Friday, June 25, 2010

Moments, Beginning of Summer

Elan playing with his set of rescue vehicles: "This is a police car. It goes to the... it goes to the... camping. When we go camping, we need the police car. And this one is the ambiance."

A bird is building a nest in the Japanese maple tree in our little yard. It's nice to see someone acting on my nesting impulses.

Elan's first nursery school show. He was so serious and attentive, trying to get all the hand motions right, with a llama finger puppet stuck precariously on his chubby little finger. And then he partied hard. And then he fell asleep during quiet time (a first!).

Napping on Mama's belly, several weeks ago

When I woke him from a nap this week, he looked right at me and said: "Hot sausage and pickles. Vitamin chip sauce!" My child, the picky eater, dreaming about strange food concoctions.

I was feeling the baby bounce around, so I asked Elan if he wanted to feel the baby move. To my surprise, he said yes, ran over and put his little hand gently on my belly. The baby cooperated and gave his hand two swift kicks. Elan's eyes went big with astonishment. He pulled his hand away and giggled. I know, little bubs, pretty crazy that there's a tiny human in there, isn't it?

Moments is a weekly challenge I'm setting for myself, an opportunity for reflection and to capture all those little moments that make up life. If you'd like to join me in this blog challenge by starting your own Moments series, please do! It's not just for parents. If you do take this blog challenge, please link back here.

Posting will be light next week while I'm spending time with my extended family. May your weekend be filled with memorable moments.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Morning Pages: An Update

I'm halfway through my 3-week goal of writing Morning Pages 5 days a week, and I wanted to share my progress. I've done it! I've done my 10 minutes of "brain drain" writing 8 days. It hasn't always been in the morning, and I'm okay with that. Doing morning pages sometime during the day is a habit/practice that reminds me that I'm a writer. It's especially important on the days when that's the only writing I do, and my little guy is clinging to my leg all day.

I'm a fan of achievable goals, and 5 days a week for 3 weeks feels very achievable. There's room for flexibility there, for a day when I just don't get to it or I forget or it gets overshadowed. Achievable goals help keep the perfectionist in me from getting too obsessive over something. Deciding I will do something everyday never works for me; I end up falling off the wagon and then feeling too bad about myself to get back on in a timely manner.

I'm curious to see, at the end of this short experiment, if I feel like it's benefitted me as a writer. I'll let you know.

Monday, June 21, 2010


self-portrait, 22 weeks

I stayed up way too late last night - MIDNIGHT! I haven't seen midnight in ages, whereas it was once a regular phenomenon that Mikhail and I went to bed at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. There was no good excuse for staying up. I shouldn't have done it, because my belly button and right side of my belly were hurting, and the longer I stayed up, the more they hurt. I was engaging in an activity we call "strollering" - named after the inordinate amount of time I spent during my pregnancy with Elan looking at stroller eye-candy online, reading reviews, fantasizing and fretting over this particular purchase. So now strollering is a verb in our household, for anytime you find yourself falling into an online vortex. The problem with window-shopping online is that the stores never close and your feet never get tired.

And then Elan got up at 5:45 a.m. today. Because he likes to torture us. (He did sleep in till 7:10 on Saturday morning this weekend, a complete anomaly, but my dad accidentally dialed us on his new phone at 6:30 - oops!).

Predictably, it was a screwy morning. One of those pregnant days where I feel like hormones have overcome my brain and taken up residence in the places where logic and memory once lived. I forgot things, showed up at the wrong time for appointments, and the kicker: felt bad about myself for being disorganized and distracted. Cried a lot -- for lots of reasons, and no reasons, all at the same time. Don't take this in an un-feminist way, but it is mornings like this when I'm glad I'm not responsible for important foreign policy decisions involving missiles and warheads and such. Of course, if I were President, maybe my kid would sleep in. They'd have a Secret Service agent all over that.

