Life, flying past....

Just when I was beginning to feel despondent over the heat, the weather broke, and Pittsburgh today was clear and crisp and comfortable. Nothing makes my afternoons better more than a box arriving with the mailman, and today I received a box full of aprons. There really is nothing like a box full of aprons to make you smile. I immediately launched into a daydream of the dinner parties I would throw...looking elegant but busy as the guests arrived, dressed up underneath a frilly tea apron. There would be cocktails, and M would be wearing a smoking jacket. Laurel of course, would be asleep in her nursery, as it seemed all children were after 6:00pm during the 1950s.

We have greens and greens and greens this week. Bags full of spinach and beat tops standing cheerfully in a bonne maman jar. Arugula and bok choy. Mark whipped up a sort of Indian version of a falafel for dinner tonight. Laurel surprised us both by wanting to eat it, and then wanting more. She's a very adventurous eater. She likes foods that she can feed herself and foods that are spiced. Hand that girl a piece of lettuce and she gnaws on it happily for a half an hour.

Laurel spent the afternoon with Aunt Meg, and seemed to enjoy herself. I went out to Mt. Lebanon to meet with a new tutoring client. After our trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh seemed small as I crossed the rivers again and again. No traffic. Lots of green.

I'm looking forward to a visit from Leah, who was our neighbor in Phoenix, who I still consider my neighbor, even though she lives on the other side of the country now. It's fun to introduce Laurel to people I have known a long time. This past week, we spent a lot of time with Jamie, a friend from college. Cousins are visiting this weekend. Cross your fingers and wish us an uneventful Fourth of July for a change.

M is baking bread. Laurel is asleep. The house feels quiet and cool and is just messy enough to look lived in but not be aggravating. Soon we'll turn off the lights and cuddle up for the night, to start a whole new day of small adventures tomorrow.

Life is flying past.


Where *does* she get it?

Laurel makes the crinkle-face.

Baby K is crinkly, too.

Alas, there's not a smilier photo of L making the face, but rest assured, it's a snarly, bright-eyed happy face. She looks kind of angry here.


Rachel Carson Challenge Pictures

Pictures from the Rachel Carson Challenge were posted this week. Notice how happy M looks as he is running. I also love the photos where Caveman of Ohio is spraying the babies with a water bottle. All in all, a really good event.



Laurel had a playdate with a girl (for a change!)...Lily, who is the 6 month old daughter of my friend, Amy. It was fun to watch them scoot around on the mat. They are now pretty aware of each other (Laurel kept wanting to pinch Lily). They don't exactly play with each other, but they do occasionally go for the same toy and it's pretty fun to watch them fight over it. Aunt Mary just sent us this awesome, colorful foam mat with interlocking pieces that makes a perfect play place for babies who still sometimes topple over sideways onto their heads.


Rachel Carson Challenge 2010

When the summer solstice rolls around, it can be time for only one thing, and that's the Rachel Carson Challenge...a test of endurance like no other. This year Mark signed up for the full Challenge (35 miles), and Laurel and I did the Friends and Family Challenge (8 miles). The Rachel Carson Trail winds through the suburbs north of Pittsburgh, from Harrison Hills Park to North Park.

I somehow convinced three of my friends to come along, so a total of four mamas carrying approximately 80 pounds worth of babies hiked from Hartwood Acres to North Park. Prachi, Niam, Sarah, Kai, Lindsay and Teddy joined Laurel and I. (Yes, it was hot. No, it is not dangerous to take babies on a long hike in the summer, as long as you keep them hydrated and out of the sun.) At the last minute, Caveman of Ohio joined our team and we truly enjoyed his company.

We figured that M would pass us somewhere along the way and we looked forward to cheering him on. However, as the miles ticked by without seeing him, I assumed that maybe the heat got to him and he was moving slowly. That is until, I got a text message from him saying that he was at the finish line. He finished ninth. Official times aren't posted yet, but he made it 35 miles in about 8 hours.

That's really dang fast, and you should be impressed.

