Dress debate.

We leave tomorrow for a weekend away at a friend's wedding and the usual packing insanity has begun.

By far the hardest decision:

which adorable, too-nice-to-wear-normally dress should we cram her into for the event?


A few years, a few bullet points. (edited to add a big NO DUH)

My Buddy Mimi wrote a post a few days ago that I thought I'd bogart. You have to sum up the last 15 years of your life in 10 bullet points. Pretend you ran into someone you hadn't seen in 15 years and had to catch them up, quick-like.

*Okay foggy memory banks let's see what we remember... 15 years ago I was a junior in college. I graduated a year later with a BS in Psychology, more uncredited hours in the dance studio than anywhere else, and a way-late-in-the-game, forehead-slap realization that I no longer wanted to be a psychologist of any kind. (Oops.)

*So I moved to Maine and ran a bed and breakfast for a year. I thought it would be all Walden-like and I would figure out the meaning of life in general and MY life in particular. Instead, I worked like a dog, ate way too many pancakes, watched the ENTIRE OJ Simpson trial (SO GUILTY) and decided I needed to dance.

*So I moved to San Francisco with Bronwen, my fabulous sexologist friend from college (Actually, at the time she was a singing waitress, the sexologist part came later. [That's what she said]), enrolled in a crappy massage school, worked an illegal tea cart in Ghiradelli Square and watched "Party of Five" and "ER" RELIGIOUSLY on my 16 inch TV as I sat in my butterfly chair. Oh, and I danced as much as possible, mainly in the back of the class.

*After a few roommates came and went, I moved into a house in the famed Haight Ashbury. Soon I lived with three of the most wonderful women EVER. We baked, we danced, we threw the most raucous house parties and often spent the evening chatting for HOURS. (Yes, we totally cycled together too.)

*I got a call from an acquaintance from college who wanted to meet up. Turns out he was cuter than I remembered. Turns out I was dating someone else at the time. Turns out he became a good friend and even briefly dated a friend of mine. (Turns out we got married eventually but that's coming later...)

*I set up a private practice as a massage therapist and then studied to be a Pilates Instructor. I danced with some small time choreographers and got paid a little. I was dancing in the middle of the classroom.

*I started dating my good friend and within weeks we were talking, hypothetically at first, about marriage. We moved in together and got engaged on his birthday in the middle of a fancy restaurant when he said he "needed a little help with his birthday wish" and got down on one knee. We got married a year or so later in the Shakespeare Garden of the college we both attended.

*He got his PhD at Berkeley, I danced with some amazing choreographers in San Francisco (with the injuries to prove it.) and danced front and center in most dance classes.

* We got knocked up and moved down to Pasadena for his post-doc where we now live the quintessential suburban life of toddler playdates at kid museums, dog walks with plastic baggies and a yard that requires constant neglect.

(Oops, that's only nine.)

(edit: * Oh RIGHT. In April 2006, Zoe was born. That would have to be the biggest bullet point EVER.)


Turns out a lollipop is almost as good as a nap.

Friday was one of THOSE days.

I had Pilates clients in the morning and a clear 2 hour block in the afternoon before my normal time to pick up Zoe. This is usually when I have appointments (doctor, hair, etc.) or run necessary errands that are not toddler friendly (like taking Sweet Dog to the vet without having to say "please don't touch eat the dog biscuits or touch that snarling pit bull" over and OVER again). This day, there was nothing I really needed to do. I thought for a moment about picking up Zoe early but then stopped myself because I firmly believe that I should take these opportunities to relax, do something nice for myself and unwind. Come back to her as a better, more relaxed mommy.

*cue ominous music*

So I decided to treat myself to a pedicure and walk around an outdoor mall. I bought some deeply discounted workout wear (score!) and read gossip rags while a smiley woman scrubbed my hooves. I kept reminding myself to NOT feel guilty, to just enjoy this time to myself.

Then I went to pick up my daughter. I was there earlier than normal (the guilt eventually won) and the little crayon eaters kids were circled up for story time before snack. I listened to The Very Hungry Caterpillar as Zoe abnormally, inexplicably fell apart in my lap, the realization that something was wrong slowly, slowly dawning on me. By the time we got to washing our hands before snack, I was dealing with the worst tantrum I've ever seen. (And of course, this had to be in the presence of three lovely daycare teachers and 9 momentarily quiet, well behaved toddlers.) Screaming, crying, throwing body on the ground, NO distraction or Toddlerese working. Over the din, I found out that Zoe, my three-hour-napping daughter, had NOT TAKEN A NAP AT ALL that day.

