Laurel has hit a sweet phase this week in which she’s squealing happily when she sees something she really likes. For example: she squealed at several of the other babies in our Wednesday playgroup. She squeals at Mouse. She squeals at my breast when she’s about to nurse. She squeals when she’s about to scoot across the house. It’s really endearing.

— Beth

Solid Standing

No, no, not the applesauce

At our six-month visit to the pediatrician in early September, the doctor suggested (somewhat sternly) that he’d like Laurel to be “well established” on solids by 9 months, by which I think he means “comfortable with ingesting a variety of foods.” We hadn’t given her any food up to that point, and had been procrastinating doing so.

There are several signs that your baby is theoretically ready, including being able to sit on his or her own, being able to do a pincer grasp with thumb and forefinger, reaching for other people’s food or watching them interestedly when they eat, and no longer thrusting items out of his or her mouth with the tongue. Laurel was doing some of these, but even now she doesn’t sit that well on her own (and doesn’t seem interested in working on it). Plus, we didn’t know what we wanted to give her first, what foods we definitely wanted to delay or avoid, and so on.

It started with an apple core. I was eating an apple one day as we headed somewhere on BART, and when I was finished with it, I let her taste it. She sucked on it a few times interestedly, but didn’t raise any objections when I took it from her and threw it away. A week or so later, Devin gave her a taste of avocado, just a little chunk. She made the “yucky” face and spit it out. When she tried another bite, she gagged once it got to the back of her throat. We tried again a couple of days later, this time letting her serve herself, and got much the same response. We tried banana and sweet potato. She liked some of the banana “juice” but the chunks made her gag, and she was completely uninterested in the sweet potato. She’s also tasted daikon, spicy cheese, pomegranate seeds and bits of plain chicken.

Meanwhile, she’s been sucking on every apple I’ve eaten in the past two weeks, forcing them out of my hands if I won’t share. So I broke down and bought a jar of applesauce, and discovered this week that she’s happy to eat small bites of it, even opening her mouth for the spoon. Within a few days, she’d figured out that she should swallow it rather than spitting it out. She still makes a bit of the “yucky” face but she seems to enjoy it otherwise (although this enjoyment is often displayed by reaching for the spoon, grabbing a handful of applesauce, and then mooshing it into her face). Supposedly from here we’ll be able to get her to eat other things. We’ll see.

(That’s what she’s eating in the photo above. I know it looks like we’re torturing her, but in fact she was on her way to grabbing the spoon.)

That’s not all she’s been up to. Her scooting has gotten faster and faster, and is now interspersed with periods of being on her hands and knees or hands and feet (the latter with her butt stuck into the air). Both of these are precursors to real crawling, so she seems headed in that direction.

She’s devoted a lot of time lately to clambering over things, particularly us. And just a couple of days ago, I laid her in her crib after a diaper change and went to wash my hands. When I returned, she had pulled up to a wobbly stand, and got herself more upright when I stood by her and provided some higher hand-holds. From there, she crept over to a taller part of her crib and stood for several minutes.

Pulling up to standing

The next day, she somehow pulled herself up on one of the coffee tables and went nuts grabbing pens, remote controls, and other fun stuff and knocking everything to the floor. I suspect the coming weeks will be spent sizing up every piece of furniture in the house for its potential to provide support for standing.

I just hope she learns to sit before she learns to walk.

— Beth

Of family vacations, sore asses, and Folsom Street Fair

We’ve had a family week. I took a week’s vacation time to spent with Beth & Laurel — something I’d been planning to do since before she was born. Actually, I’d been planning to save one of my parental leave weeks to take at or around the six month mark, to spend extra time with the various developmental stuff that goes on around now. As it happened, I screwed up the dates on the form and ended up taking all my leave up front, somewhat to the discomfiture of my employer’s HR department. Oh well — I took some vacation time instead.

September/October’s a good time for time off in the city — for those that aren’t accustomed to our weather, the usual June/July/August months are one of San Francisco’s two winters (the other occurs in the more conventional Californian winter period). So if you’re looking for moderate weather and nice sunny days, this is the time for it. Everyone seemed to know it, because half the city seemed also to be on vacation this week. It’s also the trailing edge of Leather Pride Week and the start of the SF Love Fest, both of which raise the number of people found on the streets in unexpected costumes or states of undress above the usual baseline levels. Plus, there are music festivals, street-food events and other frivolity — it’s a good time to live here.

