Thursday, December 28, 2006

Potty Potty Potty

I don't know if it's because of Christmas or what, but Celeste has taken about eight steps backwards with potty training. Before we left (and, yes, I am still needing to recap the holidays — we went to Louisiana, there's lots to blog), Celeste was doing quite well. She'd been wearing Hello Kitty underwear throughout the day without an accident for a week or two; she was even waking up from her nap with a dry diap and she stayed dry overnight a few times.

The first day in Louisiana, she had a few accidents, but otherwise she was more good than not. There was some resistance to using the portable potty seat we'd brought, but, for the most part, she did fine.

Since we've been back home, however, things have been less than fine. Our first night back, before her bath, she fought getting on to the potty until I suggested she use her stepstool to climb up by herself. "That feels right," she said. Unfortunately, that seems to have been the high point.

This afternoon alone, she had three accidents ... and none of them actually seemed to be accidents. She did fine holding things while we were out at the grocery store for over an hour, but as soon as we got home, it was time to mop up the floor again. Evelin thinks it's just readjusting to home, but the willfulness of it makes me worry Celeste is trying to assert herself in some way.

So now we're trying to figure out what sort of reward/bribe/incentive/disincentive we need to give Celeste to help get her back on track and using the potty all the time. Food/sweets as a reward seems like a bad idea for the long term. Evelin was thinking about offering Celeste the chance to watch Sesame Street the following morning if she stays dry all day. We also talked about letting her have 15 minutes of "Cookie Eats Letter ..." on PBS Kids. The PBS Kids option feels best to me, but I'm not sure.

The only thing we've settled upon is that if Celeste wets her pants, she doesn't get to spend any time "nakie" — it's pretty much straight out of the wet clothes to the potty and then in to clean clothes. Beyond this, I'm just hopin' Evelin is right and Celeste gets back into a groove quickly ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Orion and the Dancing Christmas Tree

I have a lot of Christmas-related blogging to get to, but first a vignette from tonight. After Celeste's bath, we went outside to look at the moon. After the rain of last night, the sky was exceptionally clear and we had, despite the light pollution inside the Beltway, a very good view of a fair number of stars. Orion's belt was very evident, so I pointed out the belt — Alnitak (ζ Orionis), Alnilam (ε Orionis), and Mintaka (δ Orionis) — as well as the shoulders — Betelgeuse (α Orionis) and Bellatrix (γ Orionis) — and his knees — Rigel (β Orionis) and Saiph (κ Orionis).

I told her how constellations were a way people would identify patterns in the night sky and how various legends were associated with them. I told her how Orion was a great ancient Greek hunter. And I pointed again to the belt and the shoulders and knees.

Celeste looked at where I was pointing in the sky and then looked across the street and said, very excitedly, "That Christmas tree dancing!" pointing at a blinking tree in a neighbor's house.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas recap in progress ...

Day 3: (Dec 22)

Library

Out to Dinner

Day 4: (Dec 23 Friday)

Andrew/Niki & twins arrive

Day 5: (Dec 24)

Calm before the storm; prepping the tree; carrots for the reindeer; milk instead of Dixie …

Day 6 (Dec 25)



Day 7: The Flight Home

We decided to fly home on Boxing Day figuring that flights would be less crowded and for the most part they were. We got to Armstrong International (MSY) fairly early for our 10:20 a.m. flight, giving us a good bit of time to let Celeste and Quinn wander, peoplewatch, and find people who had carry-on-sized dogs in the waiting area. At one point, Celeste and I walked back to the newsstand to get some water, and I picked up some postcards for Postcrossing. Celeste wanted a book, but there weren't any kid's books in that part of the airport, so she ended up latching on to a French Quarter walking tour guide/map, which kept her occupied for quite a while.

The flight back was thankfully incident-free and Celeste was very well behaved. We have no idea where the air marshall(s) were on that flight. However, it was a rougher flight weatherwise: We were flying over heavy clouds for much of the trip, and there weren't the sort of spectacular views we enjoyed on the way out.

Landing at Washington National Airport (DCA), I waited with Evelin and the girls to get the luggage together and then Celeste and I rode out to satellite parking to find the T.R.U.C.K. When we were talking about it, it seemed to make sense for me to go to satellite parking, get the car, get Celeste's seat strapped in, and then go pick up Evelin, Quinn, and the rest of our luggage back at the terminal. The thing we didn't really notice until Celeste and I were on the bus was that it was raining.

We had a short dash from the shelter to the T.R.U.C.K. (I carried Celeste in her carseat for that instead of trusting the gogo Kidz at speed), and I put Celeste in the way-back while I struggled with the seat. Eventually, things were latched up, and we were able to meet up with Evelin in the daily parking garage.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day 2: Books

Celeste loves books. She still talks about visiting the Bridgton Public Library during our trip to Maine. So it's no surprise that she was excited to visit the library with her grandmother.

However, the library books were not Celeste's only new read: my mom dug up a bunch of old Ladybird readers that were handed down to A--- and me by our neighbors in London a long, long, long time ago. Celeste loved reading through them, and I remembered a few of them, especially Piggly Plays Truant. My mom also dug up a few Beatrix Potter books for Celeste, including Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes, which we didn't already have.

She also found, and Celeste really liked, Little Black Sambo, which isn't that bad in terms of the story (excepting the names of the characters), but the illustrations do bother me. (The Wikipedia entry for the book gives a good rundown of its history and the controversy surrounding the book.)

All this reading time was made possible in part by the rain: From the time we arrived on Wednesday and by the time the skies cleared on Thursday afternoon, the rain gauge in the backyard measured 10.5" of water.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day 1: Don't Kick the Air Marshal

Since we couldn't print out our boarding passes the night before, I figured my no-fly problem may be cropping up again. Our flight was at 8:30 a.m., but we left the house around 5:00 a.m. We unloaded the T.R.U.C.K. curbside at National Airport, and Evelin and the girls waited in the terminal while I went off to the satellite parking lot. We (correctly) figured that would be easier than schlepping all the luggage and both carseats on the bus back to the terminal.

