Friday, December 21, 2007

With my whole heart

I read somewhere, maybe in one of Madeleine L'Engle's books, that there are essentially two prayers: "Please?" and "Thank you!" I told a friend earlier this week that the insanity of the winter holidays was starting to get to me, and I needed to see the ocean to give myself perspective. So today, even though there is stuff to be done around the house and errands to run before Christmas, I finally took the time to drive down to Santa Cruz. As I drove over the summit on Highway 17 this morning and caught my first glimpse over the tops of the trees of the low-lying clouds over the bay, it was that second prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving, thanks for the beautiful world, for being here, in this life, with all that has been given to me, that sprang to my lips.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A suburban housewife for one year

A year ago today, I woke up with nothing in particular to do. It was the first day after I'd quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom. I tried writing about the strangeness of it that day, and again a week later, judging by the dates of unfinished files in my Google Docs folder. I was exhausted at that point, so every time I wrote a sentence I needed a nap, which wasn't conducive to getting much writing done. And what was there to say? It wasn't a very exciting thing to write about:

This morning when the alarm went off, I stayed in bed. Brian got up, turned it off, and went downstairs, while the cat curled back up beside me. About half an hour later I wandered downstairs for some orange juice, just as Brian was heading back up to get ready for work. I did the Sudoku and puttered around a bit. When Brian left for work, I wandered around the house aimlessly for a little bit. I had told Brian that on my first day at home, I wasn't going to set any goals for accomplishing things. I was going to eat and sleep, and just enjoy not doing anything. Getting things done could wait until Thursday. But after I checked my email, I started a load of laundry, made the bed, wrapped some presents, and tried to clear out the slow-running bathroom sink with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water (which totally failed, but did make cool noises).

So it wasn't particularly interesting, although no longer being required to show up for work was a relief, even if I had had an easy desk job. It was nice to not have to commute up to Glover Park from Alexandria each morning. When I got tired during the day, I could lie down and nap for an hour. I tried to get something done around the house each day, and I tried to get out for a walk every day, but other than that, my only task was growing the baby. It was strange to become "a stay-at-home mom with no kids," although apparently, according to what I wrote last year, one of my friends had noted when I described myself that way that the Bush Administration would probably just call me a stay-at-home-mom, and even give my fetus Medicaid. (I have no recollection of that conversation, but I know exactly which friend would have been the one to say that.) I ended up with three weeks off before Adriana's arrival--three weeks to rest up, to allow myself time for the quiet contemplation of the end of pregnancy, the strange turning inward that seems to happen for most women. That was a huge blessing.

Then Adriana arrived and everything changed. Moments for quiet contemplation seemed few and far between, even with our easy-going little girl. IN the early days, when I wasn't busy with her, I was too exhausted to think. But there wasn't that scary end-of-maternity leave date looming six- or twelve-weeks ahead on the horizon. I found it comforting that for the time being, my sole job was to nurture my baby.

Before we were ever married, Brian and I talked abstractly about kids ("our subjunctive children," we referred to them), and I recall him saying that he assumed that if we had children I would continue to work afterwards. I was thinking along the same lines at that point, but as we began to talk about starting a family more seriously, I realized that it was important to me to be able to stay home with our baby, and Brian agreed with me. I feel incredibly lucky that we were able to afford to give up my salary. That means it's important for us to stay a one-car family, and that it will take longer for us to get to a position where we can buy a house. Most of the people around us were very supportive of our choice, although there were a few comments that annoyed me because they made me feel defensive ("Your brain will turn to mush!") and others that made me want to jump to the defense of families where both parents work ("It's really the best thing for the baby."). For the most part I haven't felt the need to proclaim that "Of course I work!" or that "Adriana is my job!" when people ask me if I work, although when couple of (childless) friends have commented that they wished they didn't have to do anything Brian has had to listen to me bitch about them that night.

There are days when I have my doubts, days when Adriana and I are both sleep deprived and cranky, days when I wish someone else were dealing with her refusals to nap and the constant fussing. Then I think that trying to do another job on so little sleep wouldn't be fun, either, and I'd really only get to spend time with Adriana at the end of the day, which is not her finest time. There are those days. But most days we play together and I use her naps to take some time for myself or get things done around the house. She holds my finger and leads me around and around the apartment on her wobbly legs, stopping to laugh at the cat or investigate a magazine that was left on the couch, and I am completely aware of how good life is, how lucky I am.

In one of the posts I began last December, I wrote, "I spent most of my final commute home wondering if I'd made the right decision. All that time and money spent on grad school to become a stay-at-home mom? Would I go absolutely crazy in the first three months of being home alone with the baby? Should I have at least kept working right up until when the baby came?" A year later, I do feel that it was the right decision. That's a nice feeling to have.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Best husband I ever had, part 2

Last night we ordered pizza so that we wouldn't have to cook or do dishes, and after the baby was in bed we divided up some of the housework that needed to be done.

"I just don't know how the kitchen got so messy all of a sudden," Brian said as he emptied the dishwasher and cleaned off the kitchen counters.

"I haven't done the daily straightening up I do in here the past couple of days," I told him.

"Were you trying to make a point?"

I explained that, no, it was just that the baby had been a handful the past couple of days (that's what I get for gloating about the fact that she hasn't been teething--I think she is again), and since we had planned to go out on Wednesday night anyhow, I just hadn't done the normal clean-ups I do before I cook dinner. And then said something along the lines of being impressed that I can cope with the baby all day and still manage to do even minimal tidying up, and how sometimes on the weekends the amount of time he gets with the baby seems like a lot. Basically I don't remember exactly what he said, just that it warmed my housewifely heart.

No other sight spreads cheer so well

Last year I realized for the first time that people really do have themes for their Christmas trees. One friend's tree was all done up in blue and silver. We went over to someone else's house and their tree was decorated all in red and white. I was surprised by both trees, because in my world Christmas trees are covered in multicolored lights and a variety of ornaments of all colors that have been made and collected over the years. These themed trees were absolutely perfect, though.

I thought about those perfect trees last weekend as Brian and I decorated our Christmas tree, a tree that we both agreed on immediately, and then got home and discovered it was too fat to fit where we'd planned to put it. We passed the long string of lights around and around getting them just right--and then discovered that we'd done the strand the wrong way, so we didn't have the plug end when we got to the bottom of the tree, and we wound them back around the piece of plastic, and started over again. We dug out ornaments that I've been collecting since we first moved in together, including a bunch I made out of plastic yogurt lids, photographs, and glitter glue that first year when we didn't have any ornaments. Now we have a bunch of glittery ornaments that I bought at the Crate and Barrel outlet last year, pretty glass globes that I've picked up in various places, delicate outlines of rose windows from Cathedrals we've visited, a ceramic giraffe that says "Baby's first Christmas" and is personalized with Adriana's name and the year, and of course my photo ornaments--Brian and me at our college commencement (I miss those hot pink leopard print sunglasses), the two of us sunburned in Hawaii, his parents kissing under some mistletoe, our friend Jeff rolling his eyes, my mom and me in San Diego. We put all these treasures up on the tree--with none lower than about three feet--settled a sock monkey at the top, and stood back to admire our work and eat some warm gingerbread. It's its own kind of perfect.


Last night I sat in the dark and rested my cheek on Adriana's head. I could smell the Christmas tree behind us, and I thought about the huge trees we had when I was growing up and how exciting it was to find our favorite ornaments as we dug through the decorations every year; about decorating our first tree together, even though we weren't going to be home for Christmas that year; about sitting in a room that was dark except for the lights of the tree last year and feeling Adriana kick at my ribs; and about how someday Adriana is going to be as excited about Christmas as I am. And then I stopped myself and thought about how Christmases past and future were less important in that moment than the simple fact that I was rocking my baby and smelling the Christmas tree right then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Maybe writing this down will help me remember sooner next time

Why is it so hard for me to remember that the days where leaving the house with Adriana seem the most daunting are the days that it is most important for me to do so? This morning Adriana slept for half an hour, about an hour after I expected her to take a nap, and upon awakening went immediately back to seeming cranky. It seemed that if I was holding her she was wiggling away, but every time I put her down she was fussing for me to pick her up. At 2 this afternoon, I realized that we were both still in our pajamas, and I hadn't even brushed my teeth. Taking a fussy baby out of the house is always somehow a terrifying thought, but eventually I remember that staying in with her when she's like that is worse. So I got us both ready to go and by 2:30 we were out the door. Immediately I felt better. We walked downtown, where I picked up a few Christmas presents and got a hot chocolate, and stopped at the park to play on the swings on the way back to the house. When we got home, Adriana was getting fussy again, but I was somehow more prepared to deal with her mood.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eleven months

I hate telling people that Adriana is eleven months old. Whenever I do they always remind me that she is nearly a year old (because, what? I might not have noticed?), and I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

I say that, and I do sort of miss Adriana being a tiny (tiny! ha!) baby, but I'm also finding that I love and will miss every stage she goes through. Right now, she is playing with us more and can communicate with us, to a certain extent, and is just a lot of fun. Which is what I say every month. I should probably just write, "My baby is growing up! So I am sad! But she is more fun to play with now and learning lots of things! Because that's what babies do!" And then I could copy and paste that every month and save us all some time.

