Wednesday, May 31, 2006

skipping ahead ...

... because the video is up, over Memorial Day weekend we visited our old next-door neighbors in Cleveland. Among the many fun things we did was visit the pool - which you can see Liza liked:
and for those of you who still haven't downloaded the google video player (tsk! tsk!), here's a still:

and another still for the Luddites among us:
The darling in the pink hat is Penelope, our neighbors' youngest child. She's 10 weeks younger than Liza, and she, too, enjoyed her first visit to the pool:
sorry, Luddites - no still for that one.

And lest you think that we only let them play in the baby pool, here's Liza with her Daddy in the big pool:

And a gratuitous shot that shows how much attention our neighbor pays when he's supposed to be watching his boys in the pool:

Matt, I told you I'd make you pay for not reading my blog more often! On the positive side, look at the six pack on that stud.

A few things I forgot to include in the last post

  • Liza is finally picking up some of the useful skills I've been trying to show her for the past few months. For example, she figured out how to brush her hair while we were in Baltimore. Okay, it's more of a "brush at her hair and mess it up a lot" than it is a traditional brushing, but the intent is there. She has also demonstrated that she understands what I mean when I tell her it's clean-up time and ask her to put her toys back in the basket. She only puts away the toys I hand her, but at least it's a start.
  • Jason and I have rented cars for business and vacations since 1995, but this trip was the first time I've ever been upgraded to a convertible. My mother's years of lecturing about the safety of convertibles kicked in, and I had visions of the car flipping over and snapping off my daughter's head. You can tell how far I've come since the PPD started that I didn't chortle with glee a that prospect ... I even briefly considered going back and getting a different car. Then I thought, yeah, let's drag the tired toddler and 900 pounds of luggage back into the rental car line and complain about how we got upgraded to a convertible. Screw that - and keep your head down, Liza! I never did have time to put the top down, and we spent most of the driving time either in my mother-in-law's car or driving along at a glacial 695-traffic-jam pace, so I didn't actually have much to worry about.
  • When we had Liza in the rear-facing car seat we never uninstalled it - it was such a huge pain to get it installed properly in the van in the first place that I was afraid to take it out for fear of never getting it in again. But the forward-facing seat has now been in and out of both of our cars, plus the rental car, plus my mother-in-law's car, plus the Wendlingmobile. On this trip alone I've managed to cut my installation time to under five minutes, and that's while wearing a dress and high heels and not having anyone to hold Liza for me. I can even make that include that stupid locking clip if I have to (I heap curses upont the man who invented that thing ... stupid locking clip).
  • While there are plenty of signs that tell you how to get to the aquarium in Baltimore, there are few that tell you how to get back to the interstates. After getting lost in the projects (no, not kidding - block after block of identical rectangular buildings with junk cars and laundry out back, and I was a distinct ethnic minority) for 10 minutes I finally retraced my steps and found some signs leading to the interstate I came in on. That interstate led to the exact opposite side of Baltimore from where I needed to be to get to the airport, but by then I had seen enough of the scenic inner city and was ready to roll anywhere, even the wrong direction. So what should have been a 20-minute drive to the airport was more of a 50-minute roundabout, but we got there in one piece.
  • WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS THERE NO GAS STATION ANYWHERE NEAR THE RENTAL CAR RETURN AT THE BALTIMORE AIRPORT?????? We've been flying into that airport for more than 10 years, and I think we managed to stumble upon a gas station once. Either there's a huge conspiracy set up by the rental car companies, or somebody's missing out on a spectacular opportunity to make a lot of money. Stupid rental car companies - with today's gas prices, I bet I'll get charged like $50 for the 1/4 tank of gas I used.
  • If you're going to be traveling by plane with a checked car seat, go ahead and spend the $20 to buy the bag to put it in. Not only does it help to have the shoulder strap when you're lugging the thing through the airport, but here's a packing tip - you can put a whole lot of stuff in with the car seat, strap it in, close the bag, and it's like you've got an extra suitcase that doesn't count toward your luggage allowance. My regular suitcase was pretty close to being over the weight limit, so I pulled out the packs of diapers and wipes and a couple of books and shoved them in with the car seat. They didn't seem any worse for the wear when we got where we were going, and I didn't have to pay extra for my heavy bag.
  • Never buy airport snack food for yourself that you don't intend to share with your toddler and subsequently clean off of that same toddler and yourself and your luggage and sometimes tolerant strangers. York Peppermint Patty Popables - bad choice. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

boring travelogue, part 1

The great thing about being gone for a week is that I have accumulated a treasure trove of stuff to write about ... and I'll probably forget half of it before I get a chance to post it all. Anyway, here we go ...

Liza and I flew to Baltimore on Tuesday to attend Jason's sister's graduation. Jason wasn't able to get the time off to go himself, so it was a ladies' trip. After all the excitement of her sitting up for the first time that morning, I would have been content with a grumpy baby on the plane - but she behaved well, and all of us (me, Liza, and 400 pounds of luggage and carseat) made it to Baltimore on time. Wednesday we got to see Susan graduate - as a side note, what sort of idiot plans a graduation ceremony for 2pm on a Wednesday?? Anyway, here's the smartypants at the honors recognition ceremony:

And afterwards, with her boyfriend:

And with a couple of relatives:

Liza was very well-behaved up until the honors recognition ceremony actually started, at which point she decided to talk. About everything. Loudly. Out to the hallway we went, where we changed her diaper, walked around, and got her to shut up for a bit. We went back inside the auditorium just in time to see Susan walk across the stage, and five minutes later we were back in the hallway, talking again. We skipped all the boring speeches, and made it back just in time for the provost to say it was over - now THAT'S good timing.

The actual graduation ceremony was smack in the middle of Liza's normal nap time, so she and I hung out at the hotel while the rest of our party went to the ceremony. We rejoined them for dinner, at which we proved that crayons write better on fabric tablecloths than they do on paper, and yes, babies will eat hummous. We went to Susan's apartment for dessert, and Jason's aunt and mother kept trying to feed Liza all of their cake and ice cream. Liza, meanwhile, managed to cruise around three sides of a large coffee table, at something faster than her usual glacial pace, so I let the doting grandmas feed her whatever they wanted.

