Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Girl and the Loft (Shared Infant and Toddler Room Makeover)


A few weeks ago we stayed at my parents' house. They weren't home so we took full advantage, sleeping in their bed, borrowing the cars and swimming in the pool. Usually towards the end of a trip away from home I start looking forward to going back, but after this visit, I couldn't help thinking that my parents' house was a real house for real adults with coffee makers and entryways and ours was more like one of those matchboxes rodents inhabit in old cartoons. When we arrived home, there was a semi-truck nearly blocking our driveway. Seeing it there in all of its inconveniencing glory, I couldn't help but think that there was probably more space for us inside of that truck than in our house tucked behind it.

But enough about that. We all have things we'd change about our lives or our homes and at the end of the day, isn't that kind of the point? To keep searching and working for more? I am thankful we have a roof over our heads and despite the things I'd change about our house if I had a blank check, I feel really excited about this latest project. You didn't think I could have another kid without doing some home remodeling did you? That's what I said to Scott when I suggested that we add a loft above the closet in the girls' room. I am on to the fact that his general response to my desperate requests for canvas storage containers and more training underwear for a certain toddler is usually "Whatever you need". Bless him. He is definitely getting into heaven before I am.

A twin bed for Avalon was our original plan, but we couldn't ignore all that usable space above the closet. Kids and beds and ladders seem to have been a happy combination for centuries, so we called the carpenter, vacated the space and hoped for something that looked like my Pinterest fantasies. This is the end result. We're really happy with it and best of all, so is Avalon! She asked to take her nap up in her loft today. We went through her usual routine (stories, kisses, "muggas", hugs and "tuck in" for Mermaid and Baby and her) and then she read a little and went to sleep. This is only day one, but I feel like the transition to this new "big girl bed" will be much easier for all involved (including my fragile mamma heart) if she initiates it herself. Of course, the big test will really be to see how she sleeps when there is a crying, grunting infant learning how to sleep in there too.

+Please bring on any stories or experiences of children sharing a room. I am all ears.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swimming Sprout


p.s. yesterday you got almost you-were-going-to-cry-mad because I cleaned the lint trap without you. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Two Feelings at the Same Time


The other day I caught myself thinking that it would be very convenient if I had a grandchild-less mother or a responsible six to eighteen year old next-door who loved curious babies. This is not the case, though, and I take these fantasies as a sign that maybe I am actually ready for Avalon to go to school a few hours a week even though every day my anxiety grows over it. 

We had a pest control guy come out yesterday. I went around watching him scoop up potential animal feces with a tool that looked like the letter opener my grandmother used to have. He used a flashlight to examine his findings about two inches from his face. I thought: this is the worst job. Then again, I had to scrape poop out of five inch underwear with my bare hands and luke warm water only hours earlier. 

During nap time, I impulsively called an inn on the central coast and booked it for two nights in July, then texted my mother-in-law to see if she and my father-in-law could watch Avalon. I almost cried when I hung up with the innkeeper. I have been away from Avalon a total of four nights and just like my friend Stephanie warned me, it never really gets easier. That wasn't why I was almost crying though, I was almost crying because making the reservation felt so right. 

The other night I was thinking about how you can feel like you are totally killing it one minute: You've already shopped for the next birthday or holiday, your email inbox isn't at capacity, you have healthy meals planned for the week, your toddler appears to like animals and broccoli and the ocean, there is a dentist appointment on the books. And yet, somehow, you are crying over the asparagus and homemade dip like-your-mom-used-to-make when you are eating it alone one night. 

There's a Daniel Tiger episode where he talks about how you can feel two things at the same time. I love and hate that little punk. 

I tell Avalon, as I'm signing her our lullaby (she only wants it sporadically now) while crying one night that I am both happy and sad at the same time, but that it's ok. 

I kiss her, hug her, give her "Ugga Muggas", tuck her in with her "Bebe" and "Mer Mer", then wonder how many times my own mother cried that I don't remember.

Sometimes I think all the details matter. I had a hard week because Scott had to work late and something with bigger poop than a mouse or a rat moved in under the house and I'm not sleeping as well because there is a turnip sized person working to become her own inside of me. But everyone has these details and while most people's might be much less "white girl problems" than mine, we are all still human in the end; we are all still resilient and fragile, shatterproof and innately broken. Every pair of shoes you could wear in this life would leave you tired at the end of a day. And we all wear them out in the end. 

Is this essay becoming uplifting yet? 

I know what I'm trying to say and then I don't because I feel like somehow I will annoyingly only really know what I meant the whole time at the very end, when Avalon is changing my underwear.

