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Monday, December 31, 2007


It's that time of year again, time to make promises about less and more in the coming year -- the big one, for yet another year, is eating less and exercising more. And, if all goes well, I'll finally lose those last five pounds of baby weight.

So many people I've talked to say that it's really hard to lose those last 5 to 10 pounds while breastfeeding.... and considering that I've been pregnant or breastfeeding since 2004 (yikes!) I guess I can forgive myself for not immediately returning to my svelte self.

I suppose that ultimately it also means starting to wean BB. I have mixed feelings about that. I definitely plan to night-wean her after her birthday, but otherwise I'm not really in any rush to wean. BJ weaned himself very easily at 14 months -- turned out it was because I was pregnant with BB. And I have absolutely no intention of using that weaning method again! So we'll see how it goes.

My other resolution for the year is to find some way to bring the muse back into my life on a regular basis. (Goes back to that "less/more" thing. Spend less energy longing to write and more just writing, dammit.)

Where the time for this will come from, I have no earthly idea. But I have two manuscripts for children's books in progress, and I want to give more energy to my writing in 2008 even if it is "only" children's writing. I'd love to attend the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles.... if not this year, then definitely next. Something to aim for, at any rate.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Way or the Cry Way...

It's been a blah week, not much worth writing about -- while we've recovered from the flu, we seem to have traded it for a household cold. BB and BJ are super snotty, S has a sore throat, and I'm just generally feeling yucky. What a way to finish out the year! Really makes me grateful for all the times we've been healthy in 2007. Having a house full of sick folks is no fun at all.

Between her cold and the two molars that are erupting, poor BB has been feeling especially fragile for the past few days. She's been doing lots of crying, and she's added a particularly piercing shriek to her repertoire. "My Way or the Cry Way!" she seems to be insisting. Trouble is, we can't seem to figure out what her way would entail. Not that we haven't tried! But nothing seems to satisfy her at the moment.

It's had us all on edge, even BJ. This morning, he attempted to stop her crying by announcing he was going to do "A Number Show." (This consisted of lining up his numbers on the floor while he told us what was what.) BB was actually entertained, for all of three seconds or so. Anyway, I thought it was very sweet (even as my ears were ringing from her wailing).

Unfortunately, BJ's usual M.O. this week has been more trying than thoughtful. Lots of whining and crying and a few tantrums. Yesterday, he threw a huge fit simply because it was time to get dressed. In between wailing about how he wanted to keep on his pajamas, he sobbed to me, "Mommy don't be so frustrated!!!" Funny to recall in retrospect. But at the time I was about ready to shout back at him, "I wouldn't be frustrated at all if you'd just calm down!"

In happier news, my little niece (B3) seems to be doing much better. She'd been diagnosed with silent reflux, and the poor dear was really having a time of it. Difficulty putting on weight, lots of shattering crying (hey, maybe that's where BB picked it up!.... Nah.) The little one simply refused to be put down, especially for sleep, which meant my sister and her husband were getting very little sleep themselves, and I fear the whole household was nearing crisis. But their treatment plan seems to be making a difference now, much to everybody's relief. I was really worried about them for a while there.

Being sick this week has also really made me miss my family, especially my folks. (I wonder if I'll ever get over wanting my mom when I'm sick.....) Of course we just saw them, less than two weeks ago, but already it feels like ages since we've been together. BJ keeps talking about his Giki and Pop-pop, his cousin and auntie and uncle. It was so neat to see the three cousins together and imagine how they will grow up together.

Right now, the house is blessedly quiet. Both BB and BJ are taking naps -- a rare occurrence these days. He's gone from napping every other day to napping about every four or five days. I'm just enjoying the silence while it lasts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Very Merry

I'm happy to say that in spite of illness, exhaustion, and shipping delays, we ended up having a very Merry Christmas after all.
Santa brought BJ his coconut tree, and BJ spent most of the day playing with his newest alphabet.
Tonight, going to bed, he got kind of panicky and I finally figured out that he was worried he'd have to give up his beloved new gift. "I keep the coconut tree through all the seasons?" he was asking. Of course, honey.
BB got her doll, which she enjoyed chewing on.
She's pretty tired in this pic -- as all of us were today -- it was also after yet another blowout diaper, and I don't think she's entirely herself yet after the flu. But all of us are feeling much better than we were, and that's definitely something to be grateful for.
All told, though we were sad to have to skip the family celebration this afternoon, it was rather nice to just stay home and have a really relaxed day. BJ was opening presents from 7:30 a.m. to well past 2 p.m. Not that he had tons of gifts.... he just liked to play with each new toy for about an hour!
I have to confess it was a bad picture day all around. Sorry, BB; another instance of second child syndrome. I have only one halfway decent picture of her on her first Christmas day!
Anyway, S and I have to finish our yearly ritual watching of "It's a Wonderful Life" so I gotta go. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake

When we were in Delaware, BJ "helped" Giki in her annual task of making the Happy Birthday Jesus Cake. This is one of my favorite family traditions, something my mom has done ever since I can remember, but I'd decided I wasn't yet up for the actual baking part, so I was glad that Giki was willing to do it early while we were all together. Good thing, given how we've all ended up sick since getting home!

