Friday, April 29, 2011

for writer/artist/parents

view over SF Bay from the Lawrence Hall of Science, Elan's new favorite place

Have I ever mentioned that the money-making part of my writing life is freelance grantwriting? I had a few small jobs last year, and I've been working part-time steadily since Emry was born. Even though I don't make much (I'm writing grants for non-profits, after all), my work has been a helpful piece of our ever-evolving employment puzzle this past year. But what I'd really love, of course, is to be paid for my creative work.

So when I heard about a grant for writers and visual artists who are also parents (of children under age 18), I was pretty excited.

The Sustainable Arts Foundation is a non-profit foundation supporting artists and writers with families. Our mission is to provide financial awards to parents pursuing creative work. Too often, creative impulses are set aside to meet the wonderful, but pressing, demands of raising a family. The foundation's goal is to encourage parents to continue pursuing their creative passion, and to rekindle it in those who may have let it slide.

How cool is that? Check it out here (deadline May 15, some preference for San Francisco Bay Area residents).

I have to admit that I was tempted not to share news of this grant. My thinking was: there will be plenty of competition - why should I go out of my way to create more? But, though it is sometimes difficult to find evidence to back up this thinking, I would like to trust that there is room enough for all of us creative souls to make our way in the world. The ups and downs of the last 16 months have taught me that while living with a good dose of frugality is fine by me, feeling closed-off, over-protective and stingy is not. Despite the news and the way the economic crisis has impacted my family, I am choosing to believe in the possibility of abundance.

Abundance: an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply; overflowing fullness; affluence; wealth.

So go for it - apply! I know I will.

Monday, April 25, 2011

sanity saver

Shortly after Emry was born and our various familial helpers went home, I became afraid of the amount of television Elan was likely to consume now that we had a baby in the mix. Since Elan is such an early riser and Mikhail and I are barely functional before 7 a.m., morning TV and videos have long been a survival tactic for us. When he started dropping his nap around age 3, I was determined not to resort to videos to help him have a little recharge time. I thought it would be quite reasonable for him to have quiet time in his room for an hour or so. I imagined him laying out elaborate train tracks, building block cities, and then rampaging his stuffed animals through them.


Or I guess I imagined some kid doing that.

Some kid who was not my kid.


My kid thought "quiet time" actually meant "stand in your doorway screaming for Mama" time.

It was his will against my will.


And we are some strong-willed folks.


It was not relaxing in the slightest bit.

Eventually I decided I had created a lose-lose situation and retreated away from my edict that he had to stay in his room for an official quiet time. I had friends whose kids did this, but trying to force it on my social, super-interactive guy just made us both miserable.

So I let him hang out on the couch after nursery school. We read stories, but that didn't give either of us the break from interaction that we both needed. Often I would let him watch TV and zone out for a while. But then he started saying "I wanna see what's on TV" it seemed like every time we walked in the door. I'm okay with an hour of TV a day (and, admittedly, sometimes more), but I didn't want watching TV to be an automatic part of being home.

And then I had a flash: story tapes! I went on iTunes that very day and found a treasure trove of children's stories. Frog and Toad stories are big hits, with Frog and Toad All Year as Elan's current favorite. I have been told that you can download audio stories for free online from the public library, but I haven't figured that out yet. Instead, I just insist on doing the cheap stories on iTunes. $1.95 makes for a pretty cheap thrill. Listening to the stories seems to be very soothing for Elan, and if we're traveling or I'm not in the mood to listen to Frog and Toad for the 100th time, he can listen with earphones.

It's a sanity saver, I tell you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

6 months


Emry Isaiah is 6 months old.


Six months is such a great age. He's awake and aware, he likes to chill out and observe (and especially loves to watch his big brother's antics), he smiles, giggles, and shrieks with delight, but he can't get into anything yet.


And though he can put on a good frowny face, he's an extraordinarily good-natured baby. Every time I think he's going to cry and he doesn't, I am amazed. And thankful.


Plus, six months is the height of chubby cheeks, wrist rolls & jowls.


His hands are like little starfish, all the fingers extended as he reaches for something.


Everything goes into the mouth.




That's better.


Six months is pure baby. Fuzzy-headed, thumb-sucking, snuggly baby.


Ridiculous without trying.


