Friday, April 27, 2012

Tights and Skirts

Tim said to me this morning, "You haven't updated your blog in a while."

"Really? Huh."  It didn't seem like that long.

Tim flew out on Saturday morning to go to a meeting in New York. He got back late Tuesday night but was on call Wednesday so we didn't really see him until Thursday. Ada was so excited to have her daddy back that she's been following him around, begging to be picked up and doing nearly anything sweet she can think of to get his attention. He's gone out of town before but I've never seen this kind of a reaction from her. At one point he flashed me that look that says, "Can you please distract her while I go to the bathroom for 1 minute?" Ha. Welcome to my world, buddy! It's beautiful for sure but sometimes you just need a minute to pee.


Of course, Monday morning I walked down to the car and got in. As I pulled away from the curb the car started shaking and the "service engine" light was flashing. So I turned it around, parked back where I was and walked back home. I forgot that AAA won't tow if you aren't physically with your car. Sigh. Single parenting and 12 hour work days weren't very conducive to getting things like this done so the nanny drove me to work every day this week. I can summarize the most recent experience in one succinct sentence: We're test driving some new cars tomorrow. But the American Classic did her job - we wanted this car to get us through residency and fellowship and it did. We'll throw her a nice funeral and even I will find something nice to say about her.

Sadly, as Monday mornings often do, this most recent one set the cantor for the rest of the week. Every day I watched as my schedule spiral out of control toward a shit-storm of chaos. Everyone at work is asking me if I'm counting down the days? Well, yes, I am. Have been for years. To be honest, it'll be a miracle if I last another 12 days.

The week sailed by with all of the typical distractions and then some. So I didn't hit publish on any of the posts I've partially written. That's OK though. Usually when that happens, it's because in retrospect it's better that I didn't put those memories into any permanent form because they didn't deserve it.

The one really easy part of my week has been Ada. Something interesting happens when it's just me and Ada living alone together. We fall into an easy rhythm of just her and I. It has nothing to do with the absence of Tim. In fact, I far prefer to have our family together. Maybe it's spurred on by my desire to do special things with her like take a bath together for over an hour. Or to go for breakfast together where we sit outside sharing yogurt and fruit:


Whenever I spend time with her like this - totally focused - she responds by being ultra sweet and exceptionally cooperative. She is really changing so fast and growing into this opinionated, head-strong little person. Today she told me that her favorite color is blue, her favorite animal is the giraffe and her favorite book is "Llama". She knows all of her favorite books, and there are quite a few, by heart. She recites them or at least key words of them.

She also picks out her own clothes. Heaven help you if you try to intervene at all. Making a suggestion is the surest, fastest way to a non-matching outfit. Over the past 2 weeks her favorite is to wear tights and a skirt every day. She also wears some combination of this ensemble to bed. With her shoes. One morning I woke her up to go out to the nannys car to take me to work. When I pulled back the covers she had on her Easter white patent leather mary janes. Somewhere in the middle of the night she got up and put them on.


In case you have ever looked at small children before and judged what they were wearing I just want to make it clear that there is no hope of intervention. So she comes up with brilliant combinations all on her own. My personal favorite this weekend was her lavender Dora dress, hot pink stripped tights and red polka dot shoes. Sometimes passers-by giggle a little bit but I tell myself that's because she's a little girl and she can carry off just about anything she wants to. Even this:


What you can't see very well is that under the Elmo jacket is a yellow and white stripped sweater. Because what could possibly go with stripped tights and a stripped skirt any better than a stripped sweater? Nothing.
Similar combinations have shown up at soccer practice:


And while dancing in the aisles of the hardware store:


I kid but don't get me wrong. Mismatched outfits, singing off-key, dancing any time, any place and reciting her favorite stories are just part of why I love her and why I love being her mom. I love watching her turn into the person she's going to be. I think she's going to be pretty awesome.