Anyway, I found myself thinking about kindness. Kindness toward myself, because I'm overwhelmed by all I have ambitiously taken on since starting to feel better. Kindness and compassion and sense of humor to replace what I was feeling: judgement about all my failings, large and small.

And just when I was thinking this word kindness so loudly in my head it was practically on my lips, I went into the bagel store that takes cash only and realized I didn't have enough money, and a complete stranger gave me his 75 cents in change, which was just exactly what I needed. I thanked him and put my sunglasses on so that no one would see the tears filling my eyes.

And then later in the day, I found myself capable of giving kindness to others. Kindness to a friend who's got so much on her plate and needs to be reminded of kindness toward herself. Kindness toward my husband, who declared that I should try to do almost nothing that involved leaning over or lifting today (laundry, picking up toys, vacuuming) and has done it all himself instead -- to try to help my belly feel better (and now it does). Kindness toward my son so that I got over my frustration at his latest fuss-a-thon; I sat with him pulled close to me and breathed long and loud until we were both calmer, and then we played trucks and went to the park.

When you're kind to yourself, kindness to others flows.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Moments, Week 1

A life is lived moment by moment.

This week I'm introducing a new weekly series called Moments. It's a place for me to capture all the little moments that make up a week - quirky, joyful, heart-rending, funny, enlightening, frustrating, touching... You have a lot of those when you're raising children, and but they don't necessarily make their way into a blog post. Welcome to my first Moments post, an opportunity for weekly reflection when life spins fast.

Elan fell down the stairs and sported a Harry-Pottery-style mark on his forehead for a few days.

In the car: "Next year I'm going to be four. And I'm going to turn into a girl. Next year, I won't be a boy." (We are guessing this is because most of the four-year-olds at his nursery school happen to be girls.)

We got him to try corn, which probably wouldn't feel like a victory in the vegetable department to some parents, but did for us.

On finding his wallet, a coin purse: "Okay, we've got money. That means we can borrow something from a store."

Have you ever tried to sing a bedtime song over a different song playing on the CD player? I did, and the comment I got, with an affectionate hand in my hair was: "Mama, you're funny."

An afternoon that felt like summer: I took Elan to Lake Anza, up in the hills outside Berkeley, where we met up with friends. My friend and I sat with the sun on our backs and our pregnant bellies (we are due the same week, as is another good friend!), while Elan and his buddy played for two hours in the shallow sloping water. They were ecstatic. We got soft-serve ice cream cones and the boys would take a few licks, then run back into the water, then run out again for another few licks... Elan slept well that night.

My husband bought me flowers to mark the one-year anniversary of my miscarriage.

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If you'd like to join me in this blog challenge by starting your own weekly Moments series, please do! It's not just for parents. (If you do take this blog challenge, please link back here.) Thanks for reading & may your weekend be filled with memorable moments.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

one year

This past week has marked the one-year anniversary of my miscarriage. The anniversary is split between two dates: June 11, when we found out via ultrasound that the pregnancy hadn't progressed, and June 17, when I had the D&C, a surgical procedure that officially ended the pregnancy. In between, I was caught in a never-never land of pregnant/not-pregnant.

I think about myself one year ago, June 17, 2009. I remember how Mikhail and I employed a loopy kind of black humor in the waiting room of the UCSF surgical center to get through the half-hour it took to process our paperwork. How grateful I was for the pill they gave me, but how I wished it were stronger, to make me less aware. How kind the nurses and doctor were.

I think about the woman I was one year ago with such compassion. She's just been through something so awful - an entire first trimester of morning sickness, hopes and dreams, only to have it all come crashing down unexpectedly. And yet, she thinks this is the end of something. She has no idea of all that is to come - the blood clot that will make her tender and concerned, the partial molar pregnancy diagnosis that will dash her hopes for a quick other pregnancy, the six months of worrying and waiting for blood test results, through it all the sense that she should still be pregnant. That she's somehow traveled onto the wrong road, and if she can just find her way back onto that other road, she'll end up where she wanted to be. She has only an inkling of the strength of her grief, how it will surprise her with its force, how it will return over and over again, the waves washing over her and leaving her wrung-out afterwards, the calm times in between them slowly lengthening out.

