Everything Old is New Again

Posted: October 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Babies, City Livin', College, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Milestones, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers | 3 Comments »

When I first moved to Oakland I still went to my dry cleaner in San Francisco. It was a 30-minute drive, if traffic was with me. And it wasn’t that my dry cleaner was even that good. It was more about my denial. Denial that I’d left the romantic, world-famous City by the Bay. Denial that we were moving to the ‘burbs. Denial about change in general.

We moved because we were having a baby. And our landlords broke up and were selling the condo we rented. It seemed like the universe was giving us a kick in the real estate keister. A nudge to move to a more family-friendly area where we could have a house and a yard, and not drive around looking for parking for 45 minutes every night—despite how much fun that could be.

Other things were changing in my world too. Two months after we moved I had a baby. Then I quit my big fancy job.

It was like I was systematically removing everything that was familiar and normal in my life. I walked around like a person who didn’t know herself. When people met me I wished I was wearing a sandwich board that said, “This isn’t really where I live. Sorry about that screaming baby—I don’t know it very well, but it turns out it’s mine. This is NOT my real ass, by the way—or gut. And don’t even ASK me what I do for work. Unless you want me weeping on your shoulder.”

Thankfully I joined a mother’s group and discovered a gaggle of other women who were as perplexed and outside their comfort zones as I was. Eventually I stopped saying, “I just left a job as the VP of yadda yadda…” and ‘fessed up to being a stay at home mom. Over time I also changed dry cleaners. But when I’m out of state I still tell people I live in San Francisco. So sue me.

Fast forward seven years. [Picture pages being torn off of a wall calendar. Lots and lots of pages.] Speaking of pages, we had another baby, named Paige. And at some point before her arrival and after a nice long stretch at home with Kate I did go back to work. I managed to fall into another great job, hired a nanny, and alligator-wrestled with that age-old work-life balance I’d heard people talk about.

Slowly all these changes settle in and become the new normal. Eventually friendships formed and I stopped lamenting the miseries of Oakland. And when the toddler called out “Mama!” most of the time I realized it was me she was talking to.

But amidst all this acceptance there was still one hold-out. One pre-parenting part of me that I wasn’t returning to. Something I wasn’t willing to accept as the new me. And it was kind of a big one.

It was my body.

Not that I’ve ever been terribly overweight, but four years after Paigey’s departure from my womb, I still wasn’t the slim-legged gal I used to be.

Until now. Because, thanks to a hand-me-down elliptical machine in our garage, and a juicer, and let’s not forget my step-counting FitBit, this little Mama’s got her groove back. I’m hardly wearing the jeans I had in college mind you, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

Or, as Kate puts it, “Mama is strong and healthy.” Fearful of passing bad body-image baggage on to her, as she watched me slog through routines on the elliptical and blenderize metric tons of kale, I avoided saying I was “trying to lose weight.”

After three children—two of whom came at once—my friend Meggie has been kicking her own ass at the gym, and swimming, and doing yoga. And she recently dipped her toes back into the work world. A pants-pissing email she sent out after dusting off her resume reported it was so long since she’d worked that under “Skills” she had a line about “using the internet as a research tool.” Hilarious.

When I got back from the East Coast this summer she’d just done a Master Cleanse and had lost even more weight. I think we spent the first few minutes in her doorway circling and looking each other up and down clucking “Looking good, girl!”

After seven years of friendship it was kinda like, “Kristen’s ‘real’ body, meet Megan’s ‘real’ body.” Like, this is what I’m supposed to look like! Even though you’ve never seen me look this way, this is actually me!

And NO, perverts, a topless pillow fight did NOT ensue.

Anyway, Efficiency Diva that she is, Meg made lightening-fast work of revising her resume and getting it out on the scene. And in record time she landed the perfect part-time entrepreneurial flexible gig. Plus: free beer. (No joke!)

I am crazy, silly-pants happy for her. I can’t wait to hear about the “I still got it!” surges of job satisfaction that’ll hit her once she starts. When I first went back to work I was thrilled to just pee without anyone knocking on the door begging me to read to them. Then someone asked me if I wanted to go out to lunch and my head exploded with the fancy-free, Big Girl in the City wonder of it all.

I’m so lucky to have an honest, authentic, hilarious group of mama friends with whom I’ve hit my stride, and a few the skids along the way. (OAK-land in the house!!) And now we’re kinda reaching some cool plateau where we’re less kid-focused and can squeeze a little time into our days doing things for ourselves. Even my friend with a nine-month-old is impressively back on her game. It’s like everything old is new again.

Is this what they call getting your groove back? Except without the affair with a younger hot Caribbean man, I mean.

Yesterday I got on the scale. It’s one of those digital ones where the numbers go to zero, then you step on and it calculates your weight. The first number that came up was one that I hadn’t seen on my scale for YEARS. And oddly was the exact weight I always used to be. But then—like some cruel joke—it blipped off, and changed to my real weight. Which I’m actually still quite happy with.

But it was so weird to see that old familiar number I couldn’t help but step off, let the numbers go to zero, and step back on again. And weirdness of weirdnesses, it happened again! That old weight—just for a second or two—flashed up then changed to my real weight.

It was like some message from the Intergalactic Scale Fairies. Sort of like “that was then, honey, but this is the new reality.”

So how’m I feelin’ about that? You know, I don’t need to get to that old weight again. I almost can’t imagine being that skinny any more. Just like I can’t imagine not having my daughters, or moving back to San Francisco. But if my dry cleaner makes one wrong move, I am dropping them like a hot potato.


Hippie Birthday to Me

Posted: May 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: California, Discoveries, Food, Husbandry, Miss Kate, My Body, My Temple | 7 Comments »

I’m using this time while I’m not working to become more of a hippie.

My recent birthday might have brought this all on. It’s less about wanting to hang out in drum circles and more about wanting to be super healthy. Like, I’m someone who won’t use lotion with parabens, but I’ll drop $300 on a pair of sandals no problem. So whatever that makes me—a typical San Franciscan? someone who confuses marketing companies? a woman with smooth skin and over-priced shoes?—well, that’s what I guess I am.