Thursday we met my parents at the aquarium in Baltimore - in a spectacular feat of convergent timing, they managed to make the trip down from Delaware and pull into the same parking garage we were pulling into - they were the car in front of us at the ticket line! Not bad considering they called me 5 minutes before to tell me they were lost near the science center on the opposite side of the harbor.

Anyway, Liza was in favor of the aquarium for about the first 10 minutes, after which she decided that she'd had enough and cried for the next 45 minutes or so. The aquarium doesn't allow strollers, so I had her in the hip carrier, and it took forever to get her to go to sleep. I must have sung the same lullaby to her, oh, 45 times.

Friday we flew to Cleveland ... but I'll have to write about that later. It's off to the grocery store for me!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Holy shit, SHE SAT UP!!!!!

Okay, it was probably by accident, and it involved rolling over a folded blanket, but MY DAUGHTER FINALLY MADE IT TO A SITTING POSITION ON HER OWN!!!!! (yes, that's a chorus of angels you hear in the background ... I've had them on call for six months now)

Oh, the cuteness

New video of Liza is available at ....

Oh, and this will probably be the last post for about a week, so don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a bit. We're not dead, just unavailable to post.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lil' Liza Jane

And since I'm posting a ridiculous number of photos today, anyway, here are the latest ones of Liza. Let's see, let's start with the artsy one I've nicknamed "Ghost Baby":

And then there's Liza practicing her OT-inspired floor time - she's not normally this awkward-looking, but she was in mid-roll when I took the picture:

And me whispering sweet nothings into her ear ("you will sleep until 9am tomorrow morning so Mama can get a shower before the electrician arrives"):

And proof that Liza's sandals are a tad bit loose right now:

Oh, and if you're wondering how I did the "Ghost Baby" shot, the secret involves the right lighting and a REALLY clean storm door (trash cans in the background are optional):

A rose is a rose is a rose ...

As long as I was stalking around the yard taking pictures of my handiwork, I thought I'd share my neighbor's roses with you. They're gorgeous this year, despite the fact that neither of us have done a darn thing with any of the plants in that flowerbed, which we share between our properties.

May 20 - National "Finally Start the Yard Work" Day

Now that the rain has mostly stopped, I've run out of excuses to not work on the list of yard projects I want to accomplish this year. I've been whittling away at some of the smaller ones this week - weeding, putting down a few bags of mulch, putting in some flowers in the front yard - but I waited until yesterday to start the heavy-duty Ivy Eradication Project, Part too-many-to-keep-track-anymore.

Dad, do you remember the far back corner of our yard, the one that you refused to weed last year because "God only knows what's living in that mess?" Here it is after two naps' worth of work on it yesterday:

And you know those skanky yew bushes that covered up the mess of ivy, vinca, and dead tree branches along the back fence of our property? Here it is today, after three naps of work and a couple trips to Lowe's (where we got to stand in line behind EVERY OTHER HOMEOWNER IN TOWN, PLUS A FEW AMBITIOUS RENTERS):

Ugly perennial grassy stuff near the sidewalk? Transplanted to a less noticeable location and replaced with - gasp - actual flowers!

Flowerbed under the maple tree near our patio? Weeded and planted.

Flowerpots on the front stoop? Finished.

Now all we need is about two truckloads of mulch, and we'll be done ... until those ratty-looking azaleas start to piss me off again. You're on my short list, azaleas - you've been warned!

Now, does anyone have a Tylenol? My shoveling leg is killing me ...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Google Earth

Okay, if you don't have a high-speed connection, you're out of luck. If you do have access to decent-speed internet, though, you HAVE to try Google Earth. It combines satellite views of the entire planet, makes it searchable, and lets you zoooooom in to the point where in some places you can see actual houses. Like my parents' house (the one in the center with the crappy lawn, just below the house with the pool):

If you zoom in even further you can see a pixelated red blur near the right front of the house... looks like Dad had the truck parked in the driveway that day! Because different areas of the country are covered by different satellites with different image resolutions, you can't always get that level of detail. More urban areas are easier to zoom in on than rural ones. For example, here's the house where I grew up ... if I zoom much larger than this, it gets really pixelated really fast:

You can also use it to illustrate points, such as ... why it sucks when we have to drive home for various holidays ....

Ooooh, this is fun. I'm going to blow off my housework and play for the rest of the afternoon!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Liza had her first actual OT session today. We spent about 20 minutes working with her with a variety of small toys, trying to get her to take them out of containers and then put them back in. And trying to get her to reach for them when they were out of reach, which didn't work nearly as well as the taking-out-and-putting-back. I was pretty impressed - the shape-sorter toy Denise the Therapist brought had a big opening at one end that was covered with flexible plastic that was cut in an asterisk shape, so you could reach in with your hand but the pieces wouldn't fall out on their own ( sort of like the snack cups they make for kids). Liza couldn't see the pieces inside, and I think at first she was a little scared to put her hand in the opening. She figured it out pretty quickly, though, with a lot of prodding from me and Denise. Not bad considering that a few months ago it would take DAYS to get Liza to even acknowledge a new toy, much less stick her arm into something that would make it disappear.

Part of the reason Liza got to work with all the small toys was that it gave her something to do while we had her in a prone position, either on her back or on her stomach. Denise said that one of the main things she wanted to work on today was getting Liza more comfortable lying down, and figuring out ways to head-off her frustration before it hits the point of no return. So we'd play with the toys for a while, and when Liza got grumpy we'd help her change positions or bring in a new toy or try a different activity with the old toy. One of the things Denise thought might help Liza be more comfortable while lying down was to have weight on her - I've heard about this for autistic kids, but never for kids with other developmental delays. Apparently some kids who have problems processing sensory information find that strange sensations - like being bounced or squeezed - are calming. Denise thought it was worth a try to see if the pressure from a weighted pillow might help Liza spend a little longer lying down before she freaked out. She has a couple of weighted pillows - filled with polybeads, which they use in the kind of stuffed animals that are weighted on the bottom so they sit upright - that are about four pounds each. We tried the two different shapes, and she let me bring them home to play around with and use as patterns if one seems to work for Liza. The jury is still out on whether they work - they did seemed to help Liza stay happy longer when she was on her tummy, but I don't know if that's just because she was confused about having 4 pounds of weight on her tush and lower back. The pillows are easy enough to make and fill with rice, so if I make some, worst-case we'll have a couple of pretty heavy microwave heating pads to use this winter.

