Friday, December 30, 2011

World Events 2011

Here are the news stories I managed to actually read (or hear on the radio) in between all the kid stuff.  It was not a very happy year over all, but at least we're mostly still standing.  Hopefully the next year will be a bit on the brighter side.  Top Ten News Events of the Year (in no particular order) 

10. Gold Boom
9.  Death of Kim Jong Il
8.  Famine in East Africa and North Korea
7.  Osama Bin Laden Killed
6.  European Economic Crisis
5.  Arab Spring
4.  Occupy Wallstreet
3.  American Economic Crisis
2.  Nuclear damage in Japan
1.  Earthquake in Japan

I must confess that world news was not on my mind as much as it probably should have been in the last year.  Having a baby around has a way of zooming your attention down in the extreme. On a more personal level were the Top Ten Events That Happened Around Our House (also in no particular order):

1. Crawling fast
2. Many, many teeth (ouch!)
3. Walking!
4. Enjoyed a fantastic summer
5. Visited LA and Disneyland
6. Went camping
7. Visited PA and NYC
8. Talking!
9. Sleeping Through the Night (thank goodness!)
10. Christmas!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas '11

A slow great time was had by all. For the first time in many years, it was just a few of us on the big day, and I think that actually worked out really well for Delphinium. She took her time with each phase of events, and I'm pretty sure that allowed her to enjoy things rather than having her get overwhelmed. As far as I can remember she didn't even cry once.

We got up when she did, eat some breakfast, and did stockings once Daddy woke up. That alone was exciting since there were so many little goodies in there! The look on her face was unforgettable as she pulled out wind-up babies, kaleidoscopes, animals, and even a chocolate coin. She would have cheerfully stuck with that for the rest of the day, but no, no there were bigger things in store. The stockings were hung in our family room near the fireplace. However, in our living room lived the tree and the presents.

We'd been working hard all morning to keep her out of the living room, so she wouldn’t see the major, unwrapped gifts from Santa. Once breakfast and stockings were accomplished, we could finally turn her loose. Speaking of expressions, the one she made for the bouncy cow was particulary interesting. "Cooooooow! Moooooo!" and then bouncybouncybouncybouncybouncy as she figured out its use.

The cow was eventually displaced by the glory of a tray of wooden food which could be "cut" by a wooden knife (think Velcro). A new baby doll came next "New baby! New baby!" which was very much loved and petted until it was literally thrown aside for a train booster pack (more track and goodies for her beloved wooden train). Things continued in this vein for some time, and that is why, at about noon, we had a break for lunch and naps. This meant leaving a good portion of the presents still wrapped under the tree, but what's the point in rushing?

A pesimist would say that this is proof of the crass commercialism of our age. A kid gets so many gifts that she can't even open them all, and when she does they just get thrown aside in an instant when the next thing appears. I have to disagree. Each of her new presents will be rediscovered in the weeks ahead as she takes the time to really appreciate what she has. Some things, like the baby doll and the trains, are already fixtures. Other items will take more time to make an impression.

On the whole I'm really happy with our Christmas experience. Of course it would have been nice to have our uncles, aunties, cousins, and grandparents there for the holiday, but since they couldn't come, it was good to find the silver lining in a small holiday. Who knows what next year might bring.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Happy Christmas '11

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! "

~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: The Night Circus

Ooo! Ooo!  I really love this book!  Ok, ok I know that is not a descriptive opening, and I would have marked my students down for such sentiments, but I just can't help myself.  Let me try that again.  The Night Circus is highly enjoyable because it is a very successful fantasy story.  It captures that glamorous, ethereal quality that really good magical realism does so well, but manages to maintain an originality that is quite unusual. 

Marco and Celia have been bound since childhood to compete in a game of chaos versus order.  The venue is a fantastical circus whose creator, performers, and attendees have no idea what is really going on.  The medium is magic.  Each competes by manipulating the circus into ever more extraordinary directions, and the result is a dreamscape of different tents.  Parallels I noticed were with The Tempest (which is often quoted) and Romeo and Juliette.  If you're not a fantasy person, the quality of this book might well be lost on you.  However, the fact that this is a first novel does make it all the more impressive.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

RIP Christopher Hitchens

Looks like we're now less one amazing thinker and writer with the loss of Christopher Hitchens.  His ability to rile the masses on one topic or another (but especially religion) was nothing short of genius.  Where others feared to tread, Hitchens dove right in and caused people to talk and think about ideas that were both uncomfortable and important at the same time.  Atheists everywhere are sighing over the loss and over the fact that Richard Dawkins is their only well-known spokesperson left.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent House

Goodness, gracious we are so lucky to have our fabulous advent house!  Auntie C. gave it to us a few years ago (B.B. or Before Baby) and we always liked it and appreciated it as holiday decor.  However there is no way M or I could possibly enjoy the house as much as Delphinium does.  Now that she understands the idea behind it we are inundated with requests for "house?! house?!" every day.  We lift, we show the correct drawer, and then the baby does the rest by herself.  She pulls the tiny knob, peaks inside, and then uses her little hand to pull out the prize.  Sometimes it is a sticker (which is pretty good) sometimes it is a tiny animal (which is quite good) and sometimes it is a chocolate coin in a gold wrapper (which is REALLY REALLY good).   Thanks Auntie C!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Still Teething

Yesterday Delphinium was a bit fussy but nothing too serious. Little did I know what was lurking around the nighttime bend! She went down to sleep without any trouble, but after about an hour and a half, she was up and crying. I couldn't see anything wrong, so I rocked her back to sleep. Then she did it again ninety minutes later. That was the pattern for the WHOLE NIGHT! Only this morning could I see the swelling around one K-9. Poor baby.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas So Far

I'm happy to report that we have a Christmas tree in our living room.  Not only that, but it's been standing there for several days, and Delphinium has not pulled it over even once!  Even better, she actually leaves the ornaments in place as well.  She has actually been better about it than the cat who has tried more than once to make low-hanging ornaments into toys.  A few times every day, the baby toddles to the living room, announces "tree!" and does a little giggle of appreciation. 

The process of getting the tree was quite exciting too.  Grandma and MD piled in the car with us, and we all set out for a lot near our house.  Last year we went out to a farm in the country, and walked up and down the rows, but this year we were much more in a lot frame of mind.  Delphinium did not mind at all.  She played peek-a-boo around the trees, and then watched in awe as they wrapped our tree and put it on the roof of the car.  Perhaps the most exciting part was going inside to pay because they had a selection of ornaments, and do you know what kind they had?  Butterflies!  Ever since the incident at the science center, Delphinium is obsessed with them, so we picked out a red "hop hop" to take home. 

These days I can tell which activities mean the most to the baby because she wants to talk about them at bedtime.  The tale of butterflies on her head is a near constant favorite.  However, the tale of the Christmas tree is running a close second.  Who knows what might happen when there are actual presents under that tree!  What fun.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Waterbabies Update

And then the gods said "ha!"  Shortly after I posted my satisfaction with waterbabies classes, a computer error cheated us out of our place in line to sign up for next session.  We lost out by about seven minutes (these things fill up in minutes) so we're waitlisted.  I don't forsee much chance of getting in given that there are only eight spaces in each class.  Waterbabies instruction might be good, but their management and computer system really bites. 

Friday, December 09, 2011


This morning Delphinium is crying because of swim class.  No, no not because she dislikes it, but rather because it isn't time to go yet.  Swim class is one of those things that causes the baby to make her "Christmas face" of extreme excitement.  I've tried explaining that her teacher isn't at the pool yet, but all she can think of is how much she wants to be in that water. 

Waterbabies is a program that puts very young kids in the water from the age of six months.  Many people feel this is too young, but we started around that time.  Parents go in the water with the babies, so there's never much risk to the child.  The waterbabies program includes clever ways to get babies to practice swimming skills in the guise of playing, singing, and goofing around.  Of course there are a few kids, from time to time, who don't seem to be enjoying themselves, but that usually passes by the next lesson, and they're back to splashing their friends.

Of course our girl has learned many useful skills (swimming underwater, holding on the the side of the pool, jumping from the edge) but the main thing I like about the class is her enthusiasm.  Some kids, when introduced to water at the age of two or three, are too afraid to enjoy themselves.  It can take a long time to become comfortable. Whenever Delphinium gets the chance to play in water, she is immediately comfortable enough to enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Terror and Joy of Butterflies

While M. was on vacation, we had the chance to take Delphinium to many special activities.  Given that she's a pretty outgoing, curious sort of girl, she generally loved them.  However, one or two seem to have greater prominence in her memory than others.  The visit to The Experience Music Project, for example, has never been mentioned again.  The trip to the Pacific Science Center, on the other hand, gets mentioned at least daily. 

It was our second attempt to visit the science center since we learned the hard way that they are closed on Tuesdays.  Finally, though, we were in.  Being short on time, we skirted the children's play area since we figured those are available in many places.  Instead we headed over to see the snakes and naked mole rats.  The rats were not such a big hit (maybe they are too far away or maybe because they're just so darn ugly) but the snakes and amphibians were very popular.  Another big hit was a large suspended globe with the continents and weather patters projected on its surface.  Delphinium loved watching the clouds swirl.

