Hello from Seattle! It’s Lucia’s first visit to cutiefiles homeland and we’re having a great time at Grandma’s house. There is no place better than Seattle in August. We sit on the deck in the evening as the sun sets and the air is delicious.
Elena spent two weeks learning some American customs at SportBall camp – a genius franchise that takes the best of drills for sports like Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer, Football, and Golf and combines them with story telling.
Golf: Did you get the little rabbit in the hole? (Putting) Did you make the ball fly like a bird? (Drive)
Volleyball: Something about Spike the dinosaur.
Jumping jacks: Put your hands out like a rocket, then in like a star.
Then there was one about flying donuts where they caught hoola hoops soaring through the air.
It was genius. Everyday she gave Coach Sebastian a high five and then ran back and forth for three hours. They discussed the Seattle Seahawks and Richard Sherman. She came home and showed me how to “pop a squat”, then she asked me to “give a clap.” Go team America.
Lucia’s favorite sporting activity is to lie on the floor and kick, then she pulls her blankie over her head and kicks really fast and pants, then she pulls the blankie off. It’s quite a lot of cardio. She’s also just about sitting on her own.
As for me I’ve been happy to hit the yoga gym a few times where I have seen more tattoos in one class than I see in a year in Bonn. And then of course there’s pushing the stroller up the big hill with one hand while pulling Elena up it with the other.
While we’ve adapted quickly to America there are still a few shocks. We went dress shopping for me for the wedding and had to stop by Victoria Secret. Elena gasped when she walked through the door, “its a pink store!” While I was in the dressing room, she jumped on a pink couch shouting “I love pink!”
I gotta say, I really like the grocery store selection, being able to understand when people tell me I have a cute baby, random conversations with anyone I want. Today I asked the daddy at the beach to help me get a giant spider out of Lucia’s stroller. That was dramatic.
Times are good but they are flying. The day goes by in a blur, so its good to try to write things down. My mom called this time the lost decade. I can see why. I can hardly remember what happened this morning. Elena has enough energy to push you past your limit, but at night she sleeps in a Hello Kitty sleeping bag next to a bear wearing a dress also sleeping in a sleeping bag. Who can stay mad?
But I’m writing this as I am about to leave Seattle after four fun weeks. We kicked it off with my cousin Ben’s wedding, and then partied a week later at Diana’s bachelorette. Lucia and I flew down and had a girls weekend in Sonoma. Fabulous.
Between the party weekends, I hit the coffee shops in the morning while Elena was at camp and did some work. Now we are going to meet Papa in San Francisco and wait for Diana and Rafi’s big wedding day next week. Believe me, he has been missed!
My super mommy friend Mary across the pond sent me this one: When You are Tightly Wound. The whole thing is beautiful and rings OH SO true, especially today. Kate writes,
“There is a lot of mom-shaming around these days despite our best efforts to cover it up with positive op-ed pieces on Huffington Post. Disdain for the working mothers, the home mothers, the breastfeeding or formula or unvaccinated mothers. We shame ourselves into thinking we’re the only ones who are overwhelmed, who cry in the bathroom, who sit in the grocery store parking lot as a “vacation.”
There is no moral to this story except: I see you. I see you out of the corner of my eye feeling tightly wound and it’s okay. Find 30 minutes of silence and remember two things:
1) We are lucky to have kids and most of our organs and dental floss.
2) You hid dark chocolate in the freezer. You can eat it now.”
It came just in time: after I put two kids to bed and cleaned the kitchen. I sat down, finally to some peace, but its 10:30 and time to start getting ready for bed myself. Who knows when one of the girls will wake up again, the night like a relay race between small, medium and large beds. There are wedding registries I should be buying things from. I agreed to copy edit a series of economics articles for a PhD friend to submit to a journal (god help me). Kate writes,
“Yesterday I went to the grocery store for the fifth time in one week. This is either a sign of hopeless irresponsibility or early onset dementia. I never remember to buy honey.
