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.