Time Off is Good for the Family

Lennie doesn't find Wallace Stevens very engaging.Having a four-day weekend for the holidays last week did me much good. It also did wonders for Lennie and me. Not that we don’t get along just dandy. Our screaming matches are few and far between, and she tells me she hates me only a few times a week. Ok, maybe I’m projecting 15 years into the future. Whenever I get home from work, M and I say “Daaadddy’s home” in a sing-songy voice and watch as Lennie lights up. The kid holds me in pretty high esteem unless it’s mealtime (an activity I like to call “taking a ride on the titty train” — all abooaard!). Lately, she’s been much more cuddly with me (and I think maybe in general) than in the past, and the long weekend gave me a chance to spend lots of good time with her (compared to the three hours of post-work walking the baby around so she doesn’t go apeshit time, some of which is quality but some of which borders on drudgery).

There have been several firsts lately. She had been sitting up a bit by herself, but now she’s a full-fledged sitter-upper-and-player baby. Sometimes I can just lie on the floor next to her and hand her toys to gnaw on rather than high-stepping all around the house to keep her happy. I can’t really peg the first time this happened, as it’s more of a continuum, but it’s definitely new in the last couple of weeks.

Then there was her first Xmas, which ushered in her first visit from Santa Claus. This visit was a surprise to M as well. I went out on Thursday to pick up a little present for M (we had decided not to do much of anything at all for one another). She wanted a dealie that lets you trim photos cleanly, and it could be found at Michael’s, which happens to be next to Babies R Us. So I popped over there thinking maybe I’d get just one little toy to set out for Lennie as a surprise to both her and M (whether or not Santa would be making visits to our house ever has been a minor bone of contention requiring some compromise). I got a Lamaze octopus with little air tubes in the feet that make musical notes when you squeeze them (a major scale — which one I’m not sure). While at the craft store, I also got a small wooden crate for us to store Lennie’s living room toys in. The plan was to set the octopus out on the crate in the morning before I left to go pick up M’s siblings to spend the day with us. Then I was off to Wal-Mart to buy some crackers and cheese to go with the ham Abbey was bringing for lunch on Xmas. While I was there, thinking about going to get the siblings and being generally in a holiday mood, it occurred to me that it might be fun to grab a few stockings and surprise everybody with that. Again, the surprise would be more for M, who would wake up to see all this stuff sitting out unexpected, than for the siblings, for whom it wasn’t an expectation but certainly wouldn’t have been beyond the realm of possibility that stockings should be prepared for them. I got a bunch of candy, nuts, fruit, crayons, pens, sticky notes, and some little blocks of a sort we’ve been stockpiling for Lennie, the idea being that Lennie’d probably be willing to trade some of her candy for blocks found in our stockings. I secreted all this stuff in the garage and planned on getting up an hour earlier than really necessary on Saturday morning to prepare stockings before waking M up to cook breakfast and leaving to go get the kids. Imagine my horror when I woke up and found M out of bed before me for probably the first time ever since I’ve lived in Knoxville when it wasn’t necessitated by conflicting work schedules. She had woken up and been unable to go back to sleep and was uploading photos of Lennie to send out as a surprise to our friends and family. I pestered her about getting her bath before I left in case Lennie woke up, but no dice. Then I went out ostensibly to clean the car but actually frantically stuffed stockings, hoping she didn’t wonder why it was taking me so long to pick up a little trash and remove the car seat. Finally, a few minutes before I had to leave, she went to get her bath, and I stuffed our three stockings and laid everything out for her to find while I was gone. Of course she was pleased and surprised, and it worked out pretty well in spite of the roadbump. So that was Lennie’s first Xmas.

Lennie also got her first solid food feeding from me. M’s tried it a few times but I hadn’t given it a whirl yet. Lennie doesn’t like rice cereal, it turns out, judging from the faces she made and her tendency to spit it back out. We’re going to try switching her to oatmeal cereal to see if she fares any better with that.

Last night, Lennie got her first bath with me. Again, she’s had many baths with M, but I generally find the practice of sitting in filthy water to be disgusting and so am disinclined to do so. M cajoled me into trying it last night, and I must say that it was fun. Lennie’s fun in the tub, but I’ve determined that we have to ditch the spongy toys and find some hard plastic toys for her to chew on while we’re in there or she’ll get sick from drinking bath water.

This one’s not a first, but it’s the first of something in a long time. Lennie slept on my chest for probably close to an hour the other night. I was walking her around the kitchen while listening to the radio, and she just dropped off to sleep. I kept walking for a few minutes but eventually decided to try to recline with her. So I grabbed a book, leaned the glider back a bit, and sat down. Out of character, she didn’t wake up, and we sat like that for a long time. It was not only a nice change from having to walk around and provide diversions, but it was just nice to have my baby cuddle me.

I’m starting to try to read to Lennie more now. I read her The Lorax two nights ago (along with some Wallace Stevens), and last night, I read her Fox in Socks, one of my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss books. She’s not always interested in listening, but if I bring along a toy, she’ll usually sit fairly still while I read, and I think it’s good for her to hear sounds besides those that fall within the speech patterns she’s accustomed to hearing from us.

I have another four-day weekend this week, hopefully with less stuff to do (besides some contract work), and I hope we can bond that much more this time around. When I got back to the office, I asked my boss if he’d mind switching us permanently to a four-day weekend schedule, but he declined.

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