24 January 2012

X files - 21 Months Old - Express yourself

21 months and shes branching out her modes of self-expression, both good and bad (expletives, food throwing, make-believe play, spelling), which means we are adapting as usual. we are starting to really get in to the hairy stuff that prompts the phrase "kids dont come with instruction manuals".  i wasnt really feeling the full brunt of that saying until now, and im certain we are just getting the first mini doses...

amusing/amazing phrases: girl...? where could she be?...could be lost (talking about one of her little toys), its a little bit hot...blow on it, momma throwing pillows at papa, waves over here...someone draw them (saying this about some waves we saw on the wall at the new england aquarium), [fart]...poo poo coming...poo poo in a little while, it disappeared, papa tooted out of his bum...it was wet...lie (to clarify: dave did actually fart, but it was not a wet one), pull the chair out...mama sit in it, theyre frozen with ice! (exclamation while helping dave spread out frozen sweet potato fries on a baking sheet)
obsessions: putting things away and taking them out again, blinking, piggyback rides (or whatever you call it when the adult crawls on all fours on the ground while the child grips on to your neck), the letter "U"
new food: agave nectar, chocolate rice dream
good books: three billy goats gruff, angelinas christmas, wheels on the bus, boogie monster, starfish, cookies, to market/to market, little pea, swimmy
fun videos: meerkats united, nyan cat, lion roaring
 
 
(playing with scarves with papa; my mom got her a stroller for christmas, i put a doll in there first thing. she took it out, power bombed it to the floor and then put her animals in there)
 
(she grabbed my hat out of my bag and put it on; with daves hat on and making a new cute face)
(showing me her bandage from her first blood draw; literally the first time this child has ever fallen asleep without an adult in the room and/or while playing. i heard her reading to her herself from the other room and didnt want to disturb her. we came over a couple minutes later to find her passed out on "the little engine that could")

X-citing developments:
1. medical encounters. as mentioned a couple months ago, X needed some blood work done to take a look at her food sensitivities from the modern medicine angle. we finally found time and the nerve to take her for the first blood draw. we talked to her about what would happen and it ended up going really well. she was very curious about it and barely cried. i foolishly hoped that was how all her future pokes could go...

then we went to the doctor for the results. all the results were normal except her iron was a little low. he wasnt going to jump to put her on iron supplementing without a little more investigation, so he suggested another blood test to check out a few more things. of course i wasnt crazy about another blood draw, but low iron (especially given her food sensitivities) could be something that leads us to more information if we examine it more closely (ie. she could be losing blood in her stool [not that im seeing any, it could be microscopic though] or her digestive tract could be doing a poor job of absorbing the iron she does ingest. her diet is pretty high in iron, so im not thinking that is it). also at that dr visit, she got a vaccine (delayed from her 18 month visit). boy was she pissed about that. but we managed to leave the office happy.

now that she had done both kinds of pokes (blood draws and vaccines) i was hoping we could just talk to her about them and continue with the message that they are "no big deal". of note however: she got the vaccine in her leg, which was fine until later in the day when we were coming home in the car from something and it was apparent that the car seat strap had been pressing on her leg and had inflamed the site of injection. she freaked out and couldnt stop crying to tell me what was wrong. i ended up having to give her some advil and working hard to distract her until it started working. there was about 20-30 minutes of inconsolability. fun. next time we will be getting the injection in her arm i guess.

lastly, we didnt want to hem and haw about the blood draw again, so we got the second blood draw done asap. when we went back in she was wise to the crap that was going to happen to her. and shes a fighter man! the ladies remarked at her ability to whip herself into a frenzy. it was much less about the pain than it was about the fear and the massive hatred for being restrained. i hope we can quell some of her frantic squealing in the future. poor kid.

2. teeth. teething for the last 4 molars has begun. her hands were jammed in the mouth most of the time this month. she was rabidly eating things off the floor just to have something to bite on. gross. i will be BEYOND happy when the oral stage abates for X! this teething bout is the first time ive actually seen both cheeks red too. perhaps these molars will all be out by summer.

3. weaning. when X ditched her nap she didnt immediately ditch that to-nap nursing. she asked to nurse at her old nap time every day for a couple weeks until we could distract away from it and/or find other comfort measures to replace a nursing with. so now its just night nursing that i do (however many she wants, usually twice at this point). the exact opposite of what i expected a couple months ago. lol. i told dave im going on an isolation vacation once she is weaned totally (hotel room, books, trash tv, a long bath, maybe a movie and dinner out by myself, and all the sleep i can luxuriate in by myself). currently, my goal is to begin my final assault on weaning after our trip to florida. that will be close to 2 years (the world health organization recommendation) and will put her mostly beyond cold and flu season.

4. food note. she is really in to carbs lately. getting her to eat fruit and veggies is a challenge.

5. sleep. its been maddening that even accidental 10 minute cat naps (when she falls asleep in the car, or in the carrier/stroller) can push Xs bedtime 30-60 minutes beyond what it is supposed to be. a nap longer than 10 minutes...forget it, you are up until midnight. a 10 minute nap is even deadly on days when she appears not to have gotten enough nighttime sleep and is a whiney ball of fuss. you literally have to keep daytime snoozes in the 5 minute range or else you are screwed. its been really frustrating. and now i wonder...what are we supposed to do with car trips of any length?

