Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reluctant Water Baby

Today was Violet’s first swimming lesson. It was a “water babies” class at a community pool, and I was so eager to get there, it might as well have been my first swimming lesson. We both had our new bathing suits on, and it was a beautiful day. I couldn’t wait to get in the water with her, to see what she would do. While we stood by the pool, waiting for the class to start, I noticed some things I hadn’t expected: Violet was one of the youngest kids there. The class was for 6 months to two years, but out of the dozen or so kids, she was one of only three who looked less than a year old. And all of the other parents, save one, were moms. I also expected the pool to be surrounded by a phlanax of parents aiming cameras, but I think Linda and her mom were the only ones taking pictures (one taking pictures, one taking video). But none of that registered as they called for the class to begin and I walked Violet down the steps into the shallow end with the rest of the parents and kids. She looked at the water with fascination, at the other children, too. Some parents dunked their kids right in, others walked with them slowly into the deeper water, allowing the cool water to creep slowly up their bodies. I thought Violet need a gentler approach, so I dipped her feet into the water. She looked at her toes, distorted by the water’s surface. And she started yelling – not yet crying, but the fact that she was the only kid getting upset made her yells seem that much louder. I pulled her feet out and she settled down. I tried again, and she cried again. The instructor asked us all to stand by the edge of the pool, holding our children out of the water. We would all sing “Humpty Dumpty” and when we got to “had a great fall”, we were to pull our children into the water with us. We repeated this several times. Violet protested every time, and each time she got louder, asking in not so many words, “Dad, what’s wrong with you? I’m telling you I don’t like this! Why aren’t you listening to me?” When the tears started flowing, I thought it might be better to leave the group and try to acclimate on our own. We went and sat on the steps in the water where Linda and her mom could be nearby. We all encouraged Violet in our own way, and although she went back and forth, she spent more time staring quietly at the water and her surroundings than crying. As we sat, I felt my expectations shift. She is only seven months old – still a baby, and as the instructor pointed out at the beginning of the class, the whole point of this experience was to get her used to being in the water. For much of our time in the pool today, she was okay with it. Maybe next class, we’ll have slightly less crying. Maybe not. But we’ll keep trying.                                                                                                                              
221 days old

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waterless Baby

Yesterday was supposed to be Violet's first swimming lesson. I was looking forward to it, but I didn't realize how much until it was cancelled due to rain.

The bathing suit we had for her was a hand me down, and it was too big. So the class getting cancelled gave us a chance to get her one that fits. Linda had to work today, so I went out to get the suit. I bought two because I didn't want Violet to have to wear the same suit at every lesson. Linda said that that was a "mom" thing to do.

220 days old

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Compromise - part 3

“I don’t want Violet to become a complacent adult...” That’s how I ended yesterday’s post, with the hope that I could instill in my daughter some sense of responsibility for the world and the living things in it. I think anyone would agree that it’s a worthy goal, but me being me, I also fret about her going too far the other way; I want her to know when to compromise, too. Take being vegan. Linda and I (and therefore, Violet) have decided to forgo eating or using animal products, because we want something better for the environment, the animals, and our health. I know some would consider this “going too far the other way”, but we’ve been doing it long enough to have it no longer feel out of the ordinary. It’s part of our routine, and it really is the most powerful personal step we can make for the three things I mentioned. So, being vegan is the choice we make, but even with that choice, we have to compromise. If we were to follow the vegan lifestyle completely and without compromise, we couldn’t take certain medicines, enjoy fireworks, or ride in most vehicles with tires because of the animal products within them. And if our main goals include improving the planet and saving animals, our plan will have to include showing people how moving in a more vegan direction is not only possible, but enjoyable, too. Sitting home on the Fourth of July, walking everywhere in the wintertime, or dying from a treatable disease are not ways to sway those around us.

So, I hope to teach Violet two things: 1. To picture the world as she knows it could be and 2. To be smart enough to figure out the most effective ways to bring the world closer to that image; ways that will allow her to live a full and enjoyable life – compromises and all.

