Sunday, November 30, 2008

Needs: Simple and few

I am always so happy to be home, even after a nice trip away. We had a wonderful time visiting Brian's parents for Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving feast was fantastic, visiting with family friends was fun, having ready access to multiple people willing to keep an eye on Adriana was relaxing, and access to multiple kinds of pie at a moment's notice was a dream come true. But we came home on Saturday, and that was the right thing to do. Not only was it cheaper to fly on Saturday rather than Sunday, but the airports were relatively empty. After some trips we get home late on Sunday night with nothing in the house for dinner, and on top of our normal busy-ness during the week, I start off Monday with unpacking and extra laundry. By getting home on Saturday afternoon, we changed that. Brian took Adriana straight to the park while I unloaded the car, started laundry, sorted through mail, and defrosted some soup for our dinner. Then Brian came home and made margaritas* and we played with the kiddo, hoping she would get a second wind in spite of her very short nap. We ate dinner together and Brian bathed the baby while I cleaned up. And then she went to bed early.

Plus, now we have this extra day at home together. It's the same Sunday we have every week. I get up early to have some time to myself, and when Brian and Adriana get up we will all eat breakfast and ride our bikes to the farmers' market. We may pick up lunch and stop at the park on the way home, or we may just go home and have a park trip after Adriana's nap. 

It's all so simple, so mundane, and yet it's exactly what I want, exactly why this is home, and exactly why I am so glad to be here.

*"Hmmm," I said, finishing mine, "I was hungry and thirsty, so I poured myself a glass of water and then drank a margarita instead." 

"Well," Brian said, "that shows a remarkable....sense of adventure."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

First choices

When I read last week that Ruth Marcus winced when she first heard Michelle Obama refer to herself as "mom in chief," I winced. Why is it, I wondered, that we devalue the role of mom in chief? Why does it make so many feminists (although certainly not all, and I myself am definitely a feminist) cringe when a woman puts her children before her career? I suppose it's the "backlash of feminism." People worked so hard to get us where we are today, to get us to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Hillary Clinton as a First Lady turned Senator turned Honest-to-Goodness-Woman-Running-for President turned Secretary of State.   And then I come along and say, "Thanks but no thanks on that bridge to insanity." Because a career and a baby? I could try to "have it all," but I think my family would suffer for it. It's not what works for us. 

But it was really just Marcus' first line that jumped out at me. In her second line she says that her second reaction was to identify with Obama's words. I think that's what's important, what unites women as mothers, as professionals, and simply as women. There's this whole "Mommy Wars" business that the media like to stir up every now and again and so many people respond so quickly when they do. I'm always surprised by it. There are the people who argue that by dropping out of the work force to raise a child I am doing myself, Adriana, and society as a whole a great disservice, but there are also people on the opposite side of the issue. These people still think that mothers who choose not to put their careers on hold are hurting their families. 

I have a lot of friends who, like me, have decided that careers can wait for now. I have plenty of friends with children who have returned to their jobs as soon as their maternity leave was over. Some need the second income, while others simply love their careers. I have friends who do not want children at all, who, in spite of their incredibly successful careers will always face prying question from their families and in-laws. I think we all question our decisions sometimes. What kind of examples are we setting for our children? Should we show them that women (and mothers) can do anything? Should we really be spending so much time away from our families? Are we going to regret not having children someday? But here we are, all the same, making the choices that work for us. 

I love that Clinton was a different kind of First Lady, taking on policy roles in her husband's Administration. I love that Obama declares herself "mom in chief." I hate that both of them have faced criticism for their choices.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Okay, sorry. That last one was too lame even for me. Let me make it up to you with a couple of pictures of a small girl on her trike:

Product review: Lands' End 5-ounce No-iron Flannel Sheets

Dude, you know this NaBloPoMo thing has gone on too long when I start writing about bedding. Two days left!

Sheets seem like a funny thing to recommend, but I am totally in love with these sheets from Lands' End. I bought a set for our bed last winter, and loved them so much that I actually put off moving Adriana's bed into her own room until I had a set of these sheets to put on it. Until they arrived, the only twin sheets I had were bamboo, and those just weren't warm enough. (Not that she sleeps under the covers, but I knew that I would end up in there with her a lot, and I figured needed to be comfortable.) These flannel sheets seem to really hold onto body heat and I am cozy when I am between them. They are more expensive than the flannel sheets I've bought in the past, but they are also much more comfortable and have held up well through plenty of washes, whereas my cheap ones always got thin quickly and ended up with holes. The Lands' End ones are thick, and so soft they are almost velvety. They shed an incredible amount of lint in the dryer--Adriana's are bright red and I swear it looks like I killed Elmo when I clean out the lint trap afterwards--but after a year of washing mine don't seem to be getting any thinner.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks

A few of the things I am grateful for this year:
  • My daughter: my sweet, adorable baby became a charming, beautiful little girl this year. 
  • That we are in a position that we can afford for me to be home with Adriana, since that's what feels right to us.
  • A thoughtful, wonderful husband: I can talk with Brian about just about anything. We have the same goofy sense of humor. And he is a wonderful dad. 
  • Our extended family: we are all lucky that we are within an hour's drive of my dad and siblings and are only short flight from Brian's parents and sister. Adriana gets to see her grandparents every month and it always makes her so happy.
  • Living in Northern California: I love the weather, the year-round farmers' markets, the progressive politics, the laid-back attitudes. It's not that the bay area is perfect (housing prices and all the driving come to mind), and I do miss DC sometimes and wonder if we should try other places as well, but I can't imagine not wanting to live here.
  • The networks of mom-friends I've developed, both here in Mountain View and through an online community.
  • Pie.

