Monday, October 24, 2011

Duck, duck, snake

So I made the ill-advised move last week of deciding to make Chloë a Halloween costume. A coworker loaned me a homemade penguin costume for Maia, which is adorable and which, when I examined it, didn't look too complicated. "Why not make something for Chloë?" I asked myself. "Fleece is easy to work with, and this looks like a bunch of modified rectangles, and I can model it on her sweatshirt and this adorable penguin. What's that? I complain I have no time as it is? Hush, self."

We had discussed costume possibilities and Chloë liked the idea of either a kitty or a duck, and I liked duck better (and thought she would), so I gave it a try and to my surprise was successful. I made a mockup in muslin and had to adjust most of the pieces after I had her try it on, but that's what it was for. The hood took a few tries, and the wings took a second head (Dad's) because my first attempts looked stupid, but it all came together in time for Pumpkin Path trick-or-treating at the Zoo yesterday.

(We didn't get her orange tights or pants in time. I also had Dad's assistance with the bill and the shoe covers.)

We taught her to say "trick or treat" and I at least was expecting she'd need serious prompting to get through it, but she was ready whenever we pointed out the next candy-bearing person. "Tick or tweet?" she'd say (or occasionally, at their prompting, "Quoack") and they would be delighted; then, after prompting, she'd say "Tank oo," and they'd be more delighted still. She went through an inflatable obstacle course-type thing, and though she was a little confused on how to get through parts of it, had a great time. I let her have a little candy while we were there, which wasn't very satisfactory since what she wanted was a lot of candy, but oh well.

However, while she enjoyed the trick-or-treating and the other kids' costumes, they were not the real reason she was trudging along with us (and then riding in the stroller). "Go see snakes?" she asked after every trick-or-treat station, and we assured her that we would, eventually, see snakes, but we had to get there first and hey, she was collecting candy in the meantime. "Go see snakes?" she would say again. Occasionally she'd mention she was willing to see turtles too, or crocodiles. Unfortunately we used the entrance farthest from the Reptile House, plus it's tucked away in a corner. But at length we arrived, and saw lots of green and brown and striped snakes, and the Chinese alligator, and a fast-moving tortoise, and the tuataras, and the crocodile. Finally replete, she consented to climb back into the stroller and be wheeled all the way back to the entrance, suggesting only, "Go to playground?"

We didn't see a playground on the way back (there are a few in the zoo), so we didn't stop at one. But we did stop at the duck pond. Chloe looked at the brown ducks, the black-and-white ducks, the big turkey-looking goose (?) with the red-marked beak. She didn't remark that not a single one was yellow. Nor, I suppose, that none had pirate eye patches or lab coats or grenades or guitars, like her ducks at home. She did seem happy with the costume, which relieved me, since I was half expecting her to complain she wanted to be a kitty. There will be more trick-or-treating Monday night, and she'll be a duck then, too. The candy should be a motivator even in the absence of snakes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maia Maia pants on fire

Maia can totally sit up now! Like a real baby! We got the bouncer out and everything! We're very excited about the bouncer. This is the big one where she sits suspended with her toes on the ground and has a little "keyboard" and some toys and rings for hanging things and so on. We assembled it and put her in it and then sat on the couch for a blissful twenty minutes or so while Maia bounced and explored and Chloë explored with her. She may be having more fun with it this second time around than she did when she was still small enough to go in it herself. Maia seems to enjoy it, and enjoys the attention from Chloë. I had her in it the other day while I was cooking dinner and only looked over at them when I heard Maia laughing at something Chloë was doing. It is the most wonderful sound.

She is decidedly not taking to baby food. I never understood mothers who breastfed exclusively until nine months or whatever, but now I do. She'll eat, yes...sort of...with lots of dexterity and patience on our part. Since I have no patience, I'd just as soon let her nurse and not struggle to get her to eat from a spoon. She doesn't seem to totally have the hang of getting and keeping food in her mouth, and her interest is just not there. Every once in a while she'll be really keen, but mostly she's much happier gnawing on the bib, or her fist, or pulling the bib off (until I wised up and got a tie-on one instead of the Velcro one), or slumping down, or grabbing the spoon, or making her bird calls. She does get some, enough to change the quality of her dirty diapers, but I'm convinced that at her six-month checkup she's going to have fallen from the 97th percentile to the 37th and the pediatrician is going to give us a talking-to. Not really. I need to get out the nine-months box for warmer clothes. But seriously, how does she stay so chubby and content when she only nurses for nine minutes at a time and won't eat solids?

