September 30, 2008

Four Months

Señorita Clementina,

Today you are four months old.

This month you have found your voice. You squeal, squeak, shout, grunt, and love to make noise. You extend all of your vowels and oooohhhhhh and aaaahhhhhh all the time. You are inclined to drool a lot as well, which makes for some excellent gurgling; if we can echo the gurgling sounds, you think that is fabulous. If you get tired, bored, or want to be picked up, you tell us by using a couple of very distinct grunt/whine sounds. You are happy indeed when you realize that you have succeeded in communicating with us.

You've also had a bit of Austin Powers in you this month. I am referring to the manner in which you increase your vocal volume. You have a healthy set of lungs and you enjoy using them. Apparently you had some trouble controlling the VOLUME OF YOUR VOICE. Or, you rather had quite the control; it depends on one's point of view. Thankfully, we responded with quieter sounds for a while and you are now mostly back to acceptable levels.

One thing is for certain: this month was a doozy. You started it off by rolling over, which was a shock for your Dad and me. Then hurricane Ike decided to come our way. We had already planned to be out of town that weekend and therefore had hotel reservations. We went to a Marriott resort in Horseshoe Bay which is west of Autin near a small town called Marble Falls. We were there with many from the Houston area.

This was your first trip of any distance, and I must say you were splendid. You rode in your car seat like it was your favorite place to be...because you were sleeping most of the way. We stopped and I fed you in the car...which became a common occurrence over the next week and a half. A three-day "vacation" was anything but and it extended far beyond what we would have liked. So it goes with mother nature.

Speaking of the healthy set of lungs, you have also made use of them when scared. Once was when we first arrived at the hotel in Horseshoe Bay; I set you down in a plush chair that could contain you and your rolling tendencies. I sat with you for a moment and made sure you were happy and comfortable. Then your Dad and I were unpacking things from the car. I obviously didn't stay with you long enough because all of a sudden you were crying like the world was ending. I am talking loud, screaming, red-faced, very not good cries. You associated your feelings with the room and the only way we could get you to calm down was to leave right now and walk you around outside until you fell asleep. This took about 45 minutes. Luckily the hotel has some beautiful exterior areas. Once you calmed down, we came back to the room and everything was fine.

Your Dad had some work to do while away (curses to you, Ike!), so you helped him out a bit. We all enjoyed being together more than usual. I took some time to go shopping to find bathing suits for all of us. You had never been swimming, so that was good fun. You have been chewing on your hands all month, and this makes for some fabulous drool all over everyone. You drool when helping your Dad work and you drool while swimming.

Every chance you get, the hand is in the mouth for sucking or chomping. It is amusing to watch you aim and miss. Usually you punch yourself in the forehead. Lately you've been opening up your fist and just aiming with your thumb sticking out. When you do it that way, you poke yourself in the nose with your thumb. You're making progress for sure.

Our time at the Marriott was cut short because we thought we'd be traveling to Dallas after the hurricane. We piled into the car, drove most of the way home only to find out that Dallas was a no-go and we didn't have power, so we turned the car around and went back to the Austin area. We were in the car for a loooooong time that day, and you didn't enjoy the post-eating portion of the ride. Why, oh why did you have to be in the car seat? Whyyyyyyyyyyy?

We had your uncle Jenky make us a reservation and we ended up at a La Quinta. As soon as we got there we placed you on the massive bed and you immediately rolled over... that you could do this:

Mmmmm, thumb.

A couple of days before we left for Austin, I mentioned to your Dad that I thought we needed to do a better job of exposing you to new things.


New things were all over the place while we were away. New hotels, new schedules, new beds to sleep in, new experiences. You even had a bath in the sink in the La Quinta. That was fun for me. You are so very squirmy now, and a wet baby makes for a slippery baby. You didn't seem to mind the sink or making it difficult for me. A baby's prerogative I suppose!

