Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Homage to Bosque.

Grammy, Grampy, Loo-loo, Alla!

This is the whole-hearted baby-tune that spills over from the backseat as we make our way into Boulder to see Grammy, Grampy, Aunt Alex and Lucy the dog. Opal is almost distracted enough by her anticipation to not mind the full-face of sunshine that blasts through the back window, an inevitability during the mid-day, due-north drive. Uncle David will probably be there also, an Opal-adored fixture in the Bosque Court household, but the specific brand of awe that is reserved for him is typically stored up in order to be savored in person.

In short, Opal loves going to grammy and grampy's house.

They have their own perfectly lovely little routine over there and, even better, they have all their own stuff. Opal has her own special cupboard for food, snacks, bowls, spoons, bibs and the like. She even has her own stroller in the garage! All we need to pack for our visits is B the bunny and Milk. Two items. Not even enough to constitute writing up a list. Heaven.

Grammy has a pack-n-play permanently installed at the foot of her bed, draped with thick velour blankets, like a little room with Victorian curtains. It houses Opal's Donkey, who is B's nearly identical alter-ego, sans tail and pointy ears, and who keeps residence full time at Grammy's.

She calls him Donkey, dockee. The nickname "D" had already been taken by Uncle David.

Grammy has her own noise machine, baby monitor and continuously growing cascade of board-books, which are read to Opal in grammy's pillowy bed. I remember as a little girl how luxurious it was to take naps at my grandparents' house— the rich, velvety blanket that was a working comforter on my Grandma Herman's bed. How it had a fruity, soapy smell when I buried my face into it and breathed hot, damp air. The house was always a little cool, so I would tuck the blanket tightly beneath my chin, envelope my curled-up body without leaving a single gap vulnerable to the open air. Grandma's bedroom was always so clean and clutter-free, as I remember it. It felt so grown-up to be in there. It was where adults would nap, I used to think. There and in the recliner in front of the T.V.

On the ground floor of Bosque Ct., much of the grown-up decor in grampy's main living space —grammy and grampy live together—has either been altered, removed or replaced with baby-in-mind. The fabulous, puzzle-piece coffee tables (with extra-sharp corners) are removed before Opal arrives and a couch-cushion buffer is assembled around the gorgeous gem and rock collection at the base of the fireplace. There are boxes and baskets of toys abound, seeming to stay tidily put away in their respective bins until Opal shows up again to professionally dismantle them all.

The Bosque Ct. gang goes for a walk as often as weather permits. Lucy the dog is a treasured bit of entertainment for the stroll and Opal anticipates their outings from the moment she enters the front door. Eash! Eash! Lou-Lou! As she attempts to scale the wall in order to reach one of the many leashes that dangle from the coat-hooks in the front hall. One of them is spring loaded and when she yanks on it, it lengthens then springs like a slingshot against the wall.

Uh-oh, she says. No attempt at hiding a slight grin that boasts her single, perfect-sidways top tooth.

Opal goes to grammy and grampy's at least one afternoon a week. She has for many months now, since long before she could crawl. I drop her off just before her afternoon nap time and daddy picks her up after work, which allows me a splendid chunk of day to fill with errands and appointments and the occasional yoga class. Playing my cards more mindfully could even get me an entire afternoon off—imagine!— though writing these words is a plain reminder that I am hardly ever that organized.

Grammy is queen-master of thinking up precious little games and granddaughter play-scenarios. She patiently obliges as Opal buries her in one blanket after another (nada blankie!) or stacks hat after hat atop her head, an expression of pure mirth draped across both their faces. At the conclusion of each visit, grammy is left brewing another idea (nada idea!) of something that needs to be purchased to fully support Opal's current imaginary themes or basis for baby-amusement. We knew from the beginning that she would be one of those grammies who'd not only take part in the most ornate and exquisite of tea parties, she would be one of the key organizers.

Auntie Alex has the energy of a vivacious cattle dog as she chases Opal through the space, thus inspiring baby-squeals and continuous looks-over-the-baby-shoulder to make sure she has no intentions of stopping the game. Opal romps and frolics in the airstream of Alex's zest. She scampers to show Alex her newest amusement, knowing that it will be fully embraced, as if they are singing along to the very same ditty.