And to that end, most importantly, I want her to realize that everyone is making unseen compromises and not to judge those around her too harshly. I think of this when I see friends – friends who I know care deeply about the planet – eat meat or refuse to recycle, and I want to say something, but then I read an article telling me that when I mow the lawn with my gas powered lawn mower for an hour, I befoul the air with as much pollution as 11 cars. So many of us, me included, say or think one thing while unwittingly doing something in the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure all of us have cracks in the foundations of our moral pedestals. I know I do, and I can choose to ignore them or cover them up all I want, but they’re still there. Better to expose the cracks for all to see, and just do what I can to change myself, making the choices I believe to be right and showing those around me the joy in that, having faith that they’ll follow suit. It’s not the compromises that matter so much as the effort that’s made, the message that’s sent, and the example that’s set.

Is this too much to hope for Violet to understand at seven months old? Maybe I should wait a few years to dump all this on her. Better yet, I’ll break it down into something simpler: To paraphrase a wise man, I want her to realize that the she must become the change she wants to see in the world.

Related links:

Animal ingredients in strange places:

The power of food choices:

Personal view vs. real change:
219 days old

Monday, June 27, 2011

Compromise - part 2

Last night, I wrote about bird banding and how I’m not sure if I’ll be sharing it with Violet when she arrives at the appropriate age. My uncertainty is tied to a single image – a small, dead bird in my hand. While bird safety is the main priority in bird banding, it’s almost inevitable that during the process of catching and handling the birds, an injury or a death may occur. It happened to me six years ago with a chickadee that was extremely tangled in the net, and I took too long to get it out. It might have been stress that did it in, or the net may have been wrapped too tightly around its neck. Whatever it was, I knew the instant it was dead. A living bird feels one way, a dead bird feels another, and I felt it change from the former to the latter in the matter of a moment, and I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stopped its heart with my own fingers. It was alive before I came into its life, and then it wasn’t. I have seen other banders lose birds, and I’ve seen birds injured, as well. Broken wings. Legs cut, broken, or amputated. Percentage-wise, however, these incidents happen very infrequently. Of the thousands of birds I’ve banded or seen banded, it’s so rare that I can remember with clarity each injury or fatality. The scientist in me says that these are acceptable losses, that the benefits outweigh the damage. Banding research has led to habitat preservation and conservation, as well as the expansion of knowledge of bird species, the world over. Aren’t these strides worth the loss?

At this point, you may be wondering how this relates to Violet, and it comes down to one word: compromise. The scientist in me says that in a cost-benefit analysis, the benefits of banding are worth the losses, but the philosophical side of me, the side that decided to stop eating meat all those years ago, the side that believes I should, in this life, do as little harm as possible – that side disagrees. It places the image of the small, dead bird into my mind every time I head out the door to go banding. That side says I should not participate in something that has not yet figured out how to avoid such unfortunate consequences. And so I compromise. I tell myself that since bird banding will go on even if I don’t participate, I need to take part and do what I can to make sure it’s done as safely as possible. I tell myself that the data I help collect will be used by scientists in countries across the globe, tomorrow, next year, and for years to come, and chances are it will be used to save birds and habitat. I tell myself that it’s just a few birds out of millions.

And don’t we all make compromises like this? I’ve talked to friends about this before and some tell me, “That’s what it means to grow up. You learn to accept the world as an imperfect place,” and I hate that answer. I hate it because it smacks of giving up. It’s a notion that leads too many of us to shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, what can you do?” when faced with unfortunate situations, big or small. I don’t want Violet to become a complacent adult, unmoved by a dead bird in her hand. I want her to understand the wrongness and responsibility inherent in that image.

So where does that leave me? I'll fill you in on the rest tomorrow...

218 days old

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Compromise - part 1

This morning I woke up at . I left Violet and Linda, sleeping lovely and warm, and I silently dressed. I scrounged a quick breakfast, and went out our back door. The birds were performing their dawn chorus, although sunrise was still 15 minutes off. I got in my car and drove the few minutes to Beaver Meadow, where the nets were already set up for a morning of bird banding. Two other volunteers were already there, waiting, and we headed out into the Arboretum, a several-acre mix of mowed and wild grassy areas, peppered throughout and bordered by shrubs of all sizes. Scattered in and along the shrubby borders were nine mist nets, and we moved from one to the next, opening them tall and wide. Then, we went to our staging area, a sheltered picnic table, and laid out our tools – banding pliers, bags for holding birds, our collection of tiny numbered bands. For the next six hours, we visited the nets at half hour intervals, extracting the birds and bringing them back to our table to band them, take measurements, and figure out age, sex, and species before releasing them.

