Monday, January 30, 2012

Allstar, Rockstar

Friday morning I was taking Tim out to the VA hospital again. I like to drive through Golden Gate Park because it's less traffic-y and it's beautiful. Around Spreckle Pond there are always some geriatric people doing laughable calisthenics and throughout there are people running. After seeing about the 40th runner I started a conversation with Tim. It went something like this:

me: I really miss physical activity.

Tim: Yeah. So why don't you take Ada and go run.

me: A big part of it is having a little time to myself.

Tim: Oh.

me: Look, if I don't get an hour to myself to go for a walk my head is going to explode.

...and that's how I got to go for a walk Saturday morning.

Except for that I walked for a while until I got to Kezar stadium. Then THIS song came on my iPod and I started thinking about the track workouts I was doing there about 4 years ago. So I ran for a bit. It felt great but I felt guilty and I worried that maybe it wasn't a good idea. So I stopped and walked for a while. But then THIS song came on and I had to run again. I was only going to run to the stop sign but it felt so good to run that I went a little further. And on and on it went.

It was among the slower, jigglier runs of my life but it still felt good...familiar. I ran the LA marathon almost 4 years ago. As soon as I crossed the finish line I couldn't believe how much my ass hurt and I couldn't wait to do it again. One day I'll run another marathon or two. At the moment, if this is what I can get I will take it! I ran to and from work until someone was murdered along my route at the time of my commute. I tried running at lunch but the way my job works it isn't possible. I tried getting up before 5:00 AM but Ada changed her sleeping schedule to get up at the crack of the dawn too. I tried to take her to daycare at the gym but she freaked out one too many times and they had to come get me. So here I am - Saturday mornings (when Tim isn't on call). And she won't sit still in the running stroller - believe me, I've tried everything.

Tim was all anxious that what I had done wasn't safe so I did the only thing I could think of: I emailed my friend who has about 50 marathons under her belt. She ran every single day through both of her pregnancies and I consider her an authority. She reassured me of what I already knew: my body is strong, capable, and resilient. If I felt good then I hadn't done any harm to myself or to the baby. Done deal.

I can't wait for my weekly run/walk next Saturday! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Does Having Children Make You Unhappy?

Did anyone read THIS ARTICLE in New York magazine?

I read it about a year and a half ago. It stuck with me all this time. It also scared the shit out of me. Ada was only 1 year old then and I was still on a mommy-hood honeymoon.


Yet here was this article pointing out studies that concluded parents are more unhappy than the childless people around them. Pretty dismal, isn't it? And nearly every parent would argue with this sentiment. Nevertheless, on a moment-to-moment basis parents seem to experience more daily stress amid the chaos than their non-parenting counterparts. In other words, it isn't the mundane stuff that we're thinking about in any given minute of any given day that we find so fantastic about parenting.

Based on other more recent studies that considered broader philosophical issues like reward, connectedness, meaning and purpose it would seem that parents experience these feelings deeply. There is a bigger picture that makes having children worth it. The bigger picture is easier to see the further you are away from it. Retrospection about parenting makes us all squishy and proud of what we're doing. Could this be why parents of grown children like to warn parents of young children to "enjoy it now" and "it goes by so fast"? They're on the retrospective side of the parenting coin where hindsight is through rose-colored glasses: they already know the ending with all it's rewarding goodness.


So we have an idea that says we aren't happy in any given moment. Rather, it's the retrospection that makes us happy. Then we have an idea where we are reminded by people in a retrospective position to enjoy every moment. Hmmm. Well, now there's a circular argument.

Like the author of THIS ARTICLE, the "enjoy every moment" advice just makes me feel like a failure. If we aren't enjoying every single moment then we must be doing something wrong, right? Most of us already worry that we're failing our kids in some way or another. The intention is good - to remind us of the bigger picture when we're so in the thick of it all that we can't see the forest for the trees. The actual outcome is bad - this is just one more thing to add to the stress of parenting. That's why I love it that this author points out those fleeting, "magical moments of the day when time stands still." She calls it Kairos time, or God's time. In Kairos time you are graced by a glimpse of the bigger picture and it makes you happy.


