Thursday, July 29, 2010

so sorry, child

After bath last week, naked baby:
round, plush, so new she's dewy;
skin, and skin; perfect pinked toes.

Today, feverish, falling asleep in-arms,
I'm worried but not panicked, yet.
But sad: how can pain exist
in such a perfect, precious package?

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

uncle!! uncle!!

I am ready for both children to not be sick and for the baby not to be teething. Both are cranky all day, one is pushing every single boundary (Every! Single! One!) so that I would like to put locks on all the doors and gates into every room. I would also like some Valium for myself so I can be a little more Zen, a little more relaxed, and not sick, and not mean angry mommy all day.
Ugh. Tomorrow must be better. it must.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

teething, finally

It's official. The teeth have arrived.
It's a great feeling, because I can say, "She's teething!" and know that she's actually teething. Not just being a baby: mysteriously fussy and prone to being unpredictable.
Now, don't get me wrong. I feel sorry for Little Bean (as I call her sometimes*). She was just sad today, and cranky, and you could tell she was hurting.
But it's just annoying to say, "Maybe it's teething" every few weeks. Or have people tell me, "She's teething! Definitely!" I mean, at some point, saying that has no meaning, you know?
These teeth, they are like Godot.

*I'm a lot more indiscriminate with my terms of endearment with Julia. Besides Little Bean and Baby Monster, there's Little Goon and Little Boober. I don't even know what a boober is, but Julia is one, apparently.

Monday, July 26, 2010

don't be flexible

Okay: I admit it. Generally, my goal in parenting is to let go a little bit and not be so, well, uptight. To let my standards slide just a bit.
But last week? I should have listened to my Type-A self.
Beach + mobile baby + very cute wool hand-washable* pants = one nasty clean up job. I was trying to be spontaneous, to not think about the consequences. I let Julia crawl around without removing said pants. Because she loved being in the sand! And after all, it's just dirt, right?
Very sticky dirt. Very sticky and small dirt. That saturated the pants so that ten rinses later, there is still grit on my hands when I touch the stupid pants.
Oddly enough, the beach is not a good place to be laid-back.

*I know, I know, what the heck am I doing, putting hand-washable pants on my baby? It's for cloth diapering, okay? And don't worry--I only wash them once in a while--since wool is anti-microbial--I just let them dry out! ANd they're fine! Well, at least for my slip-shod standards.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


We returned from our lovely trip to my in-laws two days ago. Something about our time there always sort of devolves, kind of like the stages of grief:
  1. Arrival: What acceptance we get from family!
  2. Hope: Our kids will always love each other! Our families exist in perfect tandem! We will get decent sleep while we're here!
  3. Reconstruction: Okay, not great sleep. Actually, extremely crappy. But with a nap, I'll be ready to leave and drive the three hours home.
  4. Bargaining: Okay, so napped a little later than we meant to. And it's Friday. And we have to drive through LA. But it'll be okay as long as we keep moving.
  5. Shock and denial: Ack! Bumper-to-bumper on the 101 to 405. Surely it can't be like this the whole time? Maybe if we stop for lunch, it will get better!
  6. Pain and guilt: Okay, honey, yes. You should have woken me up. Point taken.
  7. Depression (along with rage, pain, guilt, etc). We are trapped on a long corridor with no exits with one misbehaving child, and one screaming infant who keeps getting woken from a fitful nap. We are never leaving our house again.
And then we get home and start planning our next vacation. Apparently, we recover quickly.

Hats off to my friend Abi, who actually attempts real trips with her children. Check out her insight here!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

family time

Watching Lucy with cousins, I smile.
They are less close than siblings,
more permanent than friends can be,
and hers are such lovely kids.
How did we get so lucky?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the herd

We're visiting my in-laws today and tomorrow, and it's always odd to come here and suddenly only have one daughter. Because Lucy walks in my father-in-law's house and promptly disappears, joined by her cousins Ava, Milo, and Paloma. They make mud pies, catch butterflies, have dinner in the backyard, and ask for some privacy if any adults come in their kingdom.
Ah, to be three-almost-four and run in a pack...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a project

This morning, I asked Lucy, "Do you think you're a big enough kid to learn things?"
"Oh, yes!" she said.
"Good! I have been thinking of some things you might want to know about, and I thought you might choose. You could learn about butterflies, or--"
"Butterflies! and dragonflies!" By now, she was jumping up and down. "How do we learn about butterflies, Mama?"