Now, go read Jon Carroll's column, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recipe: Lentil soup

I make a lot of lentil soup in the winter months. This one is based on recipe in The New Best Recipe. I've made it vegetarian, taking out the bacon and chicken broth. I rarely make it exactly like this, though. I add in some celery with the carrots and onions, use different fresh herbs, try out the dried herb mixes my dad's friend gave me, leave out the tomatoes, use red wine, or stir in a couple of cups of baby spinach instead of parsley.

Lentil Soup 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup French lentils
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1.5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the lentils and salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and coo until the vegetables are softened and the lentils have darkened, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30-35 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
  5. Puree 2-3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot. Stir in the vinegar and parsley, and heat the soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Adriana is fascinated by crayons these days. As soon as she was out of bed and changed this morning, she found a piece of paper and demanded her box of washable crayons. She doodles lopsided circles, then points and signs "flower." She signs dog when she points and the purple lines trailing across her page. She presses down hard with bright colors to make bold scribbles. She also picks the wrappers of the crayon, which drives me slightly nuts, since I always wanted to keep my crayons as neat as possible and hated when I had to peel them in order to sharpen them again. And, finally, she chews on them. Other moms have always laughed when I hand Adriana something new to eat and tell her, "It's food. You should put it in your mouth." She's just never been the kind of kid who puts things in her mouth. But for some reason crayons appeal to her, and I have caught her sucking on them from time to time. I stop where when I catch her, but usually I just notice after the fact, when I see that there is some black drool on her chin or a streak of blue on her upper lip. I take comfort in the fact that the box says that they are nontoxic and that she doesn't seem to be taking actual bites out of them. Still, it got me thinking: eating crayons seems like pretty typical kid behavior, and the AAP is always concerned about kids getting enough vitamin D; couldn't Crayola just fortify the crayons and make everyone happy?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recipes: Veggie pies

Because I am a vegetarian, Adriana doesn't get a lot of meat at home, so I try to include eggs in her diet as a good source of protein. But I am not a big fan of eggs myself (was never a big fan, developed a total aversion during pregnancy, never really recovered what taste I did have for them afterwards), so usually I just scramble one for her lunch, or if I'm going out in the evening, I make sure that there's stuff around for Brian to fix an omelet to share with Adriana for dinner. But a couple of pie recipes have made it easier for me to eat eggs and like them.

First, my friend Becca sent me a recipe for chard and tomato pie from Abel and Cole. It's a bit of work, because I make a pie crust for it (flan dish? pastry? I just do the pre-baked pie crust from How to Cook Everything), but you could use a store-bought crust to save time. I've changed the herbs and added more garlic on occasion, and it always is a big hit with both Brian and Adriana. The eggs go right on top, and I can taste them a little, but the cheese and the vegetables are stronger flavors, so I don't mind them to much.

Then, last month, Lynn introduced me to this zucchini pie recipe from Real Simple. It seems to have less egg taste, even though it has one more egg, I guess because the eggs are mixed in with the vegetables, and it doesn't require a crust, so it is incredibly easy to put together. It's been great for days when I need to put dinner together during Adriana's nap because our plans will keep us busy late into the afternoon. The active preparation time is fairly minimal, so I don't feel that I spent the whole nap cooking, and it tastes great at room temperature. It's also versatile: I've made it with a variety of different cheeses, herbs, and even vegetables. Once I substituted a cup of diced roasted poblanos for one cup of the zucchini, cheddar for the provolone, and cilantro for the basil (good, but needed a little more heat--I might add in a stronger pepper next time). Last night I sauteed two onions and two bunches of chard and used that in place of the zucchini and onion. Yum.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enough shmoopiness, I'm going to babble about my hair now

My friend Lynn cut off her hair for her 30th birthday. When she told me she was going to, I couldn't believe it. I mean, I've seen her with short hair plenty of times in the nearly 20 years I've known her, but her long, straight, thick hair was just gorgeous. And then she cut it off and it seemed so cute and perfect when we went to see her, and I decided I wanted to cut my hair off too. Except then I saw a picture that Lynn took and I decided that, in spite of the frizz and tangles, I liked my long hair. 

Maybe part of it was being afraid that if I cut off my hair it would mean I was 30 and a mom. But actually it turns out that being alive for 30 years and having a kid is actually what means I'm 30 and a mom (I know!) and my hair had little to do with it. And, I remembered how nice it had felt to cut off a lot of hair about five years ago, and I kept talking about doing it, and after all that talking it would have been pretty lame to come home from the salon with just a little trim, you know? 

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I suppose it's having reached a sort of milestone birthday this year that's doing it to me--turning me philosophical and introspective. Something about that 0 at the end, the odometer rolling over, that is getting me thinking about where I am and where I'm going. How did I get where I am? Where will I be five years from now? Ten years from now?

As I was writing about birthdays past on Wednesday morning, I smirked to myself as I wrote about 1998. I have a picture of Brian and me sitting together at Surf Bowl that night. If someone had told us that night that in ten years we'd be married and have a little girl, I don't think we would have believed them. But five years ago, I would have been so pleased by the news. My best friend had a little boy a year before and when I'd held him at Christmastime, I already knew that I wanted to have a baby some day, but when he fell asleep snuggled in my arms after dinner, that was when the first seed was planted that grew into the idea of quitting work to stay home with my baby. 

I do sometimes wonder how I got here. I read about the incredible work someone I knew way back when is now doing (usually on a Facebook profile)(that's where I read it, not where they are doing incredible work), and realize that while they are helping people in developing nations to have better lives, I am at home changing diapers and baking pies. "Well, it's what you chose," a friend told me unsympathetically, when I mentioned it. Well, yes, it is, and as cranky as I was to hear it at that particular moment, it is true and it is good for me to remember that. Other friends comforted me by reassuring me that I am doing what's right for my family, that I am with my daughter, and that is what is important. And I do believe that, but hearing the unsympathetic truth was what was important. It's what you chose. I am lucky. I am in a place that is exactly where I chose to be. And while I sometimes lament the neverending piles of laundry and wonder how many times I can read Stellaluna in a single day, I am exactly where I want to be, and if I remember that I can more easily remember what my yoga teacher used to tell us: that every little action, even the most mundane, is important and should be done with respect.

