Friday, July 08, 2011

18 months

Yesterday I heard Lyra wake up from her nap and call for Adriana. I went in to my bedroom, and there she was in the middle of my bed. She rolled over, sat up, and asked again, “Ana? Ana?” I told her that her sister was asleep and she shouted, “Go ‘way!” at me over and over, giggling and bouncing on her knees there on the bed. I sat at the foot of the bed, finishing the chapter I’d been reading, and finally she crawled over to me, and climbed onto my lap, straddling my waist. Putting her hands on either side of my face, she looked at me and said, “Mama. Mama. Mama.” And then she let her head drop back and giggled while I kissed her cheeks.

And really, is there anything else I need to remember about Lyra at 18 months? I think if I only remembered that one perfect moment, I think that would be fine. She is mostly a happy little girl. She runs and falls, runs and falls. She can jump with both feet of the ground now, shouting “Jump! Jump!” while she does it. She sometimes eats a lot, and sometimes only wants to nurse. Some nights she sleeps well, other nights she is bothered by new teeth coming in or a stuffy nose or something she ate, and she wakes me up hourly. She doesn’t like strangers to get too near, but she loves to wave and smile at everyone. She requests kisses when she bumps her head or bangs her knees (which are always scraped up). She demands hugs from her sister and then smacks her in the face a second later. She yells “Hide!” and ducks behind a chair, then “Find you!” when you find her. She cries when Adriana gets out of the car at school, and won’t let any of the sweet women who work in the YMCA child watch touch her, but clings to Adriana the whole time I’m gone. Two weeks after Brian hung a bike in the rafters in the garage, she still exclaims “Bike! Up!” every time she sees it.

For Lyra, everything is exciting. Everything is yelling and pointing. Everything is full speed and top volume. And then she pushes her face against mine, and says, “Mama, mama, mama.”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adriana's chocolate chip banana bread

Around the time she was two-and-a-half, I started involving Adriana more in cooking and baking projects. But lately she's lost interest in helping quite so much. For the most part that's fine. She plays pretty well by herself while I fix dinner or work on something on my own. It's nice, though, when she does want to help. We work well together in the kitchen. There are times lately when I wonder how on earth Adriana and I are going to survive the teen years when we already seem to clash so much. There's less clashing when we're cooking together.

Earlier this week when the baby went down for a nap, Adriana and I set out to make chocolate chip banana bread, and I discovered that now that she's four, she can do most of the work herself. She still needs me to reach things for her, to read the recipe, and to take things in and out of the oven, but even the hand mixer was fine for her to use (although I did remind her a few times to hold onto the bowl with her free hand.

She liked mashing the bananas,

knows how to grease the pan,

and measure out ingredients.

I knew she could use the standing mixer on her own, but didn't want to get it out. She assured me she would be fine with the hand mixer, and while I did hover quite a bit the first time she turned it on, I quickly figured out she really was fine with it.

She even recalled a valuable (and messy) lesson learned at Christmas time about what happens when you turn on a mixer at full speed just after adding the dry ingredients, and carefully mixed them in a bit with the spatula.

Mixing in the chocolate chips was hard as the batter was quite thick by then, but she did it all herself.

She did need me to hold the bowl while she moved the batter into the pan, and then she spent a lot of time making sure it was just right to make up for my assistance.

Then she set the timer for an hour

and went off to play while I did the dishes. (Wait. What?) She did a puzzle,

decorated some cupcakes,

and helped entertain the baby after her nap.

She was eager to pose with her bread when it came out of the oven.

And then she spent the next hour trying to convince me to cut it before it was cool. It smelled so good that I did have to give in.

We got out a picnic blanket, sang happy birthday and blew out the wooden candles on the wooden cupcakes, and then ate the banana bread. If you are the kind of kid who worries about getting messy, it's best to eat it with a fork.

But some kids don't mind a little chocolate on their hands and face.

So we don't clash nearly as much when we cook, but photography may still be an issue. Upon seeing these pictures, Adriana pointed out that I was supposed to be taking close-up pictures of the food, not pictures of her. I guess she's been paying attention to the recipes I use from Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen. I've promised next time to frame the photos properly and use the real camera, not my phone.

Friday, April 15, 2011

15 months

Aaaaaaand once again, this is more of an “and-a-half months” post. Because I am outnumbered.