The other thing that Denise tried in order to calm Liza down a little was using a big cylindrical cushion to sort of roll/bounce Liza up and down. She sort of draped Liza against the cushion in a standing position, then lifted her up by her rear so that the cushion rolled forward with Liza draped over it. Then she lowered Liza back down quickly enough that she sort of jarred a little bit when her feet hit the floor. Liza wasn't too sure what to make of that for the first couple of repeats, but after half a dozen times, she was kicking and squirming all over the place in the universal signal for "more, more, faster!" We bounced her a little faster, and you should have seen the smile on her face ... and heard the screaming when it was time to do something else.

Denise says that a lot of kids like the jarring motion, and this could be a good way to get her attention again when she's freaking out. I know that Liza has liked being bounced and jostled and bumped and thumped and whatever ever since she was tiny - when we'd go for walks last summer, she always fell asleep when I was walking on the bumpy, potholey sidewalk, but she would wake up and cry when we got to the smooth pavement. Luckily I've already got one of those big exercise balls, so we tried it at home this afternoon. It's a little harder with a ball than with a cylinder - I have to be careful she doesn't tip to one side rather than just go forward and back - but she was absolutely enthralled by the experience and was giggling after only a few minutes. And she screamed like a banshee when we stopped, which I guess is a good sign that she likes it. Anyway, Denise has a peanut-shaped exercise ball that she'll let us borrow after our next session if it seems to help Liza calm down - the peanut ones don't roll to the side like a sphere does, so that will be one thing I have to worry about.

After therapy we went to the park to meet with our loosely-organized playgroup, which consists of three 18-month-olds, two 2-year-olds, and Liza. We always meet at different parks around town, and the other kids like to run around and chase ducks and bruise themselves on the playground equipment and steal each others' snacks. Liza likes to watch. Today, however, when we were all sitting down eating our snacks, Liza was willingly handing her Veggie Puffs to the 18-month-old who never eats her own snacks but will eat anything somebody else brought, so all of the moms always bring enough to share. Liza's a big sharer, but until recently she has always been emphatic about getting the shared item back RIGHT AWAY. She cried a couple of months ago when Jason ate the Cheerio Liza had shared with him. And Veggie Puffs are one of Liza's favorite foods - she hardly ever throws them on the floor, even when she's done eating. But today she was handing out those Veggie Puffs like candy on Halloween - it was cool. There are few things cuter than one pudgy little baby hand giving something to another pudgy little baby hand ... especially when the recipient thinks the gift is just the coolest thing and lights up like a Christmas tree when she gets it. Way too precious for words, our girls were.

Well, the sky is an ominous greenish-grey, so I think I'll go unplug the computer now.

Oh, and referring to my earlier post - my best-friends-in-Kentucky now have their canoe tied down to the top of their car, their camper trailer attached, and they're carrying out luggage and last-minute stuff. Did I mention that THIS SUCKS??

But, but .... WE'RE always the ones who leave!

I just sat here at my desk and watched the tractor trailer packed with all of my best-friend-in-Kentucky's household goods pull out on its way to their new home in Georgia. This SUCKS.

Monday, May 15, 2006

It started innocently enough ...

I've heard horror stories about people whose blogs inadvertently were erased or otherwise corrupted, so I decided this morning that I would back up my blog by printing out each of the entries. I'm still working on that, but I figured that while I was waiting for the printouts I would find a binder big enough to hold them all. Not a problem, as this house is apparently Where Empty Binders Go To Die ... I can reach six of them, just from my desk, not counting some that are probably squirreled away in the attic or have been given away or sold at yard sales.

But the Honking Big Blue Binder I wanted wasn't currently empty - it had all of the old bills for utilities at our house in Cleveland. Don't ask me why we've been keeping them - initially it was "we'll keep them until we get all the accounts closed and I've got the refund checks recorded," then it was "I've got too many other things to do to spend an hour shredding all that stuff when I don't need the space that badly." So here we are, two years later, with all of our old cable bills and water meter readings gathering dust in my office.

Shredding documents is one of those chores that I know I SHOULD do, but for some reason I just loathe the task. It could be because I have a junky shredder that will only take two - possibly three - sheets of paper at a time without jamming, and that overheats after about 15 minutes of shredding, and that has to be emptied every five minutes because the container is so small. So shredding gets put off, and put off, and put off. For example, when we started collecting the 2005 tax information I realized we could go ahead and destroy the 1997 and 1998 tax stuff, so I brought the files down from the attic and put them on the floor next to my desk. The intention was to shred them sometime while I was waiting for something else to happen at the computer - burning a CD or something. That was in January ... and I just got around to shredding the stuff today. Yes, I had two thick files of tax stuff sitting on the floor of my office for close to FIVE MONTHS, that's how much I hate shredding. And the longer it sits, the more stuff accumulates, and the longer the shredding will take. It's a never-ending cycle of annoyance, this whole shredding thing.

So all morning I've been shredding tax stuff, and old utility bills, and I've just started on the box of credit card receipts that are so old we actually packed them and moved them down here with all the rest of our stuff two years ago. Thanks to the insanely detailed nature of some of the receipts, if you want to know what brand of tampon I was using in 2002, I can find out for you pretty quickly. I'm currently waiting for the overheated shredder to come back to life (for the third time) and trying to find more trash bags for all of the shredded goodness. Anyone need three trash bags full of excellent packing material?? Just don't tape the pieces back together to figure out what types of produce we were buying in 2000 ...

Friday, May 12, 2006

One more thing ....

... before I go do something useful today. My best friend here in the neighborhood is moving later this month, and she asked me to help her decorate her new house by making some cornices for the windows in some of the rooms. Here are the first two, done and ready to go once they close on the house next week:

They're actually close to 8 feet long, so this photo just shows the left half of each. The bottom one will go in her master bedroom - it actually gets a tassel at the bottom of the point that I hadn't attached when I took the photo. The top one goes in the girls' room, and since you can't see the nifty part in the big photo, I took a closeup to show you the trim detail:

Any time I get to use a glue gun and trim with little tassely things, I'm a happy camper. I can take no credit for the fabric choices - my neighbor picked them out on her own. I think she made some great choices - they totally fit with the feeling she's trying to go for in each room.