Common birds passed through our hands – chickadees and catbirds, as well as the extraordinary – hooded warblers, eastern towhees, blue winged warblers, and one of us even released a hummingbird from our nets. A friend came to help about halfway through, someone new to banding, and I showed her the process, allowing her to execute the final step; I placed the bird in her cupped hands and she opened them a moment later to release it, fluttering and scolding back to where it belonged, a look on her face that all of us should get to have more often.

More than once, while taking a bird out of a net or opening my hands to let it go, I thought about how much I enjoyed it and how I wished Violet were old enough to be there, but I also wondered if, when she was old enough, I would still be doing it or want her to do it. For me, bird banding is something miraculous, but at the same time, it’s something that I wrestle with ethically, but that’s a post for tomorrow.

217 days old
Thanks to MJ for the bird banding pics!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Front Row Seats to the Best Show Ever

It’s hard to describe the subtle changes I notice in Violet from one day to the next, but I’ll try to explain them. Maybe the changes took place days or weeks ago, but today was the first day of summer vacation, and I got to spend more time with her than usual. Although her speech is still as basic as it gets – squeals, ahhhs and oooo’s with a few consonants thrown in now and then – she is no longer just using these sounds to communicate her needs. Each day, time spent with her, each of us making sounds at each other, feels more and more like a conversation. Now, she’ll wave her arms and howl in excitement not just in response to something I’ve done, but as an invitation to join her in something, anything fun. She is now in an almost constant state of motion, but there are moments when she’ll hold herself completely still and just stare – just after waking in the morning, riding in the car or in her swing, and at odd moments in the day when a noise, a movement, or an object catches her notice in just the right way. She loves sitting up with us near by, and to be tickled is one of her favorite things, but her ticklish spots change from day to day. Yesterday, a light touch of fingers on her cheek elicited laughs, but today it had to be done on the back of her knee.

It’s all something that, on a certain level, I knew Linda and I would go through, just as all parents do – this slow rise of the curtain on Violet’s personality. I just didn’t know how privileged I would feel. Every day we get to see one more sliver of the person she will be.

216 days old

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thank You For a Lovely Evening...I Had a Swell Time

Tonight, Linda, Violet, and I went out with two friends to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of our first summer with Violet. We made the plans during the week, not really thinking through the logistics. If we had, we would have realized that it’s been months since Violet’s been out to a restaurant for a sit down dinner. During that time, she’s become more wiggly, less willing to sit in one spot for long periods of time, and anything within arm’s reach is now fair game for grabbing and inserting into her mouth. This dawned on us as we were getting ready to go, so we hastily assembled what we hoped was a pleasing assortment of toys, and Linda had the idea to bring the stroller. Violet could (hopefully) sit in it, parked next to the table, while we ate, and we brought the chest carrier as a last resort, planning to wear her and eat at the same time, if necessary. She’s usually content in the chest carrier, but that’s because whoever’s wearing it is usually moving. Since that wouldn’t be the case at dinner, it remained unsaid that aborting dinner prematurely might have to be on the table.

We arrived and were seated, Violet next to us in her car seat stroller, and we started talking with our friends. And Violet was content. Surprisingly content. Extremely content. I started to feel guilty. Long stretches of conversation would occur and I would almost forget that Violet was there. She chewed on and played with her toys, watched us, took in her surroundings, all with a relaxed air. Now and then, I would talk to her, make a few faces at her, or change out one toy for another. I felt guilty for not talking to her more, but then I would wonder if it wasn’t better just to leave her alone and not risk breaking this spell. As an hour, and then two, went by without complaint, I began to believe that we were going to be alright. At a certain point, we did need to take her out of the stroller and let her sit on one of our laps – her hands shot out and almost upset one entrĂ©e, but she remained a calm and happy baby until after the checks were paid, when she let us know with a few mild whines that she’d had enough..

By the end of the evening, Linda and I were both wishing we had some way to reward our youngest dining companion. I can’t expect this evening’s behavior to be repeated anytime soon (although how can I not help hoping that it will be?), but, tonight, we are very proud of our girl. It's a little misplaced, but I'm going to enjoy it anyway.

215 days old

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Something I figured out today...

 I thought I would feel more embarassed while wearing Violet in the chest carrier at the grocery store.

