Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Taking Stock

We sit here, on the cusp of 2009 (hoping we'll make it to midnight) and looking back on the year nearly completely behind us. So here's where we've been and what we've seen.

We got the news that life would never be the same. We tried to get our last blast(s).

We were warned of dangers and complications. We learned to respectfully ignore instructions.

We wondered when life would return to normal. We redefined our idea of normal.

We were given the ultimate gift, and realized just how high the price for it could be.

We walked around, a lot. We slept much too little.

We realized that the costly kitchen remodel was totally worth it at 3am, when the new hood vent was the only thing that worked.

We laughed. We cried, too. A lot.

We learned to account for head clearance - a tad too late a couple of times.

We did more internet searches with the word "baby" than anyone thought possible.

We tried to keep our sense of humor, and sometimes even succeeded.

We waged wars, and mended broken dog hearts.

We traveled cross country, realizing that it was almost as hard as getting across town.

We wished we'd gone to massage school.

We were scared. And hopeful. And scared again. And hopeful again.

We understood how indescribable what we were doing really was.

We looked forward to the year ahead.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

It's Grandpa Vlad's birthday today!  Sending an Otter shout-out (quite literally) his way!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

On December 27, 2008, one day after turning the ripe old age of 4 months, Otter reached a momentous milestone by rolling from tummy to back.  It was less of a roll, than an angry 2-stage flop, meant to rescue her from the indignity of Tummy Time.  The first time it happened she landed on her back, looking around in shock at her new perspective.  We clapped, oohed, ahhed and rewarded her efforts by promptly putting her back into the position she'd just worked so hard to escape.

Otter indulged us a few more times, now through a constant flow of tears.  I think she kept hoping we'd let up, put away the video camera, and pick her up.  But we don't roll like that.  As I'm sure she's quickly realizing, Mom and Dad kinda suck.  So like a trained seal, SB was forced to roll, roll and roll some more, all in the name of strengthening her muscles or some such made-up nonsense we invented to make ourselves feel better about our cruelty.  Finally, she'd had enough and went on strike, lying face down, screaming loudly and planning how she was going to pay us back.  I'm pretty sure she'll think of something soon.  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Otter's 4...

...months old!  She's older, wiser and far more polished in her hippy chick dress.  She now wears 3-6 month sized clothes, has gotten far more trendy in her outfit choices and has sophisticated taste in toys.  Or rather the taste of toys.  Everything is fair game for licking and drooling.

She's developing a sense of self, including a list of things that self likes and dislikes.  She is becoming willful and opinionated and has no problem telling us when she doesn't approve of our decisions.  In short, she's becoming more of a little person each day, with all the rewards and challenges that that carries...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas season has been weirdness to the nth degree.  People who should have shown up didn't, having gotten stranded due to weather.  People who weren't expected, came knocking on doors only to leave again before Christmas actually came.  But here is the long and the short of it, or rather, the long-winded story in Cliff Notes shorthand...

Otter went for a checkup and got more vaccines.  She also got weighed and is now 11 lbs., 8 1/2 oz. Though after 15 minutes of carrying her, she seems much, much heavier.

Bree's sister Erica drove in from Colorado unexpectedly with her husband and baby.  Bree didn't get to see them, but Otter did get to meet her cousin.

Bree's mom and step-dad, on the other hand, got stranded at the airport, had to spend the night, and then went home having never departed for LA.  When they got to their house, their power was out.

We spent Christmas Eve with Bree's sister Alicia.  Erica and fam had left by this point.

On the way to Christmas Eve...

Hangin' with Dad and Aunt Alicia...

Otter hung out with Frosty the Snowman.  She may be in love.

A letter to Santa was written, cookies were left.

Christmas Day - Otter made out like a BAN-dit.  Clothes, toys, more clothes, more toys.  A freakin' kick-ass ExcerSaucer.  Thank you Santa Tien!!!  

Somewhere in the mix, Bree and I exchanged our presents, he went off to pick up his dad and I crawled off to the couch to sleep.  

For the second year in a row, Santa brought me Christmas Flu.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Otter's Debut on the Party Circuit

As any Hollywood taste-maker will tell you, the "where" and "when" of a debut can mean the difference between having the paparazzi snapping your picture Paris Hilton-style and sitting alone in some dive with people surreptitiously pointing and whispering "God, how sad..."

