Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Little Abbey Update

Last week was Little Abbey's sixth month checkup even though she was already two weeks past her birthday. For some reason, the pediatrician clinic that we go to has about three or four days a month in which you can schedule your appointment with a particular doctor. Initially we jumped around through several pediatrician after our favorite one ended up moving to California. Now we have settled on one we like but the first day he was available past December 1rst when she turned six months was on December 12th. What can you do?

We showed up right on time and waited our normal hour before we actually got to see the pediatrician. In the meantime, measurements showed that Little Abbey was still off the growth chart in height topping in at 27" long and was in the 50th percentile for weight at 16 lbs. 6 oz, almost ten pounds more than what she came into life at. Judging by how I feel after lugging her around in her car seat for a half hour, I would have guessed she weighed about 50 lbs more. According to the doctor, she has the perfect body build. I'm thinking I need to make sure we get an older pediatrician the next time around.

Little Abbey way in perfect health, a far cry from her first few minutes in life where she actually stopped breathing. Already, the mental image in my head of her being 'bagged' by the doctor seems to have lost reality and is nothing like the happy baby I have today.

But not everything or should I say everyone is happy. Little Abbey seems to have developed stranger anxiety a bit early in life. Every baby generally goes through this phase beginning at one year of age but she seems to have developed it early. A couple times when guests come for a visit at our house, she become inconsolable and during the visit to the doctors office she was also inconsolable. Me personally, I think that since she had her shots just the week before, has learned to identify doctor-type offices as not pleasant experiences. I harbor the same feelings so I can't say I blame her. Besides, having her afraid of a doctor who says she has the perfect body build seems like a pretty good thing.

On to other things. Little Abbey is still drinking less than the doctor recommended amount of milk on a daily basis. My wife, being from a third world country was a little bit worried, but I living in the land of the obese, think it is probably a good thing. Besides, she is eating solid food to the tune of 3/4 or 1 cup at a time when according to the doctors should be no more than a few tablespoons. Sometimes, she wants to eat it so fast that I have a hard time keeping up which causes her to squirm with impatientness. I can't wait until she develops the ability to pinch food and feed herself, which probably isn't too far off. I also recently learned that mashed peas are tasty, whole peas just come out in the endÂ? if you know what I mean.

Physically, Little Abbey is catching up quickly to her peers. She was a little behind 'the average' mostly because she is so tall and requires more strength to do similar things. Within the last couple weeks, she is able to sit up for several minutes on her own before she loses balance and tips over, usually while in the process of reaching for the toy farthest from her. She also can stand for a minute or two when supported for balance and spins quite a bit of time standing in her saucer while she plays. I guess it is because she has a better view when she stands up. It is quite comical to watch her lunch this way and that in her saucer as she plays or cranes her body for a better look at us.

She still hates her tummy time and I have to flip her over many times a day when she rolls over and can't get rolled back over due to an arm getting hung up or toys blocking the path. However, this may be a good thing because just the other day when she was upset of being trapped on her tummy, she achieved full crawling position for a few seconds. Her legs were underneath her and her arms were holding up the torso at full extension. But after a few seconds she collapsed back to the blanket, buried her head in one of her stuffed animals and gave this fake 'whoa is me' sob like we were torturing her. I know if is fake because as soon as I turn her over again she is all smiles until she rolls onto her tummy again.

Friday, December 15, 2006

You Might Be the Reason For My Christmas Loathing

Christmas is not my favorite time of the year. I love getting together with friends and relatives to celebrate the birthday of Christ but today is seems more about giving people presents we can't afford and they don't really need after spending the past month packed cheek to jowl in large malls fighting over the most popular present of the year according to some group out east. The meaning has been lost.
This is what I tell people but privately, there is another darker more sinister reason. I can't stand being so close to so many of you! You know whom I am talking to.

I'm talking about you Mr. Senile Man, who has long ago lost the ability to realize that you are blocking the aisle creating a huge traffic jam as you ponder over the labeling on two similar products.

I'm talking about you Mrs. Oblivious, who leaves her cart in the middle of the aisle to run down a different aisle for who knows what and then gives me hate barbs when I push it to one side so that I can get by. I see you everywhere and you are never paying attention to who is around you. You have no sense whatsoever.

I'm talking to you the Reunion Family, who feels the need to stand in the middle of the crowded mall corridor to catch up on your pasts while people bump your shoulders and try to squeeze by.

I'm talking to you Mr. Wrong Way, who can't seem to figure out that 99% of us walk on the right hand side of the corridor and tries to walk against everybody else and then plays chicken with me who not only out weighs you but is a foot taller. You're lucky I didn't knock you on your butt.

I'm talking to you Ms. Snooty Clerk, who walks away from the cash register in which I have been standing for ten minutes with money in hand to show somebody who just walked up where the cookware was even though I happened to be standing in the clothing department. Then to top it off, instead of hustling right back, you stop half way and start rearranging clothes on a rack instead of helping the waiting customers.

I'm talking to you Mrs. Can't Walk who sits in your car waiting for someone to get all their packages, kids, etc into their car and back out of the space so that you can park your big ass SUV into the tiny spot, meanwhile tying up traffic that can't get around you. I really did enjoy it when you followed me to my car twice, watched me slowly unload my packages into my car and then watched me smile as I walked past you towards the store again. I hope I ruined your day.

I'm talking to you the Gaggle Group, who can't walk anywhere unless they walk side by side taking up as much real estate as possible and not letting those of us who don't want to die of old age in some mall pass you by and get where we want to go.

I'm talking to you Negligent Parent, who thinks acceptable parenting is letting your children roam unattended, half dressed, in the mall getting high on sugary drinks and running into people and other more breakable objects. Not to mention that you are teaching your children, when they are with you where they belong, that the meaning of Christmas is how much you can buy with your limited resources.

I'm talking to you Mr. Poor Parker, who can't figure out the object of parking is to put your car between the lines and not straddling them causing me to maybe ding the crap our of your vehicle while trying to squeeze into my car that I left with a good two feet between the car and the lines on either side. Or even worse, you park your car next to the 'No Parking' sign as you dash into the store causing pedestrians to almost get run over because oncoming traffic can now no longer see them until they are in the middle of the road.

I'm talking to you the Light Family, who seems to think that Christmas is about cramming as many electrically lighted objects into your front yard as possible to outdo the Jones' and fool people into thinking that you are holier than thou. Instead of being all about yourself, why don't you save the time and money by working in a soup kitchen or giving to those without. In the very least, just decorate with something that doesn't scream, I need something large, lighted and extremely gaudy to help me celebrate Christmas!

I'm talking to you Mr. Poor Driver, who seems to think that in order to get your shopping done on time you must drive at excessive speeds, tailgate, weave in and out of traffic, not wait your turn at four way stops, cut people off on foot and in cars in your haste to nab a parking spot and otherwise just break most rules of the road.

Finally, I'm talking to you Mrs. Popularity, who has to spend the entire day talking on your cell phone, turning yourself into Mrs. Oblivious and Mr. Poor Driver. I don't care what you are doing for dinner, how long has it been since the last time that you spoke, where you just nabbed something 25% off, or whether Johnny would like the red or blue one. I just want you to pay attention to the world for a second, pay the dang cashier and let the rest of us get in our cars and drive safely home.

In a world where Christmas was done right, all shopping would be done online, delivered to your door and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas would be spent together celebrating the birth of a king.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Trees: Past and Present

Normally in our family, the weekend after Thanksgiving is reserved for getting Christmas trees. Red cedars grow wild and in abundance here and are considered noxious weeds by the locals because they are hard to kill, even by cutting them down. So basically other than a little bit of time, a bow saw and some elbow grease, they are free.

After airing up the trailer tires and then driving to the gas station to finish filling them up, we drove down to the farm so that my mom could get her Little Abbey fix, I could troubleshoot some computer problems and then eat lunch. After letting lunch digest for the proper amount of time, we drove to an unfarmable tract of land that my parents own and where red cedar trees have been known to prosper.

Back in my childhood, we always seemed to disagree on trees. My brother and one parent on one side and myself and the other parent would always be on the other side. At first there were promises that if they got this tree this year, we could decide next year but time plays havoc on that idea and by the time the following year rolled around, nobody could remember whose year it was to decide. Since as farmers, we reserve our pockets for needful things like pocket knives, keys, and misc. nuts and bolts, we never had a coin to flip. Thus began our family tradition of flipping a glove, thumbs up or down, for deciding rights. Once again time was the enemy and I never could see if thumb up or down had the same chances as coin flips. I suspect not.

This year, Little Abbey was along so we loaded her up into the off-road stroller and wheeled her off into the grove of trees. We've been picking this area of trees for the last decade so the good trees are about all too big, have deformities or haven't had time to grow much. My parents found a gorgeous tree but it was too big to fit in their living room so I told them they could visit it at my place and cut it down. They later found a smaller one that suit their purposes and cut it down. Trees loaded, we headed back to our house and they theirs.

As a kid, we lived in an old farmhouse with higher ceilings and thus could get bigger trees than either of our families can now. I suppose that is why we always had frustrations once we got home. You see, the larger the tree, the larger the trunk. Tree stands, even our heavy duty one, are pretty small and sometimes things just don't work very well. We would always end up having to cut off another lower branch or two causing bald spots to appear where previously there were none. Sometimes we would even have to whittle down the diameter just to fit it into our square holed stand. All this seemed like life or death back then when in my present frame of mine, I never remembered any of this being visible once the tree was up and decorated.

Back home, I got the tree carried into the house and with my wife's help set squarely in the tree stand. The very first thing I do is pour in a gallon of water (the capacity of my tree stand) along with a vial of green food coloring. My tree, unlike the ones Lazy Iguana gets to pick from, is barely an hour old from it's be-rooting and thus drinks it up within minutes. Within hours the tree is as green as can be. I also regularly water it for the next week or so to keep everything from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Since Saturday when we put it up, it has sucked up well over five gallons of water.