Next up was the butterfly room.  We waited our turn, got a lecture about not walking on butterflies, and then entered the "airlock."  It felt a bit like walking into the bathroom when somebody's just had a hot shower which is a very nice feeling on a cold day.  The butterflies immediately came over to see what was up, and two huge brown ones flutttered all around us.  One landed on M's head, and the baby was amazed.  Then one landed on her head, and it was just a bit much.  She started to cry, and I had this weird moment of trying to shoo a butterfly off her head without touching.  It was strangely reluctant to leave!  Once the "monster" was gone, the Delphinium's spirits returned very quickly, and we were able to enjoy the rest of the garden.

The funny thing about all this is her memory of it.  She "tells" that story all the time (with help from me once I know what she's getting at) as if it was a funny thing that happened to her.  She makes her sign for butterfly, says "hop hop" (go figure), and then pats her head, and laughs and laughs.  I don't know if she's remembering it differently than it happened, or she thinks it's funny that it scared her.  Either way, the visit to the butterfly house is one that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Facing Reality

For the last two and a half weeks we've been on one long bender.  No, no there hasn't actually been any drinking involved (well not much anyway), but we have been ignoring our normal obligations and just having fun.  Daddy has been on vacation that whole time, and we have slept late, enjoyed leisurely meals, sometimes not showered before noon, and generally run amok.  The baby is completely mad for having both parents home all the time, and we've taken her to all sorts of kid entertainments.  I think her favorite part has been all the undivided attention and playtime with Daddy.  They play trains, read stories, and color at her little table for hours on end.  It's been nothing short of glorious.

Unfortunately, the piper is about to come calling.  On Monday, in the wee sma's, M is heading back to work.  I have not told the girl yet, but I have the feeling it is not going to go over very well.  We will have to think of some special activities to keep ourselves busy on that day, so we don't spend too much time with the missing.

Monday also means the start of our experiment with having Daddy work much further from home.  His commute will go from about 15-20 minutes to 60-90 minutes at some times of day.  Will he be able to use the bus (much cheaper and he can work on the way) or is a car the only viable option (possibly much faster)?  We won't really know until he's tried out a few different combinations.  Most importantly, will we ever see him again?  Given the extra time on the road, he may not be around much during the baby's waking hours.  Fingers crossed that it all sorts itself out in a favorable way.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Din Tai Fung in Bellevue

I think I forgot to mention that I finally made it into Din Tai Fung, the new dumpling house in Bellevue.  Some people were very excited when this place opened because I guess it is part of a famous restaurant dynasty.  Given how jam packed it is most of the time, I don't think it's all just hype.  Finally, after about six misses, I managed to get in on a recent girls' night out.  We were most definitely not disappointed. 

From the cocktails to the appetizers and the salads to the main dishes, it was a very tasty experience.  There were many vegetarian options, and the other veggie girl and I happily shared several dishes.  The cucumber salad and spicy noodles were especially memorable.  The best part, by far, was the dumplings.  Taste and texture were beyond reproach (nothing doughy or greasy here), and I think I could have eaten about three or four dozen of them on my own. 

We had the chance to return just a few weeks later for another outstanding meal, and this time we had the baby along.  She was treated kindly by the staff, and we saw other children of all ages, so it seems like a decent family spot as well.  Prices were also fairly reasonable given the location.  We will certainly be back whenever we get the chance. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Trees with Toddlers

We are just about to embark on that annual tradition (for some anyway) of finding and decorating our Christmas tree!  I am completely in love with this activity because of all the good memories I have from childhood.  My mom always made us wait until after her birthday (in early December) to get our tree because I think we were begging for one the moment Halloween was over.  It has to be a real tree, it has to be full-sized (as big as your room will allow) and it has to be a fir.  Now as a big, old grown-up I still get such a thrill from seeing the tree go up in the living room and slowly turn into a sparkling confection. 

This year, however, we have a toddler.  All my thrill is turned to trepidation.  What might she do?  Will she try to climb it?  Pull it over?  Shake the branches off?  Steal all the ornaments?  Do we have to anchor it to the wall?  Should we put it up on a table, hid it behind couches, or maybe tie it to the ceiling?  I just don't know what to expect.  I know it may seem like I'm over-reacting, but I've heard some horror stories of trees that came crashing down, so I want to be careful.  I'll have to do some research.  Any advice from parents of older children would certainly be welcome. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

No Napping but Fun with Trains

Well we are back from our big trip to visit the Oregon family.  We had a wonderful time visiting with everyone and enjoying the charms of small towns.  The one tough spot was napping.  In five hours down and six hours back (we hit traffic on the way home) the baby did not sleep one skinny wink.  Several times we saw her start to nod and rub her eyes, and then she would actually begin pinching and slapping herself to stay awake!  I absolutely could not believe my eyes!  I guess she really, really did not want to miss one single moment.

Nevertheless, she was a superb travelling companion in every other way.  She really seemed to enjoy seeing everybody, and all the new places were clearly very interesting.  Perhaps her favorite part was being able to see the train station out the tenth floor window of our hotel.  She watched the "choo-choos" with great enthusiasm and would run to pull the curtains back whenever she heard the whistle blow. I even heard her falling asleep one night saying "choo choo choo choo" in the tiniest, sleepiest, limpest little voice imaginable.  Luckily we found a wooden train engine at the holiday market to help commemorate our trip.   

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

"There's lots to eat on Thanksgiving Day: stuffing, greenbeans, yam souffle.  And even though it's    sort of quirky we don't believe in eating turkey."  (Sloane Tanen)

I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Changes (and not the diaper kind)

The big news out of our house, aside from Delphinium's ever-increasing cuteness, is that M has himself a brand new job!  His old one was still good (not a lay-off or anything like that) but he wanted to try out something new.  He's been with Goliath Corp. for more than a decade, and it sounded interesting to try a whole different company entirely.  I'm excited that he's excited by the new challenge. 

The only down-side to all this newness is that his future job will be a chunk further away from home than the one he has now.  He will be experimenting with different routes, departure times, and modes of transportation until he finds the best combination.  Even so, we may have to move to facilitate a more manageable commute.  This too is exciting because it means we will get to explore a new area and possibly be closer to lots of the people and activities that we enjoy. 

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that we are all in a state of upheaval.  Everything seems exhilarating, daunting, fresh, and also uncertain.  Time will answer many of our questions about what our new life might look like.  However, I suspect that there are many things about which we will actively need to make choices.  A small (and wimpy) part of me says "but it was just so comfy the way it was!"  Then again, who wants to live in the same house, have the same job, and go the same places for their entire adult life?  Not me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Flab

Cue ominous music.  It's coming.  You know it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it.  Holiday eating!  Plates of cream puffs and cookies are wending their way to your house.  There may even be a few peppermint martinis out there as well.  Who can resist Grandma's turkey or a pile of rich chocolate coins?  You can't hide, and your rear end is going to pay the price.

According to several sources, the average person gains one to two pounds between Halloween and New Year.  For many people this is the only extra weight they gain all year.  It doesn't sound like much, but if you never get that weight off, and you gain a little more every year, it really adds up.  Might this be the real source of the dreaded "middle-aged spread?"

We can and should try to limit our indulgences, but it can be REALLY tough to say "no" to a meal or a cookie made by loved ones.  Heck it can be hard to say "no" to a sleeve of bad grocery store cookies at this time of year!  Thus we must plan to push the exercise to help make up for the extra calories.  Two pounds is 7000 calories.  We must make it our firm goal to burn at least this much extra during the months of November and December.

Half an hour of brisk (or better yet, uphill) walking burns about 130-160 calories (on average of course).   This means we need about fifty walks to burn our extra load.  That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that there are sixty-one days in this season, it's really not so hard.  Of course you can replace some daily walks with gym workouts or hikes, but the point is to (roughly at least) count it out. 

Some would laugh and/or groan at this level of calorie counting, but I think it makes us mindful of what we are actually consuming.  Instead of mindlessly eating mashed potatoes all day, we can stop to think of how much time in the gym they equal.  Moderation in all things leads to happy holidays and skinnier waistlines!  That's my plan anyway, so please help me stick to it.  Hike anyone?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ode to Bad Cranberry Sauce

Har! Har! I love this article from Chow. I have always enjoyed the nasty canned cranberry sauce of my childhood, and no amount of persuading from my foodie husband can dislodge me from this position. I KNOW it's awful red goo, but it conjurs some great memories.  Besides, it's got those fabulous can ridges for perfect cutting!  This author does a wonderful job of outlining "our" position.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Library Books on Your Kindle

You read that correctly!  The largest downside to the Kindle, high prices on books, has now been eliminated!  Anyone can now go online, borrow ebooks from the library, and then download them to their personal device without ever leaving the house or paying a cent.  That is pretty much the best news since "it's a healthy girl" in my book. 

In our neck of the woods, you just visit this part of the King County Library System and follow a few simple steps.  It took me a few tries before I was quick at the process, but it really is not very difficult to understand.  First you put the book in your digital "bag" go through "check out" and then log in to Amazon to push the book to your Kindle.  You get to keep it for three weeks which is more than enough time to read the average novel. 

