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March 2006

March 30
A Shirt, a Balloon, and Some Drums

I anticipate that in the near future, I will be banned from H&M. I know this because every time I pass the store, I am sucked into the baby section where I find something so wondrously, fantastically, over-the-top-ly awesome for Eliza that I inevitably end up standing in that back corner of the store gesticulating and whooping and shrieking with delight like some sort of large, out-of-control waterfowl.

Last week's brilliant find was this fabulous shirt, which I love with an unholy passion. It's not even so much the shirt, although it is funny enough — and frighteningly accurate—on a little kid. It's the juxtapositioning of the shirt with the Michelangelo putti cheeks and eyes and fluffy hair. I am utterly powerless in the face of this onslaught of cherub-ness.

Anyway, the shirt made its debut Sunday, a busy day of social outings.

First, we went to J. and D.'s house to celebrate O.'s first birthday. They put on a good kid's party. The house was littered with children and Cole made the rounds, licking as he went. I was thrilled to see Eliza NOT following the the footsteps of 3 generations of dog-phobics in my family; when Cole licked her face, she cackled with delight. Ever since, she's been pointing and making happy shrieks every time she sees a dog. Today in Amherst, she saw a min-pin and actually startled the dog and its owner with her sudden "Aaaaaarrrriiiiiiii!"

There were lots of games and toys every where, and watching the kids play was entertainment in itself. Eliza really likes other people, as we've established, and she thinks other kids are cool, too, but she's a bit young yet to really grasp the concept of playing with others. She and her friend S., who is a month younger, sit next to each other ignoring the other person, playing with their own toys. When they do interact, it's with a total lack of respect for boundaries, poking each other in the face and (in Eliza's case) crawling all over S., who is the most mellow baby ever.

At the party, Eliza was intrigued by the big kids, who, with the help of a friend's husband, constructed a big tall stack of Legos. Come ot think of it, it was the Legos more than anything that drew her. She wanted to hug them and love them and lick them, desires that were incompatible with the uprightness of the tower, but as it was being constructed to be knocked down, I didn't think much of it, and I took some pictures of her. I love her sweet maniacal glee in this picture above.

 

Then it was time to move on to the carnival at Smith Voke. Eliza has discovered balloons and their strings, so getting one was at the top of our to-do list. Small children with balloon strings tied around their wrists=ungodly amounts of preciousness.

As we have also previously established, Eliza likes herself some music. The parade last weekend was a hit on this account, and at the carnival, Enchanted Circle Theater came to perform a piece that featured Puerto Rican and Afro-Caribbean singing and dancing and drumming. Eliza shows all the signs of becoming as big a drumslut as her mama, gawking raptly at the spectacle, bouncing up and down and waving her arms around in what passes for dancing when you can't stand on your own yet.

As the musicians headed for the climactic moment of their production, the excitement of the day just plain flattened Eliza. She leaned against my shoulder with a thousand-yard stare, and a minute later, frenzied drumming notwithstanding, she was totally done.

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March 29
Chick Magnet

As ever, Jim and I are seeking to leverage the child-rearing expenses through new and amusing avenues. Because I am much too lazy to be a stage mom and Eliza can't play a sport yet, modeling and college scholarships are currently not an option. I think we have stumbled upon something potentially lucrative, however: We're going to rent her out as a chick magnet for single guys. And, hey, it's Northampton — single butch lesbians.

Jim takes Eliza to Starbucks several times a week, and aside from the baby-enjoys-her-excursion angle, he readily admits that part of his motivation is the number of compliments he gets. From girls. Hot ones, even. OK, he didn't say those last two, but I can put two and two together.

Last weekend, I accompanied them. When we walked in, Jim and Eliza got in line — I was a bit behind because I was threading the stroller between tables, and that gave us enough distance that I didn't immediately look like I was with them.

Now, I can say honestly that Eliza and I don't lack for positive comments from strangers when we hang out, but man! Womenfolk flocked! Oh, that baby is SO CUTE! She has the BEST SHOES! She is SO WELL-BEHAVED! They would not leave Jim and Eliza alone.

When we finally sat down, I told Jim that it was truly a shame that he was married, because that kid is a total chick magnet. He agreed, and that's how we came up with our business plan.

And lest you think I'm offended, I think it's great that other people think my kid is cute and my husband is hot. It's a nice ego boost for me that I get to lay claim to both of these amazing people. Besides, I think it's karma balancing out the flirty server in the sailor costume who handcuffed me at the gay bar 2 years ago, but THAT, my friends, is a story for another, possibly drunker day.

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March 24
Hi. Still Hostile.

It has been pointed out to me that I am perhaps a wee tad hostile toward people who make comments about how my kid looks sleepy all the time.

Recognizing that this is true, and that my own insecurities, anger management problems, etc., etc., are in play, I still say, why do people do this?!

Whenever I am out with the kid anytime past 4 p.m., I get these comments, and it's not just the occasional, "Hey, sleepyhead," which is annoying and inaccurate. No, I get MONOLOGUES, entire soliloquies, if you will, wherein I stand by while some random stranger declaims extensively on my child's need for sleep.

