Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby

The 'J' in 'NJ' stood for jolly this holiday season. To wit:

My suggestion to you is that we commence with this festive gathering forthwith!
Mommy's sister gave me a drum! That makes two -- I'm that much closer to the sprawling uber-kit I've been dreaming of.

Of course, the box works pretty well, too, if you want some funky Tom Waits-style percussion.
Oh yes, this'll do nicely. If the drum doesn't wake Daddy up, this bad boy will.
A tee-pee, huh? How do you shut the door on this thing? I need some privacy.
I know it's not a hat, Mommy. That's why it's funny! Sheesh.
No, Mommy, YOU come HERE.
Time to unwind with some light reading.
But first, more drum work. Daddy, can you spot me while i climb up here Moon-style and trash the place? Thanks much.
Not pictured: NJ devouring Christmas chocolate. This kid loves her some chocolate; she only has eight teeth to this point, but apparently they're all sweet teeth.

If you don't see NJ enjoying a gift you sent her in these photos, don't despair. If you can measure that sort of thing by how widely they are spread throughout the house, she's enjoying every single thing she got. And if you didn't give her anything ... well, what's your problem, anyway?

Oh, not really! I've got too much stuff as it is. Seriously -- this place is a mess.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas The Night Before ... Man, "'Twas' Is Such A Funny Word, Right? Always Cracks Me Up. Anyway, Where Was I? Ah: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Last year NJ was four months old at Christmas, so there wasn't a lot of Santa's-coming-to-your-house-with-presents hoopla. I mean, she couldn't even sit up by herself without the aid of a Bumbo (right) -- so even though she made out like an adorable little bandit, present-wise, there was no need to go through with the Christmas morning ceremonies. (My family has always done Christmas the right way: We open presents from each other after dinner on Christmas Eve, then go to bed and wake up to more gifts -- the ones Santa brought from the North Pole because I was such a very, very good boy all year long.)

This year, of course, is much different -- the kid is a force in the house. Walking, jabbering, running after the dog when prompted, all of that. Today we found that, in the spirit of this blog's title, she's pretty handy with a light saber (actually, a cardboard wrapping paper tube). The three of us just spent a good fifteen minutes playing "NJ slays the parental Stormtroopers" in her bedroom. (Only now is it dawning on me that, basically, we just taught her how to attack someone with a sword -- if she grows up to be a samurai villian, it'll be no one's fault but mine.)

Prepare to get bonked.
Once we've eaten dinner and NJ is asleep in her crib, The Wife and I will mobilize. There are a few presents that need assembly, and we have to arrange things in the living room Just So to maximize the "excited kid toddles into a toy wonderland on Christmas morning" vibe that, hopefully, I'll be capturing tomorrow with the camcorder.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hallelujah! She's Sick

We got some good news today: NJ has two ear infections -- one for each ear!

Good news? Ear infections are GOOD NEWS? !)@&+%#*&#@, Daddy!
OK, maybe illness isn't good, particularly a double-barreled ear situation. But after a couple of days when I thought she was turning into the Awfullest Toddler Ever, at least now we know what's up with that. She's been wailing at the drop of a hat -- including early in the morning, which today meant that I had to get up a good ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. (I know ... right?!?) She'd sit in her high chair and scream blue murder; she'd lay on the bed and scream herself crimson. Basically, she used every ominous color at her disposal to let us know about her discomfort.

Originally we thought it was a troublesome tooth coming in, but last night The Wife noticed NJ grabbing at her ear a lot, so she took her in this a.m. and the pediatrician handed down this diagnosis. Now NJ has been properly medicated and is asleep upstairs, The Wife is working from home, and I'm hard at work here in the basement office (or will be as soon as I finish this).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Duck My Life

We took our quack-quacking NJ to Green Lake this afternoon for a little bread-on-duck action. We've done it a couple of times already and she loves to watch the ducks, seagulls and other waterfowl in a feeding frenzy, as long as one of her parents is tossing the food -- as you'll see below, she's not much on throwing bread herself. Never passing up a chance to mentor my wide-eyed-with-wonder, ever-learning child, I delicately took a piece of bread from her hand and tossed it into the water for the birds. "See, like this!" I added helpfully. She only stopped crying once The Wife handed her another piece.

