20 July 2007

Let Me Know

Inspired by the book Guess How Much I Love You and this post, I gave it a whirl this evening...

After reading a bedtime story.
Me: Do you know how much I love you?
Stella: Two pounds.
Me: Two? I love you 10 pounds! ...How much do you love me?
Stella: Thirty pounds.

As I am leaving the room
Stella: One more song, please.
Me: OK, I’ll sing you the last few lines then I’m leaving, OK?
Sing end of made-up Thomas the Train song.
Me: Good night.
Stella: Thank you , Mama.
Me: You’re welcome, Sweetie.
Stella: Let me know, Mama!
I’m still walking away…
Stella: Let me know, Mama!
Me: Let you know what?
Stella: Thirty pounds!
Me: You love me thirty pounds?
Stella: Yeah.

19 July 2007

She Said, He Said

Stella said, “I love you.” She said it to me for the first time before bed last night. She said it again tonight. We’ve never taught her to say it like we have with please and thank you. A few times I asked her who she loves and she ran a list of her friends and relatives: “Baraka, Althea, Dani, Pop Pop, Grandmom, VoVo, Paka [our dead cat], Marmalade [our other dead cat].” Mama and Papai didn’t make the list, and I didn’t press for it (heartbroken and confused as I was). She has said, “I love apples.” And, “I love rain.” But this declaration of love in the moments before singing and sleep was from a totally different planet. It was a little shy, like hearing it from a nervous boyfriend for the very first time.

My first reaction was complete joy. But as with each milestone, those grownup words let me see my baby slipping away. Today I got my latte and browsed the bookstore with Otto strapped to my back and Stella home with the in-laws. It was the first time I put him in the Ergo carrier, and as I skipped hands-free out our door, I remembered those easy days with Stella. Those pre-verbal days with only me to decide which store to enter or how long to linger there. Those days before tantrums and elbows that always seem to land in a soft spot. And even as I felt grateful for Otto’s present infancy, I saw the future in fast forward. Pre-verbal is already slipping because now he’s saying- wonderfully, sweetly, sadly…. “Mama.”

14 July 2007


Highway 24 ("The 24" as CA highways are called) passes directly adjacent to the heliport of Children's Hospital. On my way home from work this week, the big red helicopter circled overhead then rocked its way down. What horror had befallen the child inside, the one that was airlifted in for emergency care? I saw the family of that child- hands cupped over mouths, nails bitten. I thought of my own mother, as I always do when I am passed by an ambulance, siren blaring. Even years after I had my own ambulance trip (age 12) Mom said she had palpitations every time she saw an ambulance in motion. She said she cut open the palm of her hand trying to unlock her car when she got the news (your daughter almost drowned, she is still unconscious).

The pulse of the landing shook my car. And then I remembered that I am the parent now, the one who chewed my lip bare at Stella’s first emergency trip (cashew allergy), my cuticles on the second (asthma). By the third visit (inhaled carrots), I was whittled smooth. After Stella was diagnosed with nut and egg allergies, every experience was suspect. Did a kid just eat a PB&J sandwich and then put his hands all over that swing? What was in that wrapper she just found? It's very sweet of your child to offer her cheerios, but our daughter can't have any.

I haven't become careless, the image of her blue lips, her vomit, her puffy red body (all but the soles of her feet)- from just the tip of one cashew- won't let me.

I read every label and ask at every new restaurant, every new meal, every friend's house. Any nuts, nut oils, or eggs? But I have relaxed with some foods that are processed in nut facilities. Foods that aren't loose like granola. Playgrounds are fun again, and I don't feel freakish saying no to a snack. We bring enough of our own to share. Stella knows her EpiPen is very important (especially after she took it from her day care bag, removed the safety cap, and then got a 2 minute time out). She knows the word allergic and stops begging for a bite when we tell her it will make her sick. That's the other way we've relaxed; we eat contraband foods in front of her- sometimes. But that's where it hurts again. The label. Allergic.

Stella: That's ok, mama? I'm not allergic?
Me: Yes, Sweetie, you can eat it.


Stella: My face is not itching. I can eat that one. I'm not allergic!

I love food. Discovering new textures, combinations. I take foolish pride in Stella's decent eating habits (yes, broccoli or apple skins or mixed vegetable pizza). As long as it isn't meat, Augusto will eat what's put in front of him without complaint or suggestion. But he lacks passion (except for ice cream and chocolate). I can turn heads moaning over a burrito or pureed parsnips. I want kids who share my gusto. But how can we dive into an exciting culinary future when every box is turned on its end, every enthusiastic offering of something homemade initially rejected? Like birthday cake.

We started feeding Otto rice cereal a week ago. He had pears yesterday. I can’t help but wonder if he has allergies. My gut tells me no. He doesn’t have any of the rashes that Stella had from 9 weeks until 15 months. As a precaution, he won’t get any nuts or shellfish until he is able to articulate a funny feeling or an itchy lip (probably at least 2½). We haven’t decided about eggs.

