Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ride 'Em Dino

I have way too many Elmo songs stuck permanently in my head. For instance, when I see this picture, I immediately start to sing "Ride 'Em Cowboy, whoop-de-whoop," a greatest hit from Elmo's Wild West Adventure.

Check out that chin! I know little kids' faces change a lot as they get older, but as of now, I'm thinking Elan might bear a startling resemblance chin-wise to Popa Al Alper. It's a little hard to appreciate the exact shape of the Alper chin in this picture, but I don't have any digital photos of my Popa Al in his younger days.

Popa Al and Elan have birthdays a few days apart in November. As of yesterday, Elan is officially 2 and a half, and in a few days Popa Al will turn 99 and a half. Is he counting? Most definitely so. It seems that eventually, the half-birthdays start to get significant again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Haven't Lost The Knack

I used to think I was good at packing for a trip. I used to pride myself at how neatly I could roll a week's wardrobe into a carry-on. But ever since having a child, it seems that I bring along possessions equal those of a small island nation to go away for an overnight. Packing light as a mom is a skill I am sorely lacking in.

This weekend I am going away with neither my husband nor my child, and I was curious to see if I could get back to my packing roots. I am happy to say that I haven't completely lost my packing mojo - it's just in offspring-induced hibernation. I've resurrected my old faithful red rolly carry-on, the first suitcase I ever bought for myself (it's sporting a new teal faux-leather luggage tag, just for kicks). Into old faithful I've fit all I will need for the long weekend, including heels for the wedding I'm going to. In addition I've got my over-the-shoulder computer bag, which seems remarkably empty without a portable DVD player, two extra movies, crayons and drawing paper, 4 board books, a sippy cup, doggie, diapers and wipes, a size 2T change of clothing, and bags full of half-crushed grapes and crackers. You mean all I need to fly is my wallet, a paperback, and a sweater? I am incredulous.

I didn't even skimp on clothes. I'm bringing one long sleeved-shirt per day, for heaven's sake! To Southern California in late May. Look at me being indulgent.

The best part of it is that nearly half my suitcase is taken up by a Crate & Barrel box with the bride and groom's gift. Not to mention a late mother's day hardback for my mom. Which means that means on the way home, I'll be traveling so light I'll be able to give a hand to the lady in line next to me, the one with her bag overflowing with crackers and grapes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Slight halo effect from the evening light hitting his shaggy hair. That's pretty much where the resemblance ends.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So as soon as I hit "publish" on my previous post, bubsy bubs wakes up from a long nap and proceeds to scream his head off, completely inconsolable. For forty minutes straight. Now he has subsided into late afternoon perma-fuss. Sometimes I think I should just not say anything.

Wednesday Afternoon Date

Today was Elan's third swimming class. He was surprisingly serious about the whole thing. He was very intent on the songs, and singing along, and his eyes were big and wide. When it was time to kick, he made very large splashy kicking motions, his feet swinging high into the air behind him. When it was time to blow bubbles he mostly kept his mouth shut, but didn't mind if I dipped his face into the water. The lesson culminated with the teacher having him go back and forth between the two of us, which he studiously did without seeming to either enjoy or dislike it, and got loads of praise from the teacher, who he likes very much. I was trying not to laugh at his stern expression.

After class, we fooled around in the pool for another half-hour. During this time, he likes to make friends with the personable young lifeguard who must be bored out of his mind watching a half-dozen toddlers and their parents in the pool. The pool is in the basement of the Berkeley Y, and the water is so warm it's halfway to a jacuzzi. Perfect for little ones - their teeth never have a chance to chatter!

Then for the next stop on our swim day routine. We headed to Amanda's for french fries, dipped in lots of ketchup (it appears Elan takes after his Zayde in his love of ketchup), and a burger for me. I am a little bit in love with this place. In the middle of the strange mix that is downtown Berkeley, it's a clean, fast, green, healthy, and cheap place that makes a really good little burger and baked fries. It's just right to satisfy the burger craving without much grease or sense of having overdone it afterwards. And their all-natural handmade sodas rock.

