Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is so huge for me, I can’t even believe that it is real.

So here is the story.

I’m pretty sure that my earliest childhood memory is of being with my mom and dad in a place with big dinosaurs. No, they weren’t bones. They were big, huge, “real” dinosaurs. It was outdoors. It was sunny. There was dirt, or dust or some such thing on the ground. And the dinosaurs were SO BIG!

I asked my parents about the memory several times during adulthood, and both suggested museums. Or fantasy. But I knew that wasn’t right.

When my dad died, and my mom and I were packing up the home that they had shared together, somehow we came across IT. THE PICTURE. The picture of me, in my father’s arms, and the dinosaur in the background. In the picture, I was about 3 years old. My mom looked at the picture, puzzled. She did not remember it. We traveled a lot. It was clearly somewhere we had been. Somewhere that made a huge impression on me. She suggested some Midwestern stop. The world’s largest pencil, the world’s largest cornstack. A few dinosaur statues on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Certainly it was not a destination. Just somewhere we must have been on way to somewhere else. We later found yet another dinosaur picture. This time of my mom holding me in front of a stegosaurus. But it was the huge tyrannosaurs, and a brontosaurus that does not appear in the photos, that are permanently imprinted in my memory.

I’ve thought a lot about this memory over the years. About traveling. About how much I enjoyed the adventures I had with my parents. I’ve thought about it even more in the past year or so. I am now the mother of a three year old. She is a good traveler, who has already started to build up a set of experiences that will be the base for future travels. I’ve wondered if she will remember anything of these recent trips, of if they will all fade into nothingness.

So on the winter solstice I was pulling out old pictures. I pulled THE picture out again. There I was. A little girl my daughter’s age, being held in my dad’s arms, a huge tyrannosaurus rex right behind us. I dug deep into my mind. I am certain that this is my very oldest memory. I mourned the fact that I would never know where we were, my parents and the dinosaurs and I. But I celebrated the fact that I had the photo to confirm my memory. And I ran images of recent trips over and over again in my mind, trying to divine which images Liana might carry into adulthood.

A few days later, ironically on Christmas Eve, we went to the Hall of Science with some friends. Afterwards, we stopped in the shop where I hoped to buy one last minute present.

And then I saw it.

It was THE picture. No, I was not in it. But it was the same picture. From almost exactly the same angle. On the cover of a book on the 1964-65 World’s Fair.

In Flushing Meadow Park.

Hundreds of miles from my toddlerhood home, but only about 2 miles from my current home. My daughter’s toddlerhood home. Jackson Heights.

Flushing Meadow Park! Where Liana and I spend sunny weekend days riding the carousel and walking through the Queens Zoo and eating ice cream outside by the big fountain. Where Liana and I spend rainy/cold weekend days, running wild in the Hall of Science. Where Liana and I certainly spend 2-3 days a month.

My earliest toddlerhood memory, as if it were a surreal premonition, is of a special place where Liana and I have spent much of her toddlerhood together.

And as Liana grows up, she and I will walk together, literally and metaphorically, in the footprints of long-gone dinosaurs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What a ridiculous summer to fall to winter it has been! I was sick in August/September. Then by October Liana had the flu. Then I got pink eye. And a sinus infection. And an ear infection. Then Liana got an ear infection. Then my sinus infection came back. Then we had a late night emergency room visit. And now it is December. I missed enormous amounts of work, and I feel like I’m treading water with my personal life. But somehow, in between all of the insanity, we’ve managed to fit in some of the stuff that pre-schoolers are supposed to do!

Liana’s fever broke just in time for the Halloween parade. We made a trip to the Brooklyn Zoo and a trip to the Farm Museum. And the Queens Zoo, of course. And a couple of trips to the Hall of Science. And Travis Park. But most importantly, we made it to Virginia and then Nags Head so that Liana could be pampered and spoiled and just loved up by cousins and a doting aunt.

So here is a pictorial retrospective of Liana’s autumn holidays and weekends. In between fevers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Liana Turns Three!

Liana’s big birthday weekend continues. Yesterday she got to wear a birthday hat at school all day, and I brought all sorts of stuff to class and they had a little party there. No cake, so I brought watermelon. But there were noisemakers and pretty plates and birthday napkins and birthday cups with twisty straws and they sang Happy Birthday and she blew out a candle.

Then Gwennie came home after school and we had cake and more Happy Birthday and the kids played and had fun. Then lots of presents.