As if that were not enough, you can actually check out up to twenty books at a time.  That may sound crazy, but if you are using your Kindle on a long trip, twenty might be a reasonable number.  Think about that; a whole stack of books will take up almost no space at all.  One last bit of icing on the cake is that there are children's picture books available too.  That way, when you aren't busy reading Proust or Huxley or The Naughty Duke, your child can enjoy some Go Dogs Go.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

Today is 11/11/11.  I know last year contained a 10/10/10 and next year will have 12/12/12, but there is something extra special about today.  My baby brother, The Professor, always used to get all excited when 11:11 would appear on the clock.  He used to say that you had to stop, close your eyes, and make a wish.  This used to irritate me no end since it was nothing but superstitious nonsense. Now that I am so much older and wiser, I try to leave room for possibilities.  Today on 11/11/11 at 11:11 (both?) be sure to make an extra good (big?) wish.  If nothing else it will make you smile just to think of the object of your desire.  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

I love The New York Times!  They always have interesting food articles (not to mention the current events, science, education, etc.) and I often find myself posting or forwarding something from them.  Today is no different.  I'm always excited to see any positive mention of vegetarians (instead of the usual nasty jokes) in a piece about Thanksgiving.  You know, some small mention of what a host might provide for their meatless guests other than mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.  The times devoted an entire article!  It veers fairly far from the traditional, but it does offer a fabulous array of choices, and a cook could you parts of the menu even if they weren't up to producing the whole.  I will certainly be giving some of these recipes a try before the big day.

Monday, November 07, 2011

First Sentences

Our kid is one of those little people (are they all this way?) who prefers to work on one single skill at a time.  When she was learning to walk, nearly all talking was put on hold.  Now that she has walking (and jumping and running and wiggling) down to a science, verbal skills are really ramping up.  New words are appearing at a rapid pace, and I'm doing my best to keep up and decipher all that talking.

The very first sign language sentence the baby put together was "more fruit."  This is not surprising given that "more" and "fruit" are two of her favorite concepts.  She's used these words, alone and together, for some time now.  Then, just a few days ago, she said her first sentence using words.  This time it was "more peas." She prefers them left frozen thank you very much.

In other language news, the words of the week are "apple" and "car" and "happy."  The first two are used in the most obvious way as in when she wants the first or sees the second.  The third one gets used like this happyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappyhappy!      

Friday, November 04, 2011

Halloween 2011

Holidays have taken on a whole new cast since we had the baby.  It's just such a thrill to watch her experience things with fresh eyes.  Okay so she didn't love everything.  The costume was pretty much a bust since she would only wear the whole thing for about five minutes.  The base layer was a white onesie and purple dotted leggings, and that was all fine with her because it was normal clothing.  However, the green tulle tiara, green, purple, and blue tutu, and purple sparkly wings were just not something she wanted to endure.  For those five minutes though, she was adorable (thanks Grandma!).

We met up with our younger cousin (the elder is too grown up for this sort of thing) and her friend in the afternoon, and then we trick or treated at Daddy's work.  Who can resist warm, dry, indoor candy fest where each bowl of booty is mere feet from the next?  The magnitude of the haul was quite shocking, but that doesn't matter since the baby doesn't realize that any of it is actually edible.  Maybe it's wrong of me, but I've been keeping her in the dark on that score.  Nonetheless, she thoroughly enjoyed the "game" of gathering candy, saying thank you (she can't manage "trick or treat" quite yet) and dropping the goodies in her bucket.

Next we headed home, enjoyed Dad's homemade pumpkin soup, and went "real" trick or treating in the neighborhood.  There were lots of kids out in our area, and it really gave the whole experience a carnival kind of feel.  Many houses decorate in our area, so we kept coming across new and unusual scenes.  After about the first five minutes, our girl refused to be carried.  So what if it was late!  So what if she'd already walked all over the office building!  If the other people could walk than so could she!  I will never forget her tiny form, hand in hand with Daddy, swathed in purple fleece coat and purple sparkle wings (the only part of the costume she would still wear at that point) marching along the dark sidewalks.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Quotable Camus

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Baby Stays Awake

October 15th was the very first time in her whole life that Delphinium did not sleep during the day.  Not even five minutes.  She was teething, it's true, but she didn't seem uncomfortable at the time.  In fact, she didn't cry at all during her not nap.  Instead she sat up in her crib and read stories to herself and to her babies.  After about 90 minutes of this, I just couldn't stand it any more, and I had to go pick her up.  I don't want her to feel as if I've abandoned her in the corner, but usually when I leave her in the crib at naptime, she falls asleep!  Not this day. 

Oddly enough, she wasn't particularly difficult the rest of the day.  By evening she was certainly tired, but she did not become the tantrum monster or the whiner I thought we might encounter.  Luckily she went back to sleeping the next day.  This is a very good thing since I don't think either one of us is ready for the naps to end just yet.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Twas The Night Before Halloween

For my dear husband who loves zombies and other scary, horrid things:

Twas the night before Halloween, when all through the house
All the creatures were stirring, especially the mouse.
The spiders were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that trick or treaters soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of goblins danced in their heads.
And mamma in her costume, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains on an autumn trap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the shadows did seem to glow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a yard full of ghosts were suddenly near.

With a little old zombie, so disgusting and sick,
I knew in a moment it could be no trick.
More shuffling and moaning his friends came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Masher! now, Smasher! now, Slicer and Vicious!
On, Crusher! On, Cutthroat! on, on Donnerparty and Bloodthirsty
Off the tops of their heads! to the top of the wall!
Now slash away! slash away! slash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the monsters they flew,
With the sleigh full of brains, and eyeballs too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The moaning and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney the zombie came with a sound.

He was dressed all in rags, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with gore and soot .
A bundle of guts he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a murderer, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they glared! his face was so scary!
His cheeks were all rotten, his nose there was nary!
His drooling mouth was drawn up in a horrid grin,
His entire face and body were uglier than sin.

The stump of my arm he held tight in his teeth,
And the blood it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a hand in my belly,
The stench it was worse than anything smelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right freaky old elf,
And I screamed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of my head,
Soon gave me to know I had everything to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And ripped out my guts, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his cart, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all shuffled away like a piece of old gristle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Halloween to all, and to all a horrid night!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Warm, creamy, and oh-so-fall, this recipe is a must on the first really frosty morning.  Even if you have to get up early to prepare things, it will be worthwhile once you're cupping that fragrant bowl in your hands.  Assuming you like pumpkin of course.  I hear the recipe also works with cream of wheat, but I have yet to try it myself.  Maybe tomorrow morning...

1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
4 cups water or milk
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkins at Jubilee Farm

Our friends recently invited us to meet up for a pumpkin hunting mission, and they're chosen destination was Jubilee Farm in Carnation. We were most surprised to find a farmstead full of activities tucked away down a rural road. The girls enjoyed the hayride (some are even pulled by great big horses!) and the pumpkin hunting almost as much as we did, but I think they're favorite parts were the pony rides and the chance to shell beans. The Christmas beans they had on the shelling table were a beautiful mottled purple, and I was amazed at their patience in shelling one long bean after another. We came away with a monster of a pumpkin and a real desire to go back again soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TV for Babies?

Oh dear.  Here are two articles about children and screen time that dovetail in a disturbing way.  The first is about the renewed plea by the American Academy of Pediatrics to limit screen time among children and especially among babies younger than two.  Speech delays, cognitive delays, etc, etc, etc.  The second is about all the extra tech time kids are getting, and the forms it's begun to take.  It seems that poorer kids are much more likely to have a TV in their bedrooms where they often watch as much as they like.  The richer kids, by comparison, tend to use computers and handheld devices at much higher rates.  There is great debate about the pros and cons of each form of entertainment, but one thing is certain: kids are spending lots of time in front of screens.

Friday, October 21, 2011

18 Months!

Please inform the town crier; Delphinium is eighteen months old!  She's the sweetest little "wobbler" (though she doesn't wobble much anymore.  now we're more about running as fast as possible) that there could ever be.  She loves baby dolls (especially Bess) and stuffed animals and books, books, books!  She also loves to play in the backyard, go for walks, visit the park and the library, and play with her friends.  She especially loves when Dada comes home at night, and when her cousins and grandparents come around. 

Our girl gives the best snuggles and knee hugs you can possibly imagine.  Most of the time her personality is very sweet and easy-going, but she does have opinions about things, and does her best to let you know what she needs.  In the hour before bedtime she often becomes the silliest little person.  I'm celebrating Thanksgiving a little early this year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

School Search Part 4

Well this will certainly not be a very long post.  Schools number six and seven were nothing to write home about.  Okay nothing GOOD to write home about.  The first was an old place with an ancient director, and I'm sure it was lovely once upon a time.  Like perhaps in 1987 when it was last updated.  It was tired, grubby, and outdated, and the people who worked there looked like they were completely uninspired.  The oddest part about it all was the price.  This was the most expensive school we've seen so far.

