Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ava at one year and three months (15 months)

I'm reverting to using years and months for Ava's age now that she's over a year old because I remember being pregnant and thinking the whole countdown by weeks thing and count up in months was confusing and a crock, because no one besides expectant parents or OBGYNs count anything else like that. Clerks aren't in the checkout line harassing babyfaced consumers with, "I'm sorry, you don't look 1,092 weeks old. I'll need to see some ID for this beer purchase."

With a year and three months under her belt, she's walking, dancing, and fake reading every book she gets her hands on. She still mainly says dada, mama, doze (for nose) and uh-uh for no. As in, "Want more of this food?" "Uh-uh."

You know that saying about seeing the world through fresh eyes when you have a child? SO not true. If you really saw the world as a child sees it, you'd be freaked out by vacuums and blow dryers and see no problem eating both food and non-food items off the floor.
It's more accurate that when you have a child, you have a tiny reminder every day to really see the simple pleasures and beauty in the world that you usually overlook because you're too busy going places and doing things, and thinking about all the places you have to go and things you have to do. You're also reminded about all the small developmental milestones necessary for an infant to mature into a child.

Every week with Ava is something new, with one exception. She's still not saying a whole lot of new words, although she clearly understands a lot. A month and a half ago as she started to pull a baby wipe out of a package, I said, "Uh-uh. Can you close that?" She pushed the wipes back in and firmly closed the lid! I was shocked! I didn't really expect her to understand, but she obviously does.

After months of naming her various limbs and facial features and mine as we play and get dressed, she started pointing to the middle of my face saying, "Doze?" Yep, that's my nose. Ask
 where your ear or eye is and she'll put a tiny finger on it or in it. When asked, she points to all the correct arm, toe and leg locations and even added this doozy last week: "Eye-did?" Uh, yes, that is my eyelid. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but isn't that kind of specific for a 15 month old? I mean, what's next? "Clavicle?"

If you say "Want to brush your teeth?" She makes a rubbing motion with her finger back and forth on her teeth. She even threw me for a loop once when she responded with the back and
 forth motion, accompanied by a weird growling sound. Huh? Oh. Right. Daddy has an electrictoothbrush. "Try to keep up, Mama," her expression seemed to say.

Read the line in her favorite book "I Love You Because You're You" about "hiding behind my knee" or "cross your arms and pout" and she points to her knee and makes the corresponding arm motion. Need a light switch turned on or off? Hoist her up and she's handles it. Need a
 remote retrieved from a distant coffee table? She's all over it. J. recently remarked, "If we'd known kids were so handy, we might have gotten started sooner."

15 month old Ava with her Nana (my mom) who, along with her Grandpa, 
thinks the sun rises and falls with this little girl

She is becoming more and more physically coordinated and wants to do some things on her own, as her mental and physical development increase. I realized this on a whim after months of her protests whenever it was time to get into her car seat. Having exhausted my other options (forcing her, pleading, waiting her out), I finally asked, "Do you want to get into your buckle? I'll help you. You do that side and I'll do this one." Amazingly, she eagerly leaned into the car to strap in, fumbling with the plastic buckle as I "helped" her latch it closed. "All done!" I proclaimed as she smiled up at me proudly, patting the buckle. "Ah daah," she repeated. Apparently, she just wanted to complete the task (sort of) on her own. It's worked every time since. So I'm learning this whole "mom" thing right alongside her, as described in this quote:
"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh
So far, I'm much more relaxed than J. about letting her explore and try new things when we're in child proof spaces and we're around to keep her safe, even if it means she faceplants or gets an unpleasant but not too harmful surprise, like the pinch to her finger when she first closed an eyeglass case on it. As she whimpered while I helped her free her trapped digit, I said, "You have to be careful, right? It can close on you and give an owie, see?" I pointed to the small dent still visible on her finger. Ever since, she's very careful with anything that opens and closes (drawers,
 cabinets, doors), watching intently to make sure her fingers are clear as she moves it. My mom taught her "hot" by letting her feel the bowl with the ramen soup she loves. Now she says "Hoth! Hoth!" whenever we're near the stove or the water temperature warms up as we wash our hands. Learning from small mistakes before they become big ones: that's what we're here to help them with, right?

This face is a cue that A) she's tired and cranky and 
B) she not happy because we've taken something from her that we don't want her playing with. Like knives. Or C-4 plastic explosive. Or Disney characters.

But it's quickly replaced with this face, which we see A LOT thankfully

Ava clearly relishes "helping" and I can see lots of "mommy and daddy's helper" tasks on the horizon to start preparing her for household chores. I now ask her to "help empty the basket" while I fold clothes, which keeps her busy and away from the finished stacks. We've already started showing her how to pick up her toys and put them away when she's done. It's a process, but sure to be easier now than later.