214 days old

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Airholes and a Cushioned Interior Required

I told Linda that I can’t wait until Violet can start interacting verbally, that I can’t wait to have a conversation with her. She reminded me for the umpteenth time that I shouldn’t wish away Violet’s current state, and she’s right because Violet’s current state is a wonderful thing. Smiles bloom easily and often, and neither of us can get enough of them. I wonder if we ever will. Violet's restlessness is mounting, however; She rolls over as often as a marble on an uneven floor and spinning herself on her stomach is now old news. Put her down at one end of the crib on her back, turn away, and within a few breaths she’s on her stomach at the other end of the crib, assaulting some unsuspecting toy. Within the past two weeks, we’ve become like outfielders, leaping across the room to prevent her from rolling off beds or counters - no errors yet, and just today, we both noticed her raising herself up on all fours and looking about, admiring the new view from four inches higher. Soon, she will put it all together – the rolling, the spinning, up on all fours, and we will have a different sort of animal on our hands – one that is mobile, and ours will become a house with baby gates. I will admit that I find that terrifying, mostly because we live on the second floor of a house with steep stairs, stairs that I have fallen down more than once. I also know me – I can’t be trusted to remember to close a baby gate. Do they make infant-sized hamster balls?

213 days old

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best Advice Read Today

From a “This I Believe” piece by John Corrigan, about his father...
I am 5 or 6, freezing in an ice shack on the Kennebec River, smelts sizzling in a frying pan close by. His hands busy tying flies, he says, “You should help one person each day.”

Years later, in the front yard, with a rake in his hand, he tells me, “Marry your best friend, son. That’s what I did.”
212 days old

Monday, June 20, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again

I took Violet for a walk at Beaver Meadow a few days ago. It’s a nature center just down the road from our house, and it’s where I had my first, real, “grown up” job - as the staff naturalist. I felt fortunate beyond words when I landed the job, partly because such jobs are rare and partly because the job required me to live on site. One house surrounded by 324 acres of wild preserve. I felt like Thoreau, or I assumed I did because I hadn’t gotten around to reading any at that point, but I felt like I had my own Walden Pond and a big patch of woods to wander through. Part of my duties included writing nature articles for the Center’s newsletter, and for the first time, I felt like something close to a “real” writer. I was getting paid to write, and people I didn’t know were likely reading what I wrote. One article I always wanted to write, but never got around to, was one on walking the same trail over and over again, and how you could see something new every time. The thought occurred to me one day as I hiked the trail that runs along the Beaver Pond. It was a trail I had walked hundreds of times – by myself, with groups of kids, adults, or both in tow, with friends, and on that day, it struck me that if I took the time to look, I could find something new on the trail each time I went down it. It might be something temporary like a mink track or the shell from a robin’s egg, something slightly less fleeting, such as the white-petalled blossom of a may apple or the papery shed skin of a dragonfly nymph, but it could just as likely be something permanent that for some reason I’d never noticed, like the perfect view of the pond from a certain spot on the trail or a cucumber tree that I failed to recognize growing amidst the maples.

The memory of this never-written-down idea came to mind as I carried Violet down the steps that led to the Beaver Pond Trail. At the beginning of the trial is a sign explaining what beaver cuttings are all about. It’s a sign I read in it’s entirety only once, when I first came to Beaver Meadow. From then on, I passed it by, confident that I knew what it had to say, but I stopped and read it to Violet, and I did the same with the sign describing the fern garden and with the one that showed the inner workings of a beaver lodge. We felt the cracked and split wooden railing of the small, pondside boardwalk; Violet couldn’t stop running her fingertips back and forth its surface, and, as I wrote in Saturday’s post, we were lucky enough to find a robin’s nest with hatchlings.

Walking back to the car with her, I should have been talking to her, continuing my play-by-play, but I was distracted, thinking how I once realized that a single trail could be walked many times and continually reveal something new, but this time, I figured out that walking a trail with Violet will make every inch of it new again for me – because that’s what it is for her.

211 days old - seven months old today

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Father's Day / Violet's Baptism

Violet's baptism was today. We figured we should give Violet a bath beforehand, so last night, I did the honors. I had to do it solo and use the bathroom sink because Linda had comandeered the kitchen, needing to make 48 cupcakes for the after party. We've been using the kitchen sink for the past few months, so putting her back into bathroom sink provided a startling view of how much she's grown.

