Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where Are You, Asian People???

Every time we go back to the Midwest, it seems more like an alien planet to us. This time, what I noticed was, where are all the Asian people???

The Missing Asian Population, or MAP, becomes especially apparent when you visit a place of business traditionally dominated by Asian employees here in California. Twice now I have gotten my nails done by a white, US-born woman about my own age. Certainly I have no preferances about the national origin of the person who files and paints my toenails. It's just different. Actually, the woman who did my nails this time mentioned that the women who work in low-end nail salons in Wisconsin are mostly Vietnamese, and she was surprised when I told her that in California, the high-end salons also employed mostly Asian and Russian manicurists.

Then, in the Detroit airport, I ate at a Japanese restaurant (bold choice, I know, but i played it safe and had California rolls w/ fake crab meat and some soba noodles). The woman who brought me my food, in fact every employee there except the sushi chef, was a white American.

I could philosophize for a while about what this means for national labor and immigration policy, but I don't want to get myself in trouble with my employer. Let's just say this: I can't wait to eat some Asian food over the weekend now that I'm back in Cali. Actually, I can't wait to eat practically any kind of California food after over a week of Wisconsin restaurants. That slur doesn't include the fabulous home-cooked meals we ate on our visit, the delightful steak my brother bought me on our first night there, or the amazing pate they make at Super Valu.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Learning to Get: Nutmeg's First Noticeable Christmas

A few vignettes from Nutmeg's magical first Christmas as a Christmas-recognizing being:

Grammy and Grampy, concerned that their grandchild won't have enough stamina to open 1,200 gifts on Christmas day, give her a present each day she is there. They've devised a system in which she advances their advent calendar a day and then is rewarded with a present. The first one is a brand new sled.

We bundle Nutmeg into a borrowed snowsuit for her first sled ride. It's about 14 degrees outside. We all tramp down to the park -- Grammy, Grampy, Uncle Kenny, Epu, me and of course the Nut. She loves riding in the sled, but after about 10 minutes, we all are too cold and tramp right back home. Later in the week, the temperature has risen so much that Grampy gives Nutmeg a sled ride in the back yard, on mostly grass. He says she's so light it doesn't really matter, and she loves it either way.

My mom, Epu, Nutmeg and I all pile in the maternal SUV for a shopping trip to Gurnee Mills. Grammy happily volunteers to hang out with Nutmeg while Epu and I are freed to shop unencumbered. While we're gone, Grammy buys a chocolate milkshake and shares it with Nutmeg, who of course ends up with chocolate all over her shirt. My mom takes her to the bathroom and swabs frantically, afraid that my uptight mommy self will be mad that she fed her a milkshake. When we get home, my dad is jealous that he missed Nutmeg's first shake. "That's one of life's great pleasures!" he says.

We take Nutmeg to the Rainforest Cafe, the kind of place where I would normally never be caught dead. But I had to admit that Nutmeg loved it. In fact, when I took her to the bathroom, she looked up at me from the changing table and said, as persuasively as she could, "We should go back to the table now." Because from our table, she could hear waiters singing happy birthday every 5 minutes, and could see animatronic gorillas and elephants swaying their heads. What's not to love? God, looking back, I know this road only points one place: The Dreaded Magic Kingdom. And not the kingdom of the magic golden nipple, either.

Nutmeg sees a Green Bay Packer ornament on my uncle's Christmas tree.
Grampy: What's that?
Nut: Brett Favre!

All the preliminary gift-giving has helped Nutmeg better understand the materialism of the holiday.
Me: What do you want Santa to bring you?
Nut: Another present.
Me: What do you want in your present?
Nut: A choo-choo train.
My parents exchange knowing grins.

When we get to Grandma and Grandpa's house, the excitedly reach out for their granddaughter. Nutmeg looks past them to their Shetland Sheepdog, who loathes her. "Hello, Indy!" she cries. "Hi Indy, hi!" Then she pants for him.