Once we were out of bread I walked Zeus around a bit while The Wife and NJ (her new chunk of bread still lodged in her pudgy hand) walked along the lake and kept company with the ducks. I saw that the kid was heading straight for a sizable rain puddle and thought "Uh-oh, those boots are going to get soaked." They did get soaked -- and so did a lot more of NJ's ensemble when she executed a Fatty Arbuckle-esque pratfall into the water, landing squarely on her fanny and not seeming to mind all that much. Sadly, the camcorder was already stashed away in her diaper bag, but here's a little photographic evidence to help us remember it forever:

Now, it's true I told NJ I loved the blues and hoped one day she'd get into Muddy Waters, but this isn't what I had in mind! Thank you, thank you very much -- I'll be here all week. Try the veal, and don't forget to tip your waitress.
We packed up the car and drove the now-pantsless kid home, where she continued to quack-quack for a bit, but then turned to other pursuits. Namely, marching around her room with a frog puppet on one hand, held defiantly in the air like she was a member of the 1968 Olympic relay team -- but cheerier, of course. There also were bubbles blown, laughed at, chased and burst. All in all, I think she had a pretty nice afternoon. And once she gets the connection between tossing the bread and seeing a duck feeding frenzy, I think she's going to be tossing a whole lot of bread.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Embarrassing Parental Milestone 2: Return Of The Embarrassing Parental Milestone

Last evening, NJ picked the remote control up off the coffee table and pointed it at the television.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sexy Beast

NJ has agreed to give up a little blog real estate in honor of her late, hairy brother, Willie. I had to put Willie's guns in the ground this week, and the boy deserves a few pixels dedicated to him.

All pets die eventually, but sexy boudoir photographs last forever.
You know Willie, whose official registered-with-the-AKC name was Redmond Chocolate Thunder, as one-half of the famous Two Idiots comedy team. He was as good a dog as I've ever known. I was fond of him from the day we brought him home, but he and I really bonded after two or three years when he established a routine that paid off for both me and him. He'd wake up The Wife very early -- leaving me be -- to let him outside and serve his breakfast. Then he'd come upstairs and jump back onto the bed with me and sleep until I got up. Shrewd, eh? This, I thought, is my kind of dog.

His penchant for eating anything -- A. Nee. Theen. Guh. -- was widely known, gossiped about and shuddered over. Now, at least, The Wife and I can blow our noses and freely toss our used tissues in the wastebasket without worrying that he'll be in there later, rooting them out and eating them. He so loved the scent and, apparently, taste of tissue paper that we occasionally came home from an outing to find that he'd pulled a nice, long trail of toilet paper from the bathroom to whatever room he'd made into his ad-hoc dining room. We learned quickly to shut the bathroom doors when we left the house, but sometimes we'd forget. And come home to this:

Don't just stand there pointing a camera, Ansel Adams -- get me some mustard!
In September 2009 Willie was slowing down, slightly -- a couple of gray hairs in the facial fur, and he took two steps at a time on the stairs instead of three -- but he still was being mistaken for a puppy on our walks in the neighborhood and around the lake. One day The Wife woke me up with news that he'd collapsed and couldn't move. I took him in and we found that he had a rare cancer that usually only shows up in Burmese mountain dogs. We had his spleen removed, but the cancer was fast and unrelenting, we were told, and he had two to three months to live. But he kept on keeping on -- his legs got a little arthritic, but I'd lift him onto the bed if he didn't feel like jumping. A couple of weeks ago, though -- fourteen months after he was given three months to live -- he stopped eating (and if you've been paying attention, that's a huge red flag). An ultrasound revealed that most of his innards were ravaged by cancer -- the vet was kind of impressed that he was surviving at all with so much of it all over his organs -- and while a steroid brought back his appetite and chippered him up for a while, it was only a while. A week later was Monday, and Monday was a really crappy day.

Zeus is still here, of course -- about a year younger than Willie, and a mutt so theoretically not as much risk of weird diseases. And while I love this guy too, he's no Willie. Whatever Zeus's previous owners did before The Wife and I got him from a rescue shelter did a number on him. It was weeks before he'd let us pet him, and to this day he'll only come when called about half the time. He's never fully embraced things like getting hugged or petted for long periods of time, or the general rolling-around-playing that Willie excelled at. We've always felt that Zeus loved Willie and liked us. Zeus followed Willie everywhere, and felt so secure and emboldened enough with his older brother that occasionally this notorious coward would growl at other dogs on our walks. Go on, come after me -- but before you do, get a real good look at this choco-Lab wildman to my right and ask yourself if you feel lucky.

Pass me that bottle, bro.
Now I feel better about things than I did in the days leading up to Willie's last trip to the vet, but I miss the SOB (I can say that, he literally was one) a whole lot. There's a beautiful song by The Band called "Rockin' Chair" about two elderly sailors who are headed home to spend the last of their days. I used to sing it to the dog when no one was around (he never once complained about my singing voice!) because the singer is one of the old geezers and he's singing to his friend Willie. It put me in the mind of a very, very elderly me sitting on a front porch, "with my very best friend, they call him Ragtime Willie." Silly, impossible, implausible, sure -- made me smile, though. And he sure loved the ear-scratching that came with it.

