Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a truce

There are days when New York City really kicks your ass. When you can't get anywhere and can't get anything accomplished. When your apartment feels even smaller than it is and your building feels like a battleground. When it feels like it costs twenty bucks just to cross the street.

Today was not one of those days.

Today, the weather was in the mid-70's, blue skies, lots of sunshine, and a gentle spring breeze. Isabel and I packed the stroller, slathered up with sunscreen, and headed to the park.

On our way out the door, Isabel got to flirt and play with Sixto, our amazing doorman who makes her smile and laugh like crazy. Sixto doesn't just sign for packages--he calls a car when I'm late and can't find a cab, he gives our diabetic cat twice daily insulin shots when we're away, he buys presents for Isabel at every opportunity, and he makes our day brighter every time we see him.

Two blocks from home, I picked up a drink for the picnic. I happened to choose an iced chai latte today, but I could have had a strong cup of Paris-quality coffee, a Kombucha tea, a veggie smoothie, a mango lassie, a shot of wheat grass, a shot of whiskey, a 1989 Bordeaux, a pomegranate margarita...you name it, it is available within two blocks of my front door.

Ten minutes and one very pleasant walk later, and Isabel and I entered one of my favorite places on earth, Central Park. It was packed with school kids on lunch breaks, running with balls and bouncing on benches, their peals of laughter bursting like gentle fireworks into the gorgeous day. The lush lawn near our entrance was finally open, so we rolled in and spread out under a tree in a dappled piece of shade and sun. Belly had a few skittish moments when she first left the blanket--What's all this soft green stuff again? Where are the cement blocks, the metal scaffolding, the cigarette butts? Can a person really touch this stuff?--but then had a wonderful time.

There were friends galore to be made today: Schuyler, Alex, their smiling nannies, three rambunctious Spanish kids with their funny, relaxed mom and her mother, who didn't speak a word of English but had a great husky laugh. Then there were all the other people we didn't meet but got to watch: kids from all over the world, speaking Chinese, Russian, French, you name it, running past people who looked like artists, students, writers, activists, drifters, investment bankers, beginners, old-timers ...you name it. No matter who you were, today was a day you had to hit the park.

After lunch and lots of sunny playtime, we rolled along one of the winding pathways, past the green trees and Victorian lampposts, and into the playground. As we entered, we could feel everyone's happy mood wash over us like the cherry blossoms that blew in the balmy air, and there was one empty swing waiting with Isabel's name on it. She kicked and giggled, turning her body to one side and then the other--there was just so much to look at.

Danny was working the door when we got home, and we smiled and talked about the fabulous weather. Later I decided I wanted to get a few groceries for dinner, so I strapped Isabel on my back and we strolled to the health food store two and a half blocks away. She smiled at people from behind my back, they had everything we needed, and we were back home in 20 minutes.

After Isabel's dinner, we stood looking out the window at the street below like we usually do, watching the taxis and buses and people coming home from work. Belly stood on the radiator and pressed her forehead to the glass. As I leaned in close and kissed her cheek from behind, I thanked New York City for being so magical.

On days like today.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If you can make it here...

There are days when New York City is the greatest place on earth. When the sun shines on the streets and emblazons the glorious tapestry of humanity that surrounds you, when you stroll through the park or the zoo or Union Square or the West Village, and you can't believe the people, the energy, the beauty, the diversity, the richness, and you stop in a gorgeous boutique or a cute cafe or a dive bar or a great sushi place or a yummy Mexican joint, and you just can't believe how much you love this city.

Today was not one of those days.

Our desire was simple: one errand at Crate & Barrel. The plan was to take the subway to C&B right after Isabel's lunch and make it back home in time for her nap. After that, we'd do laundry. I packed up the diaper bag with all the toys, snacks, diapers, wipes, Purell, gum, money, etc. that we'll need for this one-hour errand, put Isabel in her travel stroller, and we hit the streets.

I read all these other gorgeous blog posts involving houses in the woods or on the water, blooming trees and bursting blossoms, lush green nature everywhere. Don't expect any of that in this post. The streets were gray, dirty, and teaming with people, and everyone seemed to be irritated and/or in a hurry. Including me.

At the subway steps, we stopped. Diaper bag strapped around the chest, little girl gathered into left arm, stroller folded and secured over right shoulder, and we were ready for action. Slowly down the steps, then through the turnstiles: first Isabel in my arms, then me, then THU-THUMP, the stroller bringing up the rear and banging loudly into the sideways pole that had already made its turn.

We worked our way through throngs of people and the train doors closed as we approached. When the next train came, we shuffled on and happily found a seat. It was very crowded, but we are a contained unit of people and stuff and don't really notice.

When we get to the station, we plow our way through the crowd to the door, drag ourselves through the turnstiles (THU-THUMP), and trudge up the long flights of stairs to the outside. We made it! I put down the stroller and the heavy diaper bag (what was I thinking?), strap Isabel in, and that's when I notice: the busy little sock foot kicking underneath her jeans. She's lost a shoe.

