Pay it Forward Contest- Gift for you!!

When Swistle decided to have a Group Effort Pay it Forward Contest, I got the (Tessie trademarked) nervous tummy. I want to participate! Am I cool enough? Can I join in with the cool kids?!?!

Well, I haven't answered those questions (and probably never will) however, I am going to have a contest! To enter this contest just leave a comment, any comment, on this post and you could be the CHOSEN ONE. Chosen for what, you ask? For a gift of unknown quality, TBA, whenever I figure out what to send to you.

So here you go: anyone (yes, Mom, even you) can enter to win some crazy gift of unknown value or interest (really enticing you now, huh?), just leave a comment here (tell me: Who's your celebrity crush? Where do you want to be buried? Why won't my daughter just go down for her nap already? Oh wait, maybe I should go check on that one....) before midnight on Friday July 4th. I will use a random number generator (Swistle assures me this exists) to chose the winner. I'll post something about it next Monday and send it off ASAP. The pay it forward part? That's up to you.

Easy, no?

So GO.

The Clueless but Hopeful Couple.

It's been 6 years since CG and I officially joined our lives together. We had no idea where our promise would take us and we still don't. So far it has brought us here: to a house we (I mean "the bank") owns, a dog asleep on my foot, a daughter asleep in the other room, a city we barely know right outside our windows. Then, I was a dancer and a massage therapist. Now I'm a Pilates instructor and a mom. Then, CG was a grad student with long curly hair. Now he's got some shorter curls, a PhD and a pilot's license. With each year, we get further away from those two kids we see in the wedding pictures.

(Why yes, that IS me getting my armpits blotted by my maid of honor.)
(Oh for F's sake. I can't get my photo to rotate and stay rotated once it's uploaded so just turn your head to the side to view wedding picture goodness, k?)

Sometimes I forget how far we've come until something happens to remind me, like on Friday watching a young man- a groom-to-be?- rush out of the tuxedo shop yelling into his cellphone "Chill the F OUT!" (perhaps to his bride-to-be?) or like today, getting an email from C, a college friend. The same exact college friend who is responsible for CG and me getting together. If it weren't for C telling CG to get in touch with me (merely a mutual college acquaintance of little importance) when he moved to the SF bay area, then we probably never would have fallen in love and gotten married.

Now C is a new father and a little... freaked. His email brought those first few months of parenthood crashing back for me. The strange and terrifying emotions that roiled inside me. The fear that breeding had been just a colossal mistake, that life as we knew it was over. The distance and tension and animosity between CG and me as we tried to navigate the tides of terror and exhaustion and confusion.

We rode them together, not knowing what we were doing, trying to love, support and forgive one another. We weathered it all, trusting that somehow we could do this together.

Every day we start anew. Every day we chose to be here. Every day we greet the little girl we made together and find yet another reason why we're here.

(Hang in there, C.)


This week's Little-Big Decisions.

- Do you let your 2 year old try to climb UP the slide at the playground? ("Go against the grain and be a daredevil" or "Use equipment as it was intended to be used"?)

- Do you try to pressure/force your kid to apologize when they hurt another kid? ("Learning manners, and using them often, is of the utmost importance" or "Let's talk about it, move on and work on having the apology actually mean something"?)

- Do you forcibly keep the princess paraphernalia at bay by hiding her eyes and/or hiding the paraphernalia? ("There's no need for a 2 year old to be focused on the more adolescent/adult themes of princess stories, not to mention the lack of real female power in most of them" or "the princesses are pretty and eye-catching and where, exactly, is the harm?")

- Do you assist your 2 year old as she tries to use playground equipment that is clearly too large for her? ("Reach for the stars" or "Know your limits"?)

- Do you give in to the easy pull of kids music or bathe her in Belle and Sebastian/The Ramones/The Beatles? ("the classic kid music is catchy, happy and accessible." or "I may have to gouge out my eardrums with tweezers if I listen to 'Ring around the Rosey" one more time'")

- Do you allow her to completely dress herself? ("Give her autonomy and control over her individuality; let her feel power when the consequences really aren't important" or "I don't want everyone think I'm totally colorblind/style-inept/negligent if I take her to the playground with a plaid shirt that's too small and stained flowered pants"?)

- When exactly to do you expose her to ("the tasty wonders" or "the artery-clogging, calorie-dense, nutritionally-devoid addictive taste") of french fries?


What's left unsaid.