Man, there's too much new stuff! She loves dancing, climbing stairs and running laps around the house. J.'s betting on basketball but she may be headed for a track career at some point. She's got hilarious facial expressions and definitely knows and conveys what she wants. We rarely have to guess whether she likes something or not, which is hugely helpful to us. The only real downside is that, regardless of how inconvenient it might be, what she usually wants is to be right at my side (or closer) while I do whatever I'm doing, whether it's cooking, feeding the dog, or telecommuting during a snowstorm.
Despite my work schedule, we still manage to reconnect each evening and weekends, and she'd still rather spend time with me playing and "helping" with whatever task is at hand, than do most anything else with anyone else, J. included, which he's accepted. I know eventually I'll fall out of vogue and J. will become the go-to guy, and we'll both be shunted aside for friends, texting, books, video games, and whatever passions she develops in the coming years, so I'm savoring this time in the top spot while it lasts. Meantime, the fun and wardrobe variety continues!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Crazy Seattle snowstorm nearly wrecks Christmas

After seven full days of being housebound by the never-before-seen amounts of snow that hit Seattle over the past week, we made it out of the house on Christmas Day. 

Fortunately, I've been able to telecommute. And while it might seem romantic or cozy to be inside, it's actually been incredibly tiring and very non-festive. I've been up with co-workers at 4am to coordinate messaging for our fellow employees trying to find out whether to report to work or not and at what time, and getting updated information to the media about services for the public in the treacherous conditions.

On Christmas day, after one week and two slippery trips to the grocery store on foot pushing a jog stroller laden with groceries, we finally drove away from our house. 
We slowly mae it down the still-treacherous side streets around our house, nearly sliding into parked cars several times as the car lurched to one side or other, seemingly with a mind of its own. White knuckle doesn't begin to cover the strength of my grip on the door handle and arm rest as J. gingerly maneuvered us forward.
The main arterials were better but still dicey in patches as we made our way to Ava's Granma and Papa's house for Christmas breakfast-turned-brunch due to everyone's difficulty in making the trip.

The noshing and abbreviated gift openings could be summed up like this: 

"Hey, you made it!"
"Have some food."
"Here Ava, open this."
"Uh, it's snowing harder. We have to go. Nice seeing everyone!" 

In fact, within an hour of arriving, several of us turned right around to head back home because it started snowing again! It was the shortest, least festive Christmas of my life. It was just hard to get into the Christmas mood when everyone had one eye on the windows watching the weather conditions. Thankfully, warmer days and melting rain ahead mean things should get back to normal soon.

In a bit of revisionist history though, when my daughter grows up, she will remember Christmas '08 not as a sleep-deprived, runny nose-laden, frozen wasteland, but as the color-coordinated, Christmas card-worthy depiction shown below, taken a week before the snow came.
If nothing else, the snowstorm has accomplished something more than 30 years of Seattle winters had not: cured me of my inclination to complain about the rain. Compared to being trapped by snow, rain's not so bad at all anymore. See? This is the season of miracles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday dada

gLovies - for the germaphobe on your holiday list

According to the website, "gLovies are disposable sanitary hand covers that are used to protect children in a variety of places and circumstances, including public restrooms, malls and supermarkets, zoos and amusement parks, medical facilities, public transportation, or wherever children may come into contact with germs." 

Frankly, they had me at "disposable hand covers."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Let's bring smart back

Think it's no big deal that nymphettes rule the airwaves and that media images of women as little more than sex objects are ubiquitous?

A couple weeks ago, NPR ran a story out of Italy that perfectly captures the dangers we face as a
 society for turning a blind eye to the negative portrayals of women and young girls in the media: "In Italy, Feminism Out, Women As Sex Symbols In."

This bothered me as a woman before. Now it also bothers me as the mom of an impressionable girl.  According to the article:
Both on public television and on networks owned by Berlusconi, who also is a media tycoon, scantily dressed women can been seen — but rarely heard — on all types of programs, from quizzes to political talk shows. Opinion polls indicate that the showgirl is the No. 1 role model for young Italian women...
Yuck. Amazing that in the same year we saw a woman vying for President of the United States, an outgoing  female Secretary of State (our second) and smart, accomplished women all over the business, government and non-profit worlds, the women getting  ink and exposure are the ones who are most over exposed (hi Paris and Brit!).

I can only worry about the things I have control over. So Ava's not watching any videos featuring scantily-clad rump shakers (sorry Beyonce, even you) and the media images we have lying around the house include the latest issues of Oprah's magazine, Newsweek and these magazines:
J. says that all my back issues of magazines in various stages of being read make our house a fire trap. I say they're helping to broaden our daughter's mind and make sure she's accustomed to seeing a variety of positive images of both men and women who aren't half naked and from whom people are actually interested in hearing substantive conversation. 

Ava and her buddy R. have a playdate/book club 
and start consuming the first few media images in their lifetimes

When she's ready for near-frontal nudity, I'll take her to an Abercrombie and Fitch store to look at window displays. Until then, I'll make sure she understands that she's got more to offer the world than her admittedly cute countenance. As I read somewhere: you can get by on cute for about 15 minutes. After that, you'd better know something.