Almost every parent I know agrees that having a child is by far the greatest, most soul-expanding love they have ever known. How is this possible when our stressful days are filled with the exhausting minutia of parenting? Well, even in the course of a normal day we are sometimes graced with a glimpse of the bigger picture through this so-called Kairos time. We study them while they sleep and we derive purpose from the idea that "this child is my child". We smile because they sing off-tune and their earnest effort is so pure we know we must protect this vulnerable little being. Our hearts leap because they run into our arms and we feel like the most important person in the world.  In reality, to this little child, we are the most important person in the world.

We don't have to wait for our kids to grow up, affording us the benefit of retrospection, in order to see that parenting was the greatest thing we ever did. Instead, for a few moments of every day our understanding expands so that we can see the beautiful impact parenting has on us. It's our responsibility to recognize it. The more we are searching for these moments, the more often we will find them - even in the mundane. With practice, we will be better able to access the bigger picture whenever we need to like when parenting is heart-breaking.We're doing ourselves a favor to make a mental note of it. Or even a real note of it by doing something like blogging.  Is it possible that we can control our focus enough to increase our own moment-to-moment happiness and prove those studies wrong? I keep blogging to prove that I believe it's true.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Swept Away...but We're Back!

About once a year this happens - I abandon my blog and pretty much everything else to come to Florida for a little over a week. Sometimes the trip is all about visiting and other times, like this one, there is a fair bit of business mixed in. But now, right now, I'm sitting on a screened-in porch next to the water. A lime wedge floats in my glass of brewed iced tea. There is a slight breeze, the temperature is perfect and the calm that exists before the storm is in full swing. The sky is heavy with dense clouds and I am hoping that Florida will deliver to me the thing about this land that I love the best: a thunderstorm.

Fast forward... I wrote that a few days ago. At the end of that paragraph the moment of calm reflection was interrupted as Ada woke up from a nap. That thunderstorm? Oh, it did happen. The rain fell steady as a metronome and I received a generous offer from my husband: to let me take a nap. I cracked the window so I could hear the rain a bit better, snuggled deep into the soft folds of a quilt, and slept for 3 hours on the little fold out bed that was Ada's sleeping place for the past 9 days. Glorious!

Our trip came to an end last Saturday and we braved the long flight across the country back home. Our girl is all sorts of disoriented and tired. The cats are milling about and Paka slept wrapped around my head last night. The suitcases are half unpacked and we have a plan to get the week started off without being too far behind. I'm already back at work sporting my new bangs and a Florida hang-over for which there is no cure.


LEFT: Her best flight ever. 
RIGHT: Not her best performance - but also not her worst. 

I love Virgin. The flight attendants at least act like they like my kid and I really appreciate that. They gave her headphones, snack packs, and free Dora and Diego both ways. 

The past two weeks have induced a major shift in the way I perceive myself. Birthdays, new years and major changes can create room for some deep introspection and I value those insights. However, I'm pretty convinced that nothing can precipitate a personal sea change the way that visiting where you came from can. The massive influx of memories can be so overpowering, can't it? You can't deny the familiarity, the way the air smells, the way the light sifts through the trees, how you know exactly how to get there even though it's been years since you've driven those roads. Mmm, mmm, mmm....powerful stuff indeed.

Tree tops, Myakka State Park.

Time provides the changed perspective. Destiny/fate/serendipity takes you to the place where you can appreciate that your perspective has changed.

Between the clouds somewhere over Louisiana.

All through the trip I made blog entries in my mind but I either couldn't make it to a computer to get it all down or I actively chose to step away from the screen in favor of experience.

So here we go, buttoning up that vacation with many pictures and fewer-than-normal words.


I love in-law family. Ada is over-the-moon for her grandparents. They watched her for us while we ventured off to take care of business (data crunching for Tim, NAVC for me including a 2 day intensive course on canine pruritus).

Pictures from my mother-in-law. She texted these (and more) to me while I was away at my meeting. She's so good like that - she knows I missed my heart.
Oh, and in the middle there? Yeah they took her to Busch Gardens where she met Elmo. I swear it blew her tiny mind and she was still high on the experience days later. 

Judy, my mother-in-law has a doll house left over from the days when she used to do counseling for children. Ada thought this was the greatest. She set the dolls up in all sorts of scenarios like (upper left) Ada and grandma taking a nap, (upper right) daddy and grandpa sleeping, (lower left) all the pets hanging out, and (lower right) Ada and grandma having dinner with a menorah. There were other scenarios that Judy took pictures of and texted to me. One is grandma and grandpa on the potty. I decided against publishing that one here. 

