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.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Waterless

We were in New Hampshire again this weekend—a quick trip planned for the purpose of picking up Andrew’s parents from a reunion in Massachusetts on Sunday and driving them to their flight in NYC. We drove up late Friday night, and though the drive was easy and Lucia slept nearly the entire way, it is a long drive, and we arrived weary—and facing the prospect of two days with no water. The spring has, obviously, not been replenished over the past week, and our water tank is barely half full. So it was a weekend of no dishwashing, no laundry, no showers, and only-when-urgently-needed toilet flushing. Surely these are the lovelier aspects of living, albeit temporarily, in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse. But we left New Hampshire this time without a trip to the ER.

Saturday we drove into Woodstock, Vermont for lunch. It was a beautiful day—cool and sunny; the leaves were already beginning to change, peeks of red and yellow along the roadside. Though Woodstock tends toward the touristy, it was not crowded at all, and so we could fully enjoy the pure New England-ness of it—the clapboard houses, the prim church steeples, the old graveyards. We ate lunch at a nice restaurant, browsed in what claimed to be Vermont’s oldest independent bookstore, and looked at the work of some local artists in a park in the center of town.

So far from New York, it was easy to forget the spectre of Saturday’s date, and to forget the startling fact that I’ve spent nearly a third of my life “post-9/11”; at some point I’ll have lived longer after it than I did before it. And Lucia will never know life without it. One can only hope that it will be simply a terrible, history-textbook memory by the time she’s a child, not an easily exploited excuse for bigotry still capable of driving raving Florida maniacs to ludicrous action nine years after the fact.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Respite?!

It had seemed so idyllic: a long weekend in NH to recover from a chaotic week in a hotel room, nothing but silence and nature walks and wind blowing through trees, no more excitement than shooing spiders out of the corners. And it was this way, until Monday morning, when we realized we had no water. The farmhouse gets water from a spring, and the hot summer rendered the spring nearly empty. We were leaving Monday evening, but there was a day to get through, so Andrew made multiple trips down to the pond to bring water up to the house in empty gallon containers. Fortunately we had enough bottled water to get us through for drinking.

We’d planned to leave just before Lucia’s bedtime, a plan that the water shortage set off-kilter since we couldn’t give her a bath. But we put her in pajamas and gave her a bottle and put her in her carseat at 7:15, and she seemed primed for sleep.

First, however, we stopped at a gas station just over the covered bridge to fill our tank before she fell asleep for good. She and I both sat quietly in the car, waiting for Andrew. I glanced out the window; Andrew was attempting to wrestle our large bag of trash (there’s no trash pickup at the farmhouse) into the gas station’s garbage can. The next time I looked, he was staring aghast at his finger, and blood was dripping so copiously onto the pavement that it looked like someone had been shot. Something in the bag had sliced his index finger.

So instead of getting on the road, I drove us to the local ER, in a tiny little hospital where the nurse knew Andrew’s grandparents and talked about his grandmother’s knitting while she took his blood pressure. Three stitches later, and an hour and a half off our scheduled departure time, we were on our way.

Lucia slept the whole way, thank goodness. But what an end to what was otherwise a peaceful, lovely finale to a hectic week of travel.

Oh, and the worst part? We deduced that Andrew cut his finger on the pull-up lid to the can of formula I'd bought. One can, two casualties.

Respite





Our chaotic week in Boston was, thankfully, followed by a long weekend in New Hampshire, where we recovered from our trying days in Boston but still, unfortunately, did not really sleep. We drove up late Friday afternoon, relieved to be out of the hotel and in our beautiful house, able to spread out, put Lucia to bed, and just unwind. I’ve said it before, but there is something about being in NH that is just restorative and good for the soul—the silence, the wind in the trees, every history-heavy floorboard solid under our feet.

Despite warnings of Hurricane Earl, the weather was beautiful, sunny and cool—we wore jeans and sweaters for walks in the woods.