On Christmas Eve day, I mix up some gingerbread dough and Nutmeg helps me roll it and cut out the men. She soon finds her real sweet spot, though: Putting on the "buttons," which are little cinnamon candies. She happily repeats my directive that the candies are "not for eating." She puts as many as 8 buttons on some of the men, on their heads, their feet, all over the place. She loves it! Sadly, I don't think we photographed this Norman Rockwell moment.

On Christmas morning at Grandma and Grandpa's house, I help Nutmeg tear the corner off one package. Some tiny decal shows. It's nothing recognizable, at least to me.
"A Dora toy!" Nutmeg cries. Sure enough, the decal I saw was Dora the Explorer's cousin, and it's a box of Dora-themed Duplo blocks. The person who designed that character should be monitored at all times. He or she has way more power over children than is at all healthy.

When we arrive at Grammy and Grampy's Christmas day, they are in a surprisingly unfestive mood. Turns out they had had a grand plan: Nutmeg was supposed to advance the advent calendar one more time and then be ushered to her own mechanized choo-choo train, from Leapfrog no less. But the train wouldn't go. I told them Nutmeg wouldn't care, and indeed, she loved playing with the train the way it was. But my parents had been imagining their Christmas day beginning with this image for months, and they were bummed.

It cheered them up when Nutmeg watched my mom cooking Christmas dinner and announced, "I want to eat turkey." And more when she downed 3 bowls of it, while forcefully turning down stuffing, potatoes and especially squash. My baby, apparently, is an Atkins baby, which might explain her svelte 10th percentile weight.

Her reactions to various gifts cheered them up even more.
When she opened a huge stuffed animal from my cousin: "A big Pooh!"
When she opened the next gift, which was clothes: "A big jumper!"
When we knew she was tired out and ready for her nap: "No! You don't like it!" (more clothes)

She napped, the Packers took a big crap on Lambeau Field, and when the game was over we returned to open our stockings and give Nutmeg her biggest non-choo-choo gift: A robotic dog. I kid you not. The dog responds to commands and petting. My mother had almost made my dad take it back, since it's made for kids 5 and up and she was afraid a toddler just wouldn't understand. But Nutmeg reacted as if it were a real dog, and when we all started shouting commands at it, she joined right in.
"Drop! Drop!" she told it, and it would drop its little bone, and she would shriek and do the little happy dance.
"This makes up for the train," my mom said.

We thought we had perhaps pushed the Nut too hard, made her open too many gifts. But that night, before bed, she told me, "Want open more presents." I told her they were gone. "Want more!" she replied. Ah, a consumer is born.

The next morning we had about 100 toddlers and babies over to our house, and they were all cranky and overstimulated. But I got to see the world's cutest 5-month-old, EJ. Don't believe me? Click here. Then Epu and I took off for a honeymoon overnight in Lake Geneva while Grammy and Grampy watched Nutmeg. We weren't even out of the city limits before we started talking about the Nut, and all the cute things she had said and done on this trip. We went to the resort's hot tub and watched all the kids playing in the pool and thought about the Nut. In the morning we watched "Dora the Explorer" on the room's flat-screen tv. We are so lame!

We came back and Nutmeg responded to the ringing doorbell by saying, "It's Mommy and Daddy!" Then she showed us a photo she had liked in that morning's paper, which she told us, with dead-on accuracy, was "A lion eating a birthday cake." My parents told me she barely cried a moment. Since my boob was about to explode, I asked her if she wanted nursie. "No," she told me. Later, mercifully, she nursed a little. Then we went back to Grandma and Grandpa's, where she told them, in possibly her longest sentence ever, "You put the picture of the lion eating a birthday cake on the refrigerator." Damn!

Photos to come when Epu gets here with the camera.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Magic nipple power, deactivate!

Dear blogosphere, I have something really sad to tell you. My boobs hardly hurt AT ALL right now. And my right boob is barely even twice the size of my left one.

This lack of mammary discomfort has me in a state, because I have not nursed Nutmeg in more than 30 hours. During our past separations approaching this length, of which there have been two, I was, by this point, practically lowing with the need to be milked. But today, I don't think I'm going to have to dig that breast pump out of the storage room after all.