So it's the first Christmas in quite a while that I won't have to constantly worry that the tree is going to get knocked over because Willie is rooting around underneath it, or ornaments will be swatted across the room by his ever-wagging tail. It cheers me up a great deal to think that the next animal we bring into this house will be NJ's.

Oct. 31, 1997 - Dec. 6, 2010: RIP

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Walk On The Child Side

This is what's been going on around here for the past few days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Black Friday Comes ...

... that means Thanksgiving is over. Here, the gobble holiday was about as low-key as it gets. We did a lot of laundry, watched some depressing football games, and ate the traditional turkey-stuffing-green beans-squash-pumpkin pie feast. NJ had a good day.

Pie! More pie, please. And more of this delicious white stuff that accompanies it. Actually, I'll just take more white stuff.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Fun! Wait, what ...? Oh. It's No Fun. Ah, OK.

To what I'm sure will be the delight of NJ's southern-most grandparents, we found out today that she's not all that much into the Winter Wonderland scene. Not into it at all, really. Nope, not at all.

Of course, the temperature was a nipple-killing 28 degrees when we were outdoors a few moments ago. Still, her distaste for all things wintry started before we went outside, when she was slipped into her new (to her) winter jumpsuit like a hot dog wiener into its bun, if the bun was super-tight and zippered and Velcro-ed closed. And then there were the mittens. And the hat.

No, Daddy, I'm not helping you shovel. Forget it.

The Wife took her across the street to meet a faceless snowman, but NJ was fairly unimpressed.

I don't get it -- this guy has no mouth, so how is he supposed to tell me how smart and adorable I am? I'm wasting my time here.
By the time we ventured back across the street to meet a snowwoman wearing a grass skirt and shades, NJ'd had enough.

Seriously, it's colder than a witch's meal delivery device out here. Can we please go back inside? Like, now?
Today, like yesterday, all three of us have been home thanks to the snow, ice and Seattle's legendary inability to cope with either. The forecast says the mercury will rise above freezing in two days, but then it's likely to snow some more. So this could be the worst week of NJ's young life, or she'll get used to it and be a regular snow bunny by this time next week. Meanwhile, this is what's going on -- The Wife and I trying to get work done while simultaneously entertaining and keeping an eye on a 15-month-0ld whose walking skills seem to improve hourly.

See what I did, Daddy? She put down the laptop and picked up this book! I've always known that I rule your lives, but now I think I'm really going to start taking advantage of it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want ...

... but if you try some time, you just might find that you get something else you want.*

We broke out the camcorder yesterday to get some footage of NJ's fast-developing walking skills. Lately she's trucked completely across the kitchen and has made several multi-step journeys to one parent or another -- these usually end with her plopping into said parent's lap, giggling. Of course, with the camera rolling, the last thing NJ wanted to do was walk. But we got some other footage that's pretty watchable, too.

Here you'll see the budding genius's anatomy lesson, followed by a quick demonstration of her telephone know-how:

Paging Dr. NJ, paging Dr. NJ ... please pick up the purple courtesy phone ...

And here, in her room, NJ shows off two of her latest hobbies -- grabbing every article of clothing within reach and putting it on her head, and tossing her adoring parents multiple hugging-and-kissing bones:

Awwwww ...

*Apologies to Mick and Keith

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So, This Evening? The Cat's Away

And boy, did the mice play.

The Wife met a friend from out of town for dinner, so NJ and I were left to our own devices for dinner and amusement time in the evening. All my good socks were freshly washed and in the overflowing laundry basket, so I sorted the clean clothes while the kid cooed at the dog and played around on the bedroom floor. I tossed down a fresh, clean (I cannot stress that enough -- clean) pair of my jockey shorts near her, and the next thing we both knew about fifteen minutes of laughing and giggling had passed and NJ was sitting in a gigantic pile of underwear. When I reared back to toss a pair at NJ, her face lit up. When I launched them, she smiled (showing her two teeth and three of the four that are on their way). If a pair landed on her head, she laughed and laughed. When it fell off her head, she'd grab it and put it back, then move it for the next incoming pair. She even pulled a couple over her head and wore them like necklaces.

I thought about getting the camera, but do you really want to see my underwear? Yeah, I didn't think so. You're welcome, Internet!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The World's Most Underrated Baby Milestone 4: The Ultimate Baby Milestone

Sure, crawling and standing and walking are all big deals for a little kid. But last night I saw what has to be the be-all and end-all of baby milestones.

NJ was cranky in her high chair, and The Wife and I may or may not have been trying to cheer her up by busting moves from the world's most obnoxious wedding reception ritual, the Chicken Dance (apparently a day care fave), and/or imitating Mick Jagger's stage dancing (which also involves flapping chicken arms). NJ found this all quite amusing and laughed, then she pulled her hands into her chest and stuck her elbows out wide to make chicken wings. She smiled as though she'd just been accepted into a very exclusive club.

