Monday, December 10, 2007

A Kansian Christmas

This weekend heralded the beginning of the Christmas season in Hays, America, with a town wide celebration appropriately called "Frost Fest." Freezing rain and slick roads couldn't keep us away, and we spent Friday night experiencing Christmas Past at Historic Fort Hays, where the locals dress up in hoop skirts and calvary coats and host various holiday activities in the extant buildings on the old Fort. The best (and worst) part was riding in a horse drawn wagon across the prairie in the freezing rain. Sunday evening, we hit Main Street for the Christmas parade, which boasted a fire baton twirler and a motorcycle posse decked out in colored lights, among the other more pedestrian floats.

Here we are with Heather and Michael Maiorano. I had to tell Michael I saw Santa Claus in the distance to get him to look at the camera. Just a little white lie. No harm done. Really.

Sometimes I think I live in Stars Hollow. But with a less verbal population.

$1.00 to the first person to get that reference.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Seven Months

I'm a little late on this one, but Sophie has changed so much over the past month, I don't want to let number seven go unremarked...

Dearest Sophie,

In the past month, you have transformed from a reluctant-to-nap, high-strung, serious, fuss-bucket of a baby, who has a hard time settling herself unless her parents are walking her across Western Kansas strapped to their chests, into a delightful cherub of a chub who takes two naps a day like clockwork, happily munches on cheerios in her highchair, joyfully rolls across the carpet in pursuit of a rattle, and can sit by herself playing with a basket full of toys for a good half-hour.

Wow. What a difference one month makes. You sleep from seven until about seven the next morning and wake up with the brightest smile this side of sunny side up, showing off your two bottom teeth, sweet little pearls nestled in the pink of your gum (although alarmingly sharp). You like every food you've tasted except for apples and canned meat (and we don't blame you on the meat front; the stuff smells like cat food!). You love bananas. You'd eat them every meal if you could. You love them so much, you'll probably want to marry them when you're older.

The one sad thing about month seven, however, is your relationship to books. You'll no longer sit in Mommy's lap and quietly watch the pages turn. Now you want to eat them. You're dying to eat them. You want to digest our entire library: baby books, novels, the OED. You even have a couple of paper-cuts from a pile of student essays your Daddy left on the floor.

The best part of month seven, however, is just how darn happy you are. You may not have quite made it through a day without crying, but you're getting there.

And don't worry, we'll stick around till you do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


We spent Thanksgiving with Craig and Christy Brown, Heather and Joel Maiarono, and Casey Rackaway, some of our favorite people in Hays, who we know from our church, St. Michael's Episcopal. The three little boys there--Michael (3), Craig (4), and Timothy (2)--kept Sophie enthralled throughout the afternoon, and remarkably, she took her nap during the meal, so Carl and I were able to eat in peace.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good group shot, but since this blog is about all things Sophie all the time, here she is in her very cute Thanksgiving cap!

Hope you feasted as long and well as we did! Cheers.

Snowy Small Town Idles

There's much I miss living in Hays, America: sushi, family, and a professional theatre community, to name a few, but every now and then a day comes along that makes living in a cultural desert just fine by me. The day before Thanksgiving it snowed for the first time this year. I wrapped Sophie up in layer upon layer of baby sweaters, blankets, and hats, and we strolled over to the local bakery just four blocks from our house. When Carl joined us, we walked up Main Street to an antique store that had just acquired an extensive book collection. We spent a good hour or two browsing the books, finding first editions of C.S. Lewis (Carl) and Robert Penn Warren (Catherine), then ate lunch at the soda shop across the street. After a quick stop at the public library, we all fell into a big bundle on the bed and took a long nap.

Sophie's first snow.

At Augustine's Bakery.

I have to admit, however, one glitch in our perfect day: upon returning home and looking up the two books on the internet, we discovered that our local antique store had grossly overpriced them! Luckily, we hadn't bought them yet, wanting to mull over the prospect of spending our weekly grocery money on books!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Same Dog, New Tricks

Progress Report:

Sitting? Check.

