Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Bunny




This morning, as Andrew and I excitedly announced to Lucia that we had to go out to the living room to see what the Easter Bunny brought, it occurred to me that we may as well have told her the Green Bowl, or the Happy Goldfish, had delivered gifts. Lucia has never seen a picture of the Easter Bunny, and I’d never mentioned the Easter Bunny before this morning. It was complete gibberish. What does the Easter Bunny look like, anyway? I have a picture in my head that must have come from a children’s book—a man-sized rabbit wearing a blue coat and bowtie, pretty frightening if you think about it—but as of right now Lucia has no frame of reference. For next year, some Easter Bunny books must be procured.

Anyway, this was the first time we’d really done anything with mysteriously delivered gifts. She’s been too little to really understand the past two Christmases, and last year we went through Easter without even one plastic egg entering our house. But this year, because I had so much spare time with Andrew in Australia and my trying to write a novel in two months, I created a lovely little Easter basket for Lucia chock-full of eggs that were themselves full of small toys. She also was given a new koala stuffed animal from Australia, and some plush Peeps (I may just steal these for myself, they’re so cute) and books and a new reading chair from Grandma and Papa.

She seemed very excited about opening up all the eggs, squealing each time we removed one half and revealed the toy inside. She actually didn’t seem all that interested in the toys themselves and instead just wanted to keep opening the eggs. Andrew made pancakes and it was a lovely Easter morning.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Quantum Physics of Days with a Toddler

I have been alone with Lucia since Wednesday afternoon—easily the longest stretch I’ve ever been by myself with her—and Andrew doesn’t get back until late tonight. Having had these days, I’m newly struck by the vastly different speeds at which time can travel when you spend days alone with a toddler.

Thursday, for example, flew. Lucia woke up at 8:15, we had breakfast, we joined friends for the egg hunt, we ate lunch, Lucia took a two-hour nap, we went to the playground, we had dinner, and Lucia went to bed. It was the fastest day I’ve had in ages.

Yesterday wasn’t unnaturally fast, but it was okay. Lucia got up at 7:30, we went to Target, went to the playground, Lucia ate a good lunch and had a decent 1.5-hour nap, and we ran a specific errand in the afternoon—small trinkets for her Easter basket—that turned out to be 100 percent successful. I set out to find a small bag of farm-animal figurines: got it. A new, larger ball: got it. Total expenditure: $4. Nice. I was tired at the end of the day, but not dead on my feet.

Today, on the other hand, is rainy and awful, and it’s Saturday, so we have nothing planned with anyone. Lucia got up at 7:00. I looked at the clock this morning, certain it was almost 11:00. It was 8:15. The day has not improved. We got out of the house to visit Barbra and Chris and Baby Alex, and when we came home Lucia refused to eat lunch and turned into a whining Fusskins. I now hear her yelling for me in the nursery after a measly one-hour nap. We have 4.5 hours to go until bedtime. It’s wet and gray. How on earth is time going to move this afternoon?

Time may, indeed, stop. And this afternoon might just break the fragile threads to which this solo mama is hanging until Andrew returns. For example, in the second paragraph, I typed “flue” instead of “flew,” and I think that may be the very first time I’ve ever, ever typed that word. Why was it in my head? Why did I dream of tigers last night? What am I going to do for the next four hours and twenty minutes? And why will spring never come? Doesn’t it realize there are stir-crazy people who need to take walks to keep even a small measure of sanity? It was even raining too hard this morning for me to get a Blue Sky muffin, which I was counting on as a morning reward. Sadness. Frustration. Rage.

