What Are They Teaching My Three Year Old

So it's been a while. For a variety of reasons, mostly sloth, I haven't written reviews of the last few things we saw. In fact, since my last post my child has lived a sixth of his life. Goodness. I can sum them up quickly though, Zach Scott Children's theatre is um, bad. Since my last post we've seen two shows there, Farm to Market and Holiday Heroes. Both of them featured the same problem: derivative and uninspired songs (did you really get the rights to those Beatles' songs you used the music from??), over reliance on body function jokes, gender stereotyping, and adult actors falling on the wrong side of the childlike/drunk acting continuum. On the plus side, Farm to Market had a really cool ant puppet. I am actually baffled about the quality of the shows there, given the status of that theatre and its relative wealth. We won't be going to see anymore shows there, for the simple fact that you were trying to teach my kid that a girl wanting a football is heeellllarrrius. Jerks.

Anyway, the bulk of this post is actually going to be about the show we saw today. Which, honestly, was so far out of my expectations and comfort zones that I felt like I had stumbled into a foreign country. When I go see theatre, really, I don't expect dudes wandering around attempting to sell me and my child thousands of calories on a stick. I don't expect a kid behind me to repeatedly bash me in the head with a pennant. I don't expect them to think I would actually pay ten dollars for parking. At some point I finally realized: this is not a play. This is is a rock concert for the toddler set. Yes, we went to Sesame Street Live: 1-2-3 Imagine!

It is creepy to see adult sized versions of the Muppets. You slowly start to realize that without camera work, the unblinking eyes are really pretty unnerving. And everyone looked a bit off, and a lot cheap. It was sort of like going to see U2 in concert, but having the show performed by the Madame Tussuad Wax Dummies of U2. And, given that there was one random Muppet we had no idea who she was, I guess it was like having the Wax Dummies of U2 performing live in concert with "Bob" or something. It turns out her name is Roxy Marie. She doesn't add anything. 

The actual plot itself was relatively harmless, a postal worker named Sam (Samantha) comes to deliver postcards and convinces the denizens that they can have a good time using their imaginations to pretend they are visiting the places the postcards are from. Oddly, Bert, usually the most buttoned up of the muppets, was working blue in this show. He was responsible for both the poop and the vomit joke as well as the line in Surfin' Safari about "honeys coming along." I forget who asked if the content of postcards "was always so steamy" after a weird sketch about geysers set to the song, "Hot, Hot, Hot." There was a fair amount of culturally problematic content, a visit to Mexico (which apparently all looks like the San Antonio River Walk) where they "taught" a Texan audience that "hola" means hello in Spanish. Really? You don't say. And a trip to "Africa" characterized by some strange Afro Cuban jazz moves, some non-specific monkey masks, and some odd "tribal" costuming.

As for the performing, my eyes kept getting drawn to Grover, who managed to dance his/her part so ironically that I could clearly see the message being sent (I am too good to be inside a blue furry suit). Whenever a kick was called for, this dancer delivered the highest and craziest grand battement possible (yes, I looked the name for that term up). Everything was done at the fullest possible extension. Any leap was done a full foot higher than the other puppets. I'm not usually called upon to critique dance, so I hope I'm doing sort of ok here. The point is: while the other muppets just danced, the person inside Grover wanted you to make sure you knew "I AM A DANCER." So, to the person inside Grover, dude, in this economy just be glad you have a job and simmer down. Grover is actually pretty klutzy, you know? The only other person on stage indistinguishable in any way was, of course, the girl playing Sam. She was fine. She's just there to get the plot going, really, and none of the kids seemed to pay her any mind. She's the opener to the main act, so to speak.

I have to say, I found this one hard to sit through. Until about halfway through, when all of a sudden Ollie relaxed and got into it. The problematic African segment? Ollie's favorite. He got off my lap and boogied to the beat. He danced and participated and sang and answered questions for the rest of the show until the very end, when he was growing very tired. Seeing him have a good time always trumps any of the other thoughts I have about what I'm seeing. I always find myself grinning a huge grin at his enjoyment and I watch him instead of the show. When we left he said goodbye to an usher and informed him, "That was a really great show!" I wish I had the ability to get into things as much as he does. It has been a long time since I've been at a piece of theatre that I found just sucked me in completely. While I know Brecht would like that, Ollie gets more joy out of theatre than I do and that makes me sad. On the other hand, going to theatre with Ollie gives me more joy than about anything.     

What are they teaching my 2 year old? Part III


Today I had the privilege of enjoying a lovely show in the pleasantly icebergish Long Center. It's 106 every day here, I cannot express how nice it was to sit in a space and just feel cool. But even if I hadn't been thrillingly not melty, I still would have thoroughly enjoyed the show we saw, Pattern Nation, as produced by Pollyanna Theatre Company.

I hadn't heard of Pollyanna before and didn't know what to expect when I saw the write up in the Chronicle. But now I am very interested in seeing what they do in the future, including their children's version of The Tempest coming up in August. One of the shows I remember seeing as a small one is a shorter version of Macbeth at Stage One, so even though I think Ollie might be a bit young for Shakespeare, there's no harm in trying. 

Pattern Nation owes a fair debt to the Paperbag Players, my favorite historical children's theatre company. Like the Paperbag Players, their sets and costumes were simple and looked made out of homemade things, the main set piece/prop was a cardboard box. The set consisted of a backdrop that said Pattern Nation with different scraps of fabric on it, there were some platforms to the right, and three circles in green, blue, and yellow painted on the floor. The two dimensional props, representing food and other things, were all charmingly decoupage with different papers and fabrics for a vintage patchworky feel. I was really impressed with how cute they were.

When we came into the theatre, Red was snoozing fitfully on the platforms (making up the fourth color circle) and his wiggling and flopping made the kids giggle. The show had no real narrative, though I guess it is the third part in a series. Red, Blue, and Green were anthropomorphized guys, each with a distinct personality. Yellow was a woman. A voice announces overhead that "Today's Pattern is Boxes" (a touch I thought maybe overtly too much like preschool television) and the characters begin a series of sketches about patterns and shapes and colors that Red, who is tired and not feeling well, resists taking part in. When he does try to get involved, he can't get the patterns right. The kids all thought this was hilarious, as they knew what shape was supposed to come up next and here this goofy grown up couldn't get with the program. Red in particular was hilarious, with a mugging expressive face that perfectly brought his rebellious character to life.

The main sketch was a large cardboard box being delivered to the friends and them figuring out what it was (a box) but then what it could be used for (a cat bed-- the cat being spot on embodied by Blue, a pirate ship, a limeade stand, a puppet theatre). Along the way there were songs and silly dancing, different emotions expressed, and unlike the rote Annie, though the audience today was unfairly tiny, the four actors in this show acted their hearts out for their child audience.

I loved this show. I thought it was extremely well written, fantastically acted, and well designed and directed. I have to say, I wish the story had been a bit more of a through line and a bit less of a sketch comedy thing, though I do know from reading about educational theory that this is supposed to be the way to best keep small one's attention spans. So since this show was all about entertaining the small one, my personal structural preference takes a back seat.

This was not quite the visual extravaganza The Very Hungry Caterpillar was, but this was in every way my definition of good children's theatre and I encourage anybody with a small one to go see the next Pattern show that pops up.  

What are they teaching my 2 year old? Part II

Today's review is a production of the touring company of Annie that came through the Bass Concert Hall. We attended a Saturday matinee, it was us, about a zillion other children, and some disgruntled childless couples (it's a matinee of Annie, geniuses). We managed to score some fantastic seats at the last minute, and so were sitting in the second row center. From there we could see everything on stage extremely well, along with the pit orchestra (mini orchestra? There were like, six dudes down there). That much, Ollie really liked.

Given the last production we saw, honestly, it staggers me to say that as a family we enjoyed this (expensive, professional) production less. At least with the Story there was the constant bafflement at the plot, the enjoyment of watching our friend play in the band, and the unpredictability of kids. With this show I have to say the highlight for the grown-ups was discovering the Bass sells Fat Tire and you can take it to your seat with you, and for Ollie it was the rare appearances of Sandy, the dog, who received an audible gasp from the children and a smattering of applause when he/she first took the stage.

It's been a long time since I've seen Annie, and I guess what struck me about this production was the missed opportunities here. The parallels between the world of Annie, with the homeless, poor, starving and government loathing citizens and our own time were obvious. So why not make more of them? Do you know who sits in orphanages and the foster care system? Teenagers, differently abled children, and children of color. So don't give me an orphanage full of tiny adorable white moppets (note, there was one girl of color). Miss Hannigan is stuck in the impossible situation of being the sole 24 hour care for children with no resources whatsoever. Is there a way to point the finger at the society that forgot these kids and not make her such a sex-crazed shrill harpy? Why were the poor people so clean? Were they upper middle class citizens who took on crazy mortgages and lost their homes? How can we point to that (actually, that one's easy for me. In the shanty town have them living out of Hummers).

Why not have a black Annie? I mean, Jesus, think about all the questions that opens up. There are tons of people out there raising children of different races then their own. All the time they face issues about how to expose children to their own cultures, the kids face issues about not fitting into one world or the next, as well as ethical issues about how these kids ended up in orphanages and foster care to begin with. Warbucks is basically the original Angelina Jolie. How could Annie address this?  

Why not set it in the present time? Sure, some of this stuff would seem weird (FDR, for example), but whatever. The audience would go with it. Let's get into race and class issues that we should be addressing in NYC (everybody was so white!!!). Let's get into technology and greed. Let's look at the fact that in the end Annie gets to live in the mansion and her friends are going back to who knows what.

Ok, so putting aside the time I spent reconceiving the entire production as a whole, let's look at this one. Ollie and I disagreed on Annie. Ollie liked her, and got antsy when she wasn't onstage. I thought she had an outstanding belting voice, an extremely nasally lower register, and absolutely no stage presence. Given that I was so close up, I could see how she rarely had any expression on her face at all. She went through the motions, but she felt none of it. I know it's a kid, and I'm trying to make some space for her, but many of the other kids were much more engaged in the roles and much more present on stage.

This was true for most performers, with the exception of Miss Hannigan and oh, god, I've forgotten her name. The secretary lady. While I wasn't thrilled with either of their characterizations, I have to say they embraced their roles with gusto, were there the whole time, and had lovely singing voices for their characters. They, of all people on stage, truly seemed like the wanted to be there and wanted us to have a good show.

The rest of the group seemed like they wanted to collect a paycheck, more or less. I was particularly baffled by the guy playing the cop, among his many roles. He was playing it like a mustache twirling villain crossed with a dude from a Quentin Tarintino movie. It was bizarre. I decided later that maybe he was trying to differentiate his various characters, but dude, dial it down some.

The sets and drops in general were servicable, though we quite liked the shantytown under the bridge. There was also a moment with snow coming down outside the glass windows of Warbucks's atrium that was lovely. The costumes, however, man. These were by far the cleanest, classiest homeless people I have ever seen. Being so close, it was obvious that everyone was spotless and without rip or tear. Patches were neatly attached to clothing that obviously had no need for patching (especially such perfectly square ones). There were some homeless ladies wearing coats I would have killed for, they were so cool and in mint condition. Poor Annie had to wear the traditional red dress and wig for the finale and a less flattering outfit they could not have found for that girl. Also, costumes were in general two to three inches too short, and we could not have seen more cooches if we'd gone to the Moulin Rouge.

Overall, Ollie dug the dog and the scenes with the kids. The whole subplot with Hannigan colluding with her brother to dupe Warbucks bored Ollie to tears. By the end he was getting really, really antsy. This was not a major success for any of us involved. Though he looked really cute in his dress up clothes and shoes.

Also, it is not in any way appropriate to sell small girls pink baby doll t-shirts with "Easy Street" spelled out in rhinestones on them. 