Here she is in the bathroom sink in November:

And here she is last night:

This morning, with cupcakes, Violet, and a million other things in tow, we left for the day. The ceremony was lovely, and Violet was well-behaved. Despite sweltering in her heavy baptism dress, she only cried briefly a few times, owing mostly to the fact that Linda was good at distracting her with a ladybug finger puppet.

As with the baby shower way back in October, Linda and I were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity from our family. By dumb luck and the fact that we've always lived in small houses, we've never had to put on a party before, but Linda's mom, Violet's godmother, and her middle namesake aunt did most of the work, preparing enough food to feed twice as many people as were there. My brother's family allowed us all to descend on their home, and they did the setting up, serving, and cleaning up. We couldn't help feeling guilty - all we did was provide the guest of honor..

But here was my favorite moment from Father's Day #1 - after we got back home, all the food was put away, and we were in comfortable clothes:

210 days old

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I took Violet for a walk in the woods today. I made a point of not bringing the camera because I didn’t want to spend time looking for moments to capture; I just wanted to spend time in the woods with Violet. I showed her the odd leaves of the mulberry tree. We watched dragonflies landing, taking off, and flying all around us. I pointed out a striking purple flower whose name I couldn’t recall. We sat and looked at a beaver pond, and, just before I planned to turn around and head back, we passed by a massive wild rose bush and a heard a robin within, only a few inches away from us, letting loose with a loud chip call and fluttering roughly through the brush. Robins usually don’t wait for you to get that close before taking off, so I figured she must have a nest inside the bush. I cautiously moved aside a few outer branches, trying my best to avoid the thorns, and was rewarded with a view of the nest, a foot or so inside. I carefully snaked my hand over and under the branches and felt inside the nest, and what I felt was life – downy, small, and warm. Although I know it’s a myth that a mother bird won’t take back a baby bird that’s been handled (most birds lack any significant sense of smell, so a robin wouldn’t know you’d handled her young even if you rolled one around in your armpit and put it back), I know that myth exists for a reason – it’s to keep people from bothering baby birds, but I couldn’t resist - I had to show Violet. I gingerly extracted one of the young and held it in my palm where she could see it. The chick’s bulbous eyes weren’t open yet, and only a few tufts of down clung to its orange translucent skin. Violet reached out to touch, but I kept my hand out of her reach. I regretted not bringing the camera, at least for a moment or two, before I told myself just to enjoy the moment, to appreciate how fortunate I was to be in such a beautiful spot with my daughter, to stumble on this small moment with her. I didn’t have to take a picture. I could just remember it, and it would be all the more special because there would be no photo, just a memory.  And then I thought, “Screw it. I want Linda to see this, too. If we go home, get her, and bring her back here, then we can get a picture, too.” So, we went and got Linda. But the picture we took didn’t come out.

209 days old

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Shirk My Husbandly Duties

We went strawberry picking today. I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to take Violet with us, but neither Linda nor I had ever been strawberry picking before, and I knew without even having to ask that we both wanted Violet along for the experience. We brought along the chest carrier, figuring that it was a better option than the backpack. I could envision bending over to pick a strawberry and feeling her slide out of the backpack and over my head. With the chest carrier, she’d be front and center.

Violet was in a great mood, the day wasn’t too warm – things seemed good when we arrived. We expected to pick a lot – enough strawberries to get us through the year, once we got them back home and froze them – maybe twenty or thirty quarts. I was able to pick all of one quart before Violet decided she’d had enough. She didn’t like being low to the ground, unable to see anything, and she didn’t like me staying in one spot for so long. I tried singing, talking in a high voice, talking in a low voice, showing her the strawberries, tickling her – all while crouching among the strawberry plants. She wasn’t having it. She didn’t lose it, but I could tell she was getting annoyed with me.

So, Violet and I walked around, looking for good picking spots, and Linda did the picking. At one point, one of the teenage girls who works on the farm rode by on a horse, and Violet stared, her eyes fixed and following them until they were out of sight. As Linda handed me a quart of berries to empty into our basket, Violet reached out and grabbed a stalk of dock, her fingers clutching at the immature seed head. She wiggled her fingers on, through, and around the papery disks, and I stood still, wondering how long it would hold her interest. For more than a minute, she explored with her fingers, and then she tried to put it in her mouth and it was time to move on.

Fourteen quarts of strawberries later, as we carried our sweet haul up the dusty farm road to the stand to pay, I looked at Linda’s stained fingers, remembered her bad knees, and realized I probably should have offered to give Violet to Linda while I did the picking.

