Friday, June 16, 2017

Lara at Fifteen Months Old

In March, our little Lara turned one year old. It's been such a delight to see this little girl change from a calm, quiet and observant baby into a squealing, giggling, trouble making toddler. While sometimes I think nostalgically about the days where she couldn't walk or move or climb (such simpler times!), I'm so glad to see her growing up and becoming who she is.

How can I capture this lovely little girl for someone who has never met her? I'll start with her appearance. Lara has light brown hair speckled with gold. Within the past few months her hair has grown long enough that we can see little curls forming at the base of her head and around her ears. She has eyes that shift from blue to green depending on the light and what she's wearing. She has perpetually rosy cheeks and the most impish little smile. When she laughs, her nose and eyes crinkle and her eight teeth shine.

Lara is sweet and loving. She frequently tries to share what she has, for example, trying to feed you a soggy cookie that she's been carrying around for an hour. She loves to give open mouth kisses and lay her head on your knee or shoulder or chest. Like most babies, she thrives on physical contact so she will play contently by herself but only if you're within cuddling distance and she will watch TV but only if she's sitting on your lap. One of my favorite things is when she brings me a book she wants me to read her (she's obsessed with being read to lately), she'll crawl into my lap, open my hand, put the book in it, and snuggle against my chest ready to listen.

She lights up whenever she sees her father or her brother or me and she loves to be where the action is. If the Professor and Roman are playing a raucous game of Dragon vs Brave Knight, Lara has to be not just on the stands watching but right in the middle taking it all in. If Roman has a friend over from school, Lara just has to be where the big kids are. In fact, she thinks she IS one of the big kids and it frustrates her endlessly that she can't keep up. If Roman climbs up a ladder or jumps onto the bed, Lara is right on his tail.

Having a big brother is probably a pretty big contributor to Lara's fearlessness. I used to describe her to people as a pretty calm baby with a very steady temperament but my how she's changed. She is active, curious, rebellious, and very stubborn. We've seen her dissolve into hysterical tears because she can't figure out how to work a toy or open a drawer. When interacting with other, even bigger kids, Lara will frequently growl like a lion to intimidate her opponent and she has on one occasion bitten her brother out of sheer temper. Sometimes when I hear the expression, "like taking candy from a baby" I have to laugh a little because I pity the person who dares take anything from Lara.

Of course, all interactions with her brother are not confrontational. There was a brief period when Lara was around nine months old when the Professor and I did our best to keep the kids in separate spaces to minimize the number of squabbles. It was too tiresome every day to hear Roman complain about Lara destroying his Lego towers or taking apart his train tracks so she could give every piece the taste test. We split them up whenever they were both home and Roman played in his room and Lara in the living room. Fortunately, the kids have adapted to one another's pace recently and can now play together more serenely without the Professor and I having to jump in and arbitrate every five minutes. That's not to say they don't want their own private time with no sibling around. As a matter of fact at least once a day, Roman picks his sister up and physically escorts her out of his room to the living room where he dumps her gently but unceremoniously on the couch, then races back to his room and slams the door. The Professor and I always joke that Lara's like the under-aged girl that keeps getting bounced out of the nightclub where the cool kids are hanging out.

When they're not in each other's hair, Roman and Lara are so sweet to watch. Roman makes her laugh hysterically when he imitates the things she does like bang on the table or make clicking noises with his tongue. He also loves to jump and dance around and act like a fool and she loves to watch him do it. My father noticed when he was here a few weeks ago, that Lara instantly brightens in her brother's presence even if he's not doing anything funny. Seeing him smile and laugh makes her do the same.

When she learned how to walk, a few weeks before her first birthday, she took tiny little steps with her arms spread out at her sides for balance. Now, with more practice under her belt, she takes bigger, more confident steps but she still tends to keep her arms raised and outstretched making her look like she's preparing for a Scarer Class at Monster University. She loves to totter around the house, picking up objects on the floor and depositing them in different places around the house such as the bathtub and the washing machine.

Apart from walking, her motor skills are coming along just fine. She can climb stairs, spin in a circle, get on and off the bed or couch safely and recently she learned how to dance. Of course for a one year old "dancing" is really just doing a few squats to the rhythm of the music while clapping your hands and giggling. The first time we saw her butt shaking skills was when we watched Moana and she still loves that movie and can watch it everyday (and sometimes does).  She doesn't have the attention span to watch an entire movie or even a TV show yet but she absolutely loves music of any kind, and she gets quite a variety at home. I tend to play her classic music, her father plays her the Red Hot Chili Peppers and her brother often requests the music from the movie SING so I guess you could say we're covering all the bases.

