Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mama versus the toddler

So here it is, officially post-Christmas AND post-Channukah and I am left with a sagging Channukah tree, menorah-dripped candle wax dried on to my mantel and a toddler who looks at me very seriously and says, "I'd like another present, mama."

Hrm. I guess I understand why Santa can be such a useful device. He comes down the chimney, drops the stuff off and that's it. You got what you got. No more jolly, chimney-scaling fat guys for a year. Instead, my child thinks our guest room is the land where toys are born (and magically wrapped), because that's where we stored the presents before he opened them ever. so. slowly. over the course of several days. Each day for the past few days he has gone to the guest room and poked his head inside, I'm assuming to see if we might have forgotten that last precious nugget of giftiness.

Won't he be thrilled sometime in late January when the play kitchen we ordered for him before Thanksgiving finally shows up. I'm guessing after that little arrival, we won't stand much of a chance in convincing him that Chrismukkah doesn't, in fact, last for half the year.

The poor child also witnessed the business end of my decision to finally, once and for all, get rid of the spare tire(s) that rotate in extremely close orbit around my person. For a couple of weeks prior to Chrismukkah, I'd been going to the gym every single day and sometimes hiking the canyon behind our neighborhood. I was starting to feel really good about myself and confident in my ability to shed the "baby weight" (as if) finally. But then I got kicked in the ass by the cold that ate our house, then my family came and then there were cookies and briskets and pies and stuffing. And now, somehow, I weigh ALMOST as much as I did when I delivered Ethan (of course, I gained 10 pounds of water AFTER I delivered Ethan, so I'm still 15lbs shy of my highest weight ever. But still---big fat freaking "EEEEEK!!!!")

During those two weeks, Ethan averaged a luke warm attitude about the gym's child care play room. Some days, he was happy to play with the toys and the ladies that provide the service. Other days, he'd beg me not to go exercise, but to stay with him. And some days after the work outs, I'd have to coax him out of the room with the promise we could come back the next day; others, I'd find him waiting for me at the door like a sad little puppy. So, hit or miss. And somedays I felt great that he was so willing to amuse himself while I did something for myself. And other days I felt like a big, fat, selfish meanie for making him suffer through those 45 minutes to an hour.

Well, when I stepped on the scale today, I realized, sad and seemingly heartless as as it sounds, I can no longer afford to let Ethan's on-again/off-again apprehension of the play room keep me from making this commitment to myself. I mean, I'm thinking he'd rather spend those 45 minutes daily sometimes stewing about mean mommy than not have a mommy in 10 years. Sounds extreme, but with the blood pressure that runs in my family (and in my veins) and the blood sugar that seems to read "slightly" high at physicals after my bout of gestational diabetes, these extra 25-30 pounds are like a gateway drug to the next 50-75lbs if I don't get rid of them. Obesity runs in my family, and as skinny as he is, it runs in Ethan's too (duh), so it's time to start setting a good example for him. It just sucks that setting that example for him means dumping him in a room that 1/2 the time he's miserable in.

On the drive to the gym today, Ethan started with, "You don't go exercise. I'm sad in the play room." Sigh. I took a few deep breaths and pushed down the "ohmygod-i'm-the-world's-worst-mother-to-abandon-you-there-i'll-never-leave-you-again-
ever-ever-ever", and tried to explain to him (as if), that mommy needed to exercise so that she would be healthy and happy and that I'm sorry, but he'd just have to deal.

His response? "No. I don't deal, mama."

So, maybe I'm a bad mom for this, but I couldn't help but laugh at his response. He's so sure of himself and what he wants. I do love that about him, even when what he wants really conflicts with what I want. I apologized to him and said there was nothing I could do, that this was like Daddy going to work--he'd rather be home with you, but he has to go to work. Same with mommy exercising (if someone would pay me a salary for it, I could be rivaling Nicole Ritchie in the skinny wars before bathing suit season). He seemed to buy that, after I reassured him eleventy billion times that I was going to be just down the hall if he needed me.

And at the end of my work out, how did I find him?