My little girl made chicken wings.

I'm getting a little misty-eyed just sitting here thinking about it.

Step, Daughter

After a few minutes of deliberation last night, The Wife and I decided that NJ officially took her first steps at almost 6 p.m. She's been flirting with the idea for more than a week, and over the weekend she took a half-step a couple of times, then took one entire step. However, she immediately toppled over, so upon further review we disallowed it as an extended fall. (We fawn over her and give her the benefit of the doubt, sure, but we're also sticklers!)

Last night, though, NJ let go of the basement sofa and took two solid steps to her mother, then intentionally flopped into her lap. A few moments later she stood up and went on a three-step jaunt before leaning into the sofa. Perhaps encouraged by our cheering, the usual frustration that comes with falling down wasn't there, so she's likely to keep at it and ramp up her efforts. She also showed wisdom beyond her year by deciding, after her successes, to call it a night with the walking. Quit while you're ahead, kid -- if it's good enough for Joe DiMaggio and George Costanza, it's good enough for you.

So now she's standing like a seasoned pro and is ready to start toddling around. We have a baby gate that I'm going to set up in the office doorway to keep her in sometimes (she likes to crawl from the office into the rest of the basement, and I immediately lose track of her and have to chase her), and to keep her out sometimes. She loves to stand up next to my desk and take things off it, and she's been reaching for Delbert the stuffed armadillo (right) lately, and if she gets him she'll hurt herself and the 'dillo. (I can't have that; I love her more, but I've loved Delbert longer, and he's already missing a couple of claws and the end of his glorious, glorious tail).

NJ is late to the walking game, and for a long time she never showed much interest at all in it. (We're pretty sure she's the last non-walker in her day care class.) But now that she's mastered standing, both by grabbing onto coffee tables or sofas and free-style, knee-bending, rise-from-nothing standing in the middle of the room, she's looking to expand her horizons. Lately she and I have been playing Dogs in the basement -- we get on opposite ends and crawl furiously toward each other (it usually ends with her stopping and giggling wildly while I gently plow into her) -- and I'm looking forward to changing the name of that game to reflect her two-legged status. Suggestions welcome.

UPDATE: NJ took three more steps today at day care, according to her daily summary note. So it looks like this just might stick.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Raisin NJ*

*or "Raisin Cain" or "Raisin da Roof" or "Raisin Objections" or whatever other lame "Raisin" pun you can think of

Get up offa that thing!

You will be mine. You will be mine, all mine.

One's too many and a hundred ain't enough.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Party's Over

Turn out the lights, the party's over
They say that all good things must end

Certain NJ-related developments around the household have that chorus running through my head at seemingly regular intervals. (It's usually Dandy Don Meredith's voice in my head, what with me being a football fan and a child of the '70s and all, but Willie's version is just so damn smooth. You're welcome!) The kid that I used to rave about, well ... oh, I'm still raving. But things aren't like they used to be. To wit:

Crying and whining. The kid was pretty good about this for a long, long time. Now, though, she's learned that crying and whining gets results. It really started during the Daycare Sickness Jubilee, and who could blame her for crying and whining then? Not me. But -- and it seems like some sort of world record -- she's been illness-free for at least a week now. The crying and whining? It's survived. Long ago, I think it was in NJ's first week, someone warned us against bending to the will of a baby who would "manipulate us." It was premature advice -- I didn't think a one-week-old knew much from manipulation -- but now I'm starting to get it. Particularly when she throws a loud, blubbery six-second fit and then calmly, coolly inserts her thumb in her mouth and clams up. Plotting her next move, no doubt.

Sleeping. I said once before that the contently sleeping infant who made us the envy of new parents all across north Seattle was long gone, and it's still true even though the daycare colds and bugs are gone. She can be counted on to wake up once per night these days. Thankfully it's not as bad as when she was sick -- last week, her nose was so stuffed up that when she sucked her thumb, she couldn't breathe. I imagine that was pretty frustrating for the little kid. Again, though, it's better now that -- for the moment -- she isn't sick. Also, I'm sure this can be blamed in part on her teething: Her teeth took their sweet time showing up, and now they're making up for lost time -- three are coming in now on the top, maybe even four. So we coasted for a while there on the teething front, and now it's catching up to us. This is a factor in the crying/whining, too, I'm sure.