Shortly after Lara turned one year old, she decided to quit breastfeeding cold turkey. It was quite a surprise for me and I have to say that I felt a little rejected that she didn't seem to want what was only days before one of her favorite things. But she was a year old after all and has a great diet so I didn't have to worry that she wasn't getting the nutrients she needed. I also realized that I should be grateful I didn't have to impose it on her as I did with her brother who had to be nudged off the breast at 16 months old. (Sidenote: I don't know why it's easy to accept intellectually that every baby is different but we still get surprised when our babies actually ARE different).

One of the funniest but most exasperating things Lara does is what we call the "monster routine". At every meal time, Lara is overcome with enthusiasm to eat and she growls and fusses until we give her food. She bangs the table to get our attention and squirms in her highchair, so very desperate to eat. Once she has a spoonful of food in her mouth, she gulps it down and instantly starts demanding the next bite. It's a pretty funny routine for outsiders but it's kind of annoying for the Professor and I and also a bit embarrassing when we're eating at someone's house or at a restaurant and we have to keep apologizing for bringing a baby Tasmanian devil to dinner. At least she's got a healthy appetite! :)

A few more of Lara's favorite things:

Watching people brush their teeth
Bath time with her brother
The swing at the park
Being chased
Being upside down
Foods: strawberries, raisins, chickpeas, ham, cheese, lentils, green beans, blueberries, grapes, green olives, any meat, yogurt

A couple of things she dislikes:

Food: creamed soups, tortillas, bananas, watermelon.
The doctor's office
Her medication for bronchitis which she's had four times now
Not being held

So that's it. That's my best attempt to capture our Lara at one year old. I'm so excited to see how she grows and changes in the coming months.

Love you so much darling girl!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Four years old

Roman's birthdays always kind of sneak up on me. I realize that this sounds totally illogical because I do know that every year, without fail, July 6th will come. This admission sounds even more ridiculous when you consider that I normally start planning his birthday party and thinking about what presents he would like as early as May. Nevertheless, when I wake up on the actual morning of his birthday, I find myself genuinely surprised that he's a year older, overly sentimental to the point of sappiness and terrified that he's growing up MUCH too quickly. If you don't have kids and you're reading this, you probably just think I'm still riding out that postpartum hormonal roller coaster and while that is indeed true, it's also true that for all parents, the fear that time is speeding up is simply a given. That is why on Roman's birthday this year I was a total basket case, hugging him every chance I got, kissing every part of his face, and tearfully reminiscing about the day he was born. Predictably, Roman does not get my sudden affection and will tolerate it only for a few seconds before he says, 'Mommy, you hugged me already'.

So what is our little boy like at 4 years old? Unbiased observers (which we parents can never hope to be), have commented that he is generally well behaved, gentle and calm but he is also playful, sociable, chatty and loves to make people laugh.

Here are some more things about him at four years old.

School:  There has been such a noticeable change in Roman from daycare to preschool. In daycare, he didn't really have any friends. He got along with all of the children and played with whoever wanted to play with him, but he didn't have a favorite friend nor did he really care for anyone's company. However, now that he's in preschool, he has a little clique of three friends that he is always with and they have been described by his teacher as some of the most active children in the class. If you compare that with daycare, when Roman would normally be found playing quietly in the corner by himself, you can see how drastic a change he has undergone. Between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, Roman was actually so calm and introverted that his daycare teacher mentioned that we needed to work on his socialization skills (remember this post?). That's why when Roman began preschool the Professor and I were actually worried that he wouldn't have fun and he wouldn't make any friends. We've never been so glad to be so wrong.

As for the learning part of school, Roman's teacher has said that he is always happy to be there and interested in whatever they're doing. Instruction is in Catalan but most of his classmates speak Spanish so Roman is getting a good mix of Catañol (Catalan + Español). He's learned the numbers, the days of the week, the colors, and the letters. They do arts and crafts, music, dance, sport, story time, etc. I asked his teacher at the end of the school year what Roman's favorite part of school was and whether he had a favorite subject or activity. She answered that what he most enjoys is playing with his friends, it doesn't matter what they're doing, as long as they're there. I thought that was so sweet.

Language: Roman has been a bit late to develop in terms of language skills but we think he's finally catching up. I still remember in May when Roman actually said a full, complete and correct sentence to me. It was so simple like, "Mommy, how about we watch the Lion King?" and I was floored and thrilled and incredibly proud. Only a few days before, he would have said something like, "Mommy I watch Lion King." Since then, he's been talking up a storm and he says the funniest things. His speech is not perfect yet and he makes normal little kid mistakes like saying "Tomorrow I caught a dinosaur." He also has a few pronunciation quirks like he can't pronounce the letter 'r' (so he says his own name is Noman and his sister is Lala). He also adds a 't' to words that end in 'r' (so, tiger is tigot and dinner is dinot) and he doesn't pronounce the 's' before words so sometimes it sounds like he's saying 'cool' but what he means to say is 'school'. However, now even people who don't 'speak Roman' understand what he's saying and that's a big improvement. We've also heard from his teacher that he is expressing himself more in Catalan and Spanish in school and we've seen some glimpses of this whenever Roman is playing with his friends. Little by little, he's starting to digest that English and Spanish and Catalan have their places and their uses and he's sorting out that one thing might have two or three different words associated with it. So sometimes he tells me, with the air of one who has just made an important discovery, "Mommy, ghost and fantasma are the same thing."

