Archive for October, 2007

Labor Day in PA

October 24, 2007

Cool CW

Finally, I’ve gotten to the pictures from our Labor Day trip to Tarentum, Lower Burrell, and Sandy Lake, PA. Click on the photo above for more.

We had a whirlwind tour, visiting with Pap and Elaine in Lower Burrell, as well as the aunts and uncles in Tarentum. We even had a whole day in Sandy Lake with Uncle Richard where we got to tour Gigi’s new store, Organics and You, and visit the Great Stoneboro fair. The only downer the whole trip was the Amtrak ride back home. We reserved business class, because there was more room for Charlie to move around. But apparently train riders in business class don’t like babies who make any noise, laughter, coos, and excitement included. They ruined the whole ride back for us, and we probably won’t be taking the train again. It’s too long a ride with no outlet for a kid who likes to run around. He’s much better about car trips than he used to be and flights are much shorter (if you only count the time you’re on the plane), so those are easier for all of us to handle. In any case, we had a lot of fun, as these pix attest.

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Scenes from a play day

October 24, 2007

Charlie slid down the slide at the playground. “Wee!”

Then, after playing hard and falling in a mud puddle, he tried the slide again and got stuck.

“Wee?”

****

Jesse pushed Charlie for a while before realizing that someone had colored the back of the baby swing with sidewalk chalk. By the time he saw the damage he had chalk on his hand, on the side of his pants, and in a perfect handprint across his crotch from where he’d scratched himself. I laughed for five minutes straight.

****

Charlie knows how to open the playroom door. He wiggles the knob and pushes until it opens enough for his fingers to fit in the space. The front door is heavier, but I’ve been locking it—just in case. (After a very small entryway it leads directly to the stairs.) This morning, Jesse forgot his keys. When he came back to get them, we must have forgotten to lock the door. I heard a snick and turned to see Charlie with his hand on the knob and the door opened just a crack. Terror must have made me super fast, because I nearly threw my back out getting across the foyer to close it.

****

On a walk through Prospect Park we stopped to see the ducks, geese, cormorants, and swans. “Quack, quack, quack, wawa,” said Charlie. We said hello to a neighbor who was there with her eight-month-old. And then the geese began getting out of the water.

They walked slowly but menacingly toward us. Four on one side of me and Charlie, three on the other side of our neighbor. More coming out of the water. My neighbor and I picked up our kids at the same time and began backing up. Further and further we walked, more geese coming after us. All I could think of was how our old dog Cecil’s father fought a goose to the death. Could these be those kind of geese? Vicious?

I turned and saw that an old lady was pulling out bagels, preparing to feed the birds. (Nanny, does this remind you at all of our first trip to NYC? Beware the pigeons! And, apparently, the geese.) Charlie and I dodged around the lady, narrowly avoiding the not-vicious-yet geese.

****

Charlie and I sat on the hill, green grass covered with fall leaves. I picked up a maple leaf by its stem. “What color is this, Charlie?”

“Bown.”

Could he have really said brown?

****

“Applesauce?”

“I have an apple. You want to share?”

Nod. Nod.

One big juicy bite later, Charlie grabbed my apple and took off.

Little apple thief.

****

As we walked around the lake:

“MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!”

“What Charlie?”

Deep breath of awe. “Wawa.”

****

There are ride-on toys at the playground, and Charlie snagged a turn on the one that still has flashing lights. He liked it enough that he didn’t want to get off, even when he spied a particularly nice leaf.

But he wanted the leaf, too. So he leaned way over…until he slid right off.

He sat on the ground. Looked at the leaf. Looked at the little buggy. Looked at the leaf.

Then he pushed the ride-on toy away. “Bye bye!” And left both goodies behind in favor of the slide.

****

Normally he crawls up the stairs to the slide. Today, he saw another kid holding the hand rail and using his feet to go both up and down.

After two tries, Charlie was doing it, too. Big boy steps both up and down.

****

A little girl played in the tot lot today wearing part of her Halloween costume: a tiara and angel wings. (They had glitter and everything.)

Charlie saw her get out of the stroller and he ran over, following her halfway around the playground. “Bublefwy. Bublefwy. Bublefwy. MAMA! Bublefwy!”