The only kid in the room, basking in the full attention of both girls running the program, lining them up behind him and telling them in a big hulking voice that "we're a garbage truck! We go pick up trash!!" and motioning for them to follow him.

I think he did okay.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chrismukkah in Review

It comes but once a year; that magical time when my father mutters under his breath, "does she even have a menorah?" and my mother refuses to watch even a moment of the "A Christmas Story" marathon on TBS because she thinks it's the story Jesus and the first Christmas.

And yes, I have a menorah, and we light it (almost) every night of Hannukah. And yes, Ethan has a dreidel even (although it was given to me as a party favor). And yes, I made "star of David" sugar cookies for our holiday cookie swap. I've done everything shy of dressing up like the Hannukah Armadillo and trying to explain the Macabees to Ethan (perhaps I should lay off the Friends repeats, no?)

My parents and uncle were here for Ethan's third Chrismukkah, which accounts for my absence on the interwebs (which is garbage because a couple years ago I totally managed to blog every day of November, including the entire Thanksgiving trip to my parents' house--so let's just be honest and say I'm a lazy, lazy blogger). They arrived a few days before Hannukah and left on Christmas morning; apparently short security lines at the airport on Christmas day is in the fine print of G-d's covenant of the Chosen People.

Ethan was adequately amazed by his loot this year. There were many cars, an introduction to Legos and scooters, and the blossoming photographic skills demonstrated in the previous entry were encouraged by the purchase of his very own digital camera, toddler-style. Melisss & Doug, Disney and Step2 all made an appearance.

I'm not sure how other toddlers deal with opening gifts, but this particular model seems to have the need to play exhaustively with each and every toy, as it is opened, before moving on to the next present. This means that present opening was an all-day affair for us. We thought if we let Ethan open his presents around 11am, he would have HOURS to whip himself into a lather going from one toy to the next and then by his bedtime, he'd be spent, go to bed easily and then the adults could exchange their gifts.

Not so much. Ethan started opening presents at 11am, and finished sometime around 5:30. He stopped only because it was time to eat dinner (of which he ate 2 pieces of challah and a bite of carrot). He went to bed that night saying, "I want another present" and we promised him he could open more tomorrow; this was true because he'd only gotten through half of his presents during that 5.5 hour stretch. I assure you it's not because we bought every item in Toys R Us; he simply had to become bestest friends with each toy as they came out of their wrapping.

We tried to take advantage of the culture LA has to offer (it really isn't all fake boobs and Uggs--but it mostly is). I showed my family the LACMA and the Getty, in both of which we were followed around by security like teenagers at the mall. Either we looked like scheming art thieves (erm, unlikely), or the security guards were afraid Ethan was going to put his toddlery fingers all over the 17th century masterpieces. All around good times.

We had much better luck at the Long Beach aquarium, where the masterpieces are behind thick glass which has been rendered perma-smudged by the countless grubby-fingered toddlers who have tapped on the aquarium trying to get Nemo's attention, or mushed their noses against the glass to get a better view of an eel hiding in the coral. No cranky blue-coated sour-puss room monitors there.

A little photo montage is perhaps in order.

Lego eggs and dinosaurs? Good!

microphone with which to amplify my already rousing version of the ABC's? Good!

Cars? Gooooooood!

Whatever is in this? Good!

Remote control bull-dozer? Good!

Hendrix Shmendrix, ladies.

cutting a path of destruction down the hallway? Good!

expressing gratitude to Uncle Al? Good!

semi-truck Hummer hauler? Good.

New computer on which to do "workies" next to mommy & daddy? Good!

Nothing rounds out a trip to the aquarium like an ice cream sandwich, right?

What's Ethan pointing at here at the Getty Museum of Art?

"her boobies!!!" (he pointed out "boobies" at every opportunity in both museums).

While most people go to museums for the art, Ethan prefers to admire the stairs...

Said the helmet: "He loves me."

"He loves me not."

scooting outside...

scooting inside...

The scooter riding wore him out so much he fell asleep on the way to Santa Monica...

and in an unprecedented feat of sleeping prowess, stayed asleep through the car-to-stroller transfer. I used to dream of this day and now it is here.

But then he woke up...

...and wanted to try on ladies shoes at the Crocs store.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sorry to have taken a bit of a vacation; we've all been looking like this:

Ethan got it first, with the coughing and the faucet-y nose. There was a visit to the pediatrician to check for croup (recall our fabulous overnight stay at Hotel Sick Kid last December). The pediatrician gave Ethan a prescription for some LSD, I mean, oral steroid, to help with the nighttime croup-y cough. We gave it to him the first night and it sent him on some sort of mind-altering bender. There was screaming and crying and fits of craziness; which apparently means, no croup? I don't know, but we didn't give it to him again the following night.

And then I got it. What I wouldn't have given for a little medicinal mind-altering for myself, but considering my fabulous blood pressure, all cold medicines are off-limits to me, lest they send my blood pressure into the outer reaches of the stratosphere and make me all stroke-y. I suppose I'd rather have a head cold than a stroke, but sometimes when the sinuses are pounding and the toddler is demanding yet another interpretative dance of "Ring Around the Rosie", I have to remind myself of that little fact.

Here's a little sampling of what our week looked like:

Sippy of leche? Good. Cinnamon french toast? Good. Faux fur throw and pillow? Good.

Perfect prescription for the common toddler cold? Snuggling with Grammy on the trolley.

How I spent most of my week (picture courtesy of Ethan). Please note the absolute squalor in which I allowed my family to live while I was fever-y and gross. (And those who know me, please abstain from the, "but your house always looks like that" comments. You need to be nice to sick people).

But we are both starting to feel better, and fortunately Husband has a bit of a vitamin-C habit, so he never caught it at all.

So you noticed that Ethan took one of those pictures, right? We take a lot of pictures of Ethan. I think in 2 and a half years, we've taken well over 10,000 pictures. I can't go to Target without having to buy a new photo album for the next batch of prints being delivered by Snapfish. When he was a little baby, it was kind of a compulsive urge I had to take pictures of him day in and out--perhaps because I was in such a fog, I unconsciously knew I'd only be able to recall specifics later on with a visual aid or two (or five thousand, but whatever).

Our shelves are lined with photo albums of Ethan, some containing pages of pictures that vary only in the slightest "only mom can tell the difference" expressions. I try to be a bit more conservative now in the pictures I actually choose to print out, choosing only a few of the best from any particular event, but I still find it hard to choose only a handful of pictures out of the hundreds taken--I mean, how do you choose the little half grin over the full smile or vice versa. I NEEEEEED them all, printed out and in a book that I can look at whenever and show to his, ugh, significant other some day when that time comes. It is hard for my eyes to judge which pictures are better than others because they are all of what I see as basically perfection anyway.

So it should come as no surprise to Husband and me that whenever Ethan hears the "thwiiing!" of the digital camera switching on, he says, "Can I take a picture, momma?" And once, I made the foolish, silly "ohwhatwereyouthinkingyoucrazywoman" mistake of saying, "Okay. But just one."

Oh, how little I understand the way a toddler's mind works. Obviously you smarter people can see where this is going, right? "Okay. But just one" has turned into "Okay, but just until your picture taking finger blisters." Thank goodness for digital cameras is all I have to say. I'd have to get a part-time job to pay for film otherwise (or, god forbid, be a little more firm with teaching my child about boundaries; but that's crazy talk, right?!)

Turns out, Ethan's got quite an eye. While he does take countless close-up pictures of his thumbs, he also ends up taking a lot of well-centered, clearly focused pictures of obvious subjects. Behold a sampling of his latest work:

This is Harlan--the zoo trolley.

The wheels on the bus....

Ethan catching his prima Sofia trying to make a breal for it at Barnes and Noble.

Creepy doll book.

I had to duck to find my way into this screen, but he did get the shot.

Ethan catches me in the act of being a great mom and tending to my online interests rather than entertaining him with the Little People he has gathered at my feet. Where's the award? Hand it over. (and yes, I look to be about the size of a small whale in this picture, but most of that is just the way the picture is taken--Ethan's got a bit to learn about perspective, maybe?)

