Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holidays are tough. I really want to provide festive, memorable traditions for my daughter. But it is also really important to me that holidays and traditions make sense, and that they are consistent with our values and beliefs.

So there is Thanksgiving. A commemoration of a shared harvest feast between the indigenous people of the Americas, and the first wave of European immigrants. A few generations before the British European immigrants attempted genocide against the indigenous populations, and the Spanish looted the great indigenous cities, destroyed their temples and homes, seized their lands, and ultimately enslaved the local populations, creating a semi-feudal system that continues today in my daughter’s country of birth.


I remember the Thanksgivings of my childhood. Loud, chaotic sit down dinners for forty plus people at my Aunt Joannie’s parents’ home. And then hot dinners packed up and shuttled around town, delivered to dark rooms where the homebound sick and elderly sat in unbearable silence, and received their meals with gratitude. I remember trembling ancient hands touching my face and asking who I was, as some adult unpacked the multi course meals.

Those were good holidays.

Liana and I did the Macy’s Parade this year. Perhaps that will be our tradition. And perhaps when she gets older, we will do something to help others.

We did the Halloween parade. Not the big, rowdy Village parade. The second largest parade in the City is the Jackson Heights children’s parade, which passes just two blocks from home. We marched in the crowds, and when we got to the end, Liana received her goodie back from Christine Quinn, the speaker of the NY City Council. I wanted to take a moment to thank Quinn for her actions exposing dirty City Council actions with public money and not-for-profits that get public money and don’t provide services, even though she became the center of the scandal, for having exposed it. But my miserable City Council Rep was standing right next to her, and I knew if I started talking to the Speaker, I would go off on Helen Sears for sending money that was targeted for our community out of district. And this night was supposed to be all about Liana, not about politics. So I said “thank you” and Liana said “thank you” and Quinn’s handlers had her lean down and pretend to give Liana the bag again so they could take pictures. The we went trick or treat in all of the local stores. Then I raided Liana’s little bag, carefully taking out the little hard candies she could choke on, and I let her eat more junk in one evening than she had ever eaten in her life.


I tried to explain that Halloween was the halfway point between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, and Liana nodded her head knowingly in that way she always does when I am rambling about things that make no sense. She is very interested in the changing of the seasons, and perhaps next year she will understand some of my ramblings.

And I have a full year to work on better preparing for those holidays.

Onward to Christmas.

I actually think I have that one pretty well worked out. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving.

Well we braved the cold and the terror threats and headed off to the parade. Liana was very excited about the idea of seeing the “big big big balloons” but she got a little scared when we pushed our way into the roaring crowd and watched the first set of balloons go by. So she insisted on being held for the entire parade. Ask me if every inch of my body hurts. Once she got into the spirit of the event, and decided that the screaming crowds were having fun, not expressing fear or anger, she had a blast. We had a very loud multigenerational Puerto Rican family squished right next to us, and there were a bunch of big girls who were squealing and carrying on, and Liana was almost as enchanted by them as she was by Kermit, the Big Dog and all of the music. Shrek was kinda scary. Missed Dora. But a great time was had.

Did I get any pictures, you ask? No. As I explained, Liana was bouncing in my arms the entire time. For those out of town blog readers, here is a link to the event that you missed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Privacy is one of those things that you can take for granted. Until it ceases to exist.

I remember privacy.

For example, Liana always followed me into the bathroom. But now that we are seriously working on potty training, her increasing interest in all bathroom-related activities has increased exponentially. And my privacy, and dignity, have decreased exponentially.

Here is the scene. I creep into the bathroom, hoping that she will not notice. But there she is. Right behind me. She watches me sit on the toilet, and perhaps places one hand on my knee, looking deeply into my eyes. As she hears the splash of urine in the toilet, she nods her head encouragingly, and proclaims “Good job, Mommy!”

One of the greatest joys of motherhood so far has been the process of watching Liana develop her verbal skills. Although she continues to follow complex instructions in Spanish, she is speaking almost exclusively English at this point. Well. Liana-esque English, that is.