A more recent tradition of sorts -- though one that I haven't been able to do for a few years, now -- was my performing the poem I wrote about The Cake. Way back when, before kids , I was a regular performer at a local women's open mic, and one year I also gave this piece a go at the stage for one of the San Jose poetry slams. Since I won't be getting behind a microphone any time soon, I thought I'd share it here, in the spirit of the season. It works better as a spoken piece, but I'm not yet savvy (or brave) enough to get something prepped for YouTube. (Another "maybe next year" -- perhaps!)

Yogananda says, "God is Eternal Laughter"

I believe God is a woman, and She’s a helluva cook.
Her recipe box is full of stained and tattered index cards,
She has a flavor for every faith,
She gets invited to all of the potlucks,
and She never makes the same exact thing twice.
Her Angel Food Cake is divine....

But she doesn’t seem to spend much time in the kitchen these days.
It’s all been boxed up by Betty Crocker and processed
for easy consumption — a Devil’s Food Cake,
supposedly like mother made, but nothing like the real, dark deal.
One thing bothers me, though. If God’s a woman, why is chocolate
the flavor of sin? Is it because God is Love, and there’s that whole
chocolates and Valentines thing, and She gets pissed off
because nobody ever sends her any?
Note to self: next February, give God at least a pound of Godiva.

Such a thing as sending God a Valentine
wouldn’t seem strange in my family.
After all, every year my mother bakes a birthday cake for Christmas —
that’s right, in red gel icing, it says, "Happy Birthday Jesus,"
just like it would for a three-year-old. It’s a white cake, of course,
with the world’s best lemon filling, as sweetly sour as any sin,
and on Christmas Eve, we sing that silly birthday song
and eat each consecrated crumb, licking Heavenly
Seven Minute frosting from our fingers.

Oh, I admit it — a Happy Birthday Jesus cake
makes it sound a little like we’re a bunch of fundamentalist freaks
who like to wear glittery tee-shirts declaring, "He’s the Reason for the Season!" But that’s not it at all. In my family, we follow a dietary devotion.
You could say we put the pie in piety.

Let me tell you a little story about last year,
the first time my sister’s fiancĂ© joined us for Christmas Eve.
He’d heard about the sacred cake, and he was noticeably nervous
when we gathered round and started singing,
"Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to you..."

It was fine at first. After all, the start of the song is perfectly normal.
It’s that closing address, when you announce to whom you’re singing?
That’s when it gets a little weird. So we all started to sing more slowly,
because he was obviously uncomfortable with all this emphasis
on the divine instead of the delicious —

But God bless my mother, wielder of the sacrosanct wooden spoon,
she decided to put us all at ease. We’d all but stopped singing,
and then she took up the tune, in an unmistakable, breathy
Marilyn Monroe voice: "Happy Birthday, Mister Sav-i-or, Happy Birthday to You."

Yes, I believe God is a woman, and she must have a sense of humor
like my mother’s. Each of us is her own little inside joke,
and every time She laughs it is a blessing.

All I Want For Christmas....

... are some antibodies. All of us have now been hit by a nasty intestinal flu.

At first I thought it might be food poisoning from the lunch date BJ and I had at Fresh Choice on Friday, since we both started getting sick on Saturday, but then BB came down with it too. S dodged it long enough to take care of all of us while we were out of commission (bless him, bless him) but this morning he started showing symptoms as well. Sigh. I'm feeling much better now, so it seems to have been a 48 hour bug, but it is making for a lousy lead-up to Christmas.
I was totally out of it for the Solstice, which was a real disappointment. I'd hoped to do something special, something truly magical, for BJ if not for myself -- he's old enough to start understanding some of this now. Yet another "maybe next year" moment, alas.

And it's looking like that will be a theme for this holiday. Considering that we'd already cut things pretty fine by traveling early and returning with only a week to go before Christmas, it was already going to be hectic. Now it's reached the point where there are things that simply won't happen this year. Like holiday baking. Or a decent Christmas letter -- as it is, cards will be going out late, and if I'm just grateful I had the foresight to get the photo cards taken care of before we left for our trip. At least I don't have to worry about getting good photographs of the kids while we're all under the weather!

