Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When You Make That Call…

….You’ve got to know you’re going to wind up at the hospital. Here, at least. It seems in CA I could call the nurse hotline with anything at all when I was pregnant and simply get some good advice; here, the few calls I’ve made to doctors or our new nurse hotline have led to doctor’s appointments (Lucia’s cough), the ER (Lucia’s tick), or the labor & delivery floor of the hospital (me, last week). But I suppose it’s different with my pregnancy this time around, since I have this pesky complete placenta previa. A call to my doctor to just get some reassurance about some very, very, very minor spotting on Thursday led to an order to go immediately to the hospital. Of course, Andrew was out of town for work. Fortunately, Mom and Dad had come to help out for a few days. So Dad and I headed to the hospital, where I got an IV with fluids and lots of monitoring and examining and, on the bright side, got to spend a few hours in sublime AC.

Everything was fine, as I knew it was all along. But they don’t mess around with placenta previa. One nurse told me that women with p.p. collect “lots of frequent-flyer miles” at the hospital, showing up again and again, which is not great news. An exam I had there showed the placenta has not moved at all since July 1. I have an ultrasound in two weeks for another check.

Having a complicated pregnancy wasn’t something we’d considered when we decided to get going with baby #2…Let’s hope it swiftly becomes less complicated. And next time I call my doctor, I have to just accept that I’m going to wind up in a car flying up to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. What doctor—again, at least here in NYC—is going to say “Blood? Nothing to worry about! Have a great day!”? I'm no doctor, but I can't imagine ever saying that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Parenting: August Issue

What a disappointing issue for Lucia. Her excited cry of “Babies!” soon weakened as we turned page after page only to find very, very few pictures of babies. On the other hand, there were pictures of Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, Julia Roberts, Sofia Vergara, Nicole Kidman, and someone named Brooke Burke. Her boredom was relieved only by a large advertisement featuring Elmo.

I recount this anecdote as a way of underscoring the problem that seems to be worsening in this magazine month after month: any actual parenting advice is sneakily being sidelined to make room for watery celebrity and “style” nonsense. I like celebrity gossip as much as anyone, but that’s not why I subscribe to Parenting. It’s why I’d subscribe to Us Weekly, as I happily used to; but, alas, I rarely even recognize whoever’s on the cover these days, such is my immersion in Toddlerland. But I digress.

Let’s begin. The main cover headline this month was “Best. Birthday. Ever. A year’s worth of fresh ideas.” And the opening letter from the print content, strategy, and design editor recounted her trials of planning a $750 birthday party for her young son—which, in the end, paled in comparison to the $15 party she’d once thrown him. She says, “It’s not the hours you spend planning the party, or the money you spend bringing it to life. All you need to do is think about something your kid loves and get creative with it.” Fair enough. She then directs us to page 54, where we can find “super-fresh, easy, and inexpensive party ideas.”

Let’s follow her there, shall we?

The first thing that jumped out at me was this headline:

“A Year of parties. Whether your kid is a Leo or a Libra, these seasonal ideas will be a big hit anywhere on the calendar.”

COMMENTARY: Where to begin. At the beginning, I suppose, with the inconsistently capitalized “A Year of parties.” Overzealous Copyeditor, where art thou? It just gets worse. The “a Leo or a Libra” bit is clearly here to utilize some nifty alliteration, but this is at the expense of meaning. This headline writer surely wants to convey that no matter where on the zodiac spectrum your kid falls, he’ll find something fun here. The problem is that Leo and Libra are just one sign apart on the zodiac calendar—so if she was going for an A-to-Z kind of thing, this falls flat. Finally, the piece de resistance: The very definition of “seasonal,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “of, relating to, or varying in occurrence according to the season.” So how can “these seasonal ideas” work “anywhere on the calendar”?