I laughed. “Yes, she does look like a butterfly.”

Clean up, clean up

October 19, 2007

It has taken only a year a half, but it finally happened. Charlie cleaned up a mess today, all by himself!

Every time we play, whether in his room or in the other rooms that have secret stashes of toys, we sing “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up” when we’re done with the toys. Jesse and I have both asked Charlie to help clean up (i.e., put a block in a bin with our assistance). At the daycare, at the end of play time, everyone also cleans up and sings the clean up song. Though my goal was to eventually have Charlie cleaning up his own messes, the repetition sometimes felt like yelling into a canyon. No response but the sound of my own voice.

Today, though, I was completely surprised by my baby’s newest accomplishment.

We were sitting in the kitchen. He was pulling out pots and pans and taking apart all of the small buckets of toys we keep on the window ledge. I was reading a magazine and helping him when he got stuck. The baby gate was in the doorway, keeping CW from taking the toy party to another room. After about fifteen minutes of quiet play, Charlie went to the gate.

“Mama. Mama. Mama.” (He likes to repeat my name emphatically.)

I look over to see him pointing into the living room where we have his favorite library book, Wow! America! “You want to read a book?” I asked.

He nods and nods and nods.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s clean up in here. Then we’ll read some books.”

He turned from the gate and scooted to the blocks and cars and other toys scattered across the floor. He began picking them up and putting them on the window ledge. “Eee uh, eee uh, eee uh,” he sang.

He was cleaning up! And singing the clean up song!

This wasn’t just one block in a box. He knew I wasn’t going to open the gate until everything was off the floor and he was moving as fast as his little legs and arms could move and singing the whole way.

I was amazed and totally impressed. I guess I thought I’d be cleaning up by myself forever. Nope. My baby knows the clean up song. What a helper!

I’m a correspondent!

October 18, 2007

Story time at our local library is really fun. (Thanks, Miss Cindy!) And really popular. So popular, in fact, that on Tuesday they asked a police officer to patrol the crowd! I sent a tip to our local neighborhood blog with the story, which you can read below.

At the toddler story time on Tuesdays, there is usually a crowd. The librarian hands out tickets before the event. If you don’t get a ticket, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to take part, but you can usually snag a place in the back after all the ticket holders go inside. However, over the course of this season’s session, the crowd has grown and grown. (I’m sure it’s because Miss Cindy is so darn entertaining.) Last week the tickets ran out twenty minutes before the start time, and unhappy nannies and moms were complaining, sneaking into line, and generally causing a ruckus. Today, thinking ahead, my son and I got there a half hour before the doors opened. (That in itself is crazy. I haven’t had to get somewhere a half hour ahead of time since I last went to the movies in Manhattan.) We got a ticket. We were lucky, because at the door to the classroom, the librarian had recruited a police officer–in uniform and everything–to take the tickets. When the tickets ran out, no one else got in. I’m not sure if the sergeant was hired specifically for story time, but he was definitely policing the affair. I found it hilarious that a simple thing like library toddler hour could require crowd control.

I haven’t had trouble getting in until recently, when the tickets started disappearing earlier and earlier. (The hassles even made one local mama give up on story time altogether.) The drama was enough that I thought our blog, which has become a bit like a neighborhood newspaper, should know about it. Now, some lady from the NY Daily News has asked for my contact info because she wants to “talk to your correspondent S as soon as possible if you’d be willing to forward along my inquiry.” (See! I’m a correspondent.) I’ll post a link if they actually publish a story.

New pediatrician

October 14, 2007

We have a new doctor. She’s fabulous! Dr. Putter of Pediatric Associates answered all of our questions, was really nice to both me and Charlie, and she let him sit in my lap while she examined him. She gave him a flu shot “so you don’t have to come back so soon.” And her office staff was kind, considerate and helpful.

At our old office, we had to drop off, not fax, the daycare medical form, and then pick up the completed form a few days later for a fee of $15. At the new office, the medical assistant filled out the form for me while I waited, for free.

Now that’s the way a doctor’s visit is supposed to be.