6. personality. general items: she is starting to really like puzzles, both the baby kind (an animal fits into an animal sized shape cut into the board) and the more traditional puzzles that come in a box and you need to fit together. she can blow raspberries on our stomachs now. she thinks its hilarious. and she plays make-believe games now (offering [pretend] chocolate milk to her animals, driving her cars on her road, pretending cardboard tubes are horns, etc).

i see her playing make-believe by herself too, and adding to our games. so, the more one-on-one creative play we have, the more i find im buying myself a little quiet time in the future. she is also starting to like to play dress-up (my favorite game as a kid). and loves to feed her puppets letters. her favorite toys are animals, arts and crafts stuff (playdough, crayons, paint, markers, stickers, stamps, etc), and books.

a new and amusing thing this month was her creation of her own expletives. her arsenal now includes: roaring "bah!", hand clapping (picture something similar to the gesture done on "friends"), blowing air in your general direction while shaking head, hissing, vigorous hand waving, yelling "dah. long way run" (this is some form of an expletive using "fa, a long, long way to run" as a template), etc. needless to say, its hilarious. but we do our best not to laugh. she seems to be testing out all the ways to express frustration, anger, irritation, etc. on us and strangers these days. for really no reason at all she will use her "expletives" on us (and strangers, ugh.), its often not really a clear event that will trigger it and she seems to want to see what context to use it in and what peoples reactions are to it. this is...fine, except she doesnt seem to be learning and moving on quickly. i do want her to come away with a useful understanding of when and how to express frustration, but she is pretty all over the map with it. we shall see how it develops i suppose.

and last, she is little miss independent. she seems much more capable now of going off and playing quietly in another room now. she can busy herself through most of the day with only off and on attention from me (we go out for a morning program, have lunch, maybe run an errand, and maybe do a craft...and between that shes able to pretty much entertain herself, if i let her). this is, honestly, the first time ive experienced this kind of freedom since she was born. consequently, i have to remind myself not to abuse this new found awesomeness. these freezing cold winters days are not making it easy on me though. theres not much to get out and do.

7. spelling. she is playing with her bag of letters more and more these days. one day i spelled a small word for her and talked about the word and now shes been really interested in putting letters together and pretending they make words, or she'll ask me to make a word. i feel like i need to work on my scrabble skills. after a couple weeks of putting any two letters together and asking me "whats that say?" (so cute, most times it would be a "2" and a "v" or something. or just two letters that arent a word, so i would tell her "its not a word, but it does make a sound...g-u" or whatever). one morning she brought dave just the letters "F" and "a", put them together on the couch and said "Fa, long way run". i guess sound of music is teaching her all kinds of things!

8. anecdotes.
-we were reading "little blue, little yellow" and a line from the book says "after school they run and jump." after reading that one day, X says "just like the popcorn". a few days before this, we had made popcorn on the stove and i let her watch the popcorn pop and talked about how the corn kernels jump around.

-she climbed on the bed while i was laying down (my stomach hurt) one day and said "momma crying other day. climb up, watch you cry. thats what happened." (i think she was replaying the last time she saw me laying on the bed and she had climbed up to see me). then she said "momma feels sick. hugs and kisses. no pounding. [she gives me a kiss] that was a wet one. [i say that it wasnt wet]. a dry kiss."

-while playing with her letters she found the "U" and said "ah-u, ah-u, u and u and u" (this is her version of what she thinks they say in the "so long, farewell" sound of music song...the actual line is "adieu, adieu, to you and you and you"). so funny. honestly though, we dont watch that video all that much!

9. current battles of patience.
- physical aggression, again (mostly toward us and sara and nutmeg, not other kids or adults, so far. she will occasionally hit, bite, slap, headbutt, etc for no reason).
- her "expletive" use (she displays her frustration to us and sara and certain adults who try to talk to her. thankfully most people cant tell that shes irritated with them).
- throwing food on the floor (for months, weve been talking to her about not throwing her food on the floor when she is done eating. she seems unwilling to simply say "all done").
- getting her winter gear on to go outside or getting a diaper change (depending on her mood and timing of said activity she will either readily comply or test our patience to the hilt).
- "soothing" her after a fall or scary event (depending on her mood, the circumstances, her level of embarrassment, etc. each encounter is a ballet of how to interact with her. sometimes she will not let you touch her, sometimes she will not let you talk to her, sometimes she can be snapped out of it with a song or a distraction, other times this surges the inferno. it is a guessing game).

we have to choose consistent boundaries and reactions to all of this and deliver them in a way that doesnt belittle her. if at all possible, i really want our reactions to her to model reactions we hope she has with other people when encountering the same situation (if another kid hits her, how do i want her to react?).

10. potty update. it seems X can "hold it" (pee) for a very long time (even overnight), is able to tell us when she is going to poop (see quote from the top of this blog entry), and when she is done pooping often she asks to have her diaper changed. when given the chance to run around naked, if i see her holding herself, i ask if she has to go potty and if she wants to use the potty or get a diaper put on. so far, she has really only asked to get a diaper on. but, one time she said she wanted to sit on the potty, and she did, but nothing came out. we talked, sang, and then i told her i "wouldnt watch" to see if that would help her go (she normally likes her privacy). i wasnt making it a pressure situation, she seemed to want to use the potty, she just wasnt sure how you made it "work". well, at the end of this, i peered in to the potty and there were a few drops of pee! wow. i showed them to her and we dumped them in the big toilet, she wiped and we flushed it all down. she liked waving bye bye to her pee. dinner was a short while later. she climbed up in her chair and said "X went pee pee". we shall see where things go from here...

11. step stool(s). X was regularly pushing chairs over to the kitchen counter to get up and watch us cooking or doing other tasks in the kitchen. she REALLY enjoyed this, so we got a legit step stool (partly because the apt needed one anyway) and now she can also climb up in the bathroom and wash her hands. she now has access to all areas of the house that we do and it seems to please her greatly.

momma mentionables:
1. sleep adjustments. with X sleeping longer at night and not during the day, my body is still attempting to adjust to this sudden change. i still get tired spells (15-30 mins in length) on occasion during the day, and adapting to having more time after she goes to bed and how to wind myself down is tricky. X also seems to be soothing herself back to sleep better. it used to be that within 30 minutes of me coming to bed she would need my attention, but often that is not the case anymore. so now, my body lies awake, waiting, for potentially hour(s). i SO wish it would adapt faster. i could be having much more luxurious sleep...

