Saturday, October 07, 2006

One way Jesus is different from dinosaurs

This happened 3 weeks ago but I didn't want to let it go undocumented:

While my mother-in-law was visiting, we decided to explore the Petrified Forest National Park with her (less than 2 hours away). We had never been and will probably not go again - as far as national parks go, it ranks down at the bottom of my list in just about every category. In a land of amazing wonders and breathtaking scenery, it just wasn't that exciting. (Maybe it was more impressive 100 years ago, though, since visitors steal about a ton of petrified wood a month, and used to take much more.) If we had paid the $30 entrance fee rather than using our National Parks pass, I would have felt seriously gipped.

The area immediately surrounding the park was full of Route 66 kitchiness, mostly dinosaur themed. There were "statues" of dinosaurs lining the interstate leading up to the exit (including one hilarious depiction of a T-rex crunching down on a man), as well as various "dinosaur parks" and "dino museums" at the exit, all looking as if they hadn't changed in the last 50 years or so. Even the park's visitor center had scale models (better done, at least) of what the dinosaurs that once roamed the area might have looked like. The Papaya was greatly impacted.

The one redeeming aspect of the park was the Painted Desert - the landscape of pink, red, black, brown, and white hills going on and on, with practically no vegetation anywhere, was definitely other-worldly and awe inspiring. As we gazed down from the overlook before hiking the steep trail into the desert and doing a bit of exploring, the following conversation took place:

Papaya: Think there are dinosours down there!

Me: It really looks like that, doesn't it? But you know what? There aren't any dinosaurs around any more. All of the dinosaurs died a long time ago.

Papaya (relieved): The dinosaurs died?

Me: That's right. The dinosaurs all died a long, long, long time ago. There aren't any dinosaurs any more.

Papaya: The dinosaurs all died. They're all gone now.

Me: That's right. There are no more dinosaurs.

[If you repeat the last two statements over and over again, you'll get an idea of what the next 10 minutes of our conversation was like. Then it got a bit varied:]

Papaya: Jesus died.

Me: That's right. Jesus did die. But he came alive again.

Papaya: He is risen!

Me: Yes - isn't that happy?

Papaya: (Worried silence)

Me: But the dinosaurs didn't come alive again. They stayed dead.

Papaya (very relieved): They stayed dead.

Me: That's right - they stayed dead.

The rest of our day was punctuated every 2 to 3 minutes by the Papaya's musings that "the dinosaurs are all dead, Mommy/Daddy/NaiNai. They stayed dead." In fact, three weeks later, he still vocally meditates on that fact fairly frequently. It's the enduring legacy of our trip to Petrified Forest National Park.

Butternut Squash Bonanza

On my last trip to Flagstaff (a little over 2 weeks ago), the natural foods store had a great sale on organic squash. I left the store with 10 pounds of butternut squash, a bounty that impressed my check-out clerk and even surprised me.

I've spent quite a bit of time over the past two weeks thinking of new and interesting ways to cook with butternut squash. These included a fabulous bread pudding (which had the added value of using up various bits of leftovers, including half a loaf of stale whole-wheat double-cheese bread and an old corn muffin), a chili (butternut squash works pretty well in chili, just in case you were wondering), a pasta toss, and - my greatest success - an amazing pizza.

Just in case any of my many readers have an overabundance of winter squash and want to make a delicious and unusual pizza (delicious for two vegetarian squash-lovers, at least), here is Papaya Mommy's Special Recipe for Butternut Squash Pizza:

Start with a homemade (with help of breadmaker) whole wheat-cornmeal pizza crust. Cover with a generous layer of mozzerella cheese. Then spread on your butternut squash combo: cubes of squash tossed with a coarsely chopped onion, sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil and roasted in the oven until soft. Top this with large pieces of toasted walnut (pinenuts would be good, too). Your final layer is a sprinking of fresh Asiago cheese. Cook the pizza and enjoy a fabulous autumn taste sensation.

Next time I feel led to purchase double digit pounds of squash, I will have to refer back to this entry.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

So absurd, I had to post

I'm excited about voting in November, not so much because of the candidates running for office, but because of all the ballot propositions I get to help decide. I could have a part in raising the minimum wage, or banning smoking in all public places here! We just received a nice fat publication from the Secretary of State that detailed all of the propositions on the ballet, as well as "pro" and "con" arguments submitted by various invested individuals or groups.

By far the most original and crazy proposition on the ballet suggests using unclaimed lottery money to create a $1,000,000 voter's jackpot. That's right - vote in Arizona for the chance to win a million dollars! This prize would be awarded to a randomly selected person who voted in the primary or general election - retroactively applied to this election and valid in upcoming years.

While I personally think this is a Very Bad Idea and will vote against it, I was highly entertained by reading the "pro" arguments, so much so that I have to quote one of them. Here it is, verbatim, the "WWJD" argument:

"Some criticize 'Voter Rewards' as being morally wrong. If that might be the case, we should look to the ultimate authority on morals and ethics. What does God say? Do what you are supposed to do and I will REWARD you with eternal life in heaven. What are we saying? Do what you are supposed to do, vote, and we will REWARD you with a chance to win a million dollars. If incentives are good enough for God, they are good enough for the voters of Arizona!"

As a lover of the absurd, it made my day.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Banana's boring view continues...

The majority of babies are eligible for a forward facing car-seat position at 1 year old, thus enabling a view that's a lot more varied and interesting than the back of the seat in front of them. I'm afraid it will be a while, however, until the Banana enjoys that luxury.

We just took both kids in to the health center for well-child check-ups & vaccinations. The Banana, while in the 40th percentile for her height, is falling off the growth chart weight-wise. She's 18 pounds at 12 months, & barely makes it to the 5th percentile. We're not worried, though, since she's being compared to a lot of babies who haven't been walking for 2 months & aren't climbing up to the top of everything in sight. But the sad upshot of not reaching 20 pounds is that the poor girl has to endure a pretty monotonous car view for a couple months more. At least she has her brother to look at.

The Banana is going to give me a heart attack, if she doesn't give herself a concussion first. We don't have any stairs in our house, but she still seems to find plenty of things to climb - our kitchen step stool, the child size chairs & table in the kitchen, the lego bench... She's so excited when she gets to the top of something that she usually lets go of any handholds and does a little hopping dance, often accompanied by small squeals. Since she's not very good at getting down yet and our floor is composed entirely of very hard tile, this performance is usually followed by my own hopping dance, as I try to get close enough to her to prevent grave injury. I'd like her to fall enough to hurt herself a little and thus learn wisdom, without hurting herself seriously anywhere. It's a fine balance!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I'm back! For another lengthy blog entry, quite probably followed by a long dry spell. It's just hard to find the right combination of time, energy, and motivation to do this. (Although I enjoy it while I'm doing it, and am always happy after I've blogged. It's kind of like working out.)

Here are some of the notable happenings of the past two or three weeks:

1. The Banana turned 1 year old! This past year has gone by at the speed of light. It's hard to believe she's the same tiny 6 1/2 pound baby I walked home from the health center with just a few short weeks ago (okay, 52 short weeks ago). She's still tiny (she wears her 6-9 month sized sleepers at night), but is no longer the infant who was happy to lie in my arms or nestle in a Baby Bjorn for hours at a time.

Her most recent passion is climbing. There is a playground in our housing compound, and yesterday she was able to climb to the very highest slide and go down it, all by herself (the only two times I guided her were holding her hand over the bridge without any sides to it, and helping her get into a sliding position with the least likelihood of painful injury at the bottom). She did this 5 or 6 times and was incredibly proud of herself. "Up, up!" she squealed as she climbed. When she wasn't climbing, she was busy stuffing her onesie with the rubber chips that line the playground. I pulled out all I could find before we left, but still cleaned a few more off the bathroom floor when I undressed her that night. One had even found its way into her diaper. At one point, toddling around the playground, she stumbled and put her hand down into a tumbleweed (a truly horrible plant), and I had to pick about 8 stickers out of her palm. She was so excited about her new accomplishments that she neither cried nor complained (usually, she's a bit of a drama queen).

The Banana is still a bit shy of lots of strangers (stranger = anyone not in her family), so she had a fairly quiet birthday. Husband's mother was visiting, and I made a cake and decorated it simply. We sang to her and she did the requisite make-a-huge-mess-with-the-birthday-cake-and-smear-it-everywhere routine, enjoying it greatly. Then, while I was putting her to bed, we invited our neighbors over (a Hopi family of 12) to eat the rest of the cake and ice cream - that was the real party! The Banana was so full of sugar that she refused to nurse and just bit me instead. Nothing would please her, so I finally had to just put her in bed. She cried for about 1 minute, then conked out and went to sleep. I think we'll avoid giving her large pieces of cake right around bedtime for a while.

I'm unhappy to report that the Banana is a very strong-willed night awakener. Despite the fact that we haven't responded to her at night for over a month now, she still cries an average of an hour each evening (sometime between midnight and 5:00, when I finally go in to her). We have a three week visit/trip coming up in October, and I'm not looking forward to the nighttime aspect of it. If she's this bad at home, she will definitely regress to 2 or 3 night awakenings by the end of the trip. But I'm optimistic. At least I don't have to get out of bed until 5:00 a.m., and the Banana's complaints don't bother me quite so much anymore. Maybe we should put the Papaya in our closet for awhile, and move the Banana to the crib in his room.

