Happy Halloween

Rubber ducky

QQ is still little enough to take a bath in the sink, thank goodness.

We take advantage of that fact, because it's so much fun to have her take a bubble bath at eye level.

She loves her bubble baths, and has no fear of the water whatsoever. You can pour a cup of water right over her head to rinse, and she just blinks widely and blows through her lips and then smiles at you. We really like the California Baby all-natural bubble baths, because they don't sting the eyes, all the ingredients are gentle and healthy, and they each come with a bubble wand in the bottle so you can blow nice-smelling bubbles in the bargain. Oh, and they smell so incredibly good! I'm particularly fond of the Overtired & Cranky scent. What does that say about me?

This gives me good hopes for when we teach her to swim. As with everything else, I think she's going to be fearless, game and delighted with the new experience.

The other reason we like baths in the sink is that our house was built in 1913. The bathrooms are TEENSY. It's not exactly a luxurious experience to get down on the floor and bathe a baby in a bathroom the size of a broom closet, with your back crammed against the toilet and your knees scrunched against the tub. The kitchen is much, much more spacious!

OK, it's cluttered. I'll give you that. Pretty much every inch of counter space is full in our kitchen....but that's just a sign that we love our food and we love to cook. It's difficult to organize, but it feels homey. Ours is a well-loved and well-used kitchen.

Just look at that expression of joy! I can't tell you what it means to me that we've been able to make this child's life such a happy one. The joy she radiates is constant gratification. There just is no greater reward.

I think she likes us. What do you think?


Autumn sonata

So, we had pretty much the most perfect October Wednesday of all time for M's day off this week. M doesn't have a lot of free time at the moment, between work and midterms. We knew long before leaving for China that this year was going to be a tough one for us, in terms of juggling. M had a year left of business school to finish after QQ came home. Thankfully, we've had help - both from my mother and from M's, and that has really made it possible for us to handle all this, what with the surgery, the DNC, the elections, and M's various rounds of tests. Nevertheless, it hasn't been easy, and it's been a real juggling act for us to balance work, school, and family time. I think we've done a really good job of it so far. But I can see him feeling the stress. For me, having finished my last big job just a day or two prior to QQ's first surgery, I am able to devote all the time she needs to her during her recuperation. It's a combination of her discomfort from the surgery, and her phase of attachment that makes her so needy. But this is no time to deny her every second of attention that she requires.

It's very, very rare these days that we have the greater part of even a single day per week to spend as a family. That isn't much. Since M's longest work days are the weekends, and since he needs to study and attend classes even on his mid-week "days off", our time as a family of three is very limited, and very precious. This Wednesday, in spite of impending presentations for class and the impending election which he'll have to cover at work, M was able to take some time with us. As it happened, the heavens cooperated and we had a gorgeous, undeserved 80-degree day of broad sunshine, yeilding soil and the rustle of autumn leaves.

It was my day to plant the bulbs that my mother had sent us from the East Coast. We have a beautiful late-summer and autumn garden that was planted by the previous owners of our house (they really did a beautiful job, timing, color scheme and all), and we have done pretty well with the vegetable and herb gardens since moving in. What we were really missing was the first spring flowers. We have been given a lovely selection of tulips, but there are not nearly enough of them to fill the early summer flowerbeds. My mother sent us more tulips, and a large selection of crocuses for the really early bloom.

I can't wait for QQ to experience that first spring bloom, long before the trees have begun to bud, because it's such a special, miraculous and ethereal time. I planted a dense border of crocuses around Lucky the Lion, and I hope I did it right. I'm still a very, very novice gardener and my research is spotty at best. I'm sure my cousin Sophie in England could give me a few tips....

Here are my pointy little crocus buds, waiting to be covered with fertilizer to protect them through the cold, hard winter.

Flynn QQ's first experience with gardening soil.

She is getting less and less shy of the outdoors and the sunlight (you'd be shy, too, if you'd spent eleven months indoors in an row of orphanage cribs) and is finally starting to really enjoy herself and stretch her wings out of doors.

Mike gave her one of our many gourds to play with. We were hoping some would dry into hollow vessels that we could play with over the winter, but those blasted squirrels, having eaten everyting more appealing in the garden, have gone on to decimate our gourd collection as well.

A ladybug perusing the last of the fall flowers.

QQ offering daddy a bloom.

I like this picture because we both have the same attitude and tilt of head. There's something beautifully-orchestrated about this shot.

After our late-season gardening session, we took to the road with our bikes for a good, blood-churning three-hour ride around the bikepaths of North Denver. I love the cottonwoods of the plains, both in summer and in fall. This was a particularly majestic one.

M and QQ taking a rest stop beside some giant chama bushes.

A lovely segment of the path in Arvada.

The majestic proscenium of the Rocky Mountains across a local golf course.

Clad in autumn finery.

By happy coincidence, we happened upon a pumpkin patch still rich with pumpkins.

Far from intimidated by the Halloween display, QQ wanted to touch.

I should have known that, rather than striking fear in her heart, the spooky scarecrow would inspire in QQ's heart only the desire to pluck its eyes out.

That's my Danger Mouse.

She was not happy with me for preventing her from ripping out the creature's orbs.

Nor was she particularly thrilled with the pumpkin patch, to tell you the truth. To be fair, we had subjected her to an unusually long and tortuous ride in the bike trailer, and she was bored, sweaty, and ready for a nap.

Yeah, not her most animated look. Oh well.

M and QQ crossing under the railroad bridge.

