Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear Nico: Month 5

Nico's 4th month

Dear Nico:

this has been a banner month for you, full of many firsts, all of which you embraced enthusiastically. for starters, this month saw the first time you slept through the night, which i embraced enthusiastically, and you have continued to do intermittently. otherwise, you wake up once a night for a quick nursing session before going back down again.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

i wish i can take all the credit, but there was no magical sleep training or baby whispering going on. truth is you have been a good sleeper since birth. if i have done anything to help encourage it, it's not scooping you out of your crib for every whimper or grunt. i've become more comfortable letting you fuss for a few minutes to gauge whether you are hell bent on waking up or just making noises until settling down and returning to sleep on your own, which is often the case.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

of course, if you are crying hysterically, i will scoop you up immediately, as i've never become comfortable with the idea of the "cry it out" method, which lets a baby cry himself to sleep. but who am i kidding? if you were still waking up five times a night, i'd likely get comfortable with it real fast as we both need our sleep, kid, me especially since returning to work full-time.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

that is another first you handled well, certainly better than i did, though it wasn't as awful as i thought it would be. i endured the weepy, sad phase a week before returning, a time when i smelled and smothered you constantly, so much so that you started pushing my face away in an effort to tell me, ENOUGH, WOMAN. I NEED MY SPACE.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

the first few days back at work, people would stop by my desk to socialize, always asking me if i was OK or needed tissues, and i almost felt like i needed to produce a waterworks show for them to prove my mettle as a mother, but instead i just pointed to the photos of you i put up around my desk and repeated the answer to the burning question everyone seemed to have, "where is he now?"

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

i was tempted to say, "in my car in the parking lot, hopefully asleep," but i settled for the boring truth: that you were at your grandparents' house, Camp Grandma, as i've named it, where you have a crib, clothes, the baby channel and more toys than you do at home. i know i'm beyond lucky to have this arrangement and i take none of it for granted, especially the part where i get daily text message updates and photos of how your days are progressing.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

you are lucky, too, to be surrounded by so much love, to have your baba and dyeda doting on you all day, who were incredible parents to me and are thrilled for the opportunity to do it again now that they are retired, noting that they can finally focus on the good parts instead of having to splinter their energies among their various responsibilities like your father and i have to now. they seem overjoyed to spend their days trying to make you laugh and catering to your every whim despite my request that they treat you like their son, not their grandson, so you don't become spoiled. (yeah, right.)

Nico's 4th month

Camp Grandma also has a pool, where you took your first swim (more like a dip). considering your love of bath time, i thought you would readily love the pool as well but you seemed very cautious about this large body of water, almost suspicious, even as you kicked your legs and wiggled your arms reflexively.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

i'm beginning to think this seriousness is an emerging personality trait that shows up whenever you are confronted with new experiences that you have not yet figured out. still, i will consider this first time a success as you didn't poop in the pool nor have any big crying fits. you saved the crying for your third time in and now start wailing hysterically every time you are carried anywhere near the pool. but i will keep trying, because no son of mine will be a crying sissy afraid of water, so nut up, little soldier.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

at your last checkup, you were in the 50th percentile for height, 80th for weight, with head circumference still measuring in the 90th. your pediatrician jokingly asked if he could measure my head, too, saying head circumference was genetic and, sure enough, my noggin also measured in the 90th percentile.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

i asked -- or perhaps insisted -- that a big head indicated higher intelligence and he confirmed that they sometimes go together, adding, at least in my oversized mind, that you were guaranteed a scholarship to Harvard despite the fact that i couldn't even get into UC Berkeley. this is why it's so important for you to do well in school, my dear, so i may live my dreams vicariously through you. thank you for complying.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

your big noggin has cocked to the left since birth, causing concerns about torticollis. to remedy this, my physical therapist showed me stretching exercises that i have been doing with you regularly in an attempt to straighten your head and strengthen your neck, which is hiding underneath your many chins.