The last school of the day was also the best deal of the whole week.  For only $1000 (har!) they will watch your child for ten hours per day (as limited by law) five days per week.  They will feed your child three meals and three snacks, put him or her down for naps, change diapers, arrange hair cuts, and in every other way take over the job of parenting for you.  In fact, you only need be responsible for getting them there in the morning, and putting them into bed at night.  Some people actually want that situation, but most are probably forced into it by circumstance.  Either way, it's pretty sad for the kid. 

The facility was open, airy, and even clean, but I still do not want to send my girl to a place that specializes in warehousing kids.  Also the teacher yelled across the room at one child, and that was when she knew we were there listening.  Can you imagine what she would be like when there was no one around but the kids?  Thus far we are not overly impressed with the schools on offer.  Only one seems like a real prospect to me.  It shouldn't be this hard to find quality care. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby Sings!

As I've mentioned before, our baby is quite a fan of her Kindermusik classes. She's been bopping along to the tunes and dances since she was only seven months old, and now she's really able to participate. One of the songs they've been using a lot lately is "Ring Around the Rosie." She loves the way you hold hands, dance in a circle, and then all fall down.

She demands that we sing and dance with her (and at least one babydoll) several times a day. Then I noticed that she was actually singing along! She can't make the actual words yet, but she is definitely setting her babble to the tune. I know, I know, one day I'm going to wish she would just sit down and be quiet but not yet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PA and NYC

We are just back from our trip to visit Uncle J! I was not at all sure if it would be fun or work (due to the vagaries of travelling with a tiny child) but I think a great time was had by all. We got to visit many exciting locales, get a sense of where he lives, and also get to spend quality time with the family. I'm absolutely thrilled with how the whole thing turned out.

First things first, Delphinium was a rock star on the plane. She did not cry coming or going (in large part due to Grandma interventions) and she was amazing about going, going, going for five days in a row. She ate mostly whatever we were eating (for the most part), stayed up late with the crowd, and amused herself in a grown up house with very few toys. She even skipped her nap one day without any terrible consequences (first time ever going without). Who knew our girl could be so flexible?

We got to see the town where Uncle J. teaches (so cute!) and even made it in to New York City. We only had a little time, but it was well used visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park. Delphinium seems to like museums, and she was especially excited about the recreated rooms from the palace of the Sun King. She kept ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the chandeliers, gold furniture, and rich fabrics. Who knows what she might be asking for in a few years when we’re trying to re-do her room.

M drove us the whole time including NYC, and it was amazing watching how fast he adapted to the cut-throat techniques used by east-coast drivers. I would have panicked when I saw such a mass of cars all trying their hardest to kill each other, but he was cool as can be. He's definitely the hero of the whole adventure. I have not forgotten that we all still need to club together and buy him a very expensive glass of scotch.

Another wonderful feature of the trip was the chance to get a feel for that part of the east coast. We saw some incredible examples of autumn leaves (you get a lot more of that when 75% of all trees are not evergreens). Plus a most memorable visit to a boulder field. It reminded me of a sandbox for giants because it was a huge open area filled with rocks varying in size from your fist to a small car. You couldn't walk between the boulders because there were too many of them, and it was necessary to step from rock to rock to get across.

It's always good to see Uncle J, and now we can actually picture him when he's far away. His house, his office, and his classroom suit him perfectly. Besides he (and K) are excellent hosts, and we were spoiled from beginning to end. We will have to make sure to return before too long.

Monday, October 10, 2011

School Search Part 3

I am very happy to report that school #5 DIDN'T SUCK!  Yay!  Not only that, but it does not require kids to be potty-trained either.  It's greatest downside seems to be that it doesn't open until 7:30am which is too late for me to take her and then get to work on time.  This is not a problem as long as M can take her.  I don't exactly know what we would do for those few days a year when he was sick or away.  With some careful planning, it has the potential to work. 

The classrooms were mostly bright and cheerful even for the littlest kids (why do some schools think that babies won't notice if their surroundings are grim?) and I actually saw baby dolls, books, and even a picture of a bunny!  They are big on napping (not all schools are), and the kids eat lunches provided by their parents (easier to ensure the vegetarian thing and avoid Ritz crackers).  The biggest, most wonderful part is the play yard.  All the classrooms open out onto a really fabulous play yard.  It's huge, it's full of trees and other mature plants, it has all sorts of great play equipment (some schools have none), and it just makes you feel like you would want to run around and play.  When we arrived, we even saw one teacher playing running games with some of the kids.  This is the first place we visited where I could picture our girl being happy there.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Banned Books Week '11

I know I'm belated, but I just had to mention one of my great passions: books.  Or to be more specific banned books.  Last week was National Banned Books week; the time when we remember that not all readers are free to be you and me.  Many people are shocked to learn that books are regularly banned in the United States today.  Most of the time this has to do with parents complaining about books being too much for their child, so they want to strip the book out of a whole classroom, library, school, or even district. 

I do not understand the logic at all.  I absolutely do not want my little girl to read Slaughterhouse Five because she is too young to understand or cope with the very adult themes.  However, that does not mean I want the book removed from the library.  It turns out that my niece, who is much older than my daughter, would benefit very much from reading that book.  Why would I want to remove it from a situation when it can be appropriate and beneficial to so many readers?  It boggles my mind that anyone should be so self-centered that they would try to ban a book just because it doesn't suit them.  You don't see me trying to ban all the sports books or westerns from the library!

Anyway, this is banned books week, as I said, and these are the top ten most challenged books according to the accounting of the American Library Association.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2010 were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Mark Bittman's New Book

I’m working my way through another Mark Bittman book, The Food Matters Cookbook, and it is just as good, if not better, than his previous ones. In the past, “foodies” and “greenies” were never found in the same place, and when they were, fighting ensued. It was taken as read that a person who really cared about delicious food couldn’t possibly be interested limiting or altering food consumption. After all, if this hand-made salami tastes SOOO good why would I ever consider NOT eating it?

This is where Bittman is a genius. He has the foodie credentials, but he also has a passion for re-thinking our patterns of consumption. He advocates a reduction in meat-eating because the average American eats more than 200 pounds of meat per year which is an unsustainable level for our country and our planet. He also considers processed foods to be an evil that is causing obesity and illness in much of the population. Of course none of this is news, but he’s pulled together a very sensible and delicious answer to the current food problem.

Did you know that if the average person ate just three fewer servings of meat per week it would be the carbon equivalent of taking all the SUV’s in America off the road? Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me. Besides, if we all swapped our burger and fries for something better, imagine all the weight we might lose as well. It’s a win-win situation to say the least. His book includes 500 recipes that will surely help to steer us in the right direction.  I can't wait to try his five ways to top popcorn and five new flavors for trail mix and that's just the first few pages.

Monday, October 03, 2011

School Search Part 2

School #4 was frightening.  I wanted not only to clutch my child and run, but also to grab up all those other poor children who actually had to attend.  People often say that they didn't like the "feel" of a place, and I used to think that was such a painfully non-specific way to describe things.  Now I understand.  Waves of depressing were practically rolling out the door.  For starters, this school is housed in strip mall right next to a Chinese restaurant.  This means that the whole place smells of eau de frying mixed with old pee.  Add to that the poorly groomed teachers, their poor English skills (native speakers all), the huge tvs in every room, and the general air of disorder and grubbiness, and it was just not a pretty picture.

I should have known from the very first since the lobby attendant called ahead in the classroom to let the teacher know we were coming (no other school did this).  The teacher then had a chance to get the children together and give the most impressive activity she could muster.  It was listening to a book on tape.  At the end of the book, one child tried to sing along to the final song and was told by the teacher to be quiet.  Did I mention the menu?  Ritz crackers and "froot" juice constituted most of the snacks.  I could go on for hours.  This is what is wrong with America. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

School Search Part 1

Daycare center #1 was housed on the grounds of a Catholic church. I carefully inquired before we went as to the religious content of the school and was reassured that it was secular in every way. What we did not expect was the level of orthodoxy, not in religion, but in the Montessori method. Now there are many ways of interpreting the teaching of Maria Montessori, but in this school it meant no toys (only “work”), no cuddling (“we want them to be independent so they won’t grow up to be drug addicts, criminals, or obese”) and no color on the walls or furnishings. While it wasn’t dirty or scary or creepy, it was not the kind of place I wanted to leave my little girl. The expensive car (vanity plate “school”) in director’s parking spot also didn’t help.

Daycare centers #2, #3, and #4 were quite a wide range of experiences. We saw them all on the same day, so it was quite easy to see the differences. #2 was not bad at all. In fact, I think it’s my top pick so far. It is a strict Montessori, but very clean, bright, and even elegant. It also had the benefit of being extremely close to my work which would make me feel so much better about leaving her if I know we are very near each other. The downside of this school is mainly potty training. They require it, and our girl will not even be two and half by the time she has to start. Dicey to say the least.

