Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parenting: The December/January Issue

Oh, bliss. All our mail has been forwarded for the past two months to Connellsville, but finally, finally I’ve perused the new Parenting and am ready for this month’s commentary. Maybe it’s because I’m still just so very tired, but the abundance of you-go-girl-with-your-fab-mama-self tone and the excessive exclamation points annoyed me more than usual this time. Let’s get right down to it.

In “Picky-eater Pleasers,” we’re advised on how to handle taking a picky kid out to a holiday party. One piece of advice was to feed the kid before leaving the house and then not freak out if the kid eats only carbs or cookies at the party. But what would she eat, if she’s already eaten a meal? Another meal? Nonsense. But I’ll reserve my commentary for the final tip:

“Bring a food ‘present’ to the shindig to share. If your kid is super picky or if he has food allergies, bring a gift of his favorite dish. (Be sure to get him to wrap it up with a bow.) Give it to your host, then mention that your child would love to share it with everyone.”

COMMENTARY: I won’t get into food allergies, since to me that seems like a different thing altogether. But I imagine Lucia and myself in this situation, perhaps three years from now, perhaps four, wrapping up a casserole dish of mac and cheese or a platter of buttered toast or a large ceramic bowl of sliced grapes and bringing this “gift” to a party. I imagine the nudge-nudge tone of my voice as I “mention that [my] child would love to share it with everyone.” I imagine the faux-enthusiasm of the host’s voice as she makes exaggerated attempts to incorporate buttered toast into the party spread. Maybe because I’m just tired; but this all just makes me weary and annoyed. If Lucia will eat only buttered toast, then I shall bring her a personal baggie of buttered toast for her own enjoyment. I simply don’t see the need to inflict it on the larger world.

I always like articles about saving money, as I’m a big saver myself. But teaching my preschooler to be a “money whiz” isn’t something I’ve really considered, until I read “Raise a Money Whiz,” which suggests it’s never too early to teach kids about responsible spending. But this tip made me actually guffaw:

“The Talking ATM. Lesson: Money comes out because it’s gone in. To kids, a cash machine may seem an endless gusher of moolah. To give yours a more nuanced view, Heckman [a preschool education expert] suggests that you talk her through each visit. Say something like ‘I’m coming to get the money that I’ve saved. I worked to make it, and then put it in the bank to keep it safe, and now we’re going to get some out to buy what we need.’”

COMMENTARY: I imagined myself droning these words to Lucia and put myself to sleep. Snooooze. Snooooze. Please. Is this any way to talk to an antsy, energetic preschooler? I think a kid might be more interested in learning to say an outdated word like “moolah,” or some such trivia. Here—I’ll try it, in Parenting’s style: “Moolah is another word for money. We can also call it dough, bucks, and bread. These words are called slang, which is a usage of words in commonly accepted but nonstandard ways. Slang tends to be generational, temporary, timely, and colloquial. Also, when your father and I were gambling in Reno once before you were born we called quarters ‘skins,’ just because it made us laugh.”

And finally, Parenting’s end page, “Top Ten,” which is usually too ridiculous even for COMMENTARY. This month’s was a top-ten of names of board games, with descriptions that draw from readers’ apparent “real lives.” For example: “5. Risk. You have a kid. She has a skateboard. ‘Nuff said.” “8. Go Fish. Been there, done that after your toddler dropped your glasses in the toilet.” They were all silly things like that. But then there was number 7, which for some reason was quadruple the size of the other text on the page:

“7. Scrabble. You can’t make a word using only the letters Q, G, R, W, and X? Well, you lose, because your kindergartner can.”

COMMENTARY: This was worded so aggressively as to be offputting, and it’s just so strange. It’s the only one that actually riffs on the game as a game, not as a word—no one was actually playing Trivial Pursuit, Twister, or Go Fish, but in this one, the parent and child seem to be engaged in what appears to be a nontraditional game of Scrabble. “Well, you lose”? What? I had to read this several times before I realized it meant a kindergartner would put silly letters on the board to make a “word”—not that the kindergartner was smarter than the parent. It just seemed so…mean. Then again, I’m tired.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Cuteness Report

Since Lucia seems, today, to be much like her usual self, with the exception of some screaming when dressed in her winter coat and some nap-refusing, and, of course, some morning crankiness and spitting out of nicely offered food at a play date—oh. Scratch that. Since we’re heading to Connellsville tonight and my exhausted, weary body and soul sees a glimmer of sleeping-in, baby-free-outings, grandparent-backup days in the very near future, I will interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of fatigued posts to provide a brief cuteness report.

A new favorite book is Duck & Goose: A Book of Opposites. One spread shows Duck being happy, while Goose is sad, with a tear on his cheek. Whenever we get to this page and I say in a mournful voice that Goose is sad, Lucia does her cuddle-cuddle-cuddle motion. I am very taken with this: not only does she understand what sad means, she also understands that cuddling Goose is what will make him feel better. I did not prompt her to do this. Genius, clearly.

Lucia is walking more and more and now often seeks out my hand to hold. Together, hand in hand, we walk around the apartment. She’s quite tall, so I don’t even have to stoop, and it really does feel like we’re just out for a stroll. Today she carried her electronic trumpet in one hand—when you press a red button, it plays a few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth. She’d press it, we’d walk. Whenever the song stopped, she’d stop walking, release my hand, press the button again, and then resume walking once the music started playing. Over. And Over. And Over.

Lucia’s animal-feeding is getting more elaborate. She will now take a piece of food and feed it to several stuffed animals at various spots around the room before eating the food herself.

Lucia now enjoys not just dropping but also throwing things out of her crib. Sometimes when I go in to try to settle her I find her pacifier and stuffed animals hurled the whole way across the room.

I am so tired I have actual bags under my lower eyelids, and my head hurts in that weird, exhausted, non-headachy way that just gets worse the more coffee I drink. Six hours thirty-nine minutes until we set out for PA.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 14 Months

Little One,

As you can see, I am several days late with this month’s letter. This is your fault, though not in an intentional spirit. You’ve followed old habits and acquired a cold after our long flight, and you also seem to be teething—you’ve been gnawing and drooling and screaming and crying and not napping well and not falling asleep well and basically not given me even one millisecond’s rest for one entire week. I am falling over with exhaustion and frustration. Only late this afternoon did the regular Lucia seem to reappear, with dancing and snapping and giggling. Perhaps the worst is over. (And surely it is, since I have to get through just Monday now and then we’re on our way to two weeks of grandparent backup. I am literally counting the minutes.)

But, a quick recap of the month nonetheless. Walking, of course—more consistently now, especially yesterday and today, when you’ve often opted to walk instead of crawl to your objective. And more words—besides “bump,” you’re saying “ball,” and yesterday you added a new one: “boom.” Ever since you were a newborn, I’ve said “Boom!” whenever we knock over a tower of any kind, or sit down from a standing position, or basically do anything else involving a sudden movement. Now you say it too. You don’t quite get the “m” at the end yet, but it’s definitely “boom.” We knocked over about twenty block towers this afternoon and every single time you said “Boom!”

You passed your weigh-in on Wednesday—you are 18.1 pounds; as suspected, nothing was wrong with you that a Month of Fat couldn't cure—and, that taken care of, are now refusing to eat. I am so frustrated by this—day #4 of the food refusal—that I won’t even write about it here. You’re not starving, of course—and today you ate much better. Hopefully it’s all just related to the cold and the teething.

This will be a short letter this month, dear one. Perhaps you heard talk of a potential sibling and have reacted with both guns blazing. Nicely played, oh firstborn. Nicely played.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baby Godzilla

Rolling around on the floor giggling! Feeding her stuffed animals! Dancing to the music of her push toy! Lucia was very calculating in her explosion of cuteness over the past few weeks. Let me ingratiate myself, she thought, before turning into an absolute monster.

Upon our arrival in New York, which followed the Worst Flight Ever—well, let me spend a moment on the flight. Five hours of screaming, crying, and writhing, with intermittent bouts of more screaming, crying, and writhing. No nap, though it was naptime. We were the parents about whom people whisper disgustedly, Can’t they control their child? We were trying, believe me. But even with her very own seat, even with an entire grocery store’s worth of snacks, even with an arsenal of toys, Lucia would neither nap, nor snack, nor play. She just wanted to scream.

Now, back home, she has turned into a baby Godzilla, descending on the city with roars and stomps, gobbling skyscrapers and sending terrified pedestrians fleeing as she wreaks her path of destruction. But the skyscrapers are our apartment, and the terrified pedestrians are what remains of my sanity. She is a jetlagged, teething terror.

It doesn’t help that I am drowning in freelance work. Or that my Christmas shopping has barely begun. Right now I am typing this as Lucia writhes in the Ergo and smears teething biscuit all over my neck. Anyone considering having a baby should take a look at me now. Anyone considering having a second baby should, perhaps, take a look in a large mirror and imagine just for a second doing this with two. Whew, that decision was easy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Goodbye, California (Again)

We’re going home! We actually have return tickets, for Saturday. It has been a truly lovely, fun seven weeks, but we are ready to go, even if it means returning to frigid temperatures. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to survive this, our first real winter in five years. But I have a new winter coat, hat, mittens, and Nanouk of the North fur booties for Lucia, so we’re going in prepared.

