Thursday, December 30, 2010

When women rule the world

I was felled by Chloë's stomach bug at just about the time she recovered from it, but just before that we fit in the ultrasound. L.E.O. the Sequel is one pound two ounces, healthy as far as our untrained eyes could tell, and a girl. Will she and Chloë team up to rule the world? Or destroy it with the nuclear forces of their sibling rivalry? Only time will tell.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Status report: Month 17

Chloë would say "Merry Christmas from the Overlord!" if (a) she could say any of those words and (b) she weren't throwing up left and right. Christmas was spent with a grandma recovering from a stomach bug and an aunt and cousin (a very huggy cousin) coming down with it, so I'm not surprised, though I am very sorry (and so is Eric, who has to keep changing his clothes as well as hers).

Other than that, it was a great Christmas. She got books and movies and clothes and electronic toys, and a new doll and a sock monkey and a fuzzy blanket, and a package of four nubbly balls that, along with her armchair, were really all she needed. She opened that first on Christmas morning and we had to open the box and get the balls out for her, and even after ten minutes of play we had a hard time convincing her that maybe she could look at the other presents that needed opening. She did enjoy ripping into the presents, hers and ours, and was restrained with difficulty from opening the ones still under the tree for her cousins and grandmas and such. And she was okay wearing her fancy Christmas dress for the family Christmas, though she was a little concerned when she was asked where her belly was and couldn't find it under the skirt.

Christmas was the first TV-free day she's had in a while, a trend we're not excited about. She asks for TV early in the day and keeps asking, even if she's seen a couple, and mostly we've been letting her watch one or two of her Baby Einstein shows. (She got a new one for Christmas, Baby Neptune, and the next day we watched it. Afterward she pointed to the TV and said "Baby," so I got out Baby da Vinci, which is what she usually means when she says "Baby" these days, but what she wanted was to watch the Baby Neptune one again.) We're not keen on letting her be a couch potato this early, so we're putting up with the whining and encouraging her to play with her blocks, or dolls, or Leapfrogs, or talking purse, or books, get the idea. Mom brought her a couple of teach-your-baby-to-sign books, basically miniature ASL dictionaries with kids doing the signs, and she loves looking at these. Anything with kids or babies in it is tops with her these days.

This past month she has continued to pick up vocabulary at an alarming rate. She knows "honey," for example, and "pepper." She can say "car" pretty clearly. She's been practicing "Halmoni," based on pictures on the fridge and the webcam call we had on Christmas, and it's now more of a "Hah....eee" than a "Hal." She now uses "Mimi" we think to refer to Memaw, Eric's mom, though that one's hard to tell. She calls all cats, or at least all black cats, "Shadow" ("ahh-daoh") now, after Memaw's cat. "Ba" is box (normally her jewelry box), or sometimes sheep; "pih" is her piggybank; "gkaoh" is chocolate. (She learned it because she got it daily, or anyway every day she remembered to ask, up until Christmas because she got an advent calendar from Memaw, though we switched out the "chocolate" in it for Hershey's. We'll see how it goes from now on.) She's getting better at calling oranges oranges instead of apples; she was excited to correctly point them out in her How Are You Peeling? book this past week. The peppers still perplex her, especially when I point to the red and green ones side by side and call them both peppers. I don't know if she connects them with the pepper shaker on the table or not. Poor kid.

"Button" is now "buh," which I hear pretty frequently, as one of her favorite pastimes is to sit on the spare bed and open up my button tin and let all the buttons cascade out. Then she shows me the pretty ("piee") ones, or we play "button eyes" or "stack the buttons" until she starts flailing her hands about in the pile and flinging them about, and then it's time to pack them up again. She's good at helping put them away. She's also good, after having been told several times, about not opening up the little bags with the special buttons in them. "Nanana," she says, holding them up to show me, and I nod and say, "That's right, that's a no-no. Thank you," and she puts them to the side. "No" is showing up more and more. Sometimes it's in response to "do you want your drink?" which is okay; sometimes it's in response to "come here so I can put your diaper on you," which is not. The definition of "no" will, we know, be ongoing for pretty much the next seventeen years.

