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w August 28, 2002

Skool Daze

Well, it's 9 pm on the night before school starts here in RWC, and I'm having those standard end-of-summer blues/jitters. Tomorrow morning I have to face a whole new herd of 8th graders and try to get them pumped about US history. Before you laugh uproariously, I have on occasion caused this to happen. Granted, it often involved bribes of the confection variety. Actually, I'm looking forward to it, as this is essentially my third year teaching (counting my student teaching year, but I was basically teaching two classes on my own and subbing a lot), and it just gets progressively easier and easier. Not the least of which is due to the fact that a lot of stuff is ready to photocopy and now it's just a time thing rather than an organization thing.

Last year, while I was pregnant, I tried very hard to stay organized because I knew that this year, with the infant Bean, my time was going to be severely crunched, and it really does seem to be paying off. Plus, my colleague and my wonderful sub did a ton of copying at the end of the last school year, so we are just that much farther ahead. Right now I'm just worried about the Bean's food supply being maintained, but we've got a small stash in the freezer, and hopefully I'll be able to create the next day's meals while at work. Oh, the beauty of double-action pumping. If this is grossing anyone out, I'm sorry, I couldn't have made it any more circumspect. Heather the Human Snack Bar. Okay, that was gross, sorry.

We're also still searching for a nanny, but had a good interview with someone on Sunday (part-time only, but we might be able to work around it) and then someone tomorrow night who sounds pretty good on paper. It dawned on me tonight that I really shouldn't stress out too much about the whole nursing thing, because why couldn't the nanny just bring Bean by school at lunchtime on (regular) occasion? I mean, not to sound snotty, but what exactly else are they going to be doing? This is in Bean's best interest, etc, and as long as we trust them driving, it shouldn't be a problem. Also, my husband is going to be working from home quite a bit, so perhaps he'd like the break sometimes. At any rate, there are a variety of options. Maybe I'm just having those first-day nerves.

Be prepared to be regaled in the coming Huzzahs with History Howlers (for instance, did you know that the "farmers" of the Constitution created its "farmwork"? I kid you not, I once read this translocation so many times it started making sense to me. They were many of them gentleman farmers and plantation owners, right?), tales of romantic woe straight out of Romeo and Juliet (except, quite honestly, I don't think Shakespeare really understood fourteen-year-olds. They should have had much bigger groups of friends and trash talked each other's group a lot more and then all the friends would have hooked up in a serial monogamy pattern and then everyone would have had a huge tearful breakup right before Christmas/Valentine's Day/Graduation)...where was I? Well, I'm definitely rambling, so looks like I'm ready for slinging pearls of wisdom at unsuspecting teenagers. Let's hope less of them this year take this Huzzah's title as a spelling guide.

by Heather Hoffman at 9:23 PM

w August 23, 2002

Bean, Out On A Limb

Or all four, really. No, she isn't crawling yet or anything, but she is finally discovering that her legs and especially arms extend all the way into the cosmos, and it's so amusing to watch this long skinny arm come flailing across her body or the legs get kicked over to the side...possibly she is pre-rolling over, but it's more likely this is just experimentation. And I thought that didn't start until she got to college.

We tried her out in the swing we bought a good two months ago (that she promptly decided that she detested), and hello...she actually likes it now. Fickle baby. It's kind of fun, though---on the tray of the swing there are two toy attachments, and one is a spinning mirror. Well, she caught the mirror's eye and thought she would try waving at the baby she saw in it, or maybe she was trying to smack the baby in it, I don't know. Whatever the case, she was pretty chuffed about it and those arms were churning wildly. I kind of wonder what she'll do with things once she gets them. Gum them to death, I suppose.

What's the best news about this? Well, that she saw something, of course. There was nothing auditory about any of these toys, and my husband and I were staying kind of quiet to see what she would do. More than anything else, Bean's situation and experiences have really taught me not to take anything for granted, least of all vision. I don't know if I really enjoy this lesson, but it's a lesson nonetheless. She is such a character already, though. I always kind of thought a child of mine would end up being sort of eccentric, and I suppose being partially sighted can just add to the eccentricity.

On two completely unrelated topics, school starts next week for me---fresh crop of hormonally challenged 13-year-olds, and we just finished watching one of the absolute worst movies I've ever seen, Red Scorpion. It is so bad I almost wonder if it was meant to be a parody. Dolph Lundgren is pretty hunky in it, though, I have to admit. As for school, this is going to be an interesting year; I'm already feeling sort of guilty for leaving Bean during the day. If I can get through this one, though, I think it might get easier, and it's certainly not like I have to be at the office for 15 hours a day, which is a relief.
Stay tuned to see if it turns out to be a Huzzah or not.

by Heather Hoffman at 11:20 PM

w August 22, 2002

Birthday Present

Quite possibly the best one I could have asked for this year, too. Last night, Bean managed to sleep from 7 pm to 10:40 pm, and then after eating, from 11 pm to 3 am, causing me to wake up on my birthday and think, "did I really sleep as long as I think I did?" And then she didn't pop back up again until 6 o'clock.

