Tuesday, January 30, 2001

I like to pretend that this journal is about me and my writing, but I think we all know who the real star is. We all know who you come to see. Here she is waving to her adoring fans. Here she is pretending to be a troll baby. Here she is with her uncle Jonas and her aunt Rahel. Here we are writing together (well, okay, we're taking a break).

(And I bet I'll get lots of hits from random web surfers if I follow Hilary's strategy and announce that I am posting pictures of the girl I live with taking a bath.)

Today, we bring you the Aviva report.

Aviva is over six weeks old. I still need to get ahold of a tape recorder and catch one of the last fleeting goatlike "Mehh!" sounds. She has started smiling like crazy, too. Esther and I argue about when she started -- I think she had this cute little self-satisfied, winsome smile from day one -- but she is turning into a smiling machine.

Aviva is a pretty happy baby. She cries a lot less than some other babies her age that we know; we're pretty lucky. When she does cry, we have to figure out what is up. This is remarkably like debugging a computer program, actually. At least it uses the same combination of methodical investigation, careful observation, holding panic at bay, trial and error, and prayer. Here is an approximate heuristic:

  • If she is not being held, maybe she wants to be held. Pick her up and nestle her against your neck. If possible, take your shirt off first, as she likes skin. However, she also likes grabbing your nipples (irrespective of your gender) and yanking on them, and she has sharp fingernails. So watch out. 
  • If she is being nestled and starts hyperventilating and bobbing her head up and down, beating her forehead against your neck and chest and mouthing you, she is hungry. This strange and somewhat frightening custom is known as rooting. Bring her to the nearest lactating breast with minimal delay.
  • If she is being held and fussing, but not rooting, maybe she wants to be put down. Yes, you heard that right. This is not in any of the childrearing books we read, but Aviva is a baby who sometimes likes her personal space. In particular, she likes being put on her back on the changing table: see below.
  • She may be in need of a new diaper. She's actually pretty tolerant about this; I don't think she ever really yells just because her diaper is full, but I think it increases her general level of crankiness.
  • If neither the being held position nor the flat on her back position works and she's getting really upset -- red face, cries proceeding from querulous complaints along the path toward full-out yelling -- try the colic hold. This is a really funny hold we got out of a book, where you hold her stomach and crotch in one hand with her face nestled in the crook of that elbow. It looks rather like you are a waiter and she is that cloth waiters drape over their forearms. At first this seemed awfully unsafe, but it is actually the safest and most comfortable way to hold a baby one-handed. 
  • If the colic hold is helping some, but she is still yelling, give her fennel tea. This seems to calm indigestion.
  • While you're at it, run some water. She likes white noise.
  • You should probably sing, too. Ideally interminable choruses of minor-key Swiss lullabies, the Yom Kippur liturgy, or "Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird." Note that there are two useful recursive choruses to "Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird", in case you get stuck:
    • And if that <something>  won't <something ending with oo>, Papa's gonna buy you a lovely gnu.
    • And if that gnu won't do what gnus do, Papa's gonna buy you another gnu.
    • And if that gnu also won't do what gnus do, Papa's gonna buy you yet another gnu.
    • (etc).
      • and
    • If that thing won't do what it's supposed to do, Papa's gonna buy you a second thing that rhymes with what the first thing was supposed to do.
    • And if that second thing won't do what it's supposed to do, Papa's gonna buy you a third thing that rhymes with what the second thing was supposed to do.
    • (etc.)
A word is surely in order about Aviva's love of the diapering table. What Aviva loves is not so much the diapering process, though she actually seems to like that too, but the dragon and the hairdryer. 

The dragon is a little wooden dragon attached to the ceiling with a spring, and Aviva has an unbelievable romance with this thing. She can be in the midst of yelling, see the dragon, and all of a sudden she is all smiles and wide-eyed wonder. The dragon's name, apparently, is Bonbo. I swear to God, one day Aviva looked up at it and said "Bonbo". She may have been pointing as well, for emphasis.

The hairdryer was introduced at one point when she had bad diaper rash and, when set on the lowest setting, it was apparently the most gentle way to dry her.  Now, she has no diaper rash anymore, but boy, does she like that hairdryer. We dry her feet, her hands, her head, whatever. Particularly when you blow the hair on the back of her head into little haystacks of sticking-straight-up-hair, Aviva gets very excited. It's her own personal electric sauna. It looks like so much fun, I'm wondering if they make giant-sized hairdryers for heat-bathing adults.

Tomorrow, I think, "The Duck" hits the electronic newsstands. Cool, huh?

The WebRats, as many readers surely know, are having a masochistic February Novel Dare of 60,000 words. Some of them anyway.  Some of them are doing February Dare Lite -- Hilary is doing 10,000 words. I am highly tempted by the idea -- it would be nice to make a real dent in Crimp (I bet Ramin would be psyched!). But on the other hand, I've only gotten 2 crits for "A Siege of Cranes" so far -- it'll probably be another week before I can really start revising it. I don't really want to start anything new until "A Siege of Cranes" is out there -- I don't want the same thing to happen as happened with "Corporate Anthropology", where I have to undertake major revisions but the initial spark of the story has vanished entirely. This means I'll probably really only have half of February to work with, plus I do have a baby, a full-time day job, a Clarion West application to get out, rugby season starting Thursday, and at least one visitor coming from America in that shortest of months. Still... February Dare Lite does sound pretty attractive... hmmm...