Posts Tagged ‘Baba Jean’

Ship Channel boat tour!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

A couple of months ago, Bill declared we had reservations for a boat tour. The Port of Houston Authority operates the M/V Sam Houston on a free 90-minute tour of Houston’s Ship Channel. Baba Jean and Izzy joined us for this outing, Sam and Cate’s second ride on a boat!

Baba Jean, Bob, Sam

Bill, Cate, Izzy

Sam dancing

Tank farm

Pine 5 freighter

Cate and Sam in the fantail


Jean and Izzy

About an hour into the ride, I realized my camera auto-focus was disabled. Sorry!





Ship Channel Bridge

After the boat tour, we crossed back over the bayou and headed to Brady’s Landing. The parking lot was packed — they had 5 events that morning! — but the restaurant was wide open. We enjoyed their seafood buffet, dessert, and their panoramic view of boats and birds along the bayou.

Sleepy Cate

Sleeping Sam

Looking at how this sleeping Sam neatly fills her car seat, I’m reminded of an earlier trip to the Ship Channel, while a tiny Sam dozed. Such changes in two years!

Hum for the fishies…

Monday, April 28th, 2014

As of April, it’s warm enough to get back in the water, especially the hot tub outside Sarah’s condo. Time to resume teaching girls to swim!

While filling the recycle bin a few days ago, I skimmed a parenting mag that reminded me about humming. As in, humming is a great tactic for a kid to put their face in the water without getting water up their nose.

We practiced humming over dinner, I demonstrated in the bathtub and girls practiced, and then we brought our new skills to the condo pool. To help girls see how it’s supposed to work, I made a short video.

Here’s Mama Bob humming for the fishies:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

On the upside, girls can now hum and — very gingerly — put their faces under water. We clap and cheer each time they do!

On the other hand, they also expect real fishes. Over the weekend, while we were swimming in Bellaire’s competition lap pool, Sam suddenly went from standing in the gutter to tumbling head-first into the deep end. Bill and I were right there and Bill scooped her up just a few seconds later.

After a very-startled Sam finished coughing and sneezing out water, I asked her what happened. She said that she had been trying to see the fishes — leaned over with her face right over the water — and slipped.

Oops! I guess it’s time to order a set of diving fish from Amazon. And fortunately, Bellaire’s much shallower “family frog” pool will open on May 3rd.

After dinner conversation: livestock show!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Every March, Houston hosts a livestock show and rodeo at Reliant Center. The show includes tons (literally) of toddler-friendly displays and a petting zoo. This year, we brought Gram Nancy with us one week and Baba Jean the next.

From time to time, I capture some after-dinner conversation with Sam and Cate, as a snapshot of their personality at the time. Here they are on March 12, 2014 — nearly 2-1/2 years old — talking about their trip to the livestock show:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


Beach, the sequel, with seagulls!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Last month on MLK Day, when Baba Jean and I brought the girls back to Dansby from their maiden foray into the Gulf, Papa Chuck allowed as how the beach can be really pleasant this time of year. I have fond memories of beach outings with my parents, and I decided that I would endeavor to entice him to come out with us the next time.

It’s taken me a month to get us back to Galveston, but it was worth it. Both girls were super excited to go back to the beach. Sam was so excited that during the ride down, when a brief stop interrupted her 5-10 minutes into her rolling nap, she woke and exclaimed, “we’re at the beach!” and declined to go back to sleep. [I had told the girls that we would be in Galveston by the time they woke up. Oops.]

Galveston offered up some of my very favorite weather: 60s, crisp, and foggy! After lunch, we drove to the end of the Seawall and parked.

This time, Papa Chuck came with us, and we brought treats: a giant bag of Kroger cheese puffs for the seagulls, and a big bag of Cheese Toes for the rest of us.

I remember pitching puffs to the gulls from the balcony of our first Galveston apartment with my Dad. But that was 29 years ago, and I couldn’t remember how we attracted the seagulls. I naively wondered whether there would be gulls already when we arrived, and if not, how we might lure them to us.

Never fear.

Somehow, the sight or sound of our toddlers walking onto the beach holding big crinkly orange bags was sufficient to attract a swarm of seagulls and grackles.