Did you know that there is such a thing as sand-play therapy? There is. Judy pulled her sand box out of retirement for Ada.
Ada spent at least half of the vacation on porch making sand birthday cakes for the plastic dinosaurs, which they would then gobble up enthusiastically. Of course we sand "Happy Birthday" to the brontosaurus.
I wonder what insight this provides to her psyche? 

I love my old friends. Seeing someone you have known for a long time grinning and throwing their arms wide open when they see you is just magical. I got to see some of my most favorite people in all the world this trip and it filled me up. These people make me feel so strong.





I love my new friends too. I always feel like the comparison of old and new friends kind of short-changes the new ones - like new friends can't possibly be as awesome as the old ones. That stinks because old friends used to be new friends and they are valuable regardless.

We met Carla and her daughter Delaney in Tampa. The internet is a wonderfully rich place, if you let it be. Ada and Delaney were fast friends - it's easy for toddlers. All Ada had to do was walk up to Delaney, point to her shirt and say "apple" and Boom! That was it. I've "known" Carla for years now and meeting her in person was as warm and wonderful as I could have imagined. We became fast IRL friends too :) Still, all the pictures are of the girls (no offense Carla, you're as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside).





And because it's Florida we could leave the children's museum past five o'clock and still play in the fountain without worry that the girls would catch their death. They were soaked by the time we loaded them into our respective cars and went our separate ways.




Isn't it funny how sometimes when you get what you want you wonder why you wanted it? What I mean is that I spend a good deal of my normal life feeling overwhelmed. It's not an infrequent occurrence for me to lament how little time I have to myself and to wish for some. Well, this trip I spent a total of 84 hours in a row, give-or-take, apart from my daughter. All I can conclude from that is that this little girl is the reason my heart beats.


My mother-in-law is generous with telling us that we're great parents. I have to tell you: I NEVER get tired of this reassurance. I spend most of my time questioning if we're doing the right thing by her. As I watch her grow and explore I feel more and more certain that our instincts are leading us in the right direction.

Poor AJ. She was a good sport - even when Ada had her leash wrapped around her legs and tugged her away from urinating on a perfectly good sign post. 


Holy, holy do I ever love this kid. Tim does too and it's so wonderful to see her love and trust and rely on him without question. I hope and pray that she feels like this her whole life: that she can count on her parents for anything. We would give her the world if it were ours to give.


We're home now, settling back into work and routine. Valentine's Day is just around the corner and time is speeding along. That vacation could have gone on forever and I wouldn't have been sad. Still, I'm trusting that I am exactly where I am meant to be. We're happy to back and embracing all that our normal routine means.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Knowing Her

Tim is on call tonight. None of us is likely to get much sleep as a result but what's new? Seems that with this pregnancy insomnia has been the name of the game. I can't remember when was the last time I got a good night of sleep. Call nights are stressful for him and that sucks. For me, the break in routine is always surprising.

When I got home from work tonight, Ada and I made scrambled eggs and toast together. She sat on the counter whisking the eggs while I tossed in a pinch of salt, a twist of pepper and a dash of milk. We make a good team - she loves to help me cook and I think that's pretty cool. After we had eaten those eggs she wanted more so we did it all over again. I sat across the table from my daughter and we said cheers and tapped our glasses of milk - hers without the sippy cup lid for a change. I studied her as she balanced her eggs on top of her toast - something she learned from me. We had a conversation that only she fully understood. I was in heaven. Apart from a minor disagreement about how many times I would sing along to her Thomas (the train) book the evening was perfect.

Our days have been hectic and forced lately.


When long stretches go by and I feel like I've been around but not really connected with her, that really bums me out. She needs to know that we're paying attention to her - it's the only real, active way to show her that she is loved and valued.  I don't want to let her down. So  over the past weekend I found more opportunities to slow down, let reality accumulate and just hang out with her. Inevitably, like tonight at the dinner table, I'm overcome by just how much I really love this kid. Not just because I'm her mother but because she's turning into a really great little person.


On Friday we dropped Tim off out at the VA hospital. In San Francisco the VA is situated on the northwestern-most point of the peninsula. It really is stunningly beautiful. On a foggy day you can hear the foghorns as the ships make their way into the bay. On a sunny day the Pacific Ocean goes on and on forever. If it's especially clear you can even see the Farallon Islands 27 miles to the west of the city. It is on these rare VA-at-the-crack-of-dawn days that Ada and I will drop off Tim and swing by the beach before heading home through the Golden Gate Park. I remember the first time I took her to the beach - she reacted to the sand as if it was going to kill her. Sand and bubbles, her mortal enemies. The next time I took her to the beach she spent a couple of hours moving sand from one place to another and back again with her tiny bare hands.