That would be nice, but it's not what you'd expect from the woman with the 10,000-word birth story, now is it? So:

There are some days when I wonder if this is what eleven months is like, how on earth am I going to deal with a two-year-old? That's usually when Adriana is fussing to be picked up, and then fussing to get down as soon as she's up, and then arching her back and screaming when I put her back down. But then she takes a nap (we still get two a day out of her; ssshhhhhhh) and after an hour or so we are all much happier.

Right now Adriana seems to be between bouts of teething, and it's heavenly. We still aren't sleeping through the night, but I can handle waking up only once or twice. We've talked about the possibility of moving her to her own bed, or even her own room, but she does seem to sleep for longer spells when she's snuggled up with us, and I am content to have her warm, cuddly body beside me this winter. She still not a big eater, but now that there are a few things she'll eat regularly and she seems more willing to try the new things we offer, I feel okay about it. I know she's getting what she needs nutritionally from me, and that at this age "real food" just lets her experiment with different tastes and textures.

I am constantly forgetting how high she can reach. Things set near the edge of the kitchen table are easily within her reach, and I have been surprised at how far back things need to be. We have a couple of little poofs we bought in Spain that she climbs on top of to reach things on shelves that used to be safe from her little fingers; I'm in trouble when she figures out that the kitchen chairs can serve the same purpose. She is closer and closer to walking. Over Thanksgiving weekend she pushed herself to a stand for the first time without pulling up on anything. When I set her down on the floor, she stands for a second on her own, before slowly lowering herself the rest of the way to the ground. She "cruises" easily around the furniture, and when I am in the kitchen she often pulls up on my leg, and I walk around slowly as I do dishes or put away groceries so that she can "follow" me. I get a kick out of letting her hold one of my fingers while we walk, as if we are holding hands and going for a stroll. She giggles and shrieks with excitement as she takes her pigeon-toed bow-legged steps on her fat little feet. On Saturday she took her first unaided steps. Of course, she promptly fell over and has only done it twice more since.

She loves music, and will stand in front of the stereo bouncing in time with the music. Sometimes when a song ends, she applauds. She waves bye-bye when we say to, if she feels like it. She gives hugs to her stuffed monkey, her grandparents' dogs, other children her age, and would even hug the cat if the cat would tolerate it.

She is very much a mimic. I comb her hair after giving her a bath and then hand her the comb so she can try to comb it herself. If I give her the bottle of baby lotion to play with as I am rubbing the lotion into her skin, she tries to dab on more lotion from the closed bottle. Unless she is too busy trying to fit the bottle into her mouth---she is, after all, a baby. She watches the way we feed ourselves and tries to mimic with her own little spoon.

There was a song we used to sing at camp when I was little:
Late last night while we were all in bed
Old Lady Leary left the lantern in the shed
And when the cow kicked it over she winked her eye and said
"It's gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight."
Fire fire fire!
Water water water!
Jump, lady, jump!
Adriana likes to shriek and will copy us when we do so, so I sing the song to her and she copies me when I shriek at the end. Now when I just start singing the song she begins her shrieking. It's kind of cute. And also probably a trick I am going to regret encouraging. I should have just stuck with singing "ba ba ba" instead of "na na na" for the chorus of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" so that she could "sing along" with me on that one. Well, live and learn.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

December in California

I still have the Washington Post set as my homepage, and I am still registered with a metro-area zipcode, so when I opened my browser the other day I saw that it was snowing in DC, and I was a little sad. I did love the (rare) snow that we got when we lived there. It wasn't until that afternoon when I took the baby to the park to play on the swings that I realized that it's probably best to not have snow days anymore.

Lesson learned

If you are heating milk to make yogurt and you smell something suspicious from the general direction of the baby, TURN OFF THE STOVE BEFORE YOU TAKE THE BABY TO THE OTHER ROOM FOR A DIAPER CHANGE. Because burnt milk smells bad. And also because when you hear the noise of the milk boiling over and come running out to the kitchen to turn off the burner with an undiapered baby on your hip? Well, let's just say that no good can come of that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

At yoga on Friday there were two new moms--one had a six-week-old baby, and the other was the mother to a three-week-old. I had my normal reaction to seeing little newborns--basically a longing for the days when Adriana was that wee and squooshy. Because, you know, what I really need around here is another baby.

But I was surprised by what hit me next: a very intense series of memories of how crazy I felt those first few weeks.

I remembered being in the hospital room alone with her the day we were going to go home. I carefully dressed her in the sleeper that was to be her going home outfit. Then, studying her as she lay in the bassinet, I panicked, afraid that she wasn't my baby. I quickly undressed her again, checking the name tags on her wrist, both her ankles, and her umbilical stump. And then I held her and cried because there was surely something wrong with me if I didn't recognize my own baby.

I remembered standing by myself in a dark room, looking out the window at dusk, while Brian held the baby in our bedroom. It was only a few days after we'd brought Adriana home from the hospital--she must have been a week old at the most--and I felt helpless and scared. I cried, wondering if I loved the baby enough, if I loved her too much, if I would be able to be her mother. I felt that Brian was handling being a new parent better than I was.

I remembered cradling her in my arms in the middle of the night and, seeing her eyes shining in the dark, having a sudden fear that she was possessed by demons. I bit my tongue and made a conscious effort to keep holding her, knowing that I wasn't being rational, and telling myself that the fact that I knew I wasn't being rational was a good sign. But I didn't tell anyone--not Brian, not my midwife, not my closest friends--about that moment for fear that someone would try to keep me from Adriana.

I remembered an intense fear that there was somebody in the house. I knew I was not being rational, but to reassure myself I checked closets and under the bed, the baby clutched tightly to me. For a couple of days I wouldn't leave the baby alone in a room by herself even for a moment because I was afraid that whoever was in the house would steal her away if given the chance. I clung once again to my knowledge that my fear was irrational, telling myself that reading Outside Over There as a child had somehow scarred my psyche.

I remembered my first day home alone with Adriana. I nursed her and changed her diaper and set her down in her little chair. I sat in front of her and looked at her wondering what to do next. She wasn't hungry, wet, or fussing--just awake and looking at me. Surely there was something else I was supposed to be doing. But I didn't know what it was, so I sat and cried.

Adriana was nursing as class ended on Friday, and then she needed her diaper changed, so we were the last to leave. As I was rolling up my yoga mat, the instructor and I talked about those early days and how sweet they are, and then I tentatively confessed a couple of my moments of postpartum panic, forcing myself to laugh them off. It felt good to finally say them out loud.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When baby isn't feeling well

  1. Realize that baby is warm
  2. Take temperature
  3. Administer Tylenol, feel guilty for not noticing earlier that this might be why she was fussy, fret about whether to call doctor
  4. Nurse baby
  5. Rock baby to sleep
  6. Try to set sleeping baby down
  7. Immediately regret decision as baby fusses
  8. Return to rocker with baby
  9. Wish you'd left your book nearby
  10. Wish you had a glass of water
  11. Remained pinned to rocker with feverish baby
  12. Baby wakes up and cries
  13. Nurse baby
  14. Change baby's diaper
  15. Note that temperature is coming down
  16. Try to put baby down so you can put in a load of laundry/pick up toys/check e-mail
  17. Change your mind as baby screams
  18. Rock baby
  19. Nurse baby to sleep
  20. Baby wakes up and cries
  21. Realize that baby is warm again
  22. Return to step 2 and repeat cycle several times over next seven to eight hours
  23. Notice just before your spouse returns home and you will finally have back up that baby is feeling better and no one will believe how today went

Monday, November 26, 2007


Over breakfast in Albuquerque a couple of years ago, I told my colleagues that I was the anxious one in my marriage when it came to travel: I am the one worried about traffic and parking and security lines. I think others at the table were a little concerned about Brian when I said that because when we were doing site visits, if I wasn't sharing a cab to the airport with anyone else, I would usually up at National only a few minutes before our plane began to board.

Wednesday morning I was worried. Brian and I had considered driving down to South Pasadena for Thanksgiving, as Adriana had handled the drive fairly well when we went for Halloween. But the Christie mentioned something about 11 hours on I-5 on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I decided that we would fly, in spite of the airport crowds. So I packed Adriana's and my duffle bag on Tuesday night, and planned on leaving for the airport almost two full hours before our flight was scheduled to depart (it's about a 20-minute drive with no traffic). And you know what? There was no traffic. We found a parking spot immediately and were taken quickly to the airport by the parking shuttle. We walked directly to the front of the line to check in (no checking in from home when you are traveling with a "lap baby"). The short security line moved quickly. Our plane boarded and left on time, and there were enough empty seats that we had our own row. Flying the day before Thanksgiving? No problem. What was I worried about?