2. The Papaya is now sleeping consistently in his big boy bed! We bought a bed rail at Target, and it seems to have made all the difference. This is convenient when we travel, since we no longer have to tote two port-a-cribs with us everywhere we go!

The Papaya's potty training is progressing beautifully. He can now stay dry/use public bathrooms on long car trips and Flagstaff shopping marathons. Naptime and nighttime are not dry yet but we're not pushing that. The last time the Papaya pooped anywhere but the toilet was a couple months ago and we dare to believe that even he considers it normative at this time to put all his poop in the toilet. We continue to offer incentives, since the wet accidents increase by an alarming amount when there are none. Thomas & Friends engines (the incentives) are actually cheaper than diapers, and they last longer and smell a lot better. They're more fun, too!

The Papaya's stage of defiance seems to be waning a bit, much to our relief. We bought six or seven books on parenting and strong willed children from I read them all, shared their contents with Husband, and some of the new ideas we gleaned seem to be a little more effective than our old techniques. Or maybe his stage was just coming to an end, anyway. In any case, we're happy that it is passing.

3. We just signed a four year contract, meaning that we'll be on this reservation 5 years in all. Our first year here went so fast, and spending only three years (our original contract) seemed too little. We prayed about it and hope we are making the right decision. We hope to build some meaningful, longterm relationships, both with our friends and between my husband and his patients. I'm starting to think in the long term. (Five years in a row is the longest I've ever lived anywhere, and feels like a very long time indeed.)

4. My mother-in-law just completed a 10-day visit with us. It was a very good and happy visit, and the time went fast. There's always been a certain amount of tension involved in her visits, but there wasn't much this time. I'm happy not to be cooking quite so much as I did during her visit, however! I was busy.

Husband's mom stopped here to visit en route from Guam to Germany - she & her husband are moving (in fact, just moved) there. Very exciting for all of us - Germany is a lot easier & cheaper to visit than Guam, and the thought of exploring Europe is exciting. While Husband's mom was here, we purchased tickets to take a 2-week trip to Germany next June. I dread the thought of the airline trip & jet lag with two children, but am thrilled about the upcoming visit. We've got to get a passport for the Banana now!

5. Right before my mother-in-law arrived, our family did our first ever camping trip! We finished purchasing the necessary equipment a few months ago, but never had the nerve to take the plunge. I was a little apprehensive, but we all had a wonderful time. We went to Navajo National Monument. The campsite was free, clean, and beautiful. At 7300 feet, we were a little chilled in the early morning (the temperature was in the 40s), but we all snuggled together and it warmed up quickly with the sun. That morning, we went on a 5 mile guided tour to the Betatakin cliff dwellings (the only way you can access them). We climbed about 1000 feet down into a canyon, which of course meant we had to climb back up again. Husband and I each carried a child most of the way (the Papaya hiked about a mile but did not climb at all; the Banana, on my back, didn't hike at all), as well as a picnic lunch for 4, camera, binoculars, diaper changing equipment, and 5 quarts of water. There was very little shade and we were seriously bushed by the end - and then we still had to break up camp and drive home! But it was very much worth it - the cliff dwellings were pristine and stunning and we were able to climb up into the alcove and walk among the ruins. We're all eager to do another camping trip.

6. I decided that if I can handle the kids on an overnight trip into Flagstaff, I can handle them alone on a cross-continental airplane trip. We're going to visit my sister and her family, in Waynesburg, PA, in late October! Her husband is very busy with teaching right now (he's a college professor with a fairly new job) and we're going to keep her company. I think we'll even drive to my parents' house, in Baltimore, over the weekend I'm there. I'm wildly excited about the visit and a little apprehensive about the trip to get there (another strong-woman trip?!). Just preceding my departure for Pittsburgh, our family will be in Sedona, AZ for four days for my husband's conference. And just preceding that, my dear friend from Germany and her family are visiting us for a week, and we'll be taking them around the state to do some sightseeing. Life is full. I'm going to try to enjoy these next two quiet weeks as much as I can, before our family's next round of busyness begins!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Strong Woman Trip

The children and I took an overnight trip to Flagstaff last week. Even before its denouement, I was thinking of it as a strong woman trip - because I was having to be a strong woman to survive it. Then it got worse. Here's the story:

It was 3 1/2 weeks since our family had bought any groceries except for milk. While this situation resulted in some good things, such as opportunities to be creative with frozen foods and a sparkling clean refrigerator (all of the food in there filled half a shelf, so it was the perfect opportunity to scrub it down), it was not a state of affairs that could endure much longer. Moreover, it was almost 3 months since our family had bought non-grocery purchases (i.e. items from Walmart/Target/Home Depot). It was time to shop.

Usually, when a crisis like this arises, Husband and I strap up the kids and head down to Flagstaff for the weekend. But not this time. Some dear friends from North Carolina were staying in Flagstaff from Tuesday to Thursday, and I had the bright idea to drive down there with the kids, do our shopping, spend the night, visit with my friends and perhaps lead them on a Sedona tour, and then drive back to our house. So I made up a shopping/to-do list (2 pages, typed, single spaced, involving 7 stores, the recycling center, and the library), helped my Husband install the box onto the roof rack of our tiny Toyota Corolla (our only car), loaded the car down with 3 months of recycling (they don't pick up here, so we have to haul it to Flag), strapped the kids in, and headed off bright and early last Wednesday morning.

Just in case you're wondering, taking two very young children on a 2 hour car trip, followed by a marathon shopping day, especially when one of the two said children is not only incredibly active but is also going through a pronounced stage of defiance - I don't recommend it. The day had many highlights, but the one I remember best is when I told the Papaya we couldn't return to the toy section at Target because he was disobedient and whiny (I had warned him of these consequences) and he took off running across the store, screaming "NOOOOO!!!" at the top of his lungs. I grabbed the Banana from the full shopping cart and took off after him as fast as I could while holding a baby. I finally intercepted him as he rounded an aisle, grabbed his arm, and dragged him back, literally kicking and screaming, to the cart. Mercifully, he fell asleep soon afterwards. The next stop, Walmart, was the most peaceful part of the day: I put the Banana in her backpack, balanced the Papaya on the baby carrier attached to the shopping cart (it was a tight fit for a 3-year old, but it worked), and shopped in blessed silence. You know things are bad when you find peace and rest in a crowded Walmart.

I finally got the shopping finished and checked into a small cabin in a county park. The cabin was rustic and nice, and there was a great playground for the kids. Unfortunately, the Papaya repeated his running off and screaming act when I tried to give him a time out for throwing pebbles at his sister - I had to chase him down and drag him back to the cabin to discipline him - and he lost his favorite car, Lightning McQueen, by burying him in the pebbles and forgetting where. (Hopefully, he didn't lose too much of his faith as well, since we asked God to help us find Lightning and we never did!) But the evening did have its nice moments, and we all managed to get a decent night of sleep.

The next morning's trip to Sedona did not go as planned, since our friends' RV had mechanical problems and they had to spend the day stranded in a hotel room while attempting to get it fixed. I took the kids to the hotel room to meet my friends, where I soon felt like the World's Worst Mom - the Papaya was hyper and disobedient (literally bouncing off the walls, the couches, the drapery, his sister), while the Banana, beset by seperation/stranger anxiety, screamed bloody murder every time my friends tried to look at her or talk to her. One of my friends sat in the Corolla's empty passenger seat and helped me complete my shopping - I still had Sam's Club to go, as well as fresh produce and cold things to buy at the grocery store. By the time I was done, the car was so full that I was stuffing fruits and vegetables into every imaginable little space in the trunk and at the kids' feet. The car was packed within an inch of its life.

"What will you do if you get a flat tire?" my friend asked me jokingly as I prepared to drive back home. "Hope I have cell phone reception!" I replied blithely. Because of course a flat tire couldn't happen to me, alone with two children in the car and a trunk packed as full as it could get. I was going to have a peaceful, restful drive home, with the two children taking their long-postponed naps in the back seat, listening to nice adult music instead of nursery rhymes. Husband may make the money, but I really felt like I was the one bringing home the bacon. I couldn't wait to get there with my haul!

The kids fell asleep immediately and the first half hour of the drive went exactly as planned. Then, behind me to my left, I heard an awful noise that I hoped was simply a car with serious mechanical problems trying to pass me. Eventually, my brain accepted what it really didn't want to acknowledge - the noise came from my car! I pulled over and sure enough, my back tire was as flat as it could be. I was on a road in the middle of the vast Navajo Nation and was pretty isolated. And - here's the part I'm embarassed to admit - I had never changed a tire before and wasn't sure how to do it.

At least I had fleeting cell phone reception - enough to call my husband (at work in the ER) and tell him my problem, but not enough for him to return my call after he was finished with his patient. I emptied out every last bit of groceries and purchases from my trunk onto the side of the road, bid a mental farewell to my hopes of bringing home frozen ice cream, pulled out the instruction manual that came with the Corolla, found the section on changing tires, located the proper equipment, and set about removing lug nuts (the hubcap had apparently flown off when the tire suddenly went flat, and was nowhere to be seen).

