Wednesday, June 28, 2006


When the previous owners of our house built the patio on the back, they intended to turn it into a screened porch sometime soon, so they never put up any sort of railing to separate it from the 10-foot dropoff into the driveway. I've been reluctant to invite people with small children over to hang out in our yard because the dropoff was such a kid magnet, and all we had to fence it off was a row of potted hibiscus plants. I kept figuring we'd either move before it got to be too much of a problem, or I'd convince Jason to install a screened porch.

Neither have happened, and since Liza is now turbo-powered, I've been trying to figure out how to put up a railing that wouldn't look like it belonged on a mobile home. While my parents were visiting my father and I finally got started on the project, and I finished it up today. After way too many trips to Lowes, $350 spent at the architectural salvage store in Lexington, 12 cans of spraypaint, 7 skinned knuckles and more swear words than I'll admit, here's the result:

And while I had the camera out, I got all artsy with the hibiscus:

Take this, Georgia O'Keefe:

And I finally got around to putting up the sea monster I bought at a craft show way back in the early days of this blog. I decided Liza would probably eat it if I put it in the bathroom, so instead it's stalking her in the back yard:

Yes, I've become one of those people with lawn ornaments. Next time I post, I'll have to put in a picture of the concrete burro/Mexican guy statue I plan to have installed in the front yard : )

Monday, June 26, 2006

Stair Master, the video

At Jason's request, here it is - Liza climbing the stairs, on video. Of course, in this clip you only get to see her do the four steps at the top after you turn the landing (the long flight of stairs is on the regular video camera for posterity ... sorry, folks), and she's pretty tired so she needed some help at the end, but you get the idea.

I don't know which is sexier - Liza's enormous diapered butt, or my mother's blindingly white socks. Anyone care to vote?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

just a quick update

... because I'm exhausted and need to go to bed.

Liza and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Indiana with my parents to help clean out my grandmother's house, which is sitting empty while my grandmother lives in a nursing home. We pulled empty boxes out of the 140F attic, sorted out a few things to try selling on eBay, and then headed out to Indianapolis to stay overnight with my aunt and uncle. Today we visited with my grandmother, and we managed to get the coveted "four generations of Bohl women in one picture" photograph. Notice that all four of us look dorky in our own unique ways.

The saddest thing is that this is the best of the six or seven shots my father took. You ought to see the ones I rejected (shudder).

Oh, and here's a shot that shows where Liza gets her good looks:

More later, but for now, I need to rest.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer strikes with a vengeance

We've been lucky so far this year that the weather has been comparatively mild, with low humidity and temperatures in the 70s. That is, until this week. This week it's been in the mid- to upper-80s, humid, and storming most evenings. Our habit of taking walks after dinner has been curtailed because I don't like getting Liza all sweaty right before bed, and getting my father to help out with some of the yard work has made us both sweat off a couple of pounds. Not that we can't both use a little weight loss, but there has to be a more pleasant way of doing it than trimming bushes in the summer sun.

My father is always really good about helping out around the house when he comes to visit, and I always try to have a list of things I need help with at the ready when he walks in the door. Not that we ever accomplish much on the list, mind you, because my father has his own ideas about which projects are important. The first time he and my mother came to visit after we moved to this house, we had tons of painting and fixing up to do. What did Dad decide was the best way to use his time? He went around cleaning windows.

Yes, the windows needed to be cleaned. Yes, the house looked much better when he was done. But window cleaning is something I can do on my own, and some of the things on my list were things I couldn't take care of by myself. I'm sure if I had put my foot down, he would have done what I asked, but that's not terribly polite to do to a guest, even if he is your father. So I smiled and thanked him, and some of the items on my original list are STILL on my "to-do" list today, more than two years later.

This trip my father decided to trim our front bushes, which admittedly were starting to look a bit shaggy. They look great now, but geez, did we have to work in the yard yesterday, when Kentucky somehow ended up with Florida's weather by accident?

While my father gleefully wielded the electric hedge trimmer, I climbed a ladder and tried to clean the mess out of the gutter over our office. It's one of the original box gutters, where the water is chanelled into an open metal-lined gutter that's built into the wooden trim surrounding the roof. We had the gutter repaired a few months ago because the seal had failed and the leaking water had rotted out part of the trim. Part of the repair involved adding a screen to the downspout so it wouldn't fill up with leaves, which is good in theory, but wasn't working so well in practice. Every time it rained, the screen would get clogged, leaving an inch of water sitting in the gutter. Hello, mosquitos!

