Monday, December 29, 2008

You know, this only happens when other people are coming to dinner

When Brian and I first moved in together, we spent several weekends driving to yard sales all over Santa Cruz in order to furnish our little house. At one we found a crock pot for fifty cents. It was dark orange, all one piece, and missing its lid, but hey, it was fifty cents, why wouldn't we take that home? It served us well for more than seven years (a dinner plate worked fine as a lid), but this fall I was in Target and spotted a crock pot. It was red, you could take out the bowl to clean it more easily, and it was $19.99. I decided I was a grown up who needed a crock pot that wasn't older than she was and put it in my basket.

Tonight my friend Cyndi and her little boy were coming over for dinner, so in the morning I put some spaghetti sauce together to simmer all day long in the crock pot. We spent the afternoon at the park, and when we came back to the house I put water on to boil for the pasta, and checked my sauce. It seemed a little thin, so I took the lid off to see if I couldn't thicken it up a bit. When Brian came home and showered and hung out in the kitchen with Cyndi and me. Suddenly he got a funny look on his face and leaned over the stove, studying the crock pot lid where I'd set it. I watched him as he picked the lid up.

And then it exploded.

It turned out that I had put the pot of water on the back burner but turned the front one to high, and then I set the glass crock pot lid on that hot burner. The glass had looked funny somehow, and that was what caught Brian's attention. I'm just glad that it exploded right after he picked it up, rather than have had a horrible accident by having it happen when he'd brought it closer to his face for examination. Brian cleaned up the mess while Cyndi and I occupied the kiddos. And then we ordered pizza, because, although we couldn't see any glass in the uncovered spaghetti sauce, we didn't want to find out the hard way.

Anyhow, that's twice in about six months that I've used heat to explode glass. I think my resolution for 2009 will be to not explode glass all over the kitchen while I'm cooking.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas traditions: Ornaments

Decorating the Christmas tree is always one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I like pulling out all the different ornaments, remembering where they came from, and finding the perfect place for them on the tree. This year Adriana helped decorate, and it was fun to give her unbreakable ornaments to hang down at her level.

In fact, we had so much fun decorating with her that the week after we did our tree, we went up to my dad's house to help him with his. There, Adriana was less interested in hanging the ornaments than she was in going through the ornament box and telling other people where to hang the ones she picked out.

While we were at my dad's, my sister and I sorted through ornaments, selecting the ones that we wanted for our own trees, since even with an eight foot tree that we decorated on all sides my dad had more than enough.

I came home and hung the "new" ornaments on the tree and thought of how much these things all mean to me. I realize they are all just things, but I love the way pulling them out of the box every year brings back so many memories.

I bought this glass ball at Appalachian Spring in Georgetown the year that I was pregnant with Adriana. I love beautiful glass ornaments and this one reminded me of one that my mom had when we were growing up.

When we were sorting out ornaments at my dad's, I found the one I had been thinking of. I hung them near one another on our tree.

That same year I also bought a lot of cheap ornaments at the Crate & Barrel outlet in Old Town Alexandria. I like these ones because they're sparkly.

Last fall, I was eager to find the perfect "Baby's First Christmas" ornament to personalize for Adriana. In my head it was silver and engraved. Then I found this china giraffe that was absolutely perfect.

At one point when I was in elementary school, my mom let each of us pick out an ornament at Macy's one year. I chose a wooden rocking horse. Every day as Adriana studies the tree and points out ornaments, she smiles at this one and exclaims, "Neigh! Neigh!"

The first year that Brian and I were living together, I insisted on picking out a seven-foot tree for our little house, even though we weren't even going to be there on Christmas day--and even though we didn't have any ornaments to put on it. Remembering ornament projects from preschool, I began saving yogurt lids, and with those, a stack of photographs, some construction paper, and some glitter glue pens, I made a bunch of ornaments. I'm not a very crafty person, and the ornaments do have a bit of the preschool project feel to them, but we still have a lot of them around, and I love them because of the pictures of our friends and family, and also because it's nice to remember that first Christmas together. I meant to make more this year, but it will have to wait until next year, I think.