Indeed, they can’t, really. There are four ideas here, clearly linked to—yes—seasons: Summer Scoop (ice cream cones), Woodland Wonder (fall leaves, s’mores), Blizzard Bash (penguins, snowflakes), Just Say Gnome (mushrooms, garden gnomes). The only one with any potential for intra-seasonality is Just Say Gnome, and this is a stretch. But come on. Can an ice-cream-theme party really work “anywhere on the calendar”? A blizzard-theme party? The whole headline seems to have been written by someone who understands subjects and verbs but has no comprehensive of the actual meanings of words.

Moving on. Once I got past the headline, I began reading with curiosity, expecting to find some clever DIY ideas that are “easy” and “inexpensive,” as the print content editor promised. Instead, I found store-bought favors and a surprising emphasis on $5 cake pops.

COMMENTARY: Though I haven’t had a cake pop myself, I read about them often when I peruse articles about all the cool Brooklyn foodie events I no longer can go to since I have a toddler and no standing-by babysitter. Cake pops seem to be the new cupcake, precious and delicious, and, of course, exorbitantly priced. If you have twenty kids from your kid’s class over to this birthday party and spend $5 on each cake pop, that’s $100 already, just on cake pops. And you can’t put candles in a cake pop, not really. Two of the four party themes—blizzard and gnome—had cake pops as central elements. So much for inexpensive.

There were some DIY elements here as well, mainly the invitations. And though they were cute enough, again the definition of “invitation” seems to have eluded this craft-creator. An invitation is, after all, something you give someone else, either by mail or in person. In a nutshell, here are the invitation suggestions: a 3.5-inch Styrofoam ball glued onto a paper soup bowl; a paper-bag hand puppet; four jumbo ice-pop sticks glued together into a snowflake; a regular square invitation card speared with a large lollipop.

COMMENTARY: Unless you’re willing to pay a fortune in shipping, none of these can be mailed. And with the exception of the card/lollipop, none can easily be toted to school for personal handing-out. Even if your kid were to bring them to school in a gigantic tote bag, what’s the likelihood of the invitation actually getting to the invitee’s home and, thus, onto his or her parents’ calendar? Nil, I’d say. Nil indeed.

And finally…

SUPER-COMMENTARY: Let’s harken back to the very title of this magazine: Parenting: Early Years. The magazine targets very young kids up to about age four. So if you’re planning a party for your one- or two-year-old, the invitation problem becomes even more acute. Toddlers don’t tote bags of invitations to school and hand them out! And mamas with the time and wherewithal to actually make said invitations (does such a mama exist, with a toddler??) are certainly not able to hand-deliver them! This whole article seems more relevant to older kids. Not useful!

And not enough babies!

Until next time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 21 Months

Dear Little One,

Because I am about 22 weeks pregnant to your 21 months of existence, I’m going to have to make your letter shorter this month. Shooting pains in my lower back, general exhaustion, and mild worry over my current diagnosis of placenta previa (move, placenta, move) are leaving me pretty much ready for bed.

So I will focus for now on your current love of water, which infiltrates all aspects of your current life. Whether it’s the ocean, a kiddie pool, a puddle at the playground, or even just a watering can or soup pot of water placed for you out on our front stoop, you are engrossed in splashing, wetting your hands, submerging your feet, and filling and emptying whatever vessels are handy at the moment. Washing your hands in the sink here at home is a time of high excitement. And you would love your bath if it weren’t for the pesky bathing part of it. Your angry protests of “NO NO NO NO NO NO” don’t end until the soap, shampoo, and washcloth are safely put aside and you can finally return to playing unhindered.

Today I took you to the Pier 6 Water Lab, an amazing little water park by the Brooklyn Bridge. We took a car service there and back—the bus is too grueling with writhing baby and bag and folded-up stroller, and subway stairs, stroller-hauling, and overheated train platforms surely qualify as doctor-prohibited “exercise” for me. And though you enjoyed yourself there, filling your bucket, stepping into ankle- and knee-deep pools, searching (of course) for stones, you enjoyed yourself just as much—maybe even more—yesterday at the playground, where there were puddles and stones and a tree on which you could draw with chalk (and less crowding by other children). Big outings are not always required to keep you happy, which will be good to remember as I become more and more pregnant, tired, and sore.