I think the road to riches will involve someone inventing a self-cleaning screen for gutters and drains, because I spent way too much time yesterday picking leaves out of clogged downspouts of various types. First I had to shovel - no, not kidding - stuff out of the office gutter. I had thought it would be mostly leaves, but I realized that a lot of the gutter debris was actually gravel that had come off of the shingles on the roof. I guess when the repair guys were wallking on the roof they knocked a lot of stuff loose, and it's been filtering down over the past few storms. I got at least three or four measuring cups full of this coffee-grind like stuff out, one 1/4 teaspoon at a time, while picking leaves out of the gutter screen and blasting water down the length of the gutter. All while balanced on the step on the stepladder that says "don't stand here, idiot, you'll fall over and brain yourself on the brick patio below you." I think I probably spent at least 45 minutes getting that gutter clean, and by the time I was done, it was pristine. So you can imagine how happy I was this morning when I woke up after a heavy rainstorm, looked out the window, and the gutter was ... empty. No water. No shingle debris. Just dry metal gutter, shining in the morning sun. Hurray!

After I cleaned out the gutter, I took some time to clean out the drain that runs in front of our garage door. This is important because our entire driveway and parking area is sloped to drain toward the house, so if the drain backs up, the water has nowhere to go but into the garage/basement and down the drain in there. Luckily, the basement drain is near the door, but I still don't like to have it happen. Unluckily, the drain in front of the garage door is the worst-designed piece of useless garbage in the world, and it clogs up if a piece of leaf the size of a pinhead gets in there. Our entire back yard is surrounded by trees, which are constantly dropping leaves and seeds and flowers and all manner of other junk onto our driveway, and all of it eventually tries to go down that drain. No matter how often we sweep up or blow away the stuff on the driveway, new stuff always finds a way back.

In order to keep our basement from turning into a wading pool, every week or two we have to pull up the grate and fish all the debris out of the drain. This wouldn't be so bad if the drain was sloped properly, but it isn't, so water stagnates in it and rots out the debris in the low spots. Nothing like the smell of anaerobic bacteria on your hands to open up the sinuses and make you remember to schedule your tetanus booster shot, I'll tell you that. And there's no quick way to fix it, short of ripping out the entire driveway/parking area, regrading it, and repaving it to slope someplace else with a properly installed drain.

Yesterday afternoon I fished out the week's collection of leaves and debris and goop. Then last night it rained. While I was brushing my teeth I peeked out the window to see if the drain was working, and of course, it wasn't, and I could see the lake-sized puddle that was creeping under the garage door. So at 12:45 this morning I grabbed an umbrella and my clogs and waded out to fish out more debris, flashlight held in my mouth and pajama bottoms getting soaked as I fished scoop after scoop of stuff out of the drain.

The first few scoops aren't so bad - they're the big pieces that blocked up the drain in the first place. But once the water starts flowing faster, it scoops up all the muck that settled upstream earlier, and that's the smelly, nasty stuff with half-decomposed bugs and such in it. Yep, that's really the way to get in the mood to sleep, all right - scoop smelly stuff out of your driveway during a thunderstorm. I'm hoping to be able to scrape the stuff out from under my fingernails someday soon, which should help with the smell.

In the meantime, though, it's time to go scoop out whatever else was deposited in the garage drain after I scooped it last night. See, and you thought stay-at-home moms had all the fun!

Makin' money now!

Woohoo!! We've got a bid on the Barbie furniture! The first step on the road to riches is apparently $0.99 .

View my other items for handcrafted quilt-y bits, and more junk from my parents.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Svim Svim Svim

Photos from our swimming lessons, courtesy of my mother (who wants me to add the disclaimer that she was using an unfamiliar camera with a longer lag time than she's used to ... which doesn't explain how she STILL manages to cut off the top of my head, despite having a digital display that shows exactly what will - or won't - be in the final shot)

Here she is, chasing around a toy, valiantly flailing away with her arms in an attempt to swim:

And here she is, ready for our pool noodle horsey race across the pool:

She's a champion at edging her way into the pool from a sitting postion:

And she was really jealous of the hang time the older kids on either side of her were getting, so we tried jumping in ... kinda hard when you can't stand on your own yet, but we gave it a shot:

Looking way too happy about having just been dunked completely underwater by Evil Mama:

Proof of my status as Evil Mama - attempted cannibalism:

There will be video available in a day or two of the in-pool Hokie Poky, sure to rise to the top of the "most requested" list on Google video ... or, not. Only two more lessons, then we take a break for a few weeks and Jason gets his turn in the pool with Liza in July. I can't wait to hear how he handles showering in the locker room afterwards ...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ebay, here we come!