I started my recent personal overhaul with my armpits. Because when you think of hippie women it’s that part of them that immediately comes to mind, right?

And noooo, I have not stopped shaving. I’m half-Italian, people. If I dropped the ball on hair removal my poor husband might wake up one day entrapped in a dense thicket of hair that sprouted up overnight. It’d be like those impenetrable thorn bushes that grew around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, except it’d be coming from my body. And we’d need the Jaws of Life to release him.

Though I guess a magic sword would work too, if we had one handy.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes—armpits.

No, the change I’m making has to do with deodorant. You may be relieved to hear I’m not forsaking it altogether. I’ve been using some major market anti-perspirant for ages. Then I shared a hotel room with a friend recently and she told me the stuff is loaded with aluminum. Which, it turns out, is wicked bad for you. I feel like I’d heard about that once, but then I saw something shiny, got distracted, and forgot about it.

So now I’ve started using some earthy-brand pit spray that’s $17.99 a bottle. (Hippie livin’ don’t come cheap.) It smells, literally, like roses. The helpful woman at the alternative pharmacy told me she uses it. And she didn’t stink.

Worst I can figure is I’ll smell like that basket of rosebud potpourri your grandma keeps in her bathroom. At least until my natural funk breaks through. Which’ll likely be nine minutes after I leave the house each day, or any time I do something strenuous like update my Facebook status.

My other hippie undertaking is that I’m juicing. I think that’s slang for when people take steroids, but I’m just putting lots of veggies into a machine and drinking the liquid it spits out. Mark got me this awesome appliance for my birthday a few weeks ago. I’ve become obsessed with concocting the most wretched combinations—kale, chard, collard greens, bok choy, carrots, apples. It’s like the darker and grosser it looks, the better it is for me, and the happier I am to drink it.

My friend Mary (also “a juicer”) tells me I’ll live forever. I’m happy someone’s paying attention.

Get this—I even bought wheat grass last week. Hilarious, right? It’s like one part chia pet, one part food product. I don’t know whether to glue googly eyes on it and give it a name, or mercilessly throw it into the churning maw of the machine.

I just hope my rose deoderant can manage the hearty kale-and-collard-greens funk my body’s likely producing.

The fact is, my hippie aspirations are nothing new. Six years ago, partway through my first pregnancy, I decided to ditch my popular O.B. for a midwife. I got super groovy about how I wanted to birth my baby—intervention-free, drug-free, and under self-hypnosis (I’m so not even kidding). So we went shopping for midwives.

Mark was a sport about it. When you consider that his dad is an O.B., it was pretty rad that he obliged my desire to overthrow western birthing conventions so I could burn sage and yodel in Sanskrit during my labor.

And his input on my choice of midwives was important to me—for an unlikely reason. Mark’s tolerance for hippies is much lower than mine. I feared that my labor would involve a long-haired, peasant-skirt clad woman dancing around and entreating Mark to praise Gaia and rub organic lavender oil on my girl parts. He’d be all annoyed and eye-rolly, and peacemaker that I am, I’d spend the moments between contractions trying to getting him and the midwife to like each other.

“You know, Harmony,” I’d say puffing and wheezing, “If you look past his button-down shirt, Mark and you have a lot in common! He was an Eagle Scout, you know. You live in a yurt, and he’s spent plenty of nights sleeping in a tent!”

“And Mark?” Loud moan as a contraction begins. “Harmony may not have a TV, but she does have a bike and YOU like bicycles. Now—discuss!”

I thought of this last weekend when I took Kate to the Himalayan Fair in Berkeley. I’d never been but instantly loved the winding pathways through the trees, lined with booths selling batik scarves, jingly ankle bracelets, woolen animal-shaped toys, and all sorts of tunics, sundresses, and man-skirts you’d feel totally comfortable wearing to a Hari Krishna cook-out.

Kate got a henna tattoo, we ate some vegetarian stew, and sat in an open field watching an Indian dance troupe do their thing. It was actually pretty hard to see the stage since half the audience was standing—doing those long-armed swim-strokey dance moves, closing their eyes and holding their faces up to the sun.

Let’s just say there were a lot of other folks there who don’t use Dry Idea anti-perspirant.

As I nibbled on chickpeas and took in the scene I turned to Kate and said, “This is excellent. I’m happy we can have some alone time today.”

She said, “Yeah, Mom. But, can we go to Target now?”

Ah, sure. The girl’s got a lot of her dad in her. She’s no hippie wanna-be like me, but she’s got plenty of birthdays ahead of her to change all that.


Mama Needs a New Pair of Boobs

Posted: May 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Fashion Tips, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers, Travel | 3 Comments »

Dear Readers:

Welcome to today’s post, which doesn’t happen to live here. But trust me, it’s so damn good you’ll want to track it down like it’s Osama bin Laden.

I’ll actually tell you where you can find it, but first, here’s the back story: I met a dazzlingly funny and friendly woman named Leslie at that Erma Bombeck workshop I went to and keep yacking about. She writes the fabulous, hilarious blog The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All, which you probably already read since it seems like EVERYONE does, including The Huffington Post. (Not that I’m bitter.)

Anyway, she and I got to emailing since returning home from the conference, and now it turns out that… We’re getting married!!!

Okay, so not REALLY.

But nearly as intimate as that—at least in the blogosphere—which is to say that she asked if I’d write a guest post for her blog. And I’m the FIRST EVER guest blogger on The Bearded Iris. So I’m incredibly honored. And I’m pretty sure she’s having a commemorative tiara custom-crafted for me right now. Which I will wear to my grave. If it goes with whatever I’m wearing at the time. Hopefully she picks out something I can dress up or dress down…

Anyway, so the post is called Mama Needs a New Pair of Boobs. It’s about some, uh, physical concerns I was wrangling with before leaving for the Mom 2.0 conference in Miami (where I am right now). The post is up on her site today.

So then, please CLICK RIGHT HERE to read it, muse over how delightful it was, comment on it, and share the love.