Dear Zoe,

The other day, it was 90-some-odd degrees at 9 am and we were in a rush. I wanted to stop at the bank machine and then head to the playground/farmer's market before it got too hot. I drove to the bank, walked with you to the ATM, waited in line and then realized that I forgot my ATM card at home. Not that big a deal, one would think, as we were maybe 10 minutes from home and there was nowhere we HAD to be at any certain time. But it was hot and we were running later than I wanted and it was getting hotter by the minute and I was PMSing and you were wanting to do everything "by SELF" and IT WAS ALREADY REALLY HOT.


And I have an issue. A frustration issue.

As I closed my wallet and headed back to the car, I could feel my jaw clench (the first sign). I could feel my heart beating faster, my heart moving blood faster through my veins just in case I needed to ..... run? fight? (the second sign). Tears of frustration and self-loathing were welling up in my eyes. (This all seems so silly now. Tears? Over a little speed bump in my plans?)

I could feel my hands hold you, lift you, buckle you into your car seat a little tighter, maybe even a little rougher, than I needed to. (The very worst sign, the one I fight hardest to control, the one I am the most ashamed of.)

We got in the car and I started to take deep breaths. I told you that "Mommy's very frustrated right now because she forgot her card and we're running later than she wanted. She's just going to take some deep breaths to try to calm down." After speaking of myself in the third person (never a good thing), I took more deep breaths and drove home. On the way, you declared "Mommy frustrated. Take deep breaths.". I looked back at you in the rear view mirror, looking for signs of the permanent damage I must be doing to you, and agreed "yes, Mommy is taking deep breaths to calm down."

I ran in the house, grabbed my bank card and got back in the car. As we pulled out of the driveway, my jaw still slightly clenched, my blood still boiling, you asked hopefully: "Mommy happy now?".

What I wanted to say in response: "Not really. I struggle too often with a demon I'm still learning how to control. I'm scared of how it'll be when you get older and learn where all my buttons are and exactly how to push them. I'm embarrassed that I get so frustrated and despondent over something so transient and trivial as forgetting my ATM card. I'm sorry you had to see it today and probably many times in the future. This easy spark to frustration, this downward spiral to all-hope-is-lost-land, is, I'm so sorry to say, one of our family inheritances. It's been passed down, through genes or modeling or some combination of both, from my father's father to him and my father to me. And probably me to you. I want you to know that it's gotten better with each generation (take home message: therapy is a good thing) and maybe you will be the very first generation to totally be free of it. I hope that you never fear me. I hope that when you are a teenager you will not vow to never to get angry because it's such an ugly, out-of-control emotion and you want no part of it. I hope you never realize in your twenties that you have the same short fuse that you abhorred and feared. Instead, I hope you see your father and me model how to deal with frustration in reasonable ways, ways that you can learn from and be proud of. Or at least, not be embarrassed by. I want you to know that anger and frustration are normal, natural things and there are ways to manage them and express them so that they don't feel like they are taking over your very soul and pulling you down in a hopeless spiral. I want you to know that I fight this problem of mine, this low threshold to TOTAL SYSTEM MELTDOWN, on a daily basis, for myself, for our family, and mostly, ALWAYS, for you."

What I said was: "Yes, Zoe, Mommy's happy now."


your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Progress Report: Operation Paci Fairy.

It's been 10 days since the Paci Fairy came. Zoe wakes up in the morning (and after every nap) announcing that the "Pacifier took all Zoe's pacis, gave them to little babies!" (I realized a little too late that she has NO idea what a "fairy" is and I guess "Paci Fairy" sounds like "pacifier". I imagine some giant pacifier swooping out of the sky to snatch Zoe's pacis.). After one tear-stained naptime and one wretchedly sad bedtime, she has settled into falling asleep without them. The Paci Fairy gave her a stuffed Corduroy (a teddy bear from her current favorite book) and a super soft owl head/blanket thing.

From time to time she tries out her thumb, which always strikes a special kind of fear into my heart. I hold my breath and gently try to distract her by asking her to play a game or reach for a toy that requires two hands. You see, when Zoe was an infant, we decided to encourage the use of the pacifier to prevent her from sucking her thumb into puberty (causing massive junior high sleep-over insecurities), needing braces TWICE, and acquiring a lisp that several years of speech therapy couldn't totally eradicate.

Not that that happened to anyone I know. AHEM.