Eating. NJ is no longer the Hungry Monkey who'll eat whatever is put in front of her. The first thing she struck off her to-eat list? Broccoli. She seems to get pickier by the day. And worse, she's started holding out for the things she likes best. A couple of evenings ago I made the mistake of saying the word "yogurt" aloud, and she was inconsolable (see "Crying and whining," above) until The Wife was shoveling creamy, peachy goodness into her mouth.

Preferring her mom to me. This one is the toughest to take. NJ's shown a decisive preference for The Wife, as compared to Dad Solo. The Wife brings her upstairs in the morning and she can't put her down on the bed with me to get dressed because NJ starts crying. The Wife goes into the kitchen to make dinner and she can't leave NJ with me because the kid starts crying; instead, she sits in her high chair in the kitchen and watches her mom. It's not that she dislikes me or anything -- she just was practicing standing up and beamed at me every time for approval -- it's just that she is into her mom right now and makes it clear. She's playing favorites and right now I'm lagging. The Wife spent an hour at day care last Friday for some pumpkin-carving goings-on, and a couple was there with their kid. The mom left and the kid started crying in dad's arms. The Wife leaned over to another father and said, "I wish my husband was here to see this, he'd feel better." The man (allegedly) replied, "Happens at our house, too. It's normal." I put a year into caring for her exclusively, you'd think I'd have some good will stored up by now. But: No. I still have to earn it every day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bon Appétit!

... and Happy Halloween!

I will not tolerate smart-alecks in my kitchen. No imitation crab meat and no smart-alecks!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Learnin'

When I picked NJ up from day care today, her minder pointed out something The Wife and I had noticed at home -- the kid loves her some books. She spends a little more than half her play time with the other kids, I was told, and the rest of the time she likes to hang out on her own. And when she goes solo, it's almost always in the corner of the play room where the books are always strewn about -- "the library" -- and she thumbs through books and yammers as though she's reading out loud (I think she's talking about -- or to -- the illustrations).

NJ does the same at home. Her drum, blocks and 2.1 million other toys now take a back seat to her 1.5 million books. She's got many of the standards, like 'Where the Wild Things Are' and 'Goodnight Moon,' but also some other stuff, like a book with a story told in Magritte paintings (my favorite) and another one featuring Monet. (I can't be more specific at the moment because they're most all in her room right now, and she's asleep, and, to me, most of them blend together into a mishmash of talking animals and trains and mother-child discussions.) Most of the time she thumbs through them looking at every page, but occasionally she'll speed-read through book after book until a pile of them has been systematically moved from her left to her right. And nowadays, when The Wife or I (mostly her) read to NJ after bath time, she pays a lot more attention to the story and illustrations and spends less time looking around and pointing at the dog.

So, for now NJ's taken a scholarly path. I don't have the heart to tell her that books probably won't be around much longer.

I also read catalogs. Hey, um, Daddy -- can I borrow a credit card?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Goodbye, Barking Frog; Hello, Dr. Maze And Red Robin

We drove to Redmond today and stopped at the intersection of Willows and 124th, right where the big fields open up. I could have turned left there and we would have been heading toward the wineries of Woodinville, which are just a couple of miles up from there. After hitting two or three of our favorites, we could have lunched at the Barking Frog before a leisurely drive back across Lake Washington to the city.

Instead, though, we drove straight through that intersection and pulled over to Dr. Maze's Farm for Pumpkin Patch Day! Because, you see, unlike those halcyon winery-going days of yore, now we've got the kid. I think photographs of adorable kids sitting amongst pumpkins are fine and dandy, but not nearly to the extent that, apparently, everyone else in the world does. I'm incredibly easy-going, as everyone knows, so when The Wife brought up earlier in the week, I got on board.

You know who didn't get on board? NJ. She didn't get on board. She just got "on bored." (Zing!) The first thing she did was get behind a wooden cut-out of Dr. Maze's truck and try to make her escape (which actually elicited the best smiles of the patch outing):

See ya, Daddy, wouldn't wanna be ya! Mommy and I are OUTTA HERE!
She showed a little interest in the goats and alpacas, but she'd seen farm animals just a couple weeks earlier and it was a bit old hat.

Yeah, yeah, I'm close to an exotic animal and he's cute. Whatevs. Anything more interesting over there?
Then, the pumpkin patch. A few days ago The Wife bought a couple of pumpkins to autumn-ize and Halloween-ready our front porch, so we were just about the only folks there not wheeling pumpkins around in wheelbarrows. I broke out the camcorder, but NJ was still pretty bored (also, she's been a little bundle of cranky joy lately, what with three teeth coming in at the same time). I must have hit wrong buttons or something, because when we got home this was all I had:

Nice job, Dad! You're a regular Francis Ford Scorsese.