This month we are all noticing how much fun Lyra is. If she doesn’t nap much, I’m not terribly disappointed because she’s fun to play with. Brian enjoys getting to spend time with her. And when I asked Adriana her favorite part of the day a couple of weeks ago she said, “Playing with Lyra at the park. Now she is not just a sister, she is my friend.” And then I died of the sweetness.

Part of the fun we’re having with her comes, I think, from her language development. Someone asked me recently if she had any new words, and I said every day. I’ve been surprised to find Lyra has more words than signs. Some words she only speaks; some words she only signs; much of the time she does both; and she seems to pair signs for animals with the sounds they make. Every day she mimics something new, and seems to understand it. The best thing is probably that, in addition to “mama” and “dad,” she now says “Ana,” and it’s sweet how pleased Adriana is to have the baby say her name. But everything she says seems adorable to me. When spring really arrived at the end of March, I put a sunhat on her, and she told me “no hat,” her first two word combination. She comes into the kitchen signing and saying “eat eat eat,” so I ask her what she wants and she exclaims “Peet-ya!” (At least one kid shares my deep true love of pizza.) She grabs onto her diaper and tells me “Poop!” and then runs away howling “Noooooooooo!” when I offer to change her. She even tries to say “thank you.” That started one evening as she was handing me books from a pile and saying “tank” each time, and I realized that she knows that we say “thank you” when someone gives us something. She was handing things to me, so I wasn’t sure if she was prompting me, or just wasn’t clear on who says what. Now she seems to understand that she should say it to us when we give her something, but when she gives one of us something, she’ll often stand there and prompt us to thank her until we do.

Since Lyra was about six months old, she’s been in love with Adriana’s baby doll--the doll that Adriana herself is very attached to. When it first started I bought Lyra her own doll, one that was safe for younger babies. Lyra poked at it some, but never became very attached. It had a plastic head like Adriana’s doll, but a fat, stuffed body. Finally a couple of weeks ago as Lyra was becoming more and more determined to get her hands on Adriana’s baby, I bought her a similar one. Lyra has become very attached to the doll. She carries it around, and it seems to be comforting for her when she’s upset. She picks it up in the morning with glee, and if I try to take it away from her when I go to feed her she wails “Baby! Baby!” and will not be comforted until she has that doll back. Also? She still tries to steal Adriana’s when she get the chance.

Lyra is attached to Brian in a way that Adriana wasn’t at this age. She recognizes when he’s leaving for work in the morning and runs to be picked up and hugged. When he comes in after work, she runs to greet him. She demands time on his lap, and sometimes even lets him rock her to sleep. When Brian’s parents were here for a weekend, she was particularly devoted to her Grandpa Andy. She constantly wanted him to hold her and read to her, and when he picked her up to hug her good-bye at the end of their stay, she clung to him and cried as he handed her back to me. Now she points to his picture and tries to say “Grandpa.” I am especially amused by this, because it just sounds like she’s saying “damn.”

She eats so much these days, it constantly surprises me. But then there are days she hardly eats a thing. I know that’s normal, and after Adriana I am less surprised by the days where she doesn’t want to eat much. Yesterday I realized with surprise that she had gone seven hours without nursing. She’d eaten plenty during that time, and then nursed a lot in the evening as if to make up for it, but I was definitely surprised by how long she’d gone without, even though I had offered a couple of times. Her sleep’s been mostly awful lately. I bring her into our bed when I go to sleep, and while I used to barely have to wake up to feed her, she now is doing a lot more crying and shifting around. We wonder if it’s teeth and keep sticking our fingers in her mouth to check. I start to think maybe it’s my caffeine, and am careful not to have any after 10 AM. I try to figure out if it’s something she ate, but since she eats everything and eats so differently from day to day, it’s hard to say. Perhaps our bed is too crowded, I think, but then when it’s just me and the baby, she’s still up every hour. I know she’ll outgrow it, whatever it is, but that’s hard to remember at three in the morning when I’m trying to calm a screaming baby who won’t nurse.

There have been some days full of crying, too, which always surprises me. Usually it’s solved by an extra nap, though, and for the most part she’s just the happiest little girl I know, smiling and shouting “hi” as she rides through the grocery store in our cart, running giggling down the sidewalk, and shrieking “wheeeeeee!” in the swing at the park.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monster party

This morning, while I was getting dressed, Adriana began talking about getting ready for a monster party. She took my phone and went to make some calls. Then she came back and told me that five monsters were coming; the sixth wasn’t going to be able to make it. The party would start after dinner, and the monsters would sleep over at our house, so she found five blankets that would be good for monsters. We would need to go to the store beforehand, she told me, so we would have all the ingredients for monster chow. And we had to be certain to make plenty of monster sauce for on the monster chow, otherwise the monsters would eat us instead. Oh, and monsters drink only a certain kind of tea, which we happened to be all out of, so we would have to pick up some of that while we were out, too.