It was a nice trip down to see The In-laws. Wednesday night my sister-in-law made a cheesecake topped with fresh berries to celebrate my birthday, and there were even a few presents for me. I spent most of Thursday over at my sister-in-law's apartment where she baked bread and a pecan pie, I made two pumpkin pies and an apple pie, and we took turns chasing after the baby. I gave many thanks for her standing mixer. Brian loves this recipe for pumpkin chiffon mousse, which I've made only twice before, both times deeming it good but not worth the effort; with the standing mixer it was a piece of cake (er, pie). Dinner was fantastic and we spent time after dinner playing a fun game of Trivial Pursuit, in which we kept reminding each other that the copyright on the game was 1981--questions about the Soviet Union and sports records weren't exactly up to date.

We spent a good part of Friday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It wasn't Adriana's first art museum, since we did spend her first six months in the land of the free museums, but it was the first since she'd become mobile, so I was a little concerned about how she'd hold up, but she did fine: she nursed through the exhibit on Islamic art, slept through Southeast Asian, European, and Japanese art, and was up in time to enter the Dalí exhibit. She didn't last long in there, but I didn't really mind slipping out, as surrealism isn't really my favorite. I was glad to be able to enjoy the exhibit Japanese Prints: Word/Poem/Picture, especially several scrolls by Otagaki Rengetsu. I liked the simplicity of her drawings, the curves of the Japanese characters, and the translations of her poetry:

"Through fields and mountains the autumn moon follows me on my joyful way home as if to send me to bed."

Saturday we headed back home. The Burbank airport was virtually empty, and there was again plenty of room on our plane. We found our car, in spite of the fact that we didn't take the little card with us and didn't know the name of the lot. "No, I think our shuttle is yellow," I told Brian as we wandered outside at San Jose and he pointed to a blue van. Luckily a white van with yellow and black lettering pulled up just behind the blue one and it took us to the right lot, with Brian teasing me the whole way about how all I knew about where we'd left our car was "yellow." I don't know what he was so worried about; it was obviously plenty.

After a couple of hours at home we headed back out, to see my friend Lynn, who was at her parents' house for Thanksgiving. It was fantastic to see her and her husband. She's expecting her first baby in April (a girl!), and I was a little envious of her belly, but it was fun to talk baby stuff and catch up.

And to round out a perfect holiday weekend, Adriana slept for nearly six hours straight when we got home. What more could I want?

Monday, November 19, 2007


Today is my birthday.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Seven songs

First, anyone else ever realize that you've been up for two hours and all you've eaten is a brownie and you go into the kitchen to get something healthy and end up eating another brownie? Gah! Why do I bake when I know I'll just eat what I bake constantly until it's gone?

Okay, seven songs I'm into right now, courtesy of Mary.

"St. Peter's Bones" by Girlyman: I am totally in love with Girlyman's harmonies

"Do You Remember?" by Jack Johnson: This somehow reminds me of when Brian and I first started dating

"After Party" by Ozomatli: With such profound lyrics like "Oye, baby! Oye, mami! Donde esta la after party?" this band is clearly destined for greatness

"Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan: So fun to try to sing along to

"Cease Fire" by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irions: I don't know what it is about this song, but I can listen to it over and over all day long

"36-24-36" by The Violent Femmes: Another one that's fun to sing along to

"Born at the Right Time" by Paul Simon: Perhaps my all-time favorite Paul Simon tune

I wasn't going to do the bit where I tagged others to do this, but then it occurred to me that I am curious about what folks are listening to. So, Caitlin, Lauren, Ruthie, Anna, Jewel, Christie, and Eleeza, you are it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why is it that when I do stupid things I feel compelled to tell the internet about it?

Just as I was getting into bed, Adriana woke up. As I nursed her back to sleep, I realized that she needed a diaper change. I went into the other room and got everything ready (double thick diaper, plenty of toys to keep handing her in order to keep Her Wiggliness on her back long enough to get her cleaned up), and then returned to the bedroom for the baby, who miraculously kept her eyes closed and stayed calm and cooperative throughout the change. I sat in the dark, rocking her until she was completely asleep again. Once I had her in her bed, I went to start a load of diapers. Sure, it was eleven at night, but there were only two left, and we needed to leave early in the morning, so it made sense to get them going now.

And then the good luck that kept the baby asleep while I changed her ran out.

As I began to pour the detergent into the cap, I couldn't see it coming out. So I tipped the bottle further. And felt detergent run all over my arm and splash onto my bare foot. Aha! Because I hadn't wanted to disturb Brian's sleep, I hadn't turned on the light (which I guess I thought would be more disturbing than the sound of the washer running right outside our bedroom door). I couldn't see the detergent coming out of the bottle not because it wasn't happening, but because it was dark. Very clever of me to figure that out, don't you think? Well, I do have a master's degree.

Now I need to figure out how to keep the detergent from ruining my carpet. I mean, I wiped it up as best I could, but I don't think that's enough. The internets tell me that I may be in need of a carpet shampooer. Guess what I'll be doing this weekend!
On the first day of sixth grade, back in 1989, I sat down across the table from a pretty girl with brown hair in Mrs. Sanchez's social studies class. If someone had told me that eighteen years later we'd be spending an afternoon together playing with our kids, I don't think I would have believed them.

Why yes, the baby is sitting in a doll stroller with a wheel falling off. Perhaps letting the five-year-old do the assembly wasn't the best idea?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Time for cheer

A few years ago I was in Chicago for work in early November. As our taxi from Midway approached the hotel and we saw the Christmas decorations up in the windows at Marshall Fields, my boss said happily, "I love Christmas decorations." Which probably wouldn't have stuck in my head if it weren't for the fact that she was Jewish.

And I have to agree with her. I know some people are appalled at how early the Christmas marketing seems to come, but I have to admit I find it kind of exciting. I mean, seeing the Christmas section at Macy's back in September was a little strange, but I love the season. Yes, it's commercialized and the "real meaning" of the season sort of gets lost in the madness of it all, but it's still fun. There are goodies to bake, presents to wrap, secrets to keep, songs to sing. There are get togethers with friends and family. Halloween is over, the cooler weather seems to be here, and I am ready for one of my favorite times of year. (Okay, so by the time February rolls around, I'll be calling spring my favorite, I'm sure; although I just remembered that now that we're back in Calfornia, so February won't be a big horrible mess of "freezing rain" and "wintry mix," which is what an angry, vindictive god gives west coast kids who think that east coast winter precipitation is only lovely, fluffy snow. Not that I'm bitter.)

Anyhow, this is just to say that last week I came into possession of a Baby's First Christmas ornament. And that a cute little red Christmas dress that I've been wanting for the baby went on sale, so I had no choice but to purchase it. And that I started Christmas shopping. And it was all quite fun and exciting.

But I'll probably be tired of hearing "Winter Wonderland" by the end of November.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ten months

Time goes so fast when you have a baby. I am pretty sure that just last week I was sent home from the hospital with a new born, and now it's like we have a little person around here. I mean, sure, she's a little person who poops her pants and can't get to sleep without help and whose audible communication skills are fussing, crying, and shrieking, with the occasional raspberry and "ba ba ba" thrown in, but still, she is noticeably moving from baby toward toddler.

Not that she is a toddler yet. In spite of dire predictions from various family members, Adriana is not yet walking. She cruises quite well these days, but still prefers to crawl if she wants to move quickly. I'm actually sort of excited for her to start walking. Yes, I know that comment is going to come back to bite me at some point, but I just think that if she's going to be mobile it would be easier, especially when we're out and about, if she were up on two feet instead of crawling.

Adriana is more fun to play with every day. She puts blocks into a box now, instead of just dumping them out. We have a stuffed monkey that she hugs and pats (and sits on and waves around). If you sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" she claps her hands, although not at the right time. She likes to chase and be chased, although it seems funny to call a version of the game that moves so slowly "chase." She likes the swings at the playground, and splashing around in the bathtub. She sits still for stories sometimes, and seems to particularly like the books we have with photographs of babies and children.

She is finally seeming to enjoy food a bit more. She never eats very much, but she is willing to try, and that is progress enough for me. In the mornings, she and I share a bowl of oatmeal. At lunch we usually have some yogurt with fruit and flaxseed. Snacks are Cheerios and slices of fruit that she feeds herself, or sometimes we feed each other. At dinner time, Brian and I feed her from our plates. The other night she ate lentil soup with great gusto and I wondered if the main problem with all the food I'd been offering in the past few months had been the lack of cumin, but the next night when we had leftovers she barely ate any at all, so I once again have no idea.

We go back and forth with sleep. For a few days last week, she was waking up too often at night, and I was exhausted. When she woke up "only" five times one night I felt refreshed--after all, that was better than waking up eight times--but that feeling was short lived. The past few nights she seems to be sleeping a little better, and both nights there has been a four-hour stretch that is absolutely heavenly. I know there are going to be good spells and bad spells. The problem is that when we are having bad spells I am too exhausted to try to fix things, and once we get through the bad spells, I think that things are going well and there's no need to worry.

