Sunday, August 28, 2011

28 Weeks: Post-Hurricane


Most of my maternity bottoms are now too small—something that never happened with my pregnancy with Lucia—and many of my maternity shirts no longer reach over my stomach. And I still have two and a half months to go. At my last appointment I’d only gained about twelve pounds so far, but for some reason those twelve pounds have had a dramatic impact. Insanity!

Letdown

The hurricane was a bust. We were disappointed. After all that buildup and preparation, I was looking forward to screaming winds, water-filled streets, hunkering down with our flashlight and all the food we cooked last night. Though there was some flooding and damage in the coastal areas, here in Park Slope we had nothing more than a few small downed branches and a fallen tree near the playground. We were outside several times today for walks and a playground trip. The storm, such as it was, has been weathered.

Here are some cute pictures from our walk this morning:





Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Watch

In two hours, Hurricane Irene is supposed to appear in NYC. We're ready for whatever happens, though since we're really far inland in Brooklyn, probably not much disaster-quality mayhem will be coming our way. Andrew spent most of yesterday rolling his eyes at me for my preparations; but by evening he'd gone out to get some water, fill the car with gas, and park it right in front of our apartment in case we have to make a quick getaway to...Queens. We have lots of vessels full of water, and tonight we cooked lots of food to get us through a few days if need be. Really, the thing we're dreading most is the prospect of several days of being cooped up with a restless toddler. I'll report back when I can...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parenting: September Issue

Though I am tired, wearily I take up my keyboard to COMMENT on this month’s issue of Parenting. This month, the bulk of my COMMENTARY focuses not so much on editorial carelessness/ridiculousness but on suggestions I find just…wrong. Granted, this sort of critique is quite personal, and many other readers might feel differently, and I would have to accept their opinions as valid (though behind their backs I would be rolling my eyes). In any case, onward.

First we have an article whose headline should give you fair warning of what COMMENTARY is to come: “Tablets for Tots.” Unfortunately, this is not a discussion of notebooks or pads of paper on which toddlers can draw; “tablets” refers to “tablet computers”—iPads for the under-fives. Here’s the intro:

“Buying your 4-year-old an iPad? That may seem excessive, but giving her one of two new tablets just for kids might be a totally worth-it splurge. […] [They] both boast […] loads of learning and fun.”

COMMENTARY: Anyone who knows me well knows how opposed I am to this sort of thing—or any sort of technology or screens intended for children. In my ideal(ized) world, children explore, play, imagine, create, without the help of electronic devices. As the mother of a toddler, however, I understand that there is something inherently captivating for them about iPads and so on—and Lucia does enjoy looking at pictures of herself on my phone or Papa’s iPad, and using a draw-with-your-finger app on Andrew’s tablet when we’re on a plane. Each day she is permitted (if she requests it) to watch approximately fifteen minutes of Elmo videos on SesameStreet.org, streamed through our TV. But just because technology is alluring doesn’t mean I need to give in to it and turn my child into a zombie-eyed, empty-headed shell of a toddler before she hits kindergarten. No, thank you, Parenting. I shall pass on this and everything related to this.

But oh! You are insistent, Parenting. Turn the page and we see this shiver-inducing headline: “Hey, Mr. Computer, Read Me a Story!” What follows is an endorsement of a site that lets kids listen to a free book online that’s “narrated by professional actors.” This is supposed to “entertain” and “encourage them to read.” The brief blurb concludes with the wide-eyed, ain’t-the-internet-grand reiteration, “Did we mention they’re free?”

COMMENTARY: Free does not always mean good. Sometimes it means sinister. And this is how I view such sites. Wouldn’t it break your heart if your toddler, instead of rushing up to you with a beloved book in her hand and the loud demand of “BOOK! BOOK!”, sat down in front of a computer and said plaintively, “Book.” Or didn’t say anything at all. And then pressed a button and let her eyes glaze over as she stared at some sort of hideously animated tale preselected by…whom? Who cares? Awful awfulness.

Hands-down the worst of the worst this month was an eight-page spread (eleven, if you count the ad pages too) devoted to dressing kids like characters in the show Glee and giving them little personality write-ups like “About Quinn: My Style Is…Always on trend and completely feminine.” The featured clothes include a $62 shirt, an $89 ID bracelet, a $135 cardigan, and a $190 jean jacket. Seriously. Remember, this magazine is supposed to deal with children age four and under. An aside: I was confused by this article because I don’t watch Glee and I was unclear on whether the little write-ups referred to the child models or the characters on which their getups were based. Who cares, really?

