Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'd Like to Thank The Academy....

or, In Which I Give My Mother-of-the-Year Performance by Gaslighting My Child About Santa and some Elves....

Because I'm awesome.

Nevermind the fact that we're Jewish and have a Christmas tree--most years I can pawn it off as a Hannukah bush, but this year the Festival of Lights came so damn early in the month that there's no way I'm fooling anyone with the 5-foot pine tree sitting in the middle of our living room. Sure, its decorated in blue and white lights and glittery silver and blue ornaments, but no one's going to buy my "Hannukah bush" racket this year. It's a Christmas tree. This, though, will not have any bearing on Mother-of-the-Year for me; although it might put me in the running for Jew-of-the-Year. That, along with the fact that I haven't been to High Holy Day services in just shy of a decade make me pretty much a shoe-in or that award. Such honors.

No, I'm awesome because I totally sold my kid out and allowed him to feel that he was losing his grip on reality to cover my own bad gift-hiding ass last weekend. In years past, I could basically put a pile of presents any-old-where. For his first holiday season, he was still pretty much a squishy, rolling blob, so as long as I didn't leave presents unwrapped and littering the living room floor, I was pretty much assured he wouldn't find them. Even as he got older, so long as the presents remained in a Target bag and relatively out of the way---tucked under the dining room table, on the guest bed, wherever, he was pretty oblivious. Ethan wasn't keenly aware enough of the idea of presents and Santa to really think about searching the house for loot. Note to self: apparently, 4 years old is when that phenomenon kicks in.

I had, per my usual lackadaisical toss the toys wherever gift "hiding" habit, thrown some bags from Borders, Target & ToysRUs behind the bed in the guest room. On average, Ethan goes in that room...never. So I figured it was a fairly safe bet on keeping the presents hidden, even out in the open, in there. And so I went about my life, likely to forget about said presents, thereby continuing the excessive shopping and child-spoiling until the day before Christmas. Case in point, in mid-March of this year, I found an entire bag of stocking stuffers on the top shelf of our coat closet that I had forgotten to give to Ethan at Christmas. How the hell do pea-brained little squirrels remember where they've buried nuts all over our neighborhood and I can't remember a freaking bag full of M&Ms and Hot Wheels in my own damn closet?

On Saturday morning, as Husband and I were re-arranging furniture in the living room to make room for the not-really-a-Hannukah-bush, Ethan decided to take his little American Girl boy doll, Joey, for a stroller tour of the house. A tour of the house which apparently included the on-average-visited-never guest room. Where he promptly stumbled upon the unburied treasure, and from what I could tell of the wreckage, flung poor Joey into the hallway and came running out into the living room (poor Joey).

"Mommy, when am I getting my Hannukah presents?!" he asked excitedly.

"When Grammy & Grampy ship them to us, honey," I responded absent-mindedly--we'd just returned from celebrating Hannukah with my family and my parents were going to ship all the presents that Ethan had opened at their house in South Carolina back to us. I assumed those were the Hannukah presents about which he was referring.


"No, the other ones. By the bed. There are presents there!"


This is where the most basic holiday-cheer-preserving instinct to totally deceive your own flesh and blood kicked in. I smiled at Ethan and denied the existence of any such present-esque matter in the house. "Oh, honey, I don't think so. It's not Christmas yet and your Hannukah presents are in the mail." I'm not proud of myself, people.

"No, come! I'll show you! There are presents."

Now I'm thinking--he hasn't actually looked in the bags. If he had, he'd be flipping out, losing his ever-loving mind over the fact that there's a giant Optimus Prime in the Target bag. No way he could have seen that and not be screaming it from the roof-tops. There's still time to save my own ass.

"All right, honey. In a minute. Mommy has to go potty. Maybe you can help Daddy move these books out of the way for the tree while I'm in the bathroom.....Daddy? Hello, Daddy?! " Husband is OBLIVIOUS to what is going on and the "nudge nudge wink wink" is almost literal as I get up and race to the guest room.

Sure enough the bags are undisturbed--you've got to give him credit for having such holy-grail-esque reverence for the concept of presents that he dared not touch them. I grab all the bags, singing to myself as loudly as I can to disguise the sound of the rustling bags (we did have holiday music on in the living room, so that's not as bizarre sounding as it seems--maybe) and threw all the presents into the closet in my bedroom. Of course, in the process, I knocked Optimus Prime's shield and he began bellowing at me in his automated super hero voice to prepare for battle.

