A "ten year nap" sounds sooooo good right about now.

(Man oh man. My computer is busted, done, D E A D, so I've been surviving (if you can call it that) all week with snippets of time on CG's laptop at night. He just rigged up a desktop for me using some old computer bits (that's right, we have enough spare computer bits lying around to make up a whole new one) and I feel like I finally can breathe again. Who knew the interwebs were so darn addictive?)


Normally (ie. before Zoe), I would bring 4-5 books on a week long vacation. This time, I brought two and only got through one: The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer which my dad sent to me after he read a review of it.

First of all, can we all just agree that it's super cool that my dad sends me a book? A book that I actually really wanted to read? He's got good taste and he knows me pretty well. He knows how much I've enjoyed reading mommy memoirs and since this novel centers on mothers, he thought I might enjoy it.

That's right, I've left my usual, comforting milieu of mommy memoirs to read..... a mommy novel. I'm really branching out here.

Most of the main characters in The Ten Year Nap are stay at home mothers of middle schoolers who left promising careers when their children were born and never went back (hence, the "ten year nap" of the title). They are a little befuddled to be where they are and are taking stock of the choices they made. Wolitzer also includes illuminating short chapters about the main characters' mothers, exposing their struggles as mothers which perhaps sowed the seeds for the choices made by their daughters. I found these chapters to be especially interesting fodder for thought. (Amy's mother was an early feminist writer who would shut her daughters out of her office when she needed to write. Amy later becomes a stay at home mother with no real career aspirations who then becomes a bit obsessed with a working mother friend who appears to have it all.)

By focusing mostly on stay at home mothers, Wolitzer could have chosen sides in the "mommy wars" (ack. I HATE that phrase but it's the only one to use, isn't it?). But I don't think it comes across that way.

Our choices as mothers have always been difficult, fraught with guilt and obligation, love and sacrifice. There is no easy, totally satisfying choice for most of us and the moms I know regularly reevaluate their work/childcare/life decisions. Wolitzer conveys all this very well. All in all, I'd give this book 3 out of 4 stars. I really liked it; I didn't LOVE it.

Now I'm back to working through The Omnivore's Dilemma which is illuminating and depressing and oh so different from a "mommy novel"!

Anyone else reading something good?


Glimpses from a vacation.

"Let's trot," my guide says breezily over his shoulder as he takes off down the trail on my private ride through the cattle country of Kauai. Suddenly, my horse jumps into an erratic, loping gait and I grab the saddle horn for dear life. I am trying desperately to remember what it felt like to be a confident 12 year old horsey girl, how to time a post with this trot and what exactly I should do on a western saddle to keep from feeling like someone is pounding my pubic bones with a hammer.

I'm also trying to imagine my HMO covering all the possible fractures that could arise in the next few minutes.

After a life-flashing-before-my-eyes-eternity a few minutes, he pulls his horse to an easy stop and glances back. I'm a few yards behind him bouncing wildly in the saddle, sunglasses sliding down my sweaty nose, hands grasping the reins in entirely the wrong way, lamely yelling "WHOA" as my horse stumbles to a stop, sideways, behind his.

"Hmm. You need to relax a bit, but be clearer with your reins. Hold a little closer to his nape but with less jerking. He knows you were out of control so he took off into a bit of an uneven lope."


As we walk on, I am sweaty from nerves and embarrassment and the humidity and I wonder if the dampness I feel in the saddle is from the terrified clenching of my thighs or a cry for help from my poor pounded bladder. And of course, I think of Zoe and how everything I was doing wrong on the horse I do wrong as a mother. I need to relax. Sometimes I hold the reins too tight and yet without clarity.

She also clearly knows when I'm out of control of the reins and takes off.

Later, when he asks uncertainly if I want to trot again, I nod and this time, I hold the reins just right and find a balance in the saddle. As the horse trots comfortably, instead of blindly grasping for control, I feel the rhythm and look to the horizon.

