You Can Sail the Seven Seas

Our friend W. is in town this weekend for a golf tournament. W. was stationed in the Navy at Pearl Harbor a few years back, and graciously allowed us to stay in his home for a week-long vacation to Hawaii.

Now W. is stationed in DC. More administrative work than boat duty, but he's in DC, so there's a normal routine and a nightlife. He's single and young and clearly quite unsure what to think of a weekend with a married couple and a baby. The highlight of our evening is watching Helen run around the living room. For those of you who remember your single years, you may be thinking, "Yeah, just give the man a drink already."

On our trip to Hawaii, this guy took us to one of the best karoke bars in Waikiki Beach, where 99 cent mai-tais encouraged the guys to sing "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. Tonight, Helen kept pulling up her shirt to show us her belly button.

I'm sure he'll carry these memories of domestic bliss with him for a long time after this weekend is over.


New Clothes

It's September - time to shop for back-to-school clothes! Remember getting in the car with your mom and your little sister to go shopping, just a little bit peeved because you could have gone to the pool one last time? Remember picking out new shoes that hurt your feet, and those dark, stiff jeans? Remember having a hard time trying on sweaters when it was still 100 degrees outside? Remember spending several hours arguing with your mom over what you really wanted to wear?

Yeah, Helen's only 15 months old. This year, no argument from her on clothes shopping.

I especially love those jeans. They fit her in the belly but they're WAY too long. So I had to cuff 'em.

But I noticed something weird last night - when I took the jeans off so she could take a bath, her legs were this weird shade of blue. Turns out the dye on the jeans had rubbed off on her skin.

Did anyone else's mother buy them new clothes for school that turned them into a Smurf? Just wondering.



Sunday the Wyatt family went to the zoo. It's a pretty nifty place, designed more as an animal preserve than a zoo. There are lots of walkways through shaded forests or bamboo jungles, with wide open spaces for the larger animals. The selection of exhibits are fewer in number than most zoos, but it's a quality place, and we enjoyed the afternoon.

My favorite part of the place is the elephant savannah. They have a huge field built up with rocks and ponds and shaded areas for the elephants to wander around, and a nice path for the visitors encircles it with several different viewing areas to choose from, depending on where the elephants might be. We lucked out and spotted them close by at the first spot we stopped, so I pulled up the stroller to the fence, leaned down and pointed at the three large grey elephants nearby. "Helen," I said, "Can you see the elephants?"

"Noooooo ..." she replied.

I point again. "There they are, Helen, can you see the elephants?" Again: "Noooooo ..."

I lean down and try to look through the fence from her vantage point in the stroller. Maybe there's a fence post in the way, or she's too far down to see them uphill. Nope, she's got a great view. Two handlers come out, apparently to walk the animals around, and as they start to move, I point them out again. She's watching, but always saying, "Noooooo ...:

The exact same thing happened at the giraffe exhibit, and the tiger exhibit. The only animals she really "saw" were the meerkats. She kept meowing and woof-woofing at them.

I've decided that "Noooooo ... " must actually mean "Yes, that's a perfect view, Mommy, and thanks for pointing it out to me" in toddler-speak.

I had to adjust my high expectations for our trip to the zoo very quickly. She was old enough to pay attention, but the things I thought would interest her, she didn't even notice. The things that I didn't see, I could hardly peel her away from. Like, she was absolutely thrilled by the sight of water. A small rushing stream near the lemurs, or a pond near the petting zoo - didn't matter. It was water, and she wanted to look at it. Same with pulling leaves off all the bushes that we passed by, or watching the other kids nearby. And Helen loved the swings in the children's play area. I couldn't believe my camera got pictures of her in the swing, but it came through in a big way.

Good thing it didn't cost us anything to bring a child under 3 to the zoo. Next time, I'll save the gas money and just lead her outside to the water hose.

Helen learns "Touchdown!"

We had friends over for ribs and football on Saturday. Helen was really excited to see our friend S. He's one of those guys who has energy to spare for a kid. Totally ready to play, and way more fun than an actual parent. At one point, Brian said, "Helen, come give Da-da a hug," and Helen ran straight for S. Brian's still hurting a little from that one. Little tip, Helen - try that again, and you won't ever get the keys to the car.