CRAP! I had to ramp up my "Hark the Herald Angel Sing" to new volumes of Christmas Pageant gone awry (did you have that kid in your Christmas pageant who just YELLED all the words to the carols? A little girl named Jean Nye did that every year from 2nd-6th grade at our school Christmas pageant and even as an elementary student, it made me mental. Just YELLED "Silent Night" at the top of her lungs. Jeez.)

Finally Optimus quit his jibber-jabbing and I got the closet door closed. Sweaty-palmed, I made my way back to the living room, but stopped in the bathroom to flush the toilet, you know, to remain true to my "have to go potty" ruse.

"Okay, honey, show me what you're talking about; I didn't see any presents." I said to Ethan as I came back in the room.

He was so excited I almost felt like declaring last Saturday the unofficial official day that Jewish-people-who-are-going-to-celebrate-Christmas celebrate Christmas....but I did not.

Instead, I let him take my hand and lead me to the guest room, around to the other side of the bed, to present to me....the empty floor.

I really didn't know whether to laugh or cry as he spun around looking for the pile of bags that had been there just moments ago.

"They were right here!" he said, looking up at me, spinning around looking all around him, and then pulling the blankets back on the bed to see if he had actually seen them underneath the covers (which totally cracked me up.) "Come with me," he took my hand and led me out of the guest room. For a minute I panicked that we were going to embark upon a house-ransacking tear until we found the newly relocated stash, but Ethan simply took me to each bed in the house and searched its perimeter. Closets didn't cross his mind; thank goodness he's still new at this.

I felt like a heel seeing how confused he was and didn't want him to think that the presents were taken away from him because he'd found them, so I took the deception one step further and totally blew his mind,

"Maybe the elves came to get them and took them to a safe place."

"The elves?" he whispered, looking up at me in awe.

"Sure, the elves."


"Let's go help Daddy move the rest of those books, okay?"

And that was that. He bought it. I pulled it off. I'm conflicted on several levels; one there's the whole we're Jewish and shouldn't really be dabbling in Santa and giant trees in our living room in the first place. Then there's the "Big Brother, erm, Santa is watching you" type of good behavior-inducing paranoia that makes me feel twitchy, and then there's just the out-and-out lie of "little tiny men dressed in jingly pointy shoes must have descended upon our house and moved your presents." Part of me LOVES it and thinks its a magical part of childhood and I love for Ethan to experience that wonder and amazement. The other part of me thinks, "you just totally sold your kid out to cover your own ass, you big fat lying liar who lies!!!!!!"

But in the end, it's fun, and I highly doubt anyone's ever needed psychotherapy later in life for having had parents who encouraged a belief in Santa and elves and magical presents that appear and disappear until Christmas morning.

That Star of David tree topper totally makes it okay, right? Right???

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh, Hi!

Wow, nothing like a bit of a bloggy break to cram 50K words o' novel into a month. While I still have 2 days & 5000 words to go, I have been missing the old blog and thought I'd stop by to thank the 2-3 of you who might still be checking in every once in awhile to see if I've surfaced from the world of fiction. Here I am. And while I am loving writing this novel and feel like fiction is something I will be writing much more of in the future, I am definitely missing writing here and reading all of your blogs.

So what have we been up to here in the Sarahndipity house?

Your basic silliness:

I cannot tell you how much I wanted to buy this hat for E today, but he insisted it wasn't comfortable. Dammit, child! Comfort shmomfort! Its all about The Adorable!

He was partial to the giant yellow sunglasses....

We have played out in the rain...

We stomped rockets and flew paper airplanes at the park...

he's pretty stinkin' cute, huh?

The cats worked on perfecting almost creepy ability to become one cat with two heads...

I baked an apple pie and a ginger cheesecake (and a coconut pecan pie that I didn't get a picture of, even thought it ended up being the best of the three) for Thanksgiving...

I took this picture at a dinner party with good friends in the Santa Cruz mountains, with my iPhone.

and this one...

Ethan was pensive...

..and he was silly...

And yesterday we took him to see his first movie, Tangled. We've been hesitant to go to the theater with him because he's skittish about a lot of movies & easily scared by a lot of action or bad guys. But he's recently gotten through Monsters, Inc without freaking out about Randall (who is, let's face it, so freaking creepy), so we thought we'd give it a go in the real theater. It was awesome. Husband and I over the moon at the potential for spending Saturday afternoons in the dark with a vat of popcorn and bonding with the kid. Its fantastic.