There is a happy weekend of swim class and Subaru dealers coming our way. It leads into a week where I'll cross into the single-digit countdown to being done with my job. Oh, thank goodness. I can't wait to spend more time with this one. We have our own little countdown. It isn't lost on me that these coming 3 months are the last ones where it will be just her and me. It makes having extra time with her seem even more important.


Friday, April 20, 2012

One Day Like This

We had one today - a beautiful, perfect, sing-the-high-praises-of-motherhood kind of day. Nothing that any other adult might consider remotely productive got done today. Then again, that depends on you definition of productive. I hung out with my kid all day - gave her my undivided attention - and she responded beautifully. If only all of my time and all of my days could be centered around nothing but her...


I didn't have my camera on me to take pictures of any of it and I'm a little bit sad about that. It would certainly make for a more beautiful blog post but frankly, I was too busy living the moments fully to stop and take pictures. Don't get me wrong - I love taking pictures but it still requires a lot of concentration on my part and I still only keep about 1 for every 20 I take.

But this day happened and I'm going to write it all down anyways. I could use the word 'perfect' at least 165 times but I'll try to keep it in check. I want Ada to know that these days existed for us. I want her to know that there were times when I dropped everything to just soak up the purity and sweetness of her presence. I want to remember it too - that there were days when literally all I did was actively love her. That being this way with her brings out her very best self. Today I hugged a little tighter and a little longer. I kissed the top of her head a little more often. I listened a little more intentionally as she tried to tell me a story, something she does quite often now.


It started with her waking up and coming to our bed to snuggle. She stopped to take off her shoes first, a very generous gesture given that she's slept in her shoes every night for the past week and a half now. She climbed up and pulled back the covers and then the most glorious part of my day happened: she rolled in as close to me as she could get so that I was spooning her with our cheeks pressed together. I breathed her in, smiled and hugged and kissed her sleepy face and stroked her arm. She said, "awww, nice mommy." After a few minutes I got a cup of coffee and she got some books. We snuggled and read together and it was very precious start to the day.

A couple of hours later we caught the bus, which is very exciting to her. The bus driver was nice and even gave Ada her own transfer ticket! Off to the brand new, 3.5 million dollar Mission Dolores playground. It was sunny. It was hot. She followed Alexa around all over the  place and when she couldn't find her she asked, "Where's my Lex?" because everything these days is preceded by the pronoun "my". Here's where I could use the word 'perfect' to describe her mix of independence and checking in. Her sense of sharing and being kind. Her good humor.


When it was getting too hot to stay much longer we all walked out of the park together and went for ice cream at the Bi-Rite. The girls played and ate their cookies n' cream cones while Christy and I ate our salted caramel cones. (Can I just offer the unsolicited advice that if you're even in San Francisco you must try the salted caramel ice ream at the Bi-Rite at 18th and Dolores? I think that this ice cream was delivered to earth by the hand of God himself with the clouds parting and angels singing and the whole celestial show. Seriously. Don't die without eating this ice cream.) Christy and I talked forever about work and kids and moving. Alexa had a minor moment of acting out because she couldn't ride the bus home with Ada.  I felt better that it's not just my kid that does this stuff in public because that's what it usually feels like. Then we caught the bus home.

Ada napped peacefully while I dozed in the glider across from her crib. The windows were open and the cool fresh air blew in off the Pacific ruffling the curtains that filtered the strong western sunlight warming her room. It was quiet and cozy. Her brother danced in my belly. I felt peaceful, content and sleepy. Mostly I wished that every day could be like this one so far.

She woke up and we got in the car to "rescue daddy" from the VA. She told me along the way about how much she likes her daddy. After we rescued Tim the three of us walked on the beach. Tim and Ada played a game where he tells her to march, skip, run, or walk slowly (sneak) and she does it without questions or "No!" The sun was setting, dogs were running and playing, the water was cold. Tim and I talked about the day and she ran up and down the sand. He told me about a strange pediatric case he read that day. My heart ached for this child's family and I reached down to stroke Ada's head again.