And what about five or ten years from now? Where will I be when I am 35, an age that sounds terribly adult to me now? What will I be doing when the odometer rolls over again and I turn 40? I am a planner by nature. I like to know what's going to happen when and be in control of everything. It's a trait I sometimes try to let go of, but most of the time I just try to be aware of it and know that I will sometimes be disappointed. And yet this is something I am willing to let out of my control for a moment. I hope to be in control of the smaller decisions along the way, to continue to make the choices that I want to make, but I don't need to know everything right now, or to plan every turn mapping out the way. My goal is simply to take things as they come, respond with love and with strength, and hope that when I get to where I'm going I will still be able to say, It's what I chose.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unreceptive language

If Margaret Wise Brown did work some sort of magic into Good Night Moon, the magic is definitely in the words and not just in the pictures--which I suppose I ought to have known, given that I can calm Adriana simply by reciting the words from memory without having the book nearby. Yesterday, in the middle of a chaotic "communication class" with nine other children, Adriana brought me a copy of Buenas Noches Luna. She settled into my lap and I began to read the Spanish words to the story. She whined a little bit with every page, and by the time I got to the little toy house (casa de munecas, I believe it was), she yanked the book from my hands, turned it back to the beginning, returned the book to me, and pointed. I began to recite the English words, and she leaned back against me, soothed. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday didn't work out quite as planned. I had forgotten to go get my TB skin test read on Monday, so I went by Kaiser on Tuesday before Adriana's gymnastics class. It was too late to have it read, I was told, but they couldn't redo the test yet due to a risk of a false positive. So Adriana and I headed to gymnastics, only to discover that the teacher was sick and class had been canceled--which we would have known in advance if I hadn't been at Kaiser in the morning when they called to tell me. Frustrated, I took Adriana over the park nearby to play for a while. And then I had a brilliant idea: we were very near Ikea, and we could go there to pick out a little table and chairs set for Adriana's room. I didn't have a stroller, a baby carrier, or a sippy cup with me, and it was approaching naptime, but it would be fine, right?

The funny thing is, it was fine. I tried putting Adriana in one of the carts there, but the belts weren't snug at all, so she kept standing up. I let her walk along and help me push the cart through the showroom. We found the kids' stuff, and she sat in all the different chairs while I chose which ones we would buy. She ate lunch with me in the cafe there, gobbling up macaroni and cheese and a plateful of veggies, and drinking carefully from a "big kid cup" into which I poured water just one or two sips at a time. She climbed onto the front of the cart as I pushed it through the "Market Place" downstairs, and then ran gleefully ahead of me through wide aisles of the warehouse area when I went to pick up our tables. And on the way home she fell asleep in the car. 

That night after her bath she helped me put together her new furniture. I keep saying that Adriana is becoming more and more of a kid rather than a baby. And it seemed very true on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19

1979: I am told that on my first birthday, I try to grab the flame of the candle on my cake and burn my hand.

1984: My sixth birthday is the first I really seem to remember. I had a big party and there was a clown. 

1987: For my ninth birthday I get a new scooter. It's lavender with handbrakes. After school, Grandma Ruth comes over and we take turns riding the scooter up and down the sidewalk in front of the house before dinner. The next day at school when I tell people what I did for my birthday I am told that "grandmas don't ride scooters."

1989: I have a slumber party with a few other girls to celebrate my eleventh birthday, and my new friend, Cyndi, and I have a jumping contest: who can keep jumping the longest. Too much sugar anyone? It was the last time I had a slumber party on a Saturday night, because Cyndi and I become best friends, and she has to go to church every Sunday morning, which means that even after being up all night literally bouncing off the walls, she has to get up early and leave. We start having sleepovers on Friday nights instead. 

1990: For my twelfth birthday, my mom takes me to get a second set of piercings in my ear. My mom already has one in one ear and two in the other. She gets her ears pierced at the same time. I don't remember if she gets one more in each, or just one, in order to even them out.

1993: I celebrate my fifteenth birthday by having girlfriends over for a fondue dinner.

1994: The evening of my sixteenth birthday is spent babysitting, because money = good, and I can go out with friends the following night. 

1997: When I turn nineteen, my friends Jeff, Mica, and Tara take me out for mud pies at the Saturn Cafe. I am trying to convince myself that I have a crush on Jeff, failing miserably, and flirting anyhow. He claims later (perhaps only out of politeness) that I didn't make a fool of myself and didn't even notice the flirting.

1998: I get a group of friends together to go bowling on my twentieth birthday. I make sure I am in the same lane as Brian, who I have a terrible crush on, but who is still recovering from his own crush on my friend Christie, whose new boyfriend is occasionally managing to buy drinks for those of us not old enough to buy our own.

1999: I make tacos and sangria at Brian's apartment, so I can celebrate with friends who aren't yet 21, and then those of us who are go out to drink some more. I throw up after my third drink at the Red Room. My friend Christie brings me a birthday card she made, with my name spelled out on the front in pictures of vibrators cut out of a Good Vibrations catalog. Jeff brings me a stuffed monkey that I name Weed, in honor of Jeff's girlfriend, Mary Jane. My friend Rachel's boyfriend brings me a sock monkey that he made. At some point in the evening I realize that he must be drunk because he keeps hugging me. Then I realize that I must be drunk too, because I am rather enjoying it. 

