Tuesday, December 04, 2012

This is way better than when Adriana used to scream at him

When Adriana heard that Lyra got to see Santa Claus without her, she was not amused. I made vague promises about "soon" and "later in the week," and then realized that with Adriana's swim lesson canceled that afternoon, we didn't really have any plans, so we headed off to see Santa again.

It turns out he does his afternoon shift at a different mall. And that he changed his clothes (and also his beard) since we'd seen him. But again there wasn't a line, and he spent lots of time chatting with them. Lyra was a little reluctant, as I knew she would be in the afternoon, and even Adriana clung to my hand at first, but he started singing "All I Want For Christmas" to Adriana and asking Lyra how high she could jump, and soon he led them over to his bench and read them a story.

He got them onto his lap and we got a couple of smiles out of them.

And then as the woman taking the photos was showing me what she'd gotten, we heard giggles, and turned to look. The girls had discovered that Santa's beard was tickly and were cracking up. The woman picked up the camera and started snapping photos again. 

Finally, he asked what they'd like for Christmas. Adriana requested a baby doll and "lots and lots of legos." Lyra asked for a flying hockey stick. I guess she figures that will have to do until she's big enough for a rocket.

PS: I like the Blogger now lets you click on the photos to see them bigger.

Monday, December 03, 2012

If only he could see one of her tantrums instead

I wasn't planning to take Lyra to visit Santa while Adriana was in school today, but I had to return something at the mall, and he waved to her when we walked by, and she wanted to go say hi. She was, conveniently, wearing a candy cane dress, and I started to think it might be a good photo op. There was no line, so she walked right up to him and did a little dance, then a somersault.

"What a talented young lady you are! Do you want to tell me what you'd like for Christmas?" he asked her, and she walked closer to him. He held out his hands to her, and she let him scoop her onto his lap.

"I want an owl," she told him.

"An owl?"

She nodded. "A toy one. And a rocket ship."

"A toy owl and a toy rocket ship."

"No, a real rocket ship. I am an astronaut but I don't have a rocket ship, so I need one."

He somehow talked her into considering waiting for a real rocket ship until she was a little bit bigger, and then she smiled for the camera. As I was paying for the photo (which I had to get as I've never had a kid actually sitting on Santa's lap and giving a genuine smile before) a few minutes later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Santa coming over talk to me.

"She's a charmer," he told me in a low voice. "Good luck with that one."

Monday, November 05, 2012

I Voted!

It's the night before the election, and I just finished filling out my ballot. From the first time I voted, I loved going to vote. Actually, I even loved going with my parents to vote when I was a kid. But once I was living in town in Santa Cruz instead of on campus, I loved walking over to the church to cast my ballot with my neighbors (even though I knew relatively few of them). And when we lived in the Parkfairfax neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, I loved seeing everyone walk over to the synagogue to vote, and then a bunch of us being on different, later buses to the Metro together after casting our votes. So when we moved back to California, I was reluctant at first to sign up for "permanent vote by mail." Then I figured out that I was allowed to fill out the ballot at home and drop it off on election day. So tomorrow morning, I'll walk my envelope across the street, get my "I Voted" sticker (they didn't include one with the ballot this time), and feel as though I am participating in my community by more than just voting, but in joining my neighbors as well.


How cool is it that I got to vote against the death penalty? Sometimes I think our system in California with all these propositions is a little ridiculous. But tonight I got to vote yes on Proposition 34 to repeal the death penalty in this state. That's been an important issue to me ever since I was a teenager and the movie Dead Man Walking got me interested in it and cause me to make it my issue for my civics research paper. (Also, I remember all that, including the weather when I came out of the theater, so vividly. That seems kind of weird.) The death penalty feels wrong to me--intellectually, emotionally, and morally--and here I get a chance to say so. The ballot measure is close, and it's losing by a few points still in the polls, but I am still hopeful.


