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.