Things we’ve loved about Mountain View: the Eagle Park playground, the public library, the Mother Goose & More program at the library, walking down Castro Street, the smore’s bars at Le Boulanger, shopping at Trader Joe’s, driving to Target, going to Paper Source, watching Lucia stand at the window to wave goodbye to Andrew’s colleagues catching the shuttle to work (even on days when Andrew’s not among them), playing outside pretty much every day for a little while, exploring all the beautiful fallen fall leaves, buying far too many books at the library book sale, seeing the Clarks, seeing Julie and Alison from Auburn, soaking in the hot tub at night. And, of course, Lucia started to walk here and said her first word here, weaned here, started sleeping through the night here (12-plus hours!). I worry the magic of the sleeping will disappear once we’re back in Brooklyn; I hope it doesn’t.

But all Lucia’s toys and books await, and I just can’t get back to a normal kitchen fast enough. I might make something elaborate and time-consuming next week just because I can—something involving, oh, a double boiler, a Dutch oven, an immersion blender, a stand mixer, and an array of spices.

We have a flight to get through. But then we will be home, in Christmassy New York, in winter. Goodbye once again, California. But I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you again.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Cuteness Report

Lucia is walking. Never more than eight or ten steps at a time—and usually fewer—but when she gets it in her head that she wants to practice, she goes for it. She stands up—rising slowly from Downward Dog into a balanced stand—and then toddles forward in a Frankenstein walk, grinning all the while. She’ll walk to me now if I sit on the floor with my arms held out, and she’ll walk with her own arms held out, walking faster when she reaches me and then nearly jumping into a hug. It is too, too cute.

But not as cute as her dancing. When the nose of her lion push-toy is pushed, tinny electronic songs play—which, being a baby, Lucia loves. She will push her lion, but when the music stops, she stops too, eases slowly to the front of the lion, pushes the nose, and then walks back to the handle. Instead of pushing it again, though, for several moments she’ll dance to the music—bending her little knees in an attempt at rhythm and snapping the fingers of one hand. Well, she can’t actually snap. But she moves her fingers in an attempt at snapping. For some reason Andrew and I both always snap when we do silly dances for her, and so now she does it too. She will dance for a minute or so and then keep pushing the lion.

Andrew thinks this is the cutest thing she’s done yet, but I myself think her motion for “cuddling” is the cutest. I’ve mentioned it before—she draws both arms into her chest tightly and quickly wiggles back and forth as though hugging a teddy bear. She does it now when she sees one of her stuffed animal friends. But today, we were taking a break from our morning walk to have some Cheerios and some walking practice in front of the library, and when she finally got back into her stroller, we saw a squirrel. There are lots of squirrels there, and she is captivated by them. This squirrel, however, not only stared at us but began walking closer and closer and closer until it was just about five feet away. Lucia was craning forward in her stroller, amazed. “Look at him!” I said. “He’s so cute!” At these words, Lucia looked at the squirrel and did the cuddling motion. That, to me, is pretty much the essence of cute.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Our Little Reader

Anyone who knows Lucia knows she loves books. Reading books is her number-one favorite activity. Indulge me for a moment as I brag about her amazingly long attention span, her rapt fascination with words and pictures, her absolute absorption in turning pages. This week I watched from the kitchen while she played by herself for twenty minutes—a good portion of which she spent standing at the couch with a pile of books in front of her, selecting one after the other and paging through them.

We’ve become regulars at the library across the street, and Lucia charmed a librarian yesterday, who walked past as Lucia was turning pages of a book while sitting by my feet. When we went to the library this morning for the Mother Goose and More song and story time, that same librarian greeted Lucia by saying, “And here’s our little reader!” This mama’s heart swelled with pride. Yes, she is a little reader. She is indeed.

Lucia sat or stood with her eyes trained on the librarian throughout the program—she was just completely transfixed as the librarian led us in songs and read books. She smiled at the bouncing-baby songs and clutched or shook her egg shakers the whole time. It’s just hilarious to me to compare her happiness and comfort in a situation like this with her disinterest, hesitation, and clinginess during the gym classes we tried.

She is my baby. Andrew may have played a part in creating her…but she is my baby through and through. Give us a pile of books, lock us in the library, promise we won’t have to perform any athletic activity on demand—this version of bliss must have been passed from mama to baby in utero.

A note on Mother Goose and More. If I could select one part of Mountain View and take it with me back to Brooklyn, it would be this. It is just a wonderfully fun half hour, free, and packed to the gills with babies. The librarian who leads it is so engaging, fun, intelligent, and book-loving that each time we see her I’m certain I, too, should be a children’s librarian. And the crowd is purely Mountain View, from all over the world. Anyway, there is a babies and books program at the Brooklyn library, which we’ll have to try. (Though it has its own purely New York quality, too—you have to go early and get a ticket to get in.)

The picture with this post is from today. I bought her a new (used) book. She held it the whole way home.

Hard Living

We’ve made our mark on this corporate apartment. Marks on windows, marks on walls, marks on carpet, marks on tables, marks on pretty much every surface that has the potential of coming into contact with babyhands. Though they provided us with a two-bedroom apartment for our unexpectedly lengthy stay here, this apartment is normally set up for a roommate situation. Each bedroom is marked as the “red” room or the “blue” room, and Andrew and I have keys on lanyards corresponding to each color. This is not an apartment where a lot of real-life living goes on. It’s a place where engineers from around the world crash for a month or two while they work on projects here in Mountain View, with roommates cycling in and out.

We, however, have lived here. And any living done with a baby around is hard living. The furnishings here are not what you’d call built for the ages, and the kitchen provisions are far from our top-quality things back home. They are, in fact, quite cheap, and when you have a baby, when you’re cooking three times a day, cheap wears quickly. We’ve used the spatula so much that a strip of plastic came off the edge this morning. The frying pan seems gray with use. Surely the five dishes in the cupboard haven’t ever seen this much rotation.

Our weekly housekeeper has been doing a spectacular job—sticky baby handprints are, for a blessed few minutes, absent from the coffee table. But the housekeeper doesn’t see the hidden sticky handprints—in places she surely isn’t used to looking when she does her cleaning of these executive apartments. There are sticky handprints on the window where Lucia stands, hands pressed against glass, to smile and wave goodbye to Andrew when he catches the shuttle to work every morning. There are sticky handprints on the front and sides of the faux leather armchair where Lucia cruises in between bites during meals. There is banana stickiness ground into the carpet and couch. There are sticky handprints on the cupboard doors where she stands and cruises underfoot while I’m doing things in the kitchen.

I honestly don’t know how this apartment will ever recover.

We have used everything in this apartment to its fullest capabilities and have done quite well; we’ve cooked meatloaf, quesadillas, mac and cheese, chicken piccata, meatballs, and lots more. Terrible knives and one tiny cutting board have become our life. It’s easy to get sucked into corporate-apartment land and forget about what a real home is like. When we went to the Clarks’ for Thanksgiving, though, we were reminded—a beautifully set table outside in a beautiful backyard, a full feast of food in an abundance of bowls and platters, a house full of toys, not just a tiny corner. Lucia was in heaven. I don’t think I picked her up once all afternoon. She just played and played and played, by herself and with the other kids, thrilled (as we were) to be among friends and the things of real life.

Lucia has lived thirteen months on this earth; nearly four of those months have been in corporate apartments. Does she remember her crib, with her pink-bird sheets? Does she remember all the toys—the legions of toys—that once occupied her days?

We’re ready to go home. Soon, soon, I hope…

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First Word

Lucia’s been saying “mama” and “dada” consistently now, with “duck” and “ball” as occasional semi-words. But yesterday she said her official first non-parental word. That word is “bump.”

Lucia’s favorite book these days is Fall Colors by Rita Walsh. It is an adorable book about fall leaves and the fun that can be had with them. One page shows children raking leaves and says, “Rake the leaves into a pile, / You’re sure to see lots of smiles. / Spin and tumble, dive and jump, / Then leap off an oak tree stump. / Land in the leaves with a BUMP!”

Every time I read this to her, which is going on, oh, five hundred times now, I say “bump” with an excited expression. Yesterday, when I turned to that page and got to “bump,” she turned her little face up to me and said very clearly, “Bump!” Then she kept saying it: “Bump! Bump! Bump!” She said it with a good amount of gusto, putting extra emphasis on the “p.” It is definitely “bump.” She likes saying it so much that when we turned to that page this morning, when she was fussy and sleepy, she grabbed her pacifier out of her mouth eagerly, right in time to say “Bump!” It is extremely, extremely cute.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Cuteness Report

Despite the fact that her nap schedule has gotten completely erratic and out of control, and despite the fact that I still spend much of my day chasing her around the house with forkfuls of food, Lucia has been doing some extremely cute things lately. I thought I’d share some of them here. This is a post that's probably interesting only to grandparents and aunts, but let's indulge them, shall we?