Andrew might think he has a long afternoon ahead with his cross-country flight that follows his cross-hemisphere flight. But I would argue that my approaching afternoon with Lucia will be, and feel, equally as long.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt

This morning, some friends and I got together for an impromptu Easter egg hunt for our toddlers. I have to admit I was filled with some degree of anxiety over this. Cute as the idea sounded, I worried that Lucia would be left behind by aggressively egg-searching little ones and fail to find any eggs. I needn’t have worried. All the toddlers took a lackadaisical approach to the hunt, wandering here and there. It took Lucia little while to understand the point wasn’t to find an egg and then sit down to play with it, but she soon got the idea, spotting and pursuing eggs with enthusiasm and dropping them into her little corduroy bag. A mom much more together than I am (I, who bought a bag of plastic eggs on the way to the park) had even filled some eggs with chocolate eggs and stickers. The hunt was a hit for Lucia, who left the park with stickers on her hands, holding eggs in her lap.

I have no pictures of the egg hunt. But here are a few from Mom’s visit over the past few days.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Parenting: The May Issue

Though it wearies me to deliver yet another COMMENTARY on Parenting, I’m able to do so this month without taking valuable time away from other things because Mom is here to entertain Lucia. So this month I will not be sacrificing crucial baby-rearing time to provide my withering critique. And withering it is.

First, though, a bright note. Perhaps someone, somewhere, is reading these missives and taking them to heart: for the second issue in a row, there is no “Modern Parent Handbook” (i.e., the series of sidebars peppered throughout the magazine without rhyme or reason or note in the table of contents), and this month the Style section has also gone by the wayside. No more baby or mama fashions, and, more importantly, no more suggestions on where I can buy clothes so my baby can dress like Gwen Stefani’s. Perhaps one day Parenting will get rid of all its fatuous content. Of course, then there would be no magazine. And fifteen minutes of my life every month would once again be mine.

But onward. The very first “article” in the magazine this month, “What the Plush Are These?,” suggests encouraging your child’s creativity by having him draw a monster and then turning that drawing into an actual stuffed monster by purchasing a Make My Own Monster kit—for $249. Once your child uses this kit, which contains paper and pencils, to draw his monster, you send it away and, eight weeks later, an actual stuffed creature that looks like what your kid drew is sent back. If you haven’t been following closely: you’ve just paid $249 for a stuffed animal.

It’d be one thing if this was an ad in the magazine—but this is the first article in the “Right NoW” section, actual content. There is a mention that some of this company’s money goes to charities, but it’s vague (“And over the past three years, a good portion…has been used to support…”), with no indication that any of my $249 would actually be charity-bound. Don’t get me wrong. My house is filled with ample evidence that Lucia is a privileged, lucky child (a $7 rubber ball; too many JellyCat animals for Lucia to hold). But there is no way—not now, not ever—that I would spend $249 to turn one of her drawings, which she’ll forget about an hour later, not to mention eight weeks later, into a plush toy. It’s just…unseemly. Unless, oh, 70-80 percent or more of this money goes to charity, I’m hard-pressed to find this justifiable.

Unfortunately, there is more territory to cover. In an article about the benefits of letting a four-year-old spend some gift money on something she picks out herself at the store, the author advises discussing with the child beforehand what she might like to buy. The author says:

“Thanks to the Internet, you can get a good sense of the cost of the items she identifies.”

COMMENTARY: “Thanks to the Internet?” What is this, 1998? Really. Chances are high that this four-year-old won’t even care about going to the store but will want to buy something ON the Internet, like, oh, pet food for some sort of virtual animal (does anyone do that anymore?). “Thanks to the Internet…” Overzealous copyeditor, you are clearly well past your prime. Time to cede your role, perhaps, to someone for whom the Internet is, like it is for the rest of the universe, a fact of life.

Lots of ranting this time. But we will persevere. In the “FAMiLY” section, in an article called “High-Fiving High Teas,” we are given three suggestions for tea parties what will appeal to both boys and girls, mothers and fathers, or no one in their right mind. We are encouraged to drink goji berry tea, rooibos tea, or dried-fruit tea. Sigh. Goodness; these aren’t even the crazy parts. There is so much to COMMENT on here that I don’t even know where to start.

For the Cavemen tea party: The hangout should be “Mom’s bedroom ‘cave,’ complete with houseplants.” For the snack, “boil eggs in black tea, then crack for a stonelike look.”