2000: Brian makes reservations to celebrate my twenty-second birthday at Pearl Alley Bistro, but they are terribly crowded, so we say we'll walk around downtown and come back in a bit. We go try on hats in a store down the street, and when we return they are still not ready for us, but they give us nice glasses of wine on the house while we wait. Our dessert that night, a flaming chocolate souffle, is also free because of the wait, and I am amused because just wandering Pacific Avenue, hanging out in the crowded restaurant, and enjoying a late dinner after the restaurant quiets down a bit is actually a great deal more fun than if we'd been seated on time.

2003: I spend my twenty-fifth birthday in California, attending the APHA's annual research meeting, while Brian is in Boston for work. My dad takes me and a couple of friends out to a fantastic Italian place on College Avenue in Berkeley. I can never remember the name. 

2004: Brian takes me out for my favorite pumpkin ravioli when I turn twenty-six. The waiter keeps pouring more wine into my glass and I completely lose track of how much I've had until I stand up to go find the restroom a nearly wander (fine, stagger) into the kitchen instead. Afterwards, we contemplate skating at the rink right outside the restaurant but somehow have the good sense not to.

2007: When I turn twenty-nine, I joke that I should just tell people that I am thirty, since no one believes people who say they are twenty-nine and I have no objection to being thirty anyhow. I don't expect to do anything on my actual birthday, because we had dinner with my family to celebrate the weekend before. But Brian comes home from work and suggests take out from Amber India, and we open a bottle of wine from our trip to Italy, and it's a nice little celebration. The baby even goes to bed at a decent hour.

2008: Today I am 30. I have a dentist appointment in the morning, playgroup in the afternoon, and my second knitting class tonight. Do I know how to party, or what? But I think it will be a good day. Once the dentist stuff is over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lies my mother used to tell me

  • When it's raining, you can run between the drops and you won't get wet.
  • Cows have shorter legs on one side, so that they can stand on hills.
  • Sneezing means you have dusty brains.
  • If you trip after you've done something not very nice, it's because Jesus pushed you.
  • You have to go to Mother School before you can have kids. (That's where they teach you things like The Voice, and how to have everything ready at the same time when you are fixing dinner.)
  • If you take that Highway 24 exit for Fish Ranch Road, there's a ranch where the cowboys ride fish instead of horses.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Voice

On Friday I made Adriana stand just outside the kitchen while I put something in the oven. She used to be so good about that, going over to stand on the carpet and waiting patiently when I had the oven door opened. Now, though, she likes to tease me, creeping just a little bit closer. I think she likes the reaction she gets, just like when she threatens to try to climb backwards onto a ladder from a play structure at the park and I come running. But on Friday, she stepped out of the kitchen when I asked, and I put the brownies in the oven, and then I turned to begin doing dishes at the sink. 

And then I heard the oven open. 

"Adriana, no. Stop. Hot," I said sharply, as I turned. She released the oven door and burst into tears as it banged shut. 

I picked her up, and quickly examined her hands. "Where does it hurt?" I asked, when everything appeared fine. She shook her head. "Adriana, did you burn your hands? Are your hands hot?" She cried more and leaned against me, burrowing her face into my neck. I tried checking her hands some more, looking for rising burn mark, like the one I had on my hand when I burned myself on an oven rack when I was eleven. There was nothing there, but I was about to put her hands under cold water anyhow, when something else occurred to me.

I am now in possession of The Voice. You know the one, right? The scary you'd-better-not-do-that voice. I don't think I raised my voice a huge amount when I heard the oven door open, but I had been harsh enough that I startled Adriana to tears. Of course, I also startled her enough that she didn't pull the oven all the way open and manage to burn herself. But I still felt bad for scaring my baby so badly. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not that I am anticipating needing this list any time soon

The California Report did a piece a couple of weeks ago by a man who had picked songs to be played at his aunt's funeral and was considering what he would want played at his own. When they asked listeners to send in their own three picks for their funerals, I knew exactly which three:
  • "Amazing Grace" as performed by Ani diFranco
  • "Oh Had I a Golden Thread" as performed by Dar Williams
  • "How Can I Keep From Singing" as performed by Eva Cassidy

A few weeks later, on Halloween, they aired some listeners' responses. I loved hearing some people's ideas, and even though I would stick with my three songs, it made me start to wonder what other ones I might add. Maybe "The 59th Street Bridge Song," just because it is one of my favorite songs? "American Tune" or "Born At The Right Time" (for pretty much the same reason...and maybe also because I just feel the need to throw in some Paul Simon)? Perhaps "36-24-36" should be included because, hey, that would be kind of funny. Would "Pack Up Your Sorrows" be appropriate? Or Eric Whitacre's choral arrangement of one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems.

I'm not sure why this topic is fun for me. Maybe it's simply that music is so important to me, and it's interesting to consider what songs I feel represent who I am, at this point in my life anyhow.

Anyone else want to volunteer their lists?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My two favorite people

Today I was away from Adriana for perhaps the most I ever have been in one day. In the afternoon, I went to get a facial and pedicure--my treat to myself every year for my birthday. And this evening, after coming home to play a bit and change my clothes, I went to a baby shower for two of the moms in our play group. This afternoon I was fabulously relaxed after the spa treatments, and tonight I came home happy and even more relaxed from a nice time out with friends. But it was weird being away from Adriana. She's cut way back on her nursing in the past week, mostly only asking for milk when she first wakes up and when she's going to sleep, but I was so happy to pick her up and snuggle her and have her ask to nurse in between my outings. And while I was glad that Brian was about to get her down to sleep for the night with cuddles and stories, it also made me (selfishly) sad because it meant she didn't need me as much as she used to.

But it is good for me to get away sometimes, and wonderful for my two favorite people to have some one-on-one time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Product review: Lil Rinser

The first time I spotted the Lil Rinser at Tiny Tots I was curious about it, but decided it couldn't possibly be worth the $15 they wanted for it (and now I see that I can buy it for $9.99 elsewhere; grrrrrr). A couple of weeks of screamy bathtimes later when I was back in the store to buy our CARES Harness, I decided to go for it.