And at this point, I didn't quite know what to do, because I had no Plan. I had decided just to try asking the question, and was half-expecting a tepid answer. I had no resources, no books, nothing in mind.

But in the end, perhaps that was better. I asked Lucy what kinds of questions she had about butterflies, and where she thought we could go to find answers about them. We found out about a butterfly vivarium close to here, and went to the library, and made butterfly drawings, and wrote down questions.

"Don't I ask good questions, Mama?" she kept asking me.
You do, dear child. It's fun to give you a chance to ask them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

it's never good when your infant is bleeding

Full disclosure: She's fine.
Even fuller disclosure: It was my fault.

When decorating, I've discovered, it's good to put the disassembled picture frames (with glass!!! glass, Heather!!! Glass! Think!!!) well out of the way of the very mobile infant. Because she will go over and slice her finger on the glass, and then gamely move away without even a whimper. And proceed to look through a board book*.

One hopes this is because it didn't hurt too much, and not because the glass was so sharp that she didn't feel it.

When Dyami went to pick her up, he was at first confused by the spots of red all over book, hand, face, neck, and then increasingly alarmed. He took her to me, and we quickly became hysterical (sort of a calm parental hysterics), trying to find the seeping wound, decide where it had come from (wince) and whether it was life-threatening. We talked in Loud Voices and Grabbed her hand, and I'm sure upset her Far More than the actual slicing.

Lucy, thoroughly confused by our panic, asked, "Mama, Dada, why are you afraid of Julia?"

Five minutes and a few douses of pure goldenseal later (thanks, Cord Care), we had decided that it was a surface cut, that no harm was done, and that the picture frames should perhaps move well out of reach of all children.

Ack. What if she had tried to suck on the dumb thing? Oh, Lord, thank you that she wasn't hurt. (Shudder).

*The board book is kind of disturbing: smears of blood on nearly every page. I think it might go into the trash, because the combination of blood and bright illustrations is kind of awful.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

star light, star bright

We went to the beach yesterday. Julia ate her first handfuls of sand, and for a while, she looked like she had a five-o'clock shadow.
We got home, and I bathed her, and still there were specks of sand on her. Then she slept, and woke, and gosh darn it, if there weren't still specks.

Except the sand was gone. The specks were moles--two of them on her face. It's sort of a fantastic moment, these little stars coming out on her; I wrote about it when Lucy got them.

For those of you who have never seen me, I have a lot of moles. Many are large (say about the diameter of a chocolate chip) and rather irregularly shaped, and kind spongy in an unnatractive way. They're fine--certainly I don't hate them, but they're sort of a pain, since dermatologists look at them, shake their heads, and say, you should really get those checked regularly.
I guess of all the features of my body, they wouldn't be on the top of my list were I to put myself together. (Though I think I would be sad were I to have to get all of them removed).

Something about having children, though, makes the little blemishes of one's own body lovely, poignant, and precious. Lucy's moles I know--a few on her face, one on her arm--and they are as dear to me as her eyelashes, her funny triangular toenails, and the way her hair frizzes in the back. Julia's moles, too, are dear. They are little marks that say I belong to this woman. They are little bits of me that got sprinkled on her. Like the chips in chocolate chip cookies.

They are especially dear now, when they are appearing: like stars coming out. They are like little promises of the toddler, preschooler, girl, and woman she will be, these marks that will be with her always, part of her face, as unique as her fingerprints.

I wrote a story once where a girl saw constellations in her moles--Orion's belt scattered across her belly, the Pleaides on her leg. It wasn't that great. How much better to see these stories unfolding in front of me, the stars coming out in my very own family.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

me, briefly

Describing paradise, CS Lewis once wrote
"Come further up and further in."
In up to my elbows here:
Children, challenge, partnership, beauty, friends, words.