Aaaaaaannnnddd ... that was pretty much it. We took some shots, but NJ didn't look at the camera much; her heart just wasn't in it. Here's just about the best of the lot:

That's your father, NJ. Act as if you like him, please.
Then, lunchtime. We drove around Redmond a bit until it struck us that we'd be eating at Red Robin; it's made for parents and kids. The last time I ate (I just typed "hate" by mistake; paging Dr. Freud!) at a Red Robin was in July 2009, when The Wife and I were on our way to the Oregon coast for our last pre-NJ trip. We were starving for lunch, and Red Robin was the only thing we could find at the next exit. We were seated at a table next to a family with a couple of kids who were having some loud fun, and The Wife -- who looked like this then, great with child -- said "Get used to it, we'll be going to these places a lot pretty soon." Fifteen months later, there we were. NJ was immediately interested when she saw kids leaving Red Robin with balloons, which she's already on record as being partial to. As soon as we got in, she was given a red balloon and her attitude noticeably spiked to "fun."

You can stuff your pumpkins in a sack, Mister, because THIS is a party!
NJ feasted on chicken, steak fries and a little broccoli. She also learned that she likes ketchup, thanks to me dabbing it on my finger and sticking said finger in her mouth. There were tons of other kids there, including a five-month-old boy sitting at the next table who cried until his mother pulled him in underneath the public-breastfeeding blanket, a sight that brought back fond memories of The Wife putting that cape-like thing on and hustling NJ underneath for a quick, inconspicuous meal. Now, we're thrusting mashed-up steak fries at her and swabbing the inside of her mouth with ketchup. Once we got home, NJ and Dad Solo both hit their respective beds for nice, long naps.

So thanks, Red Robin, for turning our afternoon around. Even though the burger I ate five hours ago is sitting in my gutty-works like an unmovable stone right now, and it actually feels like it's getting bigger and bigger.

It's their signature blend, so you KNOW it's gonna be good!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Saint NJ's Infirmary

What's worse than having a stomach virus that makes you throw up a lot?

Maybe having that virus travel further through your intestinal tract, and dealing with the fallout from that?

And what if you added not one, not two, but three new teeth making their gum-breaking debut simultaneously?

And then, let's say, all three of those conditions hit at once. And on the weekend you turned fourteen months, too boot. Is that something you might enjoy?

Yeah, NJ's not enjoying either, let me tell you. Tired, whiny, no energy. The kid's scuffling.

The patient, in happier times (almost a month ago).
To be fair, though, NJ's whining has not escalated from her whining that I've been whining about lately. She's been sick on and off for about a month now, and she's been going to day care for a month and a half -- do the math there -- and when she had a stuffy head you could tell it frustrated her not to be able to breathe through both nostrils without all the snot and snot bubbles. But this is the first time I've seen her really look sick: pale (except the red cheeks from teething), wan, and a sort of tired, resigned. "when will this be over?" look in her blue eyes. She's been smiling some, too, but it's a little weary. There's might even be a little resignation to it (that I'm probably projecting). She's drinking water and Pedialyte and eating yogurt, and hopefully will graduate to Jello tonight. I put a bland rice-and-broccoli lunch in front of her today and the look she shot me was best described as "exasperated desperation." "You have got to be kidding me, old man!" her eyes said.

And the teeth: All on the top ridge, in various stages of unveiling. She's had only two teeth for so long now I'd almost forgotten more were due to debut. Two are through the gum and the third is right behind, so hopefully the worst of that is over.

All that said, NJ is a tough little tyke. She's still standing up and looking around for congratulations, crawling around the basement (a little slower), chortling at her dad's "anything for a laugh" act, and doing brainy things like putting a soft round block into a soft square block that has round hole in the center, and then popping it out again. She's down, but she ain't out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stand And Deliver 2: Stand And Deliver Strikes Back

I was wrapping up work this afternoon when The Wife brought the kid down to my basement lair and said she had just stood up with no help at all -- no mommy's hand helping her, no pulling up by grabbing the coffee table. Just free-standing free standing.

Of course, she didn't do that once they got down here. All this happened, though:

My favorite part? Oh, that's easy -- the hands-in-the-air joy. And yes, there was a little drumming at the end. You're welcome!

Of course, once the camcorder was safely put away NJ did exactly what I was hoping she'd do while the 'recording' light was on -- she stood up without using mommy or anything else. You'll just have to trust me on that.

Stop me if you've heard this before, but: It's about time I finished up that baby-proofing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Doofus Entertains Sick Child: Film At Eleven

NJ was much more into this before I got the camera, naturally, both because I was getting a lot closer to her ("all up in her grill," as the kids say) and because she naturally ratchets down the happy-happy when the lens falls on her. Because she's all bashful and stuff. But this still puts a big smile on my face.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

Yesterday we were casting around for something to do, and a friend's Facebook endorsement led us to the Fairbank Animal Farm in nearby Edmonds. It was drizzly, and NJ is between raincoats at the moment (outgrew one, ordered another that hasn't arrived yet), but half the attractions are indoors, so we put a hat and one of her grandmother-knitted thick sweaters on her and made a go of it. It was fun -- and all new to NJ, who is a little city slicker -- and will be even more so when we return on a sunny day and don't have to scurry from covered area to covered area. Which, given that we're in Seattle, might be next spring.