It reminds me of this reality show I watched while we had HBO this summer, about the owner and workers in a legal Nevada brothel (Have I mentioned that I was out of my mind this summer? Because I think that may be germane here). The owner, a guy in his late 50s, early 60s, kept horning in on conversations the women were having about techniques they were using, making comments along the lines of, "Hahaha, I know that one, you just go such and such and do this and that and Woooo!" And the women would all look at him like, "Dude, this is SO NOT YOUR TERRITORY."

OK, so this post has detoured badly with the whole motherhood/brothel comparison, but where I'm going with this is that a lot of the comments that irk me the most seem to be coming from the same sort of place, some misguided attempt by others who know nothing about us to show off how well they understand the travails of parenting in general and this situation in particular. What they're really showing is that they understand very little.

Like nothing else that I've ever done, parenting is filled with judgment. Because, obviously, so much is at stake, every single decision is, in effect, a butterfly effect experiment as you make the best calls you can based on research and your gut and hope that the path you're choosing results in a happy, fulfilled, confident, successful child — however you and your child define those terms.

I have learned very quickly that there is no one path that works for every parent and every child, and that a lot of the absolutes you set out for yourself at the beginning are dust in the wind quickly enough (No pitocin or pain meds during delivery, breastfeeding till 12 months, no co-sleeping ever, no crying it out ever, no PINK ever).

As a corrollary, I have learned that some choices that are totally wrong for us (attachment parenting, elimination communicatin and early toilet training, nursing past infancy) may work VERY well for other parent-child combinations. And just because I don't choose to follow your path does not mean I condemn it. There are as many correct paths of parenting as there are roads to enlightenment (but let's not go there, because if I added Buddhism to this already festering brew of hostility, whores, and parenting, I think the computer would explode).

But I have also found that everyone you meet is happy to be your backseat driver, whether they know you and your child or not. Which I get in the non-parents more than the parents — see above ignorant absolutes — but find myself having little patience for in people who have been through this. Whether it's the sleep thing (and yes, I do get this from non-parents and parents alike), my decisions regarding pumping, our schedule as regards childcare, the fact that Jim and I continue to enjoy an occasional concert, whatever.

The reason this sets me off is that, in addition to the whole over-developed sense of guilt which is the lasting legacy of my years in Catholic school, and despite our society's talk of equality, it still feels like the blame for being a bad parent, and accordingly the fears that you are being one and/or will be accused of being one, fall more heavily on the mother's shoulders. Just look at all those "parenting" magazines — aside from the occasional, pathetic, "househusbands are people, too" manifesto, there's NOTHING in there about or for dads. Mom, so goes the unspoken reasoning, is still expected to be the guding force in these matters — regardless of a family's actual make-up. I guess the peer pressure is getting to me.

(To this I hasten to add for the record that I think Jim is a fantastic dad and wonderfully involved and shouldering his half of the burden (which includes a fair bit of un-freak-outing me, big surprise). While I am a little grumpy that he passed on the whole weird sleeping thing to Eliza WITHOUT the sanguine coping skills to handle the above, I am so glad to be in this together with him.)

I am a little chagrined to realize that I am such a lemming after all. I always prided myself on a "Screw that" mentality. But again, there's that little matter of how high the stakes are. Because above all I do not want to screw this up. If I mess with my own life, big deal, I'll figure it out. But Eliza? That's precious cargo, and God, what if they ARE right? What if everything I've thought and reasoned and researched and argued and laid awake at night about is wrong? Or, what if it's not precisely wrong, but it will get her ostracized, or looked at funny, or for whatever reason rob her of some opportunity?

Because this, THIS is what's at stake.

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March 22
"Hello, House of the Baby Who Is Getting On My LAST NERVE!!"

That, friends, is how I answered the phone this afternoon when Jim called to say hello. He laughed: It's funny because it's true, in the words of the immortal Homer Simpson.

The screaming during the diaper and clothing changes, it wears me down. A few nights ago, I Googled the subject and came up with some suggestions, most of which I already have tried, and the rest of which would send the kid into outer space. I figured I'd give the idea of letting her be upright and letting her set the pace/take a break between stages of the process another shot.

While it has reduced the baby swearing, we have a 300 percent increase in the peeing on the floor, and a 100 percent increase in the open-air pooping. The peeing is how we started the day. Then there were tantrums (I am not letting her set the damn pace when she poops, thank you very much for your helpful hints) and shouting, and for a change of pace, screaming.

There was angry standing (which includes, guess what, shrieking) before the morning nap in spite of the fact that she was sooo tired.

Then we drove Grandma Texas to the airport and though Eliza was adorable playing with the box of arrowroot crackers, the final outcome of that experiment in not-screaming (only partially successful; still got a good dose of Fonzy-Aaaaayyyyyyyys) is a fine film of animal cracker dust all over my car.

Then there was tired whining — eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaargh! — until I put her in bed, at which point she went nuclear and tried to flay my flesh with the noise. (There's an old Kate Bush song, Experiment IV, wherein she tells a sci-fi tale of some scientists working to discover a lethal noise, and Katie, sweetie, I gotcher noise right heah!)

