09 December 2005

Who's a liar?

Before I continue, I have a confession. I've been fabricating the publication dates on this armoire tale. There, I've said it. I am a terrible liar. I've been wanting to write about the desk drama, but haven't found the time. I've been using my energy to fight this all-talk company, decide about quitting my job, and manage the rest of my life. Excuses that could have been left unsaid if I had kept my mouth shut just now. The dates have been chosen to represent the approximate times of the events.

So Bob and his Daddy made these promises- promises they couldn't keep. Bob received the furniture, put it together at the store, and holy moly! there was a 5/16 of an inch difference between the upper dowels and the lower holes. Bob went to plan D and offered us the floor model at a 30% discount. I think we should go for it even though we have no idea how they got that one together. I just want the stacks put away and don't care about a few scratches or rigging. My man feels differently. For 70% off he'll take the display. No less. He can wait months more for the imaginary furniture and endure my nagging and bitching about this company who bills itself at Not-IKEA. Hah! Let me share the differences:
1. EQ3 labels the parts for assembly;
2. IKEA doesn't run to its Swedish Daddy when there is a problem;
3. We have the joy of paying 3 times more at EQ3.

We leave for Brazil in a few days. Perhaps we'll have some insight there which will bring a close to the drama.

05 November 2005

Promises, Promises

Bob was so eager to please. He called Canada and promised he would get us a matched armoire. Canada promised that they had never seen this problem before. Canada said they would ship a new top. It came, Bob brought it over in the back of his van. He assembled the piece itself. Surprize, it didn't fit. Then Canada, parental Canada, asked for photo of the mismatch and accurate diagrams. We insisted on a new top and bottom.

Bob has promised that Canada has promised to assemble, disassemble, and ship the beautiful, 1K solution to our marital woes.

17 October 2005

Doors are the Answer

We thought the furniture would change our lives. Actually I thought it would, and I convinced my husband it would make for better parties, fewer arguments, and a safer play area. The idea was a simple family bookcase system, a smaller desk for me, and a computer armoire for him. He has a LOT of paper. More paper than I am comfortable with. Ten year old issues of WIRED and Windsurfer. 5 month old copies of the SF Chronicle. Don't-miss-this-one offers from credit cards. Receipts. I decided I couldn't look at it anymore. Rather, that I couldn't ignore it anymore when I'm spending half of my time on the floor with our crawler- nose height with the piles. I'm no neat nick and have my share of mess- but it does wax and wane. His is an endless pregnancy. So instead of nagging and hoping he/ we will clean it up, I decided doors are the answer. Bookshelves with doors, a desk with doors, and a smaller desk for me. Less space for stacking mail in full view. More hidden cubbies for the To Do pile.

It was an innocent idea. We found furniture we both liked. I assembled the IKEA shelf system after a late night run to the Palo Alto store. Emeryville didn't have all the parts and I could not wait 2 more weeks to get started on the revolution. The shelving looks great. It really does. And my desk is more or less clutter free (although at this moment among normal desk flora there is an empty bulk food bag, pair of socks, and strip of paper that covers panty-liner adhesive).

The problem is the armoire. We disassembled his desk and scattered the piles around the room. The armoire arrived and we stayed up until 1 am assembling it- when we discovered the top half doesn't match the bottom. The dowel/ hole system is off by 5/16 of an inch. Defeated, we collapsed into sleep. 8am saturday morning Bob came from the store to check it out. Bob was eager to "solve the problem." He discovered we weren't idiots and that the furniture was indeed, flawed. We had to admit sawing two of the dowels in a feeble attempt to make a fit. Bob wasn't mad. He is committed to making it work.

It didn't work before Stella's one year party, but Bob is getting us a new top part soon, he says. Soon enough, I hope, so I can hold my tongue about the unread news until it gets behind closed doors.