Hot, bubbly lasagna

45 minutes ago, I put a ground turkey, italian sausage, onion, mushroom, spinach, ricotta & 4 cheese lasagna in the oven. We're five minutes and several slices of hot, buttered french bread away from deliciousness overload. Nice way to end a snow-dusted weekend and kick off what's sure to be an icy week.

Sent from my Nokia phone

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Generation C or Text/Facebook/blog/retinal scan me later

What will the future look like for kids Ava's age? They don't officially have a name like Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976), Gen Y (born between about 1977 and 2000) or Gen Z (2001 and later), but some are calling kids born after 2000 Generation C for:

"click", "content", "connected", "computer"[16] "community",[17] "crappy",[18] and "celebrity"[19] ... The American Press Association's Media Center describes Gen C as "creating, producing and participating in news in a connected informed society."[20] Like the "Internet Generation", this term has been used in reference to both Generation Y and Generation Z. (entire article from the Media Center.) 

Whatever their designation, these kids are growing up in one of the most information- and technology-rich eras in history. That goes for kids in both the First World and the Developing

 World, as evidenced by the kids I met in Portugal living hard-scrabble lives but completely adept at using computers and various software programs.

At 14 months old, Ava already is very comfortable with technology. A couple months ago I noticed she would hold her hand up to her ear periodically and I worried she might be getting an ear infection. But she clearly wasn't in pain. Suddenly it dawned on me: she was "on the phone" mimicking me and J. on our cells or earpieces!  When I ask her if she wants to go see my mom and dad, who I talk to several times a week by phone, she holds up any small electronic device (remotes, calculators) to her ear to "call" them. 

It's going to be hilarious watching her reaction someday when I explain how we used to have to stay in one spot to call someone because the phone was attached to the wall and how there were phones outside that you could pay to use if you were away from home. 

She'll be all: "Mama, that's crazy talk. I'm going to my playdate. I'll mind-text you from my earring when I'm done and you can come get me. Can you drive the electric car? That old timey gas one is noisy and kills the planet. It's SO 2003 and totally embarrassing." 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Major milestone alert: we've got a walker

Tonight, after months of cruising the furniture and dropping down to crawl any distance longer than her arm span, Ava tossed caution to the wind and walked for us. I say "for us" because J.'s Great Aunt who lives with us saw her do it two months ago (!) right after her first birthday, but she hasn't tried it since. I like to think she's been sneaking off in the middle of the night to practice, like Baby in Dirty Dancing, but without the Catskills backdrop.

We've been encouraging her for weeks, but she didn't seem ready to take the plunge. Another mom figured Ava, like her son, won't do something until she's pretty sure she has it down pat. She's spot on! It was clear she could do it, she just didn't seem to want to be caught sucking at it. Man, she definitely takes after her dad. He of the "I'll rollerblade with you when I'm better." Um, how are you going to get better?

My approach? "Sure, I'll snowboard. How hard could it be?" I said, before gently carving down the mountain then faceplanting and getting the wind knocked out of me on the hard packed snow. But I got back up, because that's life sister!

In contrast, Ava took her own sweet time, but when she did it, she did it well. As in a few steps, a few steps more, then a full on trek through the middle of the kitchen with no support in sight. This girly is my rockstar. And I no longer have to console myself by saying, "I'm sure she'll do it by kindergarten." What's next on this kid raisin' checklist? Talking? Jumping? Long division? Skeet shooting? Whatever. I'm not worried. I'm sure she'll do it by kindergarten.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I can't rock out: I have work tomorrow!

Remember when you could go out to a club until 1 or 2 a.m. or later (!), go home and power nap for a few hours and still get to work on time and relatively lucid? Last week J. and I realized those days are long past for us. We are officially getting old. Okay, older. Okay, more mature.

One day last week, J. proposed something new: leaving Ava with my folks for the evening and really making a grown folks night of it by going to dinner then to see his buddy's band. OMG! I thought. We're going on an actual date! It was just like the old days with all the same questions: What should I wear? What would we eat? Would it be as fun as I hoped? Questions, questions!

After work I rushed to my folks' to visit with Ava for a bit, then zipped home to get showered and all dressed up (or down rather) to go rock out. Not only were we going to dinner, we were going someplace new! J. has a thing about not trying new places when he's hungry. Something about wanting something tried and true and blah, blah, blah. So we end up having conversations like this.

N: What do you feel like eating?
J: Anything. What do you want?
N: No, you decide. You're finicky-er.
J: No I'm not.
N: Fine. How about this Greek place I heard about?
J: (Wrinkles nose with distaste.)
N: Okay, how about either of those Vietnamese places I like on Jackson?
J: (Shrugs shoulders with indifference.)
N: Do you want to pick by area of the city or by cuisine?
J: I just want something good.
N: Like what?
J: I don't care. Wherever you want.

