Tuesday, November 27, 2012

this mama writes

My new website & blog is finally here!

Please join me at www.thismamawrites.com

This blog will no longer be updated, so come on over to the new site.

And thanks for reading!


Sunday, October 7, 2012


Camera Roll-893
Birch Bay, Washington, August 2012

I really wanted to have my new blog up and rolling by October.

But then life happened.

My husband went on a week-long business trip.

Then another week-long business trip.

I said "yes" to another grantwriting client.

I probably should have said "no."

The Jewish New Year came.

And went.

I thought a lot about my grandfather.

In my writing group, I wrote a list of things I remember about him.

I cried when I tried to read it. 

Maybe I'll post it here someday.

I mean there - on my new blog.

Which will be coming soon.

Sometime in October, I swear!

For now, I'm cooking and running and running around and food shopping (because it suddenly seems that we never have any yogurt in our house) and grantwriting grantwriting grantwriting.

I'd kind of rather be writing writing writing.

But no one's paying me to write write write.


(Maybe someday)

Life feels like it's sped up since Elan started kindergarten.

I'm waiting for it to slow down.

Even though I know that it's probably up to me to slow it down.

Since I'm most likely a big part of the reason it feels sped up right now.

I'm putting parentheses around my dreams, my hopes, my ambitions. 

Like little whispers.

Does that mean they're coming closer?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

sneak peek

Sneak peek at my new website. Coming soon. So excited!

A new home for this blog... coming soon.

I'm so excited!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

living with an almost-2-year-old

Camera Roll-736
Emry, August 2012

I just found a half-eaten meatball from three days ago tucked inside my shoe. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

a birth story that made me laugh

My baby, Emry at 3 days old, October 2010

I love birth stories, birth junkie that I am, but it's not often that one makes me laugh.

You should read this (by one of my sister's friends). Even if you're not a birth junkie, it's great.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

those questions

"Color Camp" - these are the campers, he's the counselor
"Color camp" - he's the counselor, the tiles are the campers, Birch Bay, WA, August 2012

We were getting ready for the third day of kindergarten. I was in the kitchen, working on my morning checklist.

Lunch - packed.
Backpack - ready.
Bike helmets - in bike trailer.
My breakfast - in process...

Elan was munching on a bowl of Os while jumping on the couch when suddenly he announced, "I'm afraid of dying."

I finished pouring the milk into my cereal while wondering what kind of response I should have to this question. Here's what I came up with: "Oh?"

Then he followed it up with, "Is God real?"

It was a one-two punch, all before my morning coffee.

"I don't know," I said. "What do you think?"

Now he was standing on the couch, one of his favorite positions. 

"I think he is, because he's in this book." He held up a copy of The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle, a book that recently landed in our mailbox courtesy of the PJ Library. By the way, everytime we get another (free!) Jewish-themed book from the PJ Library I always take a moment to be impressed at how organized we Jews are. My library of Jewish children's books would probably number about 1 book if it were up to me to stock it.

I thought about asking my giant-eyed child whether he thought the Ziz - an enormous yellow bird who, in the course of the book, ropes the moon and tries to tug it down from the sky - is also real. But I didn't want to shut down his train of thought. Elan's not the kind of child who constantly busts out questions and observations about The Big Things in life.

"If he is real, when I die, I'll ask him for a new life," he said.

I put my cereal bowl down on the table and sat next to him on the couch.

"I think that's a nice idea," I said.

"You're going to die before me, right, Mama?"

I made reassuring noises.

"But you're not going to die until I'm a grown-up," he declared. 

More reassuring noises.

"Like 22 or 23 or 24 or - yeah! - 25. You won't die until I'm 25 years old."

And then, with my fate and his all settled, he went back to jumping on the couch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

gettin' nothin' dun

Gettin nothin dun
Berkeley, August 2012

I am not sure that I have ever had such an unproductive day.
At least, not on a day when I'm supposed to be productive.

Worry, worry, fret
Scheme, talk, scheme
Vent, rant, process, chat
Crave a nap, crave a nap, crave a nap

Second day of kindergarten.
Schedule chaos.
Mental exhaustion.

Am I heading right, or going left?
Where am I supposed to be right now?
What am I forgetting?

It's going okay for Elan. Like I said, I think he's more ready for this than I am.
As for me, I've been trying to focus on work while really counting the minutes till Zumba. For about the last three hours.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

on cycles

When Emry was born, I had three living grandparents. Now, as he approaches his second birthday, I have one.