And I’ll be back with a fresh new *motherload* post when I return from Miami on Monday.

Or Tuesday.

But right now I’ve got to re-apply some lipstick and get back into the mosh pit at the Versace Mansion. This town is wild.



On Safari

Posted: September 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, My Body, My Temple | 2 Comments »

I now have an Infectious Disease Specialist. I feel extremely exotic and special.

At my first appointment I wasn’t sure what to expect. Aside from a possibly long wait. You know, typical doctor’s office stuff. Yet, the moment I signed in and turned to my waiting room comrades—a dreary, quiet group whose infectious diseases I couldn’t help but wonder about—I realized that I’d forgotten my Kindle. Damn it.

My book group has ambitiously taken on Anna Karenina, so I try to get a page or two under my belt at every possible free minute. It gives me some hope of finishing the book by 2015.

Annoyed that I wouldn’t make any Anna progress, I turned to the magazine rack to find bleak reading prospects. Diabetes Today, the AARP magazine, and some clinically-upbeat periodical called Empower.

While pondering whether diabetes was “infectious” and what that word reflected about my own presence in that office—Was it that I’d gotten something infectious or that others could get something from me? Wait—that’s contagious. So I guess I’m The Infected, not The Infector, which is mildly reassuring… Anyway, while sorting through these thoughts a nurse came to the doorway and called me in.

Notice how I didn’t say “a male nurse.” Why is it that male nurses are always “male nurses” and not just nurses? I’m fighting for the rights of this maligned group right here and now. Just so you know.

So while he was taking my vital signs, the I’m-not-mentioning-he-was-male nurse brought up the fact that he has diabetes. Not sure how it is that we got on that topic, but he was clearly trying to take attention away from infected patients like myself by A) being male and a nurse, and B) prattling on to me about his illness.

Though he did seem like a kind man. And he thankfully managed to take my temperature and blood pressure without getting all low blood sugar on me, or slipping into a diabetic coma.

And before I knew it my brand new infectious disease specialist swept in to start our appointment. To hopefully diagnose the mysterious set of symptoms that had sent two other less exotic and less special doctors off scratching their heads.

So he sat down and started earnestly asking questions and scribbling down notes in what appeared to be utterly illegible script. Which somehow validated that he was a real doctor. Maybe even a good doctor. The other thing that made me certain he’d get to the bottom of this—aside from his outpouring of questions, “What animals have you been around? Have you traveled out of the country? Eaten raw fish or meat?—the other thing that got me was his clothes.

Yes, I’m not sure how YOUR infectious disease specialist dresses, but mine wears a safari suit. Or more specifically, khaki pants and a matching khaki shirt. It’s very evocative of the kinds of ensembles one might wear in the kinds of places one might acquire an infectious disease. (Even though I got mine—if I actually even have one—in the wilds of small-town New England.)

He stepped out to get my records and I half-expected him to re-enter the room wearing a mosquito net over a pith helmet. I pictured him jumping into an open-sided Jeep, bumping over scrub brush and dirt to get to the nurse’s station. I imagined him hopping out at a dense jungle outcropping and using a machete to bushwhack his way through dense foliage towards the computer that housed my lab results.

No wonder he’s got male nurses, I thought. They’re probably trained to keep the wild animals at bay.

Anyway, he returned from his “getting my chart” adventure seemingly unscathed. And our appointment continued devoid of any thrilling aha moments or the appearance of monkeys. In fact, his summary of what’s been happening to me was about as milk toast as they come.

Essentially he mirrored what the other docs had said. It could be Lyme Disease, so take the antibiotics. Get tested in two weeks to see if you got a false negative the first time. But by the time you take that second test, you’ll have been on the meds for so long, you might not test positive then. Even if you had it.

So? So? So? So, that’s IT?! That is the finale of all these weeks of blood tests, MRIs, and “sorry but this will be uncomfortable” nerve testing?

I may never know what caused my limbs to go numb, my muscles to ache, and my joints to throb with pain. I may never know if I ever even had what they’re guessing it mighta been. And as a consolation prize I get to take 30-days worth of stomach-churning antibiotics. Hooray!

Call me demanding, but this is one lame-ass final act.

“Be happy you feel better,” he said. And faster than a hyena running up a tree, he was gone.

I’ve definitely learned a thing or two from this whole experience. Having an infectious disease specialist isn’t anywhere near as cool as you think it’ll be. And AARP Magazine is nothing to look forward to.


Paging Dr. House

Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: California, Daddio, Doctors, Friends and Strangers, My Body, My Temple, Scary Stuff | 5 Comments »

Should I start with the good news or the bad news? Okay, since I can’t hear you very well, I guess I’ll pick.

So, the good news is: All my blood tests have come back negative.

The bad news is: I have no idea what the hell is wrong with me.

If you haven’t been riveted by this story and following along from home, here’s the sweetened condensed version: I came down with some mystery illness after our East Coast vacation. It started with numbness, then achyness, then I threw in some jarring joint pain, just to keep things lively. I’ve had MRIs (and drugs for MRIs), been poked, prodded, and questioned, and had enough blood taken for a gang of vampires to binge for days.

Somewhere along the line my dad emailed me a guess at what I had—to keep those two-bit docs on their toes. Lyme Disease, he said.

I was giddy. Like, all hand clappy excited. Convinced my lawyer father outwitted the doctors. And they did agree that Dad had something there. (I had forgotten to tell them I got a weird bite in Rhode Island.) But then the Lyme test came back negative.

Which was when my first freak-out about WTF I do have ensued.

Thankfully, my dad isn’t the only un-qualified yahoo out there who’s been willing to float a diagnosis my way. Well-meaning friends have wondered (aloud) if what I’m experiencing is a by-product of bottled up anger, an energy blockage, or everyone’s favorite malady du jour—gluten intolerance.

Now, you might say that I’m asking for this, living in California as I do. But what I want to tell those people is, “Yes! You are right. I do have pent up rage. I do have energy log jams. But those things aren’t why I feel like I do. I have them because I feel like I do and no one knows why.”

