Happy Halloween.

It appears that I shot my wad a little early by posting photos of Z as a bee yesterday. Ah well. Here's another one, from actual Halloween day.

And, of course, what would Halloween be without the annual Torture By Costuming of Sweet Dog. Sadly, I couldn't find bee antennae for her. (When shopping for all things, I go to one store and one store only. Sorry Sweet Dog, you're SOL.)

'Till next year when I totally plan on stuffing Sweet Dog into this!

I'm Palooza-d out.

On Sunday we went to PumpkinPalooza. (While not nearly as ubiquitous as the variations on "Got Milk?", hasn't the statute of limitations run out on "paloozas"?). This rather unfortunately named festival was at one of our favorite gardens and we were hoping for three good hours of some ol' fashioned Halloween fun: hay rides, costumes, pumpkins galore.

First, we had to dress up Z. Being the slacker parents we are, we borrowed a costume that was offered by a friend. And so a bee was born (Note seeds clutched in hand. We had been there exactly 5 minutes and she was already collecting seeds.):

Actually, I have to say, we aren't super slackers. More like super geeks. It turns out that we were THE ONLY adults dressed up at the whole place (that we saw anyway):

Unfortunately, it was miserably hot that day in Southern California (I know, I know, no one but me was surprised. I'm still getting used to living in one of the outer circles of HELL.) so Z's black tights, black long sleeved onesie and polyester bee suit were a bit much. After taking many pictures, we quickly changed her out of her costume and headed, toddler-meandering-while-collecting-seeds speed, for the hay ride. Where we waited and waited and waited. By the time we finally got off the lame, fume-inhaling ride, we had squandered what was left of Z's decent mood so off we went to the super-long line for the predictably mediocre lunch. After lunch, it seemed the heat had taken it's toll on us all so we quickly shoved her next to a few huge pumpkins, snapped some pics and headed home. This one shows Z signing "hot" because she had just touched the pumpkin.

Why are these things always so much better on paper?


18 months.

Dear Z,

You are 18 months old today.

Sometime very soon, I will stop referring to your age like it's a high school relationship. Sometime soon, I will say you are 2 years old and then 2 and a half and then all of sudden you'll be in (real) school and then moving away and having your own life so totally separate from us. (All of that sappy, you're-growing-up-too-fast blather helps mollify the mounting dread at your inevitably increasing defiance. It helps to think that the passage of time is actually really, really fast. You will not be this small- and the parenting this intense -for very long. Um, right?)

At 18 months, you are big into your books, Sweet Dog, Dolly, all your stuffed animals and, lately, brooms. The dust brush and dustpan are getting a bigger workout then they've had in their whole life.

You are quite the flirt and love to bat your eyelashes and smile sideways at men, especially your uncles. It's so overt it's almost silly but it makes me strangely proud of you. (Okay, fine. Your poop sometimes makes me proud of you. I'm easily.... improuded.)

You're a big collector these days; seeds mostly. You cram as many into your fists as you can and relinquish them to my pockets only when you are convinced you can truly hold no more.

You crack yourself up often and get into crazy moods, mostly when we're playing with Sweet Dog or when you're flopping into pillows in the living room, over and over again.

Your world is exploding in front of our eyes and it's quite a wild ride. New words are coming to you every day which excites us all greatly. (Yesterday you said "Emma" when you saw your new friend and we all got so excited you said it over and over again all day long). You can literally see your chest swell with pride when you're understood.

Can you see our chests swell with pride as well?


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


We're hoping to capitalize on this new found interest ASAP.


PS. For those of you waiting with bated breath for the latest info on the scariest thing that could have happened in Southern California this week, I am happy to report that I narrowly escaped the raging....... barfing! At least this time around. (That's me trying to be humble in the face of the barfing gods. There's also a small shrine in one corner of our house.....)


Apocalypse, Now.

When I moved from the east coast to San Francisco lo those many years ago, I got seriously bitter when "Summer" would roll around and we would be greeted by mini-skirts and tank tops in store windows while we wore wool sweaters and hats to brave the chilly, damp fog that was a permanent fixture of 4th of July barbecues. I wore shorts exactly once a year, usually with a wool sweater.

Moving to the 'burbs of LA two years ago (Holy hell! Has it really been 2 years?!?!), I was psyched to finally have some real summer. I believe I even said that out loud. "I'm ready for hot, dry weather", I believe I said.