These days, my favorite parts of the week are our yoga classes. The best one is the Friday morning one, which isn't as well-attended as the others. Adriana is usually the oldest baby there. She plays with the other crawlers, and investigates the smaller babies. And on Wednesdays when there are often older children there, she watches the toddlers with great interest and follows them around the room (usually picking up the Cheerios they drop behind them). She climbs on me as I do sun salutations, and cuddles up to nurse during the relaxation time at the end. Unless she curls up to nurse with me while the rest of the class does sun salutations and climbs on me (or one of the other moms) during the relaxation at the end, which isn't too bad either.

Friday, November 09, 2007

In orbit

I was moving laundry from the washer to the dryer when Adriana pulled up on my jeans and hugged me around my leg, grinning up at me.

"What's it like to be the center of her universe?" Brian asked, joking, as I loosened her grip so I could move without knocking her over, just as I do many times every day now that she has discovered that my jeans are great for pulling up on.

"A little stressful, and mostly wonderful," I told him honestly.

But after he asked, I started to think: right now, yes, I am the center of her universe, but she is also the center of mine, and I think that's exactly how it's supposed to be right now.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Courtesy of Helen and Sami

Brian came home from work and asked if we had any beer. I checked the fridge. No beer, but there was a bottle of sparkling wine that had been brought to our housewarming party back in August. So we had left over lentil soup and champagne for dinner.

And we lived happily ever after.


When I first met Brian I didn't understand his deep true love for Halloween. I mean, I love candy and playing dress-up as much as the next kid, but is it really a holiday one must celebrate with family?

Well, it turns out that if you come from a neighborhood that gets exponentially more trick-or-treaters than I've ever seen in my life, you certainly do. I mean, you don't even worry about having people ring your doorbell in this neighborhood: you just sit out on the front porch and people form a line that reaches down to the street.

That graph right there shows that my in-laws provided candy to 1,715 trick-or-treaters last Wednesday, just slightly more than last year. So Brian, Adriana, and I spent all of last week in South Pasadena, where we decked out the front yard with ugly ghouls strung across the lawn on fishing line, fun jack-o-lanterns, and Herman, the dummy who is dropped on unsuspecting little beggars as they made their way up the the driveway.

Herman, hanging in the trees:

The ugliest Halloween decoration ever:

Pumpkins (I did the witch):

And now, what I know you've all been waiting for, my favorite squooshy monkey:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Music of the Universe

From Isabel Allende's Paula:

Celia was walking back and forth, leaning on Nicolás, never losing her calm, taking short breaths when she doubled over with pain, and resting when the small being in her womb gave her a brief respite. My daughter-in-law carries in her veins secret songs that mark the rhythm of her steps as she walks; during the contractions, she panted and rocked back and forth as if listening to an irresistible, internal Venezuelan drumbeat. Toward the end, I thought that occasionally she made fists of her hands and a flash of terror passed through her eyes, but immediately her husband make her look straight at him, and whispered something in the private code of husband and wife, and her tension eased. . . .

By midafternoon, Celia made a sign; Nicolás helped her climb onto the bed and in less than a minute the apparatus and instruments the midwife carried in her station wagon materialized in the room. That girl in shorts seemed suddenly to mature; her tone of voice changed and millennia of female experience were reflected in her freckled face. "Wash your hands and be ready," she told me with a wink. "Now it's your turn to work." Celia put her arms around her husband, gritted her teeth, and pushed. And then, on a surging wave of blood, emerged a flattened, purplish face and a head covered with dark hair, which I held like a chalice with one hand while with the other I quickly unlooped the bluish cord wrapped around the baby's neck. With another brutal push from the mother, the rest of my granddaughter's body appeared, a blood-washed, fragile package: a most extraordinary gift. With a primeval sob, I felt in the core of my being the sacred experience of birth--the effort, the pain, the panic--and, gratefully, I marveled at my daughter-in-law's heroic courage and the prodigy of her solid body and noble spirit, designed for motherhood. Through a veil, I seemed to see a rapturous Nicolás, who took the baby from my hands and placed her on her mother's belly. Celia rose up from among her pillows, panting, dripping with sweat, transformed by inner light and, completely indifferent to the remainder of her body, which continued contracting and bleeding, she folded her arms about her daughter and welcomed her with a waterfall of words in a newly coined language, kissing and nuzzling her as every mammalian mother does, then offered the baby her breast in the most ancient gesture of humankind. Time congealed in the room, and the sun stopped above the roses on the terrace; the world was holding its breath to celebrate the miracle of that new life.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Orchids at the Huntington

Overheard in Beverly Hills

Man on cell phone: So do you want to have sex with me, or do you want to marry me? . . . Both?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

384 days until I turn 30

Last night, I had a glass of white wine, several garlic bread twists, two slices of pizza, a glass of red wine, a couple of seven-layer bars, a brownie, a slice of kahlua cream pie, four peanut butter cups, two miniature Milky Ways, and a cup of hot chocolate. That night I had a stomachache. This must be one of the downsides of getting older. I would swear I was able to eat like that not too long ago.

Must go eat through a nice green leaf now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

An update for the grandparents

Adriana had her nine-month checkup today. We finally got to meet her new pediatrician (for her six-month visit, the doctor didn't have any appointments available on such short notice after we'd moved), and I really liked her--the way she interacted with Adriana, the manner in which she answered my questions, and also just in terms of the overall vibe I got from her.

Adriana handled the visit well. She weighed in at 20 pounds and half an ounce, and was 28.75 inches long--about the 68th percentile for weight and 83rd for height. She was a little bit clingy as the doctor examined her, and as usual wanted to grab everything tool the doctor was using. The only shot she got today was a flu shot, and that seemed to bother her less than the vaccinations she's gotten at previous visits.

Mostly I was happy because the doctor reassured me about Adriana's eating (or lack thereof), saying that breastmilk was all Adriana really needed for the first year, and that she would eat when she was ready. (Less comforting was the comment, "Well, she's precocious--just exhibiting typical difficult toddler behavior.") These are things that I knew, but it was nice to have the reassurance from the pediatrician. She did offer me a few suggestions for foods to try, so we'll be experimenting a bit with those this week.


Now that Adriana is pulling up all the time, yet another level of our bookshelves are being cleared daily. This morning I picked up the books of poetry she'd pulled off the shelf, glancing idly through the pages of an Adrienne Rich collection before returning it too its place. The next book I picked up was my copy of Backroads, my high school's fine arts magazine, of which I was a co-editor my senior year. While the baby napped, I sat and read, flipping back and forth through the thin book, looking at the crazy collection of fonts, remembering faces and conversations as I saw the names on each page, and smiling at the words of teenagers. I remembered the classroom where I'd sat with my creative writing classmates, sifting through submissions--poems scratched out in pencil on wrinkled notebook paper, carefully typed poems with careful meter and rhyme, drawings tucked carefully into sturdy envelopes, and black-and-white photos printed in the school's darkroom. I remembered designing pages, and having staff hand me little floppy disks with their pages on them. I remembered the sense of accomplishment when the other editor, our advisor, and I took the final pages to the printer, and how afterwards Ms. Logan took Meghan and me for an ice cream and then taught us how to parallel park.

I thought about the creative writing class. That last year (I took it for three years) my cousin sat behind me. We were a little clique--Sky and me, Jaron who I'd known since pre-school, Andy who was a friend of both of them, in a band with Sky. I sat and wondered what became of Jaron and Andy as I read their poems, trying to recall when I'd last seen either one of them, and made a mental note to ask Sky. I stopped again as I came across the name of a tall, thin quiet boy from the class, a couple of years younger than I was, someone who I'd completely forgotten about, and I wondered what happened to him; and then what became of the girl whose poem is on the page before, a girl who was good at math and played one of the lead roles in the school production of Three Sisters for which I was stage manager. I read a poem by the woman who edited the magazine the year before I did; it was a good poem, and I hoped that she was doing something interesting, that she was happy. I passed over a poem by a girl I hadn't liked without reading it, and smiled as I read a funny poem by someone from my journalism class. Then there was one by someone I saw a couple of years ago at a wedding, and one by my best friend, who I have been meaning to call for weeks.

And then there was my name at the bottom of one page. I stopped there, looking at my name for a moment, almost afraid to look up at the words above it, words I couldn't really remember. Then I read over the prose-poem. It was a bit trite, I thought. I tried to remember writing it. Was I sitting on my bed? Did I begin it sitting at that corner desk in the creative writing class? Was it something I'd scribbled while sitting at a table in the school library during a free period when I was meant to be doing my trig homework? I stared at the words, but I couldn't recall. I tried to imagine those words coming from me, the memory wouldn't come. It has been too long, as if the words were written by another person completely.