We also had the Amazing Babysitter over for the food and games. Helen had a ball eating cheese and crackers with us. She dipped her cracker and ate the cheese, then dipped the (soggy) cracker back in the cheese.

Now that I think about it, the cheese was all hers after that.


Good News

It's been about 2 weeks since the mortifying conversation with the daycare teacher about Helen needing to have rules.

It was a pretty rough week after that - she spent most mornings at school crying, wanting her pacifier, asking for a morning nap that they don't allow. That was frustrating for everyone.

So I spent last weekend making sure Helen stuck to the daycare schedule, instead of taking an extra morning nap. Voila! Much happier kid the next week at school. Several days I called to check on her, and she was definitely improving.

Those of you unfamiliar with daycare may not know that the babies get daily reports. Every day since she was 8 weeks old, I've taken home a report on the day's activities:

With the report, the parents know what the child ate, what the diapers were like, and how long they napped.

I found out quickly how important it is to know this stuff, because Helen will sometimes eat very little at lunch and then proceed to chew my arm off when I get home. Check the report - "ate very little of my main item." Hmm. Got it. Helen, I'm cooking it at light speed, sweetie. Stop gnawing on my elbow.

Last week, the notes along the side had included details from her teacher about being cranky, crying or asking for her pacifier. This week, the notes were a little nicer. Then, there was Friday's note:

That teacher, I'm not sure if she was giving us a compliment, or simply toying with me. Either way, Brian & I laughed a lot. LISTENED TWICE.

It's way more than we ever get from her at home.


Friday Night: Date Night.

Friday night Brian & I had a real, honest-to-God date for the first time since - well, it's been a while. Our last effort at dinner out was thwarted, and it's hard to save up enough for both the entertainment and the sitter. Seems pointless to pay someone to sit in our house while we sit in our car, doesn't it?

(Actually, that idea is sounding a bit better every time I think of it.)

I had scored some tickets to a good show at the comedy club, and I had been looking forward to the event all week. So this time, the babysitter showed up, and after a flurry of instructions and kisses, we left for the car. You may recall me writing about the neighbors before. They were on the front lawn with the previously mentioned FOUR children, who were riding bicycles or curing cancer or something. I wasn't paying much attention, but I did give them a little wave.

Immediately, and I do mean PRONTO, the neighbors noticed we did not have Helen with us. They shouted, "Are you going on a DATE?" When I nodded excitedly, they yelled back, "Woo hoo!!"

Parents of small children do get that excited for each other. Really. Adult time spent in a room full of other adults, knowing that Helen is in the perfectly capable hands of a wonderful sitter that she adores - it all creates a certain joy that allows you to relax and try to think of something else to talk about besides the baby. You experience it on so few occasions when the baby is this young, that you can genuinely enjoy it when someone else gets that precious date time.

The best part was yet to come, though. Helen slept until SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

Let's see, how many times has that happened this year? Um, let's see, total it up, carry the one, yep - NEVER. Last month, I actually considered getting her a paper route.

Helen waking up 7 a.m. is like my grandparents eating dinner at 7 p.m. IT JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN. And you can bet I thanked my lucky stars and my AMAZING BABYSITTER. Gratitude beyond measure, I'm tellin' ya.

(Can you tell she reads this blog? I'm trying not to lay it on too thick here.)


Your aggression gets you nowhere.

Last week at daycare - I think it was a Tuesday - I dropped off Helen, trying my usual routine of getting her settled with a toy. Her usual routine is to realize I'm leaving, start to cry, and then I pass her off to the teacher. This particular morning, the teacher commented to me that Helen was a little "pushy."

The teacher is a very nice young lady, expecting her own child later this year, and her comment sort of took me by surprise. But I gave myself a moment to think it over - yeah, Helen can be pretty pushy. She fusses, and I respond by making whatever's annoying her go away, and the fussing stops. It's a pretty good system for her, so why should she think daycare would be any different?