Being a big brother: I've mentioned before that when I was pregnant, one of my biggest worries was how Roman would adapt to the role of big brother. I'd heard so many stories from friends about their older child becoming more clingy or moody or acting passive aggressively toward their new sibling. The Professor and I tried to make sure that while I was pregnant, we explained everything we could to Roman about the pregnancy so that he would feel informed and involved. We talked about the new baby, where she would sleep, how she might use his old things, how she would probably sleep and cry a lot, how she wouldn't be able to talk or walk or play at the beginning but that she would grow up to be his best friend. We read books to him, we brought him along to doctor's appointments, and most importantly we tried to assure him that this was a great thing for everyone.

During my pregnancy, Roman surprised and amused us with his questions and matter of fact statements about the baby. If I would wince with pain after the baby kicked me in the ribs, he would ask with concern, `Mama, baby coming now?` He would also try to share his newly acquired knowledge with his friends at school, sometimes lifting up my shirt to show them my big belly or once, trying to pull down my shirt so they could see my breasts (this was following a discussion we had with him about how babies drink milk from their mommy's breasts which Roman found both hilarious and a little revolting).

The day he came to the hospital to meet her, I felt so protective of Roman's feelings that I tried to control the circumstances around their meeting as much as I could. I made sure that Lara was in her bed so that my arms would be free to hug him and the Professor bought some toys that Lara could 'give' him as a thank you for being such a great brother. He was so shy as he looked at her and touched her and I think he felt pretty awkward overall. But once we brought her home, he was so excited to 'show' her all his toys and proceeded to grab them one by one and dump them in her bed so she could play with them.

In the first few months of her life when Lara was so small and fragile, I was scared to leave them alone together because I was worried that Roman might drop her or give her something to eat. I remember the stress of trying to keep them apart to ensure their safety while simultaneously trying to foster a healthy, close relationship between them. It was a little nerve racking but we all made it through unscathed. Now that Lara is bigger and more robust, their interactions have been so sweet to watch. Roman loves his sister and she thinks he's a total hero. He's the only one that can make her really laugh and he loves to be silly around her. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is hug her and and call her his little baby. In turn, Lara lights up whenever Roman is around and shows her affection by giving him gummy smiles, tugging at his hair and trying to put his face in her mouth.

Temperament: Overall, Roman is a pretty calm kid but he also has moments of rebellion and rambunctiousness like any toddler. Sometimes we have difficulty getting him to stop playing and do the daily things that need to be done like washing his hands, taking a bath or eating his food. This last one is the most annoying of all. After much dedication and perseverance, we finally have a good eater who will eat anything you put in front of him. BUT he will take an hour to eat something that anybody else can eat in 15 minutes and you have to constantly remind him to stop horsing around and EAT. We've tried bribing him with sweets and TV time, we've tried banning toys from the table, we've tried making it into a fun competition where whoever finishes first wins, and we've tried taking his plate away and saying he can't have any more. None of these approaches have worked and we just have to accept the fact that Roman eats at a rate of one grain of rice per minute. The other thing about Roman that's a little exasperating is how sensitive he is to getting scolded or getting in trouble. Most of the time when Roman screws up, he knows it and offers a quick apology. This is mostly when he's done something minor like spilled milk or made some kind of mess. But sometimes when he accidentally or deliberately does something bad and he knows he's going to get yelled at, his reaction is to burst into tears. At the first sign that someone is mad at him, he'll fall to pieces and he's unable to focus on a rational discussion about what he did wrong and how to make it right. First you have to assure him that you love him and that you're not mad anymore and that you're sorry you yelled at him. Sometimes when he comes home from school, he'll tell us that his teacher yelled at him and that he cried and the Professor and I will exchange endearing but exasperated looks. We're trying to get him to focus on not doing wrong things in the first place but obviously this is not going to be an overnight lesson.

Play: Roman's favorite toy is a roaring T-rex he received for his third birthday which he plays with every single day. His other favorite toys are dinosaur figures, robots, superheroes, and all animals. Roman is obsessed with good guys, bad guys and rescuing so his favorite game to play is that one toy is the bad one (normally the T-rex) and the other animals are afraid of this mean colossus and join together to defeat him. Normally this entails lots of roaring and shrieking and smashing of toys before a hero prevails and the T-rex is subdued. The Professor and I have been playing this game with Roman every day for about a year now and it still hasn't gotten old (for Roman that is). Roman also enjoys assigning roles to everyone so we can act out a rescue adventure. He'll start by saying, "Papa, you the dragon, Mommy is the princess, Lala is the king and I the knight". Then the Professor has to stomp around or chase him and breathe fire while Roman runs around, squealing with delight and trying to jab and kick whenever he can get close enough. This game is apparently a hit with all children because whenever the Professor and Roman play this in a park, suddenly every little kid drops whatever they're doing and starts running around while the mean dragon chases them.