Daycare #3 was fine. Pretty much everything about it was fine but not wonderful. The littlest kids were housed in a smallish room with a reasonable number of activities sprinkled around. The teachers were friendly, and all the teachers had been with the school for many years (the best feature in my opinion). It was a little shabby, a little drab, and the outdoor play area was downright sad. Aside from that, the biggest downside is that this school runs on a school year schedule, but not the same schedule as my school. This means that there could be whole weeks where her school was on vacation while mine was still in session.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Playing Pretend

Imagination is the word of the month at our house. The little big girl is learning about how you can pretend things that aren't really happening. This is a pretty significant step for a little brain, and she is taking to it like the proverbial duck to water. It all started with me pretending to feed her dolls (whom she loves with a passion) and took off from there. Now her favorite game is called "night night."
For some reason it's a game that can only be played with Daddy in attendance. She sits in the middle of the living room floor, and pats the carpet while saying our "names" (Dada and Mimi). We have to sit on the floor until she comes up to each of us and "pushes" us over. Then we have say "night night" and pretend that we are asleep. Sometimes babydolls, stuffed animals, or toys join us, and the baby herself goes down to sleep too. After a minute or two, she sits up again, and we are all allowed to yawn and stretch and say "good morning!" She will play this game as long as you are willing to continue, and her dad is especially kind about this. If only bedtimes and naptimes could be so easy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quotable Pine

"What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."

Albert Pine

Monday, September 26, 2011

Anti-Atheist Bias Alive and Well

Harpers Index reports that nearly 60% of the U.S. population claims they would consider a well-qualified homosexual candidate for president. However, only about 25% would consider a well-qualified atheist for the same job. I'm delighted to hear the first number, but dismayed by the second. One would think that a more open-minded populous would try gauge candidates based on their merits rather than some arbitrary moral standard.

There seems to be an assumption that one cannot be an ethical person unless one subscribes to some sort of faith. Thus atheists who wish to participate in politics will need to hide their true feeling behind a facade of religion. Intolerance is intolerance plain and simple, and it is such a same that people who are otherwise liberal and inclusive should still subscribe to this particular brand.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Annoying Restaurant Trends 2011

We're certainly not getting out to new restaurants like we used to before the baby, but we do still get to visit our favorites upon occasion. Some of the new and notable "trends" in the hipper places are downright irritating. The communal table is one of my personal pet peeves. One thing I hate is making small talk with total strangers, and that is exactly what a communal table often forces you into. Communal tables and nine other bad ideas are listed here by Zagat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We Grow Tomatoes!

As summer comes to a close, I just have to take a moment and sing the praises of my favorite variety of tomato. I know this may seem weird, but we do love our garden, and this tomato plant is our shining glory. Why should we care so much about a stupid plant? Because we're not supposed to be able to grow tomatoes in our yard. I visited a "master" gardener at the farmers market, described our situation to him, and he said that we could not have tomatoes in our yard at all! I could not believe it. "Not enough strong sun!" he declared with great surety. Well I simply could not accept this!

We took a little trip to our favorite nursery, Molbaks (my friend CH once recommended it by saying "it's expensive, but the plants mostly live." where we found several varieties of cherry, beefsteak, and heirloom tomato plants. We bought four different plants, and took them home with our fingers crossed. Even though the year was not overly warm, we got cherry tomatoes within just a few weeks. That season the Supersweet 100 did the best, but a few of the other varieties produced as well.

This year the difference is even more pronounced. The Supersweet started producing first, the fruit are zingy and flavorful, and now, in the middle of September, we're still getting about a pint per day. I cannot say enough about the variety, and we will be planting only these next year. Take that Mr. "Master" gardener! I should invite him over to sample some of my produce.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hello My Name is Mimi

For reasons known only to her, the baby has suddenly decided to call me "Mimi". It's always been "Mama" since before she really knew what she was saying, but for some reason it's changed. I first started noticing when she looks at my driver's license photo (which she does a lot because it keeps her from fussing when we have to wait for things) but now she says it all the time. One person suggested it might be her transition from saying "Mama" to the more grown up "Mommy" and she's just a bit stuck. Whatever her reason, I find it irresistible, and she can keep using the nickname until she leaves for college if she likes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bento Fever

The baby is getting older and acquiring more teeth at an astonishing rate.  As a result, we are doing less and less toddler finger food and more grown up menu choices.  This means that when I pack things up to for an outing, I'm doing something with multiple parts and often several courses.  After all, We're still eating every two hours (either a meal or a snack) so you have to be prepared!  I'm getting so tired of all the little tubs I could scream.  This morning our little meal pack for the morning included six different tubs and a water cup.  This is why I'm excited about bento boxes.

I know, I know it is the trendy yuppie mom thing to do, but they are just so darn practical!  Two, four, or six little compartments for all sorts of tasty tidbits, and the good ones have tight enough lids to keep everything separated and fresh.  Some require an elastic band to hold them together, but many are self-locking.  Hello tasty lunches and goodbye diaper bag filled with peas that escaped their inadequate container. 

Besides the practicality, they're just so darn cute!  This one features dragonflies.  While this one is actually shaped like a frog.  I'm not sure why the band makes the frog look like he's crying, so we'll probably skip that one.  This one features a very strange English phrase on the top that is either meant to be nonsense or a very poor translation.  I think it says "Around the year when we would like to stand on tiptoe."  That's bound get more than a few head scratches.  I know our girl would be tickled by several of these little boxes, but I refuse to pay more than about $15 for mine.  I haven't quite decided on which one we should have, but I'll keep you posted on this hugely important topic.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Science of Napping

Napping is a topic up for much discussion in our house. We LOVE naptime (those who actually sleep and those who just enjoy the quiet) but it can be a tough thing to achieve. It seems like some weeks daytime sleep is not a problem at all, while other weeks it's achingly difficult. In the short term, it's quite clear what happens when a nap is missed or shortened, but I often wonder about the long range effects. This article, in the New York Times, gets into the science of toddler sleep. It doesn't offer many clear answers, but it's quite interesting nevertheless.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NW Trek

Over the weekend, we got the chance to visit a local wildlife park called NW Trek.  It's a wonderful place set on 500 acres of forest and meadow land, and it is home to many native Washington animals.  The carnivores and smaller animals are kept in more traditional zoo-like enclosures, but the larger herbivores get to roam "free" in one huge area.  The people cue for a chance to ride the tram and try to spot the animals.  The baby, having recently ridden another little train, was very excited to go.

First we saw huge bison, and then the sweetest little bison baby, which made quite an impression on our girl.  She kept making the sign for "baby" after that one. Next were some bighorn sheep.  A large group of them were on the trail as the tram came up, and the scatter right along side, so we could get a really clear look at them.  Again the baby was excited, but this time she started making a different sign.  For some reason she made the sign for elephant over and over.  I have no idea why, but at least she was happy.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Camano Island Camping

In pursuit of one more dose of summer, we made our way up to Camano Island. It is stunningly beautiful, like most all the islands up here, but it has the added benefit of no ferry ride to contend with. Now don't get me wrong, I love to ride the ferries as much as any Pacific Norwesterner, but during tourist season they can be a bear. We've waited in ferry lines that were four hours long! Especially with a toddler, this is not a happy prospect. Thus we love the "drive on in" quality of Camano.

When you first see Stanwood, your heart sinks a little. At least mine did because it's such the classic depressed agricultural town. I grew up near one in Oregon, and I do not care to revisit that culture. Perhaps I'm being overly judgmental here, but there it is. However, once you pass through Stanwood things change fast. The "island" itself is beautiful, but when you get to one of those viewpoints where you can look out over the water, it beautiful becomes stunning.

The state park is pretty much what you'd expect as far as amenities. The sites are drive-in, they have easy access to water, toilets, and garbage, and they all boast reasonable fire pits. None of the sites are right on the water, but many of them have very impressive views. One downside is that many of the best view sites are also right along the road that leads down to the boat ramp. Still, the traffic is not too bad, and most people are moving very slowly.

The baby did pretty well on this trip. She really enjoyed the company and the novelty of it all. She sat in her own fox-themed camp chair, ate normally forbidden snacks, and went hiking and strollering with the group. One of our favorite parts was going down to the rocky beach and throwing stones in the water. Some of us (not me) are very good at skipping the flat pebbles. The baby was just concentrating on trying to throw them far enough to actually have them land in the water. Her first few dozen "throws" really consisted of her dropping them next to her own feet. The image of her standing next to her daddy, in her little blue fish dress, throwing stones is one I will not soon forget.

In short, Camano Island is glorious, the campground is decent (but not so good if you really want to "get away" from people, noise, and cars), and I would certainly go back. How else can we practice our skipping?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Pony Ride!

To celebrate the continued existence of summer sun, we made a pilgrimage to a local institution, Remlinger Farms. This is a wonderful place where you can visit with farm animals, ride a choo choo train (with steam and whistle!), and float along in a little canoe (if you weigh less than about thirty pounds). You can also have A PONY RIDE! On A REAL LIVE PONY! Oh yes, and they also have lovely flowers and fruit and veggies and a big trike track and a hay maze, but did I mention THE PONY?!