When we first visited the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, I noticed in the gift shop a pretty little ornament that outlined the shape of the Cathedral's rose window. I didn't buy it and later wondered why. So when I saw a similar one at National Cathedral I of course purchased it. And then at St. Paul's I found one that outlined some of the iron work in the Cathedral. I try not to buy too many little trinkets when we travel, because I don't like to have a lot of clutter (not that you could tell that from looking at our house), but ornaments make perfect souvenirs: we get them out once a year, pretty little things that remind us of the fun we had on different trips.

I love hummingbirds, so I was pleased to pull out this pretty little one that Brian's mom gave me last year.

For the first week that we had our tree up, Adriana would point to it and sign "bird," and she was talking about that hummingbird. But after we brought home ornaments from my dad's house, she is much more interested in my favorite ornament from childhood, Big Bird.

I loved Paddington Bear when I was little, so my sister handed me this ornament to take home. But the real reason I was pleased to take it is that some friends in Washington really adore Paddington, and seeing this little guy on my tree reminds me of them.

That first year that we were living together, Brian perched a sock monkey that my friend John had made for my 21st birthday on top of the tree. It started as a joke, but that we left him there. When I was pregnant with Adriana and we were finally getting our own tree again, we bought a pretty star to put at the top of the tree but ended up returning it. We just liked the sock monkey better.

The tree skirt wasn't anything I ever really thought of when I was growing up, and it wasn't a decoration that was important to me. But when Brian and I got married, his aunt embroidered a tree skirt for us, and every year I take it out of the closet and marvel at it. The little details are so perfect, and it's so special to me because I know that Aunt Janet made it just for us. It reminds me of her, although she lives in Florida and I've only met her a few times, and it reminds me of when we were just married, right after Christmas, and what a special time that was in our lives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas traditions: baking cookies

Some of my friends have mentioned baking with their children, children who are about Adriana's age. My first instinct is always: ARE YOU CRAZY? And started to sound like fun, so I bought a bucket of Christmas cookies cutters and some red and green sprinkles, got out my Grandma Ruth's recipe, and on Saturday Adriana and I got to work.

In the morning I rolled out the dough and showed Adriana how to cut out shapes:

All the best chefs wear hats when they cook.

And after her nap, I turned Adriana loose with a bowl of frosting and some colored sprinkles:

In the end I learned several things:

  1. If you start nibbling bits of cookie dough when you think the toddler isn't looking, the toddler will start nibbling bits of cookie dough when she thinks you aren't looking.
  2. If you leave cookies on racks to cool and those racks are too near the edge of the counter, you may find small bites taking out of a few of them when you come back to do the decorating.
  3. Nonpareils are round. Which means that when they spill, they ROLL. Stick with the colored sugar for sprinkles.
  4. Old people (you know, like thirty-year-olds) are such freakin' conformists. Who says you are supposed to frost the puffy, light-colored side of the cookie? What's wrong with frosting the pan side? For that matter, what's wrong with frosting both sides? 
  5. Why yes, it does make a mess. And it is so totally worth it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh, Christmas tree

Last year, before Adriana was even a year old, I was determined that our family would have Christmas traditions. We picked out a tree at a lot along El Camino Real and brought it home to decorate. Which, in spite of my eagerness to start some traditions, we did while Adriana was napping. This year, though, my plan to create Lasting Holiday Traditions and Memories, Dammit (TM) actually involved participation by Adriana. We went to the tree farm, had a picnic, selected our tree, and then brought it home to decorate. I mixed up some gingerbread, and that night after dinner, we strung lights on the tree and hung up the ornaments, and then we settled down to admire our work and eat our sweet. And it was so much better than last year, because Adriana was there, pulling ornaments out of the boxes, hanging them on the low branches, and being lifted to the higher ones, and (of course) nibbling on gingerbread afterwards.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

23 months

When Adriana wasn't talking at all, it seemed as though everyone would tell me, "Well, she'll talk she's ready, and she'll probably start with complete sentences." While the first part is certainly true, I'm glad the second isn't. She seems to be going along with the normal beginning language, that some kids do at eight months and others not until they're three: her words aren't always entirely clear, but I can interpret them fairly easily, and there are certain sounds that are harder to make. "S" is apparently a hard one. "Please" is "pweesh," and "stop" is "dop."

