Friday, October 17, 2008


Yesterday I watched Adriana get more and more worked up, happily so, and then crash very suddenly. It's not exactly a rare occurrence, but yesterday I started really thinking about it.

We've been taking a music class this fall, and yesterday morning was the last one. We got there early so that there was time for a snack before class--a must if Adriana is going to want to participate rather than cling to me, or play nicely with the other children rather than stealing their maracas and running away. She played with instruments during the first part of the class, and stuck fairly close to me, although she definitely wanted to get up and move. When it was finally time to get up, she spun in circles until she went careening away from me, then spun some more until she fell over dizzily. As we began to move around the room, she took off running, giggling and squealing as she weaved in and out among the children and their parents and nannies who were moving more slowly in a circle. I laughed at her, thinking it was sweet how excited she was, but not too much later she started trying to slip around the baby gate at the entrance to the room. I bought her back in and she melted down, screaming and trying to push away from me. I carried her over to the corner and nursed her, spoke softly to her, stroked her hair. Her eyes focused on my face, and I felt her body relax. After just a few minutes, I asked her if she was ready to go dance with the other kids some more. She nodded and pulled away from me and for the rest of the class she was fine.

I've gotten used to the melt downs, to a certain extent. I know how to prevent some of them (food, naps, and not trying to do too many things in one day), and I usually know how to handle them when they do happen. But as Brian and I were talking about the day after Adriana was in bed, I realized it's like the discovery of her shadow, something I never thought you needed to learn: how to calm yourself down, how to come down from being happy and excited without throwing a temper tantrum. But when will she learn it? And how can I teach her?

Actually, I suppose it's something that many (most?) adults are still learning, or at least need to be reminded of every now and then.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To Michael Pollan and the editors of the New York Times magazine

You do not mean "like." You mean "such as."

21 months

A couple of weeks ago, Brian and I looked at Adriana as she climbed onto a chair and looked over at us and we both had the same thought: she is such a child now. And a couple of nights ago as we put away the pouches that Lynn had returned to us now that her baby is getting bigger, we reminisced about the days when we would bounce Adriana to sleep in them, and Brian said, "It's like that was a completely different kid." I told him that the difference was that that was a baby and now she is a playful little kid.

Adriana loves to be chased now. She takes off on her way out of the park, running, hoping I'll chase her, turning back to grin at me and make sure I am. Peek-a-boo is starting to turn into something more like hide-and-seek. She is getting better at climbing ladders and she is starting to figure out that she can jump off of things (as opposed to just jumping in place). She puts together her puzzles with ease. Her baby and her monkey are still her favorite toys--she feeds them, diapers them, nurses them (she even puts a hand into the neck of her shirt, mimicking my action as I unhook my nursing bra before I nurse her), and dances with them. She wants to take them everywhere, and it can be a bit of a pain to try to keep track of this entourage, so one day last week I persuaded her to tuck her baby into bed and leave the monkey to take care of the baby when I was trying to get us out of the house for our play group.

These days, she is fascinated with drawing. In the past I had let her scribble with crayons in restaurants or at the church nursery where we go for La Leche League meetings. But her grandmother was drawing for her and letting her draw with a ball point pen on post-its the last time we had the grandparents here for a visit. Now Adriana grabs for pens whenever she can find them and goes running off to find a piece of paper. I am trying to discourage the pens, because she doesn't necessarily keep it on the paper. Instead, I have some washable crayons for her, but the best thing is the MagnaDoodle I bought for our recent long car trip. She draws and erases, draws and erases, and is so pleased with herself. And just over the past two weeks it's been interesting to watch how she approaches drawing develop. At first she would hand us the pen/crayon/MagnaDoodle and demand that we draw for her. Then she started requesting certain things. I drew approximately eleventy frajillion cats on the way up to Humboldt, but she would sometimes take the picture from me and scribble over it a bit. And now, while she still likes me to draw for her, she is more likely to sit and scribble without asking me for help, or scribble purposefully when I ask her to draw me a cat or a bird.

