Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baby R lexicon

Nuk = milk (as in, breast; I still haven't figured out what to call the bovine stuff)
Bu/bubu = blueberries, poop, car, pool, pretty much anything R feels like
Wuta = R's own name
Doddy = daddy, Mr. Doggie (the latter being R's lovey, who is indeed a dog; however, generic dogs, are either "woof woof" or "Eddie")
Pucker up your lips and say "heesh" = fish
Biyuh = bear
Dah dah = egg, hot (no idea)
Apu = apple
Owinj (accompanied by ASL sign for apple) = orange

The rest of the words in R's current vocabulary, she either pronounces correctly or they're probably not interesting to anyone else but me. The "bubu" confusion has reached a critical state, lately, as R will suddenly say it quite insistently while we're in the bathtub together (I must sit in there with her, no arguments), and I'm honestly not sure if she's asking for blueberries or if she's about to poo in the water--the latter being something I NEVER want to experience firsthand. She gets so furious, though, when I panic and whisk the both of us out of the tub, but I'm not taking any risks.

I can't properly express how weird it is, though, to witness my baby's comprehension and communication-ability levels develop. Maybe it's because I was a dog owner first, but once Edward learned the basic commands as well as a few untaught words, obviously I never expected more. To continue a one-sided conversation for over a year with your own little animal-like creature, and then suddenly have her reveal that she understands you, see her respond, hear her speak back....

I've never really been good at baby talk, and for the most part, have always spoken to R at a normal pace. Today, we were eating lunch with her and I was nattering on by myself as usual. But when I complained offhandedly that she wouldn't be fishing pasta out of her navel if she would only agree to wear a bib, gosh darn it, R suddenly stood up and ran over to where her bib was hanging and held it up to me. Of course the minute I put it on, R promptly tore it off and threw it on the floor, but that's a different story. All through the day, I am encountering situations like this more and more.

Sometimes R will initiate conversations with me, going off about something or other in a stream of babbling, accompanied by contorted facial expressions. It is so fun. I will nod along and she will nod back. Today, we hummed Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in unison; until now, it's been R or me singing it separately. Sometimes, though, R will repeat the same word over and over--"mama," for some reason, needs lots of practice and revisions, it seems--and I won't deny that it drives me mad, especially when she expects me to respond.

The other day, we tried to go out on a family bike ride, A and R on one bike, me on the other. For forty minutes or more, R cried over and over, "Mama," and for forty minutes, I said, "Yes?," with a few "hais, uh huhs, yups, and meows" thrown in for variety. If nothing else, R has a very determined streak. That girl does not give up. I'm really scared what kind of teenager she's going to grow into.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I hate to turn this blog into a self-indulgent bitchfest but...hey, it is my blog, isn't it? God, this weather is killing me. I've heard of people who get depressed from lack of sunlight, but I seem to be experiencing hot-weather withdrawal symptoms. I'm sluggish, depressed, have a headache, and the thought of moving my body hurts. It has been raining endlessly, but that's not what's bothering me. I miss the type of muggy heat that makes your face pink and seeps deliciously into your pores.

Particularly in Japan, there is no escape--even when indoors--from the cold. I don't know what that means. Is every building in this country badly insulated? All I know is that I'm shivering in my living room right now, and in a few more months, I'll be blogging with a scarf and hat on. And now I have to worry about keeping my toddler warm, too, although I think with the baby fat, she's somewhat better equipped than I am for the coming winter.

Today, we put on our wellies and went for a rainy day walk, and R was happily splashing about in the icy puddles long past the time I was ready to go home. Great. Now the spider-monkey child decides she wants to walk--now, when the weather has turned rotten. I need better wellies.

The apricot-colored gingko fruit have just begun to fall from the trees and R decided it would be great fun to pick these up and squash them in her hands. Why are gingko fruit so smelly? Can someone please tell me that?

And now, I have to stop blogging and deal with the ever-elusive, annoying question: What's for dinner?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just discovered SafetySuit. Am liking their song "Find a Way." Great rainy-day song.

