Sunday, August 31, 2008

From the archives: lessons in marriage

I've been looking at this photo a lot recently as our second anniversary approaches, and thinking about that day on our honeymoon when we donned the blue smurf suits and set out into the unbelievably blue waters of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is an old volcano crater, in the middle of the North Island in New Zealand, some twenty miles long (our trip was just a beginners' paddle around a small area near shore). The kayaking guide had given us the "honeymoon kayak," so called because it's-- obviously-- a two seater, but more specifically because piloting the two-seater kayak requires cooperation to get anywhere.

And she wasn't kidding about that. You really can't just climb into the front and decide to do everything your own way. It turns out that once you get away from the secluded inlets around the shore (which in this analogy I guess would be the engagement and the wedding) and get out into the open water, where things can get a bit choppy sometimes (do I have to fill in the analogy here for you? I don't think so) you have to work together, or bad things may happen including capsizing your vessel by hitting a wave sideways, or just spinning yourselves around in circles until you end up in the middle of the lake, which in this case was miles across. We left the first quiet inlet and paddled out into a more open area, still near the shore but the wind was kicking up some pretty good chop. Then we turned our kayaks directly into that wind, and I started paddling frantically and non-productively while Scott, there in the back, tried to compensate for my insane slapping at the water by steering us more calmly and imploring me to please settle down and work with him, for heaven's sake.

It turns out to be a rather accurate picture of us on many days. I am learning to paddle more calmly and to not get so riled up that I end up whacking my partner with my paddle instead of helping him move us along. And Scott continues to bear up with (sometimes almost unbelievable) patience while trying to keep us on course. He also does a screamingly funny impression of my paddling technique-- ask him to show you next time you see him.

And there are days of perfect harmony when we both paddle at the same pace, and the lake is beautiful and there's a gentle wind. And we don't drop our bag with the picnic lunch over the side.

We very much hope to get back to Lake Taupo and try out their three-seater kayak next time. Audrey's Pa Skip is an accomplished kayaker and if she's lucky she will have inherited some ability directly from him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Here's a not-so-subtly staged photograph of Audrey reading a book. What she'd really do with a book like this is shred all the pages into a fine julienne, which is why her personal library is all board books. She understands the word "book" and will go and fetch some if prompted. (Yes, I know that only makes her as smart as a below-average dog, but still!) She's a little more interested these days in actually looking at the pages and turning them than she is in simply pulping the whole thing with her gums. I did have to turn her in to the librarian on duty in the children's room at the Lexington library last week when she tore up some end papers, but she was released back into my custody with a gentle warning.

Our nerdy hope is that she will like books as much as we do, but whether that will be as fodder for her growing brain or just as salad remains to be seen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Goodnight, Sweet Neko...

This morning, we said goodbye to our cat, Neko, age fifteen. Some of you who know her know that Neko has been declining for a while, and last night she appeared to have suffered a stroke that left her very disoriented and weak. We took her to an emergency veterinary clinic and, after talking things over with the vet, decided that it was time to let Neko go. She probably was not going to live through the rest of the day, we realized, and this was a chance to minimize any pain she might be in. We are sad she’s no longer with us, but she had a good and a long (for a cat) life. I have no doubt she redeemed at least eight of her lives, and was planning on getting her full money's worth from the ninth.

Neko was a foundling, rescued from the side of the road with her siblings and came to me via my housemate, Will, who was the only human being she would tolerate for her first five years. In the two years that Will and I shared an apartment, Neko’s grudging tolerance of me grew by tiny degrees into affection. At first, she would not permit me to sit on the couch with her. Eventually, I could—and did-- sling her around like a rag doll. And when Will married a woman who is deathly allergic to cats, Neko stayed with me. Neko was a practical animal; since Will was no longer there, she adopted me, and the roommates who lived with me, and then Scott, whom she took a rather fast liking to (maybe she knew something, a twitch of the whiskers?) and she even was starting to show a grim tolerance for Audrey. I don’t think that would have been a match made in heaven, ever, but Audrey lit up in smiles and cooing when Neko walked into the room, and Neko… well, Neko never actually attacked her. Which is saying something. This is a cat who, in her heyday, required four people to subdue her for an annual physical: the vet, two assistants, and myself. And this was while Neko, who was declawed, was wearing a straight-jacket and a little executioner’s hood. The vet wore heavy leather falconry gloves that covered him to the shoulder. Usually when we walked in the door at the clinic they took a quiet, grim look at the notes in her file, left briefly, and returned, armed for bear. The girl had spirit.

But to those few she favored, Neko was deeply devoted and affectionate. She loved to spoon with us on the couch, to sit on our feet, to be near us. She would lie in our arms like a baby. And that is how I held her this afternoon, in quiet room with a rocking chair, when the vet came to do the euthanasia. It was very quick and I don’t think Neko felt a thing; she was already asleep and breathing slowly. It seemed that her body was shutting down rather quickly on its own. I’m happy I was one of her chosen few, and that she was a part of my household and my life for these past ten years.

