Friday, March 27, 2009

Still Life With Doggie

This is the sight that greeted me when I came back from dropping bubs off at nursery school this morning. Elan's current loves: "old doggie" and numbers. I believe the dino was just thrown in to add texture.

Earlier in the morning, Elan was making up all kinds of number stories with doggie. "Doggie seeing the numbers," he informed me, holding doggie carefully so that his head pointed at Elan's beloved foam numbers. "Come on, doggie, let's go see the numbers." And so on.

Tomorrow Elan and I leave for San Diego. We'll be staying with my parents for 10 days over their spring break, and Mikhail will join us for a long weekend at the end. I'm packing today (and attempting to do it without staying up till 2 a.m.) so it's a short post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bubsy Gardener

Elan helping me plant Corsican mint in a planter:

"Mama's going to dig a hole and then you can put the plant in."

Nods seriously. Watches intently as I dig a hole with the trowel.

"Okay, put the plant in the hole."

He thrusts the mint in the hole, roots up. "He's goin to bed."

I smile. "That's right. The plant is in bed. Turn it upside-down, so the green part is up."

He flips it. "He's tired. Going nighty night."

I laugh. "Now help Mama put the dirt back."

He pats down the dirt with his surprising large hands. "You puttin on a bwanket."

He peers down at the little dirt-speckled plant. "Here you go, pwant. Here's your bwanket. You thirsty? Want a dwink of water?"

And then I promptly melt into a pile of mush right there on the garden patio.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Public Enema #1

WARNING: This post deals with poop. If you are not currently responsible for dealing with a small person's intestinal issues, and you are not likely to be soon, you might want to skip this one. For those of you who continue, you might want to put that sandwich down. 

Okay, so I made it sound worse than it really is. But I know how it is - for those who don't spend their days getting intimate with the ins and outs, the products and byproducts, of another person's digestive tract, you don't want to hear it. The endless poop discussions are a stereotype of parents of young children, but one I have found to be true. In fact, I have never discussed poop so much in my life as I have since becoming a parent. Except for when traveling in South America. But that's a different post.

So today I took bubs to the doctor. I was finally convinced that perhaps the toddler insanity of the last few days might have a basis in something physical after a 1-hour-20-minute-long screaming session last night at bedtime. Turns out that in addition to a likely sinus infection and some swollen lymph nodes indicating the possibility of a new virus in the works, bubs is also pretty backed up. This isn't a surprise given the irregularity of the last ten days, despite my shoveling him full of prune juice and high-fiber everything. But when the doctor felt his tummy and said "Wow, he's got poop all the way up to here," indicating a spot just below the end of his ribcage, I did feel bad for being so annoyed at him last night.

We went to the pharmacy and stocked up. We bought MiraLAX, Little Tummys all-natural laxative drops, and then I pulled out the big guns: liquid glycerin suppositories. Now when Elan was much younger, we had a period when he would get constipated frequently, especially whenever we traveled. (Yet another of the things I never knew B.C.: how often constipation is a problem for small children, and how much it disrupts Life In General.) Mikhail and I became experts at what we dubbed "the baby enema" which is actually just a little tube full of liquid glycerin that you shoot up there, with truly astonishing results.

The first time we did it, we were driven by desperation. My father, a pediatrician, had recommended it since nothing else was working. But we were first-timers, and we were nervous. I remember setting the baby on our bed, several layers of cloth diapers underneath him. We put him in diaper-wipe position. I held his legs; Mikhail inserted and squeezed. Then we quickly put the diaper back on and waited, full of fascinated horror. Nothing.
"Maybe we didn't get enough in," I said.
"Just wait," he said.
"What if it all ran out? I'm going to check."
I donned the headlamp, undid the diaper, and got down to tuckus-level to check it out. Just then, a big fart came rushing out of said little tuckus.
"Get out, get out!" Mikhail yelled. I pulled back, having visions of the headlamp going dark as the poop hit. 
He fumbled with the diaper.
"Hurry! Incoming!" I yelled, trying to help.
Just as we refastened the diaper, the onslaught came.
Baby bubs looked happy.
We looked at each other. And dissolved in laughter.

