Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Talking

Celeste’s vocabulary is growing day by day. She still uses a lot of signs and some things (mostly animals and vehicles) are either a combination of a sign and what they say (DOG and barking, for example) or just what they say ("baa-baa" for sheep, for example), but there are a few new words that are popping up.

A week or two ago, Celeste started saying "highchair" [MP3] — usually in a very excited tone — when we ask if she's hungry and then suggest she go to her highchair for lunch/dinner/snacks. "Onion" [MP3] first popped up, I think, around the time I made Pille's upside down onion pie. And then, over the weekend, Evelin was asking Celeste about her cousins as she flipped through a book of pictures and while she didn't try to say Lucy's name, she was very good at saying "Anna" [MP3].

Other words I haven't been able to record include: "O.J.," "bus" (which last night lead to tears when she wanted to point to the bus on the cover of Things that Go and I thought she was saying "bath"), "baa-baa" (sheep), "da-da"/"daddy," and "mumma."

She also is blending words, sounds, and signs to tell little stories or to try to get us to understand what she wants or is thinking about. The other day she said that Evelin was on an airplane with some dogs that wanted a bath (or something equally odd). The kicker to it all is that she laughs when we call her on some of the more questionable aspects of her stories ... she has a sense of humor and a pretty good one at that.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Good Idea. Bad Idea.

Good Idea: When the dogs and cats on Celeste's crib sheet get too distracting, change the sheet.
Bad Idea: Pointing out to Celeste that the new sheet has flowers on them.

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Fish! Trains!

Yesterday afternoon, after her nap, Celeste said she wanted to go see the lobsters, but Evelin and I decided that instead of just to Giant, Celeste might like a trip to the aquarium. At first, we thought we might head up to Baltimore to the National Aquarium, but considering that Celeste would have had to deal with the drive up there (and that it would cost about $50.00), we decided to go for the less exciting, but still interesting option — the other National Aquarium, the one in the basement of the Department of Commerce building on 14th Street Northwest. It's fairly small, but apparently it's the oldest aquarium in the United States (founded in 1873 and moved to the Commerce site in 1932) and is jointly managed by the Baltimore National Aquarium.

After fumbling through a magnetometer and security screening [aside/rant: even without having to deal with the stroller, I have to say the whole increased security with everything short of a cavity search required to get into most of the museums in D.C. nowadays is just plain stupid and does absolutely nothing to keep anyone safer], we made it down to the aquarium and Celeste went wild. She ran up to a big picture of fish and started signing FISH, and then, as we moved into the aquarium proper, she kept running back and forth, pointing at things, pausing to look at alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) or the video feed of brine shrimp (Artemia) under a microscope, and then running off to look at something else. We also ran into a coworker of my mine there: Celeste almost literally ran into her.

Louisiana HeritageAtlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle

It's hard to say what was her favorite animal. She had trouble focusing on any one exhibit for too long, but she did point to lots of different things in different tanks. It also didn't help that most of the exhibits were at the perfect height for someone 5' tall (as Evelin gleefully noted); Celeste was too short for a lot of them, and when I held her up, she was on the tall side. She did enjoy the shiny marble walls however, walking from one to the other, pointing at her reflection, and making funny faces. I think the most interesting animal on display was a rather sad looking Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta caretta), although the leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) who'd been attacked by her (no longer on exhibit) tankmate and thus had some stitches and bandages was interesting if for no other reason the look at aquatic veterinary techniques.

After an hour or so in the aquarium, we headed back up to street level and down to the Mall, where we decided to hit the National Museum of American History. After some back and forth in the hallway/lobby, I convinced Celeste to take a look at the (relatively) new America on the Move transportation exhibit. At first she wasn't too keen on it, but when she got an idea of how many cars, trucks, and trains were on display, she came around. Before heading into that galley, she was distracted for a few minutes by the clocks in On Time, but her favorite exhibit was the small Disneyland exhibit — she really liked tugging on the white rope that separated her from the amusement ride cars.

One reason we managed such a long afternoon out was because Celeste had only a short 45-minute nap. Her sleep for the past few days has been pretty bad. On Friday and Saturday morning (maybe Thursday morning, too, I don't remember), she awoke around 3:30 a.m. and was up for about two hours before settling down for a short early morning nap. On Sunday morning, we tried to be a bit firmer with her, comforting her but then letting her try to get back to sleep without so much sitting around holding her — I think that morning she ended up spending the two hours standing up at the end of her crib alternating between complaining/crying and sleeping ... standing up. <touch wood>Last night she made it through the night without incident</touch wood> (although getting her to sleep was rough), so hopefully it was just a leap and we're back to the normal sleep pattern ...

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

It Must Be Clifford's Year ...

新年好! 恭喜發財! Chúc mừng năm mới! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! สวัสดีปีใหม!

2006 is the year of the Red Fire Dog in terms of the lunar new year, which starts today. I said "恭喜發財" to Celeste this morning, and she gave me a quizzical smile. While embarrassed by my inability to use tones properly, I think she's excited that it's the year of the dog.

Celeste was born in the year of the Green Wooden Monkey, which Evelin noted would be a very easy toy to find; for a Red Fire Dog, I guess we'd need to get a Clifford doll ... and then set it on fire ... and that just doesn't seem safe.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Poached Pears

I don't really know why, but I've never really been a big fan of pears (or at least not European pears; Asian pears I do like). I think it's the graininess of them that I don't particularly care for. However, I do like perry and I'm still upset that Trader Joe's stopped carrying dried pears. I also loved Hsiao-Ching Chou's pear-ginger pie, which I begged and pleaded Evelin to make a while ago.