Some more favorite things:
Color: Pink
Fruit: Strawberries and melon
Food: French fries, jamón iberico, hard boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, lentils, udon noodle soup
TV Show: Paw Patrol and Octonauts
Movie: Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, How to Train your Dragon
Song: I like to Move it, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Book: The Bear Snores On

And with that, my friends, you have a very (VERY) detailed description of what our little boy is like at four years old. And it only took me a few months to write it :).  Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Our new addition


We have happy news my dear friends. In March, we welcomed our newest family member, a beautiful baby girl we have named Lara. In the few months that she has been in our lives, she has brought us such joy. It hasn't been that long since I experienced the new baby days with my son (almost four years ago) and yet it feels like forever ago. With Lara, I'm rediscovering the wonder of staring into a baby's eyes, feeling the weight of her body heavy with sleep in my arms, smelling her milk breath and smoothing the soft, fine hairs on her head. When she's calm and happy, I feel such a profound sense of peace. But as one would predict, those moments are sporadically interrupted with moments of chaos and frustration which normally occur when you have both a baby and a toddler in your care.

That being said, we've managed pretty well so far and in some ways, better than I could have hoped. Before she was born, perhaps my biggest worry was how Roman would be affected by his sister's birth and her presence. I now see that I didn't need to worry so much after all. Roman is the ideal brother, sweet and protective and awash with love for her. Perhaps it's his gentle, kind character or perhaps he's motivated by the same innate feeling we all have when we encounter something so small and defenseless. Whatever it is, I am trying to soak in all of these moments watching my two little ones together. I know the days of teasing, fighting, and sibling rivalry are to come but I'm trying to focus on the here and now and do whatever I can to nurture their relationship.

I won't have time to write monthly updates about her as I did with Roman, as you could probably imagine from how long it took me to publish her birth announcement (cringe!), but I thought I'd quickly jot down a few things while I still remember them.

Here's what we know about her so far:

She has the loveliest (and most surprising!) clear blue eyes. They were almost indigo when she was first placed on my chest minutes after she was born but as she approaches four months old, they are more aquamarine which is quite fitting as that is her birthstone. I should mention that neither the Professor nor I have blue eyes and neither does Roman. But there are blue eyes in both our families so apparently we each passed a recessive blue eyed gene to her and it stuck. It was a pretty unlikely scenario, but now we know that these things do sometimes happen.

Since we brought her home from the hospital, Lara has been content to quietly take in her surroundings without fussing or demanding attention. Sometimes we'll put her down for a nap in her crib and when we go in 20 minutes later to check on her, we discover that she's been awake the whole time just looking around. This is starting to change as she approaches four months old, perhaps because she's learning to enjoy our company more than she used to. She's also not as quick to smile or laugh as her brother was at this age earning her the nickname Mona Lisa from my sisters. But again, as she's been getting older, she does periodically erupt into giggles and she loves to coo and gurgle at whoever she sees.

Amongst some of her favorite things are: being sung to, being walked up and down the house, splashing in the bathtub, putting everything in her mouth (especially her fingers) and going for walks in the neighborhood. Lara was born just shy of spring when it was still cool enough outside to carry her around everywhere in the baby carrier. The Professor or I would carry her to the supermarket, the park, the doctor's office or wherever and Lara would instantly fall asleep snug against our chests. Now that she's older, she loves to lean back as far as she can while in the baby carrier so she can contemplate the skies and the trees and take in all the city sounds she heard when she was in my belly. I think she really enjoys ambient noise so I never have to worry about making the house overly quiet so that she can sleep. The sounds of her brother playing with his toys, the hum of the vacuum cleaner, the spurt of a motorcycle passing outside all create a music for her that she's become accustomed to.

There are several more tidbits that I could mention about her including her rapid weight gain and growth spurt (75th percentile in weight!), her sensitive skin which needs so much care and attention, her newfound ability to roll from her back to her stomach, etc but I don't want to bore you with these details that probably only I find so interesting :) so let me just stop here.