Another bit to gripe about: An article called “What We Don’t Tell Our Husbands” seems to assume all wives tell lies, white or otherwise, to keep the peace—or, as the writer says: “I don’t think of myself as a liar; I think of myself as a normal wife, sidestepping and spinning to keep the peace.”

COMMENTARY: None needed.

And, lastly, I have now been advised to purchase my cosmetics at Payless. Did you know they sell makeup? Neither did I. But though I’ve never seen nor touched nor used such makeup, I feel like I already have a sense-memory of how such makeup smells: like melted dollar-store candles.

Besides all of this objectionable content, I do have a general editorial beef this month. WTF is up with taking up so much valuable (well, it’s relative) content space by including comments by people on Facebook?? This happens twice this issue. First Facebook posters tell us their views of allowing a child to “go in the bushes” if you’re “at the park with your recently potty-trained preschooler.” Then Facebookers tell us how they speed up their morning routines. Isn’t it sort of “against” the whole point of the internet to use “content” (generous) from said internet as part of a print publication? Shouldn’t they be…separate, or something? Tonight on the Weather Channel, one of the hosts was reading Tweets out loud from random people all over the country, evidence that she really had nothing to report yet about Hurricane Irene. And so it is with this irritating Parenting trend: when there’s nothing to write about, just repeat what’s been nattered about online.

With relief I’ll conclude this post. Until next month.

PS: More age-illogic in this issue. In an article about how to make your child’s packed lunches more appealing, the writer suggests leaving a love note in the lunchbox. I’m quite sure my own genius child will be reading long before kindergarten…But isn’t it kind of a lot to expect of most ordinary children under age five?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Busy Week




It’s been a busy week last week. Last Wednesday Lucia and I went to the zoo, where Lucia had a splendid time greeting (“Hi!) and feeding sheep, goats, llamas, and geese, as well as greeting and waving at sea lions when they surfaced in their pool. We walked both there and back—a mistake, since the day grew hot and it’s a really, really long walk. I felt fine while I was doing it and then, that evening and the next day, felt like I might not be able to get off the couch. I’m really looking forward to not being pregnant anymore—not because I don’t like being pregnant, because I do, with this charmingly kicking/squirming little one inside that makes my stomach look like it has a mind of its own, which I suppose it does—but because I just want to have my physical capabilities back. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been in shape; at least when Lucia was born I was doing mommy/baby workouts once or twice a week. But since moving to NYC last year I have done exactly three yoga classes. Four, maybe. And lots of walking. And that is it. The days of going to the gym, doing regular yoga, actually swimming for fitness—it all seems far, far away, a distant dream. Now I get side-splints after walking half a block.

On Friday, we left in the evening for New Hampshire. The drive up was, I have to say, grueling. We left in a huge rainstorm, and it took us an hour just to get out of Manhattan. Being in the car wreaks havoc on both my back and my belly, and there’s just no way to get comfortable. Andrew rubbed my back for a while—this stubborn aching spot that ached during my last pregnancy too—which, for some strange reason, made me feel nauseous and light-headed, prompting me to order Andrew to make a desperate lunge to the shoulder of the road. I’m such charming company these days, aren’t I? Anyway, this isn’t the first time this has happened—there must be a nerve or something there that reacts badly to massage. And that’s my expert medical opinion.

Once we were in NH, we had a difficult night—Lucia woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep—but even though we were zombies in the morning, it was still splendid to be there. Andrew’s dad joined us Saturday morning, thrilling Lucia, who loves “Bobby” and had been looking forward to his arrival. She played in her pool, walked barefoot in the grass, swung in her swing in the apple tree, put her toes in the pond, had ice cream. Even a thunderstorm Sunday afternoon was cozy; we lounged in the upstairs hallway looking at old pictures.