As an experiment, my mother and I are putting some of her old junk, er, treasures up for sale on Ebay. This is the first time either of us has posted stuff there to sell, although we're both experienced yard salers. Take a look at our posting - any comments or suggestions (or bids) would be appreciated!

If this works out well, we may work on selling off some antiques and collectibles from my grandmother's house, with proceeds going to help pay for her expenses. Should be interesting, if nothing else!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Teachable moments

A lot of the time I feel as if I might as well be talking to a brick wall when I'm trying to actively "teach" Liza to do something. She's ignoring me, or looking straight at me and willfully doing the exact opposite of whatever I'm trying to show her, or she tries it once and throws everything across the room. But once in a great while, the planets align and her nap schedule is perfect and I'm feeling happy and I look down and she's looking at me, obviously thinking, "Now what, Mama?"

This sort of teachable moment happened as I was changing Liza's diaper after dinner last night . For once I didn't have to wrestle her into submission on the changing pad, she just sat there, calmly watching me and patting her belly. The light clicked on over my head, and I started telling her all about her belly, giving her raspberries and patting it and showing her my belly and doing everything in my power to convey that THIS, this is LIZA'S BELLY, and don't you forget it. And darned if she didn't look at me with some sort of comprehension in her eyes, and when I asked her where her belly was, she patted it. I swear, it was like that scene in The Miracle Worker where Helen Keller finally makes the sign for "water," I was that thrilled.

I wasn't sure if it was a fluke or not - she had, after all, been patting her belly before we began discussing its rotund greatness - so I did the same thing for her head. And, on cue, she managed to pat her head when I asked, and later patted her belly when I asked again. I tried it again, several hours later, and she got both of them right. And she remembered them today, too! Sure, I decided to count as "remembering" the fact that she patted random spots on her torso, not just her belly ... dude, she's only 13 months old, she doesn't need to know there's a difference between belly and breasts. And that area in her diaper? That's her belly, too, at least for now.

My daughter knows the names of two body parts! Hoo-rah! Time to get serious about naming all the rest whenever we're changing clothes or putting on shoes or whatever. I guess at some point we're going to have to decide whether to go the "clinically correct" route when it comes to body parts, or take the "cute but oblique" route instead. I just can't picture Jason saying, "Liza, sweetie, get your hand off of your vagina so Daddy can clean it." Then again, I can't picture ME saying it, either, so maybe we'd better stick with "private parts" instead.

craft update

I've been holding out on you. I have a few projects in the works that I could show off, but they're not quite done yet, so you're going to have to hold your horses for a little while longer. Let's just say that when I'm done, Liza is going to have the coolest, freakiest quilt in the world.

In the meantime, though, some non-quilted stuff. I got sick of lugging around my huge diaper bag, and decided to make a replacement, using a pattern I bought at a yard sale and some fabric I bought years ago for a quilt that never quite materialized (heh). Here's the result: A diaper bag and matching makeup bag for my stuff:

It's pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. I particularly like that it's reversible, so when I get goo on one side I can flip it inside out and keep using it for a little while without embarrassing myself. Not bad, considering I only used stuff I had in my stash (including the zipper - thanks, Mom!).

My original intent when I came up with the idea of making a bag was to incorporate a piece of redwork embroidery I had made earlier this spring, but I wasn't happy with the fabric I had on hand to go with it. I ordered a new red-and-white print from an online quilting store, and shazam! One and a half naps later, here's my new pool tote:

Here's a closeup of the redwork design that inspired the tote, now worked into a huge pocket on the outside:

And a shot that shows the wicked cool lining fabric, which can also be the outside because this, too, is reversible:

You know, I need to find more uses for tote bags, because these things go together really fast, and I'm so pleased with how they look now that they're done. Guess what y'all are getting for Christmas this year??

My kitchen smells like ... - follow up

The old booster seat is firmly lodged in the garbage can, and after many minutes of contemplation at the Baby Depot up in Lexington, a new booster seat from First Years is sitting in my kitchen.