At this moment, an extremely nice young man from Illinois, on a road trip vacation across the US, stopped and asked if he could help me. I decided that my strong-woman status did not preclude accepting help from nice strong young men, took the screaming Banana out of her carseat, and let him carry on. I'm happy to report that more Good Samaritans stopped to help, including a Navajo family with an air compressor in their pick up truck. Even if I had figured out how to change a tire, it turns out that my jack wasn't tall enough for the back wheels, and the flat tire was so stuck it took two men to wrench it off. Moreover, the air compressor people ascertained that the tire's problem was a blown air valve and told me where in the tiny town of Leupp, just 11 miles away, I could get it replaced. I reloaded the trunk, stuck the big wheel in the back seat between the two car seats (the only place it would fit), and crawled to Leupp.

I was very grateful to know where the Leupp auto repair shop was, since it was a true local joint, without even a sign announcing itself. It consisted entirely of a small half-pipe type building with a few pieces of equipment inside, a concrete slab, and a guy in an old white Cadillac. I told him what my problem was and he fixed it in 20 minutes, charging me only $6! God certainly took care of us through the whole ordeal, even if He didn't let us find Lightning McQueen!

There was no way I was going to unload the trunk again to put the spare back, so I put it between the two car seats and turned towards home, now about 1 1/4 hours away. The Papaya, newly awake and grumpy, objected strongly both to the placement of the spare tire and the Banana's screams at being put back in her car seat. He started screaming and spurred the Banana on to new and greater screams, which in turn encouraged higher pitched screaming from the Papaya. They egged each other on like this for most of the ride home. In one of the few quite moments between the screams, I tried to get a whole deep breath in before they started up again (I failed). In another quiet moment, I heard a random line from the Caedmon's Call CD I was trying to listen to: "You knew this day long before you made me out of dirt". "Yes," I grumbled to God, "and you laughed sadistically!" But I laughed, too - the whole experience was so over-the-top by this point that I was starting to see the humor in it (being 15 minutes from home and having a fixed tire helped, too).

I finally arrived home and thought I was in heaven. Not only was my husband home from work, but there were TREES in the yard!!!!! Real trees! With leaves! Five of them - two in the front yard, and three in the back! Two cottonwoods (my favorite), two Navajo Willows, and one peach tree (Husband's pick). Husband had planned a big surprise for me, and hired our pastor's son to drive to Winslow, pick them up, and plant them. They are truly beautiful. I felt so loved. It was a wonderful end to a trying trip. (And, despite all odds, our ice cream is still edible.)

I survived. I am a Strong Woman.

Afterword: The craziness didn't end with my homecoming. We drove to Winslow the next morning, met our friends who had been in Flagstaff, escorted them back to our house, hosted all 7 of them for the night, and went on a road trip with them the next day. The following morning I took the kids to church by myself (Husband was on back-up call) and taught 7 preschoolers with the Banana on my back. Husband worked all night Sunday night and Monday night. Today is Tuesday, and we're ready for a rest and some normality again! I think I'd like to be a Not-so-strong Woman for a little while!

Cursed ants!

Usually I tolerate, and often enjoy watching, the harvester ants that populate our backyard. Until today. The Banana, having always been thwarted by me in the past, finally fulfilled her weeks-long desire to pick one up. The ant clamped its jaws down on the Banana's ring finger and stung her hand with all its might in multiple places (wherever its back end happened to jostle). It took quite a bit of force to pull the dratted ant from the Banana's hand, its jaws were clenched so tightly.

Despite the combined forces of Children's Benadryl and Infant Tylenol, the poor Banana screamed for about 3 hours, and her little fingers swelled up hugely. She seems to be better now, and is finally napping peacefully after a second dose of both medications.

I guess, if you're an ant, biting and stinging someone who picks you up may be a perfectly defensible response. But I still don't like ants very much anymore.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Battle of the Sexes

Setting: Our house, this afternoon. The Papaya and I are trying to put together a construction site floor puzzle. The Banana is simultaneously doing her best to destroy it.

Papaya (proferring a puzzle piece to the Banana): Want a bulldozer, Banana?
Mommy: Banana is a bulldozer. She's a force of destruction.
Papaya (matter-of-factly): She's a girl.

Abstract Expressionism

Mommy: What are you drawing, Papaya?
Papaya: I'm drawing the sound of the night train.

Closet Sleeping

I’ve decided that if I have anything to do with it, the Banana will be sleeping through the night by the time she is 1 year old. (If my husband had had more to do with it, it would have happened about six months ago.) This leaves me just a little less than a month to work with. I’m tired of being tired all the time. The Banana is finally learning how to drink from something other than my num nums, which means that I can leave a sippy cup of water in her crib and not worry about her getting dehydrated without her multiple night feedings. (Because I usually get dehydrated if I go through the night without drinking water. But maybe that’s because of the multiple night feedings!)

Anyway, the first step to peaceful nights was obviously to get the Banana’s crib out of sight of our bed. As long as she can stand up and see us, she is inconsolable - we’re talking 3 to 4 hour crying jags. You’d think in a 4 bedroom house with only two children, moving her to another room would be a simple decision. But because of the weird layout of this house, it wasn’t. The master bedroom is on one end of the house, then there’s a large “great room” (living room/dining room/kitchen combined), then there are three small bedrooms on the other end. If we moved the Banana to one of the three small bedrooms, her night crying would likely wake up the Papaya, and having them both awake at the same time in the middle of the night is something to be avoided at all costs. (We know this firsthand, from unhappy hotel room experiences. They can keep each other awake interminably.)

So we moved the Banana into our closet, and it’s been working beautifully (except when Husband decides to hang his clothes in there before he goes to sleep at night and wakes her up.) If this sounds too weird to any non-family members who miraculously happen to read this blog, know that my family has a long and proud tradition of closet sleeping. My mother spent a teenage year in Detroit living in a closet under the basement stairs of her aunt’s house. When my cousin spent a post-high school year or two living with my parents, he was housed in another closet under the stairs. (But treated much better than Harry Potter.) When my sister and brother-in-law lived in a small house in Texas a couple years ago, their daughter’s bedroom was the closet. Last Christmas, at my sister’s house, my brother slept on the floor of the laundry room (technically not a closet, but close). And almost every time we visit my parents, the Papaya ends up sleeping in their closet.

With this kind of history, it’s hard to believe it took us so long to think of putting the Banana in the closet (we briefly considered the pantry). Already, she’s back to only one night feeding (she had regressed over the summer.) Last night was supposed to be the big night that I made her stay in bed until at least 5:00 a.m. I was all psyched for it. However, when the Banana woke up crying at 1:00 a.m., Husband told me I should get out of bed and feed her. “You get out of your side of the bed, and I’ll get out of my side at the same time and do something important while you feed the Banana,” he said. So I jumped out of bed, grabbed the Banana, and sat in the nursing chair with her. Husband did not keep up his end of the bargain. As I pulled up my nightshirt and looked over to see him sleeping soundly, I realized his suggestion had been but the tail end of a dream, and that the Banana would get at least one more night feeding. Despite Husband’s obvious innocence, I still couldn’t help feeling just a little betrayed by him!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fair Game

There is something about an adult lying down on the ground that acts as an instant kid magnet, at least in our house. If you ever find yourself here and feel the urge to stretch out on our floor, beware! Protect your vulnerable body parts from imminent impact. You are suddenly the World's Best Toy - the perfect surface for jumping on, sitting on, swimming on, cuddling on, tickling... the possibilties are endless. Complete with sound effects! Let's not forget the treasure hunt possibilities. All those inviting little holes - nostrils, ears, eye sockets - they're suddenly accessible! And if the explorers are lucky, they might even find a belly button! Or a mole! Or - most exciting of all - one, or even two, num-nums*!

If you want to rest around our house, you've got to be prepared.

*Otherwise known as milk-producing wonders.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Tale of the Too-Tired Travelers

We just completed our 4th 10-day trip in 3 months. This traveling deal is starting to get old, let me tell you. The stays themselves have all been wonderful, and this past week at the lovely Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina was no exception. But the long and involved process of getting there and back, I could do without.

The return trip from North Carolina cemented my appreciation for the fact that we probably won't be making another major airline trip until December. Not only did it involve 2 days of driving and flying long distances, strange schedules, and a 3 hour time change, but it was also plagued with more than the usual amount of frustrations and mess-ups. Here is the tiring tale.

The Banana woke up at 5:00 a.m. the last morning of our beach vacation after a lousy night of sleep, but it was just as well, since we had to pack and thoroughly clean the house before we left. After a week of 11 people living in a fairly small space, there was significant work to be done. We worked our tails off and pulled out right at 10:00 a.m., which made me a little nervous, since we had a flight leaving around 3:00 p.m. and were still a 3 1/2 hour drive from the airport. Scratch that. We were more than 3 1/2 hours from the airport. I-40 was undergoing construction, and the large volume of other vacationers returning from the beach led to a complete standstill and much fingerbiting as I tried to work out what we would do if we missed our flight. Happily, some expert map-reading and re-routing from my dad and husband saved the day, and we made it to our gate with a half hour to spare.