If only mothering was that easy.


We wake up early one day and whisk Zoe into the rental car when she's still asleep. We drive for an hour and feed ourselves some food, gearing up for the highlight of the trip: a helicopter tour of the island. We check in at the tour company and the other passengers eye us warily as Zoe bounces around the lounge pulling things off shelves and fussing loudly when we ask her to "look with her eyes" and not her hands. We get her into the van for the two minute drive to the helipad and she's thrilled because "NO SEATBELT MOMMY! NO SEATBELT DADDY!". As they load the first helicopter full of passengers, we wrestle her into her special life jacket and try to calm her about the loud and windy contraption we're about to enter.
We're all ready to go when they tell us the AC isn't working on the helicopter so they're very sorry but they'll have to reschedule us. We're stunned. We're PISSED. This is NOT okay.

We drive back in the van and Zoe says sadly "helicopter ride? WANNA helicopter ride!" which only amplifies our self-important misery. We decide to head to a closeby wooden playground that we thought we wouldn't get a chance to try out, all the while CG and I alternate between sulking, stomping our feet and consoling one another. Zoe, on the other hand, got over it pretty quickly and reminded us to be in the moment because the playground? It was pretty cool.

(We did reschedule our flight only to have it cancelled again due to rain. This time we just tried to chill and reminded ourselves that it gives us a reason to come back. Not that we really needed one.)

We came home late Friday to find that our dog has a bladder infection and my computer bit the dust but otherwise, life is just how we left it. Our week on Kauai left us with a few more freckles, some great pictures and the realization that our daughter is a way better traveller than we are.

She became a real water baby, even loving the ocean, as long as there were no waves coming to get her ("Go 'way waves! Leave Zoe 'LONE!"). She was a real trooper on our flights and slept great in the pack n- play in our bathroom (What? It was dark and private and we could still be up and about after she had gone to bed. It's not like we stuck her in a closet.). She adjusted to the time zone better than we did and learned to say "aloha" with the nasally drawl of a slightly stoned rasta surfer. She totally fit in.

We got the best things a vacation can give you: sun and sleep and swimming and reading and time with our little family. The only question is: when's the next one?


Aloha means hello AND goodbye, right?


May I present our bags for 6 days in Hawaii with Zoe (and, apparently, an entire football team).

Food is expensive so we have a bunch of boxes of crackers and cereal and snack bars. Plus, if you need one sunhat, don't you really need three? Furthermore, four pairs of shoes for 6 days isn't really excessive, is it?

Oh well, careful eagle eyed readers may notice a couple of individual tissue packs and a package of ear plugs in the top of one suitcase. The tissues are for CG and Zoe who now have matching colds (after CG's stomach flu of last weekend. Oh JOY.). The earplugs are for me so that I can sleep while both of them sniffle and snore. (not shown: a baseball bat to beat their germy little hands away from my pristinely healthy self).

At least we'll be sniffling, snoring and burning our pale white behinds on a BEAUTIFUL BEACH.



Show me some love.

From an early age, Zoe has been a little standoffish. She has had bouts of stranger anxiety which I think were normal and she gets shy and hides her face when interacting with people, especially adults. We always prompt her say "hello" and "goodbye" and "thank you" but if she doesn't do it, we don't push her.

We also never encouraged her to give anyone, adults or kids, hugs and kisses. I'm not exactly sure why this is and I truly never thought much of it until recently. Now that Zoe's cohort are all walking around and actually interacting, there is a lot of hugging and kissing going on. Or at least, I should say there is a lot ATTEMPTED with Zoe, who often runs in the opposite direction screaming or at best, barely tolerates it. And often the hugging and kissing is prompted by the parents which I find totally fascinating.