As a parent, the burden of caution is everywhere. Streets. Stoves. Ledges. Creepy people. Objects smaller than a toilet paper roll. So we add some common foods to the list. It’s better than worse alternatives.

07 July 2007

I want to be Judy Blume and Martha Stewart and Annie Sprinkle but I don't want my parents to know.

Last Night

Not long ago we gave a few friends a standing invitation for dinner at our house every first Friday of the month. Some friends were established, some somewhat new. We wanted to create a space for conversation, kid romping, and low-intensity hosting. Mostly, we wanted to grow familiarity with these people so that it felt natural for any one parent to toss all the kids in the bath, for another to open every cabinet in search of a wine glass or sippy cup. We wanted to cultivate community. The beauty of First Friday Friends is that we don’t need to think. We check the calendar, see what’s in the peak of season, and expect people at our door. We always serve a vegetarian soup, bread and drinks. Our friends are never obligated to bring anything, but usually someone brings some good wine, a salad, some dip. It’s been four months so far- I mark the time by the soups: chard-sorrel, asparagus, carrot, zucchini.

The last stragglers just left after a longer than expected round of Chinese Checkers (I can’t really call them guests anymore- that’s too formal a term). Our daughters hung in well beyond bedtime while our babies slept. I don’t have the usual post-host exhaustion. We had more than a dozen adults plus a handful of kids eating, talking, running in every room, and I feel filled, not drained. The plan that went out as an email after much thought and anxiety (what will they think? some don’t know each other… do they want to be friends as much as we want to?) is already exceeding my hopes.

This Morning

Last night I dreamed I was reading some old blog entries and one said, “I had sex with my grandmother last night.” I freaked out because I didn’t remember such an offense, and because I just mailed my blog address to about fifteen friends and family. Perhaps I can quick delete this entry, I thought. But, no, I told them two days ago. They might have already read it! Then Otto woke to nurse and my nightmare was over.

After two years of blogging, of sending my life into space with no one reading, I invited my peeps to see it. Just like with the Friday dinners, I wanted to deepen my community, my connections with friends. Since strangers are now reading my blog, it felt odd that my original intimates didn’t know about it. And now this girl who would call all her parent’s dinner guests to the basement to watch her choreographed solo roller skating show is suddenly afraid.

The anxiety started after I wrote about our first Friday routine. Some people who received the blog notice don’t know about first Fridays. Will they feel left out? And maybe long ago I wrote something unflattering or private about someone else and forgot. Now they know. I am unexpectedly self-conscious now, finally understanding why some bloggers use pseudonyms. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and as I am discovering, I don’t want parts of me to be seen. It is exhibitionist to keep a blog about my life. I know that. There is a certain pleasure in sharing it, in thinking that people might find interest in the stuff of our dinners and sleepless nights and vacations. There is an excitement in wondering who has come by, who is peeking in on nursing, potty training, returning to work. It’s like chatting at a cafĂ© with a friend but the friend doesn’t talk back at all, and I get to take up all the time with Me (unless they go, “um hmm,” and leave a comment, which I would really, really like, by the way). The truth is that a big, old part of me wants to be smack dab in the center of it all. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I always hated that expression. But in a blog where your names are real and you alert your family in a fit of hysteria, you can’t tell all anymore. I don’t feel comfortable telling it all, anyway. I can still roller skate for the party guests, but I need to keep my clothes on.

02 July 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Now I am going to write about nose picking. I am WhyMommy obsessed (and sweet/ salty Kate obsessed too), and I’ve had a hard time writing about my daily life. But I know they’re having a regular life in the throws of it all. I think everybody’s 2-year-old picks her nose. Actually, I think everybody picks their nose. And that’s the problem. How do we teach our kids not to do what we adults do?

I don’t buy “do what I say, not what I do.” I think we should be changing our behavior- or at least thinking about the reasons behind behavior and asking for reasonable accommodation. This goes for swearing, eating in the living room, snacking on chocolate before dinner, and leaving the house before going to the bathroom. On nose picking, our house rule is: No picking in public, but at home or in the car is ok. I wanted to be realistic, that’s why we added the car as an acceptable place. You might not know I pick my nose in the car. I avoid it at stoplights when there are other cars present. When I see you coming in my rearview mirror, I quick pull my finger from my nose. And if I have a passenger other than family, I don’t pick. Ever. The nose picking rule works, because I can keep picking where I find it acceptable.

Even weirder than thinking so much about nose picking rules, is thinking about reasons behind nose picking. It seems Stella always has her finger up her nose. When I started paying attention, I realized with horror that I do to. Nightime nursing: pick. On the phone: pick. Watching TV: pick, pick. It’s disgusting and oh, so satisfying at the same time. And it’s addictive (and sadly a diagnosable obsession). I don’t have a cold, yet the slightest sensation of something extra in my nostril sends me running for a private place where I can go get it. So who sees her mother picking her nose all the time? Now I get it.

Oh, and another house rule is: Wash your hands often.