Sunday, February 17, 2008

Not all octopuses know that children have 8 legs!!

The title is a quote from my sister-in-law! Yes, she is just that funny. (We were discussing the Distressing [distressing to me, anyway] fact that Madelaine's octopus board book only counts to the number 6...)

In no particular order:

*It took me a week to write the letter to Madelaine below. You may have noticed that it's dated the 7th, but wasn't published until the 14th. [Ed. note: it has taken me even longer to write this post here. Touche! [[What does "touche!" actually mean? I hear people say it all the time, but it's one of those words like "caveat" that, to me, just sounds impressive without actually having a definite meaning attached...]] ] It was a struggle all week to balance writing and doing the things I'm "supposed" to be doing with my time- dishes and laundry and paying bills and, of course, playing and taking care of the child who was the object of the story in the first place. This experience has made me realize that the thing I miss the most about my childless state (yes, even amidst all the joy, there are things to be missed) is the opportunity to wake up in the morning and drink some coffee and spend some absurd number of hours trying to write something perfect good. I love to Write. If I go too long without writing anything, I get antsy. For the record, I consider about 95% of what's on this blog to be complete drivel, and about 4% Good Writing, and 1% Really Good Writing. But that 1% is why I keep blogging.

I think Virginia Woolf once said something about "needing a room of one's own"...?

*The Amish! They are good with the baking, but maybe not so much with the math...? Suppose that a friend at church, a dear, head-covering-wearing, Mennonite-rooted friend gave you a Ziploc bag with an innocuously small lump of batter and some instructions on what to do with it. The instructions go something like this:

Day 1: Do nothing
Days 2-5: Mush the bag
Day 6: Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar, milk
Days 7-9: Mush the bag
Day 10: Add 1 1/2 cups each of flour, sugar, and milk. Scoop 1 cup of batter into each of 4 new Ziploc bags (these are new starters to give to your friends.) To the remaining batter add [a whole bunch of different ingredients.] Bake in two loaf pans.

What would you do? Would you bake with it? When I talked to Judy she was all like, "BEWARE THE AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD!! You'll end up going around the church parking lot and putting bags of starter into every unlocked car you can find!! You always end up throwing away a starter!!" And I was all like, "Nah, it can't be that bad- it looks like fun!"

So we dutifully "fed" our starter, and when the time came, Nate made the two loaves. They were tasty! And then we had 4 new starters. And... and then it was time to feed the four starters (we hadn't actually thought to give them away to people.) And I didn't want to feed all four starters, because that's a lot of flour and sugar and milk, and if we were going to keep all four then we would end up baking EIGHT loaves of bread in a few days and furthermore, we would have SIXTEEN new starters... So, we stuck two starters in the fridge, because Nate said that would just put them on hold (ie the yeast would just chill out for awhile and become active again later, or something.) So I fed the two starters. Then day 10 came last Wednesday. So I have the two starters, and I realize that if I feed them all the 1 1/2 cups of things, we'll have EIGHT new starters... which is still too many... so what to do?

[I ended up adding 1 1/2 cups of milk/sugar/flour to each one, and then from one bag I scooped out 2 cups of batter and threw it away, and made two new starters; from the other bag I just made 2 new starters, so that there were 2 extra cups of batter to work with, so I tried to estimate and adjust all the other ingredients accordingly.] But this isn't the point. The point is that...

1) We have a FREAKING LOT OF AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD. I don't think it will all get eaten. And 2) The Amish and their bread would be a lot more user-friendly if, instead of only offering a pro-multiplicative-reproduction instruction set, they also offered a more contemporary, population-control-friendly instruction set, with directions for how to END THE PROCESS, ALREADY. To wit**: give us ingredient lists for different numbers of starters that we want to make, ranging from 0 to 4. [Of course, the more mathematically competent among us, like my friend Judy, feel inclined to just MEASURE how much batter there is after scooping out the four new starters so as to calculate how to adjust the recipe to end the process.]

Are the Amish.... INSECURE about the status of starters in the world? I want to know. Perhaps I shall ask Wikipedia...

*So, a week or two ago I was browsing and found a fluff piece linked from the December issue of O magazine (yeah, that's Oprah's magazine, which appears to mainly be about things like make-up and money management when I check its website. Hey, we can't all read Kafka all day. Cut me some slack.) The article was about "shortcuts to simplify your life," and along with the usual potpourri of random, marginally useful dicta guaranteed to make you happier and more successful and less afraid of clowns*** , I was surprised to read, "Build an Instant Home Library."


The article suggests a few sites such as that will sell you some inordinately large number of classics for an exorbitant amount of money; one example was the Penguin Classics Complete Collection, a voluminous body of 1,000 tomes for around $8,000. I have to ask- what kind of demographic does this appeal to? It's honestly rather hard for me to imagine that any true literary aficionado would enjoy receiving 1,000 titles at once. Can you imagine them arriving in the mail? Box after box of the world's literary treasures, all with identically designed covers, piled up in the hallway and waiting to be read. Wouldn't it be so... overwhelming? I feel tired just thinking about it. Personally I would much rather buy my books one at a time, as cheaply as possible (yes, you can get many used titles for under $8, even with shipping- including fantastic ex-library hardbacks!), in the order in which I'd like to read them. I also like my books to look DIFFERENT and UNIQUE, not like so many clones of each other.