Most of her fantasy play is mimicking real life or a story in a book, and this tale seemed to come completely out of nowhere. I asked if they had monster parties at school, and she told me that it was from a book at a friend's house, so when those same friends were over this afternoon I asked about it. My friend knew it was a game the kids had played, but she hadn’t read the book to Adriana. And the book does not feature most of the details Adriana had been sharing.

After our friends left, I started to go into her bedroom for something, and she through a fit because if I went in there the monsters would all leave. They apparently don’t like moms coming to their parties. Of course, I questioned why the monsters were there if the party wasn’t until after dinner, and she told me that three of the monsters had come early to get ready. While I was fixing dinner she pretended to hear knocks at the door and let the other monsters in. And after she had her dinner we went outside to enjoy the nice weather, and she sat beside me at the table on the patio, making garlic bread out of play-doh to go with the monster chow and monster sauce.

I described the monster party to Brian when he came home from work. We questioned her for more details about the monsters and she answered a few of them willingly, but when Brian asked where she’d met these monsters, she said, “Dad, they are just pretend monsters.”

She doesn't say "Duh" yet, but you can totally hear it in her voice.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How weaning (eventually) happened

After I took the girls for their check-ups in January, I joked with Brian that when the pediatrican asked me whether I’d considered weaning, I nearly answered “Which one?” Because of course our pediatrician was asking about Lyra and of course I wouldn’t have said anything of the sort. The fact that Adriana was still nursing at four years old wasn’t something I was trying to hide, but it wasn’t something I was going around advertising either. I wasn’t ashamed of it, but it’s not exactly the norm in mainstream parenting, and I’m not the kind of person who wants to stand out. And so I debated whether to write about this, but it’s such a milestone for us, perhaps particularly for us, that it would be a shame not to. And I think that, because it’s outside the norm, it’s worth sharing.

We went through stages when people would ask me about weaning. The first was when Adriana was a newborn, and people would ask how long I planned to nurse; when she was a little over year it came up again, since it’s very common to wean around the baby’s first birthday; and finally, people who knew she was still nursing when I got pregnant again asked if I had plans to wean. There were times all along when I considered it, even right at the beginning when I was tired and depressed and had thrush, and particularly when I was pregnant and it wasn’t always as comfortable as it had been. But it never seemed like the right time to wean completely, and it seemed as though it would happen eventually.

She got older and began to eat a bit of solid food, and she backed off of nursing a bit then. There was a point sometime before Adriana’s second birthday when I started pushing her to nurse less in the afternoons, because I found it frustrating to stop what I was doing so often to nurse her (and once I was including her more in what I was doing, she stopped asking so much--what she had really wanted was more of my focus). Sometime around the time she was two and a half, I began to refuse to nurse her in public. And because we were always going somewhere, pretty soon she was nursing only around sleep--to fall asleep at nighttime and naptime, and then when she woke up. That was our pattern when I got pregnant and it worked. She gave up napping not too long after her third birthday, so then those nursings were gone (although for the first couple of weeks, I would still lie down and let her nurse for a bit at what would have been naptime--she seemed to need something like that to make it through the afternoon). I pushed to get rid of the morning nursing, which worked for a few weeks, but then mornings got rough and we added it back in. A couple of months later, we dropped it without much effort.

It feels like a confession of sorts to say that after the baby was born I wished Adriana would stop. I was glad it was comforting to her, but the contrast between nursing a newborn and nursing a preschooler somehow overwhelming to me. I was ready to be done, but I also knew it was the wrong time to stop her. It was what she knew to do. It was reassuring to her. And with the adjustment to having a new baby at home (and then knowing that we’d be moving over the summer) it seemed like too much to ask.

There was one misguided attempt on my part to cut her off cold turkey. In June, I spent three nights in the hospital with a stomach bug of some sort. Lyra was in the hospital with me so she could nurse, but Adriana was at home with her grandma. She fell asleep for those three nights without nursing (but cuddled up with Grandma), so on my first night home, I laid down in her bed with her at bedtime, just like I always do, but this time I refused to nurse her. It was awful. Within a few minutes we were both in tears. Finally I nursed her, sad to not be done, sad to have tried and failed, relieved that it was so easy to make it all better again.

