Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rhapsody in Baby


I have the sweetest little girl on earth. I know I’m biased and all, but she really is. She has these striking moments of sheer delightfulness. It came as a huge surprise to me that I got such a wonderful, squishy, and delicious kid, it’s not that I thought she’d be mean, but I guess I just thought she’d just be difficult most of the time, maybe slightly awkward and self-centered. Like me, you know.

I’m lucky. She makes this all so much easier by looking so adorable and having the charming disposition she does. Most of the time. To her credit, about 9 out of 10 times she is driving me crazy because she’s really tired, really hungry, or VERY bored. If I can keep her rested, fed, and mostly entertained, she’s usually a joy to be around.

I love the way she wakes up when she’s had enough sleep. She will have crazy rocker-hair, like her dad, but she’s so happy to see us. If the cat is around, she’ll give him a hug and pet him. She has this playtime ritual of going around the house gathering things up and putting lots of little bags on her arms. Then, she puts on a hat and goes to stand at the front door as if to say “I’m ready now.” She usually isn’t wearing pants or shoes.

When she really wants something, she points to it and nods very seriously, sometimes adding a “mmmh-mmmh.” If you are able to offer whatever it is she wants, she has a cute smile of relief.

When we travel, she almost always behaves like a Olympic gold medalist in toddler travel, back to defend her medal. I frequently get compliments on it, but they should really go to her. She’s even forgiving when I screw up, take something out on her, have to drag her along on some bit of unpleasant business. Blows my mind.

Outside, she will walk along with me, holding my hand, and sometimes she’ll carry her little purse or a book. She will usually smile back at people who say hello to her. She likes helping to take the trash out or take the laundry down to the washers and will be sad if she’s not included. She points out pigeons, squirrels, balloons, and dogs when we are outside. She is genuinely intrigued by musicians, wanting to stop and listen to all kinds of public performances. She will often dance if the song seems appropriate.

If you sing “Ba-ba Black Sheep” she will “baaaa” along like a little sheep. When you stop, she’ll hold up her index finger to say “one more!”

When she eats raspberries, she likes to put them on her fingers like little hats. She will blow on food if you tell her it’s hot, but her blowing on it sounds more like she’s telling it to be quiet, “fshhhhhh.” She wants to put her hands in food, but doesn’t like them being sticky or dirty so, will then offer them up to be cleaned.

She likes to video chat with her grandparents and her aunt and she likes to kiss the screen where their faces are. At bedtime, she always hugs her dad good-night and gives him high-fives over and over until he gets up and leaves. Then, she waves bye.

There are a million little things, some almost too difficult to accurately capture with words. The way she tries to put her books away when she’s done reading them, the face she makes when I find her in the middle of some really intense solo-play. The way she clings and pats my back when I take her out of her crib around 5am to take her to bed with me. The knowing look she gets when she hears certain songs playing.

Sometimes, she’ll spontaneously reach for my face and kiss me.

I don’t know what prompts it, but I know she means it. It is amazing to me that she isn’t completely sick of me yet, hasn’t hatched a plan with the cat to escape and run away to live in the supermarket unsupervised, like some kind of crazy “Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” but with more eating things and no art.

Yes, I know I’m gushing. But I’m allowed, once in awhile. I hope she can stay so darling forever, even if her habits change. As it is, I’m pretty lucky. I hope she knows that I appreciate it so much. Okay, mommy-faucet off.

I guess it’s just us chickens

One thing was very apparent to me, while I was in California visiting Julia. The girl has no time. With her demanding work, taking care of things around the house, raising her son, being involved in her delightful family, and keeping her persistant twin cats out of trouble, how she manages to be upright in heels most days is baffling. Now that she is about to start a new program to add to her already-impressive CV, she is about to have less-than-no time for anything. She might have to cut out petting her cats, hone her getting-dressed-while-driving skills, and install a hotplate in her car so she can make kasha on her commute home.

So, for now, she will be leaving our humble blog. I hold out the faintest flicker of hope that someday she’ll return or that we will be really lucky and she will post out of the blue someday just to surprise me. In the meantime, please wish her luck and extraordinary efficiency in all her projects.

I will keep posting, though I know I am not as funny and don’t have the crazy excel skills Julia has. I may have other writers post now and then, try not to freak out if things change going forward. Thank you for reading so far!

Wrap-up: The Julia Trip

We were in California for three whole weeks and yet, now that I’m home, it feels like it was only a few days!