These were her very first shoes: high end, lace-up, extra support, expensive shoes that TT wanted to bronze. Which meant: out came Isabel, up came the bag, on went the stroller, back down the steps, and through the turnstiles (THU-THUMP) we went. No shoe. THU-THUMP, back out we trudged, and on to Crate and Barrel with 3 shoes between us.

Now we were in mid-town at 1:00, which means that the streets were packed with a multitude of people with a single purpose: not lunch...smoking. They were smoking regular cigarettes, clove cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hashish, crack--I don't know what they were smoking, but it was blowing in my daughter's face and it was pissing me off. Her little white sock looked so vulnerable in the cold air, against a backdrop of traffic and billows of smoke.

We bought the gift we needed, and headed home. Some guy was spitting on the street just as we exited the store and it missed the stroller by inches. The streets were full of deep craters that made the little sock foot bounce. We made our way through the blocks of smoking people ("excuse me, may I pass you? I'd like to push this stroller in front of your cigarette, if I may, rather than directly behind it") and returned to the subway steps. Shopping bag on wrist, diaper bag on, Isabel up, stroller secured, and down we went.

Again, we watched people file onto a waiting train as we lugged ourselves (THU-THUMP) through the turnstiles, and then watched the train pull away. Fifteen minutes pass, during which Isabel must be entertained with various songs and gestures, made while the shopping bag swats around wildly from my wrist. This child--who cannot be put down in her sock foot, as much as she'd like to be--is getting heavy. The 6 train has been my subway for over 10 years, so it's quite embarrassing that it took the station manager's voice finally announcing the next train to make me realize that we were waiting for the wrong one. THU-THUD--the stroller caught on the turnstile on our way out. "God-damnit" I grunted as I wrenched it over. "Yes, gentleman who is shooting me a look. I did just swear two inches from my child's face. She doesn't speak English yet, so get over it."

We dragged ourselves up the long flights of stairs, and realized that it had started to rain. We didn't care (I'm speaking for Isabel on this point)--we were not going back underground to find the uptown train. So we walked a few more blocks (little sock foot bobbing along, back in the stroller), waited in the long line of people, folded ourselves back up again, and climbed on the bus.

It was a slow, crowded ride, but we made it back to our neighborhood, and went directly to the (crowded) shoe store. We waited until our name was called (poor Isabel was bored to tears and dying to walk around, shoes or no), and then I just held her up and it was pretty obvious what we needed. We got it, waited in line to pay, and went home.

We missed her afternoon nap. We did laundry, which as usual was cut-throat competitive, although we did get lucky because all three dryers were working (this is rare). As the clothes were spinning, we went for a walk in the new shoes. Listen Isabel, this is the din of rush hour traffic. This way sweetie, away from the garbage. Watch out for the dog piss on the sidewalk, honey. Don't pick that up, that's a cigarette butt. No, don't touch that--it's a jagged piece of metal from the heavy scaffolding that has lived over our building and on most of our block for your lifetime and probably for years to come. I don't know WHAT that is, sweetie, but don't touch it.

We have taken this same little NYC walk many times, and on another day I know I would describe it so differently: I would write about all the interesting people who smiled and talked to her, the lonely or elderly people whom she made smile with delight, the weather, the giggles, the many things she got to see, the details we appreciated together.

Just not today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Blogger Bipolar Disorder

It's already been a week since I posted, which is longer than I like to go. I've decided that I am struggling with BBD (blogger bipolar disorder), sprinkled with a light dusting of OCD and topped with a cherry of this problem.

For example, I had a terrific walk and lunch with the lovely, sparkling, and fabulously talented Monica recently, just days after finishing her unbelievable book, but by the time I got Isabel to bed that night I was so tired that I felt like I couldn't do it justice. You need lots of energy to write about a woman that fabulous and a book that incredible. (Plus I was very irked that I forgot my camera, which didn't help.) So here I am nearly two weeks later and I still haven't written about it.

Or I'll be walking with Isabel in the park and will have these interesting thoughts about life (to me, anyway). I'll get very excited: ooh, that is definitely my next blog post. What a thought-provoking, clearly memorable topic I'll address--perfect. And by the time Isabel's in bed...poof, out the window of my sleep-deprived brain it's flown, and in place of these so-called interesting, memorable thoughts are just some clunkers about our filthy laundry room and why there are only ever 2 working dryers in this 20 story building. Valid concern perhaps, but hardly an interesting blog post.

Or days like today, which isn't funny at all. I was excited to post about Isabel's little first birthday party yesterday, which was a tiny piece of heaven on earth, but I turned on my computer and learned of the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech, and I'm just too sad to write about it right now.

So, what I've decided to do today is:
1. work on continuing to shed my editorial self and become less picky about my posts (eg. requiring the perfect state of mind, continuing to correct every typo, etc.);
2. pray for the victims of this unspeakable crime, for their families, and for this world that is full of so much violence and kindness, hate and love, all at the same time;
3. post a happy picture of Belly and her Grammy (my dearest mom) at the party.


