Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

This really isn't a lilscreamie post, but I don't think it's going to be possible for me to have a real thought anymore tonight - Beautiful Wife found a new television show that I think might portend the end of civilization as we know it - A game show - "Are you smarter a fifth grader?" Well, yes, I am - but the whole concept is enthralling: Get an adult and ask them questions that a fifth grader should be able to answer. (with a panel of fifth graders on hand) Fascinating, in an watching-an-accident-happen-in-slow-motion sort of way. What this says about popular culture sort of scares me, but I can't stop watching in horrified fascination - BTW, so far, I AM smarter than a Fifth grader. Can't wait for Dear Alex to be in a place to quiz me...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Missing Emma















Emma on the ottoman, with a rare guest appearance by Gracie.

I could go on a great length about what a wonderful cat Emma was, but I won't. What's stuck in my head, though, is expressing some of how weird it is to have to put a lot of the feelings away for the benefit of Dear Alex. Alex and Emma had a complicated relationship, to be sure - a little rocky at first, but eventually they became very close. It's a testament to Emma and her patience and affection that she suffered Dear Alex's early overtures with little scratching and nary a hiss. Alex learned a little bit about how to be gentle and kind and caring with animals, and was truly rewarded by Emma's acceptance of her elaborate kisses.
I truly feel bad for Dear Alex - she was down for a nap when I took Emma to the vet, out for the last time, so the girl never saw her go. I know that in time she'll forget, but right now she misses Emma, and a lot of it is heartbreaking. Alex calls for Emma at odd times - "Emma, Emma" and will sit on the couch next to me and pat the couch as I did so many times to let the cat know that it was okay for her to join us. Alex sometimes goes to the ottoman that Emma always hung around on, and just puts her head down on it - it was a favorite location for both of them - Alex could just bend down a little and be right at eye level to plant a big smooch on the cat. I think Emma actually liked it, and really did start hanging around with Dear Alex a lot towards the end, but well before she got sick. I don't quite know what to say to Alex about Emma - as it stands now, BW and I just say that Emma "went away", or that Emma's "not here".

They would have been great friends.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Little steps

Over last week, the Undisclosed Location returned to it's former glory as the Fortress of Solitude, with about a foot of snow and Ice deposited on the landscape. For a brief shining moment, it's a compensation for the winter-that-wasn't, a reminder of the way of the winter Dear Alex was concieved. We played in the snow today, maybe more for me than Dear Alex, though she did enjoy herself - half the time resolutely pointing, and declaring the obvious - "schnow! Schnow!" We went out onto the lake, with Alex in her bathtub-become-sled until she'd had enough and gave the "up - up" call that indicated that it was time for her to move under her own power. The frozen surface of the lake is a wind-scoured mix of slick clear ice and stretches of wind-blown drifts and we walked for a while - there was nothing for Alex to hurt herself on, so I pretty much let her run (or walk in her funny little way) free. We played a little game of walk and follow. Dear Alex would walk, and I'd follow - with her turning once in a while to make sure I was still there - She got as far from me as she's ever been while out in the world, and it truly was a wierd feeling.
In case you're wondering about the post title - it's about those impossibly small size 5 footprints next to my size 11's that we left all over the place - that I didn't get a picture of before the ceaseless wind scoured them away.

(Lest any be concerned about the safety of allowing dear alex to roam free on the frozen surface of a lake, I want to point out that there was an ice fishing contest going on on the lake while we were out there, with a lot of 200-pound plus men gathered in groups, using gasoline powered augers to drill their fishing holes. We certainly stayed well clear of that, but rest assured - the lake was sturdily frozen.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

All you've got to do...

