Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Baptism, and Wedding #3




Today we concluded our church adventure by getting Lucia baptized and participating in our third wedding ceremony. Yes, that’s right—third. More on that in a moment.

Mom and Dad arrived late last night and were, of course, thrilled to see the baby bright and early this morning. We drove to the church for our 9:30 appointment with the deacon. After Andrew and I got married again, at the altar, we proceeded to the back of the church to the baptismal font. Lucia was a model baby for the baptism, looking up curiously as the deacon poured the water over her head without so much as a peep. She looked adorable, if I do say so myself, in a little white dress and white sweater Mom picked out for her. She also has a new bonnet. It is officially too much. And Lucia is now, in my dad’s words, officially churched. Whether we or she pursues anything further on this Catholic path remains to be seen; but I’m glad we’ve given her a jumping-off point for whatever she chooses in the future.



So, yes, our convalidation today marked the third time Andrew and I have exchanged wedding vows. Our first wedding was in Reno, a month before we got married in Pennsylvania. It was simply a practical step; we’d returned from Spain and I needed health insurance, and it was getting ridiculous trying to cobble together catastrophic insurance plans when I could easily have access to Andrew’s company plan simply by obtaining a bit of paperwork. And so we drove to Nevada one Saturday in October and exchanged vows in a nondescript office building. No Elvises or roadside wedding chapels or anything like that. Vows, paperwork, done and done.

Our second wedding—our “real” wedding—was in Pennsylvania, a gorgeous, perfect ceremony and reception at the Summit Inn in the Pennsylvania mountains. The ceremony was officiated by a friend of the Littells, who had no officiating credentials whatsoever (which was the other reason for our Reno trip). Our wedding couldn’t have been more beautiful or more meaningful.

However, as the deacon told us today, getting married in the Church ensures that we’re committing “for life”—as though our Pennsylvania wedding was merely a half-commitment, as though we did the civil marriage thing to leave ourselves an out. Well, there is an out no more. Our third wedding, this morning, was a brief affair, attended only by Mom and Dad and, oh, our baby (as much a testament to our commitment as any vow or document). A reading, a blessing, “I do”s, done and done.

Are we married enough now? I think so: we’ve done it civilly, symbolically, and religiously. I’m not sure there are any more ways to do it. We’re legit no matter how you slice it.

And so our church adventure comes to an end.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carrots

The food adventure has begun. Yesterday for lunch, Lucia had some steamed, pureed organic carrots. She gamely opened her mouth for the first bite, expecting, I think, the usual rice cereal; the look on her face was one of shock and confusion at first, but then her doubtful grimace gave way to a smile. She liked them!

Yesterday also brought another first: the first time Andrew handled bedtime by himself. I went to a breastfeeding support group from six to eight, so Andrew was on his own for the evening, as well as bath, feeding, and putting to sleep. He took her on their nightly "nature walk" around the backyard (a tactic that seems to keep the evening Fusskins at bay), and then went through the whole routine. It was a great success; he said she kept looking around for me, but she was fine and went to sleep easily.

A big day for a little baby.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 24 Weeks



Honey Baby, My Little Baklava, Sweetums, Sweet Pea, Sweetheart, Baby One,

You’re six months old today—six months! As your Aunt Molly pointed out, I’m now 1/36th of the way through my mandatory eighteen years of care. Don’t worry; you haven’t driven me to a countdown. With the exception of yesterday and other days here and there, caring for you has gotten much easier. Again, with the exception of yesterday (who needed to nap? not this baby!), we have our daily routine down, more or less, to a science. From mornings spent screeching in bed while I take my shower, to tummy time while I wolf down some oatmeal, to our reading sessions on the couch, walks around the neighborhood, and hours of playtime as the day goes on—with nursing and two naps in between—we manage to get through the days smoothly and enjoyably.

You’re generally pleasant and fun to be around, especially since you seem to be learning new things and changing every single day. This month, you added some new sounds to your repertoire. You now have the raptor screech, the piercing scream, and the creaky door, which comes from way back in your throat; a new discovery. You are a very noisy baby, and I can only imagine that once you learn to talk you’re going to be just like your daddy—unstoppable. (But you’re like your mama was as a kid, too; outside of the house you’re as quiet as a little church mouse.)

You’re getting more and more curious, reaching out to touch everything in sight, whether it’s a spoonful of cereal approaching your mouth or a newly blooming tree branch in the backyard, which you like to touch when Daddy carries you around in the Bjorn after work. Last night I watched through the window as Daddy crouched down in front of some ivy; you grabbed it with both hands, studying it carefully. Everything is so new.