We got in line at the ticket counter and when an agent walked past, I told her that I have occasionally had no-fly problems. So, she shifted us to another line and we made it up to an agent at about the same time as if we'd stayed in the queue. Since we thought there might be a problem, Evelin and I decided to bring our passports as our IDs. I don't know if that helped or not, but we did have to wait a while while she kept typing different things and made a phone call. Despite all that, we were though security and at our gate with more than 90 minutes to spare.

For the flight, we'd picked up a Stick and Rudder activity book to help keep Celeste occupied, but she found something more interesting — kicking the seatback ahead of her. Since Quinn was flying as a lap child and we only had one carseat bag, we had Celeste in her gogo Kidz-equipped carseat. That placed her at the perfect level for kicking.

The chap in the seat ahead of Celeste was one of two guys who was let on to the plane before the flightcrew. We were sitting near the gate, so we saw the pair approach the gate agent, exchange words, and then be led on to the plane a good 15 or 20 minutes before anyone else. Both guys looked like ex-military linebackers. After everyone was seated, the guy in front of us called over a flight attendant to have her take his ticket; it hadn't been collected at the gate. Add that to the fact that every flight to/from DCA supposedly has at least one air marshal on it and I'm pretty sure this guy was one ... and the other guy ... and the guy Evelin saw walk down the aisle, point at the other guy, and say to the guy in front of Celeste: "Is that your partner?"

I worked hard to keep an arm over her legs, but Celeste did get off a few good blows before we left the ground. The air marshal never drew a weapon or identified himself or anything, but we did hear him mutter something to the effect of "I don't know if I can make this flight ..." Fortunately, once we were off the ground, Celeste was mostly done with trying to kick. She had more fun looking out the window and reading her books or the Sky Mall catalogue. She did get in one last kick after we landed, however. I tried to catch the guy's eye to apologize while we were deplaning, but he was either closely watching a potential terrorist or studiously avoiding any backwards glances at our row.

Day 1: No Alligators

My dad picked us up in New Orleans, and we headed back to the North Shore. As we went across Manchac Swamp, we asked Celeste who lived in the swamp and she said: "Alligators!"

A while ago, Evelin told Celeste a story about me as a little boy. According to Evelin, I found an alligator in the ditch and brought it home, kept it in the tub, and fed it hamburger until my mother found out and got my dad to put the alligator back in the ditch. In truth, while I do remember finding a dead alligator in the canal/bayou back in the woods where we used to go fish with no luck when I was a kid, I never brought an alligator home.

When we got off I-55 at Ponchatoula, I asked Celeste if she wanted to stop to meet Ole Hardhide, the town alligator. She said, very quickly, "No." Evelin asked Celeste if she thought that the Ponchatoula alligator was the same one I had when I was little. Celeste said she thought it was, but she still didn't want to meet it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Still Blogging ... An Update

On Friday, The Editors Weblog had an item about the blogging reaching a plateau. One would be forgiven for thinking that I've joined the estimated 200 million who've stopped blogging, but it's just been a bad past couple of weeks at work and home.

We're not sure who was/is patient zero, but Celeste, Quinn, and I have been in various stages of illness for the past fortnight or so, and Evelin seems to be finally succumbing as of yesterday. Each of us has manifested differently, but it's basically been a coughing, sneezing, snotfest for quite a while with plenty of disrupted sleep for all. Adding to the fun, Quinn's first two teeth came in at the same time back on the 8th and Celeste's last two molars seem to be shifting into place if not yet breaking through the gums.

But enough with the whinging.

Quinn is building her language skillz. Last week (after a particularly bad night of screaming), she must have made a mental leap; she's started practicing dee, dah, gaa, and other new sounds with a vengeance. It's really cute and sounds much more like "her voice" than the squeaks and squawks that make up most of her vocalizations heretofore.

Celeste is building an interest in astronomy. Her prebedtime routine now includes a post-bath stop outside to look for the moon. During the early stages of the current moon's phases, that worked out really well as the moon was high in the sky around her bedtime; now it's rising around 2:00 a.m., so we go out to spy planes, stars, and Christmas lights. Of course, given her fondness for all things Stick and Rudder, every plane is a Gooney Bird. Also every car is a race car. Most of the buses actually are Metro buses, but I don't think she quite has it right when she points and says "Metro bus is eating insects!"

Potty training is going quite well with Celeste. The first few diapless days were a bit messy (particularly with the chaos that was Evelin's annual gingerbread house party: eight children and five adults was a bit overwhelming for Celeste), but she made it through the day more often than not last week. (She still gets diapers for naps and overnight, although the naptime diaps have been dryer than not lately.).

This morning, after being up with Quinn a lot last night, I think I nodded off for a moment while Celeste and I were reading on the couch, so I guess it's no surprise that I was a little groggy when she said "Potty! Potty! Potty!" and I raced her upstairs and dumped her into the toilet. It didn't register to me that her seat was up and she slipped bottom-first through the regular toilet seat. Despite some shocked tears, Celeste was a trooper and managed to do what she needed to do once we got her wet pyjamas off and her seat in place.

Of course, when the time comes, I will have to careful not to let something like that happen to Quinn. One, it's already evident that she has a temper. Second, I think she might be a baby ninja. She hasn't gone through everything covered in Question 3: Ninja Training, but she does try to rip my throat out on a regular basis.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Kia Ora

Yesterday, I found myself being discussed on Kiwi FM. This sort of thing has happened before, of course, because I often listen to far-flung radio stations and occasionally send in an e-mail.

This time, I caught the chorus of a very catchy song — Cut the red wire / Or cut the blue wire / And see if she blows — that sounded a bit like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Conner or something else dance-pop-punky. Since Kiwi FM is 100% Kiwi music, I knew it wasn't one of them, and the station website doesn't offer a played tracks ticker or anything ... so I sent an e-mail. It was around 5:30 a.m. NZDT, so no-one was in the studio yet, but a few hours later, I heard my name on air.

Apparently, U.S. postal abbreviations aren't immediately recognizable that far south, because before they figured out what track I was asking about, they were trying to figure out where I was e-mailing from; the consensus seem to be somewhere in Canada. I e-mailed back and said I was just outside of DC, and they then figured out that VA = Virginia.

