Worth a thousand words

Rebecca just posted about "money shots", those perfect shots that emerge from the millions in your I-Photo library to just take your breath away. She asked us to share.

I was not about to pass up the excuse to scroll through the system-crashingly huge number of photos I've taken of Zoe over her 2 and 1/2 years. With most of our family so far away, I began taking pictures of Zoe regularly, often daily, as soon as I emerged from the fog of her delivery. Most were junk but some just about stopped my heart, capturing moments that I didn't realize were so fleeting but knew instantly were precious.

It was a rough 20 minutes for me to narrow them down to just a few of my all time favorites. But here they are. (All were taken by me, except the first one. I had to include that one because I pretty much always start crying when I see it. She was so little and I held her like that all the time. I can still remember how it felt.)


The day of birth

Today is my birthday and I got to spend the morning sitting in bed, drinking tea, finishing New Moon (Oh God the writing gets worse but my heart still beats for Edward), and sharing waffles, eggs and bacon (I clearly didn't get enough calories yesterday).

I am lucky to have a birthday near my all time favorite holiday (not to mention the fact that I share my birthday with none other than Jon Stewart! *swoon*). With family visiting (aka. built in babysitters!) and my husband off of work, we will truly celebrate.

But still, I am reminded of how different my birthday feels to me now that I am a mother.

My birthday used to be all about ME.

Now I think of it as the day my mom birthed me. The day she screamed and cried and bled and thought she would break in two and yet didn't. The day she held me for the first time. The day she and my dad named me. The day they began the long journey of teaching me about the world and how it worked. Though it wasn't the day that she became a mother (my brother is three years older), it was the day she became MY mother.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. Thank you for my birthday and every day after.


Giving thanks

Thanks for pillows and down comforters and the crook of my husband's shoulder.

Thanks for Zoe's curls and her soft, soft cheek and her sweet little voice singing "Alice the Camel".

Thanks for my friends and family who never let me fall through the cracks, never let me become some pale, motionless version of myself, without a fight.

And thanks to ALL THAT IS HOLY that my appetite is back in time for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the just-in-time enjoyment of stuffing and turkey and my in-laws' cranberry salad. Thanks most of all for the FIVE iced spice cookies I just ate in one sitting. Oh appetite. I am thankful for you most of all.

Iced Spice Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbsp molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each salt, cloves, nutmeg (freshly ground, if you want to get all gourmet about it)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter till light and fluffy (3 minutes). Mix in egg and molasses.
2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.
3. Fill shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Make walnut sized pieces of dough and roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookies sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make glaze. Combine powdered sugar with 1 Tbsp. water and lemon juice. Drizzle immediately over cooling cookies.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Skillz, easy come, easy go

When I first got pregnant this go 'round and started feeling so sick, Zoe's behavior took a nose dive. I immediately attributed it to her having a tortured internal conflict over being a big sister. She clearly was reacting on some deep emotional level to her new reality, right? Right?

I guess it's possible that she was reacting to this new information in some way. But now that I'm starting to feel quite a bit better (Appetite! Energy! Sex drive! All Some systems go!) I've come to realize that she was reacting almost solely to me and how I've been as a mother lately. It's a sad truth that my parenting was completely devoid of creativity and humor for a few months there.

She's been in a much better place these last few weeks. Fewer tantrums, easier transitions, more reasonable (for a toddler). I didn't think too much about why until tonight when I felt the light bulb come on over my head when we were all hanging out after dinner. Zoe started getting pissy and telling CG that she didn't want him in the living room. "NO. Just Mommy and my babies. It's my BABIES' room." I sighed and started to tell her, in my recently humorless, matter-of-fact way, that this was our FAMILY room and the whole family was welcome and that Daddy wasn't going anywhere blah blah HUMORLESS, UNCREATIVE blah. When her fussing grew louder, I realized that I used to handle these things better, with ease.... What did I used to do anyway? Back when I had energy??...... I whispered excitedly: "Hey Zoe, Do you think your babies would fit in that laundry basket there? Isn't that a snug little room? Maybe they'd like some blankets in their special room..." And IT TOTALLY WORKED. JUST LIKE IT USED TO.

Creative distraction. The bedrock of good parenting in my book (at this age anyway. Do you think it works with teenagers?? "Hey honey! Is that pot you're smoking? What's over there? Do you hear a TRUCK going by? Do you think it's a BIG TRUCK or a leeeetle teeeeny, tiny one??"). Unfortunately, I found that my ability to think creatively, to distract Zoe easily, COMPLETELY left me when I got pregnant.

