This one's for Papa

Neither R. nor I are sports afficionados in the least. We both played sports as kids and young adults, and I would love to find a way to fit Masters Swimming back in my life. But to say we are detached from the local teams is an understatement, as I realize everytime I get stuck in Giants traffic. This despite a childhood spent cheering on the Golden State Warriors and an adolescence steeped in my high school's Big Three (football, basketball and baseball).

I enjoy watching sports when someone I know is playing, or if it's a celebratory type of game, but R. and I both dislike the hype of professional sports and lack the interest in fitting a team's stats and win:loss records into our heads. We're only half-joking when we wonder who will teach MZ to throw, given that we may never think of it on our own.

Fortunately her three grandparents are all huge fans, so someone will make sure she learns to dribble, throw, and catch. And she learned how TV works by watching Giants baseball with Papa and Mana. Imagine my surprise when she pointed to it and said On, given that we use the television mainly as a conduit for movies and Tivo'd stuff after she's fast asleep

So this pic, in Eli's borrowed hat, was taken expressly to please her grandparents. And especially Mana and Papa, we hope this makes you feel a little better. MZ misses you fiercely.
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Twenty Months: How you doin'?

Dear Miriam,

Have I mentioned your Jersey accent? People have asked where it comes from, and frankly we have no idea. But now that you're chatting away in 4-word sentences, it's even more apparent.

In the morning, you say Sleepsack off, Daddy, or Downstairs make bottle, Mommy, and it goes from there. You still jibber-jabber, but usually you're commenting on the world around you: two dogs, motorcycle!, bus for kids (school bus), funny Moki. You tell us exactly what you want: Shoes off inside, Runny nose (which you proffer to be wiped), iPod on, Enzo music.

Lately you're obsessed with
Enzo music; when his songs are on you tell us, when they're not you announce Not like this in a bid for change. We bought a few more CDs, because as much as I like Cripple Creek, everything gets boring the thousandth time.

You've been dancing to your favorite songs for months, but now you anticipate the verses for some, like Wheels on the Bus and Side of a Mountain Top, and request others, like Moomaway (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and Dee-do-dah (Song of the South).

Your verbal acuity seems to be helping you transition at daycare. You actually ask for Ana if you haven't seen her for a few days (although you also tell me No Ana on occasion). I accept that there will be days when you cry when I drop you off, but you're always participating when I arrive, and I can often hear you requesting songs through the garden wall. We've also noticed a change in the way you play. Up to now your only interest in blocks has been in knocking down our towers, but now you want to build things. You regularly ask to Play blocks, you spend tons of time building towers off your fire engine, and this morning you pulled out and assembled your wooden train, something you've largely ignored for months. The change is so sudden, we think it must be the way you see other kids play at daycare.

You ask for Enzo and a few choice playmates, but when they're before you, you don't yet know what to do with them. You show signs of wanting to play with kids, but right now the interactions are brief: holding out a hand, saying Hey'o, or perhaps proffering a toy. Then you stare or wander away, on to the next thing.

You've become shy with strangers and when seeing people after an absence. You warm up quickly, but in those first few minutes, you cling tightly and go quiet, which still surprises me a bit. I have to remember not to push you.

This new stranger shyness comes with increasing familiarity with your Tribe. You have such a rich life in that regard, as your Daddy observed, nearly every day someone you love comes by to take you out to do something fun, and when they're not here, you ask for each of them by name. At night, when I tell you what we have planned for the next day, you say Again to whatever includes your favorite people (your grandparents and Aunties especially), wanting to hear it twice or three times.

It seems to us that you've rounded a cognitive bend and you hold your tribe close. With Mana and Papa down with your cold, you ask for them frequently, and parrot back the explanations you've been given as though working it through for yourself: Mana sick, Papa sleeping, Papa's head hurts. When I give you kisses from them at night, you smile sweetly and lean in. All the while asking for Bubbie and your Aunties and anyone else who has made a good impression in recent weeks.

Overall you continue to be a happy kid, and we continue to be completely besotted. Thank you for another delightful month.

All my love,
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She stoops to conquer

MZ is in love with stoops. She can't pass one by without wanting to rest a bit, or if there are multiple steps, she wants to scale and descend on her own. Stoops are a bit shorter than regular stairs, and she's definitely noticed.

That's how she dinged her nose (no, we didn't pierce it, as one mama asked). Last week, walking up Folsom to pick up our
veggies, MZ saw a stoop she couldn't resist. She walked up the three stairs, then down, and demanded Again when I tried to move us along. On the second attempt, she bit it, and I heard a nasty clunk as I lunged for her. I'm mystified that she has a skinned nose and no bump on the head. She cried a bit, and then demanded Again. She was adamant that she would do it on her own, and she did, very carefully and very successfully. Good on her! She's ready for bitterbiking, our mountain biking group of days past, where the general rule is Try three times.

Worlds collide, her timing is perfect. We've been missing the trails these days, and her fascination with bicycles caused us to seek out a bike trailer. R. tuned our bikes and I've scrubbed the hand-me-down trailer into usable condition. We're ready to go!