What are they teaching my 2 year old? Part I


So today I have a new feature for the blog. I've decided to write reviews of the children's theatre shows we take Ollie to see. This is a review of the original musical "The Story" as performed at ACT theatre.

ACT Children's theatre is theatre for and performed by children. "The Story" is a full length musical using metatheatricality, literary theory, and outmoded and alarming gender politics. The play is set up with a framing device of a Story Teller, who was written as a man and is played by a rather sarcastic older girl in an unflattering costume. While I get the sense that in a few years she'd be really fun to hang with at a bar, she had no charisma on stage and looked as though she were sneering at the proceedings of the play. But, can you blame her after all of the characters (all sixty of them) sang and danced on stage pointing at her and declaring, "She's the man!" over and over? There's nothing a young teenage girl likes better than to be called mannish.

The Story Teller is tired of telling stories and so takes on an apprentice. An adorable moppet with a lisp and no ability to remember his lines. They begin a story about a Goat Herder named Gus and a woman named Mona Moneybags with a lot of daughters all given money related names (Nickel, Goldie, etc), except for the youngest, Ernestine. At this point in wafts Inspiration, a tall lithe blonde in a Blue Fairyesque floor length dress and minimal make-up. She is perky and upbeat and loves everybody. She calls us "beautiful creatures" throughout. Given the lack of plot to this point, the audience should be happy when Conflict rushes on, alongside her minions including Woe and Discord who are dressed in sort of Spanish Matador costumes. In contrast to the demurely and conventionally attractive Inspiration, Conflict has been decked out as a whore, in an unflattering tight red satin dress that ends above her knee and a truly astonishing amount of blush. The story, as it develops, is that Mona Moneybags first born was Gus the Goat Herder, who was caught in a violent gust of wind and whooshed off to Goat Island. He comes to the city looking for his mother and his fortune with only a locket with her picture in it to guide him.

Mona Moneybags, I should add, was by far the best performer in the show. She managed to project sadness and concern for her children, a gravitas that belies her 12(?) years of life. She had a lovely singing voice. I hope that she keeps performing.

I don't remember the rest of the myriad of plot complications and confusions except for a couple of highlights. One is that there is an entire number built around the notion that every single day Mona's children (as the wealthiest children in the world) get a pair of new shoes and that this occasions a dance number about how all women love shoes more than anything. And at some point Mona's children began sneaking out at night through a conveniently located secret passage and that Gus the Goat Herder saves the day by physically pushing them with his shepherd’s crook back home. A truly disturbing act of male policing of women's freedom and sexuality through physical force. 

The highlights of the show were Mona Moneybags, Narrators 1 and 2 (who rebel against the stupidity of their roles and wear awesome hats), and the girl who looked EXACTLY like the kid in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants who dies of cancer. Well, not her so much as figuring out why I thought I must know her.

Ollie watched with rapt attention throughout. However, though I was told on the phone the show would be appropriate for small children, I have no doubt he followed almost none of the plot or story and had no idea what was going on. Luckily the kids sang and danced with enthusiasm, for the most part, and the costumes were colorful and fun (I also particularly admired a very well cut and sewn green dress one of Mona's daughters was wearing. If a mom or dad made that, they did a really good job). He was also very into making sure he followed the cues of the audience. I got the giggles really badly when one of the boys in the show, dressed as a detective, said completely woodenly, "Your daughter does not appear to be here right now." It reminded me of all the parodies of CSI I've seen and I think he needed to whip off his sunglasses for the full effect. After a second Ollie got very upset and declared "That not funny! Stop laughing Mama!" And when I couldn't, he insisted on sitting with Eric, he was just that mad at me.   

All in all I would say that the kids did a great job, by and large, with some of course better and more charismatic than others, but all seemed to be having a good time. As I indicate in my review, largely I was caught up in my horror at the script and costuming choices and how unfortunate the depictions of women were.

Other funny recent phrases

Lately, Ollie's language skills have gotten good enough that his brain can construct the sentences faster than he can say them. This leads, first of all, to the world's cutest "Ummmmm...." while he tries to figure out what he's trying to say. Second of all it leads to a fair number of spoonerisms and malapropisms. Tonight during his bath, Ollie was talking about his "Dubber Ruckies", but I missed the best one. Apparently Ollie and Jenny were in the car a few days ago driving home from daycare and Ollie saw a fire truck and got very excited, repeatedly yelling "Tire..." (I'm sure you can figure out the rest ;). I guess after several repetitions he stopped and said in a thoughtful tone, "This is hard" before continuing. Myself, I can't imagine how Jenny stayed on the road for laughing.

Ollie run around circles... TWO MINUTES!!!!

It seems like every month brings a new set of catchphrases and funny behaviors. Ollie seems to have picked up on our attempts to get him ready for various transitions ("Ollie, you can play trains for 2 more minutes, then it's bath time", etc) and now announces at random intervals that he's going to run in circles for "two minutes!".

Also, I think he may need to be checked into a Betty Ford clinic; he has a fairly serious addiction to granola bars ("ola bars" in toddler parlance). Since we keep a box of granola bars from Costco in the front seat to hand out to homeless people (you'd be surprised how many actually turn them down), he likes to take a quick detour while climbing into his seat, lunge over the cupholder, and seize a granola bar. A lot of the time he doesn't really even want to eat it, at least not right away, just hold it like some magic talisman. The other night he slept with an ola bar... still in its wrapper. He woke up, picked it up, carried it downstairs, and then ate it. I think he was testing to see if ola bars, among their many wonderful qualities, fended off nightmares. Unfortunately that hypothesis turned out to be unsupported.

I have to reassure Ollie each night right before I close his door that there are no masks in the room and that if any show up, I'll come right back. Tonight he's sleeping with a new stuffed dragon from Barnes & Noble (his current favorite stuffed animal, he picked it out Saturday), maybe that will help.

Other recent favorite activities: He's loving playing with the farm set his Aunt MeMe sent him, especially the tractor and the pigs. He's very into reverse psychology; the surest way to get him to do anything -- eat a new food, give kisses and hugs, climb the stairs for a bath -- is to tell him you do not want him, under any circumstances, to do it. Of course this carries the very real risk that when you then tell him not to do something seriously (such as, oh, I don't know, run out into the street chasing a leaf) he is only too eager to disobey. It's a tough balancing act some days.

Another current favorite game is to pretend to be a froggie, crawling around on the floor and popping up to scare/attack people. We played this game with me lying on our bed and him sneaking all around it for about an hour straight on Sunday. I don't know why a froggie, honestly.

We've planted much of our garden, including starting a bunch of seedlings in a little indoor greenhouse. He loves to check on the seedlings every day--he always tells them "Grow up baby plants, I eat you!" I'm pretty sure he means it as an inspirational speech. Hopefully the plants take it that way. :) Growing our own food and trying new stuff from the CSA basket (which starts again soon) has been a great way to get him interested in all kinds of veggies (and us too, honestly). We went out to dinner Friday at Trudy's, and the only non-water drink we could get for him was a Shirley Temple, which he did not like at all -- he asked for water after one sip. He loves tomatoes and carrots, especially if he can steal them out of my salad, and he'll eat an entire corn on the cob in one go. Tonight we had a really tasty leek and cauliflower tart (Jenny made some awesome pastry dough for the crust) and he loved that too, as well as the leek and sweet potato chowder we had this weekend.

Finally, I give you--the Trouble Face. This is the face Ollie makes when he wants attention and isn't getting it. He walks up to you and makes this face to inform you that if you don't start entertaining him, he's going to start breaking the rules until you do. Frankly, it's really helpful. :)


Last night Ollie had his first bad nightmare. He went to bed like usual, with only a little fuss, but then a couple of hours later he woke up very upset. He couldn't calm himself down, so Eric went up to see what the problem was. Ollie was crying and asking Eric to stop people from biting him and pinching him. Though we assured him we wouldn't let that happen, he didn't calm down for two hours or so. Poor guy. I used to get terrible nightmares as a kid and want to sleep with my mom and dad. And we tried that, last night. The good part was that he didn't want to go to sleep so instead he snuggled up close and kept petting and kissing me. The bad part was there was no sleep happening for him, so he eventually got moved back to his bed. But he was ok by then.

Not much else happening in the world of Ollie. His cousin Ben recently left. Ben visiting was an interesting thing for Ollie. In some ways he totally loved it. He didn't love that Ben wasn't the greatest sleeper and his room was right next to Ollie's. The first night when poor Ben was jet lagged you could hear Ollie over the monitor saying sleepily, "Go Sleep Ben. Ben, just go sleep!" and then the first night Ben was gone Ollie was muttering, "Ben no crying." I think if Ollie had been getting less interrupted sleep he might have been a more charitable host and less grabby about his personal belongings. Who knows though.

In the last few weeks Ollie has gotten really into telling us long and complicated stories about things that have happened. For example Ollie and Eric were out at the playground by Central Market and they ran into a kid Ollie knew from school, Gibson. For weeks now Ollie has been telling me about how he saw Gibby from school and how they took turns banging on the gong. He also wants to tell me in detail over and over about how he had a bandaid (he got a blood test to check his lead levels) and then we took the bandaid off. I have no idea why these two minor events have made such an impact on him, but they have.

Another thing he does I find fascinating is that he tells me his moods by relating himself to literary characters. When he's feeling crazy and has too much energy he tells me he feels like Max (from Where the Wild Things Are). Oh! And I forgot! He also hides his face and asks in a really good imitation of my voice, "Where did Ollie go? Where did Mama go?" It's hilarious.

We caved and let him watch fifteen minutes of television one day when he wasn't feeling well (and we weren't either). It was Playhouse Disney and he was very into going to Mickey's house. We determined that TV was no good (he started whining and crying when we turned it off), but told him we were going to Mickey's house this summer. In general I think we're going to try to stick to no TV as a means of entertaining him, but be less uptight about it being on for a special occasion (like I like to watch red carpets for events and parades).

That's about all. None of us have been feeling well for awhile around here. First I had a massive allergic reaction to poison oak. Then I had a stomach bug. Then we all had a really bad cold. It will be nice if we just all feel well for awhile.

Happy birthday, munchkin

Today is Ollie's second birthday. Which is kind of impossible to believe, especially when I look at him and remember the smudgy little baby he was two years ago:

Or even the proto-toddler he was last year:

As of Saturday, we've converted his crib into a real bed (after discovering that the walls of his crib or a pack-n-play pose only a brief impediment) and he's sleeping in that. He seems to be transitioning away from his single nap, although I think that could still go either way. And he's a little person -- easily frustrated, not very patient, but a little person. Case in point:
Yesterday, Ollie and Jenny and I were hanging out in the living room, where we'd set up his brand new train table (temporarily, until we dismantle and paint it). Jenny and I were reading the paper, and had dragged a plastic bin over to the couch as a makeshift coffee table. Ollie got bored with his trains, climbed onto the bin, and discovered that it made a decent trampoline. His balance not being perfect at the best of times, I told him to stop jumping on the bin. After a couple more polite requests, I told him to knock it off or he'd get a timeout. He took that a little more seriously (dancing on the bin instead of jumping) for all of 30 seconds, and then jumped again. Okay, timeout (in the big chair on the other side of the living room). But he wouldn't sit quietly in the chair, so I took him upstairs and put him in his room to have a little quiet time. Long story short, Jenny ended up hanging out with him in his room while I took a breather in the office.
Maybe an hour later, Ollie comes to the door, I walk over to meet him, pick him up, and he looks at me and says "sorry jumping, dada". I looked at Jen -- who told me they hadn't talked about it at all. I was pretty floored.

