11 December 2008

It's Ours!


We were number 2 on four houses. Each time we were out bid, we decided it was for a good reason (i.e. we had less money than someone else), and we decided to try again. This is in a down, buyer's, crashing market. And we were overbidding on major fixers, each time Augusto never letting on how excited he was- and then me crying over the defeat. Something was wrong.

Then we find this true dump of a home. The eye sore of the block. The one that makes most sensible people walk out saying, "Not for me." A bad smell. A peeling ceiling. Curling-edge oak floors. Missing elements like railings, floorboards, a driveway. And naturally, as with any house I WANT, other people are already making offers. I swear I could start a new service: Want to sell your home lickety-split? Then let me love it and there will be a dozen offers after just 17 days on the MLS! So we leap headlong into the abyss and offer full price on a home that needs gutting. Wait... not over asking, just asking price. And it disappears from the MLS--- because we won! We won!

We are motivated buyers, but we are not insane. The house's ultimate value is spectacular- just like the bay views. The layout is ideal for our family. The land is gigantic (by urban standards) and has some level parts. The street is quiet and walkable to a commercial area- and a great public elementary school.



Oh, and it comes with this sweet 1966 Beetle. If anybody is interested, we're selling.


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05 November 2008

Post Election Blues

Last week we were on the way to swim class and we passed a large group of people chanting and waving YES on 8 signs. "What are they doing, Mama?" Stella asked from her car seat. "Well..." I thought about how to explain the California proposition to change the constitution.

Me: "You know that Papai and I are married, right?"
Stella: "Right."
Me: "Do you think that's OK?"
Stella (a little confused): "Yeah."
Me: "And you know Mark and Lina's Daddy and Poppy are married, right?"
Stella: "Yeah."
Me: "Do you think that's OK?"
Stella: "Yeah."
Me: "And do you think two girls could get married?"
Stella (thinking this is silly): "Yeah."
Me: "I think so too, but those people with the signs think that only a boy and a girl should be able to get married."
Stella: "WHAT?!" (as if I told her there was no more color blue)

Today I am elated with Obama's victory.

I need to let that statement stand alone. But (WHY does there need to be a "but"?), I am sad too. Living in the Bay Area bubble, I really thought Prop 8 wouldn't pass. I shared my little legislative lesson in hate with Mark and Lina's Poppy and he said, "We lost the battle, but we won the war."


There is hope for the next generation.

26 October 2008

Gluing the Pieces

Modern day homemaking hazards are different than 30 years ago. We have disposals. We have Cuisinart. We have glue guns.

I plugged in my 10 watt gun, purchased just minutes earlier- when I realized oh, shit! Boo at the Zoo is this weekend, I don't have all the evenings of next week to make a dog and a parrot!. The gun warmed while I gathered feathers, felt, googly eyes, and a foam visor. I began without a plan, but after the first miracles of hot glue marrying felt to foam and feather to fabric, the Way of the Parrot made itself clear. Shoot, press, shoot press, and I laid feathers like shingles, bottom to top. Two lines of hot glue here and a 3-D beak appeared.

I felt a little guilty and a lot thrilled to realize that what I would do in two hours would have taken my mother several evenings. No needles and thread. No lugging out the machine. And then I burned my finger. And I burned it again. Who knew the costume maker's modern tools would still make tender fingers?

With seared fingers, glue silk spun across the counter, feather fluff on the floor, I was awake later than advisable with nothing else "done." And I was completely happy. I arrived at a moment for which I had been waiting, this feeling of I CAN DO THIS. I am good at this job. I am happier providing for my kids' enjoyment than doing anything else. I imagined all of parenting was this way. Why else would people have children?! I am usually self-conscious when I meet the stranger or friend who answers "Great!" when I ask them how it's going with the family. Why isn't that my response? Do they have it easier somehow? What is their secret? They must be lying...

And then I made two Halloween costumes at the last minute without a plan or pattern. I wanted to read, felt compelled to clean, and needed to sleep, but I made the costumes because I wanted to. Because I didn't want to buy them. Because I promised I would. And in the cutting and gluing, I mended a piece of myself.

I don't even care that the parrot looks like a chicken and the dog is cow-like. Stella beamed with joy and Otto ran to put Rex's toy in his own mouth. I call that success.



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14 October 2008

Stolen Post... I couldn't resist

Not too long ago, I wrote about my friend Mage, who had breast cancer. She's 35 and recently had a mastectomy and four lymph nodes removed. She started a blog when she was diagnosed. Her entry from today, about getting a compression sleeve to prevent lymphoedema- and the revelation that came with the shopping trip- is here for you. Whenever I am stuck in my own high quality "problems," I unwind laughing and crying with her words. Enjoy.

Good Enough

Once in Boulder, I made a fitting appointment at Hangar Orthotics and Prosthetics.

Susan, the kind, competent and exceedingly petite woman who answers the phone and manages the front desk, took me into an exam room and measured my arm with a yellow tape. She asked me which kind of compression sleeve I was here for.

I had no idea, I didn't even know there was a choice. She shrugged and made a decision without my input. I like to think she made the right one.

She copied my insurance card and told me she'd call me when the sleeve arrived.

A week later, I was back in the office to pick it up. Susan wasn't there that day, so I sat alone in the waiting room until Angela, the CPO, had time to see me. I don't know what a CPO is, but I know she is one because there was an article about her stuck up on a bulliten board near the front door. I also learned that she plays the banjo.

After a few minutes of waiting, I decided to look for the bathroom. I didn't find it. I gave up after I accidentally opened a door to another exam room where a patient was waiting to be seen. I didn't see the man's face. He was sitting kind of behind the door. But, I could see his leg, propped up on a chair. I could also see that he didn't have any foot at the end of the leg.