Dammit Daniel Tiger, life is so much about feeling two things at the same time. I can't wait to hold this new baby; I can't hold tightly enough to the small moments happening over these last few months when our family is comprised of three people and Avalon is still wearing clothes measured in months. I will love the hours I have to myself or with the squealing turnip I deliver while Avalon is at school. I will sickly miss her when I'm not scraping avocado out of the wicker chair after lunch twice a week.

We are so full of feelings. We are soft hearts inside strong bodies. 
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dear Sprout,


Dear Avalon,

Daddy has an ear infection from the cold ocean again. You've watched me put the ear drops in while he lays on the couch. Last night, when he came in to kiss you goodnight, you asked "Kiss booboo ear?" with your eyes wide and earnest and your head cocked to the side. Then you pulled him close so you could kiss his ear.

Most days, I'm barely patient enough to watch the sunset, and yet, my biggest complaint of life will probably always be that it goes too quickly.

We love you and not just because we made you, but because you're really neat and nice and you do this thing to me like the ocean does when I first get in where it feels like my breath draws in slower and all the best emotions, that feel almost otherworldly, flood me like the water and time inhales slowly too.

Love,
Mama

Sunday, May 28, 2017

2nd Trimester, 2nd Child


Surfing from weeks 14-26 of my second pregnancy with "Skip".

+Happy Memorial Day weekend!
+Thank you to all those who have served!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Coping Strategies


Before I was pregnant with this second baby 'the question' started to arise in conversations at the local fish taco shop, at birthday parties and while waiting in line at Joann Fabric: Are you ready to have another? 

Questions like this used to annoy me, but I've since realized that they are simply the most natural next thing to ask. To some degree, it almost seems cocky to respond "Yes!" because it almost feels like saying: obviously I have this whole parenting thing under control, parenting books are merely gathering dust at our house and our child is basically raising herself. For the record, I did not feel 100% ready to go to sleep-away camp, or high school, to surf Desperados in Fiji or really to have my first or second child, and yet here we are: totally, sometimes dully, fine. 

I have, however, struggled with anxiety and depression from time to time despite living a life I wholly love, appreciate and enjoy. I feel like it might be obvious in an internet space wallpapered with pictures of me enjoying these activities to say that surfing and skateboarding are two of my main coping strategies in life. A therapist once told me that anxiety is more future oriented and depression is commonly associated with feelings about the past. Surfing and skateboarding always bring my focus right to the wall in front of me. They are the best therapy. The thing is, I like to be sweating in cold water, even bleeding on hot concrete. I want to feel afraid and then the satisfaction of overcoming that fear. I want to feel busted wide open by life and what it means to live it. When you are pregnant, though, it's kind of frowned upon to huck yourself off ledges just for the rush. While I have still surfed throughout my pregnancies so far, I find myself needing other coping mechanisms to replace that adrenaline rush I thrive on, so I decided to outline a few of them here in case anyone out there needs them and also to keep the conversation about mental health and coping strategies open.

1. Home Improvement. Scott loves this coping strategy I've devised. What could be a better way to cap off a long hard day filled with meetings and a timed lunch break than opening your email to see a bunch of obscure Amazon purchases such as 'White Enameled Soap Dish', 'BEKVAM Wooden Utility Step' and 'XL New Zealand Sheepskin'? Or arriving home to a disassembled bookshelf painted by a possessed pregnant lady with the same painting skills as Abu from Aladdin?

In all honesty, although I am extremely novice when it comes to home design, I have found a great amount of pleasure painting things white, honing my shopping skills online and at thrift and antique stores and trying to understand how to make our space function as well as it possibly can for our growing family. We realized early on in my pregnancy that we most likely would't be able to move to a bigger home in our neighborhood, so I have justified nearly every last 'Cedar Garden Sign' purchase with the reasoning that it is cheaper than a new house!

I've gotten a lot of inspiration from the blog Reading My Tea Leaves (life in a tiny apartment series // baby proof series), Pinterest and Instagram. I tend to be a copy artist when it comes to most things related to style (I frequently buy the outfit the mannequin is wearing). I don't necessarily come up with original ideas in this field, but I have learned a lot from looking at pictures, understanding what I am repeatedly drawn to and slowly (rather than impulsively, like I used to) adding to our material possessions by making sure that we love and use nearly everything we own (and pass on what we don't). This house is about 1,000 square feet and there are about to be four of us occupying it, some creativity and pregnancy specific angst were required.