We had not had to give a baby enema in a long while. My skills were rusty, and I wasn't even sure it would work anymore. But my little guy was uncomfortable, and I needed a break from constant fuss, and I remembered the instant relief of past applications. So after a phone pep talk with Mikhail, I rolled up my sleeves, distracted bubs with a video, and did it so fast he didn't even have time to cry. It seemed like hardly any liquid went in, but by now I know better than to investigate too thoroughly. I put the diaper back on, and within minutes, heard the unmistakable pop of poop explosion hitting diaper.

Five minutes later, cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket in his stroller, he drank a bottle dosed with MiraLAX and promptly passed out. It is a great thing, as a parent, when you get to fix the problem. At least for now. I walked along, enjoying my Super-Mommy buzz.

Of course check with your own pediatrician. But I'm telling you: keep one of these in your medicine cabinet. Just in case. 

This post title brought to you by Mikhail. I would never come up with that.


This picture was taken last month (thus the super-shaggy hair), when Elan was first introduced to a new friend: Dada's guitar.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet as Honey

Before I became a parent, I, like everyone, had heard much about "the terrible twos." Throughout my pregnancy, I could imagine mothering a tiny, helpless, staring-fascinated-at-leaves-on-a-tree baby. But whenever I considered the fact that that baby would someday become a tantrum-throwing, opinionated and loud two-year-old, a cold shudder ran through me. 

Well, those days are here. With a vengeance. And of course it hasn't been a completely sudden transition. The reality is that my son was rarely the kind of sweet, mellow, even-tempered baby I imagined in my pregnancy dreams. No, he has always had a strong will, even before he knew what to be willful about. Now that the two-year-four-month-old version of Elan has very clear ideas (wants, needs, preferences, demands), as well as a vocabulary that grows exponentially to express them, it's striking to me how often he still doesn't really know what he wants. Not to mention what he needs. Which leads to frustration. Tantrums. Exhaustion. His, and mine.

What I would say now is that the twos, as I have experienced them thus far, aren't so much uniformly terrible as they are tempestuous. One moment, the weather is clear and sunny; the next, a scowling wind has blown up; the next, hail is pelting you as you run for cover. Mothering a two-year-old is like reading the weather in storm-prone mountains. You never know what's coming over the horizon, so you best be prepared for all possibilities.

Elan is affectionate and indifferent, loving and fight-picking, flexible and obstinate and loud and quiet and sweet and difficult. All within five minutes.

This morning we had a tough time getting out the door. I had to execute bodily force to get Elan out of the house and into the car, where he made constant loud and whiny demands about what song he wanted to hear on the CD player (number 17, his favorite number, over and over and over again). The exchange culminated with me stopping the car and saying (okay, maybe more like shouting): "I am not a DJ!" When I dropped him off at nursery school, I returned to my quiet car with a sigh of relief. 

Four hours later, when I arrived to pick him up, the kids were playing in the front yard. He saw my car pull up, and started jumping up and down. "It's your mama!" he shouted, running to the gate. But today, something was different. My little boy, always playing on his own when I arrived, had a companion: running alongside him was a little girl, and they were holding hands. "Your mama's here," she said, jumping up and down with him.

"Who's that?" I asked Marina, one of the caregivers.
"Annie," she said.
I had never heard of Annie, but the way she said the name sounded familiar. "Is there a little girl here called Honey?" I asked.
"Honey? No, just Annie." With her rolling Peruvian accent, the words sounded similar. Now I understood why Elan was always saying "Adios Honey" when we went through our goodbyes.
"Elan and Annie have been playing together like that all day," Marina told me.

Annie had pigtails and was about the same size as Elan. They held hands unselfconsciously, having no concept that the gesture held any significance beyond general goodwill. The sight of the two sets of pudgy little fingers intertwined made me melt. Annie led Elan in a lap around the little yard, both of them squealing in delight, and then they returned to me. I squatted down and Annie relinquished Elan's hand. He came to me. Put his arms around me. I picked him up, and he rested against me, tired out from the morning's running and learning. I savored the warm, sunny weather of the moment.

