Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Heather: I think we felt a foot last night. We haven't been able to distinguish any kind of body part from the imminent one, and all of it was a mystery with Maddie. Last night as Dale was "sliming my gut" (applying cocoa butter to reduce the occurrence of stretch marks) and he saw my belly almost erupt. Then there was a bump that didn't move for perhaps 10 or 15 seconds--long enough for me to feel it, whisper, "I think that's a foot," and for him to feel it.
His little foot... the heel was hard, with the rest of the sole having more give to it. My intuition tells me that he flipped head down a while back and is mostly facing my right side, as that's where most of the movement is. And we'll be able to check it, too. Doc wants me to come in the day before Valentine's Day for a second ultrasound to confirm his size; she said Monday that again I'm "all baby." I'd been thinking that over the weekend and was going to ask about it, but she brought it up. She doesn't want to be surprised by a 10-pounder come March, and she's preaching to the choir on that!
His little foot... not even as long as the palm of my hand. That little foot. I think it was the right one.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Easy Like Saturday Evening.

Dale: Well, at least the Christmas decorations are down.

Yes, I know: Finally.

Maddie was up at around 6:30am, and insisted on watching "Bob." As in SpongeBob Squarepants. I popped the DVD in, and we watched a few episodes. She loves it, and will only briefly tolerate substitutes. That's OK with me, as "Bob" is light-years ahead of "Bah-ee," or Barney ("Dah-ee" calls the saccharine dinosaur "The Purple Satan"). Mercifully, she has no interest in the Teletubbies, a creation that has to be an arm of the Raelians: So weird and stupid that no one in their right mind would be interested in it. Which, of course, explains the wide popularity.

In any event, Dah-ee was the preferred parent today. Mama was given the brush off, which is rough but survivable, as I can testify. Dah-ee had to "reet-reet" all of her favorite books, and refill "sipp-ee" numerous times. "Please?" "Pees!" Dah-ee was more popular than mama even after Maddie twice got into trouble for getting into the entertainment center. Having usually been on the other side, it was rather nice being the unchallenged Good Guy for a change.

After finishing off half a pot of Mr. Jittery's Special Blend, I insisted on putting away the Christmas stuff today instead of tomorrow. Why? Because I hate doing it with a passion. I always get melancholy about it, and spend the following two hours looking at the afterimage of the tree and nativity scene. Another Christmas gone. I don't need to add that to the ennui caused by the awareness that the weekend is almost over. Don't need that at all.

So it came down today. And then it went up into the attic. My, what fun. Maddie disliked seeing me up there, and frankly I don't like going up there to breath the insulation and dust, feeling the arctic chill. I refuse to let Heather go anywhere near the fold-down ladder, or to lift anything heavier than Madeleine. Compound that with the onset of a cold, and it's something best finished fast. Then Heather decided to have a sensuous moment. As in, sens'-you-was up there, get the bassinet down out of storage. Down it came, in all of its unwieldy glory. This brought home another difficult-to-grasp fact.

Heather's six weeks away. It's hard to get a grip on it, really. Another baby. Amazing, astonishing, and generously-topped with nervous awe. It may be sinking in though. Heather broke out the newborn diapers and put them in the cabinet above the changing table. She showed me one, a ludicrously small swatch of fragile fabric that I am sure the lad is going to blast meconium through like buckshot through a doily. Frankly, I just stared at it for ten seconds, and then spent another minute practicing origamy on it. Hard to believe that it's actually going to work, and work just fine.

Assuming, of course, he decides to stop kicking long enough after he's born to be diapered. Good Lord, he kicks a lot. I swore he'd had enough last night, and had decided he was going to be born in January, damn it! I can only describe it like this: Heather's stomach undulated--twice. It was unreal to watch. We know Maddie doesn't care for it: Whenever Heather exposes her stomach, Maddie marches up to her mommy and grabs at her shirt, saying "shut, shut!" all the while. "Mom, you're embarrassing me!" At age sixteen months. Just you wait...

Anyway, another melancholy moment: as part of the sensuous exploration, I had to take a tub of Maddie's old clothes upstairs. The ones that for some reason don't fit anymore. The ones my tiny daughter used to "swim" in.

The ones that may never be worn again.

After all that, I finished putting clothes on hangers, and putting away the stuff Heather folded. Then came the well-earned nap, which was interrupted by a phone call. Usually, it's some idiot trying to sell us something we don't need or can't afford, so I let the machine pick up. It's out in the living room, but I had bumped up the volume, and not turned it back down. I heard the caller leave a message.

The message started with a couple of genuinely cheerful obscenities: it was my little brother, who was calling to let us know that the Customs Service has extended him an offer of employment. It's great news at a number of levels, not least of which is that he will probably be moving nearer to our neck of the woods. I just wish my voice hadn't been going into the dumpster, because I'm sure I did not sound as enthusiastic as I was.