We started a fire in the fireplace and began the job of decorating which in my opinion, is always anti-climatic compared to the 'hunting and gathering' of the tree. We string up our lights, bulbs and eclectic assortment of ornaments from two cultures and hand-me-downs. Little Abbey mostly watched us from her nearby rug in front of the warmth of the fire and aimlessly played with her collection of toys. Next year she will learn about Christmas all over again and in the years after, she will hopefully enjoy in our tradition. I can't wait to relive it through her eyes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Leaf War!

I was taking care of Little Abbey when I happened to glance out of the front window and see the retired man from across the street walking up our drive. I have stopped a few times and talked with him when I have seen him in his yard, which is quite often. I bet the man spends at least ten to fifteen hours a week out in his lawn and it shows. It is immaculate. But the conversation is always just small neighborly talk and he doesn't even know my name even though I have remembered his using my Dale Carnegie techniques.

So when he made it up to the door, I opened it up and invited him in out of the cold. Little Abbey was playing in her saucer and that was the first time he had ever seen her so we did a couple minutes of chitchat about her. Still standing inside the door, I finally let the conversation die out and an uncomfortable silence filter in as I waited for him to get to his point. I knew there had to be a reason for the unexpected visit.

"Well" he said, "we and a few other people had a guy from Birmingham come up this year and raked our leaves with a power rake and trimmed the grass down for a very reasonable rate. I thought I would let you know in case you were interested in hiring someone and his number is in the phonebook."

Not sure what to say, I just said nothing. I had mulched the leaves in the front lawn with my mower just the previous weekend because they had just finally all fallen off the oak tree. The problem had been that it had rained several inches on them before I had them mulched which matted them down to the ground causing the mulching process to not be as affective as it was in the backyard which I had done a month earlier. But it had been effective enough because you could at least see 90% of the grass in the lawn while the rest was covered with large pieces of leaf litter.

Jim the neighbor started up again on his own telling me of how he lost 50% of his grass one year when he didn't get it raked well enough and went into the dynamics of how water runs underneath the leaves and kills the grass. I have never raked a leaf in my life and have the grass has always come back but I bit my tongue and kept this bit of information to myself as I listened. Finally he asked if I wanted the Birmingham power raker guy's name.

I told Jim that I have always just mulched my leaves but because we had a wet spell before I got to the front yard this year it didn't do as good of a job. I thought this would give him the hint that I wasn't interested but he started in again saying that he used to mulch too but it got to where his mower couldn't push through the thatch. Again I have mulched since I have lived in this house and have never had a problem so I just let him run through his speal. Finally he wound down and I said that I might yet run over it again with the mulcher if the weather stays decent knowing full well that it was supposed to snow later on that night and get freezing cold. (It did both.) He bid me a goodnight and walked across the street to his house.

I don't know why he is concerned since my leaves can't blow over to his lawn as my house acts as a giant wind block. My leaves always blow (if they move at all) over on my neighbor's lawn to the east. That house has been for sale since I bought my place and the renting tenants never stay long enough to complain or just kindly rake them up for me and dispose of them. No, Jim's lawn is immaculate and I assume that he is embarrassed to have my lawn with semi mulched leaf litter across the street from him. He just doesn't understand that not everyone can (or wants to) spend fifteen hours a week tending to their lawn with chemicals, water, mowers, rakes, spreaders, dethatchers, rollers and a multitude of other paraphernalia.

When my wife came home an hour later I relayed the story to her and god bless her, she replied that we could probably rake it on Saturday. "Heck no!" I replied. "Them leaves are staying put for the rest of the year now. If he was so brazen to give me the thinly veiled hint that my lawn isn't up to snuff, well then he is just going to have to suffer looking at it until spring. There is no law saying I have to rake my leaves. This is war… unless he wants to rake my leaves for me and in which case he can go right ahead." I'm not a betting man but I'm willing to wager that my grass will come up in full force next spring as it always has… unfortunately.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Filipino Dance Revolution

A couple weeks ago it was the Playstation 3 that was causing people to stand in lines and this weekend, at least locally, it was the Nintendo Wii. One of my coworkers stood in line and was one of 18 people to get a Wii and as he was relating some of the games he played with his son, one of them struck a memory of my time in the Philippines. Here it is.

My wife, mother-in-law and aunt were off getting makeovers and I was charged with keeping track of my wife's younger brother and a cousin, both teenagers. Actually since I was in a foreign land, in a shopping mall completely full of people, they were probably keeping me out of trouble. We walked around a bit but it was getting tiresome keeping an eye on the young boys waiting to pick pocket me as soon as I let my guard down. They followed us from floor to floor in the giant mall and would creep closer or back depending on whether or not I was looking in their direction. I needed a place to relax with my back to the wall so when we came to an arcade, I suggested we go inside.

I gave the teens some pesos and found a nice place against a wall next to some arcade-like game called Dance Dance Revolution. The object seemed to be that you danced to music while watching a screen that dictated your steps on a multicolored mat. Judging by the long line of people waiting their turn, it must have been really popular. The current occupants, two teenaged girls were really moving right along. They were able to dance for another few minutes before they finally committed one too many mistakes and ended the game.

The next gamer stepped up onto the platform. He was a man in his 30's and beanpole thin. He took off his backpack and set it on top of the game. He pulled a bandana out of his pocket and carefully tied it around his forehead. He flexed this way and that for a minute limbering up as if he was about to complete a life or death event and needed every muscle to survive. He plugged the machine with a few pesos, the music began and he started his dance.

At first his feet seemed burdensome slow as they made the required moves, but gradually as he passed various levels they began to pick up the pace. After ten minutes, he had surpassed the teenage girls' score judging by the pace and a sheen of sweat was starting to show. Others like me must have realized that this was the real deal and were stopping to watch the man who was focused only on the screen in front of him. Fifteen minutes passed, then twenty and the man was still dancing, feet now a blur and sweat starting to fly off in sprays accentuated by the bright arcade lights. Suddenly I was picturing Kevin Bacon in the big dance sequence in the movie Footloose.

By the time he reached the half hour mark, I was sure I was witnessing the first meld between human and machine. I could no longer see the feet which were just a blur and I wasn't sure that even a mind could think that fast even if just sending some signal like registering pain after touching something hot. Sweat was now pouring off the man in rivers and even the bystanders were now taking care to step back out of range. The man's arms were now holding himself up using the railing behind him for support as if to help his lower extremities in their quest to reach light speed and the music now sounded like carnival music played at high speed.

At thirty-five minutes, I could see that the guy was almost done for. Not because he was making mistakes because he wasn't. No his breathing was now coming in ragged gasps and I knew that he must be getting close to dehydration. Almost as soon as I thought this, the man just stopped. The machine buzzed him with each of his allotted mistakes as he just stood there trying to catch his breath. Finally the machine declared that too many mistakes had been committed and took him to the scoring. He was the high score and as he signed in, I saw that all the previous five highest scores were also with his initials. He removed his bandana, put it in his pack, shouldered it and walked out into the mall proper leaving a trail of sweat as he went. The man had been a machine. He was a one man dance revolution.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Little Abbey Update

Well I don't have any post completed for today so I thought I would just do a quick Little Abbey update today on her six month birthday. My how time flies!

Recently, actually yesterday, she developed two new skills that probably won't win her many boyfriends if she retains them. She can purse her lips now and blow loud raspberries several seconds long and keep doing it for ten minutes or better before she tires out. I don't know where she picked that skill up but it wasn't from me. The second skill is sticking out her tongue and this one I have to plead guilty to teaching her since I stick my tongue out at her all the time. She hasn't mastered sticking out her tongue and blowing raspberries yet which would be a useful skill when the time comes. ;)

Her feeding it going well and she is eating a third cup of solid food twice a day and sometimes as much as a half cup twice a day if it is something she likes. Those likes include applesauce, peaches and amazingly squash. Her dislike is plain oatmeal of which I was able to feed her perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon total. The rest ended up all over her face clothes and even me. I don't blame her. Who likes plain oatmeal? We also feed her scraps of whatever we are eating as long as it isn't meat (which the pediatrician recommended not feeding her yet) or something bound to cause gas. Once she was so excited to eat our enchiladas that violated both those rules, we gave her some cheerios. She ate the first half dozen or so fine and enjoyed them but choked a little on the the last one. We decided to wait a month or so more on those.

Little Abbey is rolling over quite frequently and easily now. This is good and bad. Good because she gets a lot more tummy time now if she starts it. I would guess she probably gets a half hour on my shift and who knows how much at Mrs. Z's place. The bad news is that she sometimes gets her arm hung up which prevents her from rolling back onto her back and meaning I have to come rescue her only to have her do the same thing again five minutes later.

She is getting closer to sitting all the time and we practice it every evening. She likes being higher and seeing all her kingdom of toys spread out before her but just can't quite hold her upper torso up yet. She needs to strengthen those biceps just a little more.

We've been thinking she has been on the verge of sprouting a tooth for a month now. You can see them pressing against the gum and she is drooling and chewing on things like crazy but a tooth has yet to emerge. I suppose I shouldn't be too anxious as this could mean many sleepless nights looking after a baby in pain.

Today is her birthday and I've made a pineapple upside down cake for the celebration. To top it off, my company is having a Christmas party for all the children of the employees this afternoon so she will get to go to that as well. It should be an exciting time. I still can't believe half a year has gone by already! I only have 35 more half years before she goes to college!

She has a pile of toys given to her as gifts and yet she has a new favorite toy. Just give her a newspaper or piece of paper and she is good to go for an hour. However, this needs to be done with a pacifier in the mouth. Once I turned my back and she spit her pacifier out and starting chewing on a newspaper. When I looked back, she had ink all over her hands and face. Yuck! Fortunately, it didn't appear that she ingested too much and I won't worry unless she starts pooping in sentences!