07 September 2005

Spilt Milk

I just spilled all the milk I just pumped on the kitchen counter and up my sleeve. After the obvious thought “this is where crying over spilled milk comes from,” I thought of a class I took in graduate school about nursing leadership. The majority of the course was a snore of 90 minutes on nursing history and the greatness of the profession. If only I had been a knitter earlier on my path to becoming a midwife. It was a great class for knitting. All I can remember now was the time spent discussing a seminal publication called “Novice to Expert.” The highbrow content of Patricia Benner’s classic demonstrates how one travels along the learning curve (steeply or not) to arrive at that place of dependable clinical judgment and truly caring practices-- the kind of knowing that others look to for answers.

Ten years later my classmates and I have all arrived in our own way. I opened a private practice and caught a bunch of babies. I started a free clinic. Others became professors, researchers, and went on for PhDs. And most of us, being women of childbearing age, became mothers.

So how it really goes is this: I spilled the milk, shouted one of many expletives I’m trying to curb before my 10 month old starts to talk to strangers, had thought #1 about the crying, started to cry, then had thought #2 about Benner’s book. In that milky moment I realized that I have done just the opposite. I have gone from expert to novice in the steepest un-learning curve known to womankind. I understand less and less every day.

09 August 2005

Shut It Out

I've decided that Ferberizing, crying it out, Healthy Sleep Habits- whatever you call it doesn't teach babies how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. It works, but for a different reason. It teaches parents how to ignore the cry. Not ignore it completely, but enough to convince ourselves that it's good for the baby, and the whole family, if that child can learn to sleep on his own.

We started out as co-sleepers. Well, we started out with an organic pregnancy, had her at home, carried her in a sling, delayed vaccinations, the whole natural parenting thing. We did it that way because we believed it to be the best for our baby. We still do. And we swore we'd never cry it out. Many parents say the same, but I was really opposed. I judged the other mothers in my group- especially those who eagerly planned the day they would begin to Ferberize. How could anyone, especially a mother, let someone they love cry alone- for a long time or some prescribed number of minutes? Who would let his friend cry without comforting her?

I knew the trend these days is to let 'em cry, so I armed myself before she arrived by reading the No Cry Sleep Solution. I learned some very helpful facts, these two being the most important: 1. for an infant, 5 hours of sleep IS sleeping through the night; and 2. "sleep problems" are really in the minds of the parents, not the bodies of the babies. My understanding shifted as I read, and I arrived at mothering expecting no sleep miracles. We were good for a long while. We had a bedtime routine. Book, sing, nurse to sleep. She would sleep for four or five hour stretches, and I counted my blessings. Then she started getting teeth at 4 1/2 months, her first cold at 5, and began nursing every two to three hours every night. I was already back at work and quite accostomed to my four hour stretches of sleep. I started to have a "sleep problem" and doing something about my child's sleep patterns seemed the only way to fix it.

We moved her from our bed into the co-sleeper with sadness. I loved sleeping with her even though it tweaked my back. A couple of months later, we detached the co-sleeper and placed it progressively farther from our bed. At 6 or 7 months, we moved her into a crib. I tried to stop nursing her to sleep by using the Pantley Pull Off which involves sneaking the nipple out of the babe's grip and holding your breath praying she'll stay or go back to sleep. It was very frustrating. So many nights and naps we jiggled her until we felt we could jiggle no more and then we bounced (but she much prefered the jiggle. We should have never watched the Happiest Baby on the Block. It generated thousands of dollars of chiropractic bills and mama-sobs in the night. But that's another story). My resolve vanished along with my good humor. I was ready to pack for the Funny Farm.

