Thursday, October 27, 2011


Fall spiderweb, Berkeley, September 2011

I'm having one of those weeks when a cold turns into laryngitis, turns into a sinus infection that feels like someone's sticking knives into my cheekbones, turns into a night spent alternatively shivering and roasting with fever, turns into the nurse practitioner saying I have the flu on top of the cold/sinus infection, turns into Emry taking Tamiflu preventatively just in case I do have the flu, turns into Mikhail going away for an overnight trip I didn't know he had, turns into me calling my mom and asking her can you pretty-please come now rather than in 2 days?, turns into discovering the joys of Theraflu Nighttime and finally getting some sleep, turns into holing up with my computer attempting to not be so behind on my work while Emry is crying downstairs, turns into writing on my blog because who can manage to write grant proposals while their baby is crying downstairs, turns into nursing Emry instead of writing grant proposals or on my blog, turns into the baby crying when I hand him back over to my babysitter, turns into more knives in my cheekbones, turns into Can I please just go back to bed now?

Yes, you can. Go quickly, before someone else needs you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

one year ago

A year ago, I was pregnant.


I went to the pool a lot.


Sometimes with my pregnant friends.


Elan was already telling the baby jokes.


Did I mention? I was VERY pregnant.


But soon not to be.

At 2 a.m., I woke up. It was pouring. First I heard the rain, then I felt the sensation of the contraction. It was the baby's due date and a full moon. I couldn't believe the baby would really be so precisely punctual, but the contraction felt different than the ones I regularly got around the clock, so I got out of bed. Made cream of wheat. Read Blink on the couch. Timed the contractions. Told the baby I was really ready to not be pregnant anymore, and wasn't he/she ready to come out and meet everyone?

I promised a lot of yummy milk.

The contractions stayed about 10-15 minutes apart, so eventually I went back to bed.

Elan woke up and went to preschool.

The contractions were still 10-15 minutes apart. Between them, I'd think that maybe I run out and pick up that nursing bra I hadn't bought yet. But then, one would come, and I'd think Not a good idea.

I went for a walk to try to speed things up. I walked very slowly. I kept expecting someone to notice me, walking around my neighborhood, in labor, alone, with my cell phone in my pocket. But I only had one contraction the whole walk, leaning over the splintery railing by the path in the greenway, so I guess I wasn't that noticeable.

Mikhail brought me Thai chicken coconut milk soup, a sudden craving, and over several hours, I ate the whole container.

Elan came home from preschool. I hung out with him on the couch, reading him books. Every 10-15 minutes, I'd roll onto the floor and have a contraction. It freaked him out a lot less than I thought it might.

At 3 p.m., I told my amazing midwife that I wanted to come in to the hospital, but I was afraid I'd only be dilated to 2 centimeters. (In labor 4 years before with Elan, I got to the birth center where I delivered already dilated to 8 cm after laboring at home for 20 hours.) She assured me that she'd never had a second-time mom come in at less than 4 cm. I wanted to be in the water, and I couldn't fit in our little tub, so we decided to go for it.

Some neighbors saw me shuffling down the driveway to the car, while Mikhail loaded it up with all our stuff, and they called out Good luck! I thought - I guess I really am in labor.

The ride to the hospital was surreal. Everything looked so NORMAL outside the car window. It was Friday afternoon, and people were out doing their Friday afternoon, beautiful fall weather, thing. I only had one contraction during the 10 minute car ride. After that one contraction, I was glad I didn't have more.

My midwife Lindy was there waiting for me, at the nurse's desk. She got me a room with a big jacuzzi tub, like we had planned. She checked me. "Well, it's your worst fear," she said. "You're 2 centimeters."


But then she was very comforting. She told me to take my time. "I've got my magazine so I'll just hang out a while," she said. She'd send me home if there was no baby by morning. It was 4:20 p.m. I was still having contractions 10-15 minutes apart.