After an embarrassing, hastily aborted, tantrum-strewn snack time and the worst, most forcible car seat buckling of my tenure as a mommy, I drove home through a haze of tears. She was crying too, big, screaming, red-faced sobs that no song, no book, no stuffed animals could distract her from.

I could think of nothing to break through her sobs and I feared her choking/coughing/sobbing would result in VOMIT at some point. So I did what I swore I never would. I bribed her. I told her if she could take a few deep breaths with me, I'd let her have the lollipop that the check-out guy at Trader Joe's gave her the day before.

Like all good bribes, it totally worked. Three hyperventilating breaths later, she was happily, silently sucking on a lemon lollipop.

All weekend has been a roller coaster. She's off her schedule for some reason, is talking about her pacis again (after months of not even mentioning them), and today she hit me for real for the first time ever. Not an "I'm a little worked up and aggro so I'll swat at things and see what happens" kind of thing. More like a "Dude, Mom, you SO SUCK right now and I don't care if it's hurting your feelings" kind of thing.

I'm tired of it. I wish she was an adult so I could tell her I need some space and then go off for an entire afternoon with nothing but the Sunday times and a big glass of lemonade. I wish she didn't need me so constantly at the same time that she is such a big pain in my rear. I know I'm clearly having a bad day (I think we both are) and just need to take a breath and go easy on both of us. I can't allow the guilt over taking time for myself to take over (if I had just gone to pick her up right after work I could have taken her home to nap and everything would be fine TOTALLY FINE HAPPINESS WORLD PEACE BLAH BLAH BLAH)

I think I need to go have a lollipop.


Reflections (or some other 1990's yearbook title).

At Descanso Gardens, we're barely out of the car and Z is beside herself with excitement. The train is about to start running and we are first in line. She clutches her Brio "ENNJIN!" and "ENNJIN DWIVER!" to her chest which is covered by a green and brown giraffe t-shirt. Her hair is short and disheveled; on her face, grimy traces of peanut butter crackers remain.

"Come 'ere little boy and we'll size you up" says the elderly ticket lady, motioning toward a wall.

Slightly shocked, I don't say anything, just nudge Z closer to the marking on the wall that proves her small self can ride for free.

Z lets out a squeal, runs toward the front of the train and jumps on. Ticket Lady says: "My! Look how BIG and STRONG you are!".

I smile and get on board too. Because she is big and strong and what do I care if this lady thinks she's a boy? Do I need to correct her?

I jump off to take a picture
and I look at Z, trying to size up her gender as if I didn't know her, as if I haven't studied her every pore every day since she was born. What if I had to come up with a pronoun after a quick glance? Do I just look at the color scheme of the clothes? What about the bows on her pants? The short-in-back girlie haircut?

I've NEVER heard anyone call my dress-clad daughter "big and strong". It's usually "cute" or "pretty" or some other acceptably feminine adjective. It reminds me of when I teach a Pilates mat class and the women squirm and balk when I tell them to "widen their shoulders" or "make their pelvis heavy". It makes me want to scream. Can we not be big and strong too? Can we please have beautiful, wide shoulders and take up some space?

(But I digress...)

Most of Z's clothes are fairly girly though I always veer toward awesome blue dresses and green shoes and orange hats because she likes those colors and so do I. When she was a baby, I quickly dropped my loudly professed plan to outfit her in orange and yellow and bought many, many pink and purple things. She was just a blob and could've been any gender and I wanted to make it easy for people to guess and exclaim. Pink! "It's a girl!" I didn't want to explain or answer any more questions than I had to. At the clothes department there are the boy rack and the girl racks. There are precious few either/or, especially as they get older. I have friends in places like Berkeley and western Massachusetts where parents often dress their children completely genderlessly (Spellcheck, I don't care what you say, I LIKE THAT WORD.). I decided early on that, even in my wildest, most feminist moments, I didn't have that in me.

But now I wonder if I should dress her in gender-neutral clothes a little more often. If only so she can hear "look how BIG and STRONG you are!" out of a few more strangers' mouths.


"Made" into someone better.

"Made" is one of my favorite TV shows, even though I'm about 20 years older than the target demographic. For those who've never had the pleasure, each episode of this documentary-ish show chronicles a select high schooler's journey as they are "made" into something entirely new and different. We watch as they are paired with a coach who helps them attain their goal: the nerd vies for the homecoming crown, the shy wallflower learns to rap, the jock takes up ballet.