And just because I can't post something without mentioning my kids, here is a picture of Adriana from four years ago.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And some people just worry about when kids are "old enough to ask for it"

Lyra mostly isn't nursing in public anymore. She's just big and wriggly, and since she doesn't need it constantly, it's easy to have it be just something we do at home. I remember reaching this same spot with Adriana. Sometimes, though it's just easier to say yes--when I'm having a conversation, or trying to read my book while I watch Adriana's gymnastics class. Today I was talking with some other parents at Adriana's school, and Lyra made her way onto my lap and asked nicely, so I let her. One of the other moms observed with surprise, "Oh, she's still nursing!" In the split second it took me to gauge the tone of the comment and how I should respond (always politely, but sometimes as more of a joke, and other times as more of an off-hand-isn't-everybody? reaction), Lyra pulled away and said to the woman, "My mama makes nice, sweet milky, just for me!"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kindergarten Eve

When I stopped writing monthly blog posts about Adriana around the time she was two--not a conscious decision by any means, just something that happened--it would occur to me to write something quickly to sum her up. I remember around the time she was two-and-a-half thinking I could simply write, “Adriana likes butterflies, dogs, mermaids, and trucks. She knows her ABCs and how to count to 10.” Now it would be “Adriana likes butterflies, bears, princesses, and bicycles. She is beginning to read and can count to 100.” But I also want something more extensive than that. I’m hate knowing that I will forget so many little details about what she is like now. Tomorrow she starts kindergarten and even if it’s not her birthday, it seems like a good time to stop and think about how she is right now.

At five-and-a-half Adriana is a strange mix of babyishness and teenager. There are certain parts of this age I wish I could capture forever. She is so wonderfully, beautifully, perfectly engaged with the world. She is watching everything, paying attention, but that’s been true for a while now. Now she is really getting it. She’s thinking about things. She’s questioning. Of course, there are certain things about this age I’ll be glad to see go. A five-year-old’s tantrums are truly terrifying.

One night, angry that I told her it was time to head to bed, she ran into her room and slammed the door shut. I heard her lock it behind her, so I went to my room and sat down with my book. It wasn’t two full minutes later that she came out of her room, crying real tears, sobbing, because she wanted me and I wasn’t in her room with her. I resisted the urge to laugh, just pointed out that she had locked me out, and walked her back to her room, cuddled in her bed with her until I felt her breathing change and knew she was asleep. I went back to my book, thinking that those ten minutes were probably a good analogy for parenting.

I really am enjoying watching her grow, though. She is interacting with the world in new ways, or at least interacting with the world in a way where I get to observe more of her thought processes. I remember when we went to London, not too long before she turned three, reading Madeline to our friends’ daughter and being surprised by how many questions she asked about the story. Adriana had never asked anything like that; she listened to books, enjoyed them, but never questioned them. Now I see her deciding more often not to simply observe but to really try to figure things out.

Although she is still difficult to understand--she talks quickly, and still doesn’t have G or K sounds in her repertoire--Adriana talks non-stop when we are at home, and even more so in the car. On the way to speech therapy one day last month she chattered at me constantly from the back seat:

Wanna see how high I can count? How many days has it been since I was born? What makes earthquakes happen? How come not all the countries in Europe use the euro for their money? If Canada is right by the United States, how come they have the same picture on their money that they have in England? Why won't you let us eat marshmallows for dinner? Do you think asparagus looks kind of like bamboo? Can I dip my whole body in paint and make a paint angel instead of a snow angel?

And then on the way to nursery school the next morning it started again:

What is cement made of? It must have water in it because it is wet so they can pour it, but what else is in there? What makes it stop being wet and get hard? Maybe we could put mud in ice cube trays and then when we took them out we could build something with them and it would be super strong. What if you put a flower in the freezer? Would it still give you allergies? Why are you allergic to some kinds of flowers? How do plants know what color their flowers are supposed to be?

I do my best with her questions. I’m not a geologist or a physicist or a genetics expert (although I remember a surprising amount from Mr. Pruitt’s biology class in the 10th grade), but I can usually pull off a decent enough answer to satisfy her, or if I’m truly stumped, we look it up together.

She’s beginning to read now. She has sight words and can sound things out. She hates being wrong, so a lot of the time she’s reluctant to sound things out, wants me to tell her how things are spelled so she can memorize the correct way. It’s a little frightening to see that aspect of myself in her. I want her to understand things, not just memorize them. I want her to work things out for herself, not just expect someone to tell her. But memorization like that works! I tell myself. It’s how some people learn. Right? I also see a certain amount of Brian’s engineering mind in her: she loves tools and machines and knowing how things work. She has a creative streak that is growing--she draws more interesting things now (always with a stripe of blue across the top for sky, which I love), and will get herself and Lyra both in costumes to put on a performance for me. My favorite was a “ballet” set to Josh Ritter’s “Snow Is Gone.” Adriana was a snowflake and Lyra was a bird, and they twirled around and around in the living room.