She has created this unique syntax, which is so delightful that I find myself speaking Lianaese, rather than modeling appropriate American syntax. I know better. But I can’t help myself.

Liana uses the word “the” a lot. And she inserts it into odd places. Often, it precedes a possessive pronoun, or replaces the apostrophe “s” to demonstrate possession.

No touch the my cookie!
We go to the mommy office now?
I put my head the Liana pillow.

Sometimes it replaces the subject in a sentence.

The finish my juice, mommy.
The need more juice mommy.
The ready to go now mommy.
The no want to put on my shoes.

Another related variation is when “the” seems to precede a proclamation of sorts. The sorts of things that I say to her repeatedly, and she chants like proverbs.

The floor wet, mommy. The be careful. The no fall down.
The put my shoes in my room, mommy.
The no pull the Sage tail. (wagging the index finger for emphasis)
The NEVER draw the crayons on the TV. (also wagging the finger for emphasis… though we have had a few repeat incidents after the initial proclamation.)

Other times, the definite pronoun is used when we would normally use the indefinite pronouns.

I build you the big house mommy! (with her blocks J )

I promise to write down some more Lianese soon, before it disappears and normalizes and becomes standard English. And before I forget this brief moment in time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Well after 6 years as my Assistant Director/Night Manager, Rachid has left me.

I've loved working with Rachid. He brought this great combination of skills to the job. Smart, creative, forward thinking, he was also really into creating protocols and sequences and offering more structure to compliment my much more free-form style. Of course, he brought exceptional technical skills. And he made me laugh a lot. And recently, both of us got to share the joys of becoming parents.

Rachid is GREAT with kids. Liana LOVES Rachid, and he loves her too. Liana is going to be very dissapointed this evening when I have to take her to the office and she discovers that Rachid is not there. Even though she did get her Rachid fix on Saturday.

Rachid and Kate and their baby daughter Layla took me and Liana to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday. Liana loves art, and she had a very good time, even though we stayed too long for the kids. Layla was, of course, a little too little to appreciate anything other than the occasional mirror, and of course the sights and sounds and chaos seemed to agree with her. So long as the stroller stayed in motion.

Liana loved the sphynx especially. But perhaps the highlight of the trip was when she approached a large statue of a naked woman and put her hands on the statue's feet. As security guards started moving forward to protect the statue, Liana loudly exclaimed "Mommy! She has no shoes!" Laughter ensued, from friends and strangers alike, and even the security guards smiled. I lifted her up to show her the entire statue, starting with the eyes and nose and mouth, but at that point Rachid was moving on, keeping Layla's stroller in constant motion, and Liana's attention was drawn away to the statue, and back to the job of keeping track of Rachid.
On the ride home, Kate and I talked about art and religion and politics and morality and traditions and customs and child-rearing. I really value her insight and perspective on so many levels, and whenever we talk, I find myself re-visiting her words and finding fresh wisdom. Rachid and Kate and Layla... I hope that our families continue to be friends over the years as our daughters grow up in this exciting little corner of planet earth....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ever looked at a sleeping baby and wondered what she was dreaming about?

I’ve wondered since I first held Liana in my arms.

But this little girl, who is so full of joy and belly laughs and curiosity and genuine verve during her waking hours, is haunted by nightmares every night. And night terrors. She wakes up screaming at least once per night. Sometimes twice. Or three times. Or more.

It is a battle to get her to sleep. And given that it seems terrible things happen to her in her sleep, I do not wonder why.

As her vocabulary has grown, she is suddenly starting to tell me about the content of her dreams. So far this week, I held her in my arms at midnight while she buried her little face in my shoulder and screamed “NOOOOOO!!!! Sage is coming. COMING. COMING. NOOOOOO!!!” The cat? Chasing her? She is the one who chases him. But I guess he gets his revenge in her dreams. Poor Liana. Poor Sage. Honestly, I guess I understand why he inhabits her nightmares. An aging indoor cat, with a simple life before her arrival in the household, he is the first living being who has ever been really mean to her. As she was learning to walk, she would barrel over to him and try and hug him. Or press her finger against his little nose. And he would hiss and swat with his declawed paw and run away. And she would weep. But that was at first. They are friendly now. She likes to pet him, and he tolerates it. Mostly.