I eat this feel-good, you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be sh!t up.

I want to believe that, given the right caring encouragement and expert assistance, we all could break out of our mold and realize new dreams, new improved versions of ourselves. Remember how easy it was to get pigeonholed in high school and how we all dreamed of busting out and finding our hidden talent for skateboarding or cheerleading or Olympic pole vaulting? (that last one is MINE ALL MINE)

I think this is why I love parenting books.

(you: GROAN.)

Seriously, parenting books coach me with new and different ways of doing this most impossible job. Sometimes, I totally agree and latch onto the ideas in a book or at least remember something that informs how I mother Zoe. Sometimes, I totally disagree or get annoyed at the judgmental tones (see: Dr. Sears. I know, I know, he's loving and touchy feely but I often feel he's judgmental of non-attachment parenting decisions like, oh say, prioritizing the PARENTS' need for sleep?)

Other times I feel like I'm trying on a new persona to see if it fits. Like when I read this beautiful little book by Amanda Soule of Soulemama, which was given to me by my dear friend Kathleen (a truly crafty lady who helped me make these letters for Zoe's room). First of all, Amanda's blog is beautiful and awe-inspiring. The book is too. It's chock full of tips and ideas for creating an open creative environment for your whole family. As I read it, I found myself wanting desperately to make a banging wall (I'm not so sure that the neighbors would appreciate that), stock small bins with fabrics for Zoe to run her little fingers through (won't she just scatter them to the far dusty corners of the room?), create family art time where we all sit and draw together (right now, Zoe's
idea of art time is rubbing markers on her chin till they're dull while demanding that "Mommy draw! Mommy draw ZOE!").

My parenthetical comments clearly betray my lack of conviction. I want so badly to be an open, creative Mommy. The one who doesn't care when things get messy. The one who is naturally improvisational and crafty, has artistic vision to burn and can sew/paint/fabric-glue with aplomb. In reality, I hate to get messy and I cling to directions and recipes because if left to my own devices I'm usually sad to discover that my creative energy well is DRY AND EMPTY. That's why I need this book. Real, live, truly creative types don't need a book to teach them how to be creative. (I like to think they need a book about how to.... be punctual? follow a recipe? GOOD GOD do I have ANY meaningful, worthwhile skills here?)

So I've started slowly. I finally bought Zoe some (washable) water colors (Mess! Lots of instruction and supervision! Things might get stained! Some creative coach needs to come over and hold my hand!). She likes them, though it often results in her declaring: "Mommy paint ZOE NOW!".
I think more often about ways to make her toys and environment more open-ended and creative. I pulled out all my old scarves from the 80's and put them in a box for her to dance around with. I try to encourage her to explore and get dirty, swallowing my concerns about all the laundry and floor mopping that will certainly follow. I've renewed my desire to get a sewing machine and learn how to actually use it, not for anything too wild, maybe just a few halloween costumes ("It's Zoe! The Glad trash bag!") or maybe these AWESOME birthday crowns (Oh. It appears that you don't need a sewing machine for them. Don't tell CG because I still want a sewing machine.)

Plus I totally have a dream (No, not the pole vaulting one. With all my dance injuries, that one is definitely out of the running.) to learn how to play the guitar so that we can sit around the fire and sing Beatles songs while softly petting our perfectly well behaved dog's head. That may be mostly fantasy (unless that's a BBQ fire where our turkey burgers are burning and the dog is eating dirt) but I hope to take guitar lessons sometime in my life.

And be MADE into the creative, artsy-crafty mom I've always wanted to be.


Home, with perspective.

Coming home was even more of a sweet relief than I expected. I was supposed to arrive home at 9:30 p.m. Sunday evening. After TWO plane changes, we left 5 hours later than expected. (One plane "needed new software" but, after an hour of us all waiting on board, it turned out to "need a whole new flight computer". After boarding the second plane and waiting, we were told it "needed a new radio". The final plane was delayed as it needed "more gas" due to a change in flight plan.) This meant I got exactly 2 hours of sleep the night morning I returned home. Me thinks United might NEED SOME NEW PLANES.

Contrary to my deep-seated fears, Zoe and CG survived the four days I was gone with nary a scratch (or obvious psychological damage). She cried for him a lot on Monday and I could see his joy at having a new bond with her as she's always been more bonded to me. A leftover from 14 months of nursing? A result of me being the primary caregiver for so long? A clear indication of my complete and utter superiority as a parent/human being?