Okay, so maybe I'm undercutting my argument about being a fan or not of pears ... anyway, tonight I had my first go of making poached pears. Considering my ambivalent-to-mixed feelings about pears, I guess it's a little surprising, but I've been craving/thinking about experimenting with poached pears for a few weeks now. Evelin was also more supportive of experimenting with pears than my other craving/thinking about ... braised endive.

Searching on the Food Network recipe site, I decided to go with Sara Moulton's honey-poached pears with brown sugar sour cream recipe. They turned out pretty good: the brown sugar-sour cream sauce was especially nice (I used only one teaspoon of Mount Gay Barbados Sugar Cane Rum instead of the two teaspoons of brandy or dark rum suggested), although the recipe made about twice the amount of sacue that we needed. The problem part was the pears; I managed to not cook them thoroughly enough and they ended up a little crisper than they should have been. Also, the liquid didn't get as syrupy as it should have: That could have been due to the honey I used (I finished up the orange blossom honey we bought a while ago and it was a bit crystallized) or maybe because I cooked things in a sauté pan instead of a saucepan ... actually, I guess if I'd thought about it I should have realized the pears needed to be totally submerged for them to poach well. Still, the favors were nice and if the pears at the farmers market tomorrow look appealing maybe I'll try a different recipe ... maybe this one.

[ASIDE: As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Larua Viers live from the Birchmere thanks to NPR's All Songs Considered and Colin Meloy is up next. Even cooler, both performances will be available as MP3 downloads after the broadcast. The Internets is a great thing ...]

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Overheard ...

So DCist has started an "Overheard in D.C." feature modeled after Overheard in New York. This week's version includes something that sounds like it could have been one of my conversations with Celeste:
Orange Line, morning rush hour:
Pacifier-sucking toddler in stroller: "Mrphul bzz. Glurh!"
His mother: "What was that? Are you asking where Bob is? The Bob who works at REI? Well, I guess he's at REI, sweetie."
There are plenty of times when I just have to take a guess at what she's saying/signing and if I get it wrong ... boy will she let me know.

Tonight, during her bath, she was to the point of bruising herself signing PLEASE and saying "Buh! Bah!" At first I thought she was asking for Blankie (although she usually signs BLANKIE. Then I thought maybe it's BEAR, not PLEASE. As I'm asking her for a clarification, she starts signing MORE, so I think she means she wants to stay in the bath longer ... no it turns out she was saying "bubbles" and she really, really wanted me to blow bubbles in her bath.


One other story from yesterday: In the afternoon, Celeste and I went to the grocery store. Because I needed to restock our cheese drawer and because Evelin wanted me to find some graham flour so she could make graham crackers, we headed to Whole Foods (which I still want to call Fresh Fields, even though the one we go to in Silver Spring was built after Whole Foods imposed its name over the old Fresh Fields name ... but I digress).

When we got there, Celeste was not amused. Whole Foods does not have a lobster case and as far as she is concerned the lobster case is the best thing about the supermarket. Her protestations were mollified a bit when she got to have some little sample bites of seedless rye bread, goat gouda, and black-wax cheddar, but it was only when I offered to stop at Giant on the way home that she really cheered up.


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Thursday, January 26, 2006

End of the Day

Okay, after dinner (three-bean chili — my best friend from college'’s mother'’s recipe as modified over the years by me ... it's now a four-bean chili, for example) and an hour or two of work e-mail and editing, it's officially the end of the day. To those SAHMs and SAHDs out there, I doff my beloved BoSox cap to you.

I've been doing the part-time SAHD thing for over a year now, but that whole day-alone-with-the-kid thing is a different animal entirely. I'm sure we'd find a groove if I did it every day, but right now I'm just enjoying the end of my glass of Premius 2004 sauvignon blanc, a very nice white Bordeaux ("Cette bouteille porte le № 00312," according to the label) that I'm thinking I need to pick up a few more bottles of tomorrow when I visit Trader Joe's ...

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Today and yesterday are a bit of role reversal for Evelin and me. Yesterday, I was home with Celeste for the morning and rushed to work a half-day that afternoon, and today I'm home all day with Celeste.

Yesterday, the reason was an ultrasound. Because Celeste was early and because Evelin'd been feeling a little cramping a few weeks ago, the midwifes wanted another ultrasound just to check things out and to get a baseline on what all was happening. Because we didn't think we could get to the doctor's and back without causing problems with Celeste's nap routine, Evelin went by herself while Celeste and I stayed at home.

(Because I know most people are more concerned about the ultrasound than Celeste's morning, here are the results: the baby is measuring 3 pounds, 3 ounces (1446 grams), which would put gestational age around 30 weeks. Given the due date in mid April that's about 1 week bigger/older/ahead of what was expected. Everything else looks fine.)

Okay, so Celeste and I had a fairly typical time: some reading, some playing, and a trip to the park. It was very windy and on the cool side (low 40°Fs), but she wanted nothing more than to spend over half an hour on the swings. Even when a wind gust pushed her sideways (and sent her unoccupied stroller tumbling across the playground), she didn't want out of the swing. She would occasionally sign COLD, but if I stopped the swing, she'd just protest.

Today, Evelin had to go in for the three-hour glucose-tolerance test; she failed the one-hour version of the test by four points or so. Since today is my short work day anyway, I took a personal day to hang with Celeste. Of course, she had a rough night last night, which meant we started off on an unsteady foot this morning, but hopefully her nap will help her get back into the groove.