After many minutes of angry standing and Experiment IV-level noise, there was no sleeping whatsoever, so I gave up.

I decided to take her to the pool, not sure, at this point, whether I would be joining her in the water or just throwing her in to fend for herself (KIDDING! Mostly.).

Once wrestled into the swim diaper, she uttered a very convincing-smelling fart. I had to take many layers off again (screa-he-he-ming), before discovering that it was a false alarm.

Loaded her into the car (weasels-are-ripping-my-flesh howls of pain). Took her out (wolverines this time).

Went swimming, no problem.

Puked on herself/me in the locker because she drank too much pool water.

Peed on the floor at the YMCA in the locker room. (Yowling when mama attempted to clean up mess.)

Fell dead asleep in car, woke up, played with empty yogurt cup.

Removal of clothing (pain, weasels, etc.). Put her in the crib while I heated the bottle (starving abandoned baby screaming).

Put baby in bed (sad pathetic half-asleep whimpering, funny because baby on stomach with butt sticking in the air).

Mama tired now. Also, freaked out, because I Googled the diaper/clothing business again and am now convinced Eliza has Sensory Integration Dysfunction and will need extensive therapy to lead a normal life. Good times.

***

Before you, the spambots and spiders who are my main audience, become convinced that we are a hideous and miserable household, I have to note for posterity the saving graces of today.

1. The yogurt cup. This falls into that "Why bother with children's toys when they have random household goods to work with?" category. She LOVES this yogurt cup. And she sits there, all serious-like, too absorbed half the time to even lick the thing, working out, again and again, how to get that lid to snap on and come off again. The whole time, she does that excellent snort-panting that she does like no one else. To die for.

2. The cracker eating. This was more mad-scientist stuff. I gave her the box, which had been previously opened but which I'd closed, and let her have at it. In the mirror, I watched as she pondered the thing from all angles, pulled the top open, figured out what was inside, pulled out the bag, shook it out, ate some crackers, pondered the box some more...

3. The swimming. Our instructor had advised us to take our kiddos swimming on our own this week since we'd be missing a class, so that's what I did. It was the best 30 minutes of our day. Eliza LOVES the water. She kicks her legs, she splashes with her hands, she cackles like a little crazy chicken, oh my god does she love it. We practiced kicking, we tried some assisted back-floating, blew some bubbles (though she drinks the water mostly, to the above-mentioned effect), doggy-paddled. My favorite, though, was that I put her on the side, and when I was ready, I told her to get in, and with a giggle she flung herself off the side into the water and my arms. Over and over. Her joy, and her trust in me, were absolute and pure, and a treasure for me to carry along during days like today.

UPDATED: I was sitting downstairs medicating myself with veggie chips and custard-filled muffins (can they even legally call that a muffin anymore? It's more like a cupcake without the stigma) when I saw on the monitor that there was noise coming from Eliza's room. I turned up the sound and heard the sweetest little snore, so I went to investigate. She asleep on her knees, butt in the air, right side of her face smooshed against the matress, and in her sleep, she has inched up about a foot from where she first landed when I put her in the crib tonight. Anne Geddes wishes she could take this picture. The cuteness, it burns! It burns!

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Fetch, the Next Level

The kid has some pretty stiff competition in the cute department from the cats lately.

Moe's trick? She bounds onto the banister post at the bottom of the stairs, and meows until someone comes and pets her.

Barney, meanwhile, is working his little mousie fetch game for all he's worth. For a long time now, he's played fetch with mousies - you throw, he brings it back and drops it near you for you to throw again.

I'm here to tell you that 2 minutes ago, I held out my hand, and he dropped. the. mousie. INTO MY HAND.

Oh. My. God. He just did it again.

Now if only I could convince him to stop walking on the damn keys while I'm trying to type.

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Angry Pooping

I've discussed the angry standing and the anti-nap resistance leader binky tossing before, but as of yesterday, we have a new entry: Angry Pooping.

Trying to put her down for her nap yesterday, we encountered the usual objections, plus a greater-than-average amount of red-faced-ness and grunting. That's right, she poops in protest.

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March 20
More Mutants, Angry Shamrocks,
and Unclear On the Concept

R.E. The tiny mutant irises — apparently, post-partum depression makes me purchase REALLY SHORT FLOWERS. I bought these gobs of bulbs off the internet in the midst of my most deep misery, and I suppose it's nice and all that I chose to manifest my mental unwellness this way as opposed to bad tattoos or drinking binges, but really, how weird is it that I bought all these REALLY SHORT FLOWERS? Because, in addition to the tiny irises that are taking over my flower beds, now, there are itty-bitty daffodils coming up. These things have stems so short it looks like the plant has been buried up to the flower. It's unsettling, and yet to terribly, terribly cute.

Hmmmm. Perhaps the cuteness overdose of the household has simply spilled out into the yard....

***

Grandma Texas came up in part to run the St. Patrick's Day Race this past weekend, and on Sunday we were joined by Jim's dad and stepmom for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. With all this Erin Go Bragh going around, I felt we should be at least minimally accoutered for the holiday.