No series of New Hampshire posts would be complete without a few sneers. We really need to teach this child how to smile.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Country Luxuries

Andrew, Lucia, and I were alone for our final three days in New Hampshire, and Andrew and I set about indulging in some of the country luxuries that make leaving Holdenfield (we’re still trying to come up with an affectionate/irritating name for the property) so difficult.

For the second summer in a row, Andrew bought and cooked a live lobster, which he then turned into amazing lobster rolls. We’d gone out to dinner in Hanover for a date night a few days prior while his parents stayed home with the sleeping baby, but the place where we always have lobster rolls had, for some reason, removed them from the menu. So we made them ourselves, and they were delicious. We ate them by candlelight. We could do this in New York, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

We also bought a fire pit and set it up behind the house, where we sit to look out over the fields and sunset. Saturday night we had a dinner of fruit, olives, crackers, and cheese, then built a fire and made s’mores. We sat and talked in the cool night—staying warm by the fire—until the last log dwindled out.

Mmmm, country life. Scarily, I think child-bearing and -rearing has taken some of the city out of me. Just three weeks till we can return to Tiger Lily Farm.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nine Blissful Days

I’ve been behind in my blogging because we spent the past nine days in New Hampshire, and though the days of being internet- and cell-free are over, I choose to limit my computer time as much as possible to enhance the off-the-grid feeling I savor there. And there was much to savor:


There are always incredible stars. On the clearest nights the Milky Way is visible from the front yard; we saw that, and a bright shooting star, and, thanks to the telescope a family friend had brought, Saturn and its rings. The Big Dipper tilts just over the top of a tree behind the house.


Hands-down, Lucia’s favorite activity all week was collecting stones in her bucket, which she (and, consequently, Andrew and I) calls a “bubbik.” The road past the house is unpaved, awash in tantalizing gravel; and the drive up to the house, which is just a worn path in the grass, also has its share of stones. Each morning, barefoot Lucia would traipse down to the road and spend a long, long creating her collection. If you ever join her on one of these expeditions, don’t bother trying to help her; she’ll reject each stone you offer, her eye trained to identify only certain, very particular types of stones, the smaller the better. After gathering some stones, she would return to the house, where she’d show her finds to anyone who was interested. She didn’t seem to mind when, eventually, the miniscule stones got lost in the grass; and she didn’t care about keeping the stones for later. It was the process of collecting that mattered.

Part way through the week, she was collecting with Andrew, who skipped a few stones in the pond. After that, Lucia would sometimes collect somewhat larger stones then walk over to the grassy shore and toss them, one by one, into the weeds.

She also collected small fallen apples from the apple tree by the drive. When Andrew hurled one into an adjacent field to locate the frog pond, Lucia subsequently tossed every apple she found into the weeds in that direction.


Lucia’s inflatable pool was, as always, a huge hit. Pouring water from one vessel to another just does not get boring. She spent most of each day in soaked clothes. “Pool” was often among the first things she said in the morning, along with “tone” (stone).

We also went swimming a few times in the in-ground pool at the Littells’ cousins’ house, just up the road. Lucia liked this, and, given more experience with it, would probably come to love it. She liked sitting on the steps and kicking her feet, and “swimming” across the pool with her rubber duck.


In the utter silence that is the New Hampshire homestead, birds of all kinds can be clearly heard. One particular kind of bird—crows, perhaps—had a loud “Caw! Caw!,” and each time Lucia heard it, no matter what she was doing, she’d lift her head and yell back, “Caw! Caw!”

Bubbles, Swing, Tractor, Car

There was no shortage of outdoor activities this week. Lucia had shoes on perhaps three times in nine days. When I did put her shoes on, she looked at them like they were irksome foreign objects. We blew copious bubbles. She enjoyed a swing we hung in an apple tree. She rode on a toy tractor and in a toy car. Andrew pulled her around in a wheelbarrow. Good country fun.