She has days when she eats well, and days when she still mostly wants to nurse. If I cradle her at all, it seems to remind her of nursing and she starts asking to, which in most cases is fine. I do catch myself offering her real food first, when she asks to nurse--not a conscious decision to move more toward weaning, although I suppose that's exactly what it is. Most of the time it fails, though; once she has asked for milk, milk is what she needs. She does eat fairly well most of the time. Less sensitive to textures than she used to be, she is willing to try a variety of foods. We are struggling with some food sensitivities--it seems that most fruits cause some eczema around her mouth--so we are trying to figure those out. It was one thing when it was berries and stone fruits, as those are seasonal and I figured we could wait until next summer to see if she outgrew them. But tomatoes and apples? Those are a way of life, so now we are considering our options.

Over the last month Adriana added two "words" to her repertoire: "nie," for "neigh" when asked what a horse says, and "Ana" when asked to say "Adriana." She says "moo" (well, "mmmmmm") when she sees a picture of a cow. She's been telling us what a cow says for some time now, but it's only recently that she has begun to volunteer the information. She's up to about seventy signs now, and she nods "yes." For a while she would shake her head "no" or do nothing. Now she has an adorable full-body nod. She is practicing to be two, though, so her first instinct much of the time is to say no. Then she will change her mind and nod, or just do whatever you asked her to do.

Sometimes I am counting down the days until November 11. I hear that at 22 months, kids start to even out--with their sleep and tantrums and clinginess and everything. There are days when I think we are already on our way there--on Saturday night we even managed to go out to dinner, walking downtown and back (with Adriana in the stroller, miracle of miracles) and sitting in a (child-friendly) restaurant without a single meltdown. And there are times when I wish we could slow down or go back in time. She snuggles on my lap after a nap or holds my hand while we walk down the sidewalk, and I want to hold onto this time as long as possible.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The last thing I saw before I fell asleep last night was Adriana sleeping beside me. I closed my eyes and listened to her breathe, and promised myself that today I would do better.

Nothing particularly bad happened yesterday. Adriana was her normal toddler self, alternating between being a charming, happy little girl and a stubborn, willful child. As I write that the juxtaposition of those two things seems wrong: can't she be charming and willful, happy and stubborn at the same time? Anyhow, she had her normal ups and downs, but there are some days when coping with the downs is somehow beyond me. For much of the day I was impatient, telling her "no" without explanation, carrying her when she wanted to walk because I was in a hurry, offering distractions instead of getting down on the floor and playing with her myself or encouraging her to help with what I'm doing. She threw tantrums and my headache grew, and neither of us had much fun. She asked to nurse more often than usual, and I think that was good. It forced me to stop what I was doing, take the time to really focus on her, to just snuggle with her in the armchair.

As I tried to relax into sleep, I felt guilty. I know I'm not going to be a perfect mother, and that I don't need to be. Toddlers are adorable and fascinating, but they are also energetic and demanding and challenging, and I do not have an endless well of patience. That is okay. But lying there in bed in seemed so obvious to me that I could do better, so I reached over and stroked her hand with one finger and promised her silently that I would.  

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Photos: Arcata Farmers' Market

All summer long I walked around the Mountain View farmers' market, admiring the piles of rosy peaches, the baskets of gleaming strawberries, the mounds of richly colored greens and wished I had my camera with me. But the market is crowded and we are trying to manage a toddler and our shopping, so I never get to take any pictures. We spent last weekend up in Humboldt County, visiting friends, and I had a chance to walk around the less crowded market in Arcata with my camera while Brian kept Adriana occupied with chalk art during Pastels on the Plaza. It was obviously a cooler climate--only a few berries and no stone fruits were left--but late summer and early fall vegetables that were in were still gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Photos: Pastels on the Plaza

Over the years I've seen photos of the art my friend Lynn has created for Pastels on the Plaza, and I've always sort of wished I could go see her work and that of the other artists, so this year we drove up to Humboldt County the first weekend in October to check it out.