Since it's Thursday, being home with Celeste in the morning means playgroup. She loves her playgroup: lots of toys and other kids, who she doesn't interact with much, but she does like to watch them run around. We were the first ones there this morning (which Evelin said is par for the course), which gave her lots of time to test out a bunch of toys and a few books without having to worry about other kids wanting in on the action. After an hour or so, there were six or seven other little ones there, and she was watching things and occasionally looking closely at what someone else was doing. But then she went over to the door and signed CAR/DRIVE. I asked her if she wanted to go home, and she signed BLANKIE (usually, when Evelin notices she's acting tired at playgroup, she asks if Celeste wants to go see Blankie and Bear, and if she's ready to go, she says "yeah" or signs PLEASE).

I asked her again if she wanted to go, just to make sure, and she nodded and then signed LOBSTER — she really likes watching the lobster tank at the grocery store. That'll be later this afternoon, I think. Right now, she's down for her nap, and I have some risotto ready for when she wakes ...

One interesting thing about the playgroup this morning: The daddies (3) outnumbered the mothers (1) and nannies (1). There is one stay-at-home dad (SAHD) who is a regular at the group, who was joined by me and another father (whose daughter just joined the group a week ago, so I don't know if he's a regular or not).

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Grackle Invasion

Last summer, while my folks were visiting, my father commented a couple of times about how he'd never seen so many bugs in one backyard. I'd always considered the insects a sign of health for our yard, figuring it was indicative of a thriving ecosystem. In retrospect, he might have been saying there were a lot of mosquitoes — which there are some times of year.

This morning, I glanced out the window while giving Celeste her mid-morning snack and saw what could well be the end too many insects — a ton* of grackles (Quiscalus quiscula). Our backyard (as well as the neighbors' yards were full of the birds. They were everywhere — ground, trees, birdfeeder, ... — and in about five minutes there were gone, headed south ...

Grackle Invasion

And, yes, that dirt patch in front of the retaining wall is where the pond used to be. The grass that took didn't last, so it'll be springtime before we can try to do something proper with that space ... and we still have to figure out the deck situation ...

*There doesn't seem to be a colorful collective noun for grackles, unfortunately.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Catching Up ...

Hurm, so it's been a few days and only eight people have an opinion on the name thing. I guess I was overthinking it (not as much as some people might, but still ...). Now I guess it's either convince Evelin that option two is our best bet or break out Puffy, Xena, Quentin, Uma and see what we can figure out.

So what else has been going on over the past few days? Over the weekend, we had a good trip up to Philadelphia to visit friends and to pick up a cosleeper their little one has outgrown. J--- made a very yummy leek pie and napoleons, and Celeste got to chase one of their cats around ... a lot. Sunday, I spent a good chunk of time picking up sticks and otherwise cleaning up the yard. I also worked on taking out part of our fence.

A few owners ago, our house had a big stockade fence around it, but all that's left is a little bit by the corner of the house that hides our trash can and recycling bins and the stretch between our backyard and our downhill neighbor's. (The fences behind us and with the uphill neighbor aren't ours.)

The stockade fence was untreated cedar or some other wood, and it has been compromised by age, rot, vines, and time. A falling branch knocked a hole in part of the fence; a few errant tugs when I was pulling out the porcelainberry next door pulled a few slats out of place; another bit of the fence was leaning more and more every week; other bushes, trees, and vines were pulling bits of the fence in various directions. It was past time for it to be ... adjusted.

There are some segments of the fence that are basically a wall of English ivy (Hedera helix), which is an alien invasive but not a truly evil one like porcelainberry. Those bits, I think we can keep to one degree or another, but other segments have to go, giving us a very nice view of the neighbor's forsythia (Forsythia × intermedia) and some other bushes that I haven't identified.

Those other bushes are what are causing the problem for me now. They have a viney habit and there are ones that were spaced away from the fence that have trunks that twist around themselves for support. The ones against the fence, however, were supported by the fence and had to be cut back once the fence was removed. My quandary is do I cut them back to a point where they can try to regrow in a more twisted habit, or do I just cut back the floppy bits (most of which were flopping into our yard) and then see what happens. I know they are the neighbor's bushes, but they've given us permission to work on that portion of the shared property line before and I'm just trying to figure what's best for the plants ... I think, until I figure out what they are, all I can do is watch how they're growing and see what seems to be helping vs. what seems to be hurting.

Monday, the only big thing to happen was that I managed to find a way to get pictures off my phone without having to e-mail them to myself. (That method incurred some extra fees from my wireless provider and hasn't worked properly for a week or so ... a couple of tickets are open on the problem.) I'd previously picked up a Susteen cable kit, but the DataPilot software never could recognize my phone (a ticket's open on that, too). After crawling around Cellphone Hacks for a while, I discovered BitPim, which isn't perfect, but I can access the file structure on the phone and get photos off it very easily now. This meant that I finally could add a photo of Celeste from the College Park Aviation Museum to last Thursday's entry, as well as a photo of Evelin's queue as sent to Locks of Love.

Today (Tuesday) was a nice afternoon with Celeste. We went to the thrift store and found her a few books and a giraffe for her Little People farm. The giraffe was in a 60¢ bag with a Little People garbage man and a few police/safety officials, giving us enough cops to play CSI: Little People Farm, if Celeste wants. There also was small plastic blue kangaroo, which Celeste took too immediately, probably because of this book.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Name Game

With Celeste, the name came relatively easily, but this time we've been having more trouble. There are some names we both like, some I like, some Evelin likes, but we think we've narrowed it down to something we both like, but it raises a new question.

The pattern for the name would be a three-syllable first name, a one-syllable second name, and a one-syllable surname. The problem Evelin has is that she feels if the middle name is used as the primary name (as Evelin, Celeste, and I all do), then the baby has a one-syllable name with a one-syllable surname. If we flip the first name with the middle name, that wouldn't be a problem, but then the full name wouldn't flow as well.

