Friday, September 17, 2010

All aboard!

A quick post here as momentarily we will be boarding our train to Santa Barbara for the weekend to see my parents. Look at our old station in San Diego. Isn't it cool? I always thought it'd be a great place for a wedding. That's the train we're taking - the Surfliner.

This will be Natalie's first train trip other than the kids train at Balboa Park that she's ridden 9,000 times with her dad.

Not sure how many times Tony has been on a train. Lots and lots of times for me, starting when I was little.

My dad and I took the train to the Grand Canyon, where he had me stand on the edge and point into the abyss for a snapshot. We sped past moose and deer and stood between the cars shivering to see the moon. I took a train with my mom to visit my aunt in Sacramento. A mustachioed cowboy named Bart took a shine to my pretty mother with her long, strawberry blond hair, but he and his guitar got off in Cheyenne, Wyoming and that was the end of Bart.

Then there were train trips on my own as a child, from Milwaukee to spend weekends with my dad in Chicago. I was so scared of falling asleep and missing my stop. I knew Glenview, which I called Gwendolyn after my school friend, was my warning that downtown Chicago was next.

As a young adult, I took trains across Europe and through the British countryside and stared out the window,watching the landscape rushing by and thinking deep thoughts, typically with headphones on. Trains are great for deep and dramatic. I can't help but think of Dr. Zhivago and his family on that train winding through the Ural Mountains. And then, Strelnikov!

This afternoon will be a whole new experience. Cold cuts and salads from Little Italy, a bottle of wine and my two favorite people in the world. And the best part: my dear dad waiting at the station in Santa Barbara.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The hawk and the ham hock

This morning I woke from a harrowing dream.

I was on the edge of a woods, with Natalie and Tony and I think a couple of my coworkers.

I looked up to see a large hawk circling low. He swooped down for a landing 100 yards away and I shouted to him.


I expected him to know his name. And sure enough, he turned, tucked his wings back, and walked toward us. He was huge.

I thought: he is much bigger than a hawk. This is an eagle! I could see his big talons and his giant, hooked beak and I thought: maybe this wasn't a good idea.

"Go away!" I shouted.

He screeched and unfolded his wings and I realized as he grew closer and I backed up that he wanted something from me. And that he was taller than Natalie. Was he even an eagle?

Conveniently, I realized I had a ham hock in my hand. I threw it as far as I could, and the bird followed. I rounded up my family and coworkers and as we began to run I looked over my shoulder to see the hawk/eagle/prehistoric scary bird with the ham hock in his beak.

Then I woke up.

A little more on the ham hock: I used two for my bean soup on Sunday, and they remained in the refrigerator until last night, when Tony gave one to the dog. She went outside to eat it and gnawed on it with her hackles up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big girl

Natalie is now a first grader.

It's been a little rough.

New school. New teacher. All new kids. New after-school program.

And... no naps.

Which all adds up to an over-tired, overwrought little girl who falls asleep moments after I kiss her goodnight at 7:30 p.m. Last night, big tears rolled down her face when at the dinner table we asked her to say "please."

On Monday Natalie ran from her line for class, screaming "Mama, don't leave me!" and wailed as I pried her fingers from my pant leg. She sobbed and waved to me through the chain-link fence as I strode away, waving and smiling: "Have a great day, honey!"

By the time I reached my car, I was crying, too.

I recalled the first time I left her at daycare - for two hours. When I returned her shirt was off under her tiny overalls. She had cried and sweated so hard for those two hours, she'd soaked her shirt. For months after I went back to work, I'd have to drive us home with one hand on her little leg, because she couldn't stand any more time apart - not even in the back seat.

But she got used to it. In fact, she grew to love everything about that place. Eventually, I'd have to coax her to the car at the end of the day. This summer at the lake in Michigan she waded deep into the water as I watched from the shore, so proud of my fearless girl.

It feels now like we are starting over. But like we did back then, we try and try again. And each day gets a little bit better.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When you were a baby

Lately I have found that if I want Natalie to do anything, I appeal to her sense of nostalgia.

We went to Gordon Biersch last night and to head her off from requesting macaroni and cheese, I recalled the time when she ate there as a baby and oh how she loved the jasmine rice and steamed vegetables. In fact, the rice was all over the floor because she was grabbing it by the fistful. Silly baby!

She beamed.

"Let's order that tonight!" I said.


I remember at my baby shower Matt's sister wrote to me in a book of advice from my friends and family that I should do whatever works until it doesn't work anymore.

So right now, what's working is "When You Were a Baby ..."

e.g. At bedtime tonight: "When you were a baby you loved it when Mama read this book." (Short, easy book NOT about princesses.)

This actually is very fitting because I am quite nostalgic. As long as I can remember, I've loved looking at old pictures, old letters, recalling times passed. My college boyfriend used to tease me about it.

"You're the only person I know who wants to reminisce about the day before," he'd say.

In other news, we spent part of the afternoon painting ceramics and all I could think about was this video:

Step off little girl, that's my ...