I do love the way that her signs and spoken language are combined. In some cases, she signs the word that she is saying, but she usually doesn't. She does follow up signs with different words. Her stuffed monkey got dropped down the stairs outside the other day, and now as she looks at the bandage we put on him afterwards, she signs "monkey" and "down" and then says, "BOOM!" And then she goes on in signs to tell me mama put on a band-aid with cats and flowers.

Brian and I keep marveling at how much Adriana is saying all of a sudden. She doesn't have a great number of words, but she seems to be babbling constantly (at least when it's just us; she gets shy around others) and is frequently mimicking the last word we say. I am finding her shyness rather adorable. She'll smile at strangers, but when they talk to her or approach her, she turns her face toward me, or steps behind my legs. That's only with adults, though. With other kids, she is very sociable, and she eagerly approaches dogs.

Adriana eats several almost-meals a day: a bowl of cereal or slice of toast for breakfast, fruit and yogurt before her nap, some sort of snack after her nap, cheese and crackers and veggies while I'm cooking dinner, and then some of whatever we're having for dinner. But she is very easily distracted when she is eating. When there is a lot going on around her, she won't eat, even when she's hungry. And Brian and I often both sit at the dinner table long after we've finished our food, because Adriana is still making her way slowly through her dinner, and if either one of us gets up to do something else, she'll forget that she's supposed to be eating.

The rest of the time, though, she can be very focused. A friend recently described how her two-year-old pretends not to hear when she's being called because she doesn't want to stop what she's doing. Adriana also gets so busy she doesn't seem to hear us call her, but I don't think she is deliberately ignoring us. She honestly gets so focused on her sticker book or whatever she is doing with her toys that she doesn't hear. I actually have memories of being scolded in kindergarten for similar behaviors: at the end of a free play time I would hear my name being called and look up to see all the other children sitting down for circle time, and I would be there in my corner looking at a book or surrounded by the crayons and paper I had been using. "I didn't hear," I would protest when asked why I hadn't put things away and come to the circle. And Mrs. White would ask how it was possible that I hadn't hear when everyone else had, and I would have no answer but I would know that I truly hadn't heard. So when I describe about Adriana's deep focus on certain things to her speech therapist (in order to explain why Adriana won't answer questions as part of a listening game while she is playing with a doll house), and the therapist says that it will serve her well later in life when she needs to concentrate in order to study, I think that she is probably right, but I still feel bad for both Adriana and the kindergarten teacher. For now, I just make myself decide whether I really need Adriana's attention. After all, lunch can wait a few minutes if she's busily playing by herself--and it gives me a chance to read for a bit. And if I do need her to change tasks, a light touch on her arm and a "look at mama" usually get her attention. Of course, she may shake her head no and try to continue with what she's doing once she's heard what I'm asking, but at least I know then that she's heard me.

I am really loving the mixture of baby and "big girl' that she is right now. She reaches for me when she's upset, and falls asleep in my arms when she's tired. But we go out to eat and she insists on sitting in a chair, a real chair, not a high chair or a booster seat, and eating with a real fork. She wants to walk, not ride in the stroller or the Beco. Of course, when we walk some place, she is still everywhere--off to try climbing up someone's front steps, picking up pine cones to examine, carefully studying fire hydrants, or gathering colorful pieces of litter. Usually I am patient and watch her explore. Still, it feels as though I say "Are you going to walk or am I going to have to carry you?" about 100 times a day. (The answer is always no, and then she moves a few steps forward before getting distracted again...what was that I was saying about her focus?) So we play games to keep her moving along: we practice walking on tiptoes, or backwards, or like a penguin. We march or see how big we can step. We say "Go, go, go, go....stop," and stop every few steps, because it gets her giggling and she is eager for the "go" so she can continue moving. And eventually we get there. Of course, then we have to get home afterwards, and so the whole thing happens again. Which is sort of just how life goes, I suppose: you do what you have to do to get where you're going, and then the next day you do it all again.