…And so tempting to eat. You put everything, absolutely everything, in your mouth, and sometimes when I hold you I can see you coming at me from the corner of my eye, reading to bite my chin or cheek. My sweater collars, shoulders, and sleeves, as well as the fronts of your shirts, are among your favorite things to chew on. (The deluxe $20 giraffe teether I bought you—little more than a glorified dog’s chew toy; it even squeaks—is, of course, much less interesting.) You seem to spend much of your day in mid-chomp, which is pretty cute. My little monster.

Now that you’re six months old, I plan to officially start the introduction of veggies and fruits. I have to say I’m excited. If you like the gruel-like rice cereal, then what are you going to think of avocado and pear? carrots and squash? green beans and melon? Introducing you to these things is going to be so much fun—the baby equivalent of Daddy and I eating a new food in an exciting new place.

These six months have flown by. I remember, back in the hazy, fearful days after you were born, thinking that I’d be so happy when you were six months old—a point when you’d be less terrifyingly fragile. And now here we are, with little fat rolls at your legs and pudge at your wrists and ankles, your face in a near-constant smile, piles of outgrown baby clothes behind you. Here we are.

A Bit More on Lodi…

The drive from Lodi to Napa this weekend was so pretty it almost made one happy to live in NorCal. It’s a beautiful time of year here—the “winter” has more or less ended, as has the rainy season, and the days are sunny, blue-skied, and warm. The oppressive summer heat is still many weeks away, leaving us with a protracted springtime that truly is lovely.

Everything is green right now—lush and fresh—and as we drove along Route 12 on Sunday we wound through rolling green hills dotted with windmills and flocks of grazing black and white sheep. Lodi is extremely rural, with acre upon acre of vineyards producing exceptional zinfandel; we’ve heard that the area bakes intensely in the summer, leaving the grapes to struggle for water and creating a very concentrated fruit. Right now the vines are still bare, and the fields are scattered with yellow mustard flowers and bright orange California poppies.

By the time we arrived in Napa, the late afternoon was growing cool. We sat outside in sweaters as the sun slowly began to set.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Bonnet



This weekend, which was sunny and gorgeous, I introduced a new item into Lucia’s wardrobe: a bonnet. This bonnet, white with lace and ruffles and little pink roses, was a gift from a wonderful family friend, and I’d been eagerly awaiting spring weather so I could put it to use. First, she wore the bonnet to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. We had to walk down a busy road to get to the entrance, past a long line of cars waiting to pay their entrance fee, and several people leaned out their car windows to exclaim over the baby in her bonnet. Inside the market, a clearly crazy woman approached Andrew, waving her arms and asking in a loud voice, “IS IT REAL? IS IT REAL? IT LOOKS LIKE A DOLL.”

Sunday, we drove south to Lodi to meet up with a cousin of mine in the area from Seattle. We had a little time to kill beforehand, so we went to a winery—Lodi is a major part of wine country. Lucia was wearing a little spring dress, and the bonnet, and I was carrying her in the Bjorn. When we walked into the tasting room, the heads of all the tasters along the bar swiveled in our direction, and everyone began to exclaim over the baby in her bonnet. “She looks like a commercial!” the wine pourer remarked. “Thank you, thank you,” I murmured politely as people discussed how cute she was.

It was almost too much; I felt almost as though I’d crossed some kind of line and half-expected someone to approach me with an eyeroll and say in disgust, Oh, now, come on.

We rounded out our day by visiting the Clarks in Napa and sat outside in their beautiful backyard eating burgers from Taylor’s—our last visit with them as a foursome. Soon Lucia won’t be the youngest baby anymore. I wonder how she’s going to like giving up some of the attention.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Misc.


We’ve been sleeping. The past two nights have been a dramatic improvement over the days before; she’s been waking up only twice--around midnight and around five. We’ve been able to soothe her without picking her up or feeding her at the first wakeup, and then I feed her at the second. We moved her bassinet away from my bedside, to the other side of our bedroom, so perhaps that was the key. Who knows? Now if we can just dissuade her from that first wakeup, we’ll be on the road to a baby who sleeps through the night.

Needless to say, we feel much more human. And it was an eventful week. We had our final “marriage class” on Tuesday, with the deacon; we had to do homework beforehand, which involved choosing a conflict and going through a ten-step process to resolving it, as well as defining financial and other goals. In our session we discussed these things, handed over my baptismal certificate and some witness forms, and that was that. The baptism, and our marriage ceremony, will be on March 31. I feel like I should be able to register again, or perhaps get a second run out of my wedding gown; instead, we’ll go out for brunch with Mom and Dad, who will be in town serving as both godparents to Lucia and witnesses for our wedding. And then…done. It’s been a bit of a haul getting this baptism underway, but I feel good about having done the legwork.

