Sunday, December 25, 2005

Milo and The Man

Merry Christmas, everyone! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, have a happy holiday, a humdinger of a Hanukkah, a merry winter, a super season, a cool Kwanzaa, and fabulous Festivus.

Feel the love, y'all!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Would you like some eggs to go with that ham?

Milo has discovered the joys of goofy expressions, thanks in part to Rob's dad...

I can already tell he's going to be a HUGE hit with the girls in high school...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Pirate's Hit the Big Time!

Jennifer Laycock, editor of Search Engine Guide, has mentioned Dread Pirate Robert in an article about her "The" 30-day money-making blog experiment. She says nice things about him, too!

Three cheers -- I mean, three "Avast, ye scurvy dogs!" for the Pirate!

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm the new "it" girl -- it's true!

So there I was, strolling through the blogosphere, dum de dum dum, don't mind me, when all of a sudden Ms. Mama snuck up behind me and whacked me upside the head, shouting, "Tag! You're it!"

Okay... it didn't pan out quite that way. But tagged I am, nonethless. And I feel compelled to follow through with it, otherwise I just know I'll get seven years' bad luck or the guy who I have a crush on will never ever like me back.

Here goes...

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.

1. Running2Ks
2. Queen of Spain
3. Becky
4. Ms. Mama
5. The Diaper Pail

(Okee dokee... that wasn't too hard.)

Then select five people to tag.
1. Dread Pirate Robert
2. Laurie
3. Daddy L
4. Dak-Ind
5. William

(Heh heh heh... passing the buck! And now with the questions...)

What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was working as an English teacher in Japan. I'd been living there for four months and was suffering my first real bout of culture shock. I couldn't get over how the Japanese just plain did everything WRONG -- from refusing to obey any kind of traffic rules while walking on the sidewalk (just pick a side and STICK WITH IT, PEOPLE!!!), to standing uncomfortably close to me while in elevators or waiting to cross the street, to insisting on having the windows kept open in classrooms during the winter in schools that DIDN'T HAVE CENTRAL HEATING. (They said it was character-building; I said it was torture.)

(Needless to say, I began to find Japan much more bearable -- and I'm sure the Japanese found me much more bearable -- when I finally realized that it was ME who was doing everything wrong. When in Rome and all that...)

Ten years ago to the day, I was actually in Indonesia, taking a much-needed holiday from Japan. It was the first real trip to a foreign country I'd ever taken (I was so thoroughly chaperoned in Japan that I never really felt unsupervised -- I knew that if I was ever in danger of falling down and going boom, there'd be someone there to catch me. Japan: a lovely country, provided you're not going through culture shock.)

My friend Amrit and I had a marvellous time in Indonesia. After freezing my ass off in non-central-heated-character-building Japan for the past couple of months, I was delighted to be somewhere warm. And I had the best coffee I'd ever had in my life while there--served piping hot every morning, accompanied by a plate of fresh fruit. Mmm...

We went to the islands of Bali and Lombok. I remember Bali as being a land of bright floppy flowers and innumberable stone statues of all the local dieties, peeking out through the greenery. Lombok was a little more subdued, but we enjoyed it more because it was further off the beaten track. We had an especially entertaining time one night when a couple of island boys took us on their motorbikes to an old Dutch colonial plantation house on a hill overlooking jungle and coffee farms and we spent the evening there drinking moonshine made from rice alcohol and staring at the stars.

What were you doing one year ago?

Eating a fried egg on whole-grain toast. Perhaps two fried eggs on whole-grain toast. And when I wasn't eating fried eggs on whole-grain toast, I was wandering around in an exhausted, first-trimester daze saying to myself, "Holy SH*T! I'm pregnant!"

Five snacks you enjoy
1. Fried eggs on toast -- still to this day
2. Samosas with tamarind chutney
3. Spring rolls
4. Antipasto on Triscuits
5. Sweet, dark cream ale (it is TOO a snack!)

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics
1. "Dreaming" by Blondie
2. Anything from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"
3. "Buenos Tardes" by Ween
4. "Love on the Rocks" by Neil Diamond
5. "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire
1. Party!
2. Party!
3. Party!
4. Give generously to deserving charities
5. Party!