After pondering for awhile, I finally figured out the type of people this offer would appeal to. Let me present them in the full glory of a mini-drama:

The Scene: Spencer and Bambi are moving into their brand new Supersized McMansion, complete with mile upon mile of built-in bookshelves in the "home library" [as distinct from the home office, the hobby room, the game room, and the media room.]

Bambi: "Ooh, honey. What ARE we going to put on all these shelves?? We only actually own 4 books, you know."
Spencer: "Well... how about my golf trophies?"
Bambi: "Well, sure, but those will only fill up one shelf. And then we have pictures of Buffy and Coco [their kids/ pets] that would look cute over here..."
Spencer: "Yeah- but we need a lot of those to go in the entrance hallway. Really, the only thing that's going to look right on these shelves is a lot of BOOKS."
Bambi: "Books are so hard to buy though. They're so heavy. Not like DVD's, you know. I mean, if I went to Barnes & Noble and filled up the back of the X5, it STILL wouldn't be enough to fill all these shelves. Plus we'd have to pay the movers extra to move them in!"
Spencer: "Hmmm. Hey, look at this- we can order 1,000 books at once and have them shipped directly here!"
Bambi: "Oooh- and they would all MATCH, too! I love it when things MATCH!"
Spencer: "And, who knows. Maybe it would help us... like, read more. As a family."
Bambi: "Yeah! Especially if the satellite dish ever goes out for a few minutes... we would need SOMEthing to do..."

Okay, finally FINALLY posting this thing...

:-D Love, NEB

**What does "to wit" actually mean? I have no idea. But it sounds cool. Thus, I am cool for using it, yes?
***This is a Significant Issue for Some People. Don't laugh.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some Observations

1) If you say to your friends at prayer meeting on a Sunday night, "We have been really blessed- Madelaine is six months old now and has never been sick," after hearing a prayer request that apparently most of the church is currently sick, then YES, you are asking for trouble.

2) Even if you follow up your statement by saying, "Wow, maybe I'm asking for trouble..." that will not cancel the fact that you are, indeed, asking for trouble. [She woke up coughing and sniffling Monday morning.]

3) Babies who have never had a cold before do not understand Proper Coughing Technique. Thus, they will frequently gag when they cough, leading to numerous vomiting episodes.

4) Babies who are sick like to nurse more. Preferably constantly.

5) 3) + 4) = More vomiting.

6) Since babies do not know how to properly deal with their Mucous*, what doesn't get thrown up must be processed by the stomach, but since they have immature digestive tracts, the stomach doesn't deal well with this, which leads to Even Runnier Than Usual Poop.

7) Runnier Poop means More Leaky Diapers.

8) We do not have a washer and dryer in our apartment. And although our child's wardrobe is extensive, it is, unfortunately, not Infinite. Nor is our collection of bedsheets. Or nursing bras.

9) 5) + 7) +8) = laundry crisis. I should have photographed Mount Laundry for you before we hauled it over to Judy's house yesterday. At least now we have clean baby clothes, sheets, mattress pad, etc. again. As for cleaning the car seat, the upholstered desk chair, the carpet, the carpet again, the bed skirt... well... Maybe we just won't think about it too much. It's too overwhelming.

10) We lost the bulb syringe (do you prefer the term "nasal aspirator"?) early in the week. We spent a really long time looking for it (not much else to do, cooped up in the house with a sick child.) It has not been found. Its replacement has been purchased from Stuff-Mart. [Those of you who are childless are now asking- what is a bulb syringe? Here, I will show you:]

You use this to suction out the baby's nose, because babies don't know how to blow their nose until... [when do kids learn to blow their nose, anyway...?] See 3) above.

11) It has been a challenging week. I feel sorry for my little chicken and hope she feels better soon. I feel sorry for Nate (who is also sniffling, and cleaning up vomit) and for myself (who has a sore throat, and is cleaning up vomit.) But I'm so thankful we live in a country with good healthcare and clean drinking water and plenty of food. :-) And hopefully, she'll be better soon!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Six Months!

Dear Madelaine,

Tomorrow you will be six months old, and like probably every mother of every six-month-old out there, I look at you and wonder, Where has the time gone? I literally can't remember what life was like without you. I know that there was such a time- a time when it was just your daddy and me, living our child-free, care-free lives. But care-free means we didn't have you to care for and care about. And believe me, we had no idea what we were missing.

And even as I puzzle over where the time has gone, it seems so long ago that we brought you home from the hospital, scrawny and sleepy and ready to startle and flail at the slightest disruption. You were SO very tiny then, even smaller than most newborns, and it was such a relief when you really started nursing after a few days. For the first few months you seemed to grow at a nice steady pace, and then somehow, in the last couple of months, you've shot up like a little dandelion! Pretty soon you're going to be in size 9-12 month clothing, and as your baby wardrobe whizzes past, I'm making a mental note: next time I see a cute dress, buy it in size 3T: you'll get to wear it longer.

