Wednesday, December 12, 2007

40x365: #56 ~ Kami

A virtual-turned-real-life friend who most surely was always one of the "cool kids." I still feel that adolescent insecurity about that when I am with you, and yet you are so sweet, it's almost possible to forget.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ohhhhhhhh. Okay. Now I get it.


So, this being Jewish in a world of Christmas wasn't hard. At least not until this year. I've alluded to this before, but I was not raised Jewish. I chose this faith after a childhood of Shabbat dinners with friends, a young adulthood of reading and wondering, and a slightly-older but still young adulthood of study and reflection. And somewhere along the way I got lucky and met a wonderful Jewish man, and that worked out rather nicely. So I've been Jewish for six years or so, and the whole giving up Christmas thing? Not too bad. And even when Eli came along, it worked out just fine. Until, that is, this year. And now I get what all of my Jewish friends were talking about when they talked about feeling left out of the holidays.

It must be that when you're almost three, the world starts to want to know more about you - your hopes, your dreams, your visits with Santa. I can't tell you how many times Eli has been asked by strangers at the mall, "Did you go visit Santa today?" Or by strangers other places, "Is Santa coming to your house?" Or how many people have asked me, "Is he very excited about Christmas?" The answers? "No," "No," and "Yeah, I think so."

I've found myself needing to walk a fine line these days. The truth is, he will celebrate Christmas to some extent. Since my side of the family is not Jewish, there's plenty of Christmas cheer to be found. We will spend the day at my sister's house, surrounded by garland and wreaths and twinkling lights. We'll be serenaded by Bing Crosby. We'll drink egg nog. We'll open presents. So, let's face it, Eli will celebrate Christmas. But he won't be sitting on Santa's lap at the mall and we won't need to open our flue to let him visit on Christmas Eve.

I'm not sure it would be easier to explain if we didn't have this gray area to contend with, but regardless it's confusing. Not to him, to me. I still haven't sorted out how I'm going to explain it all to him. I suppose it's not as complicated as I'm making out to be right now, and that once I really have to give him hard and fast information - once it occurs to him to wonder why Santa doesn't come here but he does visit his cousins, once he becomes more insistent that we have holiday decorations like the ones he so admires on the neighbors' houses - I guess it really won't be that hard. It is what it is. And for the time being, he doesn't really need to know more than he does. It's Christmas, the lights are pretty, and giving and receiving gifts feels really good. So for now I'll put aside my need to intellectualize, over-analyze, categorize his experiences and just let him be (almost) three. After all, you only get to do that once.

40x365: #55 ~ Chris M.

You were my best friend for, oh, a year. All I remember is that on that Christmas, you gave me a fuzzy gray pen. Fuzzy pens were all the rage in nineteen-seventy-whatever, so that was very cool. Thanks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

40x365: #54 ~ Paul M.

I can trace my emotional development by reading journal entries about you over a ten-year span. Amazing how, just like a mountain in the rearview mirror, you were so huge when I set out and then quickly, so tiny.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

40x365: #53 ~ Paul D.

One date (or was it two?), set in motion with me walking toward the park bench where we were meeting, you clipping your fingernails as you waited. Sadly, that made it impossible for me to continue. So young, so judgmental.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

40x365: #52 ~ Colleen

Perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met. In my world, you are remembered as the roommate of my good friend, but I also see you in a larger way: as a positive energy force to learn from.

Friday, December 7, 2007

40x365: #51 ~ Mel

Husband of a friend of a friend, we were always in the same social situations. In another setting we could have been great friends, but once I heard you refer to me as "what's her name," and that was that.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

40x365: #49 ~ Lisa S.

Undercover cop, big city traffic enforcer, hostess extraordinaire with a box-load of accessories for every holiday. You are a multi-faceted and complex. You suffer through much with your flirty, flitty husband, but I know you're both in love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

40x365: #50 ~ Howard

A true San Francisco boy, met your wife in the line for pizza in the Marina, 20-something and carefree. Yours was the first cell phone I ever used and, in my life, that is your major claim to fame.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

40x365: #48 ~ Tom S.

A mover and a shaker, you are. All business, a total flirt, known to take your wedding ring off - at least back when I knew you. Yet you married your high school sweetheart and you're still going strong. There's that.

Monday, December 3, 2007

40x365: #47 ~ Maya

You can invite a crowd over on the spur of the moment and still manage to have a crock of homemade soup just waiting on your stove. That's literal and metaphoric, because you are the most welcoming person I know.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

40x365: #46 ~ Sen

We were such close friends but then someone pointed out (and I realized) I was doing all the leg work. Sometimes I miss you, but the one sentence responses to my emails don't really encourage my thoughts of reconnecting. Sigh.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

40x365: #45 ~ Heddie

Leading my first "new moms group" almost three years ago, you were so out of touch with new moms it wasn't funny. "Maybe email" (my lifeline to civilization) "is just one thing you'll have to give up." Ha! As if.

Friday, November 30, 2007

40x365: #44 ~ Josh G.

So smart. So smug. Your wife, you said, not a blood relative like your mom, so loyalties were spread accordingly. Dating you taught me how to stay detached, stay myself. Crazy, but one of the best relationships in my past.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

40x365: #43 ~ Carlos M.

No me gusto la turbulencia. And thus began a crazy affair. I'm still not sure how I would have made it to my hotel without you to translate. I suppose half my bed for the week was a fair trade.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

40x365: #42 ~ Jeff B.

Born again, you showed me religion, though I didn't choose yours. Dating you, however briefly, taught me what true happiness is. Friendly's late shifts then a long distance semester, I have never met a person more content in this world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

40x365: #41 ~ Rhonda

Lifesaver, voice of clarity, my therapist. Thank God for you, helping me end a bad relationship and avoid (or truncate) many others. What a luxury to spend 50 minutes with you each week. Except sometimes your couch smelled like B.O.

Monday, November 26, 2007

40x365: #40 ~ Ms. Chickatel

Hard to remember much about my kindergarten teacher 35 years ago. I know you were gentle, I know you were elderly (which probably meant you were 45). I picture you like my grandma, and when I do, I feel happy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

40x365: #39 ~ the other Dan F.

Quiet, mild mannered secretary to the dean. Always so kind, so on top of the scheduling. Who could have known you were secretly a technological guru, destined for a high profile future of magazine writing and sold-out conference talks?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

40x365: #38 ~ Dan F.

Dad to my high school best friend. So money conscious, so arrogant. Your superficial comments made me feel so awkward, I can only imagine what it did to your own kids. Actually, I know. And it makes me very sad.

Friday, November 23, 2007

40x365: #37 ~ Betty

David's grandma, still going at 90-something. For someone who says she just wants to die, you have serious staying power. I wish we lived closer so Eli could learn from your Yiddish; I wish we could bring him to visit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

40x365: #36 ~ Jerry S.

Also a constant Thanksgiving guest, childhood best friend dad's. I never got you either, turns out you were in the same boat. Disappeared one day, weeks later the call from a state trooper. Suicide, with tax bills in your wake.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

40x365: #35 ~ Pat S.

Mom to Ted, you also showed up every Thanksgiving. Your "walks in the country" through our suburban neighborhood in your oatmeal wool cabled cardigan always made my teenage eyes roll. I suppose by comparison to Manhattan it was rural, huh?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

40x365: #34 ~ Ted S.

Every Thanksgiving, you arrived with your family. You were the youngest, I was next in line, so we played. You were odd, probably very nice. I hear you work in marine biology now. How odd, if our paths ever crossed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

40x365: #33 ~ Tim

Once the best friend of yesterday's x365, now you've somewhat disappeared. Funny, charming, quietly brilliant (hidden by humor, always), now you're a Ph.D./M.D. somewhere in New York. I wonder if you have gray hair. How strange that would be.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

40x365: #32 ~ Keith

My first memory of you, you were lying on your dorm room bed, staring at the ceiling. So awkward and reserved and yet we connected. A triathlete, you are so strong physically and seemingly so emotionally vulnerable. You're my friend.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dear Eli #1

Dear Eli:
We're entering your third holiday season (fourth, if you count New Year's Eve and New Year's Day of 2004/2005, your first and second days of life), and what fun it is. You are at this remarkable age where you have no recollection whatsoever of last winter, and you have incredible anticipation of this one. Yesterday I got to explain to you that for the next month we'll be shopping for a lot of presents, and then watch you as you thoughtfully made your way through the outdoor store in search of something for your Uncle Tom. Santa Claus is still a complete mystery to you, and that's probably because we don't talk about him much. You have an interesting background where that's concerned because we're Jewish, but my family is not. We won't ever have a tree in our house, but for as long as we're able to, we'll spend Christmas morning at your cousins' house. Some people will tell you that Jews shouldn't celebrate Christmas - and I'll probably have a harder time with that than you will, since I chose this religion and I'm constantly feeling like I have to measure up - but the truth is, you can do anything you want to do. Christmas is a happy day and you should spend it with people you love, whether you celebrate the religious aspects or not.

