Drools of engagement

As a society becomes more sophisticated, so does its use of weaponry. As our little daughter wages war on every surface in our home (and on my person), she has adapted her destructive forces to match the measures Chris and I have taken to protect ourselves from her aggressive filth assault.

It used to be that I had to wash Maddi’s entire wardrobe every two days because of — oh, let’s call them pant grenades. These showy displays of power were attention-grabbing both visually and olfactorily, and definitely inspired shock and awe. But in time, thanks to my PANTRIOT Act, which involved larger diapers and more accurate tab placement, bumland security was beefed up sufficiently to vastly minimize collateral damage from the pants grenades.

Our dear little laundry nemesis also has been relentlessly pursuing an aggressive campaign of puke-lear (or as President Bush would say, “puke-ular”) warfare. Day after day, hour after hour, she launches volleys of dirty “lactosium” bombs at shirts, receiving blankets, her change table, her mattress, her Gymini, my hair … anything within two feet of this gooey, curdy bioagent’s launch site must be written off until the next wash cycle or shampoo.

This particular weapon has been employed since Day 1, but while our technology remains the same, she has been steadily increasing the amount of puke-lear material used in the attacks. Our intel suggests that within three months, she may upgrade her cache of bomb-making booty to include grain- and vegetable-based explosives, which may be used to rejuvenate her limping pants grenade program as well.

But Maddi’s latest battle tactic may be her cleverst yet. Like radiation poisoning, it’s barely perceptible at first, but it will get you — oh, yes. Unlike radiation, however, it won’t kill you. It’ll just wear you down and make you feel like you’re swimming upstream. It’s like modern psy-ops meets the ancient Chinese art of drip torture.

It’s slobber-ops, and no one will be spared.

It starts out this way: Maddi is wearing a clean outfit. You look away for a second and then look back. Where once was a clean dry chin, there’s now a string of spittle. You blink. Where Maddi’s lips were, all you can see now is a foamy cloud of tiny bubbles. Within 10 seconds, her shirt is soaked to the armpits. In 20, her pants are clinging to her legs, and there are tiny curds everywhere even though your intel reported that no actual pukes had been deployed. You recoil in horror, but it’s too late. Maddi has contaminated you with an unusually viscous admixture of saliva, phlegm and near-microscopic bits of puke-lear material.

Don’t even bother wiping it off. Recently, Maddi has begun employing not only the fore and aft missile launchers, but has developed a program to utilize her newfound Heather’s Attire Nonexplosive Destruction System (or HANDS) to stealthily gather weapons of mass disgust and smear them on very specific targets — even moving ones.

Her ever-more-sophisticated sense of gamesmanship has evolved to the point where she uses affection as a sort of Trojan horse. You think you are getting an affectionate pat to the face, whereas you are actually being smeared with a toxic, stinky coctail of lactosium and various other gooey bioagents suspended in warm saliva.

Having the advantage of cuteness on her side, our wee outlaw also has been known to lure her targets by expressing her love for “flying.” This allows her to gain access to weak areas and exploit them. Recently, during a seemingly routine flyover, she dive-bombed the sensitive ocular region of Laundry Central’s mother unit, causing a temporary loss of visual contact and garbled verbal communication.

True to form, she was seen on Al-Brassiera television smiling and making light of the situation as she restocked her arsenal for what we can only guess will be future attacks.

Whether the Launder Alert will be green, yellow, white, clear or several of the above is anyone’s guess.

And here’s a 16-week mug shot of this cute — but armed and dangerous — laundroterrorist gearing up for another messy HANDS attack.

Devour a book

It’s hard to tell by looking at Maddi that she’s mine, since her face is all Chris and her body parts resemble those of a sumo champion rather than either parent. But while she may not look one bit like her mom, she is finally beginning to share one of my interests.