It was very hot on the day we were there, but that did not dampen our enthusiasm for the task. We waited in the shade of a Conestoga wagon cover as the other children got called back for their rides. The girls doing the leading would pick the next child based on their size so that small ponies would have small riders and so on. Being a very small person, Delphinium got to go to her pony very quickly.  Her tiny blond pigtails were bobbing like mad when she first saw the horses. 

His name was Spice, and he was brown with a cream mane and tail. Once we got up close to him I asked Delphinium if she was sure she wanted to get on his back. Lots of nodding and happy chirps dispelled my concern, and she was up on his back in no time. Grinning and holding on for dear life, the pony turned, and we headed down the little path. Spice must have been the world's calmest little horse because he did not so much as turn an ear to anything. A few minutes of chattering and waving later, we were back at the "barn" and it was time to get off. Luckily, Grandma was there, so it wasn't too sad to leave the pony. I do believe that's an experience we'll have to have again.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day '11

In honor of Labor Day, and great big "thank you" to everyone who works hard.  Thanks for keeping us safe, healthy, fed, watered, clean, comfortable, organized, educated, inspired, and entertained.  Many, many people work without much or any recognition, and it is time to realize the contributions that people do make.  They say that hard work is its own reward, but a little appreciation doesn't hurt either.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Rock Collecting

Yesterday we were playing in the backyard doing our best to enjoy every last rain-free day.  Delphinium was enjoying a tub of warm water filled with toys, when her attention was drawn by a pile of rocks in the corner of the yard.  She took her little red bucket out of the water, wandered over to the rocks, and then methodically began to sort through them.  She put about one out of every five in her bucket, and I could not tell what her logic was for choosing some and rejecting others, but it looked like she was doing the most serious task of all time. 

After the bucket was about one quarter full, she took  it over to the tub of warm water, and dumped in all her treasures.  A few minutes of swishing, and she popped them back in the bucket one by one.  Without a second glance at the water and the other toys, she marched her bucket'o'rocks up the steps and into the house.  She plunked the bucket down next to her little table and let out a sigh as if she was saying "well that's done at least."

I know this sounds like a boring blow by blow of a kid playing, but I've never seen her do anything so complicated before.  She made a plan, worked through the steps, and did not become distracted along the way.  I have no idea why, but I suppose that really isn't the point.  Does this mean she'll grow up to be brilliant, focused, and dedicated, or just somebody who really likes rocks? 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Babbling Becomes Jargoning

I know that title sounds like a joke, but that really is what the child development books say is happening.  It seems that our girl is going through a sudden bout of the pre-talking known as jargoning.  How is it different than baby babbles?  It sounds a lot more like sentences since the baby is practicing the various inflections of the language they are learning.  Or so the book claims.  She can already say words, but now she's preparing to put them together into simple sentences.  To me it sounds like she is sudden practicing her glottal stops all the time.  No matter what purpose it really serves, all the chatter is pretty irresistible.   

Monday, August 29, 2011


My eldest niece has now officially become a teenager!  My jaw is on the floor at how quickly that thirteen years went by.  To celebrate, she went with her dad and sister to visit Spain and France.  Now when people say "what did you do for your birthday?" she can tell them she climbed the Eiffel Tower and visited the Louvre.  Some kids would be annoyed by visits to historical sites on their big day, but Elder Niece is the kind of sophisticated and intelligent young lady who actually enjoys such things.  I'm only sorry I couldn't be there with her, but then there are the pictures. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Mooooooving Experience

The other evening we were all coming back from a hike, and so we were tired, hungry, and more than a little grubby.  Our route took us past the local Hindu temple, and I noticed they had a huge inflatable cow set up right next to the street.  Drawing the baby's attention to it, she was looking up just as we passed by.  That thing must be two stories tall.  The look on her face was first fear, then amazement, and finally excitement.  Then she frantically tried to figure out which baby signs would mean "bring back the huge inflatable cow."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Waving Bye-Bye

Being nearly eighteen months old means that the baby is very nearly grown up (or so she claims), and that equates to doing many more things on her own.  She wants to feed herself no matter how messy she gets, she wants to climb into the chair by herself no matter how many bumps this may entail, and she wants to make her own choices about all sorts of things.  The problem is how to express yourself when your vocabulary is all of maybe twenty words.  This is where you have to get creative.

Getting people to do what you want is always though.  Often she uses the sign for "more" to mean "do this service for me."  For instance, she uses that sign when she wants you to open the door, lift her up, open something, or even take her around the hippie fair so she can listen to more music.  The problem comes from not knowing which service or item she wants at a given time.  I spend a lot of time saying "do you want x?" then she will shake her head "do you want y?" and so on.  At least she knows specific signs for books and hungry, so those most important topics are covered.

Then there's also the problem of saying when she doesn't like something.  The "all done" sign works for some things, such as finishing food, but it doesn't really cover everything.  After quite a bit of frustration she's settled on waving bye-bye when she wants something to be over.  Thus she will listen to music in the car and then wave "bye-bye" when she wants me to change the song.  It's quite the sign that she's never waved at Mr. Darby or Caspar Babypants.  She waves at things that are scary or boring or just not her style.  I'm guessing that as she gets older, the opinions will only get more strident. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Very First Funny

Last Sunday, Delphinium and I were hanging out together as we are wont to do in the early hours just after she wakes up.  She drinks milk. I drink tea and milk. She plays with her babies and stuffed toys. I "play" with the dishwasher and the broom.  She builds with blocks.  I build breakfast.  She reads picture books.  I read the internet or the paper.  It's a highly satisfactory arrangement.

Only sometimes, more and more in fact, she wants to do what I'm doing.  Not just something near me, but exactly what I am doing.  This morning it was reading the paper.  I tried to get her interested in other activities, but she would not be denied.  Then I remembered the comics.  Sure enough, I dug them out, and she was very happy to sit on my lap and admire the children and pets sprinkled among the pages. 

Then we came to "Red and Rover" where a dog was filling a swimming pool with beach balls.  Then she laughed.  Because that dog with the beach balls was just SO funny it made her laugh.  Which is a totally everyday event except that it was probably the first time she's ever laughed at a comic.  I hope that was the first out of maybe 10,000 or 20,000 times she will get to laugh at the comics. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Over-Booked Kids

Here is a fascinating article about the over-scheduling of children in modern parenting.  It's certainly the fashion to sign your children up for every type of sports, music, arts, and drama activity, but are all these fabulous "opportunities" really beneficial?  Steven Levitt says no.  As far as econonomists can tell, there is no correlation between the number of activities and the later success of the child.  The article also suggests that perhaps parents frantic scheduling is really about trying to find your child's hidden talent so that you will have a clear marker of your parenting success. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Discipline Debate

I recently overheard a conversation in which a mother of a maybe one year old baby described her attempts at discipline. The child is not even walking yet, but she was concerned that she nip problems "in the bud" before it became a major concern. It seems that her baby has been doing all sorts of very troubling things such as throwing food on the ground, wiggling while being dressed, and trying to pull things of table tops. Shocking I know! Did you ever meet a baby who did such aweful things?! It gets worse.

At a loss for how to stop her, she talked to her sister who suggested smacking. Yes, smacks were proscribed to cure wiggling. She tried smacking the next time she did something wrong, but she just laughed. Then she decided that she needed to "study" how much force it would take for her to stop laughing. Every time she did something naughty, she hit the baby a little bit harder until finally she seemed to "notice." At last, she got her baby to cry! Success!

I just cringed when I heard all this. Whacking my child has never seemed like an option to me. I spend so much time trying to avoiding her coming to harm that I can't imagine causing it on purpose. I also don't think a one year old child is capable of understanding why they are being smacked. Sure, they may learn that certain behaviors result in pain, but if they don't get why then it doesn't really work. Maybe when my child is older I will feel the need to spank her, but so far it just seems barbaric to me.

I really do believe that children model everything they see us do. I know this because I've watched her "brush" her teeth, "read" magazines, and want to try every bit of food on our plates. Why should we think that this one area, hitting, would be different? If I use force and pain to get what I want in life, why shouldn't she do the same?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tide To-Do

It seems that many people are upset recently due to a new TV ad from Tide. The ad, which features a pink clad mother complaining about her daughter's love of cargo shorts and hoodies, seems to be poking fun at children who do not follow traditional gender roles. Now I'm sure Tide would say that they intended to poke fun at the mother's discomfort, but I'm not at all certain that's the way it appears. For the last time, let's please lay off of kids who don't conform. Pink and blue are not uniforms, and it is grossly unfair to suggest that they are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art and The Kid

When summer first arrives in the Pacific NW, all I want to do is be outside. We walk, we play in the backyard, and we visit parks and playgrounds with our friends. We generally just worship the sun since we don't see it so much around here. However, as summer wears on, and it gets hotter, I start to want those occasional afternoons "off" from the heat and the glare. This is why we found ourselves heading to the Bellevue Arts Museum on a recent Friday.

The Seattle Art Museum has its free visitor day on the first Thursday of every month, but Bellevue prefers to offer Free Fridays. Either one is fine with me. Now you might think that an art museum with a toddler is a crazy idea, and you could certainly tell, from the looks in the elevator, that's exactly what some other patrons thought. Perhaps our baby is unusual, but she really seems to enjoy museums. Think about it, there are many things to look at and lots of them are huge and/or colorful. What's not to like? I think she was a bigger fan of all that modern art than I actually.