Can I take it back?

Now the stores are all full of wool sweaters and high heeled boots and it was 90 degrees yesterday. It's almost November, people.

And, of course, the fires rage. They aren't right where I live but it's still too close for comfort. The sky on Monday was dirt brown. The sun glowed orange whenever it could peek through the sludge in our atmosphere. I didn't walk the dog because I didn't want any of us to breathe the air. I kept Zoe inside all day, which just about drove us all insane.

I haven't lived here long enough to understand just how abnormal this is. I spent the first year here saying "Santa Ana wha?" and "Wildfires? They're only a problem for people who live in the backwoods of Colorado.". Apparently, they are also a concern for those in the backwoods of Malibu.

I know that "global climate change", or whatever we're calling the total destruction of our environment these days, isn't just about my little corner of the world getting hotter but seriously. WTF?


Advanced placement.

I like to think that I don't get too caught up in where Z is on "the charts" but I'm afraid a few things have tripped me up.

I vacillated between being really proud and kinda freaked out that she was such a big infant. How big, you say? How about 95th percentile for weight and height, thank you very much. Like that means anything to anyone besides another mother with a same aged child?! Why do I even remember that? I certainly hope it's a question on her college applications (you know, which she'll probably just beam from her brain to the million-dollar-costing institution of her choice) so that it can actually come in handy some day. She has slowly slid down the chart to her current, I-eat-only-fruit size-- average in height and weight. That is sometimes satisfying ("She's NORMAL!") and other times annoying ("WTF? She's no longer EXCEPTIONAL!").

Because of those damned charts, I got very caught up in her "late" crawling. Actually, her non-existent crawling. She went from sitting (late, according to the charts), to the monkey shuffle (a lovely one foot/one knee form of locomotion) to walking. Now she runs like Paris Hilton after some publicity so I'd say she shows no ill effects from her stunted development.

Then there's her "late" talking. She uses a lot of signs but her verbal words have been a bit slower (Bite me, judgmental non-signers. I refuse to believe that the signing has made her talk less.) Right now, she says "Z" ("oeoeoe"), "Mama", "Daddy", and the only thing closer to her heart than her parents-- "cheese" ("chhhhsssss").

My mom was obviously a crappy mom: she didn't know what percentile I was for anything and thinks the charts are silly. She's sure I did just fine on my milestones but she's not really clear on when I met them. But without charts, HOW COULD SHE KNOW?? (Hi Mom. That's me using sarcasm. Yes, I know I'm not licensed to use it given my strict adherence to literal sincerity but I thought I'd give it a try.)

I'm sure these charts and milestones are important to use as a way to intervene early when there is a kid who is having serious delays (*knocking wood, crossing fingers, tossing salt*) but what about for the rest of them who grow and develop at different rates and in different ways? How can we not get caught up in the milestone madness when it's jammed down our throats as THE measure of parenting success?

I just borrowed "What to Expect the Toddler Years" from the library (an afternoon spent organizing our overflowing bookshelves has a strange way of keeping me from my weekly Amazon splurge). Their charts are more to my liking. They stroke my ego. At 17 months your child "may even be able to" (italics added by my ego): build a tower of 4 cubes (check!), identify 2 items in picture by pointing (check!!), combine words (okay fine, my ego quickly moves past that one), throw ball overhand (kind of! how about a half a check!?), speak and be understood half the time (with only about 2 words but, check!!)

Why our child is positively advanced! Surely we are skillful parents and she will go on to a life of greatness. Right?


All I really need to know about parenting I learned in puppy class.

(With apologies to Robert Fulghum)