For the longest time, we didn't miss mountain biking that much. I hadn't been able to mountain bike for a few years, what with multiple consecutive pregnancies and the emotional loading of any activity I could do Not Pregnant. Where those who arrive at parenthood on the Express might be understandably wistful for past "adult" activities, I venture that for those of us who take the Local, we've spent enough time being wistful, as well as angry and frustrated with the the seemingly endless line of can/can't and What's next. For me it was easier to say Fuck it, I'll mountain bike when I'm done with this bus.

And then we had MZ. We were so tickled by her that the idea of leaving her behind so we could ride for three hours on a weekend just didn't hold that much appeal. R. and I have been so aware of the fleeting nature of every stage of this experience. Soon she would be bored of us and we would rearrange our weekends to accommodate separate activities, but until that time, we were happy to centipede along, trying to wring every minute we could out of her infancy.

Now here we are with a kid who loves the idea of bicycles, leans yearningly toward her new tricycle whenever she sees it. We think she'll enjoy riding behind us in a trailer. Granted, we won't be doing any single track with MZ attached, but we'll be back on our bikes, and she'll be with us. Same same but different. And that's pretty damn fine.
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I wanna be sedated

The Illness Amplification System is working fine. We fell into a lull but are finding the old rule applies: whatever she gets, we get worse, about five days later, and wonder how she made it. She was grumpus unlimited for most of the weekend, including a memorable inconsolable hour just before friends arrived for dinner. We didn't know if it was daycare blues, teething or what.

Now I know it was a cold, accompanied by sinus headaches the likes I have never seen before, and a sort of shallow wheezing that produces a deep smoker's cough.

I feel like crap and I'm going to bed.
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Daycare Blues, or Analysis Paralysis Again

I am completely thrown by this situation, more so than anything that's come down the pike. Every day I revisit the current situation, and I'm sure I've considered every angle a dozen times. I'm coming closer to a decision, but I've also set a new record for spreadsheets, charts, pre-dawn reviews and pow-wows.

Miriam's first two weeks were a bit rough, we had her there for half-days and she was already crying when I arrived to pick her up every day. Three hours was about her max, then she'd start asking for me, which would devolve into crying on a caregiver's lap. Fortunately the daycare has a great caregiver ratio and she's always in someone's arms when I arrive.

She didn't -- and doesn't -- seem to hate it there, she even seems sorry to say goodbye. But lately on random days she's been saying No Ana, no kids, and on Monday when I pulled up to drop her off, she started crying hard immediately, even though we'd talked about going to Ana's the night before and that morning. She kept saying No Ana as I handed her over to, well, Ana. After which I called R. in tears, convinced that the decision to put her in daycare for socialization was the stupidest thing I had yet come up with. In life. But when I arrived she was playing in a circle with all the kids, had slept for two hours, which seemed great for a first nap there, and was in good spirits as she toddled over to me. No tears, just a bright smile and Uppy-up.

And we already see changes in her behavior, she says hi to every kid she sees as thought they are bound to be friends, and she's playing with hers toys differently, suddenly she's interested in blocks, Mega-blocks, Quartos, soft blocks, whatever, she wants to stack them, not just knock them over. Is she learning this at daycare, as Mana suspects?

The more complicated factor is that I am realizing I want more than one weekday/week with MZ. I went to the market on Monday, and it was Toddler Foods, everyone had one. And I realized that I could easily get errands done with her, and that she actually really likes being with me even if I don't have a carefully planned kid-oriented outing for her.

Our situation is complicated because MZ is cared for by grandparents two days/week. I wouldn't change this, I think it's great that she gets this opportunity to bond with them. However, I find myself resenting any time I don't get with her, perhaps overly aware of how much she's changing and what a truly great age this is, this mobile, verbal Land Before Two.

So for a minute there I decided I should put her in sharecare one day/week and keep her with me 2 days/week. Then I awoke in the predawn hours wondering if I was crazy to give up a daycare I looked long and hard for and have such a good feeling about. Her daycare seems to provide such a range of activities and opportunities for friendships, which seem more plausible with each passing day.

The thing is, I know it's hard for a child to get used to one day/week of something. If it were 4-5 days, I would know I'd chosen precisely the right provider. But maybe sharecare is easier on her for one day/week than adjusting to a group situation? ie, less different from being cared for by family? And then there's Auntie S who would really like a day with her, too.

I've come to realize, in the predawn hours, that it boils down to a selfish decision about how many days I want to be with her rather than a work imperative or which environment is truly best for her. She's going to be off to school in no time, and that will be good for both of us. So I'll work another year longer on the other end... we'll figure that part out. And we know kids in a range of care provider environments and they're all thriving. Big daycares, small places, nannies, grandparents, SAHMs, and all incredibly happy little toddlers. I'm even getting my head around the idea that MZ could get used to one day/week of daycare, if we start with these two days for a while and she gets accustomed to Ana's.

Now I just have to see if the daycare will go for it...