Like most people would be, I was horribly embarrassed to have opened the door to someone else's exam room. I closed it immediately and went back to my chair.

I imagine I am also like most other intact-bodied people in that I am uncomfortable when confronted with missing body parts.

You know how it is, you don't want to avert your eyes, but you don't want to stare right at their stump either. You want to act like you didn't notice, but not like you are insensitive. You want to appear cool, when really you are just clueless.

I asked myself, "Why I am so on-edge around amputees?" Maybe looking at their altered bodies triggers my own fear of injury and loss? Maybe their difference from me sparks a physical curiosity that feels socially inappropriate? Maybe I am struggling not to feel pity for them?

I don't know exactly. It's a complex issue. But, as I've noticed before, I don't need to really understand my emotional hang-ups in order to move through them.

What shifted for me that day was my sense of "otherness." Here I was, sitting in a room decorated with advertisements for artificial limbs and posters celebrating differently-abled atheletes. I wasn't here with a friend. I wasn't here to sell something. I was here to be treated. I was one of these people.

I couldn't help but notice that I didn't feel quite as embarrassed to walk in on that man as I would have before my surgery. Yes, I was still a stranger barging in on his private space. But we had something in common too. We were both patients in this place. We were both missing pieces of our bodies and here to be helped with the resulting health complications. We were on the same team; in the same club.

Yesterday I rode the bus from Boulder to Denver. A man whose left arm ended at the elbow was sitting behind me. I didn't pull out my usual cool-but-clueless routine. Instead, I threw him a goofy grin with an upward nod. I'm sure he thought I was some kind of weirdo, but for me it felt like a secret handshake. I wanted him to know that I'm like him...we are the same in one small way.

Now, I am not trying to compare loosing a breast with loosing an entire limb. Physically, I am able to do almost everything I could do before. Socially, my loss is nearly invisible. Obviously, there's a big difference between my story and that of the guy in the bus or the man in the exam room. But, we share something that most people don't, and I can't help but want to acknowledge that.

I think that's normal. The world is so big and we are so small. It's just nice to be able to separate the giant mass of humans into smaller groups. It's comforting to know what group you belong to, and to connect with others in the same group. At parties, we light up when we meet someone who loves the same music, plays the same sport, or collects the same kind of hand-painted Moroccan pottery as we do.

This urge to identify and reveal ourselves to other members of our various sub-cultures is even stronger when the group we belong to has a history of being riduculed, persecuted or pitied by the larger population. I think the urge is stronger because we feel safe with each other in a way that we don't feel safe with others.

I think that's what I was trying to say to the guy on the bus. I wanted him to know he was safe with me. I wasn't going to pity him or think he was strange because his hand was gone. How could I? I am missing pieces too.

But, I couldn't say it outloud. I couldn't say it outloud for the same reason the urge to connect is stonger than if we shared a hobby or a hometown. I couldn't say it outloud because we belong to a group that has a history of being riduculed, persecuted or pitied.

Thinking about it this way, it is suddenly clear why I've always felt uncomfortable around people with missing body parts. I feel like I'm put on the spot. I feel like I'm being tested. I know I belong to the group of people with a history of persecuting, riduculing and pitying. I feel like I'm being measured against that legacy and that the situation pre-disposes me to being found guilty.

But now that I've turned in my perfect-body membership card, I feel relieved of such judgement. Even if other people don't know that I'm permenantly excused, I know. They can give me any grade from F to A+, and it's not going to affect me. I didn't even sign up for this class.

This is just one more place where cancer has taught me something I should have known already.

I'm not just good, I'm good enough.

Whew. What a relief.

08 October 2008

Things That Make Me Happy Today

1.The dentist's office calling after I've left work to tell me that they're running behind, would I mind rescheduling? Would I? You bet! Time to stop at the grocery store and get a few things done before I need to get the kids- that's so much better than sitting in a hygenist's chair.

2.Multiple packs of size 4 diapers. There is a boom of babies my son's size. Ever since he was born the store is regularly out of the size he currently wears- and only that size.

3.Pupusas! Again, the Whole Foods is regularly out of them.

4.Coming home to scrubbed toilets, shiny floors, and fresh beds. Twice a month cleaning is being truly blessed.

5. MY POEMS PUBLISHED by mamazine! Woo Hoo!

06 October 2008

We're Getting Older in Many Ways

Breakfast in bed was brought by Augusto and then shared with my two pigeons. They followed with a rollicking, off-tune, and round-like Happy Birthday and Parabéns. The tradition in Stella's school is to follow the song with, "Are you 1? Are you 2? Are you 3?" and so on. She learned to count to 39 today.

And then I hung out at the DMV for an hour because I like the Oakland diversity smashed into one space full of many pleasant and some very impatient people... and I needed to get a new license photo and fingerprint before today's expiration. It was worth it to be able to say my height and weight hadn't changed from 13 years ago.

In other news, last week I learned something new when Stella locked herself and Otto in the bathroom. She often takes him in and locks the door. Even though she can unlock it, we usually discourage the behavior. This last time, she decided to poop and was up on the toilet, so she didn't want to/ couldn't unlock the door. Otto was happily washing his hands in the sink. I nearly went for the special little pin key, until I suddenly realized that with both of then locked in the bathroom, I could actually eat my breakfast and read the paper in peace. Which I did.


Stella: "My wrist hurts."
Me: "Why?"
Stella: "There's a pain in it."
Me: "Well that certainly explains why it hurts."
Stella: "Huh?"

16 September 2008

Fences Make Good Neighbors?