The drive home was harrowing as well—I think Andrew alternately feels sorry for me and wants to throw me out of the car—but we made it, and on we go with the week.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Letter to Lucia: 22 Months

Dear Little One,

So close to two! And what a little bundle of toddlerness you’ve been lately. You keep us on our toes, forcing us to often run after you as you do your surprisingly fast trot-walk down the sidewalk. You want to walk everywhere these days—such a change from even just a couple of months ago—and last week you walked almost the whole way to Prospect Park. I’m not brave or confident enough yet to leave the house without the stroller, however, as you often tire of walking and demand to be carried, which I simply can’t do right now. And, of course, my patience sometimes flags when walking even a block seems like it might take an hour with all your pauses and investigations; sometimes I just need to harness you in and push you along at a more reasonable pace. But I can see that one of these days you and I will just walk out of the house by ourselves, stroller-free. (We can sometimes do this with Daddy in the evenings, since Daddy is willing and able to carry you as needed.)

Your vocabulary is growing by the day, and you’ve started some two-word sentences—even three words, sometimes, like “Bar all gone!” when you’ve finished one of your currently beloved breakfast bars. You often say “More cheese!” and you’ve said “Drop bibi” when you’ve dropped your blankie someplace inaccessible. Last week, you kept saying “Kick! Kick! Kick!” but you clearly weren’t talking about kicking your feet or kicking a ball; I asked you to explain, and you said “Kick, draw!”—effectively communicating that you wanted to use Papa’s click-pen to draw pictures. However, you’re saying a lot of things now that we don’t understand, much as we try, and I wonder if you’re going to get frustrated as your use of new language outpaces your ability to use it comprehensibly.

I think you may be going through a growth spurt. Just a couple of weeks ago, your toes were dangerously close to the tops of your cute gold sandals; but I was loathe to purchase a new pair since summer is winding down. When I found a new pair on sale, however, I bought them, wondering if I’d jumped the gun. But just days later, it seemed, your toes had reached well beyond the edges of your old sandals—new ones were clearly required. Your pants are almost all too small—you have a long torso and long legs—and it’s clear that though we’ll probably be able to finish off the summer with your 18M wardrobe, it’s going to be very, very close. 2T, here we come!

I’ve been reading you your first book about being a big sister—I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole—and you love it. We read it over and over again, every day, and you are thrilled to shout “Baby!” when the book opens with, “Someone new is at our house. Do you know who it is?” When we turn to the page where the new baby is crying, you name all the things that will make the baby feel better: paw-paw, bibi, Mama, Dada, and milk. I’m not sure how much, if any, you can transfer from all this to your imminent future as a big sister, but if your willingness to share paw-paw and bibi with pictures of crying babies in books is any indication, you will be a soothing, kind little one when the new little one comes around.

Your current favorite toys are Mardi Gras beads (sometimes these are the only things you play with all day), your markers and paper, your stuffed animals, and your books. You also like your beach ball, “laptop” with buttons that play songs and say words (a stoop sale purchase), Matchbox cars, and Little People. You also still love your tiny cat figurine, which seems to go missing for the better part of each week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beach Day


Yesterday, we decided to drive out to Rockaway Beach, and we had a fabulous, beachy morning. Lucia has loved the beach since the very first time she saw one, and her infatuation only gets more intense with every visit. This time, we planned to stay for an hour and ended up staying for three—and we probably could have stayed another hour at least. She loved sitting by our beach blanket, digging in the sand and filling her bucket. She loved collecting clamshells. She loved running into the water and scream-laughing as waves crashed into her chest—laughing even if she fell and got her face in the water. She loved using her sifter to collect tiny clamlike creatures at the shoreline. She loved watching the seagulls. She loved just walking barefoot down the beach.

The beach was covered in small, round jellyfish, and Andrew and I spent most of our time making sure Lucia didn’t step on any. But later, while I was in the bathroom, a man with his son was picking them up and told Andrew they wouldn’t sting. So when I came back out to the beach, my tiny baby was toddling over excitedly, her whole face lit up in a huge smile, holding out a jellyfish for my inspection. Picking up jellyfish could easily have occupied another hour at least.

It was a very fun day. We even went out again later that afternoon, to join some people from my playgroup for a picnic in Prospect Park. And that morning, before we left the apartment, Lucia came up to me and said, “Hat!” She wanted to wear a hat, after spending the entire summer so far refusing to even let one touch her head. Oh, fickle child.