Today we did my big birthday present. We went to see the Lion King on Broadway. We’ve been watching videos of it on youtube, and she was excited. I loved it. For her, it was a bit too grown up. The opening scene was so amazing, with all of the animals appearing from every corner of the theater, the big Circle of Life number, and so much emotion, that she spent a big part of the first act asking when the animals were coming back. She cried when Simba’s father died. Given that she didn’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to the plot, I was surprised by her reaction. And then she was very worried about Simba, and wanted to know where he was. When he grew up, she refused to believe that adult actor was Simba, and she spent most of the second act arguing with me as I insisted that it really was Simba. Then I made a big deal when his father appeared to him, and told her that the people you love are always with you, and that was lost on her completely. As we were approaching the finale, which I knew she would enjoy, she kept insisting she had to use the bathroom. I held her off, we enjoyed the finale, and then were approached by some VIP in the theater. He was holding my camera, which apparently I had left by where we bought snacks during intermission. He had looked at the photos, and instructed staff to look for a little girl with black hair and a pink shirt! Now how great is that?
We then had a loud dinner at Planet Hollywood. I saw my first Jonas Brothers video, and Liana saw her first Michael Jackson video. Kind of suspect the Jonas Brothers won’t stand the test of time. But I could be wrong. Then we hung out in Times Square. Went to Toys R Us again. Nearly got arrested there last week because I buzzed on the way out and the cashier had not given me the receipt, and I got to meet the head of security who escorted us back to the cashier, who fortunately had the receipt right there by the register. Then back to Times Square. Liana loves sitting outside at the new little tables. Thanks Mayor Bloomberg. Then we kept all the dozing people awake on the 7 train home, as Liana kneeled on the seat and looked out the window and squealed with delight at the sights.
Much to my suprise, when we got home, Liana asked if we could go see the Lion King again. I said yes, and she was pleased. I think next year it will be a more meaningful experience. And I know I would enjoy seeing it again! But sometims I think she is wise beyond her years. She knows that it will mean more to her a little later on. Or maybe it is just that toddler/preschooler thing. Read it AGAIN!

Tomorrow Saya is coming over for yet more cake and one more round of Happy Birthday.

And so the terrible two’s are over. They actually weren’t terrible at all. It has been a wonderful year. I have enjoyed watching Liana transform from a cuddly, charming, joyous baby, into a bright, precocious, curious, caring little girl who is just so much fun to be with.

I love being Liana’s mom.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Things I've Read About President Obama

Our president is a communist socialist nazi muslim who is seeking to use healthcare reform to mask genocide against… I’m not sure. Genocide against some group of American people he doesn’t like.

He was born in Kenya AND Indonesia. I’ve seen the proof. It is amazing, actually.

Oh. And he is under the control of a foreign country. England. I have a pamphlet explaining all about that. Someone at a health care town meeting, waving a picture of the president sporting a Hitler mustache gave me that piece of literature. What distinguishes President Obama from past presidents is that he doesn’t love this country the way other presidents have.

And now he wants to talk to CHILDREN? CHILDREN? He wants to plant subliminal messages in their little developing brains. Indoctrinate them. Turn them into future communist socialist nazi muslims who don’t love America and who want to commit genocide against… someone. Perhaps he will promote the gay agenda. Mock the Bible. Perhaps he wants to use our SOCIALIZED educational system to promote SOCIALIZED healthcare. Turn children against the second amendment. Promote abortion.

I don’t think my daughter’s school will be televising the address. Although Liana did stay up late to see the election results shortly after her second birthday, I have trouble imagining the school successfully getting a bunch of 2-3 year olds to listen attentively and then discuss the content of his address.

Across the country, apparently, parents are planning on keeping their kids home from school rather than allow their children to listen to the president tell children to study hard and stay in school.

Is there a paradox here?

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Preschooler and an Equestrian

Liana and I went upstate for a lovely trip. We came back, and I promptly got sick and sat like a lump for days, failing to return phone calls or engage in any of the planned pre- preschool activities. And then, toddlerhood came to a close, and Liana officially became a preschooler. Well, sort of. She had a two hour day at the school today. First full day tomorrow. She clearly loves it. She is so ready to have her world expanded. But she asked me if I was going to go to the spa while she was at preschool. I said no, I was going to go to work. And she laughed and said “No mommy! You go to work when I go to Beatriz’s house.” So I guess in spite of all of our productive discussions about preschool, she does not realize that this new reality actually replaces the old reality.