This is usually the point where my head explodes. This time however, he actually proposed a new Italian spot in Georgetown he'd read about in the local alternative newspaper. It was very good: excellent salad, tasty pizza and calzone, and the server was wonderfully attentive. J. said the wine was decent too. We caught up on our respective current events and activities and reminisced about the many dates and dinners over the past 15 years, from the great ones to the places that made our Hall of Shame list. It was wonderful to focus on each other instead of trying to simultaneously eat and get food morsels into the moving maw of a busy toddler.

Two soon-to-be-sleepy 30-something parents

We looked at each other about 9:45 p.m. and realized, um, we were both getting sleepy. With a high probability that the band wouldn't be taking the stage until at least 11:30pm, we knew we just wouldn't make it.

Plus, J. was feeling a bit sad that he hadn't seen Ava all day since we got up and out early. "I know I'm getting old when putting my baby to bed is more appealing than going out to see a band." Ditto buddy. :-) I long ago renounced any delusions of excessive youth or street cred to which I might have even remotely laid claim when I realized neither one generally pays very well or provides decent benefits.

So instead of rockin' out, we called it a night, picked up the kidlet and went home and went to bed. About 11:45 p.m., we got a text from J.'s cousin who went to the show: after sets by one group, then the house band, our buddy's band was about to take the stage! Our response? Zzzzzzz.

We'll definitely try to get out like that again, but we'll just need to do it on a weekend or take a power nap beforehand. I just have to accept that, despite celebrity role models, I personally can't work outside the home full time and be a great wife, mom, community volunteer and rocker babe, all at the same time. The rockin,' unless it involves a sleepy child, will have to wait for now.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Europe has long wait for its Obama

Catching up on reading and ran across article on MSNBC that found that despite worldwide and European support for Obama, the EU has a long wait for its own Obama:
This reflects my experiences there last year discussing immigration and minority integration issues and hearing a lot of platitudes about the egalitarian nature of European society which were countered by the obvious lack of upward mobility in society, politics and business for people of color, whether native born or immigrant.

Barack Obama in Berlin in 2008

I hope that our awesome new First Family provides the inspiration for European candidates of color to run for office and for other voters there to open up to the possibility of candidates of color and support them in their efforts.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Good news: he won. Bad news: he won.

The nearly overwhelming excitement over the presidency of Barack Obama is somewhat tempered by the realization that the job that lies ahead for him and Joe Biden is being made even tougher even as we speak by the Bush administration. Bush and his minions are busy wreaking as much havoc as possible in their waning days in office. The New York Times has more.

So Little Time, So Much Damage
While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute.

President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage. Read more here.

People worldwide react to Obama win

A great quote about Barack Obama's selection as president from the New York Times article For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed.

Francis Nyamnjoh, a Cameroonian novelist and social scientist, said that for America to choose as its citizen in chief such a skillful straddler of global identities could not help but transform the nation’s image, making it once again the screen upon which the hopes and ambitions of the world are projected. Read the full article.

First Family
President-elect Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle
and two daughters, Malia, 7. and Sasha, 10 wave to the crowd in Chicago.

Barackin' the vote with the next generation

Sent from my Nokia phone

Vote hope in '08

Yeah baby!

Sent from my Nokia phone

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama holding babies - or just really near them

We can't be in Chicago with the Obamas for Election Day, but we'll be thinking of them, along with all the other families on the "Yes we can hold babies" site which has lots of pictures of Barack Obama with supportive kids. Here's Ava's contribution. If you haven't yet, go vote!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More books please

Seeing my guy and baby girl like this never gets old. Literacy rocks.

Sent from my Nokia phone

Monday, October 20, 2008

Letter to McCain-Palin: unsubscribe

Somehow I ended up on the McCain-Palin e-mail list. I know: it's like opening up the mailbox and finding a gag subscription to Jugs Magazine. When I clicked the link to unsubscribe, there was a box for explaining why. Here's what I put.

I was never a McCain supporter by any stretch of the imagination and feel that the two people on this ticket want to take the country in exactly the wrong the direction.

You have spent the summer sowing divisiveness and fear amongst voters who actually share the most American of hopes and dreams: a family-wage job, a good education for their kids, and assurances that the country is headed in the right direction and that those at the top are also thinking of those in the middle and at the bottom when they make policy decisions that affect us all. You have actively worked to pit Americans of different economic means against each other. That is not putting country first.

You first dismissed the valid concerns and fears of people across the country who have struggled to make ends meet in one of the toughest economies in decades. Then, seeing a way to turn that to your advantage, you stoked uncertainty and fears about domestic affairs and conflated them with nebulous threats from abroad, all in an effort to bolster support for your candidacy. Rather than trying to bring us together as a country and show how much we share instead of where we differ, this ticket has actively worked to turn neighbor against neighbor. That is not putting country first.