The flights themselves (two of them, routed through Dallas) were uneventful, and the children were, on the whole, good travelers (although the Banana only napped about 30 minutes of the entire 6 hour flight time). We left a Nalgene on board the plane after we arrived in Phoenix, which wasn't a huge deal, but still made me feel pretty bad - I hate to lose things, and it was my favorite Nalgene bottle, one my sister gave me from Montana. By the time we claimed our luggage, caught the shuttle to the long-term parking lot, and arrived back at our car-side, it was about 11:00 p.m. East Coast time and we were exhausted and grumpy. My husband's inability to find his keys only added to our general bad temperedness. Happily, I had keys and we made it to our hotel and into bed within an hour's time. The Banana, incredibly overtired, slept even worse than is usual for her on trips.

The next day began bright and early, thanks to the time change and some wired kids. But that gave us plenty of time to start on the many activities ahead of us - breakfast, swimming, packing up the suitcases and car again, shopping in Phoenix, driving 140 miles to Flagstaff, visiting 3 or 4 stores there to stock up on enough to last us 2-3 weeks, driving 2 hours more to our house, and arriving in time to stick something in the microwave to bring to our neighbor's going away potluck party that night.

We did, by the way, make it home in time for the potluck, although I don't think we were the life of the party. Unfortunately, as the day wore on, it became obvious that my mild sore throat from the day before was transforming itself into a true head cold. This, combined with sleep deprivation and mild jet lag, put me in a kind of twilight-zone for most of the day. My husband didn't have a cold but still didn't fare much better. His great moment came at the Walmart in Flagstaff. While trying to remove our old windshield wipers so I could take them inside and buy new ones the same size, he let go of the little metal piece that holds the wiper on the driver's side. It snapped back, hit the windshield, and made a lovely star-shaped crack. One ray of the crack grew throughout the rest of the day and is now at least a foot long, pushing inexorably up and across our windshield.

But the coup de grace of our unhappy return trip came the next morning, when I opened up our large suitcase to find some clean underwear (we had been living out of our carry-on up to this point.) My underwear was nowhere to be found. I searched some more, and it dawned on me that none of my clothes were anywhere to be found. And none of my husband's clothes were there either. My mind shot back to two days ago, when I pointed to the dresser in our beach house bedroom and asked my husband to empty it into our suitcase. Apparently, he interpreted my request as, "Please just empty the top drawer of this dresser" (which contained all the kid's clothes). I'm afraid that discovering most of our summer wardrobe was still in North Carolina was not the high point of our communication as a married couple. Volleys of accusations from both sides, such as "You don't listen to me", "You should have checked all the drawers before you left", "Didn't it occur to you that you didn't pack any of our clothes in the suitcase?", and "I was just doing what you said - I didn't know I was supposed to pay attention to what I was packing!" ensued.

Things are much better now. In fact, just blogging about frustrations makes them seem much more funny. Husband and I forgave each other quickly. I found his keys. My cold is abating, although I suspect my kids may be coming down with it. The housekeeper of the beach house will mail us our clothes (hopefully to the right address, since she is almost 80 and hard of hearing, and just spelling out the name of our town over the phone so she could hear and understand took about 10 minutes of yelling.) I will drive the kids into Winslow tomorrow, 80 miles away, to get our windshield replaced - hoping that the crack won't spread to its outer edge in the meantime, causing the whole thing to break in two and fall in my lap (it probably wouldn't do that anyway, would it?). Sometime,we may even replace the Nalgene, even though I doubt we'll find another pretty turquoise one that says "Montana" on it. The Banana, happy to be home, is suddenly making huge strides (pun intended) in her walking - she's striking out on her own now, walking just for the fun of it, and reveling in her new skill. Life is almost back to normal in the Papaya Mommy household.

Hey, let's do another trip! This Friday, we're off again for the weekend - to Lake Powell, for a staff retreat. At least there's no air travel involved. I'm happy to be stuck here for a little while.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally, a catch-up post!

Poor Banana. We packaged up our camera about three weeks ago and sent it back to Fujifilm, hoping that they would remove some specks that got wedged underneath our lens. The day we packaged it up, the Banana started crawling and rolling over. A couple days ago, she took her first steps. Not only did we not get any of it on film, I didn't even blog about it! Banana, when you are a teenager and read these descriptions of your early life (you don't even have a baby book, so this and our digital pictures are it), please forgive me for missing the documentation of your big achievements!

I have a few excuses for my paltry blogging these past few weeks. Since June 8, we've been out of town a total of 22 days, and the time in-between our outings was largely spent (besides the usual all-consuming tasks of childcare and house upkeep) cleaning up from the previous trip and preparing for the next. Tomorrow we leave on yet another 10 day trip, this time to North Carolina for a lovely beach vacation with my side of the family. Then, thankfully, we'll be home for a couple months, with only weekend trips in our plans.

Since I'm about to have another extended non-blogging period, I'd better record what I can remember of the important events of the past six weeks - before they are forever lost in oblivion.

*We had a wonderful time with my parents, sister, neice, cousin & his family, aunt & uncle, and many others in Baltimore in early June. The Banana, her cousin (3 months younger), and her second cousin (2 months older) were unbelievably cute together (they're all little girls).

*Within three days of returning from Baltimore, the Banana began to roll over and crawl. Both she and her parents were super excited, but the Papaya was unimpressed. I think it felt like she was being born all over again - a re-invasion of his privacy. We're still trying to figure out how to deal with her wanting to play with the same things he's playing with and him vigorously protesting. We're trying to minimize the potential violence involved.

*The Papaya's Great Thomas Birthday Party finally happened, two days after our return from Baltimore. There were 30 people in our house (kids and adults) and a great time was had by all. The Papaya now thinks that everyone should have a Thomas Birthday Party.

*The Papaya's potty training is coming along. He's in Big-Boy Underwear most of the time now, and only has accidents about 4 or 5 times a week. I'm afraid his progress is hampered by all our trips, since we let him wear pull-up diapers and don't press him to always use the toilet. We are very glad for our tile (rather than carpeted) floor. The red engine "James" from Thomas & Friends is the next carrot we are dangling. Seven perfect days in a row, putting all of his poo-poo and pee-pee in the toilet & James will be won (so far, the record is three).

*We had a great early June vacation to Seattle with my husband's side of the family. We ate great Asian food, saw a bunch of great city sights, took in a lot of fun kid-friendly museums, and played in the snow of Paradise (Mt. Ranier) on a crystal-clear day.

*Within a few days of our return from Seattle, on the day before she turned 10 months old, the Banana started walking. She can now walk across a room, turn around, and (most importantly) fall without seriously hurting herself. What big acccomplishment will she come up with after our return from North Carolina? Talking in full sentences? Reading?

*The Banana learned (and uses) the signs we taught her for "light" and "fan" (two of her favorite things). We are trying to teach her to sign "more, please" rather than utilize The Scream. I'm convinced she's asked me for "num nums" on at least one occasion, and she now utters a crystal clear "Da-dee" when she sees my husband. (Although she won't usually let him or anyone else hold her for more than 5 seconds, due to an acute phase of separation anxiety.)

*The Papaya went to see his first film in a theatre: Cars. He loved it, and now has an obsession even greater than Thomas the Train.

*Since I began this incredibly long post three days ago, Husband and I broke down and ordered a digital camcorder. We couldn't stand missing another moment of the Banana's adorable toddling. It's out for delivery and should arrive any minute now.

Whew! I hope not to go this long without blogging again - even if I caught the big events in retrospect, I missed a lot of the day-to-day amusing things that happened. Bye-bye until after the beach vacation!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Extra Protein

I was cutting broccoli for dinner a couple evenings ago while the Papaya watched from a stepstool pulled up to the counter. A flash of gray prompted me to look a little closer at the floret I just chopped. It was literally crawling with little gray bugs. I screeched, then flung the floret away as the bugs continued to move around. Gingerly, I inspected the rest of broccoli, threw out the offending pieces, and tried to calm my "icky/creepy" reflex. The Papaya, on the other hand, was highly entertained. It didn't even bother him that he had already eaten a raw floret. I tried not to think about it too much.

Note: My family (when I was in high school) found copious amounts of bugs in our broccoli once - and we had already eaten half of it. But that was in Kenya. We started soaking all our fruits & veggies in bleach water (no kidding) after that. I don't think I'll get that dramatic. American bugs, after all, must be clean bugs! (Actually, were they American bugs?)

120 degrees

That was the temperature in Phoenix yesterday. The hottest day there yet in the 21st century, and we managed to be in town to appreciate it. Lucky us. My husband was in a meeting all day long & I got to entertain both kids in an environment I really don't think humans were meant to live in. Walking from the hotel into the heat, I felt like I was running into a brick wall. Since it's the "monsoon season" right now, it was just humid enough to make it feel really hot (according to the local weather report). "By the end of next week, however," the forecasters assured their listeners, "the temperature will drop down to a cool 105 degrees."

Why, oh why do so many people choose to live in Phoenix? It's the 5th largest city in the USA! All I've got to say is that there are a lot of truly insane people out there.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Toby is won!!!