June 17, 2010. Today is a beautiful day. Sunny, calm, peaceful. I am pregnant with a baby who dances in my belly, kicks growing stronger by the day. This is where I hoped I would be, come one year. I am happy. And sad. I think about all I have survived in the last year, and I celebrate my own strength. I am proud. And sad. I remember the baby-who-would-have-been, a spirit who is still real to me, though not to the rest of the world. I am peaceful. And sad. Yet another wave washes over me, then retreats.

I light a candle and leave it burning in the fireplace all day and night. As I pass by, I see its flicker, and I am glad it is there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

a goal

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about what kinds of habits or practices I could put in place that will support my vision of myself as a writer. Immediately I thought of Morning Pages, a classic tool for artists of all stripes from Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way. I last did Morning Pages regularly many years ago, when I was living in San Francisco and trying to decide if I wanted to go to a M.F.A. program for creative writing. As soon as I thought of the idea, I rejected it as not possible. My mornings are not my own, I thought. They're run by the 3-year-old dictator in the house.

But then I thought some more: what if I could spend a little time every morning establishing my identity as a writer? I already have a lot of morning practices that reinforce my identity as a mother. In fact, I've been feeling just a tad bit resentful lately about my son's early morning tendencies to wake up too early and then fuss a lot, as if someone forced him to get up by 6:30 every day when he really just wanted to sleep in till 8. I can't convince him to be in a better mood; all I can really do is control my response to his mood. So I decided - what the heck!? I'm going to give it a try.

Julia Cameron has a specific method for her version of Morning Pages. My version will be a little different. I will write, free-hand and stream of consciousness-style, in my journal, for 10 minutes straight, 5 days a week for the next 3 weeks (until the end of the e-course I'm taking). The idea is to not think about what you're writing - just do it. I think of it as brain-drain writing: a place for daily cares, to-dos, lists, fears, thoughts, memories - anything that comes up in those ten minutes gets drained onto the page.

Ten minutes of showing up at the page, of reminding myself that I am a writer, an individual with her own creative life, as well as a mother. Today was my first day. I did my morning pages in the car after dropping Elan off at preschool. I wrote 3 pages. My hand got tired. It felt good.

Monday, June 14, 2010


"The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery,
but a process of creation.
You are not discovering yourself but creating yourself anew.
Seek, therefore, not to find out who you are,
seek to determine what you want to be”
– Neale Donald Walsch

I'm thinking a lot lately about the idea that I am creating my own life everyday, with every choice I make. This way of looking at things doesn't come that naturally to me. I feel like so much of my life since becoming a mother is about reacting to circumstances - my son's behavior, my husband's work schedule, how much sleep I got the night before. My reactions can be very emotionally-driven: I tend to get easily frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, worried. I am an emotional person; I keep reminding myself that inside my emotions, I still have a choice about how I react.

I am currently enrolled in my first ever e-course. It's called Flying Lessons: Tips and Tricks to Help Your Creative Business Soar. It's being led by Kelly Rae Roberts, whose journey from full-time social worker doing art as a hobby to full-time, successful artist is so inspiring to me. I have been reading Kelly Rae's blog for a little while, and I kept seeing her talk about this e-course, but I thought: that doesn't apply to me, I'm a writer, not an artist (or jewelery-maker, or photographer, or crafter). I don't create something I can sell on etsy. But then, when the start of the class (her first ever) coincided so perfectly with my writing partner and I finishing our screenplay and switching into marketing mode, I decided to go for it.

The truth is that though I deeply want to be a professional (paid) writer, I have not yet found my path to that goal. This course has got me thinking about how to fully take the leap upward into a new kind of career success. And how to do that with one small child and another on the way. Since my miscarriage last year, I have felt like the time is now. And though it is beyond intimidating to think about making new career commitments, even if only to myself, while expecting a baby, this is my year of courage. You can't spend your life waiting for the perfect moment.