Hello mama.
Adios, honey.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Flow

We moved here, to our little place in Berkeley, in mid-September. It was a hard time to move. Fall, that time of buckling-down, was in full swing. School was in session; daycares were full; people were busy. The light was slipping away on a daily basis. By the time we had unpacked our boxes and taken a deep breath, our evening walks were dark and solitary excursions. Elan charged up neighbors' porches to examine their Halloween pumpkins, and I let him, hoping to rustle up some adult conversation in my newly insular world, shell-shocked by the loneliness of no mama-friends and Mikhail away all day working in the city.

Winter passed in a blur of perma-illness. I won't bore you with the list again. I knew that I loved Berkeley, once upon a time when we lived here B.C. (before child). I trusted that I might like it again. But I didn't. Not yet.

And now it is spring. Either my luck has changed or the daily handfuls of ridiculously expensive immune boosters are working. Mikhail and I are healing from our various ailments and regaining our strength. Elan is still coughing, but everyday a little less. The Japanese maple tree in our little yard is covered in tender little green leaves. Asparagus has made its debut at the farmer's market, and I am so happy to see it.

Today I took a yoga class, something I have not done in months. It was warm and close in the room, full to bursting with UC students about to go on spring break. My intention for the class was flow. And I felt it. The sap running. Blood coursing. Ahhhhhh. Spring, you have come to save me.

Neighbors are appearing at the park, where suddenly it seems I know people. How did it happen? Little by little by little. This making a new life - it builds slowly, each bit appearing to not influence any other bit, as you slog through, until suddenly, like a river come alive from drought, the process takes on a life of its own, and boom - you're in the flow. 

With Elan in bed and Mikhail at soccer, I sat out on our balcony and ate asparagus pizza from Cheeseboard. It was just past sunset, and the birds were singing riotous Friday evening songs. And I thought: I like it here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I wish I was one of those people who was built like a sturdy old oak tree, emotionally speaking. The one who weathers every storm upright, whose branches barely even move in the strongest of winds. But I'm built more like a bamboo stalk. The slightest breeze rustles my leaves, and in a storm, I bend and shake and shiver and generally make a big ruckus. This is to say that I am a pretty emotional person, and probably have become even more so since becoming a mother. Call it hormones, call it build up of sleep-deprivation, call it the sense of vulnerability that happens when you cut a piece of your heart out and let it walk around in the world independent from you (loosely quoted, don't know from whom). It doesn't really matter why I am like this, just that it is a part of my nature, somewhat exacerbated by motherhood.

Like all parts of our unique human nature, there is the good and there is the bad. The good is that I experience gorgeous, joyous highs. The bad is that I can sometimes be a teensy bit over the top when I get upset. Which might be more often than other people. [Insert my husband laughing out loud here.]

The bad is that I can sometimes over-empathize with other peoples' situations. I get drawn in to their grief, and it starts to become my own, even though the reality of what I'm dealing with is much more mundane: flat tire, dead battery, sunny day. The good is that I can sometimes channel that heightened sensitivity into my writing, mine it and use it to create.

But any way I look at it, I am definitely someone who needs, perhaps more than others, good techniques for grounding myself. For not just reminding myself of gratitude and grace, but for getting myself into the place where I can actually experience the here-and-now of life: the sun filtering through the newly-leafed maple, the overblown white blossoms on the camellia tree. A house quiet and warm and filled with the smell of bread toasting. A little boy with eye goop and berry-smear on his cheeks asleep in his crib.

We've been running around a lot this week, it feels. So this afternoon I'm leaning towards still and grounding moments: cooking a big pot of soup, cleaning the kitchen, planting some mint that reminds me of the smell of a cup of muna tea in Peru, laying on the floor and letting Elan crawl all over me. May you have some of those too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Elan is lucky to have a great-grandma (my Grandma Syl, known as Bubbe in our household) who knits for him. This is a good thing since his mother has been known to set aside items that need a button sewn on for when her mother-in-law visits. 

Bubbe's creations started arriving when Elan was still tiny.

January 2007

Now he is tall, and quite long in the torso, much like his dada. Recently Bubbe made him this beautiful red sweater and a vest with the same yarn.

with Syl & Matty (Bubbe & Zaydeh) in January 2009

But he had already pretty much outgrown it. 

So she made him an oversized gray knit that I just love.