So, what do y'all think? We have a few options here:

Use the first name instead of the middle name*
Use the middle name with my surname and not worry about it
Use the middle name, but Evelin's two-syllable surname
Use the first name as the middle name and find a different first name
Start over with the naming thing

Current results

*This option has the disadvantage of making the new baby the odd one out in the family. Growing up using my middle name made me the odd one out (everyone else in my immediate family went by their prénom), but I was deviating from the societal norm. In this case, the child would have the only "normal" naming pattern, thus standing out from the rest of family when the rest of the family has a "different" name ... I'm probably over thinking it, but that would seem to be more difficult than being the only one to go by a middle name.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talking With the Bears

About two weeks ago, Celeste really took to one of her stuffed animals, a big soft brown bear. Along with her Blankie, she's been carrying Bear around the house, making sure it's there when we read a book, and sleeping with it. Blankie is still her primary lovey, but Bear has become a valued secondary. There also is another bear that stays downstairs that sometimes joins/sometimes replaces Bear.

Sometimes while eating, Celeste will get distracted by the bears (or a book or a truck or something) and will want that item right away. When we tell her that she has to wait until after dinner, she'll sign ALL DONE, even if she's only had two bites of food and that's all she's had for a few hours. Over the weekend, we reached one of those moments, so I turned to feed her asparagus (or whatever it was) to one of the bears; Celeste thought that was great — and wanted to eat whatever the bears were eating.

This afternoon, the feed-the-bears play progressed to a new level. Celeste wanted to offer the bears some peas; I let her hold one up to Bear's mouth and made eating/yummy noises. When she popped the pea into her mouth, I made Bear sign THANK YOU. It took her a few times, but when she figured out what was going on, she got a big smile and signed BEAR, THANK YOU. I think she was a little surprised. Later, she offered Bear a pea, and then got offended when Bear didn't sign THANK YOU. She pointed at Bear and started signing THANK YOU, but in a way that made it clear she thought Bear was being pretty rude.

Airplane Afternoon

The other bit of this afternoon was a trip to see some airplanes. I've been wanting to take Celeste out to Gravelly Point to watch planes coming in/out of National Airport (DCA), but taking her into Northern Virginia on a workday afternoon seems like it's tempting fate — we'd probably end up in rush hour on the way home, which could lead to a cranky Celeste. Instead, we headed over to College Park Airport.

Because of post-9/11 flight restrictions (which the FAA now wants to make permanent, unfortunately), College Park Airport has suffered a lot. On weekends, you can see some planes flying in/out of the airport, but this afternoon we saw no takeoffs or landings — just 33 small planes on the ground.

With no action on the runway to keep Celeste's attention, we headed in to the Aviation Museum. She was interested in some of the planes and exhibits, but really liked the flight simulator game — although in her excitement, she kept hitting the reset button. After looking at some of the planes and other exhibits, we headed out to the patio where they have a bunch of wooden planes kids can play on: some are rockers (à la a hobby horse) and others are on wheels. At first she wasn't sure about them, but I put her on one of the rocking planes and she got into it pretty quickly. Then she protested when I wanted her to shift to a wheeled plane. Her legs weren't quite long enough to push herself along, but she loved it when I wheeled her around the patio ... for about a half hour.

Aviation Pioneer

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Who's a Ninja?

During dinner last night, Celeste ratted out her mother's secret life. She was having some pasta with tomato sauce when a bit fell from the fork and I swooshed the bowl under the falling noodle in time to catch it. Celeste said what she usually says when something drops or falls or is thrown from the highchair* — "Uh-oh!" — and then she started looking over the side for the fallen pasta.

I pointed out that I'd caught the noodle in the bowl, saying "Daddy has mad ninja skillz." Celeste fixed me with a very earnest look, and said, "No. No. Mumma." I asked, "Mumma's a ninja?" And Celeste grinned, nodded, and said, "Uh huh!"

Behind her smile lies a secret ...

*It's also worth noting that we can now add "highchair" to her list of spoken-not-signed words. If Evelin or I ask her go to her highchair if she's hungry, she'll say "highchair" as she toddles over to it.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dance Baby Dance

For the most part, I think we generally let Celeste be a bit omnivorous when it comes to music. More often than not, in the car, she is listening to whatever we are — be it NPR, JACK-FM, some random station or CD. We do have some specific kids' music — Sandra Boyton's Philadelphia Chickens and Rhinoceros Tap, a few Trout Fishing in America CDs, They Might Be Giants's kids' discs, some Elizabeth Mitchell, etc., oh and Dance Baby Dance — and Evelin did put together a CD of mostly kids music, but most of the time she hears what we hear and Celeste seems to be okay with that.

However, a few weeks ago, because of my job, I encountered Radio Bem Bem, a Dutch–Flemmish kids' radio project that's currently Web-only although they're looking to get on the air via FM, DAB, whatever, across the Netherlands and Flanders. I like it as background music for Celeste on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons because it's not just Disney's Greatest Hits or anything (although hearing "The Bare Necessities" in Dutch is a trip), there's a mix of clearly kids' music mixed with guilty-pleasure Eurovision-style pop music and other songs. And it's in a range of languages — English, Nederlandic, Spanish, French, German, ...

Of course, there are a lot of child-oriented radio stations and programs out there, many of the with either streams or podcasts. Guide to Children's Radio has a really good list of stations/programs around the world; it's primarily designed, I think, to help artists find outlets for their music, but it does list webcasts/podcasts, too, and some of them look like they might be pretty good, like "Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child" on WXOJ-LP.