Oh, and it’s confirmed. Charlie is big! He weighed in at 31 and 1/4 pounds (in the 95th percentile) and measured at 34 inches tall (in the 90th percentile). I’ve heard that boys reach half their adult height by age 2.

How many inches will we get in the next six months? Only two and he’ll eventually be six feet tall!

Where’s Sam?

October 14, 2007

Yesterday, one of Charlie’s friends at daycare, Sam, was pretending not to see his teacher. Instead of looking up when she asked if he wanted a banana, he stared down at his plate. So Renee teased him into eating and playing by pretending she couldn’t see him either. “Where is Sam? Did he take a walk? Did he go outside? Where is Sam?”

Charlie pointed right at Sam and said, “Eh.” We all laughed.

Thanks for the help, CW!

Lots of hugs and kisses

October 14, 2007

Charlie likes to give hugs and kisses, especially to his friends at daycare. When we were out of town in September he came back to big hugs from Clara, Henry, Patrick, and little Maryn who is half his size and has twice his energy. Maryn and he collided into a hug and ended up on the floor, what with the instability of their toddler legs. Today, Maryn again greeted Charlie with a hug, but he’s learning a sense of his own size and strength. Instead of running toward her, he just stood still with his arms out and waited for her to hug him. Success! No tumbling.

He always greets his friends so kindly. A touch on the back when Henry is sitting at the table, as if to say, “Nice to see you, pal.” A kiss for Clara–and a kiss back from her. He wants to greet every small person–and creature–that way. All the toddlers and babies on the playground get the “kiss eye,” with him leaning down slowly to put his face next to theirs.

On Thursday, he even kissed a cat! We went to a neighbor’s house to pick up our CSA meat products. (Yummy organic and pasture-raised beef and pork.) She had a big, lovely living room filled with books, cushy sofas and an orange cat lazing around.

“He’s very nice,” she said, offering to let Charlie pet him.

Charlie looked at the cat with eyes wide. “Neow?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s a cat. You can pet him if you want to.”

He marched right over to the cat then stopped about a half foot away. He slowed down, lowered his face and gave the cat “kiss eye.”

The cat raised his face in curiousity and sniffed Charlie’s nose–a cat kiss right back.

For the rest of the night Charlie was in love. “Neow. Neow? Neow,” he said, telling me the story again and again, in not so many words.

Mother superior

October 14, 2007

We had a baby shower at work yesterday. The mom-to-be of honor is having her first child, and I remember what that felt like. Some healthy fear mixed in with excitement. Mostly the fear was about childbirth (rightly so). But you never hear much fear about those first few, blurry weeks of living with a new person.

I sat next to a slightly older mother, who has two boys. She’s a wonderful lady, and she always gives good advice about kids in the city. We had a good time chatting about pregnancy, birth and boys, and weighing the truth of being a parent against the expectation of parenting.

When the mom-to-be of honor said, “I’m worried about being bored at home, after the baby comes.”

I said, “Don’t worry, you won’t be bored. You’ll be too sleepy and tired.”

The older mom and I laughed and laughed. We knew what it was like to need to get out of the house and to be too stinky and tired and overwhelmed to figure out how exactly to go about doing that. I wouldn’t really call that boredom. For true boredom, you have to be able to do something else, like read, watch TV or talk on the phone, to alleviate your condition. With a newborn you’re always doing something (feeding, changing, getting to sleep–maybe, then doing it all again). It’s just that what you’re doing may not be what you’d most like to be doing.

And then someone asked, “Do you have a washer and dryer in your building?”

“Yes,” said new mom-to-be. “We couldn’t do this without having that. And a doorman, an elevator and a baby nurse.”

Wimp, I thought, chuckling. I felt like a worn and rugged cowboy smirking at the just-off-the-train city slicker. I survived a natural childbirth followed by no sleep and the daily grind of lugging baby (and laundry) down four flights of stairs. I admit it. I felt wise, and, yeah, okay, superior. It ain’t right, and it ain’t pretty, but for once, I’m gonna go with that.

The National Quartet Convention

October 11, 2007

NQC

I’m making my way through past photos. Click on the picture above for more of our time in Louisville, KY, and our long road trip in mid-September.