I think this is the end.

I'm a person who hates to hear a door close. It was all well and good when I talked about this separation from Nutmeg -- she and Epu are still back home, while I'm in SF working. I thought, well, maybe this is a convenient time to wean, despite the fact that Dr. Sears forbade me to "wean by abondment." After all, she'd be in her daddy's loving arms, she's going on 2, and I don't even know anyone with a kid her age who's still nursing.

But now that I'm looking at a closing door, I want to stop time and think about this. Wouldn't I rather nurse Nutmeg until she's 3? I can't stop thinking about one particular nursing scenario. Nutmeg's tired and overstimulated. We're all sitting around my parents' dining room table, finishing a meal. Nutmeg starts fussing and whining. I take her out of the high chair and pop her onto the old right boob. After two or three minutes of sucking, she emerges as a completely different child -- calm, happy, sociable. Her tiredness has vanished.

"That must be some good stuff!" my grandpa said at the time.

I could have had that magic nipple power for another year or so, but I chose to let it dry up. So yeah, I'm moping today, and not just over missing my little Nutjob.

Of course, I could dig out that breast pump right now and start pumping like crazy. Epu suggested that on the phone today. And suddenly, after hearing that, I felt much more philosophical about the whole thing. She is a big girl, after all, and woudln't it be nice to have a small window of my life when no one is feeding off of me?

Maybe instead of mooning at Nutmeg's pictures all over my desk at work, I should take a photo of my Ameda Pump in Style and hang that up on my cube wall. Then whenever I start to mourn the end of nursing, I could remind myself that I still have a choice. It's not much of a choice, though. Going the breast pump route, at this point, woudln't feel so much like opening the door back up. It would feel like closing the door, hard, with my hand in it. Again and again.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Long-distance love

On our 6th day away from home, Nutmeg is really starting to miss her BFF back in California. Today, she was home with her grandmother and Epu and I were out shopping w/ his brother and brother's girlfriend. When we came to the door, Grandma asked Nutmeg, "Who is it?" and Nutmeg answered, "Maybe Eliot!"

Poor kid, she's pining.

We saw the Nutcracker tonight, and left Nutmeg home with one of her Aunt Julia's best friends as a sitter. Epu and I spent most of the evening imagining how much Nutmeg would enjoy seeing the spinning dancers and especially the choo-choo train that rolled onstage at the end of Act I.

It's pretty much been 6 straight days of Christmas for Nutmeg already. She's gotten several gifts: a dress and coat, a sled, an antler headband with lights that she actually likes to wear, a rocking horse/high chair/desk made by the Amish, and a stuffed Christmas-style doggie and bear. I guess she's warming up for the big day.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Brrr.

5 degrees here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

On Vacation

Sorry, dear reader, but I did not get around to posting a Santa pic of Nutmeg before leaving town, and now they're trapped back in my home computer. I hope it is of some consolation when I say that the photos were of poor quality anyway.

I'm back in Wisc., planning on doing some frenzied Christmas shopping and wrapping over the next few days. I'll see a few of you soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Does baby 'get' tech?

Pretty good NYT article on a new study questioning the value of electronic toys for babies. It touches only lightly on what i think is the most important concern with the increased use of media and electronics for babies: What it replaces. Every half hour a baby or toddler plays with a flashing button-pushing machine is half an hour that she is not learning about balance or texture or all the real things in her world. These parents in the story who think it's so great for their babies to be learning letters and numbers asap, I think they're just ridiculous. These symbols are tools we use in our society, they are not the world itself. Learning letters and number before you have learned about what happens when you throw a ball or splash your hand in water? Doesn't make sense to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Santa Redux

We've been listening to the all-Christmas music station since Thanksgiving. Is that overkill? Let me put it this way -- I now have favorite LINES of Christmas carols, instead of just favorite carols.

Like this one: "Later we'll have some pumpkin pie and do some caroling." It just sounds so organized! I imagine the party is hosted by Bree from "Desperate Housewives."

Nutmeg reminded me of the true spirit of Xmas this afternoon. I asked her what she wanted Santa to bring her.