I can tell she likes this new house more than her current one, because it took her over a year to make a decision about what color to paint the dining room here, but she's just about got the new house decorated and she doesn't even own it yet! Anyway, I've got one more set of cornices to make in the next week, and those should be even more fun than these, because I get to design them myself. I'll post photos when I get them done - they'll either be REALLY cool, or practically hideous - could go either way.

Liza with the new haircut

Remember when I said that it is amazing how much difference a little hair makes in how someone looks? Here's Liza, post-haircut. Just ignore all the food smeared on her face - that's what I do everyday. :)

And here she is, showing off her latest trick, which I think indicates an unhealthy interest in oral hygiene. Too bad I couldn't get a shot of her attempting to shove her whole arm down my throat to inspect my tonsils ...

If nothing else, at least this makes it easy to get her to participate in the toothbrushing process.

Latest quilt project

When one of my friends from college commissioned a quilt for his family, he didn't give me many guidelines about what he wanted - it should be sized to hang on a wall, and the family would really like it to have purple in it somewhere. Luckily, there were several quilt ideas I've had stewing for a while now, and I was able to adapt one of them to fit his needs.

Basically what I did was combine two styles of quilting - Hawaiian and raw-edge applique. The Hawaiian technique usually uses one overall design cut from one piece of fabric the way that kids cut out snowflakes from paper. It's time-consuming, because all of the edges have to be turned under and sewn down by hand, and the whole thing is echo-quilted every 1/2" or so. Here's an example of a typical Hawaiian quilt:

photo credit:

The other technique is raw-edge applique, in which the applique piece is sewn down with a straight machine stitch about 1/8" from the outside of the piece, which is then allowed to fray naturally when the piece is handled and washed. Here's an example of that technique:

photo credit:

As far as I can tell, I'm the first person to combine the two techniques into one quilt. I sketched out the design based on one I found on the Internet, and agonized over the fabric choices for way longer than I should have. After ironing out some of the bugs on a quilt for a different friend (sorry, I forgot to take photos before I gave it to her!), I think I've perfected the technique. Here's the result:

The whole quilt is done by machine, with the exception of the final sewing on the binding and the quilt label on the back. The machine quilting made this project go really fast, at least compared to the months it would have taken me to do this by hand. Here's a closeup of the quilting from the back:

And here's a closeup of the applique on the front. I don't think this would work for every quilt pattern, as the frayed edges are definitely a different look than the hard, precise edges you get on a normal Hawaiian quilt. But they give the piece a sort of organic feel, which I like, and they add some tactile interest, too. Plus, did I mention how fast this went together once I had the fabrics picked out? Dude, like, soooo fast.

Now that it's done and the quilt's in the mail, I'm thinking of writing this up for a quilt magazine. Since I've never seen anyone do the technique before, I think an article about it could sell. I'll just have to research to see which magazine pays the most and submit to them first!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ohhhh - TEEEEEE!

Liza had her occupational therapy (OT) assessment today. Yes, I know that sounds like we're trying to figure out whether she'll be a good bus driver or secretary or biochemist, but in reality OT is just a way of saying "teaching people how to do what they need to do in order to live their lives." OT can help children with developmental delays learn the everyday skills that other kids figure out on their own ... silly things like, oh, say, SITTING UP. Here's a link to the national OT association's description of pediatric OT:

Our appointment today was at a local gymnastics center that is only about two miles from our house. The therapist does a lot of the pediatric appointments there because they already have a lot of the mats and toys and stuff that she needs, and it is a little less clinical than the OT/PT office where she works. I was pleased to see that the therapist had already disinfected the mat we'd be using, and she was ready to go as soon as we got there. This same gym does an "open mat" time on Wednesdays that I've been told is a lot of fun for the kids once they get older and can run around and play on the trampolines and stuff. Personally, I had fun walking on the springy floor and bouncing on the little trampoline with Liza ... maybe we'll go to the open time just so I can play around :)

Denise, the OT therapist, seemed really nice, and she was really good with Liza. She did a pretty detailed (if free-form) evaluation of what Liza can and can't do. She had her sit and try to reach for toys, lay on her stomach and roll over, etc. She spent quite a lot of the visit trying to see if Liza would sit up from a prone position if Denise sort of molded her body into the right position. Liza did pretty well, considering she was in a strange place with a strange person and it was almost naptime ... there weren't many meltdowns that weren't cured by the application of some goldfish crackers. Here are some of the observations that Denise shared with me (my comments in italics):
  1. "Wow, she really knows what she wants and gets mad quick if she doesn't get it, doesn't she?" Uh, yeah. Like continuously for the first seven months of her life. She's a little grumpy now because it's naptime, but overall this is the improved version.
  2. Liza has good range of motion when she's sitting - she can turn and reach for objects off to the side and even sort of behind her. That's my girl!
  3. Liza's hips seem a little stiff when Denise tries to get her to sit up from a prone position. That is, Liza tends to stiffen up and not want to bend her legs the way that Denise wants her to, and Liza doesn't cooperate as much as Denise would like her to. Same with turning over - she seems to resist turning to one side, but has no problem turning to the other side. Hey, at least now she's turning over again. There for a few months she had given up "turning over" for Lent or something.
  4. Liza doesn't seem comfortable in a prone position. Denise said this is common among kids who seem to prefer sitting up when they're young - parents see they prefer sitting, and they automatically put them in a sitting position to play. This means that the kids don't get the time to explore in the prone position the way they need to in order to figure out how to get themselves out of it. Guilty as charged - since Liza hated tummy time so much and her head was getting flat from laying on her back all the time, as soon as we could prop her up into a sitting position, that was what we did. Ooops - we messed up our daughter!
  5. "Liza really likes to bounce, doesn't she?" Bouncing was the only thing that would calm her down when she was screaming, and even now it's the best way to jolly her out of a tantrum or a sleepy crying jag. "We'll have to keep an eye on that, because a lot of times kids that like to bounce all the time end up walking on their tippy toes so they get that sensation, and we want to head that off as soon as we can. We don't want to get her to sit up, only to have her running around on her tippy toes, flapping her arms." Um, yeah, I'll get right on that right after we get her to SIT UP.
  6. Liza seems to be stuck on a few sensations, repeating them rather than trying to see what else things can do. For example, when Liza picked up a whiffle ball Denise handed her, she didn't sniff it or lick it or turn it around or try to roll it or bounce it ... she started smacking it with her free hand. When Liza picked up another ball, she smacked the two of them together, then dropped one and picked up a third and smacked them together. Yeah, she does this a lot with all of her small toys. Once she figures out one way to play with them, she'll do it over and over. I didn't think it was unusual, but I guess it is a little weird. For example, we have some small baskets of toys she plays with when I'm in the shower or fixing dinner. She'll happily sit there for 10 minutes, pulling everything out of the basket, banging things together, banging them on the floor, and then throwing them over her shoulder. But in order to get her to do anything new with the items, I have to show her over and over again, sometimes moving her hands to do it with me. It looks like there's going to be a lot less self-entertaining and a lot more Mama-directed play in our future if we're going to get her to change how she plays.
  7. Liza has good manual dexterity - she was picking up the goldfish in a pincer grip, and she managed to extricate her finger from the hole in the whiffle ball when she got it stuck. But she doesn't use those skills in new ways - such as by turning a ball over in her hands to look at the whole thing (see #6 above). But just a few weeks ago she learned how to pry the puzzle pieces out of the puzzle ... so she could pick them up and bang them together and throw them over her shoulder. But still - the 'pulling them out of the puzzle' part was new!
The whole point of today's visit was to determine whether Liza is sufficiently delayed to require assistance. Denise believes she is, and is going to write up the report and send it back to our pediatrician for his sign-off so we can get started with the actual therapy. She said that usually takes about a week, so hopefully we'll be able to get started on the therapy appointments later this month.

