Friday, January 29, 2010

Nakey Brekkie

From her father Olivia Lee gets her dry wit and careful logical thinking.  From her mother she gets her love of dressing casually and feeding herself.  Today we combined these shared loves for a special meal before I take her to Oma and Opa's for the WHOLE WEEKEND.  I figured I'd give her everything she ever wanted, and throw in a nice warm bath to boot.

Thus, we have a  naked baby sweet potato eating naked mushy sweet potatoes.

I make cannibalism look GOOD, people.

It's not just every day that you get sweet potatoes in your eyelashes.

Sweet Pota-TOES!  Get it?  Get it?

She hasn't yet figured out that she can feed herself with her hands.  Because food comes from SPOONS.  SPOONS, YOU IMBECILE!

Post-breakfast, Pre-bath revelry.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Campaign for Mother of the Year Begins NOW!

Lately I've tried my hand at making baby food for Olivia now that she's eating solids.  I can't yet decide if this experiment is going to become habit or float away into the past tense.  It's hard to tell if this is a feasible nurturing act or just a gigantic pain in the ass.  Here's a review so far of the processes and results of squeezing the life out of certain foods and feeding them to my baby.

By far these have been the easiest to cook and puree in the blender.  You just peel carrots, chop them small, steam them until tender, and toss in the blender with enough plain water (not reserved cooking water) to make baby food.  Voila!  You are mother of the year.  And they're so beautiful.  They retain their vibrant sunny carrotiness that is somehow lost in the mass production of baby food.  See for yourself (modeled by the lovely Livy Lee):

Orange face.  Blue eyes.

You can just see the nutrition in that vivid orange, and you can see its effects in the squishy fatrolls on that sweet baby girl.  So, for ease of preparation, nutritional value, and tastiness, I give homemade carrots an A+.

Now, peas would seem to be a lower-maintenance vegetable to prepare since they can be made from frozen peas and require less handling before they hit the pot.  After all, the recipe I used reads basically the same as for carrots:  cook according to package instructions, then puree with enough cooking liquid to make a smooth baby mush.  Easy enough, right?  WRONG!

I threw the peas in the blender and watched as their skins gummed up the entire works and refused to break down enough to reassure me that Livy wouldn't struggle choking them down.  Since she's new to "solid" food, she needs them to be really smooth.  In the future the skins won't be much of a problem, but boy are they now.  After blending the little bastards until the base of the blender started to get hot to the touch, I finally scooped the green slime out and strained it.  This isn't a difficult process, but it is a messy one.  I'm still finding little green splashes in my kitchen today.  With practice this could get easier and less messy, and perhaps the blender wasn't quite the right appliance to puree with.  Maybe the food processor will be better.  It's worth trying again because Olivia loves her peas so much.

Pea love...

And again, look at how vibrant and, to quote Nigella, "verdelicious" that is.  So much prettier and more delicious (I try everything that she eats) than jarred peas.  So, peas, I give you a B+ and am willing to renegotiate this grade pending further experimentation.

My perception of the difficulty of making sweet potatoes is colored by the fact that I was making them late last night after a long day, a really difficult workout, and a bedtime battle I'd rather not recall.  I think they were easy, but MAN did I hate them last night.  I think with further attempts I can refine the process and make it more do-able, and it'll be a cinch when I'm confident that Livy can handle more texture in her food.

So, I peeled, chopped, and steamed two sweet potatoes.  Then I mashed them using most of their cooking liquid to make a paste.  This still seemed too chunky for me, so then I transferred the orange muck to the blender where it staunchly refused to blend.  Then I swore and pissed and moaned and said mean things like "that goddamned baby had better appreciate this goddamned food" so loudly that SLB reminded me that making baby food is an elective process and that we can always buy it.  Then I went on a long diatribe about the offensiveness of paying 89 cents a jar for 2 cents of product that beat us both into a submissive stupor, at which point I added more liquid to the blender and finally achieved a consistency I was happy with.  Sweet potatoes must remain ungraded until I try making them again in a more stable mood.  I was in no position to subjectively assess the process last night.

