Archives for December 2009

Intro to Solids

Last night, you two had your first taste of “solid” food, if you can call rice-mush cereal solid. It was incredibly bland when I tried it, but both of you loved it! The color, the feel, the texture, glopping your fingers through it, and smearing it into your face — it was all so new to you! Surprisingly, you both took to spoons quite well. Anna, I fed you, and Momma fed Lucas. I couldn’t take a spoon and put it to your mouth, but I could get close, then you would grab the spoon and put it into your own mouth. As this was still the first time we were feeding you this way, it was a lot of fun. But I also think that ether we need to move your feeding over a linoleum floor, else get a gigantic drop-cloth, since this is going to be messy for quite some time, I’m sure.

Also, we knew it would only be a matter of time, but the dog finally realized that you two are semi-mobile snack-dispensers. The good news for us it that now somebody else will start helping us keep the floors clean. We’re still trying to make sure that she only goes after what’s on the floor, rather than licking your face, but that’s a hard sell to a dog who looks at you two as PEZ-dispensers.

Traditions

What does it really take to start a tradition? Does it have to be done more than once? There is always a first time, and from that can come the intent to start a tradition. What has me thinking about all this is Christmas. My house growing up did not have many traditions, and the ones we did have centered around Hebrew National salami on Saturday night, giving some to the dog, and then doing our best to stay away from her for the rest of the evening. It was certainly not something worthy of being passed from generation to generation.

Which brings us, of course, to you two — the next generation. What traditions do we wish to create together? How shall we make them meaningful, both to you, who are children not yet able to understand, and to Momma and I, who are responsible for creating them with purpose?

In the 9 years that Momma and I have been in this house, the most we’ve done regarding decorations is to put up a Christmas wreath on the door, and to put up lights on the house and one of the trees. We’ve never done a Christmas tree here, as we usually go to her parents, or to mine back East. This year, as I wrote earlier, we were supposed to go to Grandpa and Sithee’s house, where the traditions are so plentiful as to be simply unavoidable. Some of those include:

  • The Christmas tree, fully decorated
  • All shape, size, color, and manner of electronic, sound and motion-sensitive Christmas ketch
    (talking Christmas tree, talking & dancing Santa, singing Christmas wreaths)
  • A Christmas dinner with Sithee’s beef Wellington – nearly half a cow – prepared a day or two ahead of time.
  • French onion soup for 30 or more people, with so many onions that they have to be stored in plastic bags in the garage until they are ready to be cooked. Neighbors across the street have been known to wake up crying.
  • The trifle desert, mentioned earlier.
  • Lots of gifts under the tree.
  • Family coming together from all across the country.
  • Radio-communication between Sithee as central command in the kitchen and Grandpa standing at the ready at the grocery store.
  • An annual, unpredictable, but completely expected accident or hair-brained event that we all talk about for years.
    • Drying lettuce for Cesar Salad for 30+ people in a pillow-case inside the cloths dryer (thunk-a-thunk-a-thunk)
    • Several gallons of French onion soup pouring into the bottom of the refrigerator and onto the floor.
    • A gallon or two of raw beef juice pouring down the back of a leather couch.
    • Others that are more memorable, but probably too embarrassing to put here on-line.

So with tradition that thick, it is going to be hard to create something as elaborate back here, except that for you two, EVERYTHING is completely new and wonderful. Sometimes just opening your eyes every morning is an affirmation of the beauty and newness of the beginning of a new day. Come to think about it, that’s probably the way that it should be for all of us.

Perhaps it has come to pass that with the gaining of age (another foreign concept to you), the wonder and newness has been lost, or at least dampened. But you two, my dear children, have the honor of reminding us of what it is to look at everything in life as a new and beautiful gift to be explored.

Are you still a vegan?

So far, both of you have been eating nothing but breast milk and formula. A while ago, I was wondering if you could still be called vegetarian or not. Lucas, you have been eating soy formula on account of a possible allergy, (cf.: No More Milk for the Wookie), so maybe we could go so far as to call you a vegan. But since vegan’s don’t have any animal byproducts, were not sure if momma’s milk count as an animal byproduct or not. Does it matter whether Momma is a vegetarian or vegan? If Momma eats a hamburger, and you drink her milk, are you now an omnivore too?

Lucas, it may all be moot for you at this point, since last weekend Grandpa gave you turkey gravy. Yes, that’s right… turkey gravy. Never mind starting you off with something simple like rice and basic grains. Grandpa went straight for the big guns, on account of that’s what they were having for dinner, you were on his lap, and you were reaching for his plate.

You didn’t actually reach his plate, so he put some on his finger and let you suck on that just moments before I could remind him that you are not ready for real food yet, let alone the remains of a dead animal. (Umi is a vegetarian, Mommas not). He then wiped it off, but I’m afraid that it’s too late for you. It’s all down hill from here with a life of fast food and debauchery, I can tell. Before we know it, you will be licking french-fry grease off of the balls in McDonald’s play-land. From there, it’s not far from eating raw meat and wanting to hunt. Before we know it,you will have a life membership in the NRA and vote Republican. My poor little baby… not quite 6 months old and already the die is cast on account of one brief moment of inattentiveness. I am so sorry, my love. I do hope that one day when you are older, you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

Good Night Check-In

When my brother and I were little, Mom would usually check in on us just before she and Dad went to bed. Most times, we were already asleep and never knew. Other times, I remember seeing the light as the door opened, she peeked in, and then left.