As for gluten intolerance? Puh-leez. Gluten is my friend, people. In fact, I’m going to go and eat a big gooey glob of gluten right now and process it like a champion. Gluten is my wheat grass, California.

And while everyone else has a theory on what’s plaguing me, my doctors remain utterly baffled. Having a case they can’t crack  seems bad for business, like unsolved murders in the police department. So in a valiant effort to move down the path to some resolution, my doc started me on antibiotics—the Lyme Disease treatment—even though that test came back neg-o.

They say there can be false-negatives in the early stage of infection. It’s like I filled out one answer on the SAT in the wrong column then got everything totally wrong by accident. So I’ll take the test again in two weeks, with the happy hopes it’ll come back positive. “Lyme Disease! Yay!” Then the doctors can finally get back to their golf games, and I can assure my veins they’ll no longer be tapped for blood like a tree for maple sap.

But until all that happens, my work husband has enthusiastically claimed dibs on performing my eulogy. I have no doubt it’ll be fabulous. He assures me he can “fake cry with the best of ‘em,” which I find wonderfully supportive. He’s gone so far as to make recommendations on good dates for me to expire. His mom passed on 9/9/99, so he fancies himself an expert in this area. I’m lucky to have style-conscious friends with a flair for event planning who are stepping up at this time.

And, as long as I keep laughing I convince myself that when they do figure out what this weird numb, tingly, achy, joint painy so-you-can’t-sleep thing is, it’ll be something itty bitty and easy to eradicate.

But I’ve gotta say, the longer this lingers and leaves the docs scratching their heads, the intermittent moments when I do worry become more and more mittent. If ya know what I mean.

In the meantime I’ve managed to make my father sick from all this. It’s the craziest thing. The man is some supremely empathetic illness conductor. Like, when Paigey was a baby and was lizard-like with eczema, my 80-year-old dad who’d never had so much as a rash was suddenly covered with the stuff himself. A year later, Paige’s walking delays required x-rays of her hips. Then Dad called to report his hip was giving out, and he’d need a new one. And now? Just yesterday I call home and what do I hear? Dad is on antibiotics—for Lyme Disease.

It’s madness! The man is nothing short of a copy cat. I mean, when my father says he feels your pain, he’s serious.

When I was at BlogHer I experienced the bliss of bad hotel TV. I watched crappy shows I never normally watch, on a huge TV at the foot of my bed. Alone. It was a simple but profound indulgence. And I saw that show House, about the ornery-but-lovable doctor who’s the Sherlock Holmes of sickness. Every patient who comes to his hospital seems to be near death with bizarre symptoms that Dr. House eventually, handily diagnoses—and cures. Like, the girl who was becoming paralyzed from the legs up? In a creeping, oh-no-it’s-stopped-her-lungs-now fashion? She eventually gets discharged and heads off to school the next day.

Oh, it’s good stuff.

As I rubbed my numb feet together under the starchy hotel sheets I considered climbing into the TV and sitting myself down in House’s office, hopeful that he was in-network. But who knew how long the wait would be without an appointment. And I was tired anyway. So instead I rolled over and snapped off the lamp, put my faith back into my real-world docs, and drifted off to sleep.


All Clear

Posted: August 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Doctors, My Body, My Temple, Scary Stuff | 3 Comments »

Well the results of my brain MRI are in, and I’m thrilled to report that it revealed no pennies, Polly Pockets purses, or other organic free-range scary kindsa things you don’t want growing in your head.

And although I had a hunch it’d be okay, I’d still like to release a huge, resounding PHEW. Because I don’t know about you, but when I see a police car, even when I know I’m not speeding, I slam on the brakes. I somehow have that inner guilty-until-proven-innocent default setting. (Maybe on accounta my Catholic upbringing?)

At any rate, if you’ve been wondering where that tube of Sephora lip gloss you liked so much has gone, I can tell you with 100% confidence that it’s not in my brain. Check under the seats of your car. Or in your other purse. Or under your kid’s bed, because God knows lots of other stuff that’s gone missing lately is probably there too.

Now that my weird numbness is not accountable to any bad-bad in my brain, the complex migraine diagnosis is the front runner. But “just to be really thorough” my doctor wants to do ANOTHER MRI of my cervical spine. Which is to say, that I will have to go back into that Godforsaken claustrophobic loud clackety-ass machine from hell. And although it may not be apparent, I’m really NOT looking forward to that.

I used nice beachy thoughts to get me through the one last week, but I’m thinking that was a one-off. If there’s any hope of getting me back in there I’m almost certainly going to need drugs.

This, by the way, is nearly identical to my experience with childbirth. Whoever said you forget the pain of childbirth was probably a man. Because by the end of my second pregnancy ALL I could think of was the miserable excruciating world-rocking pain I went through the first time around. That first time I was naively gung-ho to go drug-free (and I did for a loooong while), but by Baby #2 I walked into the hospital bellowing to anyone who would listen for an epidural.

My doctor had given me some kinda Valium-esque pill for my first MRI. But when I read the label (this is a warning to others to NEVER read the label) it said all in big letters “do not drive after taking this medication.”

So like a dope, I didn’t take it. Because I was going to have to drive to work after. And because I’m a rule follower.

But here’s the thing. If you’re not supposed to drive on Valium-like meds, how do you explain the entire city of L.A.? Hmmm??? There’s a reason there’s so much traffic there, people. It’s all the disoriented drug-induced driving. And I really don’t think all those folks are on their way home from getting MRIs.

Anyway, my left-side numbness has taken a turn. And it’s not a political shift to the right (thank God). Now it’s just in my arms and hands—but on both sides. Granted, the OCD in me appreciates the symmetry of it, but I’d have preferred the numbness to just depart my body altogether.

So it turns out the doctor also wants me to have carpal tunnel testing. (Like, maybe I have that, and also had a complex migraine?) She explained the carpal tunnel test involves “a series of needle pricks up and down your arms,” which she confessed “is not terribly comfortable.”