Welcome to the world my lovely little girl. It's a bit of a grim place just now but I believe your presence will make it so much brighter.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Big news

Quite literally, I have some big news. The Professor and I are expecting our second child (a baby girl), due any week now. I'm 36 weeks along as of this writing so she can healthily come out any moment now (and if you're listening little baby, the sooner the better). This pregnancy, while much desired and hoped for, has been a bit of a challenge compared to my first one. I had crazy morning sickness when I was pregnant and it didn't dissipate until I was well into my second trimester. That means that for approximately four months, I was grossed out by the sight, smell or idea of many foods and then when I did eat, I had trouble keeping my food down. Once the morning sickness passed, I felt like a rock star. I walked a lot, ate a lot, worked a lot and generally felt pretty good. But now I'm in the final stretch and things are getting uncomfortable again. For one thing, I totally forgot what it's like to have such an enormous belly. The skin on my abdomen is stretched so tight I can see my veins and I constantly joke that my belly button is hanging on for dear life. In addition, I've got some pretty awful lower back pain that makes it difficult for me to stand, sit or lie down for long periods of time. When I do sit, I have to sit totally upright since the baby is camped out near my ribs thus making any sort of slouching (or what normal people call sitting comfortably) out of the question. Nighttime is also a challenge because of shortness of breath, frequent bathroom trips and some pretty wicked acid reflux. Ack! It's such a wondrous time but such a reality check simultaneously.

On the positive side, the one thing that I've really loved about this pregnancy is knowing that despite everything I'm going through, I'm going to love this baby so, so much. That's something that I knew when I was pregnant with my son but since he was my first child, I didn't quite grasp that idea in the same way. That powerful, heart-bursting love you feel for your children is something that I couldn't quite foresee when I was pregnant with Roman. Even his existence seemed like such an abstract thing until he was in my arms. And even then, the love I felt for him when he was first put on my chest still attached to me via umbilical chord, only grew and grew as I came to know him. A lot of people talk about this amazing, unconditional love you feel for your baby as soon as they are born, but I for one, didn't feel that. I loved him (of course!) but not the way I do now. As of now, he's been in my life for 3.5 years and it's impossible for me to imagine that I could love him any more than I do. It's also so difficult to believe that I have enough room in my heart to love another baby the way I love my son and yet this is the miracle of children and love. To me, the miracle is not how big your belly can grow to house, nurture and protect a little person inside you. It's how much your heart can grow to love something more than you love yourself and do it again and again.

I know this is a tremendously sappy post but if you can't get away with typing up something like this and getting choked up as you write it when you're 8.5 months pregnant, when can you? I'll be checking back in again soon to share some updates of life around here with my crazy, wonderful little boy. See you soon!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Friday's events

Again I sit to write a post in which the first thing I have to do is apologize to my little, neglected blog for keeping away for so long. I don’t really have a readership (apart from my husband and my father—thanks guys!) and sometimes it’s hard motivation to sit and write my thoughts when I have no idea if anyone is reading them or why they are doing so. Apart from that, just the act of sitting and writing does not come as naturally to me as I thought it would which perhaps proves that my teenage dreams of becoming a writer were pretty ridiculous and idealistic--but then what teenage dreams aren’t?

The events in Paris however, have forced me to return to the blank page and say something. Since the attacks last Friday, I’ve been glued to my television and online news sources trying to learn the latest information in a strange and probably obsessive way in order to try to turn my thoughts in a productive direction.  At the same time, whenever I’ve ventured elsewhere on the internet this week, I’ve been disappointed in the American blogs I read for not even mentioning the events, instead preferring to concentrate on Thanksgiving recipes, fall fashion, and other frivolous things. While I totally understand that many prefer not to dwell on current events because they find them depressing, frustrating, or disillusioning, it somehow feels so wrong to me not to acknowledge major tragedies like these. The silence seems so much louder than a quick acknowledgement would be. 

When I learned of the attacks, I was actually on the point of heading to bed (I know, I’m a geezer who tucks in at ten).  I ended up not sleeping at all that night not only because my eyes were glued to my phone watching the latest developments unfold but also because I had a sick toddler in bed with me with an ear infection. My sweet little boy was tossing and turning and crying and tugging at his ear in pain. And as I held him pressed to my chest, soothing his hair and trying to whisper comforting things in his non-infected ear, I was overcome with sadness to think of how many people were not warm and snuggled next to their loved ones that night. My heart breaks for the people of Paris who are mourning the loss of their family members, neighbors and perhaps their way of life.

I am so sad to learn that after the attacks, there have been so many statements of fear mongering, vilification, mistrust and hate from people in the media, politicians and acquaintances on social media. Perhaps these feelings are a natural outgrowth to a tragedy like this. It’s instinctual, perhaps even visceral to respond in such a closed way. But I think we can only counter the hateful actions of these terrorists by showing a unified, loving, and humane response to all, no matter where they hail from.  It is tremendously generous to include the people of Paris in your prayers tonight. But spare a thought as well for all of the other innocents all over the world who are facing terror, tyranny, famine, isolation and desperation. And be kind to your fellow humans today at the very least. At the very most, endeavor to be loving.

(Photo: The New Yorker

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three Years Old!