Finally, your VP pick is both laughable and insulting: laughable not only because of her cringeworthy verbal aimlessness in interviews or her stint on SNL, but because she has obviously been put into a situation far beyond her capabilities, education or ability to compensate for shortcomings. Since she’s so fond of sports, as they say in football, she’s out-kicked her coverage. By a wide margin. Her selection is also a clear illustration that the Peter Principle (that in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence) could just as aptly be called the Palin Principle.

The selection is insulting because you apparently actually believed anyone in a skirt would do. That is insulting not only to women nationwide of any party, but especially to the many Republican women in particular who are far more qualified, accomplished, thoughtful, experienced and ready to lead than Palin. Her selection was not done with the aim of putting country first.

I hope you two will finish up the final two weeks of this campaign with the honor you so frequently espouse by not continuing to play to people’s worst instincts or continuing to try to vilify your opponents. But I doubt it. Because that would mean putting country first: something you two seem to have given up on actually doing.

I do not know how I ended up on your mailing list but please take me off.

That should open up a spot on the Christmas card list.

Creating a reader, one book at a time

After months and months of reading bedtime books to Ava with varied levels of interest on her part, she now points to the books at bedside when she wakes up and when we put her on the bed indicating she wants one. She either flips through it on her own or we read it to her. Favorites are Where Do I Sleep?, a lullaby book featuring animals from the Pacific Northwest, Dr.Seuss classic Oh The Places You'll Go, both of which we received at her shower, and as of its purchase two weeks ago, I Love You Because You're You, which pleases me to no end.

I LOVE books and held out hope that she would come to love them too, but I didn't want to be too insistent for fear of turning her off of them. So far, the steady, consistent use of fun, interactive titles seems to be working. Yay! We'll be getting her a library card in no time.

Sent from my Nokia phone

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I want a thoughtful leader, not a gimmicky campaigner

Great op-ed about how Republicans love to campaign and have learned how to use divisiveness to win at all costs, but they apparently hate to govern, which is why many we've seen so many messes during their tenure in power. Governing is really where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, they've run us off the road into a ditch. Palin's ascension shows GOP's lack of interest in governing

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Scary house

Out walking with friends & spotted this scary house. Um, into Halloween much?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pen porn

I love fountain pens! And I hate using pencils. I use fountain pens whenever possible and I'm particular about the ones I have.  If someone in a meeting or out and about asks to borrow a pen, I carry a loanable/loseable ballpoint for just that purpose. But I don't consider myself a collector because I actually use mine regularly.

I have all the pens I need and can use right now, but like anyone who is into a particular type of item (shoes, cars, watches (hi J.!), clothes, insert personal lust item here), I love looking at pens, reading about them, seeing what's new on the market, and generally drooling over them.

Just as folks who are into fashion peruse Vogue, GQ, InStyle and Lucky, pen folks peruse Stylophiles, Pen World, and Pentrace. I also include the catalogs of Levenger and Fahrney's which all fall under the general heading of "pen porn."

But given the current economic malaise and the need to save for our future life endeavors and Ava's future scholastic efforts, I have instituted a personal moratorium on pen purchases. Which makes the periodic appearance of the aforementioned catalogs all the more special. They have appeared. So if you need me, I'll be holed up for a bit at my desk "having a moment" with the latest edition and leaving noseprints and pen longing in my wake.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Ava at 12 months

This is a couple weeks late but Ava's a year old! I know that other parents say it all the time: I can't believe it's been a year! But really: 365 days since delivery, not to mention the 9+ months of pregnancy? It really has just flown by. Ava has gone from the tiny figure below on the ultrasound...
to the pig-tailed cutie below celebrating her 1st birthday with family and friends. 

Ava and her Grandpa

I really tried to keep it to a dull roar instead of one of the kid-stravaganzas that I've attended and heard about that are just a street use permit short of ridiculous.

We did have a lot of folks, but even a "family only" gathering for us means at least 12-15 people. So we went with a "y'all come" approach, figuring we'd manage however many showed up. It turns out three dozen or so folks felt like joining us to eat some gumbo and cupcakes and say Happy Birthday to Ava and congrats to us for surviving the first year.

You'll note the much more refined hairdo above. J.'s cousin's wife who is a hair stylist worked her magic just before cupcake time. 
Thanks Cousin!

As the mother of two always well-coiffed girls, she said, "Let me do her hair. Trust me: when she looks back on this picture, you don't want her thinking "Why did you let me have my picture taken like that?!" It'll just take a minute."

So we hustled Ava off to the bathroom for a quick hairwash and re-do on the hairdo. I think she'll be pleased when she looks back in a few years. If not, we'll spring a modification of an old yarn, "There were kids in developing countries without hair who would have been more than happy to have a hairdo like that." 

And she'll be all, "I thought we became the developing world after the stock market crash of '08 sent us hurtling back to dark ages and China foreclosed on our whole country?" And I'll say, "Whatever Ms. Smarty Pants. I'm just saying your hair was darling. Now help me translate this form so we can get food rations. You know I never learned much Mandarin."