2. the "more kids" issue. other people i know, here and "back home", who have kids Xs age seem to be getting preggo. im even more aware of pregnant strangers with kids Xs age, and moms with newborns and kids Xs age, and celebrities pregnant with their seconds. its all screaming "look at us. we're doing it. you need to too!" im definitely noticing the pressure to "reload" and take on more kids. sometimes i feel an aching guilt feeling that i should have another kid, or rather, that i should want to. that i should just find a way. i can see other people who have situations so different from my own that make it a no-brainer to say "yes" to more kids. currently i dont feel anything but future isolation from the idea of having another kid. what if its another monster pregnancy? what if its another X? and we wouldnt be able to travel anywhere after the second kid turned two.

3. parenting styles. i am seeing more and more of the vast variety of parenting styles unfolding, now that X is getting older. im seeing lots of threats and punishing going on at the library lately, for example. its really striking to me the way adults attempt to exert control over kids. im totally not saying i have all the answers, but ive found enough playgroups with moms who take a more "positive parenting" approach that these gruff reprimands really make me turn my head. and it makes me look at the child for their reaction, i never see anything that seems to suggest theyve "learned their lesson", usually all i see is embarrassment, fear, and dejected spirits. it seems to be mostly a power trip by the adult who feels they are being willfully undermined and have no other option but to be a bully. this whole parenting world has made me an extremely curious observer, my lens was never really trained on these people before, so its quite a new thing for me to really see.

4. giving people Xs age. im ready to start saying "she is 2 in april" to any normal person who asks, but i still need to keep her age in months in my head for any moms who ask. im SOOO done counting months.

5. education. dave and i are actually chatting about Xs future education, what we hope for her to "succeed" in, whatever definition that turns out to be. i could care less about harvard, or raising a rich, powerful child. i want her to find herself and do what she loves with a minimal amount of artificial boundaries. life will give her enough of them. right now i feel like she has enough strong personality traits to potentially get her labeled as a "problem child" in certain rigid classroom environments. this wouldnt be an accurate label, but it would certainly stunt her growth. i would love to find educational environments that bring out the best in her and give her confidence and understanding, even if it means playing and singing and painting a lot as opposed to prepping for standardized tests, writing book reports, and reciting mathematical equations.

6. good parenting articles:
- scientific american article about toddlers and direct instruction vs. free play. if you can get access to the whole article (or email me and i can send you the pdf) its a really interesting read.
- nytimes article on middle childhood hormones and the major internal changes going on during a seemingly "quiet" part of childhood development.
- npr article about the benefits of having a teen who talks back.
- brief scientific american article about the "orchid child". apparently a descriptor of "children [who] are highly sensitive to their environment, especially to the quality of parenting they receive."

17 January 2012

Mid-night melancholy

instead of a cry-fest i had a more subdued mental vent that took stock of what im lacking right now. i felt better afterward and mark it as a success to have avoided tears. :)

i laid awake last night thinking about how im doing here. in halifax. yes, everyone is healthy and we have no actual problems as compared to the world at large, but im still allowed to feel down every so often. this particular mental vent came after a helpful venting session to dave about (my) work, so perhaps my brain just wanted to release in all areas. i feel i run pretty even-kiltered (my definition of "even", obviously) most of the time, keeping my irritation cards close to my chest until they stack up too high and i feel the need to lay them all on the table, stare at them, summarize them, agonize over them, and sweep them off the table...to be picked up again at another time.

this time i was lamenting my typical halifax theme of isolation. i just dont belong to any group here. i only feel anchored by dave and X, but they are portable and very much mine, so there is no real connection to life here in halifax. everything is still very temporary feeling, which is mostly my fault i realize, but i still havent figured out how to get beyond it.

i get no social comfort from work. even when i was pregnant i didnt have colleagues or peers, just my boss. i worked part-time and didnt really bump in to people. even when i audited my boss's class, i didnt meet any students that i meshed with. to contrast, ive had really great experiences at all my past jobs with finding really great people in my department (or nearby) to chat with, eat lunch with, vent about work with. i made real friends and really valued those relationships. dave has been able to forge some nice work relationships (isabelle/djordje, janice) but i dont have that luxury.

i am not injected into a sports-type environment. im not interested in playing sports anymore and yoga classes are not a place to meet people. im never really in a chatty mood before or after class anyway. people are there to stretch and unwind and release. or at least i am, im not zipping around trying to make friends. but, dave has joined several ultimate teams and has actually met some very nice people. he gets a great deal out of this sport. and frisbee folks are a very social people, so he can go have drinks with them whenever they organize something, they have parties at each others houses, etc. its been really beneficial for him to have people outside of work to chat with socially. i miss out again.

i also have not found any "in"s to any general social environments here. when we arrived i got pregnant (and thus VERY sick feeling) right away so didnt get a chance to enmesh myself anywhere, with any people who might have similar interests to me. i could have taken a film or photography class. i didnt get a chance to find a book club. we explored almost no music scenes. i met no non-parent-oriented people. and now im just too busy in the parent realm to try to force myself into one of those areas. because ive never actually done any of those things i mentioned, im not finding the time or energy to extend to pushing myself into some experimental situation. this is a point of weakness, i realize.

the mom scene. yeah, we had that prenatal, newborn group. pretty much everyone is living their own life. occasionally we see people at a birthday party or another thing we might get invited to. they are very nice women but most of them are from the province and have friends and lives and families nearby. kids of course make you busy, so there isnt much wiggle room to add new people into your life. ive stagnated in the area of mom friends. there are a couple moms who i think could genuinely handle my personality, but they are in the midst of lots of stressors themselves, about the same things that stress me out (being away from friends and family, trying to raise kids who arent easy going, etc).