Denise said that there were a few things she'd like to work on with Liza. They include:
  • Getting her more comfortable with the prone position. Denise said that if Liza gets used to laying down, at some point she'll work out on her own the mechanics of how to sit up. But until she's more comfortable exploring from a horizontal position, she's not going to make much progress doing more advanced things.
  • Getting her to expand her sensations. Denise wants to teach her that you can do more with toys than just bang them together and throw them over your shoulder.
  • Trying to convince her to not get frustrated so quickly that she doesn't give new experiences a shot. Denise said that while there would be some physical work associated with the sitting up, a lot of what we'd be working on would be mental ... trying to get through to Liza that sitting up is fun and important, for example, and that if you can't reach a toy you shouldn't throw a fit, you should just go get it.
  • Contrary to what the First Steps lady said, Denise doesn't think there should be that much crying involved in the OT work we'll be doing at home once the therapy starts. I sort of had visions of having to show her how to sit up a few times, then putting the appropriate motivation (i.e. chocolate) nearby and listening to her scream while she refused to try to reach it on her own. But Denise thinks that if we can get through to her to overcome the mental block she's got about being prone, she'll be a lot more patient and willing to try to get to things on her own. It's not all going to be happy smiling baby, but it shouldn't be a 40-minute scream-fest like I had dreaded.

I'm still trying to process the whole experience, so I'm sorry if this post is a little disjointed. On the one hand, it's nice to know that I'm not just being a paranoid mother, there is something a little strange with Liza's development. On the other hand, nobody wants to be told that there's something wrong with their child, no matter how correctable it might be.

Unlike some mothers, I have never worked under the illusion that my child was perfect ... Liza screamed too much for that to be true. But I was happy to believe that some of her quirks were signs of genius, rather than signs that she was developmentally stuck in one gear. It's much more reassuring to say, "Look how she explores the sounds those blocks make when she bangs them together!" than it is to say, "Yes, but she should have moved on from block-banging months ago and be doing more complex things with the blocks by now."

Every mother desperately hopes there child will be brilliant, and with my genes and Jason's genes Liza will be hard-pressed to not turn out at least above-average. But hearing that some of her behaviors are delayed was harder than I expected it to be. It's not like I'm going to collapse in a soggy heap in a corner or anything, but it was more of a blow than I thought. I don't tend to be romantic or sentimental or overly dramatic about most things - I've been very matter-of-fact about this whole process of seeking help for Liza. I guess part of me was expecting that the therapist would say something along the lines of, "Not that much wrong with her - a couple of sessions of sitting-up practice and you'll be chasing her around the house by the Fourth of July." When that's what you're expecting, it's not hard to be matter-of-fact ... you just plod through the system, secure in the knowledge that your child is brilliant except for this one minor delay that you'll have fixed in no time.

See, now I'm starting to sound melodramatic, because what Denise told me today isn't that different from what I was expecting, and I can't say I disagree with any of her observations. I guess the part about not exploring things in different ways caught me off-guard. I was prepared to talk about not sitting up, not about how it's a little weird that she's still banging things together, and that's got me a little verklempt. It's not like we went in and Denise said, "Oh, by the way, did you know your child has such-and-such a horrible developmental condition that she'll be fighting for the rest of her life?" Chances are very good that a few months of OT will set Liza on the right track, and she'll turn out to be the internationally-acclaimed astronaut-turned-President that I plan for her to be.

One of the things that has me a little upset is the nasty suspicion that I contributed to some of Liza's delays. Before you jump in and post comments about how that's not fair to me, think about the following:

  • Denise said that part of the not-sitting-up problem is the fact that we put her into a sitting position so often, rather than leaving her prone and letting her work it out on her own. I kind of thought this myself when the problem first surfaced, but by then Liza was at the "I will scream incessantly until you sit me up again" stage and I couldn't deal with it.
  • I can't deal with Liza screaming, especially if I know how to fix it. We spent so many hours being unable to get her to stop crying no matter what we tried, that to know how to soothe her and not do it seems barbaric. Baby's crying because she can't reach the toy? It's much easier to nudge the toy a little closer than it is to listen to her crying, crying which makes me not like her and not want to be around her, even with the Zoloft. So for the sake of not having to commit myself to a mental institution I've made things easier for Liza than I probably should have, and now she's accustomed to getting things the easy way. Why bother to sit up when it uses all those silly muscles, and if you cry long enough Mama will pull you up anyway?
  • Part of the reason Liza doesn't play with toys in multiple ways may have something to do with the fact that she plays so well by herself. I tend to let her play alone more than I probably should ... it's so nice to be able to sit her down with a basket of toys and jump in the shower and know that she'll be happy for 10 minutes or so. I've been making use of this as much as I can recently, since I know that once Liza starts walking, my days of showering while she's awake are pretty much over. It would be one thing if it was just a 10-minute shower, but I'll admit I let her entertain herself a lot more than that every day. Maybe if I spent more time actively playing with her - rather than letting her play near me while I do something else and make approving comments every once in a while - she would have caught on to some of this stuff sooner. I have no defense for my actions, other than a) babies are boring until they're old enough to sit up, b) I've got too many hobbies and things I want to do around the house, and c) it was less stressful than actually trying to play with her. Besides, at least I know she's not totally dependent on me to provide entertainment for her ... I think I need to find more of a happy medium, where sometimes I let her play alone, and sometimes I sit there and play with her purposefully. I'm sure we'll have to do some of the purposeful playing once the therapy starts, as I'm sure there will be homework involved in that.