We did a lot of cool things, my daughter and I, and I got to know Julia’s toddler too, which was wonderful. But of course Julia has a job that seems to think she needs to come in EVERY weekday for a LONG time. Can you believe that? I wanted to call them up and be all “do you KNOW that I’m here?!”

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about some of the fun things we did, so consider this your full report.

Weekend 1: We rode the little steam engine train at the park in Los Gatos and my daughter also had her first Carousel ride!

The Wildcat Railroad is a real miniature steam engine train. It chugs, it choos, it gets filled with water between trips.


Never too early to learn to keep your heels down…

We also went to the pool and some various playgrounds where our kids tried to dominate the sand toys of other children. Also, the both of the kids in the back seat going places? So fun. We pretty much had to sing OVER the crying.

Week 1: During the week, I played with my daughter at nearby playgrounds during the day and sometimes at Julia’s parents’ house. The weather was pretty amazing: cool in the mornings, warm-getting hot in the afternoons, mild in the evening, and cool at night. I could see myself in this!

Weekend 2: Julia’s mom had a really nice luncheon under the pergola. Not only was the food incredible and gorgeous (like eating in a catalog, people, Gary and Elaine would have been thrilled) but I am hoping to use the phrase “luncheon under the pergola” a lot more in my life. Also, Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread…sigh. I think we also went to the pool and played outside and the kids got very wet at the playground by Julia’s house. I can’t remember. They got wet frequently. They’re toddlers.


borrowing Julia’s sunhat

Week 2: I had trouble keeping my kid on Julia’s kid’s sleeping schedule, she seemed to drift to her home bedtimes despite the time difference. I spent a lot of time taking her to the playground, the grocery store, and trying to ignore the rising heat. We went into San Jose twice on the very convenient 81 bus where we visited the San Jose Museum of Art, the St Joseph Cathedral (for 55% of a mass), and ate really delicious vegan curry-things at the Karma Cafe. The Museum of Art had some really nice interactive programs. You could grab a shoulder bag with art supplies in it to take with you through the museum (my daughter colored) and there was also a pin-making exhibit as part of an artist’s “political campaign” piece. My daughter and I both made pins. There were extra-large “paper dolls” of famous politicians onto which you could put magnetic cut-out clothes, that was fun for her too. My favorite was the exhibit of drawings from Sandow Birk’s “Divine Comedy,” a re-imagining of Dante’s work in modern settings, mostly NYC and LA.

When it finally hit 100 F towards the end of the week, I was ready to take back all the nice things I said about California weather. Even so, 100 there is not like 100 here, it was less humid, they are better prepared for it, so it doesn’t seem quite SO bad, but my Scandinavian blood was hitting a mild simmer. At some point I made Julia a cherry pie, but we were trying not to turn on the oven, so many salads were made for dinner. I might blog about them at some point.

Weekend 3: Since I was leaving on Monday, we crammed a bunch of things into our last weekend. First, we took the kids to the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum. It was fantastic. It had so much to do for all ages of kids, everything hands on, and each of our children found something to fixate on for long periods. I told Julia that they should just install Closed Circuit TV’s, lock the exits, and put in a wine bar where you can watch your kids on screen.

We had Julia’s parents over for dinner on the patio, Julia made some terrific food, also very photogenic (why didn’t I photograph the food?). My daughter finally started going to bed at something approaching the house bedtime, a day before we were leaving…

And we went to the beach! It was an abrupt change of weather, like I knew it would be, but wow. It really was. I forget all the time how much of a differential it is–it was very cool and refreshing 60 F. The kids got their toes wet, took naps, ate fish and chips with us and Julia’s parents on the warm sand. I sunburned my knees. Julia sunburned her nose. The kids were spared due to our diligent sunscreen applications and hat placements and re-placements. Go us!

My daughter and I had lots of good times and I’m SO glad I went. It was a trip that was a long time coming. I will miss the beach, the pool, the playgrounds, the fruit, Trader Joe’s and other fine supermarkets, and Julia’s dishwasher. But most of all, I’ll miss the little things like the kids playing in the bathtub together, learning stuff from each other, the singing of Russian children’s songs, making Julia dinner, and seeing her every night after the kids go to bed. If teleportation existed, you better believe we’d be kicking back almost every night around 9pm PST/12 EST with some vodka-limeade. Since it doesn’t, I hope that our continued electronic correspondance tides us over until the next time I can afford/bear the thought of flying across the continent that obnoxiously gets in the way of our mommy-fun-time.

Thanks Julia, miss you more than dishwashers…

Is it impossible to have it all?