We had to eat out for every meal also, and gone are the days of sleeping in your car seat while we enjoy a quiet meal. In fact, the only dinner we had that was mostly normal was one in Georgetown. The trick? Placing you on your back on the booth next to your Dad. He is a master at cornering you on the booth so that you cannot roll off. You got to spend waaaay more time with him this month and boy did you enjoy it!

We spent a lot of time out and about while we were away and this translates to our going out much more now that we are home. The weather is finally not oven-like and aside from the mosquitoes, things are nice outside in the morning and evening. You have an aversion to having your feet covered. You kick blankets off of them at night; you squirm in your gown so that your feet stick out...

...and you make sure that your feet stick out from under the mosquito netting we have placed on the stroller:

You ended up with two bites on your foot after a day of this (I ended up with about 15 bites on my legs and arms), so I have since figured out how to attach the netting over the bottom of your seat. You are much happier facing out than facing me when we take walks. I can hardly blame you; the world is much more interesting than I.

Now that you have seen what the world can offer, you are very excited and happy to go out in it. Well, not so much with the car seat if you are tired, but these days you are almost always awake when we take you shopping or out on errands.

You are still having a love affair with your hands, but you have learned how to do so much more with them. There has been an evolution of sorts: first you would clinch your hands together while eating as if all would end if you let go. That changed to attempting to put your two hands in your mouth to eat instead of the proper things...which makes it a juggling act for me to get you in the right place without your precious hands. Joy, oh joy.

After that phase, you went through a week or so of grabbing me/hitting me/petting me while you ate. You do this on occasion now, but not too much. Your favorite action now is attempting to suck on me and your thumb while eating. Usually I can catch you in the act and prevent it, but sometimes I am not paying attention and suddenly you sneak it in there. You don't seem to care that it prevents you from getting as much milk. Milk? Who cares about some silly milk? I want me some thumb, lady!

In the mornings, during your first and second breakfasts (you hobbit!), you have developed the habit of latching on, eating a bit, and then pulling away to study me. You stare and observe and if I look down at you, a big smile breaks out and you talk to me. Hey! I see you! Good morning, Mom! It is terribly cute and special, but something I don't want to continue forever since it takes much longer for you to eat when you do this. I know, I day I'll be wishing you were still doing things like that. At least when you are watching me you don't attempt to eat your hands at all.

You can hold onto just about anything you want to these days. You hold your washcloth when we bathe you:

If we hold our hands in front of you, then you grab them and try to put our fingers in your mouth. You hold onto your toys and attempt to put them in your mouth:

You even grab for your links and pull them over to, you guessed it, put them in your mouth:

You are so much more aware of your surroundings this month. You find such delight in recognizing places and objects. When we were out shopping in Georgetown, you noticed the trees overhead and giggled and squealed because "Hey, I know those!". The same was true when we returned to the house. I placed you on the floor in the living room and you immediately looked up for one of your favorite things: the ceiling fan. Luckily, our power had just come back on and it was moving. You laughed, squealed, and talked to us about how happy you were to see them for twenty minutes or more. In fact, your delight in the ceiling fan rivals your delight in seeing me or your Dad. We appreciate the, really.

Your awareness has definitely changed the manner in which we get you to sleep. You used to like being held as if you were laying down. These days, that is not acceptable! You must be held upright. You want to milk every moment to see as much as you can. You then fall asleep in the most uncomfortable looking positions, with your behind sticking out and your head conked over to the side at an impossible angle.

I am pretty sure that another reason you want to fall asleep this way is that it is very easy for you to get your thumb in your mouth in this position. Again, it is all about the hands. The good news is that since we have returned from Austin you have been sleeping in your crib in your room. You even manage to sleep for seven hours or more without interruptions. That is so very nice for us. As one of your Dad's colleagues says, we'll sleep from now until you are a teenager...and then we won't sleep again! I don't know about your Dad, but I certainly plan on enjoying more consecutive hours of shut-eye for as long as you'll let me!