I love this little self-portrait on election day with his Vote No on 8 sticker.

Mood shot of Panera

I'm not sure if Ethan was trying to get the tow truck or Noni in this one, but I dig it.

DVD player....he probably took this while trying to figure out where his CARS movie was....




Hannuka display at the zoo; not sure how Ethan got the funky mix of black and white and color. He's a photography genius.
Apparently too much alcohol was served at the Little People convention on our couch. We'll think better of the jello shooters next time...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crappy Anniversary to me, Crappy Anniversary to me...

Crappy Anniversary dear useless ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes...Crappy Anniversaaaaaaary tooooo meeeeeee.....

Yes, those of you who have been reading my drivel blog for the past year might recall that it was a year ago this month Husband and I decided to throw caution (and birth control) to the wind and try to have another baby. For anyone keeping tabs, it's been a year, twelve cycles, and alas, no baby.

Now, to be fair, there have been several months in the past twelve when we weren't really trying. After deciding to move to Los Angeles, we put the quest for baby2 on hold, lest I end up knocked up and having to move 3000 miles away, which for those of you who know the story of my pregnancy know just ain't gonna happen. Once I see two pink lines, I'm more or less immobile for the next 7-8 months. Packing? Nope. Flying? Nope. Unpacking. Nope. So we decided to err on the side of caution and stop trying to get pregnant from March until July. So yes, that's 5 months of the last twelve, so really we've only been trying for 7 months. And please, who can complain after only really trying for seven months?

Well, let's just say....me. Not because I think I'll never get pregnant or because I think we've been trying for a really long time. My doctor is quick to point out that I don't even remotely qualify as 'infertile' at this point, which is a relief; and I've had friends who have struggled for upwards of 4-5 years to conceive, so I know full well that I'm being a pouty spoiled brat by complaining after these few months. But doesn't take away the sting of every. single. "I'M PREGNANT!" announcement I've heard in the past year.

Almost every mom in my mom's group back home has popped out baby2 or is on their way to doing so within the year. People who started trying to get pregnant when Husband and I started this time around are already coo'ing over newborns and lamenting the 2am feeding. I am genuinely happy for all of them (and ever so grateful for my fuller night's sleep), but each month that goes by takes me farther away from my dream of watching two little ones grow up, close in age and playing together. And each month that goes by takes me closer to being older, older, older.

When your original life plan (and let's just take a moment to laugh our asses off that at 20 we had a 'life plan' we actually thought would pan out exactly as we wanted) has you married and the mother of 2 by your 30th birthday, it's a bitter pill to swallow to be working on conceiving that 2nd child all the way into your 37th year and telling yourself, "If I get pregnant now, I'll still be 37 when the baby is born. That's not that old, right?" It's not so much a concern about healthy eggs and all that "advanced maternal age" mumbo-jumbo as much as it is about how my body feels at the end of the day after chasing after a toddler, and wondering how old I can get before the mere idea of chasing after a toddler and caring for a newborn just makes me want to cry with exhaustion.

The other thing that makes this challenging for me is that conceiving Ethan was freakishly easy. While I watched two of my nearest and dearest friends struggle with fertility issues for years, I basically looked at Husband one day a month after our wedding and said, "you wanna?" and "BAM!"---knocked up. I felt so guilty for my uber-fertility that I actually kept my pregnancy secret from them for a couple of months (and these were girls who, if circumstances had been different, I'd have called WHILE peeing on the stick). It seemed unfair (but so to my benefit) that I was so gifted in the area of baby-making while two of my closest friends had been trying literally for years. So in spite of myself and all of the knowledge I have about how elusive and tricky fertility can be, there was a bigger-than-I'd-like-to-admit part of me that really thought I'd be holding a baby by now.

Sigh. So here I sit, in Panera, drinking my tea and wondering when, or if, it will ever happen and what I can possibly do to make it happen. Husband and I have agreed that there'll be no fertility specialists or fertility drugs--the one thing you definitely don't do to an already incompetent cervix and weak uterus is stuff a whole mess of babies in there. One will do just fine, thank you, but that means we have to come by him or her all on our own, au naturale-like.