\"Have Feminists Sold Young Women a Fiction?\" From the Atlantic, an Interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter

An interesting video, a big topic. Just wanted to repost and see if anyone besides me had anything else to say? I have been working on two different posts along this thread and have not really been able to clearly state what I have wanted to say. There are a lot of perspectives in this discussion, so I’m curious, what say you?

Flying with “Small Children,” aka an Albatross of Your Own Likeness

the plane back from the caribbean dehumidifying


Or How Uncomfortable Can You Stand to Be?

Baby Center re-posted their list of tips for flying with kids on my facebook newsfeed last night, just after I had arrived home from a whole day of air travel. You can see their “article” here:
“Flying with Small Children,” Baby Center, Oct 2011

This article, while containing many informative points on the technical requirements of traveling/booking a flight for yourself and an infant or toddler, seems to have been written only by people who don’t actually do this traveling. They have clearly done the research on the subject on many airlines’ and TSA’s website, but most of this information is known by the common air traveler, even if they haven’t taken kids before. I guess it’s nice of them to put this together in case you DIDN’T know, for instance, that you have to bring ID for your kid to the airport (duh) or that you have to like, um, tell the airline you are traveling with a lap child even if you’re not technically buying a seat for them…

The List of “Important Questions to Ask Before You Fly” on page 2 is HILARIOUS.

First of all, if you actually called your airline and asked even half of these, they would probably hang up on you for being a huge waste of time. If they were exceptionally nice, the call would end with them whimpering “can you please just go read our website?” The questions themselves are just priceless and show an astonishing lack of foreknowledge of how air travel works now. Let me give you some examples:

“Will you require proof of my child’s age and identity? If so, what proof is required, and when do I present it?”
No, you can just bring any infant through an airport without any paperwork, we trust you not to be trafficking babies implicitly because you look so disheveled you have to be a mom. If you have to ask an airline this, they are probably going to flag you for further inspection before boarding. Not to mention “when do I present this ID?” Um, anytime you are asked for it? You will probably be asked for it a lot? Have you been through security lately? Just assume you need to duct tape it to your kid’s head.

A better question would be simply “what proof of ID do I need to bring for the kid?” since sometimes a passport is necessary, and sometimes a birth certificate will do, and SOMETIMES you have to have both plus a letter from the child’s other parent, a copy of their visa, and their hospital bracelet, and a DNA sample.

“Are bassinets available on the flight? When should I reserve one?”
I’m sorry, you are flying coach on a commercial airline? What do you think this is? The 60s? Nothing is available anymore. At this point, if you want a bassinet on a plane, you should probably look into buying your own plane. (Okay, okay, yes a minor number of international flights may offer them, but they have to put in you the bulkhead row and if the flight is super full, as they all seem to be these days, this is going to be tricky and you’ll probably have to pay more).

“Do you allow preboarding for families with small children? If so, will there be a preboarding announcement or do we have to ask at the gate?”
Look, there is pretty much ALWAYS an announcement. Even if there isn’t, can’t you just go up and hand over your boarding passes when they start boarding the plane regardless? It’s not like they’ll turn you away if you have a small kid. Do you really need to ask this ahead of time? Plus, I question the logic of having people with small kids board first. Unless you are desperate for precious overhead bin space that seems to run out somewhere in the 60%-of-plane-boarded range, you really don’t want to be the first people on the flight. You want to enjoy that gate lounge for as long as they’ll let you. Can you let everyone else board and then come get me? That should be what you ask the gate agent. As little time spent contemplating how much you miss having enough space to put down your tray table, the better.

“Can we bring our stroller on board?”
Have you seen the aisles of a commercial aircraft? See above bit about running out of overhead bin space. Even if they SAY you are allowed, you better believe they’re going to make you gate check that shit.

“Do you have diaper-changing facilities on the aircraft?”
Oh, you must mean the tray table!

“Do you offer children’s meals? What’s included? How far in advance should I order one?”
Are you serious? They don’t even offer adult meals anymore! Unless you are flying long-distance international, expect that all they will have is a snack or sandwich available for purchase at outrageous expense. Bring your own damn food, there’s your answer.

“Are diapers, formula, baby food, or other amenities available on board?”
Bwahahahahahahaha….. I really want to be there when someone asks a flight attendant before takeoff this question after having been informed by someone at Customer Service that “sure, we stock all kinds of baby supplies on our flights.” No. The answer is no. Unless duty-free carries diapers now…

“Can my spouse or loved one get security clearance to accompany me to the departure gate if I need assistance?”
Does your spouse have a ticket? Then no. Would you like to buy them the cheapest ticket possible for that airport on that day? Then, have them accused of being a terrorist because they are flying one way on the cheapest possible flight and you and their progeny are going off on another plane? That sounds like fun for the whole family. If you think you need assistance from the check-in desk to your gate, you are NEVER going to survive this whole air-travel thing. Stay home.