I'm not sure how fast we did the eight miles. We had to stop several times to nurse the babies. My dad met us along the way and brought ice cold gatorade for us. Prachi and Lindsay's husbands met us and hiked the last mile or so with us. We had a great time and the babies seemed to enjoy themselves, although Niam and Teddy protested loudly about being in the carrier so Lindsay and Prachi ended up carrying them in their arms for the last half mile.

I learned a few things during this year's Challenge.
1. I have great friends.
2. You can take babies practically anywhere with a little preparation.
3. M never ceases to amaze me.

Also, thanks Mom and Dad for picking us up just in time to miss the torrential rain.

Challenge Data

RCTC 2010 Elevation Profile


Summer time and the living is....

...well, not easy exactly. But not bad by any means. Pittsburgh eases into summer. One day you wake up sweating, and the next day is refreshingly cool. Back and forth until it's hot all day and all night for many days and nights in a row. People sit outside until very late, at least in neighborhoods like ours where air conditioning is not a given. I love the greenery of summer. I love wearing flip flops. I love when the produce really starts coming in to the farmer's market.

Laurel and I spend the afternoons hunkered down inside the house, curtains drawn against the sun and the traffic outside. I treasure this time with her, where it's just the two of us, and nothing to do. Everybody else at work. Too hot for chores.

Two great things happened today. First, my diploma came, so now I can prove that I have a Master's degree. Second, I went out with the ladies. We went to Kelly's for beer and then stopped at Oh Yeah! for ice cream. I confessed that I used to have a crush on the Oh Yeah! guy. We spent about half the time talking about our babies, and the other half getting to know each other outside of our roles as mom. This mom thing is a little bit like smoking...you can always find a quick friend by asking for a light, and you can always connect with another mom over a childrearing practice. We're friends because we all have babies born in the late autumn, and I don't know how we would have connected otherwise. But they are all women I can see being friends with in other contexts, if fate had pushed us together some other way. Laurel stayed home with Mark. She's learning to crawl and is full of frustration and energy.

I opened this computer with good intentions to do one more resume re-write for yet another job that is posted but has probably been filled by somebody's niece or next-door-neighbor's grown kid. Nepotism schmepotism. Job hunting in Pittsburgh is a drag.

I think I'll put it off until tomorrow, when my brain is more clear. The night air is cool for a change, and I think I'll sleep well, as long as Laurel does. Shh, shh, night, night, as I say to her. Good night.


Laurel's First Hartwood

Hartwood Acres is a great venue. There is endless space, so even if a ton of people show up, it never feels crowded. It's kid-friendly and fun for adults. My parents have been frequent attendees for decades at the free concerts, held every Sunday after Memorial Day. I took Laurel yesterday and she loved the music, hanging out with some friends and family and playing in the grass. Her sitting skills have improved tremendously since I posted the last video and here she is with Uncle Pete.


Laurel's New Tricks


Baby Food

Now that Laurel is 7 months old, we're feeding her solid food. She's still mostly a breastfed baby, nursing six to eight times in a 24 hour period, but I also prepare three "meals" a day for her. At the recommendation of our pediatrician, we're feeding her fortified infant cereal, instead of grinding up regular old oatmeal and rice, to make sure she gets enough iron. That, however, was pretty much the extent of the advice that our pediatrician gave us. He said that without a history of food allergies in the family, there was no real need to avoid anything except foods she could choke on until she gets the rest of her teeth. I found lots of, sometimes conflicting, information on the internet about how to start solids, which I basically decided to disregard, and just listen to the doctor.

Here's the approach we're taking.

First, despite a few recent experiments with fish and meat, we're a mostly vegetarian family. We eat a lot of beans and grains and vegetables. Furthermore, we cook a lot of food from scratch and buy fresh, organic, local food whenever possible.

Second, we're on a budget. The baby food you can buy at the store is really expensive! Therefore, we make our own.

