Monday, May 31, 2010

30 Days to 30

As you may know, we at BleisenCentral like to celebrate birthdays for months. I will be turning 30 at the end of June (satisfyingly, on the 30th). Aaron thought that I should throw myself a birthday party for the next month, with a story every day, one for each year. I am suggestible, so today: The First Year.

It all started in Los Angeles, 1980. I have looked up a little history of the area and learned, "The Los Angeles River overflows its levees in Long Beach, sparking concern that the flood control system is inadequate to handle a '100-year' flood."

As you can see, I already had my trademark neckfat. The romper has really stood the test of time and remains a mainstay of my wardrobe.

I was, I have been told, Difficult, unless relatives were around, when I pretended to be Easy. I remain the same to this day.

Up Next: Age 1: All the Photo Albums From Age 1-18 Are At My Parents' House But I Will Nonetheless Persevere For The Sake Of Being True To The Goal Of Throwing Myself a Month-Long Party.


Do we actually have two children? Or did we just doctor old baby pictures to remove the hair? Discuss.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

still wandering

Aaron was seized vith the need to vipe the vindows this morning. I was forced to have Dylan tip him after he got the squeegee out.


Memo to baby: Six Months Old! Take it easy, man.


The ABC news show that's on around 3 or 4am, with which I am all too familiar, is sort of great. It's a regular serious news show, but the anchors are a bit snarky and make personal comments about all the stories. I like it, as much as one can like anything at that hour.


We made the New York Times pizza recipe they published a couple weeks ago, complete with making our own starter from scratch over the course of a week. It was quite good, but I don't have a food scale so I think something must have been off. The dough didn't cook through all the way in the middle, was the main problem. Aside from making our own dough, I also used the pizza stone, which I warmed up ahead of time, and turned the oven up as high as possible. Those were both definite improvements over our usual pizza. When Aaron worked at the bakery he used to bring hunks of dough home for this all the time. I think I'll try again and use more starter this time. I may just not have cooked them long enough, but it takes some nerve to keep cooking at that temperature for very long, and the cheese looked done.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

the mind wanders

We only have network tv, which consists of the basic networks and 45 public broadcasting stations. Maybe it's more like three, but it seems like they're everywhere. Here are my questions: How do they manage to make even the most modern of shows have that filmed-in-1978 feel? And. How many Europe travel shows, exactly, does the world require? I think one network may be entirely devoted to them. The castles! The wine! The food! It's all blending together into a chateau smoothie.

Wait, I know! It's so they can replay shows from any time in the past three decades and you'll never know the difference. Felting never goes out of style.

There are some kids shows on one of the others. They are apparently not allowed to go more than 30 seconds without trying to teach you a letter, whether you need to learn it or not. E, okay? It's an E! I get it now.


I have a baby who puts himself to sleep, sometimes, for naps. Without crying! In like 15 minutes! I never thought I would own one of those, but I've always wanted one. We have had six excellent months since Ollie was born with no one on a napping schedule. We made the most of it with the travel and all, but I am now ready to sell my soul to the schedule because IT MAKES THE CHILD TAKES LOTS OF LONGS NAPS. I have gotten more done in the last week than in the previous two months.


We recently configured both cars with two car seats so we can stop juggling kids and car seats and jockeying for driveway position. Since then we've been using the subaru more than the minivan for driving around town since it gets better mileage and it's a little cozier for shorter trips. We cleverly loaded up both kids and went to Lowe's, where we bought all the stuff for the basement rearrangement I'm working on. We also had a bulky stroller in the car. It was a real life jigsaw puzzle! Where I was a piece because I can fit between the car seats in the back. We did not, in the end, have to send a runner home to get the van, but we sure thought about it. I'll try to remember to give you a basement tour when I'm done. I'll get there soon if Ollie keeps up with his sleep requirements, as of course I encourage him to do. For health.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And a few more

"Do we need to keep these manuals of camp rules circa 2004?"