1. (Insert funny but possibly CPS-visit-worthy line about crate training- "You can leave them alone in their crate for an hour for each month of life!")
2. Praise the good behavior, ignore the bad. We are So Money with this one. So far, every time we get excited about, or just pay attention to, something Zoe does, she does more of it. If we totally ignore a mildly annoying but disgusting infraction (drinking her bath water, licking the railing at the zoo, making loud 'pfffft' sounds with a mouthful of food) and then a moment later distract her with something she likes, POOF! The infraction is gone within a few short days. It's just like when we would nonchalantly take a sock out of Sweet Dog's mouth and insert one of her chew toys and go beserk whenever she would voluntarily chose to play nicely with one of her own toys.
3. Start out with regular food as a treat and save the really good stuff for when you need it most. When Sweet Dog was a puppy, we'd give her a few pieces of kibble when she did something we liked (like pee outside, or sit). The major rewards of meaty bones were saved for when we needed her full attention or she really deserved it. Don't worry, as for Zoe, we don't exactly use treats to reward good behavior but we do keep the high level food treats to a restricted minimum. I don't really know how well this will work for us in the long run, but Zoe really doesn't know much about dessert. Chocolate, cookies, cakes, cupcakes- all have been in her vicinity but she hasn't really figured out what they're all about yet. And we hope to keep it that way for awhile. Right now, she thinks getting a pear is, like, totally awesome. (Do the kids still say "awesome"?)
4. Start working on "come" as the most important command in your arsenal. Oh my GOD. We need some serious work on this one. The girl is RUNNING now. And delights in running AWAY from us, LAUGHING as we yell in her wake: "Why can't you be like your big sister Sweet Dog? She ALWAYS comes when we call." Maybe this is where we need the big meaty bone?!
5. Always be consistent. We heard this over and over again from our dog trainer and we read it over and over again in regards to child rearing. It sounds so easy, doesn't it? Just mean what you say and follow through. Piece of cake, right? AS IF.
6. Use only positive discipline. We are really trying this one with both our girls. Sweet Dog has not been swatted or had her nose pushed in her accidents or yelled at for infractions. Zoe is only 17 months and still fairly angelic so I'll keep you posted on this how this one fairs when the terrible twos hit.
7. (Insert bizarre joke about using the clicker to reward good behaviors that only hard core dog training geeks will understand.)
8. Give them a predictable schedule and procedure that they can follow. You all know how much I *heart* my schedule. I really and truly think it helps pups and babes alike. They both have so little control over what happens to them, it helps to know what's going to happen and when so they can follow along. Sweet Dog gets fed at the same time every day. When it's bedtime, she goes right in her crate to sleep. Before Zoe's nap/bedtime, she always gets a diaper check/change, we read a book and then she helps turn out her light. And her naps and bedtime almost always happen in her crib and at a consistent time every day. Is she just naturally a great, easy, consistent sleeper? Possibly. Did we do every single thing we possibly could to encourage and ensure her great sleeping? You betcha.
9. Give them equal amounts of exercise/stimulation and downtime/affection. Both Sweet Dog and Zoe seem happiest when they've had a good outing or two for the day where they got some fresh air, got to romp and play and got a little out of breath. Both also seem happiest when that outing is proceeded and followed by some good ol'fashioned mellow play and rest at home with the usual toys and some belly rubs/kisses from mom and dad.
10. Use simple declarative instructions. We truly suck at this one. Both FH and I talk waaaaaay too much to both our dog-ter and our daughter. Our dog trainer was very clear: one or two word instructions followed by meaningful result. This seems to dovetail nicely with the whole Happiest Toddler on the Block business about using "toddlerese" so that Zoe can understand us, especially when she's upset. Unfortunately this is what we sound like most of the time: "Does Sweet Dog want a tweat? Yeeessssshhhh? How about a good sit for a tweeeaattt?" and "Zoe, I know you really want to bite my shoulder because you are teething but that hurts Mama and she really would prefer if you would teethe on one of these toys instead, okay?". We know this should really be reduced to "Sit". and "No biting, Zoe." *shove teether in mouth*.

Now if only we could teach Zoe to do her business outside in the backyard.....

(ed. Oh. my. God. The dog formerly known as Sweet Dog just caught a small squirrel in her mouth and ran around the yard with it. This is the dog to whom "attack" previously meant "lick and snuggle to death". Perhaps we should go back to some remedial training....)


Someone else's daughter.

J and her little sister used to ring my doorbell at least once a week, their friendly faces peering through the screen door. Apparently, they used to stop by and chat with the previous owners. On their first visit two years ago, when I was pregnant and unpacking, they told me all about the history of the house, who lived here and for how long, who lived in each house on the block and whether they were friendly.

At first, they stayed for just a few minutes due to the terrifying presence of Sweet Dog (who was a fluffy, grinning puppy at the time but still apparently terrifying, especially to J's sister.). This was fine by me as I didn't know them and I was pregnant and tired and wary.

