Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This is the series of faces Lucia made last week when I told her to smile for the camera. The sneer in the third picture makes me laugh out loud.

Monday, May 23, 2011

And So It Begins Again.

11/17/11. Our calendars are marked. And our heads haven’t quite yet stopped spinning.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bad Mama (Or Maybe Food Poisoning)

This weekend, we drove to St. Michael’s, Maryland, a small town on the Chesapeake Bay, for a birthday celebration for a Littell family friend. Andrew’s parents and sister were there, as well as the whole family of the friend, and we all stayed at a gorgeous place right on the water, spread out over a couple different inn-buildings on the grounds. Crab cakes abounded. Andrew went fishing. The weather was beautiful. However, it’s just hard traveling with a toddler who is very much attached to her routines. Granted, exceptions to routines should sometimes be made, like Friday night, when we joined the group for a big seafood dinner that began at 7:00pm. It wouldn’t have been right to not go—after all, we were there to spend time with everyone; plus, we wanted crab—and for a while, Lucia did fine. Then she was fussy and not fine. She didn’t get to bed until after 9:30; and she got up at 6:00 in the morning, when Andrew woke up for fishing. Fusskins decided she liked the Chesapeake Bay and decided to stick around. All. Day.

Saturday night was the big birthday dinner—big kids attending (parents armed with iPads and other diversions), toddlers (there were two of them) babysat. Yes, babysat. Andrew and I have never before left Lucia with a sitter save grandparents or very very good friends after she was long asleep in her own crib—let alone leaving her, awake, in an unfamiliar place. It was hard. There was one sitter for the two babies, so we set Lucia up in a crib in the same inn-building as the other baby. The other baby, accustomed to sitters, played with the sitter and then went peacefully to sleep on her own with nary a peep. Needless to say, this was not the case for Lucia, who wailed and cried when I tried to leave the room, even after singing to her for a very, very long time. We had to leave her still awake, crying. (But we found out later she was asleep five minutes after we left.)

Anyway, once Andrew and I finally arrived at the dinner, someone said she was sure Lucia was fast asleep. “Unless she’s so upset she’s throwing up,” I joked darkly.

Later that night, once Andrew and I were back and had transferred a sleeping Lucia to our own room, she began whimpering in her sleep and occasionally saying quietly “Mama, Mama.” Convinced she was having a nightmare about being abandoned by Mama, I kept going over and patting her back, shhh-ing comfortingly. The third time I did this, she lifted her head, looked up at me, and promptly…threw up. And then threw up several more times, on me, on Andrew. Worse, she was burning up. We stripped her down and took her temperature: 102. She was lying on our bed with her eyes closed, moaning, as we gave her Motrin and patted her with a cool washcloth. She clung to me like a koala until the fever went down, and then we put her back in her crib, where she slept until 7:00. Andrew and I barely slept at all, listening as we were all night for reassuring signs of life from the crib.

So today we were exhausted, though Lucia woke up smiling and saying hopefully, “Side? Side?” (“Outside? Outside?”) She tired quickly, however, and once we left the inn and skipped out early from lunch with the group (which I ate one-handed while wrestling a crying, writhing Lucia with the other, a Lucia who was determined to defy the laws of physics by succeeding in being both on and off my lap simultaneously), she slept almost the whole way home.

She had a fever tonight, 101, so tomorrow we may be doctor-bound. For now, however, I just hope I can finally sleep. I’ll deal with the vomitous clothes in the morning, as well as the copious amount of self-blame I have for clearly making Lucia sick by traumatizing her with a sitter. (Or, perhaps, it was food poisoning from some overripe melon? We'll never know.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


As Lucia and I walked down the street this afternoon, her pushing her toy stroller, me trying by any means necessary to get her to keep walking, it occurred to me that if there were an audio version of my day, with no visual evidence that I was talking to a child, I would sound completely insane. Here’s a brief transcript of our walk:

Lucia, Lucia, that’s the street. Keep walking straight. Fast! Fast! Fast! Keep going! No. Dirty. Garbage. Yucky yucky yucky. That’s an A. That’s a B. Yes, see the ant? An ant. Can you say “ant”? Let’s go fast! Fast! Fast! Fast! Out of the way of the stroller. Move over, Lucia. Lucia, he’s waving at you. Can you say hello? Can you wave? Bye-bye! Garbage. Dirty. Yucky yucky yucky. Yes, that’s wa-wa. No touching. It’s a sidewalk puddle. We look at sidewalk wa-wa. Okay, let’s go! Fast! Fast! Fast! Whoooo, you’re so fast! Look, a little dog. He’s coming to say hello! He gave you a kiss. Bye-bye, puppy! Let’s walk back home. Let’s see if any cats are in front of our apartment. No, we have to go home to see cats. No cats here. We’ll only see cats if we walk back home. Don’t you want to see cats?