A few days ago I was in a vile mood, just tired and truly miserable after a few days working on some 'advertising' concepts for two differnet pharmaceuticals indicated for Alzheimers' and Cystic Fibrosis. Now these are good drugs, but both of them are basically designed to put off or delay the onset of the inevitable decline. It's nice to be working, but sometimes it gets a little depressing - that, combined with this general feeling of no-time-for-anything other than Dear Alex and the fact that it's cold and dark and February just sort of came together to make me hate the world. I parked my ass on the couch, and decided that I wasn't going to move. Beautiful Wife came home and Dear Alex was in a cheery, active mood. Nice to see - daddy didn't want to play.
One of her favorite things is to come into the living room and march up to the radio, adjust the volume, point to aforementioned radio and order you to - "dance, dance" (to me, that's the equivalent of having shots fired at your feet, like in an old movie) BW took her in her arms and spun her around, inevitably making Dear Alex squeal with delight - good for her. She stepped over the line by asking Alex if she wanted to dance with daddy. (If you ask Dear Alex just about anything these days you either get a head shake "no, nope, uh-uh" or an enthusiastic "yeah!") I got the enthusiastic "yeah!" - I shot BW and the poor girl my most withering look (BW called me on that one) but dutifully got up and and did the Alex dance. It's pretty amazing - I discovered that it's impossible to stay in a bad mood when you've got 24 pounds of wriggling, giggling baby love in your arms. She cracks me up.
Thank you for remembering me that, Beautiful Wife.

Words in common use this week

up
down
off
picture
cup
light
potty
mommy
daddy
snow
cookie
baa-baa
wash
dance
ball
hat
tissue
this
car
yeah!
clock
balloon

Monday, February 12, 2007

Weekend in the city

It wasn't the best of weekends, but that's what happens when you get lazy. It's always about how much energy it's going to take to get it together to get out of the city vs. how much there is to do at home. Sometimes inertia and the prospect of accomplishing something on the ever-growing list of things to do at home wins out - though it never turns out as you plan it. Dear Alex had her first-ever ride on the subway - the 6 train, no less, so she got introduced to the 'cattle car' right away. Something was up, some kind of delays going on, and we let a few trains go by until we found one that might fit BW, daddy, and a stroller. I could go on at length about Dear Alex's delight with her first experience with the MTA, but suffice it to say, there wasn't much screaming and she made a lot of friends coming and going. Beautiful Wife went to return / exchange something at Children's Place, or Baby Place or whatever, and daddy took Dear Alex to play in the park at Union Square - We had a delightful time in the playgrounds on both sides of the park, and I was particularly enchanted (as was Dear Alex) by the (I'm not kidding) Irish nanny singing to the two boys in her charge as they swung on the swings...

The whole point of the trip was to go to the hateful 'Babies-R-Us' at union square, to buy the Thing of all Things - a toilet training seat - "pottty, potty" as Dear Alex already knows it, though she won't sit on it yet - just regards it at a distance and declares happpily "potty" - I'm sure she knows what it's about, but isn't quite ready to play the game. Holding the bag, carrying it home, felt like one of those heavy milestones that mark a passage - whether it happens sooner or later, I'm going to pay closer attention at diaper time. I can almost see the end of buying the 200 count boxes of size 4 diapers (yeah, Costco run on Sunday). What that means is beyond contemplation right now - part of me is definitely going to miss that first diaper in the morning - full of hope and mystery - what did you do last night beautiful girl? Ah, made a big stinky. good for you. I love you.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Name calling



















Who Dear Alex asks for - not a great sample really - just one evening's direct observation over the period from 6pm to shortly after 8pm. I had a slight advantage over Beautiful Wife as I arrived home 20 minutes before she did. I'm not really sure what the numbers mean, but I'm pretty sure that it has nothing to do with how she feels about who she's asking for.
Out of 97 discreet calls for someone, anyone, daddy came out ahead (by a mile). Don't let the numbers fool you, though - when Alex calls for daddy, it seems that the calls come in quick bursts "daddydaddydaddy daaaadeeee" and when she asks for mommy it's usually just one or two linked "ommy, mommie." It may be that she just likes saying "daddy", or perhaps it's because she needs to call me more often because I'm not paying nearly as close attention to her as Beautiful Wife does. It may be just a remnant of mommy not being around for her to call for.
The calls for Nanny Joan seem to come later in the evening as she's getting tired, or perhaps she's forgotten that Nanny J. left for the night an hour or so ago. The saddest and most pathetic of all, though, is her conflation of daddy and mommy into "dommie" - usually just after we've put her in the crib and left the room; "daddiedadd-eemommmieommie-dommie-dommie" - that is truly heart wrenching.