We all like the Michael Cooper sculptures in wood and metal that made us think of bicycles meet Da Vinci machines. Only the little one enjoyed the modern jewelry, and I think that was only because of the life-size banana necklace. The baby was also the biggest fan of Midway by Cathy McClure because she liked the elephants. The big people found the strobe to be nauseating within about three seconds. All through the museum we saw sculptures by Wanxin Zheng. These were declared "interesting" by the grown-ups and "fascinating" by the small fry.

On the whole, we enjoyed our trip to the art museum. I would go back depending on what the new exhibits might arrive. Don't worry about taking kids to places like this. They are people who are capable of enjoying culture too. Museums should not be hallowed places where only snooty, silent people are allowed to go and say things like "ah yes, I enjoy how he frames the negative space with that blob of engine oil!"

Monday, August 08, 2011

BIG Teeth

Quick update: molars!  Well one anyway.  It was not exactly an easy time cutting this tooth, and she had a lump the size of a pea for several days, but finally it is through at last.  Now perhaps the drool will let up, and cheerfulness will return.  We're up to nine teeth with the addition of that one, and one day soon the baby will have grinding skills.  Nuts, raw food, and other tough things here we come!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Even Awesome Teachers Need Help

I have to thank my friend, C., for sending me a link to this article.  It's all about how the current "magic bullet" in education is the idea that there are superstar teachers who will fix everything.  Everything she writes about her experience with that was true for me as well.  The only part I would disagree on is the idea that wealthier schools somehow escape the problem of over-crowding. 

I would also like to mention the one part of the education equation that is simply never mentioned in the discussion:  parenting.  You would not believe some of the parenting failures I've seen over the years, but nothing is done or said about it because that is a difficult and painful topic.  Therefore we just leave it alone entirely.  News flash politicians!  If a child's life is falling apart at home, they do not care how stellar I am in the classroom each day.  At that point all I can do is damage control.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Discovery of Witches Review

I'm guessing this is what happened: the author of Discovery read the Twilight books, looked at how popular they are, and said to herself "I can do this better and for grown-ups." And that's just what she did. Well, maybe not the "better" part. This book is a romance featuring a vampire and a mortal girl who also happens to be a powerful, if latent, witch. This author used her personal expertise in history, mythology, yoga, and wine appreciation (nope I'm not kidding) to flesh out the story. The results are lush and interesting half the time, then forced and even embarrassing at other turns.

I loved the idea that a vampire would have seen so much history and have connections in so many places. I did not love the lame romantic moments (just skip those pages unless you have strong appreciation of cheese) or the parts where she goes rowing or to yoga again and again. I know they tell you to write what you know, but there is a limit.  I'm not sure if this was a good book in need of a better editor, or a bad book in need of a re-write. No, no, calling it bad is not fair. I did like the book, and I am not sorry I read it. I just think it shows that this is her first work of fiction. Perhaps the follow up will be stronger, and perhaps they will find her a very experienced and opinionated editor.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Cup Cuddle

I've posted before about how cute it is when the baby cuddles her dolls and stuffed animals. She tucks them under her chin, pats their back, and gives them kisses. Sometimes she even rocks them and sings a "song." Sometimes she asks us to cuddle her baby too. We didn't specifically teach her to play this way; she must have just picked up the idea based on the way we take care of her. However it happened, she's one sweet little "mama" to her dolls.

Then the other morning she decided to cuddle her cup. There she was sitting her high chair and enjoying some breakfast. Suddenly she tucked her little sippy cup under her chin and started to pat. Soon the singing began. In between kisses she was taking nips of milk! As if that wasn't odd enough, she wanted us to cuddle the cup too, and she wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Generalizing skills is supposed to be a good thing in the developmental game, but this is taking things a bit far. What might she be trying to cuddle next?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Baby Names 2010

One of my pet topics, baby names, is in the news once again.  Given that Natalie Portman named her son Aleph, and David Beckham named his daughter Harper Seven within a few weeks of each other, names couldn't help but make headlines.  For the rest of us, the government recently released were the top baby names of 2010. According to the Social Security Administration, who keeps track of all these brand new people, the top baby names of the year were not quite as exciting as those noted above:





Of course that isn't the whole list, so if you're interested you can see at least the top 1000 names for each gender. Having picked a baby name in 2010, I was not surprised to find that it was one that increased in popularity. It seems that people of my generation prefer classic names that have not been popular in a long time. While I tried to choose a name that was not in the top 100 list, I was ultimately unsuccessful.

Why, might you ask, would I care about my child having a popular name? Because in my other life I was a teacher. I once had a class with five children named Alex, both boys and girls, and it was a headache for me and for them. A co-worker had a class with six boys named Jacob. It meant that half the boys in his class had the same name. Oy vey! If I may be allowed to borrow the phrase!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hooray for Gay Marriage in NY

Over the weekend, the first legal gay marriages took place in New York state!  Such an incredible range of sweet stories from young couples with small kids to elderly brides and grooms some of whom had been engaged for decades.  What a fantastic step for NY and for the country as a whole.  Can you imagine falling in love with someone, and then being officially told "No, sorry, YOU are not allowed"?  Now we just have to work on the other 44 states.   

BTW, did you know that Mormons were one of the single largest factors in the proposition eight battle in California?  I didn't realize they'd poured quite so much money and organizing into that issue.  Now there's a new movie about their sometimes covert participation.  It seems the church even had to pay a fine for failing to report the extent of their involvement.  Public opinion just keeps moving left on this issue, and eventually the time will come when full legalization will simply not be blocked.  I just keep thinking of all the white churches who fought so hard against the civil rights movement in the '50's and '60's.  You can't hold out forever.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chairs for Baby

The baby's latest trick is climbing up on chairs. Actually, she's not able to get on all chairs (yet!) just a few extra low ones we happen to have in the family room. She starts by laying her upper body on the seat, and then she tries, tries, tries until she gets a knee up as well. After that, it's just a matter of scrambling the rest of the way. It takes huge effort on her part, but she's happy to do it over and over again. The squeals of satisfaction are proof of her success. Fortunately, I was also able to teach her to come down again backwards. That had to happen since she was trying to dive off nose first.

Just to add cuteness to cuteness, she's also realized that you can pile up a great big stack of books on the chair BEFORE you climb up. Then they're up there waiting for you when you finally arrive! She cheerfully sits and reads her books like a big girl for minutes on end. The only part I've left out of all this is the screams of frustrations (and one or two bonks) we all had to endure as she learned how to do it by herself. I believe we're getting another early look at toddlerhood, and it is noisy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Annoying Food Words

I love, love, love the food website CHOW which is a fun combination of recipes and articles about everything cooking. They recently featured a discussion about food words that must be banned from menus and reviews due to their chronic over use. Some are fussy and over the top such as "annealed" and "eponymous" and "revelatory." Others are simply too stupid for, well words. Examples include "bad boy" and "sammie" and any form of "yummy." Last are those words that are just dreadfully trendy including "locavore" and "gastropub" and "sustainable." What in the world would the restaurant review section of the paper be without all of those? Every industry has its own vocabulary, but it never hurts to avoid the trite and cliched.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Books: 15 Months

For as long as she could focus her eyes, our baby has enjoyed books. The first one she noticed was soft, quilted, and made many different animal noises. Ever since then, she's been fascinated. She will sit for half an hour at a stretch just turning pages and admiring the pictures. Then there are the several times a day when she demands that we read to her. At first it would be one book that would catch her eye, but now she's figured out that you can make a pile of books, and then the parental reading session will last longer. I love, love, love that she is a book fan, but sometimes I do have to struggle a bit when she want to hear the same book for literally the ninth or tenth time that day. Here are a few of her current favorites:

1. Mr. Brown Can Moo by Suess
2. The Little White Rabbit by Henkes
3. The Bunny Book by Scarry
4. The Potty Book by Patricelli
5. The Ox-Cart Man by Hall
6. Bunny My Honey by Jeram
7. Knuffle Bunny Too by Willems
8. No, David by Shannon
9. David Gets in Trouble by Shannon
10. Neighborhood Mother Goose by Crews

Honorable mention goes to those books that used to be huge favorites when she was younger:

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
2. Mimi, Mimi Look and See
3. I Am a Bunny
4. Goodnight Gorilla
5. Elmo's Valentine Book
6. The Monster at the End of this Book
7. That's Not My Monster
8. Two Little Gardeners
9. Great Day for Up
10. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pre-School Preview - Not

At the farmers' market the other day, Delphinium and I spotted a booth for a local pre-school. I would like to find something that she can attend next year for just a very few hours because I know she would have a ball playing with other kids. I'd heard good things about this particular place from a friend of a friend, so I thought I'd go over and take a look. This was in spite of the fact that the school is housed in a church. I screwed up my courage (I am not so good at this type of thing) and went to chat with the very shiny director.