Somehow there is something on the calendar every day for the next six weeks. Last month I bought a pack of 22 baby hair clips. There are only 7 left. It all feels very tragic.
A list of unfinished projects sits on the stack of Martha Stewart magazines I never read. I want to paint the living room but I don’t know how to paint a living room.
Every week or so someone texts me, “How is your writing going?” “
Elena has been sick for three days so that means I have been full-on mommy. At the doctor I realized her tummy is probably hurting because lately she has been eating mainly plaintains and cheese. This is not the secret to good digestion.
Then I went to the grocery store, and as wonderfully advanced as these Germans are on affordable day care and child friendly events, the grocery store is a nightmare.
Picture me with a baby strapped on my chest and a tired sick three-year-old sitting in a too-small cart. I’m unloading all my groceries onto the belt, then packing them into the cart and bags as fast as I can, trying not to drop bottles of oil, wake up the baby, or anger the customers behind me. No one offers to help. The cashier tells me she hopes I will not be so stressed. With all its problems, the ample grocery baggers in the US seems so very civilized.
Yes, life is about grocery stores, baby hair clips, and small bits of poetry you most likely won’t get down. This is how it is now, and it feels very precious and like a moving train. Not a high speed one, but one that is shaking and rattling and somehow overflowing with diapers and water bottles and cute baby hats.
Today we were outside sitting in the yard and Elena did not want to go inside. It was the perfect temperature and the light was pink. I did not want to go inside either. So we just drew ice cream cones in pink chalk.
And then even though Elena has been sick, and it was past her bedtime, I took her down the street at dusk to watch the bats. She has been watching a cartoon version of Stella Luna. Our favorite part is when the baby bat clings onto the mommy bat’s stomach while she flies. To me, bats are a sign that the world is still wild, their secret lives in dark corners, their delicate senses, the only mammals that can fly. They come out when the sun is setting near the river, swooping and flapping and cutting through the sky with wings shaped like knives.
Mother’s day is extra great with a new baby. Time is going so fast, Lucia is about six weeks and has outgrown all her newborn clothes. She is almost ten pounds now and is already wearing size three months.
Elena greeted me at 8am with a giant bouquet of flowers. “Happy Birthday! You are three already. Chocolate and flowers, I went to the grocery store.” I had to force myself to wake up to convince her not to eat the chocolates. Then she brought me an empty mint box with a green ribbon in it, “It’s a dinosaur.” Perfect.
The dialogue is now a steady stream, and her favorite words currently are already, today and also. Really you can add them to any sentence. We were in the kitchen getting her breakfast. “I want a banana already.” Then she peeled it, demanded a knife to cut it into pieces, but refused to eat it.
Me: “You’re a pill.”
Elena: “I’m not a pillow.”
Then she takes another banana and holds it to hear ear, “I’m calling Felix today.” When life gives you squished bananas and a three-year old, make banana bread. Which we did.
The week went fast, we did a lot of things, starting off with the fair at the Rheinaue eating ice cream and watching Elena ride flying cars, moving on to Lucia’s first doctor visit, a trip to Obi (the German home depot) and a little gardening. We got ambitious and headed to Maastrict, where we ate pie in an cafe and working flour mill that got its start in the 7th century — De Bisschopsmolen.
We also headed down the Rhine to the tiny town of Rolandsecke to visit the Arp museum, my new favorite place in Bonn. It was built in an old train station for Hans Arp, a dadaist and contemporary of Matisse and Picasso. If you are nearby, you have to check out the exhibit Rapunzel & Co, one of the best art exhibitions I have seen in years. The cafe is in the hall of the old train station, high ceilings, chandeliers, art deco, modern art. A perfect date night – just two years off.