She’s gotten incredibly attached to her blankie. Sometimes she puts it over her shoulders like a cape, or around her neck like a stole. Sometimes, when she crawls, she carries it in her mouth.

She’s also very attached to her duck and cat stuffed animals. They sleep with her in her crib, and in the morning or after nap, when I lift her and blankie out of the crib, she points insistently at each one until I pick it up and put it into her waiting arms. When we leave her bedroom now I’m always carrying a Lucia who’s hugging her blankie, duck, and cat. We can’t leave the room without all three.

She’s also taken to feeding her animals—not only her duck and cat but also her bear and monkey. We always eat at the coffee table now, and if one of the animals is sitting beside her plate, she’ll give it a bite of her food before putting it into her own mouth. She does this without our prompting. Very, very cute.

For the past couple of days, Andrew and I have attempted to take Lucia’s lion push-toy outside so she can walk without running into a wall after ten steps. This has backfired. There are simply too many leaves on the ground. She takes a step or two but then spots a leaf, plops down, crawls over to it, and then begins the process of putting that leaf and whatever others are within reach into the undercarriage of the lion. We can’t take the lion back to NYC with us, and I think I’m going to substitute a wagon when we go to replace it. (Then we’ll never get anywhere. But she’ll have fun.)

She’s gotten very finicky about having anything on her hands. For example, if she swipes at a yogurt-filled spoon and gets some yogurt on her fingertips, she looks at her fingers with alarm and then holds her hand straight out until I bring over a cloth and wipe it clean.

Somehow, Lucia has learned about housekeeping. Lord knows it wasn’t from me. If she sees a crumb on the floor, she immediately crawls over to it, picks it up between her thumb and pointer no matter how miniscule it is, and holds it out to me, even if I’m on the other side of the room. She won’t move until I come over and take the crumb away, thanking her for finding it.

I keep her in bare feet as much as possible when we’re home to encourage walking and balance, and when she wants to look out the window, she gets up on her little tippy toes—it’s so cute to see these tiny toes working so hard.

When she wants to read a particular book, she pulls it out of the book stack and holds it out. Once I take the book from her, she reaches her arms up for me to pick her up and put her in my lap to read. Too, too cute.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

To Get a Grape

Drum-roll, please: Lucia took her first steps tonight! She was standing at the coffee table, eating sliced grapes while I read her Bunny’s Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown, one of her favorites. She was being very cute, doing many of the bunny’s noises and movements—stretching, scratching, munching, thumping. When we finished the book, she pushed it toward me; I was to read it again. This time, when I got to one of her favorite pages, I held the book at a bit of a distance and also held out a slice of grape. She turned from the coffee table and took a step over to grab the grape. She did this several more times, walking toward both me and Andrew to get a slice of grape, taking up to three steps each time. We are on our way!

She’s been loving the Stride-and-Ride lion I got her last week, walking back and forth with it in the living room; yesterday I took the lion with us to the playground, and she walked all around the swings and down the sidewalk, stopping only to pick up enticing leaves and put them in a space underneath the lion for transporting. It seems this assisted walking has given her the right idea. Also, these grapes are exceptionally delicious—red flames from the farmer’s market. Who wouldn’t want to employ a new gross motor skill to get one?

Mountain View—specifically, the Park Place apartment complex on Church Street—will forever be remembered as the place where Lucia took her first steps. On a side note, I’m glad this day will be remembered for something other than the fact that she took only a twenty-minute nap.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thankful for blankie, wrapped around the shoulders,

and grapes,

and a cold afternoon at the playground,

and a fun new push-toy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Lucia is weaned. Our last nursing was Friday, November 19. I breastfed her for exactly one year, one month, and four days. Yay for us. It happened quite easily—we had been down to one feeding for a couple of weeks, before her morning nap, and then one day we just didn’t nurse; we just rocked and sang songs while she nuzzled her blankie. I didn’t consciously nurse her for a “last time,” which I think has helped me not be too sad. Weaning happened naturally and painlessly for both of us.

Sleeping straight through from 7:30 to 7—no more nursing—our baby is growing up! And now I get to splurge on some fabulous non-nursing bras. It is high time.

We’re Still Here. But: Books!

So, we’re still in California. Our best-laid plans were derailed on Friday, when our certainty that returning East was the right thing to do soon gave way to an equally firm decision that staying in California for a few more weeks was best. It came down to the idea of the simple solution being the best. Leaving today meant several flights (CA—FL—NYC), a flight back to CA for Andrew, several days of me and Lucia alone, my parents coming up for a weekend, an entire week alone, another cross-country flight for Andrew for the weekend, and possibly yet one more week alone. It just seemed…complex. Staying here involves just doing what we’ve been doing, with a flight back to NYC in mid-December. We can all stay together. Andrew has to be here for now, and so Lucia and I will be here too.

Though we’re very sad to be missing Thanksgiving in Jacksonville, truth be told, it feels fine to be staying on. We’re going to buy some more clothes and toys. We’ll join Beth and Nate in Napa for Thanksgiving. Lucia and I have been going to a wonderful weekly music/reading event at the library. We have familiar faces we see at the playground. And though it’s been rainy and cold, there are lots of places we can drive to when we just need to get out of the house.

It was strange to wake up this morning still here, when as late as Friday night we’d planned to leave, but we managed to distract ourselves today with the best book sale ever. The library—right across the street from us—had a book sale this weekend, and all told we made three trips and brought home 55 books for a total of around $35.

We went on Saturday, and I got Lucia a few new children’s books, and Andrew bought a few collectible-type old books (total for the trip: $23). The children’s books were priced at 50 cents an inch—when I went to pay, they just stacked up the books and measured them with a ruler. I had three inches’ worth. This was fun. But the absolute best part was today. I made a trip this morning—I couldn’t help myself; I could see the sign from our living room window; it was beckoning me—and got a few books for Lucia and for me ($6). Then we all went again later in the afternoon for their final-day sale of sales: you could fill an entire brown-paper grocery bag full of whatever books you found and pay only $3. There was a line, which we joined, and we each were given a bag. When the clock hit two o’clock, the start time of the $3-a-bag hoopla, the line swarmed into the rather small library garage, and people began stuffing their bags with books.

This wasn’t actually as insane as it might have been. It was crowded, but you could still get to the books, and since we had to be somewhat mindful of having to get these books home, we found we could actually browse and take our time and select thoughtfully (though there were people who were absolutely maniacally scooping books into their bags—many of them resellers, certainly). Because yesterday and this morning had been rainy, tons of great books were still around, and Andrew and I got just a wonderful assortment, including novels, a first edition Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining published in 1959, a Michelin guidebook to France from 1956, and a few ideal volumes that are going to be part of a Christmas project I’m not yet at liberty to reveal.

These pictures do not include the secret Christmas-project books, and this is only a sampling, not all the books we bought. And it strikes me suddenly as funny that this is our version of “moderation.” How on earth are we going to get these back to Brooklyn?

Anyway, to a bookish person like me, it was pretty thrilling today to be handed a bag and told to fill it with anything I wanted. I could have stayed there all afternoon, but, you know, Lucia needed a snack etc. At any rate, this was a very nice Mountain View day, and I’m sure the next few weeks will go quickly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mountain View Days

We’ve had a lovely week in Mountain View. Temperatures in the seventies, cloudless blue skies, leaves crunching underfoot—a perfect California fall. Lucia and I have explored a bit further afield in the past couple of days. Yesterday we drove to Los Altos and walked around the cute downtown, full of nice shops and at least three fabulous toy stores. Today we went to the Stanford Shopping Center, an outdoor mall in Palo Alto, and browsed around for a bit. And Andrew and I have been sampling some of Castro Street’s restaurant offerings this week: ramen at a Japanese noodle house on Tuesday; burritos on Wednesday; and sushi tonight. All delicious.

I took Lucia to another free-trial gym class on Tuesday, at The Little Gym. Like the Gymboree class, Lucia was not amused. She did not want to crawl from the center of a circle to me, on the outside. She did not want to sit either on or underneath the gigantic parachute. She did not want to “walk” on a balance beam. She did not want to sit on a ball and bounce. She enjoyed a tunnel during “free exploration” time, and a soft padded ramp/slide, but the organized activities were not a hit. I can’t blame her, really. The child-Margo would have stuck to the tunnel too. Especially if a stash of books was inside.

The weather today is cooler; and next week is supposed to be in the forties and fifties. And so our imminent departure is less painful than it might otherwise be. We still don’t have plane tickets; but it looks like we’ll be heading East this weekend, to Jacksonville for Thanksgiving and then back to Brooklyn. I have a feeling this is not the last we’ll see of Mountain View—and the big revelation of this little journey has been that we feel very much okay with that. It’s nice here. But we don’t live here, and staying on indefinitely just doesn’t make sense. So now—on we go to winter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 13 Months

Dear Little One,

You’re over a year old now, considered, I believe, a toddler and not a baby. Phooey. You are still a baby, a dear one, a trying one, an adorable one, getting cuter and funnier every day. But as you are not actually yet “toddling,” and since you seem to be demonstrating absolutely no interest in it whatsoever, I will continue to see you as a baby.