I love it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

when you wait for it

We are waiting for some big job news. Some big, long-awaited job news. My hubby has been semi-employed for 15+ months, and we're hoping that will change. Soon. But for now, we're in waiting land, limbo land, promising-and-hopeful-but-nothing's-certain land.

It's hard to wait.

I wish I were more patient. It appears that is a theme for me lately.

The distracted feel of the past few days reminds me of how I so often felt early in my pregnancy with Emry: promising and hopeful, but nothing certain. I couldn't be blissfully trusting after my miscarriage; I couldn't count on the pregnancy turning out well. I had to make it through each hurdle of pregnancy, each week that passed, each test that turned out, my confidence slowly growing to the point where I could believe.

And then, of course, when all that waiting came to an end -- I have to say that I do think I appreciate Emry that much more, having waited for him. Being forced to delay the gratification of becoming a mother the second time around. The silky-cheek-kissing gratification.

I guess it's like that when we're waiting for our dreams to turn into reality. You do all you can, and then there's the waiting part, the being with uncertainty. Sometimes it feels exhausting. On Monday, I had a meltdown day. I felt the strain of holding all the elements of our current situation, like I was juggling balls that I couldn't ever set down. Trying to make things work out by sheer force of mental will. Which of course doesn't work. So instead I am trying to float along, riding the waves of uncertainty. Surfing in limbo-land.

And maybe a little distracting myself by reading blogs.

The possibilities we chose for this year feel even more appropriate right now. Abundance, vitality & faith -- I am repeating it like a mantra this gray, drizzly, waiting day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

other peoples' postpartum

My friend Kristina wrote an awesome post about her postpartum body experience. It looks by the comments that this is a topic that really resonates with the mamas.

And I was cheered to see Penelope Cruz rockin' just the slightest bit of postpartum tummy. She looks awesome AND like she just had a baby. Well, at least by Hollywood standards she looks like she just had a baby.

Photo credit: People Magazine online. (I read it; I admit it.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

march/april: patience & a plan

New Year's Resolution: Lose 20 pounds. Months 3-4.

I've been thinking a lot about patience. Before I became a mother, I knew that patience would likely be one of my biggest challenges once I had kids (that, and getting up early in the morning). And lo and behold, I was right! (A plus to having children in your 30s instead of in your bounce-back, energetic, can-get-no-sleep-and-still-function-just-fine-thank you very much 20s: you know yourself better).

There's having patience with my kids, which some days is hard, and then there's having patience with myself, which is often harder. When Elan melts down for the tenth time in a day, I do get impatient, but I also can look at his little turned-down sad face and feel empathy for how difficult life is feeling for him right now. Same for Emry.

But when I have a melt-down type of day myself, it's difficult to muster the same sense of compassion for myself. And it's even more challenging to feel compassion for myself when I don't live up to the high standards and lofty goals I would like to meet, day in and day out. In a nutshell, I'm often too hard on myself (sound familiar?). So lately I've been thinking of patience as forgiving myself and others, over and over and over again. Many tiny little forgivings punctuating the course of my days. Because as annoying as it is when I forget to pay the credit card bill on time, it's not worth beating myself up over. I've got bigger fish to fry. (Not to mention a stellar record of getting late fees waived as a "one-time special exemption.")

This might sound like the lead-up to saying I haven't made any progress on my fitness, well-being & weight loss goal for the year. Which is actually not true. I've lost round about 6 pounds. Woo hoo! It is less than I had hoped for at this point, but most importantly I am seeing progress, and I am feeling so much stronger than I did in January. I make a point of reminding myself of this - notice how easy it feels to walk to Elan's preschool compared to how I was huffing and puffing back in January - because I see how easy it is to lose perspective on where you are versus where you came from. Recognizing the little victories along the way is just as important as making the final destination. Because, of course, once I get there, I'll find other goals for myself (no, not running a marathon - that's never going to make my life list).

March and April have been about patience and a plan. Have a plan, try my best to follow it, and practice lots of tiny forgivings when it doesn't go exactly that way. Life as improv as my mother-in-law says. We're practicing lots of that around here these days. Some things that have been working for me: I've been going to Zumba class, where I get to shake my groove thing (a happy work-out, I love it!). After a weekend of too many cupcakes, I did a super-chill mini cleanse by going 5 days without sweets except in liquid form (hot chocolate was allowed). I'm trying to move my body most days, even if it's just going for a walk with the boys. Extra points for wearing Emry in the Ergo.