I got in the tub. Everyone left me alone. I listened to music, rubbed my huge firm tummy, nearly weightless in the water, felt the baby move and wondered who was going to come out. Here we are kid, I thought, back in the water, where the best moments of this uncomfortable pregnancy had been spent. I had been feeling a little freaked out by the hospital, but in the tub, I got my head together. You've done this before, I told myself. You know what to do. Just relax and let your body do it.

I got out of the tub and decided to take a walk. But I never made it out the door of my room. Every time I'd head for the door, I'd have another contraction. And these were big ones, coming on every few minutes. Finally! It looked like the baby was in on the plan.

And then it hurt. More than I remembered. I've had 2 natural births now, with no meds, and I can say: there is pain. It's a whole heck of a lot of work. There's a reason they call it labor. But if you have a good situation - a great midwife and/or doula, and no complications - it's worth it. Your body makes the natural pain relief, which helps; you can stay completely active, birth in the position you want to birth in; you can feel nifty sensations like the baby's feet "walking" down your spine as he turns; and the high afterward is INCREDIBLE. I'm sure all women feel like super-stars after growing and birthing another human being, as they should. But I can say that my experience of natural birth is that, afterward, I felt like I could do anything. Which was especially helpful while recovering from my first baby's birth, which took longer and was more painful than I expected. Not to mention that whole adjustment to being responsible for a tiny, helpless human. I frequently thought back to my superhero birth powers and felt buoyed by them over the course of Elan's first few months.

But, yeah, it hurt. My mom came in the room, and I called her over to me by wailing Mommy!! I'm not sure if this alarmed or touched her, as I haven't called her "Mommy" in several decades. But that's what birth will do to you; you shed all the non-essentials; you become the most focused version of yourself, one is so intent on doing what you're doing that you don't give a damn who happens to come in the room and see your nether regions on full display.

I had an amazing team of midwife, husband and nurse all helping me. One would work on my back with each contraction, and this is not just a casual hand - this is putting some real weight into it. Though this labor was less back labor than my first, that strong counter-pressure still really helped me. The best position was standing next to the bed, leaning over it, rocking and swaying my hips. After contractions, they warmed me up. During, they cooled me off. Lindy put cold cloths on my forehead.


Sidenote: Recently, on a random Tuesday, Elan turned to me with a look of shock on his little face. "We don't have a video of when Emry was born!" he exclaimed. I had to stifle a laugh.
"That's true," I said. "But we have one of when you were born."
"I want to see it," he said.
"Actually, I don't think you do. When a baby comes out, there's a lot of blood."
"Ew, I don't wanna see that. Dis-gust-ing!"

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Anywhere, where was I? Oh, yeah, birthing a baby one year ago.

My midwife and I had come up with a little game plan of what we wanted to try for the birth, which included birthing on my side and trying to push the baby out between contractions. Amazingly, these both worked. Mikhail found the whole thing pretty interesting because he was beside me, holding my leg; when Elan was born in the tub, Mikhail was behind me, meaning he got a worse view than I did. But this time, he saw everything! Lucky guy!

Later, Mikhail told me that, as he was watching the baby's head crown, he kept picturing a 2-month-old's head size, and could not imagine that this whole birth thing was going to work. Thankfully he kept that observation to himself at the time. When Emry was actually born, he was shocked at how tiny his head actually was (it was smaller than Elan's, thank you!).

Once my water broke as I pushed, and we got through the ring of fire (that song has never been the same for me since having babies), and I did some good old fashioned screaming, Lindy told me to push again, and a hot, slippery little baby came out. I tell you, I think even if you birthed 12 babies, there would still be a part of you shocked that after all that - 9 months of nausea and insomnia and heartburn and varicose veins and backache and general slow lumbering quality of life, plus the labor itself - a BABY COMES OUT. Just amazing.

Mikhail announced It's a boy!

And there he was.


The Aforementioned Slippery, Ruddy and Oh-So-Sweet Baby Boy, aka Mr. Emry Isaiah Brams Davis, all 7 pounds, 15 ounces of him, born at 8:30 p.m. on October 22, 2010.


Everyone oohed and aahed over him. Lucky baby, he had 3 grandparents in attendance (my parents and my mother-in-law), and my sister-in-law dropped in just after he was born.