I sat there dipping french fries with my little guy boosted up nearly to my eye level in a good old-fashioned booster seat. He has started to actually enjoy going out with me for meals again, at least to this place. It's not just a race to get the food in and get out before he melts down, as it was for a while. We sat and watched the people walk by - the loud, colorful high school students off campus for lunch, the business-casual Berkeley working set, homeless guys asking for change, women pushing strollers, college students and professors, tourists and visitors.

After lunch, we strolled over to the half-price bookstore and spent a while in the children's section. He wanted to look at books "by yourself." I sat on the red rug watching him, thinking how these days we're in a nice spell when there's breaks in the troublesome two-year-old routine and Elan seems like a real person - someone I can spend time with, not only manage. Just a Wednesday afternoon date with my guy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Mikhail and I have been together eleven and a half years. It's a number that always shocks me, especially given that we're only 33 years old. It's safe to say that most of my adult life has been spent with this man by my side. The adventures we've had together range from starting our first jobs in San Francisco to epic travels through South America...

Anticipation of starting a family.

And then the huge milestone of actually becoming parents.

I always figured he'd be a good dad, but I am still surprised by what an amazing father he is.

Sometimes I take him for granted. Sorry about that, sweetie.

He is my rock. The one who waltzes with our son.

The one a chubby fist clings to.

Sometimes I can't believe my luck.


Posting will continue to be light in coming weeks. I've got a big new project underway that is temporarily draining energy away from the blog. Please keep checking in once in a while - I will post at least once a week - and besides, you've got to find out what the big new project is, don't you?

Friday, May 8, 2009

That's My Boy

Elan had his first swim lesson this week. It's a parent-child class (previously known as mommy-and-me) at the Berkeley Y. I believe he's a minnow, or maybe a goldfish. Something like that. Elan loves the water, and he had a great time at the class. Water + swimming = what's not to love? But the class did bring up an interesting mothering dilemma for me. In a group of 18-36 month-olds, my 29-month-old boy seemed hugely, disproportionately large. Now he is on the tall side for his age, but this was not just physical. He was bigger than the other kids in the class, but he also seemed to take up a lot more psychic space. Some of the kids were a bit timid in the water, all seemed to want to cling to their parent; he was splashing half the water out of the pool and shouting in glee. It was just exuberance - he loved the experience. I found myself wondering whether I should shush him. He wasn't technically disrupting the class; he was just excited. I didn't want to squelch him, but I got the sense from some of the parents that such out-there happiness was not considered fully appropriate either.

It was not the only time this week that I've come home and told Mikhail, "I think I'm that parent now - the one everyone else looks at and thinks that kid's out of control."

I wish it had all been out-of-control joy. Today at a 3-year-old's birthday party, he got into it with the birthday girl so many times that we had to go for a walk around the block to calm nerves (his, and mine) within the first ten minutes we were there. Later, it seemed best just to physically separate those two, because anytime they got within striking distance of each other, someone ended up splayed on the ground sobbing. We came home both covered in bubble solution, snot, and dirt.

To me this all seems so boy. It's like a foreign land for me, a girly-girl who loved to read and play (quiet!) make-believe games. All this love of sticks and hitting things and wild rambunctious, sometimes aggressive energy was what I thought of when, pregnant, I worried about how I would parent a boy. Not that girls can't be aggressive. But at this age, they do as a rule seem - how to put it? - milder.

It's a delicate balance to instill boundaries without squelching spirit - one I assume that all parents struggle some to find, no matter their child's gender or personality.