To execute the proper stepping out requires careful planning, exceptional timing, surrounding yourself with the "right" people and creating the right amount of buzz. Stay out of the limelight for too long and no one will care when you do make an appearance. Party too often, and you're written off as a self-promoting hussy who would show up to an opening of an envelope.

And so, after much anticipation, Otter made her first appearance at Pat's Holiday Soiree.

Here is the report...

Ms. Otter and her entourage arrived tastefully early, and spent time circulating, meeting and greeting. Choosing to forgo the obvious cliches of Christmas-themed wardrobe, Ms. Otter wore a graphic tee and bib by Carter's and pants by Granimals.

Ms. O patiently visited with all her fans, posing for photo ops.

Sources report that she was seen in the company of a suitor, though her representatives insist that she remains unattached.

Avoiding the bad press that comes with partying too hard, the young lady exited early, for some much-needed shut-eye.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The 12 (eerr 11) Days of Christmas (Shopping)

I have fallen woefully behind updating, but changing sleeping habits and Christmas have been kicking our collective ass. So here, in a nutshell, are the highlights of December, so far...

Wednesday 12/10 - On the first day of Christmas shopping, Otter made her virgin trip to the mall. Granted, it was Cost Plus, which isn't a mall at all, and the Promenade, which is currently a ghost town and will likely soon cease to be a mall, but that's splitting hairs. The point is, we went to a mall and wandered around in a daze, picking up booze for everyone, and 3 boxes of greeting cards. The shopping excursion ended with me standing in the parking lot, desperately trying to disengage the car seat from the stroller, where it was inexplicably, and quite permanently stuck. I cursed the universe and wondered how long I was going to stand there before asking for help, then realizing there was no one to ask even if I wanted to. The Christmas season had officially begun.

Thursday 12/11 - We go to the "real" mall to get a picture with Santa. It's too much to expect Otter to actually smile, but Mrs. Claus does get her to at least look at the camera.

Friday 12/12 - We meet Tien at the "real" mall and are quite proud of ourselves for being only 10 minutes late. We end up at Target, wandering around aimlessly, once again looking for gifts and leaving with a stocking for Otter and a stocking hook for our fish, Hebert.

Saturday 12/13 - Otter declares her independence from swaddling in no uncertain terms. We're left standing around, wondering what comes after swaddling. That wasn't in the instruction manual...

Sunday 12/14 - Leaving Bree and Otter to the fates, I go back to the mall solo to get the bulk done. Four hours of my life are lost forever, and I despondently eat frozen yogurt on a mall bench. On my way out, I encounter a family of 12 from somewhere in south-east Asia who are under the impression that the Westfield Topanga Mall is a tourist destination. They chatter happily while blocking dozens of tired, cranky shoppers from the escalator, so that dad can snap photos of his jabbering clan. I want to kill them by swinging my overstuffed bags at them.

Bree calls me the Grinch.

Monday 12/15 - I spend the day printing endless photos of Otter with Santa, writing messages and licking envelopes. I realize we know entirely too many people.

Tuesday 12/16 - Announcing that she hates the half-swaddle (the bottom half) too, Otter refuses to sleep until 11:30 pm.

Wednesday 12/17 - Otter further announces a moratorium on napping. She will sleep for no longer than 20 minutes, and then only in my arms. If I so much as think about putting her down, she screams bloody murder. I respond by having a complete meltdown, call Bree, inform him that I hate Christmas, that life sucks and we don't even have a tree. In my defense, I should point out that it's been pouring rain and 40 degrees for the past 3 days and we've been locked inside the house with nothing but laundry and Christmas cards to amuse us.

Thursday 12/18 - Exhausted by the lack of sleep, Otter snoozes all day. I take a shower, catch my breath and send out the last batch of cards. I start wrapping presents, though we're still not done shopping. I continue whining that we won't have a tree for Otter's first Christmas.

At night, we realize that we've been putting her down too late and move up bed-time by an hour. We also decide to incorporate the Sleep Sack into our repertoire. This is a gift from the Sleep Gods and I bow down to them and offer them adulation.

