Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End Of An Era

It was a day of milestones around here -- NJ's last day home-free, my last day of juggling her and my new job, and the arrival of my first paycheck from the aforementioned new job. It's been a little bittersweet, but don't let this fool you -- I'm not as morose about the situation as I seem to be in this clip:

NJ was her usual stellar self, at one point spending an entire hour in her play pen, playing and hanging out calmly and quietly, when I got trapped on a long conference call. Then we ran a couple of errands, and her mood then is adequately captured in the photograph here. It's only now, as The Wife came home and promptly started fawning over NJ, that it's really hitting me. Even though we've known for more than a year that tomorrow was on the calendar, it's still a little weird. I know I'm going to miss things like opening the blinds after NJ's morning nap and turning to see her stretching and grunting in her crib, right before she smiles and goes "Daaaaaaaaaaaahh!" I most definitely will not miss working and caring for her simultaneously. Today was the worst day yet on that front, and it seemed inevitable because the days have steadily gotten busier and hairier. Today I had to finish one project that was late and complete another that was moved up on the calendar, and cram this all into the two hours of NJ's afternoon nap. What's worse, I had to walk away from the computer after the previously mentioned conference call, knowing these things were hanging over my head like Damocles' sword. (I guess two projects actually means two swords, right? His dress sword and his battle sword, I suppose. Or can two ominous things be described as one so the proverb is intact, with one sword representing the overall workload. Hey, look: I'm way off topic. Whoops.)

So here's hoping tomorrow morning goes smoothly. I'll probably be leaving home at the same time The Wife packs up the kid up for her first day of day care. The Wife is worried that NJ won't understand what's going on when she drops her off -- when she leaves her child behind -- but even if that upsets NJ, I don't think it'll last very long. She'll have plenty of new things to do, plenty of new toys to play with, plenty of new friends to make. And then, of course, she'll be freak-out delighted to see her mom when she picks her up at the end of the day, I always mention. Don't know if The Wife's buying it, though.

I am very, very proud of this little girl. I can't wait to sit her down one day and tell her about the best year of my life. It will probably bore her to death -- you know how these kids are today -- but I'll love telling it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baby's First Boyfriend

For the past couple of days, NJ has been crawling up to this horse, leaning in slowly and deliberately, opening her mouth and kissing it. Then she leans back, looks at me and (sometimes) smiles, then does it again.

It's just like a recurring nightmare I have, except in the nightmare she's 17 and the stuffed horse is an ex-con with a shaved head and three-fourths of his scalp covered with tattoos.

Outta my way, Dad! You can't keep me away from Brambles! You can't!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Week To Go

This time next Wednesday, The Wife will be bringing NJ home from her first day of day care. We've been e-mailing the school about what we need to send to day care with her, gone over her current formula-to-whole-milk transition, and asked whether NJ will be at a disadvantage amongst her peers because she's not yet walking. We've been reassured on all fronts, and are looking forward to the center's picnic this Friday to meet all the teachers, parents and kids.

I've been working two jobs for 10 days now -- the job I started last Monday, and taking care of NJ. It hasn't been a picnic, by any means, but my new colleagues are understanding types and we're muddling through. From that one perspective, I'll be glad when day care starts. From every other perspective, though, I'm a bit wistful at the notion of, for the first time in more than a year, not spending the day with my girl. The Wife is a little wistful, too, because she prefers that her daughter be in the care of her husband over the care of people we don't know well. In particular, she's dreading that first day drop-off, when NJ will "think I'm abandoning her." And NJ is doing her best to make it tough on her parents by turning the smiling/laughing/personality-developing/fun-loving knob up to 11 lately. I'm looking forward to the day two weeks from now when our new routines will be set and this big change turns out to be fine, dandy and normal. We know it will end up being fine, dandy and normal, but I'll be happy to see it rather than just anticipate it.

Hey, why the long face? Get over here and lemme squeeze that nose of yours. And lighten the heck up, will ya? OK? Good. Now get me some more corn.
And much less importantly, I've got a week to come up with a new blog name and tag line.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Such A Beautiful Face! Why Hide It?

NJ was born a year and a week ago with a full head of hair, and it's been flopping in her face for quite a while now. When we put a barrette in to pin it back her first, second and third instincts are to pull this thing off her head (and usually put it in her mouth). So today she got her first haircut, and she was quite the trooper about the whole thing.