I know, it's all an excuse. You've already figured out I'm leading up to Why We Did It. Unlike all of those other evil parents, our situation was so bad that this cruel method was justified. Yeah, right. Perhaps I caved to peer pressure. Many of the mothers in my group had reported great success with it. They looked so... fresh at our gatherings. And they responded to my own cries cautiously- I am the Queen Granola of the group- "You know, you don't need to suffer like this." Perhaps it was a result of my research. I couldn't find a single family with a child between 1 and 5 who didn't do it. When I asked my friend with 2 children how she got them to sleep. She said she had them cry it out. "The first at 9 months. The second at 6. Both times when my exhaustion was greater than the stabbing in my heart listening to them cry." This easy admission from a woman who trumps my naural ways. She didn't do ANY vaccinations and lives in Fairfax, a town with an artful balance of imported french linens, sweaty bicyclists, art films, aging rock stars, pot heads, and investment bankers. What I do know, is that I didn't want to be angry anymore. I was angry at Stella for shrieking after I jiggled her for 40 minutes and tried to put her down. I was angry at my husband for sleeping so well through my 3 am pacing. I was angry at the cat when she sneaked into the room and I had to chase her, silently, in the dark beause Stella was finally asleep and the cats aren't allowed to sleep in our room. I was angry at myself for being a bad mother.

So one evening, one emotionally intelligent mama who had tried the method, had a relapse, and was back to jiggling, walked me through a plan. My husband and I wouldn't have been able to plan so efficiently. It would have required days of emotionally-laden debates- time that I didn't have because I couldn't take one more night of being awake from 1 to 4 am on a work night. When my husband came home, I informed him that we'd be starting tonight. We would put her in her crib, drowsy but awake, and let her cry for 30 minutes. After which, if she was still crying, we would go to the room and sing to her, but not pick her up, and walk out. A simple plan for a monumental process that took an hour of self-exploration over the phone. "Will 5 minutes be OK? How about 10? 15? How will she respond if you sing to/ touch her? What are you going to do when she's crying to keep from going in?," and so on. We didn't make a plan beyond 30 minutes or for what I would do when I was waiting for those 30 minutes to pass. I couldn't know how I would react, so my plan was to wing it. I sobbed while she screamed, wrote a brief I'm-a-hypocrite-and-an-evil-mother email to my mother's group, and at minute 29 she stopped like the winder ran out. That was 7 weeks ago.

She never did cry longer than that first 29 minutes. But the crying didn't stop like I assumed. I had heard that many people need to do it again after teething, a cold, some disturbance. After events that happen for the better part of the first 2 years. "But it's easier," they'd say, "than the first time." But we never had a stretch- 2 days even- without some crying. Half the time she cries for less than 90 seconds, if at all. She likes to talk herself to sleep. Or do karate with Bun. That's very popular. But she does cry to sleep the other half of the time. Sometimes she cries off and on for up to 25 minutes. Often it's 12 minutes of crying, a little karate, then silence. No one warned us about this possibility. No one talks about it.

So I started some new research. It turns out it's pretty common for these Ferberized babies to never actually learn to fall asleep. If crying is the so-called learned method, I think it sucks. It takes me 12, sometimes 25 minutes to fall asleep, so that's understandable. But I don't usually cry doing it. A toss and a turn, a little karate to defend my half of the bed, sure. But crying? Nope. Ok, crying is one of the most significant ways a baby has to express herself. So what is she saying?... Mama, how could you leave me here? Oh, I'm so tired I wish I could just find the right position and fall asleep? The neighbors are too loud, why won't they just shut up?! That's the problem, I don't know. But it sure sounds distressing. Now here's the interesting part. I can listen to it and do nothing. Not only that, in seven weeks, I have learned to read, eat dinner, empty the dishwasher, water the garden- yes, enjoy myself while she's crying. I have advanced well beyond covering my ears, humming and rocking back and forth while my husband rubs my shoulders. Even more impressive, in this past week of night weaning- where she wakes and cries to nurse but we leave her there until some set time- I have turned down the volume on the monitor at 2:24 am and woken in a guilty panic at 4 to her crying, wondering, was she crying that whole time? Then I quickly answered myself, Nah.

08 August 2005


We washed my husband's car a week ago, but it collected enough dirt to show a faint word finger-etched on the trunk. I noticed it this evening when I had Stella strapped to my back in the Ergo. We were watering the new sage and wind grass when the four letters caught my eye. It has been a long time since someone has left a comment in the dust. The most common being "Wash Me," of course.