Friday 12/19 - Laden with 8 packages, Otter and I head off to the post office. I take the stroller, not so much for Otter, but for the boxes that I'd otherwise be balancing in my arms. While I try to communicate with the automated mailing machine, which is asking me very difficult questions about content, shape and size of my packages, Otter makes friends with the line growing behind us.

As we're leaving, Santa Tien calls to tell me I can pick up the Exersaucer Otter's inheriting from her son. While there, we also score a kicky-standy-uppy toy. Santa Tien, you too deserve our worship and adoration.

But the biggest news of the day is the fabulous Dr. Phil Christmas Party that Bree and I are attending without the Otter. Yes, we've been away from her once in NY, but this is SB's first foray into the world of babysitters. We leave with the mix of emotions of a teenage boy going out on the town in Dad's car for the first time. There's the dizzy anticipation of freedom, the strangeness of something new, and the underlying fear that something will go terribly awry, and we will find ourselves wrapped around a lamp post. But all goes well, and when we return the Otter is sleeping blissfully while "Aunt" Pat knits away. Pat, you are a goddess.

Saturday, 12/20 - After weeks of my whining about our imminent lack of tree, and Bree's threats of a fake arbor (followed by more of my whining about how utterly lame it is for Otter's first tree to be plastic), I pushed Bree out the door to pick out our Christmas tree. Lost in a forest of trees, Bree came upon some chickens running amuck underfoot, and immediately called to tell us that he was coming back to get us. Back at the house, we got ready as quickly as we could and embarked on Otter's first tree-hunt. At the lot, she meets the local wildlife - some sheep, goats and roosters, whom she regards with some scepticism - and we depart with a very short but quite bushy evergreen.

Tree decorating and boozy eggnog with Grand-Diggy rounded off the day, and tonight, Otter drifted off sleep happily sleep-sacked and swaddle-less, perhaps dreaming of sheep.

Yes, the Christmas season is here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Warmest Welcome

Buoyed by the warmth of family gatherings and fortified by the mounds of food we'd eaten, Bree, Otter and I set off to the Ford dealership to seal the deal, and our fate. Since we'd already picked out are car, had it transported from God-knows-where (Corona, I think) and negotiated for the price (on this last point by "we" I mean Bree), we figured it would be a wham, bam, thank you ma'am kind of deal.

We arrived full of optimism, ready to roll on our 2-hour between feeding allotment. The first thing they showed us was the car (clever dealer tactic), which I had already named (my mistake), then sat us down to do the paperwork and bleed us dry on the financing. Having a baby in tow changed things, but only superficially. While flashing smiles at Otter, showing us pictures of their own offspring, and offering encouragement, the dealers thought nothing of screwing us right in front of her. On dealer cooed about eating her sweet chubby legs. There's a part of me that thinks he may not have been speaking figuratively.

We, for our part, tried to relieve the discomfort by doing laps around the Mustangs with a stroller when SB decided she'd had just about enough bargaining. Circling a souped-up, black and chrome, special edition Mustang with a Graco Lite-rider is a humbling experience, reminding you once and for all that that is no longer your life. This is.

But what of it? After several hours during which the ROCK BOTTOM WE CAN GO NO LOWER interest rate came down another 1.5 points, we loaded ourselves up and headed home...

...with the newest member of our family. Warmest welcome, to Owen, SUV extraordinaire!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks

After a week of cooking like the wind while Otter slept, and making several dishes twice (the potatoes 'cause we wanted more, the stuffing 'cause there was a dreadful salt incident) and completing an needlessly complicated tart, it was time to greet the family and settled down for our Thanksgiving meal.

The cousins kept a careful ear out for Otter while she napped, alerting me at the first hint of sound emanating from her room. It was touching to see them carry her around and play with her, volunteering to babysit. And the meal was none too shabby either.

The men carved the turkey...

While hope sprang eternal for Foster...

Otter snoozed while we ate...

Otter enjoyed some playtime with her cousins...

Then, Aunt Alicia and Bree posed with all their kids...

More playtime...

Before settling down with Uncle Jeremy and Grand-Diggy...

And passing out at night's end.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Otter and the Infinite Sadness

At a certain point, all babies begin to coo and gurgle, their first attempts to communicate thoughts beyond "I'm hungry (whaaaa)," "I'm dirty/wet (whaaaaa)," or "I'm tired (whaaaa)." Cooing implies (at least to me) a certain happiness, and Otter definitely has her happy talk. She likes to tell us, the ceiling fan, or even just the ceiling about her day, squeals with delight when we rub her tummy and talks up a storm on Poopy Towel.