Bean sprouts unfurl on our table
each leaf seeking and finding light.
I can see their roots sprawl.
Thank you Lord. I'm rooted, too.

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"ideal" is not the ideal

Today on the Motherlode blog, Lisa Belkin talks about "ideal" births, and how they are soo overrated. "The point is not to have “a birth” but to have a baby," she writes to a reader. If that means c-section, epidurals, "non-natural" birth, so be it, she writes.


I am so tired of the "you just want a spa-treatment" attitude towards women who want a "natural" birth. Perhaps some women choose to eschew epidurals to get little gold stars in someone's playbook, but my concerns were far more primal: I wanted to avoid a c-section, major surgery, uterine scars, and an increased risk of death. I wanted to protect my uterus against possibly fatal adhesions for future pregnancies, problems with fertility, increased risk of ectopic pregnancies, and increased risk to future children during birth.

A friend of mine recently gave birth to her third baby. Her first was severely premature; her second induced. Both labors were far from "ideal"--the second, especially, was horrific. Her third, however, was just what she wanted: she went into labor naturally, got to the hospital on time, and labored for a while without drugs. Then she asked for an epidural and got one--but it wore off in time for her to push. She felt supported by hospital staff. Throughout, a good friend of hers stood by her side, encouraged her, coached her, and told her she could do it (this friend, by the way, had one home birth under her belt, and is a personal trainer; a pretty good combination for an impromptu doula).

I am so happy for her. I couldn't care less about her getting an epidural or not--it wouldn't have been my choice, but it worked well for her. What makes me so happy for her was she had support in her labor, and she had choices. She felt comfortable with them, and comfortable with her caregivers.

Contrast this story with another friend, who birthed at the same hospital. She had done extensive preparation--classes, reading, etc--but when the big day came, she didn't know the midwife on call, and didn't feel comfortable with her. When her labor stalled, and an OB came in, she felt waves of condescencion rolling towards her. She ended with a c-section. What breaks my heart about this birth is not just a c-section that wasn't "ideal", but how alone she felt during a raw, exposed experience. Why is it even possible that a first-time mother (and father) can be meeting their birth attendant for the first time? For her not to have someone there with her throughout her labor? (Sure, her husband was a partner, but it was his first time experiencing labor, too) This is most women's reality, and it's absolutely appalling to me.

"Ideal" is hardly the point. I just want women to have a voice, to be able to trust their caregivers, and to be treated as equal partners, not as blips on a monitor watched by someone in another room.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a plea for calm

Dear children,
You know I love you, right? What with the smiling/laughing/creativity/soft skin/little fingers?
Now that we have that clear, I just want to ask:


The shrieking/scream at the drop of the hat, when you're done eating, or I won't let you have something that's not for babies, or when you're getting your diaper changed in a VERY SMALL ENCLOSED SPACE that amplifies the shriek until it's ear-splitting? Could you stop that, please? Or at least work up to it, so I have SOME WARNING? (Sorry I keep YELLING! I think perhaps my hearing is damaged FOR SOME REASON!)

And the four meltdowns because on a CD of ten songs, you like three, and have listened to all of them, and want to listen to your FAVORITE again, except it's not any of the three you like, nor is it the other seven you don't like, and I keep starting tracks only to have another meltdown half-way through the chorus because IT'S NOT THE RIGHT ONE, could we tone that down a bit, too? Maybe you could just listen to one of the three again, and clap in your adorable way, and then we could all go to bed?

ahem. I mean, Thank you.
and I love you. Very much,

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Berenstain Bears and the Unassisted Home Birth

I am always glad to find books that celebrate home births, especially since they are so few and far between. So to find an unassisted home birth in such a mainstream book as the Berenstain Bears really made my day.

The book is called, officially, "The Berenstain Bears' New Baby". Small Bear outgrows his small bed, and heads out into the woods with his dad to build a new one. He hasn't noticed that his mom's tummy is much bigger--but his mom pauses a minute to celebrate that "You've outgrown that snug little bed just in time!"
While Small Bear and his dad sharpen the axe, and chop down wood, the little bear keeps asking what will happen to his bed.
Imagine his surprise when his dad tells him he's going to have a new sibling!
And imagine my surprise when they come home to his sibling--already tucked into the old bed, and even dressed in white with a bow in her hair!