After declining to make a Froot Loop necklace (keep that away from my kid!) we were handed a brochure. Upon first glance at their materials, it seemed like a nice, friendly kind of place. I liked the focus on play and stories, and the pictures of the outdoor area seemed promising as well. When you throw in the part where they have a brief (two day per week) schedule for kids younger than three, it seemed like a real possibility. It was also quite close to our house (not quite walkable, but still), and the price was reasonable. What could be wrong? Where's the waiting list?

I almost just walked away to think about things further, but I realized that would be counter productive. I needed to address the main concern and there was no easy way to bring it up. I screwed up my courage even tighter (I hate conflict!) and asked what role religion plays in their program. The shiny lady practically began to sparkle as she told me all about chapel time that she herself got to teach (it is her ministry!) for twenty minutes each day. It was a place for the kids to learn about the love that Jesus has for each of us, and how we are the most special in His eyes. I could feel my smile growing fixed.

I know, I know, you go chat with a church school and you are likely to get churchy answers. In my defense, I've known more than one pre-school that was housed in a church, but did not espouse anything more than play-dough and sandboxes. I guess this is not one of those. Nevertheless, if this place offers an older two class, then another, less theist, school may offer it as well. I will be sure to not pray on this matter.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't Buy The Sims Medieval

It happened just like this: EA Games sucks.  Please insert your favorite curse words and phrases here.  We will be getting all our money back or heads will roll. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Monkey Shirt

Delphinium is, as I'm always repeating, getting bigger at quite an astounding rate. It seems like she's more of a toddler and less of a baby all the time. Practicing with having an opinion is something she does all the time too. It used to be that I could pretty much choose her food, toys, and surroundings without much complaint. These days, however she wants to eat THOSE berries, play with THOSE blocks, and GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW!

One major symbol of her independence is her passion about clothes. Some mornings I still get to grab something quickly, put it on her, and be out the door. Most of the time this is not the case. She wants to pick, she wants to take her time at it, and she doesn't really understand the concept of "dirty" or "too small." A perfect example is the monkey shirt. It really is a cute little onesie in blue and purple polka dot with a girl monkey on the front. It says "introducing me" which seems just right for our girl. She loves this shirt, and any time she spies it, there is a major to-do over putting it on. Once on, she can happily spend the day pointing out the monkey and making tiny little "ooo! ooo! eee! eee!" noises.

The only trouble is that the shirt is a nine month size. The snaps barely meet, and the neck is too tight. It's time for the beloved monkey to go, but how can this be managed? Should I get an embroidery hoop and frame the monkey for her wall? Should it just disappear all of a sudden and hope for out of sight out of mind? I've already checked on a replacement, but that monkey (and all like her!) are only found on baby clothes (up to nine months). Oh dear, oh dear.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Summer Danger

Our little family was lucky enough to attend a very special first birthday party the other day. It was beautiful outside, they'd opted for a bbq in the park, and oh what a park they picked. Right on the lake with a real sand beach, it also had the classic green fields, shady nooks, and play areas for kids. Delicious foods were eaten, bubbles were blown, and many, many small sandals filled up with sand. In short, it was a picture perfect day. Then, just as everyone was standing near their cars to go home it happened.

The little three year-old riding on someone's shoulders slipped somehow and tumbled, headfirst, onto the concrete. The sound was the most sickening thing I think I've ever heard, and it actually made me feel like I was going to throw up for a moment. Ambulances were called, and all the rest of us could do was stand around gripping our own kids for all we were worth. It was one of those moments that really makes you think about the possibilities, and not the nice kind.
The good news is that the little girl seems to have escaped any harm from her fall. Her poor mother will probably never be the same. It serves as such an incredible lesson about becoming too comfortable and trusting that nothing bad will happen. We let our guards down and stop being careful, and that is when accidents rear their nasty heads. Now if we can just figure out how to do this without going mad from worry, we will be in great shape.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

International Food Month: The Round Up

I know it must look as though we gave up on the whole concept after only a few attempts, but I am glad to say that this is not the case! While I am a lame and slow blogger, we are much better at being adventurous cooks. We completed all but about five or six countries on our list, and we had a great time learning new recipes in the process. Since writing up each meal didn't seem to work out (cough, lazy, cough) here is a quick list of the countries whose recipes we tried:

1. India --- DNF :(

2. South Africa --- vegetarian bobotie (M. is a wizard) I give it 9 on the Mmm scale

3. Morocco --- Chickpea stew and tomato salad was a 6/10

4. France --- Cheese souffle (M. is a mad genius) was a 10 out of 10 on taste, but very rich

5. Mexico --- DNF :(

6. Greece --- Spinach pie with phyllo was an easy and tasty new recipe worth 8/10

7. Turkey --- Falafel was actually a recipe I've done before and got 8/10

8. Spain --- Paella did not turn out! I screwed up, but I know not where 3/10

9. Italy --- Polenta with mushrooms turned out very well 8/10

10. Canada --- M. had to make poutin and it was good 9/10

11. Germany --- Veggie brats, sauerkraut, potatoes, and slaw. What's not to like? 9/10

12. Japan --- Gyoza, miso, and cucumber salad were mostly pre-made foods so I won't rate

13. Indonesia --- Coconut tempeh curry was so tasty I will make it again 9/10

14. Kenya --- Peanut soup was rich and creamy without too much actual fat 9/10

15. Cuba --- Black bean soup was okay, but not very exciting 5/10

16. Ireland --- Vegetarian shepherds pie was delicious, but a bit intensive 8/10

17. Sweden --- Beets, mushroom soup, potatoes and greens were tasty indeed 9/10

18. Jamaica --- Ital peas and cabbage stew were underwhelming with the recipe I found 5/10

19. Russia --- DNF

20. Costa Rica --- DNF

21. Vietnam --- Noodles with tofu, herbs, and pickled veggies

22. Mozambique --- Vegetable stew over rice 6/10

23. Egypt --- DNF

24. Libya --- Lentil salad and veggie soup were good if simple 7/10

25. Azerbaijan --- DNF

I have not given up entirely on the list, and I may try to find a few more recipes when the summer rush is over. One thing I did enjoy was the process of finding new recipes in books and on the internet. By the way, we have no illusions about the authenticity of the meals. I'm sure there are dozens of inauthentic elements to our recipes and we don't even realize it. However, the purpose of the exercise was to me us go out of our comfort zone, and it has certainly succeeded in that. I also enjoyed learning a few things about the countries I was cooking. For one thing, I'm trying to appreciate our luxurious access to food.

When I was researching recipes from Mozambique I happened to read that one third to one half of all the citizens of that country are considered malnourished on a regular basis. Thus if we really wanted to get a "feel" for that culture we should have nothing at all for dinner. Perhaps a donation to the World Food Program is in order? Anyway, it was a very rewarding experience, and I will certainly be making many of these dishes again in the future. Anyone know a good recipe for vegetarian paella?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baby Visits the Seattle Aquarium

A few months ago, I finally got up the courage to take the baby to the Seattle Aquarium. Why courage you might ask? Because driving through downtown and along the waterfront in Seattle can be quite a challenge. Then there's the parking puzzle. Without other grown-ups to help me, I had visions an hour in bad traffic, struggling into a tiny parking space, hardly being able to get the baby out, and then having to stroller her through more heavy traffic for miles before getting to the venue. It turns out I'm just a huge worry wart.

Even though it was the latter end of morning rush hour, we made it into the city without any trouble. We were on the waterfront in no time, and we actually got parking directly across from the aquarium! I think it helps that we arrived just before it opened. Maybe we just got lucky. It still cost a pretty penny, but that was okay. Once we finally made it inside, and we could see the diver in the huge tank in the entry way, I knew it had been worth the trip.

Delphinium was silent and riveted on all the fish, on the swimming man, and then on the huge eel that swam past. She didn't seem worried, just really, really interested in it all. Then the diver actually waved at her! I think she would have been fine just to stand there the whole day, but there was so much still to see. We were there with our baby group, so we snapped a quick picture of all the moms and babies (and the diver too!) and then headed out to see the rest of the animals.

First came the touching pools that were supposed to represent the tide pools around Seattle. The variety is amazing. The colors on the sea stars and nudibranch is impressive, and you'll find huge purple monsters "holding hands" with smaller, finer fingered, orange ones. Delphinium didn't actually get to touch yet (I know I'm an over-protective mommy!) because there must be lots of people germs in there even if they've somehow sanitized the fish.

Next up we did the dark aquariums that are meant to show off the animals who live deep underwater. This was one of the baby's favorite parts since the aquariums are right at eye level, and many of the fish are brightly-colored. As expected the clown fish got a big reception even though she hasn't seen Finding Nemo yet. Her favorite was something called the Devilfish with spiny fins and red and black coloring. Certainly they were very impressive, if not beautiful, and she chattered at them for several minutes.

By the time we hit (not literally of course) the otters and birds and other outdoor animals, the baby's eyes were beginning to get heavy. We admired a few more displays, and then it was time to head for home. With a nap smack in the middle of the day, you can't do any one activity for more than a little while. We will need to head back to the aquarium to finish enjoying all the animals. That's no problem since it's a place I know were going to visit many times in the coming years. Next time we'll have to take Daddy.