Five bad habits
1. Overusing exclamation marks!!!!!
2. Eating WAY, WAY, WAY past the point of being full
3. Reading a trashy novel in the bath when I KNOW I should be cleaning the house or cooking dinner or starting up my own home business or doing any of those other things that nicer, better, more dedicated people do with their free time.
4. Drinking orange juice straight out of the container
5. Forgetting to put on one of the two lovely watches my husband bought for me and then spending the rest of the day repeatedly asking him to tell me what time it is.

Five things you like doing
1. Writing
2. Hot tubbing
3. Walking in the woods
4. Swimming in mountain lakes
5. Starting the day off right with a hippy speedball

Five things you would never wear, buy or get new again
1. Leg warmers
2. A leopard-print string bikini (Okay, I was 16 and had terrible judgment, people -- though I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse)
3. A V-necked shirt worn backwards
4. A thin leather tie
5. A nose piercing

Five favorite toys
1. Milo
2. Rob
3. My computer
4. My bicycle
5. Rob's iPod

There! Done! Time for someone else to be the new "it" girl or boy.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Yes, Milo, there IS a Santa Claus

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

PLUS, he just bought us a brand new Nikon Coolpix S4 camera, so we could take lots and lots and lots of pictures of your very first Christmas. Score!!!

I'm thinking that Santa is going to find something more than milk and cookies when he comes to visit this Christmas Eve. The jolly old geezer might even get lucky.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My little Mowgli

As you can see in my profile, my last name is Whalen -- a fine old Irish family name that is a modern variant of O'Faolain, which once upon a time meant, "of the wolf clan."

I only found this out a couple years ago, but it made perfect sense to me. Finally, I had an explanation for all those werewolf dreams I had as a young teenager -- dreams in which I was the wolf, running through the woods and hunting down my victims. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, if Freud were still alive he would no doubt chalk it up to unrealized sexual longing or some such thing. Stupid Freud.) It also explains why my family likes dogs so much, and why my brother and I both could be described as loners who nonetheless enjoy traveling in packs.

In keeping with my canine heritage, a couple years ago I convinced Rob that we had to adopt our downstairs neighbour's dog, Nell. The neighbour was moving to a new place and couldn't bring Nell with him. It didn't take that much convincing; Nell was practically our dog anyways.

Our neighbour loved animals and had a kind heart but wasn't home a lot of the time. Since he also had three cats (one of which was blind, another missing a leg, and the third afflicted with a serious drooling problem), he usually left Nell out on the back porch when he was gone from the house. We took pity on her one day when she was outside shivering and let her inside to hang out with us.

And so it began. Once that envelope was opened, Nell, starved for companionship, had no intention of letting it close again. She started spending as much time as she could upstairs with us, insinuating herself into our home and hearts.

Part Labrador, part Staffordshire terrier (i.e., one of the four distinct breeds commonly called "pit bulls"), Nell was a pound dog who wasn't at all socialized when our neighbour rescued her from certain doom. He soon discovered that she was extremely dog aggressive and frightened of strangers. Our guess is that she was an abused "puppy farm" dog, and was trained to fight any dog she saw from an early age, before she ended up at the SPCA.

Of course, a large, muscle-bound dog that's frightened of people tends to display that fear in the form of growling and teeth-baring, so Nell often made people just as frightened of her as she was of them. (She freaked the holy bejeezus out of my mother AND my mother-in-law, but those are stories for another time.)

Over time, however, as she spent more and more time upstairs with us, she gradually learned to trust people and see them as sources of food and affection. It was a fascinating process to observe; whenever we had friends over, she'd stand at the entrance to the living room and watch us, clearly wanting to come in and join us, but reluctant to move away from her escape route. If someone startled her by getting up too suddenly from a couch or chair, she'd quickly bolt downstairs to safety. Whenever she misbehaved by growling or baring her teeth at someone, we'd boot her back outside. A number of our friends have children, and we knew that if Nell were to continue to spend time in our home, we'd have to adopt a no-tolerance attitude to any sign of hostility on her part.

It didn't take her long to realize that whenever she acted aggressively she was deprived of warmth, food, and attention, and so she learned to behave herself better around new people.

The fact that every single person who entered our house was encouraged to give her a dog biscuit certainly helped. Soon she was as excited to meet a new stranger as she was to greet us when we returned home from work.