I think of myself as quite physically affectionate. As a massage therapist, I'm certainly comfortable with touch. As a friend, I often hug hello and goodbye. Sometimes you even get a kiss on the cheek (Woah! Stand back!!). But I like to think that it's my choice to hug and kiss. And I think hugs and kisses are a little different than saying hello or goodbye, which are basic acts of respectful interaction. So I guess I always assumed that if Zoe wanted to hug or kiss she would do it of her own volition, because she saw us do it, and if she didn't want to, well that was fine too.

It now seems possible that, by default, we have trained Zoe to NOT hug or kiss as a greeting and maybe this is a failing on our part. I have been helping her find polite words to say ("NO! NOOOO!!!" wasn't quite cutting it for me) when she doesn't want to receive a hug or kiss but maybe I should more forcefully encourage her to receive them instead. This is one of those parenting moments where our little decisions feel large and fraught with long-lasting repercussions. Or am I over-thinking this?

It isn't just strangers who receive Zoe's cold shoulder. Usually, when she sees her dad or me after an absence she smiles, runs toward us and then.... runs away. I would LOVE a hug or a kiss from her as a greeting and have been known to occasionally force one on her or, more pathetically, beg for one.

At least I try not to sound too desperate, needy or stalker-y like one of the moms at the playground last week: "C'mon baaaaaabbby! Give Mommy some looooovvvvveessss!"


Mother's Day Recap.

Best parts of my Mother's Day 2008:

I woke up briefly to Zoe stirring around 6 am (aka. officially TOO EARLY) and watched as my night-owl husband actually got out of bed and made his way to the kitchen. I then drifted in and out of sleep until Zoe actually woke up at 7:15 am (aka. officially a perfect time to wake up, in my book).

I downed a yummy homemade breakfast of crepes with yogurt, fresh strawberries and maple syrup THAT I DIDN'T COOK. Plus there was the promise of the two fat Sunday papers laying right in front of me, no dishes to wash all day and NO DINNER to cook that night.

Zoe, in an AWESOME mood ALL DAY for the first time in what seems like YEARS, brought me my card (which she "signed") and my present (a box of fancy teas. YUM.) and sung to me: "Happy Mother's Day to ZOE!!!".

I slipped out for my favorite morning yoga class and didn't even rush home feeling guilty like I normally do.

During Zoe's nap, I lay on the hammock in the sun and read the Sunday papers for HOURS, leaving all the dishes and toddler effluvia for my loving husband who was mysteriously napping for ... uh-oh.... HOURS.

(which brings us to....)

Worst parts of my Mother's Day 2008:

After picking up Zoe from her nap, I found out that my husband has some mysterious stomach flu, complete with fever and debilitating back pain, and would be out of commission for at least the rest of the day.

I canceled our dinner plans (going out to a favorite family pizza restaurant), tended to my sick husband, faced two meals worth of dishes in the sink and pondered the need for a new, stomach flu friendly dinner plan.

I faced the fact that if I have been exposed to this flu through my morning "Happy Mother's Day" smooches, the incubation period ("Hypochondriac"? Who ME??) should coincide perfectly with our trip to Hawaii on Friday. BAH.

Oh wait! We're going to Hawaii on Friday! Let's try to stay excited about that, shall we?!


I salute you.

To my mother, who never let on that the apparent ease of motherhood was actually a whole lot of hard work and love and blood and sweat and tears.

To my mother-in-law, who didn't ship my lovely husband off to Siberia even though his extreme colic lasted for 8 MONTHS. (She's a SAINT, I tell you.)

To my daughter, who made me a mother and every day, even as she makes me wonder if I'm up to the enormous task, makes me enormously glad for it.

To mothers everywhere, who get up every day to do this most impossible job, all over again.

Happy Mother's Day.


A tale of two babies.

As a young teen, my friend M once found two back up lovies in her hall linen closet. In college she had all three lovies lined up on her bed (David, Bavid and Gavid) and she would describe her horror and recognition at finding Bavid and Gavid as if it were the day she saw the world as it really was. Suddenly it made sense how David would change smells or marks, ever so slightly, from day to day. I'm not sure she ever really got over it.