If I ever get that Roku SoundBridge, I imagine I'll be subjecting Celeste and Sibling-to-Be-Named-Later to Radio Bem Bem, "The Big Toe Radio Show" (BBC 7), "Playground Radio" (ABC), WDR5 Lilipz, Radio Enfant, Fun Radio, RadiJoJo!, and other such stations for a while to come ... (actually, that'll probably happen without the SoundBridge).

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Two Documentaries

Since Celeste was born, Evelin and I have only made it to two theatrical releases — Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit — when we had a grandparent on hand to keep an eye on Celeste. However, it has become a fairly common thing to grab a DVD or two to watch on Friday and/or Saturday night after she's gone to bed.

Often we're picking things from a bit list of movies that one or the other of us has expressed an interest in, but there are times when I get distracted and pick up something totally random ... like the two documentaries I grabbed this weekend.

The lighter, and weaker, of the two was My Date With Drew, which chronicled a sometimes-not-so-engaging guy's attempt to get one date with Drew Barrymore. His budget for the film was $1,100 he won on a game show where the winning answer was "Drew Barrymore" and a high-end video camera bought from Circuit City with the intention of returning it within 30 days for a full refund. The best bit, ironically enough, was one of the DVD extras that talked about how they built buzz for the film on the festival circuit and finally got it picked up for distribution. Overall, I enjoyed it more than Evelin did ...

Heavier, but much more engaging, was Divan, the story of a young woman who left her Hassidic upbringing and was looking to reconnect with her father and her past by tracking down a family heirloom that had been left in Hungary after World War II — a divan that a string of important rebbes had slept on. It not only gave a good deal of insight into the world of the Hasidism, but also looked a the often torn feelings of those who'd rejected the strictures of that world but who were still tied to by their family and upbringing. Plus, much of it was in Yiddish (with a chunk in Hungarian and a little in Ukrainian).

The Yiddish dialogue was interesting because I could pick up a few words here and there from borrowings that had moved into English and a little bit more from what I recognized from German, but most of it was just something that sounded familiar but not at the same time.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Haircuts Don't Phase Her

Yet again, Celeste demonstrated her resilience this weekend. As long as Celeste has known her mother, Evelin has had long hair; this weekend, she chopped it off (both to get a lighter, easier to work with head of hair and to donate about a foot of hair to Locks of Love.

Long HairShort Hair

The hair ...

I don't think either of us were sure how Celeste would react to the new doo, but she didn't have any troubles recognizing Evelin as soon as she got back. There was a momentary pause and a little bit of a snicker — more of a "Hey! What happened?" snicker than a "Ha-Ha!" snicker — and then she ran up to Evelin to see what's what. My haircut, done earlier in the day, was the typical trim, so no reaction on Celeste's part, although Evelin said the barber used way too much aftershave (and she's right; he did).

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Weird Weather

So it's the 12th of January at the high for today reached 59°F (according to The Washington Post, but I think it might have been warmer) and tomorrow is predicted to hit 62°F. Actually, for much of the time since Christmas, it's been warmer than average, although a little front that pushed through last weekend chilled things enough (and stirred up enough winds) to get most of the rest of the leaves off our trees.

That meant that Sunday was our final raking for the year ... and just in time as today was supposed to be our last leaf pickup. (Of course, I also got an e-mail this evening from the city saying they're adding another round of pickups next week.) This means I now have to pick up all the acorns and other detritus that the vacuum truck didn't take, but it shouldn't be too bad.

With the weather being nice, Celeste and I headed out to the park this afternoon. I had her in the backpack and thought she was up for a longish hike along a tributary of the Anacostia, but she had a different idea. As soon as we got to the Northwest Branch, I asked her if she wanted to go downriver (toward the confluence with the Northeast Branch) or upriver (toward the confluence with Sligo Creek), and she kept saying "Nah." I'd start in one direction and she'd say "Nah. Nah. Nah!" and then turn around and head the other way to a new chorus of "Nah. Nah. Nah!" I stopped and asked her to point which way she wanted to go, and she pointed back toward the park ... and toward to little dogs that were being walked down the path.

We walked back to the park, passing the two dogs (one of whom barked back at Celeste), and headed toward the playground. Celeste spent well over an hour on the swings, ramp, slides, and just walking around. She also was watching very intently a boy a few years older than she is riding his bike around. (I've told her she can get a bike once she can say "bicycle" ... thus far, she just nods at the idea and doesn't try to say the word, but she does intently watch anyone — adult or child — who's on a two-wheeler.)

On an unrelated note, I just had a very nice tequila — Leyenda del Milagro Añejo, 100% agave, single barrel (18 months in oak). I used a splash as a condiment for my black beans and rice*, and enjoyed the rest neat with a twist of lime. Very rich, fairly subtle, all around pretty tasty. Tequila Jones disagrees with my assessment (PocoTequila.Com, by contrast, rates it as "Good to Very Good"), but maybe it was because I wasn't tasting it with other tequilas or maybe because my palate has more experience with whisky and wine than with tequila.

*This was just a quick dinner — sweat some onions, add two cans of black beans and two cans of tomatoes and spice with some aleppo pepper, lime, and salt then serve over rice — but I like the added bit of flavor the agave from an añejo tequila adds; Evelin doesn't like it so much, so I just add a splash at the table. This parallels a comment I left on Gone to Carolina last week saying that tequila was my "secret chili flavor enhancer." It's true: There's just something about the agave that works in southwestern-flavored bean dishes.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

She Bites Noses

For a while now, Celeste has had a thing for biting — particularly noses. And while I know it's a bad habit, I do let her sometimes do it, because it's cute and because usually she doesn't really bite hard.* Yesterday, however, she chomped down on my nose and twisted. I'm not scarred like Tycho Brahe or anything, but it did smart.