I bought some green napkins and a shamrock-shaped candy dish (which, OK, I admit, I filled with Puerto Rican plantains), and I made Irish lamb stew and soda bread.

I also bought these thingers for Eliza to wear to the race and parade, but as you can see, she was NOT in favor:

Grandma Texas tried to help by showing her that all the cool people wear shamrock deelyboppers this time of year:

It didn't really work, because though Eliza thought they were nifty on other people, she just didn't want to be caught dead in them.

We put them on her again just before the race, and because they were over her snowsuit, it took her a while to figure out they were there, so we were able to get this picture before she wigged out again:

***

After all that shamrock modeling, I figured I owed her and today I bought Eliza these shoes to wear when spring finally gets here for real:

Could they be any cuter?

Nope, didn't think so!

***

Somewhat Unclear on the Concept: Giving, and Guitar Playing

Eliza has learned a terribly endearing new social interaction: giving.

I should say, spontaneous giving.

For a few weeks now, she has responded to a request for something by placing the item in the asker's hand. (See March 10 below)

But a few days ago, I gave her a cookie to try, and she didn't like it. She turned the matter over in her mind for a moment, then stuck the cookie out at me. When I thanked her, she looked pleased. Later that same meal, she took it one step further with a piece of peach that she was also not that excited about, and put the peach in my mouth.

The success of these two endeavors has inspired her. In the last few days I have received numerous Cheerios (both dry and saliva-dampened), banana (half-eaten), several binkies, a fridge magnet, and an occasional mousie.

Also held in high esteem by Eliza are chapsticks, which she will not give outright, instead resting them in your palm for a few seconds before reclaiming them.

She is also fond of guitar picks, and because she is always trying to put them in her mouth, we are trying to teach her the correct usage. I am SO proud to say that my child is now capable of strumming a guitar with a pick.

What's funny is how she got there: One day, after yet another eating attempt, we took the pick away from her and sitracted her with one of Jim's innumerable chapsticks, and the tiny wheels in her brain clicked on, and she started gleefuly strumming with the chapstick. If Jimmy Page can use a violin bow, our kid can for damn sure use a chapstick!

***

And finally, I admit to spending probably more time than I should worrying about whether Eliza's development is progressing as it should for her age. My co-dependent enablers in this are the authors of Everything You Always Thought Was Innocuous Is Really A Sign of Disaster, who list common milestones for a child's age in each chapter of their horror of a book. (Why do I keep reading? Well, it's like the raccoon roadkill near our house in Portage when I was a kid. I was unspeakably grossed out by the 20-foot section of intestine that trailed out from the corpse, which lay there, day after day, rotting away, but I. COULD. NOT. STOP. LOOKING.)

Anyway, as I noted above, one of the milestones for Eliza's age is following a simple, gestured command. When she started doing the "give" thing, I said, "great, check that one off." But today, I realized that she is actually FAR advanced in this particular area, because it was back in January, at about 7 months, that Barney trained her to open her mouth and pant when he came over to smell her breath.

What does it say that my kid repsonded to an animal before her parents?

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March 16
Wherein I Do Not Have My Act Together and Vamp with Another List of Things You Should Know About Eliza, and Photos

1. The current must-have toy for this season's hip baby is apparently toothpaste. This little tube of Colgate has accompanied Eliza to many places, including the tub.

2. Paul and Elizabeth's may be Eliza and my new favorite restaurant, on account of the fact that the kid's menu includes, for $2, a plate of sliced cheddar cheese. Heaven, we're in heaven!

3. Eliza currently has a Pavlov's dog reaction to the words, "Bye-bye!" Yesterday, I was recounting to Jim some story about how she waved bye-bye to something, and every time I spoke the word, she began to wave.

4. Grandma Texas, who is visiting, worked her way onto Eliza's short list of favorite people by means of a gift that was wrapped in crinkly plastic.

5. After a successful run of diary product experiments, we have run into something Eliza does not like: cottage cheese. I gave it to her the other day, and on the first spoonful, she shuddered and made a face. On the second, she gagged dramatically. I have suspended all cottage cheese operations because I do not wish to wear any.

6. The screaming for the diaper changing? Still happening! Even the surprise addition to the diaper-changing roster of Grandma Texas did not deter her from the usual noisiness.

7. My friend J. says —jokingly—that she's convinced we're highlighting Eliza's hair because it is currently a reverse-root tone-on-tone blond (see above), with the ends being strawberry blond, and the new (since birth) growth being ash blond.

8. Current tooth tally: 8 — four on top, four on the bottom.

9. Eliza is in a wonderfully affectionate phase, which especially manifests itself when she is tired. Then, she throws herself against me and buries her little face in my shirtfront. Usually, said little face is food-covered, so I have taken to wearing hobo clothes in the evening.

10. I think she is getting close to speaking. Often, she says "Dih!" when she sees a cat, and I think she may be trying to wrap her mind and mouth around "Kitty." She also says "Da!" in a very declarative way, like she's trying to make a point or direct our attention somewhere. Can't wait to see where it leads. I think the smart money's on "Kitty" being her first word, although smart money's been wrong before.