"You sure? Really? I can get rid of these? Sure sure sure? You're not worried about throwing them out?"

"Wait, wait. No. Now I need them."


Kate, with face full of sunblock: Am I good?

Aaron: Yes. Great.

Kate: ARG. I know it's not all rubbed in.

A: Oh, that. No, let me get that for you.

K: Thanks...Wait. What were you saying yes to then?

A: I've found it's good to be positive.

K: You're a Yes Man.


Dylan: It's my turn to talk!

Dylan's friend: But I want to talk now!

Dylan: How about we both talk?

Both: talk talk talk talk TALK TALK TALK TALK talk talk TALK

Nice Tries

After I triumphantly accomplished several mundane but insistent tasks...

"It must be nice having me home to administer the household!"

"... ... ...Yes. But I pay for it in other ways."


"Hey Dylan, if you have three cupcakes and Ollie has two cupcakes, how many cupcakes are there?"

"A lot!"


First thing in the morning...

"Daddy, can I have a treat?"


"But I have those M&Ms from Rachel's birthday! I just don't want them to go bad."

[Next we will be telling her about the brief shelf life of vodka]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

They're in the yard

Lurking Jungle Beast is Back.
And Lurking.Not to mention drinking the pool water.
This time, he's got company. Meet Lurking Jungle Beast, Jr.

The Beasties lead a peaceful existence. Lurking.
With the occasional interruption by Loud Marauding Dripping Girl Child

Finally, a tentative peace is reached.

Or is it?

What's this? They're...in the house

Monday, May 24, 2010

sometimes you feel like a nut

**Skip to the bottom to avoid substantive content

I just read this New Yorker article about exposure to toxins from consumer products and food. It's a nice summary of the problems with the epidemiological literature on this kind of complex topic, the reasons that concerns about environmental toxic exposures in everyday life persist despite some negative studies, and the difficulty of regulating the use of new chemicals in consumer products. It is really hard to demonstrate clear evidence of harm for exposures that are difficult to measure and that have their effects over the course of a lifetime. There are often conflicts of interest in funding the studies, and the biggest players generally have a vested interest in muddying the waters.

Having spent so much time studying lead, I feel really cautious about this stuff. The scientific community suspected for decades that it was harmful before effective regulation was put in place and before the research became irrefutable. Children are still routinely poisoned, resulting in a lifelong decrease in cognitive function. Industries with an interest in the continued use of lead threw up highly effective smokescreens for much of the 20th century.

I think this kind of concern has shifted from being a paranoid fringe sort of thing to being something that many people are concerned about. Most parents of young children that I know have done at least a little reading about toxic exposures. In my ultimate league a couple summers ago we looked around and realized that the people with the metal water bottles were all the women with little kids.