The second nightmare of the week that she has been able to tell me about involved a toy robot who was trying to steal her orange. We don’t have a toy robot. We saw the movie Wall E, about a robot. And we have a book about a robot with a pet hedgehog. No oranges involved in either story. And no one tries to steal stuff from her. Well, maybe at daycare. But she worships the big kids, and they are very kind to her. Oddly, though, she is very possessive of her stuff…. often clutching a toy or treat, and exclaiming “NO! MINE!!” if someone comments or comes close.


At some point I’ll write more about sleep. Or lack thereof.

Liana is great in restaurants. And we eat out at least a few times a week. Once or twice we do a breakfast with eggs and potatoes in a diner. And at least once or twice we do a nice restaurant.

I pack up Liana’s backpack, each time with a few of the same items that are always there, and always a few surprises. So Liana has things to pull out of the bag and entertain herself. We bring crayons and paper too. Or, if it is a fancy restaurant in which we really don’t want to leave crayon marks on the tablecloth, we bring those magic markers and special paper….the ones in which the markers don’t write on anything but the paper.

Last week we took we took Antonia out to Uncle Peter’s to celebrate her 80th birthday. Her actual birthday was on Monday, and friends and family have been celebrating with her all week. Liana and I were the last to share in the festivities.

Let me tell you a little bit about my wonderful neighbor Antonia. She lives right across the hall. Every night, when Liana gets into her jammies, we ring Antonia’s doorbell and the two of them have a little paseo down the hallway to the elevator and back. When they pass the stairwell, Antonia lets go of Liana’s hand, and Liana comes running to me, jumps into my arms, and gives me a big hug. And then Antonia gives her tres besos. It is one of our evening rituals.

And the weekend before last Carol and Liana and I went out to brunch to celebrate the Obama victory. Liana put her cloth napkin on her lap, and requested fresh cheese on her pasta. She really is terrific. But when she is done, she is done. And ready to go.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Liana’s a very empathetic little girl. She gets very upset when she hears a baby crying, and wants to be assured that everything is alright. She cares deeply about the characters in her stories, and frequently asks “Is OK mommy? Is OK?” when someone is facing challenges or problems. Her daycare provider comments on the empathy she shows for the other kids, and describes it as “una caractoristica muy noble.” I couldn’t agree more. I love the fact that she cares so much about others.

But sometimes I worry that she worries too much. In one of her Dr. Seuss books, there is the guy whose feet stick out of the end of his bed. Ned, I think. She would get so upset when we got to that page, exclaiming that he was stuck, asking if he was OK, and turning back to the page as we progressed in the story, that I’ve stopped reading that particular book. She’s a lousy sleeper, and the last thing I want her to be concerned about is problems in bed.

Last night we were reading Hop on Pop. When we got to the “Wet, Get. Two dogs get wet. Help. Yelp. They yelp for help” part, she put her hand on the page to prevent me from turning it, and said, “Mommy, I put on my backpack and boots and save the dogs?”

Thank you Dora for the backpack. Thank you Diego for saving all of those animals. Instead of being trapped in concern, Liana has used role models from other stories, and decided to solve the dogs’ dilemma herself.

Have I told you recently how much I love this little girl?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

At least once a week since August, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my cable company. You know. The guys who provide me with TV and internet and phone service. They set up appointments. They either come to their scheduled appointments, or I spend 40 minutes on the phone with staff who claim that I canceled the appointment or I wasn’t here or that the appointment was at a different time. Sometimes the appointments are during work time. Other appointments are on weekend days, and I sit around the house rather than grocery shopping or taking Liana to the zoo or the museum. Other times, I get to have very long phone conversations, sometimes with human beings, and other times with recorded messages telling me to crawl around on my floor and unplug things and frequently saying things like “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you. Can you just tell me if you see the four green lights?”