Dear R,

You were in the weirdest mood today. I kept feeling your forehead because I was sure you were sick. Maybe it was the stupid drilling going on next door that disturbed your nap. Or the fact that you didn't eat much for lunch, and maybe were hungry. Or the sad gray sky, chilly air, and nonstop rain that was totally getting *me* down, for sure. Anyhow, you wanted nothing but for me to walk around the living room holding you in my arms, while demanding to hear the Black Eyed Peas's "I Gotta Feeling" over and over and over. And over. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet downloaded the Youtube Auto Replay add-on--didn't even know it existed until a second ago. The first time the song ended, I made the mistake of trying to go on to another song, turned around, and was shocked to see your face crumpling. I quickly went back to "I Gotta Feeling," you clapped your hands in approval, but then your bottom lip actually started quivering when the last line of the song played. God.

Anyhow, when my arms were about to give out, I caved and asked you if you wanted blueberries ("bu bu," you call them). The reason I never ask is because, when it comes to blueberries, there is no such thing as enough. Watching you eat blueberries is to see the development of addiction unfold. It's also a major pain in the ass to clean up after, since it gets all over your hands, which you make sure to wipe on as many surfaces as possible. But, yes, the blueberries did the trick, and then I lured you away from the berries with uncooked dried soba (another favorite of yours), cucumber, and roast chicken.

Despite the ominous start to our afternoon, things eventually got quite merry. We sat together on the kitchen floor, using your little stool as a dining table. We slurped (cooked) soba together. I butchered bits and pieces of Benjamin Britten scarcely recalled from my college choir days. We even did numerous rounds of kampai ("cheers" in Japanese), and maybe this is only funny to me but you pronounced it very clearly as "pad thai." Did I mention you ate cucumber?

About half a year ago, you went from gobbling down everything to systematically cutting everything vegetable out of your diet. But in the past week, you've voluntarily eaten cucumber, broccoli, and green beans. For some reason, spinach, lettuce, and asparagus are still not acceptable. But who cares about those?! Until now, I'd been this close to convincing myself edamame had some sort of veg affinity because of its color. Thank god those days of self-delusion can perhaps draw to a close.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The temperature in Tokyo very suddenly plummeted, and this strange cool afternoon has me feeling down. Anyone who's experienced summer in Japan would probably look at me incredulously, but I love the heat. Yes, I too have moments when I feel overly sweaty and ill-tempered, but most of the time, I'm happy and invigorated when the temperature is up. You know when you see those lizards lying plastered against boulders, soaking up the sun? That always looks so good to me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sigh. This morning was--sigh.

After seeing how much R enjoyed swimming this summer, I thought she'd love taking a mom+baby swim class. Do I not know my own daughter yet?

I actually went out over the weekend and bought a new swimsuit because the only one I own is a string bikini and my friend, who already attends the class, assured me that all the other Japanese moms wore things that had the equivalent coverage of wearing a tank top and biking shorts--"sort of like a wrestling suit," she said. Japanese ladies are pretty careful about not revealing too much skin. I couldn't quite bring myself to buy the wrestling suit, but I did get a more modest two-piece, and after much prep work, phone calls, etc., had us ready for our trial class. The school required that both mom and babe wear swim caps, and I was totally stressing over this, since R most days won't even tolerate having a baby hair clip touching her head. Funny thing about that. We didn't even get close to the water, let alone attempt to put on swim caps.

The moment we entered the pool area, R started panicking, crying louder and louder, and then hitting me, as if to say, "Why the hell did you bring me here? What, did you think I'd enjoy this?!" Sigh.

By the time I got us back into our clothes, R was pretty much inconsolable, and sobbed all through my explanations and apologies to the front desk, as I sheepishly asked for a refund on the trial-lesson fee and swim caps. Sigh.

When we got home, R had fully recovered and, as if to taunt me, spent the rest of the morning blowing water bubbles into her cup. "See," my mom said over Skype, "she wants to swim." I looked at R and she gave me her trademark naughty scrunchfaced smile. Sigh.

It's funny. Strangers always comment what a good, quiet little girl R is because when we're out, she's usually glued to my chest or standing frozen with her eyes downturned, if by some miracle, she actually agrees to be let down. You look at those active toddlers squealing and tearing through the supermarket and always feel sorry for those kids' moms. But having a "cautious," "sensitive"--not "shy," don't ever call them that, apparently--child can be hard in its own way.