At first, Maddi couldn’t care less that I read her a story every night before bed. While I was educating her on the language of farm animals, she was busy trying to catpult herself off my lap. When urged to feel the fuzzy down of the chickens or fluffy wool of the sheep, she instead would tug on the smooth hair of the mommy. (And why are almost all baby books about farms? Couldn’t there be just one about zoo animals, ocean creatures or Australian wildlife? Or — here’s a novel concept — something that’s not about animals at all? Surely some babies don’t like animals.)

But finally, in the past week or so, she has begun enjoying her bedtime story. Instead of plotting her escape from my lap, she sits patiently through the story of “Busy Little Mouse,” enjoying the rhythm and rhyme (and the inescapable animal noises). When we read the “Touch and Feel Farm” book, before I can prompt her to feel the dog’s furry tummy, she reaches out and eagerly manhandles the pages on her very own.

And when we read the ONE book she owns that is not overtly agrarian (although it concerns the lifestyles of ladybugs, which are often found on farms), she impatiently tries to flip forward through its cloth pages because she knows that at the end, she gets to crumple the ladybug’s crackly wings in her fat little fists.

Of course, baby that she is, sometimes Maddux takes a tentative nibble at a book, bringing new meaning to the term “voracious reader.”

Books are a great thing for Maddi — and for us. She’s been getting to sleep as early as we want lately, thanks to her bedtime routine of bath, infant massage, bedtime story and late-night meal. But the kicker is that I also have a new way to entertain her when she’s fussy in the car.

A few days ago, out of sheer desperation, I began reciting the lines of “Busy Little Mouse,” far and away her favorite book despite it being way too old for infants. I am sad to say that I have the entire book memorized word-for-word. As I said the first few lines, our little princess stopped her fussing, and by the time Little Mouse’s parents tucked him into bed, Maddi was smiling and cooing.

Yes, it is sad that the lines of children’s books have taken over memory space that previously held the names of muscles and the properties of elements. However, if that’s the price of teaching Maddi the joys of reading, I suppose it’s OK that I recall more about Little Mouse’s barnyard antics than I do about the Krebs Cycle.

Especially since my wee daughter’s book-nerdiness may be the only way in which she resembles me. (Of course, if the first book she checks out of the library concerns the inner workings of Juniper routers — or how to manage her business — we’ll know that the book-smarts are really just another thing she got from Daddy!)

And here is the requisite 15-week picture of our little bookworm in one of her less studious moods:

No-baby shower

This past week, I started going to the gym every day. It is the solution to all my problems. Really!

Problem No. 1 is the dreaded “Mummy Tummy.” Where my six-pack once resided, a roll of flabby, overextended abdominal muscles has settled. There is also the issue of that extra five pounds that will just not go away. No amount of pelvic tilts and leg lifts (done in the five minutes after checking in with Chris after Maddi’s bedtime but before my utter collapse) have fixed this situation, so I have brought in the big guns: ab machines at the gym and lots of additional exercises. Problem solved — I have already lost three pounds and my tummy is a bit flatter. The things you can do when you spend a full hour working out!

Problem No. 2 is the biggie. While I get a shower every day, it is always with Maddi in the bouncy seat or swing, and she’s usually barely hanging onto herself. Even if she is asleep, there is a 90 percent chance that she will awaken tearfully within minutes of my stepping into the shower. With this hanging over my head, I rush through my bathing routine, skimping on the conditioning time for my hair and shaving my legs just often enough to keep from being mistaken for Chewbacca.

Enter the gym. Thanks to their child-minding service, not only can I enjoy the luxury of 20 minutes of cardio and 40 of weight and resistance, I can take an unhurried shower, too. Soap! Shampoo! Shaving!!! And after my shower, I can do my hair and makeup right then. And, instead of being lonely while I take care of hygeine issues, a smiling Maddi gets showered with attention from the baby-tender.