It's so amazing to me how quickly the human body can get adjusted to an erratic sleeping schedule. I know it's not particularly good for said human body, but it's the way it is for right now. Every time I read an article on how bad it is that the American public isn't sleeping enough, I have to laugh (hollowly, and tiredly)...nowhere in those articles is there any mention of new parents. One of the few groups getting consistently crummy sleep, and where are we? Perhaps the authors of these articles just know how depressing it would be to bring up a sore subject, but I do wish that some great solution could be found for those of us who have committed the next year or so to a severe lack of sleep while still trying to function normally.

On a completely unrelated topic, had to go to the dentist this morning for root planing. It wasn't nearly as awful as I had anticipated, but that was likely due to the fact that I couldn't feel my jaw for five hours. And why is it that dental hygienists and dentists insist on making conversation when one's mouth is crammed full of mirrors, scrapy tool things, latex-clad hands and that weird device that sucks up fluid? Is this something they get taught in dentistry school? Let's just say that I'm glad I kept the Vicodin from my stay in the maternity ward. Huzzah for painkillers!

by Heather Hoffman at 11:39 PM

w August 17, 2002

What's Happening Now

At least in the book world...actually, this title deserves some explanation. When I was about thirteen or fourteen, my parents took my sister and me on one of their forced marches through one state or another (typical summer activity in our household), and as we travelled through the backroads, noticed a hulking pile of brick high up on a hillside. Intrigued, because frankly the day had been fairly quiet from a sightseeing perspective, we stopped to inquire.

Our informant had been standing in his driveway, drinking beer with his compadres (it was a little King of the Hill, come to think of it), and evidently had been hard at it for quite some time, because when my father asked about Victorian Monstrosity, he swimmingly focussed on us and said carefully, "It was a hospital or the headquarters of the Red Cross, but then I think it became the Church of What's Happening Now". We thanked the man and peeled off before dissolving into convulsions at the utter rightness of that statement. Listen, I'm all for people finding their way spiritually, but there is something so inherently wasteful about creating a new religion for the sake of creating something new. And then, of course, you get sneered at by a drunken man in a tank top and a wandering, junk food bloated Canadian family. Not exactly the divine recognition I'm sure the CofWHN was looking for.

I seriously digress, however. My friend Camille has created a blog devoted to books and reading, and had invited me to post on it as well. I tried, but think that my post invite timed out. At any rate, I was sufficiently pleased, in an egotistical sense, with my posting that I thought I would try to at least recreate it here in the hopes of still reaching that oh-so-wide audience that I know I have. Sarcasm? Never.

The book that I most recently finished was Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples, a good, but not great, sequel to her first memoir, Tender at the Bone. Tender at the Bone was the only book in my fairly decent memory that sunk so deeply into my brain that the minute I finished reading it, I immediately went back and reread it. Strange? Probably, even for a person who tends to compulsively reread old favorites, but this book had something. Maybe it's just that I love food criticism, food literature, food description, but this is one of my very favorite books in the 25 years that I've been devouring the printed word.

Comfort Me With Apples, on the other hand, while entertaining enough, just didn't have the same spark. Perhaps this is the curse of all sequels, but I found myself sort of cajoling my mind to stay focused...and I didn't reread it immediately or even within a few days. Essentially this second book picks up where TatTB leaves off, with Reichl and her husband living in a commune in Berkeley, California, at the end of the 1960s, and follows a similar pattern of reminiscence-recipe-reminiscence-recipe. For some reason, though, the pattern was a little stale. In TatTB, Reichl takes the reader through her off-kilter childhood, adolescence and college years swiftly and endearingly; it may be that the older one gets, the less things change dramatically from chapter to chapter. I can certainly sympathize with that, but somehow it made the book seem just a titch too long. It rather reminded me of celebrity biographies that try to wring about 50 to 100 pages out of one or two minor scandals---no one's satisfied, the scandal has been forgotten by page 2, and actually it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place.