Brian's parents have a copy of Miss Rumphius, one of my favorite books from when I was a child. I thought Adriana might be a bit young for it, but I read it to her anyhow, and she sits patiently for it several times in a row. Last time we were reading it one line really stood out to me: "In the mean time, Alice got up and washed her face and ate porridge for breakfast. She went to school and came home and did her homework. And pretty soon she was grown up." It to me a funny way of describing growing up, of thinking about life, but also very true. And yet it leaves out so much. So even though we get up every day and do the same thing over again, that "same thing" means feeling the prickly bits of a pine cone, or figuring out how glue makes your fingers stick together, or having your first taste of gingerbread, or throwing leaves into a fountain to watch the water push them around. And then you come home and take your bath and read stories and snuggle down to sleep, just as you always do, so that you are rested to do it all again tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Today it was a big cup of chai that made me happy

Last night sucked. Adriana was obviously sleepy but determined to stay awake, which she managed until about 11:15. She crashed then and I hoped that being up so late would help her to sleep well.


Let me repeat that: HA.

She was up every two hours, crying and wanting to nurse, and with the added bonus of a leaky diaper necessitating a costume change at three. She was up for the day at seven, and I groggily got up with her, dreading spending the morning with a toddler running on so little sleep. I was sure gymnastics class was going to be a disaster. With so little sleep, she would surely be clumsy and cranky and screechy.

But she had a fantastic time. The teacher had set up a tall staircase with a steep slide and Adriana clambered quickly up the steps, slid down on her belly, squealed with delight, signed "more," and ran around to do it again. Over and over and over. And over. She took intermittent breaks from the slide to jump on the trampoline, but she was always back to that slide before too long. At the end of class, she had her first fussy moment because she didn't want to stop, not even for the stamp the teacher gives the kids at the end (which sometimes I think is the highlight of gymnastics for her). But finally she followed me out, ate a good lunch, and fell asleep before the car was even out of the parking lot.

I'm blaming the horrible sleep on all the talking she is doing now. She babbles constantly, often mimics the last word we say, and will usually make an attempt at a word we ask her to say. So as much as this sleep regression sucks? It's totally worth it when I ask her to say please and instead of signing, she grins and says "Pweesh."

Monday, December 08, 2008

What's making me happy

Is happiness contagious? Unhappiness certainly is. At this time last year, I was struggling. Physiologic factors (my brain's chemical tendency toward depression, being within the first year postpartum) combined with situational factors (living in a new place where I hadn't really met many people yet, adjusting to having a toddler instead of a baby) to leave me at the lowest I had been in a long time. I know it took a toll on those around me. Brian and I fought all the time, and I just don't think it could have been good for Adriana. Okay, so maybe the guy next door and the couple downstairs didn't really notice, but still.

And then I got some help and did what I needed to do in order to feel better.

On Saturday I sat on a picnic blanket at the Christmas tree farm. The sun was warm on my face, and as I leaned against Brian and listened to Adriana babble, I realized that these days there is no one in the world I would trade places with. Moments like that one occur every day now: I watch Adriana run ahead of me along the sidewalk; Brian and I laugh together at a lame joke one of us has made; I hear the low murmur of Brian's voice as he reads a bedtime story to Adriana; or I simply have some quiet time in the morning to sip my hot chocolate in peace.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A lesson learned

Look at this picture and see if you can tell what's wrong:

We had a wonderful day at a tree farm in the Santa Cruz mountains Saturday. We had planned on getting a tree at a local lot this weekend, but then a friend mentioned going to a farm to cut one, and I realized that would be such a fun way to spend the day. So I picked a farm, and we headed out.

At first, I felt overwhelmed: the farm was huge and there were so many trees to pick from. "You know that study about jam?" I said to Brian. "This is just too many choices." He told me that my problems was that I was an optimizer rather than a satisfier. Hi. We are nerds.