Your birthday is coming up too, and the way I figure it, this is probably the last year of your childhood where there is no birthday list, no anxious anticipation of the pile of presents at your party. All you've asked for is a moonbounce and a purple cake with black icing and sprinkles, and I can deliver on both of those things. When you heard there would be goodie bags for your friends, you asked if you could have one too, and the answer, of course, is yes, absolutely. I hope you love being a New Year's Eve baby, I really do. It's not the birthday I would have chosen for you - too much hooplah leading up to it, and you'll never get to bring cupcakes into school on your big day - but there is something to be said for being born on a day where so many people around the world are gearing up for a big party.

But before all of that happens, there's Thanksgiving. It'll be a small one this year, with just your two of your grandparents and us. I don't think you'll eat any turkey - you're still pretty much a vegan at this point, almost entirely by your choice - and of course you won't have any pie (we know how you feel about pie), but maybe you'll try the sweet potatoes, or maybe you'll just eat some bread and then get very happy when you realize "a la mode" is actually French for "break out the ice cream."

All of these holidays, now more than ever, symbolize the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. This year, I see my little toddler fading away and I see the beginnings of a wonderful little boy. A preschooler. As your Aunt Janet would say, a dude. And I say, bring it on. I'm ready.

Love,
Mommy

40x365: #31 ~ Megan B

Took a long time to get to know you, but I'm glad I waited. Great mommy, meticulous seamstress, devoted friend, fun shopping partner. You deserve that baby so much; what a hard road you traveled. Can't wait until s/he's here!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Phew!


That was quite a month. I think I mentioned - before the chaos and general insanity began - that I managed to drum up some freelance work. I sent out marketing materials for my book indexing business (one advantage to being a former academic is knowing plenty of people who will write books in the future) and it yielded some editing (and later, indexing) work. For the last six weeks or so I have been helping an old colleague edit a book, the topic of which was so closely connected to my own research that it may as well have been my own. And, to sum it up, it was awesome (and tiring).

At first, it sort of made my head hurt, this whole "thinking" thing. It had been a while. But then I got into a groove and I was just digging it. Sure, I neglected Eli a bit (two days ago, in the heat of the final crunch, he was introduced to the joys of Blockbuster, which I utilized to plant him on the couch for a morning) and he didn't love that every spare second brought me to my computer, but given that I pretty much just covered his preschool tuition for next year, I think he'll forgive me. Which brings me to the other awesome part: this whole working thing? They pay you for it. You work, and then they give you money. It is remarkable how easy it is to forget how good that feels. But now I remember. And I'm hooked.

Money has been so tight for us recently that the money I just earned is pretty much already spoken for (preschool tuition, some car repairs, things like that) but in the midst of it all I did manage a couple of splurges. First, instead of regular coffee, I got lattes - not every time, but often enough. (That had been a place where I cut back. I just love going out and buying a hot cup of coffee but couldn't justify $4.50+ for a drink, so I went to the regular American stuff.) Yum, lattes. And, I also bought myself a pair of expensive jeans. Oh, how I love my jeans.

There's a store in Boston's North End which has a reputation for being able to find the perfect pair of jeans for your body. So, one weekend afternoon when there was a lull in the work, I took off in search of my destiny. Unfortunately, the first pair was a miss. I got them home and just though, "eh." So, I took matters into my own hands and emailed the store owner (hey, if you don't want emails, don't put your address on your store's site!). She was very gracious and told me when she'd be there and said she'd be happy to help. And help she did. I love, love, love my ridiculously overpriced denim.

Somehow, another benefit of all this work was some clarity in thinking about the whole grow-this-family plan. We haven't made a final decision yet, but we're leaning very heavily toward raising Eli as an only. Lately I've been increasingly aware of the sense of relief (combined with a healthy dose of disappointment, but still) that I feel each month when there's no pregnancy. I know I'd still be thrilled if it happened, but there's a part of me - a significant part of me, it seems - that would look forward to a family of three. That, combined with the fact that the largest age difference we would like is four years, and the fact that I will be 41 in four months, has led us to believe that we'll probably try for a few more months and then call it a family.

Oh! And I was talking with the woman for whom I was working all these weeks about raising an only child, because that is what she is currently doing (a 15-year-old daughter) and her solution: get a dog. It might sound ridiculous initially, but think about it: She was saying that her therapist's opinion is that her daughter needed not to be so much the center of things, needed for someone else in the family to also "need." A dog accomplishes that. And for some reason, when she shared this with me, a weight was lifted, as if I suddenly knew how I was going to pull this off.

Anyway, that's where things stand right now. I'm looking forward to getting back to this blog in a meaningful way, and with that in mind, I'm changing formats a little - or at least introducing a new one. It occurred to me that I often put off writing because I feel like I'm writing to "you," (the small group of people who find their way here), and then I suddenly feel pressure, and I just don't write. My primary purpose in writing anything is so that Eli has a record of what his crazy mother was up to way back when. So, from this point on, many of my entries will start with "Dear Eli." I thought about switching blogs, primarily because I had all kinds of fun ideas for titles (like "The Eli Papers") but I'll stick with this. I want the option to have other kinds of posts and he's already going to have weed through about 12 different on-line sources to get the whole story (if he even cares), so it seems the kind thing to do.

So, coming soon: Letters to Eli.

And p.s., no that is not my butt in that photo. Ha! As if.

40x365: #30 ~ Rob

Ex-boyfriend from years ago. Sure, you cheated and you resented me, but I moved to California because of you and who can complain about that? Plus, you were damn smart and funny. Counting Crows, Jeep Wranglers: forever linked to you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

40x365: #29 ~ Cate

My first online-to-real life friend, thanks to theknot.com (those were the days). Turns out, you had a little problem with the truth. Should have known it when you said you could see army tanks from your condo window.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

40x365: #28 ~ Ellen

Best friend through junior high, what fun we had bike riding all over town, comparing notes on boys. You fascinate me now, Ph.D. in nursing, fire juggler, Burning man big shot, your hippie wedding in the woods. So much yourself.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

40x365: #27 ~ Jane

Provider of my first post-baby job, I have loved the last two months - hello my old self - and hated the last two days. In these final moments, your disorganization and last minute requests will be the end of me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

40x365: #26 ~ Detective Dan

Like Mr. Clean meets my brother-in-law, you seem to be cop-about-town, popping up just about everywhere. I like knowing my local officer - makes life feel small-town. Thanks for the tour of the station this morning!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

40x365: #25 ~ Amy B.

College roommate, artist who makes art I don't always understand (like that bed-in in New Zealand?), funny gal with a brilliant mind, I love you for always sending an email or giving a call, for always keeping in touch.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

40x365: #24 ~ Bupiti

Next door neighbor who I see how the window as I type, blowing your leaves away. You cut down all your trees and changed the neighborhood landscape. Too bad. But you seem very nice otherwise. Can your daughter babysit yet?

Friday, November 9, 2007

40x365: #23 ~ Jenny S.

My OB, or better put, Eli's. A hug at every visit, true compassion, and fabulous medical care to boot. You can't be my doctor anymore - gone to Africa to make a difference - but I'll always remember all that you did.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

40x365: #22 ~ Monica W.

Eli's occupational therapist, you seem almost a contradiction. Where I expect bunny sweaters, you wear $200 jeans. Not at all a judgment, just a realignment of expectations on my end. He sure adores you and we love you for it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

40x365: #21 ~ Meredith K.

Another high school friend, and yet all I remember about you is your hair down to your butt and that you lived in a ranch house and had your own bathroom. Funny what the teenage brain retains - not much, really.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

40x365: #20 ~ Pilar S.

Dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes, a poet. Old and wise before your time, an intellectual in high school. And oh, how you didn't fit in. You would have been fascinating to talk to - if only I was smart enough.

Monday, November 5, 2007

40x365: #19 ~ Aunt Betty

Wife of Uncle Charlie, so pretty, so proper. I remember your white hair, your penciled eyebrows. Apparently you were a pack rat, a house full of too many beautiful things. A child doesn't see it. A child sees only kindness.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

40x365: #18 ~ Uncle Charlie

Goodbye, daddy's oldest friend, you left this earth the other day. Silly childhood memories of you, your gold Nova coming up the driveway, the olives-on-toothpicks my sister and I insisted on serving you every time. So long ago.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

40x365: #17 ~ Lisa J.

High school friend. You ran. And you ran and ran and ran. You were so thin then, but I didn't know enough to do anything about it, to say anything about it. I hope you're healthy now. Really, I do.

Friday, November 2, 2007

40x365: #16 ~ Josh

Ah, my old boss. Your desk always spotless, your pocket list of "funny things to tell my wife tonight," your 9:30 bathroom run, newspaper in hand. Wish I could say you taught me something; at least you made me laugh.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

40x365: #15 ~ Mr. C.

My high school math teacher, the subject of my college essays. You found a cheat sheet under my desk and believed me when I said it was not mine. Your trust was sobering. I still feel lousy about that day.

the ultimate in naval gazing



Today's theme over at Picture This is Mama, which offers the perfect opportunity to focus on myself for a frame or two. As I read Tracey's description, I thought to myself, "What defines me as a mama?" Not a difficult question, it turns out. It's my belly, which has become somewhat of a roadmap of my life. My belly button is a marker of my distant past, my connection with my own mama; my less-distant past represented by the now mostly-closed piercing just above it. My slightly stretched violet tattoo is a touchstone, a connection with a different time in my life, when I only dreamed of being a mama myself and thought I'd be young forever. And, of course, in the past this belly was also a home, a cocoon for my Eli. In the present it is rounder, softer than it used to be, but those newer qualities are hard-earned and cherished. And then there's the future, when it may again - someday - be a place for a bunch of tiny cells to stake a claim at the core of my heart, the center of my universe. Whether that happens or not, my belly is what it is because I am who I am. And who I am is a mama.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

40x365: #14 ~ Marsha

My old office mate, now a big media mucky muck. You are one of the smartest, funniest people I know. You tell a story like nobody's business. I wish you'd think about a career in radio. I know I'd listen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

40x365: #13 ~ Scott H.

My fourth grade crush, I was sure I would marry you. You moved to Venezuela, or so the rumor had it. I was sure you would come back. You know, to marry me. Googled you but didn't find a thing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

40x365: #12 ~ Andy B.

My very first crush and later, my very first boyfriend. I can still remember the musty smell of your old Fiat. How many hours did we spend in that thing? Fifteen: so awkward, and yet it was a good year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

40x365: #11 ~ Andy

Old friend, my birthday buddy. A phone call or email from you every year, and one from me on your big day. Nice way to keep in touch. Glad you had a good one this year. Wishing you many more.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

40x365: #10 ~ Michael L

My first grade friend with so much energy, the teacher used duct tape to attach you to your chair. You could turn your eyelids inside out. I wonder where you are now. I wonder if you would remember me now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

40x365: #9 ~ Ara

My boss at Friendly's, you used to spy on us with binoculars from the diner across the street. I wonder if you ever caught anyone or if it just made you feel powerful. I wonder what you're up to now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

40x365: #8 ~ Owen G.

My parents' friend and colleague, you were very formal with your bowtie, from another era it seemed. Bright white hair, wispy limbs, kind smile. I liked you. Now you're gone, they tell me. A long time in coming, apparently. Godspeed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

40x365: #7 ~ Jill

My first true best friend, even though we met in our thirties. The first person to truly know me, and you never stop making me laugh. Across the country is too far but we will see each other soon, friend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

40x365: #6 ~ John K.

My tennis coach, so full of energy and life, you made us kids love the game, love you. Turns out, it was drugs (cocaine) and your heart was shot. You left the earth far too soon. It pisses me off.

Monday, October 22, 2007

40x365: #5 ~ Mr. O.

My sixth grade teacher, barely out of college. All of the girls had crushes (without really even knowing it) and apparently so did you. You married a former student. Happily married. Why does that still creep me out a little?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

40x365: #4 ~ Eve

My first boss and still the best. You taught me so much and made me laugh. Thank you for that. A new mom again at 46, you are a marvel. I hope you are getting some sleep these days, friend.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

40x365: #3 ~ Tim

I know nothing about you, yet you are central to a key memory. The first boy to ask me out on a "real" date, and I said no. Wish you could have known how nice it was to be asked.

Friday, October 19, 2007

40x365: #2 ~ Jonathan

My nephew, once so little and now we share a shoe size. You showed me what parenthood would be like, with all that love. A vegetarian by choice, you stand by your principles. I am proud to be your aunt.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

40x365: #1 ~ Serena

You are first because you are my first memory. On the other side of the preschool easel you fell, cut your chin. I thought the blood was red paint, and that small puddle is the earliest visual memory I have.

A new purpose in life!

I have quite a few blogs bookmarked that I rarely visit anymore. Earlier this evening I decided to check in on some old friends (friends who haven't the foggiest idea I exist, but friends in my mind nonetheless) and I was intrigued by one woman's seemingly ordered-yet-random numbered posts. I followed a link to discover x365. One man, on his 40th birthday, had the idea to write exactly 40 words each day - 40 words about a person he met or knew - for exactly 365 days.

This is right up my alley. This, I think, will get me to my blog every day. This is the answer to my poor, neglected virtual space. Let the names begin!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Walk

Ah, the joys of having the teeniest following in cyberspace. I can walk away for three weeks without worrying anyone. Incidentally, walk is this week's theme over at Picture This, and that happens to be something we do often around here.

I can't tell you how many shots I have of Eli from this perspective. What is it about seeing your little one walking away into the distance that's so compelling? Maybe it's the pride in his independence; maybe it's the rare chance to see him from afar; maybe it's one of the few ways he'll actually let me take his picture. Whatever it is, when I have my camera on hand, I can't help myself.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sparkles for Hannah

Today was the sixth birthday of a very special little girl and her mommy asked for all of us to have sparkly days. It was a gorgeous late summer day here, in the mid-70s with a crystal blue sky. Eli and I spent the morning doing various fun things (a meeting about the new playground, story time at the library, a visit to another playground). But he would tell you that the true sparklies came in the afternoon, because that's when Eli had his first ice cream cone, in honor of Hannah's birthday. Now, before you think that I'm the strictest parent in the world, he's had ice cream before. But he's never had his very own cone. Today seemed to be the perfect day for that to change.

We start out very traditionally, with great expectations...



The first licks are divine...



But maybe a finger is better...



Oh, heck, let's just put it in a dish. It still requires great concentration...



But the rewards are awesome!



There must be more in there...



Happiness!



A truly sparkly afternoon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Freedom


Freedom is going in circles in the belly of a giant yellow and purple bear. Freedom is seeing your parents whiz by at every rotation. Freedom is going on a carnival ride by yourself. Freedom is also a little scary. And freedom is this week's Theme Thursday.

(Incidentally, freedom was not quite this washed out in the original shot, but I can't seem to fix it. My boy is not as green as he looks!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Left brain, Right brain



I got news today of my first professional indexing job, some editing work, and I sold a couple of bibs. Not bad, and overall I have to say I like the balance.

I got my Etsy shop going a couple of weeks ago and have sold a few things since then. I also got a message from someone opening a store in downtown Boston (on Newbury Street, no less) who would like me to consign some, so that's fun. I just keep making 'em, much faster than they sell. It's fun, though, and it keeps the creative juices flowing.

The editing work should be fun and the money will be great to have. We moved to a more expensive town a year ago and since then money has been incredibly tight. I have to say, I do miss my impulse purchases. Thank goodness for ebay and Craig's List - not only for the buying but because I have managed to sell all kinds of superfluous items from our home. By doing that I have managed to score a few impulse purchases (like my digital SLR that I justified by calling it a 40th birthday present to myself). I wouldn't trade being home with Eli for anything but there are definitely days when I miss my disposable income!