The song, by the way, is "Bomb Squad" by Motocade, and the band is offering the track as a free CD-quality download from its MySpace (scroll down). If you like that guitar-driven dancy sound, it's totally worth the bandwidth to download.

Back to Kiwi FM, I have to wonder what the morning listeners in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch think about their DJs going on about online listeners. I had the same question in my mind when I had a longish e-mail exchange with Jason Shand of Moray Firth FM and he'd reply to my e-mail over the air for all of Inverness (or at least anyone listening around midnight) to hear. And it can't be any worse than when I was a Cub Scout and our pack took a field trip to a local radio station and were let on air ...
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It Surely Is

I'm sure over Christmas, my father will get to try out at least one line from Airplane on Celeste: "Don't call me Shirley." I'm guessing she picked it up from a Beatrix Potter book or something, but Celeste as added the phrase "Surely it is" to her vocabulary with a vengeance.

Tonight, she looked out the window. "Ah! Moon! A crescent moon. Surely it is!" Earlier in the day, it was something about Ripley: "Surely he is." And so forth. It's really, really cute and more than a bit funny; of course, if it did come from Beatrix Potter, I do kind of wonder why she never managed to pick up "I am affronted" (which is Mrs. Tabitha Twitchett's comment in The Tale of Tom Kitten when she finds the kittens in a state of disarray) — that would be really cute for a two-year-old to say in the midst of a tantrum.

Also this afternoon, I'm pretty sure Quinn's first tooth just started to crest her gum. She was grumpy as can be. There's a swollen place on her jaw ... and when I touched it to see if I could feel a tooth it set off about 15 minutes of screaming.

On the less screamy side, Quinn rolled over from tummy to back today pretty much on command; she was complaining about tummy time and I told her she could roll over if she wanted and she lifted up her arm and slowly flipped over.

All the applause and praising made Celeste want to get out of her highchair immediately to do her own rolling over.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

Imagination

It's really interesting to watch the way Celeste's mind is developing (Quinn's too, but being preverbal, it's harder to judge much of what she's thinking/doing). She's doing lots of imaginative play with her Little People animals and buses, making dog bones out of Play-Doh and Mega Bloks for Ripley to eat, looking out the window and seeing Stick and Rudder flying the Gooney Bird, etc.

For a while now, she's been plucking cookies, dulces, and other food from the pages of books to eat. Then, a few days ago, we were reading Best Friends and when we got to the page where Kathy thinks about taking all of Mr. Jode's puppies, Celeste started gathering puppies and putting them in her hands. When she had 15 puppies (she was counting them as she took them off the page), she started juggling them before putting them into the "puppy house," a.k.a. the sofa cushion.
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Reading Ahead

My mother tells the story of how as a little child I would impress strangers with my reading skills. Of course, I couldn't actually read; I'd just committed to memory all the text of the books that I'd insisted be read to me.

Celeste seems to be on a similar path.

Tonight, she was sitting on the floor in the kitchen while I cleaned up after dinner and she was reading, pretty accurately, some of the pages in S.S. Bathtub. Then during her bedtime stories session, she corrected me when I let a little too much Estuary slip in to the Good Knight's line about "another glass of water?"

I like "doing voices" for much of the reading aloud that I do, and at some point I decided the Good Knight in
Good Night, Good Knight
has a British accent. For the most part, I can't tell if Celeste notices or not, but when I said something closer to 'wɔːtə or 'wɔʊʔə instead of wô'tər, she turned to face me and said very seriously "No. Water."
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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pears

In general, I'm not a fan of pears. I like apples more than asian pears and asian pears more than pears. I think it's more of a texture thing than taste, which is why I'm much more likely to eat cooked pears and to experiment with things like poached pears or pear-ginger pie.

However, pears are early on the list of foods okay to introduce to infants, so Quinn has been enjoying pear sauce (and related pear products) for a few weeks now. Since I overpurchased comice pears for the pear-ginger pie, on Friday Evelin decided to cook up the leftovers and run them through the fruit/vegetable strainer/grinder. Everything was going pretty well except that comice pears, Evelin discovered, provide lots of juice and very little pear sauce. From four or five pears, she got about a quarter cup of pear sauce and about two cups of pear juice.

In retrospect, this should have been expected. In the pear-ginger pie, the comice pears just melt away; in fact, Evelin mixed bosc pears with comice in the pie to give it a little more tooth.

We've frozen the juice and are using it to thin oatmeal and other thick foods for Quinn ...

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

Last year, we were in New Orleans. The year before that was in New England. The year before that I stayed home as we were in the early part of our IVF cycle. I'm not sure when I was last in the office on Black Friday. That said, I am a bit scared ...

As I drove toward my office a bit before 6:00 a.m., I passed Toys "Я" Us and the parking lot was jammed. Okay, I can understand that — early sales and what not. As I got closer to my building, I see Circuit City ... jammed. Okay, this is a little funny. Next up, across the street from my office, Best Buy ... beyond jammed. In fact, overflow parking had (improperly) filled up the parking in the front parking lot of my building. There were people darting across the street in the dark. A guy with a plasma screen television box on his shoulder as he walked along the sidewalk.

Over the past 90 minutes, the sun has risen, the parking lots have gotten worse, and the blaring of car horns has gotten more frequent. Scary.
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Last Night

Dinner last night went well: We got there later than we expected and it took the turkey longer to cook than C--- and T--- expected, but Celeste, Quinn, T--- had fun playing. We ended up getting home around 8:30 p.m. Before dessert Celeste had started in with "Celeste ready to go home now. Celeste ready to go home, please." so it was no real surprise that as soon as we got home and I asked who wants to put on pyjamas and go to bed, Celeste let out a real big "Uh-huh!"
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

So many things to be thankful for: Two sweet girls, a wonderful wife, Democratic control of Congress, ...

Evelin put her foot down and no traveling this year for Thanksgiving, so we're going over to some neighborhood friends' house after the girls wake from their naps. They're making a turkey and some other things; we're bringing dessert and some sides.