When I went to the front desk to schedule the test, I was informed that it would take 90 minutes. 90 minutes?!? Of NEEDLE pricks?

Twenty minutes doped-up in an MRI machine is starting to looking better all the time.



Posted: September 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Kindergarten, Milestones, Miss Kate, Moods, Music, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sleep, Summer | 1 Comment »

I am so very tired.

It’d be one thing if it was just on accounta getting up at 6AM day after day, since in some late-night at-my-computer moment of bravado I signed up for the FIVE day-a-week boot camp. (Oy! What was I thinkin’?) I mean, that alone would be a really excellent reason to be tired.

But add to that the fact that my darling dumpling of a two-and-a-half year old has decided to regress to the sleeping habits of a two-and-a-half month old. This from the girl who has always been a star sleeper.

Alas, no more.

Who knows if it’s her new Big Girl Bed, or a sudden spate of nightmares, or some over-achiever desire to get back at us in advance for all the ways we’re certain to deny her things, dislike her boyfriends, and piss her off in the course of her life.

Whatever the case, she wails for me from the moment I click her door closed at night. But—from all we’ve read—when I go back in to comfort her I’m just rewarding her yowls. So now Mark uses his resonant I-used-to-be-a-DJ voice to say through the closed door “It’s time to sleep now, Paige.” It’s friendly, but firm.

Oddly, this at times has the effect of Paige stopping mid-hysterical-sob, and responding in a sunny tone, “Alright, Dada!”

But the relief is only temporary. Once we get into the dark cozy REM hours of the night she rises up with the gusto of a pregnant vampire on the prowl for a midnight snack. She cries. She screams. She beseeches “MAAAAA-Ma! Dada! I waaaaaaant you!” And sometimes, just to mix it up, she tramps out of bed and ambles down the hall to our room. (It’s always creepy to be awakened by a child standing silently by your bed. Even if she’s yours, and she’s cute, and she’s not holding a meat cleaver.)

Mark and I alerted the neighbors that we are not waterboarding Paige, despite what her tortured nighttime vocalizations might infer. And we’re methodically working our way through different approaches to getting her to freakin’ sleep again. Although she’s had some intermittent nights of solid sleep—just to really fuck with us—for the most part nothing has worked.

So if you’re interested in coming to babysit for a week and taking a crack at this issue yourself, we’ll happily vacate the place at a moment’s notice.

Sudden thought: Is this some Darwinian toddler phase that emerges to remind parents who’re considering another child about the hellish newborn months of sleep deprivation? Not that we ARE considering another kid…

At any rate, something to think about.

In the final school-free days of summer, and with me work-free, it’s actually been somewhat manageable plodding through the days in a sleepy haze. Sometimes it’s even fun, in a distorted art student life-perspective kinda way.

I mean, have you ever had one of those days that unfolds like a play? Kinda like when you’re reading a book and you know that the writer was really trying to get a movie deal, just based on how it’s all laid out? Well, I had a day last week that felt totally like it wasn’t meant to be a day, but some sort of series of staged events.

For starters, my sleepiness was keeping me more distanced from things way more than I’m used to. Un-shy gal that I am, I usually feel pretty integrated in whatever’s happening around me. But it’s like I was in some weird deaf-mute alternate universe where things were unfolding around me in strictly choreographed little dramatic sequences, and I just happened to be there watching. Like some invisible Ebenezer Scrooge.

It started at boot camp. As most of my days recently do.

Instead of the punishing rounds of weights and bands and medicine balls and lunges/squats/lat blasts, we did our usual punishing frenzied-fast warm-up but were then told we were going to have a break in our routine. We’d just be running around the lake.

And can I just say that Lake Merrit is a fascinating place at 6AM? It’s like when you’re driving to the airport at some ungodly early hour and you can’t believe there are other cars on the road. Something that always prompts Kate to ask questions like, “Are the people in those cars taking a plane to see Grandpa in Rhode Island too?”

Yeah so there are ALL THESE PEOPLE awake and out and doing exercisey stuff at the lake. As I ran I got totally absorbed in watching them pass by. It was like I was in some Spike Lee movie and was gliding along smoothly on some conveyor belt that let me really stare at each person as they passed by.

There was a trio of old Chinese ladies in foamy trucker-style baseball caps and over-sized fleece jackets. One young woman had on a blue silk scarf babushka-style, and was clutching a cell phone to her ear as she scuttled past. There was even a buff black guy, pitted out in gray sweats, who was bobbing in place and doing little boxing jabs. (People really DO those?) Even the dogs looked like they were from Central Casting—one small, white, and scruffy, a big dopey Lab, then a vicious looking brindled Pit. An assortment as diverse Oakland’s human population. Everyone seemed to placed there intentionally to set the tableau of “the lake at dawn,” but it was so well-done, I almost couldn’t buy it.

Do you know what I mean? Like, I was totally anticipating the credits where the scarf-clad woman on the phone would be Babushka Caller #1.

And then later, when I’d shaken myself loose from the scene, gotten home, showered, and collected the still-on-summer-break kids, we went to the lake. A different, swimming lake. And there it was just more of the same. A series of mothers and kids on blankets under umbrellas lined up along shore. They were too perfectly spaced out to be real.

I saw one Mama I vaguely know and we start chatting, while our kids (her boys, my girls) ignore each other. Then, Mother #1—at the far end of the beach—her umbrella get swept up in the wind and tumbles a few times. She catches it, and runs up to my kinda friend. “Hey, could I borrow your hammer again?” Uh… HAMMER? And then Kinda Friend pulls a big rubber mallet from her L.L. Bean bag as if it’s a bottle of sunscreen.

“You, have a mallet with you?” I ask, trying to modulate the shock out of my voice. She carries it, she says, to secure her beach umbrella. Really bang that bottom stake down into the sand.


And this woman is so petite and mild mannered. She’s a nurse for God’s sake. In my sleepy haze it struck me as surreal for her to have a sledge hammer in her tote. And to act like it was no big thing.