But it was a fun way to spend a day. We wandered around trying to pick a tree for a while, ate a picnic lunch in the sun, and then wandered some more. We studied trees from different angles, discussed their shape and color, and tried to imagine them in our apartment. It took a couple of hours, but finally, as we admired one and were close to selecting it, Adriana began to throw a tantrum (because--in what was clearly the act of a mean mother--I wouldn't let her hit me with a stick), and, realizing how long we'd been out and how far past nap time we were, Brian began sawing.

And then he went to get the car and hoisted the tree on top and got ready to tie it on. I stopped him.

"Shouldn't we close the doors and put the twine through the windows?" I asked. "That way the doors will close properly and we won't have to worry about them cutting through the twine." He shrugged and we rolled down the windows and did it my way.

And then the tree was on snugly and I began to giggle as I looked at the car.

"What?" Brian asked.

I laughed harder. "We tied the doors shut." I couldn't stop laughing. Once I got control of myself, I climbed through a window and Brian passed Adriana through to me, which she thought was fantastic. Then he climbed in and we drove back through the farm, debating who was going to have to get out at the entrance to pay for the tree. Luckily, they came up to the car to get the money and we didn't have to embarrass ourselves with our mistake in front of others.

Nevertheless: "I am so telling the Internet about this," I informed Brian as we headed back toward Highway 17. "It will help us remember for next year."

Feelin' blue

Hey! I'm not sure if it's because I cut off my hair and he felt the need to go further, or if it's to rebel against how old he must be to be married to a thirty-year-old, but last week Brian felt compelled to go out and dye his hair blue. I kinda like it:

For the first few days it was sort of a shock whenever Brian walked into a room, but now I am used to it. It is kind of funny how many people have asked whether he had my permission in advance ("He didn't need permission, but he had my blessing," is becoming my answer.), and how willing small children are to point and stare when they see a man with blue hair.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


At one point Brian was entertaining himself while reading The Paper Bag Princess to Adriana by telling her that it is a story about what happened to me when I was younger. And so I am not surprised when I read it to her and she points to the picture of Princess Elizabeth and signs "mama." 

But should I be concerned that yesterday, every single time we read her dinosaur book, she signed "mama" as she pointed to the picture of the tyrannosaurus rex?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Forget the trike, the girl can have a pony if she wants it

Adriana signed "mama". . . . and said it out loud at the same time.

Product review: Trike

Kelly: Ask and you shall receive.

I took Adriana into Target a couple of days ago and she refused to ride in the carrier, stroller, or cart, so I let her walk. It actually went surprisingly well, with only two annoying incidents: first she really wanted the barrettes with the long ribbons and sparkly beads, for which her hair is much too fine, and then when she spotted her beloved trike. There was a bit of a meltdown because ADRIANA'S BIKE. That right there? Up on the shelf on display? ADRIANA'S BIKE. And her mean old mother wasn't letting her ride it. 

When I was shopping for a bike last spring, I eyed tricycles in some of the stores, wondering when Adriana would be big enough, looking forward to picking out Adriana's first trike. Maybe the shiny red one? Or the turquoise one with the streamers? What about orange with hot pink flowers? I didn't think she was big enough yet, but her grandma bought her a pink and purple Radio Flyer trike this fall, and Adriana is quite pleased. When I told her we were going on an airplane to Grandma's house last week, she signed "bike." When we were there, she would wake up in the morning and ask for it right away. She spent rainy days ride and pushing it around indoors, and was always eager to take it outside for a spin. She's about 34 inches tall, and her feet already reach the pedals comfortably. She can't pedal very well yet, but she Flintstones the thing around happily, and is positively gleeful if you'll push it so that her feet go around on the pedals. But there you have my only real objection to this trike, something that I didn't realize that I needed in a trike: a steering handle for me. After half an hour of pushing her up and down the block on Thanksgiving, my back was tired. We'll probably get her a trike for our house before too long. But I'm thinking it might have a push bar for me that doesn't require so much hunching over.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Slowly but surely

Last weekend, I was feeding Adriana a bowl of Cheerios, and as she signed "more," she said "moh." I took me a moment to realize what had happened. Wondering if I was right, I fed her another bite, and then she did it again, combining the sign with the spoken words. I gleefully pointed it out to Brian and his dad who were sitting there at the table reading the newspaper. For the rest of the time we were down in South Pasadena, we would ask Adriana to say "more" and she would oblige.