You are very nearly weaned. We are down to about once a day—sometimes twice, but usually once. You are sleeping consistently through the night, from 7:30 to 7 or 7:30. This is blissful. I credit California; being here in unfamiliar surroundings helped break some of the breastfeeding associations, making weaning easier, and it was surprisingly painless to cut out the middle-of-the-night feeding. A week or so of Daddy coming to you when you cried, giving you your pacifier, and singing to you for a little while, and soon you weren’t bothering to wake up at all.

Your cutest new trick is “cuddle cuddle cuddle.” You have several beloved stuffed animals, and you love to crawl up to them, grab one, and squeeze it, sometimes falling on top of it, and then handing it to me for a cuddle, too. “Oh, snuggling,” I always say. “Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle.” Now, whenever you see a picture of a teddy bear in a book, you draw your little arms into your chest as though you’re hugging something and twist back and forth a few times. Cutest thing ever.

You still love the playground—the great one we have just across the street where you’ve spent your thirteenth month—but what you love most are the fall leaves that are strewn around. I’m not sure what kind of tree they’re from, but they’re brightly colored and long-stemmed, and you love to just hold and study them, hand them to me and then take them back. Yesterday you were holding one by its stem and just drawing it gently across your face and neck. We also have a kind of tree all around our apartment complex that drops absolutely enormous leaves—dinner-plate-sized. These, too, you love to hold and carry, and sometimes by the end of the day after a few trips outside our coffee table, too, is covered with them. The manic leaf-blowing gardeners don’t work weekends, so lots of leaves can pile up.

You are taxing me with your eating. I’ve written about this already, but please, little one, give me a little break on this. Chasing you with a fork has been a less-fun part of this past month.

You are happy here in California, and this unexpected month away has spared us one more month of cold weather. You’re a California baby—you’ve never experienced a real winter—and it will be interesting to see what you think. Crawling around in your bare babyfeet is soon to be a thing of the past, at least until next summer.

You are barking whenever you see dogs, and pointing at them, but aside from Mama and Dada, you haven’t yet said much. You understand nearly everything, however, whether I ask you to get Blankie, Bear, Monkey, your spiny ball, or pretty much any other toy. You look around for a moment, then crawl over to the toy determinedly and hold it up in triumph before snuggling it or putting it into your mouth.

Current favorite foods: grapes, teething biscuits, wheat crackers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mountain View Weekend

It’s been an idyllic California weekend, though Lucia has the lovely souvenir of a black eye. There is nothing more awful-looking than a baby with a black eye, and she looks distinctly like she’s been in a bar fight. Other parents of toddlers, however, will surely understand that her bar-fight foe was actually a sudden loss of balance while cruising and an unfortunately placed coffee table.

Friday night we drove to Redwood City for dinner at the home of one of Andrew’s co-workers and his wife. Their house was just beautiful, with an amazing backyard that featured a Balinese daybed. Their house was stunningly decorated, full of statuary, textiles, masks, and other paraphernalia from the co-worker’s extensive work-related travels through South America. Needless to say, this couple does not yet have children. Everything was breakable, and stone, and heavy. Nothing was covered in yogurt-fingerprints. Toys were not underfoot. I had to watch Lucia with a hawk’s-eye…and yet I still could not stop her from taking her violent tumble. Poor baby. She recovered quickly, though, but her eye looks just horrendous. Fortunately the fall didn’t break the skin, but she hit just the right spot on her cheekbone to turn the whole area black-and-blue.

Saturday, the Clarks continued their own California exploration by coming to see us in Mountain View. Just like old times, we descended on a restaurant with our unruly group—eight now, requiring a very large table and two high chairs and a lot of extra get-settled time. We chose a Mediterranean restaurant with a mix of Greek and Turkish food, which had a beautiful garden—we ate outside on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon, surrounded by greenery and flowers and a tiled fountain. Lucia and Rowan chattered together for a while and even briefly held hands. Then we all went to our playground for a while and played with the astonishingly large leaves covering the grass at our apartment complex.

And today Andrew, Lucia, and I went to the farmer’s market—it’s nearly 70 degrees, sunny and beautiful, and the trees are all changing color; the market is, we confirmed today, likely the best one we’ve been to; I spotted some climbing vines on the way home with tiny, tiny leaves in brilliant red and orange; Lucia munched on a sample slice of organic Gala apple; and it’s terribly, terribly hard to figure out where we most want to be.

It is almost impossible to complain about Mountain View. This is a really nice place. And though it looks like we might be flying back East on Saturday as we’d originally planned, able to spend Thanksgiving with Andrew’s family and get back to NYC in time for holiday markets and other fun things, there’s a lot to argue for simply staying on here until his project is fully complete. Black eyes notwithstanding, Mountain View wouldn’t be a bad place to spend a couple more weeks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rose Hip Tea

At the playground this week, two little girls—sisters—were waving at Lucia from across the playground, and echoing her little squeals back at her. Then they came over, holding hands, because they wanted to say hi. After some smiling and waving back and forth, the older sister said firmly, “We have to go now. We need to get things for my project. I’m doing a project on rose hip tea.”

“Are you making rose hip tea?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said matter-of-factly. “And I need to go buy rose hips.”

This seemed like a very California-y project. But I hope we’re able to send Lucia to a school where she can make rose hip tea, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Iron Chef, Silicon Valley

Poor sick baby. For the past couple of weeks, Lucia’s had a cold and cough, and yesterday it took a turn for the worse. So this morning found us at an urgent care center, where we saw a pediatrician and got some antibiotics. I hope this will help. There’s nothing sadder than a runny-nosed, coughing baby who’s also teething.

Perhaps because she’s not been feeling well, Lucia has decided that eating is just not for her these days. Three times a day, I embark on an Iron Chef-style contest to use whatever’s in the fridge and freezer (not much, in these temporary quarters) to make something she’ll actually a) put in her mouth, b) chew, and c) swallow. (Sometimes we get through one or two of the steps, only to then have her give the Mango Face and spit everything out.) There have been meals where I’ve prepared three or four things—an egg, toast with cheese, various cut-up fruits, pasta—only to have her deign each item unacceptable and toss it to the floor. And I can't just say too bad you don't like it, because we're trying to pack the pounds on this skinny minnie. She has to eat, toddler stubbornness or no toddler stubbornness.

So I’ve had to get creative. She rarely eats in her high chair now. Instead, she prefers to stand by my chair like a puppy, opening her mouth for a forkful of food and then sitting down and crawling a few paces to chew and eat before approaching the chair again. Sometimes I let her go play and just follow her around with the fork or a bits of food in my hand, slipping it into her mouth when she’s distracted. Sometimes she winds up back in the kitchen and eats what she threw off the table. (Thank goodness weekly housekeeping is part of the corporate apartment deal here.) The past couple of days, I’ve taken her to the playground and fed her lunch while she sits in the swing. The toughest sell of meals is dinner, which she usually just refuses. But we’ve found a trick that’s worked like a charm two nights in a row: Andrew carries her in the Bjorn and we walk down the bustling Castro Street while I feed her from a Tupperware container. Out in the world, interested in the sights and sounds, she eats everything I give her. Needless to say, mealtimes have surpassed clothes- and diaper-changing times as the most exhausting times of my day.

Are these healthy habits? Surely no. I'm a big believer in regular mealtimes, sitting together at the table, and so forth--or at least I was, until I realized the unfeasibility of this with a young'un who just has no interest in leaving her crawling and playing for sitting and eating. But forcing her to sit--forcing her to eat where she is when she clearly is resisting it--just seems a little pathological for a one-year-old. As long as she still thinks eating is low-key and fun and healthy, not stressful and trying and anxiety-producing, then I think we'll probably wind up on the right side of things in the end.

The bright side of all this is that she is gaining weight. We weighed her at the Clarks’ house last weekend and today at the doctor’s, and she’s over 17 pounds! Today she was 17 pounds 14 ounces, but that was with her clothes on and after a successful breakfast of French toast topped with a banana/olive oil/syrup mixture. Nonetheless, I’m confident we’ll pass our weigh-in.

And now to bed. I just took a soak in this apartment complex’s hot tub—relaxing in the cold night, with leaves floating on the surface—and I’ll seize sleep while I can.

Monday, November 08, 2010

California Social

Lucia was a little social butterfly last week. Thursday, our friends Julie and baby Allison drove down from Auburn (near Roseville) to spend the afternoon with us. Allison is just five weeks older than Lucia, and Lucia had such a good time playing with her—they actually seemed to play together, rather than just side by side. We spent time at the playground and here at the apartment, and there was lots of giggling and passing toys back and forth and standing at the window, playing with toys on the windowsill. I met Julie in prenatal yoga—and it’s always been fun to see how the girls have grown over this past year-plus. Maybe someday they’ll be transcontinental pen pals.