This morning, Lucia and I went for a walk and popped into Starbucks for a cup of tea. As we sat there, a guy stopped by my table and asked how old Lucia was. When I told him, he proclaimed, “Wow! My kid dwarfs your kid.” His son was eight months old and, presumably, much chunkier than my slender, delicate baby. What, exactly, is one supposed to say to that? “She’s in the twenty-fifth percentile for weight,” I said edgily. Andrew suggested I should have responded, “Oh; is your wife a big woman?” Being pregnant or having a baby really does seem to give people the license to say anything.

Tonight we went to a friend’s house for dinner. It was a gorgeous evening, and we sat outside and had a lovely barbeque. Lucia sat on my lap for part of the meal, and at one point she reached out and grabbed a piece of roasted potato right off of my plate, squeezing it in her tiny fist. Next week she’ll be six months old--and I think we’re ready to move beyond her beloved rice cereal. I can’t wait to see the look on her face at her first taste of--gasp--carrots! or squash!

When I fed her today, we managed to get rice cereal all over her clothes, my hands, my arms, her face. I’ve never encountered a substance so intent on spreading and spewing. In her excitement over eating, she also waved her arms around a lot, managing, when I wasn’t paying enough attention, to whack the spoonful of cereal out of my control. Cereal, cereal everywhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Beloved Spoon

We’ve simultaneously turned a corner and backtracked dramatically this week. On the bright side, Lucia now loves rice cereal, and she’s suddenly a pro at eating from a spoon. We took a week or so off from solids and started up again when we got back from San Francisco—and it was a completely different story this time. Lucia now opens her mouth like a little bird as she anticipates the spoon, and she does a happy little wiggle whenever she’s ready for another bite. She does spit out a little cereal as she works to swallow it, but not much, and she’s been finishing every serving I prepare for her. And (knockknockknockknockknockknock on wood) she’s been a stellar nurser. As far as eating goes, we have a model baby.

Not so for sleeping. Lucia has now reverted to newborn-style sleep, waking up every hour or two all night and crying inconsolably. Andrew and I are zombies, unsure what to do and horrified at the prospect of having to do anything except comfort her when she’s upset. At the same time, we realize this cannot go on. We are nearing collapse. And yesterday morning Andrew got into Vern to go to work and the car wouldn’t start—dead battery. I could have used a sister-wife yesterday, someone to hold the baby while I dealt with AAA. And another sister-wife to do my editing so I could take a nap.

It’s a good thing Andrew and I are the couple we are—supportive, collaborative, patient with each other, sensitive. Because at times like this, when we are just so tired, when the baby refuses to sleep, when our evenings together are nonexistent since I’m dead on my feet by 8:30pm, I can see very clearly why new parents’ relationships get stressed—this kind of exhaustion would highlight and widen all the cracks. But we remain a team through it all. Even through this fog of sleeplessness I feel so very lucky to have Andrew.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Museum Trip

Another nice day in San Francisco. The weather has been gorgeous—blue skies, lots of sun, just cool enough for a coat. Perfect weather for sitting outside in Union Square and strolling around the city blocks. This morning I walked with Lucia to an outdoor café right on the square and had a pastry; then we returned to the hotel for a wonderful two-hour nap (Lucia) and some reading (me). Andrew had a break for lunch, so we got bagel sandwiches at a deli and ate them outside on the square. After a quick return to the hotel so Lucia could have her own lunch (nursing in public just does not work with this little one—she gets way too distracted, even with my nursing cover; she winds up twisting it around in her fists, trying to eat it, entangling both of us), she and I took a walk to the Container Store, where, as usual, I bought a few small plastic boxes. You can never have too many!

Lucia fell asleep while we were walking around, right on schedule for her afternoon nap—but sudden city noises kept waking her up. I found myself growing irritated that everything was so loud—then had to laugh at myself for such a protective mama’s thought. I tried to settle her in for a nap back at the hotel, but she would have none of that. She wanted to be back out in the world.