Yesterday marked the 7th consecutive day that the Papaya did not poop in his diaper! He put the 7th sticker in a row on his chart yesterday. This morning was the big morning that he got to open Toby the Tram Engine - the carrot we've been dangling for the last 2 months. Today is a huge day in the history of our family. Congratulations, Papaya!

In a few minutes, Toby and the rest of our family pile into the car and began the long trek from the Hopi Reservation to Baltimore, Maryland. We should arrive there sometime early tomorrow morning (Baltimore time). Wish us luck/prayers!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Triple Digits

The remote thermometer attached to the other side of our front door (in the summer, usually a little cooler than the outside temperature since it's affected by the cooler temperature inside) just hit 100 degrees for the first time this year. The thermometer on our back porch (also in the shade, but attached to a piece of wood that absorbs heat) reads 115 degrees. The true temperature is probably closer to the front-door thermometer, but either way, it's hot out there!

Before I moved to Arizona last August, people told me that dry heat wasn't bad. That it was nothing like the energy-sucking humid heat in the east. There is some truth to this*, but on the whole, they were wrong. This desert sun (actually, this is semi-desert), at 5600 feet elevation and triple digit temperatures, is seriously hot and intense. It feels mean. It makes me long for some humidity to thicken the air between me and the sun. It makes me really glad I don't live in Phoenix, where it's about 10 to 15 degrees hotter right now.

We're heading to Baltimore on Thursday, and I must admit that I'm really looking forward to some humidity again! And the color green. I think I'll spend the first few days just feasting my eyes on the green of my parents' backyard, and letting my skin drink in the moisture. Then I'll probably start longing for dry heat again. Such is human nature.

*Dry heat mixed with intense sun is very, very hot. But dry heat in the shade isn't that bad, and dry heat as the sun goes down feels wonderful. Last night around 7:00, the sun was setting and it felt positively heavenly outside. When I glanced at the thermometer (the "cool" one), I was amazed to see that it was still 89 degrees! It felt much cooler to me than the early morning's 73 degrees with bright sun. And only in the desert can you have triple digit days and lovely, cool 50 degree nights. I still can't comprehend why so many people choose to live in Phoenix and Tucson, however.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The worst-looking $12 we ever saved

I'm afraid I butchered my husband's hair. His head looks like a black carpet, threadbare in sections. But it's not my fault!

Since we married almost six years ago, my husband has wanted me to cut his hair. He cherished a touching confidence in my hair cutting abilities (which I'm afraid got shattered), as well as a thrifty desire to save the time and money of getting a $12 Supercut every month or two (note: I finally figured out how to link to other websites from this blog!). Since moving here, haircuts are even more of a issue, since we have to carve out precious time from an already packed bi-monthly shopping day in Flagstaff for them. His mother has, on several occassions, promised to teach me how to cut hair.

Despite his pleas, I held firm. I did not want to take on the prime responsibility for his physical appearance. The whole idea of it just scared me. I really had no desire to learn. My husband took the rejection with good grace (for the most part) and satisfied his home-haircutting desires by addressing the Papaya's head every couple of months (he does a great job, by the way!)

But last week, he finally got his wish. His hair was getting long enough to bother him, and our shopping day in Flagstaff necessarily occurred on a Sunday (as we were driving home from the Phoenix Airport and our San Francisco trip). Supercuts was closed, and the next opportunity for a professional haircut was almost 3 weeks away. The pressure started up again. "It won't be that hard - you just pull hair away at the same distance all around the head and snip! Keep on doing the same thing over and over again, all over my head, & you'll do a great job! Come on, my hair's not even regulation length right now! I need it shorter for my job!" (Not that the strict military-like appearance and grooming requirements of the Commissioned Corps usually bother my husband that much, but it was a useful arguement). I finally gave in. After all, I thought, it might not be that hard.

I labored for about 45 minutes using a small pair of scissors with 1 1/2 inch blades, and finally ended up with a result that wasn't that terrible, although it was shorter on top than my husband preferred, had ridges on the back, and looked like some hair-hungry animal had taken a large bite out of the left side of his head. It wasn't bad enough to get comments from colleagues, but it was bad enough that my husband went online and started researching clippers. "If only we had a clipper," he thought, "my wife could give me professional, even haircuts." So the $12 we saved on a haircut got replaced by the $27 we spent on the Wahl haircutting set from Amazon.

Unfortunately, the story's not over yet. My husband was eager to try out our new clippers on the Papaya (who did need a haircut). To prevent the Papaya from being scared by the new device, he suggested I try it out on him first, while the Papaya watched. "It will help even out the sides and the back," he said. "Try a #3 attachment." I tried, and it was a little scary, but also somewhat satisfying, to see the large amounts of hair that hit the ground. The result was definitely scary - clear lines of very short hair, ending in different places up his head. He looked in the mirror, but stayed calm. "Okay," he said, "try a #8 over my entire head. Just do everything." A lot more hair hit the ground. My helpless laugh as I looked at his head did little to boost his waning confidence in me. The carpet hair-do was almost complete. A little more "blending" work with a #6, followed by a #5, completed the effect. After that, I convinced him that all sharp instruments should be taken from my hands and all further attempts to "make it better" should be nixed. At least his hair is regulation length now.

Most colleagues have been kind (and perhaps insincere - i.e. "It's cute!"). One fellow physician said he did something like that to his own head once - but only after a few beers. A refreshingly honest nurse screeched, "What happened to your hair? It got butchered!"

So if you're among the family that will see us when we go to Baltimore next week - please be prepared. I've heard that the difference between a bad hair cut and a good one is a week or two, but in this case, I'm afraid it might be a month or two. (The Papaya looks pretty good, however. My husband did him again.)

Maybe we should watch the instructional DVD that came with the Wahl kit.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Papaya!

The Papaya turned 3 years old today (actually, yesterday - I didn't get this entry finished on the day I started writing it)! It's incredible - it seems like just a little while ago that he was a smaller baby than Banana is now. I also realized that for the last 3 years and 9 months, I have been constantly either pregnant or lactating. That's as long as I was an undergraduate! That's a long time! I've almost forgotten what it's like not to be sustaining another human being with my body.

This birthday marks the first one the Papaya hasn't been sick for. He had a virus his first birthday that made him listless and fragile. His second birthday, he had vomiting and diarrhea and we had to cancel his much-anticipated party. But today he is healthy and enjoying some birthday fun. We're not doing a lot , as we're planning a joint "Thomas the Train" birthday party with our neighbors and their son at the end of June (since today is Memorial Day, most of our neighbors have flown the coop - people just don't tend to stick around here on holidays). But we have tried to make the day special - with waffles and berries for breakfast, a decorated dining room, the opening of a "big present" (a Thomas the Train set), macaroni and cheese for lunch, and spaghetti and a cake tonight. I made and decorated a Thomas cake all by myself, and am pretty pleased with the finished product (see picture!). I can't wait for the Papaya to wake up from his nap and see it. If you told me 3 years ago that I'd be making cakes for my children with popular media characters on them, I would have refuted you. But here I am, decorating cakes with Thomas and even buying Thomas merchandise for the June neighborhood party. It's just too much fun to delight the Papaya.

The Papaya has officially passed (at least in my eyes) from toddlerhood to little-boyhood. He even looks like a little boy now - he's grown a couple inches in the last few months and seems tall, thin, and (sometimes) mature. He loves animals, as well as any form of transportation (he has a special affinity for airplanes, trains, helicopters, tugboats, and tow trucks). He has a wonderful imagination - it runs the gamut from pretending that he's an airplane taxiing down the runway, to feeding carrot cookies to the rabbit in our house. A little while ago, he prepared a special meal and invited his king and queen (play figures), jet plane, tow truck, and play vacuum cleaner. He lined them all up around the meal he prepared and served them. He has an inability to sit still and listen for more than 5 seconds straight (quite frustrating when I try to teach him along with the other preschoolers in Sunday School) and shows no interest in drawing or coloring - he'd much rather be running, jumping, or playing with trains. I still can't figure out whether he's going to end up being right or left handed. He has a great memory for everything he hears and is constantly repeating snippets from songs, his videos, or overheard conversations (we've really got to be careful what we talk about!) He's pretty strong willed and frustrating to parent at times, but of course we love him dearly and can't wait to continue watching him become.

The Banana, in an sneaky attempt to steal some of her brother's special attention, cut her first tooth on his birthday. I'm biding my time until she until she attempts to try it out during a nursing session. Ouch!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

And the virus of the month is...

...just the common cold, this time, a souvenir of our San Francisco trip. We all have it at the same time. We're plowing through the tissue boxes at breakneck speed, the Banana uttering The Scream every time I try to wipe her nose. The Papaya, of course, is the one who initiated and introduced us all to the newest McDaniel Family Virus. That boy is a virus magnet. But this one doesn't involve vomit, and so I don't mind - too much. I can't wait to see what June has in store for us (just kidding, I don't mind a break)!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Oompt stomp-a-comet"

Having achieved a reasonable facility in English (although his pronouns still need a little work), the Papaya has begun to create a new language. When he's silly, he'll simply take whatever we say to him and repeat it, substituting a rhyming, nonsense word for one of ours. He appears to think that this is hilarious.