Saturday we spent the day with the Clarks in Napa, happily revisiting wine-country territory we thought we’d left behind. The grapevines are all gold and red right now, and the scenery in wine country is gorgeous—since we missed the inferno of the summer, we can look at the landscape, including the fully brown hills and dry grasses, with nothing but admiration. It was wonderful to see all the kids again. Henry and Elena took me on an excited tour of the house, pointing out such wonders as the bathtub and the glider. The last time we saw Rowan, he was just a tiny infant—now he’s a smiling, crawling little baby. Lucia giggled and grinned as H. and E. hugged her, tickled her, and handed her toys to play with. At one point they were by themselves playing in another room, completely happy. And I had the experience of having two little babies in my lap at once. Perhaps this is a sign that Andrew and I need to catch up with the Clarks and get some more children in this house...

It was definitely strange to be driving home from Napa again, especially since we passed the entrance to the road we usually took home and continued on toward San Jose. Old haunts, but new, too.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Playground Angst

Three years ago, Andrew and I got married at The Summit; now, three years later, we’re across the country (still), but on the plane from JFK to SFO we fell into conversation with the Aussie couple sitting in front of us who’d spent three weeks in the United States, including a stop in Farmington to see Fallingwater. We told them we’d gotten married at a place called The Summit—and they said that’s where they’d stayed. Small world. And three fast years!

It hardly feels like November here, with temperatures in the mid-seventies, sunny blue skies, lush greenery everywhere. Some leaves are changing, though—at the playground, Lucia’s favorite activity is crawling around and picking up all the fallen leaves, examining each one carefully before handing it to me and seeking the next one.

Our lovely playground, however, sometimes seems to me to be the site for some psychoanalytical issues I’ve never addressed. I’ve mentioned before the abject fear and loathing I had as a child for other, brasher children who would ask if Molly and I wanted “to play.” I never wanted to play. I wanted to stay inside and read. And it is hard not to feel this exact same mixture of powerlessness, shyness, horror, and claustrophobia sometimes when I’m with Lucia and other children approach and ask to play with her, or when they take an interest in her toys. It should be noted that I never feel this way when it’s another little baby with a mom approaching Lucia curiously; I am always, absolutely always, up for conversation with other mothers and interaction with other babies. I’m talking about the older children—the three- and four-year-olds—whose parents seem nowhere to be found.

Take yesterday, for example. After seeing Lucia’s instant adoration for a Hot Wheels car another child was playing with a few days ago, I bought her one at Wal-Mart yesterday, and she clutched it obsessively in her fists the entire way to the playground. But as soon as she’d she plopped down on the spongy fake pavement by the playground equipment, a little boy approached and asked to play with her car. Lucia did not want to give it up. The boy snatched it. “It’s okay to let him see it,” I said weakly. His mother, seeing this exchange, ran over, returned the car to Lucia, and scolded the now screaming, melting-down fiend-child.

Besides the unwanted-playground-interaction problem, this is an example of my own need to MAN UP and stop other little kids from stealing my baby’s toys. I’m curious about whether there’s a good way to do this. I can’t very well scold the other child myself, so I find myself resorting to a ridiculous routine that does Lucia no justice whatsoever, encouraging Lucia to “share” her toy and then, modulating my voice, requesting that the other child also “share” her own toy back to her. It’s one thing when two babies are playing and grabbing and exchanging objects in a friendly, curious way; outright toy-snatching by and older kid is another. I somehow felt just as powerless as Lucia yesterday, looking on sadly as another kid ran off with her beloved new car. Which is crazy, since I’m the mama, and I wanted to say in a loud, mama-bear voice, GIVE IT BACK TO HER NOW. SHE’S A BABY. (Actually, maybe this is exactly what I should say.)

Also yesterday, long after the fiend-child left, Lucia was playing happily, standing at a bench and alternately examining leaves and her Hot Wheels. Two young children—likely four or so years old—approached and began playing with her, letting her hand them her car and then handing it back to her. All very fun to Lucia, who grinned and grinned. They were cute, playing little games with her, delighting in the little touches she’d make to their shirts or hands. Still, it went on a long time. Then the little girl wanted me to draw shapes in wet sand, which required the toting of a bucket of water from a fountain to the sand pit, etc. And then they wanted to help put Lucia back into her stroller. And then they followed us out of the playground, nearly to the street. I had no idea where their parents were, but I encouraged them to return to the playground. Each time I turned around, however, there they were. “We’re following you,” the little girl announced gleefully. Well, yes, they were, but there was the street, and then a long pathway to our apartment far from the playground. “Just…stay there,” I kept saying. “Stay there and we’ll turn around and wave.” Eventually, they did stop, and we made our escape.

Sheesh. Sometimes it really feels like I’m not grown-up enough to be a mom. But now that Lucia’s in the playground stage, where interactions with other kids are inevitable, I really need to learn how to manage these encounters. I can’t be the mom who yells at other people’s kids; but I can’t be the one who doesn’t care that they run into the street, either. And I definitely can’t be the one that forces Lucia to just stand there quietly while others encroach on her toys or her space without her consent, simply because standing quietly was usually my way as a kid. No more of that. I’m the mama now.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Spooky Realization

Happy birthday, happy Halloween. For my birthday Friday we went out to a great Indian restaurant; for Halloween tonight we went to a party at Andrew’s boss’s house. The rest of the weekend has been strangely relaxing—gloriously so—with a nice lunch of pho on Saturday afternoon (Lucia had her first taste of Vietnamese food) and the farmer’s market today. We got groceries, ordered pizza, took walks, played, read. It seemed so quiet, so civilized, so normal, so…nice.

One week of Mountain View down. And, I hope, infinite more to go! Ha! Things have taken an interesting turn! Instead of feeling like our return to California is a burden and a horror, we are slightly horrified to realize that this time around we…like it. It feels treacherous even to write this, seeing as how the past three years have been more or less a long rant against the Golden State. But the thing is—and I think I made this clear in my summing-up-our-CA-years posts—we did grow to have a certain fondness for certain California things and places. We were so miserable for so long, but at a certain point—likely coinciding with our pregnancy and baby and move to Roseville—things just settled into comfortable settledness, in our lovely house and lovely backyard and everything we could possibly need just a five-minute drive away. In the end we left so quickly—it was literally just a few weeks from job offer to cross-country move—that it was almost impossible to register all that we were leaving behind.

Anyway, we just feel relaxed. It’s very strange, and it happened very quickly. There are redwoods outside our living room windows. There is a bright blue sky, high-sixties sunny days. All week Andrew’s been home earlier than he is in New York, simply because the office is a quick five-minute drive away. There is a spectacular year-round farmer’s market. This weekend we just relaxed at home (poor Lucia has a cold and cough)—and though we also relax at home in Brooklyn, this just felt somehow more relaxing, more laidback. And I’m not sure why this is. Is it because we’re removed from the errands and tasks that go along with living in an actual household, rather than a “furnished” corporate apartment with exactly one frying pan? Is it because hopping in the car to go somewhere doesn’t involve dreading the search for parking once we return? Is it because there is simply more space in which to move and breathe?

I don’t know. Surely, we don’t want to move back to California. Surely we don’t. The soul-suckingly-exhausting cross-country flight with a one-year-old is reason enough to stay back East. So what does it all mean? What do these thoughts and feelings add up to? I have no answers, not yet. But this week Lucia and I will make a daily trip to a great playground across the street, where she has discovered the sand pit. We’ll pick up some interesting snacks at the Asian grocery store nearby. We’ll hop in the car and explore the Daiso store I discovered today near Trader Joe’s. We’ll walk down Castro Street, browse in a used bookstore, have a cup of coffee (an indulgence I’m once again allowing myself now that we’re almost weaned). And it won’t be bad. It won’t be bad. At. All.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Real Housewives of Silicon Valley

We’re in California. Again. Craziness! Insanity! It feels so surreal. All the time we were in California we yearned to be back in New York, and now we have a lovely New York apartment and are STILL living in California. We can’t get out. Or do we simply not want to be out? More on my suspicions about this another time.

Our trip here went well. Lucia is a good traveler, but a six-hour flight plus an hour delay on the runway at JFK will tax anyone, and by the end she was quite fidgety. She had her own seat on the plane but still slept for only forty minutes. When we arrived, she fell asleep the instant we started up our rental car and woke only briefly at home when we zipped her into her sleep sack. She was up, confused, for the day, at 5:30am PST. We have slowly been working our way out of zombie land, but we’re not out completely.

Our apartment here is nice—right off of Castro Street, the main restaurant artery, and directly across the street from a playground and a nice library. Over the past couple of days Lucia and I have explored a few playgrounds, and though they’re nice, they feel so empty—these are not the crowded playgrounds of Park Slope. Being here, after now having a taste of Park Slope, is a reminder that so very few places are like New York. No lines for the baby swings here, that’s for sure.

Though Andrew and I spent only one night in Mountain View several months ago when he came down during his interview process, it feels exceedingly strange to be back. It had seemed like a one-off trip, an interesting excursion for a possible job to a city we’d likely never see again. Silicon Valley seemed like a place to just cross off our seen-it list. And now here we are, living among the techies. You really can feel the computer-y energy of the place, a sort of thrumming nerve of bits and code and overheard conversations about Darth Vader.