He wore it to nursery school today and came home covered in bits of leaf. Such a little boy.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Friday was Elan's first haircut, and all weekend I kept musing over the delightful little post that I was going to write about the experience. But Friday was also his last poop, and delightful is not exactly the word that leaps to mind when describing life with a constipated two-year-old. Today, on our nap-walk, Elan tried desperately to get out of napping. The game went something like this: see if you can actually get smoke to blow out of Mama's ears by screaming and shouting throughout the peaceful, restful, sleep-inducing walk. He started off simply: "NO!" Banging on stroller rain cover ensued. Then, "YOU WANNA SEE THE NUMBERS!" (house numbers that is). When, after fifteen minutes of this had passed with me controlling my urge to ram the stroller into every substantial tree trunk I passed, he switched strategies to try to evoke my pity: "YOU WANT MORE BOTTLE. YOU WANT MORE BOTTLE," he chant-whined over and over.

After a half hour, steam truly was escaping from under my hood, a combination of unreasonably intense anger + steady drizzle of rain. But luckily, my incorrigible toddler could not see the effects of his shouted monologue, as I was behind him pushing the stroller. I've been told by knowledgeable sorts not to let him see me get frustrated about his lack of napping, because it will turn it even more into a game of control for him. I hoped that he couldn't actually taste the smoke on the air.

Forty minutes in, he was singing the ABC song deliriously. I leaned over and stuck my head inside the rain cover. "It's sleepy time, Elan. Go to sleep," I said, with what I hoped was a firm, no-nonsense tone, and not a I'm-at-the-end-of-my-rope tone.

And much to my surprise, he did.

Because the only rule governing this toddler's behavior lately is: be unpredictable.

And so...[deep exhale]...

Here's the full extent of the bubsy mane on Friday morning:

I was nervous about getting his hair cut, as I had no idea how he was going to react (see rule of unpredictable toddler behavior above). I took him to a place called Snippety Crickets, which I just love to say - isn't it a joy the way the tight little syllables tumble off your tongue? Go on, try it out loud and you'll see.

The woman there was a total pro. Elan sat on my lap, and she smoothly switched a new toy into his lap whenever he asked, which was about every forty-five seconds. Every time he got annoyed and reached a pudgy hand up to investigate what she was doing with that water spray and that clip-clip by his face, she would stop and shield the scissors just for a second, until he lost interest again. The effect was not unlike trying to shoo away a persistent mosquito in the middle of the night: ultimately pointless. You could tell this was about her six thousandth kid's first haircut. Plus, for proof there were all those pictures on the wall.

The final result was very much what I was hoping for. She tamed the dreadlock-prone back, cut away the split ends and framed his face with hair that is still on the long side, but a little less wild-thing. I told my sister-in-law that the look I was going for was 70s porn star, which, I realized while watching several teenagers skate by later that day, has a lot in common with modern skateboarder. She pointed out that the cut is in that vein, but a little too clean and off the face. So really he just ended up with a look we call Prince Valiant.

Ah, Prince Valiant with his string cheese staff of power.

Except more often the look I get is like this:

Just try it, Mama. I dare you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Guest Star

Yesterday Elan's naptime (a.k.a. Mama's blogging time) was devoted to cooing over Anneke Jacoba Tolla, my dear friend Janna's 3-month-old daughter. Anneke is in that gorgeous newborn cuddly phase where she falls asleep on her mama's chest and coos adorably on a blanket and just generally stirs biological urgings in women who are already feeling a bit broody. I am not talking about anyone specific here. All generalities, people.

Janna Tolla (nee Woltil), with Anneke in the Moby wrap

When Elan was baby, I was a bit of a baby carrier-a-holic. I had a pouch, a ring sling, and an Ergo carrier, all bought within his first three months. I spent way too many hours online, searching for the perfect hands-free way to carry around my gosh he got heavy fast son. But somehow I missed the Moby wrap. Which just means: I get to buy another carrier next time! 


And I know this is hardly a news flash, but really - baby girls' clothing - can it get any cuter?

No, it can't.

When he woke up, Elan mostly ignored Anneke. Except when he almost stepped on her head. Twice. But that was an accident. We think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liquid Inspiration

I am not a big coffee drinker. I don't even drink a cup a day, and if I am under-the-weather, I'll drink black tea for days on end. But I do love coffee. Especially with lots of cream and sugar (I am a total non-purist, I know). For me, coffee has always been fuel for writing. Something about that particular brand of caffeinated energy rush starts my fingers typing, even before my brain recognizes that it's fully awake. These days, I am just as liable to use the black stuff as inspiration to just get out of the house already on sleepy mornings when Elan doesn't go to daycare and is still in his footed sleeper at 9:45 even though we've been up since 6:30.