But this post was supposed to be about balance, and how I seem to have found it. (Focus, Karen, focus.) The other day I was working on that old journal article that has been resurrected and I decided to drop what I was doing and finish up these guys for a friend who is a children's storyteller:



In that moment I realized I have found my perfect balance between right and left brain, between hobbyist and professional, between fun and work. It won't make me rich, but it does make me happy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Three


This week's theme is THREE. In a family of three, where so much of my thinking is focused on just how big this family should be, it's not that difficult to find something that fits the bill. I like this one because it's us, but not. And we are three.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Party of Three

If I ever threw a party and no one came, I imagine it would go something like this:

I would awaken the morning of the party, excited about all the possibility the day was going to hold. I'd be giddy. I'd imagine all of the details, everything unfolding in just the most perfect of ways. I'd envision the perfect conversations I'd have with my guests. I'd anticipate how they would love all the tasty treats I had prepared for them. I'd preoccupy myself for all the morning hours just knowing how perfect things would be.

As the hour of my guests' arrival approached, I would begin listening for them. I'd listen for their cars barreling down the street; I'd hear car doors slam in the distance and move quickly to the window to know immediately who had done it. As the time drew even closer, I wouldn't spend even a second worrying that they weren't coming because of course they were. Instead I would focus my energy on guessing who was going to arrive first.

A few minutes would pass and all of my guests would officially be late, but I still wouldn't worry. Most people don't show up on time, and no one wants to be the first person at a party. I'd take a walk into the dining room to make sure everything was in order, to make sure I hadn't forgotten to put out the artichoke dip or the cocktail napkins or the little sesame pretzel things I found at Trader Joe's. Feeling reassured that all was, in fact, right with the world, I'd return to my perch just to the side of the window - the perch that's close enough to see what's going on, but not so close that I feel I'm hovering. A watched pot never boils so I wouldn't want to hover.

After 10 minutes I still wouldn't worry. There must be traffic somewhere. Maybe I should have scheduled my party a little earlier in the day? Another 10 and I might start to wonder, but certainly someone will be here soon. By half past the appointed hour I would feel officially justified in worry, and some sadness would probably creep in. But mixed into all of that would be some hope, too. After all, 30 minutes late is not too late to arrive at a gathering.

That hope would fade, I suppose, as another half hour crept by with me on my perch and my artichoke dip cooling on the table and the drips of water on the outside of my lemonade pitcher pooling on the table beneath it. And at a certain point I might decide it was time to put some food in the fridge - just for safe keeping, because surely someone would come to eat it. So one by one I would take my dishes and cover them with saran wrap and make room for them on the shelves.

There might be some decorations on the wall, but I'd leave those, at least for another day. It would seem too final to take them down altogether. Not just yet. But after another hour or so, it would seem silly to leave the lights on, and I'd be tired anyway, so I'd quietly switch them off and just go to bed. And I'd drift off to sleep knowing that my party would have been grand, but unfortunately, no one came.

But here's the thing: I didn't throw a party, I tried to have a second child. And I made all kinds of preparations and I waited and I looked for signs and I thought I saw signs and I checked to make sure everything was in order and it was and I went back to waiting and still no one came and I started to lose hope and to wonder if maybe I shouldn't have tried all this a little earlier until finally it became clear that no one was coming so I shut down and tried to get some rest.

And while there's no denying the sting that comes along with opening yourself up only to be left alone, this one doesn't sting quite as much as you might think. Because first of all, I wasn't waiting alone. I had David there with me through it all and he makes any party worth having. And the other thing? I threw this same party three years ago and just the right guest arrived at that one. So even though this party didn't quite pan out, I do know the joy of a party gone well.

I am starting to find some peace concerning this journey we're on. I haven't taken down those decorations yet - still too final - but I have started to nibble at the untouched party food and I have started to accept the fact that this party may be simply a party of three.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Exposure




Theme Thursday brings us to a conversation about exposure. There are so many fun ways to interpret this one, and I decided to go with practical and maybe even a little depressing. It's on my mind, though: Expsoure to BPA in all of Eli's plastic sippy cups. Some of my favorites stopped to pose for that photo on their way to the recycling bin.

I try not to be an alarmist about things like this but I think I've become hyper-sensitive, with all the lead paint recalls, etc. And I realized... some days his milk, juice or water sits in the same cup for 12 hours. If there's the potential for leaching, it's likely going on in our house, especially because I have been known to spend 15 minutes rearranging the dishwasher just to get an extra dish in there. So yeah, those cups are getting washed in there.

So today I gathered up all his pretty translucent cups (which I love, by the way - I have a thing for pretty plastic items) and I spent a good amount of time researching and ordering alternatives. I found one blog with a particularly useful review and ultimately got him one of these:



and one of these:


Hopefully, that will be the end of his exposure to bad, bad things. Until the next recall, anyway.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Serendipity

The last week or so has been one of those good ones that offers unexpected surprises and happy moments. Two examples, only tangentially related:

I know I'm not the only person who finds it difficult to make new friends as an adult. Sure, that was that mini surge right after Eli was born when New Moms Groups yielded a small tribe of fabulous, supportive, wonderful women, but prior to that and following that, there's been a bit of a (not at all surprising) dearth. A couple of months ago I was at the playground with Eli (and, coincidentally, part of that tribe I just mentioned) and a woman with two boys struck up a conversation with me. It was one of those easy conversations, the kind that takes no effort whatsoever, the kind that requires few explanations and certainly no apologies. We've had a weekly playdate ever since. This by itself would be serendipity, since all of Eli's local friends are girls and I had desperately wanted a male playmate for him (for various reasons, including the difference between Eli's and the girls' developmental stages).

One of K's boys just had surgery for a cleft lip and the recovery period required him to wear cuffs around his elbows to keep him from bending his arms, to keep him from putting anything in his little six-month-old mouth. And the cuffs? Made of hard plastic. And the weather? Some of the hottest of the summer. And the sleeping? Not really happening. They borrowed an air conditioner from us, which I assure you caused us absolutely zero inconvenience. They returned it recently with a hearty thank you and I hadn't given it much thought.

Fast forward to last Friday. As we pulled into the driveway we saw two packages sitting there waiting for us. One was a box of Pampers (woo hoo, I guess) but the other was small and brown and as we got closer we could see that it was marked with the name of one of the best chocolate shops in the area. At first we thought it must be some ebay purchase I'd forgotten about that someone had very cruelly shipped in a misleading box, but a quick glance at the return address showed us that, indeed, we had been sent chocolate.

If you had witnessed the giddiness that ensued you surely would have been a little scared. We laughed, we danced, we rejoiced. We opened the card with true wonder - who would have done such a nice thing for us? Turns out, it was our newest friends, who wanted to thank us for the air conditioner, so they sent us this:


That, of course, is not the actual box because before there was any hope of taking a photo of it, it looked like this:


We were so happy with our surprise gift that we spent the whole weekend trying to decide how we could pay it forward. We still haven't figured it out, but someone in our lives has a box of chocolate coming their way sometime soon.

The random happiness continued through the weekend, which was largely uneventful and unplanned (just the way I like it, actually). We didn't have much going on so I signed up for some mystery shopping at a mall we needed to visit anyway. I had to go to a couple of department stores, ask some questions about a large purchase, and then make a purchase for $4.00 or less. After learning more than I ever wanted to know about luggage sets at the first store, I started my search for a small purchase. I can't tell you where I was, but suffice it to say I should NOT have had trouble finding something for $4.00. And yet I did. Everything was "$5.50 or three for $12.00" or "$4.79." Finally, because I wanted to end the misery, I dug through the clearance underwear bin and found one pair I liked for $1.97. Only problem? Size small. Trust me when I tell you that my rear end is not a size small (and if you doubt me, that photo of the ravaged box of chocolates should provide you some evidence). But I needed to be done and I wasn't finding anything I could actually use, so I grabbed them and headed to the register.

I didn't think about them much after that, except when my pint of Ben & Jerry's dribbled on my desk and I needed something to wipe it up. I had the bag sitting next to me because I needed the receipt to file my report and then I did what anyone would do: I wiped up the ice cream with my size small undergarments. I mean, let's face it, I wasn't going to wear the things (and eating a pint of Chubby Hubby at my desk pretty much sealed the deal) so really I had just purchased a two dollar rag. Later that day I threw them in the wash and the next day they made their way to my drawer.