When I was pregnant, my husband got a new job with a long commute and decided with those 100 miles a day, a baby on the way, and a senseless war in Iraq, it was time to hop off the grid. Our car runs on vegetable oil. We don't make our own (yet) but get a 55 gallon drum of B-100 delivered ever 2 weeks or so. The car sounds like a big truck because it's a diesel, and smells like a fryer that needs to be changed, but it gets 30 plus miles to the gallon. Not bad for a big, safe Mercedes. So every other Sunday night, he dons the cow print apron, backs up to the blue drum, and pumps the recycled fuel into the tank. Sometimes he chats with our neighbor who got a diesel VW shortly after we got our car. Charles stops by to fill up his tank when he's running low.

So the tagged car is the car we finally washed. It is navy blue and was covered with dust from a trip to Mercy Hot Springs several months ago. The husband had some big wigs coming in from Japan that he was going to transport to meetings... so he thought it best to wash the vehicle. Then a week later someone scribbled in the new dirt right above our "Powered by BIODIESEL" license plate cover.

It says "LOVE."

03 August 2005

No More Whining

I have enough self-awareness to admit that I've done nothing but complain so far. It's so easy. No one to tell me to shut up or add these rants to some accumulating list of Times She Complained. It's great! See, this is an occasion for smiley faces and positive exclamation points!! :)

A blog is a safe haven for complainers. A free analyst (minus the analysis). A wide shoulder. It's where I've discovered either a. My Inner Complainer or b. a passion for chronicling complaint. The rest of the time I'm bragging about her clucking prowess to other mothers at the coffee shop and couching the sleep deprivation in the context of personal growth. Oh, puke! Why can't two unshaven, powerbar-fed mother-strangers standing upright thanks only to a full-fat latte admit that it's hard? Even the full-fat milk is shameful. We talk about how hard mothering is only in reference to other women, with our inner circle moms group, or in an I-always-change-more-diapers-than-you outburst.

Yesterday I met two women and their babies. The girl, Skye, is two months younger than Stella. The other is still brewing in her mama's belly. What did we discuss? Whose chin Stella favors, how many teeth Syke has, the inconvenient juxtaposition of ribs and the growing uterus (ha, ha). Advice to the pregnant one? Sleep. Get in as much sex and foreign film as you can (I should have said foreign sex... something exotic sure sounds nice right about now). But what was going on in my head right before our strollers rafted together in front of the cooperative bakery? Complaints, of course. Today was so long, and I have another hour and a half before she goes to bed. My husband won't be home to help. He's never home to help. My right shoulder blade is killing me. I don't want to go to work tomorrow. It's not fair that other women have nannies and don't even go to work... Of course, to these strangers, these of all people who could relate and find relief in a little honesty, I was an upbeat champion for motherhood.

30 July 2005

What will you do when you get out?

That's one of the questions I would ask a prisoner. When you have the ability to do something you can't right now, what would it be? I have imagined many answers. Swim in a lake, go to a concert, eat grandma's pie in her kitchen. There was a time (oh, so long ago in these 9 months) I would really DO things when I had freedom from my mothering duties. Put down a patio. Paint the dining room. Shift the blue fescue from one bed to another. Sometimes I would do something indulgent. Revise a poem. Bake a cake. I'm not talking about the mintues when my daughter is napping or the hours between her bedtime and mine. I'm talking about when Stella is with my husband, and I am really off in body and mind.

They went to swim class this morning. I have a few minutes left of not much more than an hour. What have I done? Read the East Bay Express cover to cover. Took a shower. Ate a plum. Pet the cat. Thought about calling my mother but decided I can do that when I have Stella. Briefly considered my pile of art supplies on the kitchen counter, but I don't want to clean up the mess. Checked email (none). Checked my blog for... what? I don't know, but there was a new comment! Thank you! Which brings me to now. They will rush the door any moment. Her upper body will lean to me with magnetic force, and my real life will begin again. What will I say to him when he asks what I did while they were gone?

Not much.

27 July 2005

Show & Tell

The first wax collage... done on a 2x4.. A gift to my friend Cora who turned seven.