But oh he's cute in that sleeper.

Where was I?

Until recently, we did not own a coffee maker besides the on-the-stove kind which we could never get to make anything we'd want to drink. So I bought a French press, and I have been practicing. And this morning, I made myself the most heavenly cup of coffee, the perfect amount with no waste, and it had a deep velvety chocolate taste.

And now this is the part where I keep it in the family, and plug my brother-in-law's coffee company 1000 Faces. Cause that is some yummy stuff.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quick, Before My Righteous Indignation Fades

The amazing thing is: we are some of the lucky ones. We have health insurance. We pay over $500 a month ($6,000 a year) to cover Elan and me on Mikhail's plan through his employer. I would consider our coverage to be middle-of-the-road. It's not anywhere near as good as - say - a teacher's. But it's not just-in-case-you-get-hit-by-a-train either. 

However, in the last few months, our little family of three has endured a run of bad luck health-wise. Maladies include: head colds too numerous to count, 2 cases of conjunctivitis (pink eye), 3 cases of chronic nasty cough, 1 sprained chest wall muscle from said cough, 2 standard stomach bugs, 1 case of undetermined gastrointestinal illness, 1 broken finger (Mikhail's, from soccer), 1 Staph infection in eyelid (also Mikhail's, also from soccer), 1 other kind of infection of eyelid (this time Elan), runny and congested noses that never end, and so on and so forth. And that is just since January.

Thankfully, these are all minor illnesses, par for the course of a toddler-containing household. However, you wouldn't know that from looking at the stack of medical bills currently residing on my desk. This morning I spent an hour on the phone with a very nice lady from Blue Cross who explained very patiently to me that, yes, it is true that our health insurance is total @(#*$! Actually, she put it much more diplomatically than that. It was more like - yes, ma'am, it is true that your health insurance does not cover the following:
  • routine vaccinations for children under the age of 7, until you've met your deductible (in our case, $500 per year PER PERSON) and then only partly after that;
  • routine annual physical exams and associated tests (such as general bloodwork, pap smears and mammograms for women), performed by your doctor, unless you go to a special clinic which no one ever mentioned before, and even then it still costs extra; and
  • routine prenatal care (for the next time I am pregnant), until we've spent that pesky $500 per year.
Nice Lady and I did not even get to talking about Mikhail's broken finger issues, X-rays and physical therapy appointments that will likely blow right past his $500 deductible (then we'll only have to pay 35% of the ridiculousness... WHEW! WHAT A RELIEF!). I can't even hazard a guess for what the finger will end up costing us. Could be $700. FOR A FINGER! ON HIS LEFT HAND! AND IT'S NOT EVEN A BIG ONE! But it is his left ring finger. Meaning his wedding ring has been sitting in a little dish in the bathroom medicine cabinet while we wait for the swelling and bruising to go down and see if the digit will allow itself to be straightened back to the point that the ring will once again fit. 

[By the way, the reason Nice Lady and I didn't talk about Mikhail? Because he hadn't signed a special paper that allowed me, his wife & Payer Of All Bills, to ask questions about his insurance benefits, even though I'm on his plan and receive the exact same benefits. May I just say: Oy!]

But of course we're going to do the X-rays and the physical therapy. Of course I'll get on the phone once said piece of paper is mailed and signed and sent back and put into the system and advocate as best I can, and then we'll suck it up and pay the outrageous bills. And while I sign the checks, I'll glance at the cost that it would have been had we not been some of the lucky ones who have a job that provides our family health insurance, and I'll be grateful.

Just like of course we will not allow our health insurance company's disincentives to vaccinating our child to influence our decision about whether or not to vaccinate him. But that is because we can afford to pay approximately $40 out of pocket PER SHOT (and if you don't know how many shots kids get, keep reading). If we simply didn't have the money, as so many in our country don't at this time, well then, I guess he wouldn't get the shot. Or maybe he just wouldn't eat quite as much. At a time when so many parents are choosing not to immunize their children because of vaccine safety concerns, do we really need to be providing yet another disincentive?