***

Apparently, last fall, as part of my 200-bulb planting frenzy, I planted little mutant irises. These little guys are about 5 inches tall, and they are blooming now - most irises go May-June-ish I believe.

They are just the cutest little things, though, and I'm thrilled to have them:

 

I also am getting more traditional early-spring floral fare, like crocuses:

 

I have gobs of daffodil leaves coming up, and I forgot entirely what varieties I ordered, so I am excited to see them bloom.

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March 14
I forgot!

On Saturday, when we went to the Mexican place with Eliza, we arrived during lunch rush. The tables are quite close together and stationary. We wedged the high chair between two. Having baby ADD, Eliza got quite distracted during the meal at various points and twisted and fidgeted around in her chair to examine her surroundings. Which was fine until she turned around to face the people at the next table and spotted a plastic cup of sour cream, and as we four adults watched — Jim and I in horror, the couple next to us (thankfully) in amusement —she gleefully grabbed the cup and stuck her fingers into the sour cream up to her second knuckle.

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March 13
Quoth the Raving

Jim to Eliza today, after the latter came at the neck of the guitar he was playing with baby fangs bared for a good gnawing: "No! You can't play the guitar with your teeth until you're as good as Jimi Hendrix. You have to learn the basics first!"

He also explained that he had tried to teach her the fundamentals of harmonica playing (i.e. blow into the the little holes) but was, thus far, unsuccessful.

***

Eliza's musical learning keyboard is next to the cabinet where I keep my shirts. She loves to play with the learning keyboard, especially as she has lately discovered the whole ball tube business, and she loves to drag my clothes off the shelves. The last few days, she has attempted to combine these two great loves of hers, and keeps trying to stuff my shirts into the ball tube.

That she is completely unsuccessful fazes her not a whit.

This afternoon, she stuck her toothbrush in there, and this apparently was all the encouragement she needed to keep going.

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March 11
Did You Make Farties?

I need to talk to the dude who invented the 30 or however many words the Eskimos allegedly have for snow, because we need to get him working on the cuteness synonyms.

This morning, we had our second swim class, and it was a rousing success, most especially in the area of desperate clinging. That is to say, there was none — Eliza was markedly more comfortable in the water this week, and so clearly having a blast. She even started kicking her legs. On the downside, blowing bubbles still turns into drinking the water most of the time.

I was prepared for the singing this time, having practiced "If you're Happy and You Know It" with Eliza throughout the week, in part because, according to my You're Always Doing Everything Wrong book she's supposed to be learning to clap. Although she is imitating us all over the place — holding her toy cellphone to her ear with a quizzical expression on her face, flicking light switches on and off, whacking the knocker on the front door — clapping is one of those things she does not feel like doing.

However, she likes the song just fine. We also did "Ring-Around-the-Rosie," and a. is it just me or is that the creepiest nursery rhyme ever and b. what's up with that second verse? I didn't even know there was a second verse. Furthermore, what do the cows who are frightened of thunder have to do with posies?

We also had free time again and we played with an exciting ball that had little nubbly spikes on it; it was a big hit, this ball. When it was time to end free time, I told her we had to bring the ball back.

"Time to say bye-bye to the ball," I said, and, completely unprompted, she waved bye-bye to the ball.

After naptime, we headed back to Northampton with Daddy, so we could enjoy the beautiful weather outside. After some errands, we had lunch at Bueno Y Sano (Mexican), including Eliza, who had a bean and cheese soft taco. Eliza was very excited about her meal, although Jim was concerned about the beans, or rather their process through Eliza's system. 8 hours later, I can say, so far, so good. I ate burritos all the time while I was nursing and she never had problems, so I'm not too worried. Chinese food, that was another story, but I do not wish to digress in that direction.

This does bring me to the observation I made today, that I seem to spent a disproportionate amount of my conversations with Eliza discussing her bodily functions, to the point where, when she's a teenager, if she remembers any of this, I'm going to have to shell out for the therapy.

It's self-defense. She's with me so often in public places, and with the trucker burps, the eerily accurate raspberries, and the occasional loud poop, I just feel like I have to protect myself from being unfairly maligned as a public farter and burper. So in case you overhear me, you should know that I utter sentences like, "Wow, that was a good burp, kiddo" or "Did you make poopies?!" strictly in an attempt to exonerate myself.

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Upsidedown PJs


These were last night's PJs. Putting on the PJs at night is often a stressfilled occasion for Eliza.

And, therefore, for me as well.

This could have something to do with the fact that during last night's wrestling match I actually managed to put the shirt on upside down, i.e. instead of her head coming up through the trunk of the shirt, it was actually inserted INTO the trunk. Things were then further complicated when Eliza stuck her hand up, as she always does so I can insert it in a sleeve, and somehow managed to wedge it through the neckhole as well.

It's at this point that I discovered my mistake and Eliza began expressing her displeasure in earnest. I believe baby-swears were involved.