Life with a toddler can be pretty monotonous. Feeding them yogurt, peeling apples, wiping noses and bottoms, giving baths and brushing teeth amidst much protest. You get lulled by the normalcy of the days and then one day you wake up and poof! your little boy turns three years old and you think to yourself: how on earth did that happen?! Well, it's happened friends. And with the passing of another year, here I sit, writing every thought I've had about him for the past 12 months, or so it will seem to you, patient reader, from the length of this post. In a deviation from past annual updates, I've decided to make this a post about him and not a letter to him and I added categories. Since the post is so lengthy, I think I was better able to organize my thoughts this way. 

So here it is, a rambling summary of my little boy's life at age three:


Living in Barcelona, Roman is exposed to two languages on a daily basis plus a third at home with the Professor and I. In the public daycare that he attends, Catalan is the official language but Roman does hear Spanish from the other kids, from TV shows, from our family members and occasionallly, from us. For the most part, he understands that in different environments, a different language is spoken. So at home when he’s finished eating, he’ll give me his plate and say ‘No more’ but at school, he’ll say ‘No més’.  Sometimes, just to cover his bases, he’ll use more than one language at a time just to make sure he’s understood. I used to joke that he sounded like a hotel concierge, ‘Hola, hello’ and ‘goodbye, adiós, adéu!’ I think that he uses language in a clever and lazy way, picking the word that’s easiest to say in one of the three langauges he knows. So he’ll say the Catlan word for bread, ‘pa’ since it’s easier than saying both ‘pan’ and ‘bread’. He’ll also say ‘milk’ instead of ‘leche’ and ‘gracias’ instead of ‘thank you’ and ‘allá’ instead of ‘over there’. 

It could be because of all the languages and the fact that’s he’s still absorbing it all, but Roman’s conversational ability is not very advanced for a three year old. He knows the most words in English which is his mother tongue, but he tends to speak in sentences of mostly three or four words often omitting the verb, for example: ‘Look Mama tiger wet’. His favorite way to get your attention verbally is to say ‘LOOK AT THIS!’ which is his way of saying the following things: I want that, give it to me, help me, I spilled juice, I can’t find my lion, my foot is dirty. I could go on. You get the idea.

A couple of months ago, we became concerned about Roman’s language delay and started seeing a speech therapist. We weren’t sure if he was hesitant to talk because he didn’t know the words, or if he was physically having trouble forming them in his mouth, or because he just didn’t want to speak.  I was leaning towards the latter explanation because Roman will pick the easiest way to communicate with me, through gestures and pointing and the like, but will articulate a word when I feign miscomprehension. After weeks of sessions with his speech therapist (who he loves), Roman is now speaking more and copying almost everything he hears. Sometimes he says something we’re surprised he knows, for example the other day I asked him if I could have some of his peach and he very politely said ‘Of course’. Another time we were sitting together eating dinner and Roman looked up from his plate with a big smile on his face and said, ‘¡Qué bo! which is Catalan for ‘How good’ or in this context ‘Yummy!’ I think the greatest thing about this age is that we’re witnessing how he’s discovering and digesting the everyday things we say and to hear a normal sentence uttered in his sweet little voice is the best part. It’s hard not to smile when he looks at me solemnly and says, ‘no bath mama, ok? no bath’.

The Introverted Kid

We’d noticed for awhile that Roman tends towards introversion. He gets a little anxious and clings to us whenever we’re in big groups or meeting people he doesn’t know, he prefers to spend time one on one with children his age, he observes everything before he decides to engage and how much, and he can spend a lot of time focused on solitary games like stacking blocks, doing puzles, playing with his trains or Legos.  We never really spent much time thinking about Roman’s socialization skills until it was brought to our attention by his teacher and a school psychologist both of whom suggested that Roman’s lack of interest in playing as part of a group is something we should work on. Their concern is that when Roman begins pre-kindergarten in September where there is an even bigger student to teacher ratio (25:1), it’ll be easier for a loner like Roman to get lost in the shuffle. It’s not clear to Roman that when his teacher gives instructions to the group, they apply to him as well. Often, she’s told us, she needs to issue a personal invitation to him before he joins in. But after he does join the group, he’s happy to be there.  

As per the recommendations of the psychologist, the Professor and I are trying to work on Roman’s socialization skills which is a bit of an effort for us since the both of us are introverts too (albeit to different degrees). But lately, we’ve made more of an effort to invite one or two classmates of his to our home to play, or we meet up with our friends at the park and we always explain to Roman in advance where we’re going and who we’re seeing so that he’s prepared beforehand. We’ve noticed a big difference that could be due to what we’re doing or else just due to the fact that he’s growing up. When we celebrated his 3rd birthday with a party in our house, he played with all of our guests, sang along to the birthday song, and clapped and cheered as he was given presents. He even smiled and posed for pictures! It was such a big change from last year (remember this post?).


