Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Today's To Do List

Get print from photographer (check!)
Clean entire house (um, no)
Do all the laundry (almost! with major spousal contribution)
Change sheets on all 4 beds (2 out of 4 ain't bad, and Paul did both of those)
Pack (no)
Make phone calls (no)
Take Ellie for her shots (check!)
Finish all Christmas present wrapping (check!)
Go through mail and piles of paper crap (no)
Christmas baking:
- dog treats (no)
- zucchini bread (check!)
- banana bread (check!)
- pumpkin bread (check!)
- egg nog tarts (check!)
- gingerbread cookies (check!)
- pumpkin cheesecake (no)

I was feeling pretty good about today until I saw the list all written out like that. And we're supposed to leave town tomorrow, after my office Christmas party and Ellie's PT appointment.

We're going to my parents' for a few days, then coming home for a second Christmas celebration with Paul's family here. The down side is that Paul's whole family will be arriving about the same time we do, so there's no time for cleaning, prepping, grocery shopping, etc. after we get back from my folks'. Worse still is the fact that we're having a new (third!) bathroom put in. It was supposed to be done before Christmas, but you know how these things go. So this is what's right next to the basement guest room:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Who's That Baby in the Mirror?

I've read that by 15-18 months, babies may begin to recognize themselves in the mirror. And the conventional wisdom seems to be that a way to help them do this is to put a smear of shaving cream on baby's face while she's looking in the mirror, and see if she notices that it's on her own face.

Well, the shaving cream idea seems ridiculous to me. Let's be honest: a baby is going to put whatever you smear onto her face directly into her mouth. So I decided to experiment with Ellie and some whipped cream. It turns out that Ellie loves whipped cream. She's no dummy; she turned away from the mirror and opened up her mouth at the can of Reddi-Wip like she was a little birdie waiting for her mama to drop in a worm. So of course I obliged her with a good squirt.

But did it work? Did she see the smear on her face in the mirror and reach for her own cheek to get it? Not quite. At 14 months, Ellie saw the smear in the mirror and wanted the whipped cream badly. So she leaned in toward the mirror slowly, slowly. She became a little frustrated because when she'd turn her mouth to get at the whipped cream, the baby in the mirror turned its head too, moving the whipped cream perpetually out of reach. Ellie compensated by lining up again, coming in slowly, cheek aimed at the mirror, then snapping her mouth around at the last moment. This approach was more successful than you might think. She succeeded in smearing whipped cream on the mirror with her cheek, then getting some into her mouth. Not too bad!

I love watching her learn. This week she's also busy putting objects into containers and using shape sorters (with help) and is starting to try to put rings onto the stacker toys rather than just taking them off. And she loves feeding herself with a fork, though we stab the food for her. So fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Life of Her Own

Ellie is 14 months old. She babbles and has a sign or two but does not talk. She does not yet walk and rarely belly crawls, though she does get around when she needs to. She understands lots and can sometimes put shapes in her shape sorter but she's still very much a baby.

This morning was the women's Bible study Christmas party (this is a really cool group, by the way). The babysitter couldn't make it, so the little ones were in the room with us. A little boy called Trevor, one year older than my Ellie, said something to me about her and it included her name. I was amazed that he recalled her name and was so interested in her.

Trevor's mama told me that the other day they were out shopping and saw a picture of a baby. Trevor said,


His mama said, "No, Trevor, that's not Ellie. It's a baby that looks a little like Ellie though!"

I had a moment of confusion, then I realized: Trevor and Ellie stay with the babysitter together for an hour a week. Of course he knows who she is. And she probably knows who he is too. But I don't know this kid! For the first time, my daughter has an existence separate from mine. It's a strange thought but I need to get used to it soon; she starts "preschool" in January when I go back to work part time.

This is one of those strange moments of separation and, in its way, loneliness that I did not expect. Another came after Ellie was born and I realized that even though I was holding my beautiful newborn and was surrounded by supportive family, I felt lonely. I was used to having someone sharing my skin and it felt strange to be banging around in here all by myself again.


I don't understand money. It's something I really struggle with and have no concept of.