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March 10
Here, Take This. Now Give It Back. No, Take It, Really.

Eliza has clearly been reading our copy of What to Freak Out About the First Year, because in the past few days, she's racked up new accomplishments like she's planning to check them off on the list.

There's the whole crawling-while-holding-items-in-one-hand thing. So cute, especially when the item is big and she steps on it with her knee and then she has to yank really hard and she almost sends herself flying.

Then there's the waving to not-parents. Anyone willing to carry on like an idiot and flap their arms about like spastic chickens will generally get a wave in return. Except when they don't of course, because Missy likes to keep it unpredictable.

Then there's the whole I'm-thirsty-where's-my-cup-thanks-I'm-good-I'll do-it-myself business. Still not using a sippy cup, because those bastards are totally irritating, but the straw cup? Totally got that and has even figured out how to flip the top open.

The book says babies should be following simply gestured commands. As of this week, if you say, "Can I have that?" or "Can you give that to me?" with an outstretched hand, she will hand you whatever it is that she is holding. And then if you give it back to her, she will look at it in wonderment for a few moments, then fling her arm in your direction to give whatever it is back to you. This back and forth can go for hours.

But she is stingy with chapstick and onesies. I asked for both when she was holding them at various points. The chapstick (Jim's) she would rest in my hand, her fingers curled tightly around it, for a few seconds before taking it back, and the onesie, she tugged out of my grasp.

Yesterday, I gave her a spoon and showed her how she could scoop her food herself. She scooped twice and manhandled the spoon mouthwards, then handed it back to me with an expression that clearly said "Woman, that's too much work!"

Grasped today for the first time is that you can put the ball into the ball tube, and it will come out the other end, and then you can pick it up and put it in the tube again. Or you can just stick your hand in there and wiggle it around and set off the musical trigger yourself.

The pointy finger is also new and touchy. ln the past 48 hours, Eliza has taken to pointing. It's an unpredictable point. Generally, the pointy finger goes, but sometimes she does this funny Bill Clinton hand gesture* :

And tonight, trying to repeat a success from earlier today, I brought Eliza into the bedroom where Barney was lounging on the bed and asked her, "Where's the kitty?"

Her response? "Plllrrrrt! Da!"

* Woah! I was looking for the picture of Bill Clinton doing the hand gesture I meant and I found these crazy people. Who knew George and Laura Bush were Satanists?!

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March 9
Mind Like a Sieve

Today, I had the babysitter come for several hours so that I could go talk to a store for one of my fashion stories and then go wild and crazy for an hour.

My wild-and-craziness consisted of buying a new shower curtain and bathmats (Mom is coming to visit and the shower curtain with the red algae growths on it? Not so welcoming.) The bathmats are red, and I was concerned about inadvertant patriotism au toilet, but it looks pretty nice, actually. Eliza likes it. She is partial to red, or maybe it's just an incipient Elmo infatuation. When we read the Elmo book about colors, and I ask her to show me red, she pats Elmo. Yellow and orange still elude her. Big bird, apparently, is not so charming for babies.

Anyway. So, after the exciting bathroom purchases, I headed for the Y. Imagine: I exercised for a half hour without being paranoid the whole time that the baby watch people would come get me on account of thw wigging out! Although, to be fair, Eliza rarely does the wigging out anymore, neglecting her screaming in favor of exercising her immune system by licking all the communal toys.

So I got to the locker room to change, priding myself on having had my act together enough to remember to grab my sneakers when I left the house. Except, whoops, I forgot PANTS. This is a fairly significant oversight in terms of workout gear, but I wasn't about to give up this opportunity, so I left my dress pants on, put on my sneakers and t-shirt, and for good measure, tied a fleece around my waist so people wouldn't be able to see the velvet trim on the waistband, and ellipticalled like nothng was the matter.

Verily, yea, I doth be smooth.

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March 8
Nifty Trivia

These are all the states I have been so far.

These are all the countries.

And you can make your own.

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Tragically Unclear on the Concept: Kissing

I think it's possible Eliza may be trying to kiss me. Sometimes, especially after I have completely contaminated her with yet another outburst of kisses all over the face, she comes at me with her mouth open, then latches on, suckerfish-like, to my chin or jaw or nose or whatever other protruberance she is able to locate. For a long time, I figured she was trying to bite me but if she wanted to bite me, duh, she WOULD. So I really think it might be a particularly inept attempt at kissing.

Not entirely unrelated is this: Every day, Jim relates to me all the compliments our prodigiously cute offspring garnered during their day together. Yesterday, we'd been discussing the fact that Eliza is nearly off the charts for her height — which strikes us as funny given her parents' extreme average-ness in that regard— when he wondered aloud, "Why don't they have charts for cuteness?"

I have no idea, but I find it ineffably cute how ridiculously biased he is regarding all things Eliza.

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Ass over Teakettle

Eliza's door is difficult to close for several reasons, but the main one is that the wood has, after 75 years, warped significantly. We used to bungee-cord it shut, but lately we've figured out how to give it a good yank and get the pokey-outy part to click into the hole thingie. (I have, by the way, an excellent command oF the intricacies of door anatomy.)

