Christmas 2009

This was a great Christmas, especially for Claire.  My brother Tim and his wife Cindy came to Texas for the holidays along with my parents.  Everyone came to Austin, and we hosted everyone for Christmas for the first time.  Tim and Cindy really hit it off with Claire.  Claire had countless games and jokes with them all through the two days they were here.  She started things off by showing them her very favorite new show, a Pixar animated short film which Kit had recorded, called One Man Band.  She tried to get them to laugh and scream at all the funny bits.

Claire was pretty bummed out when they had to leave.  “When are we going to see Uncle Tim and Aunt Cindy again?”  When they were actually leaving on Saturday morning, Claire wanted to avoid an extended goodbye.  “If your’e going to leave, then just leave already”, she said disappointedly.  Later we told Claire we might go visit Tim and Cindy some time, and she said, “I really love that idea.  And that’s a fact!”  She was really sad to see them, and her grandparents Noni and Phil, go.  She loved all the fun an attention.  And the presents.

As Cindy noted, Claire is the perfect age for Christmas. At four years old, she loved every present she got.  There was no complaining about not getting the “right thing” or not getting enough.  And she just loved having all the fun people around to entertain.

This was the first year that Claire was really aware of Santa Clause.  She said in a matter of fact way that Santa was going to come by at night and drop off some presents.  She wanted to know if Santa was coming to our house “first” or not.  On Christmas morning, Claire showed up in our bedroom about 6:15.  She was concerned because she did not hear Santa Clause during the night, and she thought maybe he had skipped our house.  Kit went back down to Claire’s bedroom, pointing out the stuffed stockings on the way down, and Claire was relieved to her that Santa had actually showed up.  Kit snuggled with Claire until the “morning light” came on.  The morning light is a small light we set up in Claire’s room, and it is set on a timer to turn on at 6:45 to announce the start of the day (ie, when she can come get us).  Claire patiently watched the morning light until it turned on, then she and Kit came back up to get me and start Christmas.  All the other family members were rousing around that time as well, and we got started on stockings right away.  Claire was thrilled with just the stockings, and did not mind taking a long break for everyone to get dressed and freshened up before opening the presents.

At three months old, Little Molly was not as excited about Christmas.  In fact, this year, she could not tell Christmas from the Fourth of July.  She was a little worn out from all the excitement of entertaining her aunt and uncle and grandparents on Christmas Eve, and she slept quietly upstairs almost the entire Christmas morning, through all the gift exchange.  She did not have a chance to appreciate her many presents, including one from Santa.  Molly’s time to enjoy Christmas will come soon!  You could say she was the big present to us this year.

Now this post could go on and on about all the fun of Christmas 2009.  But I better just jump to some highlights…
  • Not to be too materialistic, but this is always interesting later… Here is a partial list of presents Claire received this year:
    • A Band in a Box (from Santa), featuring a tambourine, a snare drum, maracas, and a harmonica.
    • A scuba diver Play Mobile set
    • A Crayola Glow Station
    • A variety of stuffed animals
    • An alphabet puzzle
    • A variety of books
    • Countless fun and silly little toys and gadgets
  • Molly received:
    • Soft play blocks
    • Teethers
    • Baby books
    • Baby puzzles
    • Clothes
  • Claire gave lip balm to everyone for presents.  She (and me and Kit) made up special lip balm packets from a kid-friendly “make your own lip balm” kit.
  • Christmas dinner was Texas style, feature BBQ beef brisket, black beans, cole slaw, and apple pie.  (I was a little turkeyed-out from Thanksgiving)
  • Tim and Cindy went running on Town Ladybird Lake and tracked down an award-winning public bathroom that Kit had read about. 
  • In the late afternoon after nap time, we loaded everyone up — all eight of us — in the Honda Pilot for a driving tour of the neighborhoods and houses we are considering to move into next summer. We also drove by said award-winning bathroom.
  • Claire noted on several occasional that the day after Christmas is Boxing Day.  And then Kwanzaa comes next.
  • Claire, my dad, and I went to Zilker Park in the afternoon to let Claire work off some energy.  The playground was full of happy little kids her age, some trying out brand new bikes.  Claire came home and had a good hard nap.  We repeated the same exercise on “Boxing Day”, and Claire once again had a good hard nap.
  • Claire’s night ended watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on her little potable DVD player.  Gradually five or six of us ended up watching over her shoulder.  Claire played her tambourine to the show’s music and distributed her other instruments to the rest of us for additional percussion.  We did not sound good, but it was fun.
  • Claire, of course, did not really want to go to bed on Christmas night, especially since she had so many people and toys to play with.  But she was pretty zonkered out and fell asleep quickly.
  • Molly was wiped out by the whole experience as well, or maybe she was just being her usual sleepy self, and slept through much of Christmas and Boxing Day, including some three-hour haps.
  • Kit and I were pretty wiped out too.  We had prepared to host Christmas and did our shopping in about the day and a half before Christmas.  Actually, Kit was wiped out from working 15-hour days, and I did most of the shopping and prep work.  (I had been up in Washington DC for a surprise visit for Tim’s 40th birthday party.  A big blizzard had hit DC, and I was stranded there an extra day, not leaving  much time to prep when I got back.)