Teething? Check.

Object holding? Check.

Castle Rock

Thousands of years ago, the Kansas prairie was under water; minnows instead of flies, starfish instead of grasshoppers. And while underwater, these chalky castles formed, now limestone bluffs that loom over the grassland like medieval fortresses. Castle Rock is about an hour drive from Hays, West down I-70 and then fifteen miles down rocky, dirt roads that seem to go nowhere until suddenly you hit this majestic rock formation amid the silence.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Year of the Baby

2007 was a big year for babies in my world. Not only was Sophie born on April 19, but so many of my friends and family also had little ones. There's Sophie's cousin Lulu in Georgia; Eli in neighboring Alabama; Leo recently uprooted from Brooklyn and planted in lovely Chapel Hill; Barnaby and Auggie struttin' their stuff in Queens; two Harpers!--one in Atlanta another in Manhattan (New York not Kansas, and yes, only in Kansas does that distinction need to be made). Sophie hasn't even met most of these kids yet, but it's nice to know she has instant friends all up and down the East Coast.

There's an extra special place in my heart for the latest addition to the list: Felix Day Hatton was born in Buffalo, New York on October 21, son of David and Erin, brother to Rex and Leo. I'm claiming him as my nephew though there are no blood ties so to speak. Erin and I have been best friends since eighth grade and attended pre-school together before that. If dear Felix Day possesses even half of his Mommy's strength, discipline, and beauty and his Daddy's kind nature and smarts, then he is a blessed baby indeed!

We love you Felix Day and can't wait to meet you!

Friday, October 19, 2007

To Eli and Barnaby

Thanks for the tips, fellas!

Six Months

Dearest Sophie, you are six months old today, and although I'd like to tell you that you wear a cheery smile on your sweet face all day long, the truth is, those are rare moments your Mommy captures and posts on her blog. Mostly, you sport an expression of intense puzzlement, as you try to figure out the world and the revolving figures who enter and disappear from sight without your consent or control. Strangers always comment on your big blue eyes and your furrowed brow--traits you inherited from your Father.

Having drunk nothing but breast milk for six months, you're just warming up to solid foods. You like to be held upright, no more cradling like a baby. You like it when I read books to you, and every now and then you try to turn the page along with me, although you don't yet have the motor skills to do so. You love listening to the English poetry I read you before bed; you're not so hot on Daddy's philosophy books (and who can blame you?) You're the only person on the planet who likes the sounds of your Mommy's off-key singing voice.

You like to be on the go--trips to the grocery, post-office, play dates--although you don't like getting there strapped and bound in the car seat. You loathe naps and loud noises. You love having your diaper changed, sitting outside, and remarkably going to bed at eight o'clock on the dot. But far and away, your favorite thing in the whole entire world is to go on long walks facing outward in the Baby Bjourn, tilting your head sideways, and cooing into the Kansas wind.

We love you so, Sophie-girl.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Are you still fabulous if you get a mention in the New York Times, but they spell your name wrong?

Luckily, the folks at New York Magazine are much more astute, particularly the editor of Vulture, Dan Kois, who I hear is the best editor in town (New York town, that is, not Hays, Kansas town)--although it may just be a rumor.

Yay Women's Project! Thanks Dan!

Who says I k'ant?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Off-Broadway, Baby

My play crooked's getting a little Off-Broadway run this spring. The official opening is April 19, Sophie's first birthday. I'm thinking baby Birthday party in Central Park in the morning and gin-soaked adult-only party in the evening. Come one. Come all. Here's the link:

Feed me, Seymour!

Sophie has recently taken an interest in grown-up food, and so I've taken to giving her a lick of apple here and there, a dab of syrup from my finger; on Sunday, I swear she tried to chomp down on a piece of cantaloupe. And so I figured at a week shy of six months, she was ready to take on solid food. The rice cereal was a disaster. First she tried to dunk her whole head into the bowl and then spit out every spoonful we put into her mouth. Next we gave her a little banana (because that's what Eli likes to eat), and it went over a little better, but she pretty much cried throughout the whole ordeal.