Bobby & Nina

Lucia is in the process of christening the grandparents. My parents seem to be Papa and Gra, which I think will ultimately become Grandma. During our stay in NH, though we’d been calling Andrew’s dad GranBob, Lucia decided a better name was Bobby, and I think this just might stick; she somehow knew that the Littells have a tradition of calling grandparents by their first names. A couple of times she called Andrew’s mom Nina—short for Kristina—but this seems to have some room to change. We shall see.


Of course, not all was perfect. Lucia threw up on our drive from New York, and then we spent an hour on the morning of July 4 in the ER because we found a tick burrowed into Lucia’s stomach. A nurse on our insurance advice line said preventative antibiotics are sometimes given for ticks, so we decided not to take any chances. Small-town ERs are the best. No wait, quick doctor appearance, then back home. The tick was tiny and not in very far, so all seems fine, no meds required. And Lucia learned the word “tick” like a true country baby.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

20 Weeks (June 30)

Looking big. Feeling bigger.

A Toddler Week

Lucia, as I’ve written many times, is a sweet, fun baby, and for the past few months our days—with few exceptions—pass smoothly, full of outings and toys and books and giggling and the regular appearance of squealing, running Silly Baby. This was not the case two weeks ago when my parents came to keep me company while Andrew was in California for work.

Molly had come for the first part of the week, and Lucia immediately intuited her role of Easiest Baby in the World to speed the arrival of cousins. Molly was amazed at just how long Lucia can spend collecting stones at the playground. We even had an outing to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Lucia bravely mixed in with bigger kids to play in the amazing water area. I had an hour-long call to take on one of the days, and Lucia played splendidly with Molly the whole time. By the end of the two days she was saying Mol-wee, and asked for her when she left.

Unfortunately, to get back to her normal-baby state, Lucia felt the need to overcompensate when Mom and Dad arrived. The highlight was the Worst Fit Ever, which of course took place in public, at the zoo. It was so massive, and so lengthy, that she tantrummed herself to sleep in her stroller and we had to walk home. Sigh. And ordinarily she loves the zoo, and had been talking all morning about seeing the “baboos” and feeding the sheep. There were other highlights as well, such as refusing to go to Target (that might have just been sanity; not sure) and exhibiting some terrible eating. She was not herself. …Unless I wasn’t there. When I left her for several hours for my ultrasound, she had a fine time.

Nonetheless, the week left me daydreaming about a time far off in the future when Lucia and her new sister are five and seven years old, with full understanding of reason, action/consequence, cause/effect, and other glorious ideas.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And Baby Littell Is…

On July 1, I went for my 20-week ultrasound, which I’d been eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately, Andrew was in California and couldn’t go with me, which meant I’d find out the long-awaited sex of the new baby alone. At the suggestion of a friend, however, I decided to not let the technician tell me—instead, I brought a blank notecard and an envelope and had her write it down and seal it so Andrew and I could open it together when he returned later that day. Tantalizing missive tucked in my purse, I took advantage of Mom and Dad’s babysitting to go to the Met to see an exhibition called Open Windows, which was wonderful. It was my first time to the Met since moving back to New York.

Andrew managed to get an earlier flight home, so after Lucia’s bedtime we went to a nearby restaurant for the big reveal. As soon as we ordered, we opened up the envelope…and found out we’re having a girl! I screamed and then cried. I couldn’t help it. I was convinced it was a boy—had even felt certain I’d heard the technician say “he” a couple of times—and was just so excited.

A boy would have been fine. Of course it would have. I know lots of adorable little boys. But I’ve always imagined having two girls, and two little girls playing dress-up is pretty much what I picture when I picture our future family life. So yay. Let the naming begin.

Now I just have to distract Andrew from all this worrisome talk of having a third.