Eventually, their visits lengthened. I put Sweet Dog in the backyard. I took them through the house, gave them cookies, and fed them lunch a few times when they came by as I was sitting down to eat. Sometimes, I hid in the back of the house and pretended to be napping to avoid the inevitably hour-long visit.

J was quiet so I mostly heard about how J's sister did well in school and wanted to be a "OG...a OBN... you know, a doctor who delivers babies". They told me they liked our house with its funky colored walls, new appliances and big TV. They oohed and ahhed over my belly and, later, even more so over my baby.

I bought tins of chalky, chocolate-covered peanuts and packages of gift wrap from J's sister for her school trips and projects. At Halloween, they told me that my farmer costume was lame but that our handout of tiny Snickers bars was the best on the block.

I never met their mother.

One day this past summer, J came by alone. She was upset and wanted to use the phone to call her grandmother. I let her in and pretended not to listen as she ranted about her mother, her social worker and "crazy lies" and then she ran out when she heard the siren of a police car coming down our street. I peered out from behind my curtains and saw a woman- her mother?- on the sidewalk yelling, the police holding her back from lunging toward J. My heart was beating fast but my feet stood still and I closed the curtain.

A few days later, J was back.

She wanted to use the phone to call her social worker. After she hung up, she bounced Z on her knee as she told me all about her father who is in jail and her "lying, crazy" mother who threw away her stuff and called the police over little transgressions, telling them that J had "pulled a knife on her". It was "all lies". Her mother was the one that hit HER and she just wanted out; she wanted to get emancipated. To do what? To go where? I asked. She didn't have an answer.

I asked about her future, about school and was there anywhere else she could go, any other family she could stay with? She told me she was about to enter her junior year in high school, wanted to go to college, and she wanted to be an "OBN. You know, deliver babies.". When I asked about her grades and favorite subjects, she wouldn't meet my eyes and admitted she wasn't enrolled yet for the school year that started in two days.

I told her that medical school was after 4 years of studying pre-med in college and she needed to do well in a rigorous schedule of math and science classes. I told her she was going to have to get herself enrolled in school if her mother refused to do it. I told her education was her key to success. I told her it was her life and she would have to take charge and make it what she wanted it to be. She continued to study the grout in the tiles of our kitchen floor as my self-help, Oprah-style platitudes dissipated in the air around her.

Her visits to use the phone and vent became more frequent; her compliments of our house, more pointed. "You have a guest room?!", "Wow, look at that dishwasher!", "What kind of TV is that?", "I've never seen a washer-dryer like that!", and always back to "You have a guest room?!"

(Do I need to tell you that J is black and I am white? That her mother rents their place and that we bought our house for a ridiculous California-is-criZAZY-and-we-live-in-a-gentrifying-neighborhood price? Do these specifics matter? Do they explain the gaps in understanding and communication between J and me?)

(Why does even writing those sentences make me feel queasy, probably for all the wrong, white-liberal-guilt reasons?)

I finally had to tell her she couldn't stay with us. She already knew that but after weeks of hinting had asked point-blank anyway.

I kept asking about her aunt, the one her mother "wouldn't let her stay with". Or what about her grandmother, who she said was "too old to take care" of her? I wanted to say that she was 16 and old enough to be taking care of her grandmother in exchange for a safe place to stay. I wanted to say that whatever the true story was, her home was emotionally toxic and she would need to find a safe and calm place to stay if she wanted to finish high school and go to college.

I wanted to say that she could stay with us. But I didn't. She couldn't.


Not long after our final discussion of the often-empty guest room, she stopped coming by.

I asked a neighbor if she had heard anything about J and she told me J was sent to juvenile hall. There had been one too many calls to the police.

Had J lied to me? Did she really pull knives on her mother? Would she have been a danger to us, to Z?

Or was she an abused teen who was looking for help, for someone to notice, do something? Care?

I know she's not my daughter. I have a daughter who needs me to look out for her, which includes not bringing questionable people into our home. But J clearly needed some help and she was clearly asking me to provide it. That I didn't (couldn't?) do more than listen feels like a failure of my commitment to my community, to motherhood.

Who's responsible to catch other mothers' daughters who are falling through the cracks? Is motherhood just about mothering my own daughter or about some larger responsibility to daughters (and sons) everywhere? What has motherhood taught me if not the importance of feeling safe, the necessity of supportive community, and the primacy of unconditional love?