She remains a stubborn baby in her own way. She still won't take a bottle from her Omi or Memaw. At night, sometimes she's okay going down, but sometimes she stays up and cries for an hour and a half. And if I give up and go in and offer to nurse, she beams at me, and she sucks for a few seconds and then breaks off and looks up at me to laugh. She wakes often in the early evening, and I wonder if the noise we make, or maybe the white noise we run, is bothering her. We've got to figure it out.

She digs being able to sit. She likes to play the sit-stand game, and to lounge in my lap while we're sitting in the bathroom while Chloë's on the potty, and to giggle at her daddy playing peek-a-boo, and to gnaw softly at my face. Chloë has agreed to let her play with her duckies at bathtime, so we pop one in after we've got her settled and she promptly lunges at it and stuffs it in her mouth. I bought her a new toy while we were in Seattle, one of the ones with a handle that makes a whirring noise and vibration, and she'll sit in her carrier and pull and let go, pull and let go. I remember five or six months being the time when I started to really warm up to Chloë's babyhood, and I think the same is happening here. But I'm wistful at the same time. I look at Chloë and how tall she is (she can climb up a couple of the ladders at the park by herself now!), and I look at the newborn pictures of Maia and how much bigger Maia is now, and I understand why people sigh about why babies can't just stay babies, even though the diapers and the blowouts and the food issues and the night waking and the crying and the dependence can be, shall we say, wearing. They're so sweet, all the same, and they're so soon gone.

(I do a short chant with Maia while playing with her feet: "So sweet-- such a treat--baby feet!" She's mildly amused, but Chloë will ask me to repeat it again and again until I cry enough. She doesn't ask me to do it to her own feet, though. Her feet are cute, but they're big hulking toddler feet now.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sunday morning Chloë asked for milk, and I decided to give her a treat. When I walked into the living room with her sippy, she looked at the cup and noticed the liquid in it was brown. "Chocolate milk?" she said after a moment, having had it before. I nodded. "Chocolate milk?" she repeated, as if getting used to the idea. She took the cup. "Chocolate milk? Chocolate milk?"

"Chocolate milk," I confirmed, and she finally took a drink.

She wasn't suspicious of the drink; she knew what it was; she wanted me to confirm that I had heard her correctly. She does this a lot these days: seek active affirmation that we understand her. So, we spend a lot of our time repeating what she says. It's good in a way, since it confirms that we understand each other, but it's also a lot of repetitive talking on both our parts. "A back tuck?" she says on our walk. "A back tuck?" until I agree, "A black truck," and then she can continue, "A hite hun!" and point to the white (actually silver) one on the other side of the street. "Goldfish*? Koë have goldfish?" she says on a break at the park, and even though I say, "Sure," and start digging through the bag, she repeats it until I say "Yes, you can have goldfish! But you have to wait!" If she says "A kirle?" it may be enough for me to point and say, "Oh yes, I see it too," rather than having to say, "A squirrel! I see it too," but she's pretty strict.

*I'm not even going to try to transliterate.

And her tantrums come almost exclusively when we can't figure out what she's saying. If I'm totally mystified by a word she's using (for example, last night it was "tiyyi") I'll sometimes try to talk around it in the hopes she won't figure out I can't translate, but I don't often get away with it. Sometimes she can show me, or Eric will know ("chili"), or from context I can grasp it, and if we can keep guessing she'll usually stay relatively calm. But if we give up she generally can't contain her frustration. That's totally understandable. But I wish it weren't so. I love talking to her, talking with her, having actual conversations in our limited way; but sometimes it feels like a minefield. I never know when exchanging information is going to blow up in our faces.