20 July 2005

The Inspiration is Gone

Erica passed through like the scent of night jasmine. She left behind details of tuk-tucks and toilet paper, early rising and unexpected pleasures, and the cutest black jingle-bell baby outfit I've ever seen. For anyone seeking a house guest, I highly recommend her. Other than leaving her light on far more often than one would expect for an environmentalist, she emptied the dishwasher- twice!, ran a fussy Stella in circles- singing and bouncing in a way one would never intend to do in public, and recommended a great shirt for me at the local thrift store. Impressive for a woman under 20.

She also used her student ID to get me a discount card at the Art Store! I am taking back my time. I am going to express my mind and start a dialoge with beeswax, oil paint, and a million scraps of saved paper. Erica inspired this simple bloggy and a host of yet undisclosed artsy-fartsy pursuits. She visited and then went home to Maryland. I am grateful.

12 July 2005

Did you hear what I said?

Blogging is like talking to myself. No, like talking to someone who is reading the paper or watching TV. The thoughts get out, but don’t get in.

Who wants to listen to stories about solid stools or how far a baby can lift her chest off the floor? Other mothers, of course. But we don’t have time. How I have time- use time- to even add a few words here is an honest mystery. The baby is in bed, the husband is engrossed in something on his computer, and I am here, typing, instead of reading The Known World (that’s a fab book), or painting my belly cast, or working on a poem, or even simply staring off into space. How did this happen!? And now, having said all that, instead of feeling suddenly inspired to click off my monitor and skip to the couch with my book, I glance at the clock and see I have just enough time left of today to brush my teeth and tip-toe upstairs to bed.

So be it.

07 July 2005

The Anti-Sleep

I should have cut and paste the 3am email that detailed every losing attempt (and the general tone of the experience) of making Stella sleep. My clever husband knew it would be a nightmare night before he went to So Cal for "work." Mmm-hm. I gave him an eyeful in one of those moments every parent tells you about but you swear you'll never feel. That's right- you want to throw the writhing, Anti-Sleep out the window so you can get just 2 hours, just 2 contiguous hours, of blissful sleep.

It was one of those moments. It lasted 3 hours. She won. We played with the Family Book long enough for her to scratch at a few faces, make like she was going to require a dreaded 4am diaper change, and finally succumb to sleep.

All this from a gal who is generally quite sensible. When it happens, I don't have the practice or the tools. I want to join her in her tantrum and hand her off to the guy "working" in So Cal. Hence the email. At least I could hand off a few words.

The second morning came all too soon and we're playing (!) again. God, she has no shame!

The Anti-Sleep rides the Dashboard Rocker, mocking last night.

05 July 2005

Mama, did you have a blog when it was still cool?

03 July 2005

so, did i miss it?

Today's Doonesbury says the media frenzy on blogs is.... over?! Does that mean blogging is ...out?! Dammit! With so many odd things over the years I have been ahead of the curve- copper jewelry, knitting, Brazil and it's music, red paint, stilt walking, Belize, recycling. Of course, no one ever notices because they're all things I do privately. But a blog is a public venue. It was my chance to be in.

Well, looks like I'm the last one picked for dodge ball again.

Maybe there's private redemption. Today I changed form years of dark pedicures to sheer white. Let's see what the celebs are wearing in August! Not that I'll ever know without Karen's help. I need to rely on her for my entertainment gossip and style. She recently let me know that our hair is in for the first time since 8th grade. Halleluiah!

01 July 2005

no time like the present

When Stella is 13 and asks me if I had a blog (Mom and Dad, did you go to Woodstock?), I want to be able to say, "YES!" I mean, why not? I love to see my words on a bright white screen, I'm currently experiencing the most exciting, transformative time in my life thus far, and everybody's doing it. Well, who cares about everybody. All I care about is that my super cool cousin, Erica, is in Thailand writing kick-ass entries. http://www.smcmerica.blogspot.com/ That's inspiration enough for me.

So I am at work, demonstrating how the workforce is spending too much time on personal internet use. Which means, I should get back to that and try out the blog-thing later on.

Here goes- one click and I'm part of history!