My only comfort is that when I pass other parents with toddlers, the snippets of conversation I overhear don’t differ too dramatically from that. I hope, in my daily tedium and exhaustion, I don’t inadvertently turn my novel into a Shining-esque masterwork:

Cats. Cats. Cats. Meow. Meow! Fast! Fast! Fast! It’s raining. We have to go home. We’ll see cats at home. Let’s have a snack. Cheese! Cats. Cats. Cats. Meow. Meow! Fast! Fast! Fast! It’s raining. We have to go home. We’ll see cats at home. Let’s have a snack. Cheese! Cats. Cats. Cats. Meow. Meow! Fast! Fast! Fast! It’s raining. We have to go home. We’ll see cats at home. Let’s have a snack. Cheese! Cats. Cats. Cats. Meow. Meow! Fast! Fast! Fast! It’s raining. We have to go home. We’ll see cats at home. Let’s have a snack. Cheese! Cats. Cats. Cats. Meow. Meow! Fast! Fast! Fast! It’s raining. We have to go home. We’ll see cats at home. Let’s have a snack. Cheese!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 19 Months

Dear Little One,

It’s official: you’ve taken your cuteness to a new level. Besides being an almost constantly pleasant and happy baby, you are learning at a speed-of-light rate and regularly surprise us with the new things you can do or say. For months now I’ve been keeping track of the words you’re adding to your vocabulary, but it’s at the point now where I think I will bring the list to a close. You add new words all the time. Just this week, we were at the park and you were touching a tree, which I told you had “rough” bark. Now, whenever we see a tree, you point and say “rough.” Your current favorite word is “cry,” which you learned last week and now use consistently whenever you hear a baby crying. We visited Baby Alex this week, who did a bit of infant fussing, and each time he cried you pointed, very concerned, and announced, “Cry.”

We have to be careful what we say around you these days. Tuesday night, I was giving you your bedtime bottle in your nursery, and Daddy came in to kiss you goodnight. On his way out of the room, he told me he was going to move the car. For the rest of our singing/bottle time, you kept looking up at me and saying worriedly, “Car.” When it came time to put you into your crib, you put up a crying, panicked fight—and only once Daddy returned did you calm down and go to sleep. I think you now associate cars with things that take someone away, and you thought Daddy was leaving. It’s one of the hardest things about this stage: you know and understand so much, but it’s still so hard to make you really understand certain things. Moving the car for “alternate side parking” isn’t something we can easily explain.

You are a playground baby now. Gone are all traces of the hesitation and displeasure you showed in the winter; now you strain to get out of your stroller as soon as we roll through the playground gates. Exploring new playgrounds is very exciting for you, as well as discovering new aspects of familiar playgrounds, like ladder rungs you can now climb. You aren’t afraid of other kids anymore, but you still hang back when more aggressive or older kids cut in front of you or push you out of the way. I’m getting better at making sure you get your turn on the stairs and slide and so on, but you, too, are beginning to hold your own. When an annoying kid is holding up the line on the stairs or taking too long to go down the slide, you point insistently—and you now even go right up and jab the kid on the shoulder. I’m not condoning bossiness or pushiness, of course. But I’m glad you’re doing a mild Lucia version of self-assertion.

You love books, balls, pushable toys (stroller, shopping cart, etc.), stuffed animals, and a small cat figurine. When we are at home, you are never without Blankie or your paw-paw (pacifier). Blankie seems to be taking on a kind of human form for you: you feed it things, offer it your milk, even try to comb its hair (however it is that you imagine it). I make it sing songs. Once white, it is now gray, both from use and because it is nearly impossible to figure out the logistics of washing it. Filthy or not, there’s nothing we can do but oblige when you press it against our faces in the morning so we can snuggle it.

It is finally summer, little one. Much fun awaits us.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I know I'm the mama, but I think anyone would agree that this is one cute Mother's Day baby.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Lucia has entered her Sponge stage. For weeks it’s seemed her learning has accelerated—she’s been picking up new words, doing new things, just acting like a baby who’s moving up in the world. But in the past week or so, ever since we went to Connellsville, Lucia’s learning has sped up to warp-speed. I trust her sudden acceleration is not because, for the first time ever, I was not with her all day. I trust I haven’t been holding her back. I’ll credit it to the exciting new world of Connellsville (a front porch! a completely empty sidewalk! Grandma’s undivided adoration and attention!).