Seagulls swarmed out of the fog upon our arrival

While my parents opened snacks, both girls offed clothes to go swim.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

The time stamps on these photos indicate that feeding the seagulls held the girls’ attention for 5, maybe 6, minutes before the siren call of the water lured them in. The water is still just 65 degrees — chilly! — but Cate and Sam were undeterred.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

They’re rapidly getting more comfortable with the surf, and boldly charging in further. I’m rapidly getting less comfortable with lifeguarding solo. I’m eager to get them more swimming lessons this summer.

I asked them repeatedly about the temperature and whether they were uncomfortable. Over and over, they paused — their pale skin plastered with myriad tiny goose bumps, their teeth chattering, and their hands shaking from the cold — just long enough to respond, “I’m not cold!” and the temperature was “just right!”

Uh, huh.

Cate and Mama Bob

Papa Chuck talking with Sam

Baba Jean and Papa Chuck with Bob and girls

I know that elsewhere, it’s much colder, or even snowy, where some of you are reading this. If a spring getaway to the Texas Gulf Coast appeals to you, please consider yourself invited.

And a final word of thanks: I’m most grateful to our nanny, Nane, who not only helped us all schlep to the beach and back, but also captured a few nice photos of all of us!


Monday, January 20th, 2014

So, we’re right in the middle of a wonderful span of gorgeous spring weather. It’s clear and dry, with overnight lows in the 40s, and daytime highs around 65. I just *love* the Texas Gulf Coast in January!

Today was the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. I had the day off, but Bill had to work. So, Nané and I took the girls to Galveston to visit Baba Jean and Papa Chuck.

We stopped at Super Slidey Park to run around, climb the bleachers, attempt to hit a tee ball, and run into Sebastian and his babushka. We hit Whole Foods to potty, ride on carts, snack on pears and thumbprint cookies, and collect various prep salads for lunch. We stopped for gas, and then we headed south. Sam fell asleep almost immediately, but Cate resisted for half an hour. With a little bit of circling, both girls got some naptime.

When we got to Dansby, both Crystal and Minga were there for visiting, too. I love that both girls conversed with Minga en español as easily as in English. After lunch, Baba Jean and I had the same idea: beach.

Last week, Mom told me that when she was getting ready to retire, her coworkers asked her what she planned to do. She declared for walking on the beach everyday, but in the seven months since, she hadn’t been yet.

Likewise, the girls enjoy a little book called “Blue takes a dip” in which the puppy goes to the beach. But until today, they’d never been on the sand.

So we drove to the newly-reconstructed end of the Seawall (it had been washed out by Ike), parked, and went walking. We saw seagulls and a lovely, yellow-footed snowy egret. But it was no surprise that Sam immediately wanted to go in the water.

Initially, we pulled off shoes and hiked up pants. But before long, Cate declared that her clothes were too wet and asked for help to get them off. Once naked, she charged back into the waves. As soon as Cate was half undressed, Sam followed suit. They raced in and out of the water cackling gleefully, over and over and over. Occasionally they would pause, to contemplate the sensation of the sand slipping out from under their feet, or to look for shells, but then they would go splash some more.

I could not have told you that we would spend 20 minutes splashing in the surf today — I don’t remember the last time I went in the water in Galveston — but there we were. At ~64 degrees, the water was cold, and it reminded me of the very first time I splashed in the Gulf, in February 1985, when Dad brought us all to see the place we would soon move to.

Afterward, we rinsed off, bundled girls, and returned to Dansby to tell Papa Chuck all about our adventure. He agreed that the beach is fun this time of year and allowed that he might join us next time. I hope that he will!

Nascent language: We have names!

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Linguistically, “ma” and “da” are among the easiest phonemes to say, which is why they occur universally when babies babble. But they don’t become identifiers, with symbolic meaning, until later.

If you are a linguist, baby talk is not a cute and meaning-lite semi-language used with infants. Babble is the first step towards helping nursery-form words, which classify an infant’s early language acquisition environment. Who inhabits this environment with a child? Parents.

Developmentally, babies babble nonsense sounds to try them out. The simplest form of babble is a consonant followed by a vowel: labial (/m/, /p/, /b/); dental (/t/, /d/, /n/, /l/) consonants followed by a wide vowel sound (/a/) are the most dominant. The opening and closing of the mouth is the most natural order of sound production. Repetition of phonemes set identifiers (names) apart from other babble a baby is making as it explores language. “Nursery names for mother and father, like the earliest meaningful units emerging in infant speech, are based on the polarity between the optimal consonant and optimal vowel,” writes Roman Jakobson in his 1962 article “Why ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’?” the most comprehensible linguistic examination of the global similarities for the names of parents.