I keep creating fences. Actual fences that mark property lines or make a barrier from the street. We're visiting my mom in Southern Maryland where summer lingers in the lush two hundred year old oaks, the bank of the river which sits at the end of my mother's broad, green lawn. On this morning's run, I passed home after waterfront home- some old farm houses, some modern mansions, the odd trailer. I paused at the small cemetery, to see the local names: Joy, Younger, Lusby (the town's namesake)- deaths at the turn of last century. There are swing sets here, the same kind I had as a child. There was an old man on a shiny John Deere, circling his land. There was a Thai woman who had arrived by golf cart. She apologized that she was picking mushrooms. She showed me the plump russet caps. "No die,"she assured me.

The striking, unifying feature of the landscape is the lack of fences. My fifteen years of city living doesn't know what to do with all this interconnectedness. Azaleas and lines of oaks, or variations in grass height make the divisions known, but a person or animal or child could just wander from yard to yard unobstructed. I grew up this way for years, but it comes now as a revelation. Everyone with whom I currently spend any amount of time has a boxed-in yard. I am happy be in these open spaces, knowing the traffic is minimal and the distance from house to street, in most cases, far. But I still keep inserting fences. It is strange.

10 September 2008

This one is up there on the list of really shitty days

How can you not imagine the details of your new home when you offer fifty thousand dollars over asking price on a house your whole family genuinely loves? Who would think that when you offer to close in 21 days and say you won't even inspect the home that someone else would nab it from you?

I am heartbroken tonight. It was honestly a shitty day from start to finish. I woke at 5:40am to a jealous, screaming Stella, who wailed "pick me UUUUP!" when I managed to get Otto to sleep again in bed. He was asleep on top of me, so I couldn't get out from under and Stella would not shut up. I finally moved him to grab her and put her in bed with us (Augusto left before 5 am for an overnight to LA). Naturally he woke, cranky again after I jostled him. So that's how it began. We fought over shoes and teeth and exactly how to get into the car, and I arrived late to work only to learn that a term pregnant patient's entire family and fiancee were killed in a political-religious fire bomb riot half a world away. And another woman's baby died. And a colleague's father murdered his mother when he was a kid. And then we were out bid by someone who offered a little bit more and could close on the house in 14 days. And then the kids were shitheads, so I chugged two glasses of wine and bickered with them until they finally went to bed at 9:45 pm.

Oh, but they wanted to sell the house to us. We've heard that twice now and it only makes me feel worse. We wrote a letter to the sellers, spilling our visions of the future. What if we do find another house to bid on? How can any other letter be genuine after that one?

Now it's night two, up too late, barely keeping my eyes open, and I am still imagining our now non-existent lives in the house on the hill, not getting out of my head the many children under age five who live a house or two away, where I would put the hook for the dog's leash, curl up to read the paper, or plug in my phone to charge. And I am totally unable to imagine how you undo the visions of your life with baby and husband and grandparents and suddenly a friend of the family calls long distance and it is all gone.

I wish I could offer some perky optimism, but I used up this week's hope already.

09 September 2008

Here We Go Again

I always manage to post when I should be doing something else. Right now I should be sleeping, or taking a couple of Valium, at least. We singed another offer on a house tonight. Fearing a repeat of the nine-offer marathon that led to our current home, we decided to jump off the cliff. Many factors pushed us to the edge: school applications due in December, conforming loan stimulus package ends in December, the general thought that if we're going to sell our home, we should get it on the market soon, and most importantly WE LOVE A HOUSE! I know, I know, I said that about the one with the sword ferns. After 8 offers in 2002, our Realtor asked if we really loved the house we ended up buying, because it looked like we were going to get it. By then, we weren't even letting ourselves get to that point.

The truth is, I loved the house from last month. Augusto didn't. It was crazy to offer. Today when we sorted out our offer, the energy was great. We have seen many homes now. We BOTH love this house. "Just tell me one thing you love about it?" I asked. He usually holds his cards close, and never wants to get his hopes up about anything. "I love that it's all one level, so when you come home in the rain with a sleeping kid, you can drive right into the garage, go directly into the house, and it's not 13 steps up to the bedroom." It is a great house. A sleek mid century modern with an amazing open floor plan. This home will truly be fantastic for our family. I stomped around the neighboring streets and met a woman who raised her adult son there. She filled me in on all the young families who recently moved in and how hard the couple selling the house had worked to improve it.

It is right that we are here now, offering thousands of dollars more for this one than we did for the other one. It was meant to be.

02 September 2008

Marriage Understood, or How We Ended Our Weekend at the Russian River


Late weekend morning, I'm still in my pajamas, we're been talking about gardening for over an hour. Stella puts a glittery fuzzy hearts feelers headband on me.

Stella: Mama, let's get married!

Me: How do we do that?

Stella: You tell me.


Me (straightening my posture, wiggling the sparkly hearts perched on my head): OK. Stella, I love you, and I want you to be my wife.

Stella (with a rare, direct-into-the-eyes look): OK, I'll be your wife. Now go change your shirt and come work in the garden with me.



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21 August 2008

Beware: Cheezy Hippie Post About Dirt

I actually smiled when seeing car after dirty car in the work parking lot. The months of summer dry don't usually keep the locals from having shiny cars. But this season the lines at the car wash are shorter. There's hardly anyone with a bucket and sponge in their driveway. The summer fundraising kids are desperate on the corners.

The Bay Area water restriction means that homeowners need to use 19% less water this year than the same time last year. This was a hard challenge for us, as our garden is already drought tolerant and we have efficient appliances and low flush toilets. But we have learned to trust that the dishwasher will clean when the dishes aren't fully rinsed and it's packed to capacity. We have remembered the efficiency of a quick shower, the simplicity of reusing clothes. We let our tiny clover lawn try to die. We aren't making flushing an exciting part of Otto's potty training. We thought it impossible. We have reduced our water use by half.