His big brother came to visit.


And took him for a ride around the hospital.


The promised yummy milk was provided, and he was a fan.


I could keep going like this all night, but I have laryngitis and a wicked cold, and my baby just turned 1 year old, so I'm feeling a little emotional and should get some sleep.

So just one more... for now.

This is what happens when you teach the big brother how to swaddle his doll before the baby arrives.


Did it make you look twice?

Friday, October 21, 2011

baby + sand

Tomorrow, Emry turns one year old. While I try to process this fact, a hit of Mama nostalgia is putting me in a photo kind of mood. So I'm finally getting around to posting pictures of Emry's first beach experiences, way back in July when he was only a wee 8-month-old (sniff).

Did you know that beach rocks make excellent teething toys?


Of course, sand tastes pretty yummy on its own.






Now let's not even get me started on seaweed.


Seaweed is delish.


What's not to love about a salty sea vegetable?


Hello? Anyone there? Baby on the beach, all alone...


This digging in the sand stuff sure is great.


Kinda tires a baby out.


Mama's obsessed with my feet. You know how she is.

Emry, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, July 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Superhero on the beach, San Diego, July 2011

A conversation between Elan & me, on the topic of allergies:

"Mama, what am I allergic to?
"You're not allergic to anything, love." (thinking I'm delivering good news)
"That's not fair!"
"Oh, okay. Maybe you're allergic to... to... porcupines."
"Yeah! Remember when we saw that one at the zoo?"
"I wasn't very close to it, or I would have sneezed."
"Yeah. Good thing."
"For real, Mama?"
"Could be."
"No, I'm not allergic to porcupines. Know what I'm allergic to?"
"Signs! See, there's one there, and I'm just going to sneeze."

And then there was this zinger, also allergy-related:
"Mama, know what it means if you're gluten-free?"
"It means you're allergic to glue."


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

yosemite, anytime

Rocks & stream, outside Yosemite, July 2008

It has been too long since Mikhail and I went to Yosemite. We've been discussing this a lot lately. We keep trying to find a little time to make a pilgrimage, but we haven't yet. In the meantime, I came across these time-lapse videos of Yosemite. Each one takes only a minute to watch. Watch the weather move in, or the snow melt, or the moon rise over Half Dome. A little vicarious nature enjoyment, and a little perspective, without leaving your laptop.

Monday, October 10, 2011

to-do list from the deep end

Comfort food in progress, October 2011

1. When all else fails, cook a brisket. With lots of roasted carrots and potatoes to soak in the briskety juices. Do not expect your 4-going-on-5-year-old, the source of The Trouble, to touch it, but the baby, who still has no teeth yet loves chicken sausage and pesto pasta, might gobble it up.

2. Do not allow your husband, plumbing novice, to try to replace the garbage disposal, even though you asked him to do it just last night. Understand that this project will take up half of Sunday's waking hours because there's no way for it not to while juggling an insane 4-year-old who hasn't slept in a week, who started the morning off dizzy from the mild sedative you gave him at 2 a.m., careening into the bookcase in his room at 6 a.m., and a crawling baby who will, through the course of the day, be found sucking on the following objects:
a) the end of a hammer;
b) a rubber band;
c) leaves;
d) the pointy end of the hammer;
e) every Cheerio he earlier threw on the floor from his highchair, thereby saving them for a snack later; and
f) his Mama's flip flop.

3. When the 4-year-old, who has bags under his half-mast eyes, throws yet another tantrum over nothing except what's in the air around him: Disciple, comfort, repeat.

4. Discipline, comfort, repeat.

5. Discipline, comfort, repeat.

6. You get the idea.

7. Go out to the driveway for a breath of fresh air. Be happy it's not raining today, like it did all last week when the 4-year-old decided to stop sleeping. Be happy your husband is here, under your kitchen sink, rather than in Toronto, where he was all last week, while you were here, trying to keep your sanity, sleepless in the rain. Decide to have the 4-year-old do sidewalk chalk in the driveway, since you can't muster the energy to fight him into going to the park quite yet. Realize there is a flattened and desiccated salamander in the driveway. Notice, sadly, that this salamander looks an awful lot like the "Dada one" in the salamander family of four that lives under a planter in your back yard. Ask your husband to come out from under the sink to deal with the dead salamander.