Or perhaps she thinks I’ve retired and that I’m going to dedicate my life to spa treatments. Who knows?

Upstate was great. Liana does not like bugs. She was unimpressed by woods and mountains. I tried to drag her on nature walks, and she demanded that I remove ants from the path. However, I discovered yet another Liana-talent.

We all know how she loves animals. And the first thing she announced when we arrived was “I’m going to ride a big giant horse.” Awww. How sweet.

I called and arranged a pony ride. I suspected that we might get close, pet the pony, cry a bit, and then talk about how it is ok to be afraid. Ummmm…..

But Liana spoke the truth. She did ride a “big, giant horse.” Daily.
At first she was a little afraid of his face. But she had no fear on top of him. She rode Fresno as if this is something she does everyday. The F train. The 33 bus. Oh. She also rode Comanche, who was a pony, while she was in daycamp and I was at the spa.
But we will never forget Fresno, the big giant horse. Liana’s rite of passage, during he last week of toddlerhood.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

“Hold on tight mommy. Otherwise you could fall down and then you’ll be sad,” my daughter advises me as we sway back and forth on the standing room only bus.

Otherwise? Did she really say otherwise?

Passengers smile at her. She chatters. Looking out the window, she says “Look mommy! That cloud looks like a big rabbit!”

Mommy, if you see a dandelion, will you pick it for me?

Yes, Liana. If I see a dandelion I will pick it and give it to you.

And if you see a white one, will you pick it? And can I blow on it? Can I make a wish?

Yes Liana. If I see a white dandelion, you can pick it and blow on it and make a wish.

Mommy, I’m going to wish that you get me a surprise, ok?

Passengers giggle. At least two or three times a week on the bus, someone asks me how old she is. When I say 2 ½, they always gasp in disbelief.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Liana got a new puzzle last weekend. She loves puzzles, and can put together a 24 piece puzzle with a little help the first time or second time, and then she can put it together by herself. I am awed by her visual and spatial orientation. Certainly not one of my skills, but for her, it is second nature.

In any case, the puzzle had pictures of farm animals. We put the puzzle together the first time, and talked about the animals. There is a cow, a sheep, a chicken, a duck, a pig. They all live on farms.

Later, we were talking about the puzzle. Was there an elephant in the puzzle? No! Elephants live on the savannah! Was there a dolphin? No! Dolphins live in the ocean! Was there a monkey? No! Monkeys live in the rainforests or the jungles! Was there a cow? Sure! There was a cow! Cows live on farms!

That was fun for a while, and gave us lots of content for a nice discussion.

Later, Liana was playing with the puzzle by herself, and I was sitting at my computer. Liana finished the puzzle herself, and called me over to admire her work. She was looking at the puzzle, and something clicked. She got all excited, and told me to “Stay right here, ok? Don’t go away. Stay right here!”

She disappeared into her room for a few minutes, and then reappeared with a book. It was a “baby” touch and feel board book, with pictures of baby animals and their names and they had fur or feathers or scales to touch. I had not pulled that book off her bookshelf in 8 or 10 months. Maybe even a year. It was a book she had, in my mind, outgrown.

She had already flipped through the book, and had opened to the farm animal page.

Look Mommy!!!!! Farm animals!!!! See???? A cow! A sheep! A goat! A baby chick! See????

We looked at the animals in the book, and then compared them to the animals in the puzzle. We then turned at looked at the other pages in the book, and there were some of the same categories that we had been talking about during our discussion. Ocean animals. Jungle animals. Pets. Polar animals.

Liana is a city girl. She has never been to a farm. The only goats and sheep and cows she has ever seen are in the petting zoo. But something in her head went click, and she really understood. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she had filed away the information in that book, and when she thought about the puzzle, she made the connection from so long ago, and went to find the relevant page!

I love being a mom. Watching Liana learn about the world, and sharing her discoveries is so amazing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I feel like a jerk.

I’ve been really really mad at Beatriz, my day care provider, for the better part of a week. She has not seemed the least bit supportive of Liana’s newly discovered interest in the potty. One day she yelled at me because Liana had gone poopies in her pull up, and then she sent Liana to the bathroom, unaware, and poopies had gotten all over everything, including the bathroom and Liana herself. I yelled back, and said that if she had been paying attention, she would have noticed that Liana had found a corner, squatted down, rolled her eyes back in her head, and had gone poopies BEFORE she sent her to the ill-fated trip to the bathroom. I was LIVID to find Liana wrapped up in diapers, after more than a week of just one single accident at home.