Saturday night, after Lucia was in bed, Andrew cooked lobsters for us, which we ate at a newspaper-covered kitchen table with fresh corn and gin and tonics. We felt human again.



Lucia’s sleep issues continued. Friday night, without neighbors to disturb, we let her cry a bit instead of rushing to nurse, and after seven minutes, she put herself back to sleep. She was restless Saturday night, waking up with a cry and then immediately falling asleep again; and we were tired the next day. Very tired. She is getting another tooth, so perhaps this was what was waking her, though she seemed undisturbed by it during the day; and her stomach seemed upset due to my ill-advised decision to try putting two ounces of formula in her cereal Saturday morning. I no longer pump enough to mix her cereal with breastmilk, and I thought this might be a good way to get in a little more nourishment than the water I’ve been using—big mistake.

But on went our weekend, as we both enjoyed ourselves and struggled to get through one moment to the next. One day, I dream, we will sleep through the night. In the meantime, we enjoyed our baby through a fog of exhaustion—her thrilled smiles as we danced with her to a Jonah Jones record; her determined crawling across the lawn on the lovely fall days; her pride in pulling herself up to stand on everything she came across, including hundred-year-old milking stools. In my most tired moments, I reminded myself that there will come a day when I have to drag a school-age Lucia out of bed in the mornings. From my vantage point, however, those seem like battles in a dreamland of well-restedness.

Wicked Boston


Lucia and I accompanied Andrew on a business trip to Boston from Tuesday through Friday last week, and it is with horror that I realize it has gotten quite difficult to stay in a hotel with our baby. Though hotels for the first few months of Lucia’s life seemed to have a magical effect on her—for example, our nursing problems early on were resolved on a trip to San Francisco—they now seem to be places fraught with problems.

We stayed at the Colonnade in Back Bay, and the loveliness of the hotel did not, unfortunately, guarantee a lovely stay. The first problem is the sheer amount of stuff that traveling with Lucia currently requires: travel booster seat (with tray); food, since she’d not yet eating a wide enough variety of “people food” to allow her to just eat from our plates; bibs and cloths and clothes; toys and books; stroller; Bjorn; and the infernal pump. Thank goodness we were traveling by car. The second problem is that feeding Lucia in a hotel room—preparing food, storing food among beer and champagne in the mini bar, picking up flung food, washing dishes in the hotel sink—is simply no longer practical. It was easy when she was just breastfeeding, and I imagine it will be easy once again once she’d old enough to just eat what we’re eating (a point we’re getting to, slowly). But for now, it is a real pain.

The next and more vexing problem is that Lucia will not sleep if she knows we are in the room. Putting her down and trying to read quietly in bed results in nothing but her standing up in her crib, staring at us and screaming; so I spent most of this week sitting on the floor of the bathroom while she napped. At night, after feeding her and putting her in her crib, I had to take a walk or go down to the lobby; she would not settle if I was there. But really, why did I bother? She woke up so often during our nights in Boston that we were lucky to get two or three hours of sleep at a time. She refused to go back to sleep unless I nursed her, and even that sometimes failed to work. One night, she was up from one to three a.m. The next night, she was up for good at 4:30 a.m. We tried to put her in our bed; this only worked her up more, as she crawled from one of us to the other, swatting Andrew’s face, pulling my hair, sitting up and clapping, trying to pitch herself off the side of the bed. We were zombies.

Andrew was in Boston to work, and, unfortunately, these sleep troubles overshadowed what I’d hoped would be a nice few days for me to explore the city. I did get to have lunch with an old friend, and walk around the Public Gardens, and have a nice dinner with Andrew at the Parish CafĂ©, and have a quick swim with Lucia on the hotel’s rooftop pool—but I was very happy when Friday rolled around and it was time for us to pack up and head out.

One of these days, I’m going to have a chance to really see Boston. This week was not that time.