She can also name various body parts. Previously we would say "where's your nose?" or "where's your arm?" and she'd point to it. Now we point and say "What's this?" and she says "nohh," or "ahm." She knows her leg, and her knee, and her cheek and chin and back and bottom (which makes everyone laugh).

She continues to be an excellent eater. She does very well eating things like applesauce and oatmeal with her spoon with not too much mess, and spearing things like cheese and eggs with her fork with great readiness and pretty decent accuracy. She gobbled up the green beans and turkey at Christmas dinner. Also, she seems okay with spicy foods. Eric was picking out a cheese cube from the tray and realized too late that it was a hot pepper cube, not Swiss. He offered it to me; I took it and was reaching for a cracker to eat it with when Chloë, who was in my lap, leaned over and took a bite. We waited for her to spit it out or make a face, but she swallowed, considered, and took the rest of the cube.

In the past couple of weeks she's been very keen on helping with chores. Our standard routine after meals is to get a wet paper towel to wipe down her hands and face. She's been taking it to "wipe her hands" for a while, but now she also wipes her face, and sometimes the tabletop, and when I get her down from her chair she wipes the chair, too. She recently started bringing in plates and food from the table after dinner--unasked. And she and Eric went grocery shopping one night, and when Eric started loading bags into the trunk of the car she started lifting bags to hand to him.

She continues to like me to pick her up a lot. This is becoming troublesome, since I'm now noticeably pregnant (here come maternity pants, at five months, sigh) and my back is noticing, and picking up a thirty-pound toddler is not helping. I've started coming down to her level and letting her climb in my lap, or sitting down and lifting her up that shorter distance, but we're going to have to work on weaning her off of Mama's arms as well as bottles. The bottle-weaning is going fine; we're doing sippy cups in the morning with no trouble. When we gave her milk at dinner the other night she commented "babul," and went right on. Naptime bottles will probably be the next to go.

Potty training, on the other hand, is at a standstill. Most of the time she refuses to sit on the potty seat. Sometimes when Eric or I am on the toilet, she'll come in and sit, but once her pants and diaper are off she sits for about two seconds and then rockets upward again. Though this morning while I was taking a shower she decided to try it, and removed her pants and diaper herself and sat for a while. The diaper thing is new. Oh boy.

She's a one-nap girl now. It's still usually before lunchtime, which we're probably going to have to work on, but her schedule seems to be working out for her. She often wakes around seven, and if it's earlier she's usually happy to get a bottle and a change and go back to bed, so that works out for me, too.

She loves, loves, loves her bath. We get her undressed in the bathroom while the water's warming up; then we plug up the tub, set her inside, and let her play in the running water until the tub is full enough. If she hasn't stood up too much (this doesn't happen much anymore), she also gets to play with running water afterward, while we're giving her a final rinse and putting away her toys. She tolerates the scrubbing; when I've finished one foot she'll hold up the other. She still hates having her face cleaned, but she's learned to tilt her head back when we wash her hair, which has seriously cut down on the stress of that part of the bath. She stands up while we wash her bits, and then again when she's ready to get out; Eric lifts her out and puts her into the towel I've got waiting, and as I wrap her in it and sit down to begin the process of drying her off (a process that must happen quickly or it doesn't happen at all), I say "Say 'bye-bye, bath,'" and she says, "Bah-bah."

She's very good at tooth-brushing time now, too. She says "ahh" and opens her mouth wide, even for flossing. She has eleven teeth now--four incisors top and bottom in the front, one first molar on the bottom, and two first molars peeking in on the top. Afterwards I hold her up to the mirror and say "Say 'night-night, Chloë.'" She waves at her reflection and says, "Bah-bah."