8. Later, when the 4-year-old is drawing sidewalk chalk goblins and ghosts in the driveway, notice that he keeps saying the Dada goblin and the Dada ghost are dead, even though you did not let him see or tell him about the salamander. Wonder if this is an uncanny ability to hear the unsaid, his way of expressing emotion over your husband traveling for work, or just part of his general obsession about death right now.

9. When your husband, plumbing novice, manages through the chaos to successfully replace the garbage disposal, as well as fix the P-trap, which became very leaky in the course of replacing the garbage disposal, give him a big kiss and serve him up a whopping plate of brisket. He deserves it.

10. As soon as the garbage disposal is finished, leave the house alone. Go exercise. If you're me, swim laps. If you're lucky, the water will clear the fog just enough to glimpse the realization that this can't be intentional, that your child probably is not trying to ruin your life, even if it feels like that on this difficult day, at the end of this difficult week. Reaffirm, as your arms cut through the water, that you are strong and capable, and that you have it in you to be your child's rock in the stormy seas in which he is currently struggling.

11. Sleep in your 4-year-old's bed tonight, with him on a pad on the floor beside you, to try to help him sleep as much as you can. When he is asleep, drink in the sight of his beautiful face, for the moment restful, wishing you could make it all better, for everyone's sake, wishing you knew how.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

a realization while my child screamed at the park


So often, motherhood is about looking bad in public.

It's about kneeling in the rough playground sand, the kind that leaves an imprint on your knees in twenty seconds flat, to play tic tac toe, because your kiddo is having a tough afternoon after Day 1 of his new preschool class.

It's about getting down on your haunches to try to hold him, even though you're wearing a skirt and you know you're probably showing your polka-dot underwear to the other parents in the park.


It's about snot on your shirt, and crusty bagel crumbs in your nursing bra.

It's about sticking to your Mama guns about the no-sugar-when-you're-being-obnoxious rule, even when a popsicle would cure the tantrum.

It's about being okay with the other parents staring, the children stopping their play to watch, as your child completely and totally melts down at the park, screaming as if you're beating him even though you're several feet away.

It's about doing what you need to do, what's best for your child, and you, no matter how bad it might make you look.


One of my friends told me once: "In our house it's all about avoiding the tantrum at all costs."

That is not my strategy. If it were, my kid would be a total monster. The kind you'd never want to come over to your house. He's too strong-willed for that. Except on planes. On planes, I do try to avoid the tantrum at all costs. I employ a double-standard while in flight, and I'm okay with that.

I loved this post by Andrea on this topic (and she quotes me too, I'm honored). The comments are fabulous too, lots of funny, touching stories of how humbling parenthood can be. Read #21 from Lara, it's especially raw & open (and relates to aforementioned airplanes with children).

Even a superhero needs a little help sometimes...
And his Mama too...
Elan, September 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

more on the "how does she do it?" question

Dandelion, Washington, August 2011

Some of my favorite friends-who-also-happen-to-be-bloggers have written recently on this question I was exploring yesterday, the how does she do it? question we women tend to ask ourselves about other women who seem to effortlessly and perfectly juggle the balls that we ourselves feel we might currently be dropping.

(Yes, I know there's a Sarah Jessica Parker movie with almost that title, but no, I haven't seen it. Movie theaters are not part of my current reality.)

I said that I liked to share stories of Real Life, with those messy moments, because I believe we will all have them and sharing them makes me feel less alone. But I fear that sometimes that makes my blog - and me - come off as whiny, not grateful for all my many blessings, overly obsessed with sleep (okay, I am overly obsessed with sleep, but if you had Elan for a kid, you probably would be too).