I would have taken a picture of Livy covered in her breakfast sweet potatoes this morning, except that she was such a demanding little eater that I couldn't stop shoveling them in her face long enough to get the camera.  She ate two meals' worth, plus some rice cereal, plus 6 ounces of formula in about 20 minutes this morning.  It takes a lot of calories to maintain this level of cuteness.

Manning her workstation.

All systems are go!

UPDATE, 4:19 pm:  I just saw those sweet potatoes again, this time exploded out of my daughter's diaper and all up her back.  The digestive process did nothing to improve them.  Olivia got a surprise midday bath and we both got new outfits.  Not cute.  The end.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vital Stats

Livy just had her 6 month checkup this afternoon, and that there is 27 inches and 19 lbs 4.5 oz of sweet potato.  She's still in the 95th percentile for height and weight, which explains my previously mysterious ability to lift more at the gym than I could at the peak of my fitness.  So far she's weathered her vaccinations well.  She didn't register the first shot at all, and she turned red and screamed only once during the second shot.  Then we came home and had a good 2 hour nap, and now she's gleefully beating the tar out of her baby gym.  I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, but maybe it'll remain suspended.  I sure hope so.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to cut this post short in order to enjoy Ali MacGraw playing the unexpected love interest of trucker hero Kris Kristofferson in the 1978 classic Convoy.  Oh, Burt Young, you were never meant to be anyone but Paulie.  And you, Ali, were never meant to be anyone but Jennifer Cavalleri...

Over and out.

UPDATE!  It turns out that I couldn't watch Convoy after all because my delicate postpartum hormones couldn't take the violence indicated by a horribly brutalized prisoner.  Stupid baby making me feel feelings.  If I can't even enjoy patently ridiculous movies such as this because they hurt my heart, what am I left with?  Romantic comedies?  Disney movies?  C-SPAN?  That's no way to live, people.

I guess I'll read a book.

Over and out and out and out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Investment Tip

You all should buy stock in Earth's Best baby food, particularly in this product:

There is about to be a huge uptick in sales of their fabulous first stage baby carrots.

She ate the whole jar.  I fear tomorrow's diapers, but tonight's dinner was magical.

Monkey Baby Eats Bananas: Film at 11

Because I've referred to Olivia as a little monkey basically since that stick done got peed on, and because bananas are SLB's favorite food, our choice for Baby's First Solid Food was obvious.  So, bananaward we ventured!  I wouldn't call the journey a success, but we didn't fall off the edge of the earth or get eaten by sea monsters, either.  All in all, we'll call it an attempt.  Good enough.

Happy to start.  Excellent table manners.

Mama prepared a delicious repast.  "Wait, now.  What?"

"What if I just teethe on the bowl?  That's a compromise, right?  Right?  Mom?  Dad?  Right?"

"Why, Mommy, why?  Oh, the humanity!  The horror!"


"Bananas are dumb, but YOU'RE awesome, Daddy."

"Yeah, it was a little fun..."

.. but let's not make a habit of it."

El fin.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Away We Go!

I promised a post about traveling with an infant, and here it is.  Please take any and all advice held within with an enormous grain of salt.  We have done this only once, and we have a generally magical baby who is rarely upset and is very easy to calm.  So, we had a great experience, but the odds were stacked in our favor by Olivia's easygoing demeanor.  We also could have just had lots of dumb luck, too.

I took lots of advice from Mightygirl's blog posts on traveling with children here and here, much of which came from the comments following each actual post.  If you're planning on taking your little one flying, you'd do well to at least read these over.  Her plans are so detailed that they seem daunting, at least they did to me before we left, but when put into practice they really do help.

So, without further ado, here's SLB's and my advice for flying with an infant.  Aaaaaaaaaaand GO!

