Monday, June 27, 2011

a day that calls for cinnamon toast

When you have two sick kids, the big one with a mysterious rash that's appearing in symmetrical patches all around his body, the little one fussier than usual and waking up as soon as his Motrin wears off, it's a good morning to make cinnamon toast. I had it in my head to try Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Toast the Right Way, and I happened to have the perfect loaf of wheat bread.

When your kids are sick, and you're kind of sick yourself, it's especially important to take treat yourself well. Like making yourself cinnamon toast, eggs scrambled in the pan, and good coffee. And then managing to eat it while it's still semi-warm (though, admittedly, my coffee is now ice-cold).

Luckily, there's a doctor in the house.


Not sure he's qualified to make diagnoses though.


He always tells me the shot won't hurt.


I'm not sure I believe any doctor who tells you a shot won't hurt.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

superhero photos

Boy plus elephant, April 2011, San Diego Zoo

I've got my new camera that I'm still learning, and a rediscovered passion for photography to go along with it. As a result, I'm bucking that second-kid trend: I take more photos of both my children now than I took of Elan was he was a baby.

Given that, I'm very excited about my friend Andrea's new Superhero Photo online class. She's an amazing photographer and an amazing person. Lots to learn from her. I'm going to take it.

(And yes, the elephant is a statue.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

when we fall

Grasses, San Diego

You know those days when we fall and can't manage to right ourselves again? I'm talking metaphorical falls here -- those days when one trip, a hiccup on any other day, turns into a series of cascading slips and slides until we finally land, not gracefully, ending the day with a thump or a bang, or a slow run-down stop, the energy wrung out of us?

I had one of those days today. I'm not sure how it started, or why. There's lack of sleep to blame, and hormones, and the fact that everyone in my family has some mysterious semi-illness that's made us all more tired and cranky than usual. There's the state of my house, which is messy. There's the fact that I missed Zumba class this morning, which gets my blood flowing so nicely on a Saturday morning at 8:00, because I was too tired from being up a lot with the baby last night and the night before and the night before. There's always reasons for this kind of day. But that doesn't explain why today became a series of moments of overwhelm, of holding back tears, while other days with similar reasons do not.

Some days I can right myself; some I cannot. And as I sit here in my darkened living room, the children finally and blessedly asleep, drinking water out of one glass and sipping cold milk out of another, I'm wondering what these days are meant to teach us. Perhaps their purpose is to give us compassion when we walk among those people who cannot right themselves, ever. Perhaps it is to help us see how to do it better the next day. Or perhaps it is just to give us appreciation for when we can pick ourselves back up again, and for the people who stand by us, not too close and not too far away, sometimes offering a hand up and other times just witnessing our gracelessness and holding their tongues. Only occasionally laughing out loud while we curse our own clumsiness and the unfairly slippery sidewalks we must walk.

Maybe you don't understand this post. Maybe you think I've got two left feet and should invest in some more stable shoes. Or maybe you do. Maybe you have your own days when your footing feels uncomfortably slick. I know my little guy gets it. He's got a black eye that no one remembers him getting, himself included, a mysterious rash on the backs of his legs, some abrasion on the back of his neck, and from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. he was stuck in a mood I call "permafuss." Then at 3, the clouds that were darkening his little brow suddenly lifted, and he became sunny again, more or less.

I don't know where he gets his moodiness from. Really, I don't.

Me & Elan at 17 months, April 2008, San Diego

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a week on my own, plus unrelated camping pictures

Mikhail went on his first (of many to come) business trip last week. It was trial by fire for me: 5 full days, 4 and a half nights of doing the parenting-2-children thing on my own. Luckily for me, my sisters-in-law took Elan for one night so that I had one night and morning of only having Emry, which was quite luxurious and relaxing. I do so love living close to family!

Emry in the Ergo, camping, May

The week went pretty well on the whole. I did have the desire to cry at 6:30 A.M. a few times, but that's just par for the course whenever I'm up at 6:30. There were times when they both treated me pretty well (like the first night, when they both slept through the night). And then other times when they seemed to be ganging up on me (bedtime when Emry needed to nurse in a quiet place and Elan was bent on having me tell "a story about the letters" for the forth time that day).