I watched her through the window at gymnastics one week this spring--the way she moved, how she interacted with the teachers and the other kids, the enormous smile on her face--and told the friend I was texting with (what?) “I love watching Adriana. She’s beautiful and amazing.” I tried to explain it, how it’s different watching her now. I’m more aware of her personality. Her Self. “She’s separate from me now.” My friend asked me if that made me sad, and without even thinking about it I answered no. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Ten, twenty years from now, I’ll probably laugh at myself for thinking she was so big now and thinking we were so separate. But right now it’s this amazing thing: she was my little tiny baby, and now she is this gangly girl who rides a bike and plays with her friends and questions the world around her. But she also folds herself into my lap, pulling at my arm hair the way she used to when she was nursing, and falls asleep while I read her stories.

Tomorrow she starts kindergarten. Amazing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I thought about teaching her the “if wishes were horses” rhyme, but worried that she’d start wishing for an actual horse.

At some point I told Adriana about wishing on stars and taught her the rhyme
Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.
She knows about making wishes when she blows on a dandelion, and making wishes when she throws a penny in a fountain. I used to wonder what she would wish for, and I loved it when she got to the age when she would rush to check the mail to see if the mermaids she’d wished for had arrived. Then she picked up the idea that she was supposed to keep her wishes secret, and I was back to wondering.

Earlier this summer I bought her a new scooter, one with two wheels. She’d been coveting them ever since she saw her friend Abigail’s this spring, and I was wanting to hand down her three-wheeled one to Lyra. As soon as it was ready, she spent the afternoon riding up and down our block on it. It was fun to see her so excited about it. That night as I tucked her into bed, she looked out her window for a star to wish on and told me that she was going to have to think of a new wish since her wish for a scooter had come true.

We spent the day at the beach yesterday, and my normal routine is to keep the kids there until after dinner, then change them into pajamas and let them fall asleep on the way home, so I can just throw them into their beds. Last night Adriana was determined to stay up on the way home, and spent the hour in the car gazing out the window at the sky. Mostly she was quiet, but just as we reached the summit on Highway 17 she told me, "Sometimes I like to imagine that stars aren't really balls of burning gas. Because how could a ball of burning gas understand a person's wish and make it come true? It just doesn't make sense. So I like to imagine that stars are actually tiny fairies in very sparkly dresses, and they hear the wishes that people make and use their magic to grant them."

I love that at five, fairies make logical sense to her. When I told Brian about it, he was amused that I had inadvertantly reinforced her belief in magic and wishes by buying that scooter. And I love that she tells me these things. She does seem to have a better sense of what’s real and what’s pretend than many kids her age, so I don’t know how much of it she actually believe, and how much she just likes the idea of the magic. A part of me hopes she really does believe. And I hope that as she outgrows it she still loves the poetry of the idea.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baby's first nightmare

I normally joke about my kids’ nightmares. Adriana went through a phase about three years ago when she would wake up hollering at us not to take away her eggplant. What kid has nightmares about someone trying to take her eggplant? When Lyra talks in her sleep, her bad dreams seem so fitting for a toddler and a younger sister: “It’s my turn!” she shouts before settling back to sleep, or “No, that’s mine!”

They have each gone through a brief period of night terrors--they awake screaming wordlessly, and nothing I do can wake them or comfort them. Fortunately, the individual terrors and the phase have both passed quickly. In Adriana it seemed to be caused by chocolate desserts before bed. In Lyra we never found any potential triggers.

But then they grow up a bit more and they have bad dreams that don’t seem funny to me at all. It breaks my heart to have them so scared. Last summer Adriana became terribly afraid of house fires. Any loud noise might be a fire alarm, and she woke early one morning and insisted on being taken to peek at Brian asleep in bed, because she didn’t believe me when I told her it was a dream that a fire had “gotten” him.

Lyra had her first break-mom’s-heart nightmare last night. I woke to her screaming from her room, “Don’t touch me! Stop hurting me! Mama, they’re hurting me! Make it stop, Mama!” I ran to her and picked her up, and she continued screaming while I tried to talk to her. I told her it was just a dream, and asked her what was happening. All she could do was beg me to help her and cry. I stopped trying to talk to her, and laid down beside her. She wound her hands through her hair, found my breast, and nursed back to sleep. It didn’t take long before she rolled away from me, sound asleep. I stayed there beside her, trying to calm myself down after the adrenaline rush that her screaming had brought on.