My new goals for April are to take at least one Pilates mat class and to put Emry in childwatch at the gym at least one time. I've never left him with a non-family member so it might be a little challenging at first, and I know I need to get over that hump if I'm going to get more gym workouts in.

Please don't cry bubula, I promise they'll be nice to you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a first

Making "soup" in his "soup-making machine."

We ran Elan around a lot in San Diego. Even with a few days of rain and some chilly wind, he spent a lot of time outdoors - at the pool, the beach, the zoo, riding bikes and playing with friends. And the result was: no bedtime battles. With all the sleep-related struggles we've had with Elan, and there have been many, going to sleep at night hadn't generally been one of them until recently. Sometimes when it's taking an hour for him to fall asleep at night and I'm coming back for the fifth time to check on him, in order to try to keep him in his bed, I think: Really? We need another sleep issue? Come on. So Mikhail and I were really loving having him fall promptly and soundly asleep after the end of another full day.

Perhaps he was even a little too tired by the end of the week. On our last night in San Diego, we were having dinner with some friends and Elan was playing with their daughter when suddenly he looked up at me and said words that I have never heard before and can't imagine hearing again anytime soon: "Mama, can I go to bed now?"

Let's hear it for sheer exhaustion.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

before breakfast

Before breakfast:

I nursed Emry at 3 a.m., 4:30 a.m., and 6 a.m. By 6:20 a.m., his cheeks were the size of small cantaloupes.

Also at 6:20, Emry started working on perfecting his teradacytle shriek. The happy kind.

I waited for my mom to wake up so that I could hand off the adorable, shrieking-with-delight baby to her and go back to sleep.

I cursed the light streaming into the bedroom, cueing the baby's brain that he should start waking up at 6:00. What happened to 7 a.m., my dear babykins? On that note, what happened to sleeping in more than 1.25 hour stretches?

I waited for Elan, who was sleeping in my mom's room on a mattress on the floor, to wake up, so that he would wake up my mom and I could pass off the adorable baby and go back to sleep.

Elan woke up. My mom woke up.

Elan went into my room and pulled a blanket over the baby's face. I saw his guilty look and immediately went in, pulled the blanket back, smiled at the adorable baby (who was not at all fazed by having had the blanket over his face for 20 seconds) and tried to rein in the immediate fury I felt. Elan loves to push my "fury" button, so it's kind of like giving him a big fat chocolate sundae with a cherry on top if I get really angry. Except it also kind of scares him, so it works a little in that way. I'm trying to reserve fury for only a few very select moments. I decided this wasn't one of those moments. And Elan doesn't like cherries. I probably couldn't even get him to try a marashino.

I sang the "Uh-oh" song (more on that another time) and put Elan in his room for some "private time."

I vented to my mom. This is what happens when I don't show fury to Elan. I have to show it to someone else. Not the best side effect.

I played with the adorable baby. Still not traumatized. I'm starting to see how different life is for first versus second kids.

I went back to sleep.

With eye shades on.

And ear plugs in.

Ah, blessed eye shades. Ah, blessed ear plugs. Ah, blessed unconsciousness, when you're not on duty... finally.

I woke up. What was that - 20 minutes? 2 hours? Wow. I could sleep all day, for several days in a row. Fantasizing about sleep is new mom porn.

I put the baby down for his nap.

I dealt with Elan spilling my full water bottle on the carpet.

My mom left for her haircut.

I fixed the broken sippy cup.

I made pancakes with the batter my mom left. I poured coffee.

I went sprinting upstairs at the sound of Elan crying, before he could wake the baby, after having bumped his head.

I comforted Elan. I helped him find what he was looking for. I moved the hide-a-bed frame he pumped his head on.

I told Elan: If Mama doesn't eat very soon, she is going to get very cranky.

I went back downstairs, trailing Elan in his new dinosaur pjs. ("There's dinosaurs even on the pants!")

I reheated my coffee. Note to self: Just use the travel mug. Even when you think you're about to sit down. You're most likely not.

I poured the syrup and ignored my dinosaur-pj-clad son for a full five minutes.

Open mouth, insert bite.

Uh, huh. That's what I'm talking about.