In happier news, it is BB's 11 month birthday today. So hard to believe! Our little baby is truly becoming a toddler, and her own person. She's walking and talking (saying "Ma-ma" and "Da-da" very clearly) and loves to give kisses. Big, wet, open-mouthed smooches. She'll even do it when asked, which of course we think is incredibly clever of her. She still enjoys dancing, and now she will do her little sways and bobbles even when we're singing to her -- just last night, S was sitting with her and reading/singing the little board book "Baby Beluga," and she was bopping about with delight.

She is also showing the family love for books, which of course tickles S and I to no end. She will bring us books to read or even "read" them on her own. She has several favorites, including "Baby Beluga," "I Love You Sun, I Love You Moon," "Dear Zoo," and "Moo Moo, Brown Cow." She especially likes to climb up in the little kid's rocking chair and "read." Ok, so the book is upside down more often than not, but it's still pretty durned nifty for a baby who isn't yet a year old!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Auditioning for Hired?

Not only is BB walking really well now, but she has taken to draping things over her shoulders or on top of her head while she toddles around the house. Playsilks, blankets, scarves.... whatever she comes across, she tries to use it to adorn herself. The first time she did it, she used one of our smaller playsilks, putting it right on top of her head. She immediately brought to mind the old man in MST 3K's short "Hired!", the one who inexplicably places a handkerchief atop his bald pate while holding forth about the intricacies of selling used cars.

The fact that S and I have both made this comparison to "Hired!" in recent days probably accounts, at least in part, for the duration of our marriage -- a decade so far and going strong. (Thank you, Joel et al.) Very few folks in our acquaintance these days would get the joke. Ours is a quirky sense of humor at times, overly reliant on obscure Mystery Science Theater references.... but it feels less lonely now that I know one can google "mst 3k short handkerchief on head" and bring up multiple relevant links. (Whether that's a good thing or not is another thing entirely.)

Anyway, BB was wandering about with her pink sleep sack on her head yesterday and I managed to snap a few pics for posterity. She seems to know she's being funny, which adds to the charm. Silly little girl!

Winter Solstice

I'm hoping to do something special for the Solstice this year, but I'm not yet sure what. (And I'm running out of time, and not feeling all that well. So we'll see.) In the meantime, I wanted to share an old poem, written back in 2004 when I was pregnant with BJ.

Winter Solstice

Strange to see nothing but light
on the longest night of the year —
but everywhere I looked, my eyes laughed
dazzled by electric brilliance, sparkling
icicle lights where no icicles will ever freeze
much less melt — an everpresent glow,
the sodium glare, only a few stars visible
and the generous slice of the moon.

Most years, the darkness descends
like my grandmother’s cloak, surrounding
my shoulders and settling there for the season,
a sinister embrace, less like love than like loss,
not quite despair, but something quieter, less
intense and more pervasive. Dolor. Sorrow.
Something that flavors every touch of the tongue
to the teeth, every swallow, every breath,
every blink. Most years, it is tempting
to keep my eyes shut as long as possible
to sleep away the heavy hours of winter.
Hibernation has a wisdom all its own.
Bears know this. Reptiles too. There’s something
to be said for dreaming one’s way through
the darkness.

Instead, this year, I am an intrepid insomniac,
awake at almost any hour, unable to switch off
the unsubtle sussurations inside my skull
unable to settle in by your sleeping body
unable to gather the quilt around my throat
and savor the feline warmth of a cat curled
into my aching back. This year, the baby
wakes me, kicking, stretching, hiccuping
inside me. My hips hurt. My heart burns.
I pace through our small house like a feral cat,
nocturnal, stalking sleep.

Strange how the world winks by in the wee hours
when the sane people are asleep. Time turns on itself
thickens, thins, unpredictably. The art of quiet
consideration becomes an unconscious act,
and it feels like a secret time, separate from
the whirling world, apart from anything real
or rare. I would not seek out these hours
but now that I have them, I honor them
for their whispering moments, their starpoint
secrecy. There does not seem to be enough
of me to fill every second — even though
I am pregnant and twenty five pounds more
than I was six months ago, even though
there is a new consciousness carried within me,
miracle mystery, commonplace magic.

