Archive for the ‘family’ Category

newsletter: month three

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

You are three months old, and I don’t even know where to begin. This is a bigger problem than might seem, because I have about four and a half functioning brain cells. Welcome to the new world order! This week I’m back to work from maternity leave.

gettin' around

Ask me sometime for my thoughts on how much paid time women get with their infants in this country. Since the answer is none (there’s unpaid time, and even then twelve weeks is WAY too little), I’d prefer that you ask me when you and I can have this conversation over big-girl drinks.

But actually, although I’ve got righteous feminist rage on the topic, you and I are just fine with this. You’re thriving and getting some social time away from me, and I get to exercise my big brain and later regale you with stories of digital librarianship. Everybody wins. (As long as you start eating more from the bottle. Pretty please?)

Your social skillz are MAD. You smile at everyone who engages with you. You look at everything in looking range, and some things beyond it. You do this trembly-chin thing that older people sometimes do when they’re cold, but for you it’s a precursor to speech. Or so I imagine—because you only do it when babbling at your many fans.

No syllables yet; any day now. In the meantime you say a whole lot by using only vowels with the occasional (and I think accidental) consonant thrown in. That said, you do this adorable mirror neuron thing that closely approximates saying “hi,” only you say hhhhaaaaoooiiii, usually accompanied by a gummy grin.

You started sleeping longer stretches of three, sometimes even four hours at night… and then got congested again. So we’re back to waking up every two hours, sometimes even more. It might be allergies, it might be the weather doing its crazy New England thing, it might be a bona fide cold. Who knows? Not I, but I DO want you to sleep more, please.

Then again, maybe if I weren’t spending precious nighttime minutes staring at you while you sleep with little smiles playing on your cherubic face, I might also be spending less time running on fumes.

I’ve been reading to you. I hear that your brain is particularly spongy where languages are concerned, right now, so we’ve drawn on Pushkin and Rodari in addition to anglophone fare. The cultcha doesn’t stop there, oh no: baby’s first trip to the ICA was… well, actually, you slept through that. But don’t worry. We’ll go again. I think you’ll like it: there’s a lot of bold color there, and you’ve already shown art appreciation by staring at the pictures on our walls. You particularly like Sherdeb Akadan’s dolphins and Rachel Mello’s Learning to Let Go. Good choices, if I do say so myself.

the lower-lip dance of intense concentration

Your tiny body is so radiantly, so desperately alive. When you wake up, your head turns back and forth, and your legs fly out straight at 45-degree angles, it’s the cutest thing. You’re wasting no time dialing all your worldly activities up to eleven: for example, you’re distract-o-baby when you nurse, looking everywhichway and wasting not a second and clearly thinking deep thoughts about the world. You sleep just as passionately. The utter trust as you slump in my hands, letting me burp you as you sink into dreamland, almost gives me hope in a month when Wisconsin repeals the Equal Pay Act and election-year spite gains power again.

Meanwhile, you visit farm chickens and smell Arboretum lilacs. You’re loved and cuddled by your extensive fan club. You have a proto-giggle that turns your eyes into sparkling upturned half-moons. And I take occasional breaks from writing this to stare at you snoozing nearby. Life’s all right, baby.



P.S. more photos

newsletter: month two

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

You’re two months old today, and we celebrated this morning by sticking you with needles. You’re well on the recommended schedule for vaccinations, and have been filled with appropriate disgruntlement for several hours now. Which one couldn’t tell from observing you at this moment, as you lie there alternating between dopey staring and snoozing in your swing. But the intermittent misery is real. I’m sorry, baby. It’ll pass. In the meantime, I’ll snuggle you as much as you want, and listen to your little mammal sounds.

You’ve grown a lot. You’re thirteen and a half pounds now, well on your way toward double your birth weight. But it’s more than the weight: there’s somebody home behind those eyes. I love this.

Despite today’s vaccinations-related drama, the word of the month is copacetic. And it’s been an eventful month! You’ve been having trouble with, well, snot. The pediatrician (our mutual doctor, whom I love to no end) thought it might be a deviated septum, and sent us to an otolaryngologist—that’s a fancy name for an ear-nose-throat doctor. The ENT was a patronizing jerk. He didn’t pat me on the head and call me little lady, but only just. He did give us the crucial bit of information on the septum (not deviated), but also didn’t take my concerns seriously, dismissing them as new-parent jitters.

I didn’t tell him off, but only just.

I haven’t been able to reliably put you to sleep on your back for weeks, you see. You would start snorting and whipping your head back and forth, and wake yourself up in the process. At first, this was only when you were on your back; the hack for that was to put you in your car seat, on the bed. I was pretty pleased with that, until you started getting congested in the car seat as well—and let me tell you, hearing an infant’s head thump against the sides of a car seat is not my idea of fun. So then we had you lying on top of me, tummy down. That worked, until it didn’t.