It's amazing: while they were in the woods, Mama Bear went into labor, gave birth unassisted, birthed the placenta, cleaned the baby and herself, cut the cord, cleaned the mess, dressed the baby, moved the old bed into the other bedroom, and got back into her classic spotted blue dress, her belly back to (admittedly round) normal size.

I mean, they didn't even mention the hospital! Or even a midwife!

I've always thought women who do unassisted birth were pretty self-sufficient, but Mama Bear really takes the cake.

you know you've drunk the Koolaid when...

You think, "Oh! Look at her cute little turd!"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

home inspiration

We recently moved to a duplex a few blocks away from the beach. We're renting a three-bedroom here, and can now walk to restaurants, the library, and our local thrift store whenever we want. The house has a lot of light and huge rooms, more kitchen storage, and is in the heart of a town that I love.

So how come I'm still trying how to figure out how to like it here?

Here's the first problem: I loved our old house. I wasn't ecstatic about its location (think Anywhere USA suburbia, and you'll have a good picture), but I loved the house. It was small in a snug way, we had painted its walls nice colors, refinished the kitchen and bathroom, and after eight years there, it was ours. I moved a lot as a child; I'd lived in this house longer than any other house in my life--by a good three years.

This house, with its fantastic location and gorgeous light, is a rental. It is decorated in boring whites and beiges, and no matter how I arrange furniture and pictures, it still doesn't look pretty to me. Or more to the point: it doesn't look homey yet.

But. This last weekend I pulled out my copy of Handmade Home, and started thinking strategically. For me, nothing makes home homier than stuff I make. I'm thinking a collection of art I make with Lucy, a few craft projects, framed in some thrift store frames. Maybe, if we decide to stay here long enough, we'll paint a few walls.

I think this house (or, at least, this town) is a good place for us. It is hard for me to let go of my old house--my old home. But maybe making some memories here by decorating it and making it home will help.

Anyone have any fabulous ideas for on-the-cheap rental decorations?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

feeling: wistful

Julia woke up screaming last night--
an hour after bedtime--very unusual.
I picked her up, rocked, patted.
She relaxed, head on my neck
Crooking, trembling, snorting, breathing magic.

She is almost nine months old.

I am all done having babies
I am all done having babies
I am all done having babies
I am all done having babies
I am all done having babies
I am all done having babies

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

do something

I just finished Half the Sky, a book about the brutal treatment of women around the world, and the amazing stories of women who have fought back, established support for other women, and pursued education, justice, and freedom. What's stunning about the book is how big a difference women's welfare can make; the authors argue that the countries that have started to tap the potential of half their population (like China and Bangladesh) have risen out of terrible poverty to a more hopeful position in the world.

I always have a hard time reading books about brutality, and this one was no exception. Truly, the things done to women--sexual slavery, domestic violence, neglect during childbirth leading to death or disfigurement, and rape used as a weapon of war--are even too terrible for me to think about. And yet how do we do something about these horrors unless we all think about them a little more?

At the end of the book, a call to arms: do something about these atrocities. Do something about the millions of girls missing because of selective abortions or neglect during infancy.

And here I am, lost. Sure, I can give money. In fact, some organizations I know of (Women to Women, Partners in Health, World Vision) that I've supported in the past, were mentioned as bright lights for women. But--what else do I do? I wanted to start by posting, and seeing if anyone else has any bright ideas. How do you support women around the globe who are struggling with vicious persecution? How do we focus our unimaginable resources to help fight these unimaginable horrors?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

family swim

Lucy had her first swim lesson today.
It went better than I thought.
She was quite excited about it, had a spiffy new swim suit on, and was excited and chattering until we got to the pool. Then she started looking up and away (anywhere by the pool) and edged over to the wall.
"I'm jus' going to stay over here," she said.
"Just sit next to the water," I said. I introduced her to the swim instructor, and backed away.

Let's just say neither me or either daughter of mine is much of a water baby. Julia has only recently stopped crying when I put her in a bath; I'm proud of Lucy if she gets her feet wet at the beach, and I can barely pass the swim test for the deep end at a pool.