With a year under her belt, Ava is cruising the furniture, shaking her head yes and no to indicate her preferences and this week added, "Uh-uh," with a head shake. No definite English words that we can ascertain, although we joke that perhaps she speaks Urdu or Tagolog and we're just too clueless to understand. 

At my parents' the day after her birthday, Ava reportedly said, "Hellooo?" into the phone. But again, we haven't heard it first hand. In my imagination, she intentionally waits until we're out of sight to suddenly walk, talk, read, text her toddler peeps, shoot pool and all manner of non-age appropriate activities, just to tweak us.

J.'s Great Aunt said she walked across the room just before I arrived home from work last week (one of the downsides of the working mom thing). Given that, she's still faking with us and insisting on holding our hands to toddle around, although it's a very fast toddle. Several times she has distractedly let go of the furniture and found herself standing unassisted, but she acts scared to venture too far from any support and try walking on her own. I've tried to use the Wizard of Oz analogy and tell her she's had the power all along, but she just stares at me with a puzzled look that seems to say, "What's this wizard stuff and who the heck is Ray Bolger?"

I'm starting the weaning process and as we phase it out, she's already eating pretty much what we do, with a few limitations: we're holding off on nuts a little longer due to concerns about allergies. And we've nixed fish and shellfish after an incident last month when a few bites led to her spewing a hot mess of it down my back, followed by body-wracking hurls every 6 1/2 minutes for the next two hours. Yeah, I timed it. It helped keep my mind from spinning out of control thinking about all the weird, rare diseases the hurling might be a sign of. Legionnaire's? Ebola? Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?! Yeah, there is such a thing. See why focusing on her and my watch were much more productive?

The sad, perplexed look on her face just about broke our hearts as we swung into tag-team mode between the tears (hers and ours). J. ran bath water, mopped the floor and called the consultant nurse on speakerphone as I changed her clothes and mine, and cleaned her up and J. rubbed her back and murmured soothing words in her ear. The nurse's advice? Just let it clear her system then rehydrate her over the next 24 hours once the retching stopped. 

So we sat on the living room floor alternately rocking Ava and holding her over the sink and a small waste can. It was one of those defining moments of parenthood that made it clear, as if it wasn't already, that this little girl had unmistakably taken over and filled up every corner of our hearts in a way that neither of us could have imagined over the 14 prior years we'd been together. And it made us feel helpless, terrified, wonderful and close all at the same time.

Ava was fine within a few hours, and we were residual wrecks the next day. But I almost hope she retains some small recollection of the event so that in about 15 years when her friends suggest they try drinking she'll be all, "Um, I vomited once before so I've kinda been there, done that and have this tiny t-shirt as a memento."

Besides adventures in eating (with six teeth now!), crawling, toddling and hurling, over the past year, Ava's also taken her first plane ride, been scanned by the TSA, dodged cigarette smoke in Vegas, attended one of the last Seattle Sonic home games, attended lots of Seattle Storm games, spent the night in Portland, OR, gotten a passport and spent the night in Canada.

She is a happy, smiley little girl who loves shaking things, dancing to any music (Electronica and polka excepted, but that may have more to do with her parents), emptying bags, baskets and other containers to throw things on the floor, and being around new people, as long as she can take it all in from mom or dad's arms.

The slideshow below is evidence that A) we have access to too many cameras and B) it's been an action-packed first year with this little light of our life. Happy Birthday Ava. We love you.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate: who's the weirdly angry guy at the podium?

J., Ava and I watched the debate Friday and like many reviewers, felt it was a solid outing for both candidates with Obama having a slight edge, but probably not changing any committed voter minds on either side. Not sure about the uncommitted, although I'm shocked that there are really people who aren't sure at this point. A friend who canvassed locally said many of the uncommitteds she met were still spouting wrong info about Obama: he's Muslim, not really Christian, etc. Refutations to the contrary were met with, "Well how do you know?" Bleah.

Since the candidates were pretty much re-plowing the same rows we've heard before position-wise, I stopped listening as intently to the specifics and started just watching the body language. Throughout the debate, I kept saying, "Why won't he (McCain) look at Obama? What's that about? I mean, he's really doing everything he can to avoid engaging. What's with the frozen smile? He's clearly ticked!" 
Roger Ebert of all people, answered my question perfectly here: Guess who's not coming to dinner? The upshot? McCain's really angry at and contemptuous of Barack Obama. I guess there are myriad reasons why that could be, but isn't it telling that this is the way he interacts with someone with whom he's presumably had a decent working relationship in the Senate?

If he can't even effectively conceal his anger/contempt on stage with millions of people watching, it seems unlikely that he could successfully and effectively negotiate or interact with other world leaders with whom he disagrees. I would not be inclined to find a win-win with someone who acted that way around me. And I suspect that often international diplomacy is about finding the best possible solution to complicated problems with no easy answer for any of the parties involved - parties often with very different philosophical views of the best solution. Sort of like legislative wrangling. I was already sold on Obama/Biden. The last debate simply reaffirmed my decision. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seattle Times supports Obama for president

No, not a typo. This is quite the surprise. The Times has always struck me as rather conservative, as evidenced by its laughable/cringeworthy in hindsight endorsement of Bush in 2000. Granted, they went for Kerry in '04, but still.