208 days old

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm excited...

I’m excited. Not because the school year is almost over and summer is about to begin, although I can’t deny looking forward to the time off. I’m excited because after next week, Monday through Friday mornings won’t mean saying good-bye to Violet and Linda, asleep and laying together in our bed. They’ll mean me on Violet’s other side, getting to be there when she wakes up.

207 days old

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Warts and All

I read last night’s post to Linda, and she commented that there are probably loads of experienced parents rolling their eyes in response to our reactions (or overreactions) to Violet’s issues. Violet’s our first, so every problem, whether it’s a molehill or not, seems like a mountain. I thought about what Linda said and looked through the names of recent posts, realizing that much of what I’ve written about since Violet’s birth concerns those things that keep us up at night – whether in our mind or in the crib next to our bed. It’s hard to imagine that we used to keep a log of every wet or soiled diaper, of how often I gave her a bottle and how much she ate, but we did, and at the time, we thought it was essential.

So Linda’s words made me wonder – for a moment - if I should ease off writing so much about our worries, since so many of them might sound foolish to more practiced ears. But I only thought it for a moment, because I felt so much better after writing last night’s post, and it led to my friend Amy sending me an email, talking about how she read that a lot of the crying and discomfort during pooping – like Violet experienced last night - is just a result of it being a new (and perhaps scary) sensation that babies don't understand. Most importantly, I want Violet – years from now - to see what we were going through today, yesterday, tomorrow – in all its unvarnished glory.

206 days old

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Poop Strike

This might be too much information for you, but we just finished trying to soothe our daughter as she screamed, fists clenched and tears streaming, so this is something I need to write about.

When I called Linda after school today, one of the first things I asked her was, “Did Violet poop yet?” Today was day seven of the poop strike, and we were starting to feel some serious anxiety. Although we know it’s possible for babies to go a week or more without a bowel movement, it just didn’t seem right since we’ve been feeding Violet high fiber foods like squash and sweet potatoes, and she’s been getting plenty of fluids. Linda called the doctor today, and a nurse told her to give Violet a dose of Karo syrup if there was no movement by tomorrow. Reluctant to follow this advice, especially because our pediatrician at the same office advised against it the last time Violet was backed up, we decided to follow a different route. My friend Amy recommended feeding prunes – believe it or not, they’re available in baby food form. She said they “made everything move along nicely” for her daughter, but that we should use them “sparingly, unless you enjoy blowouts.”

We ended up not needing the prunes, however, because after her dinner of butternut squash, I put Violet on the bathroom counter to change her, and that’s when things started to happen. All evening, she’d been in a good mood – a bit squirmy – but smiling and playful. That ended after I opened her diaper. I won’t go into the dirty details, but within a few moments, she started to whine. Then, a confused look came over her face and she started to cry - loudly, and what we’d been waiting for finally happened – a lot. She yelled and screamed the whole time, looking to us for help, and all we could do was tell her it was going to be okay while trying to keep up with her catching her output. It reminded me of her time in the hospital, and I hated it almost as much. What made it especially horrible was we didn’t know when it was going to end.

When it was all over and everything was cleaned up and a new diaper was on her, it still took Violet some time to settle down. Linda fed her and that helped. She fell asleep quickly, exhausted from her ordeal. Now, I wonder how things will proceed from here. Is her body just getting used to the new foods? Will she continue to cry every time she has to poop (I had one mom tell me today that her daughter did)? Was all of this responsible for Violet waking up in the middle of the night for the past week? It seems that like most baby worries, our relief is tempered by not knowing what’s coming next.

205 days old

Monday, June 13, 2011

"What a man takes in by contemplation, that he pours out in love." Meister Eckhart

I once heard that we should try to spend some small portion of every day contemplating something beautiful. So here you go…

204 days old

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Date Night

Before Violet was born, I thought that Linda and I would make time to go out – just the two of us – at least once a week. I imagined that if it didn’t happen, we’d start to feel trapped, sequestered from the rest of the world. It hasn’t happened. We don’t go out once a week, and although it’s probably something we should be doing, I’m surprised that I’m not missing it like I thought I would. It’s true that it’s partly because the words “getting ready to go out” now involve a much longer list of tasks. Contemplating that list prior to an evening out can’t help but make one wonder, “Wouldn’t it be more fun just to stay home?” Besides, it’s still hard to leave our little girl.

