Friday, September 30, 2005

Mama's Got a Brand New Yard

When I went to work today, my yard was a barren dead thing. Brown grass, overgrown hedges, and no real mulch in the natural areas to speak of. When I got back home at 5:45 or so, I returned to green grass and plenty of mulch mounded in my new natural beds. The hedges have been trimmed and moved to the side yard and new, nicer plants and hedges have been planted sparingly around. I also have a gorgeous young maple tree reaching up in my front yard promising years of shade in the future.

How did this miracle occur? Well, I tell you that it's amazing what happens when you pass a lot of money to a landscape designer. Chris and I have no hope of actually creating an attractive yard on our own. We both have black thumbs and absolutely zero knowledge of which plants grow in whatever zone it is that we live in. I wouldn't know a holly bush from a hemp plant. So after years of just wishing our yard would suddenly look beautiful... we gave in and paid someone to make it so. (If you live in the area, I recommend Brooks Landscape Design. I can give you the phone number).

Keep checking back to this post for the next couple of days. I will try to take a picture this weekend and add it. It's too dark now, unfortunately, to get a good picture. If I had really been thinking, I would have taken a "before" picture as well, but I obviously am not really thinking. :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

On the Edge of Insanity

We have been pushing Athena this weekend. And we are learning quickly that she is not to be pushed. Saturday night would have been a disaster had we not had such understanding friends. Tonight went very well since we learned our limits last night.

We had friends in from London last night. They emailed us about a week or so ago and asked if we were free on the 24th because they were going to be in Cary "just for the night." Obviously, I was surprised at the short length of the visit, since Cary, NC, is not known to be a hub for international travel. Turns out, Wayne had a business meeting at Red Hat on Monday, and then they are leaving for New York to do some work in their office there. Cheryl is along for the ride. And they only had Saturday night because Wayne's boss was coming in today (Sunday) and he would be occupying their time.

The drawback to meeting them on Saturday was that their flight from Gatwick arrived at 4:15 or so. Athena normally eats around 6, so by the time they got through customs and picked up their car, it was going to be at LEAST 5:45 before they got to Cary. Still, how often do you get to see your friends from the other side of the Atlantic, so we arranged to be at their hotel at 6 to pick them up. We plied Athena with a snack, and since customs was slow, Athena had some time to work off some energy running around the hotel lobby.

Now, Cary on a Saturday night is often a challenge without reservations, but we didn't know where our friends would want to eat, so we didn't make any. I know of a couple of places where lines aren't normally too bad, and planned to suggest those places. We settled on Lone Star after we called Outback on a whim and found the wait would be 80 to 90 minutes. This may have been our first big mistake of the evening.

When we arrived at Lone Star, it was approaching 7pm. This is very late for our little munchkin to eat. Still, they said the wait would be 15 minutes maximum, and Athena was in good spirits, so we agreed.

30 minutes later, Wayne checked on our situation, and they said it would be... you guessed it... 15 more minutes. I went in to find bread for our child, who by now was pretty grumpy and pretty gosh darn hungry. The manager was very accommodating, and provided me not just with one roll, but with a whole basket. This did seem to help her mood quite a bit.

Then, she found the cactus. We were waiting outside, and letting Athena run a bit. Soon, she discovered the cacti growing around the front of the restaurant for ambiance. Most of the plants were quite dead, but she found one that was struggling to survive, and she touched it. This led to the meltdown of the century.

Fortunately, a spine did not lodge itself in her hand, but clearly the pain it had caused just in the brief contact she had was significant. Adding her hunger and her sleepiness to this, we knew it was simply time to go.

Chris ran in to tell the hostesses that we were leaving, and they practically begged us to stay. They offered to seat us next (despite three others in line ahead of us) and even said they had tweezers if that would help Athena's hand. Chris politely refused and we hauled it on out of there.

We dashed through the McD's drive through to get a happy meal in the hopes it would actually create some joy in our poor, exhausted child. The chicken and fries did seem to help, but we just couldn't get home fast enough to satisfy her. In our attempt to get home quickly, we lost Wayne and Cheryl, who had no idea how to get to our house. After some phone calls while Athena was in the bath, we agreed to order pizza at the house and I gave our friends directions to get here.

The bath seemed to calm Athena immediately, and sooth any pain she still had in her hand. We gave her some Tylenol just in case, and she sailed off to sleep without further incident. Our friends arrived just ahead of the pizza, and the rest of the evening went beautifully. But we have certainly learned our lesson about pushing our daughter.

Tonight, we arranged to go to the home of one of Athena's friends from daycare for dinner. His mom happens to work for the library system, which is really how we met, but Aiden and Athena are in the same class at daycare and they get along famously. We haven't been able to get together with them outside of daycare/work for quite some time, and I really wanted to make it up to Athena for keeping her out so late the night before.