1.  Get there early, but be prepared to wait.
With fears of crotch-bomber-inspired intimate glovings dancing in our heads, we arrived at least 2 hours early for both of our flights.  Then we cleared security within about 15 minutes each way and had some valuable hangout time in the Seattle and Maui airports.  This actually wasn't so bad.  Given how much extra time it takes to do everything with a baby, like bathroom trips (SLB goes while I watch the baby, I take the baby in to change her diaper, SLB watches her while I go back in to the ladies' room to wash my hands and go - at least 10 minutes JUST TO EMPTY OUR BLADDERS) and eating (she lingers over her bottles as she likes to luxuriate in the sensory pleasures of powdered, reconstituted synthetic breastmilk), these extra hours can come in handy.  I was surprised in both airports how quickly the "extra" time passed.

2.  Bring a baby carrier in addition to gate checking your stroller and/or carseat.
We have an Ergo baby carrier that we loved when Olivia was a newborn, then couldn't use because she was in between the newborn- and sturdy-baby-carrying capabilities, and now love again that she's bigger.  We stowed this in a backpack in the airport while we pushed her in her stroller before boarding the plane.  Then, on the plane, we were able to take turns holding her in her baby carrier both standing and bouncing when she was unhappy and seated while she slept on us.  This way we could keep our hands free to eat and read while she snoozed snuggled next to us.

Here's a good shot of the Ergo and me being an idiot.  "We are two mariners / our ship's sole survivors / in this belly of a whaaaaaaale!"

3.  Overpack necessities and keep them with you.
Right before we left I filled a plastic container with a few bottles' worth of "extra" formula and brought an "extra" clean bottle with us.  We used all of that formula and the additional clean bottle on the way to Maui.  I hate to think of what would have happened if I hadn't grabbed these things at the last minute or if I had tossed them in with the checked baggage.  My advice would be to keep at least a full 24 hours' worth of diapers, wipes, medicines, food, and feeding implements on you as you travel.  If you're hesitant to do this, imagine being one of the people held hostage on the tarmac by airlines.  See how much you WANT to bring those extra wipes now?  Yeah, you do.

4.  Also pack these seemingly nonessential essentials and keep them with you.
Pack extra clothing for you and your partner.  Poop, barf, and pee come easily flying out of your baby and onto your person.  You don't want to wear that all day long on the plane, and people sitting around you don't want to smell that on you all day long, either.  An extra shirt apiece ought to do it.

Additionally, remember that airplanes are FILTHY places.  I was so glad to have packed Clorox wipes in a baggie so that I could disinfect our armrests and tables before we sat down, and I was happy to have a trio of thin receiving blankets to place over the backs of our seats for Livy to touch instead of the airplane upholstery.

5.  Be nice to people.
We were extremely blessed with warm and friendly TSA agents on our way to Maui and benignly indifferent ones on the way back to Seattle.  Regardless of the reception our efforts received, we went out of our way to make processing us through security as pleasant and easy for them as possible.  I declared all suspicious materials (bottled water, bottles filled with medicine-treated filtered water for bottles, powdered formula, etc.) immediately upon arriving at the conveyor belt, and we had our system for getting all of our belongings onto and off of the belt as quickly as possible pretty down pat.  We also made it very, very clear that we had never done this before by stating it to anyone who would listen.  That way no one expected us to be very good at it, and we scored lots of extra help from sympathetic TSA moms and dads at security and gate agent moms and dads later when we were boarding the plane.

6.  Understand that TSA, although a federal agency, is not uniform among states.
Yes, it's asinine.  In Seattle the agents had no problem with me bringing baby bottles of water for formula through security.  They had some kind of exterior test they performed that proved that Livy's bottles wouldn't kill us all, performed it quickly, and had my bottles back to me before I could get my shoes back on.  In Maui the agents had NO IDEA what to do about these bottles and, after much conferring over whether to confiscate them or not, ran them through the metal detector.  Nope!  No metal in those clear bottles of water!  Thanks for checking, guys.  Now, a lesser version of myself, or perhaps just one not desperate to make traveling with an infant as easy as possible, would have launched on those jokers like SLB on a feast of cookies and bourbon.  But I was ready for the asininity, and so I was able to smile at it instead of losing my composure.  For once.