Her demand for the pacifier is much less these days. In the evenings, she probably has her pacifier in less than a third of the time and rarely sleeps with it in. She starts bed time with it in but always seems to spit it out in a couple minutes as she drifts off to sleep. I'm hoping that she is weaning herself from them.

Finally, her desire to talk seems to have waned. She is much more interested in whats for dinner or chewing on some toy than talking to me. She still squeals and occasionally babbles but hasn't yet started mimicing us which is one of her next milestones. She also chortles but hasn't yet given a full blown tummy rolling laugh yet.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Baby In Your Pack Is Worth How Much?

One of our family traditions over Thanksgiving is to have a weenie roast down by the Buffalo River. From the cabin, it is about five miles of rugged hiking down a mountain some 1500 feet in elevation to the confluence of the Buffalo with Sneed's Creek. From there, we typically hike a ways up Sneed's to get off the beaten path. This year, we had somebody new to join in on the fun… Little Abbey.

One of the baby shower gifts given to us from my parents was a specialized backpack for carrying infants and toddlers. Little Abbey had only been on short walks around town in her stroller on pavement and I had never attempted to carry a baby down or up a mountain so it was a new experience for both of us. We carefully slid Little Abbey into her seat and I got the backpack onto my shoulders and cinched the various belts. Once adjusted, Little Abbey's head sat about six inches above my head making her over six and a half feet in the air and giving her a panoramic view. She seemed to like it.

The hike down to the river went smoothly and easily as most downhill hikes tend to go. Little Abbey got a little cranky the last couple hundred feet but that was because she was hungry. A small stick fire was started and soon weenies were being roasted while Isabelle ate right from the 'tap' with Mrs. Abbey. Although the day was mostly overcast, the temperatures were near 70 degrees in the valley and perfect for a weenie roast.

After the weenies were roasted, the potato chips munched and the sodas drank, we loaded up and began the five mile slog uphill to the cabin. We hadn't gone far when Little Abbey started complaining, letting us know that she was tired of sitting in her backpack. We tried making her more comfortable and then just kept going hoping she would fall asleep but our efforts didn't pay off. Little Abbey couldn't sleep in a bouncing, bobbing backpack and I couldn't blame her. So we went to plan B, which Mrs. Abbey had thankfully planned for. She strapped on another contraption like a kangaroo pouch that rests on her stomach and relies only on shoulder straps. Anyone who has carried much weight backpacking knows that it is much more desirable to distribute the load on the hips and not the shoulder but with three and a half miles left to go and a baby that obviously wasn't going to be happy in my pack, we didn't have much choice. So my wife took Little Abbey, who instantly fell asleep in the kangaroo pouch, I shouldered my wife's pack on top of my pack and off we went.

When Little Abbey woke up, we decided to switch rides again to give my wife's shoulders a rest. But less than a mile later, we ended up switching back. Little Abbey didn't want anything more of that pack. My wife and I slowly walked back up the mountain taking our time for breathers and trying to keep Little Abbey entertained because now she was starting to complain about her kangaroo pouch too. So much so, that the last couple hundred yards, Grandma ended up carrying Little Abbey in her arms.

All in all, everyone made it back safe and sound and more than worked off the hotdog calories eaten down by the river. We were perhaps a little aggressive in trying a ten-mile hike right off the bat with Little Abbey but we learned. I think had she been a couple months older, she would have been able to sleep and thus enjoy that pack more than she did. Plus we learned a lesson. If we are going to tote Little Abbey in the pack next year at 18 months of age or the year after at 30 months, I'm going to have to get in better shape.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thursday Is a Day For Thanks and Friday a Day For Giving

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks and for my family, a time to give back. As I have blogged about in the past, we cut firewood for a widowed lady who is a friend of our family to help her heat her house through another Arkansas winter. Also, because her driveway is three miles of torturous winding two track through a hardwood forest, trees occasionally fall across the driveway blocking it and by cutting them down for firewood, we do a preemptive strike in preventing it.

So on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we loaded up my brother's pickup with mauls, wedges, chainsaws and a picnic lunch and drove over to her place. We started off the day by doing odd chores around the house such as cleaning the chimney, installing a clothes washer and working on her truck that wouldn't start. After a lunch of leftover turkey sandwiches, we set out up the driveway to cut a half cord of wood to stack and dry for use in the following winter. Because the temperatures were in the 70's and very mild, even Little Abbey joined us in her three wheeled off-road baby stroller that my wife nabbed for $15 at a local garage sale.

Most years, the dead trees are fairly small in diameter having succumbed to some tree borne disease or another. However, last year we had cut several large trees that were dead and left unattended, would have fallen across the driveway. Because we had enough wood cut last year (for this year), we just cut them down and left them. However, due to a mild winter and a dry summer in that part of the country, the wood was remarkably still well preserved and so we set about finishing the task left undone.

My brother who teaches classes on chainsaw use and is certified to use them as a forest fire fighter, usually does most of the technical work and my father who isn't as youthful as he once was does most of the rest of the log dicing into smaller pieces. My job usually ends up splitting up the larger pieces into burnable chunks. With a smaller tree, this usually means just a couple dozen lengths need to be split but with the larger trees this year, it was every length.

A new boyfriend of the widow also came along and helped me with the splitting but it was a long process. When I start splitting wood, I have to work hard to pace myself and not go to fast at the beginning in order to keep up a steady pace. By the end of the day, it was hard in finding enough energy to keep going at all. It doesn't take long to get into that zone of hoisting, swinging and splitting the log. Soon, muscles are limbered up and everything is going along smoothly. When you can look up from your work on a sunny day and see mountains unfold around you for ten miles, full of streams and more trees, work becomes a relative term.

'Grandma' and my wife took turns watching over Little Abbey from a distance but it wasn't much trouble at all. Little Abbey was perfectly content to sit in her blue off roading stroller and watch the trees fall to the forest floor to be consumed by chainsaws and splitting mauls. For five hours, she complained not once and it seemed only with reluctance did she allow her diaper to be changed or to eat more of mother's milk.

As the sun started going down, we had all but a couple trees down near the house cut up and safely stacked away for future winters. We drove back down the mountain to the house and a half hour later, had even the remaining trees threatening to fall into the house removed and neatly stacked up. Our job of charity was done for another year. With back, shoulder and chest muscles now tired and pleasantly strained, it felt good to ease on into the widow's house where a pot of chili and pan of jalapeño cornbread awaited us. We cut up the wood as a way of giving back but if payment had been required, that chili and cornbread would have been payment enough.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Little Abbey Update

Enough about politics for awhile, how about a Little Abbey update instead?

Little Abbey's Godmother visited last weekend and took one look at a delighted baby before saying matter of factly that she was teething. What? She pointed out the "teeth buds" already forming on her lower gum. I guess that explains the excessive drooling of late.

Also this past week, I was playing with Little Abbey one afternoon waiting for mom to get home from work and I had to go upstairs to get something. I left Little Abbey lying on her back on a blanket in our living room and when I got back a couple minutes later she was still on the blanket but on her stomach. She was looking around with this "what just happened" look on her face. She officially rolled over from her back to front, a baby milestone and one that I missed. So I was trying to get Little Abbey to repeat the feat later on in mother's presence but she wasn't cooperating. I turner her onto her stomach for some tummy time and went into the kitchen to wash baby bottles. About a minute later my wife squealed and I discovered that Little Abbey had rolled from tummy to back, yet another baby milestone and another one that I missed.

Finally I am able to start leaving her to play while I get housework done in the evenings before my wife gets home and this is truly a blessing. She loves her bouncer and crib with all the dangling toys overhead and miscellaneous toys beside her but she still prefers just lying on a blanket (we have hardwood floors) and playing with a select few toys. Her favorite toys are a stuffed turtle that makes a crinkly noise when touched, a stuffed Piglet that sings "Old MacDonald's Farm" and a rattle. All those might soon be replaced thanks to a stuffed duck sent to her by a doting uncle that is a puppet. When I squeeze the beak together, it quacks out three different songs to whatever beat I keep squeezing too. It never fails to bring out the silent laughter in her.

Other than a few chortles now and then, she hasn't busted a gut laughing yet. I long to hear the sound of her laughter and pray that it isn't anything like Janice from Seinfeld. I play a tickle game with her now and then that amuses her greatly but other than loud squeals and that silent open mouthed giggle, no laughter escapes. It will come in due time and I can't wait.

However, it could be like her talking which might not be a good thing. She talks a blue streak in her babbling tongue quite often during the day and occasionally in the middle of the night. I've managed to perfect being able to sleep while she is talking but I'm not sure I could do the same with her laughter.

When "we" were pregnant, our goal was to breastfeed for at least six months and that is rapidly approaching and is definitely going to be attainable. For awhile, it was touch and go because milk production wasn't keeping up with demand and we were trying to find a substitute that agreed with Little Abbey. Our pediatrician gave us the okay at our four-month checkup to begin feeding her solid foods and since that time, demand for milk has stayed steady while demand for food has increased. We have developed a routine where she gets fed twice a day (with solid food) and that seems to work well. In the morning she gets rice mush straight up with no added milk. She seems to like it better the thicker it is. In the early evenings, I will feed her either a fruit or a vegetable that has been cooked (if needed) and blended into a thick paste. We alternate fruits and vegetables and feed her the same thing for a week. Carrots were first but definitely not a favorite of hers followed by bananas that she was okay with and homegrown peas from our garden. Currently it is applesauce and that is definitely a big hit. As her grandmother says, she looks like a hungry shark snarfing down her applesauce. She eats about a third of a cup of rice and a third of a cup of whatever I feed her and that seems to prolong the next bottle for awhile. Per the pediatrician's recommendation, we have been trying to get her to drink from a sippy cup of water during solid food meals but she hasn't quite mastered the sipping part. In order to get her used to the idea, I remove the spill proof valve and gently pour some into her mouth. She really likes having some water after her meal.