“Beach!” is now one of Lucia’s new favorite words.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Bits

It’s been an eventful week. Or uneventful, if we’re talking about the movement of my placenta. I had a follow-up ultrasound on Monday which showed no movement; it also showed that the baby is currently breech. Plenty of time for both things to change, assured the technician and doctor who looked over the images. My doctor, at the appointment I had later that afternoon, seemed less optimistic. “Why can’t things go smoothly for you?” she said in her typical blunt manner. “You had a thirty-three-hour labor and vacuum delivery for a six-pound baby, and now you have placenta previa.” On the bright side, we don’t have to worry about bedrest unless I have three (well, two more) spotting episodes that get progressively worse. And she said we’ll schedule a C-section when I hit thirty-six weeks (for a delivery at thirty-seven or thirty-eight weeks) but can always cancel it if the placenta moves. All we need, she said, is 1.5 centimeters. That’s it.

Mom and Dad came in for a few days to watch Lucia during my appointments and to see her once more before their school year starts. Lucia was in super-cute mode, playing with her beads, saying new words, asking Mom to sing songs to her, looking at pictures of herself on Dad’s iPad. She enjoyed having both of her grandparents sitting on the floor with her. When she realized that they always brought along a pillow to sit on, she, too, demanded a pillow (a “puh”) whenever she sat on the floor. Gra and Papa were the first words she said every morning, and now, two days after they left, she still asks for them, though she seems to understand when I say they had to go home.

It’s been beautiful weather yesterday and today, so I’ve taken advantage of my more normal-feeling body to take Lucia up to the park. She hardly wants to be in the stroller at all anymore and can walk very nearly the whole way there—she usually wants to get back in the stroller for the final avenue and three or so blocks. Of course, our walk takes forever, as she stops to look at every single stone (or cherry pit, or discarded straw) on the sidewalk, to sit on various stoops and curbs, to point out the letter O on various signs, to look at birds and shout “Fly!” when they fly away. (Frankly, stopping often and walking very slowly makes the long uphill walk much easier for me.) I’ve been taking her the long way through the park to the playground, and it is very peaceful to pause on one of the quiet paths while she draws with chalk or has a snack.

In the back of my mind is always, I better do this before I spend the next three months on bedrest. But I’ve been feeling fine and have no reason to think everything won’t turn out okay.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Snippets

I was looking through some old pictures yesterday and was confronted by the shocking realization that I am as big right now at 25 weeks as I was last pregnancy at 33 weeks. I suspect my 18-pound weight gain from my last pregnancy is going to be dramatically surpassed this time around.

I’ve been getting awful side-stitch cramps—bad enough to make walking painful and difficult—after walking less than one block. And if I walk more than a block my sciatic nerve pain flares up for the rest of the day. Perhaps I would have also had these problems during my last pregnancy, but I never walked anywhere in Roseville.

Lucia and I went to meet Andrew for lunch at his office today. (Yes, I took the subway, yes, I got side-cramps and back pain, but sometimes I get stubborn and irrational [as Andrew would surely say] and can’t stop looking at taxi fare as just that much less we’ll have toward our house fund, the house-buying moment being that magical time when I won’t have to take the subway with a baby ever again.) Lucia, unimpressed by the limitless food options available, deigned to eat only a breadstick and sip water from a plastic cup while crawling all over me at the table, completely ignoring the incredible Manhattan view from our perch on a large terrace. It seems unthinkable that there will come a time in our lives when we will eat a meal together and everyone will sit in his or her own seat and will not repeatedly attempt to pour water from a cup into an empty soup bowl. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my sweet-and-sour shrimp, duck sausage summer roll, pad thai, cilantro string beans, and cocoa, coconut, and sea salt cookies, washed down with a tasty tomato-and-lemon juice. If I worked at Andrew’s company I have no doubt I’d gain eighty pounds this pregnancy.

Lucia walked partway to the subway today, carrying Elmo and her cat. She stopped by a planter holding a small bush and, very gently, took one of Elmo's hands and held it out so Elmo could touch a leaf. She's pretty cute, this one. (The maddening-in-one-paragraph, adorable-in-another phenomenon is pretty much life with Lucia as a toddler.)

Tomorrow I will have my second-worst morning ever: my glucose challenge test, three blood tests in two hours. The only reason this won’t rate as my worst morning ever is that during my last pregnancy I had four blood tests in three hours. So there’s that. And if I can’t eat ice cream again for the rest of this pregnancy…well, let’s just hope for the best.