Sam and Cate were 10-1/2 months past their due date when they started differentiating words back in early October. According to my list of Cate’s Words, her first was “da” and she learned to say, “maamaa,” by Oct 31. Cate’s second and third words were “Hi Ki’y”, addressed with glee to the cat.

According to my list of Sam’s Words, her first and second words in mid-October were “mmm[ilk]” and “ma”, followed shortly by the greetings [H]”aii!” and “byyyye!” Sam learned to say, “Hi, Da” by Nov 11. So they’ve known who we are for a couple of months, but they mostly didn’t address us these ways.

Both girls can respond to directions like, “let’s go find Dad in the kitchen” or “please go to Mama in the bedroom” by heading off in the right direction, and usually, ending up with the other parent. Being able to shepherd girls verbally is a useful development!

In addition, the girls enjoy looking at the pictures of people on our walls. I always call out, “that’s Dad,” when we look at the pictures with Bill. One day last week, at the beginning of naptime, Sam looked up at the photos of Dad over her crib, and seemed more excited than usual. She exclaimed, “Da! Da!”, looked at me for recognition, then looked back at his photo and exclaimed, “Da!” several more times. Later that day, Cate got in on the action, also exclaiming, “Da!” But I didn’t see where this was going until Christmas Eve.

Monday morning, we put Sam and Cate in baby jail to play safely while Bill and I packed things for our day trip to Galveston. At some point, I heard Sam exclaim, “Ma!” Startled, I looked up to see her looking right at me, and I asked, “do you mean me?” and she smiled. Cate took it all in and said, “Ma”, too.

Then, after lunch, Baba Jean joined us for an outing to the playground next to Oppe Elementary. We started with sliding down the slides for a while, and the slides were damp and slow enough for both girls to tackle hands-free sliding for the first time. Next, they practiced running/walking/crawling up and down the grassy slope next to the jungle gym. Daddy Bill went up the hill, Baba Jean and I waited at the bottom, and Sam and Cate went back and forth between us. When they started to get tired, they started to call to me. As they turned from Dad, looked down at me, and started down the slope, first Sam and then Cate, would yell for “Ma!”. And if I looked away from them to chat with Baba Jean, they’d yell for me again.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Finally, when we got home, Dad changed Cate’s diaper, and I changed Sam’s diaper. But their diapers had leaked, so I left Bill watching both girls for a minute (always perilous!) while I ran to grab our Christmas jammies (thanks, Auntie Em!) from the laundry room. As I returned, Sam decided to get down from our bed by turning around and scooting backward over the edge, apparently unaware that it’s nearly 3 feet down to the floor. Bill noticed her just in time, and leaned in, pinning Sam to the side of the bed. She was fine, though startled and a little squished, and when he rescued her, she yelled at him: “Dada!!!” As he picked her up to comfort her, she addressed him again insistently, “Da!,” making her dismay plain to any listener.

Wow. After more than a year of being virtual extensions of their existence, we have apparently become our own separate people, and we have names. We are “Ma” and “Da.”

[Second] Best Christmas present ever.

Cereal and ripe peaches…

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

One morning in mid-May, Claudia and I took the girls out for a walk. As we ambled down Van Buren to Missouri, I saw a woman coming out of the church with a bagful of fresh produce from Central City Coop.

I asked her what was good at the market that morning, and she said local peaches. Mmmm. I love ripe peaches. They’re darned hard to find at the grocery store. And local, organic peaches would be even better. So we went in and bought several.

A few days later, as I was cutting one of the peaches into a bowl of cereal and milk, I was strongly reminded of my childhood. I could visualize my mom, meticulously cutting the flesh of a big juicy peach away from the pit, and putting the uniformly-sized chunks into bowls of cereal for us. Tasting the treat, I enjoyed the co-mingling flavors of the peach and milk as much as I did when I was little, and I thought of my mom. I even called her to tell her so.

Having this strong memory made me wonder: which experiences will our daughters enjoy and remember thirty years from now? And will they think of us fondly?