Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Solstice!

December 22nd, 2008

Happy Solstice!
For the first time in our recent memory, we are actually celebrating the winter solstice with snow! Yes, even in Lhasa there wasn’t much snow to speak of in December (much too arid for snow). And Portland did not just get a light dusting or ice. This was a major wallop of a storm – some are calling it a snow hurricane – that left over 10 inches on the ground in Portland and most of the Willamette valley. This is very, very rare for ‘the valley’. Talking with one of our neighbors (as we were delivering our baked goodies to all our immediate neighbors – something Jason has always wanted to do), she told us that she’s been living here since 1997 and never seen anything like this blanket of whiteness before. Another person who Leigh talked to said that she’s lived her for 31 years and never seen this much snow!

Snow has always been one of Jason’s favorite weather events because it means play – snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, etc. This time however, it is as one friend calls it ‘urban snow’. And urban snow seems to be far more annoying and inconvenient than mountain or forest snow.

In fact, this storm knocked us out of our plane. We were supposed to head back to Atlanta last Sunday. The storm hit on Saturday and we weren’t going anywhere! At least we found out about our flight being cancelled before getting to the airport. Three hours on the phone with the airline companies from home is much more comfortable and enjoyable than hours untold at the ticket counters with hundreds of other stressed out, annoyed, hungry people. Luckily, we were able to rebook for the 26th. And though it is mightily disappointing not to be with Jason’s family for Christmas day, it is after all only a day and we can have Christmas anytime, any day.

This being Ayla’s first winter, it is already turning out to be quite a memorable one. When she was born, she blew the power grid for the birthing center and surrounding blocks. And now here she is bringing the winter blast of frost and snow. Ironically, on her first walk around in the crisp and crystalline air, she was none too impressed and voiced her displeasure vociferously. Hopefully, Ayla is not the Hindu Goddess of inclement weather reborn and this winter will not be a barometer of climatical (yes, we did just invent a new word) events in her life.

Well, I think it’s inevitable. Being new parents, all we want to do is talk about our ‘perfect’ and ‘precious’ and ‘darling’ daughter. Just the other day at dinner, we asked each other what in the world did we talk about before Ayla joined us? Apparently, nothing too important.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the bragging first and foremost.

In the last four days, we have marveled at her bright, awe-inspiring, heart-melting, full-face smiles. They are the full embodiment of joy and pleasure. It is easy to lose one’s inhibitions quickly and start making silly faces and nonsensical yet musical rhymes when we get such a rewarding response. In fact, one will do just about anything to get that precious and perfect smile to her face. Such a glorious reward and take away almost all the fatigue and frustration that comes with caring for a small baby. We have seen smiles before that reflected her inner contentment, but these are truly social, interactive communications with us (and the outside world). Apparently, she must have seen the smiling or laughing on TV, because we really don’t like to do either! In fact, she learns a lot through imitation, such as sticking out her tongue like we do or mimicking primitive sounds such as ‘Aaaaa’. The little horsey sounds, the naying or whinnying, that escapes her is all her own, however.
The sacred days of newborn have passed. Though we are sad that the very special cocoon like and timeless period immediately after her birth slipped by so quickly, we are now excited and eager to see what she will do next. Her development progresses steadily and she continues to grow outward from her little being into the world, shy and slowly but with confidence and security. It seems that one day she just acquired the ability to follow the sound of a rattle by first moving her eyes and then following with her head. And this she’s done several times.

Almost two weeks ago, Jason experimented with introducing her first toy, a fuzzy, soft brown bear. She seemed to immediately recognize the face and became quite still, almost mesmerized by the bear. This relationship has expanded now to the point that she will smile and talk with Mr. Bear often. We believe she remembers Mr. Bear and now likes to interact with him during play times. His presence has been appreciated during wake periods after naps especially, giving Ayla a trusted friend to welcome her back from the sleepy worlds.

A game of sorts has developed during diaper changing sessions. On the window sill, next to the changing table, there is a jade tree plant close enough to Ayla that she can see it and sometimes touch it. Lately, Jason has been encouraging her to reach out consciously and touch the plant, cheering her every time she succeeds. This has encouraged her to continue at virtually each session on the table. And this has also evolved from simply reaching out and touching (which could be anything from the forearm to the back of the hand scrapping or knocking the plant) to Ayla actually reaching out grabbing the plant with her closed hands and bringing toward her. The grab and pull has arriving!

If Dad has been stimulating her motor skills, balance and coordination, Mom has been stimulating her cognitive and verbal abilities. She reads books to her everyday. The Hungry Catepillar, Good Night Room, The Wistful Unicorn and On the Day You Were Born are all favorites right now (not that Ayla can really tell any difference). She also recites rhymes, either traditional or spontaneous. And this coming from a woman who previously spent whole days reading and writing in silence.

Music is also very present in her surroundings. We want Ayla to grow up with rhythm, tone and a love for music. Luckily, Ayla loves to dance and move around. She loves movement. She can get very fussy with you if you stop moving or sit down or be still. The princess likes to be entertained! She especially loves dancing to reggae with her Papa, who is determined that her first word will be RASTARFARI (with fist thrown in the air)! Mama also likes to sing and dance the jazz standards, Ella Fitzgerald being a mainstay in the rotation. Of course there’s the bluegrass and the world drumming and classical guitar as well. Not to mention the simplified synthesizer symphonies found in the Baby Einstein collection we have been given. We’ll wait until she hits her Terrible Twos or Terrorizing Threes before introducing Zepplin, Sabbath and Ani DiFranco.

And who freakin’remembers nursery rhymes learned over 20 years ago?! We have spent a good deal of time researching and relearning many children’s rhymes, such as The Wise Old Owl, Patty Cake Patty Cake, Rub a Dub Dub (Three men in a tub??? What’s that about?), Ring Around the Rosey (BTW, why is it that so many songs for children are about death, disaster, illness, plague and falling cradles?) and Baa Baa Black Sheep. It’s been a lot of fun to revisit these and remember which ones were our favorites growing up. Jason’s were The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Its Raining Its Pouring and Jack and Jill.

In other firsts, we went on a walk for Leigh’s birthday – Ayla’s first time in the woods. Though she slept through the miles of moss and ferns, she did awaken long enough to appreciate a sunbeam or two under a tree. The perfect ambience for her afternoon latté.

She has also learned the steps leading up to breastfeeding and will patiently suspend any fussiness after Leigh lays her down on her lap and reaches for her shirt. The beginnings of anticipation and routine!

Not everything is rosy in the land of firsts. Ayla has not enjoyed being introduced to the bottle. And neither has Mama or Papa for that matter. We have tried to get her to take a bottle 3 or 4 times at this point and none of the bottle sessions have been very successful. Most of them have been frustrating to her and her parents (especially Jason who really wants to help take some of the feeding load off Leigh). We think it’s a combination of waiting too long to introduce the bottle, having the wrong nipple and not being more consistent with trying. That said, we will continue to try different times, techniques and nipples until we can get some success. It will be important to be able to feed her independent of Mom, but it’s not like we can really explain that to her right now.

What’s with the sizing of baby clothes?! You’d never figure out her age by looking at her labels. She wears anything from a 0-3, 3-6 or 6-12 depending on the brand. This totally undermines the drawer organization that we spent so long figuring out. She has, for the most part, outgrown all newborn sized attire. Not surprising really when you figure at her last weighing (only a week ago) she tipped the scales at 11 lbs 2 oz and was an amazing 24 inches long already! That’s average weight for her age but in regards to her length she tops the charts in the 95th percentile. She likey the boob juice!