Along with my sense of humor and my ability to be silly. I realized a few weeks ago that Zoe and I used to spend lots of time laughing. And that I hadn't heard her really, REALLY laugh in a while. (I'll pause while you let the ABJECT SADNESS of that statement sink in. Tragic, isn't it? A toddler who doesn't laugh? You have to work at that.) And silliness goes a REALLY long way to ease transitions for us around here. Tooth brushing doesn't need to be the miserable 5 minutes of TORTURE it was for a month or so there. Apparently, all I have to do is sing silly songs, use the toothbrush to "knock" on the door of her closed mouth and ask in a silly voice to "please come in". I also remembered that if I need to hurry her up and I start having an animated conversation with an imaginary kid named Bob who just might get there first, she suddenly moves like the wind. I'd forgotten all about those things. And we both were more miserable for it.

Now that I seem to have located and dusted off my old skills of creative distraction and silliness, I am struggling with the current and more long lasting loss of my other most favorite parenting tool-- "the pick-up-and-move" maneuver. As my belly gets bigger and bigger and my poor old arthritic back goes all funky with relaxin, I can't just haul her 30 lb self around like I used to, with ease, on an almost hourly basis. Tantrumming in the middle of a store/sidewalk/street? Pick up and move her! Misbehaving in significant ways and ignoring warnings? Pick up and move her! Refusing (or dawdling) to transition to nap/potty/bath/clothing change? Pick up and move her! It works for so many things. My discipline was often based on it but so was our play. I'd "fly" her around the house and "crash" her into one of the beds. I'd swing her around in my soft laundry basket while we sang songs. When I tried that last one, the other day, I had to hobble around the house for the rest of the day while the hitch in my giddyup worked itself out. Zoe's going to have to get used to a less mobile mother and I'm going to need to find new techniques to fit this new stage of our lives.

I'm just so much less fond of the "grab by the wrist and drag" maneuver than the elegant, take charge "pick and move" maneuver, you know?


Who's the boss

One day last week I went to pick up Zoe from school. As I lingered near her, the usual pack of girls came over and started pushing books in my face (this has become an unfortunate ritual at pick up time. "Zoe's mom is here! Quick! Find something to make her read to us!"). I sat down with them and the usual bickering started. Pushing, whining "I caaaannnn't seeeeeeee!", trying to sit in a chair that someone else is already sitting in- you know, the usual 2-3 year old behavior.

But what I noticed most of all was, of course, my darling daughter. The light of my life.

The apparent school yard bully.

She started out wanting to sit next to me (reasonable) and she wanted "her" dolly to sit on the chair next to her. But there weren't enough chairs for kids AND dolls so I told her to hold the baby and give the chair to a girl who needed one. So she turned to the girl on the other side of me and said "Get up". AND THE GIRL DID. Before I could say anything, Zoe sat in that seat and turned to the girl on the other side of her and said again "Get up" and THE GIRL DID. Zoe put her dolly down and smiled beatifically at me. I was speechless and once again told her there were NOT enough chairs for dolls and kids and she would have to hold the baby on her lap. This did not go over well but was quickly enforced by the adult in charge, which would be..... oh yeah ME.

Later, when one girl had a book Zoe wanted she whined/yelled "IIIII WANT THAT BOOK" and the girl just dropped it and walked away.


I should clarify too that some of these girls are tough cookies. One was an unrepentant biter for months. Another was known for pushing kids down the ladder on the jungle gym. They are all verbal, smart girls not pushovers. How did my daughter get to be the bossy one here??

GG and I have been worried about this bossy streak for some time. She can be very bossy with us at home; often when we ask her to do something she'll say "YOU do it" or if she wants something that she's totally capable of getting for herself (say a book from her bedroom) she'll whine for me to do it for her. (It's a bit maddening how she wants to do anything dangerous or impossible to do at her size/ability "BY SELF" but anything else she wants us to do it for her.)

I think we've done a pretty good job of not giving in. We don't do things for her unless she really can't do them for herself or, in the case of borderline things like finding a lost toy, HAS TRIED. And if we need to help her we try to involve her in doing it with us and ask her questions to get HER to problem solve. We don't get up from suddenly preferred chairs, though we are often ordered to (yep, chairs are a recurrent problem). We don't do things for her unless it's a reasonable request and she has asked it nicely. We don't let her push Sweet Dog around though Zoe always seems to suddenly NEED to sit wherever Sweet Dog is on the bed/couch.