After I fully woke up, I fetched dinner from the local pizzeria, which Maddie largely ignored. She preferred pulling pans out of the drawers, or marching back and forth from the living room to the kitchen.

Heather gave her a bath, and I came in to say good night. "I love you, little girl," followed by a kiss. Then, in an instant, the melancholy vanished.

"I oh oo."

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Heather: Toddler Diet Story.
Regular readers know Maddie is the "opposite of lactose intolerant." She will tolerate water, but much prefers milk. She can look at her sippy and decide whether she really wants it or not, and has politely handed me back one with water and said, "Mik. Bees." [Translated: Milk, please.]
However, she did something last night that I think would cause lots of parents to rub their eyes in shock. We were having supper; I had some food on my plate set aside to serve to her. I gave her a sippy of milk to hold her over. She gently pushed the cup of dairy ambrosia out of the way and reached toward my plate, gripping her hand and saying rather urgently, "Bees! Bees!"
What did I have on my plate, you ask? Chocolate cake, possibly? Or macaroni and cheese? Some other concoction to vainly attempt to sneak something of nutritional value into a fussy toddler?
No, none of the above. Resting on my plate were two stalks of plain steamed broccoli. No salt, no cheese sauce, not even butter. And she was demanding one of them.
So I gave it to her, still a little hotter than I'd hoped. She took it gingerly and pushed it around on her tray for a minute or two, occasionally looking at me and saying, "Ot." [Hot.] When it had reached a more comfortable temperature, she picked it up and demolished it like it was ice cream. She even flipped it around and munched on the stalk itself, not just the floret part. She was "finished" with it when what was left was too small to fit her hand around, but even then she picked small clumps off her tray. She even took a bite more of mine later on.
I've thought about asking her doc if it's possible to eat too much vegetables, especially the green ones. Beans, peas, broccoli, green peppers, even lima beans... She picks them out and eats those first. Honest.
I don't think he'd believe me.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Passing the Faith on to a 16 month old.

Dale: It isn't easy, but progress has been made.

Last year, after concluding business in Bay City, I stumbled across "Regina Caeli," a fine Catholic bookstore. Surprisingly orthodox (see Saginaw, Diocese of), it carries none of the works of Joan Chittister or anything about the idiotic New Age ennegram. As an aside, I think any Catholic who has published an ennegram book should be subject to random nightly raids where they are woken up and smacked with a fifteen pound ham.

I found a children's bible which I couldn't pass up, and brought it home with me. Maddie has actually taken to the Christian books we have for her. In one, when she asks us to "reet" it to her, we ask her: "Where's Jesus?" She immediately points to the depiction of Christ. She's been doing this for about three months now.

Well, just this week, it's gotten more developed. Now I'll simply point to Christ, and ask "Who's that?" She responds with "Jeess."She'll also point to pictures of the Holy Family, and say "Mama" to Mary, and "Dada" to Joseph. Jesus gets "bay-be."

In fact, she's saying "Jeess" a lot now, pointing to our olivewood carvings of Jesus and the Holy Family, especially liking to hold the latter icon.

It's early yet, but the initial signs are good.
I've seen this face!

The funniest description of child distaste I've ever read:

"[T]he last time I fed Gnat that stuff she made a face that resembled Winston Churchill attempting to pass a cricket bat sideways through his urethra."

From The Master, James Lileks, of course.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Heather: Recently, two magazines to which I subscribe both had articles about the issue of abortion. Perhaps they were both inspired by Roe v. Wade this month so it's not a coincidence, but I don't recall the precise details.
I was disturbed by the assumption by the editorial staff, the writer, publisher, whomever had control of these publications that their readership was entirely pro-abortion. Yes, I know, women's magazines have covered the issue of abortion and debated both arguments (some would say ad nauseum), but the glossing over any opposition and obvious belief that any modern, educated woman who can read and count higher than 10 without taking her shoes off is going to be pro-abortion left me bereft, to say the least.
One article, however, gave me pause. It was a synthesis of interviews of doctors who have been practicing since before Roe v. Wade and remember the "bad old days," as they could be called. The days of coathangers, knitting needles, intentional falls down flights of stairs... deaths of women and their unborn child.
I'm not going to argue that legal abortion significantly reduces the risk to the life and health of the mother and that justifies it. I'm not even going to look in that direction, so keep breathing.
The article reminded me, made clear to me, that women have been seeking abortion since before it was legal and if it is made illegal again, some will still seek it. I know trashy romance novels aren't exactly the most reliable source for accurate information, but I have read at least a few where one character or another seeks to "get rid of" the child she's carrying. (Of course, it's never the heroine, but that's another blog entry.)
I really don't believe that the pro-life forces that be would argue that getting an abortion should be a capital crime. That goes against the grain of the true meaning of "pro-life," in my opinion. Despite a woman submitting to a horrible procedure (let's not go into the gory details), she should not soon die of a perforated uterus or some other hemorrhage. The overwhelming commentary on the murder of Dr. Slepian tells me that prevailing opinion is abortionists also should not be sentenced to death.
To be concise, I don't believe that making abortion illegal is going to eliminate it. Our government cannot legislate morality; they do what it takes to keep their jobs (get re-elected).
What needs to happen is a change in our society where children are regarded as the blessings they are, if not to the woman giving birth then to the family who adopts. I recognize asking for such change is akin to asking water to flow uphill. This change must take root in those couples who welcome every child God gives them. The cries of all Rachel's childless sisters must be heard, lamenting their empty wombs. All of God's gifts meant nothing to Abram until Isaac, and I'm sure he was more valued than the rest combined. We must realize that the third television, new car every other year, and monolithic homes do not grant us immortality nor increase the glory of God.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