Emry and my Grandma Syl, New Jersey, June 2012

I was doing a puzzle with Elan this morning, remembering when he first started liking puzzles two years ago. He was six inches shorter then.

At the end of a 7-hour flight just me & my boys, June 2012

When Elan was Emry’s age, he had the same gorgeous wispy-curled blonde hair as Emry does now. People thought he was a girl, just as they think Emry is a girl now. When I was too lazy to comb it out and it got full of dreadlocks, the Peruvian woman who ran his nursery school stuck him in the bathtub, plastered it down with heavy-duty conditioner, combed it out and put him in braids.

Elan at 2 years old, Berkeley, February 2009

When I picked him up, I couldn’t find him in the yard full of children. I didn’t recognize him from the back.


Now he’s starting kindergarten. I know it’s a happy occasion, but everytime I think about it, I feel a mix of uncertainty about the future and nostalgia for my first baby, my first toddler, my first preschooler…

Elan at 22 months, the same age Emry is now, San Diego, September 2008

Today I realized that he’s better prepared to start kindergarten than I am to have him start. Is that what parenting is – always being a few steps behind? Always thinking that if you could just push the “pause” button, you could catch up? I spoke with my grandmother, and she said, “Time moves on. You can’t stop it.” And I know that, of course. But ever since Elan was born two weeks early, I’ve felt behind, unprepared for the next thing, like I’m forever caught still prepping the tiny layette while he’s busy outgrowing it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve held on to the thought it was because he was born early – that giving birth 14 days ahead of schedule set me on a course of catch-up. But maybe that’s just the nature of parenting, at least when you are a person who leans toward nostalgia, as I do.

Elan at 22 months, just after we moved to Berkeley, September 2008

I’m not sure if he’s nervous about starting kindergarten. I’m not even sure how much he’s thought about it. I’m trying not to impart my own ambivalence on him by talking about it much, since my older child can smell insincere enthusiasm from a mile away. And the summer has been so busy with travel and visits, there’s hardly been time. And now the first day is upon us. His backpack is ready, his lunch is packed, his clothes are laid out on his bedroom floor for tomorrow morning.

Blackberry picking in Washington state
Blackberry picking, Birch Bay, Washington, August 2012

I look back to the possibilities for this year Mikhail and I created together, on a cold January afternoon on the beach: love, light & taking the next step. There is nothing to do but take that step that scares you. Tomorrow, we will hold hands and walk together through the gates of the elementary school. 

Heaven for a Star Wars obsessed 5-year-old
Heaven for a Star Wars obsessed boy, Legoland, San Diego, July 2012

And today, on the last day of summer vacation, I took my boys to the botanical gardens for a walk and Elan and I baked cookies together while Emry was napping. I pushed "pause," even if it was just for a few moments.

Botanical garden, Tilden
Redwoods at the botanical garden, Tilden, today

Thursday, August 23, 2012

that thing i thought i hated

Camera Roll-889
View on this morning's run, Birch Bay, Washington, August 2012

My father is a runner. My mother is a runner. My sister is a runner. My grandfather was a long-distance runner. Running is in my blood.

But, up until about six weeks ago, I thought I hated running. My dad used to run track, and he wanted me to run in high school. "Do something with a finish line, something that's not so subjective," my dad said to his dancer daughter. Envious of my Mother/Father/Sister's obvious post-run sweat-streaked high, I dabbled in running. I tried running on family vacations in San Diego, on the beautiful flat boardwalk, and ended up with an aching tongue and itchy legs, two of the strangest running-related maladies ever. 

The only time in my life that I've run regularly was for a few months during my sophomore year in college, when I was suffering through a significant break-up, so miserable and angry that all I could do was try to run away from my heartbreak. It gave me a modicum of peace (though the antidepressants were undoubtably more helpful), but I didn't enjoy it. Since then, whenever the subject of running has come up, I've thought how glad I am to be happy enough that I don't have to run!

But then, two months ago, a weird thing happened. I started thinking about running. I read an article in - of all places - Real Simple magazine about a group of non-running women who started running. One mile. That's what they ran to start. And I thought I could do that. Not because I'm unhappy. Not because I'm desperate, or angry, or running away (except for that one morning, when both kids were hollering as I shut the door and ran down the driveway, boy did that feel good). Just to see if I like it. Because it's fast. Because you can do it anywhere. Because all you need is a pair of shoes. Because I'm on a quest to lose the rest of The Baby Weight before The Baby is doing arithmetic. 

