try putting her down in the crib (either on her stomach or her back), she's start kicking, squirming and crying. I wondered if her stomach might be hurting her or something — we'd introduced mangoes to her that afternoon, so there could have been a reaction — but Evelin was less convinced. She ended up feeding her around 5:45 a.m., and we were all up for the day soon there after.

[UPDATE: And, of course, ever the contrarian, Celeste was asleep before I got home at 6:30 p.m. tonight ...]

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Take Celeste to a Ballgame

Today Celeste went to her first ballgame, a back-to-back seven-inning Portland Sea Dogs vs. Bowie Baysox doubleheader. It was originally slated to be just one nine-inning game, but they changed the scheduled because Saturday night's game was rained out.

We were in the third row from the field, just to the right of the Sea Dog's dugout, along with the other seven Red Sox/Portland fans in attendance, which gave us a great view of home plate and the infield, as well as the chance to talk a little with some of the Sea Dogs while they were in the on-deck circle.

Celeste started off the game a bit disinterested in what was going on on the field. Evelin had her in a sling and she was looking back into the stadium, making faces at people in the stands. But during the 4th inning, I had her on my knee, facing the field, and she started watching and clapping (unfortunately when Sea Dog's catcher Alberto Concepción grounded into a double play), but by the bottom of the 6th she was tired and cranky. Evelin took her out to the car for the bottom of the 7th, which ended very quickly, and we took a long roundabout way home so that she could sleep in the car for about 90 minutes.

Celeste, in her pink Red Sox 2004 World Series Champions ballcap, cheers on the Portland Sea Dogs.

The game itself had some nice moments, starting with Dustin Pedroia's solo home run in the top of the 1st and his stolen base in the 4th, as well as Concepción turning a double play in the 4th. I can't imagine Pedroia is going to be playing AA ball next year ...

Top prospect Hanley Ramírez, however, was a bit disappointing; he had one good hit and some sloppy play on the field. In the 6th, Jared Sandberg had an embarrassing moment when he missed a fly ball at the warning track and ended up catching his shoelace or foot in the outfield field; he couldn't get up or pull away from the wall and ended up giving up a triple to Tripper Johnson.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bugs Everywhere ...

I sometimes have a problem extrapolating from weight to volume. For example, a while ago, I bought a 4-ounce bag of Turkish bay leaves from Penzey's. It turned out to be a very large bag of very good bay leaves that Celeste will probably still be enjoying until she graduates from high school.

Thinking I'd learned my lesson, I later bought some spearmint from Penzey's. It turns out 1 ounce of dried leaves is still a fairly big bag, although we have gone through that one much more quickly and are on track to finish it by the time Celeste is in 2nd Grade.

Yesterday, I came home to find my latest such discovery of how much a pint of ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens) works out to. The answer is a hell of a lot of ladybugs.

I'd noticed some scale on one of the blueberries a while ago, and then later found some on a butterfly bush and on the beauty berry bush, so I decided to order some ladybugs. While looking around on the Biocontrol Network website, I figured a pint of ladybugs would work. I guess I didn't really have a good feel for what 4,500 ladybugs would be like, although that line about "covers 2,500 square feet" should have tipped me off.

At first, when I opened the bag, I wasn't worried; sure the bugs were swarming out at me, but they're just ladybugs — the scale, aphids, etc., are what need to worry not me. I started dropping them out of the bag around the garlic and then the peas and raspberries before moving around the yard past the apple tree and mint and over to the butterfly bushes.

Although it was a bit silly, I tried to economize how many were released over in the daylilies and on that side of the yard; I wanted to save some for the front where we have the strawberries and blueberries. After working my way around to the front yard and down the other side of the house, I realized I still had a good 1,000 or more bugs, so they were dropped off back in the garden.

This morning, I went out to find ladybugs everywhere; it's crazy how many there are and, from the look of things, they were busy working on adding to the population. If Hyattsville has a plague of ladybugs this summer, we will be ground zero.

Now, I have to worry about what about 600 praying mantises (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) will do to the yard. The smallest number of egg cases they sold was three and each can hatch up some 200 mantids. The other bugs don't have a chance ...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Almost Back to Normal ...