The clincher? The whole thing - seat and all - can be run through the dishwasher. Heck, yeah! Now how come nobody else thought of that as a nice feature to have on something that gets coated with noxious substances on a regular basis? If only the wall behind her chair would fit in the dishwasher, I wouldn't have had to resort to being a Lazy Mama.

And yes, my kitchen does smell better now ... although I still have to find a way to get the smell off of my leg!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Notice I'm writing shorter, more frequent posts?

A few months ago my mother sent me some books about photography that she had found at yard sales. She's convinced that if I just applied myself, I could be a professional photographer. That's right after I finish my degrees in engineering and law, of course, because the masters in journalism apparently isn't enough.

Anyway, the books are really meant for someone using an SLR camera, not an automatic, but some of the tips about composition and lighting and such could be useful. I put them in the basket next to my toilet (so I could ass-imilate the information via ass-mosis, dontcha know?) and have been paging through them when I have a spare moment. The information is very interesting, and I'm sure my photography would improve - or at least become more professional looking - if I was able to use some of the tips.

The problem is that the books are not geared toward the casual photographer - they're geared toward the serious enthusiast, or someone who is interested in photography as a career. The authors advise patiently setting up shots, bracketing exposures to make sure you get the shot you want, working with the locals to get intimate portraits. While I would dearly love to do that, it's just not possible right now.

Most of my shots have to be taken in the split second I have between when I see something worthy of shooting, and when my daughter tries to crawl off the edge of a cliff or eat poison ivy or do a faceplant in a parking lot. On our recent trip to Natural Bridge, Jason and I were constantly juggling the camera, our kid, a water bottle, and a backpack back and forth, and I was following in my mother's footsteps by asking Jason to take pictures and telling him what I wanted in each one.

Not that I really have to tell him what to photograph - he does pretty well on his own. I offer as evidence this shot he took after he had shot all of the standard "baby in the pool" shots the other evening:

And the fact that he managed to work around the slight lag on our camera's shutter to get these shots:

That first one is an example of why you shouldn't expect to see me in heaven when I die ... there's nothing more evil than squirting your daughter in the face with the hose, unless it's doing it on film. Stupid Gretchen.

My kitchen smells like ass

I've spent the better part of today trying to locate the source of the stench, hoping against hope that nothing died in my walls. Sink cleaned, garbage disposal scoured, floor around Liza's chair wiped ... good god, what is that smell? Oh, Jason brought in Liza's booster seat - the one I've been taking outside periodically to hose down - the one that has holes in the top to attach a tray but no holes in the bottom to let the water drain out. Sniff chair, almost gag, hurriedly unbuckle chair and take it outside. Attempt to dump water out of chair recesses, splashing shorts and leg (which now smell like ass, too) and observing the lovely black color of said water. Now my patio smells like, you guessed it ... Luckily, the booster seat was bought second-hand, and it was starting to show its wear anyway, so I have no compunctions against throwing the smelly thing in the trash tomorrow.

I guess Liza could go back to her high chair, but that thing has so many nooks and crannies that are impossible to clean that I'd given up on it more than a month ago. Guess I'll be going to Babies R Us tomorrow for a new booster seat, preferably one without holes in the top. And to Wal-Mart for some Lysol, because, as I noted, my kitchen smells. It's funny how things like this tend to happen the day before I have houseguests. Welcome to my life, Mom and Dad!

Note: Why does it sound okay to say "Cracks and crevices" and "nooks and crannies," but not "nooks and crevices" or "cracks and crannies?" I like that last one ... "cracks and crannies" sounds vaguely scatological, doesn't it?

Lazy Mama tip of the week

Liza has been going through a food-throwing phase these past few weeks, and I've learned the hard way that it's just about impossible to get dried-on banana off of the wall without a jackhammer. And even if I can manage it, I scrub off some of the paint, too, and I have to repaint that area. That's why I decided to give up and be a Lazy Mama!

To hide banana (or other un-scrub-off-able food matter) without having to get out a paint brush or roller, just dab some of the leftover wall paint onto a piece of paper towel or napkin, blot gently in about a 4" circle around and over the spot, and voila! The banana is gone, and the texture on the paper towel mimics the texture left by a paint roller. Okay, maybe the banana isn't gone, but at least it won't be the first thing your guests see when they walk in your kitchen ...