Until this summer, I still washed Adriana in the infant bathtub. It kept her reclined, so rinsing her hair was pretty easy and I didn't have to worry about water getting in her eyes. But she was getting too big, and she was beginning to enjoy playing in the water more. Since then, I have hated washing her hair. She won't lean back in the tub and won't let me cover her eyes, so every time I have to rinse her, she screams. And by screams, I do mean screams, not cries. She has really perfected her ear-piercing, horror movie scream.

The Lil Rinser basically looks like an upside-down sun visor with a handle. It has a rubber lip so it fits snuggly to Adriana's forehead but it still soft. It doesn't make shampoos perfect, but we have seen an immense improvement. Adriana doesn't like having it held to her head, so she'll fight me a little bit at first, but once she realizes that the water isn't running over her face, she seems to acquiesce. So I guess I do think it's worth the price. And I'm guessing my neighbors who no longer have to listen to the bathtime screamfest do too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Sunday night, Brian and I happened to catch the second half of To The Best of Our Knowledge on KQED. The hour we listened to was a series of stories about where food comes from. They were all interesting, but the best by far was the first, the tale of a boar named Boris at a farm-based restaurant in New York. Boris was getting old and it was time for him to turn into food, but there were some problems that needed to be solved first. Brian and I were cracking up for pretty much the whole time. Definitely worth a listen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

22 months

Every evening when Adriana is in the bathtub or I am putting her in her pajamas, I talk to her about her day, reminding her of all the things she did and who she saw. Without spoken language, it's hard for me to know what she remembers, but I'm pretty sure everything is just being saved up in her head. And she does let me know that she remembers things that happen. A couple of nights ago, Brian was in the room as I was changing Adriana into her pajamas. She pointed at the nearly healed scrape on her right knee, from a tumble she took when we were in Southern California for Halloween, and then signed "cat." "Yes, you had a Hello Kitty band-aid on there," I told her. She nodded and signed "monkey." "And before that you had a monkey band-aid." "Grandma," she signed. "Grandma gave you the monkey band-aid." She nodded again, and I loved that she remembered all that and was telling me about it. Brian laughed and said that he thought I was the only one who would have understood why she was signing all of those things. He's right. But it's still fantastic to know that she is narrating things to me like that, and to see how much she remembers.

I think she is starting to talk more. Do I say that every month? But it does seem that she is babbling to herself more as I carry her through the farmers' market on my back, when she is riding in her carseat, and when we are playing together, although she still is very quiet when she plays by herself. Her newest word is "boom," which she says as she drops something or knocks something over, either on purpose or accidentally. But if she says "boom" (or anything, really) she wants it said back to her. So she says "boom" and we echo her, and she giggles. The other night the game happened over and over, with Adriana giggling every time we said "boom" to her.

I think the frequency of tantrums has decreased, which is nice. I mean, they still happen, and there are days when they happen a lot, but overall, I think she's doing better. I also think she's doing better because I am doing better--I am remembering to pay attention to when she needs me to focus wholly on her and figuring out more about what she likes to eat and when, now that she is becoming a better eater.

I am impressed sometimes by how well Adriana eats lately. There are still days, especially when she's not feeling well, when she really prefers to nurse, and because she nurses upon waking in the morning, she usually doesn't want to eat breakfast. But she is starting to cut out some feedings, most noticeably the ones between her nap and bedtime. She always nurses down for her nap, and usually nurses when she wakes up, but most days now she doesn't nurse again after that until bedtime. I know she's not ready to wean yet, and I'm not really ready either, but it is nice to see that she is starting to ease up a bit on her own. We are also very lucky that Adriana really seems to like healthy food, gobbling up chard sauteed with onions, steamed carrots and green beans, black bean soup, yogurt, raisins, and bananas. Not that she doesn't like sweets: at a party on election night, she picked up a cookied from the table, gave me a sly little smile and took a bite. Instantly the smile became a squinty-eyed grin and she scampered her feet, she was so pleased with the treat. And how can I deny her treats when they clearly make her so happy?

She is very interested in babies. Real live babies at the park or the store always catch her attention, but dolls definitely do the trick too. She was given a new doll recently, and that doll has gone everywhere with her since. It was a doll that came with a change of clothes, a couple of rattles, and a sippy cup, and she usually wants those to come with us too (I limit her to just bringing the sippy cup). She still needs help changing the doll's clothes, and she'll bring me a blanket to help her swaddle the baby in. She wants to feed and nurse the baby, and when we read stories, the baby is right there with us. I am a little surprised by the doll play. I wonder if it comes naturally because she is a girl, if it's something we've taught her because she's a girl, or if it's just part of her personality. I suppose it's a bit of all three: most (not all) of the little girls we know more interested in dolls than (most of) the little boys we know; we think it's cute that she takes good care of her baby, so we've encouraged it; and even though she also has other toys, it has always been dolls that she picks to play with.

She does also play with other toys. She likes to throw and kick a ball around, and she is getting interested in blocks. She makes towers seven or eight blocks high, and then pushes them over, telling me "boom." Over the weekend she spent a long time playing with a set of Duplos, putting a stack of them together, taking them apart, and then putting them together again. Her grandmother bought her a tricycle, and while she is still working out how to pedal, she spent most days that we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa riding that trike or dragging it around, and signing for bike whenever she wanted it and it wasn't right there.