I've purposely sort of cleared out my schedule (such as it is) of things that usually distract me from Liza, so that I won't be tempted to go do something else instead of hanging out with her. Quilt projects are wrapping up, most of the household repairs are at a stage where they can sit for a while and be worked on during evenings and weekends when Jason can do the childcare, and I've decided not to apply for a couple of part-time writing positions that would involve me needing to spend a couple hours a day in front of the computer. Blogging is going to have to take a backseat for a while, too, as I've decided I'm no longer allowed to write while she's awake and in my care. She's still taking two naps a day and going to bed at 8, so it's not like I've got no time at all, but it will cut into my famous ability to get ridiculous amounts of stuff done.

I love my daughter to pieces, and I know she's among the prettiest and smartest children on the planet. Up until now I have been very lackadaisical (hah! I spelled that right the first time!) about my parenting, and that's going to change. I want Liza to have plenty of other children to model her behavior on, and I want to spend more time working with her on some of the skills she's missing. The babytime group starts meeting at the library in early June, and I'm going to see if I can adjust Liza's naptime to accommodate it. There's a toddler music class at the local arts center that I'm probably going to sign Liza up for - since she seems to respond so well to banging things together, I might as well learn some new songs and meet some other mothers. I've been getting together with a group of other moms of toddlers once a week, and I'm going to keep that up. The signup for the baby swim lessons at the university is later this month, and I think I'm going to try that. I don't want to turn into one of those over-achieving uber-moms who push their children to do EVERY activity and sign them up for EVERY enrichment course. But a few of these things, which expose her to new people and new experiences, can't do anything but help the situation.

I'll be sure to keep you posted on our progress - Liza with her sitting, me with my momming - in blog entries that will undoubtedly be much shorter than this one. : )

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

disturbing image of the day

If you dislike either snakes or alligators, be sure to visit

where you can see a photo of a 13-foot-long snake that appears to have exploded after eating an alligator. New shoes and a purse, anyone?

Did she watch too many Muppets episodes during her critical formative months?

My daughter has perfected the "Kermit laugh."

You know, on the Muppet show, when Kermit was so excited about a guest he would introduce them and would go "yayyyyyyyy!!!!!" while throwing back his head, opening his mouth so wide you could practically see his butt, and sort of shimmy from side to side and wave his arms. It's even cuter when a toddler does it while holding a handful of cat in one hand and drooling milk down her chin ... I have no idea where she picked this up, other than from a handful of Muppets episodes we tried to use to calm her down when she was Her Royal Screaminess about six months ago. Please, please tell me she didn't learn it from there ... because I really don't want her to end up picking up any nasty habits from Gonzo or Miss Piggy.

While searching for a picture of Laughing Kermit, I found this:
I actually had this issue of this magazine when I was growing up! How weird is that?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I made a decision when I started this blog that if I didn't have anything interesting or funny to share, I wouldn't bother to write. So many blogs turn into "here's what I ate today, here's what I'm reading, and did anyone predict what was going to happen on Lost last night?" and I personally don't enjoy reading things like that, even if I wrote it. Nobody cares what I had for lunch today, unless it fell out of the sandwich and made a Virgin-Mary-shaped stain on my trousers, so why bother writing about it? Anyway, I've been suffering from a hideous attack of allergies for the past few days, leading me to be largely sleepless and consequently grumpy ... I figured I'd spare everyone the details of what's draining (or not), what I'm taking (or not) and how many times I've contemplated sui- or homi-cide. But topics are backing up on me, and maybe the typing will help clear the blockage in my .... oh, nevermind.

Anyway, Liza's birthday was last weekend, and as you can tell from my posts, we celebrated by doing absolutely nothing for her. Later in the week, however, I did break down and buy her some cupcakes at the grocery store so we could do the traditional chocolate-smeared-baby photos that are required of new parents. Here you go:

(Video will be available in a few days - I'll link to it in a separate post)
I'm usually not a cake snob, and most of the time I prefer the strangely spongy texture of box mix cakes to homemade, but I do have my standards. Those cupcakes were nasty ... I only ate one, and I regretted wasting the calories on it. Note to self: Next year, no matter how crappy I feel or how many other things I have to do, I will not buy Liza's birthday cake at Wal-Mart. Kroger, maybe, but not Wal-Mart.

One of the billion other things I had to do this week was get together all of the stuff for the community yard sale we had yesterday. This is the second time I've organized the sale for our street, and it's been a big success each time. The organization of the sale isn't that difficult - collect some money, place an ad in the paper, and put up some signs around town - but organizing our stuff for the actual sale is a pain. During the year we have a pile of potential yard sale merchandise that languishes in plastic totes in our basement (and then piles up around the full totes, and then gets crap dropped on them when we work on the wiring in the basement), so I had to drag all that stuff upstairs, clean it off, price it, and get it somewhat organized so that all the kitchen stuff would be together, etc. Then I had to dig all the tables and sawhorses and such out from under the piles of insulation Sam the Electrician has been pulling out of the basement ceiling ... and try to rig a clothes rack to use for the baby items ... and go buy balloons to put on the signs ... all while blowing my nose every five minutes and not being able to hear out of one ear. And did I mention that Jason was up in Cleveland on Thursday and Friday, so I got to do all the last-minute preparations without his help?