Of course, I usually attribute Zoe's Mommy attachment to the two former explanations but a small part of me secretly felt it was the latter. Seeing how attached she got to CG in four days of me being gone blows that out of the water.

We're always working on the shifting dynamics of our little family of three (+ dog) and being gone made it all a little clearer. Sometimes I find that in my love and constant care for my daughter, I forget all about my poor husband. Before this trip, I was in a lather about missing HER and worried about what SHE needed and was often only thinking of my husband as the poor schlep who would be flying solo in Toddlerland, not as the man I used to focus on entirely, the person to whom I chose to pledge my love, partnership and companionship forever and ever and EVER.

It reminds me of some comedian I saw on The Daily Show awhile ago. He was talking about becoming a new father and how his formerly attentive, loving wife gave birth, gazed at her new baby, a full blood, sweat and tears production from her body, and then turned to him and said "Who the f&%$ are you?.

Sometimes I catch myself feeling that way.

But then I remember: our love created her. As immediate and overwhelming as Zoe's demands feel sometimes, I must not lose sight of him. Of us.

I missed my daughter AND my husband (and my dog for that matter.). If I learned anything by being away from them (not to mention, sharing those four days with my dear friend who has spent the last month of her life caring for her husband with a brain injury) it is surely some schlocky sentimental nonsense about how precious this little family CG and I created is.

(Please excuse me while I go call our babysitter to set up a much needed date night.)


The view from western Massachusetts.

Dude, everything here is technicolor. The sky is BLUE (not brown) and the ground is GREEN (again, not BROWN), the oxygen is palpable. Everyone rides their bike around town (in many parts of LA, this is either idiotically dangerous or just plain not an option); even the trash and recycling is picked up by people on bikes (even in 2 feet of snow in the WINTER!). The town is full of adorable boutiques and unique restaurants. The community is close and welcoming and rallies behind its own.

It's hard to imagine why anyone would live anywhere else.

(I should really come back in February and have my year-round tank top wardrobe immediately freeze in place on my shoulders.)

My friend's husband is walking, talking, living, breathing and HOME. It is good to be here and try to be a support; from afar, I could not truly imagine what is good and what is hard and what is REAL here. They have so many lovely friends that I am somewhat superfluous but it helps ME to be here to do something tangible; to wash dishes, mop floors, do laundry, hold hands. To do the things that long lasting friendship requires in times like this and distance prevents.

Yesterday, I held his head as his neck brace was changed and was moved beyond words to have that precious skull, so recently traumatized, so deeply wounded, in my palms. The responsibility and trust inherent in the act reminded me of holding Zoe in the first few weeks of her life. Did I trust my own hands to carry and hold this precious life before me who felt so fragile? Was I wobbly? Too firm? Not worthy?

There is so much healing still to be done here and yet today I must get back on a plane to go home to my family. We've had Ichats on the computer and cellphone chats but I long to hug my hubbie and squeeze and sniff and tickle my daughter. Zoe is apparently doing fairly well, though during all Ichats and cellphone conversations she invariably demands that "Mommy come home RIGHT NOW" or "see Mommy NOW" and I don't envy CG having to be there for the 10 minutes after the phone call ends. I think this would have broken my heart if she were a tad bit younger and if the reason for me being here was less deeply important to me. I know now that she is resilient and her emotions, even the darkest, loudest, seemingly horrendous ones, pass in a few minutes when you pay attention to her with love (and insistent distraction). All in all, it's been surprisingly easy for me to be away from her, and Zoe seems to be handling it well (apparently she is easily calmed by discussion of how many naps are left before Mommy comes home.) Perhaps this is most difficult of all for CG. ALL HAIL THE SINGLE PARENT whether temporary or permanent. That sh!t ain't easy.


Leaving, on a jet plane.

Tomorrow morning (at the butt crack of dawn) I leave for Massachusetts to visit my friend whose husband was in a car accident a month ago. He has been discharged from his brain injury rehab center and is finally home. This is great news of course but the daily work of healing is still happening and he and my dear friend still need support.

So off to Massachusetts I go.

I am strangely excited about: having a whole 5 hour block of time on the plane to do nothing but read (what do you want to bet that I spend the whole time watching Rush Hour 8, wishing I could get up to pee but I don't want to disturb the grandma asleep next to me in the aisle and trying to block the oozing arms of a sweaty stranger sitting at the window?), packing just a carry on with NO DIAPERS in sight, and having time (Alone! With no toddler pulling gently at my sleeve schreeching for my attention every second) with my dearest friend at a time when she really needs me.