(Note: using a paper towel instead of a brush or roller has become the S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) around here this year. With all the holes Sam the Electrician had to drill in the walls, I've been patching and repainting a lot. And unless the hole is bigger than my fist, I can do a pretty good job retouching the paint with just a few scraps of paper towel, which are infinitely easier to clean up than a brush or roller. Give it a try next time you need to spackle a nail hole or something)

No need for me to be profound ...

... when someone else has already done it for me:

That's a link to a blog entry that pretty much describes how I SHOULD reply when people tell me "I don't know how you have time to refinish furniture while making your daughter a quilt and taking her to swim lessons, the park playdate, and therapy ..." I make time for what's important to me, and that includes being crafty and handy. And I almost never watch television, unless it's something we ordered from Netflix. And I ignore my daughter more than I should, but that's fodder for another post ...

Friday, June 16, 2006

more new video

Remember how I said Liza was so cute when she crawled around the bathroom in nothing but a towel? Now everyone can experience that!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's been one of those weeks

Monday: I am tremendously productive in the morning, paying bills, taking care of procrastinated tasks and managing to almost locate the top of my desk. At 12:45 Liza has her first swimming lesson over at the university pool, so at 12:30 I pull into the parking lot. The pool looks pretty easy to find, so I leave the map in my car (mistake 1). I'm not sure what the locker room situation will be like, and the pool isn't too far away, so I leave my stroller in the car (mistake 2). It takes 20 minutes of wandering around to even find the building, which doesn't have a name on the outside. Maybe I was just hormonal from having my first real period since August 2, 2004 (hooray!), but I was pretty much in tears at this point, and Liza's 20+ pounds of bulk weren't helping things. Then it took another 10 minutes of trying the various doors to the building, each of which seems to open into a variety of incorrect dead ends - fitness center, men's locker room, etc. I finally managed to find the right door at 1:00, and I still had to get Liza into her swim diaper and swim suit, which was fun because I didn't have time to go looking for a changing table. We made it into the water at 1:05, and the class ended at 1:15. I have not been that stressed out in a long time, thank god.

Tuesday: I get almost nothing done this morning, since we have guests staying over and I need to cook breakfast, etc. We have a standing playdate at 10:30 at a local park, and Liza cries for most of it and refuses to play with anything until five minutes before we have to leave. I drive to Kroger to pick up some prescriptions, only to realize that I left my wallet at home in the other stroller. There isn't enough time to go home and get it and still eat lunch before swimming, so we go to Sonic and make our lunch decisions based on the change I scrounge out of the car seats and my gym bag. We make it to swim class on time, but I'm still all freaked out from the five minutes when I thought my wallet had been stolen from my bag. Liza's mobility is increasing by leaps and bounds, so that anytime I leave her alone for a few seconds, I'm liable to come back to a scene like this:

Wednesday: I am feeling back to normal, especially since I actually slept well the night before. Liza gets up early, so later I put her down for a brief morning nap and try to get the new bicycle seat installed on my bike. I finish pretty quickly, so all I have to do before we leave for storytime at the library is adjust Liza's new helmet. Fifteen minutes later, I'm still futzing around with straps and buckles and gromets and whatever. I refuse to be stressed out by this, however, and get it adjusted well enough that we can bike over to the library. Liza spends the whole ride over trying to pry the helmet off of her head - she never succeeds, so I guess I got it adjusted properly. Meanwhile, I discover that, contrary to the laws of physics and common sense, the road between our house and the library manages to be uphill in both directions. We come home, eat a reasonable lunch, and I fairly skip out the door on the way to swimming. Only after we get there do I find out that I forgot to pack a towel, so Liza and I have to drip dry after the class. And I had planned to run some errands around campus, so we ended up walking - dripping wet and cold, despite the 80F temperature - all over creation, trying to get her registered for a pre-school program that won't begin until 2008.

