Monday, January 31, 2011

Hear Me Roar

Last night, Lucia woke up screaming bloody murder at 11:45pm. She hasn’t woken up at night for months. We rushed in—she was hysterical, screaming like a terrified banshee, tears streaming down her cheeks. A nightmare? I rocked her and sang to her; we gave her a little milk in a bottle. Still shuddering and whimpering, she kept pointing to the nursery door, so I carried her out to the living room, reassured her that everything was as it should be, and read Goodnight Moon. Calmed, she then squirmed out of my arms, hurried in her sleep sack over to her play area, and promptly began playing with blocks. Certain the night terror had passed, we put her back to bed…at which point she commenced to scream until 2:30am, pausing only when Andrew or I went in to sing and soothe.

Last night marked the appearance of a new scream. High-pitched, shrill, curdling. Once it was no longer a sad, scared scream, it became a demanding, angry scream. One that I’m sure penetrated the walls, perhaps even the back garden, perhaps traveling even to the next block. I am toddler; hear me roar.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thundersleet


We have been pummeled with snow. Rather, with “thundersnow” and “thundersleet,” according to the weatherman reporting last night. Indeed, last night we could barely see the street from our windows. And this morning, Park Slope was a mound of white. The tree branches were each covered with a delicate layer of lacey snow. For a moment, I was happy to be in New York, in the snow.

Approximately three hours later, the snow in the streets and by every curb had turned to ankle-deep gray slush. Determined to get Lucia to work off some energy and have a good nap, I put her in the Ergo and snow-shoed my way to a café, all but ruining my non-water-proof boots. Lucia enjoyed exploring the café. She ate lunch. We trudged home. She was visibly tired in the Ergo. She slept for…forty minutes.

This afternoon, feeling snowbound and knowing I’d need rainboots if I was going to get out at all tomorrow and, oh, in the next three months until spring, I bundled Lucia into the stroller and we headed to Target. Unwise, unwise. My already ruined boots took another hit. And we kept getting stuck in two-foot-high snow piles when we tried to cross the street. I have a monster stroller—huge, monster-truck-caliber wheels—and yet we still got stuck. But people in Park Slope are generally helpful, and we were pulled free each time.

The arduous trip was not worth it. There were no rainboots left. We went to DSW. No rainboots left other than a few random size 10s. But Lucia enjoyed walking around the store, forgetting completely about me as she wandered up and down the aisles. Fortunately, on the way out of the mall, I found some rainboots in a store playing blaringly loud music. Lucia snapped and clapped happily for about ten seconds until she became fussy and annoyed. I changed into the boots right away and set out for home, feeling powerful, daring the puddles to be deeper—deeper—deeper! I literally waded through puddles. There is no way around them, no way at all. We got stuck in a snow pile. We were pulled free. A man suggested adding four-wheel drive to the stroller. I suggested to Andrew he propose to his boss that we move back to California.

I wish I’d known the following truth before agitating to leave California: Anyone who says they love winter is not a parent of a baby. I can see loving winter once again once Lucia is a kid—lots of happy, snowsuited, sledding kids were heading to the park today. But chasing a toddler around to get on socks, shoes, legwarmers, coat, hat, stroller straps, and stroller bunting, and then donning my own boots, scarf, hat, coat, and gloves, and then either trudging through snow with my center of gravity all out of whack from the Ergo OR pushing a stroller through slush lakes and snow mountains, only to then unwrap the bundled Lucia for far too short a time, only to then REWRAP her up while she indulges in writhing, overheated screaming in a public place—it makes me want to take winter and just…just…shake it. Doesn’t it realize baby-raising is hard enough already?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Catnaps

Winter is a cozy time. So cozy, in fact, that Lucia has taken to falling asleep in her stroller when we are out and about. Last week, we went to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum with a friend, and had a great time—Lucia walked around the museum and looked at everything, rapt. We’re planning to become members and go often. It was a ridiculously snowy, slushy, wintry day, and Lucia was bundled to the hilt. After walking for a few minutes toward the subway, I peeked in at her—fast asleep.

Today I took her to a Babies & Books program at the Brooklyn Public Library and then let her walk around the stacks for a while, which she fully enjoyed. She did her cute little near-run and tried to pull all the books off the shelves (thankfully, they were wedged in tightly). To prevent a catnap, I gave her a Mum-Mum as soon as we went outside. Again, it was snowing like crazy, and Lucia was warm and bundled. We barely got to Union St. before she was conked out.