“Do you offer assistance with maneuvering through the terminal when making connecting flights? How can I arrange for that?”
Okay! Finally a good question! A useful question! Short answer: you can probably pay for it. Or wait around for a golf cart person to come collect you and some other disabled person from your flight. But at that point, your toddler will have run to the nearest moving beltway, so what’s the point?

I have half a mind to write my own list of Air Travel with Small Children Tips, not that I’m an expert by any stretch. I have done it quite a bit since my daughter was born, but only between 3 countries, and I never take strollers or plane-seat car seats or anything, so I can’t help you there. To be honest, much of this information about car seats on flights confuses me as I have NEVER seen anyone use one. Even the tiny babies are held, the older kids get their own seat once they hit two years old. Almost everyone is trying to avoid paying anything extra for kids under 2. When September rolls around and my daughter can no longer fly free, I may never go anywhere again.

So I guess I better get these Tips written out soon before I forget. In the mean time, this blog has a pretty amazing post on the subject:
“Tips for Flying Alone with Kids” at Aintnomomjeans.com

Breaking Sleep Update: June 2012 Edition

Record the time and date, people, because my daughter did the most amazing thing two nights ago at 9:42 pm.

I had nursed her to sleep as usual, slipped oh-so-carefully away from her in the bed we’re sharing, crept to the door, exited the room, and just before I had closed the door most of the way, she woke, sat up, and just sat there for about 30 seconds. Then, she flopped back down and went to sleep.

Just like that.

I was so excited. I don’t know if she knew I was just outside the door, but she could not see me. I have watched her fall asleep while I patted her back in her crib, but never seen her fall asleep on her own without me being there. It was like magic. I could get used to this. Is this how children who go to bed normally are? Am I so far out in the sleep battleground that I can’t even see what the surroundings looks like?

She did not repeat the feat tonight, so I’m free to write about it here. I have this odd superstition about exclaiming her sleeping accomplishments too much for fear that they will never be repeated. When she slept through the night for the first time since that fluke at 5 months sometime back in March, I don’t think my husband and I even said the words out loud. The conversation went something like this:
“When did she wake up last night?”
“I didn’t get her at any point before I went to bed.”
“Oh. So she…”
“Omg I think so..”
“Wow.”
“We should probably not even talk about it.”
“Right.”

And I didn’t even tell my friends for a couple months that it had even been happening once in awhile. Now, it’s not something I can count on at all, but I’m getting familiar with the concept. I’m getting used to the predictability of putting her to bed and GASP! not having to go do it a second time 40 minutes later.

We’ve come a long way since February when I was sure that all was lost and she was waking up 24 times a night. She’s still got a lot of sleep milestones ahead that most kids her age have passed long ago. She’s very much marching to the beat of her own durge-playing drummer on the sleeping (and talking) front.

But at least she’s marching in the right direction.

Blood, Sweat, Tears, Sand, and Water: Just Another Day at the Playground

On the way over to the playground today, my daughter, now 21.5 months old, tripped and face-planted on the sidewalk, skinning her knee, scraping her chin, and worst of all, scraping her finger badly. She cried and cried. It was a pretty nasty fall for a little one unaccustomed to scraping injuries. She’s really more of a bruise kid.

Not having any band-aids (note to self: you are entering the phase of your kid’s life where band-aids should be added to the bag, so get on that), I fashioned a pretty useful temporary bandage from the ripped off tab of a disposable diaper. I am like some kind of Supermom, no? I should at least get points for that.

I knew we were going to play in the sand so I wanted to keep the sand (and dirt) out of her cuts. At the playground by Julia’s house, there is also a water feature with a central spout and three troughs and sub-basins that is pretty popular with the children. I knew it was going to be hard to keep my daughter’s hand out of the water in these troughs, but I thought if I kept some clean water from the spout in her sand bucket she’d be less tempted to go over there to get her own.