We also agreed that we'd only try for a set amount of time and once that time came and went, we were going to work on being content with an only child. And probably the reason I'm having a hard time this particular month is that this was the month we'd agreed initially to stop. When we started trying last December, we said that if we weren't pregnant within a year's time, we'd call it quits and move on with our lives and our beautiful son, content to be a family of 3. It would never have occurred to me in a million years that this month would come and find us un-pregnant, un-parents of 2.

Given the number of months that we put trying to conceive on hold, we've decided to push our end-date back, but having hit the original deadline like a brick wall, it's hard not to imagine the next deadline coming and going, finding us in the same position. And then re-visiting the decision to stop or keep trying over and over again. At what point is the heart really ready to say, "Okay, that second child you've always wanted and who you know is out there somewhere in the universe waiting to come to you? Well, it's just not going to happen. You'll never get to meet that baby. It's time to let the hope of that baby go." I just can't imagine the mama bear in me ever being willing to let that hope go.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Don't Rain on My Parade

And really, in Los Angeles, where it's rained approximately 2 inches since we moved here in June, you wouldn't think that would be much of an issue.  You can be damned sure it's not going to snow, so it's a fairly safe assumption that your neighborhood Christmas parade would be a precipitation-free event.  But then, you've never lived my life, where irony seems to reigns supreme.  

Cloudy and cool all day, but dry.  As always, dry.   Until we were getting ourselves out of the house to walk down the street to the parade.  Then mother nature decided it was as good a time as any to release the drizzle, which turned into a steady, cold rain by the time we got to Ventura Blvd.  

We took soggy shelter under the awning of a bridal shop and waited for the festivities to begin.  And waited.  And waited.  

Being a New Englander at heart, weather doesn't phase me much.  I am a classic "we walked to school, uphill, both ways, barefoot, in four feet of snow!  And we were happy to do it!!!" person.  As a teacher, I knew not to expect snow days unless there were at LEAST three inches of snow on the ground and numerous traffic accidents reported by 5am.  Had superintendents been any more lax with their school-canceling criteria, we'd have been going to school until late July.   I once drove 12 hours in a blizzard, up and over the mountains of Vermont to get to a boyfriend at Ft. Drum, in Watertown, NY, and was psyched to have gotten a head-start because my school was let out early due to inclement-weather (read: white-out conditions).  

When I moved to Washington, DC, I had a good laugh at the expense of people there who freaked if snow was so much as mentioned as a possibility in the forecast.  Just a good threat of snow would cancel school (the original preemptive strike) and empty grocery store shelves of bread, water, milk and canned goods (because apparently nothing says "snowed in" like a cold minestrone soup sandwich and a glass of room-temp water?).   I once enjoyed a fabulous "rain day" during my first year teaching in Maryland.  Nothing like having the mall ALL to yourself because it's rainy and cold outside.  The tiniest flakes of snow fluttering to the ground would send DC-area drivers into veritable tizzies, during which they drove, on the highway, at speeds of 15-20 miles per hour, to avoid the onslaught of the wicked flurry.  

But here, we don't even consider snow, although Wikipedia does say it snowed 2 inches here in 1932 (I guess they aren't including the wedding day of "Father of the Bride", the sappiest, weepiest movie of all time).   So I guess rain has to be the great weather phenomenon for us here.  When it rains, people here behave much the way they do in DC when it snows.  Traffic slows down to a crawl and all usually normally functioning brain cells take a hiatus; accidents increase, people accost eachother on the sidewalks with their long-neglected umbrellas and shoddy umbrella-using skills--seriously, in DC, 500 people can walk down the sidewalk with umbrellas open and not one bumps into each other.   Here, I imagine emergency rooms throughout the city, full of people clutching at their eye balls, having had them practically poked out by another person's umbrella in a sidewalk collision.   It ain't pretty. 

Anyway, tangent aside, the parade finally did start, rain be damned (actually, the rain stopped, which I figured it would because it never seems to rain for more than 15-20 minutes at a time here).   And here in the land of superficiality and special effects, mere miles away from the home of arguably one of the country's greatest parades (Tournament of Roses, anyone?), was the rinkiest, dinkiest, small-towniest Christmas Parade known to man.  

