Thursday, April 29, 2010

That's What She Said, Or: Embarrassing Parental Milestone

For the first several weeks of NJ's life, obviously, The Wife and I (mostly her) were up all hours feeding and caring for her. That's when the DVR earned its keep. Set that puppy to record shows during the day, then watch them at all hours when the kid needs to nurse and be rocked to sleep. We had a seemingly endless supply of "The Office" episodes, because both TBS and a local TV station shows multiple reruns throughout the day. The Wife and I ODed on Michael Scott's sublimely boneheaded antics to the point that now, when an episode starts, I know if there is a joke in it that strikes The Wife as particularly funny; when it comes along, she chuckles and I say "Oh, you thought that was funny, did you?" in a super-sarcastic voice. She does the same to me. (Possibly related note: We are dorks.) So: It's a good bet that over the last eight-plus months, "The Office" has been on our television set for at least a few minutes almost every day.

Late last week I was flipping around after dinner and "The Office" came on right at the beginning. The theme song started up, and NJ -- who was nursing, eyes closed and head facing the other direction, content to the point of being in another world -- jerked her head around and stared at the screen until the music was over. The next night, same situation, same result -- "The Office" theme immediately got her attention, like a bomb went off in the corner of the living room. Next night, same deal. Every time I've played "The Office" for her since, in fact. She's Pavlov's Cutie.

The future Mrs. Dwight K. Shrute?
So chalk this up as my official First Corruption of Youth. I think my next project will be to train her to make me a martini every time she hears the theme from "Mad Men."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

She Probably Thinks This Blog Is About Her

Can it be that NJ is turning into a little narcissist? Or at least she's really working on her vanity, right along with her vocal and motor skills.

A couple of weeks ago we had a photographer in for a wide-ranging Vanity Fair-style photo spread of the child. NJ playing in a pile of toilet paper, NJ looking pensive in her great-grandfather's rocking chair, NJ looking slyly through the slats of her crib, NJ thumbing through her big cloth books. You know, the typical up-and-coming Hollywood star stuff. When the photos were done, The Wife and I were clicking through them on the computer here and NJ caught a look at the screen. She laughed and The Wife asked her if she recognized the kid in the photo. She laughed a little more, and I clicked on to the next shot. NJ was delighted when the next photo of herself materialized -- arms waving, beaming smile, adorable giggle. This continued, and escalated, with each new photograph. After a while I expected her to lean over and whisper "Let's use that one for the head shot, send it to Miramax stat" in my ear.

Over the weekend, NJ's fascination with herself spiked even higher. I've talked about our stops in front of the hallway mirror before, but a few days ago I noticed that it's no longer about me making a funny face, or the adorable juxt of big, beefy Dad Solo and his tiny, cute-as-hell daughter. No, it's all about her: NJ squeals, flaps her arms like a bird, kicks her legs and generally goes nuts, staring at herself. And just when I think it can't get any worse, she almost falls out of my arms reaching out to touch herself in the mirror. I guess I'd better not take her to the lake any time soon.

Oh well. I suppose it's hard to blame her. Who could resist this? She's not made of stone, after all.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Party Down

NJ's jibber-jabber and screaming caught up with her today when, on a play date with four other equally adorable babies, her strident vocalizations upset her hostess to the point of tears, a couple of times. I wonder if she's destined to be a brassy, mouthy broad.

Still, everyone had a wonderful time in a beautiful backyard on a cool, sunny Seattle Sunday. NJ even cut loose with a giggle fit, something outsiders rarely get to witness.

Oh Mommy, stop it. You are slaying me, girlfriend. My sides, they ache. With laughter!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phases And Stages

And no, don't be confused -- it's not not this Phases And Stages. (And shame on you -- especially if you're a Texan -- if you didn't know about that classic Willie Nelson album.) I'm talking about NJ's ever-changing personality and the sounds, facial expressions and hand signals that come with that.

Early on, it was "Ma." Then, there was "Pa." Soon thereafter came "Ba." That was a while ago. Then there was a big-smile-and-vigorous-head shake phase, which was captured (oh so briefly) here:

Shot in the wild, the subject in the midst of a maniacal laughing fit. You'd expect her to morph into Vincent Price at this point, but she never does.
The head-shake phase lasted about a week. Then, NJ decided it was back to sound-it-out syllables -- she hit the "Ah" really hard, and for a long time.