So yeah, when we heard that our downstairs neighbour was moving and needing to find a new home for Nell, we told him she already had a home -- with us. And she's been with us ever since.

We have been amazed and overjoyed to see how far she's come over the past few years. People who used to be terrified of her now love her to bits. She's a really good dog for the most part -- doesn't steal food or chew up our possessions -- and she's simply awesome with all of our friends' kids, who fight over the privilege of feeding her dog treats and getting her to do tricks. Really, if it weren't for her unfortunate tendency to pick a fight with every dog she sees, she would be the perfect dog.

And yet, when I found out I was pregnant, Nell very quickly became my primary source of anxiety. How would she react to the baby? Would she become jealous or hostile? Would she (god forbid) harm the baby?

I read every single thing I could find about dogs and babies, and I have to say, nothing reassured me very much. All the baby experts and dog experts said that anything could happen, no matter how gentle the dog, and stressed the importance of NEVER LEAVING THE DOG ALONE WITH THE BABY FOR EVEN A SPLIT NANOSECOND.

As you can guess, this did nothing to ease my worries. Especially when I read things like, "Be especially vigilant if your dog enjoys chasing small animals, such as squirrels."

Nell absolutely LIVES for chasing squirrels. It's her sole reason for being (well, that and tummy rubs). All of a sudden my pregnant brain was filled with images of Nell chasing a wee baby up a tree, and leaping up at the trunk until the boughs of the tree broke and down came baby, cradle and all. I started envisioning her using the baby as a chew toy, or taking it out into the grassy area between our house and the one next door and burying it in the dirt, like she would a bone.

Okay, so my imagination was doing overtime. What can I say? I was pregnant.

I knew that if Nell ever got aggressive around the baby, that'd be it for her. She'd be gone from this house the very same day. I steeled myself for that possibility, even as I prayed it'd never happen. I absolutely love Nell and am so happy to see what a great dog she has become, but if she ever hurt my baby I'd kill her with my own bare hands.

Thankfully, she has been an absolute DREAM with Milo. I'm not sure if it's because she's female or not, but she has adopted a protective, almost maternal stance towards him. When he was first born, she would come and stand beside us whenever I breastfed him. If he's crying and I'm in another room, she comes and stands in the doorway until I get up, and then she leads me right to where Milo is crying. She frequently licks him on the face and hands, and I swear it's because she likes him, not just because she thinks he's delicious (although she seems to find some of his bodily fluids to be more palatable than I really wish she would).

In the past few weeks, Milo has become fascinated with Nell as well. He'll stare at her, transfixed, whenever he catches sight of her. And when I call her over for some petting, he reaches out toward her. I always move him closer to her, so he can touch her fur and so she can get used to him grabbing for her. ('Cause I know it's going to be a whole other ballgame once he becomes independently mobile and can chase after her.)

Yesterday, while Milo and I were playing, Nell was beside us, clearly wanting a belly rub. Deciding to combine some Nell time with some quality tummy time, I put Milo down on Nell's dog bed with his face right up against her belly, while I scritched her chest. Milo lay there for several moments and I sat there beside him, congratulating myself yet again on finding another way to maximize his tummy time, when all of a sudden I heard a familiar sucking noise.

Yep. You guessed it. Milo was apparently trying to suckle Nell. Whoops. That was probably taking this whole "dog+baby=happy family" thing just a wee bit too far.

I grabbed Milo and lifted him off Nell just as she was turning, startled, to see exactly what the hell he was doing to her. I'm really glad they both seem to like each other so much, but I'd rather she wasn't his wet nurse.

Nell checking out Milo when he was still just a week and a half old.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Unngh... I hab a code

Will he catch it or won't he?
Time to see what Milo's immune system is made of...

It's the first cold I've had since I was pregnant. Rob came home with it on Thursday and very kindly gave it to me while we were out partying on Friday night. And this, after I'd been bragging to my parents that afternoon about how Rob ALWAYS gets colds and I BARELY EVER do. Grumble grumble... it never pays to brag about good health.