You can discover so much about a child just watching them play and seeing what their little imaginations come up with. Roman’s favorite toys are puzles, Legos, train sets and his animal figurines. Roman loves to pretend that his animal figurines or dinosaurs have feelings just like he does. One of his most common games is to pretend that one of his animals is the mommy and the smaller one is the baby. It’s so adorable to watch how he treats the baby animal and how he makes the mommy cuddle her baby. He also uses a soft, tender voice to talk to us about the baby. Indeed, Roman thinks that anything small is necessarily a baby version of something else and this extends to things besides toys (so for instance, apricots are baby peaches according to him). He also commonly uses his toys to reenact scenes from cartoons (like putting Mrs. Jumbo, the elephant on the train) or from his life. He’ll pretend that his dinosaurs have had a fight and the loser goes into the corner to cry. At this point, he’ll come to me and tell me that the dinosaur is crying and wants a kiss and I have to resolve the pretend dispute (normally it’s that one dinosaur hit the other or that the dinosaurs don’t want to share their food). 

A time for too many feelings

Looking back at the post I wrote for his second birthday, I can see that I wrote about Roman’s difficulty managing and expressing his feelings. This is kind of a continuing theme, unfortunately. It seems that sometimes, he just feels too much and his feelings overwhelm him (us too, actually). Whenever he feels frustrated or thwarted or overwhelmed or lonely, he likes to find a sad place and goes for self-appointed time outs. He’ll normally crawl under a bed or a table or else find some small, inaccessible corner where he’ll pout softly. In the beginning we’d go after him immediately and try to find out what was wrong. Now we’ll just kind of let him hang out there for a minute and then instead of trying to pull him out, we’ll ask if he’s finished crying or if he wants some more time. Normally he’ll scramble out and join us, troubles forgotten. However, there are times when time out is something we impose on him. If Roman is being disrespectful or aggressive (for instance, hitting someone or throwing his food on the floor), one of us’ll escort him to time out and tell him that we don’t like his behavior and when he’s ready to behave, he can come out. Then we’ll wait a minute and go ask him if he’s ready to come out. A humbled, ‘Sorry Mama and Papa’ normally puts an end to whatever happened.  We’ve also noticed that for discipline, counting to three works great. Often, I don’t even have to get to 3. He’s doing whatever he’s supposed to do by 2.


He’s not at all the adventurous baby he once was. He used to try anything no matter how weird looking or novel, now he certainly won’t. The only way I’ve managed to get him to try most vegetables is to trick him into it by changing the name of it. So broccoli are little trees, green beans are snakes, and asparagus are dragon tails. There are a few vegetables he’ll eat without being compelled, mostly those that are not green like sweet potato, carrots, red and yellow bell pepper.  He still eats a pretty varied diet though because he’ll eat things that have vegetables in them but he doesn’t know that they do. For instance, pesto (which I make with spinach or with green peas), kuku which is a Persian herb omelette, or zucchini fritters. In the colder months, he loves to eat pureed soups like broccoli and potato or cauliflower and leek. Strangely, he’ll eat things at school that he won’t eat at home, like lentils. This mystifies and frustrates me to no end but his teacher assures me that it’s pretty common.

Potty training

We began potty training Roman at the end of February and by the end of March we were done. That makes it sound like the process was pretty easy but believe me, it wasn’t.  A lot of people talk about the click that happens when a child suddenly gets it.  They’re supposed to recognize the sensation of needing to go and then be able to hold it long enough to communicate their need to a parent, find a bathroom and take off their pants and undies. To hear some parents tell it, this click happens overnight. For us, the click took a month and change. In the beginning, I felt that we were accident free not so much because Roman was potty trained but because we were. We watched him so closely, we could guess the second he had to go and immediately whisked him over to the potty.  What let us know that he did indeed get it, was that he was able to communicate with his teacher in school when he had to go or when he started going without being prompted. Now, he’ll let us know when he has to go by saying either ‘Pee pee’ or ‘Uh oh mama, big poop’ and then we race together to the bathroom. This summer, we feel he’s ready to proceed to nap times with no diaper and an adapter seat on the toilet instead of a stand-alone potty.


TV is a pretty big thing in Roman’s life, not because he gets to watch it much (he normally gets an hour after dinner on a weeknight) but because of how much entertainment he gets from it. TV exposes him to worlds he would never know about without it. We suspect that the reason he loves animals so much is because they feature prominently in most of the shows and movies he watches (The Lion King, The Aristocats, Finding Nemo, Dumbo, Curious George, and Daniel Tiger are a few favorites). The reason he’s into dinosaurs is because of the PBS show Dinosaur Train, which is actually a favorite of ours as well (so informative! And the intro is so catchy!) It’s so funny to watch his reactions to his favorite cartoons. He giggles and shrieks, he sings along, claps, says ‘Oh no!’ when something bad happens and if the characters are dancing he’ll jump off the couch, hold his hand out to his papa or me and say ‘shake it!’. This invitation (or demand) to dance with him is equally adorable and frustrating mostly because Roman can’t really dance and really just wants to spin and jump around which is very nauseating and exhausting. Because of his love for Dumbo (I think we watched that movie every day for a month which was a good break from Frozen actually), he became enamored with elephants and began carrying an elephant figurine with him everywhere who is named, of course, Mrs. Jumbo. It’s also hilarious to watch his reaction to the Lion King. In the beginning of the movie during the ‘Circle of Life’ song when Rafiki holds baby Simba up for the kingdom to see, Roman holds up his stuffed lion at the exact climatic moment. I’ve realized that as entertaining as it is for him to watch cartoons, it’s more entertaining for us to watch him. He’s such a kooky little guy!