on the upside, it is a friendly town. when i see the same people over and over again, there are smiles and "hellos" exchanged. pretty much all the staff at the local library know us. thats a friendly place. and we are friendly with our favorite vendors at the market. but friendly, and having friends are wildly different things. it just feels impossible to find someone to be real with. and then even if i did, id have to nurture that relationship, which i would be willing to do, but the other person would have to meet me halfway.

i know that what i miss is no longer really existent. if i moved back to ann arbor i couldnt regain this lost life i seem to mourn. some of my family is no longer in michigan, many of my friends are no longer in michigan, many co-worker friends and acquaintances have dispersed. those who are still around have been moving forward with their lives just like me and are changing and adapting to their roles as spouse, parent, career people, etc. life is moving on for everyone, duh.

i guess what i mourn the most, is me. ive had some life experiences that require a changed mind. but, the laughing, the feeling like i can say what i feel, being understood (for the most part), keeping up on peoples day-to-day lives/stresses/random happenings, even just the rhythm of exchanging a generic conversation on a regular basis. THAT would be nice. im just really concerned that my sense of humor is withering and that my "essence" is fading. i mean, if it werent for daves occasional pointed efforts, i wouldnt even remember what its like to get all razzed and riled up about something inconsequential and have fun watching myself spazz out.

perhaps other people feel a form of this shift too? perhaps this is normal? perhaps this is what freaks people out and causes mid-life crises? im not near one of those, but i do sense something much larger than a "college is over, what now" or "wow, im married, what does that mean?" type of feeling. it just crept in and from no apparent instigation, i feel it upon me. if i am forced to reinvent myself, then i want to put a good effort in. i realize i cant sit and mourn or do the "if only" or "what if" game. but what to do? im sure i'll figure it out.

in the end, after an hour or so of precious sleep not being had, i did drift off and actually had a dream (a rare thing these days). i wound up dreaming about familiar faces (friends, family, and others from the past) reuniting in halifax (i remember thinking the word "reunion" in the dream, as if i were the reason all the people came together). every street i walked, every corner i stopped at pedestrians were friends, cars were filled with familiar faces, libraries, markets, cafes were full with people who knew me. i felt a smile on my face, a warm happiness in my chest, and a sense of wonder in my brain. it was nice to feel that "what if" scenario, if only in a dream (it was so nice to see you all!). if nothing else it was a step in the direction of connecting comfort and happiness with halifax. perhaps there is hope. :)

endnote: while editing this last night, i accidentally pushed "publish" but then undid that action. i guess it still published an excerpt in the blogger feed which prompted two friends to message me that they have had similar feelings about life. i thank you for reaching out and it reminds me that this blog is therapeutic and beneficial in so many ways. a hearty best wishes to everyone on their lifes journey!

16 January 2012

Snooze-fest stylings from golden globes

during awards season i really do wish we had a tv, or at least some reliable access to live cable.

for the globes this year i did find a live web-feed from msnbc. it was just a cameraman in the photo line-up area and that was it. no commentary, no ridiculous questioning and "who are you wearing?" it was just the stars and their arrivals. i also got to listen to how the photographers yell at celebs to get their attention and turn their way. im sure this is the most demure the paparazzi ever get, and it was intense as a bystander! i cant imagine the pressure of being a first-timer on the red carpet!

i was not impressed with the fashion this year. i suppose since the globes are the warm up to movie award season i shouldnt be too shocked. but i was hoping for at least one standout favorite. nope. there were a few pretty ones and a handful of questionables but that was all. i did find that the young beauties ive followed over the last ten years are starting to look old. this is not a biological shock, but it kinda weirds me out. as for the actual show...i dont know. i didnt get to watch all of it (X duties) but i caught a few laughs, and sweet speeches, and i caught some lame jokes and speeches. it wasnt as boring a show, in terms of flow, as i think ive seen in the past though. i felt like all eyes were on ricky, hoping too much for him to make them laugh. and then once he did, they started bleeping him and everybody else. how lame has cable gotten!?

highlights and mentionables from the awards show: 
-rickys early jokes were funny, although it seemed like they reigned him in toward the middle-end. then he seemed like he just wanted to leave.

-michelle williams acceptance speech with her sweet expression of love for her daughter. awwww.

-i love husband and wife presenter teams (my fav was reese and then hubby ryan from the 2002 oscars) because they are always charming and comfortable with each other (not surprisingly), and this year william h macy and wife felicity huffman were cheesy good fun.

-i loved madonnas quick wit, charm, and confidence after rickys joke. she gave it right back to him. THAT woman doesnt age. im pleased to share a birthday with her.

-also loved colin firth giving it right back to ricky. LOVE that man. he is fabulous. cannot get enough.

-ummm, meryl streep is a wackado. during every speech ive seen her give i am SO confused. AND they give her 15 minutes on stage to make an ass out of herself. i cant understand her behavior and i hate that they seem to play favorites and let her jabber forever.

overall sentiments: 
-the older (unfortunately, by "older" i think i mean 45+) ladies stole the show, beauty-wise (minus madeline stowe and julianna marguiles, eeks). looking good were jane fonda, helen mirren, meryl streep, michele pfeiffer and madonna. i dont even care what surgery they may have had, they just look damn good!

-i am SOOOOOO over george clooney and his sauve image, revolving door of girlfriends (try and convince me he's not really a rock hudson [sexy but gay], or at least a cary grant [sexy but bi]), and his easy breezy 'life is just a game and everyone thinks im charming' routine. it is SO blah to me.