In the morning we spent half an hour cuddling in her bed after we woke up, until she declared that her name was Nom-Nom McEat-a-lot and she needed her breakfast. She devoured a scrambled egg, a bowl of oatmeal, and half a basket of strawberries, washed down with a few ounces of cow’s milk and two oranges worth of juice. I didn’t ask her about her bad dream, and she didn’t mention it. I seem to be the only one with any trauma. I hope she forgot about it. I also hope it doesn’t happen again tonight--I'm not sure I can take it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm beginning to believe baby birds have better survival instincts than human toddlers

The girls have been pretending to be birds since lunchtime. They built a nest of blankets on my bed, Adriana sat on Lyra, Lyra "hatched" out of a blanket/egg, and Adriana has been "flying" about the house getting imaginary worms and bugs for her baby to eat. It's adorable, and I love that they can play together so well sometimes. But I just now heard Adriana say "Okay, Baby Bird. Now it's time for you to learn to fly, so I have to push you out of the nest. Lyra, just flap your arms like wings when I shove you off the bed. Ready? Steady..."

And then they were both shocked and angry that I stopped them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Questions I was unprepared to answer this morning

  1. Are bays made by earthquakes or by erosion?
  2. Do flamingos have kneecaps?
  3. Why don't people lick the amniotic fluid off of their babies when they are born like mama cats do?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

It does make the times I pretend to gnaw on the baby seem a little more sinister

“Some animal mothers? Eat. Their. Young,” I told Adriana one day last week when she was being obnoxious about something.

“Lucky for me you’re a vegetarian,” she snarked right back.*

So yesterday when I was browsing the children’s section at Books Inc., I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan. Lyra was getting antsy at that point (and starting to whine for a Thomas board book that I didn’t even have to glance at to know I wouldn’t like), so I bought it without reading it. Adriana found it in my room just before her bedtime, so I got into bed with her and read it.

Immediately I recognized the artwork from the author’s cartoons in The New Yorker. Henry and Eve are whiny children who disregard their father’s warning that monsters eat small children, and then are abducted by indecisive monster gourmands who spend the book debating the best way to eat the children. The drawings are simple and amusing, and it’s full of lines I am sure to be annoying the kids with. I mean, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist suggesting “Perhaps a whiny-child vindaloo” next time we are wondering what we should make for dinner. Adriana and I both giggled throughout the story.

The humor in the book is definitely aimed at adults, but it’s in the way there are jokes in animated films that are for the grown ups that go right over the kids’ heads, rather than something akin to Go The Fuck To Sleep. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that book. In fact, I found it quite amusing, especially the audiobook version read by Samuel L. Jackson). I wouldn’t share Monsters Eat Whiny Children with some of Adriana’s friends. Adriana, though, loves all things scary, and can handle the idea of monsters eating children. On the other hand, I also picked up a copy of Outside Over There. Perhaps my girls will start to take these books as warnings.

*I love this kid so much.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Civics lesson

On the way to drop of my ballot this morning:
Adriana: But what is voting for?
Me: Well, it's so we can decide who is in charge and makes rules, and so we can say what we think the rules should be.
Adriana: But you're the mom. You're in charge. And you get to make up the rules yourself. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our great future in plastics

I’m reading a fascinating book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams. It’s written in a casual, fun-to-read style, and I’m learning a lot about evolutionary theories, cultural trends, and ecology. I rarely read non-fiction, but this book has drawn me in the way a novel might.

The problem I’m having is that last night before I fell asleep, I read the chapter on plastics. I learned a lot about the chemicals that are in plastics and our cosmetics, and how scientists think these things may be contributing to early puberty (and what early puberty means in terms of cancer rates). I didn’t know that BPA was originally used as an estrogen replacement in women, a replacement for DES. That makes its use in so many products today seem much more ominous to me. When Williams wrote the book, she had herself and her young daughter tested for many of the chemicals she was learning about, and then tried to reduce the presence of those chemicals in their life, but found it very hard to do.