Then we headed to Remagen to the Peace Museum – “the bridge at Remagen.” It’s housed in old towers of a bridge destroyed in WWII. When the American allies crossed the bridge it was a key turning point in the war. Veterans from both sides have met over the years in the museum, and it tells the local story of the war in an authentic way. Small – but very interesting and powerful. After my mom’s fourth visit to Bonn, I was happy we could discover these hidden gems so close to home.
We have had family here since Lucia was born. Now we are basically on our own, no magic elves picking up the kitchen while I’m breastfeeding, making sure there are vegetables with dinner, or taking Elena to preschool in the morning. (Thank you family!)
Motherhood continues, and it is such a gift. I am grateful for my two beautiful daughters and wonderful mother. Before she left, my mom gave me what I consider the ultimate compliment, “you have your own circus now.”
“Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.”
― George Eliot (Thanks Mom and WSUU)
The morning after I wrote the “Waiting for Lucia” post I woke up rested, oddly at peace. Lucia came later that Friday. Poor Luis had been working around the clock that week to meet a deadline for the 20th anniversary of the climate change convention (UNFCCC) entering into force. He met his Friday deadline, but did not get a chance to rest. Lucia was born that evening.
She came much quicker than Elena’s epic 33 hours, we did not even have time to have an epidural. It was no picnic, but she was there before I could believe it. More like a scene from the movies than the last go round, though no deep and or witty conversations were held during labor.
We had an old German midwife who didn’t speak much English. I was panicking and she was saying “baby coming now” and “Frau Davila, sehr gut gemacht.” Luis was annoying me by adopting a German accent in the delivery room but I didn’t have time to tell him that.
Elena spent the night at Felix’s, where she was a shining example of a 3 year-old, brushing her teeth and going to bed without a fight. The next day the abuelos arrived from Venezuela, so timing was pretty good considering.
We were able to leave the hospital on Monday. Also a different story from Elena, where they would not let us go home and it all seemed so dramatic. I have had a very dedicated midwife visit me at home to help check her growth and provide lifesaving breastfeeding tips (I have a new appreciation for cabbage, mint tea, rose oil, infrared light).
Elena was happy to meet her sister, she called her “my baby” and “what a cutie.” She asks to hold her and tries to bring her toys and food. When she cries she says “oh no, bebe!“
But I was right to pack in the ice cream dates, now I feel like I hardly see her. The abuelos take her to school and pick her up, so I just see her in the evening. I can’t pick her up because I have no stomach muscles – and she had a growth spurt so she is extra big. But she is getting some quality time in with her Papa. Luis and I have taken up a noble project for the late night breast feeding — watching all five seasons of Parenthood. It’s a great family-centered show for this time. It’s sentimental, loving, generous, and we even pick up a few tips here and there.
Lucia’s currently has dark blue eyes and a doll in her tiny cute suits. It’s not easy but it’s a very special time.
Lucia’s due date is Saturday. It’s a strange time. You stand on the threshold, waiting to cross over, unsure how long you will be waiting. You can’t make plans other than doctor’s appointments. Tomorrow the astrology sign moves from Pisces to Aries. I always have had many Aries in my life. We will have a house full of fire signs.
Today was an odd 24 degree day in March and I went out for coffee with a friend. I have to walk very slow. I’ve been invited to a luncheon tomorrow, but I honestly don’t know what to wear. Even my pregnant clothes are too tight, and my mother taught me never leave the house in sweatpants.
Elena knows, and has turned up her momma radar. Lately she asks me “Momma, are you OK?” She wants to hug and cuddle and play with her momma. She wants to sleep in my bed. She knows Lucia is coming, and that Lucia has to come out of the belly. She still says has a princess in her belly, and that papa has a prince in his belly. Today I went shopping to buy something for the new baby, but I ended up buying Elena two pink dresses. I have taken her to the park for ice cream now for two days in a row.
