My Izabiza celebrates her first birthday today. We will have a few friends and family over to share her first dobos torte, a Hungarian cake that we ordered from the same bakery in Cleveland who created a trio of dobos for our wedding. Silly hats will be involved. And soup.
I suppose by now I should have gotten my life into some kind of order allowing me time to lovingly document Iza's first year in a photo album and scrapbook. Let's just say that I am not that kind of girl and apparently not that kind of mama either! What follows is my version of a keepsake for her. A picture may be worth a thousand words, so a thousand words should be worth a picture. I goaded myself into this project my aiming for a thousand-word portrait. Much to your boredom, perhaps, there are quite a few more than a thousand words here. Read through them like you are glancing through an album, only lingering on the one or two that draw your eye.
This is the second time I have set out to write a thousand-word portrait. The first I wrote for my stepson on the occasion of his tenth birthday. My thanks to Mary N. for sharing this writing exercise with me. She told me how she created one for her daughter to share with her during her wedding. It is a marvelous way to get your pen to paper and capture in words details that might get lost in a camera's flash.
Izabella’s First Album
Hair. You can’t talk about Izabella unless you mention the hair. Born with a fierce black wedge of gravity-defying locks, she now has a style that causes her Tata to call her “Baby Beethoven” or “Baby Einstein.” The color has lightened to a dark brown with lighter strands. Some even swear they see just a little red in it. (We call that, “Janetics.”) By eleven months her bangs need to be secured with a cutesy barrette or they hang past her eyes. Tata recently quipped: “Mama wasn’t born with poor eyesight. Her parents just never cut her hair either!”
Miss Izabella’s first tooth emerged on the bottom and was a loner for quite some time. Soon it was joined by another tooth on the top. At almost one-year-old she had four teeth, the bottom middle two and the upper two just next to the center. This is an unusual eruption pattern. That is Iza.
The first tooth emerged on October 14th when Tata was on a business trip. It was tough going.
She had a fever and woke up crying inconsolably in the middle of the night, something she hadn’t done for months. That cute little toothers cost both baby and Mama both some sleep. After it emerged she would run her tongue over it and a look of wonder appeared on her face.
When Iza boinks over and bumps her head, she is aghast at the injustice. The tears of pure disgust at such an unwarranted injury are desperate. These tears also make an appearance if she has been tipped over by another baby at a play group, or if Mama ever so slightly bumps her head on the refrigerator door. If she wasn’t an infant, you might be tempted to call her dramatic. As it stands, however, her entire life is pure stage, each moment a study in improvisation and discovery and never saying “no.” (They say she will start to say no after age one.)
Iza has her own email account. She can be reached at: izabarabasiatgmaildotcom.
On Iza’s eleven-month birthday, she took her first lurching crawl. Tata placed his Movado wristwatch, a gift from Mama on Christmas, at the end of the bed. She wanted it. She made forward progression--lurches, face plants, never getting belly and head aloft at the same time--from one end of the bed to the other. A few days later and the she repeated the trick with greater speed if not greater dexterity.
The blue eyes were all Mama from the first time she gazed at the world.
When other mamas see Iza twist and curl and do impossible yoga moves, they are impressed by her flexibility. When her mama sees her move in such unorthodox ways, she thinks that she will find her own way to get from A to Z.
Those that know Tata’s mother agree that Miss Iza looks just like her nagymama. She even sometimes has the same demeanor—a true lady, dignified and regal; quick to enjoy a good laugh; easily mortified.
Iza had her first solid food at six months and a few weeks. Mama fed her mashed up banana from her finger. It was in Csikszereda and nagymama was there too. Iza liked it. A few weeks later and she wouldn’t eat bananas. A few weeks later and that is all she would eat.
Some of her favorite first foods: parsnips, butternut squash, avocado, beet, and carrot purees. Occasionally prune puree has been administered to get things moving.
Some purees that produce a yucky face: green beans, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Iza sat up unsupported at 7 months plus one day.
Iza has grown into quite a party girl. Except for a transient fear of Victor and Jorge, she loves people. She may be a grump at home, but take her on the T and she is Miss Social Butterfly--all smiles and waves and coy little glances from the safety of Mama's arms.
Before Iza turns one-year-old, she will have traveled to the following places: Kansas (twice), Indiana (three times), Washington DC, The Dominican Republic (weekend trip for my sister’s wedding), Hungary, Romania, and Japan.
Iza was exclusively breastfed for the first six months plus a few weeks. This is notable because Mama had to pump and feed her from a bottle for the first six weeks before we switched entirely to the breast. Miss Iza had difficulty latching and Mama had to figure out how nursing really works. For a while it appeared that Mama might be forced to choose between pumping continuously, an awful experience, and using formula. (To place this in context, since 1997, The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended breast milk as the exclusive food for the first six months, and that breast milk remain the main source of nutrition with a mixture of solid foods for the first year of life. Despite this recommendation, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C) reported that only 14% of babies were exclusively breastfed for the first sixth months in the state of Massachusetts. And only 21.7% were still breastfed at one year of age.)
Iza didn’t use a pacifier. Well, she didn’t use a plastic one! Mama is her pacifier. Those four teeth, however, do get a bit ouchy now and again, probably due to her shallow latch.
Iza and Mama slept most or part of the night together until she was ten months. After they returned from Japan, the family was so discombobulated that major changes took place in sleep patterns almost without any control. By eleven months Iza was nursed to sleep in the rocker and then transferred to her crib where she slept until around 7 am. This change seemed to work for everyone. (Mama was sad to see the bed-sharing end. They still occasionally nap together in the daytime. And in the morning she takes Iza into her bed to nurse and nap as they reconnect at the start of the day.)