Two things happen when you start feeding lots of solids to a baby I've discovered. The poop more regularly (and solidly) and good Lord does it smell. Fortunately for me and my gag reflex, her schedule seems to be in the morning at Mrs. Z's house and on the weekends, my wife takes care of it. I'm a lucky man in that respect.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable developments is Little Abbey's awareness of her surroundings. She is getting pretty good at zeroing in on somebody talking and cranes her neck, arches her back and turns onto her side so that she can see them. I've seen her playing contently away and she will crane her head to one side just to check if we are still around. Gratifying to know she misses us.

All in all, she seems like she is a happy and contented baby. All of us have gotten through this first cycle of colds and are once again healthy. She is growing like crazy and her feet now stick out of her car seat. Unofficially she is close to 27 inches in length and weighs around 16 pounds. Her hair is also really starting to grow now and I know mom is just counting the days until ribbons can be employed. We are currently using 6 to 9 month clothing but it is starting to get too short so soon we are going to have to break out the 9 to 12 month clothing. We went to the store a couple weeks ago and for the first time we actually had to buy some clothes for her. All the rest have been courtesy of others through showers, just getting rid of because they don't need them anymore, or garage sale stuff.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Seining For Lunkers

The dry summer reduced most of the farm ponds to the status of deep puddles and now an oncoming cold front threatened to freeze them solid. One in particular held some large bass that would be nice to catch at a later and warmer date and thus we devised a plan around the kitchen table to save the day. Plans always seem pretty simple around a kitchen table and never quite end up that way.

We made a few calls and located a seine that a neighbor had. Upon picking it up we discovered that it was in need of much repair and so the first task was mending the net. Inside the warmth of the house, it wouldn't take long but because the net smelled like fish and pond scum, the lee side of the shop was the second best place for the task even if it was nearly 40 degrees colder. Our fingers quickly turned into frozen fish sticks as we did the mending, dropping the end of a string here, failing to tie the proper knot there but after an eternity, it was mended to the point where there weren't too many holes for the fish to escape. At least the big ones anyway.

We loaded the net and every available bucket, barrel and container that we could find into the back of the farm truck, scrunched in and headed for the pond two miles away down the gravel road. Once there, we backed the truck up to the bank of one side of the pond, unloaded all the gear except the buckets and then backed the truck up to the far side of the pond. With my father on one side and me on the other, we picked up our respective ends of the net and drug it to the waters edge.

Ponds, especially older ponds tend to silt in with time as dirt from neighboring fields is brought with the intense spring rains. Thus around the edges, the water tends to be shallow for quite a ways meaning that for every inch of water that lowers, 12 inches of new and very muddy shoreline might be exposed. In this pond, that meant about ten feet of fresh, thick, Edina clay sludge ringed the pond and to maintain proper control of the net, we were going to have to slog through it where the water met the mud.

Over the next couple hours, the process was basically the same. Extract one foot now sunk 18 inches deep in the stickiest gumbo ever seen without your boot coming off and move it one pace forward, all the while with your full body weight on the rear foot miring it even deeper. Once both feet were planted, we would heave the net another foot through the water and begin again. It was a slow process.

As we neared the far bank, the water began to boil here and there giving us strength in the knowledge that we were actually catching some fish. We extracted ourselves to higher and dryer ground and with a big heave, pulled the net clear of the water. What we saw took all our breath away.

Because the water had been shallow for most of the summer, food had been at a premium and the fish had survived off their own kind. Big fish ate little fish and only huge fish remained. In our nets were perhaps two hundred fish, half of which were bullheads about 12 to 14 inches in length, a quarter were bluegills also a foot in length and a couple inches in width and the rest were bass 18 to 24 inches in length and weighing in at 4 to 5 pounds apiece! These weren't just big fish, these were monster fish!

We quickly loaded up the bass first which easily filled all our buckets. For the bluegills we created a water coral of sorts with the seine in a corner of the pond and tossed them back. The bullheads were left flopping on the shore. We quickly drove over to another deeper pond a mile away and began the task of relocating the monster bass.

Fish are more delicate creatures in cold water and exhaust easily. Left on their own, they would float belly up and die, too tired to swim and get water moving around their gills. So one by one, my father, mother, brother and I would hold the large bass underneath the water and move them gently forwards and backwards getting vital oxygen into their gills. Just when you thought your hand would go numb in the cold water, the bass would give its tail a mighty thrash and streak off into the murky depths of the pond. Out of the fifty monster bass that we brought over, only one couldn't be revived.

We made another trip for the bluegills and being a more hardy fish, we merely dumped them into the pond by the buckets full. A third trip was made for the bullheads that were still thrashing about on the shores. Bullheads are considered a nuisance fish and not desired in farm ponds so we didn't transport them. Instead, we took all 100 bullheads home and skinned them in one of the outbuildings where the cats could clean up any dropped scraps. All winter long, we had fish fries and generally agreed that it had all been worth it.

The pond where we relocated the monster bass and bluegills too had for the most part been a sterile pond. It had a few bluegills, channel catfish and snapping turtles in it but nothing that thrived. Within a couple years, it was teaming with a thriving bass population. During the summer, I liked nothing better than to sneak over with a pole and a four-inch triple jointed Rapala and lay it out on top of the summer moss that covered the surface. After a minute or two, there would be a huge splash as a large bass cleared the water after having downed the lure in one swallow. Setting the hook, I would fight him into shore along with ten pounds of moss and land him.

There is no greater joy than landing a real lunker of a bass, which is why I always threw them back into the pond. They were bigger and had been around longer and thus more likely to not be as tasty as their younger counterparts. Their fillets had to be cut in half in order to even fit a large skillet and I just didn't have the heart to kill something that I had saved a year or two before. Besides, it was always great to see the face of a friend latch onto one of these large fish not knowing that they even existed. However, I never went home empty handed, because if I fished long enough, I would catch a smaller pan sized fish or two to take home and enjoy with a mess of fried potatoes. Being a fish savior never tasted so good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Little Abbey Update

I haven't done a Little Abbey update in awhile so here it is in no particular order:

1. She has really begun to develop the gift of gab and entertains herself with her talking. If I leave her temporarily in another room to take drying contacts out of my eyes or to change into more comfortable clothes, I can hear her squeals and coos. Last night after feeding her a bottle at 3:30, (she hasn't quite adapted to the time change) she talked to herself for about 15 minutes before falling asleep again. Makes going to sleep myself a little more difficult when I have a baby monitor right next to my bed.

2. She is permanently a client of Mrs. Z. If you recall, Mrs. Z just took her on a temporary basis until her promised baby client is born and the mother's maternity leave was over. That would be Monday of next week. Mrs. Z said that Little Abbey is such a good and easy baby to take care of, she wants to keep looking after her. I don't know how she does it but she does a good job and we couldn't be happier to hear the news.

3. We've been supplementing Little Abbey's diet with solid foods for a month now and everything is going great. She loves her rice the best and gets impatient when you don't feed it to her fast enough which means I really have to shovel it in. I surprised mom by grinding up carrots and feeding her once only to learn that you should really cook the carrots first. I found all the carrots later in the diaper. Once I gave her some cooked carrots, she liked them all right but not like the rice. Next we fed her bananas, which is where I learn that if you blend up bananas, the next day they will resemble a black sludge. Always use fresh bananas. The following week was peas, which were again greeted with luke warm enthusiasm. Last night I gave her a piece of a pancit noodle that she liked because I had to stop eating and feed her some rice before resuming my meal.

4. We tried supplementing Little Abbey's milk with soymilk since we determined earlier that she might be lactose intolerant. She seemed to not mind those and so a few weeks ago, we gave her a bottle of pure soymilk while out at a restaurant 60 miles from home. Later when we got home and she had another bottle of breast milk, she threw up all over me while I was holding her. I took a shower while my wife gave Little Abbey a bath. My wife then attempted to feed her some more breast milk only to have Little Abbey throw up all over her so she took a shower while I cleaned up Little Abbey, floor and couch. (Thank god for leather furniture and hardwood floors!) We marked it off as a product of having a cold, which Little Abbey did at the time. This past Sunday however, we fed her another bottle of pure soymilk before going to church. I took Little Abbey down to the basement before the service started to change a diaper and ended up holding a puking baby who wasn't in the best of moods. It wasn't pleasant. After the service, my very worried wife came down to rescue me so I could get cleaned up before we went back upstairs and headed home. Needless to say, soymilk is now off the menu for Little Abbey. Instead, we raided the frozen breast milk reserves for the first time.

5. Little Abbey has officially entered into the toy playing stage. She deliberately reaches for toys, plays with them and occasionally can swap them from hand to hand. She will stick every toy as far into her mouth as possible. I brought out the bouncer with overhead toy bar that Little Abbey initially thought was a torture device for her as late as a month ago and now she loves it. She will actually play with her toys until she falls asleep in it. She will play with the blue rattling pig with one hand and stuff the stuffed elephant foot into her mouth with her right hand. If she isn't careful and goes to far, she gags herself. So between her crib that has always been a favorite, the bouncer and a blanket on the floor with a few of her toys, she can be entertained fairly easily.

6. Although she hasn't quite rolled over on her own yet, she is getting real close to getting up on her side. This is in part to her realization that if she hears something, she can turn her head and find the sound. Before, if it was out of direct sight, it was out of mind. So in order to get a better view of something, she will crane her head and push off the floor with her feet, rotating her body until she is very close to being on her side. Part of me wants her to not learn to roll so that she can still remain unattended while on high places like changing tables and beds but another part realizes that if she doesn't learn soon, she is going to retain a flat spot on the back of her still developing skull. We try to give her as much tummy time as possible but she seems to have regressed in this area. Where as before she could go twenty minutes or longer, now that she loves so many toys that are easier grasped when laying on her back, she only goes at most ten minutes on her stomach before getting growly.