We aren't giving in.

But I guess some of the kids at school are.....


What I would Twitter if I twitted

Can't blog. Reading Twilight series. Might resurface. But only if Edward lets me.


Standing with us on the side of love

Dear Zoe,

I've always felt a little uncomfortable when I've seen babies and young children plastered with slogans and hoisted up at political rallies, the cutest of campaign propaganda. They are clearly not able to make a judgment on the issue at hand, they are brought there by their parents, cherubic faces forced to tag along, possibly even explicitly meant to pull at your heartstrings. I never wanted to "use" you that way.

But your Dad and I also strongly believe in standing up for what we believe in. So we didn't put you in a rainbow flag T-shirt or plaster you with buttons or stickers. But you came with us today to Pasadena's anti-Prop 8 rally at city hall. You saw your parents stand up with many others and chant "Yes we can!" (you really liked that). You fussed loudly through the moment of silence at 11 am. You ran hysterical, giggly circles around me with your little friend L.

L is a girl. If you grow up and want to marry a girl, we want to be there to kiss you, celebrate you, and greet our new daughter-in-law knowing you will have all the rights and privileges your father and I enjoy.

We had to go today because of you.

Because we love you and will support you in finding a partner to love.

Because we believe in civil rights for gay people and we are willing to fight for it (or at least give up a few hours on a Saturday to show our support).

Because the minister who married us, the one who officially made us a family, now can't get married in this state. How messed up is that?


your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


A few of my favorite things right now

Fresh gerber daisies going on week 2 of beauty!
Cuddling with MY little bear.
Pretending to sleep (while wearing 4 layers of clothing on her bottom.)

As it's 85 degrees outside today, I'm sure I will get to enjoy these newly planted pansies and impatiens for quite awhile. We may not have the glorious foliage and snowy mornings of my youth but So Cal rocks for its year round sunshine!

(Thanks everyone for your sweet, supportive comments to my last post. It sure does help to hear that I'm not alone in this!)


First Trimester Depression

Sometimes people find their way to this clueless but hopeful corner of the web through a Google search. (My latest favorites: "coverall underwear" and "can i eat cheese tortellini in first trimester"). This post's title is for you knocked up Googlers looking for someone else who is crying and cranky and miserable, even though you are pregnant with a much wanted baby.

Hi! Want a tissue?

Two weeks ago, after a few days of crying constantly for no real reason, I finally admitted to myself that this whole crappy feeling I've had for-freaking-ever 7 or so weeks could maybe just be called depression. And that maybe I needed to do something. Talking with CG, my mom, and my best friend and having them all say "Um YEAH. You haven't been yourself in weeks and weeks and WEEKS and I've been very worried about you." cleared things up as well.

So last week, I sucked it up and went to my primary care doc to get a referral to "mental health". Now, I've been in therapy before. Six years of it, to be exact. I fear not counseling, emotions, sharing feelings, delving deep into the dark, neurotic corners of my psyche. Some might even say I tend to overshare in this regard (shocking for a blogger, no?). Yet it was extremely hard for me to force the words from my mouth in the Doctor's office.

Busy HMO Doc (with thick Russian accent): "So, vhy are you here?"

Clueless But Hopeful Mama: "Um, I need a few referrals. I want a flu shot and I, uh, have this shoulder pain that just won't quit."

BHMOD: "You'll have to go to clinic for zee flu shot. Your shoulder...no need to see an orthopedist as they'll want x-ray and you're pregnant, see? What else?"

CBHM: "Uh.... I ... uh......"

*contemplate saying "Nothing! Everything else is fine! See ya!" then realize my eyes and throat and nose are already filling up with snot.

"For the last month or so, I've been a bit, uh...... sad." *big wailing sobs*

BHMOD: *patting my thigh* "You must be having boy, then, yes? Not to worry. I was so sick and cried every day with my son. It's normal but let's get you some counseling anyway."

She then went on to point out that on the back of my HMO card is the number for direct referral to mental health specialists. As in, I didn't need to do the whole sob-in-the-doctors-office-thing AT ALL.


I wound up getting a referral from a friend for a therapist and saw her last week. One whole box of tissues and 50 minutes later, I was so glad I went. But even just making the appointment and acknowledging that I'm sad - Oh for Pete's sake, I can't even type the word "depressed"- helped bring me into an upswing. (That and the fact that I'm almost 15 weeks along now and DUE FOR AN UPSWING.) Admitting what I'm feeling has given me the energy to finally move towards feeling better. I started taking a prenatal yoga class. I have given up on cleaning and we now have house-cleaners (Who come. AND CLEAN. Our whole house. AT ONCE.). I've been working really hard to NOT feel guilty about leaving Zoe at daycare longer than I need to some work days so that I can rest.

Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is that I DO feel so guilty on top of the sadness. Guilt over the lame mother Z has at the moment. Guilt over how completely ABSENT I've been as a wife. Guilt over the damage I must be doing to my unborn child by "forgetting" to take the prenatal vitamins that made me gag and wish for death for hours afterward (I'm now back on them and tolerating them better), eating horribly unbalanced, unhealthy "meals" (BBQ potato chips and fig newtons having become a recent favorite) and basting his/her poor little developing brain in a steady stream of depression juices.

Guilt over how sad I've felt when really, REALLY, I am so insanely lucky in so many regards. People kept telling me about "the bright side", all the wonderful things I have going for me. This only makes me feel worse. I clearly have NO RIGHT to be so low when I have a supportive, loving partner, a healthy child, a fertile body, a new life forming inside me as I type, a comfortable home, a supportive family. I even had a middle of the road bout of morning sickness.

(Oh my, I'm really struggling with my tenses here. I want to write this all in the past tense. "Look at me! It was rough but phew! I'm all better now!" But I've been writing this post over several days and... it's still touch and go.)

That's right regular readers, even though you might have thought differently given all my whining, I haven't even actually vomited. And I have guilt about that. I mean, it's like the nausea and misery might as well have been all in my head. There are those who have truly, truly have suffered, like my poor friend M who puked several times a day, every day for months. And others whose blogs I can't seem to find now even though I read all about their hyperemesis gravidarum and felt so sorry for them and guilty that I was feeling so mentally lousy when I wasn't even puking. Just lying here, day after day, feeling sad and sick and sorry for myself.

I now have much more sympathy for people with chronic pain or illness. Weeks and weeks and endless weeks of nausea really took their toll on me. I couldn't think straight and was starting to lose the will to do anything. Nothing was bringing me joy. People would congratulate me on the pregnancy and I would have to work REALLY hard to not tell them : "Thanks. I'm not really excited but I guess I will be at some point."

(Oh wait, I'm pretty sure I actually said those exact words. Several times. To strangers even.)

I'm attacking this problem on several fronts; mostly I'm counting on gathering support, allowing myself to rest and, well, just TIME. Time to myself. Time to forgive myself for all of the above. Time to let the hormones do what they need to to nourish this little life along and then LEAVE MY STOMACH AND PSYCHE ALONE.

Oh! and I should just mention, speaking of "time", it's TIME TO PULL OUT THE MATERNITY PANTS.


(Edited 6/7/11. I continue to be moved by the number of people who visit my site for this post alone. I know what a lonely experience it can be when you feel so miserable at a moment of such profound change. Please, if you're reading this post and recognize similar feelings in yourself, tell your doctor. Reach out and lean on people: friends, family, a therapist, or even me. Feel free to email me. I'm no expert, but I've been in a similar spot and I can tell you it will get better. Good luck.

PS. My doctor didn't know anything: this baby was NOT a boy. She was, IS, a beautiful girl. )


Family Ties

My mom was just here for a rescue mission visit while CG was out of town for a job interview. It was a lovely 5 days of hanging out, just us girls. She cooked for us, washed dishes, was walked by the dog and patiently played every one's least favorite game: "what are you trying to say?" with Zoe. (Seriously. The girl is total chatterbox but half of it is unintelligible. AND she has the nerve to throw a fit when we can't understand her garbled words. Sheesh.)

I'm sure I would have been fine, totally fine, without her but it was really, really nice to have some support. The kind of support that only (good) family really provides.

And I am, once again, SO envious of my friends out here who have family close by. Most of my mom friends grew up out here and have the benefits of grandparents a short drive away. They have babysitters when they need a date, support when they all get sick, weekend trips away without their kid(s). I know that they have issues from time to time with boundaries and I'm sure that, depending on your family, proximity can be a very mixed bag.

But I'm still so envious, all the same.

Miss you, Ma. Wish we lived closer.


The Big Cheese

Zoe's last illness (I won't go into too many details but let's just say it was a really rotten, protracted digestive affair) brought me face to face with a brutal reality: we live on nothing but cheese. I woke up to this fact when told that Zoe would have to stay away from all dairy for the two weeks (seriously) it has taken for this bug to run its course. This would not be a problem if she had no appetite like normal sick children or ate a reasonable variety of foods like the non-picky children who belong to other parents. I was very aware she loved cheese but I wasn't totally clear on how addicted we all had become.