She can climb both up and down stairs unaided now, though we insist on accompanying her, especially when she's going down, and anyway she prefers to hold onto one of our hands as well as to the wall or balustrade. She can tell when she's got socks without traction dots on and is more likely to ask to be carried when she's wearing them. She's gotten better about keeping her socks on, especially downstairs (where we insist), though she's now growing keener on taking off her pants and occasionally shirt. We're not sure whether it's a good thing it's winter or not.

We've spent this month mostly saying "What a big girl!" and "What a good helper!" She loves to help, she loves to talk, she loves to show off, she loves her life. And we love her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting in the Christmas spirit

It's a good thing we never vowed not to let Chloë watch television. It's all she wants to do now. She wakes up, has her bottle, and says, "Baby?" and "Babul?" which currently mean "The Baby Da Vinci show with all the kids in it" and "The Baby Santa show with all the pretty ornaments in it" respectively. She wasn't sure what to make of the trains and the reindeer puppet (it is the ugliest attempt at a reindeer I ever hope to see), but she loves the shiny ornaments and the children spinning in their velvet dresses.

She's also taken to kissing her laughing doll. It's extremely cute, though it's also extremely difficult to focus on trying to make dinner when I'm hearing loud sucking noises from my seventeen-month-old french-kissing her doll.

In other news, it has now been three months since I took my last antidepressant for PPD. I haven't noticed any lapse, other than what could be expected from first-trimester blahs and pregnancy hormones, and neither has Eric. This is especially good since I tried calling up my counselor to get essentially a mental health check-up a couple of months ago. After going back and forth with her answering service a few times, she left me a message: "According to our records, you've never been to this office. So we can schedule you for an appointment, but I'm going to need more information first." So I decided to forget it--or at least her. Either they had a fire they're not telling me about or they have even worse administrative support than my old OB/GYN. I'm not filling out her novel-requiring questionnaire again. I went there several times and paid several copays. She held my baby when I brought her along because I couldn't get a babysitter, for heaven's sake. And now she has no record of me?

Ahem. As I was saying, I haven't noticed any problems since I went off Zoloft other than what can reasonably be attributed to (a) feeling sick/dizzy/exhausted or (b) random bouts of sadness unconnected to daily events that evaporate equally randomly, or in other words, hormonal shifts. I think I'm a little sadder overall than I was when I was pregnant with Chloë, but I also have more stressors now. I was a bit worried about going off the medication, since I responded so well to it; but it looks like PPD really was temporary for me, which relieves me quite a bit. If I get it again, with luck I'll have the same kind of response.

I've been enjoying the Christmas season a lot more than I did last year, even though there have been all sorts of plans and parties and projects going on. We're nearly ready for Christmas, except for one gift Eric is intent on getting Chloë and one Amazon shipment that's still in the mail. Chloë has been very well-behaved about the tree; she helped put up ornaments (all on the same branch) and has, after a few warnings, been good about not taking them off again. She say, "Gdhree," when asked what that hulking new thing in our living room is. She likes to poke at a gift box a friend of ours gave us, two mugs with candy and cocoa (packaged in plastic), but has been leaving the other boxes alone except for rearranging a few bows. She's going to have fun Christmas morning, though, and I suspect we'll need to pack up the presents that aren't for her before we start opening things. Christmas is more fun with a little one, I think. I'm probably a little more scatter-brained than when I was pregnant with Chloë, too, but Christmas will be well, and I think we're doing all right.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Open the pod bay doors, Hal

Chloë's visit with her halmoni was great. Mom arrived Thursday night and left Tuesday evening, and in between they drew pictures, played with blocks, watched babies on TV, shared clementines and potato-cheese soup, and chased each other approximately 173 times around the living room. "Halmoni" was too hard to say, but she could point to Halmoni when asked, and started to call her "Hal" by the end of the visit. Mom took her in the mornings so I could get extra sleep. When we left for the airport she gave Halmoni a hug and a kiss and a bonk (and then started screaming when I walked out the door too--I guess after five days she forgot that Mama goes away sometimes) and waved, saying "Bah-bah," very sweetly.