I woke up this morning, thinking about our exposure to these things. I already try to buy lotions and soaps that don’t contain parabens and phthalates. But plastics are ubiquitous. I made my orange juice this morning in the juicer we received as a wedding gift--that was ten years ago, before BPA was being questioned so much. I sliced peaches to put in oatmeal for the girls and me on a plastic cutting board that for all I remember at this point may have been treated with triclosan. I served the kids their oatmeal in brightly colored plastic dishes that I’m pretty sure are BPA free--but what else is in the plastics? I am generally pleased with myself for not feeding the kids a lot of processed foods, but every time I pack us a picnic, I put cut up vegetables, sliced fruits, and sandwiches into plastic containers. Canned beans seem like such a quick and easy alternative to soaking and cooking dried beans, but do they contain chemicals from the cans? I reheat leftovers in the microwave in plastic containers that say they are safe for microwave use, but how do I know? Our water bottles say they are BPA-free, but what is being used in the plastics that can hurt us? Even the produce I buy at our farmers’ market comes home in plastic bags.

I’m finding myself feeling helpless and hopeless. I remember a similar feeding years ago reading Our Stolen Future for a college course, but then I was only worried about myself. Now I’m wondering what effect the choices I make have on my daughters.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Compare and contrast

Okay, I know you aren't supposed to compare your kids to one another, but sometimes the difference in behavior in kids three years apart is particularly striking.


Adriana: Need any help in here?

Me: Actually, yeah. Can you give the onions a quick stir?

Adriana: Sure...looks like they're getting brown kind of fast. Want me to turn the heat down a bit?

Me: Yes, please.

WTF? When did I start letting her mess with the stove? When did she learn to caramelize onions? Whatever, they came out great.


Lyra: [catches my eye, purposely turns water cup upside down over the dinner table] 
Me: Why did you do that?
Lyra: To try to make you cry.
And everyone thinks this one is such a sweetheart! She did say it with a very charming smile.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lost and Found

Earlier in the school year when I went to the parent-teacher conference at nursery school, Adriana’s teacher mentioned that Adriana didn’t know her address and phone number. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to teach those to her. That afternoon I wrote down my number for Adriana. She copied it down a few times herself, and then was able to recite it to me. I told her that if she ever got lost, she should find and adult, (preferably another mom with kids, or someone who works wherever we are) and have them call me.

But Adriana is the kind of kid who tends to stick pretty close and know where I am. Lyra is my runner. It was Lyra who took off from me in Target a couple of months ago, running down the aisle and then dodging through racks in the clothing section. I ordered Adriana to stay by our cart, and then I tracked Lyra for a while by the sound of her giggles, and the amused smiles and pointing of other customers. But then she was gone, and I couldn’t find her anywhere. An employee made an announcement over the speakers for everyone to look for a two-year-old girl with short blond hair, a red shirt,  and Thomas rainboots. She was quickly found back by the dressing rooms, a good three quarters of the store away from where she’d taken off.

But today, Adriana and I got separated at Happy Hollow. We’d been there since it opened, nearly six hours before, and we were all tired. Adriana was on a play structure that was a little too big for Lyra, and Lyra wanted to see the lemurs one more time. I tried to catch Adriana and waved, and then took Lyra to watch one lemur hanging from another one’s tail. We sat for a while, and then a couple who had been there watching the lemurs with us not long before brought Adriana to me. She seemed fine, but as soon as she saw me, she burst into tears. Although it had seemed she was looking at me, she hadn’t caught my wave and seen me take Lyra to look at the lemurs one last time before the park closed. She had looked up, seen I wasn’t there, remembered that Lyra had been wanting one last ride on the carousel, and headed off in that direction, calling for me. When I wasn’t the merry-go-round she started back and then hesitated. The couple had seen Adriana and asked her if she was okay. She says she told them, “I can’t find my mom,” and they had brought her back to me. Simple as that. She and Lyra were wearing similar outfits today (and maybe the couple had seen us together earlier), so the other parents knew where to bring her.

It’s funny the things that don’t occur to me. I thought because I taught Adriana how to find me if we were separated, I didn’t need to worry much. I hadn’t anticipated the trauma it would cause to her if we were actually separated. Can I blame Lyra for that? She thought her little escapade was hilarious. I’m not particularly concerned about getting separated from Adriana again. I think she’ll stick close, as usual, and I think I’ll be more aware of going out of her line of sight (for what it’s worth, on the larger play structure at the park earlier in the afternoon, she had gone out of my sight plenty). I’m starting to wonder, though, if in a panic she would be able to recall my phone number. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope I don’t have to find out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

This might be kind of cheesy. I blame the vast quantities of sugar and sunshine.

At one point last year, I posted something on Facebook about considering a last-minute trip to the beach. My friend Kym commented that it would be harder to do that kind of thing once Adriana started kindergarten, so I should take advantage of the time we have now.