It is such a blessing to be emerging from twelve weeks of brutal morning-sickness. You know how, when you have a bad cold, the kind where your sinuses are filled with gunk and your nose is totally clogged, you fantasize about when you'll be able to breathe normally again? You think about how much you'll enjoy taking a nice long, deep, clear breath. And then you feel better, and for a day or two, you do enjoy the simple act of breathing. You feel grateful. But then you forget and you get busy and you take feeling good for granted again, until the next time you're felled by a vicious virus.

Well, I am still in the grateful phase. I'm grateful everytime I walk into a grocery store and don't immediately feel repulsed. I'm grateful for not having to think about food constantly, while simultaneously hating the thought. I'm grateful for 3 weeks with no dry-heaving episodes. I'm grateful that the boat is mostly staying in port, and I have only sporadic episodes of nausea. I'm grateful for having some energy and not just wanting to be in bed all day, even if walking a few blocks uphill does point out to me how startlingly out of breath I get. But most of all, I'm grateful for the clearing of my mind that's happened. I'm grateful for not feeling so darn depressed. Because, out of all the effects of the crazy hormones, just feeling so down is in some ways the hardest for me to deal with.

Speaking of pregnancy and first trimesters and Kelly Rae, all in one rambling post, Kelly Rae is about a month ahead of me in her pregnancy journey (this is her first). She wrote a post about how difficult her first trimester was, and I found a little comfort in reading it while I was in the midst of my awful first trimester. I could totally identify with everything she says, especially about feeling none of my usual spark or zest for life. At the time I read it, I couldn't imagine that I would eventually feel better, even though I had done this same thing twice before. So that's part of the trick, I suppose: holding how you are currently feeling, honoring the difficulty, while holding fast to the belief that it will get better.

I'm enjoying my emerging. I'm making lots of plans and confronting lots of fears. And I'm looking forward to sharing the journey here.

Happy Anniversary!!

Today my parents celebrate 40 years of marriage. As I said to my dad, that's a long time. Nice work, you two!

And today is my mom's last day of work as a teacher; tomorrow marks the official beginning of her long-awaited retirement.

Double happiness.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


We just had our 20-week ultrasound, and everything looks good.

The RELIEF is incredible!

I wasn't that nervous going into it - nervous, but not extraordinarily so. But there was a moment when the tech, who had been chatty while she gave us the guided tour of my uterus & our baby inside it ("look, baby is sucking the thumb!"), got quiet and started focusing carefully on the screen. She was looking at the heart. And my heart started beating as fast as the baby's. I saw that road open up before me, that other path, the one I so do not want to go onto ever again. I looked away, to Mikhail, and just started thinking how badly I want to stay on this path, the healthy pregnancy/healthy baby one, the one that ends in October with a gorgeously alien-looking baby in my arms.

Then the tech got her pictures and moved on, and I noticed that sometimes her face just did that, got kind of serious, and I should breathe and not read into the poor woman's every expression.

And then she said the doctor would come in to see us now. Well. I was trying to keep myself calm, while at the same time the path, the bad path, it loomed up in front of me. I asked why the doctor needed to come in - did everything look okay? And she said everything looked normal; he just liked to do a quick check. And that's what he did, talking constantly in a somewhat-soothing tone of voice. There's the head, there's the profile, the spine, the kidneys, the heart...

And in the end, fine, everything looks fine.

They gave us some pictures of the outrageously cute feet, the beautiful little profile. We left. I still feel like I am calming down from the experience, like I can't quite believe yet that it is done and all is fine. Like a part of me is still looking back at the intersection of those two paths, not realizing that the fear would be quite that acute and sudden.

I really want to go for a swim and just stroke it out under water -- the lingering sensation of that moment, contrasted with the overall relief that makes me want to lie down and take a nap. It's hard, this getting attached when you've had your heart broken.