I'm going to do some quick math here for when Mikhail and I decide to procreate again. According to the CDC's standard vaccination schedule, a child receives 24 shots in his or her first 12 months (18 pokes if you do combo vaccines). That means Mikhail and I will likely spend about $1000 out of pocket to vaccinate our next child IN THE FIRST YEAR! Better hope we don't have twins. This of course does not include office visit co-pays ($35 per visit, well or sick) or any other tests, medications, or illnesses. And it doesn't include the cost of my pregnancy, a number which gives me symptoms-resembling-morning-sickness just to contemplate. 

This is the part that makes me completely crazy: insurance companies penalizing people for trying to be proactive about their health and the health of their children. CAUSE IT'S SO MUCH CHEAPER TO TREAT A CASE OF THE MEASLES!

Nice Lady from Blue Cross asked if there was anything else she could do for me. I said, "I don't suppose fixing our nation's completely broken health care system is in your job description, is it?" She laughed. And agreed with me.

After Nice Lady and I hung up, I congratulated myself on maintaining my sense of humor. Then I turned my attention to today's mail. And there, lurking in the pile, was a bill from a lab in Southern California that had been forwarded to my new Berkeley mailing address. For a test done when I was pregnant. With my son. Who is now two years old. I called the lab and talked to a very not-nice man. When I questioned why I was getting a bill from SEPTEMBER 2006 now, in March 2009, he told me they had been trying to reach me all this time and it's my fault for not providing my correct insurance information TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO. I will spare you the rest of the details. Suffice it to say that Not Nice Man and I went back and forth for quite a while. He would not listen to my explanations that I had only moved six months ago, and that I had never, in the two years I lived in San Diego after this test was performed, received any mail from this lab at all. He was sure he was right. And I was sure he was a total @$$&%*#. Finally, I agreed to try to find my then-insurance card from two and a half years ago. Cause most people keep those lying around. Forever.

Oh well. While I comb through my old files, I'll just keep being thankful that we're some of the lucky ones.

On A Lighter Note

Nicely gender-bending when someone thinks he's a girl...

from our friends in Ireland Maud & Mike, who have great taste.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Yesterday we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon hanging out at Mikhail's cousin's house. Many family members were gathered, but all of us shrank in importance beside Elan's new discovery: the older cousin.

Saia is actually Elan's second cousin, or first cousin twice removed, or some such thing, but we are all just saying "cousin" cause it is way easier. She is four and a half and, with a sister a few months younger than Elan, she is a pro at being the big sis. She quickly developed an interest in showing Elan how to do things, like climb into her treehouse (she made sure he stepped carefully), go down the long and bumpy slide (she helped me catch him at the bottom), and play a whistle in her room (above). Elan could not have been more thrilled to be taken under her wing. At one point, she was even getting him to eat sourgrass, despite the fact that IT IS GREEN. And he was looking at her with this very particular expression on his face, one that I could only remember seeing once or twice before, with our neighbor in San Diego, Eva, herself an "older woman," who at the ripe age of five, managed at a neighborly dinner to feed him six bites of FISH.

I kept trying to pinpoint the expression on his face - one part awe, one part respect, tinged with a tiny bit of self-conscious fear that he would not make it down the big slide and would disappoint her. And then I realized: sheer, unadulterated adoration.

I told Mikhail it is a good thing Saia is a kind and smart kid, because if she led him over to the five-foot drop-off on the other side of the fence and said jump, he would. 

And then I wondered when I could get her to come over and feed him a big bowl of broccoli.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seriously Dangerous

If you have kid(s), you must go immediately to See Kai Run's sale! But be warned: it is very dangerous for ye olde budget.

Gorgeous, high-quality, comfy shoes under three brand names: Small for babies & early walkers, See Kai Run for toddlers, and Eleven for preschoolers and big kids. See Kai Run are my favorite shoes for Elan for the above reasons but mostly because they're the easiest I've found to get on a squirmy kid with big chunky feet. But after buying one pair at retail price (gulp), I discovered their excellent sales and now I'm hooked. Prices good only till March 12 and I bet they sell out fast.

Click here if you're feeling brave.