Lynn's sponsor was Jitter Bean Coffee. In honor of their "Daddy's Special," she worked from a photo of her husband and their new daughter. I didn't end up with a photo of the finished piece, but I do like these ones I took of the work in progress:

Other artists also did impressive work:

There were some small squares marked off for kids to create their own work. While I wandered around admiring the market and the art, Brian and Adriana got to work:

Monday, October 06, 2008


Seven hours into our nine hour trek home from a weekend up in Humboldt County:

Brian: I can't believe I'm letting Adriana just reach in to the bag of Pirate's Booty.*

Me: Why? Is that somehow worse than handing her pieces to eat?

Brian: It just gives me images of her parked on a couch, watching TV with a bag of Cheetos.

Me: But this is totally different. These are the Whole Foods version of Cheetos, and she's listening to NPR. In a Prius.

*Actual conversation did not contain hyperlink. Although that would be totally awesome. And also maybe possible if I had an iPhone. I'm pretty sure iPhones do that sort of thing.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


In the late 1920s or early '30s, my Grandma Edith saved up for a hope chest. The beautiful smelling Lane chest came to me when she died in 1994. I put things in it and covered the top in candles from Hot Topic. Then it stayed at my dad's house while I went off to college, lived in Santa Cruz with Brian, and then moved to the east coast for graduate school. Last summer when we moved back to California, I finally got the chest into my own home. Adriana likes to climb on top of it and worry me. Sometimes she hits at it with a toy, and I worry about her damaging my gorgeous chest, but then I think that if the thing survived my dad and his two brothers, it can probably handle a little bit of abuse from Adriana. 

The one thing I didn't do when we moved it into our apartment was open it. But we are slowly starting to clear out our office to turn it into Adriana's room, and there were a few things I thought it would be nice to add to the chest, so last week I dug out the key while Adriana napped. Inside I found:
  • yearbooks, starting with the fourth grade (1987-88 school year) all the way up through high school, with the exception of the sixth grade for some reason;
  • copies of my senior portraits, which feature braces on my teeth;
  • a photo album from my childhood;
  • my sash with patches from Bluebirds and my beaded vest from whatever came after Bluebirds;
  • a scrapbook, with certificates from Camp Fire (candy sales!) and elementary school (perfect attendance! honor roll!), and a blue ribbon for my first poem--as well as the original copy of the poem;
  • a book about NASA;
  • an illustrated book of poems about dragons;
  • the poster advertising a reading in Oakland by Maya Angelou that my dad took me to;
  • a plastic recorder;
  • my old Gloworm--the batteries were dead, but at least they didn't leak;
  • a sky blue crocheted (or knitted?) baby blanket and bonnet;
  • the cap and gown from my high school graduation, along with the tassel and diploma;
  • a certificate stating that I had been admitted to UCSC. 

I returned everything to the chest except for the books, the Gloworm, and the recorder. Before I closed up the chest, I added a few more things:
  • my neatly framed degree from UCSC;
  • my degree from Georgetown, still in the envelope;
  • tassels from my UCSC and Georgetown graduations, plus the master's hood from Georgetown;
  • my baby book, which my dad finally gave to me last fall after I pestered him to look at it every time I was at his house;
  • Adriana's baby book, along with several outfits I am saving (her coming home outfit, the fuzzy pink sleeper we liked to put her in, her first Christmas dress);
  • the copy of the Washington Post from the day Adriana was born (although it has since occurred to me that I ought to have saved the paper from the day after her birth, since that would tell her what happened on the day she was actually born);
  • my wedding album and videos from the wedding that I have never watched. 

I am looking at the chest now, and thinking about the different things my grandmother and I chose to put in the chest. I never got to ask her what she had in it, but it was her hope chest, so I assume it was full of things she was saving for when she was married and left home. Tablecloths? Bed linens? China? Did she sew things and put them away for her future life as a married woman? I wonder what she kept in the chest after she was married, after she had children, after those children were grown and gone. Perhaps it simply served as storage, a place to keep extra blankets. 

Here I am, a couple of generations removed from the tradition of hope chests. Instead of saving items for the future, I am filling it up with little bits of my past. Instead of things that will be put into every day use, I carefully place items that I will rarely use, things I will take out, turn over in my hands, and put away again. I still call it a "hope chest" out of habit, but it's not clear from what's in it exactly what I'm hoping for.