Goodnight, sweet Neko. We will miss you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Please to enjoy.

You've endured our terrible photography and lame narrative. Now, we bring you the work of a professional. Check out this cool slide show!

To grandparents, family members-- yes, you can have prints! Yes, we are going to get them for you! This is not like the (so far) empty promises of wedding pictures. This time we really mean it. Dad made it clear to us when he said, "Yeah, wedding pictures would be fine when you get around to it, but what I really want are some BABY PICTURES." Okay. We hear you. Here they are:

(Mom, this is going to make your dial-up connection emit plumes of greasy, black smoke. Get to a high-speed connection if you can.)

Cloth diapers: a leading cause of "buffalo butt"

I've been trying to use cloth diapers most of the time at home. Don't worry, that sentence is not going to be followed by statements like "And I have decided to sew all of our clothes from the hemp fibers I grew myself." It just seemed like it was worth a try, since I am working-at-home and can manage the extra laundering. And boy howdy is there a lot of laundry. It's clear as a bell why working parents, and day care providers, generally do not use cloth. Something else that also becomes much more evident when you use cloth diapers, and go through the process of washing and drying them: even cloth diapers use up a fair amount of energy, and that's not including my energy output. A disposable diaper's energy costs are all completely hidden, from the making of that diaper to the transport to the tossing-it-in-the-landfill, but with cloth-- even though I'm lessening the environmental impact considerably, I actually see the water and energy being used to clean these things. It's sobering.

That said: I do like the cloth. I'm testing out-- for any of you remotely interested in this stuff (hi, Lauren!) both the all-in-ones and the traditional pre-folds. The pre-folds will line dry in the sun a lot faster, but they are so big that I can hardly get Audrey's pants on over the diaper. Hence the buffalo butt.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This neighborhood has excellent children.

Just a note from our afternoon walk. I loaded Audrey into the backpack to walk down to Busa Farm at the end of our street, and on the way there I crossed paths with three boys, ages (I'm guessing) 9, 10 and 12. Now, normally I would expect to be noticed by boys of this age only if they were stopping to, say, aim a snowball at my head or throw a firecracker onto my porch. But these kids, who live on the block, saw Audrey and said:

"Oooooooooooooooooooooh! What a cute baby!"
"What's her name?"
"How old is she?"

See why I was surprised? Those are the kind of questions I expect from 80-year-old women at the grocery store, but how nice-- and how unusual-- to have this sort of interaction with three kids on their way to a pick up game of hoops with their friends. Kids, I might add, who were not being prompted/prodded/goaded into their politeness by any adults.

I specifically recognized one of the boys as being the same young man we ran into when Audrey was four days old and we took her out for her first walk. (Picture us walking nervously, one cautious step at a time, as if we had a Faberge egg in the Baby Bjorn). He was riding his bike and yelled-- to our total astonishment-- "Congratulations on your baby!"

A fine neighborhood we have.

Day in the life of a busy legume.

She is tireless. She is fast. She crawls now. And pulls up to standing. And can sit up on her own, without being propped there like a stuffed animal.

We are toast.

Hanging out with Aunt Janna. The real toy here is Janna's watch band. See it, so shiny and tempting?

Exploring negative space in the living room. (Who needs a swiffer when you have a crawler?)

Using her new DJ mixing table from friends who were only too glad to let this item move on to our house. Their trash is our treasure: Audrey loves it. And they helpfully showed us how to remove the batteries if the noise starts to make us crazy (thanks, Leah).

More moving pictures, you say? Copy that.

Instead of a caption today I am posing a query for parents. Maybe you can help us with one of our recent challenges, which is that Audrey only wants to eat things that she can pick up and feed to herself. Trouble is, not very much food makes it into her mouth this way and I'm worried she's not getting enough to eat. We try to sneak spoonfuls of food into her when she's not paying attention, but once she figures out what we're doing she angrily bats the spoon (which is loaded with brightly colored vegetable purees) onto the wall, or into our faces.

She still nurses or has a bottle about four times a day, so we're not looking at a starvation diet. Just a mildly vexing one, for all of us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hoddler, or Tobbit?

Our friend and neighbor Jennie notes that their is something a bit Tolkien about Audrey's look these days. It's that mushroom cap of hair, and the ears . She's a toddler-sized hobbit. A hoddler. Or a tobbit?

Better image quality, finally.

We are glad to bring you video that does not appear to have been taken underwater. Consider that last post just a bad hair day for our blog.

Auntie Janna, Ph.D.