Anyway, we decided to open the sale at 8am this year, as last year we opened at 9am and the earlybirds were complaining that it was so late (!). So we got up at 6:30 to start setting up the merchandise and putting out the signs ... I was shooing people away at 7am, and finally broke down and sold something to somebody at 7:30. I hadn't brushed my teeth, combed my hair, or eaten any breakfast at that point, but I was up by 75 cents before the sale officially opened :) Here's what the sale looked like a few minutes later when I went upstairs to get cleaned up:

We had a good day for the sale - sunny but sort of cool, and there were tons of other sales out to lure people to our neighborhood. One lady said she had never seen so many yard sale notices in the local paper before - it was four columns long! Anyway, we were fairly steadily busy up until lunch time, and things really tapered off after noon. By the time we closed at 3pm, we had sold almost all of the big items, a good portion of the small items, and only had one trunkload of stuff left over to take to Goodwill. Net profit on the project: $351.95. I told you it was a good day for the sale!

In case anyone else is planning on doing a sale this summer, here are some tips I've figured out over the past few sales:

  1. It may not be cost-effective to put an ad in the paper, unless you live somewhere that is hard to find or doesn't get a lot of traffic. Almost all of the people I asked came to the yard sale because they saw the signs, not because of an ad in the paper. I think next year I may save the ad money and put it toward more and/or better signs.
  2. Go to the dollar store and buy a dozen mylar balloons the day before your sale. You can tie them to your signs, attach them to your tables, etc. They're really good for catching the eye of passers-by and getting them to notice that you're having a sale.
  3. The more organized you are, the easier it will be for you and your customers. If you can group similar things together (all of the kitchen stuff on the same section of table, all of the baby items near one another, etc.) it helps the customers that are looking for specific things. It also helps you find things if you want to suggest them to customers.
  4. Put prices directly on as many things as possible - people don't seem to read the signs that say "everything in this box is $1."
  5. Never hestitate to suggest other items to customers who are looking at something. For example, there were two college-aged guys looking at some of our cassette tapes, and after they bought a few and left I remembered I should have suggested our CD storage albums to them.
  6. If you live in an area where yard-saling is a family activity, try to have the kid stuff out in plain view where the kids can see it and start pestering their parents for it. And it doesn't hurt to have a box of little things you can give to kids to keep them out of trouble while their parents shop - this sale I had Christmas ornaments that I had priced at 50 cents and that weren't selling, so when kids started to handle adult merchandise, I would take them aside and let them pick one for free. It kept the sale free from breakage, kept me from wanting to strangle the little octopi, and it generated some goodwill from the parents.
  7. Be honest if there's something slightly wrong with an item you're selling. People will be more likely to buy an item if they think you're being honest with them ... and some people like the challenge of trying to fix up things that are slightly broken. But don't sell stuff that is actually JUNK - bring it out and mark it as "Free - Use for Parts" or something to that effect.
  8. Make sure there is always someone manning your sale, even if you have to pay the kid across the street a couple of quarters to sit there while you go to the bathroom. One family in our sale had to drop their kids off at some sporting event partway through the morning, and they had at least 10 people come look at their stuff while they were gone. I don't know if they would have sold anything if someone had been there, but they certainly didn't when it was unoccupied.
  9. You probably won't need as much change as you think, especially if you price things properly. NOTHING LESS THAN A QUARTER, unless you really want to be fooling around with pounds of change. I got $100 in ones, fives, and quarters this time, and I only used $50 of it ... and not even all of that. The earlybirds tend to be the most prepared with small bills, so even if you start off low on change, you'll probably stock up pretty quickly. I think next time I'll limit it to one roll of quarters, $20 in ones, and $20 in fives.
  10. Be available to your customers. Don't talk on the phone, read a book, or otherwise look too busy during the sale - your job is to sell these people your stuff, not work on your tan. People have questions, and some of them like to talk. Be personable, be approachable, and for goodness sake, don't act offended if they offer you less than the price marked. Bargaining is a part of the yard sale game - and if you really don't want to do it, post a conspicuous sign that says "all prices are firm." But really, it's better to build some wiggle room into your prices ... people will feel they got a good deal, and you'll have less stuff to carry back to the garage when you're done.
  11. Bonus tip: At the end of the sale, designate one large plastic tote bin for stuff that you'll keep to try to sell again. If you were surprised something didn't sell, put it in the tote. If the tote gets full, too bad - everything else goes to Goodwill. Not tomorrow, not next week - TODAY. Back the car up to the table, throw everything in, and say good riddance. Trust me, most of the junk wouldn't sell at the second, or third, or fourth sale any better than it did at the first. You can use the tax writeoff, and the space, more than the junk.

Now that the sale is done, and Sam the Electrician is done with the worst of the "cutting large holes into the plaster and making a huge mess in my house" phase of the rewiring, I guess I'm running out of reasons that my house is such a wreck. I haven't had any friends with kids over to visit in months because the entire house has been some form of toxic choking hazard that possibly includes electrocution. Now I've got to get my act together and start child-proofing again, on the off chance the Liza ever decides to get off her butt and move. Or, more accurately, I need to do the childproofing so I don't have to keep such a close eye on my friends' kids when they come over for playdates ... I really don't want to have to fish screws out of their mouths, or have to look up "resucitation for electrical shock victims" every time they come over, you know?

Liza is still her usual, non-mobile self. Her 12-month checkup was on Tuesday, and she got a clean bill of health (and a polio vaccination). Still in the 90+ percentile on height, still in the 40th percentile on weight, so we can still legitimately call her 'stringbean.' She weighs slightly more than 20 pounds, so we are allowed to use her forward-facing car seat now, which is good because we've been using it for the past few weeks anyway, and we sold her rear-facing seat at the yardsale yesterday. Liza's doctor went ahead and referred her for occupational therapy (OT), but getting that all set up has involved a week of phone calls back and forth to different agencies and insurance companies. First he referred us to the home healthcare agency, in hopes that we could get the therapist to come to our house so Liza wouldn't be so weirded out by going someplace else to do the therapy. They couldn't get approval from my insurance company, so then the doctor had to find a place that was on our insurance that handles pediatric OT, which involved more phone calls and back-and-forth. I still need to go over to fill out some paperwork at the therapy office before I can actually schedule an appointment for Liza ... looks like it's a good thing I started this whole mess when I did, since it's been almost six weeks since I started complaining and the poor kid hasn't gotten a lick of help so far.

