The party, in pictures.

The pennant and our sun shade.

The birthday girl and a balloon.

The birthday girl peeking out of her play tent.

The ferocious guard dog daring you to steal a present.


Birthdays, with extra pressure.

A few weeks ago, ironically while looking for ideas for Zoe's second birthday party to which 28 people are invited, I came across this website. The idea that birthday parties for kids have gotten a bit out of hand is no surprise to anyone who's ever seen "My Sweet Sixteen" on MTV. Watching that show is like watching the families on "Supernanny"; I am torn between concerned distaste ("How in the world has it come to this?") and terror ("OH GOD, please don't let US come to THIS.")

Obviously, Zoe will not be receiving a new BMW and there will be no rap star at her event tomorrow. It's just a playdate in the park, after all.

With my parents who are in town from Jersey. And staying with us in our OVERPACKED little house.

With 18 adults and 10 kids.

With homemade cupcakes (*Okay, I just broke down and bought a box of yellow cake mix. Score one for sanity, detract one for health. Now that I'm reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen, I cannot bring myself to read the polysyllabic non-foods on the ingredient label.)

With art stations and favors and balloons and a homemade "Happy Birthday Zoe" pennant.

(note Golden Retriever butt positioned for optimum shedding. Also, if you are wondering exactly how we're going to hang this thing in a park, SO AM I.)

Perhaps I need to go back to that website...


Bad things are supposed to come in TWO's, RIGHT?!?!?

Last night, our sweet babysitter came over so that we could go see the musical "Wicked". Zoe actually reached for her when she arrived and DIDN'T CRY when we left (As we've been having yet another thrilling round of separation anxiety lately, this was awesomely surprising). CG and I had a leisurely dinner (with dessert!) before the show, held hands to the theater, whispered in each other's ear during the scene changes. When we returned, we crept into Zoe's room, listened to her snurfling breath and covered her little toesies with a blanket.


This morning started early with unhappy sounds coming from Zoe's room. CG went in and I heard the sing-songy but urgent words no one wants to hear at 6:23 am: "Um, MOMMY? Could YOU COME IN HERE AND HELP ME???"

It turns out that our babysitter had failed to get both of Zoe's ample cheeks into the diaper flaps and Zoe's monstrous, lava-like morning poo was EVERYWHERE. Through her pjs, onto her HANDS, her sheets, her pillow, her pacifiers, the bumper, the crib rails. Even UNDER HER TOENAILS.


Then at Trader Joe's this morning, I picked up a can of coffee, ground it and realized that I had dropped a few extraneous grounds. So I picked up their handy DustBuster to clean it up and not knowing how to Bust Dust, I pushed the tank release rather than the power button sending the ENTIRE FULL tank of coffee grounds INTO MY SANDALS and all over the floor. One kind woman offered to help me as I tried to simultaneously console Zoe (who hates the sound of vacuums), shake coffee from in between my toes and use the waning battery power on the DustBuster to clean up the mess. I gave it a half-hearted attempt and left things WAY WORSE than before my attempts to clean up the few stray coffee grinds.

That's gotta be it for the day.... RIGHT???


T minus 11 days.

We are rapidly approaching Zoe's second birthday. I'm trying to remember just how crazy I felt this time last year (this crazy? or that crazy?). Was I crying at random times when I looked at Zoe, thinking about how small she used to be? Was I tearing up when putting the too-small clothes away and pulling out the next, impossibly large-sounding size? Was I convinced that I need to freeze her right now, as she is in THIS instant, if only in my mind?

Reading back through my old-school, Luddite, paper journal from that time, I'm remembering how exciting the first birthday was as a milestone. But I also remember we had some big concerns about the edicts from our pediatrician. Luckily, most of these proved to passing annoyances, two days of grief, or, at worst, weeks of cajoling. Pacifiers only in the crib?: two days of grief. No more bottle?: only a passing annoyance as we searched for a viable sippy cup. Milk with meals?: weeks of cajoling, but now it's her favorite food and would survive on it and only it if allowed.

With the second birthday approaching, we are facing only two concerns and both are of our own making. First, we always said we'd take away her pacifiers by her second birthday. She uses them in her crib only (or carseat on the rare occasions she's got to nap in the car) but still we're told it's best if they go away ASAP. I'm dreading this. Seriously. She has few attachments ("Baby", her favorite doll, is TOTALLY second banana to her "pacis") and I hate to take away her favorite source of comfort (when she gets really upset or hurt, she'll cry "Nap!" or "Nigh-nigh!" in the hopes that she can go to her crib and get a paci). We're planning on taking her to a pediatric dentist sometime soon so I think we'll wait and see what the dentist says. Just call me Little Miss Pass The Buck.