I flipped through the pages again and found another poem I'd written, this one with a sing-song sort of rhyme to it but a similar theme. Again, I thought it was a little trite, but cute, something written by someone else entirely, it seemed. I thought there was probably one more, and I scanned the contents page until I saw my name again. The title listed by my name didn't mean anything to me. I tried to remember writing something with that title, but couldn't. Finally I turned to page 60, and saw the poem. Now I remembered. I still didn't remember writing it, but I remembered the poem. Reading it now, more than ten years later, was strange. It was the only really personal poem of the three of mine in the magazine. I read it over a few times, wondering what I was thinking. It's kind of a funny poem--as if I was simultaneously trying to write out how I saw myself at 17 and trying to define who I wanted to be at that moment. Perhaps I was trying to reconcile the two. What was I thinking when I wrote it? What did my mother thing when I brought home the copy of the magazine? Did I read this poem out loud when we had our reading when the magazine was published? I doubted it, but I couldn't remember.

Adriana woke up from her nap, and I read through all three of my poems again as I watched her play. Will she write poetry as a teenager? Will she someday read the poems that I wrote as a teenager and laugh at how silly her mother was? What would I have thought at seventeen if someone had told me where I would be today?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Writing these down now to help me remember later

Most of the time Brian can calm Adriana when she's fussing, but sometimes she just cries and cries, and then when I take her she calms right down. Usually I think it's because she knows that if I am holding her, she is going to get some milk. One night recently, Brian went to Adriana when she first woke up (an hour after I put her down--it's the most predictable thing about her sleep), but after awhile I went in because she wasn't calming down. As soon as she was in my arms, the crying stopped, and I sat down to nurse her. Sitting there in the darkened room, I suddenly remembered one evening when she was about a week old. We were eating dinner in shifts because the baby, in spite of a full tummy and a dry diaper, was a bit fussy, and after I finished my soup, I took Adriana from Brian and the crying stopped. She relaxed against me, and I paced the room with her in my arms until she fell asleep. Eventually I sat in the armchair and just held her while she slept. I think it may have been the first time I felt competent as a mother.

Two nights ago, Adriana woke up just as Brian and I were going to bed. That's not unusual, and most nights I simply nurse her and put her back down in her own bed, but on Tuesday night, she was wide-eyed and ready to play. Finally I decided that one of us might as well get some sleep, and that it might as well be Brian since when the baby woke in the morning he would be the one to get up with her. So Adriana and I went into the dark living room, and I settled into the rocker with her on my lap. I recited every one of her books that I knew in a slow monotone, and she eventually leaned her head against me. My mind began to float, and I remembered holding her as she fell asleep when she was a few weeks old. In particular, I remembered holding her with her head on my shoulder as I stood at the bedroom window, rocking from side to side. It was winter, so the trees were bare and I could see the beginning of the morning commute traffic down on Glebe Road--bright headlights winding their way along the streets before the sun came up--and the first flights beginning to take off from National. Adriana was completely asleep and I was exhausted, but I stood there a little longer, trying to burn that moment into my mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nine months

For a while I thought I wasn't going to handle Adriana growing older well at all. For most of September, she no longer seemed to be the pleasant baby she had once been. She was always cranky, even when we were both well-rested, and that wasn't very often, as she was waking every hour or two all night long. I missed the easy baby she'd been a couple of months ago--the one who didn't fuss all the time and wasn't always getting into things. And then, after we had spent almost three weeks looking at the tooth just below her gums and begging it to pop through soon, we woke up one morning to discover that she had four teeth instead of three, and that we had our (mostly) happy baby back. She still is getting into everything, but that's easier to cope with when she is clearly so delighted with the world she's exploring.

She is happy, energetic, and curious, and she seems to know what she wants. Long days out and about in a carrier are no longer satisfactory for her, because she would rather get down and play. She wants to explore everything, and it's fun to watch her try to work things out: when she discovered that she couldn't open the kitchen cabinets after I taped them shut, she promptly tried opening them from the other side. Once the real cabinet latches went on and she could open the doors a crack, she spent some time tugging at the doors and staring in through the small opening. She raises her arms when she wants to be picked up, and pushes away when she wants to be put down. The pushing away can be frustrating--she rolls away from me during diaper changes (toward the wall when she's on the changing table, fortunately), but usually giving her a toy (or the tube of rash cream if that's the only thing within my reach) can keep her still long enough to snap on the fresh diaper.

She is a little shy sometimes. When we go to a new place or she sees new people, she clings to me a little bit more. It takes awhile for her to be willing to crawl around and explore, and she is quieter that she is when it is just us at home. Eventually, though, her curiosity wins out and she crawls around, getting into things and babbling to herself. She looks up intermittently to find me and smile, and then goes back to playing--unless I am not looking at her, in which case she fusses until she has my attention, and then continues on with what she was doing.

She pulled up once just after she turned eight months old. Brian was sitting right beside her, but I missed it, as I thought the excited voice he was using to get my attention was part of whatever game the two of them were playing. Then last Tuesday I set her on the floor after nursing her in the armchair and she grabbed the edge of the chair and pulled right back up to let me know she wasn't actually finished eating yet. It took me a moment to register what she was doing, but then I applauded her. She mimicked me and, having let go of the chair to do so, immediately fell. We keep trying to trick her into doing that again (what can I say? It was cute), but now she knows she needs to hold on, and will just clap one hand against whatever she is pulling up on. Now she pulls up at will, using my jeans so she can let me know that she would like to be picked up, or using the bookcases, so that she can clear all shelves within her reach of books and CDs.

She still isn't much for solid foods, but she seems to actually be eating some of the banana I give her (as opposed to just mashing it around), and occasionally lets me spoon feed her a few bites of cereal or pureed pears. Sleeping is going better than it was when we were awaiting the fourth tooth, but she is by no means sleeping through the night. I usually feel reasonably well rested though, since cosleeping means I don't really have to get up with her, and because Brian gets up with her in the morning when she awakes between 6:30 and 7:00 and I get to sleep in until 8.

Her very favorite thing is blowing raspberries. At this point I don't think it's physically possible for her not to blow raspberries if someone near her does it. If she is warming up to cry, sometimes I give her a Bronx cheer and she replies in kind, ending the bout of fussing. If I wake her up taking her out of her car seat she will start blowing raspberries before she has even opened her eyes. When I sing "The Marvelous Toy" to her, she wants to make the noises, too, but lacking the coordination to make the noises "zip," "bop," or "whrrr," she just blows raspberries.

Right now I really enjoy the fact that we can play together now. She loves peekaboo and games of chase. "I'm going to get you," I say, and she crawls away as fast as she can--which isn't all that fast, especially because every few feet she turns to see if I'm still chasing her and has to stop, sit, turn, and then get up and crawl again--shrieking with laughter. Or I crook my index finger and whisper "tickle bug's coming," and she giggles and wiggles as I get closer and closer before I tickle her. She laughs when I sing her the boa constrictor song and help her touch her toes, knees, belly, neck, and head. Best of all is just lying on the floor while she climbs back and forth over me. I sing to her while she clambers about. and she squeals and we are both very happy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nature walk: Castle Rock State Park

We spent a good portion of our Sunday wandering the trails at Castle Rock State Park with one of Brian's colleagues and her husband. I don't know where I'd gotten the idea that the park was out in a very dry, hot, flat area, but the park wasn't anything like what I expected, and I was quite happy about that. I do tend to be timid about rocky trails, so there were a couple of spots that challenged me a bit--mostly as I found myself wondering if Adriana was really safe in the backpack or considering the fact that if I went up I would later have to come down. As it turned out, Brian and Adriana were fine and I only had to sit down and slide over some rocks to get myself down twice. The views were well worth it.

The view near Castle Rock Falls.

Brian and Adriana love their new backpack carrier.

Stopping for a snack along the trail.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not everyone can be a visionary

Last night after dinner, Brian took a banana from the fruit bowl and began to peel it.

"Wouldn't it be awesome," I suggested, "if one day you opened a banana peel and instead of fruit it contained a freshly baked brownie? Just right there waiting for you in its own hermetically sealed package?"

And he looked at me like I was crazy.

I take Harry Potter more seriously than Brian does

When two lanes exit the freeway at the same time, I tend to choose the one furthest to the right, so that I am out of the way of people who realize that they are in the wrong place at the last minute and do something stupid. And maybe also because I drive like an old lady, at least according to my friend Adam.* Yesterday as I was getting ready to merge from 280 to 85, I started to move into the far right lane. But there was something about the big pickup that I would have merged in behind that stopped me. The man behind the wheel wasn't driving erratically or too slowly, but something about the rack on the back of the truck that was loaded with what looked like metal beams made me uncomfortable. I stayed in my lane and passed the truck as we approached the exit. Then I heard a loud clank, and in my rearview mirror I saw one of the metal beams hit the pavement. The car behind the truck, which was following further back than I think I would have been, had to swerve as the beam bounced toward the shoulder.

I related the story to Brian last night and he informed me that Gavin de Becker would have been proud.** I had had a similar thought myself, only I had thought I was going to please Professor Trelawney. I guess our minds just work in different ways.

