Saturday, July 16, 2011


Besides being the most precious toddler on the planet, my 1-year-old niece Gigi is very advanced verbally. If you point at a picture of a cow Gigi moos. If you ask "How does a horse go?"she clicks her tongue like hoofs. If you hold her in front of a mirror she says her name.

I know; She's a genius.

A few weeks ago while I was playing with her, Gigi pointed her tiny finger at my belly and asked earnestly, "Baby?"

Devil child.

I'm kidding. She's still perfect. But she did stare up at my stomach with her Bambi eyes and ask if there was a baby in there.

"Isn't that cute?" my sister-in-law responded. "She does that to everyone."

I laughed nervously. A-flipping-dorable.

Apparently, she's been asking this question since she met my recently pregnant older sister (her aunt) and learned there was a baby growing inside her belly. Now her sweet curiosity terrifies unsuspecting, unmarried and possibly bloated women across the city.

No no, Gigi. I'm not prego. No baby in there. No sirey Bob.

A couple weeks later, I walked into one of those all-organic, all-natural and all-expensive baby boutiques in Brooklyn searching for a gift for my newest niece Valentina.

The owner had her screaming 2-year-old in tow as she helped me pick out a swaddle blanket. He's teething, she explained serenely through his piercing cries, somehow unaffected. After a few minutes I was desperate to leave the store. The hysterical kid. The scary breast pumps. The $80 tiny T-shirts. I paid and ran.

No no, not ready for a baby. Not me. No sirey Bob.

A week or so after (I promise, I'm going somewhere with this.), I returned home from work in a terrible mood. The last few days had been hectic and stressful. Everything was frustrating me. I felt bogged down and blah. I worried life was getting dull and monotonous.

I proceeded to have a mini-freak out for no real reason.

To calm down I went for a jog at the gym. It didn't help. So I went for a walk along the river, but I still couldn't calm down. Even one delicious fudgecicle later, I was still worked up. I flipped open my laptop hoping for some good news. A new video of my week-old niece Valentina was sitting in my email inbox. I downloaded it. She was just waking up- scrunching her face and pouting her lips as she slowly opened her eyes. 10 amazing seconds.

The stress fell away. I was overcome with this skin-tingling joy for my sister and her husband. As long as Valentina keeps wrinkling her nose nothing could be wrong in the world.

Look, I'm far from ready for my own Gigi or Valentina. My last couple baby interactions serve as proof. But I do look forward to a day when someone just like them helps put my life into perspective. When a first cry or yawn or poop instantly shifts my priorities into order. When there's so much big stuff it's hard to sweat the small stuff.

Until then, I'm content being an aunt- the young New York one with that awesome blog.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tomato Tomawful

The sun had set over my second night in Cartagena, Colombia. I was on a terrace 14 floors above the 400-year-old coastal city in what felt like the only skyrise. Sailboats twinkled as they bobbed in the turquoise Caribbean below. A sea breeze gasped through the 90-degree heat. My best friend Nicki and I had rushed off the dance floor for some air. Glass of vino tinto in one hand, skewered hors d'oeuvre in the other, I was almost giddy at the rehearsal dinner before my friend's destination wedding. I teethed a cube of jamon y queso and some tomatoey looking thing off the skewer. Two seconds later...

"Nicki, my skin feels really hot," I sat up to examine my arms in the moonlight. "Do you feel that?" My back started to burn, bad.

"I know, it's a million degrees here." Nicki hardly looked up from her malbec. I leaned back in my chair again, still uncomfortable. I searched for a sunburn on my arms as they boiled in the dark.

"But, it's like pins and needles," I complained. My mouth went dry. My tongue began to sting.

"Somethings wrong." I yelped. "My thung, it's pinths and needelths."

I gasped and covered my mouth after my tongue stammered. Now we both panicked.

"Oh my God! I cant thalk!"

Nicki yanked me indoors out of the dark. I was covered in hives- plump white bumps against tomato red arms, neck and back. My cheeks came next, flushed puffy pink above a mouth that had swelled to 3 times its size. My tongue, growing by the second, jut out past my bottom lip like a Shar-Pei panting after a jog. My heart pounded through a cold sweat. Two hives squinted my eyes. Every inch itched.

Nicki called for one of the doctors in the room (It's a Colombian wedding- there were 5). I was pushed into a chair where a dozen party guests surrounded me reacting in English and Spanish to the Shar-Pei face I hadn't seen but could feel. A 70ish-year-old Colombian relative of the groom grabbed my hands and commanded that I focus. In a raspy stern Spanish he shushed the crowd to ask if I could breathe.

I burst out crying. All I could mutter, "No puedo senthir mi lengua." (a heavily lisped, I can't feel my tongue.)

I was rushed into an air conditioned room, fed an Allegra and reassured that it wasn't "totally awful." Another doctor was coming with more medicine. I sat trembling still dotted with hives. The doctor, of course, was the only young attractive Colombian cousin in attendance- a plastic surgeon, naturally. His even tan, slick back hair and white linen pants bent down to ask me to stick out my swollen tongue. I lisped out what had happened to me- the "danthing", the heat, "the glath of wine" and the "thomato" before the botched facelift face. He pumped me full of an antihistamine. About three hours later it was all gone.

The next night, I walked down my friend's aisle as a bump-free bridesmaid.

Nobody's sure exactly what caused the severe allergic reaction. Maybe it was that Colombian fruit I had never tried. Maybe it was a couple glasses of wine mixed with an antibiotic I had started before my trip. We may never know.

Temporary deformation aside, I adored Cartagena and I suppose I owe it a thank you.

Spontaneous lisp-enduing and potentially life-threatening situations are what good blog posts are made of.