Our second, self-imposed second birthday deadline was about the TV. Zoe doesn't currently watch TV. (Though she does watch movies of herself and our family on the computer sometimes.) We decided that we would hold off till her second birthday then reevaluate (You all know I LOVE my experts. Why, if they tell me to I MUST DO IT.). Since Zoe was slow in gross motor development and TOTALLY zoned any time she caught a glimpse of the TV at a restaurant or friend's house, we felt this was the right decision for our family. Now we've found we like not having the TV on during the day. I appreciate the limits it places on ME zoning out in front of the TV. I like not hearing commercials, her begging for more TV, her loving some annoying character I can't stand and wanting every book/toy/vibrating ear muff with their visage on it.

But I'm struggling with getting dinner cooked at night with a whiny toddler attached to my leg. I could seriously use 30 minutes of zoned out Zoe around 6 pm, you know? I also find that I CAN NOT make an important phone call with her around, no matter how nicely she's playing by herself when I'm dialing she will instantly become the WHINIEST, LOUDEST, NEEDIEST toddler EVER as soon as I say "Hello?". I've started fantasizing about plopping her in front of the TV and saying "Mommy will be in the other room on the phone. See you in 30 minutes!".

I honestly think that if I was still home with Zoe full time, I would have totally resorted to TV by now. What does that mean? That I'm trying to create some artificial environment where she's always perfectly attended to? That I'm lazy and unwilling to properly parent my own child and teach her how to entertain herself and be patient when Mommy's on the phone or cooking dinner? Or that it's all part of the choices we're making for our family, independent but related to all the others, important but not life-or-death?

I have a total love/hate relationship with TV. Some days I feel I could banish it from the house forever and be SO MUCH the better for it. I do firmly believe that the less I watch TV the healthier I am in mind and body. Other days I feel it's important to engage in popular culture, and not to mention that it's FUN and RELAXING and ENTERTAINING, to partake in a little movie here and there, a little John Adams, a little Rock of Love 2 (did anyone seeing Ambre winning??? I'm still SHOCKED and annoyed that it made me lose a bet and have to rub CG's feet. ARG.).

I think we'll have to hold out on the TV thing a little longer as well. At least until we try to get pregnant again. I am clearly imagining a very large, tired me, asleep on the couch as Zoe zones in front of Barney or Electric Company or whatever craziness is on children's TV these days.


Happy Birthday Baby Daddy.

Happy Birthday CG!

I'm glad that you didn't mind sharing your birthday breakfast in bed with Zoe.

Especially since she mostly wanted to suck and chew the butter off the toast leaving the damp remnants in your lap.


Your Clueless but Hopeful Wife


I have my standards.

I LOVE to read. When I gave birth to Zoe, I found I could no longer read my stack of novels, the New Yorker, the newspapers, the WRITING ON THE CEREAL BOX. I needed very short stories with lots of pictures and vicarious thrills. After weeks of begging for weekly drugstore runs to find something to read, I actually bought a subscription ("We'll save money!") to the one periodical (ha! HAHAHAHA!) that fulfilled my need for the written word in the most simple, satisfying form.

I am, of course, talking about US magazine.

I would await it's arrival in the mailbox with bated breath and retrieve it, infant tucked under one arm, with reverence. I would devise different ways to read it to make it last a little longer. I would lap up the pictures of stars picking their noses ("Just like US!") and deeply ponder the "Who Wore it Best?" comparisons.

Once we got through the first few months of Zoe's life (the "whatever gets you through the day, honey" months), my husband asked me when I would cancel my subscription. Surely I was ready for real reading? And aren't I the same person who regularly decries our culture's obsession with celebrity?

With Zoe nearly two, I finally sat down in front of my computer last Friday and canceled my subscription. Unfortunately I cannot say that it was any of CG's reasons that got through to me. What got me was the CONSTANT, IN EVERY ISSUE focus on those freaking Hills girls! Now, I love reality TV as much as the next girl (I can go toe to toe with anyone on trivia about the first 6 seasons of Survivor and the first ten of The Real World), but I'm SO OVER these girls and the ENDLESS stream of coverage of them DOING NOTHING.

So, perhaps, it's off to People I go. Just don't tell my husband.



Dear Z,

Yesterday I did something that I wasn't sure I wanted to do. Something that I was worried was dangerous and wrong for a Mommy to do.

I went up flying with Daddy.

He hasn't gotten his license yet, so his instructor came too. It was a "cross country" flight so he stayed up late the night before looking at charts and maps, calculating every trajectory over the hills and freeways that crisscross southern California. What it really meant was that we went to San Diego for some sub-par Mexican food at the airport restaurant and then came right back.

I've been in small planes a fair amount and I've always enjoyed it. (Unless, of course, you count that time in Zambia where I was stuffed in the back of a 6 seater with cartons of eggs piled on my lap up to my chin and we tried to take off but COULDN'T because we were too heavy so we went back and left some of the eggs to TRY AGAIN.) This time was different though, because I've never given much thought to the training, ability, and level of caffeine of the pilot in command.