This morning when I was getting dressed I figured, "Hey, what the heck, let's try them." And, friends, they fit! Not only do they fit, but I think they might be the most comfortable pair of underwear I've worn in a long time. And yes, I'm one of those women who prefers to shop at stores where I fit into a smaller size even though I know it's because the store cuts their clothes larger to make women feel good about themselves. So you can be sure that I am thoroughly enjoying the fact that my new favorite blue tie-dyed skivvies are a size small.

Turns out Forrest Gump was right. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never do know what you're going to get but sometimes, if you're very, very lucky, you get new friends, comfy underpants, and some actual chocolate. Not a bad deal. Not a bad deal at all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer Pretty

Today's theme is Pretty, so I thought I'd share what I think is my prettiest photo from the summer.
You can decide for yourselves whether I'm calling those strawberries the pretty thing, or whether I'm talking about that giant smile. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When you can't produce a human, produce something else


Okay, okay, that title is a bit melodramatic, but I was looking for a segue from previous posts, which were somewhat depressing and even seem to have caused some worry. (Thanks for checking on me, Arizaphale!) I've just been busy, and it's all my doing, and it's great.

A little backstory: We moved from California on New Year's Day, 2004. David and I both did a thorough job search and his panned out before mine did. Once he had steady income and health insurance, we saw our way clear to becoming a family. Two months later we knew Eli (or his theoretical female counterpart, Sarah) was on his way. I kept up my job search and got an offer about a week after our happy news, but the insulting salary offer made it easy to turn down. I found some college admissions consulting work but two days before I was supposed to meet with my first client I got put on bedrest. Rather than bring in any money, I instead managed to watch every single episode of Dawson's Creek on daytime TV. (It's important to have goals, you see.)

Once Eli arrived there was no question that I'd stay home with him - I've never been conflicted about that - and of course there wasn't time for much else. Just when it seemed like I might have some time to take on a little part time work we decided to move again. And then we needed to settle in. And that brings us to the present. And it's been three and a half years and other than a fabulous, healthy little person running around the house, I don't have much to show for it.

But I think some switch got thrown a month or two ago, and now I'm a machine! And that makes it hard to find time for blogging. In fact, I don't even think I've had the mental space to think of anything interesting to blog about, let alone sit down to write it. So that brings me to this: my what-have-I-been-doing entry.

When I was in graduate school I edited a book and created the index for it. I loved the process of creating that index, I'm sure because it tapped into my love of organizing and highlighters and my training in qualitative research. So, when I saw a course offered last year in book indexing I enrolled pretty quickly, figuring that would be a great way to make a little extra money. As a former university instructor and administrator I have a large enough network of book authors to get me going, and the work flow is easily controlled. I took the course and then promptly did nothing with it. Fast forward about six months and I created some marketing materials and David - bless him - made me a website. And then I promptly did nothing with that. Well, fast forward six more months (to a week ago) and I finally managed to get all of my marketing materials off. Thirty-nine little packets of indexing goodness. Boy did that feel good. So that's Item One.

Item Two is a bit more creative. Eleven years ago when my nephew was born my mom made him a bib. When my sister and brother-in-law requested a few more, she turned the project over to me and a hobby was born. I had so much fun making these things and apparently other people liked them because I often heard "You should sell these." Believe it or not, the primary reason I didn't is that I used a button closure on them and I was worried about the button coming off and a child choking, causing me to be sued and lose all my earthly possessions. (I know. The logic astounds me even now.) Fast forward to about a month ago and something got me going and I decided to sell the bibs. I set up a shop on Etsy that's not live yet, but will be soon. So in preparation for that I've been sewing like a madwoman. I wanted 30 bibs to start with and I now have 32. Fun.

Item Three: Mystery Shopping! Are you familiar with this? It's when you pose as a regular old customer but you're secretly a spy, recording the good, the bad, and the ugly of your shopping experience. A local friend of mine who works in retail needed someone to do this at one of her shops and I volunteered since I had done this many times when I was in graduate school. (Since restaurant mystery shops typically reimburse for food, it was a great way to feed myself.) That got me thinking, "Hey, I could do this for extra money." So, for the last six weeks or so I've been all over town eating and shopping and taking notes and recording times and making $8 here and there. It won't pay the mortgage, but it sure does keep me entertained. I'm keeping my eye on one company that does spas, restaurants and hotels. Their assignments get snatched up fast, but I'm determined to get myself a two-night stay somewhere soon.

Good old Item Four involves even more of my past life, this time in the form of a resurrected journal article from 2000 that never got published. A woman I worked with in California - who was then a student and is now an assistant professor - is the guest editor of a special issue of a journal that it's perfectly suited for and she got in touch to see if I wanted to submit it, so the thing has taken on a new life. I've had to dust off all the intellectual parts of my old brain and see what it's still capable of. It's slow going, let me tell you, but it feels good to be connected to my old work. It was work that had meaning, so I'm proud of it. (I have a Ph.D. in education and did work related to getting more underrepresented students interested in and going to college.)

And finally, Item Five. This one I'm especially passionate about. I joined the Recreation Commission in our town when we moved last year and I'm sort of the resident playground advocate. The other members of the Commission have more of an interest in other forms of recreation (like playing fields) so I'm always the one to say "What about the playgrounds?" We're in the early stages of planning for a new playground and I'm bound and determined to not only make it fully handicapped accessible but also relevant and interesting to children with all kinds of disabilities and challenges, from autism to Down Syndrome. It's been a great excuse to research something new and explore potential funding sources (this equipment is likely to cost about three times as much as "regular" equipment). These are very familiar processes, since it's what I did in my academic life. I'm knee deep in it.

Last weekend we visited my parents and they happen to have a playground like what I'm describing in their town. We took Eli for a visit and I took some photos.





Looks like your run-of-the-mill playground, doesn't it? Really, in essence, it is. It's more spread out because the various components are connected by ramps; there seem to be more grab handles scattered about to help kids (and, let's face it, parents) pull up to higher levels; there are "bump outs" so kids in wheelchairs can wheel right up to the various places of interest. But at first glance you'd never see a difference, and that's what's great about it. As we drove home from the playground, I told David that I'd be so proud if I could make this happen for our town. But as I've thought about it more, it's not pride - it's just excitement, pure and simple. I mean, how great would that be for a child who hadn't been able to visit the playground before to be able to enjoy it just like her friends. So yeah, I've been devoting some time to this.

So with all of that, and some other things like a weekend away, some ebay selling, some hand-me-down clothing organizing, some administrative stuff I took on related to one of Eli's activities, and some general end-of-summer slacking, I've been busy! It's funny how in cyberspace that makes me appear quiet while here, in my world, I'm a noisy, bustling ball of industry. I don't know what caused this new surge of motivation - maybe there is some connection to feeling less-than-productive in other areas of my life - but it does feel good.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fading away


It's Theme Thursday today, and I couldn't resist sharing this FADED picture that I took of myself for a photo class last spring. Not a great shot composition-wise but it fits the theme, I think. We were learning about exposure and, sheesh, do you think I could have perhaps cleaned up the living room? Maybe next time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

HA!

That's what the universe seems to be saying.

After that long rant the other day and and a minor catharsis last night, David and I seem to be leaning toward abandoning the biological child cause. Not immediately, but soon. We're both in the same place - actually, I'm very lucky in that he's supportive of whatever direction I happen to be leaning on any given day but, overall, he's very content to raise an only child. So we talked about all of that, and how nice it could be, and how many ridiculous obstacles we've had in the last year, and what a great option adoption of an older child is if we decide later on that we want to grow the family.

We had been planning to attend a party of sorts in a couple of months. The state adoption agency holds these periodically to allow prospective parents a chance to gather information and get to know some of the older children who need homes. We weren't going to find a child as much as we were going to see how the whole thing felt to us. It's in October and I've really been looking forward to it.

After David and I talked I figured it was time to put it into iCal. Before I did, I asked David, "When is that work thing you're going to in California?" Yeah. That's right. He leaves the day before.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I did both.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fly




It's Theme Thursday again! Goodness, where do the weeks go?

