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.