We got there right at 6 with a side dish and some brownies, and they had just pulled the chicken off the grill. The kids sat at opposite ends of the table (I'm afraid Athena's manners weren't nearly so good as Aiden's, but he IS several months older...) and after dinner they PLAYED and PLAYED. They ran, they laughed, they threw pointed blocks at each other. They were so happy. It was such a different scene from the night before. So now I know... it's not so much how late she is out... it's whether or not she has a friend to play with.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

That Fluttering Feeling

Any pregnancy book will tell you that if this is your first pregnancy, at fourteen weeks, you won't feel the baby move yet. That usually happens sometime around week 16. However, just as true as showing earlier (my belly stuck out about five minutes after I saw the little plus sign on my pregnancy test), you can feel movement earlier when this is your second or (God help you) subsequent pregnancy. And like clockwork, last night I felt a little gymnastics class in progress.

I am in Winston-Salem at a conference for librarians in North Carolina. During the long sessions yesterday, I had been having some back pain (a fairly constant thing lately, only exacerbated by the chairs designed by the Marquis de Sade that every conference hall buys in bulk) so when I got back to the room after meeting my mom for a delicious steak dinner in Greensboro, I decided to take a bath (also a fairly constant thing for me). As I settled down into the warmish (damn hotels) water, I noticed some fluttering in my belly. Of course, as any good human being would do, I wondered if it was gas. but then, I noticed my belly button kind of jumping a little all on it's own. THIS is a phenomenon I very much remember from pregnancy number one. It was a favorite passtime of mine to lie in the tub and watch my belly jump and shift all on it's lonesome. And yes, I watched this with an equal emotional mix of delight and horror.

Anyway, sure enough, I realized that the butterflies in my stomach were not actually in my stomach. I put two and two together and said hello to the little creature cooking inside me. We had a nice conversation where I asked how he (or she) was doing and he (or she) sort of kicked me in response. At this point, the kicks feel very much like a little tickle from the inside. Really, far more pleasant than the kicks I will get in just a few more weeks that are more like jabs.

Anyway, it's an exciting development in the growth of our newest family member, and I just wanted to share it with you.

Friday, September 16, 2005

At the Good Old Hockey Game

Tonight was Athena's first hockey game outside of the womb. I have to use that disclaimer, because the entire time she was gestating (or is that ME who was gestating?)... anyway.... while she was "cooking," we attended a whole season of hockey games. So she has heard the noise before, just from a very different perspective.

For anyone reading this who does not already know... we are season ticket holders for the Carolina Hurricanes, and have been for five seasons. This year will be our sixth. We took a forced hiatus while the players and the league worked out their differences, and that hiatus may have actually been the best thing that has happened to us.

The Hurricanes are so grateful to the season ticket holders for coming back, that we are getting all sorts of perks we didn't anticipate. They paid us 5% interest on our money while it stewed in their bank accounts last year. That was money I gave them before Athena entered our lives and drained our bank accounts. Then they applied one third of that money to this year's season tickets (this was a plan we chose... they had several choices including just getting this year's tickets with that money). Now the rest of the balance will stew for this year (giving us 5% interest) and one half of it will apply to next year. Finally, the remainder (still gaining 5%) will go toward year three.

On top of that, this year we got a 10% discount, next year we get 20% and the year after we get 30%. AND THEN they slashed ticket prices this year to get people to sign on. So, this year, I got my invoice, and INCLUDING the parking pass (we always buy one because it saves us about $41 in parking to buy in advance), the invoice was about half of what it normally is. In other words, we got two third-row NHL season tickets for the price of one.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! No, we didn't get a set of knives... but when we drove up to the arena using our normal route, the little parking lizard waved us on toward Premiere Parking (Normally about $5 more than standard parking and VERY close to the arena). I looked at the parking pass and almost fell out of the car. Sure enough, we had been given Premiere Parking for the price of regular. For the WHOLE season!!! This would have been welcome any year, but this year especially, with a one-year-old and being pregnant to boot. I nearly cried tears of joy as we slipped into a parking space only a few rows from the front doors.

So how did Athena enjoy her first hockey game, you may be wondering? I was concerned about how late she would be up (game starts at 7... her bedtime is anywhere between 7:30 and 8:00). I was also concerned that she wouldn't like being confined to our two little seats and our two little laps. And then, would she even like the hockey?

Well, folks, I am pleased to say that she had a grand time at the good old hockey game. She was fascinated byt the jumbotron. She loved watching the men skate around really fast. She thrilled at the music between plays. She headbanged. She danced. She clapped. She cried when she met the mascot (completely forgivable... he IS a giant pig, after all). She even quieted down during most of the play time and watched the game. She didn't seem to understand what all the fuss was about when we scored (which we did six times, incidentally), but she enjoyed it all the same.