Mikhail made me a short playlist of high-energy tunes. I watched two videos of "How to Run" on YouTube.

I ran one mile. And it felt fine. I ran nice and slow, and only one mile. My tongue didn't ache. My legs didn't itch.

So I ran again. One mile.

When we were in San Diego with my family, everyone got quite a kick out of asking me, "How was your run?" A standard question in my family, and now it was directed to me. I lengthened my run to 1.5 miles. I ran up the steep hill. 

In New Jersey, I went for a run the day after taking an overnight flight. When I came home, my Dad said, "Whenever I run after an overnight flight, I feel like my legs are full of lead." He captured the exact sensation.

In Portland, I ran with a friend, and she (gently) pushed me to run much further than I have alone. We ran over 3 miles, and I wasn't even sore the next day.

This morning, I went on my 15th run.

Maybe I am related to these people after all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

we miss you already

Matty Brams
July 1919 - August 2012

My grandfather looking at me, New Jersey, June 2012

The deep well carved by grief
is the space through which brilliant light eventually shines.
-Jessica Rios

Monday, July 23, 2012

sneaky, sneaky

They're so sneaky. Hide and seek post pizza in Cardiff
Hide and seek, Emry & Elan, July 2012

Park, pool, pizza -- a trifecta for happy (& then sleepy) boys.

Throw in a little hide & seek in the plaza of a beautiful shopping center and two gigantic pink-frosted heart cookies...what more could a little boy want? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

decoding that feeling in my stomach

This one hitched a ride
This one hitched a ride, Turtle Back Zoo, New Jersey, June 2012

That feeling - the butterflies flitting around in my stomach - is not indigestion. It is not actually butterflies. It is anxiety.

As mother of a 5-year-old who's prone to screaming fits in the privacy of our home, I spend a lot of time encouraging him to use his words to describe his emotional state. So perhaps having decoded the butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach will help me. It's just a little anxiety, I tell myself. No biggie.

It's okay to be anxious. I've got a lot on my plate. Just like the average mama-of-two-small-children, juggling sippy cups, tantrums, and doctor's appointments. Bills to pay and deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise) to meet amid that nagging sense of Am I forgetting something?

Bike lesson, windy afternoon
Bike lesson, windy afternoon, a rather anxious endeavor, July 2012

Every once in a while, I start to think I've got to have it all together. I start to strive to have no raw edges, to have the checkbook balanced and never lose my phone charger. To always be on time. (HAHAHAHA on the always being on time one)

And then reality brings me back to earth. Sometimes gently, sometimes more harshly. This week, it has been a fairly gentle landing. The anxiety is not caused by something big. More like a dozen small things, a general feeling of unsettledness that's common before I travel. Anxiety over remembering everything. Anxiety over checking everything off my list before I go. Anxiety over packing (I used to enjoy packing, back before there were so many people with so much stuff, and people who enjoy unpacking the suitcase as I attempt to pack it).

This time, there's a measure of anxiety over the work I need to do while I'm gone. The lack of a childcare schedule and designated time for me to work always makes me anxious. I tried to be all Organized, Responsible and Together and set childcare up in advance, but nothing worked out, so now I'm winging it. It's okay for it to be messy, I try to convince the butterflies in my stomach. It's okay to not have it all figured out.

Sat projects- coloring our new ($9.99 cardboard) playhouse, making banana bread
Coloring our cardboard playhouse, super fun until the misty morning fog crumpled it, July 2012

I picked Elan up from camp, where he has been for the last month since his Pre-K class ended. Camp is over tomorrow. As I walked through the trees to pick him up, I realized that the next time I'll be regularly picking him up is when he's in kindergarten. My eyes instantly welled up.

I'll be honest with y'all: I am dreading the start of kindergarten. I feel like I should be excited. A new chapter! New beginnings! But I'm not. I feel worried about how the transition will go, how we will both find our way in our new roles: him as Elementary Schooler, me as Mother of an Elementary Schooler. Preschool felt so safe. It was still on our terms, at least kind of. If we wanted to take him out of school to go to Costa Rica for two weeks, we went. No problem! But Elementary School isn't on our terms anymore. We have to conform, to fit the mold; the mold won't stretch to fit us.