Obviously a lot happened this month. You changed in many ways and frequently. We also had the experience of being in a one-room hotel for a week and a half which led to more discoveries. I don't want to leave anything out in these letters because I want to remember everything and I know this is the only way. In a week you'll be doing something new and I won't even remember how you learned to roll over step by step or how much you grew this month.

You are 25 inches long and in the 80th percentile for height. Your Dad is hoping for a basketball player; I think volleyball would be fun; Papa Jim judiciously points out that you can do both. He is right, of course. If you want to, you can do anything.


September 24, 2008


Last night Little Miss Itty Bitty went to bed shortly after 10pm. She then woke at about 11pm needing some who knows what. Cuddling? Help getting totally to sleep?

I provided the latter and it seemed to work.

She pretended like she was going to wake up at 3am, but got herself back to sleep. She woke at 6am for reals and ate. She was then up for a wee bit and is now napping.

WOOT for sleeping from 11 until 6;
I am so very amused.

As far as acrobatics go, there was obviously no middle of the night gymnastics practice this time. However, I put her down with her head at one end of the crib at 11 and when she pretended to wake up at 3 she had done another 180...a forewarning, perhaps?

My guess: tonight she'll be up again, just to show her versatility...

Musical Pub Crawl

The evening of our first full day in Dublin, Rocket Man and I attended a Musical Pub Crawl. This was the first time that we had ever paid for and attended a tour/event for tourists, and I must say that it was money and time well spent. I am sure that we had a good time in part because we were in a relaxed atmosphere amongst a group of people looking to have a good time in a couple of pubs. You never know when trying new things, especially when you leave your entertainment up to complete strangers who are asking for money, but we were pleasantly surprised and would go on the same tour again if we ever return.

We met up at the Oliver St. John Gogarty's pub in Temple Bar. There was a football (soccer) match that night, and the pub was full and loud. Our group left via the back stairs and made its way over to the Ha'penny Bridge pub for our first stop. This place is located, you guessed it, at the famous Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin.

Our crawl guides were Des and Dermot, shown below from right to left. Des was the outspoken leader and did most of the talking and explaining. He isn't Irish. He came over to live in Ireland in order to study the music and the Irish langauge. His partner, Dermot is a very shy man, but was a fabulous performer and even took a turn telling us the story behind one of the songs.

Des mostly played guitar, but also took a few turns with the Irish drum, called a bodhran. What does a bodhran look like? What does it sound like? See for yourselves:

We walked as a group from the Ha'penny Bridge Inn across the river to another pub. This way we got to see both sides of town. We only "crawled" from one place to another this once, but it was best as we got to hear more music. We also spent more time relaxing and enjoying ourselves rather than attempting to figure out where we were since we only had to remember one route.

One cannot possibly attend a Musical Pub Crawl in Dublin without having a taste of the local favorite. Rich, creamy, thick, and tasty stuff. One sip is akin to eating a combo meal from your local fast food place as far as calories are concerned, but tasty indeed. Also, pretty frosty glasses:

The music ranged from instrumental to a cappella as well as singing with accompaniment. We also enjoyed a few songs that were call-and-answer where we, the audience, performed the answer. At the end of the evening, in the spirit of the evening, Des and Dermot opened the floor to all of us. We were encouraged to come up and sing a song from our heritage that would allow for some audience participation; this was good fun as most people knew most but not all of the words to the songs they chose and the audience had to jump in to assist anyway.

Overall a very fun evening and as I said, we'd do it again if we got the chance!


Rootin' Tootin' Cowgirl decided to spend her time, from 3:30am until 5:40am last night, practicing rolling over.

Seriously, could she possibly choose a more inappropriate, not to mention irritating time?

She did succeed, multiple times, and also managed to do a 180-degree pivot in her crib...

I was not so amused.

Also, she says the following, in honor of her two uncles:


I'll let you all sort out which end that one came from.

September 15, 2008

Take a Hike, Ike

We are safe.

We spoke with our neighbors and our house made it through the storm fine.