I'm not anxious to try again anytime soon.

Sit, or get off the can

Sit, who me?

Not really interested.

Frankly, I can drool just as well lying down.

Please, make it stop!

Much better....ah....

We are still not a napping house...

Today, instead of taking two naps, Sophie has cried for two forty-five minute sessions: once with her babysitter and once with me. Having browsed the Ferber book (I didn't actually read it but feel, having scanned the chapter on naps while holding a murmuring baby on my hip at the local crappy bookstore that's really not a bookstore but actually a movie rental store, I am definitely an expert), I think the problem is she sleeps too long at night: 12-13 hours. According to Dr. Ferber, 12-13 hours of sleep is all a baby needs total and therefore, sleeping too long at night may pose problems at nap time.

Allow me to ask you this, dear readers: would you wake a sleeping baby up at 6am on a cold Kansas morning so that she might sleep better during the day?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

We are not a napping house

Before Sophie was born, I envisioned writing plays on my laptop while my foot gently rocked my baby to sleep in her cradle. I imagined writing while she dozed in her Moses basket beside me, and writing while her Daddy took her for long walks in the early morning hours. Needless to say, none of these things have ever happened. Mankind has not invented a contraption that my baby will nap in. Not in a bouncy seat, not in a car seat, not in a moses basket, not in a sling. None of things will my baby nap in, no siree.

So we've arranged for some childcare, so I can get some more writing done. It's a great arrangement, and I couldn't be more pleased. Sophie's caretaker is a former elementary school teacher named Stacie who will watch Sophie with her own two daughters, ages 1 and 3. We took a shot of Sophie on her first morning meant to be spent away from her Mommy.

Of course, one hour after dropping Sophie off, Stacie called me to come pick her up again, because her three year old was throwing up. Oh well, we'll try again on Monday.

Fortunately, Carl does not have as much trouble blocking out the sounds of a wailing baby as I do.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

One Wedding, One reunion, Four cousins

We spent the past two weeks in Georgia and North Carolina for my brother Jimmy's wedding and Carl's 20th (that's right, 20th) high school reunion. I did not, however, take a single picture from either the reunion or wedding. I don't mind posing my baby in different outfits on a lazy Monday morning, but when it comes to actual events, I don't like to bother with a camera; and so dear readers, you'll have to wait for a glimpse of Jimmy's gorgeous bride, Sarah, (not to mention the NC relatives) until I get some pictures from more dedicated photographers. Suffice it to say that Sarah is a very sweet, natural blonde from Athens, Georgia who loves Johnny Cash, Robert Penn Warren, beer in a bottle and couldn't look better in a bathing suit--your basic Southern male fantasy, minus the tacky. Lucky Jimmy.

We did get a shot, however, of Sophie meeting perhaps my favorite person in the entire world: my grandfather, Paul Charles Vancura, champion ping-pong player, dedicated swimmer of laps, singer of ballads from 1944, husband to the late Mary Evelyn Vancura for over fifty years, handyman/craftsman, a man who can basically fix anything with any available materials; in short, an all around good for nothing Bohunk from Prague.

And I can never resist a shot of Sophie with her cousins. Anna Catherine, below, served as flower girl for the wedding despite coming down with a yucky G.I. virus and throwing up all over her Dad at the rehearsal dinner.

Here she is with the other McGraws: James and Lulu. Lulu is one month younger than Sophie but a size bigger, so we came home with a suitcase full of hand-me-down clothes. Lulu's mother is a consummate shopper of both antiques and baby clothes.