Often, I wondered what she was dong or why she checked. It’s not like we were sneaking out the windows or anything like that. Well, OK, sometimes I did that, but I put pillows under the covers so she never knew anyway, but that’s not the point.

There was one time in particular, however, when Dad was away on a business trip, and Mom was staying up to watch some horror movie on TV. I don’t remember if it was Dracula or Frankenstein, but it was scary and we were supposed to be in bed already. What Mom didn’t know is that in the hallway upstairs, just around one of the corners before our bedrooms, my brother and I had built a monster. We took a chair, stacked two bean-bags on top, made arms out of a tennis racket and a baseball bat, and used a basketball on top for its head. It wasn’t all that scary looking, really, unless you had just watched a monster movie, weren’t expecting it, and were planning to check on the kids before going to bed. You can probably see where this is going already, and it was not pretty.

We were lying in wait on the floor behind this monster, hoping to stay up long enough for Mom to finish her movie. Darron had already fallen asleep, but I was still awake when I heard her coming up the stairs. She turned the corner and saw this monstrosity, then let out such a scream as to nearly wake the neighbors. But that wasn’t the worst of it. She then started backing up and ran into a closet door, knocking if off the hinges, which scared her even more. So she turns around again, this time backing up into the monster. Literally, she was like a pinball bouncing off of the walls, the closet, and the monster, screaming and flailing her arms the whole time.

Meanwhile, I was watching this whole thing from the floor, laughing my little butt off. Darron woke up, but was too groggy to really see most of it. And that’s when it started getting really scary. Mom came to her senses enough to realize that the monster was just a dummy, then she got really mad. She started growling and yelling, her hair stood on end, and she started shooting sparks of fire from her eyes. She ripped through our monster, throwing its head, arms, and body into the rooms at either side of the hall. Then she started coming at Darron and I and I though sure she was going to kill us both. Except that even though I knew she was mad, I couldn’t stop laughing. “ha ha ha…. you should have SEEN yourself, Mom! That was great! Ha ha ha.”

Did I mention that she was really mad? She was about to beat the living daylights out of me when she started to chuckle too. And then she began to laugh, and she couldn’t hit me if she was laughing too. She admonished us both with one of those “Don’t you ever, EVER, EVER do that again!!”

The point is that now, I find myself checking in on you two angles every night before I go to bed, and so I finally understand what Mom must have been doing. You see, I know full well that you will still be in your cribs, and that you are OK and still breathing, and that you have not been teleported out of the house by space-aliens (that’s another story). What I’m actually checking is my own reality. Is it really true that you two have come into our lives? Are we really parents now? Is it really possible to love this much? And every time I peek in the door and see you two, my precious little burritos wrapped in sleep-sacks, my heart fills to capacity with love, gratitude, appreciation, and awe.

Yes, this is all real. And thank goodness that for the time being, you are still too little to build monsters in the hallway.

Home for the Holidays. Sort of.

We got up at 6am this morning to feed you and to get everything ready for the big trip back east to meet the rest of the family. We kept checking flight status, and the airlines said the flight was still on-schedule. Meanwhile, there was a massive snowstorm back east threatening to close airports.

On our way to our local airport, my Dad called to say that the airports were closing, and shortly thereafter, of course, our flight was canceled too. After well over an hour on hold with the airlines, the only other available nonstop flight back east would be at 7am, Christmas eve (5 days from now). An all-day trip on Thursday for a huge event on Friday, only to turn around and come back on Saturday was simply not practical. And due to Dad & Sithie’s schedules just after Christmas, simply extending our trip wouldn’t really get us much more time with family anyway. So we decided to cancel the trip.

It all sounds so mater-of-fact here in my letters to you, my children, and of course you have no clue what was planned, what you missed, or that anything is out of the ordinary. From your perspective, we went on a brief car-ride, turned around, and came back home again. End of story.

However, Momma and I are both very sad about the way it turned out. Momma has a rather large family, many of whom live not too far from where we live, and so we get to see them on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, have a very small family, consisting of my brother (your uncle), Dad & Step mom (Grandpa and Sithie), my mother (Grandma) , and her mom (your only Great Grandma & Grandpa). All live on the east coast except my brother and his wife and kids, who live on the other side of the world in South Africa.

A few months ago, they came to the US to visit Grandpa & Sithie for a while, but you two were still quite small, in addition to the fact that we had to do everything we could to keep you from getting sick, Lucas, because of the surgery. (Airplanes are notoriously easy places to get sick.) So the net effect is that this makes the second time that for one reason or another, I was not able to see part of my family, and I miss them dearly.