Words and music

I have always been a big fan of words, especially obscure polysyllabic words - apoptosis, echolalia, schistosomiasis, perspicacity, (I could go on) just for the sound of them - the way the rythym and beat of the syllables bumping up against each other sort of feels good to read and think about the sounds. A little wierd, maybe, but there you go. Of late I've been watching and listening to Dear Alex as she works out language and words, and my absolute favorite is when she breaks into babbling, or jargon as it's called. Technically, she's in the post-canonical or advanced form of speech development - she can break into a "a multisyllabic vocalization that contains a mix of different consonants and/or vowels overlaid with changes in intonation." However you say it, it's a wonderful thing for a word-freak to listen to - you can see her delight with the way the syllables feel. When this stage of her development started, I thought it was that she was trying to say something, but just didn't have the words - I realize now that she's just having fun with the sounds. Kind of cool. I make note of this, not because there's anything special about Dear Alex, but because it's fun for daddy to listen to, and I'm pretty sure this is a phase that isn't going to last too long.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Change










I've been going through the Dear Alex photo archive of late, and It's occurred to me that while I often blather on breathlessly about her growth and her small "person-ness", I don't really know when the change happened - when she went from inert lump-of-baby to active observer to active participant. It is astonishing (I use that word a lot) to me how much has really happened with her ever-evolving personality, but so achingly slowly (time is totally relative, here) that it only works if you take a longer view. I posted the above picture because it marked somewhat of a transition for me from lump-baby to little people. It seemed to me that she realized right around the time the picture was taken that there was a whole world to be a part of and see. There was nothing she could do about it, but she started really observing - there was a new light in her eyes.
That change was about 8 months or so ago and now the change accelerates daily, though you'd hardly notice - because it always feels like the same day - unless you're paying attention.

It's a little thing, but I remember that it took a long time for for her to say "daddy" but now I don't remember when it first happened - though it couldn't have been more than a month or so ago. Seems like forever, but it also seems like she's always been saying "daddy". Now, she adds new words (or approximations therof) daily, moves around incredibly well and climbs on and off the furniture as though she's been doing it always. When the hell did that happen? I'm guessing that it was a little bit every day, nothing big, until you suddenly realize that a: she's tall enough to reach the light switch, and b: she knows what it does and how to use it.

I guess this is just a little reminder to myself: Pay attention.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What I meant by "chill."















What I've been waiting for all winter - the still clarity of snow on the frozen lake, from someplace near the middle.

mmmm Toasty



























Dear Alex finally had occasion to wear her ugg. She looks a bit like a big pink marshmallow, and I definitely want a daddy-sized one. Props to Beautiful Wife for suggesting the mod to that old baby-bathtub in the closet - I cut off the feet and attached a rope handle. We tried it on the septic mound - it's slippery and quick, and it cracked her up. The girl loved it and it's really a delight to pull.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chill

Not for the steadily dropping temperatures, but for the mood for this weekend. Left the overwhelmingly grey drab of the almost-wannabe-winter weather in the city this weekend - in intermittent rain, and by the time we got to the GWB, it was snow. The drive to the Undisclosed Location was delightful in a complicated guy-thing sort of way. It's been a long time since I've had the occasion to drive in snow, and I'd forgotten the almost hypnotic quality of the constant stream of large flakes of snow coming at you in the headlights. As trite as it seems it was also somehow moving as it was the first time I'd felt so deeply responsible for BW and Dear Alex in the back seat. Lil'screamie did not do her usual - falling asleep shortly after we get on the road, but she stayed awake through nearly the whole journey, learning and using the word "schnow - schnow!" endlessly as we drove. Fun and funny for the first twenty miles or so, but there's that (recent parental experience) voice in the back of your head that says, 'this does not bode well' . When screamie gets beyond overtired, cranky is the only outcome.
Arriving at the house offered that rare delight of making the first tire tracks on a snow-covered driveway after a long drive with the feeling of having made a real journey, that beat - the moment after you turn the car off and relax in the snowy darkness.