Of course, it's not all apologies and temper tantrums, fortunately. :) Ollie is a smart, funny, very sweet boy and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of his life. I love it when he sings "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (which he can do all the way through now). I love it when he wants to do something he's not allowed to, so he tells me to "Go way, dada!" (subtle, dude ;)) I love putting him to bed at night and cooking with him and the other million things that make up our shared lives together.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

you may be faced with... DEATH!

No worries, it's just a line from one of Ollie's current favorite books. Last Christmas his Auntie Les gave him G is for One Gzonk, and since it's a rather long book, we're just getting to enjoy it in the last month or so (over and over again). Ollie has many, many, many of his books and songs memorized and likes reading along with us. E is for an evil Eeog, and Ollie quite likes yelling DEATH! at the end of the line about what might happen if you encounter his breath. So if you see my toddler and he's yelling death at you, well, that's why. Ollie also has "Are You My Mother?" "Green Eggs and Ham," "If You Give a Pig a Pancake," and a bunch others memorized. It's really fun to read along and then pause while he fills in the word. It was also fun when he sang me "Twinkle, Twinkle" today, including finishing the line with "world so high." I just wish I could get him to sit still for chapter books.

Tonight we read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" three times, a gift from his Aunt Fi and Uncle Simon. We read this because on Sunday we're going to see the play version! They do it with giant puppets that glow on a blacklit stage. I am very excited about this. Hopefully he will enjoy it too. We also got tickets to go see The Toys Take Back Christmas in a few weeks. It's really fun to be getting to take him to children's theatre.

I know we say this like every post but he grows up so fast! His brain just makes these leaps!

Next week his Nana, Papa, and Aunt Ri will be here, and I know he will love that. 

Random Update: More Communication Edition

So I noticed today that Ollie is starting to use multi-word constructions, even something close to real sentences. It's funny to watch these kind of quantum leaps in his skills; Saturday he would whine and demand things in single-word exclamations: "Cracker!" "No Mine!" "Milk!". Today we picked him up from daycare and he said, in no particular order, "Cracker please", "Cookie please", "Water please" (about a hundred times; we all have sore throats right now), and told himself an entire story involving babies, Coco, Gertrude, trucks, and some other objects/people I've forgotten.

The verbal explosion is kind of awe-inspiring to watch. If you tell him a word once, he generally has it down -- what it means, more or less how to say it, etc. The exception is more abstract concepts: he seems to have some grasp of "two", but "one" and anything more than two still escape him, although he can certainly say the words back to you. Still, it's super cute to see him hold up two spoons, or two crackers, or two fingers, and declare, "Two!" His memory is fun to watch, too; he will go through an entire book and tell us what's on each page, even things we didn't know he knew.

He's also getting more independent by the day. He can, will, and in fact must climb into and out of his own carseat, and if you're in a hurry that's just too darn bad. :) Each time he does, he gives you this radiant smile and declares, "I do'ed it!" It's the kind of thing that makes you grin ear-to-ear and at the same time wonder how many more years he'll be willing to yell "BESO!" and kiss you.

He loves soccer and hockey, cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and most of all bicycles and motorcycles (bi-cuhl and sy-cuhl respectively). He loves "helping" me take photos and then looking through them, and also watching Flickr slideshows of ice hockey and soccer. He loves carrying around Gertrude and my old Cabbage Patch doll, giving them kisses and demanding we do, too. He really, really loves when Gertrude comes alive (courtesy of a carefully hidden dada) and waves at him from the top of the stairs or around a doorway. He loves sitting and reading at night with his mama (usually whatever book she's most tired of, naturally), and going to her soccer games, and telling her all about dada's hockey games.

My favorite thing in the whole world right now is to sit and watch Jenny read to him before bed, because I can see his eyes looking at everything on the page, the words and the pictures, and making connections, making sense of everything. Although, let's be honest... beso attacks are up there too. :)

It has been awhile...

Sorry! We've been struck down with illness, hosted some Ike refugees, played a bunch of hockey and soccer, and otherwise rolled on with our lives.

I'm a lazy mama.

So our dear Ollie Grey has definitely entered the terrible twos. We've had serious meltdown fits about not getting what he wants when he wants it (even if he's not allowed to have it and he knows it) for days on end. Shrieking, crying, wailing, flinging of small body to the ground. It's quite the spectacle. And Mama and Dada remain unmoved, because he cannot have sugar free Fruit Punch and that's that. At least the tears prove he's well hydrated.

Ollie is of course doing all sorts of new things that are terribly exciting to his parents. He talks a whole lot. He still enjoys reading books and it surprises me how many of the things in the books he knows. He has an ABC bath book and he can identify what pretty much all of the things in the book are. Today we read a book his Great Grandma Nancy gave him about Wooley Sheep and on each page there was tiny duck hiding behind the sheep somewhere in the picture. So I asked him to find them. He spotted the duck on all but one page. Sometimes he tells me things and I don't even know that he knows it and so I miss it at first. We are vaguely working on numbers, letters, and colors in the sense that I point them out when we're outside or I ask him what color a car is when it passes. Every number is 2, and when I ask what color something is he says, "Boo... wed... purple" really quickly since he has no idea. And sometimes he says it's the color 2. So it's more for fun and to just introduce the idea than because I think he'll really grasp them super soon.

He also likes to yell BESO! And attack us with a kiss (beso being the Spanish word for kiss). And he likes to sing with us. He knows "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So" and then he runs out of notes.

We still spend our days singing, dancing to Ma Na Ma Na, coloring with chalk and playing in sand and water, making food (apparently he can pour his own milk now and use a rolling pin quite adeptly), reading TONS AND TONS of books (today I was forced to read him Chicken Soup with Rice three times in a row and Guess How Much I Love You five), coloring with crayons and finger painting, playing with toys, and ordering about the dogs with an imperious tone of voice and demanding they kiss him. 

This morning


Was Ollie's first day in the toddler room. We had to take home all his stuff from the baby room and bring in a blanket, a change of clothes, etc to the new room. They wanted the clothes to be able to fit him until Winter. This was a bit difficult for us, as he's getting way too big for his summer clothes.


Eric went upstairs and grabbed a pair of brightly striped Zutano pants for him, as they are light weight and 18-24 month. When they got back downstairs Ollie threw a fit. You see, he wanted to wear the pants. So we changed him into them. Then he explained to us, by pointing at them and making siren noises, that he wanted to wear them because the stripes remind him of the flashing lights on emergency vehicles. Then he wanted to wear his hat. At this point he was wearing rainbow striped pants, a white t-shirt that says "I heart London" and a red hat with primary colored critters all over it.


I guess if you're starting your first day of school in the new classroom you should do it in style.


So most places have their season schedules up for the coming year. I was doing some research to see what kinds of arts events we could take Ollie to.

It seems pretty bleak, right now.

Ballet Austin? Nothing. They say their family dance things are all ages, but from the descriptions that's pretty much crap.

Austin Lyric Opera? Nope. They want nothing to do with pre-schoolers.

Austin Symphony Orchestra? Well, they have 1 family concert an appropriate time this year. The have other concerts, but they start at 7. Which is BED TIME. So the one concert went on the calender. Who the hell starts a family concert at 7?

Scottish Rite only has shows for much older kids listed.

Second Youth has shows that look like they will be appropriate but no dates or times.

I'm ruling out anything like Sesame Street Live or whatever. But that's only for now. It's not like Austin is giving me many other options. What the hell? How am I supposed to be cultivating a patron of the arts, people?

Words, words, words


It used to be awesome when Ollie would learn a new word. We would dutifully note it in a book or something. Now he learns new words so quickly that it would be impossible to document them all. My favorite thing is that he's started saying "Love you." Or "ove oo" in return to us. Man does that make me happy. He's also very into group hugs and snuggles where he, dada, and I (and occasionally an animal) all snuggle together and his dada and I cover him with kisses at the same time. And we all make loud "mmmms" of contentment.


It has also been fun watching Ollie make friends. A lot of our friends have noted how their kids are suddenly interested in other people and in developing relationships as well. Ollie has made very good friends with his classmates at school. He spends a great deal of time talking about Coco, Finley, and Lola, who are all about his age and who play together. He talks some about Scout and Josie and the other smaller babes, but it is the ones his age he really likes (along with Dre and Toni his teachers. I think Crystal, who is there in the mornings sometimes is too difficult to say). The other day as we were leaving Lola was sitting by the door and he said "Lola" and waved goodbye to her and she smiled happily and waved back. 


What is interesting to me is that Ollie seems to be a lot like his parents in some respects. One of which is social. He is far more comfortable in familiar spaces where he knows the other people well. We went to a surprise baby shower for our friend Paige on Saturday. The hosts thoughtfully threw the party at Gymboree so all the kids could come and have a blast. While Ollie knew a lot of the kids, he doesn't routinely spend time with them lately. And though Ollie loves singing and dancing, he was unwilling to participate when the leader asked them to do hand motions or sing along (though he did them for Eric days later on his own). Instead he gets overstimulated and freaked out when a new kid tries to make friends with him (poor Sabrina) or stares thoughtfully when the teacher asks him to do a dance or sing. It takes him awhile to warm up to situations or people. If we went to Gymboree all the time, I'm sure he'd have no issue with it. He just wants to acclimate himself to places carefully. He hangs back, or sticks close to me when he's not sure what's going on.   



Lately Ollie has been doing some things that make me giggle like a fool.


Last nights was when we were snuggling him to sleep. I was singing "Feed the Birds," from Mary Poppins, to him. I was singing along, him snuggled against my chest, and when I got to the chorus I sang, "Feed the birds..." only to hear my small boy chime in singing, "bawk, bawk, bawk."

What Ollie is doing now

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Eric just posted about it on his often neglected blog. So I don't want to be redundant. Suffice to say that Ollie grows ever more fabulous and ever less pliant. He really wants to do what he wants to do and if he doesn't get to do it, well, the tantrum begins. There's a Sandra Boynton song on Dog Train that goes "No no no, I don't wanna. No, no, no, I don't wanna no no. Leave me alone. Leave me alone. DON'T leave me alone. DON'T leave me alone!" And that is our life. He wants into everything, regardless of whether he should be or not, and he gets ANGRY when we set limits. Big fun.


On the other hand, he is talking like crazy. He knows all kinds of words now and uses them all the time. He snuggles up sweetly against your shoulder and makes mmms of contentment. When I was gone this weekend he wandered into all the rooms forlornly saying, "Mama?" He does sentences and knows whole books by heart and sings songs with us and does choreography. It is amazing all he knows now. It's amazing how he changes.


This weekend I went away to a lovely lake house with my departing friends. There was swimming, wine, board games of various kinds, lounging and magazine reading. It was all nice. It was also weird, in that I was the only person with a kid there, and many of the people there are the childfree sort, who like children when they are quiet and when they can go away. They ask me about Ollie, which I appreciate, and I try to tell them the more entertaining new things he's doing (like Butt, Butt, Butt, Baby Butt, or the monkey noises Susanne taught him).


The thing is, the new things he's doing seem so small when you're telling people who have never witnessed the transformation of nothing into a baby into a person and don't know how amazing these changes are. I find it easier to joke about motherhood than I do to express the profound and overwhelming adoration I have for my baby and the great joy I experience seeing him for the first time every morning, the delight I take in seeing him explore the world and come into himself, and the way it feels when your child snuggles up to you and curls an arm around your neck. It seems corny and overly earnest, and I guess on some level I feel like it is something you can't understand unless you've experienced it. But when I joke about motherhood with these friends, without them seeing the truth of the situation, which is my mad all encompassing devotion to my child and the ways that my brain has rewired itself to put him in the middle I feel guilty, like I am betraying him by telling only the difficult or humorous bits. or by downplaying what he means to me. How do you explain when someone asks you if you are going to have separation issues that one night that you ALWAYS have separation issues every minute you are not with your child? That even if you are enjoying yourself, or working hard, it feels wrong, mentally and physically to be apart from your baby. That even if you're exhausted and you need a break, it would be preferable to take it somewhere with him nearby so you can see him again the second you want? The impulse at night to go in and pick him up and snuggle him some more that you have to resist?