The first melt down of the day was precipitated by leaving our unseasonably warm beach. I could only cure it by promising a breakfast picnic on the beach tomorrow morning. When we got home there was an easy division of labor. We all ate dinner together. While at the dinner table the first song in the playlist (right) came on Radio Paradise. You know I love Elbow so it seemed very apros pos.

Ada is snoring a few feet away and I'm fighting to keep my eyelids open. I'll go to sleep tonight thinking of how great today was and how much I hope tomorrow can be great too. It can be so simple.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 Books

It's been a few weeks since I had my shit together enough to participate in a Monday Listicles. This week the topic is A List of 10 Books. Simple, no? I could spin this a thousand ways but the KISS principle seems the best approach. So off I went listing some books I love and linked it all up. Then I read a few of the other listicles. Awww, crap! In my book excitement, which can only be blamed on the fact that I'm a total dork, I published next weeks topic too early. I'm just going to roll with it.

10 Books that rocked my socks off so hard I could barely put them down:

1. Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
This story is one that I am still thinking about intensely days after finishing. For one thing, this woman lived through a horrific accident that took months of recovery just to get to the point of basic independent function. Then she went and relived it in order to write this book. Wow. Despite circumstances that would bring most of us to our knees she still considers herself incredibly blessed and is thankful. Imagine that.

2. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Margaret Meeker
Along with baby CPR, Giving Birth 101, and Breastfeeding 101 this book should be required for all people who are about to embark on raising a daughter. Seriously, it's that important. And it should be annual re-reading until your daughter is 40 years old.

3. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
When I got to the end I was just pissed that there weren't another 1000 pages to read. I could not put it down. For 3 days in a row I did nothing but read. Luckily laying on the couch doesn't work up a sweat but I still needed a shower when I got to the last page.

4. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
I read this when I was in my early 20s. It moved me deeply and awakened compassion and empathy in a way I hadn't really tapped into before - this character is heartbreaking.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A spellbinding classic. How interesting to have looked at this incredible time in history from this perspective.

6. Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch
My copy is dog-eared with sticky bookmark flags and pencil underlining passages that have been at one time or another, eye-opening or comforting or both. To a hard-core religious this book is probably blasphemous but I love thinking that God is really like this and that the universe really is this connected. It provides evidence of that gut feeling I've always had: there is something bigger and more vast than my mortal self can comprehend.

7. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Incredible read. So macabre that my morbid curiosity couldn't help but keep reading.

8. Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss
Another one that I couldn't put down. It really made me wonder about reincarnation and who I might have been in the past.

9. The Legacy of Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee
While reading this book I felt normal for the very first time in my life.

10. Baby Love by Rebecca Walker
This book makes me feel like less of an asshole and less of an outcast when I admit out loud that I didn't always want kids. Then when I did want them I was still afraid of my entire identity being sucked into a deep, dark black hole. Apparently for some women this is totally normal. It's also totally normal to feel OK about a major identity shift and wondering why you ever thought there was a chance that your baby wouldn't be the most captivating creature you ever laid eyes on in the first place.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Little Push

She did it again.



It was the end of a really great morning and both girls had a great time. When we stopped at the corner to say goodbye Ada pushed Sarah. This happened 3 weeks ago and I lamented to my friends about it - mostly about the fact that I was really angry with her and that actually scared me. This time, I was shocked, yes, but also really wanted to hang my head with my face buried in my hands. My mind was stuck on "Oh for fuck's sake" but I said something like, "No! No pushing! Why did you push her?" then scooped Sarah up and handed her to Kathi. I closed my eyes at Tom, shook my head from side to side ,muttered an apology and scurried to the car with Ada.

On the way, she sweetly pointed out, "Sarah's crying. Mom, Sarah's crying.

I took a deep breath before I spoke to Ada. Words can carry an unspeakable weight and I didn't want to screw this up. But I think I might have. I told her, "Yes, Sarah is crying. Sarah is crying because you pushed her down. That hurt Sarah, that hurt Sarah's feelings. Sarah is crying because of something you did. Ada made Sarah cry."