Her answer: "Bring me home."
Everybody now: "Aaaaaw."

When I pressed her on the subject, she just refused to get materialistic. She conceded that she would like Santa to give her "some songs." This is what happens when you deprive your child of television commercials. Actually, it reminds me of another friend, who happens to be Jewish but who figured he'd give his son the Santa Clause experience, since, let's face it, it's not exactly a religious thing. The little boy, about 4, told Santa shyly that he would like a candy cane for Christmas. Then, as he left Santa's lap, an elf handed him a candy cane. The kid was like, I believe! I believe!

"We are not daily beggars
Who beg from door to door,
But we are neighbor's children
Whom you have seen before."

Because obviously, our neighbors all have dementia and we have to tell them these things.

Another Nutmeg one-liner I have heretofore concealed from you: Last week we were eating some noodles in the park. In the frequent event that a noodle fell on the ground and Nutmeg tried to pick it up and eat it, we told her that that one was for the birds, and we tossed it to the gathering flock. She started purposely throwing food to the birds, having a merry old time.
The next morning, I gave her a piece of swiss cheese, and she spit it out onto our bed.
"That one for the birds," she said. "No pun intended."
OK, I fabricated the second part of that quote. A thorough internal investigation will proceed and will be fully published on this blog.

Finally: Nutmeg met Santa again last night, and this time she liked him. In fact, she tried several times to approach him when it was not her turn, she danced around in excitement, and she willingly climbed into his lap when the time came. I cannot explain this phenomenon. We didn't bring our camera, since Epu's company Christmas party never had Santa before and is generally not at all photoworthy. But some others photographed her, so as soon as I acquire a shot, I'll post it.

"Till he appeared, and the soul found its worth."

If anything would ever convert me, "O Holy Night" would do it. What a slam-dunk that one is. It doesn't hurt that every time I hear it, I remember when the lovely and talented Michelle sang it just for us on our wedding day, and how grand it felt to be a bride and have everyone stand for me.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bliss

This is an old study, but I just came across it in the course of some research.

It makes me feel really lucky. I think my marital happiness has increased since Nutmeg was born. I was especially surprised to see that only 38 percent of mothers of infants felt satisfied with their lives. Because after Nutmeg was born, that was a word that I often found myself using to describe the feeling. Another one was "fulfilled."

Walking back to work from a lunch break today (at H&M, and I must say, that store does not live up to the hype) I had to stop and reflect on how lucky I am. I get to go to an interesting job a couple days a week, I get to spend the other days with Nutmeg. I have a supportive husband who is also my best friend.

And my god, I have Nutmeg. I don't know how y'all live without Nutmeg in your houses.

I guess I should also thank Starbucks, because this happy glow I have right now is at least partially attributable to the Gingerbread Latte I just drank. Best $3.10 I've spend all week.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

When you're 19 months, he might as well be called Satan Clause

The following post is the face of a toddler who has seen Santa and lived to tell the tale.

We prepared her all week for the big day. We told her about Santa's white beard, his red suit, his "ho ho ho." When we got her dressed Saturday morning to go to the park, she said, "See Santa!" When I asked her what she would do after she sat on his lap, she said "Give santa a big kiss."

Talk is cheap, especially when fueled by liquid courage from Mommy's nursies.

When the Holiday Lights train pulled into the station in Santa Cruz, Nutmeg was excited to see it. She pointed. Her mouth hung open. It was a train -- that in itself is one of the most exciting things in the world to her -- and it was covered with Christmas lights. This is a child who will spot one string of white lights over the door of a 7-11 and applaud, crying out to passersby, "Yay, Merry Christmas!"

But when got on the train, her mood went downhill. I don't know if was the crowd or the hour getting late, but after 10 minutes or so she only wanted to be held, and despite everyone around her singing her favorite carol, "Jingle Bells," her spirits were not bright.