7. Little Abbey has developed her identification skills quite a bit in this last month. She knows a pacifier (binky) is for her mouth and when she sees one, she opens her mouth to receive it. She also knows that a bottle of milk deserves the same response. When we are carrying her from one part of the house to another, she is always craning her head to see where we are going. If she hears my voice while her mom is holding her, she is craning her head around to find me. She doesn't do that for my wife much to her chagrin. Daddy's girl I guess. She also loves her turtle that makes noises and helix shaped rattle and will go for one of those first before any other toy.

8. She falls asleep much much easier these days and actually fell asleep while sitting on my wife's lap on evening. Before, she fought sleep thinking that her heavy eyes hurt for another reason causing her to thrash her head and hands around for fifteen or twenty minutes before falling asleep. Now, she just closes her eyes and drifts off. Again, this is huge in the amount of non-baby work I can get done around the house in the evenings.

9. Little Abbey seems to be going through another growth spurt and for the last week and a half, has been waking up once during the night. I usually get the midnight shift since my wife gets up earlier than me to pump her breasts for milk. Little Abbey will suck her bottle down in about five to ten minutes and goes right back to bed so it isn't too bad for me. But is still nice when she sleeps the whole night and I can't wait for that to come back again. She is growing like a weed and is getting really heavy and long. Some of our friends have a son that turned three that is only perhaps six inches taller than Little Abbey.

10. Little Abbey will officially be five months on Wednesday. Because the mother-in-law requires photographic proof that we celebrate the Filipino tradition of monthly birthdays until they are a year old, we celebrated on Sunday and took pictures that we will promptly forward to her on Wednesday. Our evenings as a family are just too short on weekdays to throw the required party to satisfy MIL. Even though Little Abbey is a squealer, I have a feeling that our secret will still be safe.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Honey War: Part Three

The problem of the Iowa/Missouri boundary in Van Buren County remained on the back burner until Iowa became a state in 1846 when it was again thrust into the forefront. In a surprising move, the Supreme Court in Missouri vs. Iowa 7 How. 660 (1849) sided with Iowa following Sullivan's line stating it was held that governments are bound by the practical line that has been established as their boundary, although not precisely a true one; and that as the United States before either of the States had been admitted into the Union and after Missouri had been admitted but while Iowa still remained a Territory, had recognized and adopted the line of a certain survey as the 'Indian boundary line' and was committed to that line as the boundary of Missouri, Iowa when admitted was bound by the recognition and adoption of that line by the United States, her predecessor, and could not be heard to disavow it as the boundary.

This didn't end it and in Missouri vs. Iowa 10 How. 1 (1851) a line was physically marked again with more permanent markers and again in Missouri vs. Iowa 160 U.S. 688 (1896) reaffirmed the boundary. The last squabble was in 1937 over the Half-Breed Tract, which was settled by Congress. Iowa's southern boundary thus remains to this day 4-1/2 degrees off from true east west due to Sullivan's declination error and had he not made the mistake, the part of my parents farm now on the border would be a full two miles into Iowa away from the Missouri border.

In researching this blog series on the Honey War, I happened across an old song (sang to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandee) written by John L. Campbell and obviously sung by the whiskey filled Missouri militia.

Ye freemen of this happy land,
Which flows with milk and honey,
Arise! To arms! Your ponies mount!
Regard not blood or money.

Old Governor Lucas, tiger-like,
Is prowling round our borders,
But Governor Boggs is wide awake-
Just to listen to his orders:

Three bee trees stand about the line
Between our state and Lucas.
Be ready all these trees to fall
And bring things to a focus.

We'll show old Lucas how to brag,
And seize our precious honey!
He also claims, I understand,
Of us three bits in money.

Conventions, boys, now let us hold
Our honey trade demands it!
Likewise the three-bits, all in gold,
We all misunderstand it!

Why shed our brother's blood in haste,
Because "big men" require it.
Be not in haste our blood to waste,
No prudent men desire it.

Now, if the Governors want to fight,
Just let them meet in person.
And when noble Boggs old Lucas flogs,
T'will teach the scamp a lesson.

Then let the victor cut the trees,
And have three-bits in money.
And wear a crown from town to town,
Anointed with pure honey.

And then no widows will be made,
No orphans unprotected.
Old Lucas will be nicely flogged,
And from our line ejected.

Our honey trade will then be laid
Upon a solid basis,
And Governor Boggs, where 'er he jogs,
Will meet with smiling faces.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Honey War: Part Two

Wild honeybees abounded in southeast Iowa in the largely forested areas. The plentiful hardwood trees provided plenty of hollowed trunks for bees to settle into and do what they do best, produce honey. In the 1800's before cultivating bees was more widely accepted, farmers would chop down these honey filled trees to harvest the honey for personal consumption and perhaps a little extra income. As time progressed, people learn how to cultivate bees so that they produced more honey and it required a lot less work to access. As a bonus, the bees stayed put year after year as long as their food needs were met instead of migrating from a chopped down tree to another standing hollowed out tree.

In the early 1980's, my father decided that he wanted to harvest some honey from the hive of bees that my grandfather had on his farmstead but had neglected for the last decade or so. My parents soon turned this interest into a small hobby and quickly expanded it into a full-blown business. Within a few years of purchasing established colonies and trapping the plentiful swarms of bees, they had almost 150 colonies and were selling honey by the 55-gallon drum full. As the 80's progressed, the farming industry radically changed and farmers either got big or got out. My parents got big and couldn't sustain the honey business that had a busy season that coincided with fall harvest. In the late 80's they sold the business and as it turned out, not a moment too soon. The following year, mites that killed off about 90% of the native honeybees invaded our part of Iowa.

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So with Brown having determined the location of the "official" northern boundary of Missouri, the Governor of Missouri named Boggs decided that it was high time that "their" land contributed to the tax base and sent out agents from Kahoka. The residents of this area considered themselves Iowans and didn't take too kindly when Missouri tax collectors showed up at their door and chased away the revenuers with pitchforks and clubs. Not wanting to go home empty handed, the collectors chopped down three bee trees, which were plentiful in this thickly forested disputed land and extracted the honey, worth at that time $0.37 per gallon, as partial payment for the taxes.

Governor Boggs didn't give up and next sent in the sheriff of Clark County Missouri, Uriah (Sandy) Gregory to collect taxes on, among other things, bee trees. He was met by a group of 1200 angry "Iowans" who gave him a choice, go home or else. Sheriff Gregory prudently went back south where he stopped to compose a letter to Boggs stating, "I am at a loss what to do the Citizens of that territory two-thirds of which is hostile to the officer and declare if I pretend to use any authority which I am invested by the State of Missouri, they will take me by fourse and put me in confinement." Governor Boggs ignored the letter ordering Boggs back in to collect those taxes and the Iowans proved good on their threat and arrested the Sheriff. He was confined in Burlington but was allowed to roam around town as long as he didn't leave to go back home. He later said he was treated well and enjoyed his enforced vacation that relieved him of having to solve the problem.

While Sheriff Gregory was "locked" up in Burlington in December of 1839, an angered Missouri Governor Boggs ordered up the state militia and sent them north to the border. Iowa Territorial Governor Robert Lucas responded in kind by calling up his state militia (the first use of the Iowa National Guard) and ordered them to the border. Both sides began to arm for battle with what available weapons were had including everything from rifles to pitchforks and in one reported case on the Missouri side, a sausage stuffer. (Perhaps an early torture device?) On both sides, plenty of whiskey was passed out and it is said that a Missouri supply convoy of six wagons contained five filled completely with booze. Both sides spent two nights camped out in the cold and snow, drinking their booze and waiting for the order to attack. It never came.

Fortunately, Governor Lucas wisely contacted Governor Boggs and while the two militias stood (or staggered) on each side of the border eyeing each other up, the two men agreed to allow the U.S. Congress resolve the dispute. Sheriff Gregory was released and Missouri tax officials were instructed to refrain from collecting taxes or chopping down any more bee trees until an official resolution was found. An arbitrary line was drawn between the two disputed lines extending southwest until it reached the same latitude as the old Sullivan line past the disputes "honey land" region and then went straight west to the Missouri River. Both governors ordered back their militias. The militias weren't happy at this news and wanted something to shoot. So they shot a deer, split it in half and labeled one half Governor Lucas and the other half Governor Boggs. The promptly shot both halves full of holes, held a mock funeral, and beat a rowdy retreat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Honey War: Part One

Much of my parent's farm is on the present day Iowa-Missouri border. In fact, tucked away in a fencerow of Bois D'arc trees, is a buried concrete pillar with a bronze emblem embedded in the top delineating the Iowa-Missouri border. These concrete markers were sunk in our border every ten miles and are quite rare these days due to "collectors" who have pillaged them. But the reason these markers existed was due to a long ago war that was "fought" on my parent's and other neighboring farms in what has come to be called "The Honey War."

In 1834, Van Buren County Iowa was part of the Michigan Territory, which had a southern boundary that was designated as "Missouri's northern boundary." Missouri which had become a state in 1820 had stated in it's constitution that the state boundaries were as follows, "Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence west, along that parallel of latitude, to the St. Francis River; thence up and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west along the same to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River; thence from the point aforesaid, north, along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the river Des Moines (emphasis mine), making the said line to correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said river Des Moines; thence down and along the middle of the main channel of the said river Des Moines, to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence due east to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning."

Then in 1836, this part of Iowa became part of Wisconsin Territory and then in 1838, the southwestern part west of the Mississippi River became known as Iowa Territory. So as Iowa inched closer to becoming a state, new focus was put on finding a more exact description of the border. Previously, a man by the name of J.C. Sullivan in 1816 had set out to delineate the space between the Osage Indians and the then Missouri Territory. He started on the western boundary and worked in an easterly direction but made a crucial mistake. He forgot or was unaware of magnetic declination, which in our area is approximately 4-1/2 degrees from true north and his "straight" line ended up about three miles north of where he should have been by the time he reached eastern Iowa.