Mom was impressed by how well and how much she eats. We had rice and stirfry and dried seaweed for dinner one night, and Mom was amused by how much of the seaweed went down Chloë's throat, and how quickly. (When I came home from the airport I had the leftovers, and offered Chloë a piece of seaweed, tearing strips off and leaving them on a napkin on her little table. She finished them sooner than I'd have thought possible and started saying "Pee! Pee! Pee!", jumping up and down and gesturing at me--I was talking to someone--until I realized she was saying "Please" and wanted more. We repeated this until my meal was finished and the seaweed was all gone.)

Wednesday morning I got her her bottle and changed her diaper and set her down on the floor, and she immediately toddled to the spare room, saying, "Hal?" I felt so sad for her, seeing the empty room where she expected her grandmother to be. "I'm sorry, sweetie," I told her, "Halmoni's not here anymore. She went home." Chloë stood there a moment. Then she went to her paper and pencils on the floor and started to color, something she and Mom would do in the mornings but she and I or she and Eric normally don't. Ever since, she's been crankier than normal, and harder to get to sleep. We've decided Halmoni isn't allowed to come visit anymore.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yes, you will

Chloë's been saying "Nana," for a while now, to indicate that she understands we've told her no about something. But she hasn't really used it personally, shall we say, until today.

She and Halmoni (my mom, who's been visiting, and was responsible for the new chair, which Chloë adores) and I were eating oranges (which she persists in calling apples) and her hands and face got drippy, as was to be expected, so her halmoni got her a paper towel and wiped her clean. Chloë wanted the paper towel herself, to finish the job, as she always does, and Mom gave it to her. Chloë wiped herself and then threw the paper towel on the floor. "Go pick that up and throw it away," I told her. She looked at me blankly and I thought I'd packed too many things into my instruction, so I broke it down: "Pick that up."

"Nana," she said, and shook her head violently, something she's just learned to associate with "no."

"Excuse me?" said Eric, who was standing nearby. "Pick that up, right now."

Chloë just stood there a moment. Then she picked up the paper towel and took it to the garbage. "Good girl, thank you," Eric said, and so did I when I had uncurled from my fit of silent laughter and turned again to face her. It probably shouldn't have been that funny, especially considering this is the first step in a defiance escalation. I was sure she was going to refuse outright to do what I said. Eventually she will, and we'll have to decide what to do. For now, we have a reprieve.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chloë's newest acquisition

"It's not a throne...but it'll do."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Games we play

Chloe toddles over to the pantry and points to the crate of clementines. "Apul!" she says.

"Orange," I say, taking one down and starting to peel it.

"Apul!" she says, with a grin.

"Orange," I insist. We've been over this. She's said orange (or "oh-ahh") before. She knows what it is.

"Apul!" she says happily. "Apul, apul, apul!"

"Orange, or you're not getting any," I say, with a smile, holding out a section.

"Oh-aah," she says.

* * *

She loves to play in the laundry. I've taken to telling her she can play with the unfolded laundry only. I sat on the couch just before bedtime last night, folding towels. She came over and reached for the stack of folded towels. I quickly put my hand over it. She slapped her hand alongside mine, then left it there. "Play with the laundry that isn't folded," I said sternly, pointing to the basket. Then, when she didn't move, I took the towel in my lap and threw it over her. "Where's Chloe?! Where is she?"

She clawed her way out from under the towel, and I took it back because she didn't seem pleased. She grabbed it back from me and threw herself down on the couch pillow that she had previously tossed on the floor, then attempted to drape the towel over herself like a blanket. I helped, and asked if I could cuddle with her. She let me, but only if I let her brush my hair out of my face.

