Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Post Christmas, Pre New Year

"These are handbasket times," Trey said to me this morning, though I forgot what it was he was referring to. Something mundane in our little world, in addition to the tragedy that's going on in South Asia. My head is reeling a little over all those sad stories, especially when you read about all the children: the ones who were taken from their mother's arms, or who were wandering around alone in the aftermath. It's really beyond comprehension. I. can't. comprehend.

I'm actually shaking a bit right now, having just viewed some footage of the tsunami from unlucky tourists--actually, make that lucky tourists--posted on I watched as a man held onto a post in a restaurant on the beach with one hand and his video camera in another and just hung on as the water swirled around him; he caught footage of other frantic tourists, including one unlucky couple who got swept away. It's horrifying and I can't look away. But then I had to, to make Zoey her lunch. I put some water on the stove to make her some peas, both of us just saying, "Wow," over and over again. It seemed fitting to have an echo to my sentiment.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

White Christmas 2004

As incredible as this may seem, Houston got something of a white Christmas this year. Sure, now that it's Christmas morning, most of the snow is already gone, but for a little while there, after midnight rolled around, it was truly snowing on Christmas.

I took Zoey outside to let her play in the snow, and she loved it. One would think a not-quite-two-year-old wouldn't really understand what was going on, but perhaps enjoying a snowfall is an innate thing that even the young can participate in. Maybe she was just feeding off my excitement. Who knows. In any case, bundled up in her heavy jacket (which she is finally getting a little use out of), she ran around in circles in the driveway yelling "Now! Now!" You have to keep in mind that words that start with two consonants are difficult for her tiny mouth, so "snow" becomes "now," much like "spoon" is "poon." It's hard to not adopt her idiosyncrasies sometimes, because they're really cute. But the books say not to.

Now I feel a little guilty, because she was coming down with the sniffles last night, which later turned into a really difficult and sleepless night for both of us. She can't breath, and I think her throat was sore from all the drainage because she woke up crying just about every hour. Not the whimpering kind of crying either, she was wailing and screaming. We'll have to see how she feels this morning, because we've yet to do Christmas as our families houses, and we've got two to go to. Not sure she's going to be able to deal. In the picture above, she's only wearing a sweater, but I want you to know that she wasn't outside at this time for very long. We did go out again a little later, but I put on her heavy jacket. I promise. I did not get my child sick. Besides, you don't get sick from bad weather. That's a myth and an old wives tale.

We did Christmas last night, during the snow, and it was great. Zoey got lots of musical instruments. She got a kid's ukelele, which is the perfect size for her. Of course, she calls it a guitar. And she got a little drum that came with a harmonica, tambourine and marracas. She also got a cheapie keyboard from Fiesta that we're not sure will last the year. Oh well. She got much more than just the musical instruments, and she really seems to love all of her gifts, but I kid you not, she was already playing her guitar and drums by the end of the night. She'd pick up the guitar, and start singing. So far, she plays "Song in my Tummy" and "Bumblebee," two songs by Laurie Berkner, who's a children's songwriter they show on Noggin (and whose CD Zoey and Olivia both received for Christmas).

And then Trey would start playing on the drums, which made Zoey want to play the drums, so she'd put down the guitar and take the drumsticks from Trey and start playing her drum and singing "Hooray! Make way!," which is something Elmo did on a Sesame Street episode. I was actually really impressed by her memory of this, because she hasn't seen this episode in awhile.

So, while she's on the drums, Trey reaches for the guitar and starts rocking out, and for awhile there they have a little jam session going (I have some video), until Zoey realizes Daddy is playing her guitar and she decides she wants it back. She puts down the drumsticks and reaches for the guitar. This little exchange went on for some time.

And the whole time this was going on, it was snowing outside.

Hope everyone has a good Christmas. I'll update later.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Evan picture update

Theresa just clued me in to the fact that there are, in fact, five pictures of Evan on the hospital site! I had no idea. She said something about liking the last one with the little smile, and I thought, "what smile?" and went back to the site. Sure enough, that was no smile, just the typically clueless look of a newborn (I mean this in the most complimentary way). Then I clicked on the "next picture" link, and voila! Another picture. And another and another...and there, past the great picture of a strangely intelligent looking, winking Evan, was his smile. It's lovely. Sure, it's probably just gas. But I'll bet he's darn happy to be Susan and Allan's baby.