There is a lot of tree and plant debris in our yard, but other than that the exterior appears to be fine.

A neighbor a few houses down had a pine tree bust in their bathroom window.

There is no power. I assume there is also no water.

We are in a hotel near Austin; a different one than the one we went to on Friday.

We started home and were told not to come because of the lack of water and power everywhere.

There is a 50% chance we'll be sent to Dallas by Rocket Man's employer until things are restored.

We'll hopefully find that out tomorrow.

I am not looking forward to driving to Houston and then to Dallas all in one day.

Neither is Pantalones Cortez or Little Miss Itty Bitty.

LMIB has done well; Lones has struggled a bit.

Hopefully we'll get some rest tonight.

Happy Birthday to BU tomorrow!!!

September 12, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

Ike is on his way.

He is very large.

It appears as if we could get a direct hit.

By we, of course, I mean the Galveston/Houston area.

We, as in Rocket Man, Little Miss Itty Bitty and myself, are inland a bit.

No surge for us, though there may be flooding and wind damage...phooey on the pine trees.

At least in our neighborhood, people didn't choose to plant them; they were already here.

However this means they are older, larger and more dangerous in the current situation.

LMIB woke up to eat at 3:50, so now I am awake...

My camera is packed and I don't want to wake RM to get it out, so no photos for 12 of 12 yet.

We plan to leave (hopefully) in the next hour and head towards Horseshoe Bay, Texas.

I pray that we are not one amongst thousands.

We'll call family when we are safe somewhere, whether in the hotel or here at home.

I'll try to post again as well.

Dern hurricanes...

September 3, 2008

Georgian Dublin

Dublin is very well known for a specific time period; that of the kings of Ireland and Britain during the eighteenth century. It was a time of change for Dublin, since what was a medieval city was transformed to contain wide boulevards and grand buildings that can still be seen today.

We left Trinity College Saturday morning and walked east towards Merrion Square. On the way, we passed buildings with more reserved, a.k.a. plain, Georgian doors. We also passed some very cool, very old merchant buildings. Some had the hand-painted signs still on them advertising their specialty.

We turned right onto Merrion Square West and were greeted by this expanse of buildings:

Merrion Square is a park that is contained within a city block. On each side are wonderful examples of Georgian architecture; most widely recognized are the doors. We peeked into the park, which back in the day was locked up. Only those who lived in the homes surrounding the park had keys to give them access. Today is is an open public area, but since it had been raining (really? In Ireland? Rain? No way!) and the trails looked pretty mushy, we opted to stick to the sidewalk and take in the famous doors.

As I said, on the way to the square there were some pretty plain doors. By this I mean that the door is a solid color without any elaborate carving or paint. Also, the fan-shaped window above those doors was in most cases a plain piece of glass. This is in part because they belong to buildings where businesses are housed rather than homes.

Those surrounding Merrion Square tell a different story. This is where the rich lived. These homes were considered to be out of town, in the country even, at the time. We took a left onto Merrion Square South and encountered the following:

This is just about the fanciest door we saw. It was one of the few that had a multi-colored paint treatment. The fan window above is typical of the homes around the square, though not as large as others we saw. I prefer the doors that have a solid color door like these:

Their windows are larger and more intricate. These two also have two side windows like many homes here in the states. I imagine that back in the 18th century, these doors served a purpose. Mainly that of shouting "Look at me! I have money!", though of that I can't be certain.

We were told by a bus driver that there is a special reason the doors are painted such bright and inviting colors. Actually, he told us that two reasons are widely circulated. One is that since all of the houses and doors look similar, one needed a way to tell their door from a neighbor's on evenings when a little too much fun was had down at the pub. The other is that the Queen of England died and everyone was requested to paint their doors black for mourning. Since Ireland desperately wanted to be a separate country under its own rule, lively color is how they chose to show their grief.

