It’s Starting

As of yesterday, Laurel’s starting to be able to sit by herself for a few seconds at a time. We have to put her into position, but her balance and ability to hold herself upright — both of which she’s been working on for weeks — are just about there.

She’s five and a half months old. :)

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Growing is hard

I’m feeling a bit sorry for Laurel these days, because her poor body is so intent on working on her back and abdominal muscles, getting ready to be able to sit upright, that the poor girl can hardly get a break. The first thing she does when she wakes up is either a bunch of leg lifts or something akin to a crunch. It’s almost like she can’t control it, especially with the crunches; she seems to look at me like she wishes she could just relax. I don’t blame her. I don’t like doing leg lifts or crunches, either, although I need them at least as badly as she does.

Nursing has become more acrobatic, too. She wants to move her head and torso in all kinds of directions (with the nipple still in her mouth, of course), and the latest thing is, she wants to play with her feet while she’s nursing. Or maybe she doesn’t want to; it’s just those abdominal muscles needing to work, work, work. Most of the time I can tell she’s enjoying playing with her feet, but it’s less obviously fun when it’s in the midst of trying to drink her milk.

She tries to sit up in her bouncy chair now, which makes it a lot less safe for her to sit in. So I borrowed a Bumbo chair from a friend, but she doesn’t much like it either — I think she feels it’s too confining. She desperately wants to be able to sit and play with toys (not to mention go after them), so playtime has been full of frustrated reaching and grunting lately. I tell her it won’t always be this hard, but I don’t think she believes me.

— Beth

Fathering, travelling, and korean food

Laurel and Kochu Karu

I haven’t written much since Laurel was born. Mostly because I’ve had virtually no spare time, and when I do, I don’t have enough cognitive function left. In small part it’s been because while Beth has found it easier to find things to say about Laurel now that she’s here, I’ve found it somewhat more difficult, or at least harder to find good ways to describe her and how she’s doing. The natural conclusion was that the prospect of having a baby amounted to a tremendous ego trip, and now that the baby’s actually here and turns out to be an individual person with her own qualities incompletely molded to my will, my ego is no longer fulfilled. If so, at least I’m admitting it now, whereas some fathers won’t admit it until their kid drops out of law school. In any event, Beth offered to trade dishes for blog posting, and since I spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen already, I may as well try.

I’ve been a father for a bit less than five months now. I like it — it feels good, and it’s easier to get into than I suspected it might be (that doesn’t mean it’s easy, just easier to stay involved in). I’m also a “working father,” a phrase not part of the common lexicon because, demographics and history and social trends and anatomical tyranny being what they are, it’s so close to ubiquitous that we don’t really have a word for it. I’d still rather be home with the baby, or at least I’d rather be home with the baby until around 11am or so. Coincidentally, it takes until around 11am each day to get through my email. Hmm.

Being a “working father” does mean that by the time you get home at night, the baby is already heading into the evening fussy period and no longer as perfect as the day’s text messages from her mother would have led one to believe. Mornings are Laurel’s best time, and since she tends to wake and need feeding shortly before I’d normally get out of bed, we usually get some time to hang out in bed and play or make faces at one another in the mornings. In the evenings I catch the tail end of her presentable period, deal with some portion of the less presentable period, then put her to bed for a presentable-but-hard-to-see-in-the-dark period. Then we’re together all weekend, of course, when I try to cram in all the fatherly playing, going out, napping together and so forth we missed out on earlier.

Going out with Laurel is a high point. She likes the sling, and now that she’s got good head control she can face forward, which makes our excursions into giant show-and-tell sessions. She’s very visually engaged with the world these days, and spends these trips looking wide-eyed at everything. It helps that there’s a lot to see in the city, and on weekends especially, ample time to stop and explain it to her in the hopes that she’s secretly recording everything I say with the intention of going back and replaying it once she learns to understand English. We also stop to let her smell flowers, touch things with interesting textures, or get fawned over by all and sundry.

The fawning is pretty impressive, actually. Fathers taking their babies out seem to be magnets for 40- to 60-year old women especially, though it works on a lot of different age ranges and gender combinations. But the middle-aged women don’t seem attracted in nearly the same volume when her mother’s around — even though I’m still the one wearing Laurel. Maybe it’s the backpack full of baby supplies that does it — when Beth’s there too she usually carries that. Perhaps carrying both baby and diaper bag somehow announces “suave and confident hunk of burning fatherly man-love” in a way that just the baby herself doesn’t.

Laurel’s also in a good period where we don’t need all that much equipment to go out running errands — it all fits in a half-full backpack and could probably pack smaller on tighter rationing. The only thing that really needs to be close to hand is a rag for graceful dabbing at her chin, since she’s decided that on balance, spitting is easier than swallowing and there’s always more saliva coming anyway. This enables one to stand there feeling quietly smug about the harried parents who haul giant strollers onto Muni buses, festooned with toys and bottles and clothes and blankets, whose kids fuss a lot and need to be entertained the whole way because they can’t see anything interesting down there. I’ll probably change that tune when watching out bus windows stops interesting Laurel so much, but it works pretty well for the moment. In the meantime, she’s entertained so long as she can look around, and I can keep her warm and comfortable merely by zipping my jacket around her when the wind blows. It’s a lightweight way to travel.

For the last few weeks, Laurel and I have made excursions oriented around learning to make kimchi. I like the stuff, and took a notion to try to learn to make it, so we’ve made a number of trips in search of ingredients and implements. First to Noe Valley, where strollers outnumber even the Priuses, and where I found a book on the topic (Laurel got a book out of that too, although it’s mostly about children becoming older siblings and relevant to her only insomuch as it’s got cute pictures of a mouse family and she might be into cute mice at some point). Then to a mostly-Chinese grocery in the south mission for Napa cabbage and shrimp paste (Laurel got cooed at by various shoppers, and some sympathetic looks when the bad pop music played over a half-broken PA system got the better of her and she started fussing.) Then a long trip out to a pair of Korean markets near Japantown for seau ch«ít and kochu karu (Laurel got fawned over by lost tourists on the 44, enthusiastically chatted up in Korean by elderly women wielding chili peppers and enormous daikons, and tickled by the counterman in a mercado on 16th.) Then one further trip downtown to buy a suitable jug (Laurel got fussed over by a guy with a skateboard and a bright red sweatshirt, who tried to get her interested in the artwork on his deck but didn’t manage to draw her attention away from the shirt.)

Then we actually made kimchi, which took the afternoon to do (kimchi is labor intensive to make, mostly from all the chopping, plus I didn’t really know what I was doing and so had to do half of it over.) Laurel was largely indifferent to the whole process until the kochu karu came out, at which point her interest was thoroughly engaged. Kochu karu consists of bright red ground chili peppers. I’d bought half a kilo in an equally bright red bag. She followed it everywhere it went in the room, to the point where I eventually resealed it and gave it to her for a while. Then we couldn’t get it away from her again — if we pulled it away, she’d lean way forward in her chair, whimpering and reaching urgently for it with both arms, until we let her have it again. She liked the smell, too, when I opened the bag so she could sniff it. Later she watched me make up the chili paste, and coat the vegetables, and had the same reaction — lurching forward in Beth’s or my grasp, both arms outstretched trying to get ahold of the bowl.

Laurel and Kochu Karu

It was all pretty gratifying.

– Devin