As much fun as I have playing with her, bedtime is still my favorite time of day (well, the successful ones, where she goes to sleep without a fight at a respectable hours, anyhow). After she is bathed and in her pajamas, we snuggle up in her bed and read stories (favorites these days are Stellaluna, The Runaway Bunny, and Papa, Please Get The Moon for Me). Then I turn out the light and she nurses, while I stroke her hair and she rubs my arm, and she dozes off. After being busy all day and realizing how much she is a little girl instead of a baby now, I love that chance to relax with her and have her still be my little baby.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A room of her own

I haven't been particularly eager to stop co-sleeping with Adriana. Once we had a twin bed for her in our room so that we all had a bit more space, the sleeping situation hadn't been too bad. But the room was crowded with two beds, and we weren't able to turn on the heater in there at night because her bed was right against it, so Brian and I spent Saturday cleaning and organizing and moving furniture. Adriana helped (or, "helped") as much as she could and that night (although the room is not quite finished) I made up her bed with new red flannel sheets in what used to be our office (where "office" is used to refer to a room with a desk that has crap piled on top of it, plus anything else we don't have room for, so that the room is basically uninhabitable and used only for changing diapers in because that's where the changing table is).

I was a bit worried about the transition to her own room. I wondered if she was ready, if she would be clingier during the day because she wasn't right beside me all night, if she would want to come back into our room to sleep. But so far it has gone off without a hitch. Saturday night at bedtime, I read her books in her bed and then nursed her to sleep. After a few hours, I nursed her and then went back to my own room. I don't know how much longer it was until she cried out again, but I went back to her and ended up falling asleep in her bed. I moved back into my own bed after the next time she woke up, but I didn't even have a chance to fall asleep before she was up again, so I spent the rest of the night with her. In the morning she woke up and looked around, signing for Brian, so we all got into our bed and snuggled together for a few minutes before starting our day. It wasn't a great night, but she obviously wasn't traumatized by the experience.

Sunday night we got home late from a visit with friends in Berkeley. I got Adriana ready for bed, read her one story, and then nursed and snuggled her to sleep. She woke up once during the night, but nursed back down quickly enough that I stayed awake and made it back to my bed. And then we didn't hear from her again until 6:30. That's a bit early for her to be awake for the day, but she was definitely awake when I went in to her. Maybe if she'd been in our room she wouldn't have had as much of a chance to wake up before I got to her and would have gone back to sleep, but I don't really know. At any rate, we had to be in San Jose by 8:30 this morning, so it's better that she didn't sleep in until 7:45.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it seems to be going so well. Adriana may not be the world's best sleeper, but she is a flexible sleeper--so long as she is able to nurse when she wants to, she'll sleep pretty much anywhere.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Halloween 2009: Planning already in progress

Brian's sister's birthday is on January 4th. There was a rule when she was growing up (that Brian still likes to remind her of) that she couldn't start talking about her birthday until after Thanksgiving. Without such a rule, she began planning her birthday on January 5th, or so I am told. So it is with some wariness that I am bringing up next Halloween just over a week after this year's, but since I married into the Addams family, I figure I will be forgiven.

Usually I dress up as something boring and not very scary for Halloween. The past three years have seen me as a cat, a simple witch, Hermione Granger. But I have a costume figured out for next year, one that amuses me and is guaranteed to terrify at least 52% of Californians: I'll team up with a female friend and we'll both put on wedding dresses and go around as two adults in a loving, committed relationship who just wish we could legalize our marriage.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

On extended breastfeeding and nursing in public

As I wrote yesterday about being self-conscious nursing in front of someone, I wondered when that happened. At first I was a little nervous about nursing in public, but the fact that the baby needed to be fed overwhelmed my nervousness every time, and pretty soon nursing in public didn't bother me at all. And nursing in front of someone else when they were in my own house? When Adriana was a week old and friends started calling to see if they could come over for a visit, I would eagerly invite them over and then warn them, "but you might see my boobs, because we're not very discreet at nursing yet." I don't think it really occurred to me that I could go upstairs to feed the baby when people were over. I liked nursing in the armchair in the living room and if that's where everyone else was, then they were just going to have to tolerate it. I have heard that some people find their friends or relatives very uncomfortable around nursing moms, but everyone was totally accepting: after all, babies need to eat.

I think the self-consciousness came when people would see me nursing and ask how long I intended to nurse--which I think began around the time Adriana was 16 months old or so. The questions were never offensive, but the questioners were just surprised and curious. I had heard that people asked such questions and were critical about extended breastfeeding, but with my friends and family that certainly has not seemed true. And because of their curiosity and lack of criticism, I didn't feel compelled to use any stock answers, such as "Oh, just another few minutes," or make too many smart comments about waiting until she was ready to go to college. I would answer them honestly that I figured I'd probably nurse until Adriana was two, and then see how interested she was then and how I felt about continuing.

I do think it's kind of funny that "extended breastfeeding" seems to mean any breastfeeding beyond one year. Before I had Adriana, I assumed for some reason that most children nursed until they were two. In reading about breastfeeding before Adriana was born, I learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least the first year, the World Health Organization recommends doing so for two years, and La Leche League encourages nursing until the child has outgrown the need. It seems to me that a lot of the women I know wean around 13 or 14 months. Many say that their children self wean then, and I can see how a busy toddler that age would stop asking to nurse. And some say that that is when they felt the need to wean, which I also understand: I went through a bit of a struggle with it at that time, where it seemed as if Adriana always wanted to nurse and was never going to quit, and it was sometimes physically uncomfortable for some reason. But I could tell that she wasn't ready to wean and began to realize that part of what was going on for me was that I was overwhelmed by toddlerhood and it somehow seemed that if I could wean Adriana everything would be better. But as I read Mothering Your Nursing Toddler I began to understand that if Adriana were totally weaned, I wouldn't have my "magical" way of soothing her or our times of quiet connection. I stopped worrying about how I was going to manage nursing a toddler and began wondering how mothers who don't nurse their toddlers manage.