At ten months Iza started to wave and clap her hands with great enthusiasm. When she sees Tata, he always gets a smile, a wave, and a few claps. At eleven months she would clap if she heard applause on the radio. Also at eleven months she waved when she heard Dani say “szia” to her over the speaker phone.
Her first bath all by herself was at eleven months. Up until then Mama or Tata would join her in the tub. When Mama gave her a bath and Tata was not at home, she would prepare a bath mat and a towel on the floor where she would lay her down while she toweled off. These days Iza is not content to lie there and giggle at her fresh-from-the-tub Mama. She wants to squirm and sit up and get into the trash can. One night Tata was gone and Mama realized that it just wasn’t going to work. So she sat next to Iza while she bathed alone. Iza loved it. It exhausted Mama to keep up with her curious explorations all around the tub. Who knew the ceramic soap dish was so fascinating?
Iza spent her first Christmas in Kansas. Grandma gave her a Cabbage Patch Doll. She wore her black velvet dress with the red plaid trim, white tights, red shoes, and her red flower barrette to Christmas Eve mass. (Mama neglected to take the requisite photo of her in Christmas attire next to the adorned tree.)
Iza has yet to enjoy the process of having her nails done.
Mama fell in love with black pearls the fall before Iza was born. Tata gave her a beautiful ring with a single black pearl for her birthday. She wore it for the rest of her pregnancy and even wore it in labor and while giving birth to baby Iza. When Iza was quite small Mama decided that she would save the ring for Izabella.
Iza has not quite figured out that she will love talking to Grandma via Skype video calls. She will. Mama loves it!
Iza’s first word (at almost eleven months): “ball .” Mama is pretty sure she was using English to indicate her love for her little, round, bouncy ball. As Dani pointed out, however, “bal” means left in Hungarian. So her first word was bilingual!
The first time Mama left Iza in another person’s care was in Japan. Mama left her upstairs in the hotel room with a babysitter hired by our hosts while she and Tata and Dani were downstairs at an award ceremony. She was alone with the babysitter for almost two hours! Mama kept her cell phone clutched in her hand, waiting for it to buzz her back to nurse and cuddle little Iza.
Zsofia was Iza’s first “mommy’s helper.” She came to our apartment a few times a week for a few months to allow Mama to take a shower, step out for lunch, etc.
Mama wishes that we had a grandparent, sibling, an aunt or uncle, or even a cousin within several hours travel! Iza is extremely lucky, however, to have Big Brother near us. He moved with his family to Newton in the fall of 2008, a mere ten minute drive! He is patient and playful with her. He takes great pride in being her big brother and has been an amazing help to me, both taking care of her and helping me too! There was one week when Tata had to travel to Europe and Dani, who was thirteen and getting ready to enter the eighth grade, volunteered to spend the week with us just so that he could help take care of Izabella.
Izabella was born at 1:30 pm on a Friday afternoon.
Mama’s favorite time of the day: after Iza’s bath when she is warm and naked and wiggles across the bed. She usually needs to have some of her giggles extracted so that she won’t explode during her dreams.
Grandma Kelley was Iza’s first expert rocker. She stayed with Iza for nearly four weeks and rocked her for hours on end. By now Mama is an expert rocker too. She often can’t bear to put her in her crib for an afternoon nap and so joins Iza by taking a nap with her as they rock.
Isis Maternity is a retail and educational center for parents. Miss Iza is only two T stops away from Isis and within walking distance (in warm weather) and she has spent a lot of time there. Even before she was born Mama and Tata took childbirth classes and Mama took prenatal yoga there. After Iza was born she attended Great Beginnings, Next Steps, Caterpillars, and Movers and Groovers classes. Each class features play time—singing and toys—and mama topics to discuss and share.
Izabella Kelley Barabasi, at nearly one-year-old, is otherwise known as Iza, IzaBiza, BizzyBee, BellaBaby, BellaMia, Biza, BizaBee, Elizabella, IzalaBizala, IzaB., Bells, Mia, Izuka, as well as, Noodle, Plum, Sweet Pea, Honey Bear, Sugar, Sunshine and Pie.
2008 Names and Izabella’s Future Playmates: Isabella is ranked number four, much to our surprise. Emma is first, followed by Sophia, and fifth is OIivia. For boys Aiden is the most popular, followed by Jayden, Ethan, Jacob, and Caden.
Izabella knows a Sophia. Mama met her mother, Rebeca, in a prenatal yoga class and Miss Iza is two days older than baby Sophia. They have seen each other almost every week since they were about ten weeks old. Izabella’s other little friend is baby Ixa. I met her mother, Akesha, in mommy-and-baby yoga class. They live nearby in Brookline Village. When Iza was 11 months, we started a “Music Together” class with Ixa and Akesha.
Izabella has been a big help to Tata as he writes his new book. When she was younger, she would play on the bed while he typed, giving Mama an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Now she is an expert at scanning in his new chapters.
Mama found out that Iza was going to be a big sister when Iza was about 9 months old. She told Tataon November 4th, the night Barack Obama became the President-Elect. She had tried to give him (Tata, not Obama) hints, but it wasn’t working. So she put a big red bow on her tummy and showed him the positive pregnancy test. Hooray!
Iza at one-years-old enjoys the occasional You Tube moment viewed on Mama’s iPhone. Her favorite so far is a short clip of the Smurfs in Hungarian. Good taste. View it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ao99RIKyd8
The best advice Mama received: No matter how wonderful things are going or how terrible things might seem, they will change. She heard this mantra at a La Leche League Meeting (one of two she was able to attend in Izabella’s first year) from another new mom, who had heard it from another new mom, etc. Wise women, indeed.