As wonderful and ordinary as season’s change,
as inexplicable and usual as sunrise,
the body cycling, world turning,
the miracle of leaves,
the mystery of the moon,
the blessing of my belly
heavy in my lap.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Pond and the Swing

There was no doubt about BJ's favorite place at Grandpa D's and Grandma C's in Georgia -- he adored hanging out at the pond. Their house is surrounded by a lovely wood, and a long flight of stairs leads straight from their deck down to the water's edge. The pond was lower than usual, as a result of the ongoing drought, but there was still enough water for some fish and turtles to hang out. (Alas, none of them got close enough for a decent pic. BJ kept asking me to get a picture, and this is the best I could manage.) He simply loved "feeding" them leaves, acorns, and other debris by dropping stuff over the edge of the deck and into the water. The turtles were quite a ways off, but that didn't seem to matter to BJ.

He also informed me that in addition to the critters we could see, the pond contained alligators, crocodiles, and a sunfish. Apparently, in BJ's imagination, they also subsisted on tree droppings.

Every morning, BJ would ask to go down to the pond. It made me pretty anxious to see him darting around right next to a drop off into the water, but I tried not to let my jangled nerves show too much. Just being there brought this delighted grin immediately to his face, so it wasn't like I was going to forbid it entirely.

(In spite of the fall he took down the stairs his first day there. He's still talking about it. I wasn't there when it happened, but apparently he only slipped a little and got a bit of a scrape. Thank heavens -- it could have been a terrible tumble straight towards the water. Guess it was the week for falls that could have been much worse than they actually were.)

While BJ was hanging out at the pond, BB enjoyed the swing set that Grandpa D had built for the grandkids.

The weather was gorgeous -- 70's during the days we were there -- so we spent as much time as we could outdoors. It did my spirit good to be surrounded by so many beautiful trees. Both BJ and I did our share of tree hugging while we were there.

Safe and Sound

We are home again from our trip to the East Coast. (Whew!) We visited S's folks in Georgia and mine in Delaware, and though it was stressful to travel with a baby and a toddler, all told things went much more smoothly than I would have predicted. It was lovely to visit with family -- and especially to meet my new niece! -- and both BB and BJ really enjoyed their time at Grandpa D's "farm" and Giki and Pop-Pop's house. Nice as it was to see everybody, it is such a relief to be back safe and sound.

The flights out were actually enjoyable at times. BJ was happily occupied with his new books and felt board (especially his felt alphabet and the props for playing Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3; those letters climbed trees over and over again as we crossed the country.) The occasional lollipop treat worked wonders to keep him content when he tired of books and felt. BB spent much of her time on the boob or asleep -- breastfeeding makes airplane travel so much simpler!

BB was more of a challenge on the way home, since she'd started walking in Georgia and wanted to practice toddling everywhere. (As I'd predicted, the allure of the Christmas tree was exactly the motivation she needed to go from cruising to actual walking.) But really, aside from BJ's protests when he had to take off his shoes for security screening, the only travel hitch occurred yesterday when our connection in Vegas was held on the tarmac for an hour and a half because of maintenance issues.

This would have worked out fine, actually, since both BB and BJ had finally fallen asleep for much needed naps. With them both snoozing, we didn't really mind just sitting there on the airplane. But then the airline folks decided we needed to switch planes after all, so the plane headed back to the gate and we had to wake up both of them to haul all our stuff (and two unhappy kids) through the airport to another terminal. One would think they might be kind enough to return to a gate near the one from which we'd be departing. But no.

I will be forever grateful to a fellow passenger named Margaret, who saw us struggling with all our stuff and trying unsuccessfully to talk a sobbing BJ into walking. He's usually pretty pliable about these things, but he'd simply been pushed too far. With the exception of one afternoon, he hadn't been napping at all during the trip, and we'd had to wake him up at 4:30 a.m. in Delaware to leave for the airport. Cutting short his nap yesterday was just too much. But both S and I were loaded up, and BB was in the Sutemi carrier, so we couldn't carry BJ, the baby, and all our stuff. Margaret, bless her soul forever, offered to take BJ's carseat so that I could lug him through the airport. And once he was in my arms, he calmed immediately.

Between Margaret's timely help and a near-miss at the Atlanta airport, I'm beginning to believe in angels and magic more than I ever have before. (After we arrived in Atlanta, I was carrying BB in the Sutemi and had both carseats when I slipped and fell. On the concrete sidewalk. Straight forward, without any hands free to break my fall. I love babywearing, but I have always had a horrible fear of falling while one of the kids was in the carrier. Time did that warp thing that it does in moments of crisis and I somehow managed to wrench my left leg forward to catch most of the fall, but for a moment I was convinced BB had banged her head against the concrete. Thankfully, she hadn't, and the only damage was my badly bruised knee. But I swear, an invisible, magical hand of protection kept her precious little head from slamming straight against the ground, with all my weight on top of us both. I still shudder to think about it.)