*Not that that stopped him from always taking a ride home from me after health econ. I guess a ride from an old lady driver is better than taking the Metro.

**Well, what he actually said was much more crass, but as I started to type it, I remembered that my little baby cousin*** reads this website, and I got very self-conscious about my language.

***Hi, Ruthie! Sorry, but I think you're going to be in your thirties before I stop thinking of you as the baby cousin.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Of course

1. As I was sleepily trying to finish Ines of My Soul before going to bed on Saturday, I came to a line that said one of the character's "soul escaped his body, captured among slim, moss-covered tree trunks as soft as velvet." I thought, "He died? And I missed it?" I'd known the story was building towards this death, and I was rather tired, but I didn't think I'd miss such an important event. But the next lines revealed that the character was still alive. I guess I'd forgotten whose work I was reading. This was an Isabel Allende novel: of course souls can go flitting about while their owners still live.

2. I decided it was a sign I'd been reading a lot of Allende over the past week when, as I read the opening pages of My Invented Country yesterday and came to the legend that the Arakis of Easter Island levitated the moais, I merely thought, "Oh, well, I'd never heard that theory before, but of course that's how they managed it."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

That's klassy with a 'k'

Or, Brian's going to be so freakin' impressed when he gets home tonight

When Adriana started to crawl, we bought cabinet latches. Brian thought he was buying adhesive ones, but it turned out the adhesive was just to help hold the latches in place so you could screw them in. Reluctant to actually screw things into the cabinets in our apartment and risk losing money when we move out, we've been meaning to check with the leasing office about this. We were able to put it off for some time, while we waited for Adriana to figure out how to open the cabinets, and then for her to realize that this was a fun activity. After chasing her away from them 44,783,293,286 times this morning (approximately), I finally went and talked to them today and was told that they "cannot grant permission to cause intentional damage to the cabinets." Punks.

There are adhesive cabinet latches available online. They're more expensive than the kind you attach with screws, but I guess I'll have to order them anyhow. But to make my life easier until they arrive, I've worked something out:

Brian thought I was kidding when I threatened to tape things shut with duct tape. Well, he's not always very observant when it comes to things I've done around the house. Maybe he won't notice?

The food thing

Adriana's transition to solid foods hasn't been easy. The first few times we gave her cereal she seemed to enjoy it. She gave avocado a try one day, but after that she wasn't much of a fan. I thought maybe it wasn't sweet enough for her, so the next food I tried was sweet potatoes, which she also turned down. Bananas were also rejected. I tried offering the food after she had nursed, before she had nursed, and in between feedings. I tried different consistencies of food, finally diluting things with breastmilk so much that I wasn't sure she could taste anything but the milk. I tried giving her pieces of things to feed herself. I tried leaving the room while Brian fed her on weekends. I switched back to cereal, but she was no longer quite as interested. A friend said that her baby loved pears, so I bought some pears and pureed them one afternoon, planning on freezing them and starting her on them the next day. But she was just sitting there playing while I was in the kitchen, so I put her in the high chair and fed her some right then.

She loved it. Or sort of loved it: she made a horrible face with every spoonful, but then she would lean forward and open her mouth to ask for more. Success!

Except the next day? She wouldn't eat the pears at all. Or the cereal. Every time the spoon would come toward her, she would shut her mouth and turn her head to the side. It was discouraging. I would try to talk with other moms about it, but nearly everyone said something to the extent of, "Oh, we started a little earlier than we probably should have, but she really seemed ready. And she loves it! She'll eat anything we put in front of her." Which was lovely for them, I'm sure, but not exactly helpful information for me. Eventually, I put solids on hold for a while. I told myself that we'd get back to them after our Labor Day weekend vacation. But when I tried then, I was again met with the sealed lips and turned head. She'll eat when she's ready, I told myself. It's not like she's going to be getting her driver's license and refusing any food but milk.

Then the other day I picked up some bananas. I was about to eat one the other day, when I decided to see how Adriana would do. I put her in the high chair and let her watch as I broke off a piece of the banana at ate it. Then I gave her a big piece to see what would happen. I don't know how much you could actually say she ate, but at least she was willing to play with it. And so long as feeding the baby is fun rather than stressful, I think it will be much easier for me not to worry about whether she's actually eating the food.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sitting in the darkness, baby on your knee*

Last week I went to see a movie** with Adriana for the first time with Diaper Days, and that went fairly well, so I informed Brian that I was going to go see the most recent Harry Potter while I still could. I figured that if I went to a matinée of a kids' movie during the school year two months after it came out, I could get away with bringing an infant in. Brian was instantly jealous (he was already envious that I'd gotten to go to Diaper Days last week), and decided he could leave work a bit early to join us.

Adriana handled it pretty well. Last week when she wanted to babble and giggle at the screen I could let her, because other babies were crying. Then if she wanted to blow raspberries during quiet moments in the movie, I could handle the fact that other moms were turning to look and smile. But yesterday, as Harry and Mr. Weasley entered the Ministry of Magic, Adriana started waving and cooing in her highest pitched voice (I think she's noticed that when people wave and say "hello" or "bye-bye" their voices go up an octave, so she tries to imitate this) (or maybe I am giving her too much credit), I realized that, given where we were, it wasn't actually cute and quickly whisked her away. We spent a lot of time bouncing at the back of the theater until she was ready to nurse to sleep, and then she stayed asleep even though the loudest scenes at the end of the movie.

While I'm glad I saw the movie, because I love all things Harry Potter (I just finished rereading the entire series; you would think I would have better things to do with my time), I was more disappointed in this movie than in any of the others. I mean, the second one sucked, but the book wasn't very good in that case either. I realized afterwards that my imaginings of the book were so vivid that it was almost as though I had seen the movie before. Except the movie that I'd seen was totally different from what was on the screen yesterday, and I honestly think that my version of the Weasley twins' grand finale and the scenes in the Ministry at the end of the movie were better--more colorful and spectacular. I understand that adapting such a long book for the screen is difficult and there were some bits of the story that had to go, but you would think they would have at least done a better job with what they had left. And they could have given Bellatrix Lestrange more time on screen.

At any rate, it's nice to know I can go to a movie now and then (although I will likely stick with Diaper Days--much less anxiety that way). We were going to see a fair number of movies back in December, despite the fact that sitting still for so long was rather uncomfortable (and near impossible given the fact that I needed to run to the bathroom every half hour), and I'd missed that.

*Name that (slightly modified) tune!

**2 Days in Paris, which was absolutely fantastic, with people talking a lot and absolutely nothing happening. And Julie Delpy. I think I might be a little in love with Julie Delpy, for reasons that I cannot explain.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I think baby classes are called enrichment activities because of how much they cost

Last week Adriana and I went to The Little Gym. Some friends took their babies when they were her age, and I thought she might enjoy it. Plus, I thought it might be a good way for me to get to meet other moms of babies. I looked forward to it all week. And then we got there and...I wasn't impressed.

I wanted to like it. At first I told myself the reason that Adriana didn't seem to be enjoying it was that she was teething and that she hadn't slept well the night before. I thought about going back this week. It wasn't until I was describing the whole experience to Brian and I realized that everything I said was negative that I realized that maybe The Little Gym isn't for us, at least not right now. It was frustrating to me how quickly we moved from one activity to another: the teacher would pass out bells to ring in time to a little song that we would sing, we'd sing the eight lines or so of the song, and then it was time for the bells to be put away; Adriana hadn't gotten a real chance to explore the bells and play with them. The we'd be off to play on some bars, helping the babies pull up on them; Adriana would just be warming up to the idea and exploring this new part of the room when it was back to the big mat again. There was some sort of "free play" time, but at that point nearly all the toys were dumped out at once and I think Adriana felt overwhelmed. I sat beside her while she watched what was going on in the rest of the room, holding a ball in her lap and just staring. The teacher came over to try to encourage her to play and Adriana started to fuss and crawled onto my lap. Whenever we tried a new activity after that she would cry. Not fuss. Cry.

We have been attending a Mommy & Me yoga class every week. Adriana loves playing with the toys there and chasing around after the other babies and kids. I've been impressed with the teacher and her ability to instruct the women in the class while supervising the mobile babies and helping the newest moms find comfortable positions for nursing. It's not the most relaxing yoga class I've ever done, but it's fun to see the babies play and I do get some good stretching done. I was feeling that something like The Little Gym would give Adriana more of a chance to play with other babies (I know they aren't really playing together at this age, but she does seem to get a kick out of watching other kids and it's adorable to see them check each other out), and it was something that really was for her, not something for me that I was taking her along to. I actually felt sort of guilty for a little bit for deciding not to go back to The Little Gym. What if I really just thought the songs were stupid? What if I was just being selfish? What if by not going back I wasn't giving Adriana a chance to warm up to it? But then I remembered the crying. And I remembered that she doesn't cry at yoga (unless a toddling baby happens to land on her, and I think that's a little bit different). And that she'll learn to walk and play and all those things just fine without big red mats and bars to push on. Yesterday I watched her in yoga while I stretched. She picked up a blue plastic car and turned it over in her hands, studying it, tasting it, hitting it against a sippy cup that another child had dropped. She played with it at her own pace, then came to me and patted me briefly before she crawled off to blow raspberries on another baby's socks. Maybe she would warm up to Little Gym if I gave it another chance. Maybe in awhile we'll try again. For now we'll still with the yoga.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brian = funny

1. The other day I was reading the Washington Post online and saw the news that Bush would be nominating Michael Mukasey as Attorney General. I read bits and pieces of the article out loud to Brian, and when I quoted the line that called Mukasey "a retired federal judge and law-and-order conservative," Brian said, "Law and Order conservative? I thought that was Fred Thompson."