I started thinking it was a coincidence that she had combined that noise with the sign for "more," though, because she was so willing to mimic us, and because she stopped using it in context and in combination with the sign. But then she screeched at me for more green beans the other night while I was cooking dinner, and I told her, "No screeching, please. If you need more food, I need you to say 'more please.'" I meant for her to sign the phrase, but she looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and slowly said, "moh."


Yesterday as I was pulling one load of clothes out of the dryer and moving another one in, Adriana ran into the bathroom, yelled "bye," and closed the door most of the way. She opened it, squealed, yelled "bye-bye" this time, and closed the door again. 


I count the steps up from our car (12) and then up to our apartment (16), as it somehow seems to keep Adriana focused on moving forward. This afternoon when we reached the front door, I finished counting and said, "And now we're home. Yay!"

"Yay!" she echoed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


One of the first things Adriana's speech therapist suggested was visiting an audiologist. At our initial evaluation with the county office of education, they thought her hearing seemed fine, but the therapist wanted to be certain that Adriana really had her full range of hearing. The test was today, and I was nervous about how it would go. Would they require her to wear headphones? Would she cooperate? What if there were problems with her hearing? Wouldn't a good mother have noticed the problems and done something sooner? What if there was no problem with her hearing? At least a problem would give us some explanation for what was going on with her speech. Because seriously, the mom anxiety can pull me in every direction at once. Good results? Bad results? No results? ALL ARE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS.

The hearing test was today and it went fine. There were no headphones involved and Adriana was very cooperative. She and I went into a sound booth, and the audiologist sat just outside. Noises would come out of speakers on either side of the booth, and when Adriana turned toward the sound, a little box above the speaker would light up to show her the stuffed animal inside. Next the doctor spoke to Adriana quietly, asking her to point to one animal or another, and Adriana obliged nicely. Next, Adriana sat perfectly still while the doctor used some sort of tool to take measurements of her ears, though she usually struggles when the doctor wants to take a look inside her hears at checkups. Finally, we sat on the couch outside the sound booth, and Adriana was very still and quiet while a little tiny device was put into each ear, one after the other, to send some sort of vibrations to the cochlea that would be echoed back to the device, showing that everything was okay with Adriana's inner ear. 

My only real concern about the whole audiologist experience now that it's over with? A couple of times Adriana would turn toward one of the speakers and be rewarded with the teddy bear playing the drum or dancing pink rabbit--and I hadn't heard any sound at all. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I think we have a new family handshake

Tonight I didn't want to cook, so we went out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant around the corner. At some point during the meal, Adriana and Brian made some sort of deal (I think about staying in her chair). "Shake hands?" Brian said, extending his.

She looked at him for a moment and then studied her hands, obviously befuddled. Finally, she shook both hands in front of her, as she does after she washes them, to shake off the water. Then she went back to her rice and beans and fish, while Brian and I cracked up. 

"Should I teach her how to shake hands?" he asked.

"Oh, please don't. This way is just too cute."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas, Christmas time is here

I think Adriana is old enough sort of understand some of Christmas this year. We'll put up a tree and decorate next weekend. I point out Christmas trees and lights every where we go. We're reading The Polar Express and A Visit from St. Nicholas often. I'm playing Christmas music at home. When Christmas comes, we'll go to a Christmas Eve service at a nearby Congregational Church and have a nice dinner, just the three of us. In the morning we'll open presents, and then spend the rest of the day with my family. The following weekend we'll head down to Southern California for a repeat performance with Brian's folks. I'm so excited about this season, and the fact that this year I really get to share it with Adriana. I think she's excited about it too. Just so long as I don't abandon her on the lap of any strange bearded men, even with her baby doll for protection.