In any case, she has gained so many new words just in the past few days, including toast and walk, and her second two-word combination: Mama car; Papa (Grandpa) car; Pam car. Pam is a neighbor, and Lucia for some reason instantly said, and remembered, Pam’s name. She seems to be struck by the idea of someone getting in a car and driving away, something she doesn’t ordinarily see in New York, when, on the rare occasions we’re in a car, she’s with us. She’s saying other names now too, recognizing cousins and friends in pictures around the house and accurately naming them.

She was on her best cute behavior all last week—napping well, playing heartily. Eating was a challenge, as it has been here at home. Mom made the mistake of suggesting she and Lucia have a picnic one day on the front porch—an idea that thrilled Lucia, who then insisted on a “picnic” for every meal, even on days when it was much, much too chilly to eat outside. Lucia also left Cville with a new arsenal of toys, thanks to a couple of stellar yard sales we went to. A baby-sized shopping cart full of play food was the highlight ($2!), as well as a selection of balls and a 50-cent push toy that’s identical to one a little girl always brings to the playground, which Lucia has long coveted .

It was strange and wonderful to have so much time to myself last week—working at the library for hours every day, stepping outside for lunch at a picnic table under a dogwood tree—while Mom and Lucia nurtured their mutual adoration at home. The only difficulty was each afternoon when Mom started teaching her piano lessons, which meant she was in sight but not available for playing. Lucia couldn’t stand it and spent many of the lessons in Mom’s lap, making Mom put endless stickers on her hands and trying to play the piano with her feet. Dad and I tried to keep her occupied, but it was like her mind shut down to one crucial signal: Must. Get. To. Grandma.

Molly came in for Mother’s Day, so we all had a nice brunch together; Lucia wore a pretty new dress and sparkly new sandals and barrettes in her “hair.” She was super cute. I’m such a lucky mama.

As for me—thanks to last week, I have a 203-page draft of my book. So, success. I mean disaster. I mean success. I mean disaster. I’m at the stage where I read it and am happy with it, then two seconds later hate every word. In any case, I have a draft that I can now refine. We got back late last night and feel like zombies, but it was a good week all around.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Work Week

Lucia and I are in Connellsville this week; we all drove in Friday night, and Andrew went back to NYC today. This is a week of work for me. With a month to go before I need to have my novella transformed into a novel, I need to bear down and really focus for a few days—for more than the length of a nap. An hour and a half a day isn’t useful for the kind of work I need to do at this stage, so I came to the only place where I could have full-day, free childcare from caretakers Lucia knows and loves: Grandma and Papa’s house. I pretty much haven’t existed for Lucia since she woke up Saturday morning. Mama? What Mama?

Andrew and I did some Connellsville things this weekend—two Gabe’s trips, a feast of wings and other wonderful foods at Lynn’s—and now it is time to put all that aside and get to work. I will be at the library when it opens tomorrow morning, and I will be there until mid-afternoon. I will pack a lunch and turn off my phone. And I will write, and think, and cut-and-paste, and rethink, and probably tear my hair out and rend my garments for five days and become impossible to live with. (Good thing my spouse won’t be here!) But by the end of this week, I plan to have a full 200+ page draft, ready for close line-editing when I get back to New York. That is the goal.

Lucia at Work

On Thursday, Lucia and I went to Andrew’s office for Take Your Child to Work Day. We hadn’t given the day any thought, since Lucia is so young; but around 10:30am Andrew called and said everyone had brought their kids (even the babies) and spouses—and that Lucia’s and my absence was being constantly inquired about. So off we went.

Andrew’s office had been transformed in honor of the day. There was a carnival area, with a band, balloon animal-making, face-painting, and more; the office’s many toys had been laid out and added to for the kids’ use; all the kids got a T-shirt. One of the office’s cafeteria’s offered kid foods—mac and cheese, fish sticks, grilled cheese, spaghetti and meatballs—and each kid got a lunchbox full of fruit on the way in. (Lucia won’t put hers down.) It was a chaotic scene, with kids running and—at least at our table—refusing to eat. But also pretty cute.

After lunch, we went to Andrew’s work area, where Lucia was thrilled to get to play with large balls that some of Andrew’s co-workers use as seats. She rolled them all around the office and could have happily stayed there all day.

It was a fun afternoon. And it always strikes us how welcoming and family-friendly Andrew’s company is—events like this make us glad to be part of it.