Because Sullivan marked his "line" with mounds of dirt and slashing trees, these had all but disappeared by the late 30's when the border was being disputed. So in 1837, Missouri commissioned Joseph Brown to re-survey the land. Unknowingly, Brown also committed a big mistake when he started in the east. The Des Moines rapids referred to in the Missouri constitution actually refers to a rapid on the Mississippi river just above where the Des Moines River empties into it as was referred to by people who plied the Mississippi River in boats and by locals living nearby. Brown was neither a boatsman or a local and thus didn't know this before he began a journey up the Des Moines River to locate the rapids, going all the way to the present location of the county seat of Van Buren County, Keosauqua where a small riffle exists in low water. The new Brown line was conveniently 13 miles north of the Sullivan line, which added another 2600 square miles of land to Missouri. In 1838, the Missouri legislature declared that their northern boundary was the Brown line and ordered its officers to perform official duties in the strip of land between the two lines, which as we will later see included collecting taxes.

As a side note of interest, the southern boundary of Iowa isn't a straight line and a portion of Iowa east of the Des Moines River and west of the Mississippi River juts into present day Missouri. This portion of land was never in contention and the Brown and Sullivan lines only went from the western border to the Des Moines River. The reason is that this triangle of land between Sullivan's line and the two rivers was called the Half-Breed Tract and was set-aside for those of mixed race in 1824. That lasted for a decade before speculators rushed in and scooped up the land and nine years later after everything was sorted out, there was none left for any half-breeds. The Sullivan line is still used today to divide Lee County land administration between the two county seats at Keokuk and Fort Madison.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Harvest Moon

The harvest moon, one day past full, hangs heavily in the eastern sky as I left the confines of the soft yellow light spilling from the kitchen windows of the farmhouse and walked down the gravel driveway to the shop. The air, though cooler, was not yet the crisp fall air that would arrive in another week but it was still refreshing. The smell of cornstalks stripped of their bounty, still filled the air with their earthy aroma. The dryer fan cooling down a batch of corn in the grain bins on the northwest corner of the farmstead kicks in as heated gas is added to the mix. The collection of deer antlers lodged in the lower branches of the Chinese elm tree seemingly glow a ghostly white.

When I got to the shop, I quietly stepped into the darkness through the side door and made my way to the center of the large sliding doors. I've been away from the farm fifteen years and I still know exactly how many steps it takes me to reach that spot and slip the catch chain off the rod. I couldn't tell you an actual number but I know when I get there. I grab the handle and push the south door open, again instinctively pushing harder the last three feet where the door opens harder. Moonlight fills half of the shop bay so I don't have to rely on instinct to find the north door and slide it open. Before I head back towards the farmhouse, I walk over to the side door and reluctantly flip on the overhead lights so that my father can see to pull the combine inside for the evening. It's a little tighter fit than myself so he can't rely on instinct alone.

Halfway back to the house I pause, caught in a world of darkness between two lighted ones. The large doors of the shop cast their light out towards me but fell short, the farmhouse kitchen lights also reached out invitingly but were a long way from reaching me. Only the moon with its soft blue light made it to where I stood but unlike the other too lights with siren's song-like properties, the light of the moon seemed to tell a story. It was the story of the ongoing harvest, one that I know all to well.

The weather in this part of Iowa had been favorable for crops and post pollination estimates looked bountiful. But farmers know that you can't count your eggs before they are hatched and you can't count the grain until it is safely stored in bins and cooled down for long term storage. So when a windstorm arrived a month before harvest and blew a half mile wide swath through that part of the county laying down 400 acres of my parents corn on the ground and leaving another 400 acres at a rakish angle, they knew they were going to have to work a little harder before they could count their eggs.

Farmers are a tough breed of folks and don't complain much. Complaining never brought the crops in. Instead, they do what they have too. Harvest is now almost a month old and last week, my parents finally got through the 400 worst acres of corn averaging about 20 acres a day, a day being about sixteen hours long. Normally they could get through 100 acres a day but then normally the corn was standing upright in long orderly rows. It shows on their faces and in their postures and I wish I could shoulder some of the burden but my life has taken me down a different road. Instead, I just do what I can when I can to lighten that burden even if just for an hour once a week.

The gas kicks out on the dryer fan and I take one last look at the worn harvest moon, the same moon shining over a combine five miles away in a blown down field of corn trying to pull the stalks up enough to strip them of their ears of corn. I surrender to the glow of the kitchen lights and go inside the farmhouse to start supper, still probably an hour from being eaten by the time the combine and tractors are fueled and parked for the night and already later than most bedtimes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lucky Little Abbey and 13 Things To Update You On

Are you sure your daughter isn't of Amazonian origin the doctor asked in my mind when he told us that are daughter at 26 inches in length, was off their height charts for her age. Since their charts only go up to the 95th percentile, he wrote her down at 95th plus percentile. Her weight at 14 pounds 2 ounces is only in the 70th percentile so I guess as an Amazonian, she is skinny.

We have successfully made it through our four month vaccinations and checkup and I felt it time for another update to my general reading audience. The vaccinations occurred on Tuesday and as of my writing this on Thursday, she is still suffering from a low-grade fever and general malaise. It always sucks to take a perfectly happy baby into the county health office and end up with a baby you don't recognize for two to three days afterwards. In between doses of Tylenol when it is working, she is herself, but then the pain kicks in and it is hard to console her. I get by telling myself that it is temporary and it seems like after the shots have worked their course, a large transformation takes place and what emerges was even more beautiful than the one before.

We schedule her checkup the day after her shots so that should a reaction occur, we already have an appointment. Fortunately she has had no adverse reaction other than the fever either time. The checkup went well although Little Abbey cried the entire time she wasn't in our arms. She was declared a healthy baby other than the cold she has been suffering through for the last week and we were given a whole laundry list of things to do in the next couple months starting immediately. They are:

1. Start feeding her pureed vegetables and fruits along with her rice cereal via spoon. No bottle mixes of milk and cereal are allowed. We should also use a sippee cup of water during her solid food intake.
2. Keep reading to her especially books with bright colorful pictures as her eyesight is remarkably better now.
3. Remove her from the exer-saucer until she is able to crawl and sit on her own. The doctor said that a baby who spends time in an exer-saucer gets used to sitting up all the time and won't lie down as well for naps. I don't know if we will go cold turkey but we may limit her time in the exer-saucer to fifteen minutes or less a day.
4. At this stage of her development, we should be at her maximum for amount of milk needed to grow. She will require increasing amounts of nutrients but those should come from increasing amounts of solid foods while her milk consumption stays the same.

Most of the rest of the things we talked about were things that we already do or she has already done. Some of those are:

5. Little Abbey is a babbler and talks a lot, even to herself while in the crib or up in the bedroom after a nap. I'll walk in and she will be babbling away. At this stage she has already discovered that by moving her mouth and tongue she can make different sounds and according to the doctor she will soon be in the mimic stage where she watches our mouth movements and sounds and tries to copy them. I'm not someone who curses so watching what I say shouldn't be too big of an issue.
6. Soon she should be able to roll from her front to her back. Little Abbey has shown little inclination to do this but she is fairly close to rolling from her back to her side. She gets her feet underneath her and can lift her entire but in the air causing her to scoot backwards a little bit. She even twists her hips but her upper torso has yet learned to twist with the hips to roll over. I have a feeling it won't be too much longer.
7. She is doing well with her tummy time as long as a good television program is on that keeps her attention. Her neck muscles are really strengthening now and it is becoming hard to feed her or wipe her face because of the moving target thing.
8. She has gotten to where she prefers to be sitting propped up or laying down by herself over being held. This allows us more time to get other things done but already I miss the days of holding her in my arms while she slept for hours. Now if I get the chance to hold her while she sleeps, I need to prop my arms up on something less after fifteen minutes they disconnect from my shoulders due to her weight.
9. She loves her rice porridge. We tried thinning it down with breast milk at first like the books says but she didn't like it that way. If we leave it thick like an applesauce, she just loves it and cries out if we are too slow in feeding her more. She will eat about a half cup of rice porridge once a day and seems to look forward to it.
10. Already since we started the porridge, she had developed a new fascination with watching us eat. With her in a high chair at home or in her car seat when out in a restaurant, we now have about a half hour of relaxation before she will get bored. Much better than a couple months ago when I would shovel my food in as fast as possible so that I could take over entertaining Little Abbey while my wife ate.
11. Although some of her motions are still reflex, she has good enough control now to grab objects and insert them into her mouth. She sucks on everything in site from her own clothes, to whatever toy that might be lying nearby. When I put her in the crib with all her various toys arranged, I'll wind up the mobile and five minutes later when it runs down, the crib will be completely rearranged.
12. Since starting solid foods, you no longer have to feel the outside of the diaper to tell when she might have a poopy diaper. Smell is quite enough if you are within a ten-foot radius of her, sometimes more.
13. And since it is Friday the 13th, I thought it appropriate to add one final thought. I feel like I am the luckiest father in the world to have brought forth a child into this world like Little Abbey. I wouldn't trade her for the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Them Low Down Dirty Dishwasher Dealers Part Two

I had really thought that the last post was the last post on that subject. But time has proven me wrong. One of the reasons we bought our dishwasher right away was because of the Sears Price Guarantee which states that if you appliance of greater than $300 goes on sale within the next three days for cheaper than you paid for it either at their store or any competitor's store, they will refund the difference plus ten percent of the difference.

The told us this as we were discussing whether the current sale that offered free shipping was going to be for a while. They told us that the particular sale ended today and then gave us the Price Guarantee spiel. They repeated the spiel as I was paying with my MasterCard at the register. But knowing that the sale was ending in a couple hours, I didn't expect that the Price Guarantee was going to apply to me. So imagine my surprise when I opened up the Sears ad three days later for the exact same store where we made the purchase that had our dishwasher on sale again for $15 less than what we paid for it. By my calculations, we had $16.50 coming to us and I was thinking, a free meal out on the town this weekend.