Catnaps are bad, bad news for us. Lucia is already not a great napper—she’s like a clock, getting up after an hour, an hour and a half on a really good day—and catnaps make the “real” nap even shorter. But this baby, once desiring sleep, is hard to sidetrack. Cheek-pinching, loud singing, wild swings of the stroller, even—forgive me—raising of the stroller visor so a little snow gets on her face…nothing works, and I feel pretty awful about waking such a slumbering sweetie. But I’m really flummoxed. These tire-out-the-baby outings are, I think, the key to better naps (and to surviving the winter). But if every outing ends in a catnap, my best-laid plans will be thwarted.

I’m thinking more interesting snacks might work, but I have no other ideas. The coziness of snuggly hats, warm bunting, the shh-shhh of snow falling all around, the gentle rocking of stroller tires over snow piles…if it were me being pushed around, I’d fall asleep too. I need to find something interesting enough to keep her awake for 15 minutes. That’s all I need. If I weren't freelancing, I wouldn't care--I'd spend the stroller-nap shopping or sitting in a cafe. But Lucia's naptime is my only time to work. I am very protective of this time...and I will not give it up without a fight.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Parenting: February Issue

Another month, and an über-redesigned Parenting magazine. Gone are the { } in the section headings. Gone, in fact, are any clear headings altogether. In fact, when I first realized the magazine had undergone a mini-facelift, I sort of got the feeling it had gone to press without any of its proper design elements in place—the section headings look bland, like a draft copy, and who even knows what the sections are now. They seem to include “Right Now,” “Offspring,” and “Stylebook,” among others, but it’s hard to tell. More über-irritating is the fact that the headings are capitalized—except for one letter. So we have RIGHT NoW, OFFSPRiNG, FAMiLY, LET’S EaT, and so on. Why? Why is one letter not capitalized? Trying to figure out these heading mysteries this month threatened to keep me from finding content for my commentary.

Fear not; I found some. Let’s dive in. I had a hard time with the über-haphazardly capitalized article “fun FOR ALL!”, which proposes several themed activities that children from age two through age twelve can all partake in. For example, with painting, the two-year-old can throw the paint on the floor and the twelve-year-old can copy an Old Master print. That’s my own example, but that’s sort of the gist. They weren’t all über-terrible ideas—indeed, there is much fun to be had in making rubber-stamp art and stringing beads. But this “fun FOR ALL” idea is hard to sustain. When it comes to bubbles, the little kids get to have fun blowing and chasing bubbles, while the older kids get to…take pictures of the little kids having fun. I save my commentary for this bit, however—a suggestion for a sidewalk chalk activity for eight- to twelve-year-olds:

“Have your child make a funny pose on the cement, and then draw his outline; he’ll have fun adding in the details.”

COMMENTARY: Basically, what you’re doing here is making a police outline of a murder victim, right? There’s nothing wrong with this, but let’s not pretend the kid’s going to draw in suspenders and a bowtie. It’s the jumping-off point for a game of über-CSI.

It continues: “An older child will enjoy tracing your shadow, or the shadow of a tree—and watching it change as the day goes on.”

COMMENTARY: Really? Will an older child really enjoy this? Because it sounds like a deadly über-boring activity, as well as one that will take approximately thirty seconds to complete. I suppose this older child will then sit by the traced shadow with a cup of tea and note the changing position of the sun in the hours that follow. Please.

And yes, it still continues: “Drawing an outline of a puddle is a great demonstration of the concept of evaporation.”

COMMENTARY: Sure, this may be a great demonstration etc etc. But why is this poor older kid being forced to learn about evaporation while the younger kids get to draw roads and shapes on the sidewalk?

I have one more point to make about this month’s issue. I don’t want to waste too much time on this, because I already wasted time actually reading the article. Yes, I’m talking about the interview with Kourtney Kardashian. This is, I think, the first time I’ve seen a “celebrity” on the cover of Parenting, and I really hope it’s the last. Parenting is already a pretty useless magazine as far as useful parenting information goes; if I want celebrity gossip, I’ll subscribe to something else. Related to this are my über-thoughts on a new section of the magazine: Stylebook. Because really, the reason one might choose to subscribe to a parenting magazine is to see random couples dressed up in horrible clothes. And don’t get me started on “Look Like a Star!”, which, I fear, is also going to be a regular feature. I don’t care where I can buy a jacket like Jessica Alba’s! It has nothing to do with parenting! I can’t even provide any commentary!

Finally, I knew this issue was going to be a doozy when I saw one of the headlines on the cover: “‘I love crafts!’—One Dad’s Confession.” Crafts are so very shameful.

Until next time…

PS: Hey, overzealous copyeditor? Please note that overusing über is über-annoying.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Night Out

This Saturday, Andrew and I did several remarkable things: we left the house after 7:30pm; we went into Manhattan together; and we had a fancy dinner, just the two of us. The occasion was a close-to-expiring DealOn purchase for a great Spanish restaurant in Soho called Mercat—and Barbra and Chris kindly agreed to babysit (well, at least sit in our apartment while Lucia slept). We were free!

And dinner was amazing. We’d been to Mercat once before, several years ago, and this handily surpassed our good memories and high expectations. We ordered many things from the tapas section of the menu, including patatas bravas, croquetas (shrimp and chicken), bombas (large balls of potato and meat), and pan con tomate. We had jamon serrano and a cheese plate that included a cheese that is aged in underwater caves—perhaps the most delicious cheese I’ve ever had. We had clams with bits of chorizo in a briny broth. We ate it all with a bottle of wine in a candlelit room that, I’m certain, offered no high chairs. And, of course, we reminisced about Barcelona.

Before catching a cab home we walked a few blocks past an apartment in the East Village where Andrew used to live. It was freezing—a real winter night—so we didn’t walk much farther. Then we drove home over the Manhattan Bridge and returned home to our still-sleeping baby, who was oblivious to our absence. It was a perfect date.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

First Meltdown



Lucia has been asserting her independence lately, becoming more stubborn and insistent about things she wants. But yesterday, she had her first bona fide meltdown—crying, screaming, rolling dramatically on the floor. The cause: after her nap, we said goodbye to the pacifier as we always do (it stays in the nursery), but on this particular day she decided she didn’t want to say goodbye, and she quickly melted down when I wouldn’t let her retrieve it. I tried to pick her up; she was boneless, oozing from my arms back onto the floor. She swatted away my conciliatory offers of snacks, books, toys, milk. I had to just leave her alone. Only after several hysterical minutes did she let me pick her up, put on a favorite song, and dance a little bit with her as she shuddered, red-faced. Then she began smiling and clapping to the song, and she was back to her cheerful, cheek-kissing self for the rest of the day.

These pictures show her being particularly peaceful, tantrums a distant thought.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 15 Months



Dear Little One,

You’re fifteen months old now, and changing fast. You are becoming your own person. This is hilarious and wonderful to watch, and also, at times, frustrating and exhausting to deal with. You are no longer a baby who can be distracted from what you want, who can’t understand what we’re saying, who forgets about things when they’re out of sight. No—if you see something you want, there is a great deal of pointing and inquiring “Ma? Ma?” sounds. If I don’t know exactly what you’re pointing to (which is often), you swat away what I offer you with a forceful “No no no no no.” If I try to hide something (say, a canister of puffs I foolishly left in your line of vision on the counter), you know where it is. Indeed, you know where things are in general—like your pacifier, which I try to restrict to the nursery but which you know is always on the table by the glider and which you sometimes sneak off to retrieve. Sometimes you’ll disappear for a moment and return proudly with the pacifier in your mouth.

Though you occasionally stump me, I am pretty well versed in deciphering your pointing. If you point at the CD player, you want me to play some music. If you point at your high chair, you’re hungry. If you point from your high chair fervently into the living room, you want your regular roster of eating-time books. You always want bananas or Mum-Mums if you see them. And you’ve started walking to the front door and pointing at it and to your stroller when you want to go for a walk. (This does not stop you from screaming when I actually put on your coat and put you in your stroller. But once we’re outside you seem content.)

You dance constantly. You love all kinds of music. You will snap your fingers even to a chanted nursery rhyme. You prefer your Music Together CD above all else.

You are not a great eater, and I’m struggling with this. Oh, the quantity usually isn’t a problem, though of course we have our days; it’s the variety. If you could live on pasta, cheese cubes, Ritz crackers, bananas, grapes, and raisins, you would. I can get you to eat cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots if they’re mixed in with Fat Baby ™ pasta (my own sauce creation of butter, cream cheese, and half-and-half), and sweet potatoes if they’re mixed with half-and-half and butter. But meatballs—meatloaf—pretty much anything else—well, we’re just not there yet. You take a bite, make a hideous face, and let it ooze out of your grimacing mouth. It’s lovely. I thought I’d have a baby who loved hummus and falafel and spinach. Perhaps you will be this baby in your sixteenth month.