Nose Biter

A few weeks ago — and yes, I do remember that I resolved to not wait weeks to blog, but this isn't a backdated entry and it's relevant to yesterday's biting — Evelin, Celeste and I went down to Natural History where, among other things, we saw the Nature's Best Photography Awards exhibit. The 2005 winning photo was of a polar bear mother and cub and it didn't take much encouragement for Celeste to attempt to recreate the image with her mother. (Sorry it's so blurry: camphone shot.)

*It's like a little puppy nip, which is also cute but can lead to bad behavior when the dog gets older. I'm doubting that Celeste will be an aggressive biter when she's in her teens or anything, but I really shouldn't encourage her ...

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Feeding Herself, Feeding Us

I took a change this evening with dinner and, while it tasted good, it didn't quite come out perfect. Rewinding a bit: On Sunday, Evelin and I sketched out some menus for the week, but we were missing a few ingredients, so Celeste and I ran out to Giant this afternoon to make some groceries.

In addition to the items on the list, we found red onions on sale, which reminded me of the upside down onion pie I saw on Nami-Nami last week. Evelin had said she wanted to try it, and I'd roughed out converting the measurements from metric to customary. However, I'd left that printout at work, so I googled around and found a version on Veronica Chambers's site. One change that tasted great: Instead of all-purpose flour, I used whole-grain pastry flour.

Celeste is pretty good at feeding herself, so I took a chance and started making the pie while she was eating dinner. I had to pause periodically to refill her peas (and to pick up the bits of Veggie Burger that she didn't want), but it worked reasonably well. However, when she moved on to her blackberries and ricotta, it got messier — both because she was using a spoon instead of just her fingers and because it was messier to begin with ... and she kept wanting more. As I was trying to get the scone dough together for the pie, she started complaining/worrying about how much food she'd smeared on to her overalls, and since I was trying to help her at the same time I messed up and tried spreading the dough on top of the onions by just plopping it into the pan. (The recipe clearly says to roll or form a circle on the worksurface and then to top the onions with that ...)

The biggest problem this created was that there was too much dough in some parts of the pie ... and, overall, it could have used more onions. Still it was pretty tasty, especially with the fresh baby spinach cooked in olive oil and lemon and a Tofurkey kiełbasa on the side ... and (for me) a big glass of Château Menaut sauvignon blanc (Appellation Pessac-Léognan Contrôlée) 2004.

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Solving Sūdoku

Yesterday, during lunch, I achieved a milestone: I solved a one-star Sūdoku. Evelin's been hooked on the puzzle/game for a while now, but I tend to still prefer traditional crosswords. Whenever she's working on one, I usually suggest trying a 4 somewhere — sometimes that works.

I have tried a few online every now and then, but never seem to get very far with them and get bored. I've also snuck in when Evelin's walked away from the computer and either finished one she's mostly solved or really mess it up (unintentionally, of course).

Anyway, Editor & Publisher has a bit of the history of what it terms the "Sudoku Craze." Most surprising, despite its name, Sūdoku (数独) originated in the U.S.

ADDENDUM: Evelin has asked me to note that she can solve five-star Sūdoku, as well as Samurai Sūdoku, without hints or trouble. And that one-star one I solved yesterday ... she started it and decided it was too easy and went to find a different, more difficult one to work on.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Rough Morning

This whole new schedule thing is supposed to make sure I get more sleep: Apparently, I forgot to give Celeste the memo. After her big afternoon, Celeste was pretty tuckered out and ended up in bed around 6:30 p.m., about 45 minutes earlier than her normal bedtime. But she ended up waking up around midnight with the normal middle-of-the-night unrest that could be soothed.

Then she woke at 3:00 a.m. I got up and tried to soothe her, but she felt a little warm, so I left her for a moment to get the thermometer. She didn't like that and started wailing, which got Evelin up. Her temperature seemed normal, although I'm never sure I use that ear thermometer correctly, and I picked her up to try and soothe her back to sleep — the wailing got worse and Evelin took over. Around 3:30 a.m., Evelin came back to bed saying Celeste was calm and back in her crib, but her eyes were open.

At 4:00 a.m., she started crying again. I went in and she was standing up at the foot of the crib stomping her feet. I picked her up and tried soothing her some more. She did calm down a little bit while I sang a lullaby, but she started squirming and wanting to play. Finally, after she tried to steal my glasses for the eighth time, I asked her if she wanted to stay with me or go back to her bed. She said bed, but began to protest as soon as I put her down. Evelin then suggested I bring her to our bed.

At this point, my alarm was going to go off in a half-hour or so, so I got dressed and headed off to work. Except my battery was dead. I was cleaning up and futzing with the T.R.U.C.K. and the Hyundai last night, so maybe I just didn't close the door all the way and the dome light stayed on to drain the battery — that's the only thing I can figure. I used the T.R.U.C.K. to jumpstart the Hyundai and then headed off to work (making a quick detour back home because I thought I'd forgotten to lock the T.R.U.C.K.). Hopefully it was just a fluke; I'll check the car at lunch to see if there's any problem.

While I was driving, Evelin called to say she'd put Celeste back in her crib with a book: She spent the 30 minutes or so she was in the big bed flipping and sitting and tugging Evelin's nose and hair. She eventually fell asleep around 5:30 a.m. (Evelin things) and was still asleep around 7:30 a.m., but Evelin said she though she was hearing some starting-to-wake noises.