However, he also has stock phrases all his own that he repeats often throughout the day. "Oompt stomp-a-comet" is one of these. I have yet to figure out exactly what it means or in what context it should be used. When I repeat it back to the Papaya, he usually laughs and says, "That's not how it goes! Oompt stomp-a-comet!" The Banana, on the other hand, seems to have perfect understanding and constant appreciation for Papaya-ese.

Monday, May 22, 2006

No Place Like Home

We just returned from a week long trip to San Francisco. It was fun, but it is so good to be home!

The Banana is not the world's best traveler. She does pretty well in the car, which is good, since we drive 4 hours round trip to go grocery shopping and 8 to 9 hours round trip to reach a major airport. But get her out of her home environment and sleeping/playing routines, and she can really be a challenge, especially at night. The last night of our trip, she made exactly 7 night awakenings between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. At home, of course, we would just let her cry, but in a hotel room we have to consider the sleep of our neighbors, just one thin wall away, not to mention the Papaya. The Banana could sense that she had me at her beck and call, and took full advantage of the unlimited night feedings opportunity. And since she's no longer in the co-sleeper, I had to get out bed every single time, walk across the room, and feed her in a chair until she fell back to sleep again. Any attempt by Daddy to comfort her would be met with full-out screams. I was exhausted, and she was exhausted. My mother-in-law joined us for the week, and her constant speculation as to the cause of the Banana's night awakenings (most often attributed to something we were doing wrong) and her well-intentioned advice added stress and wounded pride to my tiredness. Usually I hate to listen to my children cry. When the Papaya was a baby and we turned to crying methods to get him to sleep, I could hardly stand it. But as my exhaustion grew this past week, my aversion to night-crying diminished. I could not wait to let the Banana cry it out again!

Surprisingly, we didn't have to let her cry it out. We got home last night, and save for a small amount of whimpering, the Banana slept slept until 6:30 a.m., awakening only for only one feeding. There's something magic about home for her. (Although to be a happy member of our mobile family, I'm afraid she's going to have to learn a bit more flexibility!)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Imitation - the sincerest form of flattery?

This morning during breakfast, the Papaya looked across the table at me and said seriously, "Look into my eyes, Mommy". I obliged and he looked directly at me and said, with authority, "Don't poopoo in your diaper, Mommy."

He was so pleased with his wit that he's repeated it to his Daddy and myself about 10 times so far.

A Star Night!

Last night, the Banana slept (or at least was quiet) from about 7:45 p.m. to 4:51 a.m.! A record!! I slept 7 hours straight!!! The longest since I got pregnant with her about 16 months ago!!!!

Now that she's finally getting onto a good schedule, it's time to travel and mess it up again. We leave for a conference in San Francisco day after tomorrow. Eight nights in a motel room, here we come!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


No, the Banana's not being weaned from the breast (although with the advent of Solids, to which she has taken fairly voraciously, I guess that process is started). We're in the midst of three huge family projects right now, all of which involve weaning of some sort or the other. All of them also involve varying degrees of frustration, and even of sadness for what is being left behind and may never come again.

The first big weaning project involves getting the Papaya out of diapers. No sadness involved there - I won't be a bit sorry to see them left behind, nor nostalgic for the good-old-days when I got to change an especially ripe diaper while the Papaya said with relish, "Peanut butter and jam sandwich sauce". Since most of my recent entries have concerned this subject, I won't dwell on it now, except to say that a full week of diarrhea (and it still goes on) does not contribute to progress in this department.

The second big weaning project involves getting the Papaya out of his crib and into a "big boy bed" - the twin bed in his bedroom. I am a little sad about him leaving his safe haven of containment and being able to jump up at any hour of the night (or nap-time). We are having some success in getting him to sleep in there during his nap-time, but our night-time trial failed miserably (he actually asked to go back into his crib in the middle of the night). We're hoping to have made the full transition by this summer, so that we don't have to lug around an extra port-a-crib on our many travels.

The third big weaning project involves getting the Banana out of and away from our bed, and eventually moving her across the house and into the Papaya's crib. Up to last week, she slept in a co-sleeper attached to and level with our bed. When she woke up I would lift her into bed, nurse her until she went to sleep again, lift her back into the co-sleeper, and return to snuggling with my husband. This was happening three or four (sometimes five) times a night, and I was getting very tired. At first I tried just feeding her twice a night and ignoring her cries at the other times, but she was a pretty indomitable screamer and didn't seem to improve any from night to night. Then, I tried lowering the level of the co-sleeper so that she was still next to our bed but near the ground, but that didn't work any better. Hearing me breathe but not being paid attention to seemed to drive the Banana mad, and the 2-3 hours of screaming a night was really wearing on us. Finally, we did what we should probably have done right away, and moved the co-sleeper across the room. She immediately improved and now only cries about an hour and a half each night, starting at around 12:30 a.m. I give her just one feeding a night, now, anytime she wakes after 2:00 a.m., but don't take her into bed with me to feed her. We have high hopes that soon she will discover it's useless to cry, and will settle down into the heavenly pattern of just one quiet feeding a night.

Why, you may be wondering, don't we just move her out of our room & let her cry it out where she won't be bothered by our noises and we won't be as bothered by her cries? The main reason is that she might wake the Papaya, and we don't want her sleeping near him until she learns to sleep through the night. She's going to be sharing a room with us during most of our travels this summer, and we want her to learn to sleep well while in the room with us. But another reason is that I'm not quite ready to let her go yet. We're not sure if we're going to have another baby, and giving up the intimacy and sweetness of having Banana close enough to touch at any time, calm with my hand, and easily check on throughout the night is a very hard thing. I love nursing, and I have especially loved lying in bed with the Banana and nursing her to sleep (the Papaya would never nurse lying down). And I may very well be leaving that sweetness behind forever. I'm sure there will be other sweetnesses in life, but I'm still mourning the loss, even as I am relishing the improved sleep and quality of life it brings.

On a lighter note, the Banana (who refuses pacifiers and other forms of artificial comfort) has finally chosen a "lovey" to help her sleep - my dirty cotton breast pads! She's just crazy about that sour milk smell. If I lay her in bed, almost asleep, and she starts crying, I can usually calm her by laying a breast pad on her mouth. She will stuff it in with her fist, then immediately quiet down, start sucking, close her eyes, and go to sleep. Occasionally I will check on her and find her fast asleep with a breast pad rolled up and sticking out of her mouth. I try to remember to switch and launder them every few days so they don't get too gross! It's wonderfully convenient when we travel - I have a couple"loveys" handy in my bra at all times!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Health is wonderful

I'm not sure which is worse - being all alone in the house with a sick toddler & baby, or being all alone in the house with children to look after when I am violently ill. Having experienced both in the last few days, I wouldn't recommend either option.

The Sunday night I was all alone actually wasn't bad at all - the Papaya slept all night long, and woke up happily (with a little help from the anti-emetic I stuck in his bottom before he went to sleep.) But then his bug downed me on Tuesday - diarrhea all day, vomiting in the evening, horrid tummy cramps, and extreme weakness. I could hardly stand up, and taking care of both the kids for 9 hours, as well as continuing to breastfeed the Banana (I'm not sure where my body found the means to make breastmilk, but it managed), took a Hurculean effort. But I did it. And the experience confirmed in my mind that I really don't want to be pregnant again anytime soon, not with two small children to take care of!

When I told the Papaya that I was sick he ran to his bedroom, found the metal bowl that I had placed next to his crib, brought it to me, and said hopefully, "Throw up in the bowl, Mommy!" He seemed a little disappointed that I didn't immediately oblige. Then he jumped on me when I lay down on the floor. He gets high points for helpfulness, but his empathy needs improvement (but what do you expect from a two year old?).

Yesterday I felt weak but better, and the Papaya's second phase of sickness, diarrhea, appeared (happily, it wasn't that bad, and he didn't seem too affected by it). Today we all feel better and I'm reappreciating just how wonderful health is. And hunger. I'm hopeful enough to put away the metal bowls positioned strategically around the house. And maybe I'll even hit the ice cream tonight, and start to make up for lost calories!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I hate vomit!

My sweet husband worked all night last night, and is also working all night tonight. So of course, it's time for sickness in our family. At least we're not on the road this time.

I drove the kids to church this morning while hubby tried to get some sleep. Church was wonderful, but things went downhill fast on the ride home. It started when the Papaya began an ominous, whining cry. I actually pulled over and asked if he were sick. "No sick!" he whined. When asked what was wrong, all I could get out of him was, "I lost my pennies!" My worst fears were realized when, a few minutes after I started driving again, the unmistakable sounds and smells of vomiting, followed by frantic crying, emanated from behind me. I was still a 20 minute drive from home, so I rolled down the windows, kept driving, and tried to stay calm. Poor Papaya fell asleep in his vomit.

He's vomited several times since, but not for the last four hours. I have high hopes for a solid night tonight, although every other time the Papaya's got a vomiting illness, it's lasted for about a week. He has the strangest, most uncanny ability to seem like he's well again, only to create a noisome bodily-fluid explosion somewhere in the house (or car) after you've got your hopes up and your guard down. I'm giving this two full days before I relax.