Nico at 4 months

Nico at 4 months

your big body is also causing you much frustration every time you roll over, which you have all but abandoned since your arm would get pinned underneath your torso and you couldn't wiggle it free. i'm hoping you grow into all your michelin tire rolls soon enough so you can become more adept at using your bulky body and reaching your physical milestones. because, right now, you are a cave baby of grunts, huffs and brute force.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

at your checkup, the pediatrician also gave us the all clear on starting you on solids, which i had read should happen closer to the 6-month mark, though given the curious stares you'd give me when i would shovel food down my gullet in between diaper changes and nursing sessions, i figured we could get started a little early.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

your first taste of the good stuff was watermelon, which you sucked on suspiciously at first, per your nature, and then eagerly. a few weeks later, you sampled mashed avocado like a proper california baby. again, suspicion, then eagerness. a week after that, you tasted banana, the food i craved most when i was pregnant. not surprisingly, you LOVED banana, no suspicion, and whimpered each time you finished a bite and another wasn't placed into your mouth quickly enough.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

patience does not seem to be your virtue, but smiling is, thankfully. and that gummy deliciousness still reduces me (and your father) to a slushy puddle at your feet. even better are the full-bodied giggles you are bestowing on us regularly, which your father is a champ at evoking, usually by kissing your belly or neck. whenever i hear a giggling spree underway, i will drop everything i'm doing and walk over to watch.

i could watch it all day.

Nico's 4th month

Nico's 4th month

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Status Change: Married


isn't it always the case that the girl who thinks she's least likely to get married ends up married? and isn't it always a cliche to think that about oneself? well, check and check, self. so guess what? now you are someone's wife. that means for life. and how do you feel about it? perfectly delighted. ok, good, now let's stop talking about ourselves in the second person and get to that wedding thing.

going to the chapel and we're gonna get ma-a-a-ried.
going to the chapel and we're gonna get ma-a-a-ried.

i blame the fake eyelashes.
my eyelashes were fake. that fearful look was real.

leading up to the wedding, i can't say things were perfectly delightful. even though we didn't exactly have a proper wedding, just a courthouse ceremony, there was still plenty of stress involved. i can't imagine how much worse it would have been if we had planned for 150 guests, but even with less than 20, there was still much hand-wringing, phone calls, budgeting, discussions and compromises to be made.

ready to live happily ever after.

getting married solves all your relationship problems, right?

i suppose like it does for many other brides, all that stress did take the sparkle out of my big day -- until the actual big day when everything magically fell into place. but considering that i was eight months pregnant and also scrambling to prepare for baby and baby shower while still working full-time plus freelance, the ceremony did sometimes feel like just another agenda item to check off my lengthy To Do list. and when i did finally check it off, i can't deny that the perfect delight was mixed with a large dose of relief.

wedding day, 8 months pregnant, just how i always imagined it would be as a little girl.
happy to have found a wall to lean against.

boobs and roses  
boobs and roses. i gots them.

do these classy pearls help minimize my huge baby bump?
hoping the classy pearls deflect from my pregnant belly

it goes without saying that every little girl's dream is having a shotgun wedding at the local courthouse while eight months pregnant, and i am no exception. but if i had to do it all over again, i wouldn't change a thing. scratch that, i would be less visibly pregnant but definitely still pregnant enough to show, as having a baby bump meant i didn't have to endure a liquid diet leading up to the wedding or suck in my gut during any of the photos.

his and hers
his is new and made of cobalt; hers is a family heirloom provided by his mother.

at least i got my prince charming right.
my prince charming

Alex wanted to catch the bouquet
with his best friends, Danny and Alex

at least i know i got the groom part right. even though i don't think i'm yet qualified to discuss marriage with any authority, given my limited experience as a newlywed of six months, i do know that when i considered marrying Warren, the thought didn't make me panic or plan an escape to Canada, as it had with every previous man i dated. i knew with Warren i felt calm, safe, even lucky.