2. Gardening. I am approaching gardening similarly to how I approached having pet fish: enthusiastically, but with low expectations. I grew a bunch of carrots last fall and took pictures of them in all their shriveled-orange glory only to have them sit in the fridge for a week slowly resembling decomposing fingers. We're still in the beginner phase here, but I feel like gardening is the perfect low impact, relaxing outdoor activity I need right now. I love learning new things and I feel like it's a really fun, educational and hands-on activity for Avalon. She helps me water the whole garden after her nap most days. It's a calming activity for both of us to immerse ourselves in during those quiet and sometimes trying evening hours before dinner and Scott getting home.

3. Motherhood. Of course, once you have kids you nearly always feel soaked to the core in all things parenthood no matter how many date nights you go on or how much 'me time' you take. I didn't really know how to put this on my list of coping strategies, but I have certainly kept myself busy and enriched teaching Avalon to do more for herself lately. Potty training, washing her hands, brushing her teeth and setting the table have been a few of the areas I've spent time educating her on lately. This is probably hilarious to my family since they insist I have the worst breath of everyone and that I failed cotillion. I know teaching some of these tasks can seen tedious, but, aside from the frequent contact with human waste, I actually really enjoy the process of learning how to teach someone something new.

We all wear different hats in our lives. Sometimes I'm sporting knee-high socks to the grocery store to feel like a skater, but since that doesn't feel like it's at the forefront of my identity right now, I will happily visit the library in maternity clothes I saw on an instragram icon and embrace the excitement that is toting a toddler toilet around in your car. We can do this. 

+What are some of your coping strategies for pregnancy or otherwise?
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Dear Skip,


Dear Skip,

It's a Monday afternoon and your sister is sleeping forever. Mondays and long naps go well together, but so do Tuesdays and long naps and so on. You get the idea. 


Mother's Day and my birthday have come and gone and now I have very few excuses to justify buying antique hurricane lamps on Etsy and insisting we need another sheepskin rug. Although, that's where you come in. "Nesting", as preparing for a baby is so lovingly called, gives justification to even the most perplexing of online purchases. 


No wait, that's not how I want to start.

Hi little girl. It's hard to know where to begin with this letter, but I'm sorry I haven't written yet. It seems a bit daunting to follow suit with these letters after doing them for your sister. There is so much room for comparison when it comes to siblings, and sisters.

I want to remember these days for you because I know you won't. I want to remember the time when you were a tiny somersault under my heart. I want to write to you so you know how much you were wanted.

As much as I count down the minutes until this season of getting wider, surfing less, being an onlooker to cocktail hour and not being able to see you breathing will be over, nine months, in the zoomed-out perspective of life, is just a hiccup in time.

I am 24 weeks pregnant with you. I am five and a half or six months along. The internet can't really decide. We surf together in cold spring winds, walk the aisles of Trader Joe's and call it exercise, wear socks with dresses and sandals and quietly hope no one will reach out and touch us.

The swollen ankles haven't come, but they will and when the do no one needs to hear about them, but I want you to hear this:

I have asked for you in whispers, in the rain, during church at Catholic school, in notebooks...underwater. I knew I wanted you long before you were you.

You are a quiet force, a gentle presence, a reminder that so much good is meant to be had while we spin around on this ball of water and compacted dirt.

It's impossible to express how thankful I am that you have chosen me to be your home. It's impossible to truly know how much I will love you and know you and how we will grow as mother and daughter.

But I do know I'm glad to have you in this with me.


Love,

Mama

"My mother was my first country. The first place I ever lived." ~Nayyirah Waheed


p.s. Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms, mamas, mums, stepmothers, surrogates, aunts, caretakers, grandmothers, godmothers, supporters of mothers and on and on out there.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Florida or Bust


I could start this post off by sharing the very wonderful quotes my mom provided me in Florida, totally out of context so that you might assume she is some kind of (endearingly) crazy person, alas I will not do that to her I am saving them for my book.

Ok, just one. 

One night as we were walking the quaint cobblestone streets of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the nation, according to Wikipedia and all of the local cop cars, my mom and Danielle began debating what constituted eating red meat in moderation after a glass of wine. I was generally ignoring them, trying to be the Harriet the Spy of the twenty-teens, snap chatting an out of control wedding after party atop a presumably haunted mansion from the 1920s when I overheard this:

Danielle: "Mom eating red meat once a week is not moderation!"
Mom: "Compared to the general population it is."
Danielle: "No."
Mom: "Oh Danielle, quit chopping off my balls."

I can only assume that she got caught between saying "quit busting my balls" and "quit busting my chops," however, for the benefit of everyone within earshot and now hopefully for you, she got confused. 