Now, if you’re congested, it’s in every position. But hey, things are changing. Maybe you’ll outgrow this thing. Or maybe it’s cat allergies. We’re about to ban the cats from the bedroom and gather more data. For now, you sleep through more of the snorting. Watching your sleep patterns change is fascinating, and I encourage you to continue working toward three-hour stretches before I go totally loopy with sleep deprivation.

Our medical adventures did not end there. We went to the emergency room this month, but your presence there was mostly incidental: it was for me. Norovirus is nobody’s friend; I caught it, couldn’t keep down fluids, got dehydrated, and got two liters of fluids drip-dripped back into me at the ER. Our friend R. was a trooper, went with us at ungodly-in-the-morning, and helped with baby care while I shivered under heated blankets. The room was so cold that later, when R. left, I snuggled you for warmth. Through all of that, you managed to escape the norovirus with your breastmilk-enabled immunity superpowers.

You’d think this would be enough excitement for one month, but that leaves us with a lot of time to fill. Movies and TV shows have provided entertainment; thank you, online streaming video. Elizabethtown wasn’t bad, and brought back all kinds of memories of my dad, whom you’ll never meet. (A pity; you’d have liked each other.) Soundtrack for a Revolution was gripping and thinky for me—and while I watched it in bits and pieces, you were in my lap, eating, snoozing. We’ll have to talk later about history, personal and otherwise.

We’ve been playing more, too. Sometimes I put you in your bouncy seat and introduce you to scents to see how you react. You love garam masala and rosemary and cardamom. You’re not so keen on citrus, so tea laced with bergamot is right out. And harissa seems to have been downright personally offensive.

You’re showing increasing signs of being a social animal. You’ve been smiling at faces, and not just mine. (They’re all charmed.) You had an entire day without mama, when I went to a workshop, and that all worked out just fine. Three or four different people have now offered you a bottle, and you’re working hard on figuring out why that might be a good idea. But those few times when you’ve cried really hard, because something in your world just wasn’t right at all, I’ve held you and rocked you and sang to you and said, “It’s okay, baby. It’s just you and me.” Seems more manageable that way.

We went on your first outing to the movies, with the M&N dynamic duo. Somerville Theatre, where… we… saw The Secret World of Arrietty, had a packed house for it, so we stayed standing in the back of the theatre. The ushers said it was against the rules, but let us do it anyway in a fit of kindness. This was good: you fussed just a bit, I held you and rocked with you and fed you. I only missed about five minutes of the movie. Nicely done, baby.

(The movie wasn’t bad. There was one weird noble-savage moment, which, remind me to tell you later why that’s problematic.)

Now you’ve woken up, we’ve played a bit and changed you and snuggled dancing around for a bit, and you’re back in your swing completely rapt with fascination at the three small stuffed birds spinning overhead. You’re watching the world with increasing intensity… except when you’re drunk on milk and staring out with the dopiest expression I’ve ever seen on a baby.

Those puckered pouty milky lips you have after feeding slay me. But the complete downfall of all my parenting will be brought about by your tiny lower lip, stuck out when your feelings have been so hurt and you’re having a fit of perfectly innocent petulance mixed with despair of the world ever being right again. I am certain that you will learn to manipulate that deftly in time.

Most of the time you’re pretty happy, though. Sometimes when you’re eating and I can’t see your mouth, I know you’re smiling because your eyes turn into little crescent moons.

This is getting long. Soon I’ll have to become a lot more selective about what goes into these newsletters: there’s just so much. You’ve seen the ocean now. You have many fans. We’re both still figuring out your sleep patterns, and when your bedtime should be.

I’ve been fretting about how things are going to change when I go back to work, which tells me that things are basically okay now. This is a big deal, only two months into this whole new-life thing.


P.S. This post took most of the day to write. There you are, asleep again.

P.P.S. I’ve put up more photos of you here. Instead of putting some of them into this post, I’ll take a little nap instead. Because sleep-when-the-baby-sleeps is a Really Good Idea.


Friday, March 16th, 2012

I’ve chosen a hard path with this parenting thing, but you know what? It’s fascinating, too. And sometimes it’s just plain wonderful.

Today I’m thirty-five. I’ve already gotten well over half a dozen well wishes on Twitter, in email, via SMS, and in person. Soon my mom and her partner will come over, and tonight other friends and loved ones will drop in for snacks and company. I am rich beyond compare.

Nico is in his crib—we’re experimenting with putting him to sleep there. I won’t be giving up co-sleeping for a long while yet, but it’ll be nice if there’s another place he can snooze without being rocked (as he is in the awesome hand-me-down swing we have, where he can sleep for hours). Exploring, exploring.