Aldermen and city councilors waving from the backseat of their convertible Toyotas, an elementary school class tossed into the back of a pick-up truck that had been strung with lights, singing "Joy to the World", a local high school marching band, playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic (so festive, right?), brownies and cub scouts troops walking all askew with their den keepers herding them into a reasonable amount of street space.  And of course, no small-town  parade would be complete without some local business renting a car, decorating it and driving slowly down the street, pelting children on the side walks with candy--in this case candy canes which shattered into a million choke-sized pieces in their plastic wrappers (standby for awesome 'Ethan choking on candy cane' pic, coming up).

Of course the finale of the parade was the jolly man himself, waving to the kids from a white carriage being pulled by a white horse, making him look more like he was on his way to a royal wedding than to his toy factory at the North Pole, but whatever.  And thus enters my dilemma for this particular holiday season--Santa.  

Last year, I hemmed and hawed about being a Jew with a "Christmas" tree.  We made peace with it through what I call the "great blue and silver compromise"--our tree is decorated in traditionally Jewish colors of blue and silver (should be white, but silver is more festive and close enough).  Sure, I have an unhealthy love of Christmas songs (much as I wish it did, "the driedel song just doesn't do it for me) and I HAVE to watch at least 20 hours of the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon on TBS on Christmas day.  But we don't hang wreaths or display green and red anywhere, so no one is going to mistake us for a house of Christians.  And of course there's a menorah in the window and potato latkes burning on the stove.   Holiday identity crisis solved!

But this year, Ethan is very aware of this fat, white-beared man clad all in red and "ho ho ho"'ing his fool head off at the mall and the end of parade lines.  How do I explain to him that Santa brings presents to little boys and girls all over the world, but not to him because he doesn't believe in Jesus?   I realize I'm not the first non-Christian to struggle with this dilemma and I'm sure that thousands of better Jews than me have either bitten the bullet and been brutally honest with their little ones, or come up with far more creative and self-esteem enhancing reasons why Santa doesn't visit little Jewish boys and girls, but honestly?  I just want to see Ethan's eyes light up and see him revel in the joy of this time of year.  That's really all I care about.  

I believed in Santa as a little girl and it didn't make me grow up to believe in Jesus or anything like that.   I might not be the most practicing of Jews, but I do believe in my religion and that has never waivered (aside from the brief and clichely inevitable dabbling in Buddhism after college), in spite of eleven years of Catholic school.   I figure if I can withstand the browbeatings, I mean promises, of eternal life promised to me by Srs. Joan, Yvette, and Eleanor, Ethan can probably spend a couple of years believing that a man in a red velvet outfit brings presents down his chimney one night a year without risking a lifetime spent knocking on doors and asking the inhabitants if they've discovered Jesus.  

After the parade, we found our way home, fed the over-tired child and put him to bed.  Our tree is up in our house, but not yet decorated.  My family comes to join us in less than two weeks.  It's beginning to look at lot like Chrismukkah...

Ethan is prepared for the coming storm.  Winter hat that fit last year and still fits this year? Check.  Umbrella I don't know how to open?  Check. 

And the wait for the parade begins!

A-ha!!! Success!  It is open!! 

...Still waiting....

Look! A parade!  Check out the shiny shoes.  And please note the dreaded California Pizza Kitchen in the background.  The very one that left me vomiting for days in August.  Damn you and your crab and shrimp salad (urm, puke), CPK!

Apparently there's something over there...

Seriously, this was as fancy as it got.

Ethan gathering his candy-canes.

Ethan gagging on his candy canes.  (note: I did not take this picture intending to capture the moment of chokiness--that would make me a bad, bad mom.  He started to gag as the picture snapped, at which time I dropped the camera and helped him--even though he got the piece up on his own.  No judging!)

Ethan learning how to de-stickify his fingers post-candy cane incident.  Strangely, they remained sticky.  Which means we all got sticky.
Especially mama and her hair...good times.