7.  Dress comfortably.
Yes, I gave up a piece of my soul when I boarded the plane in yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt, but it was worth it.  Since I wound up spending hours strapped in a waist-buckled baby carrier and seatbelt, I'm so glad I didn't have an additional belt and buttoned waistband to negotiate.  The marsupial pouch of my sweatshirt came in handy, too, as a convenient and relatively clean receptacle for burp rags and baby toys.  I was not pretty, but I was able to withstand the discomfort of traveling with a baby strapped to me just fine.

8.  Rent baby stuff.
We rented a Pack-n-Play and an exersaucer from an independent baby-crap-rental agency instead of packing travel equivalents of her usual furniture and toys.  It was so worth it.  It set us back about $40 for the week, but saved us hours of discomfort in traveling with extra pounds of baby gear.

So, there you have it!  Be bold, friends!  Traveling with Livy took extra care and attention to detail, but I'm so glad we put forth the effort to go to travel with her instead of passing it off as too difficult to manage.  Sure, it could have been awful, and we were ready for that.  But then it wasn't.  Then it was AWESOME instead.  Huge win!

Salud!  Congratulations on your huge win, baby!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Half Birthday!

Today is Olivia Lee's 6 month birthday, and I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by.  It's staggering to think that it was half a year ago that in the haze of fear and drugs and exhaustion during my emergency C-section I heard a wild disembodied baby cry and SLB exclaim "It's our daughter!"  Hearing her angry wails and seeing her kicking at the nurses trying to clean and measure her assured me that she was definitely meant to be ours.  What a wonderful morning that was, just wonderful.

Today is also the day that I attended a funeral for a student's mother.  She was 49 and died of cancer, leaving her 3 daughters - two in their 20's and a 17 year old - without their mom.  It was a lovely service, very warm and with a strong feeling of fellowship and support for those three beautiful young women.  I had expected to go to lunch with a friend and fellow attendee afterward, but I just couldn't wait to get home.  The two eulogies given by my student's older sisters about their mother and the relationship they shared with her urged me homeward to my waiting daughter and mother, who was watching Livy.  There was a graceful symmetry to coming home and wedging myself firmly in the center of our grandmother-mother-daughter triangle.  It felt like where I belonged today.  After a morning in which a crowded churchful of people tacitly closed ranks around three women in need, it was so satisfying to come home and close ranks with my mom and baby.

Now, I know it's a cliche for someone coming home from a funeral to recommend telling your loved ones that you love them while you can.  But it's a cliche for a reason.  So, do it.  Emotional vulnerability is a bitch, no one knows that better than my crusty, self-protective self, but it's always, always worth the discomfort and risk involved in exposing your heart to those you love.

So, Mom, I love you.  Thanks for being a great mother, and thanks for being a phenomenal grandmother to Livy.  Thanks for being there today and getting me out the door, and thanks for being there when I came home a mess.  You're the bee's knees, and now the whole damn internet knows it!

Love at first sight!  Livy and Grandma, Day 1.

And, to cleanse the palate and save some face (I have no feelings.  I HAVE NO FEELINGS!), here is what Livy looks like when I sing the Geico ringtone to her.  That little Philistine LOVES that song.

And here is what we're doing with the rest of this gray day.  I'm going to love on that baby hard today.

Snuggles, Snacks, Sofa: The holy trinity of a gray Seattle day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Inching Off the Ledge

She's cute. Not tonight, when she spent hours screaming her fool head off for no reason instead of sleeping like she so obviously wanted to, but in general she's cute.

Let's remind ourselves of this, shall we? I need to remember the good times when the bad times have so recently shrieked their way out of my baby's body like so many exorcized demons.