Regardless, these days I am more conscious of when and where I nurse. If Adriana asks to nurse while we're playing at the park, I often offer her a snack of "real food" first, or just try to distract her. There are times, though, when I know she needs to nurse when we are out in public--she has hurt herself and needs the comfort, or is just overstimulated and needs to focus on nursing to get back to being herself--and then I put my self-consciousness aside. And I am always pleased when I see another mother nursing her toddler on a bench at the park.

Friday, November 07, 2008

You know who I never thought I'd have a conversation about breastfeeding with? Brian's grandpa. Perhaps that is silly of me. I mean, yes, he's an 81-year-old man, but he is also the father of six, grandfather of ten, and great-grandfather of one.

Last month, Grandpa Glenn spent the night with us before heading back to Colorado. I had been a bit self-conscious nursing in front of him that afternoon, just as I had when we visited him back in June, but as we poured the last of the wine into our glasses after dinner and watched Adriana play, he turned to me and said that his wife had always found that a glass of wine in the evening had helped with her milk supply. A little surprised by the comment, I told him that I found the same was true, although only with red wine.

And then he told me that only one of their six children had not be breastfed. She had a milk allergy and had to have soy formula. Another one of their babies had thrush early on, and while the baby was being treated, Brians' grandmother was expressing milk to maintain her supply for when the baby was better. It seemed wasteful to throw the milk away (I am still unsure whether the baby was drinking some of the pumped milk or was receiving some sort of formula at that point for some reason), so one morning the whole family had breastmilk on their cereal. Grandpa made a face as he remembered. "That was the sweetest, richest milk ever. No wonder babies love it."

The conversation made me realize how things have changed since the 1950s. Now many mothers of babies with milk allergies cut out dairy products themselves in order to continue nursing. And Adriana and I nursed throughout our experience with thrush. Perhaps it would have cleared up sooner if we hadn't, but pumping seems like a lot of work and I was terrified of nipple confusion. But it also told me how much things stay the same. Brian's grandma nursed her babies, his mom and mine nursed theirs, and here I am nursing mine.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I have known autumn just long enough

This morning, I labeled a box "Summer clothes: 18-24 months/80cm," and put away Adriana's warm weather clothes. It's California, so it's not terribly cold yet, but I'm pretty sure we've had our last truly warm weather for a while, and tank tops and sun dresses seem unnecessary. You would think I'd be sad to see summer go: no more strawberries or nectarines at the farmers' market, no more after-work trips to the park for Brian and Adriana. But I'm happy. Halloween kicked off the holiday season for us, the season that starts with Halloween and ends with Adriana's birthday, stopping at my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our anniversary in between. Delicata squash and sweet persimmons have arrived at the market. I no longer think it's too hot to ride my bike instead of driving (although sometimes it is too wet). The weather is perfect for hot chocolate and pumpkiny treats. I do sometimes wonder what Adriana and I are going to do with ourselves when it's been pouring for a week, but I have activities in mind and she seems to have outgrown (for now) the stage where being constantly outdoors and active is a requirement to avoid tantrums.

Plus, this year she was old enough for the pumpkin patch.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


1988: I was in the fifth grade and fascinated by the first presidential race that I remember, although I'm not really sure I grasped the idea that Bush and Dukakis had different ideologies and policy plans. In fact, I'm not sure exactly what it was that had me so intrigued, but I was interested enough to work out that even though I would be 18 in 1996 I would miss the election by exactly two weeks.

1992: I caught on to the concept that the three candidates had different positions on the issues, and I followed the race with interest. Two of the social studies teachers at my high school were organizing a trip to Washington for the inauguration, and I desperately wanted to go, but I knew it would be expensive, even with fundraising, and I didn't want to ask my parents.

1996: I was disappointed that all of my new friends in the dorms at Santa Cruz were able to vote (or chose not to, which baffled me), but I wasn't quite old enough.

2000: In the spring, a friend asked in the dining hall at school if I was paying attention to the Republican primaries, and I informed him that I was afraid of McCain. "More afraid of him that of Bush?" my friend asked, astonished. "Yes," I told him. "Gore can beat Bush no problem." That November, it was dark and chilly while I stood in line to vote at the church around the corner from my house, and then went home and listened to results come in on the radio. I stayed up late and went to bed not knowing who the next president would be. If fact, it was weeks before it was clear.

2004: Before work, Brian and I walked to the synagogue near our house to vote. We waited in line with our neighbors, voted, and then headed in to DC for work. The following day, I joined others in the conference room at work and watched Kerry's concession speech. In January, disappointed though I was about the election results, I realized it was finally my chance to see an inauguration. I gathered with thousands of others, peering through the crowds on 7th Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue, hoping for a glimpse of something. Finally, we gave up and went home.

2008: Pleased that I was back in California where the primary was happening early, I was excited as I walked to the polling place up the street with Adriana in her stroller and marked my ballot for Hillary Clinton. I was torn between her and Obama, and I decided that I liked her health care plan and that she seemed more experienced. And, truthfully, I am a feminist and the mother of a little girl: it was exciting to vote for a woman for president. Still, I was teary with emotion when I listened to Obama accept the nomination over the summer, and I was proud to mark my ballot for him, and felt gleeful: who would have though I would vote for a woman and an African American for president all in the same year? Yesterday I woke up excited. I listened to the radio all day. I stopped by the Obama office in Palo Alto and made some last minute phone calls to voters in Missouri. I dressed Adriana in an Obama t-shirt, and went to my friend Rachel's house to watch the results come it. I cried a little with Jon Stewart declared that the race was being called for Obama, and more as I held Adriana in my lap and listened to Obama's speech.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Today was Adriana's first appointment with the speech therapist. I really liked the therapist, and Adriana warmed right up to her. Of course, I sometimes think she will warm up to anyone with books about dogs and some new toys. Mary, the therapist, played with Adriana, asking her about the toys and signing to her. She offered suggestions to encourage Adriana to talk more: repeat the sounds Adriana makes back to her; try to use "mm-hmmm" and "uh-uh" for yes and no, since those sounds seem to be along the lines of what Adriana's present sounds; hold her hand to our throats so she can feel our voice; ask her questions and leave a pause in which she might answer, rather than just answering the question for her; and play with an echo microphone (she loaned us one). We already do a lot of these things, but it's good to have the encouragement.