I can only hope that the thumb-sucking window has passed and the new found attachment to Corduroy will be cake compared to the other possible social and orthodontic nightmare. Other kids might be able to do a little recreational thumb-sucking here and there but if she's anything like me, she would suction off her entire thumbprint, leaving only a wrinkly, damp nub until she's 16 and finally able to wrench herself away from it.


I knew Zoe's attachment to Corduroy was complete when I accidentally opened our refrigerator door into her head yesterday. (I love our bottom-freezer refrigerator but man, oh man, the bottom edge of the fridge door is pointy and EXACTLY toddler forehead height. WTF?) The head bonk was enough to make her cry out and need comfort. She previously would have asked to go to "CRIB. GET PACIS." but this time she wailed "CORDUROY! ZOE WANT CORDUROY!".

Next on our to-do list: buy a backup Corduroy.

ps. Today's random realization: Zoe no longer says "Oppypus" or "Effephant". I find this totally unacceptable.

pps. Also unacceptable? Running out of dental floss on the night you grill corn on the cob (especially when your dentist just informed you that the spaces in between your teeth caused by 15 odd years of thumb sucking, not to mention the lack of retainer-wearing in the 20 years since, may require a THIRD SET of braces. WAH.).


Having another: Pros vs. Cons.

Pro: Getting to experience pregnancy again: those first fluttering kicks from inside that fill me with wonder, the second trimester round, taut belly that feels ripe and full and lovely, the smiles from strangers blessing me and my unborn child.
Con: Possible barfy morning sickness, heartburn, exhaustion, huge third trimester belly when nothing fits and every position is uncomfortable, HAVING TO PUSH A LARGE BABY HEAD THROUGH A VERY SMALL HOLE AGAIN.

Pro: Zoe would love a sibling with whom to play, share secrets, and make fun of her parents. I would love to see her hug, kiss and hold hands with a sibling.
Con: Zoe would not enjoy having a sibling who will steal/break her toys and bite/kick/fight with her. I have no desire to referee inane, high decibel sibling rivalry.

Pro: Siblings prevent the golden princess problem when too much attention is paid to the first/only child.
Con: Siblings halve the amount of attention you have to give to the first/only child which can only be a brutal shift for that first child.

Pro: Some only children I know are self-centered, can't-share-worth-a-damn A-holes who really could have used a sibling pounding once or twice in their life time to take them down a notch. Obviously having a sibling would have helped them be better people.
Con: Some only children I know are bright, well-socialized, happy people. They obviously were not harmed, and maybe even helped, by being an only child.

Pro: Zoe is a lovely child who loves playing with her babies. She clearly will mother a small sibling and shower him/her with love and attention.
Con: Zoe has her moments of selfishness and aggression. She doesn't share her things or her mother well with other kids and though very attached to her babies, she often throws them face down in the bathtub, yelling "SWIM BABY".

Pro: The best way to change this crazy world is to raise another kid to be respectful, conscientious, and politically aware.
Con: There are too many people already on this planet and I really don't need to be adding to overpopulation. Plus, s/he could turn out to be a Dr. Laura/Rush Limbaugh-loving, conservative Republican and then my whole plan is for NAUGHT.

Pro: I'm curious. I want to see how else our genes could combine. It's hard for me to imagine that we could have a child that doesn't look exactly like Zoe. I kinda want to see what else, WHO ELSE, we would make!
Con: Well, if that isn't the craziest reason to have another kid, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.


Lame attempts at going green.

I have always called myself an environmentalist, dutifully signing a few small checks each year (probably just enough to pay for the subsequent biweekly mailings, from ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, printed on TREES. DOUCHES.) and ranting at length about the state of the world.

Lately, I'm actually trying to do something about it in my own life. (Novel idea! Being the change I want to see in the world!) Some attempts at going green are large (we bought a Prius two years ago and it is just the best car EVER.) and some are small and, well, kinda lame.

lame attempt #1: I buy the worst possible paper towels I can find. (Sorry Trader Joe's. You rock my world with your prepared items and neither I nor Zoe could exist without your organic peanut butter crackers, but your paper towels BITE.) They shred as you try to pull off a sheet, they don't soak up more than a tablespoon and they are rough. They are made from recycled paper, which is a good thing, but mostly the fact that THEY SUCK means that I always stop before pulling off a sheet and think to myself "Self, you might be better off using a sponge or a rag or YOUR OWN SOCK instead of one of those crappy paper towels".