So. She sat on the step with her feet in the water, with half of her body twisted away from the instructor for most of the class. She kept shaking her head no when the instructor approached. I was sitting in the bleachers, out of range, but I could imagine the conversation between my sweetly stubborn child. ("You want to--" "No." "How 'bout we--" "No."

The swim coach finally stood up and lifted her into the water, and Lucy trailed through the water with her like a limp piece of seaweed. She kicked her legs. She didn't look happy, but she wasn't crying either.

And that was that. She protested after the next time the instructor pulled her in, nearly getting out of the pool, so after that, the instructor let her sit quietly and worked with the other kids.

I felt ambivalent. I wanted her to have fun, to get over her fear, and I also was a little proud of her for being her stubborn self and not cooperating.

Then the lesson was over. I went over to her, expecting her to be upset; she had not looked happy for any of the lesson.

Her face was shining. "Momma! I kicked my legs and the teacher went underwater and swam! We did tricks!" She skipped out of the building and talked about coming early the next time.

Oh, dear child. I'm thankful you're so good-natured. And watching you be stubbornly cautious like your mother makes me laugh.

Monday, July 5, 2010


When Lucy was nearly two, I went for a walk with a mom I know from our church. She has two older kids, and parents thoughtfully and is stylish in a casual, hip way. We pushed Lucy around the block in her stroller, and she mentored me for a good half-hour.
Then we got back to my gate, and as I pushed it open, she said, "Be forewarned: it only gets harder."

At this point, much as I liked her, I wanted to shoot her. And pray that she was wrong. Since I barely squeaked through year one, and year two was proving to be a respite, I did not want to go back to feeling utterly incompetent all the time.

And here we are, approaching year four, and I have an inkling of what she means.

See, year one was all physical exhaustion and confusion. Not fun, but also simple, in its own way. Sleeping or not: this was a problem that was starkly black or white. It had no immediate solution, but I could decide on what solution (or no solution) I wanted to try, throw it at the wall, and see if it stuck.

The solution, however, was up to me. Which sucked in its own way, but was as I said, simple.

Two days ago, driving in the car, Lucy asked, "Momma, when do I start kindergerten?"

And the answer is, well, you won't. Because we will be homeschooling.

Except. When I planned on homeschooling, I decided I would listen to Lucy's voice, and give her a say in the decision. Maybe not immediately (I think kindergarten will be at home), but at some point. And her question threw me into a turmoil.

Because really, I want her to want to stay home with me. And knowing my child, she won't, at least at first. I'm fairly certain that once I give her the choice: home? or school? she will choose school. She may like it, or not, but the point is, she probably won't want what I want. And won't be on my roadmap, but her own.

And folks, we have not even reached puberty yet.

I see so many friends of mine struggling with this issue. The friend who wants to work more, but also wants to find a safe solution for her child with health issues. The friend who tried preschool for a year, and was planning on working, but then realized her child really wanted to be at home. The father who scratched his head at his teenager's not turning in homework she had completed--and getting poor grades as a result.

Parenting is this huge illusion of control, and a huge weight of responsibility, but ultimately, the goal is to take our hands off of the reins and let our babies figure things out by themselves. Perhaps not today, but at some point.

This irks me. But I have to ask: do I want a daughter? Or a puppet?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

you don't say

Today in the car we saw some horses.
"Horses are my favorite animals," Lucy said. "Along with dinosaurs, tigers, lions." She said this casually, as if listing her favorite fruits, and not some fairly large meat-eaters. Incidentally, the only time we have seen horses from not inside the car, she refused to get anywhere near them).
"Really, Lucy?" Dyami said. "'Cause I think if you saw a dinosaur walking down the street, you'd be pretty scared."
"Oh, Daddy," said Lucy. You could almost hear the pity in her voice. "There aren't any dinosaurs anymore. They all died."

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Lucy got new mittens last year.
Bright pink, fuzzy, just her size.
I don't begrudge her the mittens--
Except for the pink fuzz trail
found all over our carpeted staircase.
Vacuuming stairs? Not my pay grade.

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