But recently, she's developed another mode - cooing, but with great sadness. It's definitely not crying (believe me, we know all the incarnations of that) but a spoken lament that hints to a depth of feeling which simple words cannot capture. I'm not sure how widespread this phenomenon is, but when I did an online search (the way I now gather all info on everything baby) I came up with nothing. Apparently, when the world's babies coo, they do it with nothing but glee.

I wonder what Otter's Infinite Sadness is about - what thoughts are causing her such sorrow? I wish she could tell me in words I'd understand. But, be it a curse or a blessing, I suspect she'll never remember.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

3 Months Down...

Today, Otter's reached a benchmark - she's made it through a quarter of a year without any serious injury, maiming, or death. It's hard to believe that she's made it this far already - and how much more of a human she's become in this time...

She holds her head up and (almost) smiles...

Looks milk-drunk and very pudgy (kinda like she ate herself)...

Yeah, milk-drunk... (Damn, I should back off the hooch, huh?)

Unsure of how she feels about this photo session...

Yet still pretty tiny... So many months still to go!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finding a Stranger to Raise Otter

Looking forward to a time when I will once again be gainfully employed, Bree and I have begun the process of looking for the person who will raise our child for us. Yes, Otter's getting a nanny. Finding the individual who will spend more time with Otter than either of us will is stressful, at best.

We've gotten several recommendations, everyone from someone's nanny's sister, to friends that various people trust with their lives. In the end, we met with our neighbor's kid's nanny, who is conveniently becoming available just when we need her since the kid is starting pre-school full time. Oh, and they have a dog, so she's fine with Foster. Oh, and in true LA style, I can say that as rumor has it, she used to watch Gary Sinise's kids. That, if nothing else, should clinch it.

Is she too good to be true? Perhaps, so we're hedging our bets and interviewing the someone's nanny's sister too, if only to convince ourselves that we're making the right decision. Now, I just need to be called back into work.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Visiting the Doctor

After our triumph at the pediatrician's yesterday, Otter and I decided to ride the wave of doctor good fortune and finally visit the Dr. Phil offices. It was an impromptu decision, inspired by the fact that SB was completely zonked out in the car and driving somewhere was easier than actually taking her out of the car seat.

In the past, when I was still child-free and people brought their offspring to show off to their co-workers, I was always confused as to the proper reaction. As the gaggle of squealing women made their way down the hallway, surrounding mother and child in an impenetrable human wall, I never knew if I should join in, or save that extra bit of oxygen for mother and child by not adding myself to the masses. Well, being on the receiving end is even crazier.

It was so nice to bask in the glow of baby attention. Our progress through the hall was slow, as we stopped to talk and be admired by friends and coworkers. Otter got petted, carried around and ooohed over by more people than she's probably seen in her whole life. Mostly people said "She's so small!" to which we took some offense, since we had just triumphantly surpassed 10 lbs. One woman mistook us for the wife and child of our friend Del, who had just had a boy a month ago.

It felt a bit like hosting a party, where you don't have enough time to talk to any of the guests. Time flies by, and suddenly you realize that you've spent 2 hours flitting about, and you could really use some food. And a drink. So we made our way home.

But I think all this attention has gone to SB's head just a bit. Today she's insisting we go to her Dad's job. She heard Hef might be auditioning a new set of girlfriends, and frankly, she thinks she has more than a fighting chance.

image courtesy of BusinessWeek

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making Weight

Today Otter was going back to the doctor's to get her second round of vaccines, but also to do a weigh-in. On our last visit, it was deemed that she was too petite (though as I argued then, she was only 6 lbs to begin with, and probably screwed herself by gaining too much weight in her first 2 weeks) and needed to have a clinical eye kept on her.

The anticipation was pretty intense. I mean, no one wants to hear that their child is "failing to thrive," a phrase that implies all kinds of complications of the most serious kind. Images of malnourished babies with sunken eyes and yellow skin run rampant through the mind's eye. And considering it's my job to keep boob firmly planted in mouth, providing nutritious goodness to my helpless infant, the imaginary finger points squarely at me. Any excuses a could (and did) come up with sounded hollow at best: "She's not quite 2 months yet..." (splitting hairs); "I can't help it if she's bulimic..." (pathetic and low). Let's face it - "failure" is the operative word here.