(emma stones dress was fairly simple, but elegant and really suited her; evan rachel wood kinda bugs me but her dress was really lovely; sarah michelle gellar...eeps. what is this?)
(reese i have no idea why you chose this dress. it does nothing for you; i love elle but she looked like an absolute giant in this; and charlize looked nice from afar, but she is really aging fast. must be the smoking)
(madonnas dress was very "her"; and helen mirren always looks so well put together and knows her body, her age, and what works for her)

05 January 2012

The day the jacket (finally) died

um, well, my puffy north face jacket died a quiet death on january 4, 2012. it lived a long and healthy 13 years before finally succumbing to old age. RIP buddy, we had some great times...

it was a balmy 17F with "feels like" temperature of 1F outside. this proved to be the final straw for mr puffy. i came in from the frigid and the warm air that greeted us must have made mr puffy feel as though he was being beckoned toward the white light because his immediate reaction was a fatal zipper failure. the complicated zipper literally flew off the jacket and become no less than three separate pieces. this instant rigor mortis actually trapped me in the jacket and it was all i could do to squeeze the jacket off over my head to get it off. upon inspection i decided the zipper could not be resuscitated.

i originally bought this jacket back in my senior year of high school (1999) to take on my first big ski trip (and first airplane ride) to whistler/blackcomb with my boyfriend-at-the-time phil and his family. i got it at a north face outlet in the mens section. it was a warm yet ugly jacket, but it served me well and i couldnt bring myself to get rid of it over the years. well, he must have finally had enough of me, or halifax, and he split. but, he had the kindness and decency to desert me at a perfect time of winter...all the stores are starting to move out their heavy winter gear.

he was a reliable good buddy who helped me make some lovely memories, and for that i am very grateful. below is a brief timeline of our adventures together:

(the jacket on blackcomb mountain in 2000; the jacket making snow angels in ann arbors bandemer park on a snow shoe walk in 2004; the jacket relaxing in a notch in the wall in dublin in 2008) 
(the jacket with dave in blomidon park in nova scotia while pregnant in early 2010; the jacket with X during her first winter in early 2011; one of the last known photos of the jacket alive in late 2011)

[sidenote: you may see that ive apparently had the same red gloves to accompany mr puffy for at least 8 years. no wonder they have so many holes in them. they have also been declared legally dead]

in mr puffys place, i have secured my first womens north face jacket. a triclimate jacket with a rain jacket shell and inner down layer in the rich color of eggplant. i got it 50% off and thus was able to stomach the idea of buying north face outside of an outlet store. welcome aboard "lady of the layers" i hope we have as many memorable adventures together...

03 January 2012

Travel reflections #3 (Boston)

this was a pretty low-demand trip (no major driving, no hotels, only one group of people to see) but we still learned a few new things.

in-flight:
X didnt nap on either plane this time. she recently gave up naps, however, we still thought that by getting her up well before her normal wake-up time, she would nap on the plane. no. thus, we had to adapt our in-flight routine. we sidestepped a few tantrums mostly because she is more rational than when she was younger, so we got through without issue, in the end. and, this was the last flight where she was a "lap child", so it should be easier to manage in-flight non-napping in the future with the added space (sucks for the pocketbook though. guess our trips cant be as plentiful as before, at least not while we live in halifax).

X needs:
we planned one X activity per afternoon (this is the most important part of day to get her out and entertained or else she can rip you a new one climbing the walls inside). this turned out to be a wise decision. she was entertained and happy and we got to benefit from seeing the city sights too.

we did better with food this time, in terms of avoiding major tummy issues with X. however, we were really bad about being able to get her solid meals at times that were best for her. try as we might, meal times tended to be better for the adults than for X (not to sound accusatory or angry) and it made her a little less patient and more irritable than normal because she didnt want to take meals at different times than us because she was go-go-go and didnt want to stop when no one else was. kids make plans to "go with the flow" hard (not that i didnt know that). on the one hand, its a good idea not to pin down every part of the day (we dont do that at home), but on the other, nailing down meal times would be a good way of anchoring the day and making sure that the day as a whole can go smoothly. also, in general, she wasnt very interested in accepting snacks while we were out and about or in between meals. she was just too distracted and seemed to think that being on vacation meant being on vacation from eating her "normal" snacks of fruit and whatnot. it was a bit of a challenge.

hanging out with friends, with a kid:
given the choice of visiting friends and not visiting friends, i definitely chose the former. but, i felt very torn. X uses up most of my energy, so when she would finally go to sleep at night, i wouldnt have much left to give to conversations. also, during the day one of us would have to be occupying X and making sure she wasnt going to destroy jodys house (she didnt, but we were more vigilant about it than at home because the stuff wasnt ours to break. though jody made it very clear to us that she wasnt concerned with breakage, which was kind of her). thus, one or both of us was always missing something in the conversation.

also, when everyone else was vegging and relaxing, we were still on go-go X duty and couldnt fully soak up our friends. it was weird being smacked so hard by the image of what your life was like pre-kid. i was able to directly compare what luxuries i had before and what i am living now. i had a weird split screen in my mind: pangs of jealousy alongside the memories of the realities of vegging, that it gets boring pretty fast.

potential solution(s):
i think for the future we need to have our own place/space (hotel or otherwise) to retreat to at certain parts of the day. it will make us more isolated to be sure, but it should help X get some down time to unwind and maybe focus on eating better. it could also help her play more calmly by herself when we are with friends, so we dont have to hover as much and can relax a bit more. we shall see.

miscellaneous cat:
nutmeg normally goes away to a cat hotel while we travel (another joyous expense we incur to travel). she has never enjoyed this event, but we thought that, over time, going to the same place would be as soothing as the experience could get. nope. when we brought her home from our NY trip, she pooped and peed on herself on the way home (fun to clean!). and this time...she hit the trifecta (as dave said). yup, poop, pee, and puke. even more fun to clean! getting old and the stress of life outside her known apartment is clearly almost more than this animal can take. we will need an in-house catsitter in the future. thankfully i think we can talk our babysitter in to doing it. side note to self: think LONG and HARD about getting another animal after nutmeg is gone.