Sometimes identification comes harder because she's seeing things that aren't there. For example, there are animals in the clouds. The handles of our ice cream spoons, when the spoon part is held in the hand, are rocketships. There are snakes in the lines of a chalk drawing. (Okay, presumably she put those there. You should see the "circles" she draws.) It's marvelous, but it's tough.

She's also been waking up early and often lately, and always calls for me. Last night I had brought Maia to bed for her 3:45 feeding because I'd stayed up too late making apple tarts for my department for Treat Tuesday (however, the report is that they are delicious and belong in a magazine, so it was worth it for the ego-boost), and she woke at 5:30 to nurse again, and two minutes later Chloë started calling for me. I sent Eric, and when he said "Mommy is feeding Maia," she flew into a rage and stomped into the room crying. She insisted on coming up and crawled into bed, and so the four of us slept together until about 6:30 when Maia wanted to suck some more because it was there and I got out of bed with her and Chloë ended up following us and plagued me by asking for her light to be turned on and messing with my guitar case and the glider's settings and patting Maia on the head too hard and telling me not to sleep. But anyway. Poor jealous girl. It was kind of sweet for us all to be together like that, but man, was that bed crowded. Still, she got to be part of something everyone else but her was doing, and I guess that's important.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To Seattle and back

So our Seattle trip went very well, considering. I no longer fear the cross-country plane ride with two children under the age of three. Dread, perhaps, but not fear. --It wasn't really that bad, just draining. Both girls were pretty well-behaved (Maia better than Chloë; five months is an excellent age to fly with a baby) and Chloë had the greatest time at the airport. After getting through security (surprisingly quick considering we had five bags, a stroller to fold--two on the way back--and a carrier) we arrived at the gate and made a beeline to the window, where Chloë stood and watched the planes, narrating for the entire gate: "A plane? Another plane. Another plane! Another plane moving! Another plane! Another plane flying! Another..."

She wasn't excited about the takeoff or her harness, but once she was allowed to get up she enjoyed the view of the clouds and the other planes and the circles and squares on the ground. Maia, meanwhile, nursed quietly during takeoffs and smiled and was charming during the flights. At the end of one flight, while we were sitting waiting for everyone else to get off, a young man paused and said, "Your baby is so good! I didn't hear a thing!" which I translated as "Thank you for not ruining my flight." A later flight unfortunately included a short tantrum from Chloë about her shoes, but the threat of not being able to go on planes anymore quieted her down. Don't think we were bluffing either.

The visit with Grandpa and Halmoni went very well, too. Both girls adjusted somewhat to the time change, so they were getting up at 4:30 or 5:30 instead of 3 o'clock; and there was much playing and being cute and enjoying themselves. They met or re-met family; Chloë got to take a bath with her cousin Aubrey and learn a little more about sharing; they went to the playground near Mom and Dad's house. A lot. First it was with cousins Gabriel and Matthew (who was slightly cranky from lack of sleep; when we talk about the visit Chloë usually contributes with "Matthew crying?"), but then Chloë was hooked. Luckily, Mom and Dad were willing to play.

Maia did a bunch of rolling; she now rolls onto her stomach if she's not sufficiently sleepy when put down, then cries until we come and right her. Though she was working on the reverse this morning, so maybe she'll be self-sufficient in that regard soon. She's also tentatively able to sit, at least for short periods. Also I need to pull out the nine-months pants for her because the six-months ones are much too short.

What do you mean, stop growing?

Definitely not that much.

We have good girls. Well-traveled girls, now. They seem glad to be home and back in their routine, but they did well; I think they will as long as we're all together.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spelling may take a while

Chloë has a colors book that is particularly simple, with each color's name spelled out in capital letters. Since those letters are really all she's experienced, she started pointing them out, and at some point Jenny started having her point them out in order. So from the book she has learned "G and R and E and other E and N spell gween!" Learned, at least, as long as the letters are right in front of her.

Today I'm wearing my Alton Brown T-shirt, which, on the reverse, says "SCIENCE! It's what's for dinner!" I was on the floor with Maia and Chloë came up beind me on the couch, and starts pointing at the letters: "S and C and I and E and N and C and E... spell Daddy!"

Yeah, OK, I'll take it.