here come the waterworks. no cry fail.
my secret is out: i'm a big ole crybaby.

so on Friday, February 20, 2015, in front of a handful of family and friends who are like family -- some of whom flew into town just for the weekend -- we went to the Beverly Hills Office of the Registrar-Recorder to join our lives together in perpetuity. the ceremony lasted less than 10 minutes and was performed by a Justice of the Peace we met only minutes before.

i bet he'll have to do this many more times during our life together.
i chose wisely.

there was a glass for Warren to smash at the end to make it a proper Jewish-esque wedding, after which everyone yelled "MAZEL TOV!" sadly, there was no Hora chair lifting going on since, you know, eight months pregnant. plus, we had a 15-minute maximum to spend in the chapel before the next couple was ushered in to have their own happiest day of their lives.

sealed with a kiss.
sealed with a smooch

thanks, mom and dad.
with my mom and pops, my marriage role models who have 45+ years of wedded bliss and strife to their credit. crazier yet is that they still like each other.

the ceremony moved quickly and was a bit of a blur. what i do remember is liking what the Justice of the Peace said during his opening speech and especially the vows he asked us to recite to each other. i also remember the Justice asking Warren whether he was from Crimea since he couldn't figure out the country code "CRI" that was on our marriage license. we told him we would have a vacation home in Costa Rica one day, where he could visit at any time.

ours is an LA story.
ours is an LA Story.

too much pressure from his hand and i might wet myself.

all that vow-taking and commitment-making worked up our appetites, so we had the wedding party mozy over to one of my favorite Spanish restaurants in Los Angeles: La Paella, where Warren and i had a reconnaisance date night a month earlier to decide on a menu for our post-wedding lunch. the place, obviously, is known for its authentic paella, which include a black squid ink variety that does not disappoint. i can't say enough great things about this place and the manager, Pasqual, who provided five-star service while not charging us a cake-cutting or corkage fee for the dessert and bottles of vodka we brought in.

out comes the paella mixta.
freshly made surf and turf paella

and black squid ink paella.
the black squid ink paella 

good times with the esteemed guests
the esteemed guests partaking in hijinks and hilarity.

lunch lasted about two hours and brought together a motley of our families and closest friends. if i could do it over again, i would have invited twice as many people as several of my favorite faces were missing from the crowd that day. on the flipside, having less than 20 people present created an intimacy that a larger wedding could never replicate.

we'll all drink to that.
my dad giving a characteristically long-winded toast that could have been summed up with "welcome to the family, warren!"

these two...
these two are colluding against me, i just know it. 

with my first love. daddy's girl for lyfe.
with the first and enduring love of my life. daddy's girl forever!

despite my usually obscene appetitie while pregnant, i remember eating very little at lunch and mostly wishing i could drink. after the whirlwind of planning, rushing, parking, pictures, vows and tears, i wanted nothing more than to sit down and have a bottle of expensive wine all by myself, but managed only a few sips of sangria during toasts. yes, i drank while pregnant. alert the authorities.

my turn to toast. i thanked everyone for their love and support.
toasting my beloved. 

my torrero
with my torrero. orale!

as a bonafide Russian and my father's daughter, i also gave a characteristically long-winded toast. i started by first thanking all the special people in the room, who survived every cut to make a very short list of 20 esteemed guests, for spending their friday with us, work be damned. i also extended a special thanks to my mom for the prep help, which included furnishing the bouquet, cake, vodka, plastic shot glasses and real glass for Warren to step on during the ceremony.

all the love in the room was palpable and bouyant, and i spoke of how it carried us to our wedding day and will see us through the many days that follow, some of them certainly less happy. i thanked everyone for the support offered to us as a couple and to our then unborn child, who was very much wanted and will be lucky to learn from the people who've already given us so much. then i turned my focus to my new husband, also very much wanted, whom i thanked for everything, everything in the most cliche way possible that may have included calling myself "the luckiest girl in the world." i meant every word.