COMMENTARY: What? What? What? I have a pretty good imagination, but why is Mom’s bedroom called a “cave”? Is it dark in there? Dim? Small? I don’t get it. And I’ve been in a few caves in my day, and not one of them contained a houseplant, or a green plant of any kind. Pointy rocks I forget the names of, yes. Plants, no. And hard-boiled eggs? For a snack? Eggs boiled in tea? Is this article meant as a joke?

For the Rock ‘n’ Rollers tea party: The hangout should be the “ ‘nightclub’ living room, with colored holiday lights.”

COMMENTARY: One time, Molly and I decided we’d turn our living room into a nightclub. This was probably back in the late eighties, and there was a weird chandelier-type lighting fixture in that room. In the kitchen cupboard we found a stack of plastic margarine containers in different colors, red, orange, yellow. We stood on chairs and put the containers over the bare bulbs of the lighting fixture (it was a pretty hideous fixture). The containers promptly melted over the bulbs, releasing a noxious mix of chemicals that I’m sure were what irreversibly harmed my sense of direction. Hanging holiday lights isn’t really a great alternative—it would look more like an Indian restaurant in the East Village than a nightclub—but at least plastic won’t be dripping from the ceiling.

Whew, this is a long one. (Can you tell I have a Lucia companion today?) One more and I’ll call it quits. Just a page after the stunningly inane tea party ideas is an article “full” of suggestions of new and interesting places to have picnics. I say “full” instead of full because unless you live in a major metropolis, these suggestions are completely meaningless. Here’s the gist:

“Head to a place near the airport…Your local botanical garden…Take him to a harbor or dock…Venture to an outdoor sculpture garden…”

COMMENTARY: I live in New York, so I have easy access to all of the above (but I don’t think taking my child to sit anywhere near JFK, or Newark, or LaGuardia, would be a wise parenting decision). But really, who else can do these things? The article advises us to “skip the obvious parks and playgrounds,” but if you’re lucky enough to have a nice park or playground nearby, you’re probably better off just skipping this article.

Until next time…

Friday, April 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 18 Months


Dear Little One,

A year and a half old! After today you’ll be closer to two than to one. You’re so cute these days that Daddy and I both agree this is our favorite age yet. You’re so personable, so funny, so engaging—you’re a fun little baby to be around. You make us laugh, and you laugh with us.

Eighteen months in, I believe you’re still the cutest baby in the world. I’ve become That Mother—smiling indulgently as you push your little stroller down 5th Avenue, swerving in front of other pedestrians; looking around at others to confirm your cuteness when you scream and bark at dogs on the street. You saw a dog when we were walking the other day, and I asked the owner if the dog was friendly and if it would mind a little pat. She frowned at you in a I’m-doing-my-best-to-be-nice-to-this-scourge way. “You little toddlers are unpredictable,” she said. I convinced you to just wave and blow a kiss to the dog. I wanted to explain to the woman that you are extremely gentle with animals, always have been; you’re not a baby who runs up and grabs or hits a dog, scaring it. But I realized it wouldn’t matter. Not everyone is going to see that you are perfect and wonderful. People now and later in your life are going to disagree. But I, as your mama, will always know the truth.

You have taken your babbling to a new level recently, and the stream of chatter coming from your mouth sounds so very much like sentences in some mystical elfin language. You are trying so hard to communicate, and you’re gaining new words all the time, as well as more effective ways of expressing what you want. But you have also gotten very, very particular about certain things, like songs. You love being sung to—but not just any song. You usually have a particular song in mind that you’d like to hear, and when I sing the first notes of another song, you shake your head vehemently, saying loudly “No no no no no.” Yesterday I kept singing just to see what would happen, and your little face got redder and your No’s got louder and louder until I thought you were going to cry. I moved on to another song. I eventually hit the right one about 70 percent of the time. One of these days I’ll have to count up the number of songs in our repertoire.