Thursday: Compared to earlier this week, today was a breeze. We went to Liza's OT appointment early in the morning, where Liza once again showed off her determination to NOT stay in a prone position unless forced to or coerced into cooperation by swinging on the platform swing:

Liza was in a foul mood for much of the OT session, but she perked right up when we got in the car to run errands afterward. A trip to the bank, and the grocery store, and McDonalds for lunch, and we still had plenty of time to buy some paint and make it to swim class on time. Liza even managed to blow bubbles in the water, twice - a lot more socially acceptable than her usual trick of trying to swallow the entire pool in 30 minutes. Liza was in such a good mood that I bit the bullet and finally took her over to get her lead test done at the hospital. When we went in for Liza's 12 month appointment, I asked the doctor to request a lead test for her, since we live in an older home and have been doing a lot of work on the walls and trim and stuff. I figured it was just going to be a heel stick, but no, they have to actually draw an ampule of blood for it. So I've been putting off the testing since the first week of May, dreading the thought of the technicians trying to find a vein in that squirmy, squishy little arm. But it was on my to-do list, and today we got it done. The technicians were great - found a vein on the first try - and Liza was a trooper right up until they stuck the needle in her. Then it took two of us to hold her down while the third person drew the blood ... but she recovered quickly afterward, and even got a free stuffed animal and a sucker from the lab techs. Here's our brave little patient, after her nap:

Notice the fetching hot pink stretchy wrap stuff they gave Liza in place of the oh-so-tasty bandaids they have a the pediatricians' office.

It's a good thing this swimming thing only lasts for one more week, and Liza seems to really enjoy it, because it's throwing my schedule all off kilter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go find the mint julep with my name on it somewhere in my kitchen ...

Friday, June 09, 2006

New video

See the terrible twos manifest themselves a year early, then blow over with the speed of summer lightning.

On the move

Liza has turned a deaf ear to Denise the Therapist's recommendations, and she is crawling and pulling up all over the place now. Short of tackling her and weighing her down with the equivalent of more than her own body weight, there's no way to keep Liza in a prone position for more than a millisecond, so I've given up trying. It's frustrating both of us, and I'm still not so sure what it's supposed to accomplish. Here's what playtime with Liza looks like now:

Yes, my daughter is the most precious pumpkin on the planet.

Why put a baby's hair up in pigtails?

Because I can! Bwahahaha!

Top reasons not to wear sunscreen

1. The sunscreen bottle isn't by the door where it's supposed to be, and it's too much of a hassle to go find it.
2. I'll mostly be in the shade, anyway.
3. It's after 2 pm (mostly), so the sun won't be too strong.
4. If I take the time to find the sunscreen and put it on, I'll use up at least half of the "good baby" time I have to get the yard work done.
5. If I do end up with skin cancer, I'll get to meet lots of nice new people at the oncologist's office, the hospital, and in the chemo treatments.
6. I'm just going to take a few loads of mulch to the backyard - I won't be out long.
7. I really want to prove that my skin is not ALWAYS pasty white:

As Jason put it when he was taking this shot, "It's like boudoir photography, only more painful!" And not so sexy, I might add.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Natural Bridge

Jason's youngest sister is in town visiting this weekend, and yesterday we took advantage of the beautiful weather to go out to Natural Bridge to do some hiking. If you're like me and like your hikes on the not-so-strenuous-but-still-beautiful side, Natural Bridge is the place to go. Why? Two words:

Chair lift!
What a brilliant idea - you can take a chair lift to the bridge, and either ride it back down again or hike back down. You can hike up, too, of course, but who'd be stupid enough to do that? Not me, I'll tell you that.

Once you get to the top of the chair lift the bridge is only 600 feet away - you come out on top of it, which has some nice views but you can't really tell you're on an arch:

Liza, who wasn't sure about the chair lift ride and was REALLY pissed about being stuck in the backpack, was screaming so loud at this point that - no kidding - it was echoing back off of the hills. We took the trail to the bottom of the arch, where we let Liza out of her prison and took a few photos while the screaming subsided:

The hike down to the bottom wasn't that strenuous, or it wouldn't have been if I hadn't decided that Liza might do better if I carried the backpack instead of Jason. I don't do well on wet leaves and sandy gravel slopes anyway, and having 30 pounds of kid and backpack throwing my center of gravity off did not do my knees any favors. Most of it wasn't bad, but there were a few spots where I got to descend the stairs using all four limbs and a couple of cheeks.

On the positive side, the scenery along the hike was really cool - lots of eroded sandstone cliffs and caves and mini arches and strange sedimentation patterns. Here's a sampling:

(brief semi-sequitur ... I've always been mildly interested in geology, especially when it's cool sedimentary layers that have been twisted and cracked and exposed and weathered. The single coolest thing I've seen in person is along our drive between our house and my parent's house: Sideling Hill road cut in Maryland. Here's a link to where you can see an aerial shot of it. Freakin' huge, and SOOOO cool. I want one for our back yard!)