Dale: This is the nickname I've given myself whenever I do something that Madeleine does not like. Such as relieving her of the covertly-acquired stapler or remote control, or taking away the dog-slobbered cracker she wants to eat, or removing the unindentifiable lint/dirt clod/cat food/dog food/Cthuloid Horror from her mouth before she swallows it.

Well, last night I became Super Baddy.

Madeleine has acquired the worst diaper rash of her life. It seems to stem from what appear to be an otherwise solid store brand of diapers we bought last Saturday. Bad idea. Beyond bad. We're talking too-few-lifeboats-on-the-Titanic-bad. Maginot Line-bad. Electing-Jimmy Carter-bad. As of yesterday evening, her backside was a hellish, raw shade of red. Heather let her go around without pants, as long as a towel was nearby. It even hurt for Maddie to sit.

Wednesdays are Heather's night to give baths, and fortunately, Maddie suffered no discomfort from this. Then came the moment we'd been dreading: time to put her diaper on. Guess who had the job of making sure Maddie didn't move or kick too much?

Wailing, of course, and painful cries as Mommy applied the Balmex. Worst was the look of hurt betrayal. At that point I had one of those moments where I saw the little girl, not the toddler. This time, it wasn't a good feeling. The diaper went on, followed by the onesie and her sleeper. She blinked away her tears, and clung to Mommy. Mommy gently suggested that Maddie "give daddy a hug."

Response? An angry/hurt shriek that barked "NO!" better than any drill instructor. Mommy tried again. Same refusal, coupled with the hurt betrayal look. Again, the little girl appeared. Defeated, I left. A couple of minutes later, Heather suggested I bring in an Elmo object--any would do--or a slice of cheese (our child is the opposite of lactose intolerant). I dug a stuffed toy out, and walked in, eager to appease.

"Eh-mo!" A smile, and eager hands reached out. Even a smile for daddy. Pleased with that success, I decided to get the cheese, too.

"Cheese?" I asked.

"Tseez!" she said, with smiling enthusiasm.

I ran to the fridge, and returned with a slice. "Eh-mo" vanished off the radar. The big, laughing smile this time, as more eager hands reached for the processed American. It's Tseez Time! Shortly thereafter, it became dinner theatre as I did one of my "Goofy Daddy Dances™" to her giggling approval.

What diaper rash? What Balmex? All is forgiven.

I can only hope that the same thing works when she reaches age 12.
What's the Secret, Guys?

Dale: Pack her lunch, and include a frosted chocolate brownie.

Works like a charm.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Heather: In Praise of My Husband.
Dale doesn't know this is coming, so I hope it's a nice surprise.
Around Thanksgiving, we met a couple friends of his (and one's new wife) at a local bar. We hadn't seen the newlywed since our own wedding just over 3 years before, and never met the bride. Most of you know what socializing is with a toddler: nonexistent. Since they were more his friends than mine, I policed Maddie after she got bored with the high chair and dinner. Luckily the establishment was sparsely populated and courteously staffed, so Maddie could make her rounds over... and over...
I left before Dale to take our daughter home, bathe her, and put her to bed. His parting words ringing in my ears after helping me load up the minivan were, "I don't think we're going to be much later."
Well, it was several hours later when he was dropped off. I was in bed asleep so we did not discuss it at length then, but my behavior gave away my sentiments the next morning.
What he said: "I should have called your mom to take Maddie."
What I heard: You're right--it was no fun for you to keep track of her and you had no chance to talk with adults.

What he said: "I stopped with the beer when you left."
What I heard: You're right. I was imbibing too much, too fast.