I just reread this post and it would appear I am in a bad, whiny mood. I’m actually not. We’ve had a nice day so far, and Andrew might come home early, and we’ll get something nice for dinner tonight. But it’s hot back here by my computer, and my overheatedness is, I’m afraid, influencing my tone. And so I shall bring this to an end and go sit in front of the AC.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Separation

Last week, Lucia (and I) reached a milestone: her first time staying with a friend without me for a few hours. A friend of mine with a daughter Lucia’s age works on Fridays, so I am taking her little one for the afternoon (another woman has her in the morning); in return, she will take Lucia for a morning each week.

So, last Tuesday, we went over to their house. After playing for a little while, I told Lucia I had to run some errands and would be back soon…When I left, expecting the worst, I listened at the door; no crying. I had a bagel at a cafĂ© one block away, waiting for a come-get-her call; it never came. Instead, my friend texted to say Lucia was playing and having a snack. Success!

This week was a bit rougher. She cried when I left, her little face crumpled in a don’t-leave-me look; it was awful. Again I had a bagel nearby. But my friend soon texted to say she cried for about three minutes and was now playing happily. Unfortunately, when I picked her up a little while later, I was told she’d had a little rough patch triggered by the visit of another friend. This isn’t surprising—she doesn’t like strangers even when I’m around, so I’m sure this threw her for a loop. Apparently she stood facing a corner, unconsolable; and she refused to eat any lunch whatsoever. So sad. Once she was in her stroller, as we walked home, she scarfed down all her food. My poor little one.

Difficult as this is for her and guilt-inducing as it is for me, I really think it’s important that we establish a basic fact that we probably should have established much earlier on: I may leave, but I will come back, and she can be fine for a little while with someone else (someone else who’s not a grandparent, of course). This has to be okay. I hope it will be as this becomes more routine.

Monday, August 01, 2011

24 Weeks in New Hampshire




Perfect Weekend



(An homage to “Perfect Weekend,” my favorite column in How To Spend It, the weekend magazine in The Financial Times)

Whenever we have the chance, we escape the city for Andrew’s ancestral homestead far in the country. The weekend really doesn’t start for us until we are finally on the road, Lucia asleep in the backseat; we always drive straight through and get to Holdenfield round midnight. We unload the baby and unpack the bags and then read for a bit before the crickets and frogs lull us to sleep.

We’re up early Saturday and breakfast on some coffee, English muffins, and fruit. There are no papers to read, so we sit at the farmhouse table and look out at the early-morning mist settling over the barn. When the sun starts warming up the fields we head outside for a walkabout round the land. The back field, which has been freshly mown for hay, is walkable at this time of year, and we wander about behind the treeline where the meadow grows wild. Perhaps we’ll stroll through the meadow and come round the pond the back way; perhaps we’ll attempt to do so and find our way blocked by fallen trees and muddy expanses of woods. Regardless, we’ll emerge eventually onto the road and check each other for ticks, the baby screaming bloody murder the whole time.

Afternoons are for lunch in town. Our favourite spot is a pizza restaurant where the baby can stand up in a booth and watch local boys play pool in the gameroom, allowing us to have civilised conversation as we eat. After lunch we’ll stroll down the main street to an ice cream parlor and sit outside with our cones.

While the baby naps we read outside, looking out at the pond—or we would, if we’d be able to hear the baby; instead, we read inside and sometimes fall asleep, each on our own couch. (Sharing a couch is impossible since I am so enormous.) When the baby wakes after an hour, we take her for a swing under the apple tree and then go along with her hysterical shrieks of “POND!” The baby and I sit on the floating dock and put our toes in the water while Andrew goes fully in and pulls out armfuls of slimy, hideous, flat algae lined underneath with a clear, gelatinous film.

Saturday night is the best time of the weekend. Once the baby is asleep we round up some cheese, crackers, and fruit and sit outside looking out over the fields, warming ourselves by the roaring fire in the fire pit and then making s’mores. We talk of property and plans. When the fire burns out we spread a blanket on the grass and look up at the Milky Way until strange coyote-like cries send us (me) fearfully inside.

On Sunday we visit a local farmer’s market and then once again stop for ice cream before heading back to round up our things and prepare to return home. The drive to the city is always very, very long and late and exhausting. But it is always a perfect weekend nonetheless.