Yesterday, on the whiteboard in my office, I drew a big arch and colored the space inside of it black. I then wiped a little bit of the black away with my pinkie finger. That was the light at the end of the tunnel. I can finally see it.

My June issue of my regular magazine is out the door; the June issue of the francophone supplement is out the door (despite, and no kidding on this, the French-language coördinator for the supplement dying the weekend before production); and the post-show marketing piece phase of the contract publishing gig is in the production phase. It's only 16 pages, so I'm not too stressed, although I'm sure it will hit some snags along the way.

All in all, it looks like I can breathe for a moment, which is a good thing because just as work is getting less 過労死, I'm launching into something I don't know how we'll finish at home.

When we first looked at this house, I threw away any negotiating position we had by looking out the bedroom window and excitedly saying "Ooh, a pond!" Over the five years we've lived here, I've mucked out the pond, ignored the pond, tried to improve the pond, and now we're filling in the pond.

To be fair, it wasn't the best of water features for the yard. It was big and the edges looked really unfinished; plus, there was no filtration setup of any sort. Basically, it was a big stagnant pond that was home to 35+ goldfish, a bunch of water lilies, a dwarf lotus, and a few other plants. Last summer, I let things go a bit and bought three water hyacinths that basically choked out everything else in pond by autumn. Raccoons, cats, possums, or something got lots of the fish, and we had an ich outbreak over winter that killed off most of the rest. In the end we were down to one gold fish and a bunch of plants.

It's important to note that Evelin has never liked the pond, but with Celeste on the scene (and rapidly approaching mobility) she has upped the impetus to get rid of it.

Parallel to all of this is the patio — a raised structure with timbers for sides (five at the highest point), brick pavers for a top, and a lot of dirt beneath. The previous owners apparently every year pulled up the pavers and releveled the dirt below; we haven't done that, and the patio has become progressively less stable. Plus those timbers (despite being creosote-soaked) are rotting badly creating some danger points that were probably actionable.

The final part to this equation is that last Thursday, Celeste took a fantastic three-hour nap, which meant we didn't have time to make a cute card for Evelin for Mother's Day ... which meant that a promise to begin tearing apart the patio and filling in the pond became my and Celeste's Mother's Day gift to Evelin. Evelin was thrilled by this.

Saturday afternoon, I set up a hose to start siphoning water out of the pond to a point in the backyard that could absorb all the water. Despite a few clogs, it drained more quickly than I expected and by morning, we were looking at a smelly hole with just a bit of water left in the deep end. After getting the siphon going again, I started cutting the lining to pull it out in stages. The tricky bit was that I wanted to dump the muck/litter that was at the bottom of the pond back into the hole, both to add some organic matter to the soil and because it was wet, heavy, and gross and disposing of the liner is enough of a problem without having to worry about the muck, too.

In the meantime, my neighbor wandered into his driveway, giving me the chance to see if he would take in any of the plants. He said he was planning to work on his pond later in the week anyway, so he was game to see what he could use. (A bit later, as I was getting to the last bit of lining, I thought I'd found the last goldfish — we hadn't seen him in weeks and had assumed a cat or raccoon had eaten him — and through he was dead. Turned out he was alive, and we rushed him over to the neighbor's pond; hopefully, he'll continue to have a good life over there.)

After the pond was emptied, I started in on the bricks and timbers. The top course of timbers was mostly at or above the brick level, so that was easy to pry away. I then (and when Celeste went down for a nap, Evelin joined in) pulled up a little bit less than half of the bricks.

The most dangerous bit of the patio was the steps down from the back door. They were three courses of bricks and timbers, but the middle timber was 90% rotted away. So I focused on dismantling that first. There was more dirt under there than I'd imagined, but the pond still has a lot of space to fill. I also started digging out on the half where the pavers had been taken up.

In all, I think I put in about six or seven hours of work on the destruction project and it just looks like a mess. Evelin is happy, however, and the pond is getting filled in and the patio is going away. (Since then, I spent some time Monday night tamping down the dirt and today, during Celeste's nap, I put in about an hour of shoveling, which brought the dirt level down to where I could take out one more timber.) This is going to take all summer, and we don't really know what's going to replace it all — a deck, another patio, some bi-level deck-patio combination, a bigger pond (probably not) ...