02 January 2012

New years eve with friends is pretty bos[s]-ton

had the delightful treat of being able to spend NYE with good friends.

in mid-november, dave emailed me about an air canada "deal" to boston (i put deal in quotes because flight prices out of halifax make me quiver with rage). a short non-stop flight and we wouldnt need a rental car or hotel (kind, kind friends jo and patrick, we thank you!), this trip was doable and so, as is my custom, i called dave on his bluff. we checked with friends ntina and ben to see if they too could get the time off and miraculously, it all came together amid busy schedules and last minute-ness in under a week. we booked our flight and off we went toward a new years eve spent with our unofficial NYE crew (we previously did NYE 2006 in boston and NYE 2007 in DC. the group temporarily disbanded when we moved to france).

friday (12/30):
we had uneventful air travel in the morning (we had to get up at 6a, but at least the flight got us in on-time), however X decided she didnt need to nap on the plane (which she normally does if we wake her up early). our friend jody picked us up and we installed our car seat. we made it to her place easily (though X still refused to nap). we got settled in jodys apartment and X explored. eventually patrick woke up (he had just gotten back from the west coast) and X received a cool animal block set from them (presented by uncle pattycakes in an effort to bribe Xs good opinion). only after she fully checked out the toy (and approved of both the toy and patrick) did she consent to a nap.

and now i was able to engage in the seriously satisfying art of sitting at a table and calmly catching up with an old friend. no interruptions. it was heavenly. we hadnt seen jo and patrick since brooklyn, but even then we didnt really get to catch up. dave was also able to bathe in UM football talk with patrick like two pigs in shit. thank god he has someone as fanatic as him to talk to about his team with.

and then, after just an hour of calm, X woke up and was back in action. we grabbed lunch from the harvest co-op and fiores bakery down the street from them. my sandwich was awesome, i could have eaten three of them. but, it was time for us to get rolling. ntina and ben were flying in and jody could drop us at the franklin zoo on her way to the airport. we needed to get X out for an activity to burn off steam.

the zoo was awesome! it was $16 per person but it was totally worth it. we zipped through the bird building and some outdoor animals so we could make it to the jungle building in time for the "gorilla encounter". so glad we did. the zookeeper had strewn snacks (cut-up veggies) on the ground near a huge bank of floor-to-ceiling windows. we were right up front when the mama gorilla and baby (who was riding piggyback) sauntered over to eat. other females slowly came over, and then the large male of the group showed himself. they were eating snacks a few inches from our noses. X loved it.

we then took our time with the rest of the zoo. X was waving like a mad woman at all the animals and saying "hi [insert animal]". it was melt-worthy cute. we also got to hear the lion roaring. he had jumped up on his huge rock and was staring at the people making a subdued roaring noise. its more action than i think ive ever seen from lions at the zoo. after we had finished walking around, we called jody and she came back to pick us up (what a great, uncomplaining driver!).

back at her place, ntina and ben had arrived and we all melded together and settled in to our comfortable spots in the crew (X was again buttered up for new toys). then a trip to whole foods was ordered for dinner items and patrick commenced cooking his yummy veggies and pasta dinner. meanwhile, the adults had appetizers and X munched on some new finds from whole foods (a bite of an "ice cream" we could actually eat, some new sheep cheese, and crackers).

in thinking about all the food we had already consumed and were about to consume (from whole foods), dave and i shook our heads in disbelief at the total bill. this was boston, a MAJOR u.s. city, yet we would easily pay $20-30+ more in halifax for the same type of food, though not even at the same quality. it seriously frustrates me.

anyway, eventually dinner was ready and i was able to have a meal around a table with people i am comfortable with, who know me, who have a great sense of humor, and who always help me dust off the cultural and intellectual cobwebs. we are SO lacking this kind of company in halifax. i loved it. the crew had me laughing until i cried. for that meal alone, the trip had paid for itself.

X wolfed down some bowties and went to bed decently. the poor kid always has it a bit rough on travel day: adjusting to everything, messed up sleep, getting her food issues jacked around. but she did a great job and slept pretty well.

saturday (12/31):
we woke up before jo and patrick so we milled around playing with pandora (sweet sweet pandora how i missed you! i HATE being blocked out of you in canada!) and i took X outside to play. she loved hearing and watching the trains run down the tracks (just down the block from jo is the rail).

back inside, the crew wrapped up a breakfast of steel cut oats and a buffet of add-ins. then we jumped on the T to head downtown and visit the new england aquarium. we had been here before, actually during our "NYE 2006" visit, but its such a gorgeous place and was a definite must after we saw Xs reaction to the zoo. just after the ticket booth outside are the seals, you can stand right up at the glass and they swim right next you. then the first thing you see when you get inside are the penguins. and then you start ascending the spiral around the giant fish tank. its a pretty cool set-up. the tank was full of turtles, fish, sharks, rays, etc. and X was waving to all of them and saying "hi"..."hi sea ray. hi turtle, hi shark." on an upper level was a touch tank for starfish and sea urchins (a bit crowded but a great idea). and on our way out we attempted the touch tank for sharks but it was too crowded and X was getting cranky by then, so we went to have a snack.

(behind dave and X is the penguin exhibit; X touching a starfish)

after we regrouped, we went out walking. the adults needed a snack now. we headed toward a place called joes. on the way we saw a drummer and flute player (playing music circa the revolutionary war) that entranced X. even some of the other spectators pointed at her and commented. yup, shes a freak for rhythms and beats. then we went to joes and had a decent light meal. the manager was nice enough to assure me that they were capable of dealing with food sensitivities, so it was nice not to have to worry. and, while there, i got to have one of those awesome mom-and-child-in-a-bathroom-stall experiences you always laugh about when it happens to some other woman. X was talking to me about poop while i was changing her diaper in the communal bathroom. loved it.