Eric describes it as the first flush of a romance, when you want to be with somebody all the time and you can't think of anything else, except permanently. And it's true. And it's not witty, or clever, or new. It's trite, but it's the most honest thing about me. I'm just another parent who thinks the world revolves around their child.



It is funny to think about your child growing up. Right now he still wants to be in almost constant physical contact with Eric or I. He doesn't have any ideas about personal space, and regards our bodies as his own, he feels free to touch us, pat us, lash out at us, snuggle up to us, or in my case, nurse, as if we don't have separate bodies but are extensions of each other.


It is funny to think about how this will slowly fade away as he gets older. It has already done so, some, and will continue to. There will be a time where he and I will think it inappropriate or weird to snuggle up to me as he does (especially since right now he is fond of snaking one hand into my bra). And there will be a time where he will no longer have sweet baby skin to caress on his back or tummy and I will not be able to give him all the kisses I want, while he giggles for more.  

It's a Small World After All...


Some how the entire contents of this entry got deleted. It was a long entry too. I will retype some of it, albeit more half heartedly.


First some important news, after the echocardiogram the other day, we now know for certain that the hole in Ollie's heart has closed up. This means that every injured organ is now healed. Ollie also had a big growth spurt. He was 23.3 pounds, which is 25%, and is 31 inches tall, which is 10%. We can no longer say he is a tiny toddler. I thought he felt heavy.


The original title of this is based upon our trip to Disney World. We took Ollie there to celebrate Eric's and my 7th Wedding anniversary (and 10th anniversary of being together). We had a terrific day. Ollie LOVED the rides, especially It's a Small World and the Carousel. We rode the carousel 3 times. He loved everything so much he refused to nap except for 2 short 30 minute pass outs in the stroller. He stayed awake and fairly cheerful through most of the Main Street Electrical Parade (or whatever it's called these days) and then we saw the fireworks on the ferry on the way to the car. Where he passed out. We had a lot of fun. At one point there was a big thunderstorm and after it cleared Ollie had fun splashing in the puddles and trying to figure out his shadow. He would race away from it and up to it, and couldn't figure out how to evade it. I went on the upgraded Haunted Mansion by myself during one of his brief naps, and they did a really nice job.


We also had a good time swimming in my dad's college roommate's pool. They made us an awesome dinner with homemade french fries and we had a great time. Ollie had fun jumping from the side of the pool into people's arms.


We went to the beach a couple of times. We took Ollie's new red wagon his grandma bought him to the local beach and he insisted on sitting in it while we labored to pull him over the sand. We went to a different beach that is on the ocean, not the gulf, and played in the waves for a long time. Then we sat at a tiki bar and we had coronas while Ollie had water.


Other than that there was some fun with Grandma, taking her to a spa, going to see Sex and the City, going to a really nice dinner in Tampa. She had a good birthday, which was the point, so I'm happy about that.


Since that we've been back to the grind, work and hanging out. We did have a bunch of friends (adult and child) over for a barbeque Sunday. We had kids ranging from four months through 6 or 7 I think running around the backyard. We put up several umbrellas to provide more shade and set up the tent, which was a big hit. That, along with the water table, the sand box, the bubbles, and the sidewalk chalk made the back yard a blur of activity. At the end of the evening we served ice cream floats. Ollie had his own dish of ice cream and was feeding it to himself. He loves ice cream a lot, which is why he seldom has it. So he was wolfing it down as fast as he could. At one point he all of a sudden started wailing as if in extreme pain. We figured out he had freezy headache. So I picked him up, calmed him down, and he wanted to eat more. So I told him to go slower. Did this work? Heh. So we did the whole wail, calm down, eat, wail thing a few more times. Then I took away the ice cream, which of course caused more wailing. Basically he was just very, very tired at that point.


In another week or so we are going on vacation again! Which shouldn't help his current sleeping issues. He's gone back to waking up quite a bit and needing to be shushed or briefly snuggled before he'll go back to sleep. When we get home we'll be home for a long long while, which should help calm down the sleep problems, I hope. It also seems like his molars are still giving him trouble, as they slowly creep into his mouth.


So that's the news in Ollie world.


Two new things...

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1) I have taught Ollie to bounce in place and smack his butt when we chant "Butt, butt, butt... Baby butt."


2) Lest you think I am a total heathen, I have also taught Ollie how to say please.


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Last night Eric and I went through clothes that Ollie had outgrown and sorted them into keep and discard piles. It made me so sad to put away these clothes that I loved to see Ollie in. Honestly, I'm not even sure what we're keeping them for, other than we can't bear to get rid of them. When we were done we'd filled up a big plastic container. There were so many things Ollie looked adorable in, and its all a reminder that time is linear and we keep moving forward as he gets bigger and bigger. How do I reconcile my desire to see him grow up, to see him start reading, to see what kind of man he becomes, with my desire to snuggle little tiny baby him to my chest forever? Both things cannot be. Instead we march uninterrupted towards the inevitable day that he will be a grown-up. Parenting is hard sometimes.

Furry forest friends


This morning Eric was packing up Ollie's and my lunch for the day while we assembled all of our stuff to go. Ollie calmly walked over, grabbed a fox, bluebird, and bunny finger puppet, walked to my backpack, insisted the front pocket be unzipped and carefully, one by one reached high above his head and packed me finger puppets.


They are sitting on my desk keeping me company right now.


Yesterday he carried a bag of tortilla chips from the car to the kitchen for me, setting them down to crawl up the step to the porch. He also carried a box of Veat from the laundry room (I retrieved it from the freezer in the garage) to Eric in the kitchen. And, last night he helped me bake chocolate cake. He wanted me to hold him while I did it, but he was too heavy, so I pulled a chair up to the counter from the dining room table and then I would hand him the measuring spoons and he would dump the ingredients into the bowl and then whisk for me.


He is a very helpful and sweet boy. 

16 months

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So Ollie is sixteen months now. Of late I've been bad about mama blogging because I've been blogging about our fun with food. Ollie has been joining us on these adventures. After a brief spell of pickiness, he's gone back to eating all kinds of things again. He especially likes beets and goat cheese. And of course crackers, sun butter, jam, and bread.


He is of course doing new things. He gave me a backrub the other day. We had been doing baby massage with him for a long time, usually while saying "massage the baby" in a funny voice. Well, the other night I was having a bad and frustrating night and while taking a bath with him he pushed behind me and started giving me a backrub. He kept at it for like, four minutes, which is a very long time for a baby (and frankly, about as long as I could get my spouse to massage me either). It was very sweet. He's also still big into kisses and snuggles, which I appreciate. Sadly, unlike Henry he has not said he loves us, but some day.


We are still trying to figure out the language thing. We are supposed to check in with our pediatrician about it today, so Eric is going to talk to her. Lately he's big into saying "bubble." He says it all the time. Over and over. But, he's doing what he normally does, which is to say it for everything all the time and to not use his other words. He's still not accumulating them, he's using and discarding them. Or if he is accumulating them he's not busting them out. I am still not terribly worried because he understands all of our words. I don't know. We have also decided to go ahead and get him vaccinated for MMR, but not to get the MMR shot, to get them all separate. There has been a lot of news recently about measles outbreaks all over, including places like Belgium, and so we don't feel comfortable leaving him not vaccinated. So spliting them up seems the compromise. It also seems like a pain, but we are willing to do that.


Thanks to our friend Steph's book recommendation, Good Night, Sleep Tight, Ollie is sleeping through the night now, pretty much every night, even when his molars (three coming in!) hurt him. It's amazing. He's also fat enough finally that the small Fuzzi Buns are not fitting and we had to go buy some new diapers. We got Kanga Pockets, which are nice. If we knew what we know now, we would have bought all expandables and not messed around with the Fuzzi Buns (which come small, medium, large, etc, as opposed to growing with your child).


Not much else going on. Ollie still loves to read books with us, play in his sand box and water table, he's growing ever more confident walking around and doesn't get upset when he stumbles as much. He knows what an "O" is and how to say it (but can't draw it yet). He still likes to dance, dance, boogie, boogie, and he still seems like a pretty inquisitive boy. He was concentrating on something at the grocery store and the vegetable man was like, "He needs to smile more." And I thought, hey, he's thinking, leave him alone. 


Having him in day care three days a week sucks, but I have so much to get done. I need to get my dis revised, I need to get my cover letter and CV put together, I need to turn a chapter or two into articles. I need to write abstracts for ASTR. Obviously all of this could not get done on a Tuesday and Thursday. But I miss him. A lot. Two days a week was better. It was just right.


The other thing is that I have not gotten to hang out with my mama friends and their babies very much. We have started going to the Farmer's market at the Triangle on Wednesdays and get to see more of them there, but it seems like many of the playdates have died off and that is sad. Luckily Magda and Yuri are coming over today to talk vegetarian cooking, so that will be fun. But, mama friends who read this blog, Ollie and I miss you all.  

So after yesterday's post?


Where I talked at the end about the lovely gifts that had arrived for Ollie in the past month? Today he got three super cute t-shirts from his Auntie Fi, Uncle Simon, and cousin Ben in the mail.

Sometimes it's overwhelming to me how well-loved my baby boy is, and then by extension me and Eric.

I am so grateful for you all.


So Ollie Grey is 15 months now. For those playing at home, he is 21 pounds exactly and 29 1/4 inches tall. Which is 5% and 5%. He's very proportionate, his pediatrician has said. The appointment went smoothly for the most part. I have decided to delay his MMR and chicken pox vaccinations. I would prefer he get exposed to chicken pox naturally, and I want to wait until he is 3 for his MMR. I know some people feel passionately that vaccinations are the way to go, but I just really feel unsure about the MMR at this age. The introduction of so many serious viruses at once to a small being of 21 pounds just seems... risky to me. If it were possible, I would split them up over three months, but getting that is apparently a pain. So I have decided to wait. Hopefully this decision will work out ok. We did get the Hep A vaccine, and Ollie was displeased.

The pediatrician was concerned when I told her that Ollie learns a word, uses it a lot for a day or two and seemingly discards it. I'm not sure why this concerns her, because it's not exactly a sympton for autism, I don't think, but she worries a lot. I have decided to outsource my worrying to her. I worry a lot too, but she worries more than me. Thus, I will pay her to worry for me and I will continue on blissfully not worrying. Somebody should be worrying though, I think. Anyway, what I said turned out to be a lie anyway.  

As it turns out, he still knows the words, he just doesn't want to say them. Last night when I was putting him down to bed I realized I'd left Gertrude downstairs. Ollie doesn't always want or care about Gertrude, so I figured I'd just leave her down there. Gertrude was one of those words, he said her name a bunch for a day or so and hasn't said it for weeks. Well, he looked at me, last night, pointed to the door and said very clearly and emphatically, "GERTRUDE!!!!" So apparently he can still say it, he just doesn't choose to unless that's the only way to communicate what he wants. Pointing, grunting, whining, reaching for things are all easier, but none of those would communicate that he wanted a hedgehog that was located on a different floor, so speech was the go-to. So I guess he's just stock piling words like I thought.

Right now his favorite words are :uh oh, poop, and juice. Usually not all together, though today he did say to me, "Uh oh!" and then point to the ground, "juice!" as he had spilled his juice all over the rug (my fault, I put the sippy cup together wrong). Hopefully poop and juice will NEVER need to be in the same sentence.