Oh, and we chose to not find out the sex. We're going to wait and be surprised. Seep ourselves in the mystery of the unknown for 20 more weeks. Taking bets!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sleep Training 3.5

This is not the post I was going to write tonight.

I was going to have a nice relaxing evening to myself while Mikhail was at soccer, and I was going to write a post about... well, you'll have to wait to see what that one was going to be about, because my evening was hijacked by my 3.5-year-old. Who has been in bed for two hours, and is still screaming.

The stories I could tell about sleep and Elan! Blood-curdling tales that would scare off any sane person from parenthood. However, I'm not in the mood for that particular trip down memory lane. Suffice it to say that when Elan was about 8 months old, Mikhail and I had several "dates" that included each of us poring over sleep training books, then comparing notes and coming up with a strategy, which always had to be written down so that in the middle of the night, desperation could not triumph The Plan. These strategy sessions were held in restaurants, over dinner on weekends when my parents were in town, which is the only reason you could call them dates. And the fact that we were willing to do this rather than go to a movie was a direct result of the fact that when overly sleep-deprived, I become a different person. A frustrated, depressed zombie-mama who cries too much over every small thing.

But we did it. Over time, and with much crying (Elan) and emotional trauma (me) and hearing loss (Mikhail), we managed to train our tough-sleeper into a kinda-mostly-decent sleeper. Except for the 5:30 a.m. wake-ups. Early wake-up time we've never managed to influence much, though he generally makes it to 6 a.m. these days. The problem is that every few months, for his entire life, we've had a bad sleep run, which requires crying it out again. And as he gets older, the crying sessions get louder, longer, and overall less effective. This is probably the primary reason we kept him in his crib until a few weeks ago: we were scared that he'd never sleep again once he was in a bed!

Lately, we've been having a tough time with Elan, and of course, sleep is at the forefront of the troubles. He's in that awkward phase of nap-dropping, when most days he doesn't nap but sometimes he still does, and it's almost impossible to wake him up. And then he won't go to sleep at night. For most children, not going to sleep means staying up chatting and singing and playing. And for Elan, it means one thing: screaming. Lots of it. Tonight would be a perfect example. And even when he does go straight to sleep, he wakes up so early, screaming again (I'm not sure what it would be like to wake up to a happy child, it's only happened a few times ever in our house), like someone has tortured him into waking up. And he's over-tired and difficult all day long.

And so I, the pregnant mama of a difficult 3.5-year-old, who has just started to feel somewhat like herself again and has a ton of work to do and suddenly much less childcare during which to do it (what happened at the daycare I have not yet figured out), I find myself spending my evening getting more and more upset about the whole sleep situation while desperately craving a stiff drink. Until finally, my child's screaming escalates to the point of ridiculous and I start laughing and by the time my husband gets home from soccer, I am in a Zen state, writing a blog post about a subject I would rather never think about again.

I had a sleep plan that I was going to implement starting this week. I guess I still am. Though I'm not sure how this first night fits into it. But I know we need some change around here. Before I turn back into that zombie-mama who's so pleasant to be around.

I'm pretty sure the baby will be a better sleeper than Elan. Not right at first - I'm not that unrealistic. But I do believe that God, or creation, or the universe, or however you want to characterize that force-larger-than-us - I don't think that force gives us the same challenge twice. And for all the challenges that my son embodies, sleep has always and continues to be the absolute biggest one.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

19 weeks

I think this picture actually makes me look smaller than I am. Or smaller than I feel at least. But look - I'm smiling! Though I'm still not feeling fantastic, it is such a relief to be better.

We spent Memorial Day weekend camping on a farm and hanging out with friends north of Davis, California. My friend Janna is about 7 weeks ahead of me, pregnancy-wise. While our children played, our bumps were getting to know each other. I like how it looks like mine is pointing at hers.

Meanwhile, Elan and Anneke grooved along with the band.

And puppy-wrestled.

And fussed (well, Elan at least).