Yesterday, I was doing the same, and suddenly, with a very graceless flail and a thud, I was flat on my back on the floor. Jim looked concerned, my elbow and my butt hurt, and I think I may have strained a back muscle.

What happens, since I came away from the experience with half the doorknob in my hand, is that apparently, said half of the doorknob is, or rather was, connected to the other half by a rim of metal that held the whole business in place throgh some sort of tension setting. Our repeated yanking, however, put enough pressure on the metal that it finally gave way with the above-mentioned balletic consequences.

At some point, it is now obvious, we are going to have to stop jury-rigging the damn door and actually fix it.

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March 6
A Busy Weekend

Swimming!

In the first of many attempts to find the talent that we can pimp out for college scholarships, Eliza has started swim class.

It's one of those mommy-and-me deals, so I brought her down and got in the water with her as the instructor led us through a set of baby-friendly water activities.

First, we're going to sing the Washing Song, the instructor announced.

Panic!

What, pray tell, is the Washing Song, I wondered, and then a nanosecond later, singing?! No one said there would be singing! In one fell swoop I was forced to re-examine my "Eliza will only learn good music and none of that juvenile singalong baby lullaby crap" policy. Because, obviously, the Washing Song was composed neither by U2, nor by Bruce Springsteen, but all the cool kids seem to know it.

So, I lipsynced sang the Washing Song (This is the way we wash our feet, wash our feet, wash our feet, this is the way we wash our feet early in the morning; repeat with other body parts), and then we took our kids in the water and swirled them around like they were big oreos in milk and bobbed them up and down like we were catching fish and then we had to sing about being happy and clapping our hands, which I knew because of the Church Lady from mid-1980s SNL skits, thank god, and then we did free time.

Throughout the class Eliza sent mixed signals on the order of the barking dog who wags his tail. On the one hand, there was crazed grinning and cackling and arm-waving and general baby mirth. On the other was the fact that she had such a tight grip on my bathing suit straps that I thought she was going to peel the damn thing off my body rather than let go. She relaxed when I flipped her onto her back, with her head on my shoulder, staring up at the ceiling. Eliza is enamored of ceiling fixtures of any sort, and there was plenty going on in the swim hall rafters.

This week, we will work on blowing bubbles at home. She knows how and does it in her bath water all the time; I just have to figure out a way to get her to do it on command...

***
And, Person of the Week!

After swim class, we rushed home — or at any rate, as much as is possible when one of you, midway through the process, raises objections to getting dressed — so we could take our excursion to New York.

We got to Jeanne's house at 2, and I am duty-bound to give her a hard time (I already did so IRL) because in her directions, she told us to look for the house with the blue shutters and the columns in the front. Imagine, if you will, our consternation at pulling into her neighborhood and seeing three houses fitting this description. It turns out theirs was the house with the square columns, but still.

Anyway, we toured the new house, met Gary's lizard (who is very pretty and would make an excellent purse), and totally over-explained how to take care of Eliza, especially when you consider that Jeanne a. has 2 kids of her own and b. is a teacher. She clearly needed to know the underpinnings to our philosophy on binkies. Thank god she is also a patient person.

As we left, Eliza was being entertained by the Stony Point Puppetry Theater (that'd be James and Ryan).

Jim and I had ourselves a nifty evening in New York. First, we ate Korean food. Which was extremely tasty, although I suspect that they gave us the white-person (i.e. wussy) kimchi, because I was nowhere near sweaty and/or crying as I ate it, which is unlike my usual kimchi experience.

Then, we saw the Strokes. I can take them or leave them, but they do put on a good show. As entertaining as the band, however, was the crowd (which included Drew(!) Barrymore(!) and Jimmy (!) Fallon (!)). I expected hipster apathy and was shocked to see them light up the joint — there was dancing and pogoing and moshing and extremely loud singing along of the variety that only happens when a mass of people completely abandons its previous relationship to coolness and goes for connection and joy instead. Even the overgrown fratboys next to us were endearingly enthusiastic, though it's been a while since I've seen actual adult humans give each other noogies.

Back home, Jeanne said Eliza'd gone to sleep just fine — had, in fact, had a great time and knocked the collective socks of the family, until about 20 minutes before we got home. Once she got hugs and kisses from us, she quickly went back to sleep.

And then!

Jeanne had said she'd take Eliza in the morning when she woke up. I think I was pretty dismissive/bordering on incredulous; I've gotten used to being the only person who will entertain the kid at 5 a.m.

Well, wouldn't you know it, at Eliza's first early morning cackle, Jeanne was at our door demanding that we hand over the infantry. And God Bless Her, because I got to sleep in until 7:30! That's the latest I've slept in 4 or 5 months.

So, Jeanne is my person of the week, with James and Ryan, aka the entertainment committee, following close behind. And Gary, because he has the lizard and he showed Jim a way cool new online music thingie, www.pandora.com. And, Jeanne and Gary's house, which features 3 ceiling fans, Eliza's favorite type of ceiling fixture. She was so gobsmacked by the plethora that she forgot to scream during the diaper changes.