After we moved last summer I began talking to her about weaning. I told her that she was the only one of her friends that still needed “mom milk” to fall asleep, and talked about other ways to fall asleep. On nights when she did fall asleep without nursing (because we were in the car when she fell asleep, or because I hadn’t been home, or because she was tired and fell asleep during her story) I would point it out to her in the morning. Sometime before our move, I suggested that when she was four she wouldn’t nurse any more. I tried to talk about it as casually as possible, and it seemed to work. She began talking about it herself. And it went on for several months like that, and then in December one night she told me that she wouldn’t have milk to fall asleep. I got into bed with her, read her some stories, and then we cuddled up together. After about 15 minutes of tossing around, she told me--on the edge of tears, trying to be brave--that she needed milk after all. I assured her it was fine, and she nursed to sleep. She talked about it in the morning, and didn’t suggest it again.

I teased her the night of her fourth birthday about not nursing. She laughed, and said “Maybe when I’m eight,” which gave me a good laugh. But I knew I wasn’t going to cut her off because she had turned four that day. Then one night about a week later, nursing became uncomfortable for me, so I stopped her. She cried and yelled and hit and kicked, and then she fell asleep in my arms. The next night I stopped her before she was asleep. She cried a little, but didn’t throw the same fit as the night before. For two more nights I read her long stories until she fell asleep. On the fifth night she asked to nurse, and I told her that she was four and a big girl, and that I would stay with her as long as she wanted, but I wouldn’t nurse her. And that was it. That was the end.

I had been dreading bedtime. I was done with nursing and waiting for the right time for Adriana. Now bedtime can be so nice. (I won’t say it always is, because, look, she’s four; sometimes she’s going to fight it, no matter how tired she is.) Most nights I just lie in bed with her and read her stories. Sometimes she falls asleep during the story, and other times she just lies in my arms and I rest my face on her hair and feel the moment when her body relaxes and she falls asleep.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

14 months

Okay, fine, fourteen and a half months. Because it takes me that long to write a few paragraphs with these little monkeys around.

Lyra is just such a loving little girl. She comes running for a kiss, and sometimes just wraps her arms around my neck in a nice, tight hug. When she hears Brian come in from work, she runs to the door to greet him and raises her arms to ask to be picked up (and actually does the same thing in the morning when she sees that he’s about to leave. And it’s not just with us, but with other people she’s familiar with--her grandparents, her aunts, my friends; she raises her arms to be picked up, leans in for a kiss, crawls onto a lap. Sometimes I’m greedy and I want all those hugs for myself, but I also love that she adores and feels loved by so many other people as well.

At fourteen months, Lyra’s expressive language seems to be growing so fast--both spoken and sign. She says (or makes attempts to say): apple, boo, book, boom, bye, cat, dad, dog, mama, no, sit, woof, meow, moo, baa, quack, and roar. She signs all done, ball, bath, book, cat, cheese, dog, duck, eat, milk, more, music, please, and water. I think “no” is the one that amuses me the most. I thought she was asleep recently, but as I went to set her down, she opened her eyes and told me “no.”

She also does a good job expressing her disapproval of certain things through body language. We’ve entered the world of tantrums, the kind where she arches her back, stiffens her body, and SCREAMS. It’s a little horrifying (as a preview of what’s to come), but also kind of funny, because now we know what a preschool-level tantrum is. Compared to a four-year-old, Lyra isn’t very strong and doesn’t have a very long attention span for her rage. We can hold her while she cries, or set her down, and the anger dies out pretty quickly. We are finding her a little harder to distract and redirect than she used to be. If we take away something that she shouldn’t have had, she remembers and protests, even when we offer something (that we think is) equally awesome.

She’s discovered the joy of being a foot taller than she really is, and likes to push Adriana’s step stool around to gain access to the kitchen counter and light switches. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the sense to not just try to step right off of it, so I’m a little nervous about her climbing on it. She has finally learned to climb down from our bed or the couch safely, which is nice. She’s not necessarily good at it, and often falls as she goes, but at least she’s not crawling off head first.

I feel lucky that Adriana can play independently pretty safely at the park these days. She goes up ladders and down slides, and I don’t have to follow her up or hover right beneath her. She plays games with friends on the play structures and in the sand, or rides her bike without going out of my sight. I don’t know how people do it when their kids are closer together in age and they have to be on top of both of them. Lyra has the ability to climb up all the play structures, but I don’t trust her not to fall right off of them. She runs toward an empty swing with no awareness of the children on the other swings who might bump right into her. She takes off running without looking back, which is completely new to me, as Adriana has always stuck pretty close. She loves playing in the sand (although Adriana wouldn’t touch it for anything at this age), but still hasn’t learned that it doesn’t taste good, and that she shouldn’t throw it.