And just when he seems so pure boy, Elan and I went to the toy store to pick out his first doll. I don't buy him a lot of new toys, but it seemed the right thing to do with his current love of babies. He didn't really help me pick it out - he was too distracted by the thousands!! of amazing toys!! everywhere!! I was left to face the wall full of pink boxes with only the guidance that he didn't like the soft, stuffed-animal-like dolls. No, he wanted a doll like our little girl neighbor across the street has - realistic, with eyes that open and close, and minuscule fingers and curling toes and eyelashes. So with the help of the saleslady, and quite aware that if he were a girl he would already have a half-dozen dolls, I picked out my son's first doll. A hazel-eyed newborn doll (no hair on its vanilla-scented head) dressed in pink clothes but with a gender-ambiguous cloth body. When I handed him the doll, he immediately held it to his chest and said, "Oh, the baby's so cute." 

"What's the baby's name?" I asked.

"P-C" he answered without hesitation.

I have no idea why he said that name, but Pisi is the Quechua word for "little," so it might just stick. And given the originality his special "doggie," maybe we should make an effort to reinforce some creativity.

We walked down the street to an Indian restaurant, him holding Pisi carefully to his chest. While we waited for our food, he undressed the doll completely, carefully inserted the pacifier into its partially-open mouth, and then had a lot of fun throwing the baby on the restaurant floor and rolling around on top of it. The women working at the restaurant kept looking at me. That mother, I thought, though whether they were amused or horrified I couldn't tell. One said, "not many boys like dolls, do they?" And then I was left to wonder at a whole new set of questions until finally the heavenly-smelling food came and I managed to extricate my crazy-energetic, tantrum-throwing, stick-hitting rambunctious boy who loves babies and dollies from the premises.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Honor of Another Rainy Day

An unusual spring storm has brought us five days of rain. Before that, we had a spell of cold inhospitable wind. And before that, an 85-degree heat wave. The changeable weather has led to a new flurry of colds in our family. Elan led the pack, as usual, though thankfully his has so far been mild. Mine is coming on pretty badly today, so I leave you quickly to try to get in a nap during the precious naptime window, when the house is quiet and still and the world outside is soaked dark and shiny.

But first, in honor of the rain, which sometimes gets me down, but which is life-giving and necessary... Pictures from December, the heart of the rainy season, Elan at Tilden Park in one of the hats Mikhail and I brought back from Bolivia, for a child who then only existed as the proverbial gleam in his father's eye.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Life In Miniature

I think a part of me must secretly wish I were a hobbit. I have a love for tiny houses. It hearkens back to the days when I made dollhouses, obsessed with life in miniature. And it reminds me of a time when I could fit all my belongings in my four-door Saturn. Packing up that car made me feel like a turtle -- like I could just pick up and take off at a moment's notice, if need be. It was a wonderful feeling -- of freedom, self-sufficiency, lightness. (Of course, I had a roomful of childhood possessions at my parents' house, including hand-made dollhouses, but I didn't actually use any of those things, so they didn't count.)

There is something about a tiny structure set apart on its own that makes me feel cozy, contained, and utterly content. Mikhail and I have stayed in a few -- guest bedrooms and one-room cabins at upscale lodges. I have to admit that I cannot imagine actually living full-time in a house like this, but I admire people who do.

Now, we live in a small house, at least compared to where we lived in San Diego. About 1100 square feet of compact and fairly well-designed living space. And I wouldn't want to go any smaller, not with a kid and a somewhat messy husband and a book collection typical of a writer. But what I do have fantasies of is someday having an outbuilding. A mother-in-law unit, an office, a fancy shed, maybe even a yurt... I adore small buildings that stand apart from the main house and provide a whole new outlook on life simply by stepping inside their door. Someday, when we have a bigger space around our house than our current tiny patio and deck, one of these would be my dream office.

For now, I wander around Berkeley and admire other peoples' upscale sheds. The people of Berkeley seem to share my love for outbuildings. And I imagine the playhouse that my dad and I are plotting to build for Elan in our patio. At least, I think it's for Elan. Though now that I'm thinking about it, maybe we should build it in such a way that I could use it as a makeshift office now and then. Hmmm...