***

And, Tired, Tired Baby Who Is Teething Again!

At 6:30 Sunday evening, Eliza had hit the wall with greater force than usual. Swim class, travel, family brunch with grandparents and cousins who also came over— every synapse was fried, and my poor little Poo simply couldn't hold it together anymore.

Bath made her cry, food made her cry, being held made her cry, not being held made her cry — add to that the teeth coming in (bottom ones, on either side of her beaver teeth) that we didn't notice yesterday — and she was so done.

She had kept up with all we'd thrown at her so well but now, it obvious to see, her brain was full and she just wanted to go to sleep so badly. I put her in her crib and she turned on her side and stared off into the dark for a minute, let out a little deflating sigh/sob, and nodded off.

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March 2
Various

Ugh. I am sick and it's no fun. The oxygen deprivation promises to make this a very random post.

I woke up with one of those colds where your skin feels like it's not properly attached to your body and sitting down on a cold toilet seat is the most unpleasant thing you do all day. I have vitamin-ed, smoothied, Airborned and hot showered, and still, my brain feels like it's going to fall out the back of my head.

Thankfully, Eliza seems to be aware that Mama is at half-mast today; she is playing fairly independently. She has some new toys, includng something like this, only smaller and not $500. I also got her a baby cell phone and keys, because, frankly, the thin film of drool covering our electronics was starting to get to me.

She played with all three very well and now, she is unloading my spring T-shirts from the closet and waving them around like so:

I'm crossing my fingers, now, that The Poo will not get my cold, which is another reason I've been pleased with the independent play today. Less chance of me infecting her.

In addition to the usual reasons for not wanting her to get sick (grumpy baby, no sleep for Mama), we have plans to go to New York this weekend — Jim and I will head into the city to get a little cultcha, and Eliza will hang out with her cousins James and Ryan. Auntie Jeanne has been itching for some maniac princess time. She has no idea what she's in for.

I am VERY excited about New York. I got me some jeans that do not muffin-top (squeeze the waist so tightly the roll of fat extrudes all around, like a muffin) and some killer boots so that I do not look like too much of a dork at The Strokes concert we are attending. I am not really that big a fan of The Strokes, but what the hell, it's an excuse to head to New York.

Later in the spring, we will be heading to the MOMA for the Edvard Munch show. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this show. 130 pieces of art by Munch. I had a conniption when the Guggenheim hung out one, so my brain may well explode...

It is almost time to get my little closet-organizer to bed.

OK, back.

I love our bedtime ritual. I change her (OK, I don't love that part, because it generally includes what our babysitter calls "the-omigod-the-neighbors-are-going-to-call-DSS-screaming"), then we settle into the rocking chair with the bottle. I tell her the story of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, which I know from memory at this point, and then I tell her I love her just as much as Big Nutbrown Hare loves Little Nutbrown Hare. And then I tell her, "Mama loves Eliza's toes. Mama loves Eliza's feet. Mama loves Eliza's ankles," and so on. When I get to "Mama loves Eliza's tushie," she starts snickering in anticipation because I'm about to tel her that I loves her belly and I tickle her belly and she wiggles a little. And by the time I get to the top of her head she is so relaxed and snuggled into the crook of my arm I have to remind myself that I can't sit with her all night.

Among all of the reasons I am taking my sabbatical from karate, this is maybe the biggest. This week, because of various fun and work things, it has worked out that 4 nights, someone else will put Eliza to bed. And (wonderful and amazing as our babysitter is, and generous as Jim's sister is, and excited about New York as I am) I miss it so much. When we have had a good day, it's a way to cap it off. And when it's been a bad one, this is the way to push the reset button and tell her that no matter what, I will always love her. In a not-Whitney Houston way.

When her sleep schedule and our life schedule change and three classes a week no longer means that I'm giving that precious moment away, then I'll go back to karate.

And finally, some random things I love about life with Eliza:

We have a package of cheddar cheese in the fridge marked "Eliza's cheese, DO NOT EAT!"

That nimbus of dandelion fluff on her head.

That there is someone in the house who is THAT EXCITED about my keys.

The marching in place-drunk Elvis-tap dancing thing she does when she's preparing to cruise.

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March 1
Sleepcrawling

Well! File this under "Possibly Unnerving": Eliza crawls in her sleep.

You don't think it's that weird, Internet, I can tell, but trust me, it's weird.

When I go into Eliza's room to rebinky, I don't turn on any lights — I just sort of feel for her face and hold up the binky, and she waggles her head back and forth (Stevie Wonder-like, only without the R&B and half-asleep) until it settles into her mouth properly, and she goes back fully to slumber-land.

Well, twice in the past week, I've gone into her room and felt for her face and couldn't find it. Instead, I found her on all fours, trying to propel herself forward, and not a little frustrated because she'd come up against the bars of the crib.

But then I turn her over onto her back and without another peep, she flops back into a deep sleep.

On another night recently, she had sat up in her sleep and was crying, clearly disoriented. Again, as soon as I laid her down, she went back into hypersleep.

Oh Yeah. Weird.

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