The next day Beatriz sat me down and gave me the “all children are different” lecture, explaining that some children are potty trained at 18 months, and others are not potty trained at 3 years. She went on to say that Liana was just not ready for pull ups, and that I had unrealistic expectations, and that the pressure that I was putting on her was not good for her. When I countered that Liana had initiated the whole series of events, and pointed out that at home she wore underpants, and I only put pull ups on while she was out on the street and at daycare, she shook her head as if I were being an obstinate toddler myself. I was furious.

And on top of the potty training resistance, I’ve been really cranky about the move. Beatriz’s daycare was a three minute walk from home. I then walked 12-13 minutes to work. This is the way I had arranged my life. In July, Beatriz moved to a new location, which is a 35-40 minute commute to her place, 35-40 minutes to work, 35-40 minutes on pick up, 35-40 minutes home. In other words, I’ve lost two hours per day of my life all summer. And where does that two hours come from? Work? Playing with Liana? Sleeping? There were not enough hours in the day before the move.

So when Beatriz would not get on board with the whole potty training stuff, I was LIVID. Drop offs and pick ups were tense. Our previously warm connection seemed to have disappeared, and I even suspected her of sabotaging our pre-school plans with her lack of support.

And then Beatriz called on Sunday. She is in the hospital. Pancreatic stones? Surgery on Tuesday. Apparently, she has been in terrible pain for more than a week. And I was so much in my self-centered mode, that I didn’t notice. Apparently the other moms knew..

I’m usually more sensitive. I feel like a jerk.

It has been a great year and a half with Beatriz. In September, Liana starts preschool. But since February 2008, Beatriz has provided a loving, structured environment for Liana. Amazingly healthy meals. She has nurtured Liana’s artistic nature, and designed projects in which Liana created amazing pieces of art that I will cherish forever. Lines and circles, Beatriz explained. Too early to start working on letters. Everything comes from lines and circles. And I have seen Liana combine those lines and circles to create animals and people and flowers and buildings and doors, and even a series of pictures of our cruise ship. Apparently they do tai chi in front of the TV. Liana can do tai chi moves that awe me, and that are too complex for me to even imitate. And ballet too. And Liana now dances a mean cumbia. Liana explains to me every night when I pour her a glass of milk, that milk builds strong muscles. She flexes her arm with pride. I didn’t teach her that. Liana could put on her own socks before turning two. I sure didn’t have the patience to teach her that. Liana has learned so much with Beatriz. It has been a good year and a half.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that our last weeks together have been tainted by sickness, and worse. By ill will.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Warning: Potty Talk Ahead

I *think* it has finally happened. And it came out of nowhere! I had really started to believe that Liana would go to her senior prom in diapers.

Liana was “sitting” happily on the potty almost a year ago. She liked it. By the time she was 2, she was going pee pee a couple of times a day in the potty. I had friends who were pushing their kids screaming onto the potty. I was smug about my approach. No hurry. Get her comfortable. Lot’s of positive reinforcement, blah blah blah.

By January/early February, I thought we were there. She sometimes asked to go to the potty on her own. She often stayed dry all night in her diapers. Just one more step, and we would be done.

But then the smugness faded. By February/March, she flat out refused to sit on the potty. At all. Ever. The mere suggestion that she use the potty sent her into a rage. In the spring we went out and bought “big girl” panties. She picked them out, and was all excited. She wore them almost exclusively for almost a full weekend, with minimal accidents. And then the refusal. No interest in panties. No interest in potties. She threw the potty training books and videos with an anger normally reserved for those moments in which she is denied ice cream cone she thought was hers, or forced to leave a party that she is enjoying in spite of being overly tired.

I set the cruise as a goal. No swimming in the pool in diapers. Even swim diapers. We talked about it. She agreed it was a reasonable goal. But she made no effort to be civil when I suggested she sit on the potty.

I took one full suitcase of diapers on the cruise.

And then, last Thursday night, she came home and said she wanted to wear big girl panties! Friday, she wanted to wear pull ups to daycare. She used the daycare potty as soon as we arrived. Out to dinner Friday night, used the restaurant potty, went to the park to play after dinner, and had an accident in the elevator on the way home, less than a minute away from her potty at home. That’s ok. Everyone has accidents.