Meanwhile, she's mixed in some pretty impressive raspberries. Dad Solo is a big fan of the Bronx cheer, and NJ has taken it to heart and can fire off some very loud, spittle-flecked raspberries that can last ten seconds or longer. She often drenches the front of her shirt trading raspberries with her old man. Her hands flit and bounce in front of her collar as if she's shooing flies away.

So now we've got the "Ah!" and the raspberry, and to that combo NJ has very recently added the most adorable clicking sound you've ever heard. She mashes the tip of her tongue into the roof of her mouth and drags it down sharply with a chlock that is cute enough on its own, but here's the thing: She can't seem to do it more than once without breaking out in a gigantic all-lips-and-no-teeth-because-I-don't-have-any-yet smile that will positively slay you four ways to Sunday. She and I have had conversations in which we've traded chlocks for a good minute or two; with each chlock, her smile gets a teeny bit wider. It's a good way to cleanse your mental palate -- particularly if you've been doing something unpleasant, like paying bills.

Over the past couple of days, NJ's thrown another aural delight into the mix: the all-purpose scream. It's fun, too, and you can have a good screaming conversation with her, even if it annoys the hell out of the dogs. It looks like this:

"Oy, mate, step off or I'll clock you right in the kisser. Bloody 'ell!"
So, to recap: Lots of conversations. All screams -- accompanied by flailing hands -- and "Ah!"s and chlocks. Eventually, of course, she'll be talking. For now, I like to think she's screaming "I love you, Daddy!" and the "Ah!"s are shorthand for "Great pureed carrots, Dad, thanks!" And perhaps the tongue-clucking chlocks are Na'vi for "You, Dad Solo, could not be parenting me better even if you wanted to, so remember that when I'm 14 and I act as though I hate and resent you, it will be a mere facade and deep down I will still love and respect you dearly."

Yeah, that's it. Music to my ears.

When Dad's Head Weighs Forty Pounds

I've been sick all week. It started last Saturday with a very sore throat, which ebbed a bit the following day before hitting again on Monday with full force, along with a stuffed head and all the other bells and whistles that accompany a cold. It was so bad that The Wife worked from home yesterday so she could look after NJ and, to a lesser extent, me. I even had to skip going out to watch the NFL Draft with The Guys, something I've only been looking forward to since last April. (Longer, actually -- Dallas didn't have a first-round pick last year, so I was already anticipating this year's draft two years ago. But I digress.) After about 18 hours on the couch yesterday (the Draft, 'Blade Runner' on blu-ray, etc.), I seemed to have turned the corner and hopefully will be right again by the time the weekend starts this evening.

So with me lugging around what felt like a giant concrete head, hocking and nose-blowing and spitting all day, and slipping into the occasional Nyquil-induced funk, you may ask: How did things go with the kid? Things went fine. Monday and Tuesday went as per usual, and we even went for very long walk on Tuesday -- to the drugstore for throat lozenges. The bad day was Wednesday, when I was laid too low to do anything other than sit around. And NJ was a champ. She played with her bazillion toys and napped like a pro and didn't complain about anything, ever. Which leads me to the buried lead of this post:

At eight-plus months, NJ is a very happy baby.

Yesterday she started fussing and crying at about 5 p.m., and after a few minutes deliberation The Wife and I realized she didn't get a meal after her afternoon nap and was hungry. So she got a bottle, and I tried to think back to the last time she'd cried like that. And I couldn't remember. I can count on one hand the number of times she's woken up in the night crying. Putting her down for a nap, or at bedtime, used to mean enduring a five- or ten-minute temper-tantrum cry; now she hits the mattress and either goes to sleep or jibbers and jabbers to herself for a while until she's out. (The Thumb helps, too.) No crying on wake-up, either -- oh, perhaps a couple of baby shrieks, but once you're in the room you're greeted by a smile that'll melt your heart and put a cartoon bluebird on your shoulder. And yesterday, I was laying on the couch when I realized that I'd been hearing NJ laughing hard for a couple of minutes straight. I got up to find she and The Wife having a laugh-off at the high chair. The Wife was damned if she could tell me what started it. Organic laugh-offs are the best.