The months of August, September and October were spent with Time Warner Cable. Five cable boxes later, after a long bout with no internet or telephone, after having missed two of the three presidential debates, I had a tantrum and switched to RCN Cable. They, of course, promised me the world. Three hour time slots for appointments. Evening schedules. And even after the promotional specials expire, the service will still be cheaper than Time Warner.

The initial installation was uneventful for the TV and internet. And the internet has been going down less frequently, so I’m delighted. I seem to have more channels with stuff that Liana likes, which is great. But sadly, we do not have Noggin on Demand, which means that we cannot watch Miss Spider or Little Bear at any hour of the day or night.

The phone was another story. They couldn’t get the phone connected during the initial installation because they needed to get into some room in the basement and it was late in the evening and the basement room was locked. The guy asked me when I wanted him to come back, and gave me a bunch of options. I picked Sunday from 8-11 AM. When I called RCN last Sunday at about 10:45, the woman on the other end of the phone assured me that it was not a three hour time slot, but in fact an ALL DAY appointment. I told her that was not acceptable, and that I had a brunch date. No one called. No one came back. Later in the week I called them up, and said that I’d been spending entirely too much time dealing with cable companies, and that under no circumstances was I going to EVER be available for an ALL DAY appointment, and that they could just cancel my phone service, which had yet to be turned on.

A nice woman fussed and coo’ed and promised that someone would be here this Sunday. Today.

And the guy came. At 8:30! Which was great. However, he ran around looking for my phone jack, which I don’t have because I’ve never had a landline here except for the Time Warner connection. So he said he couldn’t do it. But that someone else could come later today. In an hour.

We’ll see.
I suppose I could entertain myself straightening up the apartment a bit, huh?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Well we went to see Madagascar 2 today. I LOVED it. So did Liana. This was her second movie in a movie theater. Or her fourth… depending on how you count. We saw Wall E in a theater when it first came out. I streamed the trailer first, and she liked the characters. So I told her that we were going to a theater, with big chairs, and that there would be a big screen, like a TV or a computer, but sooo big. So big. And that we would sit in our chairs and the lights would go out, but it would be ok because we would be right next to each other…blah blah blah.

She was very excited. As we were getting ready to go, and I was packing up, I saw her pulling a folding chair out of her bedroom.

“Liana? What are you doing? It’s time to go to the movie theater!”

She pointed proudly to the chair, and said “chair mommy!”

Yeah, I told her all about the chairs, but forgot to tell her that the theater would be providing the chairs, and that she would not need to bring her own.

She LOVED Wall E. She loved it so much, that she asked to go back the following weekend. And the one after that. We saw it 3 times. So today was her second movie, but her fourth trip to a theater.

I swore that I was not going to let her watch TV or videos until she was three. Ummmm… it was about our third day together when she was 13 months old that I broke down. But I’m very careful about what she watches. Dora and Diego of course. Elmo. Miss Spider. We are on a Little Einsteins kick right now. And some movies too. We both really enjoy Happy Feet. I got the new Tinkerbell movie. And of course, some of the marvelous Disney movies that I have such marvelous memories of sharing with my dad when I was a kid. She has her own little DVD player, and last week I broke down, and got one for the TV too.
Honestly... I'm really enjoying watching the kids stuff with her. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I’ve noticed that when Liana and I are out together in public, I, ummmm, chatter. A lot. I mean, when we are in places like supermarkets and doctors office waiting rooms or even when I am just pushing the stroller down the street, I seem to always be talking. Which seems normal to me I guess.

Look at the box of orzo! Orzo is pasta. Yummm. I like to eat orzo with cheese and butter. Do you like to eat orzo?

Look at the birds! Those birds are pigeons. What are the pigeons doing? They are eating. How nice. Look! Now they are flying! The pigeons are flying! How beautiful. I love to watch birds fly. Do you like to watch birds fly?

Look at that picture. What is the woman doing? She is smiling. See! There is her mouth. Where is your mouth? Right! Where is mommy’s mouth? Right! See… these are her lips, and those are her teeth. Show me your lips. And your teeth. I can’t see her tongue. Can you show me your tongue?

And on and on.

This seems normal to me. I mean… there is so much to see and so much to talk about!