Well, playgrounds, if you don’t know, especially those with sandboxes or water-things, are something close to what anarchy might look like. I could write a lot more about the delicate social pressures upholding the rules of property in the absence of any real authority, vis a vis sand-box toys, but I will save that treatise for a later time. I will just leave you with a vision of all my kid’s toys running off with other kids and her picking up random stray toys only to have to give those up to kids who were heading home. Then, there was slide-traffic-flow issues. I told Julia tonight that the playground security roles seem to default to the parent of the youngest child in any multi-child interaction. There will be an occasional, “hey, watch out for the little one” called from a parent on the sidelines to an impatient 6 year old waiting to go up a climbing thing, but for the most part, it’s up to you to protect your own kid from older kids. The sun had made the slides a little bit hot, so that added to the hesitation of many kids to go down them.

There was a huge puddle from the overflow of the water feature that the kids like to walk/run/frolic through. I was fine with my kid doing that but I really didn’t want her to sit down in it. At this point she had sand up to her knees, clinging to her legs, sand all over her hands, and I had to sort of hold her under the water spout to get some of it off.

A few of the older kids were standing IN the troughs of water making all the little kids want to do that too. There was a brief flurry of parental reproaching and kids went back to taking each other’s buckets.

We went to look for some ducks and headed home. All’s well that ends well.

Determination vs Cooperation

Now that I’m in the midst of two toddlers, at the height of their frustrations in their own inability to verbalize all that it is that they are feeling, I have been thinking a bit about the problem of determination versus cooperation.

One of the things that makes toddlers so hard to manage is that they are all about instant gratification. They don’t understand waiting. In some senses, this makes them extremely determined individuals (granted, with relatively short attention spans). However, so much of what we ASK of our little kids in terms of “good behavior” is really based on delayed gratification. You want to go the playground? Okay, but you have do get dressed now and THEN we can go. You want to play with that? Okay, but you have to wait until it’s your turn.

How do you encourage your kid to be persistant and determined when it counts but also understand cooperation and being patient? Sometimes determination is all about patience, but understanding that requires a lot of experience and feeling confident in the outcome. A toddler doesn’t really have either. They may understand OUR promises to give them what they desire, but they have no framework for holding us to it or knowing that waiting patiently will result in anything better than simply whining about it and maybe getting it sooner? What is sooner or later to a toddler?

The shaky ground we are on, Julia and I, is having kids who know what they want but can’t tell us what it is. They are old enough to have all these complex thoughts, but haven’t pick up on the tricks of the tongue that will let them unleash the contents of these thoughts on our bewildered selves, standing in front of the fridge trying to guess what they’re pointing at or following them around the house trying to make the whining stop or subvert a tantrum.

They say that “communication is key,” and I’m hoping, in this case, it is. The pointing is only going to get us so far. But even when the words start flowing, there are going to be plenty more instances where verbal exchanges won’t be enough to negotiate cooperation. Demonstrating consistently the rewards of cooperation is helpful, but at the same time, kids still learn that it’s sometimes more beneficial to stubbornly demand and be appeased. Is this wrong? Do we stop fostering determination when we require cooperation all the time?

I read about a study at the University of Virginia (Child Development, Dec 2011) where they found that teens who “talked back” to their parents were 40% more likely to resist peer pressure on such issues as drugs and alcohol. This is obviously a study of teenagers, a different species altogether, but Joseph Allen, the psychologist leading the study told NPR during an interview: “We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance, but as a critical training ground.”

I like that idea, so that’s what I’m trying to think of these toddler confrontations. Hopefully, I can stay sane long enough each day to show my kid the benefits of sticking with it and when the greater mutual benefits of playing along nicely exceed them and how to know the difference.

Reunion!

After 2 loooong years apart, a baby and a major move each, Julia and I have finally been reunited!

My daughter and I landed in California on Wednesday afternoon (after an oh-so-delightful 5 hour flight that made me want to weep for the sad state of airline seat/leg room) and my daughter and Julia’s son met for the first time. They are pretty cute together. Even though Julia’s son is pretty shy, he’s been doing well with us around.

I think I can speak for both of us when I say that Julia and I are ecstatic to be back together; it has been way too long. She is a busy working mom so, she still has to go to work every weekday, but we are maximizing our evenings and weekends. I don’t think she’s joking when she asks me to move in and be her stay-at-home mom, but I am pretty sure she would find out how annoying I really am after a few weeks.

Today, we took the kids to ride a miniature steam-locomotive train (a “parovoz” in Russian, I have learned, I always learn new Russian words with Julia) and my daughter got to ride on her first Carousel. We went to the pool, the playground, ate dinner outside… it has been a lovely start to the visit.

I hope to keep up with posting while I’m here, but I might be off being fabulous. Hooray for bi-coastal friends.