I recently just listened to an interview with Ana Tijoux, a Chilean hip hop artist. She produced her latest album in the months after her daughter was born. Somehow, in the sleep deprivation, she found a creative space. The interviewer was honestly in a state of disbelief, and I along with him. Her music is so bold, layered and complex, how could it come from this space after birth? I remember Elena’s first months, it was such a time of the body, but a time of amazing sensitivity to the world around you, of thanks, of deep and fleeting comprehension of the miracle and gift of life.
Elena’s first year and a half felt like it would never end, that I would never wear coordinated outfits or go to a professional workplace again. Luckily that was not true. These last months life has been fast paced, Luis and I have both been working hard, up late nights writing, over committed, rushing from meeting to meeting, traveling for work. Now we have a deadline, even though its a moving target. The time has come to slow down and find quiet. What can worry bring me? I am hoping for a speedy delivery and healthy baby.
I recently read the incredible epic Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. Reading about women in the 16th century is not reassuring during pregnancy, as their lives are often defined by their births, and they suffer the deaths of many of their children. There is a passage, odd in its prescience in a tale narrated by a man, describing Queen Mary, right before she gives birth to her first child with Henry VIII. She has a daughter Elizabeth, which is a great disappointment to the kingdom because she is female, but goes on to become one of the greatest British monarchs in history.
When a woman withdraws to give birth the sun may be shining but the shutters of her room are closed so she can make her own weather. She is kept in the dark so she can dream. Her dreams drift her far away, from terra firma to a marshy track of land, to a landing stage, to a river where a mist closes over the further bank, and earth and sky are inseparate; there she must embark towards life and death, a muffled figure in the stern directing the oars. In this vessel prayers are said that men never hear. Bargains are struck between a woman and her God. The river is tidal, and between one feather-stroke and the next, her tide may turn.
On 26 August 1533, a procession escorts the queen to her sealed rooms at Greenwich. Her husband kisses her, adieu and bon voyage, and she neither smiles nor speaks. She is very pale, very grand, a tiny jewelled head balanced on the swaying tent of her body, her steps small and circumspect, a prayer book in her hands. On the quay she turns her head: one lingering glance. She sees him, she sees the archbishop. One last look and then, her women steadying her elbows, she puts her foot into the boat.
It’s been a really long time blog. I even wrote post drafts and didn’t publish them. I don’t know what happened. Busy times. A blog vortex. Then my computer crashed and I lost all my writing. So blogging is safer. I should have learned my lesson.
But now Cutie number two is on the way, just one month to go, and I thought best to document a few things about these special times so I can look back later and laugh:
Today I wore leggings and ankle boots to work. God help me.
I am hungry all the time. It’s really too bad I am not in a food mecca like New York, Seattle or San Francisco where there would be so much to enjoy guilt free. I caught myself dreaming of a bagel. Its hard to find decent pizza. Why they put bourbon flavor in vanilla ice cream is beyond me. Where are the nachos? The PhadThai? The burritos? I have to make special trips just for cheddar cheese. At best we have waffles, schnitzel and apple juice. I can only pretend I am eating less sugar, fat and meat than the average American but who knows.
I would consider going to bed around 5pm.
I did manage to bake a pumpkin pie and treated myself to one slice per day for a week. (It was a labor of love: Libby’s pumpkin imported from New Jersey, evaporated milk from expensive British store, home made crust.)
I swear my legs don’t look that fat but I can’t zip up my tall black boots.
I found the cheesy movie What to Expect When Your Expecting surprisingly relateable, but the most relateable parts are too embarrassing to name.
The doctor gives me my weight in kilos and I do not check what it is pounds. It’s possible I weigh more than Luis.
Elena has caught on.
Yes, there is a sister in the belly button.
She has a princess in her belly button. The my little ponies are also getting sisters.
We walk about the same pace these days. Sometimes she is faster.
There are terrifying moments where I completely forget someones name or other key piece of information that I would normally know. Please, no numbers or math of any kind.
Many other un-sexy things which I will not share and which would be fine not to remember.
so, where can I put my up my feet?