This is why I try to do to minimize our exposure to whatever's out there. Nothing fancy, and it doesn't always work, but I figure if I'm reasonably consistent I can decrease the kids' cumulative exposure some.
  • Buy mostly organic produce, especially for foods that don't get peeled (apples, tomatoes). This year we're trying this CSA/collective.
  • I try to avoid having most plastics in the house, particularly soft ones. This can be tough with the toys, but we've ended up with a lot of wooden ones.
  • I avoid vinyl stuff. I replaced the shower curtain liner with a nontoxic one.
  • We have a water filter on the tap and use it for all drinking water.
  • We rarely have meat in the house (this is because of when I used to have dreams about eating it by accident and Aaron said we could just not have it around). When I get it for Aaron and Dylan I try to get it nitrite/hormone/antibiotic-free. I do the same for milk. Come to think of it, with the amount of cheese we eat maybe I should pay more attention to that.
  • We avoid most personal care products (while, uh, attempting to maintain good hygiene). I think most of them are silly anyway. I don't even condition my hair anymore--I like it better without it. I like this guide as a quick reference for baby stuff. It's certainly an alarmist kind of website, but in this instance alarmist doesn't seem so different from caution in the face of limited information.
  • I use diluted vinegar for most housecleaning.
  • No kids on cell phones unless they're on speakerphone.
  • I only get sunscreens with zinc or titanium as the active ingredients. I try to use clothes instead of sunscreen when possible. We are a pale lot over here and this is an ongoing quest. I wish I could make Dylan walk around in a beekeeper uniform, but it turns out that isn't socially acceptable.
  • I try to have most of our food have mostly recognizable ingredients. I don't think natural vs artificial is necessarily meaningful in this context, but once the ingredient list gets really long and complicated I don't like it. I am trying to be more consistent about this at home since everyone else in the world seems intent on getting as much junk into Dylan as possible. I never thought I would care about this since you know I like a good cupcake, and I definitely don't expect anyone else to care if wittle Dylan doesn't get her organic apple, but I really am impressed with how hard it is to get her consistently good nutrition. Although nutrition is different than actual toxic exposures. I am newly appreciative of being able to control what Ollie eats and I'm having fun pureeing everything in sight. Dylan gets jealous and has been eating mashed banana for breakfast.
  • I am starting to sound like a nut, I suppose. Most of these things don't actually take very much effort though. I don't worry about it when we eat out and I don't nag anyone else about it and I try not to drive myself crazy. It may be too late for that last one anyway.

Baby Gabby has been attracting all sorts of relatives to town. We obviously have fewer places for guests now that there are four of us, so we have had to improvise sleeping arrangements. Maybe this makes Zach a Bunkle? (= bunk + uncle)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

your eyelids are getting very heavy

Dylan and I went to see a production of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny by Canadian theater company yesterday. Dylan is enamored of Canada from all our travels there. They acted out the stories with these amazing puppets and had all these cool props. And yet...nothing could quite take away the fact of having someone take an hour to read those two stories. Plus having Goodnight Moon read to you in a dark theater is a little like being hypnotized. You are getting sleepy, very sleepy. And I was.


I was trying to claim that I make skim milk for Ollie. Aaron said it is more likely chocolate milk. So I had to look it up and it turns out it's like 7-10% fat, depending on how old the baby is. It's double whole milk! You're welcome.


Saturday, May 22, 2010


Remember that baby I just had? The boy one? Looked for all the world like a troll for a while there? Here, this one:

He is six months old today.

He is...not Dylan. Who knew? He is up and crawling, and fast, more than two months before she did. He can pull to standing, given the opportunity. He has NO INTEREST in sitting unassisted because that would be too sedentary and he won't stay that way for even two seconds so I can't even tell if he can do it. He takes a bottle, I think because we glared at him suspiciously from the moment he was born until he took one. He's been the gassiest baby on record, but is in the midst of outgrowing it. [He is also possibly outgrowing the unceasing constipation now that I've gotten a critical mass of solids in him, but no one wanted to know that.]

He has eaten, unquestioningly, peas, carrots, apples, pears, bananas, dates, and oatmeal. I offered him avocado today, which I equate with eating butter, and he knew, in that moment, that I was trying to poison him. Dylan came over and tried some too and offered the same opinion. Fine, more for me.

He has traditionally not slept very well, with absolutely no reliable naps and hit or miss nighttime sleep for the past few months (see related: gas). I have been having daycare-anxiety flashbacks since I go back to work in a month, so starting two days ago I made up my own version of sleep training and put him through boot camp. The cornerstone was going cold turkey on the nursing to sleep, which he was completely dependent on. We've already seen a dramatic difference. He took two decent-to-excellent naps both today and yesterday and slept more than eight hours in a row last night and eleven hours total. He is getting really good at snuggling up with a blankie and sucking his thumb and getting himself all sleepy. We didn't do anything like this with Dylan because I didn't ever want her to cry and didn't really think anything would work, but now I wish I had done SOMETHING. She had so much trouble sleeping at daycare and when we traveled, and maybe it could have really helped her. We were also very involved with helping her sleep for a long time, which was okay but took away most of the time we non-babies might have spent together in the evening. Mostly I just want Ollie to be able to eat and sleep when I'm not around, and I am now feeling for the first time like that might actually be possible. As a side effect my quality of life seems to have dramatically increased. It is, however, Day Three of boot camp, so who knows.