Back on Sunday, I made some port-cranberry sauce and this morning I started prepping things for a mushroom, leek and parmesan bread pudding. Evelin made a pear-ginger pie and a Tourte au Potiron today, as well as some cranberry pear biscotti (from Biscotti & Other Low Fat Cookies) and provençal winter squash gratin (from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone).

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Step Forward

A while ago, someone left a comment on my blog saying that he had bought the same Baby Italia Isabella crib Celeste has but that it was discontinued and he couldn't get a toddler rail for it anymore. After hearing that, I ran out to Babies "Я" Us to see if I could find an alternate solution. It turns out that while the Isabella is no longer available, toddler rails and twin-size side rails are still available for "Lifestyle" range cribs, but special orders take about three months. I ordered them.

That was back in August; the rails arrived in October. Every now and then, since I brought them home, I'd talk to Celeste about changing her crib. I showed her pictures of the toddler rail online. She generally seemed interested, but noncommittal at best.

About two weeks ago, near bedtime, Celeste climbed into the twin bed in Quinn's room and said she wanted to sleep there. She made it all the way through her stories and the light going out. Then we had to shift Quinn out of Celeste's crib and Celeste back into her room.

Saturday, however, after Celeste's nap, we took the plunge. I pulled the toddler rail out of her closet, held it up next to her bed, and at the first indication of approval broke out the Allen wrenches. Actually, I think the thing that made it more acceptable to Celeste was that she got to help — holding the bolts, playing with the wrenches, etc.

That night, she slept there without a problem. Even her nap on Sunday she stayed in her bed. Today, she end up not napping at all. When I went in to her room to see what was up with all the talking and occasional shouting, she was sitting in bed (sans pyjamas — yes, she's been wanting pyjamas for her naps of late) giggling and then asking to please get up and go downstairs.

She knows she can climb in and out of the bed — and I've heard her talking with her stuffed animals about getting out of bed — but she doesn't seem to be doing it. I'm sure she will soon enough, but I'm just glad she hasn't been asking for the big side to be put back on the crib.
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Other Stuff

TEETH: Both of Celeste's upper two-year molars are in; I thought I felt something on the lower jaw while flossing her, but I'm not sure. Quinn is obviously troubled by her yet-to-erupt teeth — lots of general upsettedness, drool, hands in mouth — but nothing seems to be popping out yet. I'm pretty sure we'll wake up one day and find she has five or more teeth.

AIRPLANES: After today's non-nap, I took Celeste and Quinn to the College Park Aviation Museum. After Celeste did a few games and puzzles and pointed out the Blériot XI (identified as "Bléroit"), 1924 Berliner Helicopter No. 5 (identified as "helicopter"), and the Boeing A75N1/PT-17 Stearman (identified as "biplane"), she was ready to head home. As usual, we passed through the gift shop and picked up The Adventures of Stick and Rudder: It's a Zoo. A while ago, we picked up the second Stick and Rudder book (The Great Race), and then a visit or two later, we picked up Popcorn. The thing is the books aren't that well written (I often find myself rewriting/editing them as I read them to Celeste) and the stories are kind of weak, but Celeste likes them and I kind of like them too.

STICKERS: We're using stickers as a potty-training reward for Celeste, but she likes to pick her sticker and then put it on Evelin or my jeans. This afternoon, between the potty rewards, admission stickers to the College Park Aviation Museum, and other stickers she found laying around, I garnered about 15 stickers on my pants legs.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Slide and a Synth

A little while ago, I picked up a cheap little digital camcorder, a Microtek Take-it MV500, to capture YouTube-level clips to share with friends and family. For the most part, it works okay, but we need to boost the lighting to improve the images, I think.

Anyway, here are two short clips, one from Celeste and one from Quinn. I doubt either are up to the level of "America's Funniest Home Videos," but if anyone thinks either is worth $10,000, please feel free to contact me to find out where you can send the check.


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Friday, November 17, 2006

Celeste's Accent

Evelin and I are a mixed marriage of sorts: My family is Southern; hers are New England Yankees. And they all have the accents to prove it. While we have the occasional word or turn of phrase that belies or origin, neither Evelin nor I have too strong of an accent, something that living in the Mid-Atlantic does little to change (Baltimore, excepted).

Which raises the question where in the world did Celeste pick up her drawl? Just listen to her say "puppy dog" [MP3] — pupp-ee dawg.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fall Has Fallen

Tuesday I took advantage of my mother-in-law being in town and stayed at work longer than's normal for my typical "short day." I also was stuck in meetings from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so she and Evelin knew I'd be late.

When I got home, Quinn was awake and Celeste was napping, so after a little playtime, I took some time to rake the front and side yards. It was a good thing, too — Thursday, when the big storm blew through, it dumped about 80% of the rest of our canopy over the yard and street. The only way one can tell that I raked is that there is a big bump between the street and sidewalk where all the old leaves sit under the new leaves that cover everything that was raked too.

Actually, it's a little surprising how quickly everything turned this year. We had some really nice color for a few days, maybe a week or so — nice deep reds, purples, a bit of yellow and orange. And then it all started dropping very quickly. A few of the big oaks that shade our house and yard seem to be dropping more of their leaves than is normal for this early in the season, but the warm–cold shifts we've been having probably contribute to that.

That said, we still have a fair number of leaves overhead. Hopefully, I'll get Celeste out with a little rake and we can get the yard done this weekend, Thanksgiving, and/or next weekend ...
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fun and Games

A while ago, Celeste started running away, usually to the other side of the room, but always annoucing loudly, "Celeste run away now."

Neither Evelin nor I could figure out (1) where she got the idea for running away or (2) why she would run away. After all, she has a pretty good deal here: No rent, free diapers, all the pierogies and mango she can eat.

About a month ago, we figured it out: She's emulating The Runaway Bunny (by Margaret Wise Brown, Celeste notes; we have to read the author, although not always the illustrator, for every book). Now, whenever Celeste says she's running away, we start a little game of either chase or hide (in plain sight) and seek.