In every phase that you've gone through, I've wanted to sit here and write about your little quirks and habits, the nuanced details of your everyday life that only parents really get to see. Now at six months, I'm realizing that those very early days are already beginning to fade from my memory, and I question my decision to not keep an official baby book for you. Yet time spent blogging or writing in a baby book means less time playing and dancing and rejoicing with you, rejoicing in you. There's something to be said for abandoning the never-ending attempts to chronicle, analyze, and re-create life by writing about it. Sometimes you just have to stop writing about life, and Live it.

I remember in the first weeks of your life, that after nursing you would arch your back, your eyes closed and your face damp with the sweet sticky milk, and s-t-r-e-t-c-h your tiny arms and hands as far as possible. I kept trying to capture that pose in a picture, but I don't think we ever succeeded. You used to chew on your hand when you were hungry, and then I would have to persuade you that you couldn't chew on your hand and nurse at the same time. Any sudden noises would prompt you to throw your arms over your head- Daddy said it's a reflex that newborns have to protect their fragile heads from getting bumped. Don't worry, little one- we've got you tight.

From the very beginning, you loved to snuggle and be held, so I carried you in a sling all the time to keep you close by. You wouldn't sleep for very long anywhere other than my sling or our arms, until you were about four months, when I discovered that if I put you on your tummy to sleep (a BIG no-no in this decade), you could actually sleep for half an hour alone! Just in time, too- my back was really starting to hurt, and you didn't seem as comfortable in the sling anymore. At first I worried about SIDS, and would check on you every few minutes just to watch you breathe. Parenting is not a risk-free endeavor, I realized. Love never is. I'm much less concerned about SIDS now; but I still love to watch you sleep.

The first few weeks I was using my breastpump every day to make bottles for you at night, and I would put you in your swing while pumping. To keep you content I started singing hymns to you, and I really enjoyed the uncritical appreciation you showed for my voice- although I would suggest taking singing advice from your father. Hopefully this love of music will continue as you get older, and then we can talk about what kinds of music you like someday. Now you like to watch the visualizations on the computer while you listen to Classical with Daddy and Afro-Celtic jigs with Mama, and I like to watch your face while you watch and listen.

Speaking of your swing, for awhile it was one of your favorite activities, and you started this cute little habit of sticking your right foot out to tap the post with every swing. That, and kicking your "jingle bear" mobile, were two of the first things you did to start to interact more with your world.

Now the swing is too tame for you; it's all about the ExerSaucer, with its myriad toy possibilities. (Sadly, you can't reach most of them to put them in your mouth, so I have to give you your ring rattle to keep you appeased.) You can roll from your tummy to your back (once, and then not attempt any further movement) and sit up for several minutes at a time, which makes playing with your toys a whole lot easier. You have a great attention span for storybooks already, and I love to sit with you in the rocking chair in the afternoons and drink coffee and read to you. When we went to visit your grandparents at Christmas and in January, they enjoyed all your new skills and especially your wonderful little giggle.

In the last few weeks, we've noticed that you say something that sounds like "bless you" when you sneeze and that you (very courteously) hold onto both your feet when we change your diaper. When Daddy blows air onto your face, you stick out your tongue and gasp. You've switched from a pacifier to thumb-sucking in the past couple of months, and started this funny little habit of trying to stick your finger in your mouth while you nurse.

Ever since you've been born, Madelaine, I've noticed your tendency to almost hyperventilate with excitement when you play. It's as if the wonderful possibilities of life just can't unfold fast enough for you. Every day I love waking up with you and seeing your bright morning smile, the way you can't wait for a whole new day to begin. You are just about the only thing that can make even your Daddy smile in the mornings. And at naptime and nighttime when you grow sleepy and frustrated with your toys, I love scooping you up in my arms and saying "Let's snuggle and nurse to sleep in the Big Bed." I love seeing you learn and change every day, getting to know the great little person you are growing into. I can't wait to see what the next few months bring, as the world within your reach keeps expanding and you keep growing to keep up.

I could go on and on, darling, but I have to bring this to a close (before you turn 1!). Your babyhood is going by so fast, little love. Every day I think, "I want to hold this moment, this one right here, in my heart forever." When I was pregnant with you, I knew in my head how much I would love you, but I never could have dreamed what that love would feel like. I had no idea that there could be a love so big, so all-consuming and overpowering, that all the poopy diapers and fussy evenings in the world wouldn't even matter. There are days like today when I grow weary, when I don't know how to entertain you or deal with the everyday challenges of being a full-time mom. But even on days like today, I stop for a minute and look at your smile, look at the miracle God has given me, and I know I wouldn't trade this life, this calling to be your mommy, for anything in the world.

I love you, sweetheart. You will always be my little Chicken. ;-)

Love, Mama