Anyway, another reason I refuse to worry is that they give us a handout with developmental leaps he should make between 15-18 months and he was doing ALL of them already, except walking up stairs one at a time. Ok, the kid is in the 5% heigh wise, how the hell is he going to get up stairs one at a time? They're half the size of his body.

So Eric went out of town for a work conference which was apparently fun and very productive, so I was a single mom Sunday-Wednesday. The first few days were really rough. Monday night especially since Ollie did not sleep at all. I finally brought him into bed with me and he slept some, but he was rolling from side to side on the bed in his sleep, which made it very difficult for me to sleep. At 6:30 on Tuesday morning when he made it clear he was up for the day I asked him if I could at least have a kiss and he gave me one, which was nice. He's less keen on kissing these days and I miss it. By today, Wednesday I was starting to get used to it and I realized it was doable, if less fun. I found it was kind of lonely, especially the night time, because Ollie was in bed, but I couldn't go anywhere or do anything much to entertain myself (and no good tv was on). I have always known it must be tough to be a single parent, so basically this was having my suspicions confirmed. One thing I've found was that it was a lot harder to be fully present for Ollie. I wanted to do a crossword while he was playing in the sandbox instead of playing with him, things like that. With Eric here I can get mental breaks while he's with Ollie and when I'm with Ollie I can really focus on parenting. I don't think Ollie suffered for me not being present, in fact he probably revelled in the freedom that comes with mama being distracted. But I missed the presentness. I also realized that if I were a single parent I would subsist entirely on Slimfast, as I was DAMN TIRED and didn't want to cook.

There were also moments of incredible sweetness. He snuggled up to me and slept with his head on my pillow and my arms around him for awhile Monday night. This morning we put on Blue Moo and dance, dance, boogie boogied for a long time. He helped me get the recycling out this morning. It was a private world of just us and that was kinda cool. I realized if we had to, we could make it (though I really don't want to have to), but that made me feel better about what I'm capable of.

So kudos to you who do it, it's hard, but I know your kiddos will see how strong you are and the bond between you will be amazing.

So that's where we are. Ollie is switching from T/Th daycare to M/W/F so I can get my dis done. I am not happy about that. Eric told me that I can always not take him all three days if it becomes too much for me, but this gives me the option of more work time. I appreciate that and I appreciate us having the income to make that possible (thank you Eric). We bought Ollie a fancy outfit for his Great-Grandma's 90th birthday party. He will look super cute and swanky. His aunt Laurie sent him a stuffed neuron and a hilarious shirt from threadless, his uncle Ryan and his girlfriend Mandy sent him an awesome fuzzy blanket for Easter, and his great grandma Nancy sent him cookies, music cds, and a stuffed lamb he loves to rub on his face. The damn dogs ate most of the cookies. Stupid dogs. They've gone a bit nuts of late. Ollie is much loved and I think he is lucky to have such a great family, extended and near. 

And now I must go give my kiddo a bath.    

I'm in the paper (as is Ollie, in my womb).


Statesman has an article about baby showers featuring Nicola, Sarah, and myself.

Article is here


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So, do you think its a coincidence that since Ollie began sleeping through the night I've finished 8 books (The Historian, Martin Dressler, Raising your Only Child, Dangerous Laughter, Harry Potter 7, His Dark Materials Trilogy), started 2 more (The Lady of the Snakes and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004), I've finished 3 sewing projects (a mei tai for Fiona, a cover for her new Beco, and I just finished a pair of shorts for Ollie- pics to come), started another (birthday present for Les!), and my writing quality has gone way up on my dissertation?

That's all just inexplicable, isn't it?


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It's Bluebonnet time, so we went to Ladybird Johnson Wildflower center yesterday to take pictures. Although we have a lot of awesome ones to upload, I thought I'd offer a comparison from the exact same spot.

Last year (4/4/07):

This year (3/29/08):

Isn't the change in one year amazing? He really has grown up so fast.

Bonus pictures of Dada and Ollie:

And Mama and Ollie:

I fought the law (and the law won)

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Today I did a focus group for a major baby clothing brand. I went in, got free lunch, yapped about my opinions, collected $100 and went home. These were all good things.

The focus group members were comprised largely of moms who attend the same rather progressive, rather AP friendly daycare. (AP is attachment parenting for those who don't know). There are a lot of moms who breastfeed, homebirth, wear their babies, send their kids to daycare in small fake vintage rock t-shirts. These are moms who in theory, I should have a lot in common with.

So the major clothing brand showed us fabrics and designs for their next line of children's clothing (perhaps a year out? Since they said spring). They were divided into two sets: girl and boy. Uh oh, you are saying, I see where Jenny is going with this. Yes and no.

To begin with, we were asked to describe how we dress our child. I explained that we were not preppy and favored bright, busy, colorful, fun clothing. We wanted our child to look like a child, not a mini adult. I also explained that my child was extremely small with a tiny waist and we liked knit outfits because the mini-adult clothing just fell off. I finished by explaining Ollie's recent obsession with pink and how he had picked out pink mittens, tights (for England), and most recently a pink polo shirt. The group leader found it peculiar that he had preferences at 15 months. Now, while I like to think my child is precocious, left to their own devices doesn't any kid gravitate towards certain things in stores? The other moms seemed ambivalent about my indulging my son's pink obsession.

The girl clothing they showed us was floral, hearts, or strawberries. Largely. It also had phrases like "smile" or "sweet" on it. There were capped sleeves, ruffles, rick rack, ribbon bows, and other adornments. Occasionally the above words would be plastered over the ass of the pants like a Juicy Couture sweatsuit. Several of the pajama sets for 4-7 year olds looked like adult lingerie, with spaghetti strapped bodices and tiny little boyshorts. It was largely pink or yellow.

Most everybody took issue with the words on the butt. Nobody was thrilled about the words in general, honestly. I expressed dismay that the girls stuff was universally so overdecorated that it would be hard for a boy to wear, but there was zero sympathy.

Then the boy stuff. For the most part, it was pretty awesome. There was the occasional typical sports crap ("daddy's little allstar") but mostly it was big, bold, graphic prints in fantastic color combinations. It was in every way much cooler than the girl stuff. There was the occasional "neutral" piece that was yellow or green (of course). To which the other moms all agreed that they wouldn't put their boy in that. I guess it was too girly?

Ironically, one of those very same moms wanted to know why the girls clothes couldn't be more like the boys clothes. Why couldn't it have fun, dynamic prints with bolder colors.

So the semiotics of the girls clothes were sweet, cute, passive, and quiet.

The boys clothes: bold, big, aggressive, full of action.

The women wanted the girls to be able to be more like boys. No problem. Feminism is all about women getting to be bold and full of action.

The women wanted the boys clothes to stay exactly the same, the boys in those clothes to stay exactly the same, and were even uncomfortable with the gender neutral pieces.

Hold up.

So how exactly are you planning on redefining gender roles by changing girls and telling your boy to stay exactly as macho, repressed, and frankly, homophobic as the culture has ever told him to be? Why should girls get to be strong and active, but there's no space for a sweet, quiet boy? That, my friends, is screwed up.

I'm not going to say that men have it worse in our culture. That's nonsense. There's the pay disparity, the whole rape and abuse thing, the lack of child care options, and the oversexualization of women (apparently down to age 4 now). But I will say that there are significant gender issues to deal with as the mama of a boy too. Why can't I buy Ollie a pink shirt with a fire truck and a dog on it (his holy trifecta)? Why is it a problem if I call my baby boy beautiful? He is beautiful. The old ladies don't need to freak out and correct it to handsome when they find out his name is Oliver. I want to raise my son to be who he is, whoever that is. I'm not worried about wearing pink affecting the sexual orientation of a fifteen month old. And it saddens me that these otherwise hip, cool mamas mostly were.

To sum up, I present a picture of Ollie in his pink polo shirt, chilling out with an afternoon beverage. Looking as yuppie as can be (see now raising a yuppie, that I need to worry about):


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Ollie's been signing more all of a sudden. But he's not using it the way we expected. He uses it to express pleasure. Like, when he's nursing. I love milk! More! Even if he's still in the process of nursing at the time. Tonight when I was rocking him to sleep he looked up at me and signed more. More Mama. More snuggling. More you and me. And I thought yes baby, more. More red trucks and strawberries, more crinkly paper, more kisses and rolling around on the floor, more hugging doggies and kitties, more smiles. You hear that world? We want more.

Julian the Rock Star Visits

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So Julian’s super cool parents needed to go to SXSW to see some bands, make some connections, live the rock star life. And lucky for us, this meant Julian got to spend the day here.

So while his parents were rocking out, Julian rocked Kellies Farm Ln…

He also ate mango and got water and sand EVERYWHERE (hence the topless look)

And rode a Zebra:

He's a busy boy, that Julian, with a crazy laugh and the urge to investigate EVERYTHING.

There are no pictures of him and Ollie together, because Julian very sweetly tried to give Ollie a hug and a kiss, and my weird anti-social baby smacked him away and started crying. He spent the rest of the day eying him warily. Who knows why Ollie's so weird about personal space right now. Hopefully it's just a phase.

Oliver is 14 months


The love I feel for him continues to be all encompassing and overwhelming.

He is the greatest joy to me.

I continue to be totally infatuated with my beautiful baby.

Developmental leaps


So the last entry where I was complaining about him not sleeping? Well, they say that when kids are making a big developmental leap they stop sleeping well. And he is doing so many cool things!

The first, and most important, is that he's sleeping now! Last night he slept from 7 to 5:30 in the morning. He started settling down in his crib and going to sleep with out endless rocking, so we night weaned in like two days, and now he sleeps really really well. Give or take some nights where something's off. But we are all starting to feel a lot better and a lot more sane. Nobody told me my child wouldn't sleep for the first thirteen months of his life, but I'm so glad we've finally gotten there.

Also, he is saying and doing so many cool things. I know everybody thinks their child is a genius, and I am no exception. Yesterday at day care I handed him Gertrude to carry to the car and he said, very clearly and distinctly, Gertrude. Which is said three or four more times. Then this morning, he heard an airplane in the sky. He's fascinated with garbage trucks, trucks in general, planes and all transportation. And dogs. Those are his favorite things. Anyway, Eric said, "that's an airplane Ollie," and Ollie saw that Eric was wearing a Boeing shirt with a Super Hornet on it and pointed to the plane! Which he proudly repeated for me when I came downstairs. He might end up disappointed that all planes don't look like FA-18s, but hey. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. Yesterday he also apparently said sock at daycare. So last night while he was in the bath I held up a sock and said, "What is this?" trying to get him to repeat it. I was like, "say sock Ollie. Sock. Where's the sock?" He took the sock and said, "That is this." And looked at me like I was a moron. He is saying new words all the time. It is so adorable to hear a tiny child say Gertrude. I cannot tell you.

It is amazing all the things he has absorbed and all the new and cool things he is doing. There has been discussion on some feminist blogs lately about how parents and not parents are equally happy. And I'd say that I was as happy, if not more, on a day to day basis when I wasn't a parent. Happiness is easy. It's cheap. It's being well rested and enjoying a glass of wine with a good book. But since I was a parent I have more joy and I feel like my life has more meaning. Watching this little person become a person and reveal who he is is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. And while on days where I am tired, and he is cranky, and I want some me space, I'm not necessarily happy, I do feel like I am accomplishing more with my life.


Deep breath... deep breath...

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For the last couple of days Oliver has been impossible.

I know he's sick.

I know he's teething.

I know he has a horrible sore on his finger because he's chewed it so much.

I also know he's not sleeping, so we're not sleeping. He's whining and crying constantly. He doesn't know what he wants (because what he wants is to feel better and some sleep). So he just asks for things and then shoves them away and cries some more.

It is incredibly frustrating. If I could make him feel better I would absolutely do it. If I could do whatever he wanted to make him happy? I would do it.