She is still such a good eater. She eats meals with us, and lots of snacks. I’m constantly surprised by how much food she can consume. She’ll eat pretty much anything we offer her at this point, unless it’s really spicy. She’s got a sweet tooth, which doesn’t surprise me one bit, but she also is a big fan of salty snacks. We were at a friend’s house recently and she was amazed by the introduction of goldfish crackers. As much as she eats, I would sort of expect her to back of nursing a bit, but most days she seems to nurse plenty. Several days a week, though, I’ll realize that she’s going as long as four hours between nursings. At first I was shocked by that and wondered if it was okay for a baby so young to go that long, but then I laughed at myself, remembering that most babies these days are completely weaned by this age. That strikes me as so strange, because she still seems like such a baby, in spite of the climbing and talking and eating. She curls into my arms and is so snuggly and small, and part of me would like to keep her likes this forever. (And then she pitches herself headfirst off the couch or screams because I won’t let her eat the penny she found on the ground, and a pray for her to grow up and get some sense FAST.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Addiction timeline

1995: I drink coffee at various poetry readings. Because I am sixteen and all grown up and awesome. Also my hair is black and I have written some very bad poetry.

1996: I realize that I feel like crap after drinking coffee. Decide that drinking hot chocolate or tea instead is charming.

1999: Begin dating a total coffee addict. Commence 11 years of teasing him about this addiction.

2005: Discover chai. OMG CHAI. Chai makes me productive! And happy! And chatty! Wheeeee!

2006: Get pregnant. Give up chai.

2010: Give birth to second child. Discover that a frappuccino in the early afternoon makes me a nicer mother. And a vanilla latte in the morning doesn’t hurt either. But I only drink fancy coffee that I buy when we’re out.

2011: Begin to understand the beauty of Brian having his own espresso machine. Refuse to let him see how much sugar I put in my cup. Also refuse to learn to use the machine myself, so that I won’t drink too much coffee.

March 16
: Brian leaves for work without making coffee. Gives me brief instructions on how to use espresso maker.

9:02: Stare dubiously at espresso machine. Decide it might be a good day to try giving up coffee

9:30: Adriana asks at breakfast, “Why don’t you have your coffee?” When I tell her that Brian didn’t have time to make it before he left, she asks why I don’t just make it. I explain that I don’t know how, and she says, “I do. I could make it for you.”

10:15: Wonder about this no coffee experiment. Consider trip to Starbucks. Decide I don’t feel like getting the children into shoes. Determine that skipping coffee makes me a Better Person.

10:20: Okay, maybe not a Better Person. But healthier.

10:28: HEALTHY!

10:30: Maybe if I’m being so healthy I should go for a run. Could put baby in the stroller and Adriana on her bike and get some exercise.

10:31: Oooh, could run to Starbucks!

10:32: Oh. Right. HEALTHY.

10:35: Do we have any cookies left?

10:40: Maybe the kids won’t notice if I lie down here for a few minutes.

10:41: Oh. They noticed.

10:50: My head hurts.

11:15: Maybe a Coke? I think we have Coke in the garage. That will make me feel better.

11:16: Okay, but all that HFCS and coloring...That’s not healthier. This is supposed to be making me healthier.

11:17: But what about my mental health?


11:30: “Adriana? Do you really know how to make the coffee?”

11:32: “First you put in three scoops of the beans. Then you turn it upside down after you grind them. Then you put them in that round thing. And then there’s the rattle thing that doesn’t rattle. Push them down with that. Don’t forget to put in the water. No, you unscrew that thing at the top to put in the water. And then you put it back on tight. Dad says really tight. Okay, and then you let me press the button to start it. Then you get the milk out.”

11:40: OMG COFFEE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 6)

On the last day, we had Brian with us. He wanted to rent a bike to ride around Central Park with Adriana, so after finding a place where he could reserve one with a child’s seat on the back, we headed out to show him the Alice statue. It seemed mellower, easier, leaving the apartment with all of us, not just me and the girls. Adriana pointed out various rocks she’d climbed on Thursday, and delighted when Brian helped her climb around. At the statue she was so glad to have his help in climbing up onto Alice’s lap.