Waking up in the tent, camping, May

The days were busy and long, and I made sure to clean the house up at night before I sat down, which resulted in me not sitting down till 9:30 P.M. but also meant that my house was much cleaner and more orderly than usual. I was pretty sure that keeping the house tidy would help keep me sane, since I was also juggling this new transition with 2 grantwriting clients and multiple deadlines, and I was right. Plus I needed things to be find-able for my new babysitter.

Lantern and sunset, camping, May

I knew Elan would miss Mikhail. What surprised me was that he didn't talk much about missing him; he didn't talk much about Dada period. But he did seem to be more jealous of Emry than usual ("Why do you have to keep giving him milk AGAIN?").

Brothers in the tent, camping, May

Elan was pretty challenging overall during the week. I'm sure it's related to all the change and transition going on in our lives right now. He had lots of screaming episodes. The third morning, he woke up very cranky at 6 after having been up at 4 A.M. as well (and Emry up to nurse at 5). I was not in the mood to deal with the fuss. I gave him one chance to stop, and when he didn't, without a word, I scooped him up, still in his PJs, carried him downstairs without a word, opened the front door, set him down on the patio, wrapped him in a blanket, and shut the door. He screamed the entire time; my teeth were grit so I would keep my mouth shut. I let him go at it outside while I sat on the couch inside, half wanting to sob and half laughing a little to myself about the absurdity of parenthood. He never checked to see if the door was locked (it wasn't); he just sat there in the weak morning light and yelled.

After about 90 seconds, I opened the door and said (surprisingly calmly), "Would you like to come inside and be sweet, or would you like to stay outside and yell?"

Sniff. "Come inside."

I find that, with Elan, I have to occasionally do these dramatic things to shock him into paying attention and get him out of whatever fuss he's lodged himself in. The rest of the morning wasn't a piece of cake, but it was better. I would have left him out there longer, but I did feel badly for the neighbors; I'm quite sure no one enjoyed the 6 A.M. serenade.


These boys: they are crazy and sometimes wild, and life as mother feels vast and complicated and difficult and also unbearingly sweet and tender and gorgeous.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

this mama's little helper


A glass of wine is my secret weapon for how to keep my patience and have fun with my kids at the end of the day, when everyone's tired and hungry and my nerves tend to get a little frazzled.

Either that, or a babysitter and Zumba class...

Friday, June 10, 2011

a simple realization

Camping with my boys, May 2011

10 a.m., heating up my coffee, my house quiet and peaceful. The baby asleep for his morning nap, Elan at school.

I've already been out in the windy, sunny morning - dropping Elan off at preschool, him running right in, immediately absorbed by some glue-intensive art activity, walking to the Cheeseboard to buy challah and a morning treat, Emry in the Ergo, dropping my chin into his fuzzy baby head simply to inhale him.

Mikhail's at work, exciting and full of promise, a day of interesting meetings. My week has been busy with negotiating new childcare arrangements and my own work, both of which have gone well. My body is sore just the right amount from Zumba class. It's Friday, and the week feels like a triumph. I take a deep breath, smell my coffee, savor the moment.

And it strikes me: this feeling of fullness, of contentment, the ability to breathe deeply, this moment in which I have everything I've worked so hard over the last few years to attain -- it's happiness.

"I'm happy," I think. The joy of it, to be able to say those words to myself, unprompted, just an ordinary, extraordinary Friday morning.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

he's organized like that

Listening to a "Frog and Toad" story, Elan was fascinated by the part when Toad writes his list of things to do today.

"Here's where Mama writes her to-do lists," I said, showing him my stack of elaborately marked-up print-outs ensconced on a pink clipboard.

"I wanna turn," he said, grabbing a pen. "How do you spell Go To School?"

He wrote it.

"How do you spell Go Home?"

He wrote it.

"How do you spell Have A Snack?"

Things started to degrade. The H and the A migrated way up high; the V and the E got crossed out in frustration. By Snack, he gave up. But still - he wrote a list. It was too cute. And also, he can WRITE. It's both thrilling and terrifying.


Now if only he and all his writing & lists can get me organized enough that I can stop getting all these *$&%^ parking tickets.

Monday, June 6, 2011

arranging the pieces

Mikhail got a new job! Many happy dances were done.