Oddly, however, even when I am surrounded by other parents with their kids in these public places, I seem to be the only one talking. In the waiting room, my voice is echoing over the silence, or the shuffling of insurance papers. In the supermarket, my voice is competing with the background music and the announcements that Jose needs to come to the front. Even on the street, the only people talking are the ones talking on cell phones.

So I guess I am the odd one, huh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Independence is a good thing. Self-sufficiency is a good thing. I really really really believe that. And as Liana gets older, she pushes for that independence and self-sufficiency... whether mom is ready for it or not. These days, Liana dresses herself. Not very efficiently or effectively. But she INSISTS on doing it herself. If I attempt to help, she becomes frustrated, and proclaims "NO!!!! My turn mommy!!!"
I know that I should be proud of her developing skills... even if they add a considerable amount of time to our morning and evening routines. So in the spirit of taking pride in my beautiful daughter's achievements, I'm sharing some photos of the "putting on our socks" ceremony.

Liana continues to try to establish her place in the household pecking order. She would really really really like to be the one in charge, but since I seem to veto that option on a daily basis, well, at least she can boss the cat around. And her developing verbal skills seem to provide the appropriate tools to do just that.

A couple of weeks ago, the cat jumped on the kitchen table. Which of course, he is not supposed to do. But he is a cat. Liana, however, is very aware of the rules, and did not hesitate to enforce them. She jumped up, ran over to the table, and exclaimed

"NO SAGE! Get down the table!!!! No drink the mommy coffee!!!!"

But it is not all about ruling the roost. She is actually a really loving, caring, empathetic human being. The same week as the cat-on-the-table incident, she was rumaging around the linen closet to entertain herself. Guess that is because she doesn't have enough toys, huh? But in any case, she takes a towel out of the closet, walks over to me, and starts rubbing my face with the towel.

"Make you feel better mommy. Make you feel better."

Now how sweet is that?

I do have to tell you about Liana's first haircut. I kept putting it off and putting it off and trying to pull her hair up in a silly ponytail on top of her head. I had fantasies of long, flowing beautiful hair. But it got to the point at which her hair was really falling in her face, and she looked neglected. So I just did it.

We went to one of those silly uptown places that specialize in kid's haircuts, and I made a "first haircut" appointment.

When we walked in, we were instructed to pick out a video. We went for Dora. Liana was then seated in a chair that was really a racing car with a wheel to turn and buttons to press. A young woman blew bubbles at Liana, and another woman just started cutting as she squiggled around.

Liana enjoyed the whole process. Sadly, it seems that this is what she is now going to expect for future haircuts, so we are now stuck with this place. And aferwards, she got a lollypop... not something mommy allows very often. Or at all, actually. This was a first.
Glad I did it though. The cut is really cute.

Ok. So I've got lots of catching up to do since I last blogged. I am not going to attempt to recreate the last nine months of Liana's life, but I'm going to have a few posts sharing some highlights. She is walking and running and climbing and dancing. She is talking and talking and talking, and every day new words come out of her that amaze me, and I am really in awe of her ongoing observations about the world around her.

Last night, for example, we were out running errands after work/daycare. The moon was full, and she was so excited, pointing and exclaiming "There it is!!! The moon! There it is!!!!" At a certain point she reached her arms up high, and tried to stand up in her stroller. She then sat down, defeated.

"No can reach mommy. Too high."

"Oh yes Liana. The moon is very very very high, and you can't reach it. But maybe some day, when you are a grown up, you can take a rocket ship to the moon. Maybe you'll be a scientist. Or maybe there will be hotels on the moon that you can visit. Maybe, some day, you will be able to reach the moon."

"Ok mommy."

Welcome to the new and improved blog! Here, you will hear stories about the lives of one mommy, one amazing little girl, and one cat, as we wander the streets of the nation's second most diverse zip code. And beyond! Learn about our exciting adventures in potty training! Follow along, and find out if Liana ever learns to love veggies other than broccoli! Accompany us to parades and museums! Watch us go stir crazy as winter closes in on us! See Liana grow up in a world in which Obama is the only president she has ever known!