First, poor. I have no real understanding of what it means to be poor. When I was little, we didn't have much money. We didn't eat out, my mom made a lot of our clothes (now more expensive than buying clothes produced cheaply in China), and we didn't have pocket spending money. But there was always a hot meal on the table and there were always Christmas presents under the tree. My parents taught me that money was not important. I still don't know how much money they make or what their savings are - if any. When I went off to college with a great scholarship, I foolishly spent all of my saved babysitting money on foolish things, like pizza. At the end of the year, I was broke and my meager work study earnings weren't enough to cover the dorm phone bill. My meal plan allowed me 1 meal a day, but I'm an eater and that was not enough. During finals I developed a terrible, horrible stress-induced affliction (which I eventually discovered was a yeast infection) and I had no money and no idea what to do about it. Eventually I called my mother for money, something I'd never done before or since (why not? my sisters have). She sent a check. In the mail. For $10 because I was too ashamed to ask for more, like the $16 I knew the treatment actually cost. Why why why?

Second, rich. I've dated rich. I've heard the loud family battles and watched people try to control each other with money. I've ridden in the limos and vacationed on the white sand beaches. I've had my entire wardrobe taken away after a fight because it was all purchased for me by someone else. I've always wanted to be in a place where I didn't have to worry about money ever again. That's a fictional place. The rich worry about money all the time too, though their worries are rather different.

I'm not poor. I'm not rich. I'm just normal, like most people I know. But that's a lie too. How can I - I who can barely make ends meet each month - how can I be in the top 10%? Impossible. Possible. Credit cards and debt. Flexible spending accounts. Individual control over retirement accounts. The system is set up to help most Americans fail. The rich can't be rich unless the poor are poor, and the rich don't understand how different their lives are from the lives of the people serving them dinner, raking their yards, and scanning their steaks at the grocery check-out. You know the ones I mean, not the kids working their way through school, the adults living on these wages and raising families on these wages.

I don't understand money and I wish it were something I never had to think about ever again.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Merry Christmas!

The cards are going out in the mail tomorrow. Who cares that there's no letter and we didn't sign or address them by hand? Technology is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Merry Christmas, everybody!


The American Red Cross has figured out that if they call me on a Sunday afternoon, I'll probably be home. In fact, I might even be sleeping. And it seems that the fastest thing I can say to get them off the phone is, "Yes, sure. Wednesday. Good." No more, my friends, no more!

Donating blood is never easy for me. For one thing, I really hate needles. I'm developing this weird phobia of anything intentionally puncturing the skin. It seems unnecessarily barbaric to me and I believe that someday we'll look back on needles and scalpels like we look at barbers' polls. This is especially weird since I know (intellectually) that heart surgery saved my daughter's life and brain surgery saved my sister's life. (I'll post about that someday. I'm almost ready.) For another thing, I have really deep veins.

So. We go all together as a family after Paul gets home from work. He holds Ellie while we (separately) fill out the tedious paperwork. I go first because I have the appointment. My blood pressure is 100/80 and I'm momentarily proud. Eventually I get to sit in the sky-high beach chair and clench clench clench my hand until my whole arm starts to cramp. None of the three nurses working on me can find a good vein, so I have to get up and flip the chair so that my other arm is resting on the little stand. Repeat clenching exercises, until a new nurse thinks she has found a good vein on top of my elbow crease. Look down at your inner-elbow as you're typing. See the bit where the hair still grows? Yes, that's where she poked me with the giganto-needle.

Paul came in, sat Ellie on a blanket with some toys, sat down in his chair, got hooked up, and pumped out a bag of blood all in about 5 minutes. His blood pressure is 120/90 and I'm suddenly no longer so judgmental about that. Then he and Ellie wandered off to get juice and cookies.

I was still clench clench clenching away. For 15 minutes. Finally! The lever drops. My bag is full! Now they just need to fill the 4 little vials of blood for testing and - uh oh. The line has clotted. Never fear! This nurse-lady will just poke poke poke around with that giganto-needle in my arm to see if she can make me bleed more (no, it's the line that's clotted, not my vein, you dimwit).

New nurse comes back from a smoke break and decides to poke my other arm to fill the test vials. Remember, this is the arm where they could find no veins the first time. This time they don't bother to flip the chair; I'm supposed to hold my arm out in mid-air while we repeat the clench clench clench routine. My whole body aches. New nurse thinks that - with her glove off - she can almost feel the deep vein in the center. She pokes me. Nope! No vein here. Better go up to that top vein, just like on the other arm. But she'd hate to poke me yet again. So she just threaded the needle up to the other vein under my skin. They got their 4 vials.

Today: no politics, no family anecdotes, just this: When you call again in 8 weeks, American Red Cross, I am not home for you. I am going to need a little time to forget this episode.