It seems the awareness of the drought is growing. It's not just the environmentalists who are forgoing clean cars. Judging by the lot, it's most everyone. Three months into the restriction, I am totally comfortable asking if I should flush or not when visiting someone's house. Lately, I even assume the house follows the Yellow Be Mellow, Brown Flush Down philosophy, and I just close the lid.

Saving water is a change of life. We do it not for fear of water bill penalty, but because we know water is scarce. We want everyone to have some. The cars in the lot made me happy because it was obvious that so many people chose to care for the planet over making the car shiny. I thought about going to the full service wash the other day, because my car was a mess, inside and out. But I realized the inside was more important to me- that's the part I see more often- so I shook out the floor mats and wiped the dashboard with a baby wipe. Good as new in 4 minutes, and only one wipe to the landfill.

Now if I could tackle the other messes in my life with such satisfying efficiency and environmental aplomb, then I'd really be smiling!

10 August 2008

The last moments of Mage's "two-breasted life"

We didn't get the house.

Before we got the bad news, I took the kids to the local farmer's market and park and dreamily drove by the house. As I stalked by the house for the 15th time, I felt it was gone. I just knew they had accepted the other offer. I was really funked up about it. The letdown deepened this evening when I didn't find anything on zip realty that would work even in a pinch.

And then I read my young friend's latest entries in her brand new blog. She shares the (would have been surprisingly silly if it were anyone else's) details of her 8/8/08 mastectomy:

I know for sure that my breast looked okay in the conveyer belt room because as Eric #1 was pulling back my robe to get my breast exposed for the procedure, I told him, "You're the last person who is ever going to see my breast like this, so will you just take a moment and appreciate it?" This seemed to embarrass him. At the time I thought he was just uncomfortable because he was just trying to do his job and didn't want to think about the fact that I was a nice lady with a nice breast who was about to lose it forever. But, now that I am writing about it, it really does seem like the waffle-iron room happened first. In which case, maybe he just looked uncomfortable because I was asking him to appreciate a breast that looked like it was smeared with mud and had been attacked by bees. Poor guy.

Mage is one of those people who makes lemonade out of lemons. She has cancer and hasn't hit 40 yet. You need one hell of a juicer to inject humor into that scenario. Thanks for the mind-shift, dear friend. I'll take my two-breasted life into some other house some other day.

09 August 2008


I've been obsessing lately. I am known to obsess. Pick an important topic, and it can occupy every nook in my life. Lately, it's a house. I am in love with a house. I am in love with everything about it. The windows, the natural woods in which it sits (with native Sword Ferns!), the funky butcher block kitchen, the delicious blackberries, the great, flexible floor plan, the little property line creek, the excellent neighborhood elementary, the dead end street. I love the way the street gently climbs through a canyon of native oak and then the house sits happily in a little clearing of sun. Get the picture?

The problem is that it's not ours... yet. We offered. The sellers countered. We countered back. Now we've been waiting for 24 hours and I'm gonna flip out. I know there is a another counter offer. So what is going on?! Please oh please, people of the universe, send your vibes to these nice sellers and let them choose us. And let the other people who offered find the house of their dreams very, very soon.

We arrived at this new home by some accident. We like our current home a whole lot. It has inlaid wood floors. Updated kitchen and baths. Mostly, I like it for its location and more for its history. We married in our back yard. I gave birth to both kids less than 15 feet from where I now sit. But it never felt like a forever home. The kitchen doesn't look over the yard. There are only 2 bedrooms on one floor. And the local schools suck. Real bad. I've been trying to help our local elementary for 4 years now. But I am losing hope. Stella enrolls in kindergarten this December.

I teased myself: If we find a 3 or 4 bedroom home within in a good school boundary that has a kitchen and living room that look to the back and a babbling brook- I'll move. Well, this house that hangs in the offer/counteroffer is exactly that house.

Both placentas are still in the freezer. I think I never planted them with a tree because I knew deep down we would move on. I've found where I want to make deep roots. But like those last weeks of pregnancy, never knowing when the labor will start, but seeing that child in my mind's eye... all we can do is obsess, and wait.

02 August 2008

Tethered: Fresh eyes

Elizabeth Flemming's blog is a great pause in my day. Her art-photos, musings, and posts of work by others are inspiring. Her recent post Tethered: Fresh eyes really grabs me. It is simultaneously empty, chaotic, hopeful, and silent. Just about how I feel right now.

It reminds me of one of my mother's favorite stories- the one she tells now because I'll be in her place soon. When I was just starting to write, I sent her a letter in the form of a paper airplane. On it I wrote: I NO LOVE YOU.

Great art can say so much, evoke such emotion with so little. Just like children can.

Hey, Mom. It's thirty years late, but I'm sorry. I love you now.

31 July 2008

Love: The Gift of Sleep

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There was a time when waking at 5:30 was normal. Never acceptable, but usual. That was too often in the first year of both kids. Longer winter nights and increasing age of the kids stretched wake-up time, but not often beyond 6:45. 6:45 is awesome. Awesome in my new view of the world. The problem is that if I'm not sleeping in, my body prefers 7:30. For a very long time, I woke early six days a week. Sundays were my day to sleep. Sometimes I lingered until 9. I bitched about it so much that every so often, Augusto woke to avoid my wrath. Then my second maternity leave ended. There was no way I could be up with the baby at night, get up in the early morning, and work all day. On my three workdays, Augusto got up with the early riser, and I slept. On the other days I rose first then tried to nap.

Then I discovered the hidden benefit of weaning. I left the morning feed as the last, so after the last time, Augusto did the final weaning. After a ten day stretch, I tried to get up with Otto, but he clawed at my chest and cried for 45 minutes. I couldn't hack it.

It's been six weeks since we nursed, and our household has done a schedule switcheroo. Augusto gets up with one or both kids, and I sleep. Except on Sundays, when he gets his turn. It has become a blissful, miraculous norm. Today I only had a half day at work, so when Otto sounded off earlier than usual, at 5:40, I offered to get him. Augusto protested, then thanked me for doing what has apparently become his job.