How much can I give when I'm just a neighbor?

Will I ever be able to accept, to go about my business even while knowing, that while Z is lucky enough to go to sleep at night in a safe, loving home (with an often-empty guest room, no less), J is in Juvie?

It's been a few months since I last saw J. I saw her sister on a scooter on our street a few days ago and I asked where J was, even though I knew the answer. She shrugged, looking at the ground: "I don't know." I said: "Say hi for me if you hear from her" and sighed at how lame and insufficient it sounded as she scooted away.


This is why parents only go to Chuck E. Cheeeeezzzzz.

My brother-in-law E is in town for work so last night we went to dinner at his friend's house.

E is a photographers' assistant and has a glamorous life of travel and celebrities (and crazy long work days. But still. In my book, celebrities in your close vicinity on a regular basis = glam-or-ous.)

His friend is a "stylist" and I have no effing clue what that means except that given my dazzling array of black yoga pants, my penchant for wearing clogs and my New Jersey high school yearbook photos, I am prohibited from ever, EVER working as one. She lives in a groovy house on a hill in LA filled with mid-century furniture with delicate wooden slats and white cushions. Also: glass lamps on the floor.

The perfect place for a pushing-way-past-her-bedtime toddler, no? How about for a sweaty, nervous mother who forgot to bring toys? (Toddler friendly back-up food, diapers, pajamas, even books- check, check, check and check but no toys. Oy vey.)

All in all, Z did fine. I've already forgotten the food spit out and flung on the floor and the red-faced grunting from a squat while she, um, meditated during dinner. Plus: I think we managed to get out of there without breaking anything. She even ate some lamb sausage, asparagus and the grainy, expensive mustard that only serious grown-ups eat. Except she ate it with an orange plastic mini-fork so I guess she's still officially a kid.


What's a visiting uncle for?

... if not to mess up your hair, rile you up before bedtime, and give you a beer bottle to play with?


You decide.

Easy Halloween costume (a pale blue, lacy ghost?) or cry for help (or at least, a cry for one clueless but hopeful mama to move her lingerie to a higher drawer)?


The First Month School/Daycare Status Report.

After a very up-and-down first month of school/daycare, here's our balance sheet: (Fine, it's been over a month. I've been busy, okay?)

1. I was fearing she would never, ever nap there unless they sedated her.
Pro: She is already napping there. And she hasn't been drugged. (!?!?!?)
Con: She doesn't nap well or enough there and it's made a bit of a mess of our schedule. (ooh. How I adore cling to clutch it to my chest like a treasured talisman like my schedule.)
Status: A draw.
2. I was fearing she would spend much of her time crying and upset with no love or attention from the teachers.
Pro: She has grown increasingly happy and playful there with each visit. In fact, she just waves goodbye these days and cries when we LEAVE!
Con: She still gets a little rattled when the scene is chaotic and anytime that she does cry there I think: "This wouldn't happen at home". Plus, she cries when we're leaving? WTF? Like home is so boring?? (I know, I know it's all about the gaggle of toys and not some major referendum of our home as preferred living space. But STILL. Sheesh.)
Status: Positive.
3. I was worried she would learn bad behaviors from the other children.
Pro: Nothing major this way comes. Yet.
Con: There has been a mild uptick in Robust Throwing of Blocks but I'm not sure we can blame that on school/daycare.
Status: Positive.
4. I was worried about her immune system and how we would all handle the influx of new germs.
Pro: No barfing yet! (*madly knocking wood*). Boy howdy, I hate the barfing.
Con: Every other manner of toddler germ cycled through in the first three weeks, forcing us to stress and scramble to cover work obligations while taking care of her.
Status: would say Negative because she has been sick a lot but since none of it was barfing and I don't want to tempt the barfing gods, I will say Positive.
5. I was hoping that having this time away from her would make me more organized, more focused on- and appreciative of- her when I'm with her and more relaxed as I'm getting a few more of my needs met.
Pro: I am definitely more focused on her when I'm with her. I really see her. I really want to be with her. I don't find myself trying to force her to play by herself so that I can just. get. a moment. of. PEACE! (She does chose to play by herself very nicely throughout the day, it's just never when I want her to, like when I'm cooking dinner or going to the bathroom.) I realize just how precious my time is with her and I don't take a second for granted. I wish I felt like that before we had her in daycare but I didn't.
Con: I am definitely not more organized. I am hopelessly unorganized/disorganized/NOT-AT-ALL organized. Being out of the house for longer chunks, and not having a nap time or two every day to get things cleaned and organized, means that I have to do housework and dishes and other unmentionables at night. Which is when I prefer to sit like a lump on the couch and watch tv, on the computer chair and blog or on the bed and read. So I'm still working on this one.
Status: Positive, I think. (Hey, look at me! I'm almost feeling really positive about daycare!?!?! Who would have thunk it?)