The other game I have yet to figure out from her is if I'm laying on the ground and pretend to be asleep, Celeste will jump on me and say "Wake! Up! Sleepy! School! Bus!" She loves buses and has a lot of bus toys that are always doing fun things; she's even started referring to her crib as a school bus. But where she got that a sleeping daddy is the same as a sleepy school bus ... who knows.
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Postcrossing: 200 Cards

I just dropped my 104th card in the mail this morning (actually, it's probably the 112th or so, if you count the cards I've had to resend because the first one was lost in the mail, the ones to users who dropped out of the system before registering my card, and the thank you cards sent to other Postcrossing users who requested them), but when you add the 98 cards I've sent that have been registered to the 96 I've received thus far and the six I have traveling, you end up with 200 cards — a nice round number to do some math with.
Postcrossing Map: 194 Cards

So, since 4 February, I've received or sent 200 cards. Of these, 38% (76) have gone to/come from Finland. The next biggest batch have involved Germany, 13.5% (27), and the Netherlands, 11.5% (23). The United Kingdom is fourth with 7% (14), followed by New Zealand, 4.5% (9).

France and Portugal are both at 3% (6); Austria, Brazil, Canada, and Japan are at 2% (4); while Spain has 1.5% (3). Belgium, the Czech Republic and Singapore are each at 1% (2). One card (0.5%) have involved Australia, Croatia, Estonia, Iran, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, and Switzerland.

Of the U.K. cards, 11 were from England (5.5% of the total), two from Wales and one from Scotland; of the Spanish cards, one was from Catalunya and two were from Galicia.

UPDATE: (17 November 2006) — I received my 100th card today. Of course, it came from Finland, Suomussalmeen to be specific.
Previously: Postcrossing: 100 cards
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

こんにちは ネコさん

I cut out of work a little early today to try to vote before having to make the childcare trade with Evelin: No luck, however. As I got to our polling place, two of our neighbors were coming out and they'd had to queue for more than an hour and the current line was at least as long as when they first got in it. Since I didn't have that long until Evelin had to leave for work, I guess I'll be headed back to the polls after naptime, ready to show the girls about democracy and untrustworthy voting machines.

The other thing I did on the way home was to stop at A.C. Moore to buy about 80% of their stock of Hello Kitty stickers. Judging by how often we find them stuck to the bottom of our socks or other household surfaces, they're a pretty good inducement for Celeste and potty training.

Of course, being a git, I tried to get Celeste to refer to "Hello Kitty" as
こんにちは ネコさん (Konichiwa Neko-san), but it turns out that Sanrio refers to Hello Kitty in Japanese as ハローキティ (Harō Kiti), which sounds like a bad joke from the 1940s or something ...
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UPDATE: Since Enjanerd asked, I finally did get to vote. Evelin slipped out of her office early, voted, and made it home shortly after 5:00 p.m. I got to the polls, checked in, queued, and voted within about 45 minutes. The line was getting progressively longer the whole time I queued, so I guess I ended up getting there at a pretty good time.

As for the results, one word: W00t!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Kids Say the Darndest Things ...

This evening, Evelin and Quinn ran to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and some lemons for the şehriye çorbası (modified from Mahi Koç's recipe) I was making for dinner. As I was prepping things, I found Evelin's mittens in the kitchen. Celeste was having an early dinner and as I walked past her highchair with the mittens, I said "Poor little Mumma lost her mittens." Ten minutes later, when Evelin and Quinn walked back in, Celeste said: "Poor little Mumma lost her mittens." Evelin was a bit confused; I was convulsing with laughter.

Actually, Celeste has been picking up (and retaining) a lot of things lately. Evelin and I will be talking, and she will parrot back words or phrases. And then, days or weeks later, some of those words (none of the off-color, thankfully) will pop back up, usually in context. On Thursday, I was asking Celeste about open gym, and whether or not she'd seen any of her friends. I asked about T--- and H--- and a few others and she said yes or no. Then I asked about M---, a neighborhood girl about three weeks older than Celeste. M--- has always been better with physical things than Celeste, and maybe it bugs her or something, because she's never really cottoned to M---. In fact, we've occasionally referred to M--- as Celeste's nemesis because of how they interact. I asked Celeste if she'd seen M---; she said, "Yes." Then I asked if M--- was her friend or not. Celeste said, "No. Nemesis."

Still thinking of Celeste, and my comments from the other day about my digital life, we took a short video today that I can't in good conscience post to the Internets. Basically, since Quinn, like Celeste before her, is a breastfed baby, Celeste has seen Evelin nurse Quinn on many occasions over the past six months. Naturally, she imitates some of the behaviors she sees, including sitting in the Boppy, and nursing her stuffed animals ... and, well, her bus. "Bus is hungry. Bus is nursing." It's very cute, but slightly disturbing. She also then needs to change the bus's diaper. Of course part of what makes it disturbing is that if you ask Celeste what buses eat, she says: "Buses eat insects!"
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Teh Cut3!!!

Quinn in Fedora

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Digital Life

Realizing that I've made no attempts to disguise who I am online, and that this blog is the first thing that pops up when one googles my name, I guess at some point I should make a preëmptive post that might help keep current or future employers (or potential freelance clients) assured that this blog is far from my indicative of my work product. I use odd twists of (multiple) language, make misspellings and grammatical errors, overuse diacritical marks, use the occasional bit of 733t, and generally make a poor example of myself as a editor/writer.

There're a couple of reasons for this, the biggest of which is that I've always seen this blog as an attempt to get words out of me. First as a way of processing (to use a Psych 101ism) our whole run through the world of infertility and ART; later as a way to help keep the grand'rents and other friends and family up to date about Celeste and Quinn. It's also proved handy as a way to store recipes, figure out how quickly my headlights keep burning out (replaced them again last Saturday; it seems 2003 Hyundai Elantras have a problem), and to basically act as a diary, remembering what was important on any given day or what I did or was interested in.

A long while ago, I read the memoir Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life, 1918–1945 and one passage really stuck with me (and of course I can't find the book, much less the exact quote, at the moment). The gist of it was that Jeb, an editor for the government, noted that his work as an editor made it more difficult for him to write.