[UPDATE: Evelin just called and Celeste slept until 8:19 a.m. Evelin put me on speakerphone and I asked Celeste if she had a wild night; apparently she nodded yes.]

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Dozen Dogs and a Toilet

Celeste got a potty today. Back before Christmas, Evelin picked up a copy of A Potty for Me!, and Celeste has really enjoyed reading it — sometimes five or twelve times a day. Around the same time, Evelin took her to Babies ‘Я’ Us to look at various potties and while Celeste really liked the pictures of the kids on the Safety 1st Potty 'n Step Stool, she didn't want Evelin to buy one that day.

Flash forward a few weeks and we decided to make a run back to Babies ‘Я’ Us to see what she was thinking today. It turns out the BabyBjörn Potty Chair was the clear winner. She still liked the pictures on the Safety 1st box, but the BabyBjörn chair was available for testing and she kept backing up and sitting on it.

The dogs were before and after the potty purchase. The closest Babies ‘Я’ Us to us is also next door to a PetSmart, and there's where Celeste wanted to go first. There was an obedience class beginning soon, so she got to meet a few dogs fairly quickly, including a little puppy who was blowing over another toddler and a much bigger dog who was on the skittish side — he kept backing away from Celeste and was a bit scared of her bark. She also loved just wandering around, pointing at the big dog, cat, macaw, fish, etc., that marked the various sections of the store, as well as chasing dogs and pointing at the chinchilla and guinea pigs.

After the shopping excursion, we headed off to Lake Artemesia to feed the ducks, geese, and seagulls some stale pretzels and some crackers I picked up thinking they were digestive biscuits but they turned out to be just plain gross. Celeste was into the idea because it meant a ride in the backpack.

After feeding the birds and making our way most of the way around the lake, Celeste got out to walk and splash in a puddle (another new trick she discovered last week) and she ended up meeting a succession of dogs — between the PetSmart and Lake Artemesia, I counted at least 12 dogs ... it might have been more. She also walked out onto a floating fishing pier, which she loved, but it made Evelin very nervous, and into a gazebo. The Metro/CSX tracks run right next to the lake, so we also got to see several Metro Green Line trains on their way to/from Greenbelt, as well as a few planes heading in to College Park Airport.

One story that relates back to the potty purchase: Celeste has been doing the sign TOILET since a week or two before Thanksgiving. If she appears to be having a contemplative moment, for example, and you ask her if she's going toilet, she'll make the sign. She's also been know to rat out someone who farts by pointing at them and signing TOILET. On Friday, Evelin was talking with Celeste during breakfast and Celeste said, "Dada" and then signed CAR/DRIVE, so Evelin said, "Yes Daddy drives a car. What does Mumma do?" Celeste thought for a moment and then signed TOILET.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bed, Bath & Beyond

A little while back, I blogged about Celeste's changing bedtime rituals, well tonight she threw a new loop into things. While sitting on her changing table/dresser and getting toweled off, she demanded her blankie (which is normal), but then she spied her bookshelf.

There have been times in the past when she'd point to the shelf and ask for a book, but this time, she signed BOOK and made several other gestures that it took a minute to decode, but I think the order of things was BOOK, tapping herself (she doesn't have a formal sign for ME, but that seemed to be the semantic value of the tapping), and then PARK.

I asked if she wanted Celeste: A Day in the Park and she nodded and signed PLEASE. She's been gravitating toward that book lately, so the PARK sign made it pop into my mind pretty quickly, but the really neat thing is — and I fully admit I could be reading way too much into what's going on inside the mind of a 16 month old — 1) the tapping herself for ME (and the association of her name with the title character of the book) and 2) the stringing together of more than one sign to create a pseudosentence. (I say "pseudosentence" because there's no verb and it did take an association on my part beyond what she signed to figure out what she want, but I remain very proud of her ...)

That's both the Bed and the Beyond part of things, as for the Bath, she's been working on some good bathtime behaviors as well. First off, Celeste carries her clothes to the hamper and dumps them in for the most part by herself before getting into the tub each night. (Sometimes, she uses the trip to the hamper as an excuse to try to wander almost naked around upstairs, so it's not a perfect routine ...) And then in the bath itself, she's getting pretty good at washing herself. With prompting, she will daub her face and arms, but she really is good at scrubbing her belly, hands, and feet. (Okay, sometimes the belly scrubbing is an inch away from the belly proper, but she's still pretty good at it.) The teeth-brushing, however, remains something she needs help with.

Her other bathtub fun thing is bubble blowing. For a while there, she was putting her face to the water, but not really blowing. Now, she's happiest to point at me and at the water and, if prompted, to say bub-ba ("bubbles"). I think what she likes most is the water dripping off my beard. Of course, she can get a little overexcited and has on more than one occasion given me a good shove to push my whole face under water ...

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Celeste is bursting with language these days. She probably has 35–40 signs (I haven't looked at the official list Evelin's been keeping lately to be sure of the exact number) and a few spoken words — backpack, bubbles, yeah, nah, ... But the latest additions to her répertoire are two interjections: "Uh-oh!" and "Ouch!"

The "uh-oh" is really cute. Sometimes she'll just walk around practicing it. Other times, she gets the context perfect, like when she drops a book or toy while walking. Then there are the times when she drops a handful of peas or something over the side of her highchair and says, innocently enough, "uh-oh." The flip side to that is when she drops some food and Evelin or I asks her "Do we throw food in this house?" and Celeste replies "Nah." as she drops another handful over the side.