We walked down to the zoo again, just to get lunch at the cafeteria, and then we split up. Brian and Adriana went to pick up their bike (and I tried not to think too much about the traffic they’d be riding in on their way from the shop back into the park), and I headed back up through the park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because in spite of a half dozen previous trips to New York without children in tow I’d never made it to the museum. I felt free and light with just Lyra with me. She rode in the stroller until we got to the museum, where I nursed her to sleep, and I was free to see the exhibits. Overwhelmed by the size of the museum, I picked photography, Van Gogh, and Degas, and wished to see more, but after a quick trip through the modern art, it was time for me to head back down to meet Brian and Adriana.

We met up at the big playground at the bottom of the park, where Adriana played for awhile, and then we ventured out to find dinner, braving an actual restaurant, in spite of our tired, hungry children. Adriana did melt down a bit at first, but did surprisingly well in the end. And after she’d eaten plenty of spaghetti, she was energized and even walked part of the way back up to the apartment (stopping to see the Lincoln Center fountain lit up at night), before we entered the subway for one last ride.

In the morning, Brian went out to got coffee (and vanilla milk) while I finished packing up our things, and then we walked out to Broadway to get a cab.

“But I don’t want to go home,” Adriana protested. “I am still having fun.”

And I felt the exact same way.

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 5)

On Friday, I woke up with tired feet, and decided that maybe we ought to take it easy on our last day of sightseeing without Brian. I promised Adriana a trip to what I told her was the biggest toy store in the world, a statue that spelled “love,” and a park that her friend Elena likes to visit when she goes to New York. And I figured on taking the subway or a bus, but somehow, once I had Adriana in the stroller and Lyra on my back, walking seemed like a better idea. So we trekked back down Broadway to midtown.

At FAO Schwarz, I told Adriana she could pick out one toy. She selected two sets of NYFD trucks, one for her and one for her friend who was helping his mother take care of our cat while we were away, but then we walked through the costume section, and she saw a tutu--a big pink tutu with flowers on the waist. I watched look from the firetrucks to the tutu, and then she turned to me and said, “But I want both.” And what kind of feminist would I be if I made her choose? Her sucker of a mother bought her both. I blame my parents and Free to Be You and Me for making me such an indulgent mother. I took her to see the big piano, wishing I’d shown her the clip from Big. She was fascinated but decided she would rather not try walking on it, even though there were only two other children playing there.

After some circling around and waiting we made it to the Love statue, having been thwarted on our way to the toy store by police barricades and a motorcade route, because the Obamas were also in town. We finally made it, though, and Adriana had none of the shyness that she’d shown when it came to the piano. She waited for another group of tourists to take their photos with the statue, and then climbed right up onto it and hammed for my camera.

We walked back up to the apartment, stopping at Lincoln Center to check out the fountain finally. We ate lunch in the apartment, and then headed back out to check out Riverside Park. This time I had the good sense to take the subway, at least to get there. We headed uptown on the subway, and entered at the top end of the park. Our friends had told us to check out “the hippo playground” and so that’s where we headed first, not knowing what to expect.

We were both delighted with the hippo fountains. It had been a hot week, and Adriana relished the chance to play in the cool water and climb around on the hippos. I got to sit in the shade with the baby and relax while I watched her. Needless to say, we stayed for quite awhile.

But eventually I knew Adriana would need dinner, so I herded her out. She chose to walk for a while, which surprised me. It was fun to chase her along the pathway with the view of the river. She admired the boats and I felt glad not to be stuck in the horrible rush hour traffic on the road below us. She did finally end up in the stroller, as we needed to make it through the entire length of the park to get “home.”

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 4)

On Wednesday night, Adriana and I decided that Thursday would be our Central Park day. We walked from our apartment to the southwest corner of the park and entered there. I had promised Adriana a zoo and a fountain and a statue she could climb on, but I’d kept other things to myself, and other things it hadn’t occurred to me were fascinating, but from her point of view of course it was incredible. She marveled over the horses with their feathers and jewels, as well as the rows and rows of pedicabs. I hadn’t mentioned the carousel at all, and we approached it just as it was opening for the day. “A merry-go-round! Can we go for a ride?” she asked. One of the most fun things about motherhood is getting to say yes to things like that. There’s no reason to say no, but the surprise of the carousel somehow makes my yes so unexpected to her, that it’s just thrilling.