2. This morning we read through the list of Pirate Phrases from the Talk Like A Pirate Day website, so that Brian would be fully prepared to participate at work today. But when I suggested that he wear an eye patch he reminded me ever so kindly that "It's Talk Like A Pirate Day, not Dress Like Moron Day."

An open letter

To Adriana's front tooth:

I hate you. Just cut through already. Please?

Adriana's mama

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saturday morning Brian and I decided that it would be a nice day to head over the hill to Santa Cruz. So we did. Just like that. It was a wonderful day with perfect weather and we did everything we wanted to. We wandered around Pacific Avenue for a bit and got burritos at Taqueria Vallarta, before going up to the Circles, where one of Brian's friends is living just two blocks from our old house. We walked from there down to West Cliff, wondering how many times we'd done that walk in the past. We saw otters, cormorants, pelicans, and maybe a seal. We watched surfers at Steamer Lane. We made it down to the Boardwalk where we took turns riding the Giant Dipper and the Hurricane. We ate Marianne's ice cream on our way back along West Cliff. We walked by our old house. We watched the sunset at our favorite beach. We headed back home tired and happy.

The whole day was exactly what I wanted--what I needed, even, after feeling homesick for Santa Cruz recently--but there were little perfect moments throughout the day that made me so happy:
  • Brian's friend Ben held Adriana while Brian and I went on the Giant Dipper together. I love the speed and twists of coasters, but my favorite part is just as the train reaches the top of the first rise and is about to drop. It was fun to have that moment with Brian right beside me.
  • On our way back along West Cliff, we stopped at a bench overlooking the bay so that I could nurse Adriana. I fed the baby and looked into her eyes, while she patted my mouth and a cool breeze blew our hair around. When she was finished eating I stood her on my lap and told her that this was where Mama and Daddy used to walk together when they were first dating, when we were living together, and when we were first married, but that it was even better now that we were there with her.
  • Then we went to Natural Bridges and spread out a blanket on the beach so that Adriana could crawl around a bit. She ventured toward the sand a couple of times, but didn't seem to like the way it felt, so Brian and I leaned against one another and watched the sunset with the baby climbing around in front of us, pulling up on our laps, smiling and blowing raspberries. I think it was the most beautiful sunset ever.
I still miss Santa Cruz, and in some ways I'm sad we're not living there. But it's nice to know that it's right there.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Good things

1. The new Girlyman CD. It was released in the spring, but I didn't buy it until recently. Brian pointed out that some of the songs have more of a pop sound do them than previous albums--possibly because there's more percussion involved than in the past, but I'm fine with that. I mean, good songwriting, excellent guitar playing, and fantastic harmonizing--what more can you really ask for?

2. My new glass pendant from Dolce Beada, purchased last weekend at the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival. I fell in love with one of the pendants when we were downtown for the festival on Saturday, and when I stopped by again to ogle it when we went to the farmer's market on Sunday, Brian convinced me that an un-birthday present wouldn't be a bad idea.

3. The slightly cooler weather we're having. Highs in the low seventies are awesome.

4. Yoga. I've found a great postpartum yoga class here. It's not as strenuous as the class I used to go to at Spiral Flight, and there's a too much chaos with all the babies for it to be really relaxing, but I get some good stretching in. Plus, I'm impressed with how the teacher manages to guide us through stretches, wrangle the crawlers and toddlers, and help the newest mom find a comfortable nursing position ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

5. Baby's new tooth seems to just be cutting through her gums. Maybe tonight I will get to sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eight months

Why didn't anyone tell me that having a baby would wear me out? Even though Adriana still doesn't move very quickly, chasing after her is somehow exhausting. We're slowly childproofing things around here, so that I don't have to spend the entire time chasing after the baby as she get into the cat's food, plays with the stereo, pulls the phone off the hook, or heads for the cords under the desk. I spend what seems like a ridiculous amount of time repeating, "Gentle. Pat the kitty gently." We go back and forth with her sleep. We recovered from the cold last month only to face two new teeth coming in (only one has actually broken through so far; the other one remains just below her gums, where we can see it, taunting us) and the disturbed sleep that comes with that. Last night I put her down to bed at 7:30, and she woke up every hour after that until went to bed and let her sleep beside me. After that she was up only twice, so I counted it as a good night.

My main frustration these days actually isn't sleep, but that Adriana seems to have decided that she's not interested in solid foods. Finger foods are the only thing she doesn't pick up and put in her mouth. When I present her with a spoon of rice cereal or applesauce, she no longer leans forward for a taste, choosing instead to seal her lips and turn her head away. I'm trying to be patient with it. I like nursing her--we both get so many benefits from it--and I know she is getting enough to eat. She will eat read food when she is ready. Still, I wish she would drink milk from a sippy cup from time to time.

As tiring as this age seems to be, I am really loving it. Adriana claps, waves, bounces to music, and giggles. She is learning about the world and it's fun to watch that happen. Although we've shown her her reflection in the mirror since she was a newborn, she somehow is more aware of it now. I don't think she's aware that she's seeing herself, though. About a month ago I gave her a toy with a mirror on it, a hand-me-down from some friends, and it was amazing to watch her explore it. She would lean over the mirror and then pull away, only to lean over it again a moment later for another peak. She tapped it gently with her finger, leaned down to taste it, and looked up at me and laughed.

She loves being around people, and wants to be put down on the floor so she can play with other children whenever we go to a La Leche League meeting or yoga class or anything where there are other babies. She is particularly fascinated with toddlers, crawling around behind them or staring at them with awe from across the room. But I find it comforting that she checks in with me often. She crawls across the room to get a toy or check out another baby's blanket, and then turns to make sure that I am looking at her before returning to the task at hand. It's sweet to have her crawl over to me and pull up onto her knees using the leg of my jeans as she asks to be picked up once she's decided she's had enough.

I do find that I must remind myself of how wonderful these little things are, though. "She's only little once," I tell myself nearly every day. It's my mantra. It gives me perspective. And it works. When Adriana is having trouble falling asleep for her nap and I find myself bouncing her in my arms and wondering if she will ever sleep, I think, "I will only be able to hold her like this for such a small part of her life," and bouncing her a few more minutes until I can lay her in her bed doesn't seem so bad. Later in the day, when I start to wonder how long before Brian gets home, so I can put together dinner, or get some wash put away, or maybe just read a book without one eye on the baby, I tell myself, "She's only little once," and then I am happy to stack blocks for her to knock over for the 54,898th time that day and read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom one more time. I Some nights, when nursing isn't doing the trick to get her back to sleep, I sit with her in the rocker in the dark living room, tired and wondering why she thinks it's time to be awake, and then I remind myself that she's only little once, right now, and I can relax while we rock back and forth and wait for sleep to come.

Nature walk: Montaña de Oro

We stayed in San Luis Obispo over Labor Day weekend, using the wedding we were attending as an excuse for a nice little weekend away. We spent most of Sunday in Montaña de Oro State Park, walking the Bluff Trail. I picked it because our California Hiking book (dragged across the country to where it was on longer useful and then back again) gave it a 1 for difficulty and a 10 for beauty, and that seemed about right. It was an easy walk, about three miles round trip over flat paths, with stunning views of the ocean. It was also about 20 degrees cooler there on the bluffs than it had been fifteen miles away at our hotel. We saw pelicans--which I love in spite of the fact that Brian says they are smelly (although he did manage to take about 70 pictures of them in two minutes using continuous shooting--why did I tell him about that setting on my camera?--when we saw dozens of them swooping and diving), because they look like pteradactyls--ane saw pelicans--and what might have been cormorants. We also saw a lot of other people--it seems to be a popular walk. And for good reason; look:

One thing we discovered this weekend was that, although we usually think our individual styles are different on nature walks, that's not actually true. Usually I complain that I want more exercise than I get walking with Brian, because he feels compelled to stop every two minutes to examine footprints (usually left by yet another raccoon, or someone's dog) or pick apart coyote poop (I think I'm supposed to call it "scat" since he's playing with it) to see what this particular coyote may have been eating. Brian agreed this weekend to do the walk my way. Which involved stopping every two minutes to take yet another photo of the coastline that was nearly identical to the vista I was compelled to shoot moments before. Oh well.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, 1919-2007

On Thursday, I read Dance in the Desert to Adriana for the first time. On Friday I came home and read the news that Madeleine L'Engle had died the day before. I was stunned. I have a shelf full of her books, and they aren't going anywhere, but it still feels as though I've lost a good friend.