One thing I hadn’t planned on was everyone getting sick — first Laurel & Beth, then myself; probably just a cold, though it made Beth miserable for a week, me lightly symptomatic for days, and Laurel both congested, drippy and with a case of diarrhea which then kicked off an ugly and protracted bout of diaper rash. By the time of Folsom Street Fair, she was sporting angry red swathes all over her nether regions, complete with little dark welts and other unpleasantness. Meanwhile she converted from her usual enthusiasm for diaper changes (during which she can most readily grab her feet) to sobbing dread and screaming disapproval. Plus, owing to the diarrhea, she was getting tons of these occasions, and hating everything about it. If you didn’t catch her in the act of soiling herself she’d let you know seconds later, either because it hurt to poop or because she knew we’d take her in to clean her off, which clearly hurt a lot. Eventually we started doing diaper changes on the floor rather than the changing table, because everything was going to get kicked off the table onto the floor anyway, and that way you could use legs & shoulders to hold her down, or at least keep her in the vicinity.

The standard remedies for diaper rash are cleanliness, air exposure (i.e. diaper-free time), patience and zinc oxide. In addition to the frequent changes, we provided the cleanliness via baths, which went fine and are sufficiently uninteresting as not to be worth going into. Air exposure is another matter when dealing with a diarrhea-afflicted baby capable of moving on their own — I diligently tried it, for a period of about ten minutes, one morning after an especially loud and misery-inducing diaper change. By late afternoon I’d finished washing the ten or twelve different things she managed to poop on, gotten a price quote for rug cleaning exceeding the value of the rug itself, bathed Laurel to deal with her innocent, cheerful willingness to crawl around in whatever happens to be in the way no matter how pathogen-laden, and written off diaper-free time as a remedy suitable for those who live in one-piece fiberglass bathrooms lacking textiles and with an abundance of drains. While we’d started with the typical leftist organic & herbal remedies of calendula creams and balsam pastes, after a few days of screaming and general unpleasantness I’d lost patience with the all-natural approach and opted for the strongest over-the-counter option modern pharmacology had to offer, which worked significantly better. We also shifted her to disposable diapers for a couple days, though motivated less by any faith that they’d help (they didn’t) as by the fact that we’d run out of cloth ones.

Naturally, faced with a baby with an intensely sore butt and a tendency to go apoplectic with fear & pain at any rectal/anal activity (be it solid, liquid or gaseous), plus a partner too sick to leave the house, the obvious recourse is to head off to Folsom Street Fair. Folsom’s a lot of fun, even if it’s being watered down by the relentless flood of heterosexuals who keep showing up to what is basically a five-block S&M party oriented around gay men (and, so a somewhat lesser and historically antecedentory degree, women). Laurel was the youngest postnatal attendee I noticed — the fair doesn’t actually forbid bringing kids, and usually there are one or two each year. It’ll almost certainly be her last for a couple of decades — by next year she’ll recognize too much of what’s going on to let it all slide, but far too little to actually understand. Leatherfolk are, by and large, a warm & accepting group, but I’m too busy preparing toddler-compatible explanations for the laws of thermodynamics to come up with one for why post-operative women are whacking one another with leather paddles on the sidewalk. I’m also unprepared to convincingly and comprehensibly argue that while fellatio is a splendid activity for loving participants, it’s customarily done in private, and cases where grown men are doing it to one another in the middle of a street are the exception, provided for by a lengthy history of psychological probing, self-acceptance, civil rights battles, social adaptation, public adulation and finding someone to hold your beer so you can properly attend to the task.

For those convinced that she’ll be subconsciously scarred anyway, she slept through the entire thing, and had a happy afternoon clambering around on the floor and laps of friends who live just slightly off Folsom St. People react to men carrying babies in slings in various ways — setting indifference aside, I’d say that the most common reactions in normal public settings are endearment, followed by amusement. At Folsom, indifference still predominated, but surprise dominated the remainder, followed by discomfiture, confusion and, rare but still significant, endearment & delight. She got pretty much the usual number of cooings and fawnings-over, despite being, as I say, sound asleep and with a hat over her head (it’s often noted that for some reason, an event where one wears forty pounds of black-tanned leather is nonetheless held outdoors in the sunniest, hottest part of SF’s year).

One group that didn’t react one way or the other to her presence was the people running the Fetish Tots booth, which we spent several minutes giggling over. Despite a strong desire to see a copy of their business plan, I doubt they’ll make it to the 2010 fair, just considering the Venn diagram of their prospective clientele.

Folsom aside, it’s been a fairly domestic week of babyproofing, calls to the pediatrician, a truly absurd number of diaper changes, and playing with the baby. Laurel’s still trying to learn to use her body — she’s been hoisting her (now significantly healed) butt in the air on hands and feet, trying other ways to get around. She’s still not crawling, per se, but scoots around all over. She pulls herself along and grabs at everything by clawing with her fingers, so she breaks her fingernails a lot. She has no interest at all in sitting, although she’ll hold a seated position pretty well if we put her in one. I did get around to the various mom & baby groups — an odd social dynamic being the only man in a group of women whose husbands & partners have all long since gone back to work. I haven’t encountered any unseen or underappreciated developmental milestones — even back at work I’ve been closely enough involved to experience them all — but it’s been a good week regardless.

– Devin