Z, your dad may be a born pilot. He LOVES it up there. He had so many proverbial balls in the air and he handled it all with aplomb. He was handling constant radio communications, navigating by sight and GPS, twisting all the vital doohickies and adjusting all the death defying whosamawhatsits on the dash. It was impressive to see.

There was, unfortunately a Moment. We were waiting for a 'handoff' to another control tower and we suddenly spotted a plane close by, TOO CLOSE BY. And then this rogue Daddy-and-Mommy-killer plane turned INTO OUR PATH. I could feel the anxiety of your Dad and his instructor rise but they quickly and easily navigated around it. They both said it was uncomfortably close.

I immediately thought of you. I wondered what would happen to you if our plane went down. But it didn't, and I didn't go THERE in my mind, not for too long anyway. I logically know that riding in a car on the freeway is statistically more dangerous than flying in a small plane. But flying is a new risk rather than the everyday risks I'm used to. So I still worry. Because I know that you would never forgive us if we were taken away from you. And I would never forgive myself.

I hope that one day, you read this and you think, "Mom, what's the big deal about going up with Daddy in a plane?". Because you will have gone up with him many times and felt how sure and strong and confident he is. How much he loves it. And you would never want to stop him from doing it or question why he does it.

You might even want to join in.

your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


My bunny is now a dolphin.

At School, Z is in the midst of FINALLY transitioning from the infant classroom (the Bunnies, 6-18 months) to the older classroom (the Dolphins 18-36 months). We've been waiting for this for awhile. Her friend Maisy was moved last month (don't get me started on that one) and Z misses her. At almost two, Z is one OLD bunny. She is talking up a storm and ready for new adventures.

It is TIME.

And, predictably I guess, I'm sad and nervous for her. Last Friday, CG and I went with Z to spend some time over with the Dolphins. I held her tight as we walked amongst these mysterious older kids to examine the play kitchen, the big outdoor jungle gym and the rows of low sinks and tiny potties. The Dolphins all run so fast! They might push her over! They're all using the adorable little potties! They have already made friends and may not include her! (Oh wait! That last one was a flashback to my 5 grade experience! Sorry.)

I know she is ready. I can't stop time. I can't protect her from every bump and bruise and social snub. I can't make the world perfect and smooth and friendly for her.

Something tells me that this part, the wanting to protect her from the big, bad world part, is only going to get harder.


My "Mommy Wars" are entirely internal.

Eight months ago, Z started part-time daycare.

Questions from my Eight Months Ago Self (EMAS) to my Present Day Self (PDS):

EMAS: You need a break from your baby?? What is wrong with you anyway? You say you love her more than life itself but you are choosing to go back to work part time even though you don't NEED to??

PDS: You're effing right I could use a break from this child. And even more right that I love her more than life itself. EMAS, you've been feeling tired and lonely and worn-out, acting less than stellar to your husband and your child as a result. Trust me, you will feel WAY better once you have a little time in the working world and a little time to yourself. You will appreciate your time with Z SO much more.


EMAS: Don't you miss her terribly?? Don't you know that you are missing out on moments in her life that you can never get back?

PDS: Yes, I sometimes do miss her on the days she's at School. Other days, I honestly think: Thank Chocolate I get a break today. I honestly think I cannot be the primary care-giver day in and day out without getting burned out. Some can but I can't. I accept that and feel like a better mother for making the decision to work part time.
As for the moments I'm missing out on, I do feel sad about them sometimes. Sometimes one of her teachers will tell me she said a new word or Z will come home "singing" a new song that I don't know. I've come to embrace the idea, earlier than maybe I was ready to, that she is going to experience things that I won't know about and can't control. I'm glad she has a safe, warm, loving, stimulating environment in which to do that.


EMAS: Don't you want to be the one to raise your own child? How can you trust STRANGERS to care for your defenseless child?

PDS: F YOU. I AM raising my child. She knows EXACTLY who her mother is. She spends most of her waking hours and has most of her important experiences with me and/or her dad and/or her dog. Her teachers are partners in raising her. They are not perfect but they are good people and I'm happy to have the help.


(Yes, I do actually have conversations in my head with past and present versions of myself. That's, like, TOTALLY normal, right?)


It's CPK from now on.

A little while ago, Z and I had lunch with a friend of mine from college and her new baby. She was in town visiting and wanted us to meet her in Venice, on the westside of LA. For those of you who are not local, this is officially SEVERAL FREEWAYS and, therefore, VERY FAR AWAY from my home on the suburban eastside of LA. But I was super excited to see my friend and meet her baby and her friends and her friends' babies. So I was a Big Girl, picked up Z early from daycare and drove across town.