Audrey is enjoying extra attention for her Aunt Janna this weekend. That's Dr. Aunt Janna, if you please. She's done with her doctorate at last!! Audrey was so excited by the news she couldn't hold still for the last two pictures.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First professional hair cut

This was Audrey's first hair cut, unless you count the "gonzo haircut" that I gave her with my kitchen scissors a couple of months ago and which Scott is still giving me a hard time about.

This hair salon for kids was a sensory onslaught-- videos, music, other kids crying-- and Audrey would only consent to the haircut while sitting in my lap. But she did okay and it only took about 10 minutes of cutting.

(A note from the A.V. club: Sorry about the really, really bad quality of the video. We're working on it.)


Here is a bit of footage in which Scott and I say "uh-oh" a bunch of times and maybe, possibly, Audrey utters it once herself. You be the judge.

This feels like a dubious claim we are making, like posting video of the Loch Ness monster, with teething biscuits, but I swear to you that she really does say "uh-oh" clearly and meaningfully, with communicative intent, all the time. Really.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Your comeuppance is served...

Remember my gleeful post a few weeks ago about how she was sleeping through the night 50% of the time? Yeah. Well. Then teething happened. It's been, oh, about two weeks since she slept through the night and we've had some rough nights recently. The other night, she was up FOUR TIMES and has been running a slight fever a lot of the time. A couple more teeth are visible just below the gums, which look swollen and pretty red. She enjoys a good teething biscuit-- a huge mess to clean up but delectable. And she rejects being fed; she will feed herself or nothing.

I run with the big girls, now.

Visiting friends Isabella and Eliana thought Audrey was moderately interesting. Audrey tracked their every move.

Perfect! Now don't move a muscle.

We attended another wedding this weekend and Audrey wore-- for the first time ever!-- a pair of shoes.* During the reception I was approached every few minutes by someone holding one of these aforementioned shoes, asking "Is this yours?"

She doesn't hold still for cameras, or anything, anymore.

*Dress, bloomers and shoes provided by Mimi and PopPop, who will be pleased to know that the dress survived the whole night! No horrific stains! And we left the wedding with both shoes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


If I pull all the levers, set the Pict-o-Gram meter to its highest setting, and pedal really fast, the Magic-Lantern Video Projection Machine should start working! Here we go.....

I should point out that that is not a bottle of toxic household cleaner she's playing with in the video; it's the baby sunscreen, and the bottle is tightly closed! Just didn't want to give the grandmothers any heart attacks.

Hang on, Chickpea has just disappeared under the couch...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How to eat an apricot

Watching her eat this apricot half reminded me of the way some types of wasps and spiders will inject their prey with a venom that liquefies them first.

We now rate meals in terms of number of washcloths needed for clean-up. This was a two washcloth. She had liquefied apricot pulp from her knees to her eyebrows.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Straw poll for our readers.

Is "uh-oh" a word? Would it count as a first word? Audrey said it several times today, the first time at around 5:00 in the morning right after she dumped the entire container of diaper wipes on the floor, and just before she worked the cap of the diaper cream and almost ate some. (Did I mention she's getting hard to handle? Suddenly every diaper change is a Cirque du Soleil audition. By the time I've got the used diaper off of her she has twisted herself into a headstand.)

I invite your comments. Actual word, or just grunting mimicry? Any difference?

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

This needs no caption. Either you are thinking, "I can't believe she's posting that. It's really not appropriate," or you are thinking, "That's the cutest thing I've ever seen," in which case, you are probably my mom.

Hi, Mom.

Audrey does enjoy a good bath, which is handy since she needs more and more of them lately. She is having a nap right now, and I am getting to know my new laptop, who will be known as Chapman, after the guy we bought it from. Now I can tote Chapman from room to room with me, instead of trying to keep Audrey out of trouble while I use the desktop. There is no keeping Audrey out of trouble now. Trouble is her job.

Does she have a hollow leg?

When Audrey first began eating solid foods about four months ago, I started to puree things for her and freeze them in batches. The usual stuff- sweet potatoes, pears, apples, spinach, etc. I was really getting good at it and was thinking about all sorts of ways to fit more pureed cubes into the freezer, when it occurred to me that she actually doesn't need all that much now in the way of mush. She can just eat a lot of the same things we do, as long as they are soft and she can get some bite-size (for her) pieces gnawed off with her gums and one snaggly little tooth.

Last night we had some fusilli pasta and I gave her some (unsauced) on her highchair tray, which seemed to delight her. They were a facinating shape, nice and gummy-- right up her street. She was really putting it away, it seemed-- the more I gave her, the more she wanted. And I did see her chewing, but when I took the tray off to clean her up, I found that she had just stashed most of the pasta away in the pocket of her bib. While getting her ready for bed a bit later I found more fusilli tucked down into her onsie, in the top fold of her diaper.

Maybe, like both of her parents, she likes to store food away for later use. Scott cans and preserves, and I puree and freeze. Audrey pockets.