Before ...
... during ...
... and after.
When we left the house I brought a little plastic baggie to collect a nice lock of NJ's hair, but her new hair salon gets lots of First Haircut kids, so they were prepared. We left with a freshly groomed kid, a "first haircut" certificate with a lock of her hair clamped to it, and a small envelope containing even more locks of her formerly flowing mane. She went in looking like a '60s flower child and came out looking like mid-'60s Mia Farrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You're A Pal And A Confidant

NJ had a play date late last week with the lovely Olivia, who's one month older than NJ and apparently grew about six inches longer since I saw her last, just a couple of weeks before. Once Olivia stopped crying at the sight of the big, bearded doofus -- I think NJ put in a good word for me -- they had a grand time. Here they are smiling big for Olivia's mother, who has a knack for getting babies to really ramp up the cute.

International news reports indicated that yes, indeed, the whole world was smiling with them at the exact moment this photograph was taken.
Olivia's mom is a 5-foot-2 spitfire who was cool enough to bring scones and cookies from Seattle's best bakery, and she knows lots of things about many subjects (sadly, music is not one of them). She recently plugged Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces, and The Wife immediately bought it. (I make a suggestion and The Wife might -- might -- get around to considering it several weeks later. This, she did right away: "Whatever you say, Olivia's mom!") I'm sure it's a delightful little tool for honing kids' emotional intelligence, but truth be told I find it to be a little creepy. What with the disembodied baby heads and all. If you ate a giant plate of dodgy Chinese food and then read several issues of some sort of Spy magazine for infants, your dreams that night would look something like this:

Yes, we're happy. Happy because we're plotting to kill you in your sleep.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

McCartney's Beatles Songs For $600, Alex

NJ's "Birthday" was "Yesterday" (see what I did there?) and only a bad blog father would let such a momentous milestone pass without mentioning it on the World Wide Interwebs. (Actually, that's what a really bad blog father would do; one who's merely bad, not really bad, waits until the next day. And that's me. Sorry, NJ.)

No party (plenty of time for that later), just the three of us. When we weren't lavishing NJ with attention, The Wife and I spent most of the day looking at the clock and saying things like "This time last year you were asking for an epidural." She got lots of new toys -- including a drum The Wife bought her, a gift I thought you only gave to kids whose parents you don't like -- and marked three fun, if not earth-shattering, milestones.

Balloons: I'm not sure what we spent all told on NJ's birthday bounty, but the likely least expensive item, the balloon bouquet, was her favorite.

Wow, that's even bigger than daddy's head!
Sugar: NJ devoured a banana cupcake with vanilla frosting -- the first concentrated sugar she's ever had. She was a little tentative about it to start, but once she got a taste for The Sweet she grabbed that thing and did not let go.

Sugar, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Bathtub: The night before NJ's birthday ended up being the last night she took a bath in the little blue tub we put in the kitchen sink. Sunday night's cleaning took place in the bathtub, so no more wet baby hands on Dad Solo's coffee grinder. The move had been planned for some time, and for some arbitrary reason we settled on her birthday to make the switch. And, of course, the sink tub would never hold the extensive collection of bath toys she received for her birthday.

Mommy! This is so stinking luxurious I think I may plotz.
So happy birthday, NJ! One down, one hundred or so to go.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ch-Ch-Changes: Just Gonna Have To Be A Different Man

My new job starts in two days, the day after NJ turns one year old. (She was born at 10.45 p.m., so I will be starting the job less than 12 hours after her to-the-minute birthday.) It's a great gig: very interesting, right up my alley, and most of the time I'll be working from home. Even so, though, sadly -- and obviously -- I can't keep NJ around and perform employment-related tasks at the same time. She is quite the proverbial handful now, and even though she's seemingly maxing out on precocious (more on this later), there's clearly more of it headed our way in the near future.

Still, though, NJ's day care doesn't begin until Sept. 1. So, for two weeks and a couple of days -- against all odds and reason, and despite what I just said about how it can't be done -- I'll be juggling her and my new duties simultaneously. There's one day next week that I'll definitely have to leave her in someone else's capable hands, when I go to my employer's headquarters to get a pass key and have someone get me on their computer network. Otherwise, though, I'll be cramming a lot of work into the two stretches of time during the day when NJ takes her naps, sneaking in some more work while NJ tools around in her Pack-and-Play pen, and finishing up in the evening when she's in bed. My new work team members understand this situation and are cool with it. In fact, they are more sanguine about things than I am. I feel like Daniel Plainview:

I've abandoned my child! I've abandoned my child!
I've explained to NJ that I need to go back to work to put more food on her table and pay for things like birthday presents and day care. ("But if you stayed home with me you wouldn't have to pay for day care," she said via mental telepathy yesterday, leaving me hemming and hawing.) I'm really trying to convince myself, though. Despite rare, short-lived bouts of boredom with changing diapers and mixing formula, being home with her has been the best time of my life. And she's unbelievably charming and cute these days, so much so that listing the reasons why can make one sound like Michael Palin bragging about the Spanish Inquisition's attributes: NJ's two chief weapons are her chubby cheeks, her two front teeth and her sunny disposition. Three ... her three weapons are cheeks, teeth, disposition. And infectious giggle. Four! Her FOUR chief weapons of adorableness are cheeks, teeth, disposition, giggle, and her new go-to move, grabbing my nose. Amongst her weaponry are such elements as chubby cheeks, nose-grabbing ... wait, I'll come in again. It's not going to be easy.

So two life-changing days are right around the corner. Monday's the day I start the second job, one I'll be performing at the same time as my current gig, taking care of the kid, for a while; and Sept. 1 is the day someone else -- people I barely know! -- start taking care of NJ all day long. The first one will usher in a new, if short, era of confusion and hubbub to the household. The other day will be, to say the least, bittersweet.

Before those, though, comes the anniversary of the day that changed my life and The Wife's life forever, and for the better. So: Let's focus on that, shall we?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The End Is Nigh

I'm starting a new job on Monday.

Oh yeah, right! Like you'd ever leave this behind, Daddy! I'll believe it when I see it.
More on this later.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Hand Feeds The Other

NJ has decided to pitch in around the house whenever she can. In addition to picking up little tufts of dog hair off the carpet (which I then have to somehow keep out of her mouth), that means returning the favor at dinnertime:

You stuff my cakehole, Mommy, and I'll stuff yours.

UPDATE: NJ tried to feed me at lunch today -- rice and a cracker. I wasn't going for it, though.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stand And Deliver

NJ pulled herself up onto her fat little feet this afternoon. She's been toying with the idea of standing on her own for more than a week now, reaching up and pulling herself to her knees, then up to one knee and one foot, Al-Jolson-sings-'Mammy' style. Today, a week before she turns one year old, she made all the way up -- then held on for dear life to the wicker firewood box. She stood there for several minutes, soaking up admiration from me and The Wife, before plopping backward onto her butt.

No photos, so you'll have to make do with this one from two weeks ago as a simulation. Just imagine a fireplace where the dog is, that she's in the living room instead of the basement, that she's wearing a different outfit, and that she did on her own, instead of having me prop her up as I did in this pic. Otherwise, it was exactly like this:

Can't a dog get a dang nap up in here?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cross-Country Kid

NJ's first cross-country trip was a rousing success. I've put this off for a couple of days because I was laid low by a nasty cold (thanks, mother-in-law!) that I brought back to Seattle (you're welcome, Alaska Flight 15!). I've tried to keep out of NJ's face since then, but that's been pretty hard to do. On the other hand, she's been a regular Super Baby when it comes to ailments, so maybe this illness will bounce dully off of her like a bullet hitting Superman in the chest. Anyway, on to the trip:

Flight to Boston: The worst moment. After checking three bags, we headed to the plane with two carry-ons, the lightweight stroller and the car seat. The car seat is the most ridiculously shaped thing in the world to have to carry around for long periods of time. We checked the stroller at the gate and put the car seat in NJ's seat, where it listed forward slightly. She didn't seem to experience any of the take-off (and landing) ear pressure problems I've seen spark screaming jags in other kids. NJ was restless, though, and The Wife spent some time walking in the aisle with her. Finally NJ fell asleep in her mother's lap and we put her in the car seat, where she continued to sleep (dangling at a precarious angle). After a half-hour, though, the woman behind us yelled at her kid and startled NJ awake -- and she never went back to sleep. So: More whiny crying. The Wife and I each walked her around some, and finally NJ settled down for the last 30 minutes or so of the flight. And she wasn't even the worst-behaved baby on the flight, there was no need to invoke the It's My Turn rule. After landing, rounding up luggage and getting our rental car, we finally hit the hotel before 7 p.m.

Boston: We stayed in a nice place downtown and had a spectacular view of the Statehouse's golden dome, the Charles River, Cambridge and the Back Bay. NJ fussed mightily for about ten minutes after we put her down, then slept like a log -- a very, very tired log that had a big, long day. The next morning we spent at the Common and the Public Garden, where Norah charmed passers-by with a big smile and her adeptness at sitting on bronze ducks. Even though it's been almost 15 years since I left Boston and political reporting, when the Park Street Church bells tolled 9 a.m. I instinctively took a couple of steps toward the Statehouse, figuring I'd better grab a coffee and get to work in the Press Gallery. Instead, though, we returned to the hotel to have breakfast with old friends Mark and Mer before driving off to The Wife's parents' house in Connecticut.

A sad NJ turns away after being informed that the duck would not start moving.
Drive to Connecticut: Uneventful.

Connecticut: Eventful. The Wife's parents are a delight and love their newest granddaughter. Their spread in Northwest Connecticut is nice, too -- NJ loved looking at the goldfish in their backyard pond, and her Grandpa bought her a wading pool that was probably NJ's favorite part of the week. To wit:

O ...

... M ...

... G!
She also visited a nearby house to look at a couple of steers, hit a nearby park for some swing time, and played a lot in her grandparents' living room with all the new toys she collected from family.

Family: NJ met lots of new folks. My brother, his wife and their son and daughter came up from D.C. The Wife's sister and her five-year-old daughter drove over from New Jersey. The Wife's other sister lives about ten minutes away in Connecticut, and we hung out a lot with her, her husband and their two boys. Also, The Wife's best friend drove over for dinner one night with her son. All these folks were properly impressed and quite taken with NJ. (Well, maybe not the grade school- and middle school-aged boys, but who can blame them? After all, there was a hot tub.) NJ slept really well, except for one nap when her five-year-old cousin just couldn't wait to play with her and crept into her room.

Look, guys, I'm crawling. Quick, laugh and smile and clap and shower me with gifts! That how this works, right?
Mystic: One day we drove to Mystic, Conn., to see the aquarium. NJ loves the aquarium in Seattle, and Mystic didn't disappoint, either. Her favorite exhibit was the jellyfish tank. I was partial to the trained seals and sea lions. Then we ate at a restaurant where I consumed fresh lobster (a sandwich) for the first time in years, and the waitress didn't keep the water glasses filled to my nephew's liking.

Back to the jellyfish, Aunt D. Let's go!
Food: The Wife's parents spoiled us with big, delicious meals. A big hot dog/hamburger blowout, lobsters and a delicious fish chowder were the highlights. NJ ate the fish chowder and all the vegetables put in front of her, to the delight and amusement of her relatives. She, The Wife and I also stopped in a Willington, Conn., restaurant where NJ feasted on bits of turkey sandwich and some of my pepperoni-and-anchovies calzone (no anchovies for her, though). We also made a stop at the UConn Dairy Bar, where The Wife and I ate ice cream while a smiling NJ charmed a couple of bikers who were waiting in line. It was semi-surreal.

Animals: NJ met her grandparents' dogs, Winston and Jake (seen here crashing a photo op). They're getting up there in years, and one of them is deaf now, but they were incredibly tolerant of the crawling little minx and her tiny, curious hands. I think she still prefers The Two Idiots, though. There was also a cat that peaked NJ's curiosity greatly (and she wasn't even aware of the cat's most outstanding feature: 25 toes). She doesn't remember Elmore -- a.k.a. the Magnificent Bastard, who was 15 years old when she was born and had to be laid to rest just a couple of weeks after she came home from the hospital -- so the idea of a sleek, aloof, not-at-all-clumsy-and-loud animal prowling the house intrigued her.

Drive to Boston: Uneventful. Although, after listening to Beantown sports talk radio all week, let me say this: Red Sox fans, get over yourselves. Seriously.

Flight home: Much, much, much smoother than the trip out. Now a seasoned air travel veteran, NJ was an angel in the Boston airport. The car seat fit better this time around, and NJ slept for three solid hours on the flight. I would have enjoyed that a lot more if I wasn't sitting there feeling my cold coming on. We got home at almost 11 p.m. and NJ went right back to sleep.

Overall: The Wife and I were extremely glad and grateful that NJ got to spend a week with her New England grandparents (they came out to Seattle last fall, too), and that her extended family members flocked to Connecticut for an audience with her. It wasn't easy for everyone -- my brother's family had to juggle four jobs and his daughter's fast-approaching college debut, for example, to make a week-long trip to southern New England. We appreciate it very much. NJ in particular.

Thanks, guys! Right back atcha!