But the primal scream was not unleased until Mrs. Clause made her way through the car. Nutmeg's daddy suggested Nutmeg high-five Mrs. Clause, but when the old lady in costume raised her hand, Nutmeg lost it, struggled to get away, and shouted, "No, no," as if the woman was holding up a live cobra instead of a well-manicured hand. But even that horror was nothing compared to Nutmeg's reaction when the white-bearded Santa merely walked by her. He knew better than to try to hand her a candy cane; he gave hers to me and stayed as far from my child as possible. Nutmeg wasn't the only kid on the car who looked like the train had been playing an endless loop of dismemberment and immolation films, either.

On the way home, I asked her if she had liked meeting Santa.
"Yeah," she said.
"Do you want to meet him again sometime?"
"No!"
Well, that saves me one trip to the mall, at least.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nutmeg's Employee Evaluation

At 19 months, Nutmeg has made a lot of accomplishments. Here are some of them:

-- Her imaginative play is blossoming. Tonight she told me we should get tickets to ride the elevator. I said, "OK, give me a ticket," and she handed me an imaginary ticket. We pretended -- led by her -- to push the elevator button, get in, and ride up and down. Then later after we read "Curious George Flies a Kite," she used her Curious George bookmark and an inflated ball to mimick exactly what the monkey had been doing in the book. Two nights ago, when I was dozing on the couch, sick with the flu, she started -- independently -- a new game she has now been playing every day, where she gets all her Little People into the school bus, drives them to the library, and gets them out.

-- Language. She's trying to use those tricky English tenses and negatives. Today she said to me, "Rosa made muffins." When I told her no, Mommy made the muffins, she said, "Rosa don't made it." Later, she told me, "Eliot goed home."

-- Sleeping. OK, it took longer for us than it takes for sleep training families, but the result is the same and I feel comfortable about the way we got here. She's going down without crying, for both naps and bedtimes, and sleeping all night without waking us up. Joy to the world.

-- Eating. Nutmeg no longer throws her bowl or food on the floor when she's getting tired of being in her high chair. If she wants to, she says, "Mommy take it," and holds out the bowl to me so I can take it away.

We had a beautiful evening together tonight. She helped me make dinner by washing the greens, then we ate together, then played, then she played a little more while I cleaned up, then we read a couple of stories over and over, then bed. She's a good companion.

Trapped

Nutmeg had a bad day today. I don't know what it was, but she woke up from her nap crying and then nursed and then just sat on the floor and cried and cried. I tried everything and then just went about my business getting us ready to go to her first professional haircut. She wouldn't let me put her tights and shoes and coat on, so I just threw those in the diaper bag and carried her to the car. She cried most of the way there in the car, and I carried a squirming, crying toddler into the shop. Kay and Eliot met us there. The woman in the shop was like, This is the one who's getting her hair cut? And silently, I'm sure, saying Swell! I better be getting a big tip.

It was a special shop just for kids, with little cars the babies sit in while getting their hair cut, and tons of toys. I thought Nutmeg would find it fun, but once we got her in the chair her crying just intensified and she shook her head around a few times, making me worry that she might get stabbed in the eye by the scissors. I even snapped at Kay in the process because she and the lady cutting the hair kept trying to make Nutmeg happy, and I knew that at this point anything anyone said to her would just make her mad.

When we got her out of the chair Nutmeg was so relieved that she actually played happily with the toys in the waiting room. However, she never consented to have her tights put on.

Tonight she pitched another fit while getting a bath, but we expect that these days. She used to love baths, now she hates them. It's like having a teenager; what used to be in is out so fast that we old fuddy-duddies can't keep up.

But after I wrapped her in her towel and took her to the bedroom for pajamas, I sang a new song I'd made up in the car for her. She likes this song; in the car, she had stopped crying and told me, "That a good song." Tonight, she stood on the bed, hugging me and craning her neck back to look right into my face as I sang. When I stopped, she said, "More this one." And so I sang for her some more.

That tender scene might have been enough to make me forget our hellish and disappointing afternoon. But in case it wasn't, I just went into the bedroom and had a look at her, sleeping like an angel in our bed. With her perfectly straight bangs she looks just like Hayley Mills in "The Parent Trap," and I am definitely caught in hers. And happily so.