lame attempt #2: In in effort to minimize water use, I employ many small scale habits that hopefully cancel out the long, hot baths I indulge in every winter night (thank goodness I live in LA. If I lived somewhere actually, you know, COLD, I would take several a day, effectively killing our whole planet single-handedly). In the morning, I toss Sweet Dog's grody, day-old water into whatever houseplant I'm currently neglecting the most. When making pasta or hard boiled eggs or tea, I save the water, cool it off and do the same. I've started keeping a bowl in the sink for when I'm running the water to get it hot or cold.

lame attempt #3: I'm a total freak about turning off lights in the house. In fact, I'm sitting in semi-darkness right now, as I type. I may lose my eyesight but I'm saving electricity.

lame attempt #4: I just sent my husband out to the hardware store (not like I really had to twist his arm to go to his version of heaven) to get a clothesline. Our towels are filthy and need to be washed but it's 104 freaking degrees here today and I'll be damned if I'm going to put them in the dryer and heat up our house. Plus, Mother Nature has her own dryer, it's free and radiating in my windows right now!

lame attempt #5: I have started getting as much of our food as I possibly can from the two farmer's markets I take Zoe to weekly. They each have different vendors so we can get all our bread, eggs, veggies, and fruit from them (plus the very best tamales, kettle corn and homemade ice cream). This habit kills so many birds with one stone: It's cheaper, it supports smaller farms, it reminds me what's in season, it has a smaller carbon footprint (rather than trucking the food to the stores, across great distances, and then me getting myself to the store, the farmers and I both come to the market and cut out the middleman.) Most of the produce is organic or close to it, from a reasonably close radius and super fresh. Plus, Zoe loves the samples, the other kids, even the crazy, creepy cowboy guy who sings different lyrics to the same tune over and over again. Win, win, WIN.

(Though, talk to me again in December when it's nothing but potatoes and citrus.)

lame attempt #6: After much trial and error (as well as insipient laziness and indifference), I've finally gotten really good about bringing my own bags with me into every store. The key is finding an awesome bag and I have. These are good-looking, super strong, washable, and fold up tiny enough to fit in any purse. PERFECT.


The most obvious explanation.

The other day I was receiving some body work from C, a physical therapist friend of mine and as she tweaked, prodded and rubbed the bejesus out of my right shoulder, I gave her a laundry list of possible explanations for this pain from my past:

Explanation #1- A dance piece required me to do several slow-mo one arm pushups with my right arm. At the end of our rehearsal period I looked a little like GI Jane. ON ONE SIDE.

Explanation #2- While white water rafting on the Zambezi River, our boat flipped and I spent an eternity under the boat, hanging on for dear life with my right arm, twisting and turning in an insane eddy. I couldn't lift my arm for a week.

Explanation #3- Seven years ago, when I was massaging people almost full time, doing crazy yoga and dancing most days of the week, riding my bike everywhere in SF, I would up with a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome from the overuse of my arms. I was so weak from it that I couldn't even brush or wash my own hair for about a month.

At the end of the session, C mentioned that her right shoulder used to bother her when she had to reach back and give her son a new snack or toy from the driver's seat. I poo-pooed this suggestion.

After C's work, my arm and shoulder felt great.

Today, as I drove Zoe home from School, I reached back to give her her water cup and ZING.


and also: DUH.


Photo Booth is my new favorite app.

I was checking in with Catherine just now and saw this post.  Which led me to this post of Sweetney's.  (Can you say PROCRASTINATING?)

So here I am trying out the photo booth application on my new (old) laptop.  

First the "come as you are" pic for Sweetney (gotta love the perma-ponytail)

Then, about 157,000 more like these:



What the F NYT?

Did anyone see this article on the cover of the New York Times Magazine yesterday?

What were they thinking?

Poor unsuspecting (liberal, latte-drinking, Obama-voting) moms and dads woke up yesterday -FATHER'S DAY- to their beloved Sunday New York Times. And we were met with an (at least slightly) unsettling article about the ranges of ways parents attempt to share the daily work of raising children, keeping a house, and running a family. The usual "second-shift" statistics were included as well as a few choice examples of parents who completely split all childcare and housework 50/50. For real.

And at least one liberal, latte-drinking, Obama-voting mom who has less than complete co-parenting wound up looking askance at her own dear husband and seriously thinking about debating the current division of household chores. ON FATHER'S DAY.

What the F were you thinking, NYT? (And no, I did not bring it up yesterday.)

