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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Six Months

I met Anna and Heraldo's baby girl last week and I'm amazed at how much babies change in such a short time.

Six months ago, there was a tiny, floppy, helpless human who was learning how to eat. Now we've got a strong, opinionated little lady who is... well... learning how to eat. Hmm. No really! It's so different!

She's now had avocado (bleh!) and banana (interesting... yum?) and peaches (okay, I get it now... yum!). Remembering to work "feed the baby food not from a bottle" into the daily routine is proving tricky, as is "brush the baby's tooth/gums" each day. But really, the change is amazing. Two weeks ago, there was gagging and shoving the food back out of her mouth and a look of utter betrayal. After weeks of watching us it, this looked a lot like, "Um, so this looks way more awesome when you do it. What is this dreck?" Last night when I fed her, it was giant open mouth, leaning forward to get to the spoon. She plowed through a cube of peaches and a chunk of banana in under 10 minutes. Hungry baby now knows that food is found at the end of a spoon. The next food is yam. Just steam it up, blend it, and see if it gets the seal of approval.

Athena started noticing the cats a few weeks ago. Previously, I'd actually been surprised by how little she cared about them. Now, Leeloo walks into the room and she just squeals with glee. Leeloo is dubious about the whole thing. Meanwhile, Pepper is fat and lazy, so when she's lounging on the bench, I've sat Athena on my lap and let her pet Pepper. Pepper is generally not concerned enough about this to actually move, so Athena loves it. Then we stopped by Kevin and Rachel's place to meet the new kittens. These foster babies are a trio of orange boys who think people are awesome and that this tiny human seemed just fine. Athena thought the kittens were the most amazing thing she'd ever seen. I've never seen her so motivated to move, but on her tummy, she started using her legs to push off and scoot forward. Kittens may just be the key to her learning to crawl. We'll see. The screaming giggling glee was amazing.

With a baby, you'll do anything for a smile. Our latest game around the house is the Baby Girl song:
We started doing this with bouncing her along to the song, but now when we turn and sing it to her while she's in her exersaucer, she bounces along to the beat. She even stops for the pause. I can't tell you how absurdly joyous this whole thing is for all of us.

At bedtime, we've got a routine where she gets bundled up, then we have a bottle and sing the bedtime song. It goes:
  There's a cow who's in your room just to jump over the moon.
  And the stars, they shine so bright, to keep you safe throughout the night.
  And the moon he likes to look at his bedtime storybook.
  And the planets overhead swirl and twirl above your bed.
  And your mommy gives you food to put you in a sleepy mood.
  But we're all just counting sheep til the baby falls asleep.
This is all sung while her Soundspa plays the ocean sounds and does a projection of a cow and smiling stars and a moon reading a book and sheep. So yeah, long nights of trying to get her to sleep led to a song growing. Her room is kind of magical. It's got a moon that changes phases, a ladybug that projects blue stars, glow in the dark stars as a border, an IKEA mobile with stars and planets and a moon and a rocket, and the soundspa projector. She loves watching it all til she drifts off to sleep. And then she usually sleeps from around 10 p.m. til around 9 a.m.

Yeah, we hit the baby lottery. Totally.

We started this insane garage project three weeks ago. The garage now has a foundation, studs that actually hold it up, a roof without holes, siding, and a new concrete slab. It still needs the side-door rehung, sheetrock hung, a bazillion nails in the siding, paint, electrical, a garage door opener, and a new rubber gasket on the bottom of the main door. The rest of the house apparently got jealous of the attention being paid to the garage and decided it needed some love. Last Friday, the a/c wouldn't turn on. While investigating that, Erik went down to the basement and noticed it smelled damp. A flashlight pointed at the drain to the kitchen sink revealed a giant crack in the pipe. He asked me to turn on the faucet. Everything we sent down the sink in the past few weeks was sitting in a big puddle under the house.