(staring at the musicians)

while the other adults luxuriated in an unhurried meal, X declared she was done well before the rest of the party and so we spent some frigid time at the playground out in front of the restaurant. eavesdropping on the local wealthy city moms was a rare treat though ("he wanted me to read him a second book and i told him 'well honey, momma needs some adult time now'"). when the rest of the group joined us outside, we shared a dreamy walk through festive fanueil hall toward our T stop. the city was still abuzz with families (not yet tucked in at home, before the party people come out to ring in the new year) because boston had organized a really cool "first night" festival. X was just a wee too young to really benefit from that. maybe next time...


(in front of the large christmas tree in fanueil hall)

back in jamaica plains (where jo and pattycakes officially live), we settled in for our night of just hanging out. at one point, during communal dinner prep, there was a rousing chorus of "row, row, row your boat" that tickled X to no end (she still talks about it!). all the adults added their spin on the classic rhyme (although pattycakes was the most unconventional by overlaying the rhythm with the 'dirty dancing' song "ive had the time of my life". im not sure i can explain this any better than that, other than to say "you had to be there").

(jo and patrick recreating a NYE 2006 photo; X entertaining; X examining ben)

anyway, eventually we all gathered round for our late night dinner of steak, greek potatoes, and brussel sprouts. dave doesnt cook me much steak, so it was a treat for me. and X you ask? the child had a wee nap on the T ride home from the aquarium and thus was capable of staying up until 11:30p!
the child can be maddening! once she did finally go to bed, i had just enough energy to ring in the new year before i joined her in bed. this is clearly waaay more activity and stimulation than i am used to at home!

sunday (1/1):
even when you have a fairly subdued NYE, it holds that you must chill out on new years day. it just wouldnt do to start the new years in a frenzy. we got up and made pancakes and bacon and hung out. the weather was shaping up to be pretty gorgeous (considering it was early january) and so we all headed over to the arnold arboreteum ("the oldest public arboretum in north america"). loads of people were out celebrating a new year and the great weather. it was a really nice park. we even attempted a group shot which turned out...so so.



(best attempt at the group shot)

after the walk, we hung around the apartment until ntina and ben went to the airport. then we grabbed dinner fixings from whole foods again and dave made mexican food. after X went to bed (at a sane time), we were able to spend the rest of our visit finally vegging and chatting about nothing (and being envious of jo and patricks kindles. i guess we should get one one day...). it was a great way to close out the trip. we are lucky to have such friends (to read another [lengthier] version of this weekend, see ntinas blog entry).

monday (1/2):
we were up early for our flight home. jo kindly crawled out of bed to drop us off and just like that, our boston trip was over. it was the perfect amount of time to be gone and we had had good weather and a nice visit. our flight was uneventful, we got off on time and arrived 30 minutes early during a very windy and rainy storm. we were actually lucky to have landed so easily, or to have landed at all!

01 January 2012

Hot air #16 - What i did in my free time to close out 2011...

since i mentioned i started reading again, i kept a log of the good things i read and watched through the end of the year. if youve read or watched any, let me know what you thought about them. im always interested. 

books:
- (audio)read "the little prince". 3.5/5. i assume some of the charm is lost in an audioread (dumb idea, dont do it). i thought it was melancholy and understated. enjoyed the philosophical observations from the fox ("One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."), and was entertained by the ridiculous adults on the 6 planets the prince visited. other than that, im not sure what all the fuss is about.

- "a lot like love". 4/5. fun romance novel. had a p&p theme running through it (enjoyed that of course). appreciated the strong, confident heroine too.

- (audio)read "rhett butlers people". 3.5/5. super long! finally, the kind of book that seemed to make sense to audioread. i would never have made it through the whole book if my eyes had had to do the work. i enjoyed some of the added story lines, but of course some were rather tedious. i like experiencing a story from another angle, and i loved the imagination of a happier ending for the fiery butlers. it made me re-watch "scarlett", the movie. i feverishly read the book (scarlett) in high school after first being introduced to the classic movie "gone with the wind" (pairing clark gable/vivien leigh is perfection). i couldnt, for some reason, bring myself to read the original "gone with the wind" book itself, but i wanted the continuation of the story that "scarlett" could offer. i do love a good romance. :)

- "thinking in pictures". 4/5. fascinating account from an autistic PhD scientist on how her autism has helped her succeed in her field of animal behavior science. she also details the thoughts and motivations behind autistic behavior. she gives a view into a world that is confusing, scary, and unknown to people without the condition. her writing style is something ive never read before, if you didnt know she was autistic you would think she writes without feeling and with a great deal of ego and bluntness. aside from a dense (and rather dull, for me) chapter on medications that work for autistics to suppress some of their anxiety, depression. etc. the book was fascinating. it challenges you to think about people who are dissimilar to yourself and it gives you a new perspective on life. she has a chapter about famous geniuses. the review of their unbalanced, often autistic-like lives causes you to think about the importance of the wide variety of human personalities and temperaments. she also makes a wonderful case that we would not benefit (or even thrive), as a society, as a species, if abnormalities such as autism, manic-depression, and schizophrenia were eliminated from the gene pool. they are part of a spectrum of human existence. everyone has worth and value. i suspect this book would be of comfort to parents who have to understand how to live with a "non-normal" child.

- "too good to be true". 4.5/5. loved it. fun little romance (with some rhett butler/gone with the wind references). made me view romance novels in a whole new light. there were actually no "adult scenes" in this one. suggestions and implied interactions, but the romance and spunk were kept going by a good story, which i found to be a happy change of pace. it made me more directly equate reading a romance novel with watching a favorite romantic movie; good on-screen chemistry can be so hard to capture on film and so it would appear it is hard to write two truly convincing characters for print.