He started a little over a week ago, and it's a one of those jobs that you can characterize as a really great opportunity. He is really excited about it, and I'm really excited about it. Even our houseplants are excited about it.

Gift from Mikhail's new boss, a money tree -- a houseplant we're really going to try not to kill!

And now, it's time for me to figure out how to to arrange all the pieces - Elan's preschool, childcare for Emry, napping schedules and household schedules, bedtime routines and get-out-the-door routines, and all the millions of little tasks that make up the days of mamas the world round, so that Mikhail can be working his new job, which will involve a lot of travel, and so that I can continue to work part-time. I've currently got two different grantwriting clients, which complicates things, deadlines and schedules (more schedules!) that I committed to before Mikhail got this job. I'm smack dab in the middle of the process of finding a new babysitter, training a new babysitter, and getting the confidence in a new babysitter so that I can leave my baby with her and leave my big boy with her and do my work and not be thinking and worrying constantly about my baby and my big boy.

And in that middle of that process, I took off to New Jersey for my grandfather's funeral and started thinking about time - how people grow older and die, how my baby won't stay a baby, how he's already grown so much and my big boy can be so amazing one minute, so excited and brave to touch a snake and thrilled about it, and then, the next moment can call me "stupid" and stick his tongue out at me and then scream and carry on and kick when I discipline him for it, and someday in the not-too-distant future my baby will be able to do these things. About how we're all growing older all the time, and how I hope I live to be 101 or even close to that happy and in good health, but how I can't really bear to think about my children growing up, how even imagining Elan at 8 makes my heart hurt just a little, not to mention the thoughts of my parents growing older, me and Mikhail and our siblings and all our friends, everyone growing older.

And thinking these kinds of big thoughts is not good for the nitty-gritty process of arranging your life, which requires focus and discipline and the ability to stop eating the deli when you're sitting shiva for a few days and then when you come home to start exercising again and find the energy to unpack your suitcase, and repack it again, and go camping, and show your big boy the king snake that has just swum across the river and been picked up by a man, and hold him close so he can touch it.

And then discipline him when you get home and he calls you stupid and sticks his tongue out at you.

Except, in an ideal world, I wouldn't have gotten quite so angry about this.

In an ideal world.

But this is not an ideal world. Outside the Starbucks, on the sidewalk, two men face off over some stupid insult, the rhetoric and the hand gestures flying, while a man with a baby in his arms looks on. The baby reminds me of Emry, which makes me want to be with him, even though when Mikhail came home, I was stressed, so stressed, needing to get out of the house and exercise and get to work. Feeling the stress constricting my breathing, thinking how am I going to do all this? How on earth am I going to do all this?

But the gym was closed, so instead I'm at Starbucks drinking a chocolate smoothie, which is definitely not the same as exercising. I don't know how I'm going to do all this, don't know how I'm going to arrange the pieces. I guess I never do know, until I do. And all there is to do is to remind myself to keep breathing and start.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

the mother's prayer for its daughter, by tina fey

It has not been over 2 weeks since I last posted on here, has it?

Oh. It has. Oops.

I have many posts brewing - posts saved at "draft" along with the ones that have only been written in my mind. But I do find it useful to sometimes just post one thing, you know how that is, even if you don't blog, right? Just open a few bills off the top of that stack you've been avoiding. Just go to the gym once after you've been making excuses for too long. Just write one thank you card from the long list. Just get started, and sometimes momentum takes over. Then you stay up too late and write all the thank you cards, pay all the bills, and sort all the mail. But at least you feel victorious in the morning, along with tired.

So here's my just one post. Maybe you've already seen it, but maybe not, in which case you should. It's a poem by Tina Fey, which I totally got and loved, even though I don't have a daughter, which still strikes me as odd cause I always thought I would. (From Tina Fey's book Bossypants, via the blog of Melanie, my friend Kristina's sister-in-law - the Internet is a small world.)

The Mother's Prayer for Its Daughter, by Tina Fey

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered,

May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half

And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her

When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the nearby subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock N’ Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.

Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes

And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.

Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long,

For Childhood is short — a Tiger Flower blooming

Magenta for one day –

And Adulthood is long and Dry-Humping in Cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever,

That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers

And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister,

Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends,

For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord,

That I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 a.m., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck.

“My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental note to call me. And she will forget.

But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.