"Ouch!" she picked up from one of her Christmas presents, a Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm. As the website says, "Press on Farmer Jed’s workbench to hear hammer and sawing sounds!" Well, the hammering sound goes "boink boink boink boink boink Ouch!" Celeste now pushes the button and before the hammering is done turns and says "Owwwww." Thankfully, she doesn't have the ouch = pain context down, but she does think it's fun to say. She also will say "Ouch" when the sawing is going on, but I'm pretty sure a sawing accident would lead to more of a shriek than an ouch.

For one more random toy reaction story: Yesterday afternoon, I was on the phone with Evelin (she likes me to give her updates about when Celeste wakes from her nap and what/when she eats) and Celeste was playing next to her Rockin Pony. A helicopter flew over, and Celeste signed PLANE and I said that, yes, it did sound like a helicopter. All of the sudden, Celeste was grabbing on to her horse's neck with her head buried in its mane. My eyes weren't on her at that exact moment, so maybe she slipped (she didn't have shoes on and her leggings don't have grippy feet), but it looked like she was worried that the helicopter was after her horse.

I said she shouldn't worry because her horse was tame, it wasn't subject to a wild horse roundup and that the helicopter was just flying over head. Evelin, still on the phone, pointed out that this was another example of the sorts of things I don't need to be saying to Celeste ...

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Keeping Her Unsettled

Thus far during 2006, Celeste has awoken everyday from her midday nap to find an entirely new arrangement downstairs. When she closed out 2005, most of her toys and books were in the livingroom. On the morning of January 1st, she saw me installing a gate to span the archway that divides the livingroom from the diningroom. While she was uneasy with this new obstruction, the reasons for her unease became apparent when she woke up — everything had been shifted behind the barrier into the diningroom.

We ended up shifting a chair and little table into the livingroom to make room for the toys, but otherwise the furniture arrangement in the diningroom was pretty much unchanged. Her little table and chair were in their familiar corner, but her bookcase and toychest were now catercorner across the room stretching from by the diningroom table toward the sideboard.

Presented with this as a fiat accompli, Celeste was less than impressed. She first thought it was kind of funny, but when she realized this new arrangement meant she could be constrained to one room, there were some tears and "No. No. No. No. No."

The reason for all this is that Evelin has long been worried that if she needs to do something in the kitchen she can't see Celeste in the livingroom. In her more premobile days, it wasn't a big deal to run into one room and to just keep an ear open, but now that Celeste is getting good at standing and walking and even working on running and — the big cause for concern — practicing climbing stairs, that didn't work anymore.

Plus it returned the livingroom to a more adult state. If we're in there, she can roam freely, which she enjoys, but now we can keep her under a closer watch more easily.

Of course, we couldn't leave well enough alone, however. Today after her nap, Celeste came down the stairs and looked toward the corner where her books are ... only to see the diningroom table.

To give her more open space, we moved the big table into the corner, moved the china cabinet to the wall that backs up to the kitchen, and shifted her bookcase to where her little table had been. Now her table is under the window (where the big table had been), and she has more room to spread out her toys and some open space to push her pram or roll a ball.

She seems to like this setup better than before — it probably helps that we've been playing with her in there most of the afternoon — and hopefully we won't have to rearrange things again until her sibling makes an appearance ...

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Forgotten Stories and a Resolution

I don't quite know what I'm resolving to do better/more/less/whatever during 2006, but I will resolve, for those out there on the Internets who care, to aim to blog more in real time and to do less of remembering the past days or weeks later, as I ended up doing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I'm sure I will have some posts during 2006 that are remembrances of things past, but if I can do like I did on the Montana trip and at least rough out entries when I can't blog immediately then maybe I won't forget things ... like these two stories from Christmas and Thanksgiving respectively.

Christmas Karma

This is the first forgotten story: On the Tuesday after Christmas, my brother-in-law M--- and I were both running in and out of the house loading up our respective cars for the trips home — presents, luggage, snacks for the ride, etc. It had been cold overnight and there was a slight dusting of snow and a little bit of ice, but not too bad.

When M---, M--- and K--- were ready to go and in the car, my mother-in-law, M--- (hurm, the "initial-dash-dash-dash" construction I use for other's names can get confusing at times), ran out to wave good-bye and slipped a little. She came back inside and told my father-in-law, R---, that it was very slippery out there and quite dangerous. R--- pointed out that M--- was wearing slippers and that was probably part of the problem; being a wiseacre, I made a few comments in the same vein — after all, I'd just made about 50 quajillion trips back and forth loading up the T.R.U.C.K.

And this is where the Christmas karma comes into play. The very next trip out to the car, carrying a fragile present, the diaper bag, and a third bag ... I went flying on the steps. Nothing broke (on me or in the bags), but it was embarrassing and, I found out when we got back to Maryland, yielded my second giant butt bruise of 2005.

Quality Fat

This is the second forgotten story: On our first evening in Louisiana during the Thanksgiving trip, my mother and I were in the kitchen talking about what was in the house for Celeste to eat. My mother kept offering turkey, ham, etc., while I was asking about chickpeas, veggie burgers, etc.

We're not necessarily raising Celeste vegetarian — Evelin isn't vegetarian and we do occasionally have meat in the house — but since I do the majority of our cooking, and because I am a vegetarian, most of our meals are vegetarian. (Evelin just corrected me: All of our meals are vegetarian; she just supplements with meat at times ... especially when eating out.)

Vegetarianism remains out of the mainstream, especially in South Louisiana, so I always get at least a few comments when I'm back home, but this time my mother was worried about Celeste getting all the nutrition she needs. To assuage her concerns, I pointed to Celeste and asked my mother if it looked like Celeste was failing to thrive.

Her reply: "Well, there's fat, and then there's quality fat."

In the end, Celeste had a scrambled egg with cheese. And everything about her is quality.

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