First off was the duck pen, where I tossed some feed by the fence to bring the duck closer to NJ:

My daddy says 'Duck Soup' is one of his favorite movies, but I haven't seen it so I don't know if it's actually about, you know, duck soup. Anyway, you're probably safe as long as you stick close to me.
Then, it was inside the barn to see some livestock, as well as more poultry. NJ met a couple of sheep (not pictured) and two calves. She greeted one calf with the two-hands-on-the-ribcage move that has not exactly endeared her to the Two Idiots at home, and it didn't go over too well at the farm, either. This calf had been relaxing on the floor until NJ showed up.

This rump roast looks a little tough and stringy -- stew meat, maybe? Or a couple of nice chicken-fried steaks?
Then, NJ made way for ducklings (ha ha, get it?):

Let's take them all home. They can stay in my room.
At the chick incubator, NJ wantonly ignored the "do not tap on the glass" sign and tapped on the glass. Thankfully, the barn attendant missed it, and no chicks fell over dead with little chick heart attacks.

Because I'm a renegade and rules are for suckers. That's why.
Lastly, we stopped in an end of the barn that's reserved for frolicking in hay. NJ did some frolicking.

Farm subsidies for everyone! Hooray!
On the drive home, NJ crashed hard. She'd skipped her morning nap, and it was a little after noon -- nap time at day care. (Her transition from two naps a day to one at day care has really messed up her sleep habits and is the root of some of her late-afternoon crankiness -- something I stupidly forgot to mention in the "NJ's sleep" section here.) The Wife and I were able to stop at Burgermaster and eat in the car while she dozed. Parking and coming to a stop woke her up, of course, but she busied herself with a book while The Wife and I scarfed burgers, shakes, french fries (her) and onion rings (me). Because she's a good kid who loves her parents.

Sleep tight, Farmer NJ.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"This Single Parenting Is HARD!"

On the last day of my last Super Solo stretch with NJ, I was IMing with a co-worker, B, and complaining about getting up so early that day. I was thinking about the past three days and all the work I put into them, but at this point in our text conversation I had only mentioned that day's waking hour, then followed with "this single parenting is HARD!"

B, who has a daughter in college and a son in high school, responded: "laughing"

Well, yeah, I thought as I saw that she was typing more, I am pretty funny! Then she followed up with a short story about her friend who left town with one of their kids and left the other with her husband. B offered to help out, and her friend replied, "Oh, one is nothing."

"if you had 2 you could do this in yr sleep"

Ah. Not laughing with me, but at me. Got it.

So yes, perhaps I'm a little bit of a wuss for complaining about juggling a job, day care and a 13-month-old kid for THREE WHOLE DAYS. But I have no frame of reference for multiple children -- this is all I know, and all I will know. So I will lay out my experiences here and you feel free to snicker away. I've had a taste of single parenthood, and to me it looks like a pretty tough gig.

NJ's health. Her smoker's cough roared back with a vengeance the first night The Wife was gone. Exactly four minutes after I switched off the television and double-checked the alarm clock, she started hacking up a lung downstairs (Note to self: The baby monitor doesn't have to be set at maximum volume.) I booked downstairs and rocked her for a while, and after singing about half of the "Born to Run" album to her, all was well and she was nodding off again, cough-free.

NJ's sleep. The little girl who sleeps like a lamb and never has night issues, the one who was the envy of all the other parents we know, is gone and did not leave a forwarding address. Putting NJ down used to mean a kiss on the forehead, handing her one of the eleven stuffed animals, and leaving the room. But or the past few weeks, no matter how tired she is, putting her down is immediately followed by her rolling over, crawling to the side of the crib, standing up and shout-crying. A rocking-to-sleep session is now mandatory -- again, the Springsteen songbook was invaluable -- and middle-of-the-night wake-ups are common (although they usually don't happen after midnight, huzzah).

My sleep. The Wife gets up before I do and takes care of NJ in the mornings -- because she gets up earlier than I do anyway, and also so she can spend as much time as possible with her daughter before leaving for the office. So getting up early was a change, and a challenge -- particularly when I couldn't manage to fall asleep early at night to compensate. I ended up doubling my coffee intake, and anyone who knows me and the strength and amount of coffee I like knows that is a big deal. My innards are still reeling.