If nothing else, it gives me a greater appreciation for the importance of family, and the value of having so many of Momma’s family near by. At the same time, while I look around at the blessing of who my family is — both near and far, I am also keenly aware that for you two, Momma and I are the root of YOUR family. Further, that what she and I model for you, on our own and with others, will become the foundation of what you learn about family.

And so this week, still here in Seattle, you’ll get extra doses of hugs and affection from Momma and I, since we’ll have to make up for the ones you’ll be missing from my family back east. And while we won’t be spending Christmas with them this year, Momma’s family is still here and just as anxious to love you as mine is.

Mobility!

Well, it’s happened. Anna, you are now mobile. We’ve been watching you for the past several days, knowing full well that it was imminent. I wouldn’t say that you are exactly “crawling,” but when we put you down and turn our backs, you are no longer where we left you. Watching you, it seems that you ambulate more through a bizarre combination of wriggling and rolling over repeatedly. The latter still appears to be more by accident than by choice. You will push yourself up high on both hands, reach for something, and in lifting that arm, you fall over to the side and roll over. Then, low and behold, there is something NEW to look at or reach for. Over a 15 minute period, you can just about complete a circuit around the office.

As I watch you, I feel a mixture of joy and satisfaction at your newly acquired skill, and terror that you are going to crawl into something or someplace that we have yet to adequately baby-proof.

Meanwhile, Lucas, you seem to be having trouble rolling from your stomach to your back, despite the fact that you did it frequently before surgery. You manage to roll onto your tummy, and you can do push-ups over and over, but you have yet to get your feet (knees) working underneath you. On the other hand, you are far better at standing on your feet than Anna is at this point. You can hold onto our thumbs and stand with minimal support. Likewise, we can put you up against something to hold onto, and you can stand on your own for growing periods of time before you fall over. You can also take several steps while holding our thumbs. It’s so cute to watch you pick up your knee, hover it in the air while you figure out where to put it, and then definitively stomp it down again. You may very well be one of those babies that walks before crawling, just as soon as you learn how to pull yourself up.

Travel Plans

This coming weekend, we will be taking you two on your first airplane ride as we head back east to visit my parents. As we look at all of the stuff that we will be bringing with us for you two, it looks like we have a 4:1 ratio (by weight) of accessories to baby. Needles to say, the trip is all set to be an adventure of epic proportions for Momma and me. We knew better than to get a morning flight. Even leaving at 1 PM, we are still likely to be spending the entire morning just getting ready to head out the door.

Christmas dinner is all set to be a gargantuan affair. Currently we are expecting about 50 people for dinner and Sithie (Grandma) is actually planning to cook. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that what might have otherwise been a week off from work will find me busier than I have ever been, working on food preparation and decorations with family.

There’s one treat in particular that has become a tradition of sorts. Sithie makes a trifle desert that is SOOOO good. It’s got a cake that she lets get stale and cuts into cubes, then stuffs into a bowl with lots of strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwi and a few other things, douses it with brandy, then covers it with vanilla custard. Fortunately, there are always so many deserts, that there is usually leftovers of this one, and we get to eat them the next morning after everybody goes home. Unfortunately, we will be coming back home the day after Christmas this year, so we might not be able to adequately help with the leftovers. Perhaps its just as well… otherwise the plane may have trouble taking off anyway.

Your first cold

Well, my dear children, it’s happened. You both managed to come down with a cold. You poor little dears… you have no idea what is going on, other than the added difficulty breathing through your nose, which means you have to take breaks while nursing from the bottle.

Momma and I try to keep your nose clean, but neither one of you like having your nose wiped. The mornings are worst of all, when you are a little crusty. Fortunately, the dog is warming up to the two of you more and more, since she’s the only one able to get your noses deep-clean.

I suppose it was inevitable, after we started letting more people see you two. Previously, we all but had you two in quarantine, just to make sure that Lucas stayed completely healthy for the first six weeks following surgery.

At this point, our concern is whether we will all be well enough to travel in a couple weeks to go back east to visit my family. Babies are known to have trouble with pressure-altitude changes, and with a cold, that would be amplified.

Hugs

Sometime over the last few weeks, you crossed this imaginary line, and now when I go to hold you, you hold me back. Part of that is because you are developing a grip in your hands, with which you hang onto my cloths, hair, or anything in reach. But the larger part of the shift is your growing level of responsiveness.

Your smiles and cooing started quite a while ago, and it was relatively recently that short little giggles showed up on the scene. And of course, nothing makes you giggle (both of you) like blowing farts on your belly. It doesn’t even matter who’s belly I choose — both of you find it funny enough to smile, and you, Anna, will continuously arch your little back and roll to expose your belly just like a puppy-dog.

Both of you can stand for brief periods at this point. Anna, you need more help on your feet, and tend to wiggle your hips like doing a hula-hoop. And you, Lucas, take such pride and delight on your feet as to make me giggle when you stand. You need only hold my thumbs in your fingers and you can balance quite well. You can even stand up on your own if I place your hands on a suitable surface, like a table’s edge.

But hands down, the best part for me at this point is when I go to hug you both, and you each hug me back. My precious children, I love you more than I ever could have imagined.