There was a point, though, when I realized that I can never take her to a game by myself. Chris and I walked around the arena at first intermission to see some friends of ours. Athena got bored with that very quickly, and wanted to walk around. So I agreed to stay with her while Chris talked to his friends. When we got back onto the concourse, she took off running. She wouldn't hold my hand, and she was darting in and out of people's legs, nearly causing several serious injuries both to herself and to the poor, unsuspecting pedestrians around her. By the time we got back around to our seats, I was exhausted. Fortunately, Chris was at the top of the stairs waiting for us and he carried the baby down to our seats. I barely managed to huff and puff myself back down the stairs.

So, overall, tonight was a smashing success. I work this weekend, so Chris plans to take her to the next game (Sunday afternoon) by himself. She will not even be tired for this one... as she will have just woken from her nap, so I am sending Chris all my positive energy to get through the game.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Roll Student

As single, children-free folk (and even as married children-free folk), we all laugh at those bumper stickers that say something about someone's kid's good grades at ABC Middle School. We laugh because it seems so cheesy to put such a sticker on your car, and, remembering back to your own middle school days, the LAST thing you wanted your parents to do was to advertise your nerdy good grades on the car they drove you all over town in.

But when we have children, suddenly bragging is as natural as breathing. At least it is for my husband. I try to remain humble, quietly admiring how beautiful our little girl is, marvelling at how smart she is and how well she listens to us, and grinning whenever she tries something new. Sure, I notice that she is doing the same things that older kids in her class can't do yet. But I keep it to myself... like a nifty little secret.

My husband, however, would tattoo it across his forehead if he could. And I need to push a point here... it's not annoying at all to me. Instead, it warms me all over, listening to him fawn over her.

He always asks other parents in restaurants how old their baby is, knowing that Athena is probably younger and taller, just so he can say, "Really? My daughter is only 16 months! She's really big, isn't she?!" And he constantly sizes up Athena's classmates in school, noting how much more advanced she is compared to various children older than her. And he compares her temperament to others' as well. Athena, despite clearly having a very bad temper, is generally a very mild girl and treats others fairly well. (She does pull the cat's tail... we're working on that.)

There is nothing better than to see a father dote on his child. So where normally, bragging would set me on edge and drive me crazy, I find myself smiling and beaming with pride whenever he alludes to Athena being better than some other child. I can't help myself. After all, she gets all that good stuff from me... :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It's Potty Time

I am the one who reads all the books. What to Expect When You're Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, and soon, What to Expect the Toddler Years. Chris reads none of these, although he will listen intently if I share something with him I learned within their wise pages.

But his natural parenting talents came shining through tonight. And I will also say that this is a blog entry Athena will not be excited to read when she is older... Fair warning, Dear Reader, we are going to venture into toilets tonight...

When I came home from work on Friday, Chris had purchased a little training potty. Now, this is strange on several levels... as Chris is never the one to spend money on baby equipment. Toys and DVDs, yes... potties, no.

So I see it there and I think to myself, well, we would need one eventually... I suppose we might as well buy it now. Perhaps it was on sale...

Now, according to BabyCenter, children will normally show some signs of readiness for potty training between 18 and 24 months. So as the weary, pregnant mother of a 16-month-old (albeit an extra tall one) I haven't even really been looking at the articles about potty training in order to start preparing. After all, even though Athena has begun to show she understands pretty much everything we say, I have seen no indication that she is aware of the functions of the bathroom or of the physical signs indicating a need to go.

That said, Chris believes the time is now. And as he changes WAY more dirty diapers than I do, I can hardly blame him for trying. So when he took the training potty upstairs with him at bathtime, I cheered him on... secretly sure that this just was too early to work.

He tried to put her on the thing before her bath, but it was actually too late, if you know what I mean. So there was really no success to be had. Then this morning, he brought the thing in again before her shower and sat her down on it. She seemed to like it, but she climbed down off it and then peed on the floor. I'm telling you, the child just isn't ready, as far as I can see.

Then tonight, we went into the bathroom together, Athena and I, to get ready for bathtime. The training potty was in there on the floor, and she pulled it out. She lifted the little lid, and started to sit down. She then noticed she still had her diaper on, so she stood up, looked at me, and pulled on the diaper. I had to take the thing off anyway since I was about to plop her into the tub, so I did so immediately at her request. She then turned and went back to sit on the potty.