Andrew, with his bona fide place in this world of tech, has his niche here at his company’s mothership. But what about me? Am I fit for the role of Real Housewife of Silicon Valley? Do Real Housewives of Silicon Valley spend mealtimes singing songs about cheese and making a tiny plastic penguin dance up and down their baby’s arms while watching in dismay as their baby squeals in laughter while spitting out the bite of food they thought they’d finally succeeded in getting eaten? Perhaps Real Housewives of Silicon Valley could create some sort of…code, or something, for getting babies to eat. Perhaps they could configure systems and upgrade hardware to improve the method of getting food from table to mouth to belly. I do not have such gifts.

I should go; I’m swiftly sinking into zombie-land again, with avocado ground into my socks. I spent tonight dodging flying sweet potatoes and actually encouraging Lucia to eat food from the floor; Andrew spent tonight in San Francisco, watching a baseball game. The mess in the kitchen is something I am, lovingly, going to leave to him.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parenting: November Issue

Another month, another issue of Parenting to dissect. This month, I’m annoyed anew by the section headings and tips, which include things like “mom {lovelife},” which instructs me to ask my spouse some “fun queries” to get to know him again; “mom {snacks},” which suggests I “Make schroom!” for frozen deep-fried mushrooms as an alternative to a chocolate bar for my “3 o’clock sweets craving”; and “mom {beauty},” which suggests I use a product called Shimmerskin to give my d├ęcolletage a shimmery sheen for holiday open houses. I’m sure Shimmerskin will look wonderful next to the smeared avocado and babyspit my chest usually sports.

On to more pressing matters: family {play}. This month, the playtime game suggestions have a Thanksgiving theme. To be honest, they’re not as awful as usual. Collecting pinecones and leaves for a centerpiece: fun. Making placemats with pictures of things you’re thankful for and laminating them: fun. Drawing and coloring hand turkeys: classic fun. But rest assured, there were two fine specimens for my commentary:

“Be corny. Have a cornhusking contest! Hand the kids five ears of corn each (give tiny guys fewer to make it fair) and see who can finish first. Don’t tell them they’re helping you get some of your dinner prep work done!”

COMMENTARY: First of all, doesn’t this seem like an awful lot of corn? I imagine a group of five or so kids, each with five ears of corn…That’s a pretty hefty corn platter. Second, corn on the cob has never screamed “THANKSGIVING!” to me, maybe because corn isn’t really in season in November, and maybe because the horn of plenty in my family is generally filled with sweet potatoes, squash, stuffing, cranberries, and the like. This just seems odd.

“Let your kid cater. A simple appetizer that kids can make: Wrap the top halves of thin breadsticks with prosciutto. Arrange 12 on a plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Call them ‘Nate’s Silly Sticks’ and let your chef pass them around.”

COMMENTARY: Take it down a thousand, overzealous copyeditor. What sort of cured meat should be wrapped on the breadsticks? Be specific. How many breadsticks should be arranged on a plate? Unclear. What could these appetizers be called? Need a funny name here. Second, I really, really hate this funny name. Why couldn’t they be called something Thanksgiving-y, like, oh, Harvest Sticks or Turkey Toppers or something? Finally, if I one day want to encourage Lucia to take a stab at kid-friendly cooking, wouldn’t I want her to make something she’d actually want to eat? Like ants on a log or cheese and crackers or toasted butter squares*? Though who knows—maybe she’ll love prosciutto (who doesn’t, really?).

To finish off this monthly post, I’d like to comment on a heavily subtitled article on page 113, “Little Angels (Yeah, Right!) Bedtime battles, sibling rivalry, public tantrums, and more—we’ve got the toddler-taming tricks you need.” I don’t yet have a toddler, so I can’t speak to how I’ll react once Lucia starts talking back and testing me and tantrumming (though she’s too perfect for those things, of course). What I’m pretty sure of, however, is that I will not be encouraging good behavior in stores by praising Lucia after a successful, non-tantrum outing with the following recommended line: “Wow, we just went shopping and you didn’t whine the entire time!” Doesn’t that just make you—no matter how old you are—want to whine like hell? It does me. It’s such a passive-aggressive, snarky thing to say to a kid. But really, what do I know. Perhaps I’ll try it on Andrew sometime. “Wow, we just got up super-early to take Lucia to the doctor and you didn’t make a big fuss about it! Good for you!”

Until next month.

*buttered toast cut into small squares, a favorite Orlando family bedtime snack.

Skinny Sweetie

We had Lucia’s one-year checkup on Wednesday, and her small size is finally a problem—or, rather, it finally elicited a concerned reaction. She’s been around the 25th percentile for weight ever since birth—growing steadily—but between her last checkup at ten months and this visit, she gained nothing. I was instructed to start weaning her, get more calories into her, and come back in five weeks for a weigh-in—and if she showed no progress we’d have to see a GI specialist.

I do not think anything is wrong with Lucia’s GI system, mainly because when we saw the doctor at ten months, he told me not to give her anymore cheese or yogurt until her first birthday. She’d been greatly enjoying both things, and I’m hoping re-introducing them (plus cow’s milk) will get her back on track. Also, since that last appointment, Lucia has turned into a real playground-lover, traipsing around the equipment without a pause every single day. So not enough calories plus burning more calories—it seems to make sense that we may have had a temporary drop-off in weight.

I have five weeks to get her to show some weight gain, and I’m going all-out: eggs scrambled with cheese and whole milk with sausage links for breakfast, meatballs in cream sauce, mac and cheese, yogurt, tons of avocado pieces, and everything drizzled or dipped in olive oil. Mmmm, fat. I’ve started introducing milk, and she’s not crazy about it yet, but she doesn’t reject it outright, either, so I’m feeling positive about it. And I’ve taken a baby step toward weaning: I’ve cut out the first-thing-in-the-morning nursing so she’s hungry for a big breakfast.

I have no doubt that Lucia is going to be a skinny string bean just as I was. But she needs to gain some weight. Here’s to the start of a Month of Fat.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Just in Time to Skip Town

It was great fun celebrating Lucia’s birthday this weekend. We had a celebratory dinner at Fornino Friday night with Mom and Dad, where Lucia greatly enjoyed some focaccia and pizza crust. Sunday, with Molly, Ian, and some friends, Lucia was the guest of honor at her first birthday party, where she sank warily into her high chair during the singing of “Happy Birthday” then devoured part of a carrot cake muffin. She even wore a party dress—white with polka dots, gold ribbon trim, and yellow tulle—that had been a gift for my shower. She looked like a little birthday princess. Ridiculous, but also adorable. She played with some baby-friends and seemed to enjoy being the center of attention.

Even as it was happening, Lucia’s birthday was being relegated to the second spot on my “things to think about” list, because at the end of last week we got some news: on Monday, we’re going back to California for a month—Andrew has to do some in-person work at his company’s HQ. We’re not exactly going back where we came from—we’ll be in Mountain View, not Roseville—but it feels strange to be returning nonetheless. We’ll be in an apartment, we’ll have a car, we’ll be driving to Target, we’ll be living in CA once again. And we’ll be leaving Brooklyn just when true, chilly fall has begun, once again spending much of October and November in warm sunshine. Just when we thought we were out…

Friday, October 15, 2010

Letter to Lucia: ONE YEAR

Dear Little One,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Happy birthday Happy birthday Happy birthday. I feel such a sense of achievement today. I have kept you alive for one whole year—not only alive but healthy and happy. And I have not gone off the deep end with being both a first-time mom and a stay-at-home mom. Really, it’s a day-by-day thing, but so far, so good. I’m proud of myself, proud of you, proud of Daddy. It’s truly a day to celebrate.

You are cuter than ever at one year old. Your new love is stuffed animals—you hold them and snuggle them and bite their noses. You love anything that makes noise. You seem to love chaos—our living room, always neat first thing in the morning, is very quickly a whirlpool of whipped-about newspapers, swiped-off items from the coffee table, and strewn toys and books.

You move about with determination, your little hands slapping the ground, and you still love to stand up. You are now “cruising” along the furniture, and sometimes walking when we hold your hands, but so far walking independently does not seem to be high on your list of must-do’s. Many of the other babies your age we encounter in our daily activities are walking, and I try not to worry—this is how it’s been with every other milestone, sitting up, crawling, pulling to a stand. You just watch and bide your time, and then one day you just decide it’s your turn, and there’s no going back. So we will wait.

You’ve learned that if you sit on the floor and reach your arms up, we will pick you up, and you’ve been doing this nonstop for the past few days. Wednesday, in Music Together, you crawled into the middle of the circle, then sat up, turned to me, and raised your arms—I’m ready to be held now, please. You are delighted to see us when you wake up from your naps, and you do a cute wrinkled face when we turn a light on. Sometimes when I go into your room, I see that the toys in your crib have been strewn around, and I try to imagine you in there, in your sleep sack, quietly playing instead of napping while I am none the wiser outside your door.

You love playgrounds. Swinging, crawling around, watching other kids, everything. And you are happy most places—restaurants, airports—unless you are restricted in your movements. You just want to be free.