Personally, I would prefer to spend Father's Day without pondering feminism's effect, or lack thereof, on the relative amount of housework done by mothers and fathers.  

Of course, true feminism is all about choices (IMO): all women should have the choice to be stay-at-home moms/homemakers, work at the highest levels of corporate America and everything in between. And these days, we almost DO have that choice.  But each choice comes at a price.

The most interesting point of the article to me was the discussion of how so many feminists who go into marriage and motherhood hoping to share the load equally STILL wind up doing so much more of the housework and childcare. This is the hard part, the sticky part, for me. I chose to stay home for Zoe's first 18 months, and work very part time after that, for many, many reasons. My mom stayed home with me till I went to school and I really valued that. I nursed Zoe for 14 months and though we gave her a bottle at least once a week, you couldn't pay me enough to pump 5 times a day and forgo what I feel to be one of the highlights of my life:  nursing.  I had the more flexible career (As a Pilates instructor, I can easily work part time, while CG's position as an academic is inherently BEYOND full time). I was sort of in between careers (When I got pregnant, I stopped dancing which was the primary focus of my twenties and early thirties). I studied child development and psychology in college and have always been interested in working with children and applying some of what I learned.  

I have always, always wanted to be a mother.

But this article points out some deeper questions: how did all those things come to pass? Why is that I never went down the academic path that CG did (and I once aspired to)? Why did we both assume this is how it would be?  Why was I always more interested in creating a work/life balance than making some huge mark on the world?  Why was my one true goal in life "to be a mother"?

I have no answers and I'm NOT UNHAPPY with our choices and decisions. I feel so blessed that I was able to spend the first year and a half completely, totally with Zoe. Many women would kill to do it and I was able to.  And many would (should!) probably kill for my husband.  CG does a ton of work around our house and though I do more of the traditionally female housework (shopping, cooking, laundry, tidying, thank you notes) and he the traditionally male stuff (yard work, grilling, paying bills, fixing/installing things, maintaining computers), the division was all based on skill and interest and we work hard to share the childcare when he's home.

One important point that the article failed to mention: the couples who both work and stagger their work schedules in order to maximize the time each parent has with the kids don't talk about how this effects their marriage. I could easily see Pilates clients at night and weekends when CG is home with Zoe. But we wouldn't see each other AT ALL and I know our marriage would suffer.  We would both have full careers, a relationship with our child, and a lot more money but at what price?

I have no easy answers and no good way to finish this post.


Dentists, Paci Fairies and, oh yeah, DADS rule.

The dentist: Our pediatric dentist's office was a total psychedelic kid zone- there were colorful stickers, stuffed/plastic creatures and acid-trip murals on EVERY POSSIBLE surface, the staff was unwaveringly friendly, and flat screen TVs above the dentist chairs played animated movies.

Zoe didn't want to leave.

She let them "take pictures" of her teeth without complaint and even let them polish her teeth with that noisy polishing dealie with only mild complaints (no doubt due to TV-induced coma). They were so efficient and so warm with her and jeez, why don't I just go type this on some local parenting message board? Or better yet, write their PR for them?

The Paci Fairy: The Paci Fairy came. Took pacis. Left small gift. The end.

Okay so there was some crying at naptime yesterday (the first time sleeping without a paci since she was 2 months old). And last night sucked donkey balls. (At bedtime, there was much crying, wailing and the type of sniffling/gagging where you can't catch your breath or get out intelligible words. It was almost enough to cause me to suddenly find one last paci that the Paci Fairy had left behind just in case she REALLY needed it.) BUT. Today's nap (let's focus on that shall we?) started with one sad little "Zoe miss pacis" but then proceeded to an easy, silent, regular old nap. Could this be it? One day of crying?

*fingers crossed that she doesn't try to steal some kid's paci at daycare on Tuesday*

Dads: My dad used to make up bedtime stories. We would sit on the bed and each take turns telling stories about a bear named Esmerelda. Sometimes she was ferocious, sometimes she was a princess, sometimes she was a Mommy who loved her kids and made them cookies before going out at night to work as a paramedic (like my mom). This was my favorite part of the day.

My husband makes up songs with Zoe. She gets obsessed with a new song every couple of weeks and that is the only song she wants to hear. So CG embellishes it, adds lines and characters and codas. He asks for her input. He laughs when she laughs. He makes her laugh.

And both them laughing is the very best sound I've ever heard.

Happy Father's Day.