But I can't do anything but take deep breaths and hope this passes soon. Try to have patience. Try to be the good mama I want to be.

Also, he now says red, all done (while signing it), and light.

Long overdue update


It has been quite a long time since I updated this. For one thing we were traveling for a long time. We didn't get back to our home until Jan 26th, which was a week after we had intended to. We were all tired and overwhelmed and dealing with cleaning clothes and settling back in to our routine.


We have settled, but we are still very tired. Ollie is cutting molars and they seem to be very painful. He is gnawing on his fingers so much he's given himself a blister. He's also had a fever the past weekend and is congested. So he's been a cranky boy. We had been getting blessed with him sleeping 4-5 hour chunks, which was awesome, but those went away with the virus and the teeth pain. We've regressed to infant stage, where he won't sleep unless he's on one of us and we're all exhausted.


In the day time though, he's as sweet a boy as ever and my one true love. Today he learned to say the word "yellow." His vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. In England one morning he and I were having breakfast and he pointed to my bowl and very clearly said, "What's that?" "It's oatmeal" I replied, "Would you like some?" "Yes." He said definitively, and ate half my oatmeal. He's got dog, cat, duck, this, that, car, glasses, and any number of other words. You do have to listen carefully for them though. They all sound a little muttered and toddlerish.


For his birthday his grandma and grandpa Kokai gave him a water table that he loves. We try to get out every day its not freezing cold so he can splash about. He really likes being outdoors. He also loves the doggies and wants to spend as much time with them as he can. Anytime he hears a dog bark outside he stops what he's doing, swivels towards the noise and says "dog." At my first soccer practice he observed me scrimmaging and then walked over (holding Eric's finger) and kicked a soccer ball around for awhile. The other morning he was eating breakfast at his little table and he would boogie over to me, get a bite of yogurt, and boogie away. Then he would dance back when he wanted more yogurt and dance away. He's really enjoying eating at his little table, especially since we don't worry about how long he takes or if he gets bored and wanders off with his cheese or whatever. I'm not too worried that when he's 12 he won't know how to sit still and eat at a table. He's just not there yet (more's the pity for Eric's and my meals). He's still wanting to hold a finger or two as he walks around the house, but he is starting to walk more on his own, especially at day care.


A while ago my Bradley bookgroup read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Right now I'm reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp. The former will be better when Ollie is older, I think. The latter has been very helpful right now. The toddler book tells us to recognize and reflect Ollie's feelings in a way a one year old (at the developmental level of a Chimp) can understand. Then when he knows we understand explain to him why we can or can't do what he wants. It also says that a one year old is all extreme emotion, so its ok to get excited with him when he does stuff for the first time and is proud of himself. This is in contrast to unconditional parenting, which warns against empty praise. At age two when he is more developmentally advanced you dial down the praise to be more about observing and commenting on what your child is doing. Although Karp says that you can use effusive praise occasionally like sprinkles on a sundae (this is not his metaphor, I don't think, I'm just obsessed with ice cream since I'm not allowed to have it this week since I gained half a pound instead of losing any weight).


This of course means that when Ollie gets upset now you hear Eric or I saying in an emphatic voice, "No want! No want! No want diaper! No want diaper! No want!" until Ollie knows we understand he doesn't want his diaper changed, or whatever, and when he calms down we explain in simple words why he needs a clean dry butt. It seems a little goofy, but I'm ok with goofy. Particularly if it helps us communicate with Ollie and it helps him feel like we understand and validate his wants and needs, even if we have to say no sometimes.


Mostly what I'm concentrating on is trying to appreciate my child for who he is and support him. Karp also has a personality assessment test for the little ones and asks you to place your child on a spectrum. I know that Ollie is cautious and slow to do things. Like walking, for example. This can be frustrating when he demands you walk him around instead of doing it himself. But this is who he is. If I pushed him to try this stuff without me he would get more upset and refuse to do it at all. So I will be patient until he feels safe. I know that Ollie bites and pinches and scratches when he gets tired. This is not personal, this is him being exhausted and not knowing how to deal with these feelings. So I just try to be patient until he finally naps. On the flip side, Ollie is incredibly cuddly and will wander over and snuggle with Eric or I a million times a day. I wouldn't give that trait up for the world. I am definitely not always perfect about these things, particularly when I haven't had any sleep because mister mister is in pain. I just have to keep trying to understand him and do the best job I can as his parent.

Jet lagged baby

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We're in England now!

Ollie did his best to be a cheerful traveller, even though we got up at 4 AM on January 6th and didn't arrive at the house here until 2 on January 7th. He refused to nap almost all day on the 6th, but slept in his travel cot they gave us on the plane pretty well, even though people were loud and it was more or less a vinyl box (Eric said he looked like he was in a coffin, which is morbid but true). Last night he and I went to bed around 4:30 and slept until 9. He woke up some, and after we noticed their nursery was very cold and brought him into bed with us, he did crazy acrobatics. Eric woke up at one point and his feet were on Eric's pillow and his head on ours. Another time he crawled (in his sleep) to the head of the bed and was banging his head into the headboard trying to go forward. Another time he turned around completely and was crawling under the duvet. Eric woke up and stopped him, but that scares me since I don't want him suffocating and we usually keep the duvet far down from him to avoid that.

We are having a good time here... though Ollie and I just tried to go to to grocery store in Fiona's car and the extremely hilly and windy roads (which are driven quite speedily here) made us both really really car sick. Ols threw up everywhere (which he's never done before) and I almost did too. We hastily requested to come back and after he nursed for awhile and I lay down, we're both feeling better. We might have to come up with a new plan on how to get around.

It has been great to see Ben, who is adorable in every way, and awesome to hang out with Fiona and Lesley. And after a long morning nap, which we actually had to wake him up from (not wanting him to get days and nights confused) Ollie seems to be in pretty good spirits and, contrary to the title of the entry, not too jet lagged.

Exciting things are happening with our friends in Texas, not the least of which is all the adorable babies turning 1 and other media related hijinks, and we are sorry to miss those. But it is great to be back in Bristol and we have plans to go to Bath, Wagamama, and Renato's (a city and two restaurants) which are some of our favorite places.

One Year Old

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A year ago Oliver Grey Kokai-Means was born. At four in the morning after hours and hours of tough labor they wheeled me into surgery and at five they extracted Ollie from my womb. I was so tired when it happened. Unfortunately he wasn't breathing and as my doctor sewed me up other doctors and nurses crowded around my baby and got him oxygen and made him pink and breathing. They placed a blue and pink striped cap on his head, an oxygen mask the size of softball on his mouth. They whisked him by me, showing me his face, tiny scrunched up eyes. Pink smooth skin. And he was gone.

The next week was the hardest week of my life. It was filled with terrifying moments of worrying about his health and with the agony of not being with my baby. Not holding my baby. Not snuggling him or nursing him or rocking him to sleep. Not being a mom they way I wanted to.

When I think about Ollie's birth I always seem to have to start here. It's not what I want to think about. I have hopes that the memories will continue to fade. Continue to be replaced by the beautiful moments that happen every day. And that I can someday focus on what I want to focus on, which is that if I had to, I would live through every moment of that day again if I needed to do it for my Ollie.

I can not express how much I love my Ollie. How much I love his golden curly hair and the way it smells as he snuggles up to my shoulder. The way he's taken to throwing an arm around me and pulling me close to snuggle as he nurses (which involves me doing some contortions). How he learned to stick out his tongue and then recently he began to blow kisses at us, sucking his cheeks in tightly and smooching at us.

Ollie is walking now. Things like this take on special significance for me because the neurologist told us that his brain damage might result in developmental delays. The brain damage is gone, and the development is right on track. This is one of the things I want to get over too, I want to be able to celebrate his milestones without thinking of them as still proving he is ok. I'm sure this will get easier with time as well. He walked a few steps the other day and yesterday he took off walking clear across the room. He likes to walk a bit at a time, but he also still wants a hand to help him some. He can do it, but he's not steady and he's so sure. But he can do it.

We cut his hair today. Trimmed above the ears and the back. He had cinnamon roll for breakfast with sugary icing. He loved it. He ignored his presents, dunked a mug into the dog water and tried to drink it, did some finger painting. Turns out blue paint is not as tasty as cinnamon roll, but his impression of William Wallace was pretty awesome. It was a good birthday. 

And I could snuggle with him whenever I wanted.  


Holy Crap (part 2)!!

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Ollie took three steps on his own!!! And the dude's still not even sure if he wants to stand up by himself! One of these days he's totally just going to take off and walk.

Holy Crap!!

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The most AMAZING THING happened last night. Oliver Grey Kokai-Means went to bed at 8 (a little later than normal because I had car issues and was late getting home) and then slept.... until 4:30 in the morning!!!! Then he got up, drank some milk, and slept until 8!!! HE SLEPT ALL DAMN NIGHT!!! Not the stupid baby book all night (five hours) BUT ACTUALLY ALL NIGHT. At 4 Eric and I both woke up and I feared he might be dead so we went to check on him, and there he was snoozing peacefully.


Lately he has been getting better about putting himself to sleep (he just wants Eric's hand on his back or for him to stay in the room, but he doesn't want to be rocked so much), or sleeping for longer periods. We've had our fingers crossed that he was teaching himself to sleep. We know that CIO (crying it out) won't work for him, so we had to just hope that he would eventually get the idea. Which it seems like he's doing! People said that their babies learned at around a year, but I had to admit I didn't have so much faith. In fact, Eric and I were joking about what we wanted for Christmas and I said "For Ollie to sleep through the night" and as if he psychically heard me he did!


Maybe he's just trying to ensure he doesn't totally lose access to milk from me because I'm having health problems lately that seem to be leading inexorably towards weaning. Yesterday my neurologist told me he wasn't comfortable giving me any preventative migraine meds until I weaned Ollie. All I could have was more Tylenol with Codeine (I did get an anti-nausea medicine this time too). This is after I was forced to accept that I needed to take a decongestant (which might dry up my milk) because I was so sick with this cold that I couldn't breathe. I spent two days gasping for air and gave up (and I felt SO much better when I took the medicine). I had planned to let Ollie nurse as long as he wanted (especially since the WHO says to nurse him to 2 years). I wanted weaning to be like sleep, a natural gradual decision on all of our parts. But it seems like Mama's body is falling apart. I know that a year is good, better than good considering my mom did a few months on each of us before quitting and we're still intelligent folk (healthy is another question, obviously). It's a really hard decision and I don't know what to do. I decided to go with the Tylenol until February when we get back into town and he is a year.


Honestly, I don't mind putting his needs ahead of mine as long as it is something he actually *needs*. I am not sure how I feel about nursing after a year. Is it something he needs or something that would be nice to do? Is it worth enduring more and more frequent headaches and auras that render me unable to function? Disrupting all of our work schedules? It would seem on an intellectual level that the answer to that is no. On an emotional level my baby boy is growing up so fast! He's so independent these days. And at the same time, this is freaking him out. He's gotten very clingy of me of late. When I walk into a room he shrieks and has to climb up me and hug my neck really tight like he's afraid I'll leave. It seems like his independence is making him feel like he's unsure I'll still be there for him and he wants to make sure our relationship is solid. In that sense, now would be the WORST time to wean him. It would be like, hey buddy, you don't need your mama anymore. Go thrive on your own! Right now I think he needs the nursing time to reconnect and feel assured I still love him and will still be there all the time. So on a physical level, maybe it would be the best idea for us to quit soon. On an emotional level, neither of us seem ready. Arrgh. This is so tough.


On the other hand, I just had to lower the contrast on my laptop monitor significantly because the screen was so bright it was hurting my head. And I've had to be careful with the TV lately because flickering images give me migraines.


