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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

costa rica


We went to Costa Rica.



I think Tabacon Hot Springs is my new version of Eden.

Hot rivers and massage-style waterfalls.

Black-bottomed pools of varying sizes and temperatures set into the jungle.


At the base of a volcano.


There was a water slide, which meant that Elan was in heaven.


He was in a stunningly good mood for the first part of our trip, which we made sure to enjoy in case it changed suddenly. Which it did, but that's a story for later.

Emry had a fever for the first four days of our trip, topping off at 103.9 degrees. I had to buy a thermometer at the grocery store in San Jose (Costa Rica, not California) since it was the one thing I forgot to pack. Of course, it was in Celsius, but lucky us, we had the Internet, so we didn't have to actually do math while comforting a toddler who'd just had a rectal temperature taken.

He might have been glassy-eyed, but he could still live it up at the swim-up bar.

Kid's a rock star.



Our hotel room here was a splurge. But it was big enough for an indoor soccer game, so we definitely didn't go wrong.


And perfect for room service breakfast.


Which, when you're traveling with two small children, is anything but romantic.


But then you get this, too, which is pretty fun.


We were traveling with our Irish travelin' friends, Mike & Maud, who we first met 10 years ago in South America. 


Bless their souls for traveling with us and our pesky kids. They gave us a date night. They packed the car (our suitcase & duffle on the roof so we could fit all 6 of us in one SUV). They entertained our children. They entertained us.

And they took many of these awesome pictures.

I think this is my new happy place.


*Starred photos - credit Michael Moclair, Maud O'Connor
Thanks for everything, guys!