Your napping these days is atrocious—an hour most days, an hour and a half if I’m lucky. This must change, dear one. I have work to do. Things to do. And I need a break during the day. You are cute and precious but you require constant attention. Look away for a moment and you’re trying to climb into the bathtub (and getting closer to doing it). Try to clean up the kitchen and you go off to stand up on the very edge of the ottoman. Turn my back and then look at you only to see you chewing an unidentified, hardened food bit you’ve found on the floor. It is exhausting.

But you are cute, getting cuter, especially now that you can do lots of cute things like point to your nose and toes, and follow along with the lyrics on songs (when a song says to clap your hands, you do). You giggle and play games with us. You snuggle your blankie. You kiss our cheeks. These moments outweigh the raging, boneless baby moments by a good ratio, so I think we’re doing okay.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Cuteness Report

Clearly, by not putting “blog regularly” on my list of new year’s resolutions, I’ve dropped the ball. Consider this humdrum entry added to the list.

There’s actually not much to say right now, other than that our weathering of the winter has begun. It’s tough to go outside when it’s this cold; even when Lucia is fully bundled, when the icy wind hits her face, she cries pitiably. When it’s not windy, she’s fine—that is, she’s fine once we’re on our walk. Getting her into her shoes, coat, and bunting is another story, eliciting a dependable tantrum. And I’ve made some rookie mistakes with the bunting thing. I was excited about finding a great JJ Cole Bundle Me at a local consignment store—only to realize, too late, that Lucia is much too tall for it. Sometimes I forget I no longer have an infant. A new toddler-sized bunting from LL Bean will be here by the end of the week, and the too-small bunting will be tucked away for an eventual next baby.

But on to a cuteness report.

We’re rearranged our living room to provide a large play area for Lucia. It looks fantastic, and it allows Lucia to look out the windows. By one of the windows is an ottoman she likes to climb on top of. She will sometimes bring a book with her and sit there by herself, reading by the window.

Today’s newest cute thing is Lucia making her stuffed animals dance. When I put some music on today, she sat on the floor with a small stuffed hippo and made it dance around on the ground. Very cute.

She gives us kisses on the cheek now, but she doesn’t exactly have the “mwah” sound of a kiss down. Instead, she does a kind of “mmmm” and presses her little face to my cheek.

Lucia has taken to standing next to her high chair and pointing up to her seat, saying “Ma MA, Ma MA,” when she’s hungry.

Her dancing has gotten a bit out of hand. She dances all the time, to any music. She even raises her arms and “snaps” her fingers when I’m trying to sing her to sleep.

A new game: I sit on the floor with my back to her and pretend not to pay her any attention, or even to know she’s there. Eventually, I hear small footsteps coming up behind me, and then a tap on my shoulder. I turn, in mock surprise, to find my grinning baby. Then I turn away and hum, looking up at the ceiling, again pretending to pay her no attention. I sense her moving her face closer, and closer, and closer to me, until I turn my head to her and surprise her, at which point she laughs and laughs. It is pretty cute.

Lucia takes her share of spills, and she tends to sometimes bump her head. Whenever she does, she looks at me and pats her head. “You hit your head, but you’re fine,” I always reassure her. In the past day or two she’s patted her head when she does something else potentially painful, like drop a book on her foot. It seems to be her way of saying she’s hurt herself. Pretty cute.

Two marketing postcards from Chick Fil A are among her favorite “toys” right now. She carries them around and presses them against the front window.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday Night at Target

I went to Target tonight—walking through a freezing cold night to get there. (The things I do for cheap essentials…and an un-baby-accompanied stop at DSW, which is in the same building.) The girl in front of me in line had a pile of clothes, a soft-looking robe, some makeup items. One of the sweaters she’d chosen wasn’t on sale; she debated whether to buy it and decided she would. “It was a really bad day,” she confided to me.

“Target is always good for little pick-me-ups,” I said. I remembered many a Target trip undertaken when I lived alone in Brooklyn, lo those many years ago—a new lipstick, a new shirt, something fun to make me happy. Then I looked at my own things on the conveyor: baby wipes, a 3-pack of baby forks, baby shoes, a flour sifter, toothpaste, dishwasher detergent. It was 9:00pm on Friday night.