The tiger

Since he was little, he's had to always hold something in his hands. It’s like a security blanket for him. This has been a recurring thing since he was around a year old. I remember the days when he used to go everywhere with a toothbrush clutched in his fist (remember this post?). After the toothbrush phase had passed, he still wanted to hold onto something but it was usually a food not a toy. So for instance, he’d go everywhere with a cookie or a breadstick in each hand and carry these around for hours before he’d decide to eat them. Around September of last year, he moved on to carrying toys with him. The first toys he picked were these wooden dinosaurs that came from a puzzle he’d been gifted months earlier. We couldn’t leave the house for school, or the park, or a restaurant or a walk around town without making sure he had his dinosaurs. This obsession lasted a few months and then, seemingly out of nowhere, came his sudden, unexpected attachment to a stuffed tiger.

This stuffed tiger, which he had had for some time and never noticed and certainly never played with, was on the verge of being donated when Roman suddenly decided that he would never be parted from it. For MONTHS, Roman and the tiger were inseparable and their togetherness was somehow much more noticeable and much stronger a connection than he’d had with anything previously. Not only did the tiger go everywhere with him, but the tiger had to be with him no matter what he was doing. If Roman was sleeping, the tiger was laying down with him, if Roman was eating, the tiger was sitting beside him, if Roman was taking a bath, we had to put the tiger, who could not get wet, as close to the bathtub as possible so that Roman could see him as he was bathing and hold him as soon as he got out of the tub.  As an indication of how special the tiger had become, Roman chose to name it, something he had never done previously.  At first he chose the name Julie which was a bit of a puzzler because the only person we know with that name has neither whiskers nor stripes. After a month or so, he decided to change his tiger’s name to Big Tiger, probably because the word ‘big’ is one of his favorite adjectives.

Like all phases though, the tiger phase seemed to run its course. Recently, Roman’s moved on to animal figurines. Normally an elephant, a horse, a baby lion, a triceratops, a parrot finger puppet, Sully from Monster’s Inc. or a dinosaur with wheels accompanies him wherever he goes. He normally takes one toy in each hand but sometimes he’ll travel with an entourage of up to five toys. I don’t feel though, that anything is as special to him as his tiger was. He still plays with the tiger and asks for him often and the Professor and I make sure to bring him with us whenever we go out of town so that Roman can have a friend with him, but the attachment is not the same.  And even though it was so tedious to wash that tiger every week and drag it along with us everywhere we went during those months, I have to admit to being a little sad that Roman has moved on. It feels a bit like the end of his babyhood for one thing, and for another it just seems so wrong, like if Christopher Robin suddenly went to college without bringing Pooh. Oh well. Perhaps I'm being a little overly sentimental. 

Well that turned out to be less of a summary and more of a deposition, wouldn’t you say? I guess you should never give a mama too much time or space to talk about her child (but it’s my blog so too bad!) :)

Your papa and I love you so much you cheeky monkey. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring in the City

As a child growing up in Miami, I could never understand the reason for the big fuss about spring. My dad, who was born and raised in Tehran, would wax nostalgic about the flowers blooming and the trees slowly growing leaves again and I would just sit there listening to him and feeling very meh about the whole thing. Looking back, I realize that my reaction was totally predictable for someone who lived in a climate where the arrival of spring meant nothing more than that summer, that sticky, humid, rainy mess that is a Miami summer, was just around the corner. My lack of enthusiasm probably also stemmed from the fact that there aren’t many good holidays to look forward to in the spring (I think every child grows out of Easter at the age of 5, am I right?) and also because I have a strong dislike of pastel colors and as we all know, spring has not arrived until you walk into a CVS and see row upon row of baby blue, custard yellow, and Pepto Bismol pink.  

But now that I live somewhere where we actually experience seasons, I’ve been converted into a full-on spring enthusiast. I love walking around the city and seeing the first signs of spring everywhere: from the green leaves peeking timidly out of the tree branches to the tulips and ranunculus sitting prettily in their buckets at the flower market and of course, the long awaited debut at the supermarket of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and asparagus! (P.S. Am I the only person who’s ever put an exclamation mark after the word asparagus? Probably). It makes me so giddy that I almost want to walk around town singing ‘Spring,spring, spring’ from that old movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. But I don’t because I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy. Both for singing out loud and for liking that movie.

Here are some pictures of spring in the city. 

Hope you're having a lovely, sunny day!