The working-out idea could have gone horribly — my being really tired, for instance, or Maddi despising every second in the child minding room. But thanks to some good timing, it’s working out remarkably well. Instead of going back to sleep after Maddi’s early-morning feeding, I simply pack her up and head for the gym. Maddi finishes her sleeping while we’re there and for me, a little fatigue is a small price to pay for a taut tummy and, most importantly, clean hair.

Some people spend months on the treadmill before they look any better. I’ve got nowhere to go but up. Simply having a few minutes to use conditioner and properly apply makeup has already made a huge difference. I may never get my old body back, but at least I’m able to wash it now!

And here is a 14-week photo of Maddi, enjoying some time in her own “gym.”

How quickly they grow up …

A mere three months ago, Maddi, just shy of eight pounds, was scrunched up in my uterus wondering what was squeezing her so hard. She had great muscle tone, finely honed via months of leg presses, but she really didn’t do much.

Now, she’s a fat, jolly, 14-and-a-half-pound baby who sleeps through the night, coos, gurgles, smiles, laughs, grabs things, enjoys games and toys, and can roll over. You read that right. Maddi, who last week was still just smiling and lying wherever I laid her, is now laughing and rolling over. Even more amazing, she accomplished both “firsts” on the same day, resulting in repeated queries “are you sure, or is it just wishful thinking?” from my incredulous husband.

The wee one had been threatening to roll over for days and promising laughter for weeks — nay, a month — so neither event was too surprising in and of itself. It was as if Maddi just woke up one day and said, “Hey, there are a few things left on my to-do list; I think I’ll just crank them out really fast here and be done with it.” However, with her three-month birthday fast approaching (it’s tomorrow, in case you haven’t been anticipating it since the two-month mark as I have) it has been almost too much for my sentimental heart to bear.

But while I can safely say we no longer have a sleepy, scrunchy-faced newborn to snuggle (OK, we never had a sleepy newborn), it is such a beautiful — if bittersweet — thing to watch little Maddux pass these developmental milestones. And a relief, too, since “What to Expect” hints that your child may be deficient if she hasn’t laughed by three months, and our little darling just barely squeaked by!

Not that Maddi utilizes her talents with any sort of regularity. She has let me know in no uncertain terms that rolling over is merely a more dependable mode of ending “tummy time” than is screaming her lungs out. Once she has freed herself from the dreaded prone position and is lying comfortably on her back — doubtless smashing her skull into an unparalleled spectacle of deformity — she glares up at me with an accusatory expression before turning to happily stare at herself in her new baby mirror.

And as for the laughter, it’s great when you can get it, but Maddi is an incredibly tough audience. We are forced to make complete idiots of ourselves in order to elicit even the slightest hint of a giggle. I won’t even begin to describe the silliness I have stooped to in my attempts to get a chuckle out of Maddi, because it makes the comedic stylings of Carrot Top look subtle. Approximately two or three times in a given day, our material is deemed worthy of a polite chuckle. Only once, the third time I got her to laugh, have I heard anything approaching a raucous guffaw. To our discriminating daughter, Chris’ and my performances must be the equivalent of what “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns are to us.

Even though we are completely unfunny, we are still enjoying the living daylights out of our wonderful little girl. My heart does flipflops every time I enter her room and see the way her little face lights up when she spots me. I’ve started a schedule to give her a bit of structure and some rituals, especially before bed, and while each activity was met at first with some resistance, she has quickly grown to enjoy her bath, her infant massage and her bedtime story. (I’m still holding out hope for tummy time, although nine weeks of it so far hasn’t made her hate it any less. If she does learn to crawl, it will only be as a mode of escaping that much-loathed activity.)

As much as I mourn the passing of Maddi’s tiny-baby period, I am really enjoying this period where everything is developing so quickly — her motor skills, her social skills, and most of all, her quirky little personality. I can never get newborn Maddi back, and she’s such a splendid big baby that I don’t really want to anymore.

However, should another newborn come my way, I certainly won’t pass it up!

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a picture of Maddi at 13 weeks, scrambling to get off her tummy.