Anatomy of a disastrous lunch.

We were low on groceries so cheese, avocado and bread were the only things on the menu. This was apparently unacceptable. So, against our "you eat what we give you or you don't eat" policy we added some yogurt mixed with applesauce to the menu. Also unacceptable. This late-in-the-game addition was promptly spread on the formerly clean hair and formerly clean dog (not pictured). That'll teach us to break policy.

Then we tried to turn it around my allowing her to take apart her sippy cup. This was very exciting. Briefly. Until the contents of the half filled sippy cup were poured onto her lap. This did not make anyone, except maybe Sweet Dog, happy.

Before taking this picture, I hid in the kitchen and ate a chocolate chip cookie to give me the strength to deal with the clean up.


"Eat, Pray, Love"? How about "Scarf, Worry, Ambivalence"?

This summer, I took a much needed break from my personal Mommy Memoir Marathon ("Operating Instructions", "Waiting for Birdy", "Waiting for Daisy", "Expecting Adam", "Baby Love", "Crawling" etc. etc. etc.) to read "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was tough to go from the affirming, navel-gazing comfort of my MMM books to this one. In the first few pages, we find Gilbert alone on her bathroom floor crying her eyes out because she doesn't want to live in a house in the suburbs, she doesn't want to be married anymore, she doesn't want to have a baby. Um, HI? Thanks for saying you don't want my life. (Didn't you know? It's all about ME and how things reflect on MY choices.)

But I kept reading and wound up loving the book in spite of (because of?) how different her journey is from my current life. In brief, she leaves her husband and embarks on a year long quest to find, know and heal herself that takes her to Italy (that would be the eating part), India (she does some praying there, natch) and finally Indonesia (for the lovin').

I had a hard time not slamming the book down in a fit of envious anger when I read the section on eating in Italy. Savoring every course during her meals, creating whole days devoted to the slow, pleasurable experience of a fresh, well-cooked meal, taking her time to figure out what she really wanted, these things seemed a lifetime away for me. Scarfing some left-over toddler mac n' cheese while trying to duck under the flying sippy cup was not on her agenda and that made me almost hate her.

Luckily, Gilbert is a witty, self-deprecating narrator and her adventure is a wild ride I enjoyed taking with her. At an ashram in India for the middle third of the book, she meets some great characters, comes to understand her true nature and spends endless hours in meditation. Finally, she finds love in Indonesia. By the end, I was truly rooting for her and was sad to leave her company on the final page.

This weekend, I watched Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah. (Gotta love that TiVo!). She seemed a genuine, happy, full-of-life person, just like I hoped. She very kindly reminded us that we can't all spend a year in Italy, India and Indonesia. (You don't think that Z would like to sit with me in endless meditations at the ashram? Hmmmmmm.) So she had three suggestions for people who want to have their own journey:

1. At the very beginning of every day, write in a journal the answer to this question: "What do I really, really, really want?" Apparently you need all the "really"s to get to the truth.

I don't know about you but I don't really have time to do this first thing in the morning, as I am always awoken at the butt crack of dawn by a incomprehensibly whiny but clearly and madly signing toddler who is ready to "Eat!" a "Banana!" and some "Milk!". If I did have the time to write first thing in the morning, it would always say the same thing: "I really really really want to lie in bed with my eyes closed for another half an hour and then maybe be awoken by a breakfast tray and the morning paper and no one in my face wanting the "Dolly!" to have a "Diaper!" "Change!" "Please!"'

How is writing that over and over again supposed to make me happier?

2. At the end of every day, write in a journal (same one?) "The happiest moment of your day". This one I can get behind. I can almost always find some part of my day that makes me smile with heart-bursting joy. And I should find a way to hang onto those moments. Perhaps this is it.