I don't know if Ada understood this all because she was still telling me that Sarah was crying. I told her how if she pushes other little kids that they won't want to play with her. By the time we got to the car I was really on a roll and I speculated that I didn't know if she could play with Sarah again. That it would be a miracle if her mother allowed her to play with Sarah and I could hardly blame her.

She must have understood this part of it because this was when she started crying. She was very quiet in the car. When we got home I told her to go to her father. He put her down for a nap.


I spent the rest of the day thinking about  it - about what happened, about my response to it. I was disappointed in her behavior, yes. My child isn't an ogre or a bully. In fact, she's typically very sweet, considerate, affectionate and lovely.

However, when she needs her personal space she doesn't really know what to do about that. I keep telling her to say, "no thank you" when another kid is trying to hug her or something. It doesn't always work though. It wasn't until later that I recognized that this is where I've failed her: rather than giving her a second step I just gave her step one and left her on her own to figure out the rest, which she did. Instead of stepping away or turning around or asking again or saying "I need space, please", which are all options I should have given her, she pushes the other child away. I didn't give her the tools she needed.

I failed her in this way and I'm miserable about it.


Then there's my response. This is something I think about ALL THE TIME. Words can carry more sting than a spanking - they can be so powerful and make a lasting impression. I don't want to use guilt or manipulation to make her behave. I believe that there is a much better, gentler, more compassionate way to raise children. Finding role models for this has been...harder than I had hoped. I'm figuring it out as I go, often making my own rules and mistakes.

Take  the day in question, for example. I might have said too much or been too severe in my delivery in the car on the way home. I saved what I really had to say to her for when we were alone, which made me think that I was about to say something I might be ashamed of. I consciously tried to not speak impulsively. I tried not to but what if I didn't exercise enough restraint?

I gave her the cold shoulder once we got home. That wasn't good. I reasoned that it was better to not say anything than to say things that were really hurtful and damaging. Does this qualify as with holding love? I hope not. Even when she has behaved badly I love her even if I am upset with her.

Knowing unconditional love is one of the cornerstones of being the parent I WANT to be.


Then there's the part where I have to be honest: I was upset by how her behavior might reflect on me. I was embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to think I was a bad mother or that my kid was a bad seed. I felt so ashamed of her behavior and wondered if my response to it was "right" enough. The only thing worse than kid A being mean to kid B is the parent of kid A doing nothing about it. I wondered if Ada would be allowed to play with Sarah again. I worried that this meant I was a bad mother, a bad role model. The fear from 3 weeks ago struck me again - one day, will I be so angry that I can't forgive her quickly enough and it creates a distance between us?

Have I already begun to fail?

Things happen with toddlers, especially when they're just learning how to control their impulses. We all get that on some level, or at least I think we do. Don't we? Maybe I'm over-thinking it but I feel like the door has been cracked open juuuust enough to let me see more of the issues that await us as she grows up. I don't want to be unprepared, to have not thought ahead and anticipated problems, because doing so also lets me plan my reaction a bit better. Somehow I expected that at my age I'd have a better idea of how to handle all of this. How disappointing to learn that I don't have the answers.

I have so much to learn.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


We tried before and it interfered with nap time so we quit.

Now that her nap schedule is completely opposite of what it has been before we thought we'd give swim class another try. So I woke up at midnight register her online for the same class as Sarah and Mia, looked for swimsuits that fit her and talked about it excitedly for weeks.

This was the initial result:


Then Sarah and Mia arrived and from across the pool we all heard:
Ada: "SARAH!"
Sarah: "ADA!"
Ada: "SARAH!"

You'd never know they had only parted ways about 16 hours earlier. The rest of the class she looked more like this:


My little fishy is back. And now when we wash her hair we remind her of how she showered with Sarah after swim class  and she miraculously doesn't even cry anymore. Well, mostly that's true.

Last week they told me that I can only take pictures on the first and last day of class because of "privacy". Lame.

Friday, April 6, 2012

where is my heart right now?