Anyways, a week or so ago my family and I went to St. Augustine, Florida. I cannot disclose the exact reason for the trip, however, since I know you are much more interested in how we slept with our 22 month old in the same small rental boat berth and how I avoided Zika, I will start there. 

Actually Zika is not a current concern in Northern Florida and the wind also happened to be blowing about 20 knots everyday so not much of anything was flying around, except, of course, for my Monica-from-the-Barbados-episode of-Friends style hair. 

One night Scott looked over at me romantically and said "I love how stringy your hair is in the wind." It doesn't exactly ring romantically in your ears, but I knew he meant that way so I reveled in it anyways as we explored that ancient city with our toddler and baby on the way. 

Knowing our lives are about to drastically change makes me appreciate the tiny details before it does.
-The three of us sleeping in the same room;
-The pack and play crammed between the end of the bed and the bathroom so I had to do a pommel horse routine over Scott in the dark just to get to it. 
-The way I could hear Avalon and Scott breathing while I read in the dark and the air conditioning hummed.

We played silly games at night as a family. One was Scategories without the category cards because they got left at home, so we made them up ourselves. One category created was WAYS TO HURT YOUR FAMILY which sounds depressing from the start, but for 'B' I wrote: Bang Them Into a Spikey Wall and Andy wrote: Bitch-Slap Them. He is fitting into this family perfectly. It was pleasantly obvious on his first, official family trip.

On our second to last day, Avalon woke up to the sound of our rental boat leaving the dock. She asked for me immediately. "Mamma! Mommy-Ma!" It always makes my heart flutter. That's part narcissism, part real love, I figure. I want to always remember the way she fit perfectly into the nook of my neck.

She got seasick after eating a banana an hour later, then fell asleep on my chest as the wind cranked through the bridge at 15 knots and we hid under a wool blanket. My new neighborhood chiropractor said to avoid bending over as much as possible, but as I sat there for nearly two hours I could only picture my spine making the precise shape of the letter 'C', with Avalon and baby Skip cupped in the center of it. I fantasized about this oblong pillow on our bed below deck being tucked carefully under my lower lumbar, but I knew some day I'd fantasize about this moment instead. The weight of two babies on me and the way in which the word mother subtly began to describe so much of who I am; how I wanted to own that word more than anything else before and maybe again.

This trip felt like a real vacation and also like a "Babymoon" for Avalon and I. My mom, dad, sisters, Andy and Scott gave me plenty of alone time without her to read a whole book and get a moderately noticeable tan, but Avalon was also extra clingy in a new setting. I'll cherish those memories most of all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

32


Last year on my birthday I got a miniramp. During the following year I managed to sleep through the night while on vacation, watch zero episodes of The Voice, get norovirus, snowboard while pregnant, answer two clues on Jeopardy in question form and only sprain my ankle. I am also working my way into maternity clothes and trying really hard to grow the easiest garden vegetables possible.

However, last week I spent an approximate total of three and a half hours crying for unknown reasons, although almost all signs point to hormones and big life changes. Avalon does not appear to be ready to understand that hands are not for hitting and I do not appear to be ready for her to go to preschool or stop mommy-and-me swimming. There is a shift happening in our house, there is a life making her way here, we can all feel it even though no one can see her yet or know who she will be. We each are pulling her into our stories with so much blind love... and trust. She's been ours all along and we've been her's. 32 years on this earth and even a change I've yearned for every minute of those years, throws me.

In some ways, I see pregnancy like a really long line for a roller coaster. Sure, there are some entertaining things to see while you wait in nervous anticipation, like all the skulls and treasure maps and horny teenagers waiting for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but for crying-freaks-sake-- I just want to ride the ride! What will it feel like and how will we be different when it's over? I want to know now!

As selfless as it can be viewed, in some perspectives, pregnancy makes me feel like I'm wrapped in a blanket of narcissism like one of those hotdogs swaddled in bacon at a football party. I can't stop thinking about who I am becoming. I want only love, pasteurized mango juice and for Scott to read my mind. No wonder we've both been so tired. Parenting while intoxicated with estrogen and progesterone has been difficult for my faint heart.

Five months ago a boy in my sister's grade was diagnosed with cancer. Today I talked to my mom after his funeral. We both know that Maddie's cancer story could have gone another way. Tomorrow I will think of that; of how life is a gift even though sometimes we can't see why. My sister will think of her friend Peter her whole career as a filmmaker and I will think of him tomorrow when I celebrate 32.