But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps my worry and anxiety will turn out to be totally unfounded. Perhaps the transition will be relatively easy for everyone and we'll slide into our new roles like slick seals sliding over the rocks, finding their place in the colony without taking the bumps too hard.

You love that metaphor, admit it!

Mikhail's groovy playhouse art
Mikhail's groovy playhouse art, lost in the great Playhouse Collapse of 2012

As people tend to do, I'm concentrating my general anxiety about kindergarten, becoming Mother of an Elementary Schooler and what that means about Time Passing and Aging and Loss of Freedom on one small piece of the puzzle: Mornings. Mornings are both something I feel I could control (at least 50%) and a part of our daily routine that could really use some work. I simply cannot imagine delivering my child to school every day ON TIME (Butterflies!) at 8:15 a.m. (Butterflies crawling up the sides of my stomach!) without being a gigantic stress case (Butterflies batting their wings around wildly!) or screaming at my children every single morning (Butterflies chewing at my stomach lining!)

Gold-tipped butterfly, turtle back zoo
Gold-tipped butterfly on another woman's back, Turtle Back Zoo, NJ

Yeah. So I'm a little stressed out in advance about mornings in kindergarten-land.

Elan's behavior over the last week hasn't helped my anxiety. Oh, the screaming! Oh, the fits! Oh, the Black Looks! (I always want to tell him Don't start with me, I'm the Queen of Black Looks, but I don't think that will help the situation, seeing as he got the drama from me to start with.)

Looks like my husband missed me while I was gone
My welcome-home present from Mikhail after I took the kids to New Jersey, June 2012

Tomorrow is Mikhail and my 9th wedding anniversary. In celebration, we are going to go see a parenting coach who helped us when we were going through a particularly rough spell with Elan two years ago. We're going to work specifically with her on routines: Morning, Dinnertime, Bedtime. It will be very romantic.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

a nice, relaxing weekend

In Mama's swim cap
Emry, before the hives

The title of this post is ironic.

Over the past week, I feel as if I am being engulfed in fuss. Elan tends toward fuss naturally. Although his pre-K teacher and others who see him in a school context have a hard time believing it, the kid melts down faster than a popsicle left on a blacktop parking lot. In Palm Springs. In the summer. When it's 112 degrees.

Emry is usually more even-keel, and is much more the type of kid whose cries tell you something. He's got his hot-tempered cry. Translation = I'm mad. He's got his yowling cry. Translation = I hurt myself. He's got his frowny cry that ends with thumb in mouth. Translation = I'm frustrated/overwhelmed/hungry/tired/can't deal.

But Emry's been having an off week, the kind of week that ends with me taking him to the doctor "just in case" and finding out what I already knew: he's teething (the forever process), and he's got what's probably the start of a little cold. I'm always glad, however, after I've taken him in for one of these "is this really necessary?" checks, because there was that one time that he never quite seemed sick, just fussy, and when I finally took him in, he had an ear infection that had probably been hanging around for 2 months.

Anyway, there's the back story to me, getting in the car with 2 kids on a quiet, still-foggy Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. Heading off for donuts whilst letting my beloved sleep in. It should have been quite bucolic and enjoyable, kids in their PJs, me with my hair unbrushed, all relaxed Sunday-like.

Except for the screaming.

This time it was Emry. But he had been fussy all week, and so it wasn't that surprising. I gave him Motrin for his teeth, changed his diaper, and shortly after, he started yelling "Owie." Well, "owie" has been the soundtrack to my days lately, so I wasn't paying too much attention. But, 15 minutes later, as we pulled up in front of the donut shop, Emry was hysterical in his carseat. I found myself getting that kind of shortness with Elan that indicates that I'm stressed out, and I realized I wasn't really breathing much. I whipped out my cell phone, called my pediatrician father (yes, I realize how lucky I am) and said that I was really worried about Emry. As I said this, I pulled him out of his carseat. He was grabbing at his ankles, shouting "Owie" so I laid him down on the passenger seat, unzipped his sleeper, and found his ankles covered in what looked like giant white hives, the skin red and inflamed around them. "Holy $%#&!" I yelled, just as a turbaned man passed me on the empty Oakland street.

Yeah. It was that kind of morning.

I put Emry back into his carseat, his sleeper half off, as he screamed a little less when the cool air hit his inflamed legs, yelled at Elan when he started to complain about not getting donuts, and drove home as fast as I could while leaving a trying-not-to-sound-too-panicky message for my local pediatrician.