But I know we should go, so we do, as we did last night. And I enjoyed holding my wife’s hand in the darkened movie theater. I enjoyed, as we walked to the car, talking with her about why I liked the movie and why she didn’t. But it was also really nice to go into my in-law’s bedroom and see our sleeping daughter, to whisper her name and have her open her eyes, to watch her eyes find mine and turn bright with a sleepy smile.

203 days old

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Best Advice Received Years Ago

Something to tell Violet when she’s old enough: Avoid making decisions when you’re angry.

202 days old

Friday, June 10, 2011

All of you who told me to stop reading the parenting books may have been right...

Tonight, Linda and I watched some of a documentary called Freakonomics. A section on parenting had this to say:
New parents look at successful families and successful parents, and they just want to copy them. And so they try to do the things they think they did to get their families so smart and good and whatever, which is really…can really be a bad mistake of correlation/causality. So, you’re gonna take your kid to every mommy and me music class, and you’re gonna take ‘em to the museum, and start looking at all the Greek and Roman sculptures. You probably already were playing Mozart in the womb you think just to get the brain really stimulated. And it turns out, that as best as we can tell, from looking at data of actual parents and children along these dimensions, that none of that stuff really matters. It just doesn’t make your child better. It might make you happier–might even make them happier, it could also make them miserable–but it turns out those are not causal elements.

I’ve always said, you can teach at much at the grocery store as you can in a museum, maybe more…The data we’ve looked at suggests that by the time you actually have a kid, most of the choices you make that will make you a good parent, you’ve already made them.

So if you go to the store and buy ten parenting books, it’s probably not going to really…help the kid that much. But the fact that you’re the kind of person, who as a parent cares enough to buy ten books even if you don’t read them, that probably means you’re a pretty good parent. I just don’t think that the books are gonna have a magic effect. 
I never thought a book was going to be a magic bullet, but I will admit to thinking that copying what another parent has done might work for Violet - isn't that what advice from other parents is based on?

201 days old

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maybe dementia will set in before I have to deal with this...

Linda and I went to a concert tonight. We stood in the crowd, listening to the band, surrounded by people mostly younger than we are. It's inevitable at these club shows that there will be one couple that spends the concert making out as if they're trying to break some sort of record. In the past, I'd ignore them, although I'd secretly feel envious of their youthful enthusiasm. Now, I look at them and think, "My God, that's someone's daughter."

200 days old

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do not abandon hope, ye who enter here…

I just read an article about Maurice Sendak. It’s been a long time since he wrote Where the Wild Things Are – I was surprised to learn that he’s now 82 – and, not surprisingly, he’s thinking about his own mortality these days. One quote from the article stood out –when Mr. Sendak said:
“When I kick the bucket, which can’t be too long from now, I think I’m getting out just in time. Watching the news, everything seems to be in disorder. I wonder why people have children.”
Reading those words reminded me of a few weeks ago, when a friend said something similar to me, “I’m glad you had Violet, but if any of my kids told me they wanted to have children, I’d ask them why they’d want to bring anyone into this world.”

I didn’t have a response at the time. It’s likely that I just changed the subject, but I wish I hadn’t. Statements like that are just so frustrating in their fatalistic attitude. That mindset is one step away from the folks who are marking the Rapture on their calendars – “bad things happen, so let’s give up!” I keep hearing about what a horrible state our country and the world is in, that we need to get back to “how things used to be.” Now, I’ll admit that not every aspect of our modern world is a boon to mankind. The fact that I know who Snooki is – through absolutely no effort on my part - is a testament to that, but the reality is crime rates today are no worse than they were 40 years ago (some crime rates are lower, depending on who’s reading the data). My grandparents lived through a World War, the polio scare, the assassination of a sitting President, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Korea, Vietnam, and so much more, yet people think we’re worse off today? If I had been alive during the Bubonic Plague, maybe I’d be a little more open to the idea of the “End Times”.

But back to the article about Maurice Sendak; the rest of his quote was the most telling part. The article explained that after he made the statement about wondering why people still have children, he stopped himself, and said, “This is how old people rationalize their death. You get a little crotchety with the world.” It makes sense. As kids, we hopefully grow up sheltered from the realities of the world, but eventually, the scary stuff starts seeping through, and every day we hear and see more and more, and with the saturation of media, it’s so easy to be bombarded by it, to think that crimes and calamities are happening on every street corner. But they’re not. Parents drive their kids to school instead of letting them wait for the bus by themselves, even though the drive is statistically way more dangerous.