After she leaves I get to chatting with Mom #3, the one closest to my blanket. She’s got her own two kids and another in tow who’s a total terror. He’s taking buckets of wet sand and running up from the shore to dump them on people’s blankets. In fact, since I’m standing a bit away from it, he chooses my blanket for this lovely gift. Mom #3 was mortified. She was virtually pulling his ear to get him to apologize, and clearly wanting to illuminate some NOT MY KID sign over the boy’s head.

Later in our conversation, Mom #3 and I were swapping school stories and she tells me that Holy Terror Boy goes to none other than Kate’s soon-to-be new school.


It was three days before school started. I took this tidbit as any rational mother would—as a strong premonition to Kate’s future life of crime.

As the day wore on Mortified Playdate Mom’s umbrella goes flying. As I run down the beach with her to help grab it, she turns to me and says, “Ugh. I wish your friend with the hammer was still here.”

And I just kinda stopped, imagining the morning tableau of mothers and kids arriving lakeside, and—despite not knowing each other—all taking turns with the beach-umbrella mallet like some weird “We Can Do It” poster come to life.

Later that day, we drove through the car wash. Kate and Paige were with me, and they’re pretty enthralled with the drama of the whirling brushes, long slappy rubber strips, and squiggly squirts of pink wax. We happened to be listening to our Nutcracker CD at the time. And as I put the car in neutral, I turned the music way up and we sat back. It was as if each new swishing slapping squirting movement came in perfect syncopation with the music.

It was better than fireworks.

If you have never been very very sleepy and gotten your car washed to the soundtrack from The Nutcracker, I highly recommend it.

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Digging Out

Posted: August 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Discoveries, Extended Family, Little Rhody, Milestones, Moods, My Body, My Temple, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep, Summer, Travel | 2 Comments »

One night last week my sister walked into her kitchen to find her nine-year-old son in a laundry bag. A bag that he’d voluntarily put himself in. Because I guess that’s what you do when you’re a nine-year-old boy.

It was mesh, so it wasn’t like he was struggling for air or anything. And he wasn’t alone. He was hanging out with his best friend. His friend who, for nearly A HALF-HOUR, had been trying unsuccessfully to un-knot the top of the bag.

And here’s the thing. My sister was upstairs THE WHOLE TIME. Had the boys thought to get her for help? Apparently not. She even asked if they didn’t find her because they thought she might be mad or something. They said no. Word was, they just hadn’t thought to get her.

I can’t help but think this is a boy thing. Like the young male version of not asking for directions.

As my sister was working to free him he tells her, “I’m starting to feel kinda weird in here.”


I’d have lasted four seconds in there before screaming and thrashing around like a Tazmanian Devil. Not only would someone upstairs know I needed help, the whole block would.

But the fact is, sometimes you get yourself into a tight spot and it’s kinda hard to know how dig yourself out. I was like that for a short while when I get back from Little Rhody. Not in a super bad place, but just glum. The craptastic Bay Area weather plus a large dose of nothing-much-going-on had me in a vague fog. And seeing as I generally operate like a chihuahua on caffeine (at least, in the words of my dear friend Kevin), this nebulous floating about was distasteful.

So I did what any sane woman would do. I started washing down pillows.

You know, took on an extremely low priority project and threw myself into it as if I was single-handedly redoing the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Oh, did I wash pillows. Then I tossed them in the dryer with tennis balls to dry and fluff ‘em all up nice. Once one set was done I’d nearly yank a pillow from beneath Mark’s sleeping head to start in on more.

It was a strange yet effective form of therapy. I was making just enough progress on an utterly unnecessary project that my morose mood was replaced by a mild sense of satisfaction. And since I have an addictive personality, I took my usual more-is-more approach. (Note: If anyone in my neighborhood would like their pillows laundered, please leave them on my front porch. I probably won’t hear the doorbell ring since the tennis balls in the dryer are fairly loud.)

Today, having come near the end of what turns out to be our thrillingly-large pillow inventory, I stumbled across a twin duvet I forgot we had. Perfect for Paige’s new Big Girl Bed! And an excellent item to, well, wash.

Pillow mites are watching their nightly newscasts and shielding their children’s eyes from pictures of me. I’m like the Saddam Hussein of the pillow mite community.

I’m considering opening a bed and breakfast for severe allergy sufferers. Why hoard all this pristine hypo-allergenic bedding for my family’s sole use?

Anyway, speaking of Paigey’s Big Girl Bed—and believe me, she and I seem to spend half our days discussing its merits—the other thing I’ve been doing to occupy myself is re-arranging the furniture in her room. This, it turns out, is also good therapy—albeit somewhat disorienting to the poor girl. She leaves her room for a five-minute snack, and on her way back in slams into a dresser I’ve impulsively moved catty-corner in her doorway.

I just can’t help myself. I’ve explored varying degrees of good and bad feng shui (a bed facing towards the door = a no-no). I’ve exhausted nearly every configuration of the contents of the room. And finally on this “project” I’m also slapping my hands together with a smug sense of accomplishment. I’ve settled on one layout I’ve been willing to keep in place for three days now. This, it seems, is progress.

Other things have helped my disposition get sunnier, despite the thick Bay Area fog. We’re off to Palm Springs at the end of the week—a trip I hastily planned in a desperate heat-seeking mission. And one day after our return from there, we set out for our Minnesotan lake vaycay.

And back on the homefront I signed up for a boot camp. You know, I’m paying some petite drill sargeant to yell at and disparage me as I do wind sprints by Lake Merrit, then fall to the sidewalk for endless rounds of push-ups. At 6:30 in the morning. This started today in fact, and aside from the regular Advil-overdosing I anticipate I’ll be doing, I think this ass-kickin’ is just what my lazy ass needed.

Though waking up at 5:45 was especially brutal. Miss Paige, ever the ringer for sleep, has been discombobulated of late. For years babysitters have gloated about “how easily she goes down.” But in the past few weeks her Sleep Super Power has been out of whack. At bedtime she’ll appear to have fallen asleep, but 45 minutes later will call out, “I want MY MAMA!” in her most desperate and dramatic wail. We’re popping up two to three times a night to settle her down, like she’s a newborn again. You’d think the steady thrum of the tennis balls in the dryer would soothe her back to sleep. But no dice. Much more of this and I’ll be asking for my money back.