The theme this week is FLY, and you know what I love? How many opportunities there are in a child's world to take a picture of flight. I think that's how it should be.

We love bubbles around here. So here are some of our more recent bubbly friends, in flight.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Warning: Profanity Ahead


When I communicate with other people on-line -- whether here in this blog, in other people's comments sections, or on LiveJournal -- I tend to avoid profanity at all costs. I do that for a few reasons, the most important ones being that I know that some people find it offensive, I don't think it's typically necessary, and while some bloggers have a way of weaving curse words into their prose in a way that's practically cute, in my writing I think it just sounds harsh. With all of that in mind, I have generally avoided a virtual potty mouth.

Until today.

I've had it. No, excuse me. I've fucking had it.

For the last year we have tried to make a baby and I've slapped this ridiculous Pollyanna attitude on the whole thing and I'm not sure why. In the beginning I was a little surprised that it wasn't going as easily as it did with Eli (who was conceived on the second month; when I was 37; boy was I lucky) but didn't get too down, aside from the to-be-expected pouting and disappointment. Then when more than a few months had gone by I complained, but only infrequently. And as it became clearer that things might not go our way immediately, or even ever, I still tried to put a bright shiny spin on the whole damn situation, telling people "We're very open to adoption" and "I realized recently that it's very exciting not to know where the next member of your family is going to come from" and "No, I really don't mind talking about it." More recently, my sound bytes have been along the lines of "We're open to all possibilities" and "I'm so lucky to have Eli,"* but the general idea is the same: "Yes, I know we're in this unenviable situation but look how gracefully I'm handling it! Surely you envy that, don't you?"

While painting on this happy face, I also dutifully request book after book after book from the library, devouring them as if the very process will alter the fibers of my being that so desperately want another biological child. I finish each one feeling more educated about our options, but still not really wanting them. I also scour the web for information on even more possibilities, again hoping that just the accumulation of a virtual mountain of information will change how I feel in my heart.

Simultaneously, we spend every cycle giving it our best shot. I chart my temperatures in a somewhat obsessive way (that's the researcher in me, insisting on complete data sets). After the thermometer beeps its shrill little beep I leap out of bed and eagerly log the daily nugget of information into Fertility Friend, as though each reading above the cover line is money in the bank - what bank, I'm not quite sure. Maybe some bank that sells healthy biological offspring for 98.6 cents. And I pee on my ovulation predictor paraphernalia so often that if I tell Eli I have to go, he responds with "On a stick!" And David and I faithfully do that baby dance until we just. can't. do. it. again. And every month we get nothing.

Excuse me: Fucking nothing. Also affectionately known as Jack Shit.

I'm tired of being positive about this. I'm tired of being emotionally removed from it. I'm tired of being reasonable. I'm tired of being optimistic. I'm tired of being a pillar of strength. Mostly I'm just tired.

A few days ago my temperature took a nose dive and I thought to myself, Great. This one's done and it's only a 22 day cycle. Of course I did the obligatory googling about implantation dips and was able to convince myself that it might be so. And then when, the next day, my temperature did shoot back up like a beautiful rocket full of pointless dreams, I thought This could be it! I kept my enthusiasm in check - after the 7-7-7 debacle I knew better. But I did hope, quietly and just a little. But it should have come as no surprise that this morning my temperature had sunk even lower than that first dip. And I've begun to feel that old familiar feeling, and Aunt Flo, that old biddy, she's on her way. And once again the dream has died.

And I'm so fucking over this.

*By the way, I don't think it needs to be said and yet, somehow, it must be said: I know how lucky I am to have this kid. I know how lucky I am to have conceived him so easily. I know how lucky I am to have conceived him at all. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy child. I know how lucky I am to have a child. My bitching and moaning should not take away from that at all. But focusing only on that is what leads me down that Pollyanna path and I've begun to realize that that's not healthy for me because it doesn't acknowledge all of what I'm feeling. Sometimes I need to bitch and moan because even though my entire heart is full of love for my one and only, I'm greedy, and I want more.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Overheard


Eli took a while to start talking. Until a few months ago he communicated mostly through sign language and a few select words like "mama" and "cookie." (You know, the important things.) Now that he's chatting up a storm, I can't get enough of it. If I could bottle every conversation and save those bottles to uncork them and drink them down when he's grown and gone and I'm a lonely shell of a mother with 18 cats and a collection of bird figurines, I would. Since that's not possible, I must do what's second best: videotape what I can and transcribe everything else.

Sometimes the things he says to me are laughable in their no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is, don't-pretend-it's-not-happening honesty. For example, one of his favorite things to do is poke at or pinch my, um, less toned areas. He'll come up behind me and squeeze the back of my upper arm and proclaim "Fun to do!" Or he'll poke at my pooch and say "Mushy" (though it comes out more like "moochy"). Sometimes the proclamations have a slightly bittersweet edge to them, like the times he'll point at that same moochy tummy and say "No baby in there." Thanks kiddo. I knew that. He made up for that one when a few days later he reached up, stroked my face, and quietly said, "Real Mommy." Thanks kiddo. I'm glad you think so.

Some of my favorite conversations happen right after he's woken up in the morning or after a nap. For a long time, when our interactions were mostly one-sided with me talking and him nodding or gesturing or gibberishing, I would go in and say "Did you have happy dreams?" After a while he started answering yes (usually) or no (once in a while). Now, after a good sleep, he'll wake up and sit on his bed and repeat over and over "Had happy dreams." "Had happy dreams!" "HAD HAPPY DREAMS!" (Apparently, this now translates to, "My dreams were fine, come get me woman! I need processed snack foods!") That's okay, I'll take it.

Often, if he's a little groggy, I can get him to lie back down with me and snuggle for a bit. Sometimes the things that come out of his mouth in this setting are especially random, like the time he announced, "Mommy has a penis!" (I don't.) But some conversations are consistent, like if I ask him what his dreams were about he'll invariably say "Teletubbies came to our house." This has been his happy dream for as long has he's been able to talk, and the best thing about it is that it's slowly evolving as his imagination takes shape. What I mean is that for a long time it was just that they came to our house. Then he would talk about them dancing. When I would ask if he danced with them, he'd always say "No. Danced alone." But then recently, maybe two weeks ago, when I asked him that question he said "Yes." And then another day he told me they went in their hole and he went with them.

If you're still reading this, I give you credit. I realize that the dreams of someone else's two-year-old may not be the stuff of Pulitizer Prizes, but here's why I need to have a record of it: Can't you just see his little brain working overtime to go beyond the things he's seen somewhere else? Can't you just see my little guy coming out of his shell through these descriptions? I mean, first he's just talking about these weird colorful creatures, describing them from a distance. Now he's dancing with them. As the mother of a shy, reserved boy, this is huge.

What strikes me often is how much the little tiny things in motherhood are simply magic. There is no way I can ever communicate to him how much a one-minute cuddle and conversation in his bed nourishes my whole heart. There is no way he'll ever understand that I relish every opportunity to pick him up out of his car seat because it gives me a chance to feel him and smell him and sneak a kiss onto that neck. There is no way he'll do much more than roll his eyes if, years from now, I tell him that I used to like to sit close to him while he was eating because the very sound of him smacking his lips and the sight of him happily inserting almond butter sandwiches into his mouth could make my insides melt. The best I can hope for is that the almost paralyzing love I have for this kid makes him strong, and happy, and content. And in being all of that, on some level, perhaps he'll know.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Key to Life


I'm feeling very literal today. It's Theme Thursday, and the theme is Key. So I present you with... my keys! Seems kind of obvious, I know, but as I was taking the picture I realized how much this group of metal and plastic is a literal key to my life. For example, ignoring the ridiculous number of plastic membership cards, this is the emptiest my key chain has been since high school. I'm used to having keys to an office building, keys to an office in that building, keys to friends' houses (that I would actually use to go over and hang out - imagine the luxury of that), all in addition to the standards: car and home. Right now I have my car key, my house key, and - just for good measure - a key to my sister's house. It took me a while to get used to an emptier key chain, as if a larger number of keys somehow indicates a more useful life. I prefer to think of these as simpler times.