Fast forward to two days later. I was at the daycare with Helen - actually sitting on the floor with her this time, playing with some blocks. No other parents were in the room, and the teacher took advantage of the opportunity to speak with me. She says (and I quote), "I hope you won't take this the wrong way ..."

Now we all know she's about to say something really nice, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.

"... but I wondered, do you have any rules for Helen at home?"

Gulp. Words every mother longs to hear, eh?

We actually do have rules for Helen. There's a short list Brian made last summer, posted on the refrigerator, titled "Rules for Helen." She's not allowed to hang out with the Smith Boys on her own (ever). She has to take swim lessons. She has to learn basic car maintenance. You know, things we want her to do or not do - but probably not what the daycare teacher meant.

So I had to stumble through the next few minutes with comments like, "Well, I've tried to put my foot down about her throwing food on the floor when she's done eating, but she just laughs at me." And I felt about 2 inches tall while I was doing it, too.

Her daycare teacher subtly suggested I needed to buckle down. As an example, when she's changing a kid's diaper, the rules say one hand on the kid at all times. Helen's across the room with another kid, and they're climbing on the table. The teacher tells them to get off the table and come stand by her. Every kid EXCEPT Helen obeys the teacher. It's like Helen doesn't listen to her.

(If you were wondering what that sound was, it's Helen's grandparents laughing hysterically. Cackling with glee, even.)

It's hard for Brian and I to be tough with her. You've seen her. Cute as a bug, eh? She gets fussy, and it's usually because she's upset with some sudden change. It's easier to fix whatever's wrong and get her quiet again, instead of letting her work through her frustration and settle herself. I can continue to fix things for her, but it could hurt her chances to pick up the tools to figure out this crazy world we live in.

It's part of being a parent, making sure she learns how to be a good girl. I just didn't realize it started SO SOON. I'm still back at "sleep through the night." Can we slow this down a little, please? Thanks.

It's pink and it has a cat on it.
You'd buy it, too.

Don't you just love Helen's new purse? She got this from her daddy, who loves Hello Kitty a lot. (Some would say, too much.) And Helen loves this purse, too. I especially love how she's giving me the eye in this picture, like "Hey, hands off my purse, lady."

Helen carries it around, shoving various toys in it. Sometimes it's the baby car keys, or the baby cell phone, or the baby remote control. (Can you tell what she likes to play with? Believe me, these are not suitable replacements for the real thing.)

She also has a bunch of my old Mardi Gras beads, and she spends a lot of time putting them in her purse and taking them out again. Then she carries the purse to another part of the room and starts the whole process over again.

It reminds me a lot of what I do all day at work.

Random Update #1:Several of you have asked, "So, Jennie, what did Brian do that was so funny?" Honestly, I could tell you, but then Brian would have to kill me AND you. So, really, folks, I'm not telling!!

Random Update #2: To "Anonymous and Possibly Former Friends in Destin" who phoned over Labor Day Weekend just to mention that they were in Destin, and I wasn't, AND HEY, LET'S RUB IT IN A LITTLE MORE: not cool. SOOOOO not cool.


Commence football.

Helen loved wearing an Erik Ainge football jersey this weekend. The Bama fan in me is having a hard time with this, but Brian's so proud. And thank goodness the Vols won. Must have been all the new gear Brian purchased! He was trying hard to get rid of the bad juju from last year.

By the way, in case you didn't already know:

ju'-ju: (noun) 1. a soft and chewy candy eaten in movie theaters. 2. an African term referring to the spiritual nature or supernatural power of a particular item.

So, last year, mystic forces and/or movie candy converged to create a season not worth thinking about, ever again. I can see the Orange Nation chanting at the tailgate, just before kick-off this year: DEMON RANDY SANDERS, I CHEW YOU UP AND CAST YOU OUT (OF STATE)!!

With Helen's round belly running around in a football jersey, she reminded me of those guys on Saturday Night Live who ate wings and fried potato skins and jawed about DA BEARS and DITKA.

But, don't they both look happy that football season has started?