I followed Kym’s advice that day, and pretty much every other time I get the urge to spend a sunny day at the beach or a rainy day in a museum. The girls are at an age where day trips are easy, and our schedule allows it, so why not?

Today was one of those days and it was perfect.

Soon enough they’ll be in school and this will be harder. Right now I want to see Adriana’s eyes widen with excitement when I pick her up from nursery school and say “Want to go to Santa Cruz?” To have them beg for “one more ride” on the merry-go-round and let that turn into three more rides. To concede that since it had been such a warm day that they really should be allowed ice cream after dinner, even though they already had ice cream after lunch. To carry them in from the car sound asleep and tuck them into their beds, still covered in sunscreen and sand and ice cream. And right now I want to hope that maybe some day they’ll remember some part of it all.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Lyra woke, crying, sometime around midnight. I went in to her and laid down beside her to nurse. I hadn’t closed her blinds before bed, and between the slats, I could see the moon. It didn’t seem any bigger than usual, but it was incredibly bright. Her eyes, I realized, weren’t closed as she nursed; I could see them shining there, looking at me as she nursed and twisted her fingers through my hair.

“Baby, look. Look at the moon.” She stopped nursing and turned to look out the window. “That’s the supermoon.”


“Yes.” She sat up in bed, so I did too, and she climbed into my lap and wound her arms around my neck as we looked out the window.

“Is it pretty?”


“Is it magic?”


“Is it white like the roses."


"Are you my mama?”


“You love your baby Lyra so much?” She leaned her face against mine.

“Very, very much.”

And we laid back down together, snuggled close, my body curled around hers, and we nursed to sleep.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Facts of life

Adriana was going through a photo album with Lyra before school this morning. I remember Adriana at this age, or maybe a little older, figuring out that she wasn’t always in pictures with Brian and me because there had been a time before her. Now Lyra is reaching the same realization.

Adriana: And here is a picture of me and mama in Minnesota.
Lyra: And where is me?
Adriana: This is before you were born. You were in mama’s belly.
Lyra: Ooooh. And before I was in mama’s belly I was a fairy and I lived in a flower.

And even more awesome than the fact that Lyra said this? The fact that Adriana did not correct her.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

To market, to market...

...to buy no fat pigs. Although I could probably get one there if I wanted. We are lucky to have an excellent farmers' market in Mountain View. We started going pretty much every weekend as soon as we moved here five years, and now nearly all our produce comes from there (bananas and mangoes are notable exceptions), along with our eggs, bread, and some cheese. And cookies. The best macaroons in the world are available for purchase every Sunday morning in Mountain View, just in case you were wondering.

This week, Adriana had a birthday party and our cupboards were bare, as we’d just returned from a three week holiday the previous afternoon, so I biked Lyra over to the farmers’ market, where I bought:

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • one big bag of peas
  • 4 artichokes
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 1 pound bag of salad greens
  • 6 apples
  • 3 baskets of strawberries
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 6 yellow onions
  • 4 lemons
  • 6 avocados
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 1 baguette
  • 2 kinds of cheese
  • 1 quart sheep's milk yogurt
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch parsley

As I piled the groceries into my bike trailer I thought I'd bought most of what we needed for the week (along with a few things from the grocery store--cereal and beans, among other things). But I think I forgot how to shop while we were away. Either that, or my kids are just extra hungry this week. It's Wednesday night, and I have left 3 avocados (the ones that were nowhere near ripe, which I picked so they would last through the week), one cucumber, half the salad greens, a lemon, and an onion. I still have most of the eggs and sandwich bread, as well as the yogurt, which I'm using slowly because it's seriously expensive (but it’s awesome and it has a very short season, so I had to buy it this once).

I'm going to have to go to the supermarket tomorrow for fruits and vegetables. And I’m sulking because I know they won’t be as good as what I got over the weekend. I think this might be the very definition of first world problems.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Travel journal: Thoughts on traveling with kids

We are traveling now. Last Tuesday we flew to Paris, and spent a few days there with friends, and then we all took the train to Amsterdam to see the tulips (I will post eleventy frillion flower photos later on). This morning, Brian, the girls, and I flew to Zurich, and we’ll be here a few days before returning to Paris.

Brian asked me this evening, “Are we doing thing wrong? We aren’t doing most of the things in the guidebooks. Are we supposed to wait until they’re older?” My instinct was to say no and wave him off, but the subject had been on my mind as well.