Monday, April 9, 2007

A Tale of Two Diets

one bottle, half whole milk and half formula, enjoyed calmly while snuggled with mommy
coffee with whole milk, slurped in passing

organic banana, organic raisins, organic oatmeal mixed with organic fruit and flax oil, eaten (and worn) enthusiastically while comfortably seated in highchair
browning remainder of banana, slathered sloppily with peanut butter, scarfed while standing, accompanied by lukewarm remainder of coffee

Oattios (wheat-free Cheerios), cut green beans, organic cheddar cheese, organic avocado, scrambled organic Omega 3-infused eggs, liquid Vitamin C supplement, organic pear yogurt with added organic blueberries, eaten lustily in highchair
Oattios (off of floor), organic cheddar cheese (several sizable hunks shoved into mouth while standing), organic avocado (licked off knife), slightly stale pita bread dipped into last night's leftover hummus (eaten while standing and talking on phone), large spoonful of leftover icing from I's birthday cake (licked contemplatively while reading blogs)

organic grapes, cut into quarters, enjoyed during playdate
one-third of large fancy bakery cupcake, nibbled delicately while engaged in delightful conversation during playdate

cut green beans, organic kale and pear puree with tofu, organic feta cheese, organic sweet potato, organic multigrain with organic fruit, enjoyed with gusto in highchair and followed later by a second snuggly bottle with Mommy in rocking chair
two remaining thirds of large fancy bakery cupcake, shoveled indelicately into mouth while standing, approx. 7 minutes after end of playdate

DINNER, PART 2 (to come):
egg salad sandwich, made from eggs bought, hardboiled, and dyed various colors by M's mother, mixed with mayonnaise and spread on bread. This mixing and spreading will be referred to as "cooking dinner." Will be eaten in front of TV with two glasses of wine, the second of which will be slightly regretted at tomorrow's regular 5:45 am waking.

Is it possible that the same person is responsible for both of these diets?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Belly

WARNING: To anyone who has never cried at a chick flick, given someone a hug just because you felt like it, smelled the head of a new baby and then went back for one more delicious sniff, or referred to yourself as "feeling sensitive" at some point in your life...READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

Today, at 6:59am EST, my daughter Isabel Sofie turned one year old. I knew this would be a big one--I have celebrated the first birthday of several children whom I love dearly over the years, and I have been very excited for Isabel's--but I had no idea just how amazing and intense it would feel. I had no clue that I would be so overcome with emotion and love that it would keep bursting embarrassingly out of my eyeballs as I do simple things like help her open presents or ice her little cake or type on my computer while she naps.

(Less sensitive types, this is your last chance. You can still make it out alive, but I warn you to GET OUT NOW. TT, this does not include you. You know this particular topic turns you into a total mushball.)

Dear Belly,

I don't know how to thank you for coming into my life. I can't find the words to describe how much I love you, and how much my love for you has changed me.

In my life, I have been graced by the vital and sustaining love of my parents, my two sisters*, my best friends, and my husband. The more I have lived, the more I have recognized just how blessed I am. But the love I feel for you has taken everything I thought I knew about love and blown it into a new stratosphere.

I remember the day you came into this world like it was yesterday. It was surprisingly cold outside for early April, just like it is today. And the unexpected snowfall outside our hospital windows felt like a blessing just for you. When snow flakes fell again this early April morning, it felt like the universe was celebrating your first birthday with us--or at least New York City.

Isabelly, you are my idol. Your determination inspires me: from the moment you were born, after hours of fetal cardiac distress, sucking with vigorous focus on several fingers...to now, when you insist on carrying the largest, heaviest, and most awkward toy across the room and will let nothing stand in your way. Your fearlessness astounds me: from every roll, crawl, and step you have taken into the great unknown, months earlier than we've expected them...to now, at the Central Park Zoo, where we have rarely seen you laugh so hard, and where you find no animal too big, too weird, too smelly, or too close. If the petting zoo let you ride them all into the sunset, it still wouldn't be enough. Your silliness makes me so happy I could burst: your squawking parakeet laugh and guttural giggles are the most marvelous music I have ever heard. And your sweetness melts me: your little smile when our eyes meet across the room, the soft clapping of your hands when music starts, and the way you lean into me and let me turn the pages of your books when you get sleepy.

Your daddy and I come to visit you every night before we go to bed: to tuck your blanket back around you, to gaze at your sleeping face, to touch your back, feel your breathing, and take you in. When you are pressed against our side of the crib, we can crouch down and smell your hair. We sleep much better after this blessing, and we love each other more in loving you.

I am a better person since knowing you. Every choice I make has more meaning to me now, and my time is much better spent as a result. I do things I care about, I traffic in the truth, and I am motivated by love. Period.

So I don't know how to thank you. I can only say: happy birthday Belly. I love you with all of my heart. You are my heart.


*EK, I love sharing the experience of motherhood with you. CKS, you are going to be such a wonderful mother some day, and I am so excited to share it with you too.