Cute, right?  There's hope to regain this cuteness in the future, right?  Right?  What about this:

Babies in hats are cute, right?  Maybe I should put a hat on her when she wails all night long.  Maybe that would work.  I mean, it's not personal, right?  We used to feel like this about each other.

But now she's not so sure.

I'll sleep on it.  She'll (hopefully) sleep on it.  We'll start again tomorrow.

Night, night, baby.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

All I Ever Wanted!

You may have heard through my near-constant gloating that our little family just traveled to Hawaii.  We were using the tickets from the trip we were supposed to take last year pre-Livy but had to cancel so that I could enjoy some of the finest bedrest available.  So, instead of a romantic babymoon with virgin coladas of all flavors we had a family vacation with stiff alcoholic coladas of all flavors.

To answer the most common question, Olivia did wonderfully on the plane for both flights.  I'll write more about traveling with a baby later.

Until then, here are some highlights and lowlights of the trip.


Highlight 1:  Dipping Olivia's toes into the ocean for the first time and taking her swimming throughout the vacation.

First ocean dip = wild tears

Second ocean dip = not much better...

... but the pool was a success.  Here we are - Rubenesque and Rubenesquer.

Catching NO rays thanks to Mama's religous application of SPF 70.

The next day at "Baby Beach" was a huge improvement.  She studied the water seriously.

The only time she cracked a smile was when I'd throw her in the air, catch her, and then dunk her in the water.  She prefers air to water, apparently.  Perhaps because she can breathe in it.  She's logical like that.

Highlight 2:  Critters

Our vacation was filled with amazing critters besides that which we conceived.  From our lanai we saw humpback whales spouting, eating, and playing every day.  The photos aren't nearly as impressive as the whales themselves were.  One morning a mama whale beat the living daylights out of the water's surface with her tail, stunning fish into stillness for her babies to more easily eat.  The next night, during a gorgeous and fiery Hawaiian sunset, a huge humpback breached in silhouette against the orange sky.  It was glorious.  We also saw a handful of turtles eating off of the rocks in front of our condo while we ate breakfast and had coffee on the lanai.

But our closest encounters came at the Maui Ocean Center aquarium.  There we met one of my very favorite animals, the wily octopus!  He was very active and entertaining.

Excuse me, miss, you seem to have a little something on your head.

She was far more interested in eating her baby carrier.

We saw lots of other great fishies, too, especially in the Tunnel O' Fish.

SLB liked the ray; Livy liked the Daddy.

Highlight 3:  I most enjoyed just hanging out with my two favorite people.

We enjoyed the oceanfront view from our lanai...


A bottle of wine named after our first-runner-up favorite baby


And I most enjoyed this meal, where SLB learned what it really means to live with two loud, jovial, chubby ladies who demand all of the attention in any given room.  We had joked about it before, but he hadn't really confronted the reality behind these jokes until this meal.

Yes, that is a pile of peel-and-eat shrimp.  And, yes, that is a high-energy, squealing, giggling, spitting, screaming baby.  I don't know which horrified and embarrassed SLB more, Olivia's gleeful screeching echoing off of the restaurant's walls in a thousand reverberations of ear-splitting delight or my voracious dismembermering and consuming of a dozen or so seabugs.  It didn't help that as I ripped one of the shrimps' heads off its rust-colored brains shot out across my arm, chest, and face, nearly hitting the woman at the table behind me.  Unfazed, I wiped off as best as I could and kept snarfing as Olivia giggled ecstatically and kept screaming.

Needless to say, at SLB's behest we left early.  Livy and I had a great time, while SLB lost at least 30 days of lifespan due to his ladies' bad behavior.

So those are the highlights.  And the lowlights?  Well, considering the power of the highlights, they aren't really even worth mentioning.  No irritation or disappointment on vacation is worth remembering in the cold, hard light of real life, so let's just end on a high note, shall we? 

Yes.  Let's.

The End.