Traveling with the kids can be exhausting. There was their jetlag to contend with as well as our own. Adriana is in an age of being very picky, which can make eating out a bit of a challenge, and in Amsterdam grocery shopping became interesting. No crispy rice cereal? No Cheerios? Most of the breakfast cereals were laden with sugar. We are constantly thinking about snacks and meals to make sure we avoid the blood sugar-induced meltdowns that the kids (okay and we) are so prone to.

But other things are wonderful with them. I explained pointillism and Seurat to Adriana in the Musee D’Orsay, and watched her face as she studied Starry Night Over the Rhone, which was familiar to her from a Van Gogh book we have at home. Last night Lyra chatted up a tram driver, who had seemed grouchy when we first boarded but was soon smiling and talking to Lyra. As we waited to take off this morning, the flight attendants brought around small chocolate bars for everyone. "Mmmmm...toc-a-wit. What a wuv-a-wee suh-pwize!" Lyra said, and gave the flight attendant such a brilliant smile that he handed her a second one.

Today was an easy day. In Paris we were jetlagged and overwhelmed. In Amsterdam we walked around shivering in the cold and rain. After our flight this morning, we spent the time getting settled (into our third IKEA-stocked rental apartment in our third country in a week). That was exactly the kind of day we needed. We explored a bit within a small radius of our apartment here, got lunch and coffee, bought some groceries. I was baffled by German. Brian and I raised our eyebrows at how expensive everything is here. Both girls have had colds, and I wanted to pick up some more children’s Tylenol, so I went into the pharmacy around the corner.*

It’s not the kind of day that’s in the guidebooks, but I felt so happy as I walked along the Limmat holding Lyra’s hand and listening to her talk about her friend Toby, breathing in the cold air, eavesdropping on bits of conversation that I couldn’t understand. I’m glad we’re traveling now. I’m glad that we ran around doing touristy things in Paris and Amsterdam. I’m glad that tomorrow while Brian goes into the office here, the girls and I will go to the park to blow bubbles and watch boats on the river. I’m glad that we’re going to write postcards together and figure out the post office here. In the next few days we’ll go to the zoo and take a boat ride around the lake and maybe even take a look at Chagall’s windows in Fraum√ľnster if the kids are on good behavior or if we feel like taking turns staying outside with them while the other one goes in to look around. It’s not on any of the guidebook itineraries, but I think it will be fun.

*Children’s paracetamol in Switzerland apparently only comes in suppository form, so I bought some ibuprofen syrup instead. I feel as though I could do a great favor for the children of Europe by bringing them chewable tablets.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This is no place you ever knew me

Adrienne Rich, one of my favorite poets, died this week. I first read her poems in high school, and some of her essays were assigned reading in my courses at UCSC. She lived in Santa Cruz, and when I was in school there I attended several of her poetry readings; once I waited in line to have a collection of her poetry signed.

This is from her poem “An Atlas of the Difficult World.” Such a perfect description of a place I love.

Within two miles of the Pacific rounding
this long bay, sheening the light for miles
inland, floating its fog through redwood rifts and over
strawberry and artichoke fields, its bottomless mind
returning always to the same rocks, the same cliffs with
ever-changing words, always the same language
--this is where I live now. If you had known me
once, you’d still know me now though in a different
light and life. This is no place you ever knew me.
But it would not surprise you
to find me here, walking in the fog, the sweep of the great ocean
eluding me, even the curve of the bay, because as always
I fix on the land. I am stuck to earth. What I love here
is old ranches, leaning seaward, lowroofed spreads between rocks
small canyons running through pitched hillsides
liveoaks twisted on steepness, the eucalyptus avenue leading
to the wrecked homestead, the fogwreathed heavy-chested cattle
on their blond hills. I drive inland over roads
closed in wet weather, past shacks hunched in the canyons
roads that crawl down into the darkness and wind into light
where trucks have crashed and riders of horses tangled
to death with lowstruck boughs. These are not the roads
you knew me by. But the woman driving, walking, watching
for life and death, is the same.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gymnastics and personalities and anxieties, oh my

Or, a lot of words about a little event.