As for grampy, the affection hasn't wavered from the very first night we brought Opal home from the hospital. That night, he called her such a sweeeet girl as he fit her entire body in his forearm and rocked her to sleep. A more recent image that comes to mind depicting grampy's gentle demeanor is when he returned from waking her up from a nap one afternoon with her snuggled tight to him, her little head nuzzled into the nape of his neck. So cozy.

And as I mentioned before, Uncle D is a total marvel to her. Opal meets him and his friends with a mixture of tentativeness and glee, unable quite to decide which feeling to commit to from one moment to the next. David never fails to give her generous amounts of attention before scurrying back up to his bedroom.

An afternoon at Bosque is the equivalent of an afternoon at the baby-spa; Opal stews inside a well-lit tank of steady appreciation, adoration, delight. She comes home looking like a cat who spent the better part of the day basking in the sun, having slipped into contented snores the moment daddy tucked her in the carseat to head home.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Moments That Simultaneously Delight and Infuriate. #2

There is a house across the road and down the way that has a massive landscape-fountain in the backyard.

Opal and I walk passed it almost every day; it's part of our morning ritual. Even on days we want to head the opposite direction, we still casually swing by the fountain first as if we just happened to be in the neighborhood.

Wadoo wadoo wadoo Opal chants as we make our way there. Passed the house that, last summer, had raspberry branches hanging well over the fence and onto the sidewalk. Passed the little yippy dog that's the color of an unwashed gym-shirt. Passed the crayon-yellow Volkswagen Bug that we adjust our hats in the reflection of.
It's a lovely fountain, to be sure. So captivating it's able to distract Opal long enough to clip her fingernails. I envision us making tracks in that direction for many months to come.


Yesterday we were climbing into the car, which I had parked it on the street. It was raining—a Pacific-Northwest kind of day—and there were tiny rivers rushing down the sides of the street between the cars and the curb. Opal's car seat is on the passenger side and as I fumbled to unlock the door, she noticed the water-show and made her arms and legs rigid so I couldn't get her through the car door without a strategy. Once in her car-seat, she refused to sit down so she could continue to look over the side and out the door to the water that coursed down below.

Wadoo! Wadoo! She pleaded, meaning for the love all all that's good in my tiny baby-world, I want to look at the wadoo!

Tell me, how could I argue this? The comforting gurgling noise of the babbling street-brook, brimming with swirling strains of iridescent motor oil, suddenly seemed pretty damn appealing to me, too. Not to mention the fact that water was actually falling directly out of the sky and on to mommy's head! From behind a baby-lens, who in their right-mind would dare to suggest that this panorama should ever shift?

And yet, forward-movement needed to intervene once again.
Momma was getting soaked and we still had to stop by the post office before meeting some friends in Boulder for dinner. Even after spending ample time observing, Opal met the inevitable scene-change with great resistance. Thankfully the car was stocked with smiley-faced stickers, used shamelessly as bribery for this very thing, which were accompanied by a rousing rendition of Olde MacDonald (ducks!) to help us get back on the road.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Fox and the Epic Bedtime.

The word Manipulation has really gotten a bad rap. One thinks of trickery, deceptive planning and Madoff-type scheming. Of winners and of losers.

But the kind of manipulation a toddler brings to the table deserves a word bearing an entirely different connotation: experimental, boundary-testing, honest and incredibly curious. At this age, the last thing Opal is doing is scheming and devising well-laid plans ahead of time to put one over on her parents.

From her eyes as I see it, things may be going along as usual until it occurs to her wait—what if I can make them go differently? Suddenly a new notion visits—like a beckoning insect—questioning just how much power she could possibly exude over a circumstance.

Diapering has been an on-again off-again struggle for the last many months. She squiggles, she squirms, she twists and she turns (sorry, got caught up in the cadence there). Maybe it's simply a matter of finding the perfect thing to amuse her. Though, by the 5th unsuccessful thing offered— especially when there is somewhere we need to be—one gets pretty weary with the whole song and dance. We've tried time outs (read: turning my attention away for one solid minute), redirection (no dice) and, as a last resort, down-right holding her still until the diaper gets fastened (a technique I am hardly a fan of). What winds up happening is she eventually tires out, quits the fight and we get it done.