He was all smiles today. All in all, worries and hurdles aside, I lead a pretty charmed life. If you’re part of it and reading this: thank you.


newsletter: month one

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

You turn one month old today. I’ve always loved reading dooce‘s used-to-be-monthly newsletters to her children, so I’m kidnapping the idea (get it? kid… never mind) for my own.

A month and a day ago, I went on a road trip to Portland. I was restless at 41++ weeks, impatient for labor to start, so why not dinner in Maine with Molly, one of my favorite road trip companions? As you have discovered in this first month, road trips make me happy. So you won’t be surprised to hear that my water broke while driving up to Portland. We went right on to have dinner at Duckfat.

Tomato-fennel-basil, cream of onion, PS Vika's water broke

Then we came back to Boston, and twenty-two hours after my water broke, after some additional drama, you were here. You came out all skinny. 7lbs 10oz and 21.5 inches, or as Mark put it, a tall drink of water. You had long, looong skinny fingers and toes. Now, they’re looong and fat. You’ve filled out, babe, gaining somewhere in the vicinity of three pounds in your first month (we’ll find out exactly how much tomorrow, at the doctor’s). You have the round baby-fat cheeks and the double chin, and the insane number of dirty diapers to support my rapid-growth observation.

hello world: eleven days in

Not only is all that baby fat adorable, it’s also a good idea. You’ll be needing these reserves and then some, as you become more mobile. As it stands, you’re already holding up your head and getting your back to go all rigid for seconds at a time. Your kicking is pretty strong, too, but the head and back mobility means that you can look at more of OMG EVERYTHING—to the extent, anyway, that you can make out the shape of anything further than ten inches away. Some of the things that keep your attention for minutes at a time are lit lamps, the television screen when it’s off (large, dark object against the wall’s light background), the dark curtains at home, and the dried roses hanging upside down off the bookshelf near the chest freezer, where your bouncy seat often gets planted.

You’re pretty copacetic about the bouncy seat, most of the time. You even let me take showers, and sometimes make breakfast and/or wash dishes. There’s a limit to your patience, of course, but given your extreme n00b status, the time you do spend in the bouncy seat is impressive, and I’m thankful for that. Single mamahood has been a big adjustment, and so far you’ve been astonishingly cooperative.

Not that you don’t prefer to be held. You do, sometimes emphatically so. Good thing there’s the Moby wrap. You like that thing, even if sometimes you get mad when I put you in it. You settle down and burrow a bit, and often fall asleep. I’ve done laundry, dishes, cooking, therapy sessions, and walking to the doctor’s, all with you in the wrap.

I do wish I could nurse you in it. You’re voracious, and growing accordingly. You’ve started to recognize the breasts: yesterday morning, you reflexively but repeatedly grinned when you saw me offering you one.

That grin, oh. Your entire face lights up. I can hardly wait until it’s conscious. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the myriad expressions that can appear on your face one after another in the span of a minute. One of them in particular I haven’t been able to capture, because both my hands tend to be busy with your floppy little body. When I help you to get rid of the air you gulp in your eager nursing, you lift your eyebrows and half of your head scrunches up, and you look for all the world like Wallace Shawn. Mark calls this your “what fresh hell is this?” face.

one face among many

Other things about your first month:

  • You’re liking the music I play, and sing along with sometimes, for you. I love it too. Lately I’ve been grooving on Barenaked Ladies’ “Pollywog in a Bog,” which is totally a song about life, the universe and everything, and in my new-mama haze sometimes makes me choke up.
  • You’ve found faces—first mine, then others’. You are starting to track objects… sorta.
  • You make mammal sounds when you nurse, and also as you fall asleep and wake. You snort, you snuffle, you grunt. In particularly cold weather and/or wind, you make these little gasping sounds. Naturally, I think it’s all adorable.
  • My favorite pair of your pants has me calling you Monkeybutt.
  • You’re totally going to be a road warrior. Our trip to see family in New York was a total success, complete with epic poops in the car but only at rest stops. Further, like 98% of all babies, you fall asleep almost instantly in a moving car seat. I can only hope for that to continue as you grow.
  • You survived my first screw-up! The very first time we went out with the wheeled frame that turns your car seat into a stroller, you were only a few days old, and I couldn’t get the car seat to snap in. No idea what I was doing wrong, since after that time it’s always worked. Maybe I was trying to put it in backwards? In any case, I ended up just sort of resting it on top of the frame. SO VERY UNSAFE. And you know what? We both survived.
  • You’re excellent at snoozing.
  • You don’t know this yet, but you have the best, most supportive community of friends that a little human and his mama could hope for.
  • You seem to be a morning person. Hey, neat! Me too!

I love sleeping with you, and nursing you in the night. I love cuddling you for hours and watching (feeling!) you gain strength and coordination in your legs, back, neck. I love watching you watching the cats watching you. I love hurtling headlong into the unknown with you.


P.S. Pics or it didn’t happen.