We arrived at the super hip restaurant with no sign outside (me, peering in: "it looks like a warehouse but beautiful people are eating in there so it's either a soup kitchen for unemployed actors or this is the place"). I quickly found my friend sitting at a long table with smooth wood benches on either side. There were NO highchairs. As my friend and her friends were all holding infants, I was the only person for whom this was a problem. Luckily Z thought it was very cool to sit on this bench, spatter her food around the floor in a noticeable arc, and actually did so with little fuss for the first hour or so of our lunch. After that she spent considerable time lining up her Little People and driving her cars and sticking her stickers to the bench, before finally settling in to ... poop. Which she did, grunting noisily, leaning over, holding onto the bench as hipsters, including the magnificently beautiful actress Rosario Dawson, filed in and out through the nearby door. (Yes, her cheekbones actually did cut a gash on my arm as she passed by.)

After Z finished, she made a few loud declarations, "Poop!" "Mommy!" and "Outside!", in rapid succession. These were, in fact, separate thoughts and separate sentences but just in case the other patrons didn't speak Toddler, I figured it was time to GIT.

All in all it was a great lunch and I'm proud of myself getting out of my hermit shell and for handling an Adventure reasonably well. The oddest thing about the whole lunch was how OLD and WIZENED I felt talking to mothers with 4, 8 and 15 week old babies. They looked full of that crazy love/fear early-weeks-of-motherhood mixture and seemed terrified of their still, mute babies making the TINIEST peeps while my toddler was busy grinding cracker crumbs into the sisal carpet and loudly proclaiming that she pooped. It felt good and strange to feel farther along this motherhood journey. To have advice and support to give.

And to want to try that early motherhood feeling all over again. Someday soon.


High maintenance woman.

My roommates in San Francisco used to razz me about my detailed makeup application. I guess it seemed incongruous to them that I wore old, boring, sometimes stained clothing, refused to use a blowdrier and yet insisted on "putting on my face", like some proper 90 year old lady, before leaving the house.

I wear makeup almost every day, use MANY products, including the obscure ones (eyelid primer anyone?) and yet I like to think that I look like I have very little makeup on (please don't tell me otherwise, dear friends).

Now that I no longer have roommates to poke at me, I don't think much about it, truly. I feel better with makeup on and it helps me feel good about myself, confident, ready to face the world. I think it's a holdover from my dancing days. Not only did I perform under layers of SERIOUS stage makeup but I found that wearing makeup to class and rehearsals helped me be more confident, something that I sorely needed.

But lately, Z's been watching me a little too intently when I put on my face in the morning. And she wants to apply eyelid primer, blush, eyeshadow, lip tint etc. etc. ETC.

And I don't know how I feel about this.

On one hand, what's the harm, right? It's just makeup. She can wear it herself someday if she wants to. It can be fun, a way to express yourself.

On the other hand, why do I need makeup to feel confident? Do I really want to give her the impression that I don't feel good enough without my mineral-containing, light-reflecting, leaping-tall-zits-in-a-single-bound face powder?

I worry she'll get the message that she's not good enough without it, too.


1. On the matter of the avocado-squashing bagger: Last week, as I rolled my cart through the automatic doors at my local Vons, I was all primed and ready to say something to the manager. (For real. I swear.) But I soon saw said bagger, not bagging but mopping the floor in the produce aisle. When we got to our favorite check-out dude, I asked him -totally cas of course- what happened and he said they moved him "because of complaints". I smiled guiltily and watched as my food was loaded into my bags by a new, reasonably adept bagger.

One further note: a friend reminded me that, as a former bagger myself, I am quite opinionated about how things should be bagged and I should just always insist on bagging my own groceries to preempt possible disappointment. I do think she has a point there.

2. Stepping further into the Way Back Machine, some of you may remember our effort to strive for positivity and manners: As if tantrums that include a screaming "PLEASE!?!?! PLEEEAASSSEEEE?!?!?" weren't silly enough, we now have entered the realm of the truly absurd. Whenever Z asks for something that we are going to do/give her, we often say "Yes, Z! I'd be happy to!" in a happy, singsongy (Yes, even I WANT TO SLAP MYSELF) way. What this means is that she now includes commanding me to "Be happy to!! BE! HAPPY! TOOOO!!!!" in her tantrum repertoire.

It'd be funnier if my eardrums weren't actually bleeding onto my carpet right now.

3. Last but not least: Z has developed a strong antisocial streak. With the nice weather these days (sorry my midwest friends!), we've been spending a lot of time around other kids at the playground, that is if you can consider spending time listening to your toddler scream "NO" and "MINE" every. effing. time. another kid EVEN LOOKS at the ENTIRE PUBLIC STRUCTURE she is on, "spending time with other kids". I admit, I do have a history of inferring serious mental illness from small, seemingly benign character traits.


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