PS - I get total bonus points for this post. I tried to post it yesterday, got all the photos loaded, and then somehow deleted them all from the message with one keystroke. Today blogger has been fighting me, only letting me post one photo between when I hit the "Save as Draft" button again and again. I've been trying to get this one message done since whatever time the last message was posted, which was WAY too long ago. You'd better appreciate all the hassles I go through to bring you such scintillating prose and photography!!

Swifty the wonder kid

Liza is making up for lost time in the crawling department, progressing in the past week from "crawling for the first time" to "crawling if we put something tantalizing enough slightly more than 2' away from her" to the more recent "crawling to try to find me if I leave the room." This includes the interesting variations such as "crawling across the room to remove every single DVD from the shelves she can reach, then trying to stack them back up on the shelf and instead spilling them on her head" and "crawling in slow motion after the cats, one of which seems to have slowed down so Liza will think she has a shot at catching her." My personal favorite happened after her bath tonight, when I set her down on her hooded towel next to the tub, pulled up the hood, and reached back in to the tub to wring out her washcloth. Liza was off like a shot, hooded towel firmly on her head and draped over her whole body, in a race to get to the Chlorox-CleanUp-laced sponge I overlooked in my child-proofing festival last week. All you could see was this towel scooting across the floor ... it was hilarious. I savored it for at least a tenth of a second before I wrenched the toxic sponge out of her hand and gave her a toy instead.

Diapering Liza has become a combination between a wrestling match and a no-holds barred street brawl, with additional helpings of bribery, distraction and frustration thrown in for good measure. Yesterday we went to visit some friends at dinner time, and when I tried to change Liza's diaper she took off, pantsless, across their living room floor. There's nothing like having to play "tackle the naked tushie" every time she pees. I had to resort to trying to change her diaper while she was standing up holding on to my shirt ... which could be why she woke up last night at midnight, an archipelago in the sea of urine that her crib had become. Apparently I still need some practice to get the vertical diapering to work.

Liza's OT therapist was pleased with her progress when we met with her last week, but she cautioned me that we want to try to keep Liza crawling and/or prone for as long as we can to build up some of the muscles and balance that she's lacking. Liza has other ideas, though, and taught herself how to pull up yesterday. She pulled up on my leg several times, even on the uneven footing of our friends' front yard, and Jason has video of her pulling herself up on the bottom step of our main staircase in order to reach a toy. We've also caught her going up onto both hands and both feet a couple of times ... she can't get upright yet, but it doesn't look like that's too far off. I pulled "Mother's Perogative" and gave Jason a hard time about actually encouraging her to pull up on the stairs. There's nothing like directly disobeying the therapist's recommendation, unless it's doing so in a way that encourages the child to play in a dangerous area, strictly because you want to get it on video. I swear - sometimes I wonder if he's related to those people who smeared honey on the face of their kid so they could get cute photos of the wild bear licking it off (who then ended up with a mauled kid). Nah, he's not that bad - and I shouldn't say anything, since most of the falling and/or choking incidents were my responsibility, not his. But still - "Let's teach our toddler to play on the stairs" isn't the wisest move!

With Liza on the move so much now I'm going to have even less time to write, which is probably a good thing. Trying to keep her happy while prone, and/or out of trouble when she's up, is a full-time job, as is picking up the trail of destruction she leaves in her wake when she passes through a room. Sometimes as I pick up her huge pile of toys for the n-th time today I wonder why I was in such a hurry to get her moving, and then I look over and see her crawl over to pet the kitty or stand up on her knees to pull magnets off of the refrigerator, and all the tidying up seems worth it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And, she's off!

You know how I said I had so much to talk about that I thought I would forget some of it before I had a chance to write it down? I used a pen and wrote notes on my wrist a few nights ago, and I've been washing the ideas off as I go. THAT'S how lame I am.

I've been saving up the best news for last, partly because I was waiting for the video to go live, and partly because I wanted to do a really good job on the post and I feel like I haven't been writing well since we got back. But I've got to get it over with before Jason's smartypants recently graduated sister comes to visit this weekend, so here goes nothing.