We also got to share a meal with some very interesting friends who recently moved to Athens. Wayne Coppins is a young man we've befriended over the years at the annual Vinson New Year's Eve Party. We never saw Wayne outside of this one event, as he was studying at Cambridge and we were living D.C., but I met up with with him and his Norwegian bride, Ingie, last year in London and was able to share the premiere of crooked with them. Wayne is now an assistant professor of religion at the University of Georgia, while Ingie turns her dissertation on Norwegian missionaries in South Africa into a book. Here's to hoping Ingie grows to love Athens as much as I do--I have a feeling it's going to take her Nordic blood a little time to get used to the hot humidity!

And yes, that's Sophie, not a baby Coppins!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

Somebody can't wait to get on an airplane tomorrow to go visit her grandparents!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sister, you been on my mind

Happy Birthday to my beloved sister who turned thirty-six yesterday. Some people want wealth, others prestige. Some long for the Presidency, the Pulitzer, a healthy crop of wheat. But all I want in this life is to someday live next door to my big sister on a tree lined street where the leaves turn crimson in the fall and azaleas bloom white in the spring.

Happy Birthday, Martha.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough,

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

Yesterday Sophie and I visited Heartland Farms, an intentional ecumenical Christian community situated about an hour South of Hays, where a handful of Dominican Sisters and Mennonite families live, pray and eat together. Their lifestyle is a template for simple, holistic living: a commitment to small-scale sustainable, organic agriculture; holistic health; alternative energy; community; justice and non-violence. Our afternoon visit was a good reminder of how the natural world illuminates the spiritual, and how "the tyranny of things" (a phrase I borrow from my good friend Katie) often keeps us from community with others.

Here Sister Ginger holds Sophie in front of the flower garden. The Sisters were overjoyed to have a baby visit and their great delight gave me great joy in turn.

Here we are among the alpacas. The community uses their wool to make yarn. In the background, you can see three-year-old Michael in his baby blue galoshes. Michael introduced us to Heartland along with his mother, my good friend Heather, who is one of the gems I've discovered out here in the middle of nowhere. She's a Pacific Northwest, Quaker transplant to Kansas who has the most fantastic legs and wisdom to match.

At the center of a meditation labyrinth.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Carl's father, Carl, Jr., spent two weeks with us in July in order to help Carl build a new front porch. Here he is with Sophie on the Fourth of July with the porch-in-progress.

And here's the finished product. We still need to paint the front door red, but hopefully that will happen this week-end.

Admire the craftsmanship, won't you?

And yes, I did put my baby in overalls today. I think they're very cute, but maybe I've been in Kansas a little too long... I know one thing is certain: Donno (my mother) will not approve.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ph.D. / R.I.P.

As many of you know, I've spent the last six years working towards my Ph.D., completing my coursework, passing comps, even slogging through most of my dissertation research. Well, as of next week, it's all been for naught. I have officially withdrawn from my program. The past year and a half have made this decision pretty easy: lots of exciting playwriting/screenwriting opportunities, a move half-way across the country far away from my research and adviser, not to mention baby; and yet there's a little bittersweetness as with all good-byes.

So here stands my fond farewell to being a graduate student: goodbye long hours and low pay; good-bye bitch sessions in student housing; good-bye to that yummy, musty library smell; good-bye footnotes; good-bye M.L.A. Good-bye archives, microfilm, and checking your ballpoint pens at the door. Good-bye professors one and all--the great, the good, and the good for nothings. But most of all, good-bye to college campuses in the fall. Nothing makes me feel more at home than your breezy, leafy quads, an empty notebook grasped in my eager hand and a pencil behind the ear.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Weather Report

It's 100 degrees today without a cloud in sight, so what's a playwright lately turned stay-at-home-mom to do?

Go to the pool, of course! I stuffed myself into a pre-pregnancy bathing suit (not a pretty sight) and hit the local pool, which is fabulous, by the way, complete with fountains, slides, and a separate shallow pool especially for little kids.

Sophie neither loved nor hated the water, but since it's 100 degrees with not much else to do, here's hoping she turns into a water baby soon.


For Grandma Sallie who has said, "more pictures please!"