Now it's 1 p.m. and the hives, or whatever they were, after flaring up badly on his knees and a little bit on his arms and butt, were nearly gone when he went down for his nap. After a dose of allergy medication and Tylenol, he was a giggling happy menace, grabbing the remote and spilling Cheerios all over the floor as I attempted to unwind in front of the Sound of Music.

Julie Andrews probably would not have cursed on the street today, as I have. Twice.

The second time I found myself cursing on the street was when Elan decided to have a 40-minute scream-a-thon while Emry was napping and while I was trying my darnest to take a nap myself, feeling fairly catatonic after the stress of the morning. Mikhail was trying to get Elan out of the house, a process that frequently starts to resemble attempting to feed a hungry tiger without getting your arm taken off. Finally, I gave up on my nap, stumbled downstairs, found Elan screaming in the stroller parked in the carport while Mikhail tried to wash dishes, and wheeled my howling offspring out to the sidewalk. Then I cursed. Then I walked away.

I'd say there's nowhere to go but up.

Friday, July 6, 2012

more costa rica


We stayed firmly on the beaten track in Costa Rica. We went to typical tourist sites. This was intentional. Mikhail and I - and Mike and Maud, the friends we were traveling with - have done a lot of traveling off the beaten track. At times way off. But for this, our first international travel with kids, we decided that typical tourist amenities were right up our alley.


In Monteverde, we went full-on nature-tourist. We visited a butterfly/insect exhibit, a snake exhibit (Mikhail happily sat that one out), a frog exhibit, a hummingbird feeding area, and a hanging bridges cloud forest walk.

The butterflies were quite friendly. 

Perhaps even a little overly friendly.


Let us just be clear that it is not my breast in the above photo being felt up by a butterfly.


One even laid eggs on Mike's back. Perhaps it was all that fermented mango they were feeding them.

The snakes, however, were not so friendly. 


Although that's not fair of me to say. Maybe they were friendly. Maybe they would have loved a little cuddle. But they were behind thick glass, and we weren't getting close enough to find out for ourselves. 


Mikhail hates snakes. Elan's favorite animals are snakes. And his very favorite snake is the eyelash pit viper, one of the most dangerous venomous snakes found between Mexico and Venezuela. Go figure. 


Mikhail and I have a theory that our older child thrives off of oppositional energy -- not when it comes to school (at least not so far), or to his age-mates (thankfully), but when it comes to us, his parents. It started at birth. We assumed that, as a first baby, he'd follow statistical trends and be late. But instead, he was a full two weeks early. The weekend he decided to make his grand entrance was not only just before a gigantic work project was due for Mikhail's then-new job, it was also the weekend my parents, our nearest family members when he was born and we were living in North County San Diego, moved out of the house they had lived in for 27 years.


He says the eyelash viper is his favorite snake because it's yellow, and yellow is his favorite color.


Let's just say that, from the start, he's liked to keep us on our toes.

This was my favorite snake. 


The coloring on this guy is magnificent. And he's not actually poisonous, he just looks like a poisonous snake so that predators will leave him alone. Or at least that's the story I remember about him, and after 20 minutes of googling Costa Rican snakes to try to remember his name, I'm willing to stick with that story. Plus, I think there's a metaphor in there somewhere if you go looking for it.

The hummingbirds were, as Maud likes to say, "amazeballs!"

Hundreds of them zoomed from feeder to feeder, whizzing by your head lightning-fast, with their sharp beaks seeming only inches from your eyeballs. Sometimes I wanted to duck. But I trusted that they knew what they were doing.

They weren't upset by the red interloper, though they really didn't seem to know what to make of his price tag.

Then there was this.

Which was quite amazing, so long as I didn't allow myself to consider the possibility of getting lost.

Or anyone falling off a bridge. Which I did not consider, not for a moment.

The four of us seasoned travelers (not the kiddos, novices that they are) are known for our loyalty. Once we find a cafe or restaurant that we really like, we go back over and over. In Monteverde, that was a cafe called The Common Cup, which had the kind of Costa Rican coffee we were hoping to drink everywhere but of course only found a few places.

Note my icy, frothy, chocolate-y coffee drink. Yum.

And Elan's eating a cinnammon roll, minus the frosting because that qualifies as gooey. Look at that, the kid did eat in Costa Rica!

Emry was feeling much better.


And Elan was still in a really good mood.

At least most of the time.


*Starred photos - credit Mike Moclair & Maud O'Connor