After a ride, we continued on to the zoo. The Central Park Zoo is a little bigger and a little more crowded than the Prospect Park one, but it was still great for a three year old. We made a loop through the zoo, and itprobably wouldn’t have been a very long zoo trip for us if it weren’t for the snow leopard. I could not tear Adriana away from that snow leopard (not that I had any real desire to). The leopard was asleep, lying against the glass in its exhibit. Adriana waited patienting for there to be space up by the glass, and then went to sit and stare. As more people cycled through, she moved away, following me around as I read about the animal and its habitat, or sat with me while I nursed the baby, but every time there was a lull in activity, she was back by the glass, examining the tiger. It was very cool to be so close up to the animal, getting to study her paws and ears, the patterns on her fur.

When we finished our loop, we got lunch in the cafeteria, although we probably could have made do with what I’d packed for snacks. Looking back, I may have bought lunch just because there was actually somewhat decent food, which surprised me, since I am used to what’s available at the National Zoo.

Outside the zoo, I glanced up at the clock. I hadn’t mentioned it to Adriana, but it was less than 15 minutes until the next time it would chime the hour. I suggested to Adriana that we sit and wait to hear it, deciding not to mention that the animals would move. I nursed the baby, while she hopped around, and then the clock started to chime and told her to look at it. She stood completely still, totally surprised, as the animals circled around, and she got to see that it was more than just the couple of animals we could see when it was still.

From the zoo and the clock, we headed to Bethesda Fountain, stopping to climb on various rocks and on the sled dog statue. As we stood above the fountain plaza, Adriana observed, “That is the biggest fairy I have ever seen.” As with the wallaby milk yogurt, how could I correct her? Who needs the angel when you have a fairy that huge? I do kind of wish I’d asked what other fairies she’d seen.

I could tell Adriana was getting tired, and, fearing a meltdown, I suggested we head home. But I had promised her a statue she could climb on, so we headed to Alice in Wonderland sculpture. Adriana had never seen the movie or read the story (we started it when we returned home, but it’s still a little bit much for her), but she enjoyed checking out the White Rabbit and Dinah the cat. She declared that this was where she wanted to bring Brian on Saturday when he was finally free to join us sightseeing.

We walked out of the park by way of Strawberry Fields (which I didn’t even try to explain to Adriana), and as we headed back toward our apartment for dinner and I wondered at how quiet the Upper West Side residential streets can seem, Adriana asked suddenly, “Are these houses? Do people live here?” I told her that some were houses and some were apartments, and yes, people do actually live in New York, and then she was quiet down in the stroller, thinking about that, and whatever else three-year-olds think about.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 3)

Before we left for New York I picked up a book on things to do with kids there. It listed lots of parks and zoos and museums, and offered the very useful tip that the Children’s Museum of the Arts had drop-in art classes for kids one to three-and-a-half several days a week. Adriana has loved the art classes she’s done at home, so on the third morning of our trip, I braved taking the girls on the subway during the morning commute, and headed downtown for the class. I think it was even better than the art classes we have done here. At $22 per family per class it seemed a bit pricey, but it was nice to have a morning with less time on my feet and Adriana really enjoyed it.

The class started out very small: there was a table with play-doh and a table where the kids could draw with markers. A few museum employees were around to chat with the parents (and grandmothers and nannies) and kids while they worked on their art. They were nice and the kids were happy, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the class. But then a folding screen was taken down and we were able to move further back into the museum. Here there was a sand table filled with soft white sand, some water colors set before mirrors for self portraits, and some sort of goopy stuff. Adriana went straight for the sand, while Lyra crawled around on some beanbag chairs. Shortly after that, the next screen was removed, revealing a table for doing collages, and one for painting with little toy cars, but Adriana was working intently with the sand. A couple of times I pointed out the other projects to her, giving her time warnings, so that she wouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t get to them, but she was happy pouring sand around in the table.

And then suddenly one of the museum people had a tambourine and was singing, and he led the children and their caregivers down a steep flight of stairs for music time. It was funny to see how quickly the children all followed, even the ones who, like us, had never been there before. Downstairs, he sat before them and led them in songs. Some were songs that all kids know, some were new to me, but he never stopped singing, it seemed, just went from one song into the next. Adriana mostly observed but seemed happy, and she eagerly took a drum for each of us when they were passed out. After music, the kids went into a sort of ball pit to play--an area of the room with walls a couple of feet high filled with yoga balls. I think Adriana would have loved it eventually, but she only went in for about two minutes at the end. I could tell she was interested, but in a new place with so many new people, she just needed time to watch, and then the class was over and we had to go.