Because of the item number on our receipt was the wrong washer and also not on sale and the store hadn't issued me a new receipt after they had corrected their mistake posted about in the previous blog, I decided that we needed to collect on this money sooner rather than later so that memories would still be fresh. So three days after they delivered the correct machine, I walked into the store. The lady that sold me the machine spotted me and I told her what I was after. She agreed, took my ad, receipt and walked up to the register. A minute later, she confirmed what I had suspected, that they hadn't corrected the last mistake and they still had the wrong model number listed in the transaction, which she added was the reason their part count had been off over the weekend. She corrected that and gave me a new receipt with the correct number on it. That was when things broke down.

During the correcting of the receipt, she again realized that because of their mistake, I had gotten a dishwasher for $100 less than what it was supposed to sell for, $50 more than what I had believed in my last blog post. Now I was trying to hit her up for another $16.50 and I could see her starting to think of ways out of the situation. To me, it was their mistake and even though I got the dishwasher for $100 cheaper, they were still currently selling it for $15 cheaper than what I had paid for it so they had to be still making some profit on it. She just looked at it as more money out of her pocket.

And so came the excused. She initially told me that because I had already gotten $100 off on the machine, they couldn't give me the Price Guarantee. I told her that it wasn't my fault she had made a mistake and now she was penalizing me for it. She then said that I had paid with a MasterCard and that the Price Guarantee was for the Sears card only. I told her that it doesn't say anything about how the purchase was paid for in the Guarantee. By then, both her associates had joined her and all three were now working me over with excuses. The final excuse was because I had gotten free shipping on the purchased dishwasher, they couldn't stack offers because it was illegal. They could refund me the $16.50 but then I would have to pay $65 for the two deliveries, not mentioned that one of the deliveries was correcting their mistake.

Twenty minutes later, I had gotten nowhere and I knew that my time would be spent better elsewhere. I gave up, took my corrected receipt but forgot my sale ad and went home where I wrote a Dale Carnegie type letter to Sear's corporate office. If that doesn't pan out, letters to my editor are next. This is war!

Post Addendum: Sears corporate office sent me a generic letter with a case number saying they would call me soon about the Price Guarantee for my TIRES. They called later the following day and after about five minutes on the phone, they are sending me a $20 gift certificate in the mail, because they can only do amounts in $20 increments. They are also contacting my local Sears branch and are going to "correct" them in the proper procedures for issuing Price Guarantees. How I would love to be a fly on their wall when that happens.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Them Low Down Dirty Dishwasher Dealers

After four days of doing dishes by hand (gasp), I was more than ready for my new dishwasher to arrive on Tuesday. The deliverymen were waiting for me when I arrived home with daughter in tow and evidently had been waiting for better part of an hour. I checked my watch and it was exactly at the earliest time in the range that they said they would deliver it. Since they hadn't bothered to call me at my work number, which they had, I ignored their griping as they carried the new machine into the kitchen.

I wanted to dig into the project of installing it right away but with an infant to look after, I had to bide my time. Finally, Little Abbey drifted off to sleep and I cut the box off of the washing machine and proudly looked at it. I slid it back into place and began connecting it up. For some reason, it crossed my mind that there might be some safety devices that need to be removed before starting it up so I opened up the door to get the instruction book. Sure enough it was there nestled between the times of the top rack slid back into the white plastic interior.

Wait just a second! We had ordered a stainless steel interior. I checked my receipt, the box, and the washing machine tag and all had the exact same number on them, 11742. I immediately figured that the dealer had simply typed in the wrong model number when ordering the machine on Saturday. It happens when you have to transcribe the number off the demo model sign and type it into your computer system to order it. But I was disappointed since I knew that I wasn't going to get a dishwasher installed today.

I repacked the dishwasher and called up the dealer to tell them that they had ordered the wrong machine. He asked me for the number on my receipt and the number on the box both of which I immediately gave him. He did some typing and then said that it was the right number. I told him that it wasn't the right machine because the machine I ordered has stainless steel on the inside and this one had plastic. He asked if I was sure and I told him that I work with stainless steel and plastic on a daily basis and I am pretty sure I can accurately tell the difference between them. He hemmed and hawed a little bit and then said that he would call me back in five minutes.

While waiting, I went online to the dealer's site and typed in the model number that I had been given, 11742. Sure enough the exact dishwasher I had sitting in the kitchen with plastic interior popped up on the screen. A couple clicks later and I saw that the demo model in the store with stainless steel interior had a model number of 11752. A simple wrong click of one key and I received a wrong dishwasher. After twenty minutes of waiting and five minutes before closing time, I was determined not to let this go another day and called them back.

The dealer told me that I had gotten the wrong dishwasher in the correct box and that he would order another 11742 to be delivered in a couple weeks. I told him that the online site said he should have ordered an 11752 and not an 11742. He said that the online site was wrong because the one in the store definitely said 11742. I answered back saying that the online site shows the very same model that I have with the same number that is on the dishwasher and the dishwasher box. How can all three be wrong? He didn't know. We went back and forth for five minutes because I didn't want to wait two weeks only to have the same problem happen again and both of us were getting frustrated when it hit me. Since the large red price tag also contained the model number, I asked it that was the number he was reading off the demo model. He said yes. I asked him if it was possible that he had put the wrong sign in front of the wrong machine. Had it been nighttime, I would have heard crickets chirping outside through the long pause. Just a second he answered.

Evidently someone else then joined into the fray and I could hear the dealer in the background repeating what I just said. The other person did some clicking on the keyboard and after a few moments said that I was right. It was an 11752. The dealer knowing that he had just sold me a more expensive machine for the price of a lesser one asked how much more the cost was? I couldn't hear the answer but from the online site, I knew that it was $50 different. Not as much as I would have guessed but still a 'bank error in my favor.'

As he came on the line, I was bracing myself for an attempt on his part to recoup this loss but he simple said that I had been right but that they didn't have any more in inventory and it might be several weeks before they can get another one. He said that he would box up the demo model that we had looked at and deliver it that very evening. Not really wanting a demo model but not wanting to wait an entire month, I agreed and soon the correct dishwasher was delivered. I laid Little Abbey on a blanket in the middle of the kitchen floor and while she contentedly watched me work, I got busy installing it. Soon, my stainless steel clad interior was getting drummed with two spray bars, an upper spray disk and four turbo spray nozzles in the back. I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Little Abbey Update: Part Two

One of the biggest improvements to my getting something done around the house in the evenings is that Little Abbey has finally figured out that some of the time she doesn't have to be held to fall asleep. In fact, a couple of times I have been washing dishes when I realized that she was being awfully quiet in her crib only to find her sound asleep. Before, she would have to be held and jiggled in order to fall asleep during the daytime so in order to do something else, you first had to lay her down somewhere. About fifty percent of the time, she would wake up as soon as you did this and the notion of doing something else would be gone. Since she was only a few weeks old, she has fallen asleep by herself at night but until recently, has never figured out how to do it during the day.

We finally gave up on her swaddler at night because she was escaping from it regularly. I was afraid that the Velcro fastened loop of cloth would pose a danger to her so we stopped using it. Instead, we now dress her in a sleep sack and just cover her with a blanket and tuck in the edges. Her startle reflex is now gone meaning she doesn't jerk her arms and wake herself up anymore. This has been going on for a month now but I still wake up every morning very thankful for this fact. In the last month, she has only woken up in the middle of the night perhaps three or four times. This allows my wife and I to get up, get dressed and eat something before waking her up (on the weekdays) for daycare. Gradually my life is returning to a pale shade of color of what it used to be.

One of the most gratifying changes has been in her character development. Little Abbey now recognizes me immediately and smiles, even from across a room full of other people. Whenever I'm at home, my wife gets frustrated at times when Little Abbey ignores her to look at me and smile. I know that this will eventually change so I'm soaking it up now while I can. But Little Abbey does recognize her mom too and gives her a smile that melts her heart and sends her into a streak of cooing at the baby. The colic has all but disappeared now and she no longer has a 'fussy time' anymore. Occasionally when the house gets a little warm, she will get cranky but at least we know the reason where as before, she seemed to cry for hours without reason. Little Abbey is generally content and only whimpers now when she needs milk, changing, or attention. Each of these has a distinct whimper and I have become quite adept at interpreting them. Just in general, she seems to be smiling a lot these days. It seems like so long ago already that she was mostly emotionless except for spats of crying.

Mom is still able to keep up with the pumping so we can keep Little Abbey on breast milk with out any supplementation. But we have experimented ahead of time to find out she can't handle the milk formulas from the store. Instead, she seems to like the soy based formulas. This wasn't surprising to us since Mom is still partially intolerant to milk and I was as a child but grew out of it. We do feed her scraps occasionally from whatever we happen to be eating, now that Little Abbey is sitting in a highchair right beside the table. It still takes about five to ten tongue thrusts to work whatever scrap we give from the tip of her tongue to her throat but she seems to enjoy the new tastes. We have given her rice mash mixed with breast milk on occasion but only this week have we started to be more diligent in giving it to her on a regular basis, six or so baby spoons full at a sitting. We haven't rushed things since we are only at the very beginning of the time in which you are supposed to feed babies and she still seems pretty content with her milk.

Little Abbey has developed a fascination with her image in the mirror. I hope this doesn't mean she is going to be vain later in life! She will stare at herself, smile and then smiling bury her face into my chest. We also have a little Elmo mirror in her crib that I catch her looking into quite often. I still think that she is just curious as to who the other baby is and hasn't realized it is herself so there is hope that it isn't vanity.

Finally, I have called Little Abbey 'squirmy' almost from the day we brought her home. Back then, it was because she always seemed to be kicking her legs and flailing her arms like a windmill non-stop. These days, she has grown into her name quite well. She now has more control over her arms and legs, which she uses to her advantage. However, with her newly gained neck muscles, she can really arch her back and whip her head from side to side. This can sometimes make feedings and changings more challenging especially if there is something better to watch in the room. When my wife is feeding her and Little Abbey hears me enter the room, she'll arch her back and crane her head in an attempt to look at me, forgetting all about the task at hand much to my wife's chagrin. I have to either leave the room or sneak in out of eyesight.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Little Abbey Update: Part One

It seems like last week that I did my last Little Abbey update and it probably was but things seem to be happening so quickly now that I just had to write them down lest they slip into obscurity inside my mind. So here goes part one. Part two will be tomorrow.