The other thing that's in the process of going on is that Evelin and I are changing our telecom options. Tuesday, we had cable installed; today, I finally got the cable modem working and set up the wireless router; now we just have to sign up for VoIP and we can start dumping the old phone and Internet services in favor of something faster that will cost about $45 more per month than what we used to have but about $15 less than our other high-speed options. I'm a bit sad because I've been with out outgoing ISP for more about a decade, but I do have to admit the cable is a lot faster than dialup (and Evelin and I are both doing a fair amount of work (formally and informally) from home, so we need the high-speed connection ...)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Clap or MORE?

This afternoon, I called Evelin after Celeste and I had a short hike in Greenbelt Park to let her know that I was preparing a bottle for the girl. Evelin asked if I'd seen Celeste clap yet. I hadn't, but I soon would.

Evelin wasn't sure if the clapping, which just started today, was Celeste's attempt to sign MORE or if it was just a fun thing for her to do. For a while now, she's like to watch us clap (either just to praise her or to keep rhythm with a song or for fun or as part of a "Here we go Red Sox!" chant) and about a month or so ago, she started putting her hands over my or Evelin's clapping hands to "force" us to clap, but today she started clapping all on her own.

The question of whether this is language or expression is still out. The first claps I saw where right after I got off the phone with Evelin and signed MILK to Celeste to see if she was hungry. She started clapping. I immediately called Evelin back, and she proffered that the clap might be Celeste's MORE sign and that she'd sign it before she's had anything because she knows more food follows the MORE sign.

The next big round of clapping came when I brought the bottle into her field of vision. And there was more as she pulled away from the bottle while feeding. This was looking like language.

But, later in the afternoon, she was clapping while playing with some of her toys. The clapping didn't seem to fit the MORE context, but I can't read her mind, maybe she was trying to tell the rubber duckie to get back into the cup so she could dump him out again.

There was other random clapping including a clap-fest where she started clapping, I'd clap back and then she'd clap some more. So the jury is still out; probably there are elements of both language and clapping here.

If I Were a ...

I think blog meme things are supposed to help you when your stuck for something to blog about, but Anita stuck me with this a week ago and I've just been too tied up in 過労死 to do anything about it. So, without further ado ...
What follows is a list of different occupations. You must select at least five of them. You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select five of the items as it was passed to you).
Of the five you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession. Then pass it on to three other bloggers.

Here's that list:
  1. If I could be a scientist...

  2. If I could be a farmer...

  3. If I could be a musician...

  4. If I could be a doctor...

  5. If I could be a painter...

  6. If I could be a gardener...

  7. If I could be a missionary...

  8. If I could be a chef...

  9. If I could be an architect...

  10. If I could be a linguist...

  11. If I could be a psychologist...

  12. If I could be a librarian...

  13. If I could be an athlete...

  14. If I could be a lawyer...

  15. If I could be an innkeeper...

  16. If I could be a professor...

  17. If I could be a writer...

  18. If I could be a backup dancer...

  19. If I could be a llama-rider...

  20. If I could be a bonnie pirate...

  21. If I could be a midget stripper...

  22. If I could be a proctologist...

  23. If I could be a TV-Chat Show host...

  24. If I could be an actor...

  25. If I could be a judge...

  26. If I could be a Jedi...

  27. If I could be a mob boss...

  28. If I could be an Avon Lady...

  29. If I could be a store owner...
So anyway ...

If I could be an architect, I'd aim to design buildings with Bauhaus-level functionality but with a more naturalistic flair.

If I could be a librarian, I'd try to steer people toward more challenging fiction and a wide variety of history, science, and other books, instead of the latest summer beach books.

If I could be a gardener, I'd be able to do something about the ogräs that has replaced our lawn ...

If I could be an innkeeper, I'd want to have a comfortable place, not overly fluffy or busy, but warm and inviting with a nice great room with a fire for guests to relax around while enjoying a nice port and some cookies.

If I could be a store owner (my addition to the list), I'd be a green grocer with a neighborhood store that offered a variety of fresh local produce, artisan cheeses, a nice mix of staples and slightly exotic offerings with recipes available to help people figure out how to put it all together.

I'll let Anita be the one who analyzes what all this might say about me.... As for sticking others with the meme, I'll just leave it here for anyone who's interested in responding (just leave me a trackback or something), but I am curious what Enjanerd might have to say.