This is LOVE.

26 July 2008

Never Prune While Drunk

That's my best gardening advice. Even if you think the job can't wait. That you won't have time tomorrow or any other day in the foreseeable future. I know when something needs pruning, it needs pruning. It's like a haircut that can't wait: it's 11pm and you're in the bathroom- optimistic with the scissors. You know how well that usually goes. I'll say it again. Don't prune if you're drunk.

Even a glass and a half can cloud my judgment these days. We had an unusually warm evening in Oakland. We finished dinner on the deck and watered. I like watering with a glass of wine and the family milling about. It's my little suburban dream. I can leave the rest of the suburbs where they belong, but a hose in one hand and a drink in the other is my bliss.

I digress.

Watering one spot leads to another, leads back to the veggie garden. Which leads me to wonder why the beans are still seedlings and the tomatoes didn't flower with vigor. And then it hits me. The tree mallow is twelve feet tall and that's too big. Yeah, it's a tree mallow. It's shading the beds. And with the local water restrictions, I have watered less. No time like the present! It's light out at 7:30! The family is fed and happy. I'll prune!

It happened just like that, I swear. The pruning wasn't so bad, aesthetically. Or at least I think in my current state. The peripherals were problematic.

The Oh, Shit!
Why am I pruning during a drought? Don't I usually prune in the winter rains? We prune to fill out the plant. Is this best for the mallow? Oh, the flowers are so pretty; but I'm killing them.

The Dead Babies
And then Otto runs to me, showing me the "Ma-mos!" The first small, green tomatoes. Something must have come from my mouth, because Stella asks, hopefully, from 40 feet away, "What did Otto do?!" I show her and she smirks. She did the exact same thing the Summer of 2006. I tell her so.

The Inspiration
Never prune while drunk. It's a post title in that instant. My error composted into creativity. Not bad, actually.

The Fallout
I turn off the spigot (does anyone else love that word and never use it?). I skip to the laptop, knowing it's been days since my last risky post. I need to bury it a bit. And I type what you started reading moments ago. (Your moments are hours to me. We did a bath-milk-bed in between sentences.) Oh. And I type, and Otto moves flotsam from a little ceramic tray to my old keyboard. Screws. Pins. Beads. A shoe charm.

Maybe my best gardening advice is my best parenting advice. Don't try to do too many things at once. You never know what will come of it- or what the toddler will do while you're absorbed in the distorted glory of your words and ideas thrown to the world.

21 July 2008

One True Bio

My Monday morning was the usual. Breakfast Dodge Ball with Otto (he is messy and creative with his meals), two drop offs, and then I sat at the computer in my jog bra. Again. I have this idea if I put on the boob corset in the morning, I'm one step closer to running when I'm kid-free. But I tweaked one vertebrae before I even left the house. It was one those incredibly athletic moves- talking on the phone. I waited it out and worked on my bio for some poems that are soon to be published in mamazine. I finished and sent it off, just in time to shower for work.

Here's what it should have read:

"Kim is a wanna-be daytime-TV-watching-housewife who should be running with the dog and/or folding laundry but is instead perfecting her three line bio. She pretends to feel guilty about the dog but secretly remembers that her childhood dogs went out back by themselves and were just fine. She also thinks that if she leaves the laundry, maybe her husband will fold it when he gets home. Kim is an expert procrastinator and mediocre cook, but she is a talented midwife and also gives great head. Her poems have appeared in less than 2% of her submissions. She lives in a cluttered house filled with fart jokes and abandoned water glasses with her handsome husband and gorgeous kids. When she's not stalling, she dreams of lounging on lawn furniture from Williams Sonoma while writing brilliant poetry."

Come on now, what's your real bio?


17 July 2008

Sometimes They Break My Heart

We play Birthday Party like we always do. Towel or blanket spread on the floor. A pile of clothes laid in the middle is our beautiful vanilla-berry-chocolate cake. And before the cake is cut with a hand-knife and served on open palms to oohs and ahhs, we sing in both languages and make a wish. I haven't told them the wish should be secret.

"What did you wish for?" I ask.

Stella blurts, "Two hundred of you!"

"Two hundred of me?" I can't believe it. She hides her face a little. "Yes."

"What did you wish for?" It's innocent enough. Such simple questions they ask.

"That I'll never yell at you again."

I couldn't lie because it was a big wish just like hers. I wanted her to know that my late for work irritation- PUT ON YOUR SHOES NOW, or whispered growl- QUIET. You'll wake your brother, are not the me I imagined. So I use every wish I can get, real candle or not. I close my eyes and think this is the day I become the mother I want to be. The mother they deserve. And her wish is real too. What shame I feel, she uses her wish for more of me.

Wait, child, I want to say, wait until I get my shit together and can act like a grownup, then you can have all you want.

14 July 2008

Mr. Disney was Inspired by Oakland's Fairyland





We aren't a Disney Family, like many we saw last week. We don't have the pin collection, we didn't go in the minute the park opened, and we did not pay $150 to make Stella into Cinderella- although it was tempting, I admit. Now if they could have guaranteed a princess who does housework and has good manners... But we did have 6 hours of fun in Fantasyland, Toontown, and the Princess Faire. Augusto had a conference, so I took the kids down for 2 nights.

What We Learned at Disney:

1. The Disneyland Hotel kiddie pool slide is really fun. There is no admission fee (other than a night at the hotel).

2. It is possible to get out of a 30 minute line 20 minutes into it for "I changed my mind" and a pee break. You just hop the barriers. And remember not to wear a skirt next time.