For a long time, I thought I was taking the advice of "Child of Mine. Feeding Your Child With Love and Good Sense": don't serve separate, special meals to your children, feed them what you eat, serve a variety of healthy foods and don't bargain with them about what they have to eat before they can eat something else (ie. "no more bread until you eat a carrot"). This all made sense to me and I really, truly believed we were following it.


With this ever present nausea (Oh but it's waning! I'm almost too scared to say so but it's waning!), I was "cooking" the easiest, most happily received foods I could think of: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, pasta with cheese, scrambled eggs with melted cheese, cheese and bean quesadillas, frozen lasagna, frozen empanadas, frozen gnocci with cheese, etc. etc. MELTED CHEESE ETC. They appealed to me too and I just didn't have the energy to watch her pout and whine for "diff'rent food, Mommmm-my".

Instead of her eating what we eat (what used to be some steamed spinach and brown rice and salmon or at least some grilled chicken and potatoes), we had come to eat only what she would eat.

I was shocked when she got sick and realized that she (or anyone else in this house except the dog) hadn't had a meal other than breakfast without cheese as a main component in many many months. There was literally NOTHING else in my fridge. Cheese tortellini, tortillas (What can you put on tortillas besides cheese?), yogurt, milk, cheese in every form you can imagine. The first day she was well enough to really eat yet still very sick and unable to eat dairy, I put a rice cake, some hummus, a couple of carrot sticks and a few pretzels on her lunch plate. She looked at me like I had just lost my mind. What was this and where was the CHEESE?

We are making a slow climb back to her normal diet but it was a big wake up call for me. Once I get back to actually cooking, I need to find some new toddler friendly foods that we can all enjoy without relying so heavily on the Big Cheese.

Any ideas??


Clinging to hope

I know I want to chose hope over fear. As a mother, as a person. But these last few weeks I have been so fearful. As a liberal Democrat, one whose passions are often teary and uncontainable, I have lived with bated breath. Too scared to be hopeful, having been sure, SO SURE, before, only to be let down. I wanted to believe that we could really do it this time.

And now we have. With Obama. (OH MY GOD!!! YAY!!!!!)

I am so proud that one day I can tell Zoe about waiting in line for an hour to vote for this inspiring man, our first African American president.

I will also tell her how I knew he would win California handily. That the most important things I voted on weren't even his presidency (though I HAD to vote for him anyway) but the ability of young women to obtain an abortion without HAVING to submit to the scrutiny of their (possibly abusive) parents or the courts (state proposition 4) and the ability of women to marry women and men to marry men (proposition 8). Those are the votes that are close. Those are the votes that I really, really, REALLY had to make.

And the results are not looking good for my gay friends (or young women). I am so torn this morning between joy for Obama and our country and our standing in the world and such sickening sadness that there are so many people who are threatened by people who want nothing more than to commit to love and support one another. How this is a threat to an institution that has evolved many, many times over the years and NEEDS TO EVOLVE AGAIN, is beyond me. Surely they don't believe gay people will stop having children together, stop adopting, stop living together as loving partners. So how they could deny them the right to codify that. TO STRENGTHEN THAT FAMILY, FOR THE FREAKING CHILDREN, is totally beyond me.

Okay, this is why I shouldn't write about politics. Because I become a flaming liberal, caps lock addict, with zero control over my emotions.

Fingers are crossed for my local propositions and for Obama to continue to show his superior intelligence and calm demeanor in his ruling of our country.

I will cling to hope.


The obligatory Halloween pics

Zoe checks out our jack-o-lantern.

This is the best picture we managed to get of Zoe in her rather unfortunate cowgirl-on-a-pony costume. We did have a great little cowgirl hat for her but she wore it for exactly one minute.
At least she managed to walk, without tripping over the front end of her pony, to three of our neighbors houses to trick or treat for the first time.

I love that she is at the age where she's starting to really understand the essence of each holiday. This one, clearly, is about "they gave me CANDY!".

As for me, I went as my pale, nauseated, ghoulish self. (Who needs a mask when you have a malleable face?)

Happy Day After Eating Waaaayyy Too Much Halloween Candy! (Except for me, of course. Because chocolate is still EEWWW and that makes me so, so sad. Do you think they make Reese's peanut butter cups smell THROUGH the wrapper on purpose??)

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