I continued to fill the tub and check the water temperature. When the bath was ready, I went to get her off her potty. When I lifted her from the seat... holy monkey! There was pee in the toilet! I couldn't believe it! I almost dropped her. I called Chris into the room and we both marvelled at the gift she left. (Parenting is the saddest, strangest business, I'm telling you.) Grandma Kervill is here too, so she came in to celebrate with us. It was quite a joyous moment.

Now, there's still a long way to go here, and that may be the only time she does it for the next three months, but wouldn't it be cool if she actually were potty trained before Baby Caran the Younger arrives? I am suddenly optimistic... and I suddenly feel the need to get a book on potty training.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Water Baby

Remember back at the beginning of the summer, I told you that Athena seemed to resist water? Well, our project "Force-the-Baby-to-Like-the-Wet-Stuff" seems to be a complete success. Here we are at the commemorative end of summer (just past Labor Day weekend), and we've seen a complete turn-around.

Athena has grown to really enjoy the water park at day care. She ran, frolicked, and splashed with the rest of her class for the majority of the summer. Bath time is still enjoyable for her, although oddly, she doesn't really play with her toys in the tub so much. But she sits patiently while you dump water over her head and shampoo her hair.

In addition to bath time, she also enjoys a morning shower. Sometimes it's with me, sometimes with Chris, and sometimes, she lasts through both our showers. She usually gets in, then stands there with her head down until she's completely wet. Finally, she totters over to the low shelf in our shower and takes all the shampoo bottles and soaps and puts them on the floor of the shower, creating a little obstacle course for whichever parent happens to be there with her at the time. You can put the bottles back on the shelf, but she will quickly correct your error and put them back on the floor.

And then, the final test... the pool. We have been trying to get to the pool each weekend for the last month and a half or so. We really slacked off about it at the beginning of the summer, but towards the end, when it was the hottest, we became more regular about it. It helped that we are heathens and found that Sunday morning, our community pool is completely deserted. We get the whole place to ourselves, which is quite nice.

So this weekend (Labor Day), we couldn't get there until Monday... the last day the pool is open for the season. And rather than go in the morning (which was actually a bit chilly), we packed up our gear and walked up there in the late afternoon. I looked at Athena and said, "Would you like to go to the pool?!" She ran to her room and grabbed her little swimming shoes! Chris was actually trying to resist going, but since she clearly wanted to go, he gave in.

We loaded her and the beach towels into her little red wagon that her Aunt Nicky gave her, and we marched up to the pool. For the first time, Athena REALLY seemed to enjoy being in the pool. She liked watching all the older kids splash around, and she wanted to "swim" from Mommy to Daddy and back again. We played until her teeth started to chatter, and then packed up to go.

It's really a shame it took her to the end of the summer to really enjoy the pool. Now we won't see one again until DisneyWorld. Oh, but that's only two months away! *bounce, bounce, bounce*

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What I Learned Today

Most of my dedicated readers out there know that I am going on a cruise in November with my family and another family. And you all should know I'm pregnant, since I've nattered on about it for weeks now. The cruise line sent us some documentation right after we booked, and in the fine print, I noticed "DCL will refuse passage to any woman who has entered her 24th week of pregnancy."

Now, this struck me as odd, since a full term pregnancy is 40 weeks and most airlines, etc. will allow you to travel right up into Week 35. So I asked my prenatal nurse if she knew why the rule existed. She did not.

Mind you, I don't care, really, as I will have only entered my 20th week when we sail. However, I did have to carefully plan this. I probably would have started trying to get pregnant earlier than I did if I had been able to take the cruise. So this isn't coincidence... I knew the rule when I conceived.

Today, I had my first true prenatal appointment with a doctor. (First appointment is with the aforementioned prenatal nurse, and the second is with the groovy ultrasound machine and it's person.) So, I asked the doctor. And here is what she said:

If a woman goes into preterm labor before 24 weeks, there is little or no chance of the baby surviving. However, if the woman goes into labor during or after the 24th week, with good medical care (that is, NICU at a hospital), the baby's chances of survival are good to excellent. So, since a cruise ship doesn't have NICU, and could very well be some distance from the nearest hospital when something happens... they won't let you climb aboard. Liability is too high.

Who knew?! I find this information fascinating and depressing at the same time. Not as depressing as what is going on in Louisiana at the moment, but it's still icky to consider.

Speaking of Louisiana, does anyone think about those scenes of desperate people mobbing ferries and working vehicles in War of the Worlds as they watch the footage of Katrina's aftermath? Is it just me, or is living in Louisiana more frightening than living in Ethiopia at the moment? People are shooting at the folks who are trying to help them, and then complaining that no one will help them. The human animal doesn't take very long to emerge when survival is on the line. I intend to donate formula and other baby supplies tomorrow, but I'm concerned that the trucks will be looted and destroyed before they can get to the people who need the stuff. *shudder*