We drove from NYC to Louisville, beginning at 3 am on a Saturday morning. Charlie was a wonderful traveler. He’s gotten the hang of being on the road. Of course, we did stop many times to eat and run around, including a stop at a small playground in Ohio outside of a gas station.

We had a lot of fun hearing Higher Hope, seeing the booths and swimming in the pool at the Executive West Inn. (That hotel has got some crazy-cool decorating.) Charlie was thrilled to have cousins to play with, and Kathryn was a big help keeping him occupied with games and tickles.

We miss y’all!

My child is not a luxury item

October 11, 2007

Over the weekend, while setting up the CSA tent at the Church Avenue Bazaar, I met a really nice woman who was expecting her first child. Her family is in Washington state and her husband’s family is in Ohio, and they are the first couple of all of their friends to reproduce. We got to talking about what it takes to raise a young family without the kind of support network some people take for granted.

It can be tiring, sure. But as we talked I realized that the most tiring aspect of parenting wasn’t late nights, early mornings or reading Good Night, Moon for the seven hundredth time without aunts and grandparents to pitch in. The most tiring thing is trying to help an energetic, curious, naturally loud toddler navigate an adult world that is, at the least, not kid friendly, and at the worst, kid-a-phobic.

Our daily commute is one example. We used to have a choice between the E local and the A express. We let the pushers and shovers get on the fast train, and Charlie and I would take a short ride on the local. We’d get a seat. Also, he was small enough to fit in the Patapum or the sling. That meant he was easy to keep track of and didn’t take up any more space than I did. But now things have changed. Now Charlie weighs more than 30 pounds and is nearly 3 feet tall. And we’re in Brooklyn where there is no local train.

The F train is a cattle car at rush hour. Even at late rush hour, when we tend to ride because we’re not out of the house before 8:30. There are no seats. (A seat makes it a lot easier to hold Charlie if he gets antsy or entertain him in his stroller with water, snacks, toys and hand games.) People shove inside the doors no matter how little space is available. It is as if they will never get anywhere, that day or in their life, if they don’t make that very train. They squish and poke people in the butt with their briefcases and step on toes, and then have the audacity to glare at Charlie in his stroller. As if he’s causing all the problems with his inability to squish any tighter or remain any quieter. As the car gets more and more crowded, he begins to fidget. (It must be a stress response. I know I feel it.) Then when we’re a stop or so away, he might whine. And just because he doesn’t have the impulse control or the compassion needed to know his whining disturbs others, people lose patience. (“Oh my God, there was a baby on the train this morning!)

Who gets the blame for the tight commute and Charlie’s natural baby instincts? Me. Who, because I chose to have a child, must also have the complete freedom to choose when I have to be at work. And because children are a luxury, I must also have the unending finances needed to hire a nanny or take a car, either of which I should have done simply to keep from inconveniencing the lady with the bad breath whose armpit I had to stare into until Jay Street.

Children have become a choice, and for people without kids this must seem much like the choice of which hand bag to tote or which shoes to wear. Just as young urbanites don’t want to be affronted by bad fashion choices, they also don’t want to deal with, look at or hear a child. Unless, of course, by choice. People in this city—people in this country (at least judging by the amount of money spent on programs to help children)—don’t like kids. They don’t like…whatever: the mess, the noise, the interruption, the repetition, the unabashed enthusiasm, the untempered emotion, the reminder that they were once young and helpless and will be so once again when they are old.

And because they don’t like kids, there is no sympathy for the parents who have taken on the burden of raising (i.e., paying for, in money, sweat, tears and love) the next generation. You know, the generation that will pay the taxes for roads, libraries, social programs and retirement when this generation goes gray?

All I know is this: Parenting wouldn’t be half as hard if all adults had exposure to children. If they could see that kids are necessary for a healthy society. If they understood that kids go through stages of development, some more appealing than others. So adults of the world, you who are supposed to be wiser and more compassionate than two-year-olds, have a little patience with tired, hungry young people who, unlike you, don’t have the words for grousing or the know-how for glaring. Don’t worry, they’ll learn it soon enough.