Usually when I catch a bug, the moment I feel that first tickle in my throat I call in sick to work and spend the next 24 hours sleeping as much as possible, waking only to suck on a zinc lozenge and drink a cup of hot ginger tea. After a day of living in snooze mode and letting my body use all of its available resources to combat the bug, I always feel much better and usually have the bug out of my system within the next day or two.

However, things have been different this time around. Instead of lying in bed all day Saturday, I had to get up and take care of Milo, after having just five and a half hours of seriously broken sleep. Ditto on Sunday, though I was at least operating on a bit more sleep.

And to make matters worse, the lack of sleep and ridiculously low energy levels have made it impossible for me to get up to do my daily yoga routine the past couple of mornings. No yoga = even less energy, so I feel like I'm caught in a downward spiral and won't be able to feel truly healthy again until I'm able to get a full twelve hours' sleep. Or Milo starts kindergarten. Whichever comes first.

Hmm. I knew babies were demanding little sinkholes that devoured all your time and energy (not to mention money), but who woulda thunk they were actually bad for your health?

Come to think of it, I suppose that makes Milo no different from any of the other addictive substances I've been hooked on over the years...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

'Tis the season to go drinking, fa la la la laaaa la la la la

The Pirate and the Dame, all primped and prepped for their night on the town. Please note the lack of spit-up on our clothes and the ol' ball and chain bouncing away in the background...

Friday night was our company Christmas party. And by "our," I mean Rob's AND mine. Since mid-November, he's been working at the same company I work for**. Doing the same job I do. Drinking from my coffee cup, surrounded by all my office cubicle art. Nepotistic? Yep! Verging on incestuous? Sure is!

My parents came over to babysit Milo while we went out and tripped the light fantastic. It was the first time that anyone other than me or Rob was to put him to bed. I was just a wee bit nervous, seeing as how Milo hadn't been very happy the last couple of times Rob has tried to feed him with a bottle -- and Friday's babysitting duties involved giving Milo not one but TWO bottles, his all-important pre-bedtime feed at 7:00 and his dream feed at 11:00.

I wasn't nervous enough to consider not going to the party, however. Nuh uh. Mama needed to go out and play. With her man, for a change.

Thankfully, my parents acquired lots of babysitting experience while taking care of Milo's little cousin Nadia back in the late summer-early fall, so they now think of themselves as total pros. I knew they wouldn't call us to interrupt our evening unless, say, Milo sucked back a bottle of liquid Drano and had to be rushed to emergency. Even then, I'm not sure they would have called us unless they were positive they wouldn't be able to get back from the hospital before we came home from the party.

So yeah, I was feeling pretty good about going out, since Milo was being left in capable hands. So good, in fact, that I rushed out the door with Rob to catch the bus downtown without even saying goodbye to my baby. Does that make me a bad mother? Hmm.

(We called my parents from the bus about 10 minutes after we'd left the house, to ask if Milo was still okay. They laughed at us.)

The party was held at the Vancouver Aquarium, which was a truly awesome place to throw a party (the whole "whales in captivity" controversy aside). After all, who needs decorations when the walls are filled with fishies?

I spent a fair amount of time trying to get the sharks and piranhas to notice me. They just played hard to get; must be a "top-of-the-food-chain" sort of thing. The giant flounder, on the other hand, was a total attention whore.

The food was good. The company was great. And the dancing was absolutely fabulous. Even Rob got into it, and that boy really knows how to shake his booty when he feels like it.

It was the first time since Milo was born that I danced without a baby in my arms. I barely knew what to do with myself -- I just felt so darned light.

And you know what? I only missed him a wee little bit.

It's not that he wasn't on my mind all night. On the contrary; he rarely left my thoughts. For the first time, however, thinking about him while out didn't make me anxious or want to run home to hug him tightly in my arms. It actually made me want to party harder, to celebrate his existence by pouring another glass of wine and clinking glasses with Rob to toast our incredible fortune at having been gifted with such a wonderful baby. And, of course, for having survived the past five and a half months of "Boot Camp for Parents."

We finally stumbled through the front door just before 2:00 a.m. My mom woke up just enough to tell us that Milo had been an absolute dream. He'd sucked back both bottles of milk and gone to bed without a fuss. Apparently, he hadn't noticed our absence at all.