When Adriana was maybe eight or nine months old, I took her to a class at the Little Gym by our house. It went horribly. They would pass out instruments or toys, sing a little song, and then put the toy away and move onto the next thing. Every other baby in the class seemed to do fine with that, but the pace was too quick for Adriana, who didn’t understand why the bell or scarf she’d been handed was already being taken away. We had just moved to Mountain View, and I had thought it would be a good place to meet other moms, but it just seemed too obviously a bad fit, so we didn’t go back. When she was a little over a year old we began attending a toddler gymnastics class at the rec center in Palo Alto, which was a perfect fit for her personality: it was completely unstructured at that age--just free play on the gym equipment. For 45 minutes once a week, she tried all her crazy stuff in a padded room while I got to talk with the moms and nannies as I followed her around.

We stopped that class when Lyra was a few months old. Adriana was in nursery school and it just didn’t fit well with our schedule. But it’s become apparent lately, that Lyra could use a padded room for her monkey impressions, and Adriana has expressed interest in gymnastics. There are a few places we could try, but the schedule at the Little Gym worked for us and it’s close to home. I did Lyra’s trial class first. There is a huge difference in the girls’ personalities, and I knew she would like whatever class we chose, and going with just her would give me a chance to check it out and talk to them about how the older kids’ class would go.

And Lyra loved it. When we walked in and they asked if she was Lyra, she jumped up and down, and said “I am baby Lyra! I love watermelon and swings and penguins and my mama.” She did fine with the pace of the class, wandering off from the group occasionally, but always having fun. Toward the end of the class time, she managed to somersault off of one mat onto another seemed to make the instructor a little nervous but reinforced why we were there.

After class I talked to the woman working at the desk about Adriana, explaining that she can be slow to warm up to new people and places. She told me the names of the teachers for her class, and suggested that we arrive early to give us some time to check things out. She explained that parents would sit on the other side of the window to watch, but if she needed me close, I could go sit inside, although they would prefer I didn’t follow her around to the different things she would be doing.

During the week, I would occasionally mention the gymnastics class and tell Adriana everything that the people at the gym had told me. I described the place to her, and talked about what Lyra had done during her class. And I promised that if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to go back. She was anxious, though. “I want you to stay right with me the whole time,” she kept insisting. I didn’t talk about how that wouldn’t work out logistically because of Lyra; we have enough sibling rivalry as it is. I promised her she would be able to see me through the window the whole time. “I get nervous about new places, too, but it usually turns out okay,” I told her.

We arrived early, just as another little girl and her mother were going into the building. The teachers at the desk greeted Adriana by name, and the one teaching her class came around to introduce himself to her. Lyra answered all his questions while Adriana remained silent and held my hand. He gave Adriana a quick tour, and then introduced her to the other little girl who was there and suggested they play together.

There’s this wonderful thing about little girls this age: if you introduce them to someone and describe them as a new friend, they can instantly play together. At the California Academy of Sciences I ran into someone I know through La Leche League. We’d never met one another’s older children, but when we introduced the girls to one another, they ran off to play immediately. The same thing happened when Adriana was introduced to a girl at the gym: the other little girl led Adriana over to where the toys were as the teacher had requested, and they sat down to build with blocks together. And then when it was time for class to start, Adriana and her new friend stuck close together as they followed the teacher onto the mat.

I hadn’t realized how nervous I was about her behavior until I watched for a few moments and began to relax. She joined in the activities, did what the teacher asked, and seemed totally comfortable. She looked over to the window and made eye contact with me any time they switched activities, but it was always to throw me a smile and a wave. And I love that smile so much. It was the grin she has when she is having fun and feeling grown up and proud of herself. As I saw the teacher demonstrate some of the exercise, I wondered if she would be able to do them, and some were obviously a bit complicated, but others she managed easily, and she was willing to try everything.

At the end of the class she came running out the door to me. “It was so fun. I did it! I’m going to come back tomorrow, okay?”

So I signed her up for next week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Adriana’s Magic Bed

Every couple of weeks Adriana comes home from school with a special backpack that contains at least one book, and some suggested activities. The most recent one was The Magic Bed by John Burningham. Instead of a craft project, the suggestion was to have the child make up a similar story of their own. This is the story that Adriana dictated to me.

Once there was a girl named Adriana. She had a magic bed. It was pink with sparkles on it. When she got in it and said the magic words “abracadabra abracadee” it would take her wherever she wanted to go. One night she said “abracadabra abracadee” and it took her to the moon. There were treasures all over the moon. The treasures were stars that fell out of the sky. Adriana picked up the stars and threw them up as high as she could so they would be back in the sky and everyone could see them again. Then she got back in her bed and said “abracadabra abracadee” and went home again.