I can remember approximately when I read each of her novels for the first time, beginning with Meet the Austins the summer before second grade, but I don't actually remember doing so. I don't remember what it was like to pick one up and read it cover to cover for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen next. Because now, after reading the books over and over for twenty years, I know exactly what will happen next, as if they are no longer stories authored by someone else, but my own memories. Now, I rarely start at the beginning (and go on till I come to the end and then stop); I can pick up any of her books from my shelf, open to any page, and read bits and pieces--the parts I like the best, the parts that suddenly have more meaning for me because of something going on in my own life, or the part that I happen to open to on that particular day.

I was in college when I started reading L'Engle's nonfiction. I made my way through the Crosswicks series, and some of her more religious books. I found that my ideas of Christianity and spirituality were very much in tune with hers, as though I'd been reading these books all along, which surprised me, but when I wondered aloud about this to a someone I knew, she pointed out that if I'd been reading L'Engle's fiction since I was seven years old, it wasn't at all astonishing to find that I had internalized a lot of the author's themes. She was right, and I continued to devour the books, finding reassurance in having those themes spelled out so clearly at a time when I quite needed some form of spirituality.

I love all Madeleine L'Engle's books, but the fiction is what has remained most important to me. A Ring of Endless Light is by far my favorite. I suppose that when I first read it, when I was ten, the dolphins in the story were what appealed to me most. I had a stuffed dolphin that my Grandma Ruth had bought for me at Marine World, and I named it Basil after the dolphin in the book. And it appealed to me because my own grandfather had just died (which is, I assume, why my mom had given me the book at that particular time) and I could relate to Vicky Austin watching her own grandfather die. But even as I got older, the book remained important to me. I thought that might change, that as I got further from Vicky Austin's not-quite-sixteen, I might not identify with her the same way, but that hasn't been the case at all. Maybe I still need it because the confused adolescent in me can find reassurance in the story, or maybe the story and its themes are more universal. Whatever it is, it's the book I turn to most often, sometimes for comfort, sometimes just because I want something familiar to read. I think I'm on my fourth copy of it, having worn several out in the past two decades.

Even though I love Light the most, A Wrinkle in Time is a close second. I can't imagine not knowing the story. Earlier this summer, Brian started his new job before our apartment became available, so we spent a few days in corporate housing down in Santa Clara, and we laughed at the rows of new, perfect, nearly identical condos on the same road. "I half-expect to see little boys all bouncing red balls in sync with one another," Brian said, surprising me with the reference. I will forever think of that neighborhood as Kamazotz because of that. At dinner this evening, the world of people with no eyes came up in the conversation. I often quote Mrs. Whatsit to the cat when she does something less than graceful, offering her liniment for her dignity as she stalks away. At a seminar in grad school we were asked if we knew the first line of our favorite book: "It was a dark and stormy night," I told the professor, getting a chuckle from her and some of the others in the class. I became good friends with a guy who knew exactly which book I meant. Brian and I go through periods of reading aloud to one another. A couple of years ago we tried to do that with Wrinkle, a book that Brian read as a child but not since then, but we only made it a few chapters in. Reading it out loud to Brian felt strange to me. Somehow it just didn't sound right. Or, more exactly, it didn't feel right; it's a book that millions of people have read, but reading it aloud I felt as though I were sharing a secret. I suppose that that's why I haven't seen the movie versions of Wrinkle or Light that were released in the past few years: even though I usually enjoy seeing the film adaptations of books, these are somehow too special to me.

I've been a bit sad this weekend, feeling that I've lost something. Even if Madeleine L'Engle herself wasn't a friend, all of her books certainly feel to me like old friends. I grew up with these characters, reading the books over and over again. The first time Brian and I went to New York, I insisted upon going to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where L'Engle was a writer-in-residence and librarian. Several of her novels are set around the cathedral, and I had to admit to Brian as we left that, not only did I expect to run into one of the fictional characters, but when I imagined that happening, I also thought that they would somehow recognize me. It was a silly thought, I know, but after reading the books so many times, it somehow seemed possible. And I thought that Madeleine might have understood.

Friday, September 07, 2007

She no longer looks like she's trying to audition for the role of Cousin It

We've been saying for a while now that Adriana needs a haircut, but seeing this picture of her from over the weekend finally convinced me that I needed to do something to get her hair out of her eyes.

Adriana with hair in her eyes

So I got out the scissors on Tuesday, and snipped her bangs. I didn't do a perfect job, but the wildness of her hair most days covers that up.

Adriana's new haircut

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quote from Brian over the weekend

"I think that I should learn a few dance moves . . . and that they should involve a hat."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happily ever after

I wonder sometimes about weddings. Brian and I got married five years ago and it was very important to me, but if I look at it intellectually, I start to wonder. Why do we need to put on pretty clothes, get up in front of a group of people, have a big party in order to make a commitment to another person? I suppose most girls and young women have expectations of a fairy tale, of feeling like a princess, of living happily ever after. But why? Yes, the weddings are often lovely, but they don't represent the real commitment, do they? The real commitment exists in the private promises that a couple make to one another, in fighting and making up, in sharing the mundane details of their daily life. A fancy dress and some signatures on a piece of paper seem so much less important than all that.

I say those things, but every time I go to a wedding I change my mind. Over the weekend, one of my very closest friends in college, although one I've grown apart from and not spent much time with in recent years, was marrying the woman who has been his love and partner for the past eight years. After eight years, one would think that maybe the wedding itself wasn't so significant--at least not if you went by my theory. But as they went through a ritual that millions of other people have experienced, I understood its importance. It was a beautiful. It was meaningful. It was an honor to witness it. I cried through the ceremony, and had a grand time at the reception. It was wonderful to see Mica and Lara, and all their friends and family, so happy. We were all celebrating their love, their commitment to each other, and their hope for happily ever after. Seeing them exchange vows and rings, watching them dance and laugh together, I understood the importance of the wedding ceremony. I still believe that the real commitment comes from their private promises and sharing their day-to-day life, but the ceremony was important for them, for their families, for all of us.

I wish them all the best. At this moment, I can't think of two people who deserve to live happily ever after together more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Okay, enough with this "Oh woe is me, my baby has a cold" crap

Instead, let's move on to "Oh woe is me, my baby won't sleep," shall we?

Actually, right now she is sleeping, so I probably shouldn't complain. Except I will complain, because yesterday? When I was exhausted? Because even if the baby slept better than I'd hoped the night before, the quality of sleep you get when you have a feverish, snotty baby on top of you? Is not so great. So I had planned to nap with the baby. And the baby Would. Not. Nap. Okay, she napped a little bit. She was a tease. Her longest nap was less than 30 minutes long. And the nap where I laid down beside her and started to doze off myself was under 20 minutes. And that? That was the extent of her napping. Two more times she acted like she was going to nap, but the instant I moved away from her, her eyes flew open and she was ready to play and nothing I did could lull her back to sleep. At six o'clock, after one such incident, I plopped her down in her bed, while I laid down on mine and cried. And because Adriana couldn't tell the difference between crying and laughing, she sat there and giggled at me, until I was laughing too, which was kind of nice.

Adriana's sleep has been strange lately. Brian and I have both been frustrated by it, enough so that I now have The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The Baby Sleep Book lying around the house. They've actually been somewhat effective: whenever I bring a new sleep book into the house, the baby sleeps AWESOME that night. Seriously. These books must have some sort of magic to them.

Anyhow, I actually made it half way through the first book, and I've tried to take some lessons from it, but I haven't gone through her whole routine with keeping a sleep journal and all that. I just brought the second book home from the library yesterday and haven't gotten any further than thinking about the picture of the sleeping baby on the front cover and why the baby has a blanket over him. Babies shouldn't have blankets! Because that's how my mind works right now.

Adriana was a good sleeper for the first couple of months of her life. At first we were a little traumatized by it, actually, as we thought she ought to be waking every two or three hours to nurse. Terrified that she wasn't going to grow properly, we tried waking her ourselves to feed her--undressing her down to her t-shirt and diaper, changing her diaper, touching a cool cloth to her face. She proved to be very stubborn and slept through it all. A friend who is a nurse-midwife and has three children of her own assured me that a full-term baby will wake when she's hungry, and I should just get some rest. It was hard advice to take, but we did it. When she was three months old, I was complaining about how she started waking up twice in the night instead of only once. (Dear Self-in-April: Bitch. Love, Self-in-August) Now two wake-ups counts as a highly successful night. I'm fine with that. I just want more highly successful nights.

I honestly think I'm glad that Adriana slept better at first than she did now. Now I have more energy and more confidence. Back at the beginning when I was battling baby blues brought on by my crazy hormones and painful breastfeeding and a disappointing birth experience, I needed my sleep more than I do now. But still. A couple of long naps and a four-hour stretch at night would be nice to have.