We've been weighing him every week to make sure he doesn't pull that not gaining weight thing again. I think he's back up slightly above the 10th percentile, at 15 pounds as of Monday. His drumsticks certainly look more substantial.

He is into everything. We have been forced once again to address the classic problem of how to make water accessible to the dog, but not the baby. It is a paradox wrapped in an enigma but not wrapped in bacon (vegetarian and whatnot). Dylan has been so excited as he's gotten to be more like a baby and less like an appendage, and is always asking what developmental stuff will be next. We all like having him around.

To summarize: Ollie--two thumbs up. We shall keep him. I recommend getting one for yourself.

Friday, May 21, 2010

X marks the spot

We got all fancy the other day and sent Aaron and Snuffy ahead to jog the 2 miles to my ultimate frisbee game. Mesnwhile, I packed up the kids and a picnic and drove over a bit later. I took awhile to get everything together, so I thought they would beat us there. We showed up at the fields to no sign of either one, although I guess that's better than, say, Snuffy being there without Aaron. I hadn't seen them coming on the trail either as we drove by. The game started, no Aaron. I thought it would be irresponsible to go play while leaving Ollie and Dylan on a blanket on the sidelines, although it was tempting and that's what the people at the next game over did with their two little kids while they both went in and played. I started to get a bit worried, but they showed up eventually, having selected a route via the red X below and almost doubling the run distance. [note to Aaron: if you want a longer workout you just have to ask]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

around the house

"Mommy, when can I wear nail polish?"

"What did I tell you about that?"

"When I'm 15!

...Mommy? When will I be 15?"


"Hey Kate, guess what's coming up?"

"Biggest Loser?"

"Oh. I was thinking of our 5th anniversary."


Ollie: Might I recommend learning to sit on your own before you start pulling to standing? Better yet, chill out with mobility.


Dylan's play, this past week: We're taxiing to the gate! Don't get up to go to the bathroom until we get up higher! Turn off your cell phone! Buckle your seat belt! What would you like to drink? Here is my credit card!

I'm concerned her plane is a time machine though, because this morning she told me we were going to St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

out and about in rochester

I guess we're in the habit of sightseeing, because we ended up seeing the Rochester sights this weekend.

Dylan LOVED the parade at the start of the lilac festival last year, so we definitely wanted to take her again. Shriners ahoy!

I can't believe we hadn't been to a game of our minor league baseball team, the Red Wings, before. Aaron won some tickets from donating blood (he has some kind of racket going and is always coming home with loot from this) so we went on Sunday. They are the farm team for the Minnesota Twins. Confusingly, there is no involvement with hockey.
"Come back here, little girl."
At the end of the game there was a play catch with your mom in the outfield session. We had gotten there late so we didn't get a ball when we walked in. We made do with a pretend one. Video here if you need a better visual.
Then we wandered over to the High Falls District, which the area around this cool waterfall right downtown. The previous mayor had made a big push to turn it into a revitalized urban neighborhood, so when we first moved here there was a lot going on there. A lot of the stuff has since closed, but there are some new condos and it still seems possible that it could come back a bit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rice Pudding is a Dish Best Served Cold

I don't know if that's really true. I just wanted to say it. Because I made rice pudding. With FORBIDDEN RICE (Aaron keeps saying he's not allowed to eat it, and then I ask him why. Similarly, every morning Dylan asks me if I'll pick her up and every day I say no, you're too big and I'm already holding Ollie, and then she stares at me, and then I realize she means at the end of the day). Because I'm not eating dairy again. Or chocolate. Because Ollie: it's time to man up about the gas thing, okay?