[UPDATE: Okay, I found the quote: page 204, the entry for 28 September 1932. It's not quite how I remembered it, but it still fits. Jeb Alexander, the memoirist, references a letter his friend Lansing Tower sends him. Tower had been in San Francisco working on a new Anarchist newspaper, Man!, and "He said one of the worst things for a writer is reading and criticizing the manuscripts of others — and I realize that in my own case."]

Over the years, I've found that very true: Both because the editing work has kept me from having time to do some of the (work) writing I'd like to do, and because it is so easy for doubts about commas and clauses to disrupt the ability of the words to get out of the head. (It took me about five tries to get that last sentence on screen, and I'm still not completely happy with it.)

So, if you've landed on this page because you were googling for an editor or writer or for me, please be assured that while I hope my writing is entertaining and/or interesting, "Lifechanges ... Delayed" is, first and foremost, a personal blog ... and I'm often rushing to finish my thoughts because someone is waking up from a nap.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hallowe'en

It must be this neighborhood. Last year, we had our biggest trick-or-treat crowd ever; last night, it was the slowest Hallowe'en I can remember.

Celeste stuck to her guns and refused to dress up, and we dinna have a costume for Quinn, but it was okay because we didn't get the girls out of the house. Evelin got home about 15 or 20 minutes past 6:00 p.m. (the start of trick-or-treating here, and our first doorbell ring came about five seconds after 6:00 p.m.), and since the shift back to Standard Time has left the girls a little disrupted that was just in time to feed Quinn and to start the long push toward bed. Celeste was asking for peas and pierogies, and I was trying to cut and sauté onions* while keeping an ear out for the door. By the time we had to move the candy bowl outside so we could take care of baths and bed, it was a little after 7:00 p.m. and we'd had about 11 trick-or-treaters.

After the girls were down, I left the bowl outside so I could focus on cleaning up. Around 8:45 p.m., Evelin heard a bang on the porch so she went to look only to see a lot of (older) kids in the street ... and our bowl missing. Evelin is not shy about standing up for herself: "Hey! I don't care if you're greedy with the candy, but I want my bowl back." (I am on hold with a call center in India at this point, but I started to get my boots on to go and track down the miscreants.) One of the kids in the street says that it wasn't them, but some kids who took the bowl and ran down the street. After a little bit of yelling among the kids, I'm walking down the street and one of the kids is coming back with the bowl, still half-full of candy. I say thank you, gather the bowl, and head home — all the while still on hold.

The only other incident was at about 9:20 p.m. (trick-or-treating officially ended at 9:00) when the doorbell rang. Thankfully the girls both slept through it. When I opened the door, the kid at the door said something like "Sorry, I didn't think the doorbell would work." (So you rang it why?) I told her the cutoff for candy was 9:00 p.m., she apologized and led her group back to the sidewalk. We turned off the porch light after that.

*Frozen pierogies; the onions were for "Mexican pizzas," a quick quick dinner we came up with over the weekend: A spinach tortilla, spread with refried beans, topped with sautéed onions, and a bit of cheddar and then broiled. It's far, far, far from gourmet, but it's quick and tasty and helps speed through the arsenic hour.
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bend It Like Quinn

The lighting isn't that great, but this video does show the mad goaltending skillz of the little one ...


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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stories About Language

Two stories, one about each of the girls and language development.

First, Quinn: This afternoon we had her first sign. It may have been accidental, but she signed MILK while I was trimming Celeste's nails. I caught the sign out of the corner of my eye; Quinn was playing with a ring toy, but it sure looked like she was saying MILK. I asked her if she wanted milk (combining the word with the sign), and she gave a big smile and full body thump. (Aside: At this point in time, Celeste started demanding soymilk.) By the time, I had some milk thawed and ready for her, Quinn had moved on to something else, but she was happy when I brought her the bottle and she drank more of it than she has in a long time.

Second, Celeste: A German family with two boys a little older than Celeste and Quinn moved to the neighborhood a little while ago, and the girls sometimes play. One time, at the park, Evelin said "Gesundheit!" when Celeste or someone sneezed and I---, the mother, commented that it was nice to hear German being spoken. On Saturday, Evelin and the girls were at the park when I--- and her older boy, B---, walked up. Celeste, being her usual sociable self, immediately said "No, I---. No, B---." Later, Celeste was walking up to them and saying, "Bye-bye, I---. Bye-bye, B---."

Thinking back to when we taught Celeste to say არა as a joke for ხ---, I thought it be cute if I could get Celeste to say "Guten Tag" and "Tschüß" to I--- and B---. This morning at playgroup, with a little prompting, Evelin got Celeste to say "Guten Tag," but she couldn't remember "goodbye." I--- offered "Auf Wiedersehen," but Evelin knew that wasn't it. Then I--- offered "Tschüß." Celeste picked it up and said, "Tschüßie!" which I--- noted was very colloquial usage.
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Chores

There's plenty still not done, but here's a rough list of things done this weekend:
  • Five hours of yardwork, including raking, pruning, mowing, shedding leaves for compost, and I'm not sure what else.
  • Ripped out the spent tomato plants
  • Picked all the basil
  • Made a quart of cheese-less pesto
  • Put the county pride stickers on our license plates and Evelin's Wesleyan sticker on the T.R.U.C.K.
  • Bought diapers
  • Refilled bird feeder
  • Fertilized apple tree
  • WD-40'ed Quinn and Celeste's bedroom doors
  • Update blog
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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Conversations With Celeste

Tonight, as I was carrying Celeste up to bed with Good Night, Good Knight and A Present for Toot as her bedtime stories: "More pages in these."

Pretty much everyday for the past two weeks or so: "Celeste, what do you want to be for Hallowe'en?" "No." (Celeste has expressed a little interest in Hallowe'en, but she is adamant about not wanting to dress up.)
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Out for Indian Food

This afternoon, Celeste had quite a nap. She went down around 2:00 p.m., and at 5:00 p.m., Evelin called to say she was trapped in an extended nursing session with Quinn, but there'd been nary a peep from Celeste. Usually, she'd be up around 4:00 p.m. (or we'd be looking to wake her by 4:15 p.m. or so), but not today.

Given her long nap (and Quinn's resting while nursing, even if it wasn't a nap), we decided to try going out for dinner — at Udupi Palace.