I am feeling sick inside about leaving my daughter and husband, though. This will be, by far, the longest time I've been away from Zoe. I feel nauseous whenever I am away from them both for a whole day, I cannot imagine what FOUR days will be like. I know they will survive but I will miss them and I know it will be tiring and challenging for CG to run this show on his own. I tried to explain my absence to Zoe but she doesn't get it. All things in the future are "tomorrow" and everything happens in 5 minute increments or "after NAP". I don't envy CG having to explain repeatedly where Mommy is.

But watching them frolic (there really is NO other word for what they were doing) at Venice beach on Monday, I just know they will be okay.


Another parenting vow bites the dust.

Parenting Vow #28: I will not ask my child to perform for my own or others' amusement.


Contest winner!

No, I'm sorry, you did not win my first ever Pay It Forward Contest.

Unless, of course, your name is the one and only ERICA of All Dressed Up!

It took me awhile to figure out the random number generator (if that is an idiot test, I, like, TOTALLY failed.) but once I did, it chose 5 as the lucky winner.

Now the fun panic begins. I was almost hoping that some random person would win, someone whose blog I don't read all the time so that I could claim total ignorance and idiocy when I send a completely lame and/or inappropriate gift and then never have to (virtually) see them again.


Plus, Erica ran her own contest and will now have to figure out how to pay it forward AGAIN. Don't know what to tell you there, my dear.

But sometime, hopefully soon, there will be a package arriving on your doorstep from yours truly. Hopefully it won't disturb/offend/annoy/sicken/bore you.

I gots to go shopping!

Oh! and I forgot to answer my own questions (wow, if I knew so many people would stop by to comment, I would have come up with better questions!):

Celebrity crush?: Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, Harrison Ford in the first Indiana Jones movie (someone else said that too, I think), Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge (oh, I could go on and ON AND ON).
Where do I want to be buried?: (I don't know WHY this came to me but I typed that post a little quickly and was apparently feeling MORBID) I want to be cremated and have my ashes buried under a tree on the property in Vermont where I've been every summer since I was a kid.
Why won't my daughter nap?: Well, it turned out that she skipped her nap ENTIRELY that day which may account for my haste in typing the contest post. I had a taste of a nap-less future and, if any powerful being is listening, I DON'T LIKE IT.


Candy cigars and pooping really celebrate the birth of this great nation.

Happy fourth of July!
(aka. the do-they-make-liquid-Valium-for-calming-the-dog-and/or-toddler-during-fireworks?-holiday)

Here we are at a Fourth of July parade with two (count 'em, TWO) flags. Rah RAH America! (Welcome to my virtual scrapbook, apparently! All I need is some pre-cut paper flags and eagles alongside quotes from our favorite presidents, written in curly script, of course.)

Zoe loved the "dancers" (little cheerleading pom pom girls) and kept asking for more.

I am always moved to tears by seeing veterans, especially the WW2 vets in their old cars and uniforms. No matter how cynical or hopeless I sometimes feel about this country, the vets never cease to move me. Not so much the cigar lovers of America, or whoever they were, on this huge loud float, blasting "Bad to the Bone", smoking fat cigars and throwing candy cigars to all the kids on the sidelines.

(For REAL.)

In other birth-of-our-nation-celebration news, Zoe pooped in the toilet today! YAY! and also: AH CRAP. Does this mean we're potty training? Can't I skip this part??


What's the best thing about having my in-laws visit?

A. They do the dishes (loading and unloading and PUTTING AWAY!). Woo HOO!

B. They read books, offer laps, fetch things. It's like having an extra parent, only more patient!

C. They accompany us to the pony and train rides in Griffith Park, pay for the rides and seem genuinely enthused about going around and around in a little circle or watching their precious granddaughter do the same.

D. CG and I can cut out for a movie, on the spur of the moment. As in CG can just say to me "hey, you want to go catch a movie?" And I can say "yeah" and then we can leave, RIGHT THEN. (We saw "Hancock" last night and I'm still annoyed at the plot twist half way through. They had a good movie and then they went haywire, IMO. But STILL. We saw a movie. The week it came out. IN A THEATER. Without having to pay a sitter or make the plan a week in advance or ANYTHING.)



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