What he said: I honestly thought I'd be home sooner.
What I heard: You're right. I was out later than I should have been.

All of those combined meant I was no longer ticked with him, forgiveness had been achieved, the world was back in balance. Like magic.

He also has this habit of turning something I say back around into a compliment to me. He's done it several times that I recall. Example: On our second wedding anniversary, I was about 6 weeks postpartum. I tried to trim Maddie's tiny fingernails and twice missed and cut her (I've since learned to do it when the child is asleep) so we both cried then, I'd had to leave her in her bassinet crying to shower (I thought the sound of water would calm her--it had before), I'd had no chance to do anything special for our anniversary, we went and got her baptism pictures taken, busy day.
He said, "This still was the best anniversary for me."
I said, "Because of her?" indicating our daughter.
"No, it means I've been married to you for one more year."
Honest. He said that.

Recently I asked him something like, "Don't you just look at her and think what a terrific thing we've done?"
His reply was, "Marrying you ranks right up there, too."

Last night I said to him, "You're a wonderful dad."
His reply: "I'm just trying to be as good a parent as you are."

How did I get so lucky? My mind reels at the blessings God has heaped on me--this partner to share my life, the beautiful daughter I can hold in my arms, the imminent son full of activity. I don't believe He answers straying from Him with punishment but instead nudges His children to return, but it certainly does seem like He rewards those who do!

Anyway. All that to say I love him very much.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Maddie News.
Parents Bragging About Their Brilliant Child.

"How refreshing," says the reader.

"Suffer," says the blogging father. Actually, I can sympathize--having seen other parents brag about their kids, I know it's sometimes bunk:

Crazed, sleep-deprived, doting parent: "Did you hear that? Theodora said 'Mendelssohn!' She's going to be a musical prodigy!"

Me: "Yeah, that was great!" [To myself: "Good Lord. The kid's got all of two teeth. It sounded like 'mulf' to me. And to anyone else who's gotten more than three hours sleep in the past two days. In fact, the only intelligible word she's said in the past three hours has been 'da-da,' and she said that to their Siamese."]

Proceeding onward:

Maddie's verbal development continues at a staggering pace. New two-syllable words (all G-rated so far) are issuing forth daily: "Slipper" and "apple" would pass the sane, rested individual hearing test with flying colors. More intriguing is "Shup," which we have discovered means "Shut up." The only time she hears this phrase is when Da-da is addressing Puh-pee at 80 decibels, specifically in regard to Puh-pee's barking. Fortunately, she hasn't picked up on daddy's other common phrase yelled at the dog, "craphound." [You really, really, really don't want to know how the dog acquired that nickname.]

Anyway, what Heather noticed was that she would let the mutt outside, and the dog would immediately start her Incessant Barking At Evil. Believe me, Evil gets a thorough tongue-lashing from our Beagle-Brittany mix. Shortly afterwards, Madeleine would start saying "shup." The dog would continue barking, and Maddie would say "shup." This is true, as I first heard it Saturday. She is her father's daughter.

Then there's "ohnu." This is probably going into crazed-parent territory: we think it means "I love you." She says it repeatedly, and only when she's hugging one of us, or one of her beloved stuffed animals. Unfortunately, she also said it to a roll of paper towels she was cuddling, so that's why it's a little on the hypothetical side at this point.

She's also developing different expectations of us as individual parents. This is seen in her reaction to one of us crying. We have a book called "Busy Babies." Madeleine loves this book. It consists of pictures of babies and toddlers in various activities, including laughing and crying. Heather read it to her, and did some crying noises when she reached this page. Maddie looked at her mom with great concern and developing confusion. She then leaned in to comfort mama.

Daddy read the same book today. When he got to that page, at Mommy's prompting, he did the same thing. Response? Maddie wailed. I was stunned. I guess she doesn't want to see Daddy cry, ever. It wasn't a fluke either, as Daddy did the same thing when Maddie smacked him with a spoon at the dinner table tonight. I'd forgotten about the earlier incident, and was trying to do it for comic effect. Same wail. Very interesting.

Moreover, she's showing her Catholic bona-fides, too. Heather and I purchased some wood carvings from a group of Palestinian Catholics who visited our parish a few months ago. One has a cast pewter icon of the Virgin Mary holding a toddler-age Jesus. She pointed to it, and I picked it up and gave it to her. She gazed at the icon, pointed to the Blessed Virgin, and said: "Mama." She did the same thing after carrying it over to her own Mama.

Finally, her suspicion of men continues. But, as a reader whose own daughter had a similar reaction to his dad pointed out, with respect to other men, he kind of hoped it would have lasted until she turned 35 or so. I understand perfectly.

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