Mary also recommended that I talk with Kaiser about getting Adriana in for a full hearing screening. Adriana's screening at birth was fine, and they did a limited one at the evaluation which also seemed normal. But different sounds are at different levels and frequencies, and if Adriana's range of hearing is limited, that might explain why she doesn't make too many different sounds. I don't think the screening will show any such limitations, but it certainly couldn't hurt to confirm.


Adriana napped early today, falling asleep in the car on the way home from therapy. That left us plenty of time to go to the park after we finished the errands I needed to complete after she woke up. At least, that was my plan. But as we carried groceries up from the car, a few big rain drops began to fall, and by the time everything was put away, it was really raining. I have been dreading the rainy season, fearing being cooped up inside for months on end with an active toddler. As soon as I realized that today wasn't a great day for the park, I began to get tense, but then it dawned on me that Adriana was in a fine mood. We played with the cat, chased each other around the house, and then I cut up some apples (Honeycrisps are in!) and cheese, and we cuddled up on the couch to read Curious George. At some point over the summer I began to worry about my sanity when we couldn't spend all day every day at the park, and I even began to make a list of what activities were available to us each day of the week. I'm a little less worried now. I mean, I think when we have a long rainy stretch in January and February I will be getting antsy, but I'm glad to report that afternoons at home aren't the end of the world.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Product review: CARES Harness

When we flew down to southern California for the July 4th holiday, we realized that just because a child can fly on a parent's lap for free until she's two years old, doesn't mean she should. And on the flight home two days later, which wasn't as crowded, we discovered that our car seat doesn't fit in airline seats--at least not the ones on Southwest. So when we bought our tickets for our flight down for Halloween, I bought a seat for Adriana, and told myself I'd buy a new car seat beforehand. But spent a lot of years in school perfecting my procrastination skills, so even though I had emailed a couple of groups of parents for recommendations on airplane-compatible car seats, suddenly it was the afternoon before our flight and I had nothing. Well, nothing except an indulgent father-in-law and a recommendation for a CARES Harness. I found a local store that carried the harness, and then emailed Brian's dad and explained the situation to him, asking him if he would buy a car seat that night.

The harness was incredibly easy to use: you just lower the tray behind the child's seat, loop the harness over it, and tighten it up (and then lock the tray back into place); the child's arms fit through the straps, just like in a car seat, and the airplane's seatbelt goes through the loops at the bottom. I read the instructions when I was initially on the website, and that was plenty of information to install it when we boarded the plane on Wednesday. I slipped it over Adriana's seat, tightened it up, and buckled her in. She was a bit low to see much out the window, but she was happy to have her own seat anyhow. On each flight she did get a bit antsy--paging through the Sky Mall catalog looking for pictures of dogs and scribbling on her MagnaDoodle only lasted so long. But after she nursed or had her diaper changed or whatever her request was, she was fine with being buckled back in. I think on a longer flight she would get in and out a lot more, but it's really no hassle to take her in and out and when she needed to stay in, it was fairly easy to keep her occupied. And the harness fit neatly into one of our carry-on bags. I am obsessed with being able to travel with only carry-on luggage in spite of having a child* (which I even accomplished when we went to DC for a week), so not having to drag the car seat through the airport felt wonderful.

I think the CARES Harness was worth the $75 I spent. I don't think we do an excessive amount of flying, but this year we are going to have flown down to visit Brian's folks five times, and come January 11, we aren't going to have the option of bringing Adriana as a lap child, even if we wanted to. It's nice not to have an active, 34-inch, 26-pound toddler crammed into a crowded airplane row with three adults, and it's a relief to be free of dragging a car seat through the airport. We'll have to figure something out when we fly some place else. Will we check the car seat at the ticket counter? We did that for Adriana's first flight, back when she was three months old, and then ended up stuck at LAX for a couple of hours after our flight landed, because it had ended up on the flight out of Dulles after the one we were on. If we are renting a car we could rent a car seat. Except for Adriana's second trip, when she was four months old, we tried that, and the car rental agency's car seat's weren't great: first they tried giving us a toddler seat for a child who couldn't sit up by herself for more than a few seconds. There were no instructions for installing the infant seat they finally found for us, and we were never totally happy with how secure it felt. Which leaves us back to gate checking our car seat, which isn't great, but isn't the end of the world, either. Not having to deal with it for our weekends in southern California is certainly nice, and the car seat we have there for Adriana now will last her for years.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween report, 2008

For the third year in a row we're down at Brian's parents' house in South Pasadena for their crazy Halloween. We broke last year's record for trick-or-treaters: this year we ended up with 1,961 little beggars. At one point, we were getting about 24 per minute. Please see Tables 1 and 2:

Table 1
: 12 Years of Trick-or-Treaters

Table 2: 2008 Breakdown

We spent some time yesterday afternoon working on our jack-o'-lanterns. I'm not quite as pleased with my owl (especially for the amount of time it took) as I was with the witch I did last year, but Brian's grim reaper came out pretty well, I think:

Adriana had a fantastic time. We took her around to a few houses to check out the decorations and get mama some candy, but she really enjoyed being at the door, watching the other kids in their costume and "helping" hand out candy and water. And also looking cute: she picked out her own costume this year. I was leaning toward a dragon costume, but once she caught sight of the shiny pink wings on the butterfly costume further down the rack, I didn't stand a chance. I mean, she pulled it down and was dragging it around Old Navy. Clearly those wings were meant for her.