Two things I love about my keys: First, that the big clunky one says VW. I drive a station wagon that we bought before there was Eli, before we even left California to head east and start this family. I love my wagon. But I especially love that it's a VW because in my single California days I drove old bugs. I had a white '66 - nicknamed Pearl - for a few months that was stolen off the streets of San Francisco. (Boo.) I replaced it with a '65 in seafoam green that needed a ton of work, most of which I did myself, again on the streets of San Francisco. There I was, weekend after weekend, at the intersection of Polk and Filbert, re-upholstering the seats or sanding out the rust or replacing the bumpers. One of my favorite memories of that time is when a woman walked past, said hello, and then came back about 20 minutes later with a 12 year old girl trailing right behind. She said to me, "I brought my niece back because I wanted her to see all the things that women can do." I felt pretty good about that.

And then I drove that freshly painted car - christened Opal - down to LA to start graduate school and wouldn't you know it, three days later someone stole that one. (Sigh.) I replaced it with a UPS brown '67 (obviously not the original color, which was beige). That poor car never got new bumpers, never got a new paint job, never got a name. It just got replaced with something else when I could afford it. I think it was a combination of the thefts breaking my spirit and the LA freeways making me wish for a steadier car. But I will forever hold a special place in my heart for VWs, and my station wagon and its key hints at that a little.

So there you have it. A key to my keys.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Massachusetts Gleaming


It's a funny thing about reading blogs: You find yourself fully immersed in the worlds of complete strangers. So much of it is anonymous. I tend to think of it like a long, long hallway of viewing rooms with one-way mirrors that allow you to peek in and see what's going on in other people's worlds. If you're inclined to make a connection, you can press the little button on the wall, speak into the mic, and say a few words, but then, usually, you slink back into the dark silence for a while until you're moved to say something else. In my own little exhibition hall I'm just kind of flailing about, doing my own thing. I venture down the hall every now and then when something compels me to. There is humor. There is the banal. And sometimes, there is tragedy.

Right now there is a mother going through perhaps the worst thing a mother can endure - the loss of her child, Hannah. I came to her blog in the typical way, through a link on someone else's blog, and have cried tears with everyone else who reads her words. I have left comments here and there, but not as many as I wish I had. I find myself returning to her blog time and time again and it was only recently that I realized why I go back so often: I want to know Hannah; I want to memorize her. And now, I want to be part of the army of readers that keeps her memory alive, through thoughts and actions and, quite simply, through life.

Hannah's mom Rachel is very clear on the fact that Hannah simply sparkled. She loved to be fancy. Her memorial service was a festive affair with mardi gras beads and feather boas - what a sight it must have been! The world most certainly sparkled more because Hannah was in it, and it should continue to sparkle more because she was here. With that in mind, I took Eli on a shopping trip. We went to the party store to find ourselves some sparkle of our own.

I've mentioned before that Eli is decidedly not fancy. It's not his style to to make a spectacle of himself in any way. He'll dance, but only until you point out that he's dancing and then it's done. He hasn't yet found a love of costumes or pretend. But boy did he help me find the sparkle that day.







While we were gathering our objects of glitter, something else caught my eye: a rainbow pinwheel of sorts. The reason it caught my eye is that we had been searching for one for quite a while. Another family in our neighborhood had one on their deck for the longest time and it was one of Eli's favorite landmarks on our walks. Sometimes we would just stop across the street from their house to watch it spin for a while. And then one day it disappeared. As two year olds do, Eli did not forget about it. In fact, it became even more a focus of our conversations because it wasn't there. You would think it a relatively easy task to find one of our own, but that quickly proved not to be the case - until we went shopping for sparkles, and then there it was, just waiting for us.

It now sits in our yard, under the shade of a pine tree, next to the hammock. As we put it into the ground, I told Eli that a little girl named Hannah must have wanted us to have a rainbow of our own. We named it Hannah's Rainbow.


Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Hannah is here in Massachusetts. She's in the extra bit of sparkle in Eli's play. She's in her beautiful rainbow as we rest peacefully in our hammock. She's in our thoughts. She won't be forgotten.

I decided to write about this today because Rachel, Hannah's mother, wrote that her own blog has become a source of comfort for her, that the comments from her readers are helping her get through. It seemed to be time to come out from the shadows to show how we celebrated a little girl we never got to meet, but will always remember.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Completely random


Did you know that you can buy loose cubic zirconia? For less than $50 I could have 500 of them! I have no idea what I would do with them, but I picture myself pouring them out on the bed and rolling around in them. Or maybe putting them in a jar on the windowsill. Or maybe letting Eli use them for craft projects (because glitter is for "other people").

If I had an extra $50 I might just do that.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hey, Universe, it's Enough Already!


The year: 1993.
The place: Union Street, San Francisco

I had just seen Sleepless in Seattle with one of my closest friends. As we strolled down the street we had a deep conversation - as deep at 26 year olds can get - about signs. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks had respected the signs that the universe threw at them, and look what it got them. True Love. Happiness. Surely we just needed to open our eyes a little wider and all things wonderful would be ours in no time.

I don't think that conversation put us directly on a path to utopia, but I do subscribe to the philosophy that nothing is a coincidence and that there are times when the universe is trying to tell me something.

This might be one of those times.

We are coming dangerously close to the one year anniversary of this family's quest for another member. Basically, we finish out this cycle and we're there. Along the way, the obstacles have been so plentiful they've been downright comical. We got off to a great start (for a month), followed by a rude halt caused by a gazillion little house guests. How do you fit a gazillion guests in your house? It's easy when they're PINWORMS! Blech. Not my happiest memory. Since the drug doesn't mesh with pregnancy, we waited a cycle. Then we continued on our merry way with other less disgusting obstacles like a very poorly timed business trip for David and a less-than-ideally-timed glassblowing weekend away for me. (With some fancy footwork we managed that one.)

A few more months of fruitless trying and then a letter from my OB saying she'd be leaving her practice permanently to improve maternal health services in Zambia. I can think of no one better suited to the work - and that fact is also why I adored her as my OB - but it does make it difficult for her to see me through another pregnancy, doesn't it? Oh well, no matter, I've been through worse (ahempinorms) and carried on. I could always find another OB.

After the basic fertility tests, we made a decision that the very slightly increased chances we would have if we pursued IUI and IVF were not worth the financial or emotional costs. The only intervention for this family would be acupuncture. I found the guy - you know, the one they write newspaper articles about because of his success rates; the one everyone knows someone who went to him - and started treatment. Month one: No change. Month two: Craziest temps ever. Month three: Acupuncturist gets a detached retina and is out of commission for two months.

Huh?

HUH?!

Universe, I could deal with the worms. I could deal with the poor travel timing. I could even survive without the woman who brought my perfect son into the world. But, this. Are you kidding me?

(And to top it all off, one of the things I keep thinking about when we consider raising Eli as an only is that he's perfect. No developmental troubles, save for a few sensory things we can handle; no medical issues; he's - dare I say it -easy. Of course Autism is one of the potential problems I mull over and worry about. And so as I settled in with my lunch and my Tivo remote to see what wise words Oprah had to offer me today, should I have been surprised that the episode she chose to re-run was the episode on severe Autism? Probably not.)

I find myself in a strange position now. I have always prided myself on listening to my inner voice, respecting the signs that have been put in front of me. If I'm being honest here, the signs are telling me one thing: Stop. Just stop. It's enough. Quit while you're ahead. Bloom where you're planted. Love the one you're with, and all that.

And yet somehow I can't. Not quite yet.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

What a long, loud trip it's been



My poor kid. Torn between his love of trains and his discomfort with the very sound of them. This is a pretty typical visit to the train station for us, watching all the suburbanites take their daily trip into the city. And it just so happens that trip is this week's theme over at Tracey's Theme Thursday. Head over there for more takes on trip.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sensing Change


To the untrained observer, there is nothing remarkable about the photo of Eli at the top of this post. Your run-of-the-mill, happy-go-lucky two-and-a-half year old. But to me, there is something very important about this photo, taken just 10 minutes ago. What? Eli's shirt.