My job. It was a lot easier back when I was at home. The Wife would leave, but my day was already tailored to fit NJ's, so the adjustment ended up being not all that huge a deal. And hey, her nap time was my nap time if need be. Now, I've got a big chunk of work in the middle of taking care of NJ, so I'm expected to be sharp and active and alert and not napping or doing other mentally unchallenging things like building tall stacks of blocks and knocking them down. Add to that the sleep issues above and it wasn't pretty.

My time. I had none! Well, check that: From 8.30 p.m. to whenever I could manage to fall asleep, that was Dad Solo Time. The morning was all about NJ. The day was all about the job. The evening was all about NJ. Once she was in bed, I cleaned up her various messes, packed her next day's lunch, and performed a couple dozen similar tasks before I could sit down with a free mind. And then I was too tired to do anything except go to bed (and then fail to go to sleep). Oh, there was the one evening I worked late: Woo-hoo! I had no opportunities whatsoever to sit and stare at the wall, or inspect the hairs on my forearms. No Me Time at all.

NJ's whining. Still rocking her cold -- or, more likely, rocking a brand new cold -- and not napping long enough at day care, most evenings NJ was as whiny as I am in this blog post. As described here -- I used the phrase "a little irritable" to be polite to the kid. She turned it on and off like a spigot.

Oh, for crying out loud. Don't make me break out the world's smallest violin.
This is all a long-winded way of getting around to a shout-out to all the single parents out there. I don't know many, actually, but the couple I do know are raising beautiful, smart kids. To the previously untrained eye it looked pretty effortless. It was impressive enough then, but now that I've had some first-hand experience with it, I'm in awe. Kudos!

Also: The calendar tells me that today is the 70th birthday of the World's Greatest Househusband. Happy birthday, John. I haven't baked bread with my kid yet, but she's only 1 year old. Hopefully, there's time for that.

(In his last interview, Lennon said: 'I don't believe in yesterday. Life begins at 40, or so they promise. And I believe in what's going to come." Three weeks later he was assassinated. So maybe "Hopefully, there's time for that" is exactly the wrong message to be taking from the whole thing.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Night And Day

The Wife was out of town from Sunday through today around noon. You're learning about that now because me Super Soloing with the kid is now old hat and not worth mentioning, really. This time it was pretty hectic -- I'll spell out my renewed admiration for single parents in a future post -- but it went very well. One thing I noticed was that NJ was a little irritable; she'd go from happy to whiny at the drop of the proverbial hat. I thought it may have something to do with her cough, which actually has petered out to almost nothing, or her new case of the snotties, which started up yesterday.

Now, I know it was because she missed her mom. A lot.

The Wife retrieved her from day care early, and ever since the two of them got home NJ has been a smile-and-giggle machine. It's so cute it's almost appalling -- and insulting. I bent over backward to please you, with no help at all! Hey kid, how about, you know, a little something for the effort, you know?

You know I love ya, Daddy, but look! Mommy's home!

Friday, October 1, 2010

She's Got Blisters On Her Fingers!











What? Yes! That's right. NJ has climbed atop the drumming heap and now figuratively rubs shoulders with popular music's all-time greats. The kid is a percussion natural:

Where's the rest of my kit?
The Wife bought NJ that drum for her birthday, and after ignoring it for a few weeks she's suddenly taken a big interest in it. And she knows what to do, too -- despite what you see in this particular photo, she knows how to hold the drumsticks and can tap out a rhythm for several beats that's at least as good as anything Dave Grohl ever did. When I start drumming myself (I have the rhythm and swing of your typical middle-aged white-boy doofus, but I have positively nailed the intro to 'Sunday Bloody Sunday') she'll come crawling across the basement, sit next to me and pound the drum with her hand until I turn the sticks over to her.

For starters, I need a high-hat and some tom-toms, and at least two bass drums. Chimes would be great, too.
The list of accomplished female drummers that I'm familiar with is short -- Mo Tucker was adequate with the Velvet Underground, I don't care about the White Stripes enough to care about Meg White, and I suppose Sleater-Kinney had a drummer. The drummers for the Go-Gos and the Bangles have always been known to me as "the drummers for the Go-Gos and Bangles." (I just looked them up, they're Gina Schlock and Debi Peterson.) Karen Carpenter was a pretty solid lady beat-keeper, but Carpenter's music is far too pedestrian for a hep cat like NJ.

"Set's $@*$!*#& over!" she shouted, before proceeding to violently overturn her drum in a manner that brought a tear to the eye of Keith Moon's ghost.
Perhaps one day NJ can form a band with her guitar-playing uncle. She's probably as adept at drumming now as he is at picking, so maybe they'd make a nice White Stripes-ish duo. I'll be their manager.