I will hold my new daughter in September and the days of fear and sickness and hopelessness and surfing like a keg of beer will seem like the pleasant past and I will be thankful for my life and all the others who have touched it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hospital Apple Juice


Sunday afternoon. I'm often drenched in boredom and disbelief, but lying around the house waiting for an acclaimed TV Drama to start can feel so much like succumbing to the end of the weekend instead of skipping all over it until it's through. Also, there's a toddler, so lying around the house feels more like being stuck in the doldrums only to be discovered by wild, hungry birds.

Anne Lamott says that one of the gifts of being a writer is that "it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore" so last Sunday we went to Sea Port Village despite both Scott and I having subtle stomach aches and notably low energy. We parked next to a vintage VW Beatle with a Terrorists Don't Surf bumper sticker. The energy of countless others was here, so surely it would be contagious. 

I wanted to take Avalon on the merry-go-round first. Fortunately, she was as eager as I was with a don't-mess-with-me expression and the hope for magic in her eyes as we waited in the unofficial line. We picked a brown horse that didn't go up-and-down--a good jumping off point, I thought. We waved for photos and took in the blurry sights. The carousel was nearly 150, what a good many souls had been here first. 

Ten minutes later we ran into a street performer drawing a crowd big enough to block the board walk. Maybe we should've cared, but I felt curiously contaminated and the urge to be away from others so we tried to make our way through the masses. After one glance it was also apparent that this crowd and I probably wouldn't laugh at the same movies. The performer was a clown trying to swallow a three foot long green latex ballon and he was about half way through doing it. "I can't look. I'm going to throw up!" I told Scott. He said he felt like he was going to too, which I thought was odd since, as my friend Heidi said, tandem throwing up isn't a symptom of pregnancy. Ten minutes after that, we were both taking turns in the public restrooms like true carnival goers with indulgent, but sensitive stomachs. I thought it was what I had made for lunch. As we made our way home "Thank God I have Rubber floor mats" and "What if this is part of an unseen next chapter for the baby" were my only thoughts.

We ended up in the E.R. that night. I had a 101 fever and desert-floor cracked lips that came with an all consuming fear that I had gotten listeria from the spinach I put in our pasta for lunch. And how was I supposed to tell the nurse that I was cooking with, in all likelihood, expired white wine? Skip's heartbeat was 150 though. All signs pointed to a virus that was rampantly going around. 

Scott probably won't appreciate me including this, but when the nurse asked us where we were on the pain scale I said four and he said eight. In all the panic and nausea I couldn't help gloating (quietly and to myself) that this must be because he's never had a baby. 

At around midnight, I got on an IV and felt higher than I have in years. I told Scott I almost asked the attendant if he got his clothes from the moon. "Would that have been a four or an eight on the funny scale?" I mused in the shadows of the machines. 

"A three" he said contemptuously.

When I inquired about where his ankle sprain from two Christmases ago ranked on the pain scale and he told me an eight again I had to protest. 

"There. is. no. way! A ten would be like if someone cut off your foot with a chainsaw and gave you no meds. Tripping on your pajamas and twisting your ankle could not have been an eight!" 

He says you have to change the scale depending on the injury and circumstances. I say a 10 is essentially being dead.   

Finally, the hospital apple juice arrived just before 1 a.m. To me, this is one of the only perks of being in a hospital. It's the thing I am looking forward to second-most when I have my second baby--good, small ice-cube-chilled, hospital apple juice. 

Yesterday was Wednesday and we were all back to our semi-usual lives. When Scott came home from work he and Avalon sat in the front yard and flew the drone to the sunset. I was watching from the kitchen window washing pasta dishes. Trapeze Swinger came on. It will always be one of my favorite songs even though when I saw Iron and Wine in concert some guy told me to "Shut up!" for requesting it. All the vague religious tones made me think more about Easter. I had been putting the final touches on Avalon's basket only a few hours earlier. I haven't been talking to God as much lately. I've had a nearly constant dialogue going with Him since this time my favorite climbing tree on the playground seemed to be dying when I was in second grade. But with our health, this beloved song playing and the sight of my husband and daughter playing in the yard, I felt like he was still communicating with me all the same.



//
+Happy Easter and passover to everyone!

p.s. Easter basket stuffings:
(one stuffed with dried bananas, one with strawberry licorice and one with dark chocolate, foil-wrapped eggs)
+A goat's milk soap bar, Annie's granola bar, a vintage tin of tamari almonds (our favorite), a Peter Rabbit Pear and Peas Packet and a new, big-girl fork and spoon.
+All signs point to me being the person who hands out tooth brushes at Halloween.