So if you, like me, just went to the site and saw the first picture, go back! It's worth it. It's really too bad you can't steal the photos off the site, because the last two would make a great animated gif.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Follow me to a picture of Evan

Click here, quick. You may have to scroll down a bit.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

We’ve not been up to much these days except Christmas shopping. Well, I’ve been shopping, mostly leaving Zoey with my parents. She has been with me enough this holiday season, however, to learn the word and the concept. Now, she asks with that little upturn in her voice, “Shopping? Go shopping?” Even worse, while strolling her around Circuit City, she kept pointing to her left and to her right (but at nothing in particular) and saying, “Want that. Want that. Want that.” Hmmm. This could be bad. She’s already got a shoe fetish….

One of the benefits of not having a job: no December weekend shopping. We went down to Galveston today passing two malls and a Fry’s store along the way. The cars were lined up to the curb, and this is Houston with its huge parking lots. Frightening. I do still have a couple of gifts to get. Well, actually, they’re not my gifts. I have to buy a couple of gifts for my father to give. I suppose it’s the price I pay for the free babysitting.

Hopefully we'll get our tree today, and will get to see if Zoey can resist the ornaments. I'm thinking, no. After all, they're round and look like balls, which Zoey loves. So actually, I'm thinking I'll just trim the top half of the tree. You do what you must.

I've spoken with Susan a couple of times, and it sounds like she's doing well. There's not much sleeping and some pain, but that's just how it is in the first couple of weeks. She's tough, and she'll be a pro in a month. She also sounds really happy. I'm very impressed with the fact that she had a natural childbirth. Hopefully she or Allan will get some pictures to us soon. What a great Christmas present for them.

Zoey's current fascination is "bubbles," so we've been going outside and blowing a lot of bubbles. I've been blowing the bubbles--last time I let her have the wand she put it in her mouth. The expression on her face at the taste was priceless, but did she learn from that experience? We'll see (I haven't let her have the wand again). She also takes bubble baths, and wants to help me do the dishes. There are lots of bubbles in the photo, but it was taken at dusk with a long exposure so they are camoflauged.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas at the zoo

Kelly and I took Zoey and Olivia to the Houston Zoo's Winter Wonderland festival (not sure I remember the name right...), and they had a blast. Not that there was really much at the zoo. The animal exhibits were all closed, so the only thing to do was walk from the front gate to the children's zoo and look at the lights. They had some nice lights. Aside from the typically over-lit tree trunks and huge number of Christmas trees, they had a lot of animals made of lights. So, while you couldn't see the real thing, you could gaze in sentimental awe at the fake, glowing animals.

Kelly and I thought it looked rather nice, but the girls didn't really seem to care. They were way more excited running around, reveling in their freedom (Kelly and I didn't bring strollers). We spent most of our time making sure they didn't wander away from us or into the reflection pond water. This is especially important with Zoey, as she seems to think she can walk on water. I mean that literally. Everytime we've taken her to a body of water--and she's seen rivers, lakes and oceans (well, gulf)--she tries to walk right into it. And she gets extremely pissed off when we don't let her.

Still, kids need the freedom to explore, so you let them. Zoey is way more adventurous than Olivia, though, and so much harder to keep track of. She takes off like a shot and gets lost in her own little world. There was a pretty good crowd most of the time, but Zoey has no problem wandering around in the middle of all the people. Her eyes have a curious wonder in them; she gets lost in her own little world and often doesn't hear me calling out to her. Actually, I suspect she hears me and ignores me. She walked up to one older girl and just said, "Hi!" to her, which the girl and her group thought was adorable (it was). Still, it's a little scary for a parent, and a little extra work. I would have loved to find a place to stop and take some long exposure shots of some of the Christmas light animals, but I would have lost Zoey. You have to make choices.

So we wandered through the zoo, through the fake snow corridor and got to the carousel. Zoey loves the carousel, and always wants to ride it twice. She got so excited upon seeing it that she ignored the "snow." There were a bunch of people riding the carousel, and by people, I mean lots of kids and their camera-toting parents, so we couldn't score an elephant to sit on and settled for a boar. "Bear!" Zoey said as I plopped her down.

"Close enough," I smiled.

The music started, preceding the motor, and Zoey said "Here we go!" in her hyper-excited voice. There was a look of pure ecstasy in her face. They played Christmas music, of course, and Zoey loved it. She shouted "Song!" and started grooving in her seat, Green Bean the frog sharing the seat with her. It was magical, seeing her so happy, so thrilled with the ride, the carnivalesque lighting of the carousel surrounding adding to the surrealness. I glanced back at Kelly and Olivia, who was very upset with the whole experience. Kelly had taken her off her animal and was trying to comfort her, a look of bemused acceptance on her face--there was nothing she could do until the ride stopped. Olivia was not the only child in tears, and you couldn't hear any of them because the music was so loud. The surreal lighting, coupled with the music and the movement created a bubble-effect: you saw the person you were looking at and couldn't focus on anything else without concentration.