After a coffee with a friend, I took Lucia on her first trip to a museum—the SF MoMA—to take advantage of Thursday-night half-price admission. This was pushing it, since the reduced admission didn’t start until 6pm; but as we walked around and browsed in the museum shop for a half hour or so before we bought our ticket, she fell asleep—so she was cheerful when I put her into the Bjorn. Ordinarily I like to spend hours in a museum; but this time I targeted just one photography exhibition and breezed through at a fairly rapid pace (but not so quickly that I didn’t discover a few great new photographers), well aware that we were well within the witching hour and that I was living on borrowed time as far as Fusskins was concerned. But Lucia was happy as could be, letting out occasional raptor cries when she saw a photograph she liked. (This baby knows good art.)

My goal was half an hour—I didn’t want to push it—and so by six thirty we were on our way back home. I made a quick stop for some pad Thai to go, though by this point Lucia was getting a bit fidgety and I feared I’d made One Stop Too Many, then booked it home.

Once I got Lucia to sleep, I ate my dinner in the light of my laptop screen.

It’s been a busy, fun, tiring, exhilarating, sore-muscle-making, interesting, proud-of-my-city-baby, good-nursing day. This is a great city. Lucia knows it, too. Fusskins hasn’t made even one appearance; she hasn’t nursed this well since she was a newborn; last night she slept seven hours straight; and she couldn’t be more pleasant to walk around the city with. Obviously I prefer when Andrew’s around—but when it has to be just the two of us, Lucia and I make a good team.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

City Life


During my last few months in NYC, after Andrew moved to Barcelona and before I joined him there, I spent my Sunday mornings alone. I’d wake up in my beautiful, sunlit Park Slope apartment, get dressed, walk to the newsstand across the street to by a Times, walk down one block to the muffin bakery, buy a cup of coffee and a muffin, and then sit in the narrow, charming bakery and read the entire paper. Bliss.

I miss those days—not the alone part, of course (though I never minded that), since Andrew and Lucia are the best kind of constant company—but the city-ness of it, the easy routine that wove home life and city life into one seamless, happy swaddle. We have our routines in Roseville, too, good ones—picking up the Times from our front porch; going to the farmer’s market—but the all-in-the-neighborhood nature of our previous New York life is, of course, lacking.

For four days this week, though, I get to experience it all again. I’m currently in San Francisco—Andrew has a big conference, and Lucia and I tagged along. Our temporary home is the Sir Francis Drake hotel in Union Square, and we’ve made our room our own, thanks to the ridiculous number of bags and accoutrements we brought with us (Boppy; small cooler for breastmilk; feed bag for me; stroller; diaper bag; etc. etc. etc.). Yesterday, Andrew only had a couple of meetings, so we walked around with Lucia and went to a Thai place nearby for dinner, where Lucia entertained us with raptor cries as we ate. Today she and I have most of the day to ourselves, a day that will be filled with more strolling, lunch, perhaps even a cup of tea at a café. City life.

I feel like a more familiar version of myself here, even though this version has a baby strapped to her chest; the rhythm of getting around a city feels comfortable and good. There are so many ways that living in a city would be difficult with a baby—but just as many ways that it would be wonderful, too, at least until it’s time for Lucia to go to school.

Lucia loves walking around in the Bjorn, and for some reason, she breastfeeds better here than she does at home—regularly, eagerly, without fuss. And you can see from this picture with this post that she, too, has found her place in the city.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Dreaded Spoon

On Thursday, Lucia’s five-month birthday, Andrew and I attempted to introduce Lucia to rice cereal. It did not go well. As I mixed a half-tablespoon of the cereal with some warm breastmilk, I nearly gagged; it looked disgusting, like thin, watery gruel. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat it—I don’t even like oatmeal—but we sat Lucia in her Bumbo chair on the table, clasped a little bib around her neck, and feigned enthusiasm as I aimed an infant spoon at her mouth.

The look on her face as I tilted a tipful of cereal onto her lips was one of, first, surprise, then revulsion, and then horror. With a pained look, she pushed the food out of her mouth. We tried a couple more spoonfuls, with the same result. Then she began to scream and attempted to writhe out of her chair. A hysterical baby was the result of our first solid-food experiment.

We’ve fared no better now that we’re four days into it. I don’t think it’s the taste—after she gets upset I’ve been putting the cereal into a bottle, and she eats it without a fuss; I think it’s the spoon. Or maybe it’s a combination of the taste and the spoon, and the bottle just makes it more palatable. Who knows.