One final note before I go fix dinner: We took Liza to get her first haircut today. She's been shaggy for a while, but it was the comment of a friend last weekend ("So, are you letting her grow a mullet intentionally?") that pushed us over the edge.

We went to one of those kids-only places up in Lexington, where the chairs are shaped like rocket ships and fire engines and the kids can watch videos while they get their hair trimmed. Liza was good for the first 30 seconds or so, and then her need for a nap got the best of her and she went all red-faced and screamy for the rest of the cut. The stylist was very good at clipping while Liza whipped her head around as if she was being attacked by a swarm of bees, but I don't think either of them enjoyed the experience. I may have to trim by her ears a little one of these days when she's a little more calm, but it's amazing how much of a difference a half-inch of hair can make. Meanwhile, despite the fact that I think keeping locks of baby hair is creepy, Jason was running around grabbing the clippings and putting them in the thoughtfully supplied plastic bag. Yet another thing for Liza to add to the bonfire once we force this stuff on her when she moves out in 20 years ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

my daughter thinks ...

... crackers are the ...

hee. Make your own cracker words here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And you thought the inventions on that reality show were dumb ...

Reef makes the Fanning sandal as a tribute to pro-surfer and party-animal extraordinaire Mick Fanning. Surfers know that you have to bring as little as possible with you to the beach, because you have nowhere to put it once you get there. That's why this pro-model sandal comes with a bottle opener built into the outer sole. Stash some cold ones in the bushes and crack em open when the day is done.


"Hey, Mick! That is sooooo gnarly - you stepped in dog crap right before you used your sandal to crack open a cold one!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Saturday story

One of Jason's colleagues from the company's Mexico City plant was in town over the weekend, and one of Jason's coworkers offered to take him rappelling in a local park. Several other employees were going, and I figured that if my husband was going to kill himself in a colossally stupid way, I was going to get it on film so the insurance company wouldn't fight my claim to get the "accidental death" benefit. That started to look like a not-so-great idea when I learned we needed to leave the house at 7 am to meet the others ... there's just something fundamentally wrong about getting up earlier on the weekend than during the week.

Anyway, the climb up to the rappelling bluff was arduous, but we all made it without any heart attacks, poison ivy incidents, or broken bones. Jason was especially glad when we made it to the top, as he was carrying a bit of an extra burden:

The experienced rappellers gave the newbies a refresher course on how the rigs worked, then one of them went down to "belay" the rope for the others, acting as an emergency brake in case someone lost their cool or hit their head on the way down. Jason, who had told me the night before he was nervous about the whole thing, somehow volunteered to be the first newbie to go. Here he is, with a coworker showing more than a polite amount of interest in his crotchal region:

That little metal thingee on the ground - called a "figure eight" - is what is used to control the rate of descent down the rope - it's pretty nifty that something that has no moving parts can be so useful.

Anyway, here's Jason on the rope, having just walked down the top of the bluff, about to leap into the cutaway beneath him:

He looks very manly and experienced, doesn't he? Especially with the baseball hat on backwards ... that's a sign of testosterone poisoning if I ever saw one. Anyway, here he is on his way down:

He did very well the first time, ended up twirling around a bit on the second try, and looked like a seasoned veteran on the third run. And you don't have to take my word for it; I have video! Of course, I pulled a Douglas* and filmed it with the camera sideways, so you'll have to tilt your head to your left to view it correctly. Be sure you turn up the sound so you can hear Jason's impressed Mexican colleague saying "wow," and his sarcastic American colleague singing "I want to be an Airborne Ranger."

And no, I didn't try the rappelling - I had my hands full dealing with Liza the Dirt Eater, and jumping off a cliff just didn't appeal to me. I suspect that I would be able to do it if I needed to, but I doubt I would enjoy it ... after the bungee/trampoline incident at RenFest last summer I've about decided that my time for enjoying extreme sports ended about five years ago.

After so much tiring whining and rock-eating, Liza got a much-needed nape - er, nap - on the way down:

*Note: "pulled a Douglas" refers to the cross-country Jason and a friend made after college. Douglas brought his a video camera to document the trip, but some of the decisions that were made about the filming were a little, um, unfortunate. For example, when taking a photograph of a tall building, it's fine to turn the camera sideways to fit it into the frame better. However, it's best not to do that when videotaping, since it means that all of your viewers have to tilt their heads to one side to see the shot properly.

It's also best not to roll down the window to get a clearer view of something while the car is driving, because the sound of air rushing by drowns out your description of whatever it is you're filming (otherwise known as "pulling a Jason").

Call now!

When Jason and I were in college, his roommates used to make something of a sport of jerking around the various long-distance telephone service providers that would call to get their business. I think that apartment switched providers about once a month, usually because the new provider had offered the guys a check for switching. As the year went on, the incentive checks kept getting bigger and bigger as the guys played the various providers off of one another. Sure, dealing with the multiple bills was a headache, but there were some months when I am pretty sure the guys made a profit from their switching, so I guess to them it was worth it.

This comes to mind because I have started to make a sport out of jerking around the cable company. Like most people, we don't have a choice of cable providers - it's Adelphia or nothing (or a dish, which is a whole different issue). Adelphia has great rates for the first few months of service, but for the last year or so we've been paying almost $100 a month for basic cable and high speed internet service, which seems like too much. So I called them a month or so ago and they managed to convince me not to cancel my cable tv by giving me a free month of service.

Now that my free month is over, I called back and threatened to quit again. This time they told me they'd give me three months of the tv for $24.99 a month, which is about half of the regular price. Sign me up! I've made a note on my calendar, and when the regular price starts up again I plan to call and threaten to quit (again). I didn't even have to ask the guy to cut the price this time - he volunteered it when I said the service was too expensive, so I'm guessing there's a whole list of enticements they can offer. Who knows what the next step will be - the introductory price again for six months? Free coffee at McDonalds whenever I want? Massage?

I encourage everyone reading this to call their cable provider and tell them you want to cancel your service because it's too expensive ... I bet you'll get a discount, too. If not, you can always "change your mind" before the cancellation order is complete.

This public service message brought to you by People Who Are Too Cheap To Pay Full Price Just To Watch Three Cable Channels.