Then in the morning, the poor thing calls out to us as if she’s shackled to the mattress. This happens to be my favorite non-intelligent behavior in my children: the fact that once they moved into twin beds they didn’t figure out that they were FREE TO GET OUT on their own.

But really, like I said, sometimes you’re just feeling stuck—be it in a laundry bag, a funk, or a bed that you forgot isn’t your crib any more.

So what’s been happening most mornings is we send Kate into Paige’s room to tell her she can get out of bed. Then she pops right out like a trained Cocker Spaniel and shows up in the kitchen, beaming and wild-haired, announcing proudly, “I got up, Mama!”

Hopefully by the time she goes away to college we’ll get her self-prompting to get out of bed. In the meantime, she’s one member of the family I’m happy to keep in the fog.


Depends on How You Look at It

Posted: April 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Doctors, Miss Kate, My Body, My Temple, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preg-o | 3 Comments »

When I was pregnant with Paige—and with Kate too—my right eye went on temporary hiatus. I have a strange neurological wiring problem that flares up now and then. My own rare medical malady. Like the fact that I’ve never seen Star Wars, it’s one of the few things that set me apart from most of humanity.

And desperate as I was to land impossible-to-get appointments with specialists, once I got in to see them they all just patted my hand and told me to wait it out. There ain’t much you can do about this thing. ‘Specially when you’re pregnant.

But sitting around waiting for something to happen is my personal brand of hell. So I took up with a well-respected mad genius-type Chinese acupuncturist. Or rather, put myself in his care.

The Bay Area’s alternate-health gurus all claimed this guy was The Best. Despite his ramshackle office, located deep in San Francisco’s foggy Avenues. almost out out by the beach, I was supposedly in the care of a world-class healer. Plus, tacked to the wall in the waiting room was a picture of Robin Williams mugging with the good doctor. To a long-time People subscriber, there’s no better testament to a doctor’s competence than his having a celebrity patient.

During my visits, Dr. Q would look at my tongue, take my pulse, and inform me that my gall bladder was grumpy. Other times he’d say my liver was woody, or my blood sluggish. At least those were the kinds of things I remember him saying.

In fact, I understood nearly nothing about his assessments, and that had little to do with his limited English. His form of healing was just damn different from anything I’d known before. Despite that, I gave myself over to his needle wielding wholeheartedly and in good faith. I was desperate, helpless, and more than anything, bored. There’s not much one can do with one eye. Reading is tiring. TV is depressing. And computer work is out of the question.

One can eat. And one can worry. So my visits to his office were in large part a hopefully-helpful distraction. One that my insurance didn’t cover.

Aside from my bizarre eye issue—which, granted, most people would trade for several months of gut-churning nausea—my pregnancies were marked by almost no other symptoms. I never barfed, had swollen feet, or ran from rooms at the smell of broccoli. Much of the time I forgot I was even knocked up.

But a little thing started interrupting my sleep at night. (And sleep, as you may know, is my super power.) It was minor, but just pesky enough to torment me. The inside of my right elbow was—well it seems silly now to even mention—but it felt kinda tickly. Like someone was ever so lightly touching it, brushing a feather across it. And of course, there was nothing there.

To make things worse, it was only on the right side. The first rule of hypochondria is if it’s asymmetrical, it’s probably cancer.

Okay, so I didn’t really think it was that. But still, it was maddening.

I’d wake Mark up over it. “Honey? I can’t sleep. My elbow pit. It’s Driving. Me. Crazy.”

It was, I decided, the perfect symptom to relay to my acupuncturist. If the leg bone’s connected to the kidney, and the gall bladder’s connected to the pinky toe—or if not quite that, at least I’d come to trust that there was some interconnectedness between what I’d previously thought of as unrelated parts—if that was the case, then this tickly inner elbow thang may be the key to unlocking my eye problem.

And wasn’t I so clever, so in tune with my body, to make note of it? (I had a lot of time on my hands to be self-congratulatory too.)

At my next appointment, as the doctor was readying my needles, I laid the news of my latest symptom on him. I awaited his chin-rubbing contemplation. The “aha!” moment in which he connected my ocular issue with my tickly elbow pit.

Instead, he looked up and said, “Oh… Okaaaay.” The way you might talk to someone who you think is a touch crazy. Someone you may even feel a little bit afraid of. But then, so as not to appear rude, he quickly added, “Sorry if that bother you.”

Then he started sticking needles in me. And I never brought it up again.

The other day I drew a hopscotch in front of our house for Kate. Years back, this was the kind of thing I enjoyed harassing our realtor about. I was waddling around to tour houses 8 months pregnant and once-again one-eyed, but whenever I’d see some cute crap chalked onto the sidewalk I knew not to fall for it. Not to buy into the, “Oh honey, look! What a nice family neighborhood this must be!”

No, instead I’d turn to Charlie, the Bay Area’s most patient realtor, and ask, “So what time did you have to get here this morning to draw this?”

So here I was last week, playing outside with Kate and realizing that my hopscotch skillz have lost some of their bououncy since my youth. Though it might have had to do with the clogs I was wearing.

Anyway, when Paige got up from her nap, she was all fired up about joining the game. I adore that kid-sister fearlessness. That her default setting is to get in on whatever big-kid action is underway. I mean, Kate could have some pals over for a few friendly rounds of mumblety peg, and Paige would be all, “Cool. I’m in. Where’s the knife?”

But as it turns out, with hopscotch Paige lacks some fundamental know-how. She still hasn’t mastered the simple act of jumping. But she doesn’t let on about it. It’s like the best-kept out-in-the-open secret ever.

Here’s Paige: She sizes up the hopscotch squares, bends her knees, thrusts both arms into the air, and calls out, “DUMP!” (This being her closest approximation to the word “jump.”) Then she takes a step forward.