3. The $2.99 Toddler Meal is reasonable price- for 1/4 of a child. Try to look like a bratwurst-buying family and sneak snacks past the guards.

4. The Royal Coronation Ceremony is awesome, complete with a maypole. Waiting for a princess behind a wall isn't necessary for a 3 year old.

5. Disney does not acknowledge Oakland's Fairyland. They claim to be America's first theme park. Humpf.

6. Everyone told us to get out, nap and go back. They were right. It also works to skip going back in.

7. Wait 5 years before going again. Both kids will be tall and adventurous enough to go on the rides we're also into.

What I Learned While Flying Outnumbered by Children:

1. Give up all hope of staying clean and unsticky.

2. All people stare. Some get out of the way. Some offer to help. It is advisable to make the most of either.

3. The carry-on is only for kid stuff. Time to read? Don't make me laugh or I'll spill another liquid on my pants.

4. A day is only a day. How long was labor? I survived.

We got a pin after all (for our collection?). Stella calls it our Disney Remembership Pin. "It's to remember all you saw there."

06 July 2008

That's an Awful Thing to Call Your Husband

After he pulled the tube from my nose and throat, the urge to sneeze went away, but tears kept pouring from my right eye. "Early nodules," he said. People who haven't seen me in a while ask about my nasty cold. My speech therapist friend said I needed to see an ENT. I put it off, like most things I need to do for myself, and ALL things medical.

I have always wanted a husky voice. I have often listened to my answering machine messages with disbelief. Is that flat, nasal voice really mine? And then it happened. I woke up on December 23, 2007 with a Demi
Moore voice. No cold, no pain, just pure sex appeal. Neighbors, co-workers, and old friends have commented on how I could parlay my voice for work or other more interesting favors. Naturally, the voice has been lost on my husband. He's thankfully attracted to my other, somewhat more stable attributes. Like my face and boobs and personality. Somewhat more stable.

My voice is low because of little callous-like growths on my vocal cords. Why do I have vocal nodules? Because I abuse my voice. I don't whisper very often, so that means I scream too much. Don't jump to conclusions. I do scream at the kids more than I want, and we do yell across the house a fair amount. Is the dishwasher clean?! Can you grab a diaper?!

But it's partly the dog's fault. Honestly. We got Rex less than two months before my voice changed. And since then I have been intercepting the kids' favorite toys, our food, clothing, and shoes. "NO, REX! DROP IT! DROP IT!" I've been deflecting his enthusiastic attention. "OFF! GET DOWN!" Rex's trainer (we've only been twice.... and come to think of it really should go back) said the dog is not deaf. We should just speak to him and not repeat ourselves. But it will take him hearing "No" 1000 times before he understands it. Huh? Not in a row, I guess. So I know what to do, I just don't know how not to react.

Scenario Option 1:

Kid drops lovey that she can't sleep without. Dog lunges for it. "NO, REX! DROP IT! DROP IT!" Dog runs, so happy now that I'm playing with him. I lunge for his throat. He whizzes by. "REX!!! DROP IT YOU DAMN DOG!"

Scenario Option 2:

Kid drops lovey that she can't sleep without. Dog lunges for it. "N0, Rex. Drop it." Dog runs, so happy now that I'm playing with him. I stand still. I trust he won't actually rip apart this essential stuffed bunny who is already by some odd design only a blanket on the bottom half. "Rex. Sit. Drop it." Rex obeys and I return the slobbery but intact lovey to a very relieved little girl.

How do I cure vocal nodules? Voice rest. No whispering, no screaming and talk as little as possible. Yes, this is expected of me, the one who talks with patients all day, who got poor conduct marks in middle school -talks too much-, who has a preschooler that asks why at the end of every answer. It is a ridiculous order, but the concept of voice rest has got me thinking. Talking is so core to who I am, that I don't have any idea how to proceed other than to just go for it. Every day I venture into where I've never been, like today: two kids and a mess of finger paints. So I'll just shoot from the hip, as it were. Or from above as is the case here.


And as it is with most forced endeavors, I'm already learning. Changing for the better. Do I really want to teach my kids to scream at animals? Do I really need to explain etiologies and treatment recommendations in such detail? When I go to work tomorrow morning, can't I just say "OK, we went to a nice parade. How about you?" rather than getting into how we were late for the parade, and the guy who took pictures of Otto, and the fireworks too? Haven't I always wanted to be the one who waits for the rest of the group to voice their opinions and then shares mine? To be the girl in class who never says anything and then one day opens her mouth and what comes out is so insightful and smart that everyone stops to listen? Won't I benefit from more listening?

Here's my chance. The doctor told me stop yelling at the dog. "That's an awful thing to call your husband," said my friend when I told her the doctor's orders. There is room for much humor, but I believe there is also room for much, much more.


26 June 2008

I Am Loved


I'm really feelin' the love these days.

First of all, I am the 1st runner up in the mamazine MAMAFOCUS contest! I am really honored because the entries and other winners are amazing. Not only do I get the feel good joy of winning and the numerous clicks over to my blog from mamazine and shutter sisters, but I also get a prize- a Metalsgirl Inspirational Bangle!!

Second, Augusto and I went to Tomales Bay for our first overnight ever... JUST US. It was really great. I mean, really, really great. We talked about things other than the kids, we flirted, we climbed up a rock, we kayaked, we had a delicious dinner. And we didn't bicker. Not even once. The kids behaved and enjoyed their night with our fantastic friends. So that means there is hope for more!


It's all just too cool. I love being loved.