It occurred to me that I could choose to feel slightly hurt by his lack of need for me, but I quickly shooed that thought away. The more independent he is, the better. After all, isn't the whole point of parenting to raise self-sufficient children who can lead personally rewarding lives and hopefully in the process make the world a better place? Of course it is.

However, I'm not quite ready to be rendered obsolete just yet, thank you very much.

Not that I have to worry about that. Milo woke up at 4:30 that morning, just a few short hours after we'd gone to sleep. Then he woke up at 5:00... and again at 5:15. He refused to fall asleep until I personally went into his room to give him his soother and shush him back to sleep. As soon as he saw me, he gave a little shriek and wiggled with delight, then was asleep ten seconds later. Clearly the boy still has some need for his mommy.

Needless to say, the rest of the weekend was payback for the great time we had on Friday night. I spent most of it fighting to keep my eyes open as I tried to recover from the lack of sleep. I'm so tired right now that I'm yawning as I type this and am actually TOO TIRED to expend the effort necessary to get off my chair and go to the bathroom to take out my contacts and brush my teeth so I can finally go to bed (until I give Milo his dream feed an hour from now).

So, yeah. Independence, when it comes, will be a good thing. Only then am I sure to be guaranteed a full eight hours' sleep.

**Of course, I'm not working at the moment, seeing as how I'm still on maternity leave and will be until sometime next summer. Canada: it might not be the land of the brave and free, but it IS the land of kick-ass one-year mat leave.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

So many Milos, never to be seen again

We've lost our digital camera. Dear lord, we're parenting blind. We've gone DAYS without taking a picture of Milo -- days and days and days. Rob's going into withdrawal. He's developed a permanent twitch. It's not pretty.

We've torn the house upside down, looking everywhere for the silly thing, so far without any luck. Meanwhile, Milo keeps on getting older. And older. My god, he's almost five and a half months old -- and we haven't taken a picture of him since he was just over four months old. Garrgh! Over 20% of his life has gone undocumented and will forever be lost in the foggy haze of unrecorded history. For if we can't provide physical evidence of it, how will we ever be able to prove it really happened?

We weren't able to take a picture of his first ride in the jolly jumper. We haven't yet captured any images of him doing his modified version of the bow pose during tummy time. And we have no video of him babbling his first string consonants ("Da da da da da da da!").

Do you SEE what kind of crisis we're dealing with here???

Thank goodness Christmas is right around the corner. Here's hoping that Santa has us on his "nice" list...

A rare photo taken of the elusive pumpkin-pelted Milo Man, taken with his Gramma's camera

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lookee here!

I done got me a new look!

Okay, so it's not the most professional blog out there. I must admit to knowing sweet diddly about HTML or web design. But I promised you a DIAPER PAIL, dammit, not a rose garden. Or a well-designed blog, for that matter.

I must give kudos to my wonderful Pirate for having helped me so much with this redesign. He found the three-column template online and helped me make the switch; he also figured out how the hell to add graphics to the title bar. You'd think it'd be easy... but you'd be wrong.

We'll be continuing to work on the look of this blog over the next weeks and months. If any of you gentle readers have any thoughts on design or suggestions you'd like to share, please do! I'm learning as I go and would greatly benefit from your no-doubt superior wisdom.

For example, I'd really like to know how to make this body font smaller. I figured out how to change the size of the header font, the sidebar font, even the "leave a comment" font. But do you think I could figure out how to change the size of THIS font? This font RIGHT HERE? Noooooooo. Suggestions, anyone?

In the meantime, I'm off to bed. I've been messing around with this blog for hours now and my eyes are crossing.

Sweet dreams, all.

p.s. Milo is still ridiculously adorable, exhausting, mind-blowing, brilliant, infuriating, and cute.

I'm alive!

Not dead!

At least, as not-dead as someone whose thankless ingrate of a child has decided it'd be fun to start waking up again in the middle of the night to the tune of five wake-ups between 11 p.m. and six o'clock in the morning can be.

(Is he teething? Maybe. Is he being awakened by long bone growth pains in his legs? Quite possibly. Is he actually the Anti-Christ cutting his evil fangs on his poor unsuspecting parents? I wouldn't bet against it.)

I'm actually currently working on a new template for this blog and will hopefully have it up in the next day or two. (Milo the A-C willing...)

Stay tuned!