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.