Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a favorite

Elan & Emry
Emry & Elan, February 2011

This is one of my favorite pictures of my boys, taken back in February when Emry was 4 months old. It perfectly sums up that moment in time - Emry stationary and wide-eyed while Elan goes crazy all around him. It's a dynamic that still exists, though is changing as Emry, at 10 months now, becomes more of a force in his own right - more mobile, more interactive and aware, more opinionated and wanting things, but still utterly fascinated by his big brother.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

one week offline

Elan, March 2011

I love my computer. I really do. But I've noticed lately how much time I spend on my computer, even when I'm not actually working, how I'm always checking emails, reading blogs, looking at the news. I'm so often distracted by my computer -- by my work, by always needing to be in the know and always responding so fast to everything. You know what I mean, most likely, since you're reading this blog.

I've also been noticing how much we are all on our devices lately. On a recent night out with 8 women in San Francisco, I approached our table and saw at least 4 phones on, as people showed each other photos of recent dates, checked out the Facebook status of certain cute guys, handed around photos of babies. One of my friends lent the iPhone charger she carried in her purse to another friend so she could recharge her phone at the restaurant - she called the charger "the new gum." Don't get me wrong - it's very convenient to be able to show your friends pictures of your baby on your blog while eating fried oysters and heirloom tomatoes at a newly opened hot-spot - but the constant multi-tasking has added to my sense of exhaustion and the feeling that I and many around me are only ever paying half attention to the conversations and moments that are going on around us.

So I'm taking a week offline, starting tonight. I'm probably not going to turn my computer on at all unless I need to download pictures. I'm definitely not going to go onto the Internet or check my email. I don't have a smartphone, so that's not an issue.

I'm going to unplug. Read a book, the kind made out of paper. Watch a movie on a screen larger than 13 inches. Write in my journal with the beautiful embossed leather cover and pages with no lines. Paint my toenails.

One week offline. Want to try it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

paying for sleep

Mama, I don't know WHAT you're talking about... Emry eating yogurt, July 2011

The children have been mean at night lately. One night, Emry's up every hour and a half. The next night, Elan's up several times. Last night, Mikhail was away for Night 3 of his business trip, and they split the night: Elan took the first half (1 a.m., 3 a.m.) and Emry took the second half (4 a.m., 5:30 a.m.). See, it works better that way. Neither of them get too tired when they split it like that.

Of course, I was a raving lunatic. This kind of "let's gang up on Mama" night was my worst fear when Mikhail took his new job which requires business travel. At 3:30 a.m., after he had been up for a half-hour for the second time that night, including a stint of Sleeping With Mama otherwise known as throwing his body against me repeatedly while actually asleep, until I gave up and went to sleep in his bed, I dropped the f-bomb on Elan. As in "What is your f@#*$* problem?" Look, I won a bad parenting award. But honestly, I think anyone would have been tempted, given the situation. I'm hoping that Elan was too half-asleep himself to remember the word and throw it back at me in the future.

Last night, I slept in 3 different beds. If it would have helped me get more sleep, I would have slept in 4, but Emry's crib has a weight limit that I exceed.

And then, at 7 a.m., we got up. I say "got up" because "woke up" isn't really appropriate when you've been up most of the night. I had a very bad headache. I've been getting these lately. Maybe they're migranes, because no combination or amount of water, Advil, or caffeine dims the pounding. They often come on in the middle of the night. This one came on at 3 a.m., which probably partly explains the use of f*$&.

I took a not-very-clear-eyed look at my situation and decided that the only way to maintain sanity was to pay for sleep. I fed and changed everyone, took Elan to school, came home, talked to the contractor who's still working on our deck, put Emry down for his nap, called my babysitter and told her that I hid the key for her and she should let herself in and that I would be asleep. I have never done this before. Sometimes while pregnant, I napped while Elan was at nursery school. But I have never had a babysitter at my house and slept. Usually, no matter how tired I am, the list of things to do provides enough momentum that I just keep on keeping on. And between my desire to exercise, to get my work done, and to have a little time to myself, babysitter time is a precious commodity. But I was desperate, and my body, in the form of my head, was rebelling.