When Zoe started showing a preference for Baby, we bought another one and hid it, trading it in and out when it couldn't be found in our messy little house or needed a washing. I vaguely wondered when she might find the other baby and how it would all go down. There were several near misses and we finally worked out a fool proof system of keeping one baby hidden.

In the hall linen closet, of course.

So last week Zoe unceremoniously found "TWO BABIES!".
There was very little distress at having this truth revealed to her at an early age though now the tears come from having been given the "WRONG Baby" (it's awfully hard to tell them apart, unless you are Zoe) and not being able to carry both babies as well as a stroller and wagon all while holding Mommy's hand.


Dear Rebecca.

Dear Rebecca,

I am, quite possibly, the antithesis of you.

I was nearly invisible in high school, flat chested, boyfriendless (until the very end). You were homecoming queen, large of breast and, from the sound of it, quite popular with the boys. I went to college, dutifully studied and often did what I was told just because I was told to do it. You dropped out of college, trusted your free-spirited self and never brooked authority. I am a (relatively) late-life mom and was married to CG for five years before getting pregnant, just like you're supposed to do it. You got pregnant, while unmarried, accidentally, at 23. In my 20's, I spent years in therapy trying to figure out what I actually thought and felt about ANYTHING and pursued a string of serious, monogamous relationships. In your twenties, you were/are confident in your opinions, and .... um.... busy in the boyfriend department before suddenly becoming a mom.

When I learned I was pregnant, I bought and read all the baby books, taking many of them to heart. You bought some and then threw most of them in the trash.

But ever since I found your blog, I have felt that perhaps you can speak to me so strongly because of our differences.

Perhaps, it's that there really is something universal about motherhood. Or maybe it's just the fact that you're a good writer.

And now I have just devoured your book. It is great and you are great. I am so impressed by your honesty and your courage in putting your whole self out there for the world to see.

Your grandmother's advice to "let the baby adapt to you", your insistence that your career passions render you a better mother rather than a lesser mother, your unwavering belief that you can have it all, all these inspire me greatly. The very few times I am able to shut out the voices of the parenting experts and listen to my own intuition, I think of you as my inspiration.

I can only say this: thank you.


this Clueless But Hopeful Mama.


Selfishness and selflessness.

One of the many gifts Zoe got for her birthday was a cold. So on Tuesday, she stayed home from school with her Daddy in the morning and me in the afternoon. It wasn't bad at all, though I had to put off my own private celebration of her birthday that I planned to do in the time after work and before picking her up from school (aka the GOLDEN HOUR): a pedicure. I mean, her birthday is a celebration of her and her life but also MY LABOR AND DELIVERY and I think it's a good idea to give myself a little present on her birthday too. Ah well, I gave myself a rain check and spent the afternoon helping her make play-doh bacon in her play-doh kitchen.

The VERY LAST birthday related thing? (I promise.) Last year we donated money in Zoe's name to this organization. This year, we seriously thought about asking folks to, in lieu of gifts, bring canned food to her party for us to take to a food pantry, to donate to a favorite organization, or to impeach the president, the vice president and the secretary of defense in her name. After much debate (and concern that we were being way too overwrought about the whole thing), we decided to let folks bring presents and just do the donating ourselves.

So who to donate to?? Where to start?!?! Well, we chose this fabulous organization and not just because my dear friend B runs the San Francisco chapter. Zoe became a participant of this program through her school when one of her teachers gave her a book bag one day with four books. We brought it home for a week and exchanged it at school the next week for four new books. Zoe loved her book bag and her "new books" often were her favorites. At the end of the program, Zoe "graduated" and received her very own book bag to fill with library books.

This was all free.

I know we are not exactly the target audience of this program as we have more education, time, resources, and money than most parents. We have purchased many books for Zoe and have read to her daily from day one. But the program taught us a lot and encouraged us go to the library rather than buying new books all the time.

So this year, we're donating to Raising a Reader.

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