Finally, we want to introduce solid foods in a way that will foster good life-long eating habits. I think this will come more into play as she gets older, but for right now, we sit down at least once a day for a meal together as a family. I give her an opportunity to feed herself for at least part of the meal. There's no rule to clean your plate in our house - eat until you are full and then make yourself a doggie bag for your leftovers (although it would be hard to enforce with a baby anyway...she blows raspberries when she's had enough). We want Laurel to know where food comes from and how it grows.

So what does this look like? Well, I have a small food mill that my friend Sarah gave to me. It's perfect for smooshing up veggies and fruits. I usually prepare 1-2 tablespoons of cereal, mixing it with either breastmilk, formula or water. Then I add another tablespoon or more of whatever other food Laurel is trying. So far, she likes avocados, peas, carrots, lentils, eggs and sweet potatoes. By far, her favorite food is sweet potatoes. She's not keen on applesauce, or most fruits, for that matter. She really hates bananas. If it's a food that needs to be cooked, I steam it or bake it, and then put it through the food mill, or simply mash it up with a fork.

I think as she starts to eat more, I'll want to come up with a better system of preparing larger batches of food at a time. Right now, I shop and prepare as I go. In a few weeks our CSA is starting. On Monday, Laurel met "our" farmer at the East Liberty market. Mark is planning to do a workshare for part of our CSA dues, and we're all looking forward to going to the farm to help. Once we get our CSA box, Laurel's diet will be based on whatever we get that week.

Laurel seems to enjoy both the eating and the social part of meals. She makes little munching motions with her mouth, "chewing" up her food. She says, "mmmm" when it's something she likes. She loves to play with spoons, although she often chews on the wrong side. She is taking many more baths since starting to eat...it's a messy venture!


Close Encounters


Electricity and a Seven Month Old

Our power went out during a big thunderstorm on Wednesday night, just as Mark was reading "Trucks" to Laurel. No worries...we got out the candles and tried not to open the fridge at all. The next morning it was still out, so we went to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. By Thursday night, however, when it was still not on, we started to get a little frustrated. June in Pittsburgh is downright unpleasant without fans or air conditioning. Finally a crew came out in the middle of the night on Thursday and replaced a transformer at our pole. But when we got up Friday morning, our power still wasn't on. I brought out the Coleman stove and made coffee and blueberry pancakes on the porch. I won't talk about what happened next because it makes my blood pressure rise to unhealthy levels, but I will just say that AHS - you suck and Felix the Electrician- you rock. Our electricity finally came back on after almost three days (just in time for the county's latest tornado warning, so hopefully it won't go off again).

Here's what an almost 7 month old looks like during a lengthy power outage. Still super cute.


"Ah! Ah!" She Says...

Laurel has become more assertive in the last few weeks. She balls up her little hands, tenses all her muscles and grunt-yells "ah! ah!" when she sees something she finds interesting (like a dog), or that she wants (like a toy that is across the room). She's always looking around trying to make eye contact with people when we go out in public. Her legs churn like crazy when we try to hold her. She's made some progress with crawling recently, but more often than not is only successful at spinning or rolling herself in a circle, instead of making any kind of linear progress. Although, I did see her army crawl across our bed this afternoon, bound and determined to reach her prize - which turned out to be the string on Mark's Pacman pajamas.

She had something of a temper tantrum a few days ago, which gave me a glimpse into some of the potential challenges future parenting will bring us. I was eating an apple and I let her have a taste of it. However, then I realized that her extremely sharp lower teeth allowed her to bite off pretty big chunks, which I was afraid she would choke on. So I took the apple away. If you were one of the people at our adjoining campsites you would have thought that I had chopped off her toes with a dull knife. Or perhaps stabbed her in the eye with a blunt object. That's how hard and loud and hysterically she cried. We tried giving her another toy to play with but she glared at me for a while. Of course she was back to her happy little self a short time later, but I am telling you...that girl has no middle ground. She is either exuberantly embracing life, or she's pissed as all get out.

We are working on the house a bit, trying to get it ready for her as she becomes more mobile. Today I realized, I'm going to have to retire the bouncy chair for a while as she's now strong enough to sit up and lean over the edge. It's only a matter of time before she flips it.

I cannot believe we have an almost-seven month old.