With this birthday comes a challenge: weaning. We are still nursing five times a day, and you show no sign of wanting to stop. You are a champion eater of regular food—you love meat and pasta and veggies and bread and, above all, fruit—and I think, for you, nursing is simply a way to unwind, a signal for naptime. Perhaps I’m wrong to affix a date to weaning; but I am ready, and so I will try. With no little push from me I think we’d be nursing for the whole next year, and this just won’t do. It does for a lot of people, but not for me.

That said, speaking of nursing: We made it to a year. Another reason to celebrate. A year was my goal, and at times it seemed impossible, but here we are. Since I plan to wean slowly, we might even make it to thirteen or fourteen months! I think back to our rough patch, around three to five months, I think, when you simply refused to nurse. You’d cry, I’d cry, etc. It was awful. But then we took a trip to San Francisco one weekend…and you suddenly just did it. And we’ve been fine ever since. Except for the formula they gave you in the hospital (I was so engorged I couldn’t pump any milk, and your head was too sore from the vacuum to get into nursing position) and the two tablespoons I tried unsuccessfully in your cereal a few weeks ago, you have had only breastmilk (and food, of course) for this year. Having done it, it seems impossible that I’ll ever be able to do it again. This was, hands-down, the most stressful part of having you, oh new one. Yet here we are.

To celebrate your milestone birthday, you are getting another tooth—a top tooth this time—and you are suitably miserable. But I hope you find much to enjoy today, and this weekend, when you’ll see Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Moils and Uncle Ian and a host of friends. You are one! You are one! You are one year old! My little baby is one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Weekend in the South

While Andrew toiled away in Frankfurt last week, Lucia and I journeyed south, to spend a few days with Andrew’s family. Our flight down was okay. We had an empty seat next to us, so Lucia could stand and sit and play the whole time—she seemed thrilled to crawl around under the seats, touch all the interesting venting, and pull all the in-flight reading from the seat-back pocket. She was so happy and calm that I allowed her to do all this even though I was, of course, horrified at the sheer filthiness of the things she was touching. I had no alternative, really. The only times she cried during the flight were when I forced her to sit on my lap: at take off; when I tried to get her to nap (who was I kidding?); and during landing.

But then we were there, and got to see Granny and GrandBob, Great Nanny, and Great Aunt Thelma, and a couple of highly interesting cats. Friday we all—along with Katherine and Patrick—set out for Atlanta, to go to Andrew’s cousin’s wedding. This was the longest drive Lucia’s ever done, and she handled it pretty well, crying only when she was very hungry and we couldn’t find a suitable place to stop. She napped and snacked and listened to me sing Music Together songs and played with toys.

Our hotel in Atlanta was wonderful—we had three adjoining rooms, so Lucia had ample space to crawl AND I didn’t have to sit in the bathroom during naptime and bedtime. AND they gave me a mini fridge to store all the food I brought for Lucia (including tasty meatballs made by Granny). It is challenging to have a baby during group events, of course; I ended up eating a lot of fast food meals during the times I had to stay with my napping baby while others gathered in restaurants. But we had a lovely time at the wedding, and Lucia was, of course, the star. I mean, the second star, after the bride. And I even went out to dinner and to a bar with Katherine and Patrick that night while Lucia slept, since Granny et. al were there to watch her.

We flew home from Atlanta Sunday afternoon, and the flight was exhausting but okay; no free seat this time, but nice seatmates who didn’t mind passing a folded-up magazine cover back and forth with Lucia a gazillion times or having her stand up between us on the floor. She attempted to escape by crawling up the aisle a couple of times—she almost got away once when my hands were occupied with an open container of Cheerios and I couldn’t manage to get the lid on. She was completely wiped out once we arrived at JFK, and the train ride back to Brooklyn was rough, and then I was in such a frantic hurry to get her to bed that I got soap in her mouth during her bath, which made her freaking out even more intense. I was asleep by 10:30…and Lucia didn’t utter a peep until 6am!

Now we’re all together again, a tired bunch but otherwise okay, ready for our next big thing: Lucia’s birthday on Friday.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

At Home

It’s cold and wet here—true October weather—and, with Lucia’s birthday just two weeks away, I feel that old sense of anticipation and expectation. And though I’m not packing for a hospital stay as I was last year, I am packing for a trip—Lucia and I are heading to Jacksonville tomorrow, just the two of us, spending a few days with Granny and GrandBob and going to a wedding while Andrew is in Germany. If we can survive the three-hour flight, it will be a lovely weekend.

I am, however, jealous of Andrew’s trip, even though it’s crazily work-intensive without much (or any) time for sight-seeing. Still, the thought of a long transatlantic flight, an eye mask, some wine, a darkened plane, makes me wish I, too, could have a Europe-bound adventure. We’re talking about a long weekend in Paris or Rome sometime this winter, but in the meantime, it’s just me and Lucia here at home, putting blocks and toys into a bowl and dumping them out again, knocking different toys together to hear the sounds, balancing plastic rings on our heads, swiping things off the coffee table.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Weekend Bits

I was out until 10:30pm Friday night! Andrew got tickets from a co-worker to a great dance performance at BAM, so I ventured there while he stayed home with Lucia. It was a fantastic performance—Vollmond, by a German dance troupe, which involved copious amounts of water flung from buckets and pooled on the stage and falling as rain from the ceiling. Truly breathtaking; it left me with heart pounding. And I was so happy to be back at BAM. I feel hipper and more stylish just from being there. Until 10:30pm!!

Lucia is eating vast, vast quantities of food. We met friends for brunch at Flatbush Farm on Saturday, and more friends today at Sarabeth’s on the UES, and I packed a great amount of food both times just to be on the safe side—half an avocado, bananas, a pile of mango pieces, a healthy serving of broccoli with fiore pasta. She ate every bite, plus a handful of cheerios. She eats with gusto.

Saturday night, feeling on top of things and resourceful, I decided to whip together a homemade pizza. While Andrew fed Lucia her dinner, I put all the ingredients for pizza dough into the bread machine, timing it so that the dough would be done just after she was asleep and we could cook the pizza shortly thereafter. When the bread machine timer went off, I eagerly opened it and reached my hands in for the dough…only to be met with an unmixed, unrisen glob of the same ingredients that were there when I’d started. It turns out that though the loaf pan was in the machine, it wasn’t snapped into place. It just looked like it was. I was so frustrated and full of self-loathing that I could do nothing but sit on the couch with a glass of wine while Andrew cooked up some eggs and a stray bagel. I’m just wondering, really wondering, if there will ever come a time when I am fully on top of things once again. I did make pizza successfully tonight.

Andrew, Lucia, and I went to the Tot Lot Saturday afternoon. Lucia has no fear anymore and darts off immediately to play and accost other babies. This time she found a kindred spirit: a little boy who matched each of her shrieks with an identical shriek, each of her belly laughs with his own laugh. It was hilarious. Also, all Brooklyn babies, Lucia included, seem to be obsessed with these rubber balls with little spines all over them. Aunt Moils bought one for Lucia, but we hadn’t brought ours with us, and she spent the last few minutes of our Tot Lot time stealing the other babies’ spiny balls and chewing on them.

Lucia can go down steps now. She goes down head first, putting her hands down and then oozing over the step until she can put her knees down. She’s also “cruising” along the couch, and walking while holding our hands.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Where am I? Who am I?

Saturday was a remarkable day. While Andrew and Lucia had some daddy-and-baby time, I got a haircut, walked in every aisle of DSW and tried on as many pairs of shoes as I wanted, then went to a yoga class. I had more time to myself on Saturday afternoon than I’ve had in months. Months! It was glorious. Of course, I was glad, later, to return to my cherished Ones. But it certainly did feel nice to stroll about Park Slope with a yoga mat slung over one shoulder, DSW bag in hand. It was amazing how rejuvenating a few hours could be.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Music Together

Yesterday Lucia and I had our second Music Together class. It has been surprising to watch how much she’s changed over just two classes. Last week, though she sat raptly throughout the class, she stayed close to me—she scooted off my lap but stayed nestled right by me, letting the other kids swarm around the big drum at the beginning of class and excitedly approach Nicolai, our teacher. While the older kids (14-15 months) ran around during class, she sat still, dutifully holding onto her egg shakers or instruments when appropriate. At the end of class, when Nicolai invited the children to touch his guitar, I led Lucia’s long, thin fingers in a delicate strum—markedly different from the other kids’ banging and grabbing of strings. I returned home pleased that Lucia was so clearly a Good Student.

This week, however, after a brief initial period of getting the lay of the land before class started, she scooted off my lap and crawled right over to the big drum, beating it with her little palms a few times before we all had to say “Bye, bye, drum,” so class could begin. And once class began, she continued crawling around the circle of kids and nannies (and a few of us mamas), stopping now and then to stare at someone or to grab his or her instrument. She especially enjoyed staring at Nicolai. During a quiet song, she crawled over to him and began gently patting his knee. Instead of sitting raptly at attention, she at one point pulled herself up to a stand against the wall. And at the end of class she tried to grab the strings on Nicolai’s guitar. So, perhaps not a Good Student. But, surely, the cutest.