While we were up in Cleveland over Memorial Day weekend, Liza was very interested in showing off her newfound ability to sit up. We progressed rapidly from "sitting up from lying on her back" to "sitting up from lying on her tummy," which is a couple months' of development in about two days. She was also showing off her "vaulting" skills, where she would go up on her hands and one knee from a sitting position to reach something in front of her. You can see an example of that here:

As you can tell from the following photo, Penelope was not too happy about Liza playing with her egg toy. For a 10-month-old, she's pretty strong (I guess that's what happens when you have two older brothers)!

Anyway, Penelope and Liza were both doing a lot of vaulting, and in a lot of cases Penelope was actually looking more stable than Liza was. She's starting to pull up, too, and while Liza is cruising faster than she used to a week ago, I was still starting to get a little depressed. Here's a kid who's 10 weeks younger than mine, and she's not only beating up my child, but she'll probably walk before her, too. Boo hoo.

But Liza came through for us on Sunday, when she decided that Alexander's precious Batman puzzle was just too tempting, and if we weren't going to move it close enough for her to eat it, she'd just have to go get it. That's right - LIZA CRAWLED! Here she is, later that day:

(sorry, Luddites, no love for you this time. Just look at the shot above and pretend she's inching forward in a painful-looking fashion)

At first Liza would crawl only when coaxed, so we spent large portions of Monday setting up just out of reach things that were choking hazards, spilling hazards, or otherwise off limits to her. Alexander and William weren't so sure about using their new toys as crawling bait, until I pointed out to them that now they can tell everyone they helped Liza learn to crawl. Nothing like meaningless bragging rights to calm down the whining. Liza would crawl a foot or two, grab the toy, then sit back on her butt. We managed to get her to crawl 10 or 15 feet, but only in 3-foot-long increments.

When we got home on Monday I microwaved myself some pizza, and as a joke I told Liza (who was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor) that if she wanted it for dinner, she could have it, but she had to come get it. I put the plate on the floor, and Liza took off like a shot .... well, more like molasses in January, but she crawled the whole way to the plate, about 8 or 10 feet, without stopping along the way. And yes, I let her eat the pizza for dinner.

Since then she's started crawling on her own to get toys and to explore. She's still slow enough that I can put her in a relatively empty location, walk out of the room, and come back to find her not far from where she started, but I can see that's going to end really soon. Yesterday I put her in the middle of the kitchen floor, went to the bathroom (just down the hall - I'm not stupid!) and when I came back she had crawled over to the bench where we store our "backyard" shoes, and she was banging my garden clogs together. The bag of hideously carcinogenic choking hazards (easy-light charcoal) was sitting a foot away, and has since been moved to the basement. And later that day I left the living room for a minute, and when I came back she had pulled all of her Baby Einstein videos off of the shelf where they're stored and thrown all of her Kix cereal all over the rug. My little girl is getting all grown up!

So since Tuesday I've been hurriedly installing more child-proofing measures. If I see another of those stupid door latches again I may have to hit someone .... but thankfully I'm about done with the areas that absolutely have to be secured. I've got a few more tall cabinets to screw to the wall, some more latches to install in rooms that we don't use that much (because I don't want the baby playing with the serving dishes in the bottom of my china cabinet, for example), and I've got to find a place for Jason to keep all of the hazardous bathroom stuff where it won't be accessible to toddlers, but other than that I'm about done.

Part of the reason I haven't written about this until today is that I've been trying to figure out how I feel about it. Part of me wants to put an announcement in the paper: "MY CHILD IS SO FREAKIN' BRILLIANT THAT SHE MANAGED TO START TO CRAWL AFTER ONLY TWO OR THREE THERAPY SESSIONS" Part of me is mourning the last shreds of my independence that are flying out the window ... no more sneaking down the hall to the bathroom, and I'm going to have to get really good at getting the toilet lock open in a hurry. Part of me is celebrating the fact that Liza can now show initiative - yesterday when she got tired of playing one game with me, she started to whine, then you could actually see her realize, "Dude, I don't have to stay here and play this dumb game anymore," and she crawled off and found a different toy to play with.

That, more than anything, made me all teary-eyed, because it's one of the first signs I've had that she's not a baby anymore. She's an increasingly independent toddler, who has specific wishes and can act on them even when she can't say what they are. The days when I got to call all of the shots are gone - she's started being picky about meals, and she's decided that it's more fun to look at her board books herself rather than listen to me read them for the 100th time. Next thing I know she'll be getting things pierced and dating some redneck from a tobacco farm.