On the southeast corner or Merrion Square site House No 29, a Gerogian House Museum. This building is five stories tall and within it is an excellent museum that shows how people lived in Georgian times. A tour begins with a short video that tells about the people who lived in the house. Then a guide takes a group through the five floors and describes what it was like to live there.

The main floor consisted of a dining room and front hall. Located in the hall was a special table that had a mirror at the bottom of it. This was there so that the women could check their skirts. Apparently, if one was of age to be married, but single, a little petticoat was supposed to be visible to let the menfolk know your status. Likewise, if one was already taken, your undergarments had better be covered up, or the whole town would be talking!

The first floor consisted of two drawing rooms used for entertainment purposes, whether with guests or family. The front was used for guests and had large windows. This room was well-lit so that when everyone was there and all dressed up, people could see their fancy clothing and goings-on through the windows.

Bedrooms were located on the second floor. There was a master bedroom and a boudoir on this level. Amazingly, men (and usually children) were notallowed in the women's boudoir. This is where a woman might take her closest friend for some privacy. It is also where she completed needlework, wrote letters, dressed in the morning and ate her breakfast.

The attic was reserved for the children of the house. This is where they had their lessons for the day and also where their playthings were located. There was a variety of children's toys in the house as well as some interesting educational materials. The governess's room was also on this floor, since she was responsible for taking care of the children.

The basement housed the housekeeper's quarters as well as the kitchen. Also in this area was a communication system. A child was responsible for sitting in front of the bells mounted on the wall. His job would be to listen for a bell to ring. When one did, he was to tell the other servants which room the signal was coming from. This is how those who lived in the house communicated their needs to those who managed it. An early intercom system of sorts.

Image from House No 29 website.

I certainly would not have wanted to work out "in the country" in Georgian times. Most of the servants walked to work each morning from the city. They then had to go up and down five flights of narrow stairs all day long carrying food, water, and other heavy items. It would have been very difficult work.

When we were done with the tour, Rocket Man and I were pretty hungry. I had made reservations at Ely Wine Bar, a restaurant located near Stephen's Green. The interior was lovely and consisted of two levels, that at the street, and the main restaurant one level down. We both had fish for lunch and shared a bottle of wine. Excellent music played while we ate. It was a little pricey, and not many people were there for lunch on Saturday, but we didn't mind since it gave us a lot of privacy. Service was excellent and we recommend eating there if you enjoy a good bottle of wine!

That evening we had plans to join a musical pub crawl...stay tuned to see how that went!

Trinity College; The Book of Kells

About a year ago, Rocket Man and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland. We were there in the middle of August. As Spain is so hot in the summer (though not humid like Houston), we chose to go north in the hopes of experiencing cooler climes.

On Saturday, August 11, 2007, we began our day by visiting Trinity College. TC has an interesting history, complete with the fact that at one time, if I recall correctly, catholics who wanted to study there had to get special permission from the Pope in order to do so. Additionally, TC houses one of the most amazing versions of the gospels I've ever seen: The Book of Kells.

Ireland is a wet place, and in this it did not disappoint our first day. Rain drizzled down on us that morning, and the effect on the college buildings was grand. I love the look of wet gray stone; it reminds me of my own alma mater, Virginia Tech. Hokie stone is full of depth when wet, and TC's buildings are the same.

Our main reason for visiting the college was to take in the Turning Darkness Into Light exhibit housed in the building that also contains the library, known as the Long Room. The exhibit describes the Book of Kells, its origins and creators as well as the methods involved.

Rocket Man and I bought this small book so that we would be able to remember what we learned at the college. We decided to do that because of the sheer number of people who were there to see the exhibit:

This line appeared in less than five minutes just after we got in line ourselves...and we were already waiting outside of the building. Luckily, the entrance was just inside the door, so we didn't have long to wait. Unfortunately, there wasn't really any timing in place to make sure there weren't a ton of people all in there at looking at everything was easy, but reading the information provided proved to be difficult at times.