Read their reasons here in an editorial entitled "The Times recommends... Barack Obama for president." Surprisingly, a friend who canvassed for Obama last weekend said she was shocked by how many people were either apathetic to the election or still undecided. Some cited reasons ranging from the false (he's a Muslim) to the perplexing (I'm still not sure how they're different). Heavy sigh. 43 days to go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hot, flat and worth reading: lessons on time- and anger management

NPR has an interview with author Thomas L. Friedman about his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America. It lays out his argument for why America needs to embrace 'Geo-Greenism.'

The excerpt has a great quote: As they say in Texas: "If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all you'll ever get is all you ever got."

Boy, that really speaks to me related to some issues I've been mulling over. To me it's a folksy reminder to keep learning, growing, and challenging yourself. As anyone with a lot going on in their life knows, it can be hard to carve out time to grow personally or try new things when you're so busy keeping up with the old things!

But I'm trying to re-focus my efforts on things that are important, not just urgent, and being really clear with myself and those around me about how I spend the limited time I have available to me.

I'm realizing that the people whose accomplishments, successes and even failures I admire are very focused on their areas of interest. They don't waste time on things unrelated to their core mission and passions. It's a good lesson for organizations as well as individuals. There are always sexy projects or opportunities that catch your attention and could pull you away from what you need to be doing. But I believe by being clear about where you spend your time and personal capital, you see better results, faster.

Of course, saying 'no' to folks you've said 'yes' to for so long is the hard part. But I'm taking a lesson from that other great leadership guide "Nanny 911." Watching it this week, I saw a family with five kids who walked all over the stay at home mom and ignored the dad. When the Nanny came in with her firm attitude and made it clear to them that the whining, disrespect and misbehavior were simply not going to be tolerated, it took a couple days but they finally stopped in their tracks and fell in line, despite the mom's firm belief that it wouldn't work. Amazingly, their parents had never called them on their behavior, which I believe often happens in difficult adult interactions too: people get used to a dysfunctional way of being and forget that there might be another way.

I once worked with a guy when I was in the TV news business who was quite good at his job, but who would lash out at those around him if things went awry, as they inevitably did in small market news, which is generally chock-full of newbies and aging equipment. Soon after taking over a new shift that put me in direct contact with him, I realized that everyone just seemed to accept that putting up with him being a jerk was a necessary part of working with him, especially since afterward he acted if nothing had happened.

One day, during a live broadcast, something didn't go according to plan. Hearing him in my earpiece blustering and cursing at those around him in the control booth to fix whatever the glitch was, I knew a fix wasn't imminent, so I improvised, cracked some self-deprecating joke about it and told folks we'd be right back. No biggie, right?

During the commercial break, he continued his tirade, cursing and carping about how inept everyone on the production and on-air team was that day, how working with us was like being a babysitter, etc. Just totally unacceptable behavior.

I finished the show, unplugged my earpiece and went straight to the newsroom where I proceeded to violate my "praise in public, criticize in private" credo because of this guy's very public tantrums and because it was an open newsroom with no real private space.

"Hey (insert name of jerk who shall remain anonymous), can I talk with you?" I began. "So I could hear you over the IFB (earpiece) when we had that glitch during the show. That didn't really warrant all that yelling and going off."

"Well I was just upset," he stammered. "I mean, these guys need to get their crap together. I'm trying to run a clean show with no mistakes and..."

"We all are. But regardless, they didn't deserve that, neither did I and it was unnecessary. So let me be clear: do not talk to me like that again ever. Is that clear?"

"Well I didn't mean... I was just mad that..." he started stammering and making excuses for his behavior again.

"I said ever," I repeated. "And I don't care how mad you were, you shouldn't be talking to anyone like that. So from now on, if you have a problem with something during the show, tell the people in the booth, tell me once in my earpiece and let it go. We'll deal with it after the show. But the yelling and going off is unacceptable. And if you have a problem with this, we can go talk to (our boss) and let him figure it out."

"No, that's cool. I understand. I didn't mean anything by it..." he mumbled.

Those around us who overhead seemed a bit shocked, as if they'd accidentally walked in on a fight in the schoolyard at 3pm. But I let it go and never mentioned it again and he never went off again around me. In fact, he seemed to treat me with a new respect and a bit of deference from then on.
So the lesson I took from that was that you confront bad behavior at the outset, nip it in the bud, and be clear about what's acceptable or not. It worked with a 20-something year old. I'm pretty sure (I think) that it'll work on my one year old over the next few years.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Almost a year old: time to choose a school

Okay, not quite school-choosing time, but almost. Back when Ava was born, I started looking around to see what types of schools were out there, what was close by, what teaching approaches to consider, and how much we'd need to budget for preschool or daycare in the years ahead. It's daunting!
11 month old Ava looking fetching as she uses her dad's collar for stability

Now that we're getting a little closer to when she might actually be going to part-time care of some sort, I revisited this school review site to start trying to narrow down my options.