Sunday, February 26th, 2012

It’s not that I haven’t been blogging, it’s that I haven’t been doing it here. I feel ok about this, but thought I’d let you know about one project I’ve been working on.

Nico Alexander Zafrin. January 26, 2012. 7lb 9.9oz. 21.5 inches. A tall, skinny newborn who has been gaining weight like nobody’s business. But more about that in the first-month summary that I’m almost done writing. In the meantime: been busy.

baby NAZ

#reverb10 three: moment

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

(I’m participating in Reverb 10. You can, too!)

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Here’s one I don’t mind sharing.

My sister-in-law Jo Ann and I are driving. We’ve been in Quebec with the rest of the family for several days now, and it… hasn’t been easy. We escaped into twilit Quebec City, saw a random long bridge and took it, and discovered for ourselves Île d’Orléans. It’s every bit as pastoral as travel books say. It’s 34x8km, and there’s a main road going all around it. We drive all around it.

Weather is perfect. Probably about 20 degrees Celsius, a slight breeze. We are driving slowly with the windows open. It’s quiet enough that we can hear the crickets even as the car is moving. Lights here and there, close together enough to illuminate most of the space, but far apart enough that each shines brightly in the dark. Water is all around us, so everything smells like a river; the air is damp but soft and light. Jo and I are quiet, a lull between fits of animated conversation. Every once in a while we pass an inn or a restaurant, and in them white noise of conversations that dissipates as we leave the crowds behind. They’re like wind in tall trees.

It’s bright slate streaked with a pale pale blue, with accents of fading pink and orange and red. Everything is silhouetted.

77 things that don’t suck

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Some friends of mine are using today as an occasion for making lists of 77 things that… well, you get the idea.

I’m in Sleepy Hollow again, visiting my brother and family (cast of characters, again: Zhenya = brother; Jo Ann = sister-in-law; Tesher = nephew; right now also Jo’s mom Linda, who lives in Maine). Tesher and I stayed up super extra late to make this list.

I gotta say: the things below are stuff external to us. But he’s definitely one of MY 77 things.

Continue Reading 77 things that don’t suck

when it rains

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

This coming week, everything happens at work. Tomorrow takes the cake, though: have to deal with a file share permissions emergency first thing; four meetings in the afternoon, back to back; and then the first evening session of the web application development course I’m taking. Then Friday I’m teaching the first iteration of the two-hour digital research methods workshop I wrote about here some weeks ago.

Exciting, all of it, but scary. On top of this, my mom is sick. (This is the part I’m compartmentalizing like crazy, because it would easily send me into panic if it were allowed to, and that’s just not helpful to anyone.)

On the plus sides, today was full of social goodness. Went to a brunch-and-Gattaca-showing, which was brilliant. Took a friend (and myself) shopping at a Russian supermarket. We were both sort of unreally happy with the experience, and talked and talked in the car both ways. Housemates were almost as pleased, and partook of the tasties. Then we watched Torchwood.

It’s pouring in every sense but the rainy. The weather is cool enough for sweatshirt and a scarf. All my nerve endings are at attention. Life’s edges are rather ill-defined, and frightening in this. Wouldn’t trade it, even if sometimes I need to be talked down from scraggly fear trees.


Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I’m in New York this weekend, visiting with family. Tesher is ten this year, lanky and giggly and energetic and sometimes a little… loud. You know, a ten year old. He loves BB guns, and also loves making art — painting and drawing are his favorites — and he’s getting to be pretty good at it.

Tonight we watched the first Matrix movie. He’d never seen any of them. His mind: blown, of course.

Got to the scene wherein Trinity asks Tank to load her up with the knowledge she needs to fly a particular model of helicopter. Tesher, by this point, is bouncing up and down and cheering. He’s agape at the implications of this one, though. An the first thing he says, imagining himself in the midst of the action, is: “‘I want to paint like Matisse!’ — boom!!!”

Yes, kid. You are, in fact, awesome.


Thursday, August 13th, 2009

I’ve got two long post drafts that aren’t getting any closer to publishing, and a good blog post is a published blog post, so:

My nine-year-old nephew Tesher was here for a few days. We did all kinds of stuff. We went to the MIT Museum with Mark and Eleanor. We played Fluxx. We welcomed Martin home from a month away with a huge pasta dinner the two of us cooked. We made a rainbow cake for Back Yard Burning Man, and generally hung out a lot.

He’s a storyteller, a kind and considerate kid, a tae kwon do practitioner, and he did a hell of a lot to help out, both around the house and at BYBM. Afterwards I heard from several people how much they’d enjoyed his company, and so help me, I was proud.

Not to mention, it was a fantastic amount of fun. And at the end of each day, he put himself to sleep. I mean, I know he’s nine and all, but… when did that happen? Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that I lived with him (and my brother, and my sister in law) and Tesher was a toddler?

We should totally do this more.