A round of emergency calls to plumbers got us a plumber a bit before 3 p.m. $600 and 3 1/2 hours later, we had a nice new drain pipe and Erik had mucked out all of the sewage under the house. Of course, the air conditioner was still broken and it was 95 degrees. We didn't hear back from the A/C company til Monday, and they initially said the first available appointment was on Friday. Luckily, one of their guys had a job on 10th Street, so he stopped by on his way home because he heard we had a baby. A few minutes of cleaning a fried earwig off the on/off connector and we were back in  business. Unfortunately, earwig electrocution is not covered in our warranty, so that was another $110.

Weeks ago, Erik interviewed for a full-time/permanent/tenure-track position at De Anza College. He got to the second round interview, and then we didn't hear anything. After the first week of waiting, we figured he didn't get it. After the second week, it seemed really unlikely. But as time stretched and we still didn't have a yes or no, either response started seeming more likely again. Weeks and weeks passed. It was torture. The kind of slow nagging torture that you can't explain, but leaves me just tense and touchy. Instead of actually planning a vacation, we would say things like, "Well, if you get the job, then let's totally do that cruise. If it's still cheap." And if you know anything about me, it's that interrupting my ability to plan is a Bad Thing. So five weeks later, he gets the call - he's hired!!! Yay! He's teaching Chem 1A on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. And yes, the cruise is still cheap. We're going to Alaska! On a boat! Woo! Can't wait! And also... he got the job!!! Woo!!!

Of course, that led to today's totally weird project: filling out a passport application for the baby. Did you know that "Occupation" is a required field? Pretty sure her whole job is "be a baby" but they say I'm supposed to just write "Child." The other thing is that she has to carefully follow the rules for a photo. Because yeah, sure, that photo will be really useful for identifying her over the next five years. Sigh. Security theater. A child under 2 need not have a seat on the plane, but she has to have her own passport to fly out of Vancouver. Go figure.

The other thing we had this week was baby's first sniffles. Since she's been busy borrowing my immune system, she had to wait for something that actually caught me to get sick. And well, here I am hacking with an unfortunate summer cold and she sounds just pathetic. As these things go, it had to happen eventually, and it's just not that bad. She was more fussy cutting her second tooth than she's been suffering through this cold.

It is at once hard to believe she's already six months old and hard to believe we've only been doing this crazy thing for six months. And now I'm half way to my one year goal for breast feeding. Someday, probably in January, I get to sleep all night long rather than waking up between 2-4 a.m. to pump. Eight hours of sleep in a row sounds like a mythical fantasy world, but in just 26 weeks, it could be mine again!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Weekend of Firsts and Lasts

My garage has been the sort of structure that you didn't want to look too closely at, lest it just give up and fall over, for a very long time. This is certainly true of the eight years I've lived here. But this winter, the roof finally gave up a little and started leaking, so long deferred plans to repair finally had to be moved into action. The only question was: how bad is it? My dad came down to take a look, and found that one wall was pretty much being held up by the roof and some sheetrock since the foundation board had long since turned to dust. Fixing it was very urgent, but he thought he could do it for not too much money (around $5k), and a lot of labor. Any plans I had for the 4th of July holiday quickly got erased and replaced with a garage rebuild. I took off Thursday and Friday and invited friends to help swing hammers and commenced a grand adventure.

After a morning spent in prep for the rebuild, we spent a lovely holiday afternoon by the grill at Paul, Karen, and Crystal's place. Lorelei splashed in the fountain while Athena wore the outfit that Lorelei had worn two years earlier. We relaxed a bit knowing that the rest of the weekend would be a nothing but work.
And because we didn't have enough to do already, our peach/plum tree delivered it's crop and Erik spent hours picking fruit. On Wednesday night, it was clear that there were too many peaches to fit in the fridge, and that some of them had gotten tears or bumps that meant they wouldn't last the night, even in the fridge. Erik packed as many as he could into green bags and left a pile on the counter to blanch before bed. We blanched and peeled and froze pounds and pounds of peaches. In December, they will be a lovely treat. We poured ourselves into bed at 1 a.m., praying the baby would not be up early.