The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript transcribed by three monks, scribes A, B, and C, around 800 using insular illumination. Insular comes from the Latin for island; this refers to Ireland and Britain, who had common style back then that differed from the rest of the world.

The book contains the four Gospels in Latin written on calf vellum in brown gall ink. There is also use of black, red, purple and yellow hues that were made with substances from all over the world. Although it appears as if gold or silver leaf were used in the illustrations, that is not the case. The pages really light up like precious stones or metals though ink was all that was used.

Folio 309r; Page of text by scribe A
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 79.

The book contains canon tables that notate the connections between the four books and therefore establish the unity of the Gospels. Each book itself is preceded by extremely intricate and amazing full-page illustrations. First comes the virgin and child, then an evangelists page, a portrait page, and then an elaboration of the opening words or letters.

Folio 2r; canon table
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 6

Folio 7v; Virgin and Child with angels
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 12.

Folio 27v; symbols of the four evangelists
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. p. 8.

Folio 28v; portrait of Matthew
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 37.

Folio 292r; the beginning of John's gospel
In principio erat verbum - 'In the beginning was the Word'
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 31.

There is one other special page that is placed at the "second beginning of Matthew". This is at Matthew 1:18, where the story of Christ's life begins. Chi and Rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek, were often used to abbreviate Christ in medieval manuscripts. They were considered so important that one full page was used to illustrate them.

Folio 34r; Chi-Rho page
Meehan, Bernard; The Book of Kells': an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p. 25.

Within the pages of the Book of Kells, one can find every single Celtic symbol. The infinite detail of patterns is amazing. The fully illustrated beginning pages of each gospel are literally covered with minute patterns that can also be found in other objects from the same time period. The painstaking work of the monks, and only three of them, is amazing. The text pages contain smaller illustrations that are equally detailed.

We were able to see one portrait page and a couple of text pages while we were there. They only show four pages total at a time. While the informative section of the exhibit was crawling with people, there was someone who made sure that only a certain number of visitors were ogling the four Book of Kells pages at a time. So while we had a hard time reading all that we wanted to, we did get a good look at the real deal.

When you finish your viewing, visitors can go up into the Long Room - the library that holds some of the oldest, largest, and smallest books I've ever seen. They are old enough that all of them are hand bound. This room was actually my favorite part of the experience because I love books and old things in general. Here is a photo of the room from a post card:

Once we exited the exhibit and made a couple of purchases to remember our visit, we took a couple more photos at the college. Here I am in front of the bell tower:

The next photo shows the only building that we saw that was not made of the gray stone. The brick and greenery reminds me of the University of Virginia campus. Completely different from Virginia Tech, but equally beautiful.

Overall, we had a good time at Trinity College viewing one of the oldest and most intricate books ever made. The experience was less than it could have been because of the time of year and number of people present, but I am very glad that we decided to go. Had we not, I definitely would regret it.

What else did we see in Dublin that day? You'll have to check back to find out!

September 2, 2008

A Song to Get Stuck in Your Heads

There was one on the floor

and her parents' hopes soared.

Roll over! Roll over!

Clementina rolled over

and a laugh came out!

On August 29th, her three month birthday, Little Miss Itty Bitty rolled over towards her Mom while lying on the bed. We're pretty sure she had some assistance due to the weight of her Mom on the mattress.

Today, three days later, she decided to show us that she meant it. She really can roll over all by herself. She can even get her arm out of the way once she's on her tummy.

I guess she wanted to start the month off with a bang.


This weekend I finished a baby blanket I was making for a friend:

It took me a little less than two weeks working on it a few minutes each day. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do when there's a little one in the house.

This Saturday, while M&M were here, I bought some yarn so that I could make a scarf for R-Shelly. M assisted me in choosing the yarn and we think it shall be fabulous. Now we just need to know what R-Shelly thinks about it. Here's what I knitted this holiday weekend:

The colors look better in person. The maroon is much more...maroon...and the orange is fuzzy and shiny.

So, what do you think?