Can the Paci Fairy bring me a stiff drink while she's at it?

I've heard that moms have a really hard time letting go of their baby's babyhood. I didn't get that.

Till now, of course.

I was so excited to get past the those first two months of no sleep, deafening screams, and explosive, unpredictable poops. I couldn't wait for Zoe to smile, move around, start to explore. I had some sadness around weaning Zoe but not much. Every milestone, every new skill has been pretty darned exciting.

But lately, I find that my actual mental picture of Zoe still looks something like this:

or maybe more like this:

Sometimes I truly see her suddenly after not seeing her for a moment and I catch my breath. WHO IS THIS HUGE CHILD and what did they do with my BABY?

So much has changed in just the last few months. Zoe's been sitting on the potty several times a day "like BIG GIRL" (a big girl who apparently needs 112 sheets of toilet paper for even the excrement-free visits to the potty). She's talking up a storm and can reliably find words, sentences even, to express herself. She no longer uses bibs or her high chair. Even her booster has been relegated to the outer corners of the dining room. She's frequently insists that I allow her to "do BY SELF" and reminds me that since she's almost a "big girl" this means she will soon be allowed chewing gum.


Today we will visit the dentist. Zoe loves her Dora book about it(Show Me Your Smile) and she's officially THRILLED about the concept of going to the dentist. (Am I being overly pessimistic to assume that the REALITY of going the dentist may not be quit so thrilling?)

Those who read every post with great attention (Hi Mom!) may remember that we decided to use the dentist visit to prompt a final goodbye to Zoe's beloved pacis. I've had mixed feelings about this. Zoe has few attachments, the pacis are really IT and they are only in her crib these days. But I know they are affecting her teeth and I know that she is old enough to not NEED to suck like a true, little baby does. It's a comforting habit that I'm hoping we can break in a few short days, with a visit from the - I can't believe I'm writing this- Paci Fairy (GAG).

We've told Zoe that the Paci Fairy will take her pacis on Saturday morning while we're at the farmer's market and give them to little babies who need them. In return said fairy will leave Zoe a present (probably a stuffed animal and new blanket in the hopes that she can and will attach to something else to help her sleep, something that does not cause problems that require expensive orthodonture to fix.)

When we reviewed this little narrative with her this morning, Zoe got very excited and raced around her room finding all her pacis and putting them in a ziploc she found. We told her that it wasn't time yet and reminded her that on Saturday they were going away FOR EVER. She frowned deeply and whimpered "Say bye-bye pacis make Zoe SAD". My heart dropped slightly and I started to mentally backpedal. Maybe she could have them through the summer. Maybe she'll eventually decide she doesn't like them all on her own and I'm robbing her of that oppertunity. Maybe I'm rushing this whole thing.

Then she raced out of her room carrying the bag of pacis, yelling "Paci Fairy! Paci Fairy! Here my pacis!"

Hopefully the reality of saying goodbye to the pacis will be as easy as the concept.


You can pick your friends...

Will someone please tell my daughter to stop searching for gold in her nasal cavities? All the time. IN PUBLIC.

When it started, it was sort of funny and we could easily distract her. But now, if we dare ask her to get her finger out of her nose, she reacts as if we have taken away her one true love. We ask pointedly DO YOU NEED A TISSUE or remind her that she gets BLOODY NOSES when she does this and does she really want another BLOODY NOSE...HMMMM???? and neither of these tactics seem to deter her.

Today, at the playground, I chatted with a random mom (Check me out! I'm working on being FRIENDLY.). As I cooed at her adorable 8 month old twins, Zoe sat silently on my hip. Random Mom was grinning at Zoe and then all of a sudden, the smile stayed on her lips but left her eyes. I glanced at my lovely daughter to find out what caused the smiling eyes to disappear and, of course, I saw that at least two digits worth of a pointer finger were deeply imbedded up a nostril. That's my little charmer.

As with most behavioral challenges, I initially hoped to place the blame elsewhere. The first time her finger found it's new home was on a day she'd been at daycare. So the next time I went in, I asked a teacher about it. "Oh yeah, they're ALL doing that right now." she said. I KNEW IT. She said "they" but I know exactly who the troublemakers are and I made sure to reinforce my concern with Zoe.

"You know, Zoe, when Johnny does something, anything, MOST THINGS, it might be a good idea to NOT DO IT. Do you understand? Whatever Johnny does, DO THE OPPOSITE." (Name has been changed to protect the TOTAL TROUBLEMAKER.)