The life R and I live sometimes feels very isolated. She is so easily distressed (and she's not quiet about her distress, let me tell you): crowds, new people, not-so-new people, any place with a front desk that can be mistaken for a dentist clinic. Even the playgrounds and parks I take her to every day--I can never be sure she will actually climb down from my arms, walk, play. Her dependence on me is immense, somethings feeling more heavy than I can bear. Even at home, she might suddenly grow insecure and do that climbing-up-my-neck thing that she does, when she cannot find the comfort she desperately needs.

I am really all she has--though A sees her on the weekends--and sometimes I wonder if that is partly to blame. A friend who's from India but lives abroad told me that when she went home for the summer, her son was surrounded by so many family members that he really came out of his shell. I think kids need that loud, in-your-face reassurance, that there is not just one but many people who will protect them and keep them safe.

I've heard from other moms with children like R that it's simply a personality thing. This is R's nature, for now. She might change in a year or two, she might not. I am learning to accept this. I try not to wish that she'd walk sometimes, instead of always insisting I carry her everywhere. Thank god she's still fairly small and portable. And every day I get stronger.

At least I never have to worry about her running into a busy road of traffic or walking off with a stranger. I passed the toddler leash I'd been given on to a friend, whose active daughter did almost get hit by a car, right in front of my eyes. That was terrifying. This same friend also admits she finds it exhausting always running after her daughter. Perhaps there's no such thing as a sane compromise when it comes to children.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear R,

This week was...hellish. You--that's right, you--put your mom through the ringer. It started with the sudden earlier-morning wakings. Went from a decent-ish 7:30am to a totally unacceptable 5am, Miss. I'm dreading what time you're going to be crying out for me tomorrow, which is why I REALLY should be in bed by now.

Although I love hot weather, 36'F doesn't make struggling with an unhappy toddler comfortable. I tried to leave the house with you about six times this morning, and was pretty drenched with sweat by the time we actually stepped out the front door. Lovely way to start an outing.

I have to confess: I all-out bellowed at you yesterday and I think I've managed to horrify the neighbors. It had been a very, very long day, sweetheart, and you really did everything possible to drive me insane. I held out until the very end, just before bedtime, when you were trying to shriek the house down and then attempted to tear the curtains off the railings. That was, for some reason, the last straw for me and I really shouted quite loudly at you. Can I just say that you were not impressed or intimidated in the least? But this morning when we bumped into the lady next door, she gave me a decidedly nervous half-glance. Or maybe I just looked as crazed as I felt, after all I'd gone through to get you out of the house.

But then late this afternoon, it was like the sun breaking through a thick grey sky and you suddenly lightened up, after days of tiny fury. And then you opened your mouth really big in my direction--kinda like you did the day before when you repeatedly tried to bite a hole in my face, zombie style, while I held you helplessly in my arms and tried to walk home--and started pointing at your gum, which upon close inspection turned out to be quite red and shredded-looking. Ah. Teething.

Teething. Even the most clueless new parent is prepared for certain things, but for some reason, nobody mentions how insane a child can become when teething. I guess it is different for each person. Some lucky bastards have kids who chortle through all twenty coming through, I suppose. Not me. Not you.

The first time I experienced teething was when you were six months old. You stopped being happy for an entire month. That was hard.

Truly, every time you are inexplicably mean or miserable, it is always teething. Sometimes I think I loathe those adorable little pearly chiclets--the source of all our woeful times. And you still have a ways to go. Argh, why does a person need so many teeth.

But on a lighter note, once you started returning to your normal self, you soon had me laughing again. You have a new thing that you do: Whenever you spot something small and brown, you scream, "Ew, a bwa" (translation: Ew, a bug). I'm pretty sure you're imitating me. But it is a poor imitation. The way you screech and whinny--I'm not that hysterical when I see an insect. I'm not.

You also are something of a physical comedian. When you're being silly, sometimes you'll pause, stare off into space for just the right amount of time, and then whip your head around to give me a naughty look--I wish I could capture it on the video camera.

You are becoming increasingly sweet and caring with your favorite stuffed animal--Mr. Doggy--as well, asking me to give him hugs and kisses, to massage his paws, and today offering him your lunch. Well, you love Mr. Towel, too, but it's hard to massage a towel and brush its teeth. Also, I don't think Mr. Towel likes eggs.

I hope you feel better tomorrow, R, mostly for my own sake. What a mean mom I am, huh? I'm really sorry I shouted at you yesterday. I doubt it will be the last time, though. You still have something like nine more teeth to go. Ugh.