I may try to do this one.

3. Refine your mantra. Rather than suggesting we chose a mantra, she says we all already have one- whatever we constantly tell ourselves is our mantra. We should work on refining it or finding a more productive one, one that is leading us where we want to go.

My current mantra would be "I am out of balance, have no time and cannot keep track of my life". The thought of changing it ("I have all the time I need"? "The chaos around me is not within me"? "Changing Dolly's diaper for the 18th time today is not a boring time-sink that will make me gouge out my own eyeballs"?) is a big challenge.

Hmmmm, I'll have to work on that.


The real mommy makeover.

In today's New York TImes style section, there's an article about mommy makeovers. You know, where they combine all your needs into one! gimmicky! opportunistic! simple! procedure! Tummy tucks, boob lifts, lipo. Even va-j-j beautification surgery. We're all clamoring for these now, I guess.

I don't really care if moms want to get their boobs lifted or tummies tucked. If you are unhappy and have tried other means to reshape your body, knock yourself out. But what goes unsaid in this light article (What did I expect? It's in the "Style" section, after all.) is that there are a few important aspects of post-partum bodies that very few people talk about. And maybe some of these women would feel more confident and sexy if they had some help truly addressing what pregnancy and childbirth do to the way your body functions as well as how it looks.

How about this for a mommy makeover? How about requiring all OB/GYNs to check moms at the 6 week post-partum visit for diastasis recti and pelvic floor strength? And if problems exist in either area, referring to a physical therapist who specializes in post partum women's health? Is that really so difficult?

Depending on who you ask, diastasis recti, which is the separation of your rectus abdominus along the vertical center line of your belly, happens in 50-85% of all pregnant women. And yet, very, very few moms I know have ever heard of it, let alone been checked for it. Why OBs don't routinely check for it is beyond me. If left untreated, the abdominals may never go back together, leaving your belly protruding, your posture unsupported and your spine unprotected. Just going to the gym and doing mindless crunches not only doesn't help, it makes it worse.

Don't know if you have it? Try this test: Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your belly, fingertips together and pointing down toward your feet. Lift your head off of the mat without trying to do anything in particular with your abs (ie. if you know Pilates, don't try to engage your transversus, just lift your head). With your head off the floor, press your fingertips into your belly to see if they fall into a trough-like space between the two halves of your abdominals. If you can get three or more fingers into the trough, you have a disastasis that needs immediate attention. You should take special care when lifting heavy things (as in DON'T DO IT) and you should start on a program of corrective exercises. I won't go into them here but if you don't have the ability to hire a great Pilates instructor or see a physical therapist, there are some good ones on the web. Like here.

Here's where I say that you should see your doctor and I'm not a doctor so don't take my advice as a medical opinion and blah blah blah.

And let's just say that, postpartum, you are peeing yourself, or sex is painful. These are both common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and will mostly likely be helped by seeing a doctor and physical therapist who specialize in treatment of the pelvic floor. For some women, just doing some kegels is enough to get you shipshape again. For others, you may need biofeedback or internal physical therapy (yep, that means just what you think it does). Either way, do not assume that since you had a baby you will just have to live with painful sex or a Costco sized box of pantiliners for the rest of your life.

Now if anyone has any advice about the boob issue, I'm all ears.


Bath Gallery.

Z, the artist best known for her performance piece "hummus and avocado elaboration", shown modelling her latest work, the minimalist "three shampoo visors".


Kiwis of death.

Dear Z,

On behalf of the Parental Committee on Food Consumption, I would like to thank you for your recent interest in, and ingestion of, kiwi fruit. As you may know, kiwi fruit is a very nutritious food, full of vitamin c and antioxidants, and we were all quite pleased that you took such an avid interest in it.

Unfortunately, we were unaware of the kiwi's laxative effect.

We regret to inform you that there will be no more consumption of kiwi fruit (at least, not in such large quantities) until you are capable of dealing with the intestinal output with no help from the Committee. We were dismayed to see said output and wish to forget it's quantity and quality and pungency as soon as possible.

As you have noticed, the remaining fruit in question have been hidden from view. This is for your protection. Your earnest requests for them at the supermarket, while cute, will most certainly continue to be denied.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama
Co-Chair, Parental Committee on Food Consumption.

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