Did I mention that I hate vomit? I really do - more than most other things. I think I must have a mini vomit-phobia, because just the thought of it happening to me or a family member makes my hands shake and my heart race. The mess, the smell, the unpredictability, the germs - I really hate it. Being in the house, alone, all night, with a baby and a vomiting toddler, is like a nightmare come true. We talked for a good bit of our church service today (our church is so small that most sermons become discussions) about what it meant to trust God. I didn't want Him to test me so soon - not in this way, anyway!

I do want to trust God. And so I'll try to stop jumping with alarm every time I hear a noise from the Papaya's bedroom (he's asleep in there now) and trust (at least hope) that the last four vomit-free hours will continue. And I'll tell myself, once again, that it's really not that bad and that God will give me strength and calmness to handle anything that might happen tonight. And maybe, instead of typing here, I should get to bed myself and catch up on some of my own sleep, while I can!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Most of the time, I have a pretty good sense of what's going on with my kids. But every now and then, I'm mystified.

Such as after this conversation (the Papaya was perfectly happy right until this point - he was playing while I was cutting potatoes in the kitchen as a part of supper preparation):

Papaya: (whiney voice) - Don't eat the strawberry, Mommy!
Mommy: What? I don't have any strawberries. (There haven't been any strawberries in our house in weeks, although we did eat some two weeks ago in Flagstaff.)
Papaya: Mommy, don't eat the strawberry. Spit out the strawberry, Mommy. Spit it out!
Mommy: (Opening her mouth wide & showing Papaya.) My mouth is empty, Papaya. There's no strawberry in there. There are no strawberries in this house.
(Papaya walks away & starts to cry.)
Mommy: Why are you crying, Papaya?
Papaya: I lost my strawberries!

Note: Whenever the Papaya is unhappy for no specific reason, or at least no reason that he can articulate (for example, waking up too soon from a nap), he kind of whines/cries, and when asked why, says "I lost my pennies!" It looks like there may be a variation on that now.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

She did it!

Around 2 a.m. last night, I awoke to the sound of extreme unhappiness from the co-sleeper attached to my bed. The Banana was lying on her stomach! She must have turned over - for the first time ever, from her back to her stomach (although she couldn't manage to return to her back again). And we missed it. The trauma of the great event was so great for Banana that an extended nursing session was necessary before she could get back to sleep. But - another first - we got a great big smile from her while giving her tummy-time this afternoon, and she lasted a full five minutes before she started crying!

In other news, I heard the Papaya awake from his nap this afternoon, opened the door to his room, and was greeted by a strong, extremely unpleasant odor. "Poopy diaper, Mommy", he said. "Disgusting!" And he proferred out to me the offending diaper, having pulled it off of his bottom himself. He was right - it was very disgusting - and even more disgusting than the diaper was the poop that was smeared down his legs and had fallen onto his blankets and sheet. I thought he had learned, from the time that he pulled poop out of his diaper and threw it on the floor while he was supposed to be napping, that I didn't really like that kind of thing. Ugh!

I'm afraid full potty training success is still far in the Papaya's future.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"I never eat poop!"

I wish I could convey the conviction with which the Papaya pronounces the aforementioned sentence, especially in conversation with a relative or friend. It's just one of the many joys of attempting to potty-train him.

Actually, as far as I know, he never has eaten poop (at least human poop; I did fish some dog poop out of his mouth at a playground in Flagstaff). But he does seem to find joy in playing with poopy water - namely, that readily accessible basin of it he finds underneath himself during his attempts at becoming a "big boy". We bought a cute little potty chair for him, but he prefers to sit on the big toilet with his feet dangling beneath him - most likely drawn to that tantalizing basin of water. So far, he's dunked his bottom in (numerous times), soaked his sock-clad feet in it, and who knows what else. He's also fingerpainted on his legs and the toilet seat with the poop he reached back and found. And despite all the fun he's having, we don't seem to be making any real progress in convincing him to deposit his poop in there on a regular basis.

Perhaps our vegetarian, whole grain diet is part of the problem - pooping 3 or 4 times a day is a normal average for Papaya - more often, in fact, than his breast-fed sister. I guess it's asking a lot of him to interrupt his play that many times a day to run to the bathroom - perhaps what that boy needs is a little more refined flour or something. We've tried to sweeten the deal by offering him candy every time he poops in the toilet. This is somewhat effective - he usually gets candy at least twice a day - but hasn't done much towards consistency. He does like to talk about it, though, bringing up the topic frequently regardless of who is listening or whether we are at the table or not: "Poop in the toilet, get candy! Poop in your diaper, get a dirty bottom!" And it is truly delightful to hear him yelling from the bathroom, "I did a weal poopie in the twoylett!"

We've now bought him (he picked it out) a train engine named Toby (from "Thomas the Tank Engine", which he loves). Toby sits on Papaya's bookcase and will be his to open & enjoy when he puts all his poop in the toilet, every single time, every single day for an entire week. So far, he's never gone more than two days in a row (and even that was pretty unusual). But we'll get there someday. Then we'll start work on getting him to pee in the toilet. Sigh. I foresee that much cleaning of bodily excretions (beyond mere diaper changes) is in our future.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

All about the Banana

When the Papaya was a baby, every week seemed like a month. Every milestone was researched, anticipated, encouraged, and duly noted - if not on paper, at least in our conversation and in our mental log of "The Papaya's Development". With our sweet Banana, however, time just slips away.

We realized with somewhat of a jolt this week that our sweet baby is all of 6 months old. 6 months - that's half a year! How did that happen? What should a 6 month old be doing? Is she doing it? Shouldn't she be starting solids now? She should definitely be rolling over by now! Daddy's medical references say not rolling over by 6 months raises "red flags". What's wrong with her? Have we been remiss? Should we have encouraged "tummy time" more?

Our "awakening" is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it means that the Banana's now getting more personalized, developmentally appropriate attention from both her parents - no more just carrying her around in the Baby Bjorn for half the day and leaving her on her back under her butterfly to happily play with her hanging toys while we focus on other things. On the other hand, somehow the bulk of our non-essential interactions with her have suddenly become achievement oriented - we're feeling pressure to get her "up to snuff" with other average 6-month-olds. Those guilt-free moments of just gazing at her, babbling nonsense with her, and enjoying her beautiful smile and sweet disposition are much fewer. "Mommy guilt" is strong these days, sometimes because it feels like we didn't pay enough attention to helping her through appropriate developmental steps these past few months, and at other times, because it's too important to us now and we're not accepting her own pace. It's hard to know where to find the balance.

The truth is that it's only her gross motor skills (rolling over, pushing herself up when she's on her tummy) that are "delayed". She can almost sit up by herself, and loves to stand when you hold her at her hips. She's actually great with her hands and is pretty socially interactive. She's way ahead of the curve when it comes to stranger anxiety, which is sad because so many nice people come up to greet her with beautiful smiles and coos, only to get cried at. If she knows you, though, you are often rewarded by what seems to be the biggest smile in the whole wide world. The Banana loves music and singing and even has a few favorite songs. Luckily, she's not a discerning listener, because she seems to love my singing!

A couple days ago, I was playing with the Banana on the bed (trying to get her to turn over, of course) , when her father walked in. She looked right at him, smiled, and said "Da da da da"! When he walked over to pick her up, she did the same thing. Coincidence? We'll see!

The Banana is extremely picky about her breastfeeding. For one thing, my nipples are the only thing she will suck. She refuses all pacifiers, bottles, and substitute nipples. (My sister and I tried trading our babies for breastfeeding, and although my infant niece seemed to have no problem with my milk or delivery equipment, the Banana swiftly rejected my sister's offers.) The Banana is even picky about when she will deign to suck on my nipples. She prefers to do it in a completely private, quiet setting, preferably lying down, with my complete attention and no distractions. This does not happen often in a busy day, especially when we are traveling, so she will consent to be nursed sitting up. But if anybody around talks too loudly, or if there is any commotion at all, she will pull off with protests and refuse to nurse again for awhile. And woe to me if I make the mistake of making any noise at all while she is nursing - loud shrieks and a brief (5 minutes or so) nursing strike ensue. Nursing should be all about her, thank you very much! Needless to say, she is difficult, and often impossible, to nurse in public.

The Banana's shrieks, by the way, are notable in and of themselves. She hits notes with a range and power that might command respect from an operatic soprano. She will literally make your ears ring. I changed her in a public bathroom once while she was unhappy, and I fear she may have caused short term hearing loss for the other unlucky occupants (most of whom stopped on their hurried way out to point out to me - in between shrieks - what good lungs my baby had.)

And of course (since this entry is all about the Banana at 6 months), I should mention that she is beautiful! (Despite the bald and faintly flat spot on the back of her head from spending so much time on her back.) I love looking at her as she sleeps - so delicate, graceful, feminine her features are! Big blue eyes, slowly turning hazel. Very round cheeks and face. The enormous, generous smile that just seems to gather up all the happiness in the world and pass it on to the lucky recipient. The innocence and ingenuousness in her face (even when she's shrieking). May God help us to pay appropriate, focused attention to her at this stage in her development, while still celebrating all that she is right now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Week of the Purell Pump

It feels a little like I'm tempting fate to assert that The Virus has finally left our house. However, after two whole days without any noxious bodily fluids befowling the floors, beds, furniture, linens, or clothes of this house or its occupants, I'm willing to risk a bold statement. The Virus has left our house! We are well people!!!