Things started off pretty well: Celeste loved her mango lassi (so much so that she didn't want to put it down to try a samosa), and both Evelin and Celeste enjoyed their uthappams. Actually, Celeste's tomato-pea uthappam had quite a nice flavor and was a little more satisfying that Evelin's pea-onion one.

When Quinn started getting fussy, we shifted her from her carseat to my lap, which worked well, until she tried to grab a handful of chana palak, which wasn't hot enough to burn her, but it was uncomfortable.

That was the start of the end of the evening: Celeste was getting bored (and despite her late nap, tired) and Quinn was getting fussier and fussier. So we asked for the check and packed up the rest of the food to go ...
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Two Things

I have an entry begging to be finished on a USB flash drive (it's up now), but I'm going to use up the rest of my lunch hour on these two things: Hunter S. Thompson and change.

Hunter

Every now and then a press release is done up in a way to gin up maximum attention. This morning, it was cardboard typewriter that came to one of my sister magazines to promote Starz's upcoming Hunter S. Thompson documentary Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride. Along with a screener and digital press kit, the typewriter included a Gilligan hat, aviator glasses, and a Dunhill cigarette with a holder/filter. Someone else claimed the typewriter, but I ended up using the rest of the props to inject a little gonzo into my editing.
Gonzo
Actually, it was interesting that while most of the people in the office groked the Hunter S. Thompson look right away, there were a couple of folk who asked why I was dressed up like Uncle Duke.

Change

During lunch, I went to the local branch of Chevy Chase Bank to use their no-fee Change Express coin counting thing. During Celeste's first year, I dropped some $374.62 in change aside; this year, I took the set-aside change and the 200-plus rolls of pennies that have been in the basement for years (long story short: I filled a 10 gallon carboy with pennies over the course of a few years; Evelin made me roll them; I never took them to the bank), the result was $499.73, along with a 10 pfenning coin, a German €0.02 coin, a 20 pence piece, a U.S. penny that someone cut an angel from the center, and a two-headed nickel. Of the total, $127.48 was from pennies.

Naturally, with all the change, I broke the machine. I noticed it was spilling quarters on the floor and the bank staffer who was nearby assured me they were just bouncing out of the reject slot. I turned out the quarter bag had split and it was spilling coins through the gap by the door. And one of the penny slots in the internal counter had jammed. They ended up needing to get a new quarter bag, and to replace all three penny bags, along with the nickel bag. In all, I had 37 dollar coins, 1,048 quarters, 574 dimes, 317 nickels, and 12,748 pennies.
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Catching Up

I've been a bit swamped at work of late, but hopefully things will improve in the next month or twelve or something. Still, life goes on and the girls are both doing well. Evelin, however, may well have broken her pinkie toe when she stubbed it on the highchair. She has it taped and elevated.

On Sunday, Quinn turned one-half; no big party or anything, just some sweet potato — she likes sweet potato even more than pumpkin. On Monday, she had her six-month check up. She's 27.5 inches long (90th percentage); 17 pounds and 12 ounces (75th percentile). Her head circumference is 17 inches.

On Tuesday, it was rainy and icky, so once it was obvious that naps weren't going to happen, I took the girls to Ikea. At first, Celeste wasn't sure she wanted to be there, but she started racing from arrow to arrow to arrow on the floor, and then we got to the Småland ballpit. But the real big draw was the slide that separated the adult furniture from the kids stuff. She kept circling around, climbing the stairs ("like at open gym!") and then sliding down. Eventually, she moved on to the furniture and Celeste started trying some of the beds. She really liked the Kritter bed (or as she called it the "doggy and kitty bed"), but when I said we could get that bed for her, and Quinn could have her crib, and some other little baby could have Quinn's crib, well, Celeste said she wasn't interested. She did keep interspersing slide runs with short naps in the bed. In the end, we didn't get a bed, although Celeste did leave with a set of Kalas flatware.

Celeste and the rings"Open gym" refers to one of Celeste's most favorite activities. When Jack Kent Cooke was working out his deal to move the Washington NFL team from D.C. proper to Prince George's County, part of the agreement was that he would build a sports and learning complex for the county near what is now FedEx Field. Wednesday mornings, that facility is open to toddlers from across the county. Although she also uses the trampoline and other gear, Celeste is particularly fond of the foam-block swimming pool (although Evelin says it smells like feet).

Today, after Celeste and Quinn's naps, the three of us headed out to the farmers market. While we able to get lima beans, we were too late to get pawpaws; apparently, a woman who had grown up with a pawpaw tree outside her kitchen door when she was a kid and in fit of nostalgia bought all the pawpaws the guy had on his stand. New at the market, however, was a crêpe guy; given Celeste's fondness for pancakes, of course we had to have a strawberry crêpe sucrée while we waited for the train.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pictures (Not of the Girls)

Apple

Our one and only apple from our little apple tree. It was a bit on the green side, but after getting six flowers, only two of which grew into apples, one of which was damaged by something and then disappeared, I was willing to take this one before the predation from birds, bugs, raccoons, whatever, got worse. I was about halfway through it (sharing with Evelin, who liked it, and Celeste, who didn't) before Evelin said we should've taken a picture of it. (Ergo the knife propping the apple up.)

Haunted Gingerbread House Haunted Gingerbread House

For years now, Evelin has wanted to make a haunted gingerbread house for Hallowe'en: This year she did. Celeste even helped with the decorating yesterday. (Left is a fully-lit shot; on the right is one I tried to make "spookier" by playing with lighting and exposure times — check the EXIF data on Flickr, if you care about the details.)

Of course, since this is the time of year when the temperatures swing and we have no artificial heating or cooling going on, the humidity levels inside were causing the roof to sag a bit, so Evelin took Celeste's suggestion and they started eating it this morning. When I got home, a good bit of the roof was gone. Sadly, I have single handedly done much graver structural damage to the house since then ...
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Monday, October 09, 2006

None of Me

Maybe this is the problem TSA has with me ...

HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
0
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


If I try just Carter (instead of "T. Carter"), it says there are 13 Carter Rosses in the United States.
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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Fun Fun Fun …

... until someone takes her hammer away.