I walked over salt-crunchy streets home with my unexciting purchases and my new boots from DSW. Andrew had from-scratch chicken soup and a bottle of wine waiting. Target hasn’t changed much, but everything else has.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Decoupage Nesting Dolls

Here are the nesting dolls I made this year for Mom, Dad, Molly, and Ian, for anyone who might be curious (and really, who wouldn't be). The bottoms are a bit unfinished--I took these pictures before I sanded them down.

Lego Star Wars video game characters for Ian:

Julia Child, Alice Waters, and Irma Rambauer for Mom:

Eustace Tilley for Dad:


Cariactures of Toscanini, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff for Molly:





The Holidays


Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. I’ve been lax in my blogging, mostly because I was just enjoying the freedom of being away from a computer, with other people around to hold the baby. With two weeks of no freelancing and a bit of a lightened baby load, I did things I rarely get to do—I read books; I shopped and tried on a million things; I got a manicure. It was nice, very nice, and it strikes me that people who live near their parents have a radically different parenting experience than the one Andrew and I have. Just completely different. An experience where one can perhaps get a manicure more often than, oh, once every fourteen months.

Anyway. First stop on our trip was Connellsville, where we whisked Lucia through the door and pretty much had no baby for a week. She ate hearty meals prepared and served by Grandma. She rocked in a hand-upholstered mini-rocking chair procured from the attic by Grandpa. She learned to say “Papa” (for Grandpa). She consented to be held by me only when Grandma was not in the room. Andrew and I bought piles of clothes at Gabe’s (Andrew set a new record, I think—four trips in six days; I made three trips) and had wings and $2 Yuenglings at Lynn’s. We had a Christmas Eve celebration with lots of Orlandos and rounded off Christmas Day with visits from many Prestias. We saw copious other friends as well. Through it all, Lucia gave up crawling altogether and indulged an intense fascination with the stairs.

The highlight of Christmas was, as always, our Made Gifts, which, this year, ascended to new levels. Dad made us personalized engraved slate cheeseboards with a piece of soapstone for writing the names of the cheeses on the slate. Mom gathered and scanned hundreds of our favorite baby and childhood photos and created Snapfish photo books for Molly and me. Molly made spectacular Christmas tree ornaments from Styrofoam balls and thousands of straight pins, sequins, and seed beeds. And Ian designed a collectible set of Team Orlando baseball cards, with stats, nicknames, write-ups, and fun facts for every member (even Franny and Zooey).

As for me, this year I made decoupage nesting dolls, personalized for each person. Here’s a sampling.


After Christmas, Andrew and Lucia embarked on an adventure—their first flight together alone, and their first night without me. Maddeningly to me, they had a good flight—Lucia slept. Slept! Apparently Andrew worked some sort of magic. I drove with Rachael to Dayton, where we spent a fun night with Michelle and Jim and their kids before going to Cincinnati for Barbra’s baby shower. Then I was off to the airport for a flight to Jacksonville—before which I had a Chick Fil A dinner at the airport, which I ate while reading a book. I missed Lucia, of course, but this was quite nice. And it didn’t even matter that my flight was delayed. I just kept reading. Bliss.

Then our week in Jacksonville began. The weather was beautiful, so Lucia spent a good deal of time outside, playing on the deck, walking around the driveway and sidewalk by the house, playing at the nearby playground. She was fascinated by the large number of cats populating the Littell compound and made a high-pitched screech whenever she saw one—her version of “meow,” I think. Her walking got better and better while we were there, and she walked all over the place—falling at times, of course, but mostly very steady on her feet. Besides spending time with Granny and GrandBob and Nana, Lucia got to spend a couple of days with Aunt Katherine and Future Uncle Patrick. Andrew and I spent New Year’s Eve with Katherine and Patrick, having dinner out and then going to two Jacksonville bars (for the record, it was enjoyable, as far as New Year’s Eves go). And on New Year’s Day we spent the day at New Smyrna Beach, where Lucia put her babyfeet in the Atlantic for the first time.



And now—we’re home, after a delayed but more or less painless flight. (Lucia slept!) We had a wonderful two weeks but we are happy to be back. As soon as we walked in the door, Lucia made a beeline for her lion push toy and then pulled all her books off the shelf before stumbling over to me, books in each hand, to read some much-missed favorites.