Unfortunately, instead of feeling more informed, I'm more conflicted and like it's still too soon to try to choose a spot. I have no idea what type of learning environment Ava will need. Will she do better in Montessori? Waldorf? Bilingual? More or less structured? I have no idea. I'm leaning towards some sort of bi-lingual school in either Spanish or French. Either (or both) would enable her to communicate and connect with millions of people around the world and J. and I have at least a fighting chance at developing some proficiency in those ourselves at this advanced age so we could practice with her too.

One thing I admired in Europe during my fellowship last year and during our trip to Paris a few years ago was the widespread multilingualism, even among kids. The U.S. will have to do better by its students in the coming decades and most language teachers say kids shouldn't wait until high school to start studying foreign languages. They learn it much more seamlessly the earlier they start.

After Gov. Bill Richardson spoke at the DNC last week, sprinkling Spanish through his remarks, I told J. I was going to study Spanish. Again. I took a year of it in high school after finishing my French requirements, so I probably know just enough to accidentally insult some native speaker with a hair-trigger temper while trying to ask directions to the bathroom.

That said, Ava's just getting to the point where she can assert her preferences for activities or items. She shakes her head 'yes' and 'no' in response to simple questions, like "Do you want more of this food?" and "Are you all done?" "Are you sure?" She loves music and starts wiggling her torso, waving her arms or bobbing her head when she hears something she likes on the radio or even rockin' commercials on TV. When I fold clothes, she likes to methodically take them out of the basket one by one, then put them back in. Maybe someday she'll like doing laundry. Or maybe money laundering. It's a toss up at this point.
11 month old Ava practicing her smile for school pictures some day.

I suspect we'll start getting a better bead on what she'll need and what our options are soon, but some of these places have a 12-18 month or longer waiting lists! So like parents everywhere, we'll plan and hope for the best and make the most informed choice we can that fits our resources over the next year or so.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Storm game

The Olympics are over & the Storm are back. Ava's enjoying the Taiko halftime drummers.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Blogging all the bloggy blogness

I'm at the Seattle Public Library for a panel dicussion by City Club on neighborhood blogs. Several folks have started neighborhood-centric blogs in Seattle to "create acts of journalism" as one person put it that highlight the happs in their 'hoods.

As the write up put it: How does the 24-7 nature of citizen-driven blogs impact traditional news sources and how people are informed?

From Ballard to Burien, from West Seattle to South Lake Union, and from Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill, the proliferation of neighborhood blogs all around Seattle is changing not just the local media landscape but also how community conversations are taking place in an increasingly digital world.

Some tidbits:
  • Ballard Blog was started last fall as a way to connect with the new neighborhood of the couple running it. Seems like it's become more of a business for them as they're branching out to start 5-6 other neighborhood blogs.

  • B-Town Blog in Burien has helped bring the community closer together by providing a place for positive stories about their community and a place to share information and help the community grow.

  • Rainier Valley Post helped raise money for the funeral of a teenager killed in a shooting in Southeast Seattle by putting a PayPal button on their site. Before that, his family couldn't afford to bury him. The person who oversees it says neighborhood blogs provide some follow up that's lacking in the dailies or weeklies.

  • Seattle Public Library has a blog Shelf Talk that has had more than 60 contributors to date.

  • 85% of adults in Seattle have a library card.

  • West Seatle Blog: 32K comments on their posts since July '05.
The West Seattle Blog seems to have been a model for several of the others. They've been at it for two and a half years and have been overwhelmed by the response from the community in terms of readership as well and most recently, advertisers.

A couple bloggers mentioned that they've run into some pushback from typical public information officer types unfamiliar with blogs or their reach. I think my government office is an exception to this. I attended this with both my work and personal hats on since we're doing lots of outreach to the blogosphere locally in my job as another way to get information directly to the community. I suspect the receptiveness of PIOs will change in the coming year or two as more communication types learn the value and reach of blogs.
They all seem to be genuinely interested in providing a service to the community and filling a niche that is being neglected by the mainstream media outlets in Seattle. I'll be reading some of them more regularly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What a speech, what a night

Our whole family sat rapt tonight as we watched the last night of the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado. It was an amazing event, capped off by speech after speech that spoke to the concerns I and so many others have about the direction our country has taken and what it will take to get it back on track.

From Richardson to Gore to Obama's wonderful finale, it was a night filled with hopefulness and clear articulation of the problems, priorities and possible solutions the Obama/Biden team have identified.
Ava: Babies for Obama

The speech delivered and should have silenced the hollow carping of critics by providing specifics about taxes and social security, and even deftly covering the hot button issues of gays and lesbian rights, abortion rights and gun rights.

68 days until every voter can weigh in. I can't wait.