It's hard to understand where my heart is right now. My father is in the hospital again, my mother-in-law is facing losing 2 friends at once, 2 friends are watching as their relationships - the very structure of their lives - dissolve before their eyes and still another friend is watching helplessly as her mother plays out the final acts of self-destruction. Late last night we found out that dear friends of ours learned that their miracle baby had gone to heaven just the day before they planned to welcome her into their family via scheduled C-section. Within me are feelings of concern, compassion, sympathy, empathy and I-don't-even-know-what-to-call-this-depth-of-despair/it's-so-scary-I-can't-even-go-there-yet.

Sometimes life isn't fair. Sometimes it takes a wild turn from unfair to downright cruel. Sometimes I can't explain exactly why, if there is a benevolent God, He would allow a woman nearly 40 weeks to bond with a baby - to get so close - and then force her to deliver it stillborn. No explanation I've ever heard makes this make sense to me.

And while none of these things are happening directly to me, I can't help but hurt deeply and intensely for these people I care about. I am in my little nest sitting on a chair in Ada's room listening to her sleep, drinking tea and trying to make sense of it all. How will I explain things like this to her when she's old enough to understand that something really bad is happening to someone else? What will I teach her to do for others when they are hurting so deeply? And, the worst to imagine because I recognize how inevitable it is, what will I do when something heart-breaking happens to her? 

I have a hard time explaining it to myself or knowing what to do. You can't hug someone from 3000 miles away but it hardly seems to matter. Hell, I can turn around and hug my friend who is watching the life she was dreaming of dissolve before her eyes. And I have. But it didn't fix anything. God knows, that's what I want to do: fix it, make him take it back, rewind the hands of time so that it wasn't a day too late. I can't do it. Neither can anyone else.

Some things just hurt like hell and will continue to hurt like hell for a long time. It's horrible to watch someone you love have to walk a path of hardship alone. To want so, so badly to bear their cross for them for a while. It occurs to me that the stupid old saying is right: there are battles in life that nobody else can fight for you. At the core of all the supportive people lifting you up, in some ways you are still on your own. That sounds so fatalistic and hopeless when I re-read it. But I think that anyone who has suffered a great loss or a crushing set-back knows what I mean.

So what is there to do? The only thing I can think to do is continually reach out and offer over and over again to do anything they need. But maybe right now they don't know what they need. Not running away, not avoiding. Remembering that painful day in the future. Speaking with sensitivity. Send a thoughtful gift, a nurturing and supportive gesture.

What am I missing? What do you do for a loved one who is hurting? How do you explain these kinds of things to your kids?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Way Sunday Was Meant to Be

I woke up Sunday morning and didn't go to work like I usually do. We all slept in a little bit. Ada came and snuggled in the bed. We sipped our coffee rather than taking big tongue-burning gulps between morning tasks designed to get us out the door. Ada chose to shower with me. The sun was shining outside so I dressed her in a spring-y dress and stripped tights.

We dyed Easter eggs this morning, old friends and new friends. Lovely.


I'll turn in my letter of resignation this week, a day that I have been dreaming of for years now. My last day at this job will be 7 weeks from now. As that day gets closer - the one where the heavy metal door slams with finality behind me and my keys and swipe card are left behind on what used to be my desk - I feel like I am slowly waking up. Slowly coming alive.

Mostly, I'm totally excited to have more than just one day a week to hang out with my husband and child. It may not sound like a big deal, but one day a week as a family? It's been a real drag. One day to pass off the responsibility so that you can carve a wee bit of time for yourself. One day to do all of the visiting we want to do. One day to plan things, do things. It's not left much time for fun. Working every Sunday has been one of the main reasons I can hardly wait to be done with my job. I miss my family and I am missing important time with my family.

Last night Tim yells, "Hey!! Come take a picture of us!" Ada was singing If You're Happy and You Know It and clapping her hands madly.

More leisurely Sundays will be coming my way soon: soccer practice, grocery runs, newspapers being read, an extra pot of coffee being brewed, toasted bagels with extra orange marmalade...all just because you can. Remembering back to 3 years ago when I had Sundays off, I think this is the way they were meant to be.