I had many fun plans laid out for this past week. Our family was just completing a trip to New Mexico, where my husband attended a training and my sister, brother-in-law, and their two children joined us for the adventure. We stayed a couple nights in Albuquerque at the end of the trip; my brother-in-law flew back to Pennsylvania and, in order to prolong the fun of family togetherness, my mother arrived from Baltimore. She, my sister, and the kids were going to return with us to our home, where we planned to have a wonderful time watching the four cousins interact and exploring the Hopi Reservation.

The first inkling that the week might not go entirely according to plan came when Papaya awakened last Saturday morning in the hotel room crib, covered in diarrhea up to his armpits. Despite this inauspicious beginning to the weekend, Papaya seemed to rally and had a good day - he ate well, napped for 3 hours straight, and seemed happy and healthy. We thought it was a just a reaction to tiredness, a fond hope that shattered the next morning when Papaya vomited banana all over his father and continued to vomit every 10 minutes or so for the next few hours (sometimes, for variety's sake, the vomiting would be punctuated with diarrhea). The fun plans I had for our 4-hour drive home that day began to evaporate.

Papaya is usually an extremely active toddler who seems to radiate energy. Within a few hours that Sunday morning, we saw him deteriorate into a limp child who could barely sit up. His retching was so violent that he tore his esophagus and began to vomit blood. As we started our trip home, my husband was so worried that he called in a prescription for an anti-emetic to the Walmart pharmacy in Gallup, a town we would pass through in 2 hours. As you can imagine, it was a delightful drive. In an effort to keep our 6-month old, Banana, uncontaminated, I became the "clean" person (driving and dealing with Banana) and my husband, stocked up with paper napkins and styrofoam cups from the motel, became the "dirty" person (dealing with Papaya and his by-products).

Unfortunately, Papaya's virus wasn't the only thing we had to deal with during that unforgettable trip home. We had chosen to travel during a weekend of unseasonal snowstorms blanketing the Southwest. The brilliant blue sky of Albuquerque quickly turned dark and threatening, and the snow falling from the sky combined with the snow blowing across the interstate (the winds were upwards of 35 MPH) to create some decidedly unfavorable driving conditions, even white-out in places. In fact, it was so bad that the police closed I-40 in one place, creating a complete stand-still. Our feelings of desperation ran so deep that I, mild-mannered, law-abiding driver that I usually am, piloted our overloaded Corolla across the snowy interstate median (at a pretty good pace, hoping not to get stuck), drove back to a previous exit, and navigated a side road until we saw the interstate traffic moving again. Even with this daring move, it was a tortuous four hour drive to Gallup.

At the Superwalmart, my husband toted Papaya off post-haste to the pharmacy, procured the anti-vomiting suppositories, and headed off the bathroom to do the fun work of clean-up and medicine administration. I breastfed Banana and desperately tried to think of what groceries I would need to buy to get us through the next two weeks until we made it to a grocery store again. My mom, sister, and two kids did their own shopping & settled down for a snack at McDonalds. After a two-hour stop (during which we all had something to eat and Papaya was able to keep some Pedialyte down, perking him up considerably), we were finally on our way again. By this time, it was 4:30, and we were beginning to realize that we would have to drive in the dark across the reservation, something we try to avoid if possible.

As it turns out, driving in the dark was the least of our worries during the tense hours that followed. After more stop-and-go on I-40, we finally left it for a reservation road whose condition deteriorated from fairly clear to completely covered with two or three inches of snow. Then, to make matters much worse, just as the sun went down, we drove into a blizzard-like snowstorm. "It feels like we're a milkshake inside a blender," my sister aptly observed. For the first time that day, I started to feel really worried. "How could this drive possibly get any worse?" I thought - but then realized that there were many ways it could get worse, and prayed again that we could get home safely. We were well into the Navajo reservation by this time, and pretty isolated.

Finally, after crawling along at about 20 miles an hour for a long time (I was afraid to go faster because we could hardly see, and afraid to go slower because I didn't want to get stuck), we came to the town of Ganado. There isn't much in Ganado besides a gas station, but it was nice to at least feel safe for awhile. We stopped at the gas station (which was actually closing its little store because the snow was so bad) for a bathroom/baby feeding/catching our breath break. In the half hour we were there, our cars got covered with two or three inches of the driving snow, our license plates unreadable. There were still about 60 miles between us and our house, and things were not looking good. If Ganado had any motels, we probably would have given in and stayed for the night. But there was absolutely no place to stay, so with prayers and hope we headed off into the snow and the isolation again. At least the Papaya had stopped vomiting by this time. (He started wailing for food, which we didn't want to give him much of at that point. His screams joined his sister's screams of protest at being strapped into the car seat again and made for some jolly noise.)

Finally, something went right - within 15 minutes, the snow stopped, and within a half hour, we could see stars and the beautiful almost-full moon. The road became clearer and clearer until suddenly, right about the point that we entered the Hopi reservation, we were driving on dry tarmac and could actually go the speed limit. With great thankfulness and a profound sense of relief, we pulled into our driveway a little after 9:00 - the normal 4-5 hour trip had taken more than ten hours.

We thought it was over. We were wrong.

The next morning, my sweet husband woke up with tummy cramps that quickly escalated into nausea and diarrhea. The crazy man went to work, where he took an anti-emetic that curbed the nausea but made him incredibly sleepy. I can't believe he interacted with patients all day! I felt progressively worse throughout the day and spent a miserable night dealing with nausea and vomiting. The next night, my four-year-old niece vomited all over her bed (and throughout the night), and the following evening, after yet another night-time bed-covering vomit by the Papaya, my mother succumed. After this, we hoped we had seen the last of it, but Papaya continued sick; the next night (Thursday), his crib was again the victim of a violent attack of gastro-enteritis. Between the vomit and the catastrophic diarrhea explosions, we did 6 or 7 loads of laundry a day. Thank goodness for washing machines, bleach, and Purell. Our little pump of hand sanitizer was a hot commodity and we were all lucky that our hands didn't dry up and fall off! Happily, my sister never came down with it, and both babies (Banana and my sister's 3 month old) were spared - either a testament to the magic of breastfeeding, a similar bug my sister had in January, the obsessive cleaning measures, or all three.

On Friday, the family was tired but - for the most part - continent. On Saturday, we were just tired. Finally, on Sunday, everybody was feeling a bit more themselves and we actually had a delightful day - "incandescently lovely" was my mother's description of it - and compared to the rest of the week, I would have to agree.

Yesterday (Monday) everybody left. I can't say the visit was all that I had hoped for, although it was surely more memorable than if we had done everything I envisioned! We did enjoy being together, and there was a certain esprit de corps in working together against The Virus. And there was at least as much love as vomit flying around!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Overheard at our vegetarian table...

Mommy: Papaya, if you finish eating your lentils & couscous, you can have tofu & broccoli!
(Unbelievably, this actually works. You know you're vegetarian when you can successfully bribe your 2-year old with tofu. We've started to order 16 pounds at a time from our co-op so we can cook up extra for Papaya - no kidding!)

Tofu works better than this offer today:
Mommy (Papaya has just finished his lunch): Okay, it's sleepytime now.
Papaya: No sleepytime! I still hungry!
Mommy (this is clearly a stalling tactic; Papaya struggled to finish his last helping): Okay, would you like to eat some raw kale?
Papaya: Yes! Eat kale! (After seeing it) No kale!
Mommy: Okay, sleepytime.
Papaya: Want kale! (I handed him one raw curly kale leaf. He tasted it, then pretended it was a chicken, dancing it around the table while making chicken noises. He's now napping.)

We have a weird family.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


We already have a family blog, but it's mostly for the purpose of publishing pictures for extended family and friends, and always takes a long time to update because of uploading all the pics (and because I get to it so seldomly, I always feel the need to compose a long, comprehensive entry). I wanted my own blog, where I could jot down random thoughts and funny things that happen to me or my family - a "real" blog! A place, for example, to record all the funny "papaya-ism's" created by my talkative 2-year old.

Such as this interaction:

Daddy: So, Papaya, why did we give you a time-out? (it was for something mundane, such as failing to come when called)
Papaya: Chasing the funny chickens.
Daddy: (looking at Mommy and trying hard not to laugh) Well, Papaya, that is reprehensible, but it's not why you got a time out. Let's try again...

For the record, I have no idea where that response came from.

The Papaya has recently begun changing the lyrics to songs he knows, often with funny (or embarassing) results. For example, "Stand up, stand up for Jesus", taught him by his grandmother, frequently becomes "Clean up, clean up for Jesus". However, perhaps the song that inspired the most unorthodox lyric-switching was one that goes, "Clap, clap clap your hands, clap along with me." I will often change this to fit the circumstances, for example: "brush, brush, brush your teeth...". A few weeks ago, during a diaper change, Papaya started spontaneously singing, "Touch, touch, touch the penis, touch along with me." I hope he doesn't take that one public!

Now that I've safely recorded those for all eternity, I will go attend to the Papaya who just woke up from his nap, alert for new blog-worthy moments.