I could go on forever about this stuff, but if you want more Internet cheese I suggest you go here. I need to keep in mind the unwritten rule that hangs over this blog, which is that while all these things are new and wonderful to me, I'm late to the game and all parents have been there and done that. But mostly, I feel like I'm jinxing the whole thing by typing it out like this. So I'll end it here and go blow my nose.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Potentially Regrettable Baby Milestone: Baby's First Fried Food

The Barking Dog Alehouse on 70th Street is a great place. Good food, an impressive beer list, a very impressive single-malt selection, and never too crowded (I'm sure that'll change now that my legions of followers are reading this). And today, it was the scene of NJ's first foray into the wild, wacky, delicious world of fried foods. The Dog serves tasty waffle-cut fries with its burgers and sandwiches, and as the chips that you find commonly paired with (fried) fish. Today, The Wife got a burger and I got the F&C, so there were plenty of available waffle fries. And NJ availed herself of them.

Yes, give me a taste of that bad boy.

Hmmm ... not bad. Not bad at all. Pardon me while I spread this across my face.
Waitress? Can we please get another pile of these things? Now?
Yeah, salty and savory are taste sensations my young palate is going to have to get used to. But I'll get there, don't you worry.
We also gave her bits of burger and fish, but they only got lost in her lap or dropped to the floor. The waffle fries, she hung on to those. The solid food revolution continues apace.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Age Of Sticky

Now that we've boldly entered the solid food-eating phase here at Casa NJ, there's a thin veneer of sticky all over the place. One end of the dining room table. Part of the dining room floor. NJ's clothes, bibs and spit-up rags. Her living room play mat. Plastic toys. NJ's face, hands and arms, and occasionally her legs.

It's all over the place, in other words. But it's not a giant flood of applesauce, half-chewed rice crackers and spilled pureed veggies. That, almost, would be better. No, it's little dabs of residue here and there, where you (I) least expect it. Yesterday I put a glass down on the table and picked it up again to find a little cereal star clinging to the bottom like it had grabbed onto the last helicopter out of Saigon.

I don't care how you feel about these things. I like 'em! Bring me more!
Not all of them end up in NJ's mouth, of course. She knows how to pick them up, and she knows they belong in her mouth. But if she closes her hand into a fist, that fist is what ends up in her mouth. The cereal may end up in her mouth, too, but it also may stay in that fist, soaking up drool, and come back out again. And stick to the back of her hand. Or her chin. Or her bottom lip. Or her shirt. Or ... just about anything.

In the photo above, NJ picked up all four of the pictured cereal stars, and 1) managed to eat one; 2) lost two in the palm of her very own hand, where they turned to a gooey mush; and 3) dropped one into her lap, where it eventually bounced to the floor. That's where Zeus snagged it. (Hallelujah for The Two Idiots and their ever-vigilant patrolling of the house. Yesterday NJ grabbed the edge of my cereal bowl and toppled it, spreading flax-seed granola and milk all over the office floor. I called Willie over and he quickly, efficiently cleaned up 80 percent of the mess.)

I'll eat half of this now and ball the other half up into mush and keep it in my hand for an hour.
When mixed with copious amounts of baby saliva, the rice crackers and cereal bits mix into a paste you could use to repair cracks in concrete. It sticks to everything and congeals in the blink of an eye. The resulting crust sticks to NJ's face and hands like barnacles on a ship's hull and she is not a big fan of mine when I clean it off her.

Anyone know a metal band that needs a lead singer? I can go with a green, red or white goatee, too, if orange is a deal-breaker.
The steamed, pureed fruits and veggies -- and yogurt, which was added to the mix last week and is a big favorite -- end up all over NJ's face, of course. But her new-found penchant for thumb-sucking has increased the mess factor four- or five-fold. You stick a thumb into a mouth that's festooned like the one in the photo above and that stuff is getting all over the hand. Then that hand goes to the hair, then the high chair table, then the other hand, then the shirt sleeve, then the sideboard next to the high chair. Soon it's "Carrots all around!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Weekend In The Books

Nothing big to report here -- just had a very nice, relaxing three-day weekend with NJ and The Wife. About to uncork a bottle of some of Washington state's finest, tear into a pot roast and hunker down in front of HBO's once-again stellar Sunday night programming before another work week smacks us all in the face. Somewhere, in the midst of all that middle-aged excitement, this angel will be washed, nourished and tucked into bed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mother and Child Reunion

The Wife comes home tonight after leaving town Monday morning, and she's returning to a calm, peaceful household. NJ and I got along famously, adjusting our routines to account for her mother's absence. There are only two real changes: One is that NJ's evening bath/meal/bed routine is a little different because she finishes a bottle a lot faster than she nurses. The other, of course, is that I have to get up early, when NJ does, instead of relying on The Wife to do that and waking me later. A small sacrifice for the sake of the child's welfare, but make no mistake -- a small, happily made sacrifice is still a sacrifice.