I'm glad that I read both books, and I would highly recommend both---but read them in order, and draw your own conclusions. A final note? Make sure to read both in close proximity to the kitchen.

by Heather Hoffman at 12:18 AM

w August 15, 2002

The Great Nanny Search

Well, maybe it's not such a huge search, but every time I go onto craig'slist to look for available nannies, I just get this hugely overwhelming feeling of lethargy. I really want someone else to do all this for me, even though I am going to insist on the best possible care for The Bean...unfair? Perhaps, but anyone who has tried to sort out appropriate childcare has to know of what I speak. I have interviewed one person, and have two more coming tomorrow; I am already fairly certain that all three interviews will showcase three intensely different people. I don't really know if that makes the search easier or not.

It's not as though my husband and I have a huge long list of nitpicking questions, and we're pretty relaxed about many things, but it's just so difficult to make that leap of faith that yes, this person will act in the Bean's best interest at all times. Or at least during those all times that are paid. Hm.

On a more interesting note, Bean had a very busy and productive day today: we went up to our favorite zany ocularist, Steve Young, in Oakland, and got her second conformer. She wasn't too happy with us for all the eye prodding and poking, but the difference each successive conformer makes is astounding. We finally got her down for a nap around 2 pm, and I went out for a bit. Came home to a VERY grouchy Bean who was ravenous for more milk than Dad could provide out of the freezer---helped her out with that problem, to paraphrase our friend Amelia, and lo, a good mood shone forth. We played for at least half an hour, singing the ABC song, figuring out that being propped up on Mum's lap is kind of fun, discovering that the right fist is indeed attached to ourself...then I thought I'd try her out in her infant seat. This was a great present from a friend in LA---it's Fisher Price, I think, and has a soft black and white bar across the front from which slightly mad looking soft happy face bugs dangle. These toys are some of our biggest indicators that Bean actually does have reasonably functional sight in her right eye---she grins at these dumb bugs and wiggles around intently, and today, realized that if she kicked at them, THEY MOVED. The first good contact kick brought on a flurry of movement and a "gaaaah!" coupled with a laugh. Needless to say, my husband and I cheered wildly and applauded...which kind of startled her, unfortunately. Damned if she didn't concentrate on kicking at these bugs for a good fifteen minutes, which is an eternity in the life of a 4.5 month old. It was very endearing to watch her working so hard; her activity level can often be measured by how much slobber ends up on her chin, as she tends to use her tongue to "think". I'm guessing this has a lot to do with the fact that kids this age explore everything orally, and so hey, if you're working at something, might as well stick the tongue out.

The other good news is that after her bath (with Mum in the big tub), a nice snack, and a chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, she pretty much fell right asleep. Amazing, but true. Dare we hope that sometime within the next year, she'll start sleeping through the night? Or at least past midnight.

The best part of today, however, was the new game she played with Daddy---she was lying on the floor after her bath, and my husband leaned down over her face. She whacked him on the nose and he said "beep!". So she did it again. And Daddy said "BEEP!". And so she did it again...well, you get the idea. This was great fun for at least ten minutes, and it was clear that she was making some connections. Then our crazy dog Gershwin got into the fun and slurped her fist and head---don't worry, I cleaned her up afterwards. It was just so exciting to see a little brain at work.

by Heather Hoffman at 9:09 PM

w August 07, 2002

The Joy of Parenting

Or more specifically, the joy of having to go to the pediatrician on a regular basis. Today's visit was for Bean's 4-month checkup, and it went reasonably well, even if she did have to endure being jabbed four times. She is surprisingly lighter than we had expected, which shouldn't be worrisome, exactly...but of course, it is. She's certainly heavier than the last time we took her in, by a pound and a half, and really, for two months time, that's not all that bad. Not all that great, perhaps, but then again, she gained another inch and another two centimeters in head circumference.

I often wonder at this mad desire we all seem to have, parents, pediatricians, grocery store cashiers, for kids to be huge. Because that's exactly what we've been having to endure for the last four months.."that's the tiniest baby I've ever seen!" "My god! How old is she?!" "Did you just give birth?". And so forth. What seems so funny is that everyone also seems in a froth about childhood obesity--so where exactly is the dividing line between the two? She's on an upward swing, narrow though it may be, and she certainly didn't start out very big; neither my husband nor I are terribly large people. But now I've been told that I may need to start supplementing her diet with formula...something I'm not entirely prepared to do, quite honestly. I am going to try to increase my milk supply and hope that does the trick. But isn't it funny how just the mere suggestion of supplementing causes me to go completely freaky and feel like the world's biggest failure as a parent? Or more accurately, as a mother?

There is nothing wrong with the choice to formula feed, I'm not saying that---but once you've made the choice to breastfeed, it's a hard decision to have to go the other way. I wonder why that is, frankly. I guess as a society we seem to have swung the pendulum 180 degrees, and now breastfeeding is de rigeur, so if one doesn't manage to do the Earth Mother bit 100%, something is apparently wrong. Sometimes it really bites being a mother, I swear.