As a 15-month old, a true-blue toddler, she woke up one morning with the long-distance endurance of a penguin, to practice and execute her impressive skills of stubbornness. This is the same stubbornness, but of a slightly different brand, that has gotten her this far in life. It's carried her from a furry sac of water glued to the ground by gravity to a mobile, inquisitive, communicating garden-gnome miniature of a lady. And in the span of just over a year! Astounding! Each time I find myself rubbing the lamp in hopes of a baby with less gumption, I consider both side of this coin and am forced to withdrawal any hasty such wishes.

Manipulation is the half-brother to stubbornness, two muscles that work to achieve one action. And there are times she plays both like two-hands-at-the-piano while mama stands by, gobsmacked. Lately I feel about as ineffective in my efforts to slice through it as a single twig inserted into a rodeo pen might be.

One specific example: The Bedtime Routine.

On this particular night in mention, the diapering was an incredible challenge. Opal absolutely gave it her best game. On the table, she arched her back, twisted to her belly, kicked, slapped and cried. I occupied her with toys, to no avail. I distracted her with songs and rhymes and games, to no avail. I told her "no" in a deep, calm, meaning-business tone. No response. I ignored her for a minute until she calmed down, blocking the sides of the changing table to keep her from falling off, which revved her even further. Ten full minutes had passed and we still had a naked, undiapered baby on our hands.

So I brought her to the floor, afraid she was going to hurt herself, knock her head on the wooden edges of the table from all this wrestling, or fall flat on her face. Also, I thought, perhaps a new environment would help. I was grossly mistaken. She not only was able to continue resisting to the degree she had been, she could now get up and run away, thus instigating a short-lived game of cat-and-mouse. Again, I tried turning my back and ignoring her for a minute—the baby-version of time out—but what I found once I turned back around was both hilarious and maddening.

Opal had taken her diaper and her pajamas across the room, piled them in a tiny heap in the corner and had perched her doll-baby little naked body atop the mound like a mini-version of man-on-the-hill. She was so precious, almost incandescent where she sat beneath the lamp, that I was dumbstruck. And having a hard time not shrieking with pleasure.

I was also hit with the understanding of just what it was I was dealing with in the form of a bucket-pour to the face.

The ridiculous diaper saga finally ended, when, after 30 minutes had passed, we were both beginning to tire of the vaudevillian spectacle, she in body and I in mind. I put her back on the changing table and held her in place while I changed her, as quickly and no-big-deal as possible. Bracing her is the last thing I want to do. Not to mention the fact that she is at times so strong, I'm concerned that holding her still, even for a moment, will leave bruises! Oye.

With the diaper done, we moved to the rocking chair to read her stories. Phase two of the toddler-bedtime and all that it brings. Gone are the days when it's as simple as Daddy and Mommy grabbing a few books and plopping down on the rocker with the sweet little Squisher in our lap.

That specific night I grabbed the doggie book and she wanted the birdie book. I grabbed the birdie book and she wanted the Dora book. We were contentedly reading the Dora book when Opal decided she wanted to read the book backwards once we finished reading it forwards. She squiggled, squirmed and pointed at a fuzz located on the floor across the room announcing dirty! dirty! until it was safely placed in the trash.

After a clunky, hardly-linear reading session, we shut off the light and sang a song in the almost-dark, but for the light of her froggy (used-to-be-fishy) nightlight.

It went like this:

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"...Milk! She yelled and jetted her eyes around the room.

Milk is gone, honey. I say

"How I wonder what you are"...Water! She squirmed.

Water is all gone, honey.

"Up above the world so high"...B! Golla! Baby! Blickie (Blankie)! She was grasping from her little mental baby-list.

You've got your B, honey. And the rest are waiting for you in your bed. I sat her gently into her crib.

"Like a diamond in the sky"...Meow meow! Dada! She kicked off the blanket.

Daddy and kitty are out in the living room. Say night night. I stretched down to give her a kiss on her forehead.

And then came the piece de resistance. She grabbed my arm, earnest as a wide-eyed platypus, and said Dippy (diaper), Mama. Poo-poo!

Wow. There was no poo-poo in the dippy, to be sure. (And checking the next morning deemed that assessment to be accurate.) An impressively cunning Doodlebug was pulling out all the stops.

I continued Twinkle Twinkle as I crept out the door, 41 minutes after we first entered, a tsunami of baby-wailing in my wake. Feeling not so much tarred-and-feathered as dramatically aware of the need to improve my own mama-game—weights? Sudoku?— to be able to keep up with my little Fox.