I'd hoped to have time to visit with some friends while we were back east, but there was so much to do with family that I didn't even try. It was all I could do to squeeze in a trip to Main Street with my mom! We're still adjusting to West Coast time -- BB wanted to start the day at 3:30 a.m. (hey, it was 6:30 according to her internal clock, at least a good half-hour later than she usually wakes up!) and her naps have been horrible today. In fact, I think I hear her stirring right now. Alas.

And I fear that the lack of naps for BJ during the trip will mean the end of them entirely for him. Alas alack. He's refused to nap today. I'm thinking it's time to institute an afternoon Quiet Time. Between that and BB starting to walk, there are lots of changes around here. New challenges and joys as our family shifts from parents, baby and a toddler to the paradigmatic mom, dad, and two kids.

Or, as my mom likes to say, "It won't necessarily get easier, but it does get different."

Monday, December 3, 2007


Every afternoon, about 4 pm, BJ starts telling me, "It's daytime, Mommy." He needs me to agree with him, to affirm the fact that it is not yet night. He'll be more or less insistent. It seems to depend on how cloudy it is, how much time we've spent outside, and whether or not he's had an afternoon nap. If he's napped, he usually wants stronger confirmation from me that it is, indeed, still day when he wakes up. I find it very interesting that he seems to be noticing the days growing shorter. From dust motes to darkening skies, so little gets past this kid.

(When we were on our way to the pancake breakfast yesterday, walking in the parking lot, he stopped and pointed to the ground. "K, Mommy," he said. Sure enough, there were two bent twigs on the ground, forming an uppercase "K." It was maybe an inch and a half high.)

A few times now, I've tried to explain how the days will be growing shorter until the Solstice, the longest night of the year. BJ is only just starting to grasp the concept of seasons, so the nuances of the shift from Yule to Midsummer are way beyond him. I think he thinks I'm telling him that he'll have less time to play and will need to go to bed earlier! In his world, daytime is playtime; night is for sleep. Which is why he keeps telling me it's daytime, even though it's starting to get dark outside. He still has hours left to entertain himself, thankyouverymuch.

All the parenting books suggest not overdoing the detail, but I'm a detail-oriented person, so it's a challenge not to leap into such technicalities as the tilt of the Earth's axis or the turning of the wheel of the year. I have to keep reminding myself to simply try to answer the questions as they come. "Name what season it is getting to be," he often asks. He loves hearing me repeat that it's autumn and soon to be winter. "Leaves go kaboom!" he'll say, informing me that the leaves hit the ground just like numbers in Chicka Chicka 123.

This morning, on the way to our friend A's house for a playdate, there was a glorious golden ginkgo tree. Both BJ and I noticed it. Bright yellow leaves carpeted the sidewalk all around. If we hadn't already been running late, I would have stopped the car and hauled us all out to revel in the color. It would have been a nice daytime thing to do.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


The kids met Santa today. We hadn't done a Santa visit with BJ before, so it was a first for both of them. BJ was very serious about the whole thing. It was determined that BB would "ask" for a doll, and he wanted to be quite sure that Santa knew exactly what he wanted: "The coconut tree with all the letters in alphabetical order."

He was saying exactly that when the picture was taken. As you can see, he doesn't yet understand how eye contact can help him make a persuasive case. But he was quite sincere. He's been asking for this toy since he played with it at a friend's house back in October. This isn't too surprising, given his love of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and all things alphabetical.

BB was much less enthusiastic about her time with Santa. As soon as S put her down on Santa's lap, she wanted right back up again!

(S said it looks like she's making a free throw; she's really just reaching for her daddy.) At least she didn't go into hysterics. I've seen some kids get really upset by Santa, and I didn't ever want to put my own through that.

Our visit was part of our annual playgroup pancake breakfast -- which we had to miss last year because BJ was sick -- so it was wonderful to avoid the hassle of long lines and mall crowds and the like. Nice and laid back.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The New Yorker

If anybody cared to keep track, they would probably discover that almost all of my interesting conversational tidbits begin with the phrase, "I read in The New Yorker..." (Unless the conversation is about my kids. In which case it may or may not be all that interesting, actually.)

But especially since motherhood blanketed my life like a blizzard, I've been really hard pressed to read anything of import beyond the weekly New Yorker issues. (And parenting books.) In a very real way, they have kept me connected to the adult world. A path I keep digging through the falling snow, if you will.

And every once in a while, my mommy self and the adult self find themselves in powerful synchronicity, face to face in the pages of the magazine. (Like finding two similar snowflakes, if I want to push the metaphor. A rarity, but not as impossible as was once imagined.)

Case in point -- this amazing poem by Louise Gluck.