Although it won't be official until next week, I measure little Abbey a couple days ago and was astounded to see that she was 25 inches long now! I knew she was growing but six inches since birth and four of those in the last two months seems very fast! There is no doubt among our family whom she got her height genes from. We don't have an accurate way of measuring her weight so we will have to wait until next Wednesday when she gets her checkup. All I know is that she is noticeable heavier or I'm growing weaker. My wife has started calling her a 'little sack of rice.' I still prefer 'squirmy.'

Her favorite toys are some plastic links that you clip together to form a chain. I have them attached to the mobile on her crib with the loose end hanging down. She loves to grab onto the chain and occasionally nibble on the links. She isn't teething but right now, anything that she can suck on seems to give her contentment and as long as it isn't her thumb, I'm happy.

Speaking of thumbs, she hasn't figured out how to suck on it yet. She has figured out how to cram four of her fingers into her mouth and noisily suck on them sometimes to the point that she gags herself. As soon as she has the gagging in check, back in the fingers go, so she obviously isn't too traumatized. We still give her a pacifier at times especially after feeding when the urge to suck something is the strongest. She is going longer periods of time with the pacifier hanging at the end of its string clipped to her outfit.

Little Abbey's ability to focus on something is much much greater these days. We used to never be able to eat meals together but a few weeks ago I set up the highchair and now she contentedly sits in it and watches us eat. No more having to eat with one hand while rocking her in a bouncer or trying to keep a pacifier in place. Whenever I bring her home from the daycare in the afternoons, she just sits in her car seat and watches me as I unpack all her gear. In fact, as long as I am within sight, she is content to just sit there and follow me with her eyes. However, when the time comes for me to extract her from the seat, she starts squirming just as soon as I begin to unbuckle her until I finally get her out where she can arch her back and stretch.

Although Mrs. Z gives her tummy time during the day, I always give her plenty of time on her tummy when we get home. Just a few weeks ago, she was able to hold her head up at a 90-degree angle for perhaps a minute or two before getting tired. Now our tummy time sessions with her head up last fifteen minutes and then maybe another fifteen minutes with her head at a 45-degree angle. I have found that for the longest times, I need to make sure she is facing the television and something is on with constantly changing screens. When I get home, Millionaire is on but the screen doesn't change often enough and she is bored. Jeopardy is on next, which is a little better since they do a lot of cutting to the board and back to the contestants. But the evening news seems to be the best.

When Little Abbey is on her stomach on a non-slippery surface, she has started to get her legs underneath her stomach. Once there she hasn't figured out what to do other than kick which sends her back to the floor. When she is lying on her back, she definitely has figured out how to lift her butt in the air using her legs and then kicks which sends her scooting backwards an inch or two. One more challenge when it comes to changing diapers. I have learned to counteract this by making sure her head is against the top part of the changing table. I have a feeling that she will figure out how to turn over by the end of this month, something I am not looking forward too. I still like being able to lay her down on the bed or couch and walk away for a half hour while she naps. When she turns over, this will have to end.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Long Promised Little Abbey Update

Following are little notes about Little Abbey that come to mind in no particular order.

Little Abbey has started to play with toys on her own. Though she has a myriad of rattles and several chairs with dangling objects, she never really has reached out and grabbed them. Up until and including now, most collisions between appendages and hanging objects seems to be reflex in nature. However, on an impulse purchase a couple weeks ago, I bought a package of brightly colors rings that clip together and form a chain. At first she didn't give them much attention unless I dangled them in front of her but a week ago, she started grabbing onto them and shaking them. I tied off one end of the chain around the base of her bear mobile with the other end lying on the crib floor beside her. With the mobile bears doing their endless circle and the plastic chain that she grabs and plays with, she can entertain herself sometimes for almost twenty minutes.

Why are babies fascinated with things that spin in circles? Little Abbey if terribly fascinated with ceiling fans and will almost dislocate her neck trying to crane her head back far enough while being carried to watch them. When laying on the couch or bed where she can watch them in comfort, this too serves as a good distraction. Despite her ceiling fan fascination, the mobile bears that spin in the endless circle to the tune of Old MacDonald's Farm is by far her favorite.

One of the best developments is her happiness. Although she has been displaying signs of smiling and cooing for over a month now, they seem to get stronger and more pronounced with every passing day. Her smiles are definitely genuine and not to be mistaken with any other facial gesture. Her squeals of delight can be heard clear across the house. My favorite part of the day consists of me taking fifteen minutes after her afternoon feeding to just babble to her, repeating her various coos that emit from her throat. Those are conversations that I wish could go on forever.

Little Abbey has adapted will to Mrs. Z and Mrs. Z seems to be adapting well to Little Abbey. They have developed a schedule together and we have adapter our evening schedule slightly to match up so the days are seamless. Every morning when I drop her off at Mrs. Z's house, Little Abbey is all smiles as she greets Mrs. Z while I update her on the overnight and morning news such as last bottle, etc. In the afternoon when I pick her up, she is all smiles while I get updated on all the day's happenings from Mrs. Z. That aspect of rearing a child has been surprisingly painless.

Although Little Abbey is doing well in regards to neck control and holding it up in the air for longer and longer periods of time when on her stomach, she has showed little inclination towards rolling over. However, this is fine with us as we are in no hurry for her to grow up all at once and there seems to be no pressing reason that she must learn to roll over. In fact, rolling over complicates things because you now have to be more vigilant on where she is laid down so that she doesn't roll off. Besides, when she can't roll over, she is forced to face towards me and have a conversation. The day when she can roll over and 'give me the shoulder' will come soon enough as it is.

All parents think their babies are beautiful or at least I get the sense that is the case. However, judging by the number of people who stop us whenever we go out in public just to comment on how beautiful Little Abbey is, I'm guessing that she truly is beautiful. This is good now but sure to give me loads of heartburn later when she is in high school around boys like I was, another event that I'm not looking forward too.

She was pretty colicky for the first couple months and even after that, sometimes a little in the evenings. All that has gone now and she is happy or quiet unless she wants something like attention, diaper changings, food or sleep. She still needs to work on falling asleep by herself during the daytime. At night she can be awake when we put her to bed, no problem. But during the daytime, she just rubs her eyes and shakes her head from side to side as she tries to rid herself of what I presume is a heavy eyelid feeling. All it takes is one of us to hold her for a few seconds to fall asleep but she just needs that guidance telling her that she is sleepy.

Part of her not sleeping by herself during the day I think stems from her curiosity. Probably because I'm a new parent and am blind when it comes to my child, but she seems wise beyond her years at times. When we go for walks in the evenings, where Little Abbey used to snooze in her stroller, she now gazes out over the edges at trees and houses in a wide eyed gaze. Whenever we are holding her, she is always looking around at this and that seemingly fascinated by every little thing. Even when she is in one of her chairs, her eyes are always wandering around the room looking at first one thing and then another. I think all this fascination keeps her mind alert and her eyes open far longer than she should keep them.

Perhaps her lack of sleep during the day contributes towards her excellent sleeping habits at night. We normally put her to bed at nine and wake her around six in the morning to take her to feed her before dropping her off at the daycare. In the almost two months that she has been sleeping through the night, she has slipped and woken up early perhaps less than a half dozen times but always goes back to bed. On the weekends, she will sleep a little later until seven or gets up at the same time as during the week, eats and goes back to bed. Either way, it allows mom and dad to catch up on some sleep. Another friend who reads this blog (and is linked in my sidebar) wrote a blog piece a week or so ago about having her baby sleep in the same bed with them. We decided against this for a couple reasons. The biggest reason was SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Although if you are careful, this problem can be avoided, it leads into the second reason why we bed Little Abbey in a crib in her own room. That reason is the quality of our sleep, i.e. mom and dad. When Little Abbey sleeps with us for a weekend nap, I always sleep much lighter out of worry of accidentally moving a cover over Little Abbey. I sleep, but it is not the good quality sleep that one gets when they have the whole bed to toss around in and know it. Having Little Abbey in the next room brings me peace of mind and a lot better sleep. As a side benefit, it allows my wife and I to have some us time. Now I don't mean this in a sexual nature. I mean it in a way where we can just talk and be ourselves without a baby in-between us whom we are trying not to disturb. Finally, I have talked with too many people who allowed their children to sleep in bed with mom and dad as infants until toddlers and when they finally wean the children to their own rooms, it is always a more traumatic event. The only reason I can see to bed a child in bed with the parents is convenience but if your child sleeps through the night anyway and takes convenience out of the question, why risk SIDS or a not so restful sleep?

I think we are getting close to starting to feed Little Abbey something other than a pure breast milk diet. Already we give her some rice water from time to time and little scraps of what we are eating but it has been only recently that she is starting to lose the tongue thrust reflex that all babies are born with. This reflex causes them to push all foreign objects from their mouth and usually disappears around four to six months of age. Evidently it then reverses causing them to stick everything they find into their mouth such as the eyeball of a Tickle Me Elmo mirror that I found Little Abbey contently sucking on the other day. A relative who is very keen on cooking gadget infomercials sent us a Magic Bullet (mini blender) set for Christmas last year and we promptly put it down in the storage room downstairs. Now, I'm thinking of finding it again so that I can blend up some breast milk/what-ever-we're-eating shakes for Little Abbey to try. I'm guessing she'll really like them.

I think I could probably go on for quite a bit more but this post is already plenty long. I'll turn into Phil (none for his long posts) if I keep at it so I'll save the rest for another time. I want to thank everyone for the nice comments and emails regarding Little Abbey that I receive from time to time. I'm happy that I can share some of her experiences with you.