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


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


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


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.



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.