This delights her, and she appears to have no reservations about her ability to play being any different than anyone else’s. If it weren’t so obvious that she wasn’t really jumping, you’d swear that she was.

Recently when we pulled up to the house after getting Kate from school, Paige ran out of the car to the corner where the hopscotch squares had been. Days of rain had washed the chalk away, but that was no deterrent.

Bend knees. Arms up. “DUMP!” And a step forward.

There was no hopscotch court there. But hey, Paige also wasn’t really jumping.

But from her perspective? Miss Paigey Wigs was radiating the fierce confidence of an Olympic long jumper. She sold those not-really jumps. And it was so damn endearing I bought up every last one of them. I mean, sure, I AM her Mama. But it got me thinking that sometimes what ain’t really there, can sometimes kinda of spring to life, if you pretend hard enough.

And sometimes, what IS there–what’s taking up every last drop of your mental energy—turns out to be of little consequence at all. You don’t need two workin’ eyeballs to see that some things are just what they are, and nothing more.

And on that note, I think I’ll turn on the TV.


Four is a Magic Number

Posted: June 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: California, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Miss Kate, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers, Summer | 3 Comments »

Today I had to jump in a lake.

Because yesterday, the wretched gray-skied June gloom we’ve been enduring finally skedaddled. If only temporarily. And at last, it seems that summer has arrived.

So like some child slave from an episode of Law & Order, I positioned Kate on her stool at the kitchen counter to make PB&Js, while I threw towels, swim diapers, and sunscreen in a bag, and lamented Paige’s famous just-as-we’re-about-to-leave poop.

Lakeside, my friend, uh, Lulu and I wrangled the kids and attempted to catch up. The topic du jour at every barbeque this summer—at least for the men at the grill—seems to be The Big Snip. When they’re doing it to maximize sports viewing. What they heard about how bad it was from other guys. And jokes about snuggling up with a bag of frozen peas.

Lulu’s husband and mine are both game to get the job done. And, after years of having our bodies be the setting for baby growing, baby feeding, and the fending off of potential pregnancies, it does seem nice to have the lads take their turn.

Their willingness to step up for the snip is both noble and kinda cute.

But still, Lulu and I agreed. We’re just not ready.

“I tell Mark he’s got to think about his second wife,” I tell her, ankle-deep in the lake, and watching that the kids don’t go out too far or sneak off for ciggies. “I mean, she’s younger. She doesn’t have kids yet. What about her?!”

But seriously, Mark knows I’d kill anyone who he ever tried to leave me for, so that’s not much of an issue. What has been though, has been my lingering baby lust. My lack of conviction that I’m altogether done with the baby-makin’.

Though, driving home later it dawned on me that my hunger for another cherub seems to have subsided a bit. I mean, I saw a 6-week-old napping angelically in one of those beach tents today, and didn’t feel at all compelled to crawl in there with it. A few months back, Lulu would’ve been holding me back by my ponytail.

And other little things. Instead of waiting for them to rot and fall out, I decided to go all out and buy Paige her first toothbrush. She’s got six and a half teeth now, so it seems as good a time as any. So yesterday, while Kate and I brushed our morning breath away, Paige for the first time fervidly got in on the action.

And after prying the thing from Paige’s steely baby grip, I plopped the toothbrushes back in their little stand.

“Here’s Mommy’s, Daddy’s, Kate’s and Paige’s!” I singsonged, in a vain attempt to quell Paige’s give-that-damn-thing-back-to-me hysterics. And, ignoring her wailing screams, and Kate’s ensuing, “She’s TOO LOUD, Mommy!” laments, I went into my own little housewife daydream… Four places in the toothbrush holder. Four of us. Why…. it’s perfect!

Of course, not everything on the domestic family-of-four front has fit like a glove.

Sometimes I need a hit upside the head when change is required. And Mark recently pointed out that I have to start making more food for us. Usedta be that one kielbasa fed he and I perfectly, sometimes with a bit leftover. Well, turns out our little Polish princesses can hork down some serious sausage. Seems we’re no longer a one-link family. One pound of ground beef just wasn’t cutting it for our taco nights any more either.

But thankfully, I’m a fast learner.

Not enough food you say? Some intense Italian Need to Feed surged up through me like a tsunami, and the next night I’m setting out a dinner that’d put a midnight cruise ship buffet to shame. (Though sadly, I offered no melons carved as swans.)

And once again, order is restored. Two more eaters? Need more food. Check.

But what if we were to add a fifth? Eventually would two kielbasa links not be enough? Would the implausible two-and-a-half links be what we required? And what of pre-weighed pounds of ground beef? Boxed rice pilaf? Packaged chicken breasts? I mean, two two-breast packs are reasonable enough to purchase and prepare, but five breasts? There’s no situation in which five breasts ever make sense.

It’s not the cost of the food that concerns me, it’s the likelihood that we’d find ourselves in the OCD-unfriendly need for half of this, a third of that. Would we be trapped in the untidy position of always having too much or too little?

To say nothing of the toothbrush dilemma. Does one buy another holder then simply leave the three extra spaces vacant? And worse, do those three voids then loom, challenging you, your aging body, and mounting college tuition fees to produce even more children? How would I be able to face down those taunts twice a day—or even more if I’d eaten something garlicky?

On the walk back from the lake, we came to a dark patch on the sidewalk that was soft and gummy in the sun. We’d passed over it on the way in, and Lulu was smart enough to direct her kids to walk around it this time. Me? Kate and I just tramped through it again. Leaving, what I noticed later, was a thick coat of tar on the bottom of our flip flops. (Paige, the non-walker, smiled at us smug and clean from her stroller.)

At home, Kate stomped across our overpriced Crate and Barrel porch rug, leaving a trail of black shoe prints like those Arthur Murray dance class footsteps. I kicked off my flip flops just in time to not make the same mistake. And setting Princess Paigey on the living room floor, felt grateful that there wasn’t another little McClusky tearing through the house, leaving a mark of her own.

For us it seems, for now at least, four is a magic number.