We’ve been listening to our Music Together CD at home, and I feel like I’ve entered another world of Kid-dom: the world of children’s music. As far as children’s music goes, this selection is pretty inoffensive, and Lucia clearly loves it; she shakes her rattling toys and claps and squeals when we dance. And tonight I got her to eat some of her dinner by making the food dance toward her mouth along with the music. Oh, babies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Parenting: September Issue

As Lucia pulled herself up on every surface and object in our living room this afternoon, I scoured the latest issue of Parenting to find things to mock. I didn’t have to look far. On page 23, in a short bit called “A Better Day, Stat!,” I found the following pieces of advice for how to uplift my spirits without taking a weekend trip:

“Lie down: Research shows that it’s easier to deal with bad news and criticism when you’re lying down versus sitting up. So the next time you hear ‘Mommy, I don’t like you!’ or “You’re so mean!’ fling yourself down on that couch.”

“Color your world: Bye-bye, blues; hello, bright hues. Looking at things that are yellow or green can boost happiness, says research. Stock the fruit bowl with lemons, bananas, and apples or set your computer’s desktop to a grassy green.”

COMMENTARY: Lying down and staring at a fruit bowl—it sounds relaxing, indeed. It also sounds a bit…troubling, especially if done for long stretches at a time while one’s screaming child is running hog-wild around the house. Also: What if I need a better day, stat, while I’m out of my house? Can I then lie down and request to look at lemons and apples wherever I am? Also: Where are you, overzealous copyeditor? I don’t think it’s accurate to say “set your computer’s desktop”; I think it’s supposed to read “set your computer screen-saver” or “computer wallpaper,” or even “set your desktop’s wallpaper.” A desktop IS a computer. Perhaps we should add a gentle reminder in there somewhere, too: “With permission, set your computer’s wallpaper to a grassy green.”

Next, I perused an article about how to prevent Mom Hair, even though I was annoyed even before I started it. My own hair, long overdue for a cut, may be messy right now, but Mom Hair? I bristle at the idea that my frequent ponytails are Mom Hair. It just sounds so…blah. So…giving up on life. My inability to relate to this article was solidified when I read this from one of the article’s quoted experts:

“I see a lot of women who found a color they loved in high school, when they were probably tanning a lot more.”

COMMENTARY: By using the comparative phrase “a lot more,” this expert seems to be assuming that readers of Parenting still do tan. Does anybody tan, anymore? As a person who neither colored nor tanned, then or now, I can do nothing about this article but turn the page.

Finally, this being the Halloween issue, there was an article detailing a variety of easy-to-make costumes for kids. Ho-hum: a mailman, Princess Leia (do kids still get this reference?), a Frenchman. Certainly I understand the rush and chaos that must go along with trying to fashion a costume for a young’un amidst the other millions of things that go along with daily life. But these costumes aren’t even that fun! “Smarty-Pants,” for example, involves hot-gluing rolls of Smarties to a pair of black pants. Far be it from me to boldly claim I’ll never be that hard-up to find a last-minute costume. But, being a lover of all things Halloween, I certainly hope I can do better than that.

Ranting aside, I had to laugh at this bit from the costume called “Tree With Bird’s Nest.” You take a wreath and put it around the kid’s waist and decorate it with fake birds and leaves. You make “suspenders” with ribbon to keep the wreath in place. Then you put a bird in a smaller nest, glue that to a branch, and slide it in place under the suspenders. OR:

“Another option for girls with thick hair: poke it through a ponytail or bun.”

COMMENTARY: Or, if you’re the adolescent Orlando girls, simply use a portion of your own hair to make a veritable nest. Or ten.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Can You Guess Who’s Been Here?

Can you guess who’s been here, keeping me company while Andrew was in California for work all week? Here are some clues:

1. My books are now alphabetized.
2. I browsed in a bookstore I’d never gone into before.
3. A newly cooked meatloaf is waiting in the fridge.
4. Lucia has been introduced to pasta fagioli.

If you guessed “both of Lucia’s grandmothers,” you’re right! Andrew’s mom (see clues #1 and 2) stayed with us from Monday through Wednesday. We looked around Brooklyn’s oldest independent bookstore, played at the playground, swung, visited the Blue Sky Bakery for muffins more than once, and made BLTs with delicious tomatoes given to us by Kris’s friend in Massachusetts. And during Lucia's naps, I worked while Kris alphabetized my books; things feel right again. Thursday, Mom arrived (see clues #3 and 4), in the midst of a bona fide tornado; she was in a cab as trees were being ripped from the ground or snapped jaggedly in half, arriving in the aftermath. We walked down 5th Ave., played at the playground, swung, and visited the Blue Sky Bakery. Last night we watched Babies, and today we went to the farmer’s market and got dumplings from a dumpling truck. And Lucia fully enjoyed her pasta fagioli.

Lucia has loved having Granny and Grandma around. And Mama has loved not being alone all week. Of course, both grandmothers seemed incredibly put out to be forced to spend so much time playing with the baby, forced to watch her grin and laugh as she pulls to a stand, forced to watch her crawl cutely around the apartment, forced to watch her slide down the slide at the playground with a pleased, expectant smile.

Andrew is back now, and life returns to normal tomorrow once Mom leaves. Gracias, grandmas!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 11 Months

Dear Little One,

Eleven months! Nearly a year! And even in the past month you’ve grown so much, leaving behind so many of your baby ways and becoming more person-like, more toddler-like, every day. For some reason I always felt I’d be sorry to see your infancy come to an end—but I see now I was crazy. You are—and I say this objectively—cuter every day. You are smiling all the time now, great grins, with your four tiny bottom teeth making you look like a little jack-o-lantern. Your laughing has escalated; now you spend good bits of time simply laughing big belly laughs—“Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha”—for no reason; it’s impossible not to join in, and we laugh together. You laugh hysterically, too, usually around Daddy, squealing and giggling when he makes funny faces and movements. You are, more often than not, joyful.

But you are also a handful, especially now that you are mobile—and fast. You crawl only on your hands and knees now; the inchworming is completely gone. You crawl with abandon, your palms slapping loudly on the ground as you make your way around the apartment. Last week I hurried to the bedroom to get something, thinking I was leaving you occupied in the living room, but then I heard you—slap, slap—as you peeked your head around the doorway. And you love to stand. You’ve gone from struggling to pull yourself up on the Moroccon ottoman to pulling yourself up on everything and everything, even standing one-handed now, sure of yourself, thrilled. But you seem to prefer standing in the most dangerous places possible—like right at the sharp corner of the coffee table, or on the wine rack (which is going to go into the closet soon; sorry, dear). So I cannot let you out of my sight.

You are fully aware of your culinary desires now, demanding specifically what you want—usually puffs or cantaloupe—and angrily swiping away any of my incorrect guesses. (You can accurately identify a piece of your beloved cantaloupe among mangos and carrots; you cannot be fooled.) Mealtimes leave the area around your high chair—and the walls—a Pollack-like masterpiece of flung cereal and soup and bits of food. Last week I stepped with a bare foot on a glob of refried beans. That was charming. At those moments, as well as when you’re yelling at the top of your lungs, demanding who knows what—I tell myself that these baby days are but a small part of my life with you, that soon I may even look back on them fondly. I try to tell myself what helpful strangers so often advise—“Enjoy her!”—even when there’s soupy spinach dangling from the window frame, even when your sticky, banana-y hand firmly grabs my cheek.

It helps that the world outside our door is vibrant, bustling, full of things to see and do. We are frequent playground-goers now, and we have ventured to the Tot Lot in Prospect Park several times. You are both captivated and frightened by the other creeping babies scaling the slide and pulling up on the metal bars, and you stay close to me, sometimes clinging so tightly to my arms it hurts. But you have started acclimating, and recently even scaled the slide yourself—something I was sure only older, bigger, rougher babies did. But no—after watching for a long time, you crawled over; and with my protective hand ready to stop you from slipping backwards, up you went.

The playgrounds are fun for you; but I also like going just to see other parents—and perhaps catch a glimpse of one weary and frustrated, just to remind myself on a hard day that it’s not just you, and it’s not just me, that this is all part of the parenting thing. I saw a father recently holding his son, not much older than you, who was wielding a rubber turkey baster. “Couldn’t leave home without the turkey baster,” he muttered wearily to me as he passed. It was no later than 8:30am. I still think of him when the days seem long. Somewhere, not too far away, days are long for other parents, too.

Don’t misunderstand: there is much fun and wonder and snuggling and laughing, by baby and by Mama. You are pointing now—sometimes at specific things, sometimes at nothing, sometimes simply holding out your finger to meet mine, ET- or Sistene Chapel-style. Yesterday at the playground, you looked up at an airplane going by, and I told you to point at the plane—and you did, firmly and clearly. You love “reading” the newspaper, whipping the sections apart, staining your little fingers with newsprint. You love magazines—so easily torn and rustled through. You love Bunny’s Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown (you make the noise of a bunny munching a leaf, and you scratch a pillow when the bunny scratches), Puppy and Friends, and A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. You love travel-sized bottles of shampoo, and Tupperware, and belts, and Daddy’s hats, all so much more interesting than any baby-intended toys.

You love a lot of things. But not as much as we love you.