For months now, she gets to the beach and wants to pretty much run head-long into the water like she tried to do in Hawaii. She doesn't understand that the undertow will sweep her out to sea where it will unceremoniously drown her. It was a relief this time that she was content to watch the dogs playing on the beach or to walk along with me, holding my hand.


Something else quite magical happens during these early morning beach walks where it's just me and her. She is mesmerized by the water, soothed by the breeze and balanced by the waves. The ocean manages to uncover a wiser, older soul facet of her character that emerges under just the right circumstances.


It's lovely to watch but it isn't what slays me about seeing it. Rather, I have access to these fundamental parts of her that she doesn't even know exist yet. We all have things we hide or won't admit to. She's so honest and so one hundred percent sensory that she hasn't even developed a need to either connect with or deny deeper parts of herself. But I know what's there because I've seen it when she was this little and unguarded. I'll always know that this connection to the ocean exists for her even if she hides it from everyone she meets as an adult. I also know what she does when she gets tired, when her feelings are hurt, and when she's angry. I also know how she learns, explores, and creates. I love that I know her this way. To know her this way requires me to spend long periods of time with her. It's an investment worth slowing down to make.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


over at Christina's place today. It took my a while this year to decide what I thought of 2011 and 2012, but I think I finally sorted it all out.

Check it out. 

If your visiting from finally Mom, I'm so glad you decided to stop by :) Feel free to poke around a bit and leave a comment so I can visit you too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Acres of Diamonds

Today I was at work while the majority of the country took their official New Years day off. I was a little resentful of this until I realized that a very special and rare opportunity had presented itself: I could have lunch with my husband. This almost never happens but when it does it is romantic and spontaneous - great qualities of our dating life that just didn't manage to fully wedge themselves between responsibilities of our adult lives. We talked over steak sandwiches, decaf americanos and citrus tart. We talked about Catholic school for Ada and if we'll want to live in the Hudson Valley. We talked about growing a garden and how to best back up our various computers. We touched hands and lingered longer than we might have on any normal day. It was wonderful. I guess you might say that this was our 5th anniversary date. An added bonus is that childcare was already paid for. So 2012 is off to a good start.

On the way home I stopped to get some water and a meyer lemon because that's about all I'm craving right now. Endless gallons of water with lemon, specifically meyer lemon. I drank so much over the afternoon that I was too full to eat much more than a few bites of dinner. Anyway, I was wandering around in Whole Foods looking for something inspirational. I wanted to find something that would move me to grasp all the motivational energy that comes with the new year. While I was looking at the yoga DVDs I already have (but don't use) it dawned on me that all I really want to grasp these days is my pillow while the rest of me burrows more deeply between the flannel sheets. That's OK too so I gave up and went back to work.

Fast forward five or six hours and I was home. Tim started dinner while I folded laundry a few feet away in our bedroom. I could hear him directing Ada...something about bok choy...and I turned to look at what was going on. Since our house is small I then pivoted to grab my camera. This is exactly my perspective at that moment.


I love this moment. Him with her, her with him. Teaching, interacting...we only decided to have children  because we figured it was the next step to knowing ourselves more completely. Having children makes parts of yourself accessible in a way that nothing else in the world can do. It's pretty amazing to find that you can show up in a situation with more patience than you thought your were capable of. Or more humor or empathy or whatever it is. It's another thing to witness this happening in the person you chose to spend your whole life with - to watch them transforming from who they once were into a father. This moment was proof that we are constantly growing, changing and adapting. It was a beautiful moment and it didn't require a yoga DVD to experience it. What I was looking for was, once again, under my nose the whole time. I'm living on acres of diamonds.

A special post is coming up about the new year. Check back on Wed for my thoughts on resolutions, lessons and what the take home message from 2011 was.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Arrived While I Was Sleeping

We had what might have been the quietest, coziest New Years ever. It was also our fifth wedding anniversary. We turned down invitations in favor of spending a safe, sober evening with just the three of us. We were asleep before ten and it was perfect.

We were entertained by our singing, dancing daughter. Seriously, the singing kills me - so earnest and joyful!

Happy New Year!