Bubsy Longstocking

Elan has such beautiful hair (even according to people besides his parents and other besotted relatives). It's long, and wavy-curly, and he's got this awesome two-toned blond on the top and brown at the roots look that totally works because you know it's au-natural. But his hair is wild too. The top layer is dry and damaged. My husband and I wash it and work in leave-in conditioner in the bath, but if we miss a few days, the delicate little tangles turn into dreadlocks and then we have a major project in front of us.

Whenever he's sick, he minds the whole combing-brushing-unsnarling routine a lot more, plus he tosses and turns in bed that much more, and his hair becomes a total rats' nest. Really. To the point where there have been a few days that I wish he'd wear a hat, to save his mother the embarrassment. And that's in Berkeley.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of Interminable Illness #12, I mentioned to his daycare provider Roxana that I should probably just go ahead and cut his hair. I motioned to my blond halo-headed little boy, who is generally considered to be a girl at first glance (even in Berkeley). "Don't cut it!" she surprised me by saying. "He's got such beautiful hair" (see, independent confirmation). She offered to try her hand at brushing it out, and I, not being an overly-proud mama, happily accepted.

That afternoon, when I came to pick him up, the kids were playing in the back yard. I checked Elan's cubbie and found a note from Roxana that began I hope you are not upset. My heart sped up for a second, but then she went on to explain that she had brushed out Elan's hair, put in special conditioner and then made trenzas (braids), a word which, for me, always conjures up the image of cornrows. I headed to the back yard, eager to see her handiwork.

The funniest thing is that even though I had just read this note, I still did not recognize my son from behind. I saw a toddler playing on the far side of the yard and thought, "That little girl has the same vest as Elan." Then I thought: "And the same sweater." 

Only then did I look a little closer and realized it was Elan.

And doesn't he make a precious little girl?

Comment Away!

I changed the settings to make it easier to leave a comment on a blog entry or photo. You no longer need an account to make a comment, and if you had trouble doing the word-verification-thing, I took that out too. So comment away! 

Please note you have to type in your name if you want me to know who you are and you don't have an account. Thanks!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cure for the Blah-Blech-Lazies

So it's cold (for California) and dreary outside, and I'm tired from staying up too late (though it was fun at the time!), and Mikhail may or may not have appendicitis (looking likely not, but he still feels like crap). Elan is asleep and all I want to do is lay on the couch and read, or eat nutella, or amuse myself in any number of other ways that do not address my lack of energy, my messy house, or the fact that I haven't exercised in a few days.

I know that if I get off my patutie (the technical term) and move my body I will feel better, be happier, have more energy and likely more patience with Elan's fundamental two-year-old-ness when he wakes up.

But lo, the couch is tempting...

And so I clear a yoga-mat-sized space in the clutter and log on to yoga today. My sister turned me on to this incredible website which offers a FREE daily one-hour yoga class. Perpetual mountain summer with flexible, happy-and-peaceful-looking people in the foreground. There have been days when the class just doesn't do it for me, and I don't make the full hour. But there are more days when I finish and think aaaahhhhh. And I know I wouldn't have done that completely on my own.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Elan's current obsession is numbers. I bought him some foam numbers, the kind that stick to the wall of the shower. He spends hours arranging and rearranging them, in and out of the bath, and they've even taken on their own personalities for him.

A recent monologue:

"Okay, evewybody, wet's go downstairs." (flinging numbers down the stairs)

"Your turn, seven." (seven goes flying)

"Where's eight? Wet's find eight." (eight discovered on bathroom floor, catapulted down stairs)

Later, after everyone is congregated downstairs in the living room:

"You can make fifteen." (he puts the one and three together proudly)

"Wet's make seventeen." (this one he gets right)

"Oh, wow! It's a seventeen!" (can you tell seven is his favorite number?)

"1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!" (in delight)

"1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!" (in Spanish)

"You can make eighteen!" (and so on and so forth, through many combinations and permutations)

Still later:

"Numbers want to go in the batf?"


"Okay, evewybody, wet's go in the batf!"

And up the stairs they go.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


At this time of year, I always buy white ranunculus in memory of my niece. It's hard to believe it's been five years.

It has snowed in Georgia over the last few days, which makes all of us feel her presence even more: Stella Snow-Clare Mann.