Zoe looked at me like I looked at my high school French teacher whenever he said anything besides "Bonjour!".

Then I realized that there is a photo in our living room, on a shelf Zoe can easily see, of my darling husband and his siblings, dressed to the nines for a wedding, all with their fingers up their noses. (The fact that we have this photo prominently displayed probably tells you a little too much about us.) We often use this photo to reinforce Zoe's adoration of her aunt and uncle who live too far away.

And there you have it. We can only blame ourselves (and our prominently displayed photos demonstrating poor behavior). Isn't that always the way?


Inviting one to stay.

When I was watching The Sex and The City movie last weekend, I realized that I am totally Charlotte: a clueless, idealistic nutjob. In the movie, Charlotte freaks out with fear and worry about her pregnancy because her life is so great and so full and no one gets to have everything they want, so surely something will go wrong any minute now.

This was so me when I was pregnant. And a lot of the time since then.

I've always thought that if I could worry long and hard enough, I could somehow prevent bad things from happening. And if things are going well, well someday soon I'll look back on this time as the time BEFORE (fill the HORRIBLE blank).

(This is totally effed up. I KNOW.)

When I started this blog, I was a relatively new mother and the fear and worry and TERROR that would wash over me on a regular basis sometimes made it hard to take the next breath. I chose the moniker Clueless But Hopeful Mama because I was seriously clueless and trying oh so very hard to be hopeful. It is still a struggle every day to stay in a hopeful place as a mother, and as a human being, but I truly believe that Maya Angelou quote I posted over there-->>>.

"Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay. "

This past week my hopeful self has been majorly tested. A dear friend's husband was in a car accident and lies in an ICU on the other side of the country. He has suffered a brain injury, the depth and seriousness of which is still unclear. He is a truly graceful human being, the kind of guy who allowed me to take a yoga class last summer by staying home with my napping daughter. Except she woke up. With a leaky poopy diaper. When I came home, there she was, clean diaper on (backwards but who cares?), happily playing with her new friend. Zoe took to him quickly at a time when she didn't take to ANYONE quickly. Even she knew there was just something sunny and amazing about this person.

That something freakishly terrible like this could happen, to someone wonderful, someone I know and love, just totally sucks and brings my old friend FEAR rushing back into my brain.

And every day I beat it back with HOPE. I know that fear will not protect me. Worry will not help him. Hope is what everyone who knows and loves this man must hold on to right now. We owe him that much.


Toddler Rollercoaster strikes again. And again. And again.

A few weeks ago, before our Hawaii trip, Zoe was playing in the play tent that has taken over our living room. It was after dinner and both CG and I were approaching the tent when Zoe proclaimed "NO DADDY. JUST MOMMY."

We stood there stunned.

So she repeated it, emphatically. "GO 'WAY DADDY. JUST MOMMY."

And both our hearts shattered into tiny pieces on the living room floor.

CG left the room to the chorus of "NOOOOO DADDY". I told Zoe how sad we both were to hear her say that, that I was so sad I didn't want to play and that I needed to go ask Daddy if he was okay. Our reaction may have been a bit overwrought but it was true to how we felt.

Let a new painful stage of parenting begin.


Last week, Zoe and I went to our favorite coffee house with my dear friend K. K and I drank our tea and chatted while Zoe had the play area all to herself for awhile.

Then the big girls came. Three of them, maybe 4 years old. And Zoe wanted to play with them, cozying up to them on the stools in her most friendly way: yelling "MY STOOL!". Surprise, surprise, they didn't want to play with her and told her so. I decided not to intervene since Zoe wasn't looking for my help and seemed pretty okay with it all. I want her to figure out how to manage these social interactions on her own a bit and since I normally am more of a helicopter-type mom, feeding her suggestions and guiding her decisions, I decided to hang back.

Zoe finally gave up on sitting near them and found a magnetic puzzle thing to play with (the kind where you guide a metal ball through a maze with the attached magnetic sticks). One of the girls came over and took the stick out of her hand. Zoe started her usual neutron dance, feet stomping, mouth wailing and then stopped and said "MY TURN! NOT FINISHED!" which is exactly what I've been trying to get her to say in such instances. The girl was startled and gave her back the stick. Zoe stood there for a long minute and then reached for the other stick attached to the puzzle and GAVE IT TO HER.

And my heart exploded into the proudest little pieces of Mommy heart that ever existed.


Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, while not a barfing sickness and therefore not the worst illness that can befall a household, certainly appears to SUCK. This week Zoe was UBER fussy and whiny. She wanted to eat and clearly needed something to raise her blood sugar out of the basement but she "CAN'T EAT!" because there are sores in her mouth that hurt (or so I gather from the loud whining and pointing to her mouth). So all previous careful parenting choices went out the window. You want ice cream? At 11 am? SURE! Cookies? As dinner? If you will eat them and stop whining, WHY NOT?

After a few days with her like this, I was not the mother I want to be. All patience was gone. All creativity and empathy and energy were drained.

Monday she was whining and not making sense and I would have given my left pinky for a few minutes of quiet. She wanted the "BABY! IN STROLLER" but after I helped her put the baby in the stroller (seemed like the obvious thing to do, no?) the neutron dance started up again with the foot stomping and the wailing and the end of the universe.

CG was walking towards us as I knelt down in front of her and said through gritted teeth: "Zoe. What. do. YOU. WANT?!?!?!" . He raised his eyebrows and said gently "you okay?".

My wild eyes and "I think I'm losing it" were all he needed to know.

Yet another to add to the "Not So Proud Mommy Moments" column.


Zoe wakes up from a nap, greeting me with a "I missed you Mommy" and reaches for me. I kiss her cheek and tell her I missed her too. We cuddle in bed for a while and during a silent moment, she leans into me and kisses me on the mouth, then nuzzles my nose. "LIKE CORDUROY!" she says, reminding me of a scene from a current favorite book.

Later we sit on the couch and play with our toes. She tells me her big toe is the "MOMMY TOE" and the little ones are the "BABIES". I ask her if she is a baby or a big girl and she says "Mommy's baby".

I kiss her forehead and tell her that even when she's a big girl she will always be Mommy's baby.


Wash baby in bath- YES. Wash baby with hose- NO.

It appears that parental book hiding has started in earnest at our house and not for any of the myriad reasons I would have predicted.

Safe Baby Handling Tips was a baby shower gift that we perused a bit when I was pregnant, giggled over and forgot about. Because of its size and hard cover, it got shelved with Zoe's board books at some point and there it stayed, completely ignored, for about two years.

Until Zoe discovered it and decided it was her new favorite book.

Zoe calls it the "Mommy Daddy Book" and requests it regularly these days. There are pages I skip over (like the one where the baby is stuffed in her daddy's backpack) and the pages that I find troubling but Zoe adores (like the one where the baby is sitting in a fishtank. She giggles every time and says "baby in WATER!" incredulously.) (I'd put up photos of these pages if I could find the darn cable to do it. I'm still in computer purgatory.)

In the authors' defense, this is NOT a children's book AND those examples are under the "don't" headline. The book is truly amusing when read by adults, preferably with cocktails in hand. When read by an earnest, Clueless But Hopeful Mama in the presence of her precious, impressionable two year old? NOT SO MUCH.

In my defense..... well, the book is now hidden. I PROMISE.


The weekend, as seen through several empty children's Tylenol bottles.

After three weeks of house guest, week in Hawaii, house guest, house guest, house guest, with NO BREAK OF EVEN A DAY in between, we finally had the house to ourselves this weekend and it felt great. We could pee with the door open and let the yellow mellow. We could scan, ADHD-style, through the two week-old recorded finale of American Idol only to get to the end, where Ryan Scarycrest said "and the winner is..... David.....", to find that the recording ended RIGHT THERE forcing me to troll YouTube to find the reaction shot, which is TOTALLY the best part. We could clean out our embarrassingly stuffed linen closet which three weeks' worth of guests made us face, but didn't give us the time to deal with, on an almost daily basis. We could sit in silence or try to catch each other up on the stories from three weeks worth of delicious and sometimes challenging fullness that we never had the time or energy to share before now.

It was a great weekend. Oh, except for the fact that Zoe came down with a mysterious illness on Saturday that paired high fever with major fussiness. Just when we thought Zoe had gone through all the potential bugs from that barnyard petri dish we call daycare, it turns out there's one more: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Today we found sores in her mouth and I guess we're on the lookout for a rash on her hands and hooves feet. FUN.

But I did sneak out last night to see the "Sex and the City" movie with some friends. I can't tell you what its value is as a MOVIE per se, but when viewed, in a room full of amped-up women, as a nostalgic, VERY extended episode of the TV show, IT ROCKED.

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