The rice pudding was okay. It was the kind of thing where you eat one bite and it's fine but then you keep eating it and it grows on you but you still don't really like it that much. You know what else doesn't have dairy? Melted peanut butter mixed with sugar.


Two more travel stories and I'm done.

Dylan kept asking if our San Francisco plane was going to land in the ocean. We kept shushing her because STOP SAYING THAT AS THE PLANE IS LANDING. Aaron astutely realized that we had just spent five days watching sea planes take off and land from our hotel in Vancouver so it was actually a reasonable question. Answer: no.

The piece de resistance of our travel strategy was a personalized Dora book with Dylan's name and picture on every page. It was awesome. We stashed it away and carried it the whole trip and waited until she started melting down halfway through the five hour flight on the way home. She immediately perked up and was happy and cheerful for the rest of the day of traveling. We win parenting. I can't show you a picture because she stashed the book at school to show everyone, but I'll try to retrieve it tomorrow.

Dylan's adjusting back to east coast time pretty easily. Ollie remains on Hawaii time.


Ollie has been scooting around the room for a couple weeks. He often ends up under furniture. It's like what I imagine having a roomba would be like. Today he took some actual crawling steps forward. I don't think he did any vacuuming though. Upon our return home it became clear that I do not need to refer to the archives for further instructions. It is time for the Not Quite So Little baby stuff. The baby gates have been called into service, as has the booster seat. The bouncy seat has been retired due to escapability. So has the cradle swing. We're swapping out to the bigger car seat as soon as we get around to it. One thing I've noticed is that when Dylan was starting to crawl we did not have a three-year-old around, dangling delicious choking hazards before the baby at every turn. Should make things interesting this time around. She's trainable, but not exactly open to criticism. There was much weeping this morning, for example, when I suggested that giving Ollie fistfuls of tissues was not a good idea, even though he had spit (spitten? I like it) up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

En Route

All the travel went shockingly smoothly. The leg with the most hitches was actually the shortest easiest one, the direct 2-hour flight from Vancouver to San Francisco. It started with a very long line to check in, which it turns out we didn't need to wait in because my dad has magic airline-status granting powers. Once we reached the check-in desk we learned that we would not all be sitting together, which would be good for neither us nor any nearby citizens. They don't have a conveyor belt for checked luggage (although I packed SO LIGHTLY there was no way around having to check something, what with the children and all their accoutrements) so then we had to keep dragging all our stuff to the next station, where they put the bags through a huge screener before they took them. We were already a little worried with how long things had taken when we realized that customs was actually in Vancouver, before the gates. It said Welcome to the United States right there, in Canada. Confusing, eh?

We rushed Dylan past a nice looking playground to get to the gate and Aaron ran off to get us lunch. He kindly, if impractically, got me a bowl of soup he knew I would love, so I slurped down as much as possible before we got on, while dousing my clothing only minimally. Our fellow passengers looked on in horror as they realized we were sitting near, but not next to each other, and leapt to their feet to get away from us, even into a middle seat. We moved into the empty seats in their wake. I heard the three people in the other row comparing ages of their children (21 and 26, 19 and 22, 17 and 19) before breathing a synchronized sigh of relief. I offered them Ollie at that point.

Ollie, as I've mentioned, poops like every fourth or fifth day. Yet he chose those two hours in the air to do what needed to be done. I told Aaron I hadn't had a mess like that on my hands in at least a month. That was, apparently, a challenge because Aaron then calculated the probability that such a thing would happen in a given two hour period over the course of a month, excluding sleep time. I think it was like 4.7%.

Lap baby. Ollie and spent about 7 hours like this on Monday.

And done.

A few more from SF

Dylan took this one

On the way back to San Francisco from the wedding we decided to skip the hotel breakfast and find someplace on the way back. We were richly rewarded.