On a happier note, we had the first true session with our vision intervention specialist, and she was really pleased with Bean's energy level, motivation, curiousity, skill set, and alertness. Huzzah! As with her first conformer, knowing that we are setting our feet on the right path and finally seeing some results, brief and fleeting though they may be, brings a huge sense of relief.

As for today's jabbings, the look on Bean's face when the first one went in shredded my heart into a million pieces, but her almost immediate stoicism and resiliency repaired it quickly. I've been telling a lot of people this, but it bears repeating---if we had a child with no issues, I might prefer one who was a bit more, well, docile. But since we don't, I am pretty damn happy that she is one tough cookie. Jabs? Not a huzzah. Bean the Trooper? Definitely a huzzah.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:58 PM

w August 05, 2002

Two Miles Up

Yep, that's about the altitude of Breckenridge, Colorado, where Bean and her servants, I mean, parents, spent about a week. If anyone remembers my last entry, I was waxing worried over a variety of potential crises inherent in this trip. Well, it must have just been new mother paranoia, because Bean proved herself a hardy traveller, all told.

The flight to Denver wasn't too bad, although she did have one or two full out scream sessions that lasted about five minutes each, although they seemed more like five hours. However, she slept on the way up and the way down, which helped the pressure situation immensely. I was also reminded that the best defense is a good offense (thank you, Col. David)---the man in front of my husband spent most of the trip fully reclined and asleep---but also in close proximity to the howls of an overtired four-month-old. As he was leaving I looked up with what I hope was a disarmingly charming and apologetic smile and said "I'm so sorry about the screaming. She just would not nap". I witnessed the conflict of emotions spasm across his face before he nodded and smiled (tightly) and basically intimated that yes, well, that's what babies do, I understand. Chalk one up for erstwhile Southern belle tendencies.

Bean also managed to sleep all the way to Breckenridge, which was impressive considering the mad altitude changes even from Denver. We got situated in our condo, graciously loaned by my sister's host family there in Breckenridge---it worked out well with three full bedrooms and three full baths, so no generation was toppling onto another one. My parents and their third child (a randomly mixed dog named Pippa) arrived about an hour after us, and much cooing and attention was paid to Bean, who slept through it all. Poor kid had actually sicked up as soon as we got into the condo, but to her credit, she waited until then and I don't think anyone will notice the baby puke stains on the bedspread. JUST KIDDING.

Grandmother flew in from British Columbia, was collected by my dad, we all settled in for a week's worth of late wakeups, semi-elaborate meals and their preparation, learning to breathe with no oxygen, watching Bean sleep during the day (grandparents) and listening to her howl at night (parents). I suppose it was a vicious cycle of no sleep at night made up during the day, but it was a long week from that perspective. However, when it counted (like out in public), she was an absolute doll and was made much of by all and sundry. My sister's friends from the National Repertory Orchestra argued over her long fingers---would she be a cellist or a violinist? My mother condemned them all as fools and announced that she would be an opera singer. Well, if you have heard her go ballistic, you would tend to agree. Bean does appear to be displaying diva-like tendencies, distressingly. How frivolously alliterative. At any rate, when there is an audience to be had, she turns on the charm. When it's just her poor sad sacks of parents, well, it's meltdown time. I guess there is something to be said for comfort level, trust, etc. But, well, hecko.

Took her on her first train ride, the Leadville, Colorado & Southern, about 2.5 hours of pretty scenery and sharp drop-offs that are best not to look at. Dad snagged her an aspen leaf as a memento. One hopes this is not illegal in the state of Colorado. Flight home was a breeze---she slept for the vast majority of it, and caused numerous flight attendants to dally at our row and gush over her. Woke up about five or ten minutes from San Francisco with some ear pain, but Mummy's pinky worked its magic, and apart from a few sucker blisters for me, all was well. She even slept better last night in her own crib, at least after about 2 am. Actually, she slept soundly from 2 to 6 am, at which point I woke up in a panic and barged into her room to find her...snoring peacefully. Fed her after a while, then she fell asleep again, so tucked her back into bed with us to doze for a little while longer. In fact, I don't think she's been awake more than about ten minutes today. Jet lag, thou fickle master.

All in all, I would call this trip a semi-Huzzah. Mostly due to the lack of sleep on our part and the funky altitude changes. But it was good to give her some grandparent time, and I think my sister was pleased to have us all there. Oh, and Bean behaved beautifully at the one NRO concert we took her to, sleeping soundly through the first two movements of Brahms' Symphony #2. Aunt Erin had a fairly good chunk of solo in it, and apparently Bean approved.

by Heather Hoffman at 1:35 PM