* * *

Eric accidentally taught her how to head-butt. He's since taught her that it must be done very gently. I haven't been encouraging it, but I admit it's cute. When Eric asks for "a bonk" she inclines her head in the most delicate forehead bump, and then more often than not runs to deliver one to me as well. (Often when he asks for a hug or a kiss she gives me one too--sometimes first, if she's in my arms at the time. When we picked her up at Memaw's the other day she gave hugs all around, including Eric and me, I guess to be absolutely fair.) She wouldn't go to Eric's arms for a hug and kiss last night, so he asked for a bonk and received one. Then she turned toward me. I tried to decline, but she reached out for my cheeks to hold me in place so she could bump my forehead. Apparently the problem is not that Mama doesn't want a bonk, but that she doesn't understand how to receive one.

* * *

Our main floor is very open, with separate spaces for the living room and dining room and entry but no doors between, and there's a small section of wall in the middle where the TV is (and, often, the vacuum cleaner). It's very easy to run in a circle around it. When I come down the stairs and Eric says, "There's Mama!" it's very easy to let Chloe see me, then duck behind the wall and wait for her to get up and try to follow me. I wait until she sees me, then move ahead, around and around, until finally I run up behind her and shout, "Boo!"

She jumps, and then she says "Boo!" back and squeals as I lift her up, and again when Eric takes her to toss her in the air, giggling madly until we all collapse on the couch.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I've been feeling very ambivalent about this second pregnancy, even when you discount the why-can't-I-just-be-hooked-up-to-an-IV-rather-than-eat feelings and the tiredness and dizziness and shortness of breath and other symptoms that I will not discuss here but that Eric knows thoroughly. (I'm not a stoic person.) I thought it was mainly that it was a little earlier than we'd been expecting, and that it's disrupted our plans to try to move. Not to mention my occasional Daisy, Daisy/Everything She Wants* feelings that I'll never survive having two children.

But last night Eric and I were driving home from a party (with the honest-to-goodness singing of Christmas carols, no less--since most of the people there were trained singers or musicians or both, I sang quietly) and the baby was moving around, probably in response to the grapes and strawberries. I thought, "Hush, little baby," and immediately felt terrible, and suddenly realized why I've been feeling so ambivalent: I don't want to call this baby my baby, because I already have one. Chloë is my baby. It feels disloyal to apply that idea to anyone else, especially some stranger.

I realize, of course, that this is absurd, and now that I've identified it it's gone away somewhat. But not entirely. I'm still not excited about the idea of changing up our family just when we're settling into our roles and getting used to each other, at least as much as you can get used to a little girl who changes daily. Today at the dinner table she started to say "please" without prompting once we had identified what she wanted. She also ate maybe a cupful of lentils, after a plentiful breakfast and lunch and snack and part of an apple before dinner because she begged (read: whined) so hard when she saw them in the refrigerator. The girl likes her lentils. She spooned them up herself and then pointed the spoon at me and said "Hep" when it got too hard to do herself. She's marvelous. Why would I want another baby?

At our second baby shower all the guests made little scrapbook pages with comments and advice, and our friends Matt and Carol, who had recently had their own second child, wrote, "You will love the second one just as much." At the time I thought it was kind of funny they thought it was important to say that for the birth of the first, but now I see why, and I'm glad they did it. Right now I don't really think I could ever love another child as much as I do Chloë, but I'm willing to trust that I will, and that helps a lot.

*By Wham!, the relevant lyrics being:

I'll tell you that I'm happy if you want me to
But one step further and my back will break
If my best isn't good enough
Then how can it be good enough for two?

Friday, December 3, 2010

She's always known

One of Chloë's new words I haven't been able to figure out is "Mimi." She says it often, but it doesn't seem to refer to anything--sometimes she seems to mean me, sometimes Eric, sometimes random other things. Her cousin calls their Aunt Michelle Mimi, but we don't so it's unlikely that's what she means.

In the meantime, Eric hooked up a spare yoga strap to a laundry basket today and pulled Chloë around in it. This was a severe mistake. Not because she didn't like it. Because she did, and when he stopped, she screamed for more. So he got a lot of exercise today.

He was telling me this story when I got home, adding, "'Pull me again, minion! What are you waiting for?!'" I laughed, and turned to her and said, "Say 'minion.'"

"Mimi," she said.