To read a piece I wrote about Stella published on Literary Mama, click here.

To see my sister's website with photos of the southern snow, click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Things We Do

A few months ago, sometime after our move and before his second birthday, Elan stopped napping regularly. At first, I was confused: why aren't you asleep yet? Then disbelieving: no really, you mean you're not going to sleep at all? Then the panic set in: you're going to be cranky and exhausted and I'm going to have to deal with it all day!! Finally came the resignation: fine, you can sleep or not sleep, but you're having "quiet time" in your crib no matter what.

This went on for months. Some weeks, especially when he was sick, he would nap five or six days in a week. Some weeks when he was feeling especially feisty, he would only nap two out of seven days. But we limped along, and most days he was relatively quiet for an hour in his crib and relatively sane through the afternoons.

Then, about a month ago, came the time of Toddler Losing It Completely. He became so overtired from a persistent cough, nighttime awakenings, and no naps that I was scraping him off the floor at regular intervals all day long. As soon as he woke in the morning, the whining and tantrums began. By four o'clock in the afternoon, he was begging for his bottle and putting his head down on the table instead of eating. Completely pitiful. I was beside myself dealing with the constant fuss and so frustrated that he just wouldn't go to sleep already

A few times, Elan fell asleep in his stroller at odd times, overcome by sheer exhaustion. Mikhail and a friend who saw my desperation both suggested that I try getting him to fall asleep in the stroller at naptime, but I resisted the idea, afraid that such accommodation would screw up his nighttime sleep even more. But finally, after yet another hour-long scream-a-thon in his crib during naptime, I knew what we were doing wasn't working. I was desperate enough to call a sleep consultant, something I have often been advised to do in dealing with our troublesome sleeper but had never actually done. From just a short conversation on the phone, she pegged our boy as an "adaptable" sleeper. Not the kind of adaptable where they fall asleep anywhere, anytime. Adaptable meaning "short memory." She said this kind of kid did best with a strict sleep schedule (which we figured out long ago) and suggested that whatever new tactic I try for naptime, I should fully commit to it for at least a few weeks. I decided to chance it, and committed to walking him in the stroller everyday, rain or shine, to give him an opportunity to calm down and fall asleep.

The next day, I loaded him in the stroller along with his doggie and a blanket and gave him his bottle. He railed against the onset of sleep for about twenty minutes, but finally the lulling of the stroller won out and he conked out, beautiful blond head bobbing. I eased him out of the stroller and carried him limp-limbed up the stairs. He slept for two hours. I was ecstatic.

The next day, it was raining. I considered opting out but remembered the commitment. I pulled my rain pants out of the depths of my closet and rummaged under the bed for my waterproof boots. I loaded Elan into the stroller and snapped down the rain cover, which, having lived in San Diego, I had never tested in real rain before. To my surprise, walking in the rain was actually quite peaceful. And fifteen minutes later, I had an asleep - and dry - boy.

This has gone on now for the last ten days. And ten days in a row, Elan has taken a nap. He is so much more pleasant to be around, and I am no longer dreading the morning knowing I have a full day of cranky kid ahead of me. The walks are slow and meditative, giving me a chance to really look around and soak up the lush, quiet beauty of the Berkeley neighborhood we've only called home for five months.

And then came today. It was not raining today at the designated stroller-naptime - it was pouring. I suited up, snapped down, and headed out. Rain pounded loud on my hood. Sheets of water slanted across the sky, angled for maximum wetness. The curbs were roaring rivers. My first instinct was to run, to get away. I thought: this is insane. A normal person would have tried the rocking chair. But then I intentionally slowed my pace. I reminded myself: this is the point, to be out here, no matter what. Except for my hands, soaked on the stroller handlebar, I was warm and dry. So was Elan, cuddled underneath his blanket with the rain drumming on the clear plastic raincover. The things we do, I thought, and walked on.

There is definitely a freedom in embracing that which everyone else is trying to avoid. Cars slowed as they passed us. I imagined the drivers staring out with pity or concern. Onward we sloshed. The water beading on tiny blue flowers; the wet bringing out different shades of green - the brightness of a fern frond, the darkness of a dripping redwood leaf - for this moment, details existing just for us. We soaked them in.

And yes, he fell asleep.