Of course, it’s easy for me to think these thoughts now, when Violet’s ability to wander is limited to one roll to the right or to the left. As her wandering radius grows with her, I could see myself giving in to certain fears. I have a vivid imagination. But if I can maintain some measure of perspective and keep myself from “getting crotchety with the world”, then maybe I can get Violet through her young years without driving us both crazy – me with worry and her with annoyance.

A link on crime stats:
A conversation with the author of Free Range Kids:

199 days old

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Zucchini Surprise

Last night, we gave Violet a healthy serving of mashed zucchini. Today, I received this text from Linda…

198 days old

Monday, June 6, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

Who knew that it was possible to feel so much pride over someone finshing an entire serving of mashed zucchini?

197 days old

Sunday, June 5, 2011

And it made Violet happy, too

We put up a swing on the patio for Violet. It made for a very happy person.      
196 days old

Saturday, June 4, 2011

One Step Forward, One Look Back

I went to see a play a month or so ago, and halfway through the performance, one of the players gave a speech about progress. “Every bit of progress,” he said, “comes with a price. Want a telephone? Then you’ll have to give up privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote; but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline.” My brain heard this and, instead of thinking about computers or cell phones or reality TV, I thought of Violet. I thought of how much it thrills me to see her smile; she smiles so freely now, but her smiles used to be fleeting mysteries of beauty, their cause unknowable, leaving Linda and I to hope that we were their reason for being. Now, Violet naps once, maybe twice a day, so there's more time to play with her and more time to bask in her presence, but gone are the long, shared naps with her nestled on my chest. I won’t ever say that I miss the past more than I love the present, but I’m putting this down so someday, Violet will know that every stage of her progress brought with it something I loved, but each step also meant leaving behind something I would fondly miss.

195 days old

Friday, June 3, 2011

Music to the Ears

I didn't expect it to be a big deal. I've never cared if she said it first or not. Even if she did say it, it wouldn't mean anything, not for awhile anyway. So, I was surprised yesterday when Violet started saying, "Da da da da," and it was one of the most pleasing sounds I've ever heard.

194 days old

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Insert Pea Pun Here

Food number three – strained peas

Also, thumbs down.

I’ve had more than a few people recommend that we add apples, bananas, or other fruits/juice to the foods we’re offering to make them more palatable, but our pediatrician and several books are steering us away from the sweeter foods for now. If she develops a taste for the sweet stuff right out of the box, why would Violet ever want veggies? (We’re hoping pureed kale will be one of her favorites.) One fact I found surprising was that you can’t trust a baby’s face when it comes to their first taste of a food. Most babies wrinkle up their noses at any new flavor or texture, even when they like the taste. Whether they open their mouth for a second taste is the true test, or even if they don't, they might be willing to give it a go on another day. I know I had to try sushi about half a dozen times before I decided I liked it. With that in mind, we tried zucchini again tonight, and Violet seemed more amenable to it. Maybe the peas will go down easier tomorrow.

193 days old

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"...but I preminisced no return of the salad days.”

About a week ago, I started writing a post about how easily Violet goes to bed at night, but I shelved it because I didn’t want to jinx what I knew to be, even with my limited baby experience, a rare situation. It seemed prudent to enjoy it while it lasted, and keep my mouth shut. But while I didn’t mention it here, I told people about it at work and on the phone, and even though I know it’s irrational, I can’t help but feel responsible for ending Violet’s somnolent salad days. Starting at about the same time I wrote the aborted post, Violet’s easy nighttime routine took a turn. Where once she was drowsy after her bedtime feeding, and very willing to go to sleep after I placed in her bassinet, now she is wide awake, ready to play. I put her down and she seems confused, looking at me with her big blue eyes as if to say, “But Daddy, it’s still light outside, and I’m not tired,” and before I even leave the room, her cries of protest fill the bedroom. No sound machine, dustbuster, glowing seahorse, or lullaby-singing dog will calm her down, and so we sit in the next room, listening to our daughter wail for a half hour to forty-five minutes; we sit until she tires herself out. I know this isn’t new to any parent, but it’s new to us, and Linda and I have been spoiled. When Violet screams particularly loud, we look at each other, wondering how this happened, and wishing for some quick fix.
192 days old