There was a brief furry of activity, getting Dear Alex out of the car and into her crib, then peace. Of course, the dear girl wasn't really done - all went well until I was awakened at around 4:30 in the morning by her screams - BW stayed mercifully asleep, so I got up to deal. Alex had made a stupendous mess in her diaper, the likes of which I've not seen in a while: the consistency of Gulden's spicy brown mustard, and like mustard (have you ever noticed?) it kind of got everywhere. I hustled her downstairs, and changed her in the dark as she writhed and screamed and fought me with everthing she had - I have no idea why, but of late, she doesn't seem to want to give up the diaper. After the struggle Dear Alex is freshly diapered - and it's calm again.

That calm is what this is about. Once the screaming stopped, I noticed that it was as bright as daylight outside - there was a full moon lighting up the snow that I got to see and share with Alex. (she loves the moon) - all because of this now unusual early morning awakening. It was worth it, and it put me in mind of all of the times I'd done this way back when lil'screamie was just a peanut, and how quickly you forget that aspect of daddy-ness - the midnight wakings, the relentless tiredness is constantly being displaced by the newness and wonder of watching her grow.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mommie!

It's official: Dear Alex has finally gotten over her righteous anger at Beautiful Wife for leaving her alone with daddy for a week , and is saying Mommie again. She went to grammie's last night, and had a wonderful time, but towards the end of the visit she had a bit of a lil'screamie meltdown. Inconsolable crying, clutching at anything that she could get her little paws on and writhing as though she was on fire - holy cow you'd have thought I'd used the electric baby prod on her. As part of the magic, just to let me know how dissatisfied she was with daddy, she busted out a perfectly formed and articulated "mommy!-mommy!-mommy!" Good for her - good for BW, who I think has been feeling left out a bit. Now when the calls in the night come, who will Dear Alex ask for?

Where does the time go?

















Not a rhetorical question, I assure you - I was trying to figure out why every day seems like the same day. It turns out it pretty much is - and it sort of looks like the above chart.
The numeric values are in fractions of an hour, divided into types of activity. The darkest orange represents Dear Alex time, which actually works out to be less than it feels on some days. For what it's worth, this is my way of coming to embrace something that I've been wondering over for a long time: Why does it feel impossible to get anything significant done? Easy answer: No real time, save that large dark wedge at the top of the chart representing sleep, but you mess with that too much, and it ends up costing you in other areas. So the ultimate answer is to begin. To do the little things, to move things forward (or around) a little bit whenever you can. It's not so bad, and the kid's so much fun that it makes it easy to forget that you were going to...

FWIW: I really did work this out - Powerpoint is a wonderful app., in the right hands:
The pie chart represents 24 hours, the darkest gray represents sleepy-time, more or less.
the lighter grays on either side of that signify preparing for or recovering from sleep and / or time for personal hygiene, such as it is. The dark orange is lil'screamie time - either getting ready for, or doing things with - and in the morning (upper right on the pie) doing so while also scrambling to get ready for work. (i.e.: finding keys, cell phone, clean socks, and handing the dear girl off to nanny J. who arrives reliably at 8:30) The brighter orange wedges represent my commutes to and from work - an easy walk, and my most cherished times of day for thinking and / or getting supplies from the various grocery, deli and liquor stores along the way. Light gray is work time, with half-an-hour lunch, usually at desk. The early evening, after work is also Dear Alex time, divided almost precisely into hand-off from nanny J, reading, dancing, bathtime, and the growing-ever-longer bedtime ritual. Light grey (upper left of the pie) is TV time, or writing / reading time. And so it goes...