The only threat of driving off the metaphorical cliff came Tuesday afternoon, when the kid awoke from her nap very early and threw a hysterical fit. It took about thirty minutes just to get her settled down. I don't know if she had the world's worst nightmare or if, despite there being no obvious visual evidence, teething has finally hit (seven and a half months and no teeth yet!) A little kitchen dancing soothed her, as did Dad Solo's singing. At last, I'm not the only person who appreciates -- or has even heard -- my Van Morrison impression.

Unfortunately for NJ, her mother won't be getting home until after her bedtime tonight. And unfortunately for The Wife, she won't be getting home until after NJ's bedtime tonight. So their reunion will have to take place tomorrow. It would be a lot of fun to watch, because NJ lights up like a Christmas tree when either one of us is gone for a while and then reappears. I'll miss that, though. I'm sleeping in.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Caption Contest

What mood/attitude/thought is going on here?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Food Revolution

Sure, you're having a hard time getting me to eat vegetables, but I can't get enough of sweet, delicious fruits like this applesauce. Look at how I've cleaned out this bowl. I'll be needing something new and different for my next meal. What else ya got?

Is that one of those quick-dissolving rice cracker thingies? Fork it over! (And I say 'fork' ironically, Mommy and Daddy, because it's finger food. No utensils needed. Get it? Sheesh -- tough room.)

Oh. Oh my. Uh, are you sure this is right? I'm supposed to be eating this, consuming it? And not, say, lining the inside of my shoes with it? Huh.

OK, I'll just jump right in with both feet then, even though I'd feel safer jumping if my feet were protected by a shoe liner made out of this. Here goes nothin'.

I'm still not sold on the taste of rice cracker -- unless it's not supposed to have any taste at all, in which case I say, 'Bravo, well done.' But just look at all these little pieces. The capacity to make a mess with these things seems limitless, and that's enough to earn the NJ stamp of approval. Good job. Now, make me laugh.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NJ's David Lynch to My Warren Zevon

The Wife was out of town Tuesday night, and my second round of Super Soloing with NJ went well, up to a point -- that point being mid-afternoon Wednesday. That's when things turned a little bit David Lynchian. Odd, steady whimpering. Angry eating. Refusal to eat. Wild mood swings. Sweeping, seemingly arbitrary rejection of previously established norms. It only lasted about four hours, but it seemed like an eternity.

The face of cruel, unyielding defiance

Sure, there was a delightful moment in the midst of the Meltdown that involved fart noises, stomach-poking and infectious baby laughter (see: Wild mood swings, above), but overall it was like running clean for the first two-thirds of a NASCAR race before getting rammed and sliding around the oval for the rest of the race. By the end of it all I was happy to drive into a wall just to end it. That wall was The Wife, finally coming through the door. NJ was so happy to see her that I had a hard time convincing The Wife how bad it all was. Their reunion was sweet enough under normal circumstances; to me, The Wife's arrival was akin to that of a Marine kicking in the door and releasing the hostages.

A lot of it is her missing her mom, of course, and there's also a gradual weaning process in progress. ('Process in progress' -- say it five times, fast!) I think NJ's not too happy with gradual dominance of formula over breast milk, and I'm not sure I blame her because this formula stinks something terrible. Her formula burps are almost as bad as our dog's.

The other thing at play is NJ's recent realization that sometimes, when she's being put in her crib or on the floor mat on her own, she can elicit the beginnings of a crying jag and one of her parents will swoop in to her rescue, picking her back up and lavishing her with love and attention. I'm wise to this and have started to ignore it, so now there's the initial bleat of crying at being put down, then another as she realizes that the first bleat isn't bending me to her will. Then (I imagine) she sighs and shrugs her shoulders, because almost instantly she's shaking a rattle or batting a squeaky bird around. But I still think there's resentment there. It'll probably finally boil over when she's 35.

The weaning and the manipulation ("The Weaning and the Manipulation" -- isn't that an old Truffaut film?) have me a little worried about next week, when The Wife goes to New York City (the town so nice they named it twice -- the other name is "Manhattan") for four days. Call it Super Solo: Armageddon. If I haven't blogged my guts out after two days, pray to your god and send lawyers, guns and money.