19 June 2008

End of an Era

Tuesday morning Otto nursed from right to left and back again. He gripped the side he wasn't suckling, obviously plotting the next switch-over. I thought hard. We are going out of town without kids for one night this weekend. Soon I will be working weekly 12 hour shifts delivering babies (!). My father is visiting next week. Augusto might go out of town soon. I made the decision. I hesitated. Then I talked to him. "This is the last time for nursing, Otto. Tomorrow you'll get up with Papai. We won't have any more mama milk." He didn't say anything, but he did linger more than usual. Or maybe I was lingering. I have been nursing since October 18, 2004. Three years and eight months. Well, there was a 6 month break while pregnant with Otto. But I was pregnant and under hormonal influence.

Weaning Stella brought tears. Initial nursing was so rough, that letting go of our triumph was especially hard. By weaning Stella, I was making way for the new baby. It was the first space she needed to yield. By weaning, I was letting go of her.

Weaning Otto is bittersweet. I have been boasting for months. No more babies for me. I've been a vessel for too long. I want to drink martinis without guilt and go rock climbing again. And here we are. Two days into it. At 5:30 am, I breathed in and out, fluffed my pillow and listened to his cries when Augusto got him and took him downstairs. "Mommee. Mommee!"

I could turn back. Nurse tomorrow. Part of me wants to. I will never nurse again. I keep thinking it! There are no rules, no guidebook. We make it up as we go. Why stop now? My friend who is taking the kids this weekend- she can handle one tough morning. She is a good mother. Our night away is the inspiration, but it's not the reason. I'm not completely sure, but the reason is linked to my need for self care, independence. Parenting is a state of constant alert. Deep giving. My personal stores are dangerously low. I am running, reading, getting occasional pedicures. But mostly I am taking care of others. Work. Dog. House. Garden. Husband. Neighborhood politics. Oh, yeah.. and Otto and Stella. Nursing is a beautiful symbol of nurturing. I think that's why I need to let it go. Otto needs to yield space for me now. By weaning him, I am letting go of me.


12 June 2008

friends, or what i love about oakland #2

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I envy little in others. Fame and wealth and extreme beauty fascinate me. I thrill at another's exotic vacation or fresh romance. But a real coveting of something someone else has? Here's one thing: old friendships. That's something I wish I had. Like Karen at Shutter Sisters, my family moved around a lot. I moved in 3rd, 6th, and 9th grade. Then again for college, after graduation, and for graduate school. I crossed state lines and finally, a continent. And then my parents left where we had lived during my high school, so that became another move for me, as related to holding on to friendships. For a few years after each move, letters and seldom visits kept friendships alive. But the oldest of those, formed in grade school and earlier, those are gone. Really gone. Time, mostly has erased them. But our slow climb on the social ladder, via my dad's promotions and bigger houses, was probably the real killer.

Sandy was my best friend in elementary school. Our back yards touched since the day I was born. Even though we went to different schools, we still spent our summers flying on her trampoline or turning over rocks in the creek. At 21 she was married and living in a trailer. At 21 I was studying Matisse and Tagore. It never mattered where we lived or what we did, but over time, the memories faded and we didn't have much to talk about. I wouldn't know how to find her today.

I have lived in the bay Area for 13 years. Longer than anywhere else in my entire life. Stella and Otto are blessed by fun, diverse friends. It is not uncommon for Stella to tell me that some people have a mommy and a daddy, some people have two daddies, and some people only have a mommy... and so on. She once let us know that she wanted two mommies too. Augusto said he thought that was a great idea! Most of our crowd is from somewhere else- as is common in the San Francisco Bay Area. Will we live in this house, this neighborhood forever? Or will our friends? I doubt it. But we want for our children what we long for ourselves. How will we preserve their - our friendships?

08 June 2008

"Now that's something."

His voice, round and cheery, is over my shoulder this morning. And I think it too when I stand on the Transbay bus to get a gander of the new bridge. It looks ready, complete with speed limit signs and benches, but ends abruptly 1/4 mile from Treasure Island.

San Francisco is glowing at 7:42. "That's a beautiful city. Just beautiful."

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My grandfather visited twice in my 13 years here. Once we toured the wharf and then jetted off to Alaska- just the 2 of us. Once we met at SFO. He and his 86 year old bride were on a layover. They were heading home from a Hawaii honeymoon. Melvin had a way of getting around. He was an elevator repairman who knew how to save. We talked weekly until he died. But he is still everywhere.

This week I watched a young woman and an old man sorting out details after a fender bender. She was on her cell phone while he waited at the hood of his car. He had his manual open, registration and insurance card at the ready. My guess was it was her first accident, and his first in many, many years. I wanted to go to the double yellow line, ask if they needed any help, but I was stuck on the curb with both kids and a doll's stroller. The kids and I were walking to school. We had paused at the FedEx and UPS drop off boxes, and they were opening and closing the slots. I was about to stop them when I was overcome. That was Melvin there, prepared for anything at 93. Most likely a reassuring presence for the young gal (although in private, he would complain about her ruining his paint, how she didn't know how to drive). It was the way he just waited, rested his hand on the hood. I waited for Stella to ask why I was crying, prepared myself for her little voice, "Old Pop Pop died." But the kids kept on opening and closing the mail flaps, and I stood in his presence, sad and content until the moment passed.


Between work, food prep, exercise, and games of chase, there isn't much space left for memory that stops me in my tracks. The joy and stress of daily life are so noisy. Often I can't hear my feelings. A day or week even, can pass so quickly I don't realize what I've missed. Paying a parking ticket. Scheduling a sitter. A page of emails. My grandmother's birthday. This week was one of my busiest in months. In addition to the usual, I went to Vallejo for half a day and SF for a 3 day conference on antepartum and intrapartum management. But in the journeys (walking, riding the bus), there was enough quiet to receive the visits from the man I miss so very much.
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30 May 2008

friday, and a little bit about breasts

to do list


what we did


Yes, that is my second child sitting on top of the table.