Brunch on Saturday in Forest Hills. Potty in the restaurant again. Up and down Austin street, in and out of stores. We arrived home with a dry pull up. OOOOH. But the big event was before brunch. I had a HUGE Dora sticker on display in the bathroom, and she knew that she would get it the first time she went poopie in the potty. Which she did Saturday morning! So she proudly wore a one-foot long Dora sticker on her dress all day in Forest Hills. And told total strangers who commented on the sticker that she had “done HUGE POOPIES in the potty.”

Today we did the Queens Zoo and the Colombian Festival in Flushing Meadow Park. Potty at the zoo. Potty near Shea Stadium station. Arrived home with a dry pull up! Happily using the potty herself here at home.

Can it be? Is it true? Are our diaper days over????

Friday, July 17, 2009

We're Back!

Liana and I have returned from our wonderful cruise. She was 90% my joyous angel-girl, 5% my tired/confused/cranky girl, and 5% the exorcist child. In other words, the trip was a great success.

It was the easiest trip in the world. Cab to 55th street, and we walked on the ship. Cruised to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. The ship was VERY child-friendly. My hope was that Liana would like the daycamp enough to spend two mornings there so that I could have two spa days. Well, she wanted to go back EVERY DAY, and even asked several times to go back in the afternoon. At dinner, the waiters sang and danced, and one picked up Liana and danced with her almost every night. We had a great table at dinner... two other single moms, (with teenagers!) and a grandma with her grandson. Dinners were tough, because most days she didn't get a nap, so somewhere between 6-7:30 she got clingy and demanding. But not too bad.

Liana loved the beaches. She loved our trip to the aquarium. We did our first build-a-bear workshop on board. We had lots of lunch picnics on our balcony. She ate way too much ice cream, and way too much chocolate. She got her face painted a lot. We hung out in lounges and she sat on quite a few barstools. Oh. And she became addicted to virgin pina coladas.

I'll tell more stories later, but I've waited way too long to get these pictures up. A few now. More later.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I pick Liana up at daycare, and as we are walking home I ask, “So what did you do today?”

Without missing a beat, she said:

“I fell out of a tree and hurt my wrist and my mom gave me a note to get out of gym class.”

Ummmm. Liana is two and a half. She doesn’t climb trees in daycare, and she has no idea what gym class is.

As delighted as I am that Liana seems to have mastered the pre-reading skill of identifying with the primary character in a story, I continue to be frustrated that she often tells me elaborate things that aren’t true.

One day she told me a long and detailed story about a little girl in daycare throwing food, and subsequently getting a time out. As she told and retold the story, I started to be suspicious. The food, it turns out, was chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, and broccoli. Hmmmm. The next day I asked the daycare provider about the incident. There was NO incident. No food throwing. No cake or cookies in this organic only household. And the child in question had not gotten a time out in months.

After a late winter snowstorm, I picked her up from daycare, and asked her if Beatriz, her daycare provider, had taken them out in the snow. She said yes. I was delighted. I asked her what they did in the snow. She said they made snowballs and snowmen and snow angles. I looked at her pants, the same ones I had dressed her in that morning. She did not look like she had been making snow angels. I asked who went out in the snow. She named two of the kids. I asked if Beatriz had gone too. She said “No, she stayed home.” Ummmm. So my daycare provider is sending two two year olds and a three year old out onto the urban streets, unaccompanied, to play in the snow? And they were so careful out there by themselves, that they didn’t even get wet or dirty!

Then there is Cousin Lily. I have no idea who Cousin Lily is. I thought she was a character in a story she reads at daycare. Or a TV show she watches at daycare. I don’t know anyone named Lily, and apparently neither does my daycare provider. But often in the evenings, we await Cousin Lily’s arrival. She never seems to really arrive, but Liana waits for her a lot. ”Mommy! We can’t take a bath now! Cousin Lilly is coming!” “Cousin Lily is coming, so we have to get ready. She can play with the bear and I can play with the rabbit!” Sometimes she tells me stories about things that Cousin Lily did earlier in the day. Things she ate or said.

Liana has a creative mind, and a fertile imagination. And I want to nurture her creativity. But reality and fantasy blur together, and I often can’t tell which is which!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nothing better than Spring in NY! You've already seen Liana's aquarium art, but we had a full and exciting day at Coney Island. Here are Liana and Layla on the beach, and Liana is flying her first kite.