Friday, July 21, 2017

In the Heat of Summer

We're melting right into summer over here, just as I intended to, minus canned margaritas in the beach cooler and surfing Trestles until dark. We've walked on hot asphalt to the beach and peered through gates at neighborhood Memorial Day parties. We've grown and picked tomatoes. We've killed strawberry and cilantro plants and sat in traffic on Highway 1. The plumerias are blooming. We're doing the summer reading program at the library (The Clifford series and a non-fiction book about going to the doctor's office being highlights for some). We're carrying on with everything we usually do along with the wild anticipation of a baby growing all around us like vines (or in my case, growing inside of me like an alien dramatically threatening to displace my skeletal structure forever). 

I think sometimes the tortures of a certain season are what make it seem more magical in retrospect, though. Wondering if you've given a sibling frostbite while forcing her to become a snow-woman? What a great way to look back on The Winter of '96 once it's gone! 

I always picture this one scene in Father of the Bride where Mr. Banks narrates something about it being the hottest summer on record all while a shot of the neighborhood kids frying an egg on the concrete pans past. I've longed to experience that quintessential summer day with the sun so hot it was actually cooking raw dairy products in front of my eyes, but in actuality I think the only thing desirable about that occurrence is the story that comes from it.

One summer I remember walking barefoot, in an attempt to "summerize" my feet, from my friend's house with 5, 280 feet of steaming black asphalt between it and the beach. Truly a phenomenal location if the right footwear is chosen. I had blisters so bad I had to crawl to the front door to answer it when the same friend came to visit me. 

Avalon and I have been heating our oven to 350º or 400º everyday even when making popsicles. The struggle of being eight months pregnant while whisking away at chili cornbread has its perks. For one, it gives you almost a whole hour of quality time with a soon-to-be oldest child and, for another, the regaling of how we turned the house into a sauna and made our energy efficiency rating plummet all for the sake of satisfying a craving make it more than worth it. 

Summer can be spun into many stories once it's all said and done, and maybe that's why I like it best. This summer will be punctuated with the birth of our second daughter. As it approaches, like a very stressful college exam that is also indescribably painful, I try to focus on the incredible story it will be  and all the stories we will make once she's here. I do not intend to stencil any quotes on the walls of my soon-to-be daughters' bedroom, but if I did I would write passionately "Long live the magic we made!" in really illegible cursive.

I hope all of your summers are churning up stories too. 

{p.s. I've included the recipe for the tomato sauce after the cut in case you too would like to turn your kitchen into a steam room} 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ghost Ride the Whip

My mom's told me a half dozen times that if you're doing your job as a parent, you will work yourself right out of one. This has been as heartbreaking as it sounds. Of course, I always come here to write when I'm about to cry about something. I could blame the hormones, but even my OB knows better. I was the almost seven year old crying on the eve of her Mini-Golf-Birthday-Extravaganza about how she'd never be six again. Motherhood certainly hasn't made me any less of a sap. 

Avalon's second birthday was tear-free though. Scott and I made a banana chocolate cake the night before in a quiet and sticky kitchen. Credit mostly goes to box-mix from Ralph's with an additional three smashed bananas and some mini chocolate chips. Then we iced the top with chocolate frosting. The new two year old was thrilled and so was everyone else. My dad admitted later that when I described my plan for the cake he thought it was totally going to suck. A good old dose of parental honesty is something I won't edit out of my relationship with my daughters either. 

My parents splurged and got her the Micro Mini Deluxe Scooter (we also have this helmet). Scott jokes about how she likes to "ghost ride the whip" since lately when we take it to the park she gives it big pushes and then runs next to it cheering in a mild hysteria. She has bombed a few hills though. I can't help but be proud of that. 

We got her a tiny armoire from the antique store that we imagined into a play kitchen. Scott installed iron hooks on the sides to hang her shopping bag and pots and pans from; sometimes a dish towel. I painted a small table we had used as a Christmas tree stand once and placed a stool and the chair her Papa built her last year around it. Along with the play coffee maker and toaster, this has been her most loved gift. I'm happy with how inconspicuous it looks in this thousand square foot squirrel den. I gladly break my back eating wood toast and felt watermelon with her every morning in that sunny corner. 

Yesterday I took Avalon to visit her soon-to-be school. She grabbed a toy frying pan from a quiet little girl who wore sunglasses inside and told a curly haired boy that the water fountain was hers. Maybe it will be better when I'm not there. 

When the teachers began serving snack, they had all the kids sit on a small railroad tie wall adjacent to some tiny picnic tables in the shade and then dismissed each class to wash their hands and find a seat. I was sitting alone at a table off to the side trying to be a fly on the wall, very much like I did until my junior year of high school. When Avalon got to her spot, she gathered her snack up and then walked over to sit and share it with me. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

Today, her gymnastics teacher told me she has a spot for Avalon in her non-mommy and me class starting next week. This weekend we are going away for the first time without her. I was the one wearing sunglasses inside today after sobbing on the phone to my mom the whole car ride to Trader Joe's. 

Letting go for me is always like being forced to ride a roller coaster you wish you weren't tall enough for. Fragile nerves, a leap of faith. A new beginning. 

I guess it's easy to be a sentimental sap in these conditions. Life will always be so beautifully short and surprising.

I suppose one of the best things to do could be to turn up the music and enjoy where this ghost ride takes you. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

2 Years of Avalon


I'm scheduling your two year checkup now, a tad later than I normally would because this is where my mind is now: on you and your new swim class and approaching school year, on our family and all the moving parts, on my lower back and how to kind of still sleep on my stomach. It's all a juggling act. It's all a cliche, to a degree.

I remember your very first appointment with your pediatrician. Our very first appointment as real parents living outside of the hospital with a real baby living outside of me. We made sure we wiped your booty shiny-clean and fed you immediately before. As two first borns raised in a society focused on milestones and test scores, a "Well Baby Appointment" for our four-day-old felt like something we could only pass or fail. Our first outing, as big and small as you were. 

Heading in before us was a mother of four, all kids in tow. I remember looking at her, a child in the stroller, two riding on a step behind it and one in her arms, in envious-awe. What we had done seemed like bird-sitting in comparison. There was a calm confidence to her that felt out of reach to me. The beauty of experience shone in her face, a wisdom that only comes from learning how to push through hard things without becoming bitter. 

Now here I am almost two years later at the same doctor's office waiting to take a one hour glucose test I don't know I'm about to fail, giving off the vibe of do not sit next to me. Mine is not quite the confidence that woman had that day, but there is something in my eyes and posture now that wasn't there before. My first child is home with a sitter eating lunch in her underwear. I have downed the sugar drink and am reading a book. I know the library Story Hour schedule. I know where to park at the aquarium. I know how to make dinner with a toddler pulling down my shorts and dumping out all the mixing bowls. I am better at asking for help when I need it. I know how to take care of you and myself.

You gave that confidence to me little bug. My girl born amidst summer thunderstorms. You're always making us better. You're always making this world seem bigger.

Happy birthday wild one.

Mama and Daddy 


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. 

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.


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 seem 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?

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.



"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.