wedded bliss began with paella

cake topper with a pregnant bride
cake topper with pregnant bride, courtesy of my mom and a google image search.

lemon-vanilla cake with assorted cupcakes.
for the life of me, i cannot remember what was in this cake. maybe lemon? there were cupcakes also. i ate all the red velvet ones. that part i do remember.

after lunch, we headed to a park in Beverly Hills to take some more glamour shots among the dying daylight. to be honest, this part of the day felt silly to me with all the posing and prolonged kissing to get a shot. plus, the exhaustion from the long day began to set in as my makeup began to bleed, making for a very short photo session of giggling and "are we done yets?"

puckered up
keep that tongue in your mouth, buddy.

in the garden of eden + Alex
among dead roses and our light bouncer, Alex, i found true love.

oh, jeez. how many more, farah?
are we done yet?

when the day concluded and we arrived home to marvel at the fact that we joined our lives together in perpetuity, the conversation went something like, "that was fun. how about a nap?" we woke up 12 hours later. then, clumsily and carefully, we consummated our marriage via a little game i had perfected during my pregnancy called "if you want it, you're going to have to do all the work."

we made it!
signed, sealed and delivered

fast forward six months and one baby, and our lives are still joined together in perpetuity, though now mired in poopy diapers, tired eyes and the squeals of one particular infant who loves waking up at 4:30 in the morning. i'm guessing the first six months of our marriage are atypical by conventional standards, and i admit they have been challenging given our new bundle of love and sleep deprivation, but they have also felt very solid.

of course, our union is far from perfect and there is plenty i would eagerly change about him, but those things (thankfully) don't number in the hundreds (close to five). i'll avoid mentioning them here out of respect for his privacy but they may have something to do with his OCD tendencies that have spawned a few lectures about how to load the dish rack "correctly," which, sadly, doesn't resemble the imaginative Jenga art installation that is my specialty.

you better not cake me.
he gets this look at least five times a day.

biggest thanks went to the husband.
also a five-time-a-day occurrence.

more importantly, when i consider having a son with him -- which, hey, we just had! -- and should that son turn out exactly like his father, the thought makes me smile and never once wince. if that alone isn't reason to marry a man, perhaps the fact that Warren is an exceptional lover, a great cook, a kind person, a good communicator, likes being productive, shares my sense of humor, keeps the house tidy, is incredibly reliable and the best kisser point to other good reasons.

are we really gonna do this?
are we really going to do this?

yeah, we got this.
yeah, we got this.

that's how i know i married the right person, found after a lengthy search full of many disastrous detours, all of which i can now appreciate for helping me fine-tune my search parameters. and though i do wish i found him a little sooner and that we could have enjoyed more time as a childless married couple, i'll just put those wishes in the same jar that the wish for the dream wedding went into. we have been doing things out of order since we met, so perhaps we'll plan the dream wedding for our sixties when we can enjoy the childless life.

getting married is so much fun.


so now comes the happily ever after part, which i'm sure will resemble every fairy tale with a prince, princess and evildoer trying to secretly unwrangle the happy couple's happiness (children?). so far, our happiness has been overshadowed by the logistics of scheduling, housework, sleep schedules, dog duties and trash collection, especially since i've returned to working full-time. but i think this is what marriage really is: it's the mundane, the humdrum, the trenches.

it's getting through the daily duties together, often dispassionately, and still managing to find joy in the better days and exchange support during the harder ones. it's about lightening the mood, letting go, angering slowly and forgiving quickly. it's about the knowing glances and shy smiles that confirm that we will make time for each other once the baby is asleep. it's about endurance, dedication, a commitment to the commitment, and the satisfaction of tapping into the chemistry we've always had, the one sometimes buried under the routine of building a life together, to know that yes, we would do this all over again.


wedding day helpers, all of which i recommend without reservation: