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.