I hadn’t packed us a real lunch, so as we left the museum, I gave Adriana some snacks and wandered through SoHo, looking for a place to eat. So many places looked good and interesting, but I knew I needed something casual, fast, and with something that Adriana would willingly eat. I kept wishing for a Mexican place to suddenly appear, but wasn’t having any luck. Just as I was kicking myself for not bringing a picnic to eat at a playground, I spotted Ideya. There was a news clipping in the window identifying it was a good place to eat with kids, and I quickly scanned the menu and spotted beans and rice, which meant Adriana would be happy.

She was happy, and so was I, with a bowl of cold soup and a salad, and after that we felt better about walking some more, so we walked and walked. I took a meandering route from SoHo to Greenwich Village, spotting a few familiar places on the way. Finally Adriana spotted a playground and asked to stop. I remembered the first time we took a trip with her as a toddler, just a weekend in San Francisco, and how our rule was to stop whenever we saw a playground. She needed time to play, the baby needed to nurse, and my back needed a break, so it was perfect. Also perfect, of course, was that it was conveniently across the street from Magnolia Bakery, and I had been promising cupcakes, so after some play time, we each picked out a treat.

It was a very kid-centric day. I went to New York to do a kiddie art class, play on a playground, and eat cupcakes, I thought to myself as we headed back to the subway. And just as I thought that, I glanced up, feeling a sense of vague familiarity with where I was, and realized I was right in front of a bar, where on a previous trip to New York, a work trip, I’d stayed out until two in the morning drinking and listening to music with a friend. Then I had no choice but to laugh at how much things had changed in the six years since that trip.

“Do we need an uphill train or a downhill one?” Adriana asked me as we folded up the stroller to go down into the subway, making me laugh even more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 2)

On our second day in New York, the girls and I got on the subway and headed for Brooklyn first thing. Well, first thing is perhaps not exactly accurate. With all of us sleeping a little bit late because of the time change and Adriana’s generally cranky mood, it took us a bit of time to get out of the apartment in the morning, but we eventually made it onto the train. We stopped first at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Although we had the stroller with us, Adriana was eager to walk through the gardens. She liked smelling the herbs in the herb gardens, dancing by the lily pool, and exploring the vegetable garden. There was a children’s garden that was perfect for her: little hedges cut with tunnels for her to walk through, benches shaped like butterflies, and a worm bin to dig in.

After the garden, we headed back up to the Brooklyn Museum--not to go in, but to visit outside with a friend who works there. Some company was doing a photo shoot outside (I’d noticed them setting up when we’d first come out of the subway that morning), so the fountains weren’t on, but we got to watch. I couldn’t figure out why they were bothering to do the shoot outside the museum since they were using a green screen. A couple in business attire strolled back and forth in front of the screen for a while, and then a woman in a pink track suit jogged on a treadmill that was covered in the green screen stuff.

We walked from the museum through Prospect Park to the zoo. I didn’t realize at that point that we weren’t going through the main entrance to the zoo, but I’m glad we entered where we did, because we entered at the Discovery Trail, where there was a rope “spider web” to climb around in, big turtle shells for pretending to be a turtle, and giant eggs to hatch from. Adriana had fallen asleep on the walk there, and waking where there was a place to play was perfect. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got there, so the animals weren’t particularly active and the zoo was nearly empty of visitors. We saw wallabies (and I discovered that Adriana thinks the Wallaby brand yogurt I buy for her comes from wallaby milk; that was so cute that I certainly did not disillusion her) and emus, red pandas and peacocks. The baby baboon had gone to bed for the day, but we got to watch the adults grooming one another, and Adriana was thrilled to see the tamarin monkeys chasing one another through their habitat. I was eager to get on the subway before rush hour, but as we headed toward the exit, I realize that the sea lion feeding was about to happen. It was already four o’clock, but I stopped anyhow, because we got to be right there for it, with only two or three other families. Adriana was thrilled to see the sea lions leaping and diving. It was worth not making it onto the train until after five. And the trains weren’t that crowded in that direction at first anyhow, so we found seats without any trouble.

I’d learned my lesson the night before and prepared her a real dinner at the apartment and gave her a bath, even though the nap in the park meant she wasn’t going to bed for some time. She went out with Brian to bring back take out for our dinner, while I put Lyra to bed, as we began to realize that putting either one to bed while the other one was present and awake was just not going to be possible when we were all in one room.