So far, Lucia has consumed, in total, less than two tablespoons of rice cereal over four days. We’re taking it slow. Very slow.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fire

I was browsing in a local kids' consignment shop yesterday and found a cute green sweater I thought Lucia might like. But when I took it off the rack, I noticed a large tag inside: KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE. I snorted out loud. I wonder if there are any parents out there who need to be reminded--nay, told even once--to keep their baby's clothes (and, of course, the babies themselves) away from fire. It's a scary and ridiculous thought. I put the sweater back, though. Anything that comes with a warning like that seems just a bit too much on the flammable side for comfort.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 20 Weeks



Little Lucy,

You’re five months old today! Growing so fast, yet still such a tiny baby. You’ve had personality since the moment you were born—but it’s coming through so dramatically now, in your screeches and raptor calls, in your beaming, dimpled smile. You certainly have a mind of your own, which drives me crazy sometimes; but your stubbornness and occasionally irrational behavior makes you, I suppose, your mother’s child.

You’re getting very good at a variety of things these days, such as grasping toys in your hands, supporting your weight on your feet when we hold you up, kicking your legs high into the air, grasping hanging toys with your toes, and studying things intently as you hold them in front of your eyes. But your forte—the area where you really excel right now—is chewing. You chew on everything and anything; no toy, no finger, no shoulder, no sleeve, no blanket is safe. Sometimes, when I hold you against my shoulder, you’ll open your mouth wide and start chewing on my chin or jaw. You attack things with such determination, opening your mouth and squinting your eyes like a little baby monster; it’s adorable, even though I end my days with you covered in drool.

This month you had your first trip to San Francisco, and we’ll be spending four days there next week. It’s not easy planning for such a trip, but I’m determined to make you used to new surroundings; it’s too easy to get set in our habits and routines here at home, and I want to make you an adaptable baby. The truth is, you handle these things just fine. I think it’s I who needs to make sure I stay flexible.

You, my dear baby, are forcing me to get out of the house on a regular basis, and we do pretty well during the week, seeing friends and going to my exercise class and sometimes going to Target or the grocery store with Daddy. It’s been rainy—it’s the rainy season here—but, soon enough, it will be too hot to do much except seek out AC. I hope you enjoy the sound of the raindrops while they last. Last week, there was even a rainbow, and when I brought you onto the back porch to show you, you really seemed to look at where I was pointing, taking it in.

Your five-month birthday is bringing one big change: solid foods. Your pediatrician told us last month that we could start you on solids at any time, but we (well, I) have been putting it off. I always thought you’d breastfeed exclusively until you were six months old; this isn’t an arbitrary deadline—I’ve read it many places and heard it from many people—but I’ve accepted that there’s some room here for flexibility. And you do seem ready to try something new. I feel a strange sense of sadness at the idea of something besides breastmilk entering your body—as though I’m tainting you, somehow—even though this is simply a natural, and good, next step for a robust, growing baby. And I do feel a certain amount of pride that I’m solely responsible for all the cute pudge on your legs, arms, cheeks, and belly. I’m curious to see how you’ll do with your first taste of solids—perhaps later today will be the big day.

Each day you look less infant-like and more baby-like; but at night, after your bath, when we put you in your sleep sack, your tiny bare babyfeet dangle free from the bottom, you snuggle into my shoulder, and you seem, still, so very new.

In honor of your five-month birthday, last night you (nearly) slept through the night—and slept until 8:45am! And you just breastfed splendidly. So it’s a happy five-month birthday for Mommy, too

Monday, March 01, 2010

Sleep. Need Sleep.

Our baby, our precious baby, decided to sleep very little this weekend. Friday night, she woke up twice during the night to eat, then decided that 5am would be a great time to wake up for good. Andrew took her downstairs to play; she was ready for a nap by 7, so we got another hour or so of sleep, but we felt like zombies as we drove down to Napa to visit Beth and Nate. Fortunately, they, too, had had a difficult family sleep night, so we were all just a little sleepy together. Enjoying a lovely lunch in the sunshine seemed to help a lot. It was a perfect day to drive to Napa—sunny and warm, with the hills a beautiful green dotted with yellow mustard flowers. In just a couple of months this verdant landscape will be nothing more than deathly parched straw; but for now, the rainy season we’ve had made for a very nice drive. Lucia seemed happy to be there too, even giving big smiles to the Clarks instead of the sober, wary stare she usually gives people who aren’t Andrew or me.

Sunday she was up at the slightly more decent hour of 6:30, though she’d still woken up twice during the night. One time, I could handle; but two times just makes me tired, and today, after another two-feeding night, I feel wiped out. Will there ever be a time when we aren’t this tired? I know she should be sleeping through the night by now, or at least down to one feeding, but feeding her seems to be the only way she'll go back to sleep. And so on we go.