The ride ended (thankfully brief, as far as Kelly was concerned) and we got off and headed toward the children's zoo, but there didn't seem to be much there as the animal exhibits were closed. There was a Santa Claus, but we'd both already tried the one in the Galleria with no success ("No more!" Zoey kept repeating as she clung to my neck with her surprisingly strong arms) so we decided to exit the park after Zoey and I rode the carousel "one more time!" This time, we got an elephant.

Flashbulbs were popping all around me, and the announcer said they were waiting on a few more riders before starting. "Now is a great time to take those pictures," she announced, after hawking a Houston Zoo carousel comic book. So I took out my camera and snapped a few shots.

I hate my digital camera. Every time I get her attention for a shot, she's moved by the time the shutter snaps. And it's meters don't always read well, or when I press the shutter down halfway to set the focus it goes ahead and takes a picture. It's frustrating. I want a digital SLR (and a smaller, better camera); my canon's, like, three years old and only 2 megapixels. ech.

After the carousel we hiked back to the entrance among a river of people and strollers, pausing to let Zoey play in the fake snow, which she thought were bubbles. Zoey wanted to run around, but after wandering off and not responding to me, and one time running off completely forcing me to break into a run myself to chase her down, I wouldn't let her. Olivia also wanted to be free of Kelly, but at least she didn't take off at a full run. The thing about chasing down toddlers is they're really cute when they run. It's hard to get really mad when they've got this adorable little baby-butt swivel shaking in front of you. We did let the kids stop and dance in front of the orange light lions. Olivia can really get down. She bounces up and down to the beat and swings her arms back in forth in kind of a Chris Farley ("I live in a van down by the river") way. Zoey joined in with her run in a circle skin head dance. I took some cute video of it with my camera. One of the songs they danced to was "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth," which Kelly said was her theme song this Christmas.

After the zoo, we went into Hermann Park' Festival of Lights. This is a pretty cool thing. The city put of thousands of lights--around trees, in arches and other shapes, on the paddle boats--around the lake in the park. And it looks great. I think it's the first year they've done it, but hopefully it'll stick around for awhile. It's a great place to go if you have family in town and want something Christmas-y--which is hard to do in Houston, where we're likely to be in shortsleeves through much of December. It went all the way around the lake, but Kelly and I settled for a few hundred feet in, where they had some nice light arches.

It was here that something amazing happened: Zoey and Olivia played together for the first time--they really interacted with each other. They played peekaboo and chased each other around a light pillar that had a clear, plastic window. And they had a blast. It was beautiful and fun to watch.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

sorry long silence...

It's seems like it's been ages since I last blogged. I don't know what to say about it, except for the usual litany of excuses: I've been busy with Christmas shopping; Zoey's been staying up too late; I've had writer's block; there's just not been that much going on; my cable modem keeps going out; my aunt, who'd been living with my parents, passed away; ummm...I've been watching too much TV...

Okay, so, whatever, silence. I've been spending most of my free time Christmas shopping, dropping Zoey off at my parents when I can because she's not so easy to go shopping with right now. She doesn't like to sit in the cart, but when I let her down, she runs away from me. It really distracts from the shopping. Luckily for her, it's also really cute, so I can't get too mad. I do get a little mad, though.

Toddlers are a challenge. They are pure id, all "want this" and "do this," always pushing boundaries. Now is the time when it's super important to set boundaries, if only in theory. Because even though they might understand the theory (even if only the tiniest little bit), they'll still want to test it. So you tell them they can't do something, like play with the knobs on the oven, stand up on the table, or jump in the bathroom, and they do it anyway. It becomes a kind of seesaw. I say, "get down off the table, Zoey;" she just looks at me and continues climbing up. I repeat "Get down," more sternly; she pauses, and looks at me...then stands up on the table. In an even louder voice, I say "Get...Down!" and she looks at me and smiles...and then gets down.

Less than a minute later, we repeat the entire scene. We do this two or three times, and then I play the distraction game where I find something else for her to be interested in, like drawing with her crayons or dancing to her music. I wonder if she'll even obey my orders or if I'll be the mother of one of those out-of-control kids running around a restaurant. I think she'll be okay. I'm staying positive.