And "bra" is the last item on the list. This week, my clinic's monthly medical talk was on mammography. The speaker showed a slide of the effectiveness of mammograms in dense breast tissue. The current debate is whether we should or shouldn't recommend yearly screening before age 50. His point was that comparing the 10 years before 50, to the 20 plus years after does not give an accurate picture of the gradual increase in effectiveness of mammography- and decrease in breast density. He advocates screening annually starting at 40, as does the American Cancer Society. For a low risk woman, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend getting a mammogram every 1 to 2 years between 40 and 50 and starting annually at 50.

His talk was clear and persuasive, but when he showed the slide of 5-year increments of declining tissue density, all I could see was my unavoidable future of sagging breasts. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Sagging? Guaranteed! An informal survey after the lecture showed 99% of women in the audience had the same thought. I can eat my antioxidants, wear a seat belt, and get my mammograms, but my future health is largely out of my hands. And I can't prevent gravity and time teaming up against me. So I'll get a new bra with a stronger foundation.

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28 May 2008

wake in love

12:30 am Turn off light. Pass out.

4:22 am
"Mama, I'm going to pull up the covers." Stella has taken her spot on the floor next to our bed and feels compelled to rip me from my detailed dream.

5:36 am
"Momm-ee!" Otto calls from what should be the kids (plural) room. I consider letting him fuss a little. Stretch him closer to a better 6 am wake time. Then I remember Stella needs her sleep and his cries might wake her. So I go to him. He rises to my arms and heaves us toward Stella's bed. Her soft, empty twin futon on the floor. We snuggle down and I offer him the breast. Shifting. Nursing. Covering my free nipple from his twiddling fingers. And we fall asleep.

6:14 am
I am attacked by full mouth kisses. Big Otto kisses on my chin, my lower lip. Smacking noises and small wet teeth. And I am laughing. This is so much better than a cat tail or dog breath in my face. And just as quickly, Otto hops off the bed, is padding out the door, looking for "Papai?!"

Yes, Stella's spot on the floor. It was a threat at first. Our queen mattress was feeling small and Otto had finally gone into Stella's room. We wanted our space. Our nighttime, grownup space. So I said it, if you want to come and sleep with us you need to go on the floor. I put down some padding and blankets, thinking she'd never do it. Of course she slept on the floor. Night after night. Every night since then. And now I feel like a horrible mother, with her preschooler's head sometimes wedged under our bed or her legs on the bare wood across the room- having tossed herself there in the night. I have begged her to come up into our bed. "I like it on the floor!" When she comes from her room at 3 or 4 or 5 am, I have lured her with warm covers, the space between us, a better pillow. "I like it on the floor!"


Our kids move in and our of our space on their own schedule, usually before or after we are ready. I have almost weaned Otto. Our morning nursing is all we have. When he messes around with his free hand and tugs at my other nipple, I want the next time to be that last time. Then I remember I will never nurse another child. I am done. I came so far from the first letdowns (no pun intended), that it is really hard to let go now. I don't have to wean him, but we're planning a no-kid-night-away next month. Our first EVER since Stella was born. Nighttime, grownup space, you know?

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22 May 2008

Love, And a Little Peace


I couldn't help but scatter him with hearts.

I'm sharing this love after I just got some love myself- a 15 minute chair massage at the grocery store. I almost walked out, thinking of all the papers and laundry and cooking that were waiting at home. But I waited my turn and now my shoulders are a little less attached to my ears.

Sometimes I AM really smart.
Sometimes I can receive the love.

Happy love thursday. Now go give yourself a little .
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20 May 2008

clean it out and it fills again


this is where i am right now

and the house is quiet
for a moment
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18 May 2008

why i love oakland #1


saturday morning coffee run
shiny harley parked on the sidewalk
heat reflecting off the pavement
two women having having breakfast curbside: crew cuts, black leather, tattoos, black boots.

stella and i exit past their table: in skirts, matching baseball caps, pink!, flip flops. the woman with the most tattoos smiles and waves at stella. we pass the motorcycle.

"is that a motorcycle?"
"yes, it belongs to the women in the restaurant"
"which women?"
"remember the one who waved on our way out?"
"the one with the helmet on the table?"
"yes, the one with the drawings on her arms?"
"drawings? i don't know... the one who was holding her fork to her mouth and eating?"
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15 May 2008

Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

Rex didn't even look back as he ran when I has started to walk. And that's how it is here now. They're moving forward whether I'm ready or not. On the way home from school Stella was saying something in her seat.
"Nothing, Mama"
"I couldn't hear you, Sweetie. What were you saying?"
"I wasn't talking to you, Mama. I was talking to myself."
"Oh, you were?" you're not four yet, do you do that already?
"Yeah! You thought I was talking to you?!" and then she laughs at me

Mother's Day was wonderful. Not because of the most beautiful earrings in the world that Stella picked out all by herself- guided to the right store by Augusto. Not because Stella and I shared a pedicure chair for the first time. Not because of the sweet goodbye of Otto's last bedtime nursing. Mother's Day was wonderful because it wasn't all that important to me. I wasn't waiting for some big acknowledgment from my husband, some huge chunk of time to myself. I receive the gifts of motherhood daily.

Andrea at Superhero Designs asked "What are you willing to receive?"

Since my immediate reaction: Massage!, I have been mulling.

I am willing to receive gifts I have previously refused or made me feel guilty:

help to my car from the grocer
comments on how great i look after two kids
day care in excess of my working hours
one extra hour of morning sleep

I am willing to receive love.

I am willing to receive parenting feedback from others.

I am willing to receive the good health that comes from exercise, vegetables, and sleep.

I liked this hard question. Now I'll pass it on. What are you willing to receive?

11 May 2008

I'm a Mother


pregnant with stella

stella 1 day old

4 days before otto is born


hours after otto's birth

i still can't believe it
happy mother's day

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