So as not to risk getting reprimanded in that doctorly way again, I entertained several plans to help Otter make weight. The fact that she is allowed to remain in her diaper afforded us several options:

1) Hide weights in there - something small, like ball bearings, bb gun pellets or fishing line sinkers.
2) Don't change the overnight diaper. That's probably a good 2-3 lbs right there!
3) Borrow our neighbor's baby for the appointment. (She was born at a healthy 9 lbs, 5 oz.)

In the end, we decided to just cross our fingers and arrive as is, no hidden weights. Though I did feed her right before the appointment, and sternly warned her not to spit any of it up. If weighing her after a meal is anything like getting me on the scale after dinner, we had a fighting chance.

Otter was shown back to the examination room and told to strip down to her skivvies. Putting on brave face and the innocent look of those with nothing to hide, we faced the music. Like a prizefighter moments before his bout, Otter approached the scales. Time stood still… I could hear the theme from Rocky in the background…

Having weighed in at 8 lbs, 10 oz on her previous visit, and accounting for a gain of about a pound/month, we were aiming for the over 9 1/2, but possibly under 10 lb range. The scale was set to 9 lbs as Otter was plopped down… It remained unbalanced. Could it be?

We left the office triumphantly, having gained 11 ounces BEYOND our expectations. Take that, failure to thrive. We’re 10 lbs, 5 oz., bitch.

Oh, and Hepatitis B, Polio – consider yourselves on notice. Otter’s been vaccinated against you.

image by bfurnace

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On the Road Again...

We have wheels. We are mobile. After the great car meltdown of 29 days ago, in which my lovely, silver Anabelle Lee careened to her untimely death by rear-ending a monster tank of a steel-reinforced Ford F-150, I was left without transportation. Which in LA is equivalent to house arrest. Sure, you can walk to the park or the 7-11, but that's about it. Come to think of it, you can do lots of things at 7-11 which parole officers would frown upon. But I digress...

Long story short - we still haven't bought a car, so yesterday we got me a sexy, graphite gray, Dodge Avenger rental. Yeah, that's me blowing through town, radio blaring, baby in the back seat. You know you've seen me.

Today was a day of mad, gleeful, out-of-house, driving required activity...
We went to the park!
We went to the bank!
We went to Target!
Yeah, what constitutes life's exciting moments has certainly been redefined in the last few months.

And bonus for us (or scary premonition of things to come) - Otter LOVED her some Target. All those colors. All those items you didn't know you wanted at discount prices. She cooed her approval.

image by Dodge

Monday, November 17, 2008

Space, the Final Frontier

After 11 weeks, 5 days, and about 5 hours (give or take), Grand-Diggy has gone where he has not gone before. In a word, he picked up Otter.

Not only that, he read her a book.

Not only that, she really enjoyed it and hung (hanged?) out happily in his arms.

Now, if I can only teach him to change diapers...

Mona Lisa

I've been claiming that Otter now smiles, but it was recently pointed out that we have no pictorial evidence to support my wild claims of Blobby Happiness. I've been trying to catch this elusive expression, with little success. Like the Mona Lisa, Otter has a enigmatic smile, filled with mystery and hidden meaning...

Yeah, right. The real is, the camera simultaneously fascinates and scares the crap outta her. So as soon as I pull it out, she can't tear her eyes away and be distracted by fun toys. She doesn't want to let it out of her sight, in case it tries something funny. Consequently, all her photos look something like this...

But, I'm a persistent fella. So here, at long last the proof is in the soft focus pudding...

On another note, I've discovered a fun new Otter game. Apparently you can put things in babies' mouths and they'll try to eat it. Like Mikey with Life cereal, only better, cause they're not nearly as selective as Mikey...

Halloween Update

For those of you waiting with bated breath to find out how Otter made out on Halloween, here, at long last are our pics...

Otter with Dad...

Otter with Mom... Note our family's festive attire.

Otter shows of her candy stash... Guess I'll have to eat it all so she can enjoy it...