You have outgrown most of your twelve-month clothes, finally, though it’s still chilly outside; so most days you’re in a sweater that comes to your belly button, with sleeves that rise above your wrists and pants that stop above your ankles. I feel like I’m stuffing you into some of your clothes; but buying new winter clothes now seems wasteful. So we carry on with what you have. Eighteen-month things are still a bit big in the waist, so we may have a couple of awkward months while your next clothing size shakes out.

We went to the Prospect Park Zoo this morning with some friends, and Daddy joined us—he left for Australia today and wanted to spend the morning with us. The highlight for you was getting to feed a few pieces of food to a goat. You poked your little hand right through the wire, fearless, and didn’t flinch with the goat nibbled the food out of your fingers.

You’ll celebrate your eighteen-month weekend with Grandma, who arrived today to keep us company in Daddy’s absence.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bits

This afternoon I bought Lucia a huge bag of kids’ books for $5—someone just doing a little house cleaning was off-loading them, and I snapped them up; about twenty books were in the bag. I plan to bring them up to NH this summer to cut down on the things we have to pack when we drive up. Anyway, I had some of them in the bottom of the stroller when we stopped at the playground at the way home to meet up with a friend. After playing for a while, Lucia wandered back to the stroller, where she spotted the books, pulled some out, and promptly sat down on the (damp, chilly) ground and began turning the pages. Ah, familiar territory, I could see her thinking.

Lucia’s new toy discovery is the pull-ability of a polar-bear backpack a friend brought her. She hasn’t quite gotten the idea of wearing it yet, but for the past couple of days she’s been enthralled with the realization that if she hooks one of the straps around her ankle, she can pull it around the room. This evening, as I prepared some soup before Andrew got home, she was very quiet in the living room; each time I glanced over, she was very seriously walking with the bear around her ankle, tugging it along. Clearly it’s honing some new skill for her.

Lucia has mastered the art of the bye-bye. “BYE BYEEE,” she says, waving. “BYE BYEEE.” Bidding Andrew goodbye in the morning has gotten to be a prolonged process, with Lucia standing at the apartment door, BYE-BYEEEing and waving as he walks down the hallway. Today she continued even after Andrew had left the building. Fortunately a neighbor walked down the stairs, and she was able to bid one more person a good day.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Week Recap, with Pictures

We finally got a new camera, one we hope will keep up with fast-moving Lucia; so here’s a little recap of the last week or so, with some pictures.


While Andrew was in Mountain View last week, and Kris came to stay with us for a few days. We had lots of fun at the playground (on the days it didn’t rain) and having ice cream when Marion and Peter came for the day from Albany.


Thursday was cold and rainy, so I finally made Lucia a ball pit. She became hysterical as I blew up the pool, but quickly recovered and fully enjoyed herself. The ball pit lost its novelty by the next day, so we put it away for the next time we need a rainy-day diversion.




Today was a beautiful day. We went to the farmer’s market (little there but applies, potatoes, and leeks—ah, California, with your spring bounty in full bloom!), where Lucia had fun walking around, scavenging pieces of our bagel sandwiches, and barking at dogs. It was so nice out we didn’t even need coats when we went to the playground afterward. And we found some great free stuff on stoops on our walk home—a Marilynne Robinson novel, a bird toy from Amsterdam, and a brand-new-shrinkwrapped-in-its-box Sears toy set from 1971. Thinking we’d struck mini-gold, we hopefully Googled it, but found only one for sale—for $6.00. Guess we can safely open it.



And here are a few miscellaneous pictures. Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Cuteness Report

On Monday, Lucia suddenly began saying “Hi.” We were in an elevator with a mirrored wall, and Andrew was holding Lucia. She looked at her reflection and, out of the blue, grinned her toothy, wrinkled-eye grin and said, “Hi! Hi! Hi!” She is thrilled with this new word and uses it often. She greets me periodically throughout the day. When she’s in her stroller, she twists so she can look up at me through the “sunroof” and says “Hi! Hi!” She says it to children at the playground. She says it to people we pass on the street. This morning I heard her saying it in her crib when she woke up. It is exceptionally cute.

Lucia had a wonderful time today in Music Together. She was very focused on the various instruments (sticks, resonator bell, a variety of “kitchen instruments”) and enjoyed the dance portion of the class. I was holding her as we danced, and she suddenly squirmed to be let down; I put her down, she looked up at me with a small, mischievous smile, and she then spun around two times, quite pleased with herself. And at the end of the class she went up and shyly touched the teacher’s guitar (which he always invites the kids to do, and which Lucia never does) and then ran back and threw herself into my lap, smiling.

Lucia’s love of animals is growing more and more maniacal. When she sees a dog on the street now, she not only points at it excitedly and blows multiple kisses—she sometimes screams at the top of her lungs in excitement. The other day she was standing at the front window, and a neighbor’s cat leapt onto our stoop. The cat saw Lucia watching it, and so it then jumped right onto our windowsill. Lucia went bananas, screaming and pointing and blowing kisses. It may have been the highlight of her little life.

Silly Baby has been making regular appearances in our house starting around 6pm each night. Squealing, hysterical laughter at any provocation, lots of running (well, hurrying) back and forth across the living room. It sometimes escalates even after bath when we’re putting on her diaper and sleeper, instigated by Andrew, who does silly things to make her laugh. Of course, at this point her laughter is coupled with the frustration that comes from being forced to be diapered and dressed, so it usually devolves into a brief spell of crying before she finally has her bottle and collapses in bed.

Lucia has realized she can grip things between her chin and chest. Yesterday she stuck a raisin there, which then got stuck to her neck. Charming.

Whenever I ask Lucia if she’d like some bunnies (Annie’s Organic bunny crackers), she wrinkles her nose and sniffs several times—her bunny sound—while making the “again/yes/give me/do it/sing/read” sign.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Down with Baths

Lucia has been a giddy bundle of baby happiness for the past several weeks, doing cute baby things, saying new words (both comprehensible and in-), playing joyfully with her toys. We’ve done some fun things lately, too. Tuesday we went to the New York Aquarium at Coney Island with friends, and Lucia had a splendid time. She hurried around, squealing and giggling, rushing up to the tanks, blowing kisses to walruses. She loved it. And I loved it too, both because aquariums are fun and because it was great to realize that the beach—a real beach!—is only half an hour away by subway. If winter ever ends, we will be able to enjoy it.

Andrew’s been in CA all week, but fortunately his mom arrived Wednesday to keep me and Lucia company. She was able to come to our Music Together class with us, which was fun; and it was sunny and nice enough Wednesday afternoon to go to the playground, where Lucia kept Granny on her toes with her determined attempts to steal another child’s large blue spiny ball. Once focused on this ball, she could not be deterred. I met a friend there and, while talking to her, could see Lucia stalking her prey out of the corner of my eye. Despite the difficulties with ball-thievery, Lucia seemed to love running around, such a change from a few weeks ago. Perhaps it’s the new shoes.

We went to the Brooklyn Museum yesterday afternoon, which actually went very well—Lucia seemed to enjoy herself (especially when snacking on cantaloupe, of course), and we managed to see quite a bit of the museum before Lucia started refusing to walk where we told her to (a problem when there are lots of do-not-touch things right at baby level).

She is still a sunny, happy baby, but for two things: she is getting her first incisor, and she has begun freaking out about her bath. This started Wednesday night and repeated itself last night. Lucia ordinarily LOVES bathtime, usually staying in so long she turns into a little prune. But on those two nights she became iron-boned baby as soon as we put her in the water, refusing to unlock her knees so we could sit her down and trying valiantly to climb out of the tub by swinging her dripping-wet babyleg over the edge again and again. Of course, bathtime ended in hysteria (Lucia’s) both nights. Tonight she didn’t cry, but she huddled in one corner with her back to us the whole time. Quite sad and a little alarming, as though she is being really traumatized. Kris and my theory is that she misses Andrew, since bathtime is Daddy-and-baby time. We’ll be able to test the theory when Andrew returns tomorrow.