- "the phantom tollbooth". 5/5. what a lovely read! cant believe i had never heard about this classic childrens novel. like an "alice in wonderland" tale with a little boy and a watchdog named "tock" as the major characters. the boy is bored and lazy and listless in his life. one day a phantom tollbooth arrives in his room with instructions...he is taken to a world of intrigue: the kingdom of wisdom where there are cities of letters, cities of numbers, and the princesses rhyme and reason have been banished and need rescuing. there is an island of conclusions; how do you get there?...jump. milo learns all sorts of valuable life lessons and is motivated to live life with more attention and curiosity. its a great book to play with kids sense of adventure while encouraging their interest in learning. thanks amy!

- "uncommon reader". 3.5/5. fun, fast read. wasnt sure if id like it after reading the first few pages, but then i eased into it and loved the fun the author had. he really did his research on the queen so it felt very possible for this to be a real slice-of-life story about the current british queen. but my favorite part was his message about reading and what it does for ones life. and it certainly motivated me to look up some of the authors the queen was reading, and now my own "to read" list is HUGE. i couldnt quite see where the books end was going, but certainly the last line made me laugh out loud.

- "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies". 4.5/5. how i found this book i dont remember, but there it was one day. glad i got it from the library. we hear all the time about the effect the images of female bodies in the media and entertainment have on society and its behavior. ive always been interested in that discussion, but it has always seemed weird that there wasnt more discussion about the other side of the coin: men and male bodies depicted in media and entertainment. this book tackles it, this means that it talks a lot about sex, and the penis too. so if you cant stomach seeing the word "penis" on every page, this wont be for you. it helps to have seen some of the movies the book uses as examples in its argument, but i had only seen perhaps 30-40% of the movies, so its not essential. basically, we are asked to take a long, hard (pun intended) look at the way "body guys" and sex are portrayed in our culture. we are asked to widen our acceptance and imagination about the variety of ways mature adults can seek and find pleasure in each other and their bodies. i just thought the way they developed their argument using the tangible images of movies was fantastic. you cant help but agree with them and seek to support a shift in our beliefs and acceptance about the topic.

- "handmaids tale". 3.5/5. i actually audioread the first half of the book and then the second half (second CD) was scratched, so i just rented the book and finished it. i see now that i should have just read the whole damn thing because i think i missed a fair bit of the storys nuance from audioreading (note to self, STOP audioreading things, unless they are long epics). the story itself was intriguing and thought-provoking: a world of paranoia and government takeover for "security" purposes (published pre-9/11!), women are having a hard time conceiving children and those who can are forced to bare other womens husbands children.

- "epic fail". 4/5. modern day teen re-telling of p&p. i suppose im on a bit of a p&p kick these days. the elizabeth bennet character is replaced by the name elise benton in this one. gotta say that scored major points with me. :) i will also mention that the nytimes had reviewed it too.

- "bespelling". 4/5. four, short austen-inspired stories with a paranormal twist. LOVED the persuasion story, and the northanger abbey one, quite to my surprise. the p&p one was pretty weak. but i loved the books overall brevity and spunk. another win from amy. thanks! :)

- "vanity fairs tales of hollywood". 5/5. if you love classic films, hollywood gossip and/or behind-the-scenes info (who was the first choice for this movie role, etc) then this book is perfect for you. i had seen 6 of the 13 movies reported on, and was very familiar with most of the other ones i hadnt seen. it was great fun to read. thanks mary ann!

-"smut: two unseemly stories". 4/5. go ahead, do a double take at the title. i had heard about it from a new yorker article and read one of the authors other books ("uncommon reader", see above) while i waited for this to come from the library (i had to wait several weeks, it was in such high demand!). the author is a brit, and he knows how to do dry humor to a hilt. this book is not about being graphic or making you cringe or blush. rather, sex surrounds the story, it is the reason the stories were written. and the chuckles i got from his short stories were well worth the blush-worthy feelings i had while checking it out from the library and reading it in public.

articles:
- sent by french friend jj, a glowing nytimes article about rennes. swoon!

movies:
- "whats up doc?" 4.5/5. damn babs is a kick ass lady. the movie jumps right in and knocks you out with entertainment right through the end credits. love ryan oneal too, yum. and the san fransisco chase scene was epic.

- "adam". 3.5/5. a man with asbergers syndrome courts a "normal" woman. smartly directed, fairly implausible story though. amusing (to me) anecdotes about the movie: in real life, hugh dancy (he plays adam) is married to claire danes. claire played temple grandin (the woman who wrote "thinking in pictures", see above) in an HBO movie that won her an emmy. small circle of associations. also, the beginning of the movie starts out with a mention of "the little prince". and my brain was even with it enough to link up the face of a bit character in "adam" as the actress who also played jake ryans girlfriend in "sixteen candles". it was a moment that should make my dad proud. he loves finding character actors lurking in small places in unexpected movies.

- "lady chatterley". 5/5. dang, the french can do romance and drama. what a fantastic love story portrayed with average looking people who express their love honestly and maturely and sensitively. the sex scenes and nudity were skillfully done. i was happy to have watched it after reading "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies" (see above) and the original book.

- "all good things". 3.5/5. if you arent following ryan goslings career, you are missing out on some amazing performances. yes, the man is blisteringly hot. "the notebook" is one of my favorite romantic movies, but i have major respect for his entire career. and this one isnt a flattering role. its based on a real american crime(s?), and man does he take his character to all the creepiest, strange places. not the best overall movie, but ryan did an amazing job.

- "angels and insects". 4/5. found out about this from my reading of "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies" (see above). it was a slow, non-action based movie, but the story was fascinating, to me at least. i think ive basically worn through the list of (all) the easily accessible romantic movies and now i am finding enjoyment out of the slower paced, subtle ones. its not a bad thing.

- "cool it". 4/5. a fresh look at the global warming issue. i had vaguely heard of the guy the movie focuses on (bjorn lomberg) and his message that "yes, global warming is occurring due to man, but its not the doomsday scenario as it is currently painted." he argues for money to be better spent on endeavors that will actually help humanity much more efficiently than the money/effort being poured into global warming. i appreciated seeing his different opinion.