Kit’s parents will come up to Austin to celebrate a late Christmas next week. They will certainly bring more entertainment, fun, and toys for Claire and Molly, and some much needed baby siting for me and Kit!

Christmas Card 2009

This was a banner year for us… we had Molly, Claire is doing great, we moved to Austin for Kit’s great job, I made some positive adjustments to my job. It doesn’t get any better than that. This may be, on paper, our best year ever.

But in reality great news comes with challenges and keeps us busy, and we did not get around to writing a real Christmas card about our great 2009. So after some hand wringing, we ended up with something very simple.

Now this is nice and simple and sweet, but it’s too bad I did not get to write a real year in review like last year.

Not Liking the Car

Molly has, as a whole, not enjoyed the car rides so far in her young life.  When I drop her off to school and pick her up, she spends most of the time in the car crying, then screaming a really odd scream with strange pitches and timbres.  Then comes the gasping and coughing, and more crying and screaming.  Trying to reach back and comfort Molly does not help.  In fact, a tap of  your hand seems to agitate her even more.  Then after 10 to 15 minutes, we are at school or home.  It is not an easy 10 to 15 minutes on me and Claire, but most of all on Molly.

Thankfully, Molly has just started to have some quiet car rides.  Maybe a little whimpering or light crying followed by quiet, when she either falls asleep or just settles down.  Today she was quiet almost the whole way home.  It was actually disconcerting.  I kept looking back to make sure she was okay.

This dislike of car rides is something I had heard about before from several people we know, so it must be pretty common.  Thankfully, Molly really likes her crib and settles down and sleeps in there with amazing consistency.  So I will take that trade any day.

Putting It Away

Claire does not always want to eat.  Usualy she wants to do something else, namely play.  But when she sets her mind to it, she can really put it away.

We went to EZ’s for lunch the other day, and Claire picked the kid’s hamburger meal somewhat surprisingly over chicken tenders and pizza.  I am not sure what was “kid’s” about the burger.  It was a full sized grown-up burger, even a pretty big one.  I was expecting Claire to nibble around the edges and then play with her favorite new little baby doll from Book People.  Kit and I got to talking and tending to Molly, who was crying in her portable car seat.  Then I looked over and saw Claire eating the last bit of her burger.  Wow, that thing was almost as big as her head, and now it was in her stomach.  I even checked the floor — no burger.

As a matter of contrast, we had burgers again tonight (we are making a point of eating real healthy right now 😉 ), and Claire literally did not touch it.  She ate grapes, a pear, an apple, and some cheddar goldfish crackers.  Maybe I gawked at her too much back at EZ’s when I saw her hamburger disappear.