Proving once again that she's totally awesome, Athena slept til 9:30. We all got up together, and Erik shuffled off to take his car in. I followed after feeding the baby and then dropped him at home to finish the prep work. Athena and I ran to Costco and Safeway to grab food for the weekend. I raced home and found my dad and the first of our helpers - Paul and Karen and Athena - already working on the garage.

Here began a pattern for the weekend which I couldn't seem to break. Athena needed to be fed, then changed, then she'd nap a little and I'd pump and just when I'd get free to go out and help, she'd wake up and I'd feed her again and set her up to play in the kitchen while I dealt with processing more fruit. Everyone was slaving away on my garage and I felt totally useless to the cause. But, the baby was cared for and out of the way, so that's something. That, and I made 15 trays of baby food, a half-dozen containers of frozen peaches, and a pie.

Meanwhile, the garage was rapidly transforming. Sledge hammers and Skil saws and pry bars - oh my! Our neighbors, Kim and Diego, were just finishing a similar project and had a 40 yard dumpster in their driveway. We'd chatted with them and Diego encouraged us to use the empty space in his dumpster, so many wheelbarrows full of debris headed across the street to fill the last of their dumpster space before it went away.

On Friday, Jennifer and Brian joined us and I finally made it outside for a bit with Athena. She sat in her Bumbo in the back of Dad's truck, supervising our efforts.

I at least got one task done, but ultimately, things like Skil saws are too loud for a little baby's delicate ears, so having her out there was not a good idea. After an hour of trying to cover her ears for each cut, she needed food again, so I headed back inside and gave up the idea of bringing her back out. Instead, I'd serve as support crew: making lunch, running to the store for more supplies, and keeping the baby out of the way. Athena was busy discovering her voice and spent the weekend with a whole serenade of squeals and sounds.

By Saturday, extra help arrived - Thad and Lori, plus Athena and Cyrus. Still, it was clear that this wasn't going to wrap up this weekend. Early hopes of pounding through it were dashed and I started to clear the calendar for another weekend. And I processed more peaches. I'm pretty sure this is the last time I'm going to spend this much effort blanching and peeling fruit. I don't know how my grandmother did it for all these years. Erik and I had a joke when I was pregnant about not wanting to be a "frontier wife." This typically surrounded the idea of having a baby without medical support, but this weekend, as I spent the entire time caring for a baby and making food and serving food and mopping up and he spent the entire time laboring on a construction project, and we both went to bed exhausted, I came out at the end of the day on Saturday and said, "I don't wanna be a frontier wife!" and told them that I was happy to drive them anywhere for dinner, but that I was not cooking again, until tomorrow.

Sunday dawned and Erik headed up to the roof while I made breakfast. By noon, he headed to Home Depot to rent a jackhammer. A strip of concrete needed to be chipped out, and the jackhammer made short work of it. On Saturday, Athena had cheerfully said, "I've never gotten to use a jackhammer before!" and sure enough, she grabbed it and chipped away. I walked out of the house at one point to see three guys standing around watching her jackhammer. Never once have I doubted her as Athena Huge and Mighty. My dad thinks she's the bee's knees. Usually he's a bit dubious about girls doing hard labor, but Saturday night he was singing her praises as the best worker on the job.

Meanwhile, I was keeping the girls sequestered in the house. Lorelei was napping and Athena was playing in her exersaucer. After one round of food, Athena started chewing on my finger and I noticed something pointy. Sure enough, her first tooth was poking through on her lower jaw.

Athena is rapidly transforming. Sunday night she had her first bit of solid food - a bit of mashed avocado. After a few weeks of watching us eat so intently, I'm pretty sure she was thoroughly disappointed by the experience. The look on her face was not, "Yum! Food!" but much more of, "What is this awful stuff?" Oh well. We'll try again tomorrow.  She also had her last bath on the dining table. In the past, she'd sit fairly placidly while we washed her. Now she's decided that bathtime is fun, especially if you kick the water. We'd had suspicions from the last few baths, but she achieved new heights of glee in splashing. We'd laid down a vinyl cover over the table, but soon the towel, the floor, the buffet and I were all soaking wet. There was nothing to do but laugh at ourselves (and start to figure out where we could take her for swim lessons).