Starved and worn out after our long ride, we stopped for tacos al pastor and cool drinks in glass bottles at our favorite local Mexican joint before heading home. They were playing some awesome cumbia music, and QQ was ready to DANCE DANCE DANCE with daddy!

There was also an awesome mirror corner, and if there's one thing the QQ loves, it's her own image...particularly in triplicate!!

Our bikes through the window in the waning sunlight.

Hey, I just saw MOMMY in the mirror!

On the way home, we came across a construction site with a really good backhoe at work. QQ had to stop and take a look-see. She's particularly into her heavy machinery since...

We got her her very own dump truck at C@stco the other day.

It came at an affordable price, and daddy and I cottoned to it right away. We weren't sure if she'd go for it, so we gave her a good try in the store first. She perked up right away to the sounds of the starting engine (shades of her Speed Racer car) so we brought it home. Best investment we've made yet. She LOVES the dump truck!

...and can spend hours playing on it.

The other thing she really enjoys? Helping daddy with the electric drill.

Here they are installing childproof locks together on the kitchen cabinets. How sweet is that? I love the way she leans on his shoulder.

Note: At the end of this beautiful day, I have to write a brief note about my friend Carrie Anne, and her daughter MJ who passed away a few days ago. I can't even begin to know what Carrie has been going through for the past week. But every time I hold my daughter close this week, it touches me more deeply than ever. This is so precious, the gift we are given in these children. It's impossible to quantify, so precious and so fragile. Please think of Carrie and MJ, and treasure life while we have it. Treasure the miracle of the love we share with our children. Never take a moment for granted. I really have no words to describe what I feel for Carrie, MJ and their family, so I will leave it at this. Carrie, my heart is with you.


Feeding the tiny hurricane

When we first met QQ, she had many food aversions. She didn't require her bottle to be a certain specific temperature (as I've heard many orphanage babies do...as in scalding hot, or else!) but she didn't like food that was cool, as in recently refrigerated, or - heaven forbid - cold. Yogurt was out. Icecream made her gag. And there were texture issues as well - applesauce, for instance, even lukewarm, was disgusting to her.
She liked formula, and then formula with rice cereal. When we got home, I could blend Baby Yo, bananas, mangoes, or fruit babyfood in with the formula and cereal. But when we tried the veggie and meat baby foods, she would hurl the bottle across the room. Not acceptable.
The very first vegetable-related product she allowed past her lips was carrot juice, just a few weeks ago. She didn't just like it, she LOVED it, and drank an entire bottle, undiluted. But the resulting bowel movement was explosive and generally unworkable in any non-hoseable environment.
Well, in the past three weeks or so, she's changed her tune. As soon as I thought to enrich the vegetable blends with egg yolk and strained Greek yogurt, things began to turn around. She loved the combination.
A few days ago, when Jennie brought over a vegetable soup to help nurse us all back to the peak of health, I took a scoop of that and threw it in the blender with her lunch. The result was unparalleled.
Well, I thought...time to start cooking for the QiuQiu!

M's mom had recently brought over a slow cooker. Now, a slow cooker is not something that was ever a part of our culinary milieux when I was a child, and so I've never cooked with one. But I figured - what the heck. I've been wanting to make a good, hearty French daube for the past couple of winters, but didn't have the proper clay pot. Might as well give the slow cooker a try and see what happens.

Rather than go with a particular dish or recipe, I decided to go with what we had on hand for the season, and just wing it. After all, as long as there's yogurt and egg yolk involved, the kid's not picky. So I can mix just about anything for the "meat" of the dish.

I started with some herbs from the garden.

Followed by the yellow, red and orange veggies. No, I don't chop well. That's my husband's territory. He's the one who knows how to wield a chef's knife. Me, I use a dull camping blade, and I chop at random and with no regard to size or shape. But you know what? This is a crock pot meal, and it's all going to go in the blender in the end.

Then I added narrow, deep-green French beans.

A few onions, some baby spinach, and a couple of stalks of celery.

Season with dried herbs from the local spice shop (shallots and dill), a dash of extra virgin olive oil, a hint of rock salt, and go.

Six hours of cooking and a night of cooling in the fridge, add some roast turkey, a poached
egg yolk and the full-cream Greek yogurt, and it's ready for the blender.

Because QQ is only two weeks out from surgery, and her stitches and some of the packing are still in the process of dissolving, she's not supposed to have any rough particles in her food, so I put it all through a strainer and press it with a spoon.

Voila. A homemade and hearty autumn lunch.

Just look at how happy she is! This meal does a tiny body good.

And this is the gratifying result.

An hour later, on the return from our afternoon run, the tiny one begins to wake from her comfortable food coma.

This is the face that will stop you in your tracks. Those eyes!!

Still so, so sleepy...but the hands are beginning to creep toward the mouth. She will sometimes play happily for an hour or so without a single finger wandering toward her stitches...but once the idea enters her mind, there's no stopping her. That's when the dreaded arm braces have to go back on.
After two weeks, she is good and fed-up with the braces, and the minute I put them on and attached the Velcro strap, she started to scream.
I thought I had a solution...I had a pair of thumbless fleece mittens with me, and figured they'd prevent pointy fingers from entering her mouth without actually restraining her arms. Brilliant!

Or...not so brilliant. Here's a picture of the warning salvo of soft, menacing hisses.

This is not the worst she can dole out. Not even close. Nothing like the evil demon who appears when we put her in her crib at night. This is just an "I'm not happy, and I think you know why!" face.
Here's a hint: It's the mittens!!!!
And so it goes. Parenting is not easy.