Another Mystery Solved

A few weeks ago, Claire was talking about her friend Jad at school.  She told us, “Jad has a wizard in his car!  He really does!  They keep him in a cage!”  Now that seemed odd and a little creepy, but kids this age have a powerful imagination.  I figured either Jad made it up and told Claire, or Claire just made it up herself.  The odd thing was that Claire was so insistent about it, and she referenced Jad’s mom.  “His mom even said they have a wizard in their car.”

So I was at a birthday party for another kid, Lucy, in Claire’s class.  While the kids had their bounce house fun, I chatted with the other parents.  I told Jad’s mom that I heard they have a wizard in their car.  She laughed and said, “Lizard.  Sometimes we keep a lizard in our car when we are watching it for our neighbors.  He does have a little cage.”  We had a good laugh.  She said she remembered when she told the kids about it at school. Claire seemed really surprised and said, “Really?!?!” in an astonished way.

I was telling Kit about this whole story, and the fact that it is a lizard and not a wizard.  Claire was sitting there in the room with us.  When Kit and I chuckled about it, Claire looked a little embarrassed and said quietly, “It’s not funny”, then turned her attention to a toy.  I actually kind of hated to squash this little spec of mystery and surprise in Claire’s world.

Double Pumping

Kit is still pumping to feed Molly. I hope Kit will forgive me if this is too personal, but Kit has taken untold steps to feed Molly breast milk over the last couple of months, and I wanted to recognize her heroic effort.

Due to her long hours on the job and Molly’s physiology, Kit has not been able to simply nurse Molly. It sounds like such a simple idea to breast feed, but several weeks of serious frustration, worrying, and discomfort on Kit and Molly’s part showed how difficult it can really be. Molly was not gaining enough weight and simply had to have some formula, but Kit was still spurred on to feed Molly as much breast milk as possible.

It may be a surprise to the uninitiated, but this whole breastfeeding topic is so full of controversy that it makes Republicans and Democrats look tame. Kit is no “breastfeeding nazi” by any means. In fact, she is often put off by the guilt-tripping attitude of the breastfeeding crowd. But this fall’s seasonal flu and N1H1 outbreaks, which can be deadly to infants, inspired Kit to get Molly her breast milk. Kit was dismayed by the exaggerated claims of the breastfeeding crowd, so as a scientist herself, she did a literature search on the topic. She saw nothing compelling about breast milk helping with intelligence or obesity, but she did find a credible scientific article suggesting that breast milk might objectively might help fight off sickness to some extent. The amount of help is not fully understood, and of course nothing is guaranteed, but just that glimmer of hope was enough for Kit find another way to get Molly her breast milk.

What resulted was pumping — lots and lots of pumping. Kit has never really complained about it, but her pumping regimen has been a tough haul. Kit is often up at 5:00 am, sometimes earlier, to pump before work. And then she comes home at 6:30 and heads straight up to pump. Dinner time usually involves Claire and I eating dinner together while Kit is off performing the grotesque ritual of pumping, and Molly (the sleepyhead) is napping. Kit shows up some 30-45 minutes later with a few ounces of breast milk in two plastic bottles, and then we warm up her stale dinner while I got Claire ready for bed. The whole thing was pretty disruptive to our whole family routine, especially for Kit. Early on, when Kit was still on maternity leave, she was actually pumping about 10 times a day, and each session took around 30-45 minutes. And then there is the cleaning, the endless cleaning. There are eight pieces that need to be hand cleaned and steam sterilized in the microwave each time Kit pumps, each piece having odd corners, flaps, and hard to reach areas. Admittedly, this one affects me the most, so I had to get it in here.

Through all of this, Kit must feel like a cow, a very sore cow. And she is a cow (I mean a mom) who has gone to great lengths for her calf (I mean baby) just in case it helps. The good news is that something is working because Molly has not gotten a common cold yet, much less the flu, even after weeks of day care. The breast milk may have had something to do with that. I would also give credit to hand washing. Thankfully, Molly’s school is full of hand washing nazis.