Eli is developmentally on-track and perfect in every way. Like every human on this planet, though, he has his challenges: For him, smells are a particular struggle, as are (to a lesser degree) touch, visual stimuli, and sounds. To put it succinctly - but also to vastly oversimplify it - he has Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder. This is a very wide umbrella that covers so many symptoms ranging from hypersensitivity of the senses to hyposensitivity to the senses to difficulty with the sense of movement or with the sense of one's own position in relation to the world. For Eli, it means he reacts very strongly to certain smells - often to the point of gagging, sometimes to the point of vomiting - and can't stand to look at various foods. He doesn't like loud sounds, he's not a fan of finger paints (or of many other activities that require messy hands). He is also sometimes more aware of the tags in his shirts than the princess was of the pea. And since he began having a say in what he wears he has flatly refused collared shirts.

We didn't think much of most of the things I just listed; he is two, after all. Wouldn't you expect him to have some very strong preferences, especially ones that make little sense to an adult? But the gagging and refusal to even look at some dinners was making for very tedious meal times. When I saw an advertisement for a seminar on picky eaters I signed right up. The nutritionist who led the group was wonderful and talked a lot about offering reasonable portion sizes and about exposing young eaters to as many foods as possible. Even if they wouldn't eat it, let them see you eating it. I raised my hand: "What if your child won't even let you eat most things in the same room as him?" She asked: "Does he get gaggy, too?" When she said that, it was as if the heavens had opened so the angels could sing. This woman got it. I said "Yes," she said, "talk to me after," and a plan was hatched.

A couple of weeks before this a friend of mine who is an elementary teacher suggested that Eli might have some sensory issues and said I should look into Early Intervention. Not having a clue how it worked, I thought I needed to go to my pediatrician for a referral. So I made an appointment and hunkered down to wait a few weeks. It turns out, as I learned from the nutritionist, no referral is necessary at all. Just call, say you'd like your child evaluated, and they will come. So I called, said I'd like my child evaluated, and they came.

The evaluation was pretty straightforward. In order to qualify for services, Eli's sensory woes had to be delaying his development in one area or more by at least three months. Of course this wasn't slowing him down in the slightest with his language or cognitive development. He did, however, score a little low on "self care." Apparently, the fact that he doesn't show interest in getting himself dressed or undressed and the fact the often chooses not to use a fork puts him behind other kids his age. That (with a couple of other low scores) qualified him to work with an Occupational Therapist (OT).

So for the last couple of months she's been working with Eli once a week, trying to develop his central nervous system and to desensitize him to various tactile, auditory, and olfactory sensations. She gave us the details of a "sensory diet," which requires me to spend 15-20 minutes every two hours or so stimulating his proprioception and vestibular system. What it really amounts to is me helping him to bounce, march, crawl, or roll. Big movements. Being at the playground counts, so we try to make it there every day.

Eli is also very lucky to be part of an Early Intervention playgroup where he spends 90 minutes a week with 9 other kids and 5 OTs having all of his senses stimulated while experts work through the rough spots. For the first several weeks they gave the kids cheese as a snack because it's one of the things that tends to trigger Eli. Last week I watched him through the one-way mirror as they asked him if he wanted crackers or apples. His response? "No cheese this week!" You can't put anything past my boy.

In the fall he'll start Hippotherapy, which is basically work with an OT while he's on a pony. How fun is that?! But the smells of the stable and the texture of the horse and the movement of the ride - these will all be fantastic for him.

There are some days where I feel like all of this is much ado about nothing. I mean, he'll grow out of it, right? But what I always came back to was the worry that he wouldn't outgrow his trouble with smells and I'd have to send him off to school, knowing he'd end up in the stinky cafeteria. Knowing that if the smell bothered him enough, he'd get sick. And knowing that if he got sick, he might be embarrassed or - worse - be made fun of. That was enough to cause me to request the help.

And, as you can see from the picture, things seem to be working. He still has plenty that he doesn't like but look at my boy in his collared shirt! Just look at him! What a little man.

It has been on my mind since I started this blog that I wanted to post some details about all of this. When Eli first started having trouble with smells I googled the heck out the problem and came up with nothing. I didn't have a name for it so I stuck to search terms like gag, gagging, smells, etc., and the only thing I found was an old post to a message board - probably four or five years old - from a mother with the same problem. Sadly, no one had responded to her question. So my hope is that if someone else has the same trouble we do and they're not sure what to call it and not sure where to turn with it, they'll come across my post and know immediately that they aren't alone and that there is something that they can do. So I'm putting out there to the blogosphere, and even if it forever stays with "0 Comments" just below it, I won't care. It needed to be said.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fair, Not Fair


It's Theme Thursday again. The theme is "Fair" and I had to stretch pretty hard to find something that worked. We didn't visit any fairs this week, but we did suffer certain injustices. Specifically, my poor husband has diligently watered two small tomato plants every morning and night for the last few months. He had three tomatoes growing - until a few days ago, that is, when we noticed one missing. And then the next morning another. Animals - it doesn't matter what kind, but let's assume raccoon since that's what we tend to see around here - had taken the literal fruits of his labor. NOT FAIR.

BUT, there was one left. Not quite ready for picking, but close enough, and we couldn't risk losing it. He snatched it from the plant, ferried it inside, and we devoured it in three minutes flat.

Two for the scurrying nocturnal creature; one for us. FAIR ENOUGH.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More to chew on

I was talking with a pregnant friend the other day about whether or not she should have an amnio and she was saying she was leaning away from doing it and would be glad when the window of opportunity was over so she could stop thinking about it. I realized today that that's just how I feel. My window of opportunity for conceiving a second child is slowly closing - I've got time left yet, but not a lot - and I honestly believe I'll feel some relief when it's over. Regardless of what happens.

I think I've written earlier that I am completely at peace with all of our options: biological child; adoption; only child. I mull them all over and on any given day I feel great about one, good about another, and not much interested in the third. And it changes all the time. When I thought the day of the lucky sevens was going to pan out for us (it didn't, by the way) I was thrilled about being pregnant again and about having an infant in the house and about everything that went along with both of those things. The day I knew it wasn't our month I was crushed but by the next day I was back to thinking about adoption. Not international adoption this time, but adoption of a child from the foster care system.

I started research on all of that (it's what I do; I research) and am left feeling pretty good about that option. There are so many wonderful kids out there. I don't have hesitations about bringing an older child into our house, at least not when Eli's older too (this would be several years from now) and boy does this plan take a financial load off our minds. My hesitation lies more with the question of, "How do you get to know a child and then make a "decision" without potentially breaking a little heart?" I'm sure I'm not the first to ask this question and I think an info session is in order. (When Eli was first born I was a "new moms' group" junkie. I do believe I have now become an "info session" junkie.)

But then I have my days when I think having an only child is the right fit for us. Maybe. The thing is, I never fully get there. I want to. I have on-line role models who make parenting an only child seem just how I'd want it to be. The chance to get to know your kid inside and out. The time to really engage with them. Quite simply, a happy little family unit. Whether these women stay the mothers of only children or take a different path, at the moment they make life with their onlies look really, really wonderful.

And like I said, I want to get there. But I grew up with a sibling and so did David. We both always imagined we'd have two. When you don't think you will ever be the one having trouble getting knocked up it's easy to be certain about your choices, and that's what I was. Certain. The only thing in question was whether I'd have a boy first or a girl first (because I also somehow thought that was up to me). It's just so hard to imagine raising a boy with no brother or sister. I know I could do it and I know he'd be a happy person. I just never want to hear him say that he was lonely as a child. (That, and there's part of me that thinks that if I'm going to screw up as a mom, it's best spread across a couple of people. Concentrating my flaws onto just one person seems a little cruel, don't you think?)

So that brings us back to how best to grow this family. We'll keep on with the acupuncture and the TTC or the BD or whatever you want to call it. I'm shying away from international adoption (or domestic adoption, for that matter) these days because of two things: cost and time. We don't really have $30K to spend right now and don't anticipate having it in the future. I know there are tax breaks when you adopt and I also know our families would help out, so if money was the only issue, we wouldn't let that stop us. But, there's also the timing issue. Specifically, if we're going to adopt we should start the process now (or at least very soon). That means plunking down about $5K before we've completely given up on a biological child.

And that is how I have found myself looking at websites with photos of waiting children, asking myself if one of them could be mine. Like I said, if we did decide to adopt an older child it wouldn't happen for a few years so realistically, no, none of those children could be mine. But I'm trying this one on for size and it feels pretty good. More research to be done, of course, but it seems like a good option for us, for many reasons.

In the meantime, I'll just keep loving my only. Not a bad option.