Well clearly some kind of decision has to be made. Luckily it doesn't have to be made until February.  

Ollie is eleven months old

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One more month and my baby boy is a year! A year!!


Eric and I were talking last night and it seems like lately he's doing something new every single day. For example, he's now sitting himself up on his own. This allows him to get to his knees. Which in turn means he can pull himself up on anything. Last night every time he woke up he stood up and started screaming. It's an exciting new trend, and one that makes it less likely he'll just roll over and go back to sleep like we'd like. He can get up on his hands and knees, though he still army crawls the majority of the time to get places. Really, he prefers you help him and he walk. He's balanced on his own a bit, but he's not really sure about that yet.  


Ollie is also saying yes, this, that, dog, mama, and dada. He's signing milk, more, eat, and finished (which are basically the only signs we use, so hey). He can point to your nose when you ask him to.


He claps now, and it's the cutest thing ever. He claps for himself. He claps when I feed him milk. He claps when other people clap. He waves hello and bye bye.


We got him his first pair of grown-up shoes for our trips North. They have squeakers in them, so he loves to walk and hear the squeaking. It turns out he has very fat feet- wide and fat on top. The squeakers weren't intentionally, they were the only kind that would fit. It's exciting that something on him is fat.


Ollie loves to swipe credit cards through the machines at the grocery store. He loves watching the dogs wrestle. He loves playing in their elevated feeder as his own make shift water table. He loves singing and dancing. He loves giving kisses and hugs (still). He loves walking around the house with his push walking toy. He still loves hearing story book. He loves bouncing. He loves being flipped upside down and doing gymnastics with me. He loves watching trucks. He loves lying on the bed and having mama or dada bounce around him. He loves playing in the dirt.


Ollie is practicing feeding himself now. After I feed him for awhile he'll grab the spoon and practice feeding himself. Sometimes he gets it, other times he invents crazy techniques where he spoons the food out with one hand and then scoops it off with the other fist and shoves that fist into his mouth. I told him that doesn't really count, though it is effective.


It is amazing seeing him change so fast. It makes me happy for him and a little sad. It seems like this year has gone so quickly! How fast can the others go?


Luckily Ollie is not a baby that goes to sleep on his own, so at night he wants to be rocked to sleep when he wakes up. He snuggles up to you and hugs your neck and drifts off eventually. He looks so sweet and angelic and perfect in every way. My baby is the most beautiful wonderful baby and I love him so.

New Ollie things...


While we were in Florida Ollie decided he wanted to move! So he started army crawling everywhere. And pushing up on his hands and knees and trying to crawl. And pushing up on his feet so he's doing Downward Dog and thinking about walking. He looks so happy when he's racing across the carpet to stop me from drinking a cup of coffee or getting a single moment to myself.

Ha ha Mama! You cannot escape me now!!!

(I should mention he's in a super clingy phase where no one but me will do. It's sweet... and really annoying).

Ollie is nine months... plus

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Somebody on my Attached Parenting posted this the other day:

"Parents don't trust that their children will naturally become more independent, but think that they need to begin fostering independence from birth. Independence is one of our culture's most ingrained values."

While I don't think it's quite that simple (I mean, I do know some kids who have never detached) I do think that's generally true. It's ridiculous for people to think that at nine months I should be teaching Ollie to do without me. He's teaching himself. Here are all the things he can do at nine months:

-respond to his name (full name and nicknames)

-pull up on a box or his crib by himself

-take his shirt off

-give kisses (he knows the word kiss too)

-put objects (like little people) in their correct places

-wave bye bye and hello

-flirt with people to get what he wants

-problem solve. The other day at Lava Java he wanted stuff that was higher than him. So he tried climbing up a high chair to get higher to get it.

-find random things hilariously funny (such as putting the duck in mama's mouth in the bath, taking it out, and putting it back in again- not the whole duck, the whole duck doesn't fit)

-pick up small pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth

-use his spoon

-match pitches when we sing

-mimic and imitate me (we checked out a cloth tool set from Family Connections and I used the wrench to adjust his nose as a joke. I handed him the wrench and got in the front seat to drive. I looked back in the mirror and he was adjusting his nose. He's also mimicked sounds, like when I said, "this is a duck. quack. quack. And he said, "duck. quack. quack.")

-call Eric and I mama and dada (he doesn't distinguish)

-he knows what the words light, dog, cat, sing, dance, boogie, clap, block, toy, snuggle, eat, milk, and more mean

-he can sign milk and more

-he recognizes himself in the mirror and gives himself kisses

-if placed on his stomach in the water he will doggie paddle

This is what we can think of off the top of our head. As you can see, he is growing by leaps and bounds. He remains beautiful and very smart (well, we are his parents. It's a biological imperative we think so). He has changed so much in nine months! The other day I saw a two month old with the glassy, pirate eyes (aargh matey!) in her own little world and I was like, damn. They change into people so fast!! Here is what I know of Ollie's personality: he is a flirt, he is very curious and observant, he is easily frustrated and will give up on things that are hard but when he really wants to accomplish something he's super persistant (god, he sounds exactly like both his parents in this respect), he loves to sing and dance, he is very sweet and affectionate, he's not very good at playing by himself (should we suck it up and make him a sibling?), he sets his own schedule and timeline, he loves books and the pets.

So is it nature or nurture that you get exactly the perfect baby for you?

In nine months we've changed too. We are definitely more confident as parents. As the birth thing gets further away I am more able to let it go and not think about it. Someday I know it won't matter at all. Already the scary parts of labor and the suckiness of avoiding drugs for all the painful shit just to get a c-section and a tummy that looks like Fred Thompson's face have been replaced for me by the fact that that's how I got to meet Ollie! Whatever I had to do to get an Ollie is ok, I am ok with it.

Eric and I continue to struggle to figure out our new relationship as parents too and not primarily lovers and friends. We are running on oxytocin these days and no dopamine or norepinephrine (when you're in love, three chemicals are produced. The oxytocin is the chemical that causes lasting contentment. It's also the chemical produced by breastfeeding. The latter two chemicals are the lust and initial sparks of a relationship, or so I have learned from the Radio Lab podcast). But supposedly you can create the latter two by being in a dangerous unpredictable situation with someone (a la the movie Speed) so Eric and I will just have to white water raft someday in the future. I wonder why parenting doesn't count? We continue to work on it though, to negotiate to make things fair and to make everybody happy.

So things are good. And now I have to get to work.  



Occasionally we worry a bit about Ollie's development. Something about the fact that he was brain damaged at birth and the neurologist said at one point he might be developmentally delayed. Later they declared him fine, but, you know. Also, he's not really crawling or walking like some of his peers. Which would be fine. Except for the brain damage thing. And my paranoia.


According to this test developed by the University of Eugene, Ollie's development is right on track.

This makes us happy. It just turns out the babies he hangs out with are all freaking over achievers. But, like I keep saying, Ollie is just channeling all of his development into being freaking gorgeous.

Also, Ollie and I were singing in the grocery store today. Our song goes, "AHHHHHH. AHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHH." Henry and Steph also sing this song in the car. I try to harmonize with Ollie, but he can't be relied on to hold the same pitch.

Ollie also gave me about a million and seven kisses today. I am such a lucky girl to get so many sweet gooey kisses from my baby boy.

Solid foods


Well, Ollie is moving towards eating solid foods. Not the baby kind of solid food, ie pureed stuff, but actual solid chunks of food. We've started with the previously mentioned Organic Teddy Puffs, which don't dissolve quickly, but involve chewing. He's doing pretty well with them. I still freak out when he gags or chokes, but I try to restrain myself because I know that's a natural part of learning to chew and swallow. I have to let him figure it out.

We also bought our plane tickets for England. Yay! Not that we have the money for them, but it will be so much fun to see Ben, Fiona, Simon, Fiona's parents, etc. And we're going to Animal Kingdom in October. Someday a very pissed off Ollie is going to be like, why did you take me to Colonial Williamsburg, Disney World, and England all before I could remember it? And we'll be like, well, it just kinda worked out that way. Sorry dude.

Moments in bad parenting


Eric and I were so tired last night from our work. We pulled up all the tile, ceramic and vinyl, and hauled it to the curb. I ripped off the old fencing and installed most of the new (four boards short dammit). We were really, really tired.

Also because Ollie spent Saturday night shrieking any time someone put him down.

So we gave in. The next thing we knew our eight month old was eating organic teddy puffs and staring, slack jawed, eyes full of amazement at Britney Spear's sucky opening to the VMA's.

We tried to make sure to interact with him and the TV ("that's Sarah Silverman baby. She's famous cause she's pretty and crude, but she's never funny." "That man goes by Fiddy Cent sweetheart, he was shot nine times.") but we knew it was wrong.

Of course my nipple has a big scab on it where he bit me, so the wrong goes both ways.

Day Care III


Today was better. I explained more thoroughly about the food situation and he drank all his milk. It was easier for me to leave him (though not easy) and I got work done. I had a nice lunch with Sarah. Well, it was nice to talk to Sarah, I'm not so sure about the quality of food we're feeding our undergrads in the dorms.

He smiled when I picked him up.

It's not fun, but it does seem to be getting easier.



Well, sweet boy, apparently worn out from your day care adventures you slept last night from 12 to 5 am. Your parents are very thankful.

Today you are exactly 8 months old. That means it's time to write my semi-monthly letter to you! I hope someday you read them all in your baby book and know how much I have always loved you.

Day Care II


Well, today was the day.

It figures that Ollie was sleeping peacefully and quietly at 7 am when the alarm went off. I mean, he woke up at six am the last five or six days in a row when we had no reason to be up that early, why not choose to sleep in the day we had to get up?

He and I got there and there was a flurry of activity as I tried to learn where everything went and how to do it. Though they were very nice and friendly, I wish they had been a little clearer and more helpful for me on what to do and how to do it. A lot of it seems second nature for them and I couldn't figure it all out correctly.

I got everything more or less sorted and fed Ollie and then left. He was playing with the teacher when I left and didn't even notice me going. I sat down outside to put my shoes on and saw him in there and I cried. I told you I'd be the wuss not him.

Then I went to school. I talked the FAL into letting me store milk in their freezer. I did some work. Not as much as I would have liked, but some. I had lunch with Chase. At three I gave up and went to get him.

So apparently he had a pretty good day. He watched bubbles outside and enjoyed that. She said he was very observant all day, which is typical Ollie. She also said that he was easily comforted by anyone holding him, which she thought was nice. I thought it was... umm... good, but made me feel disposable. They also said they got him to take an hour and forty minute nap. How in god's name did they do that?

On the downside, I guess I didn't explain his eating well enough. They only gave him five ounces of milk total, but 1 and a half jars of baby food and a bunch of juice. I will have to stress that he get all 10 ounces of milk each day before any other kind of food because milk is the most calorically dense and he needs his calories. He was very hungry when I picked him up.

It was ok. We will probably be ok. I will get work done. I will have lunch with colleagues and friends like a grown-up. I will graduate. I will get a job that pays real money. I will just miss my baby something fierce.

Day care...


So Ollie and I spent the morning "acclimating" to day care. The thought of it makes me so unhappy. I understand it's the best thing for us- me getting my dissertation done, him being a social butterfly playing with other kids. And even a few months ago if you'd asked me I'd have said I was excited. But as it turns out, I was lying. I am not at all excited. I love being Ollie's mom. I love it. I never thought, honestly, that I'd make that great of a mom. I'm pretty impatient and seem reserved to the rest of the world. But I'm really good at being Ollie's mom. I never run out of patience with him. I love seeing him giggle. I love taking baths with him, every night, even though that's technically when Eric's the parent and I'm off the hook. I love snuggling with him late at night when he's trying to figure out how to go to sleep again. Today I read him Click, Clack, Moo six times in a row (because he never grows tired of hearing it) and I did it in six different accents. Seriously, I brag because I am so damn confused at how much I love being his mom.