Ours is an older house. Built in 1940 (according to the papers we signed when we bought the place) or 1941 (going by the information the city submitted to the National Register of Historic Places when it was seeking to expand the Historic District — surprisingly, our house is considered as contributing to the historic nature of the area), it has lots of little things that need attention upon occasion and more than a few things that are hard to repair/replace with off-the-shelf gear from the hardware store. Therefore, I was quite interested in the Festival of Building Arts (FOBA) at the National Building Museum. I figured it would give Celeste a chance to pick up some plastering skills or something.

Actually, it was a rainy day, so it made sense to find a good in-doors thing for Saturday, and the FOBA fit the bill. Since the National Building Museum is right outside the Judiciary Square Metro exit, we took the train, which Celeste was quite thrilled by. Quinn (who spent the entire time in the BabyBjörn) also liked watching the scenery along the Red Line roll past.Evelin & Celeste on the Metro

Once in the museum, Celeste was a little overwhelmed, running around (and nearly into more than a few people) from exhibit/station to exhibit/station. The only hands-on thing she did, however, was using letter stamps to hammer letters into a piece of cedar. She actually really got into the hammering and the letters. She did take a look at exhibits/stations on green roofs, bamboo flooring*, pipefitting, and a few others. She also got a personalized Home Depot orange apron.

Celeste then moved us up to the second floor, where she discovered the Building Zone exhibit. "Looks like playgroup!" she said when she walked in and saw the toy house and blocks and other construction play gear. While Evelin and Celeste played in the Building Zone, Quinn and I took in the "Investigating Where We Live: Anacostia" exhibit.

Carter & QuinnMeeting back up, we all took in a few more exhibits/stations and then had a snack and a trip through the gift shop (Celeste wanted a book, as did I, but we only ended up getting a few postcards for me to send overseas via Postcrossing at some point. The train to Brookland got us back to the parking lot just in time to catch the end of the Brookland Day Festival parade.

*Maybe we were early enough in the day that the booth staff hadn't been asked before, but I did get a pretty good laugh out of one of the American Society of Interior Designers people if with the bamboo flooring you had to worry about termites or just marauding pandas. Actually, the woman who was talking to me started to answer seriously, but the guy on the stand with her doubled over.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Solo for the Arsenic Hour

Tonight was a big night for Evelin; she's co-chair of a big Mid-Atlantic educational awards thing and tonight was the red carpet and all that jazz. She's been part of this committee for several years now (our sorta-babymoon weekend in Amish country was connected to a meeting for this thing), but this is the first of the big to-dos that she's done.

And what all that means is that she had to leave for Annapolis around 4:30 p.m. … which left me getting the girls fed, bathed, and to bed by myself. Evelin suggested seeing if we could get a babysitter to help me through the arsenic hour, but stubborn me felt that would be a bit of a cop out or something.

I tried to minimize the pain of it all by scrapping any plans to cook; I ordered a pizza as soon as I got home. I don't know if calling it in would have been faster, but I used the Domino's online site, and it took about 75 minutes for the pizza to arrive. Quinn, Celeste, and I were doing pretty good so far, so I gave Celeste a slice, grabbed two for myself, and dished up some pumpkin for Quinn.

Quinn, it turns out, was more interested in chewing on toys than eating. But then Celeste wanted pumpkin, and then asparagus, and then dried plums* (although we were out of prunes, so she had to settle for some other mixed dried fruit).

While Celeste ate, I went ahead and gave Quinn a bath. Evelin and I had talked about scrapping baths for both girls, but the timing looking like it was working, so I went ahead with at least that normal part of Quinn's routine. One thing I did different was to let the sink fill up some with water: Quinn has figured out splashing and went to it pretty energetically.

After bathing Quinn, I left Celeste contained in the diningroom/playroom and took Quinn upstairs to try to feed her some milk and get her at least calm in bed so that I could work on getting Celeste to bed.

This is when things got ugly.

Quinn did her usual three-tugs-at-the-bottle-no-thanks-I'm-good-I'll-just-wait-for-mumma thing, so I tried to move her to her crib. At first it looked like she was going to settle down and fade to sleep, but pretty soon she started fussing. At first it was the normal sort of put her to bed awake sort of thing — I'd go in and reposition the blanket and Eeyore and her paci — but it gradually built up into something more. However, most of the time her eyes were closed, despite the thrashing and wailing.

In the middle of this, I'd keep running back downstairs to check on Celeste. Once or twice, I had to leave Quinn in mid wail to check on the bang I'd heard from downstairs, but for the most part Celeste did a fantastic job of playing calming and independently. She'd ask me to do a puzzle or read or to draw every time I came down, I usually had only a minute or two of playtime (some of it accompanied by Quinn screaming via the baby monitor) before I'd have to run back upstairs.

I tried holding Quinn, but that just made her cry harder. I tried feeding her some more, and she did eat some, but not too much. Eventually, she finally settled down enough to get herself to sleep, giving me a good 10 minutes to wash Celeste's face, brush her teeth, and then to paint some before it was time for bedtime stories: Night Pirates, Wilfred to the Rescue, and Bebé Goes Shopping. (We're back to trying books before bed; Celeste has her choice three books, three stories, or a mix — she usually asks for additional stories, but isn't getting too upset when she doesn't get them.)

It's 8:30 p.m., Bones is on; Evelin's probably on stage announcing award winners; and the girls are asleep. Quinn's made a few peeps, but <KNOCKWOOD>I think I might have made it though the worst of the evening</KNOCKWOOD>.

*Yes, the prune marketing board has gotten to her. It's my fault, but Celeste even refers to fresh plums as "wet plums" to distinguish them from "dried plums."
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lucky Airplanes

This afternoon, I'm pushing Celeste and Quinn on swings at the park. I point out the altostratus clouds and Celeste says: "Airplanes, helicopters fly up to clouds. Get num-num [food/eats]. So lucky!"
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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)
  • 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, about two cups of leaves
  • Pinch of dried thyme (or a few sprigs fresh)
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 12 cup walnut kernels
  • 7 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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