I put in earplugs, laid down, and said a little prayer that no one would wake me. Actually, I said: God help the person who wakes me. Maybe I roared it, internally. Anyway, next thing I knew, there was a knock on the door. I took my earplugs out. Was that really a knock? It was bright and sunny through the cracks of the mini blinds. I'm sure this is really important, I thought. And when the knock came again, I said Si? My babysitter's 12-year-old daughter poked her head in. I'm sorry, but my mom wanted me to come and tell you it's 3 o'clock and do you want us to stay?

3:00. It was 10:30 when I got into bed. I just slept through my babysitting, plus another half-hour.

I think you could say that I was pretty f@*#*%& tired.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

on overwhelm

Grasses in shadow, San Diego, July 2011

Why is it, on some days, I feel like I can tackle anything? Bring it on is my mantra for the day. I can dash from one task to another, checking things off my list, even managing dashes of creativity in the midst of busyness.

And then other days, I feel like I am slogging through life, like just finding the energy to put the socks away is difficult. I look around the chaos of my house and am unable to find the verve I need to try to put it in order. On these days, the words that come to my mind are impossible, insurmountable, and the mother of all sloggy, energy-less-day words: overwhelm.

On days when I feel overwhelmed, I try to take a step back, look around and decide on the tasks which are most important, either in the world (a commitment I've made that must be done), to my family (the basics of taking care of the children) or to my mental health (get some exercise, go outdoors). Then I usually try to take care of a few of the integral things, forget the rest, drink a beer, take a shower, and call it a day.

But I must admit that lately, I've had more days when my normal strategies just don't help much. Today is one. Yesterday was one, too. I look around and despair at the state of my house - the toys on the floor, the bookshelves overflowing, the kitchen counters crowded, the stairs cluttered. It doesn't help that construction on our deck has stalled and our tiny yard is filled with disorderly stacks of plastic boxes covered with a thick layer of sawdust-mud. On a nice day, our little outdoor space is a good respite for me when it feels that the walls of my small, full house are closing in on me. But not today.

So then there are choices. I can sit down and cry, recognizing that the internal overwhelm is being influenced by the external world (like news of the passing of the beloved founder of the company where Mikhail now works, a man who I never met but Mikhail so greatly looked up to that I almost feel I did). In fact, I wish I could sit down and cry, but sometimes tears just won't come when I wish they would.

Or I can pick one thing, and do that. I can go tackle the boxes and the sawdust and the cobwebs crowding my outdoor space, and hope that clearing a little external space will give me a little internal room as well - a clearing of the internal crowding that creates overwhelm.

And if I do that while drinking a beer and listening to loud music, and then take a shower, maybe it'll just all work.

Boards from our ripped-up deck, Berkeley, August 2011

And then, after I wrote this post, it went like this: I did not find the things I was looking for in the sawdust-covered boxes, I fell through the plastic cover on one, got even more overwhelmed when my husband arrived on the scene to witness the strewn-about boxes and stressed-out, maxed-out wife, husband took children over, I had that cry in the shower, put the kids to bed, then drunk the beer.

I think I'm done.

Monday, August 8, 2011

wiped out

Emry, July

I have so many thoughts of things to post running through my head, and so many photos that I want to share with y'all. But darn it all if I am not pretty wiped out these days and finding most of my computer time is being used up by working and keeping up with email (preschool teacher appreciations and end-of-the-year potlucks, oh my!).

And the chores! All this going away and coming back stuff is very entertaining, but the amount of laundry generated by one 2-night camping trip times 4 people plus 1 ever-smoking campfire is really quite extraordinary. (You need an ever-smoking campfire when you're camping in Bodega Bay in August, meaning the fog is so thick it falls like misty rain and the high reaches 60 degrees if you're lucky.)

I think I'm going to go to bed radically early tonight. I think that every day at 7 a.m., then again at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. Then by 8:30 p.m., once Elan is FINALLY asleep (bedtime takes forever these days), I think: I'll just clean up and take care of a few things for the morning. And then -- boom! -- it's 10:30 and I haven't started getting ready for bed yet.

But it's 7:30, so I'm still optomistic: maybe tonight I'll be asleep by 9 p.m. What heaven that would be...

Friday, August 5, 2011

at the beach


We went to the beach, we came home. Someone's been very busy fulfilling his life's mission to get stuff.