Here's my friend Andrea grappling with this question:
"In telling a story, especially for public consumption, I am always aware I have a choice. Do I tell you the gory details? or stick to what I loved most about it? Do I talk about how crabby I was? how the kids wouldn’t stop whining? how Matt and I were ready to wring each others’ necks? or how majestic the redwoods were?"
Kristina, whose blog often highlights lovely creative & culinary projects, says:
"And for the record, because I get a fair share of emails and comments asking how I find the time to do it all… here’s a little secret. I don’t. I just only take pictures of the things in my life that are pretty and possibly interesting to other people. But there is plenty that goes undone, plenty of I wishes and if onlys. Maybe I will start to write about that stuff more, just to be fair."
And here's another interesting post from a blogger who I don't know, and who I've never read before this post, but maybe I will read more now. I like these lines:
"It’s true: I have high ideals. But they are backed by merely human resources."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

on muddling through


Ups and downs of the new school year, Elan's first day of Pre-K,

September 2011

A friend called me recently. She was having one of THOSE moments – in the line at Trader Joe’s, with her baby (who’s not been sleeping much lately), in a rush to make it to a celebration at her son’s preschool, her line was moving the slowest and she was frustrated, thinking about all the things she needed to do for the business she runs (her full-time job squeezed into part-time childcare), a work slip-up she had made, and when she finally got through the line, she realized she didn’t have her wallet with her. She had to abandon ship, leave the groceries, and flee, holding back the tears.

Wow, do I get this. Capacity maxed out, brain spinning, trying to make up for not enough sleep with caffeine, frustration and anger are quick to surface. Sometimes it’s directed at my kids, but more often at myself. Recently, I discovered, on one of those exhausted-at-7-p.m. nights, that I had made a stupid mistake in my work life, one of those things you can describe as a “brain fart” if you’re being uncouth. Thankfully, it didn’t have any major repercussions, but it made me look incompetent, not together. I couldn’t believe I had made such a sloppy error; my laundry might sit in the basket unfolded for a week, but I try to be – and usually am – extremely organized and responsible in my work life. However, it was immediately clear to me why it happened: I was maxed out. The error happened back in June, when Mikhail had just recently started his new job, and I was scrambling to figure out childcare, juggle projects for two different work clients, and be on my own with both kids for the first time when Mikhail traveled for work.

If you’re anything like me, the response to this kind of slip-up/overwhelm moment isn’t usually compassion and understanding for yourself. It’s more often anger, frustration, thoughts of why can’t I make this work?, a tendency to look around at other women juggling family and work and projects and households and think she’s got it all together and she’s happy too, what’s wrong with me? Which is why I find it so important to burst that bubble, to talk about Real Life, with all its messy moments when you have to flee Trader Joe’s in tears, because, in my experience, we’ll all have those moments, whether you’re having one today or not.

The first few weeks of September were really rough for me; I had lots of THOSE moments. Coming back from an insane amount of travel, I was stressed out. Elan was adjusting to his new pre-K class with lots of meltdowns at home, Emry and Mikhail had colds, I had two weekend trips back to back after two solid weeks of traveling to two different states, and, on top of that, my babysitter situation combusted – I had to decide what to do about an untenable situation with my sitter, let her go, and find a new one, all while trying to unpack and repack four times in a two-week period. It wasn’t pretty.

In the midst of all this, I decided for several weeks that my goal was simply to muddle through. If I could just manage to muddle though the chaos, that would be good enough. I didn’t have to be particularly patient, happy, or living in the moment; I didn’t have to be good at things or do things well. I just had to muddle through. And you know, it did give me some freedom. Whenever my blood pressure would start to rise as Elan lost his #$%^ yet again, or when the thought of packing up another suitcase would make me want to sit on the floor and cry, I would think just muddle through. Acknowledging the difficulty of the situation did help. Lowering my expectations of myself helped too.

And now, October begins. The fat fall spiders are stringing their giant webs through the bushes; the leaves on the trees are rusting and crinkling at the edges; the sunlight is weaker, coming later and fading earlier. My little family is settling into its autumn groove, and I am finding that I can once again expand out from muddling through. I can aim my sights a bit higher again, and that feels good.


Emry crawling through a tunnel, September 2011

And I can once again fit into my old size 6 jeans, which feels really good, but that’s another post.