Nobody gives you much positive feedback as a PhD student. Mostly they tell you your work sucks, you're lazy, you're a bad teacher, etc. Mostly they just make you feel like shit and completely inept at everything you try to do. Never do they giggle at you. Never do they rip off your glasses, study you seriously, grab you and kiss you, and try to put your glasses back on as if they were the hero in a bad romantic comedy. Never do they smile their biggest, happiest smile everytime you enter the room.

So why exactly am I giving up time with Smudgey to be a PhD student? Lord if I know.

Just Call me Bob


So new Ollie pictures are up, and he is finally bigger! He is now in 6-9 month clothes. He's a wee little man... by the time he's 2 he's projected to be 22 pounds. We know lots of people with big ol' babies so it worries us a little, but he seems fine. One of the comments we get most about Ollie (besides how gorgeous he is) is the intelligent curiosity he radiates. He stares at everything fascinated by it. Sometimes he doesn't blink, which is uncanny and creeps people out. I love that he has those qualities (well, not necessarily the creeping people out). Other babies may be friendlier, or more mellow, or faster to crawl or sit, but Ollie is my little philosopher, viewing the world and striving to make sense of it. I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect.

I'm going to try and use this blog to talk about Ollie and not just stuff for Ollie. Transition it over, as it were.

One of the other things I want to record is that being a parent has made me a better person. I'm still me... silly, goofy, sarcastic, snarky, sometimes pretentious, and sometimes too quick to snap at Eric, but I'm also nicer, more patient, more unguarded with strangers, more approachable, I think. When Ollie won't sleep and I'm spending 45 minutes rocking side to side with him, I think of how much I love him, and I try to radiate that love to him, plus sleepy thoughts, safe thoughts, warm thoughts, and think how I will always love him more than anything. And even though I get tired of swaying, I never get impatient with him. I know I couldn't have done that before. I've been doing better writing on my dissertation too, when I do writing on it.

Ollie starts daycare on Sept 4th. I am alternately excited (I want to get done with this stupid dissertation! 14 hours a week to just write- what luxury!!) and freaked out. What if he sits up for the first time without me? What if he walks? Talks? I will be so sad to miss those. Speaking of talking, at the moment we suspect he is calling me Bob. We say "Mama" to him and he says "BobBob" back. I guess he hasn't quite gotten to the making m's yet.

Ollie Christmas List


So already my Mom has been asking what Ollie would like for Christmas. I have decided to do a quick list here of good possibilities and then not think about it again.

Also, I'm thinking that maybe this blog could become more of a chronicle of Ollie's life than just a registry. So I might start writing posts about Ollie here instead of the top secret pregnancy journal. It was top secret because so much of pregnancy is GROSS. Of course, much of parenthood is gross too, but we're no longer talking about my body or my shame. Humiliating your child is fair game, right?

Anyway. Christmas:

I've included practical and impractical here for your pleasure. :)

First off, is a car seat. We need to buy him a new car seat by 1 year of age, and they are expensive. We plan on getting a Britax Marathon and it's a pricey sucker. It's like, $300 almost. This is really the only thing he truly needs (besides diapers, see below).

We would like an Ollie sized chair and ottoman. I like this one from Babystyle:
here is a picture of Ollie posing in it:

We would like medium or large sized Fuzzi Bunz (new or used or seconds from http://www.fuzzibunzseconds.net/store/Default.asp we don't care). It works best for us to have about 18 diapers in each size and three extra liners or so.

We would like a toy chest for Ollie. Here: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2627221&cp=&sr=1&f=Taxonomy%2FTRUS%2F2255957&origkw=toy+chest&kw=toy+chest&parentPage=search is the one that goes with his furniture. But I've heard that a bin system where he can see his toys is better for him developmentally. I've seen some of those at Target or wherever. So it doesn't matter to me either way.

We also like wooden, open ended toys. He's not allowed anything that lights up, blinks, or plays music (anything that requires batteries) so we'd really rather he didn't get them. We also don't (and won't) allow him to watch TV for quite some time, so he's not going to recognize anybody like Elmo or Spongebob.

Melissa and Doug make some cool wooden toys, but we're not picky here (well, please try not to get them painted with lead). Honestly we are uncomfortable with him having too many toys. I get overwhelmed. A few, nice, carefully chosen toys are greatly appreciated!

At some point I want to get him an easel and some art supplies, like non-toxic finger paints.

Also, gift certificates for experiences are good. The Austin Children's Museum. Gymboree for play time, etc.

Oh, and so far he doesn't seem to like stuffed animals. But who knows, that might change. And books are always good. Though he has a lot!

Anyway, now I have a handy list to refer people to. :)

You see...


Update: Another one day sale at USA Baby and the mat is taken care of!

This is an example of me and money. So it would be nice to have a play mat and gym for Ollie. Among other things, there is no carpeting in our entire house. He needs something cushy to lie on when he's lying on his stomach (4 times for 5 minutes a time) so his head doesn't become flat.

There are tons and tons out there, ranging in price.

Which one do I like best?


The most expensive one possible.

It's not even intentional people. It's like... in a room full of things without price tags, I will find the most costly and like it best.

Practical Things... yawn.


Update: Ok, thanks to some lovely presents from some lovely people (Ollie's grandmas and Sandy, to name names), as well as some shopping on our own part, Ollie no longer needs the following things. Thanks for the lovely presents!!

We need a baby bathtub. Apparently the kind with mesh slings on the inside are good for suspending your baby in place. After that, I really couldn't care less.

We need a changing pad with a buckle to keep the thing from plunging over the side (they frown on that). I don't care what kind either.

Apparently we need a cover to go on the changing pad, and it would be nice if it went with the room (see above bedding).

It's likely we could use an extra crib sheet or 2. White or light blue would be fine.

And then I guess you need burp cloths? My friend Shannon seems to have a variety of cloth around for draping over yourself so Fiona (the baby) doesn't throw up on you. I'm not particular on those either, so long as they are not pastel nor have geese or bears or chicks or whatever.

And blankets. I guess it needs a blanket or two, considering it will be born in December.

Can anyone explain to me the difference between a "receiving blanket" and a non "receiving blanket?"

These are cute:

and found at Target.

There was another one, at the store we saw this and it was incredibly soft and comfy. Soft and comfy seems good.

Oh, and apparently some kind of carrier or sling to tote it around in is supposed to be handy.

Diaper Bag


Update: Finally found the bag on ebay for a somewhat reasonable price. Can cross that off the list... only a few things left to acquire...

Here is the diaper bag we like best:


I'm actually torn now... I like the slate blue one too... I guess either color would work.

This is actually a much cheaper version of one we saw and loved at a store in the mall. It was $150. For a diaper bag?

Turtles and stars...


For some reason I have always loved turtles. And stars. So I was excited to see a turtle that MAKES stars.




Update: Thanks to the showers we have lots of books... of course Ollie could always use more. :)

Another great idea would be to buy the baby your favorite kids' book and put a bookplate inside saying who gave it to him/her.

Baby straight jacket


Make the baby a burrito!


These are available all over the place.

Cute baby clothes, part II


Baby clothing is generally ugly. It's all pastel. It's covered in chicks and teddy bears and generally twee as all hell.

If it's not ugly, it's expensive. So I've been stalking clothing on ebay and at resale shops.

My favorite baby clothes are made by Zutano.

This for example:


and this:


are super cute.

Expensive. But super cute.

Sometimes Gymboree has cute stuff too. We got a onesie off of ebay that has a pirate on it.

Anyway. This post is more like "adventures in good baby design" than actual registry... but that's ok too.

Car Seat and Stroller


Update: Giant sale at USA Baby means we have acquired these things! Now they would let us take Ollie home from the birthing center.

So I think Eric's family said they would buy us our car seat for Christmas (thanks!). I think the one I like the most is this one:


(the lime green one, not the pink one)

Which I found the cheapest here. There is also a compatible stroller that you can buy with it for a cheaper price, which is nice.

It seems safe, relatively stylish, and much cheaper and lighter than many other travel systems.

Cute baby clothes


Okay, this entry is all about cute baby clothes we've found. :) We have a number of clothes, so it's not like we need all these, but if you want to contribute to a stylin' baby, here are some ideas. We have a fair number of 0-3 month things, but not so many 3-6 month.

When I grow up I want to be a monkey
Hi, I'm new here
Baby Ninja
Why you all up in my grill
Crawl, Walk, ...
I traveled through the birth canal...
My Mom is a Geek
My Dad is a Geek
Mommy's Favorite Deductible
Sippee Cup Sommelier
They Shake Me

Koi Pillow


Update: Pillow acquired! Pictures of it on completed glider forthcoming.

We bought really cute bedding for the crib. It's the Koi design by Sozo. We stumbled upon it in a sale. We would still like the pillow to go on the glider.


This can be purchased many places online. Here is one example.

Also: here's a neat trick. There are two versions of the set. One with a fancy crib skirt, one with a simple crib skirt. The fancy crib skirt is fancy because it has a silk overlay overtop a cotton one. It costs substantially more than the set with just the cotton one. HOWEVER, you can buy the silk overlay as a curtain valance for much cheaper. Then, you can just sew that sucker right overtop the simple cotton one and have saved $30 and gotten the exact same look.



Update: crib is ordered and should be in relatively soon. Glider is all done (as is visible in pictures). Today we bought a dresser off of Craig's List (for $15!) and after spraying it with things to remove the bugs (spiders, spider egg sacs, and wasp/mud dauber nests- I think it was in this guy's garage), Eric will sand it and give it a coat of black paint. We might put new hardware on it too. Then we will be all set for furniture!

Jenny's parents have graciously offered to buy us the crib as a Christmas present (thanks!). We bought a glider and ottoman used and Eric refinished it black and Jenny sewed (or, is sewing) new cushion covers for it. We bought the changing table on sale. This just leaves a small black dresser for the infant's stuff.

Here is the cheapest most acceptable black dresser we found:


And here is the link to where it can be purchased.

Ad hoc baby registry


So just like when you get married, when you have a baby you're supposed to make a registry. Here is our problem: there is no store where we like the stuff enough to register at it.

The stuff we like is scattered all over. We'd be happy to buy it for ourselves (the whole registry idea squicks me out, frankly), and if no one ever reads this- we're ok with that.

But just in case people ask for a registry, I thought we'd make this to point them in a direction.

First off: generalities. We do not want anything that's extremely gendered. What do I mean by this? We don't want anything that says "Daddy's little sports fan" or "Princess" (unless you're buying it for Cara). The other day I saw a onesie that said, and I'm not kidding, "Boys like dogs and trucks." Well, I hope that it will like dogs, or it's in trouble, but I assume not all boys like dogs and trucks, and it's equally likely girls will like dogs and trucks, so that onesie is stupid.

I'm not even all that keen on things that say "I love Mommy" because according to the book The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil, babies don't develop the capacity to love until they are four months old. So there's no point in having the baby lie before it's old enough to talk. Also, there's a disproportionately small amount of stuff that says "I love Daddy" and we find that strange and troubling. Perhaps it is because they assume women will be buying the majority of the baby's clothes? Perhaps it is because the bond between a mother and a child is privileged in our society? We dunno.

We don't really like pastel all that much either.

We're also planning on using a diaper service, so we don't want disposible diapers. We could, however, use some diaper covers.

I know, I know. This makes it difficult to buy things for babies. This is why we couldn't register any place.

So here is a collection of things we would like for the infant. If nothing else, it can serve as a central repository shopping list for us.

Thank you very much, Eric, Jenny, and Oliver Grey Kokai-Means