It was a wonderfully full month, even though I grabbed hours of writing here and there to make my 50K deadline (which I hope to do tomorrow!). I am looking forward to getting back into blogging and taking pictures (almost every picture here is just an iPhone shot) in December, but I am so grateful for having taken this month of time to step away from my ordinary daily routine, and given myself permission to indulge in my creative self. I have definitely discovered (or rediscovered) a part of me, of who I always wanted to be, that I had forgotten about. And while I'm not sure I'll be undertaking a novel in a month again any time soon, I am certain that writing is something that is going to be a part of my every day life from here on in.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Fear of Parenting...

So, I'm a little bit bent out of shape over something I read recently. This article, by Erica Jong, has me more than a smidge pissed off. I'll start by saying that Erica Jong has a right to whatever opinion of parenting she sees fit, obviously. And I imagine she *thinks* that her essay for the Wall Street Journal, like her novels that have been so influential for the past few generations of women, is empowering and feminist. And perhaps it is to some women. But to my mind, and my sensibilities as a parent, it is condescending and insulting.

First of all, am I the only one who thinks Jong makes it sound as though motherhood is something just now "coming into fashion"? "Bearing and rearing children has come to be seen as life's greatest good." I'm sorry, Ms. Jong, to my understanding, women have been bearing and rearing children for the greater good of our species since...well, the beginning of our species. I get that she's referring to the surge in interest over celebrities-turned-mother and reality TV moms; I also clearly see she holds a solid disdain for a woman like Angelina Jolie who has had the narcissist audacity to exercise her prerogative to have biological children after having also adopted.

But I think Ms Jong is missing out on an important reality of our current culture. ALL elements of daily life are blown-up and out of proportion for our viewing pleasure. Want to see the process of finding a life partner boiled down to a series of drama-laden dates and flowers? Watch the Bachelor. Want to see early-20-somethings in all their hedonistic STD-ridden glory? Switch on the Jersey Shore. Reality TV and tabloid magazines have highlighted and glorified all manner of our daily lives until they are amped up into the realm of sensationalized fantasy, barely matching what we regular old folks experience in our daily lives. Same goes for motherhood; most intelligent people raising kids today, men and women, don't expect to outfit their kid like the Cruise's do Suri, nor do they expect to have the small army of help that perhaps a Kate Gosselin has in raising her reality TV goldmine brood. Anyone who believes that raising a child is easy because Angelina Jolie is doing it has bigger problems than to deal with than whether or not they breastfeed or wear their babies in slings, another element of parenting that Jong later criticizes.

I'm not saying that this is the height of sophistication and intellectual society. Far from it, it's really not. Recently I've rediscovered NPR and Public television and my brain is grateful for the hiatus from the Real Housewives and the Kardashians. Truly. But if I want to buy a magazine to see the latest pictures of the Jolie-Pitt clan and read Angelina's words about motherhood, I hardly see how this makes me a desperate mother circling the drain of my existence or a pathetic victim because I stay at home with my child.

And this: Never mind that there are now enough abandoned children on the planet to make breeding unnecessary. I did not realize that population maintenance was human kind's main motivation behind procreation. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Ms. Jong. I instinctively get my heckles up when someone boils parenting down to the simple biological act of "breeding." It just rubs me all kinds of the wrong way. Although statistically, she surely has a point that there are millions of children out there in need of loving families, which just confuses me as to why she'd single out women like Angelina Jolie and Madonna to insult, who have surely elevated the world-wide awareness of the need for adoption. And then I remember, they are not only adoptive parents, but were also narcissistic enough to "breed" their own biological children as well. And I guess that's what makes Jong clutch her pearls in horror and disgust?

As for her contention that Dr Sears' books are the "bible of parenting," I have to say, as a parent of a 4.5 year old myself, whose social circle is comprised of almost entirely other parents of preschool-aged children, I know as many parents who never picked up any of Dr Sears' books as those who did. I know as many people who opted to follow the advice of Dr Sears' seeming polar opposite, Dr. Weissbluth as did Dr. Sears'. It seems like a convenient assertion for Jong to make, as it heightens her argument that we are all brainlessly baby-centered, Dr Sears automatons. But it's just not the case.

Jong's attack on "Attachment Parenting," something which she seems to have read an awful lot about, is kind of embarrassing. By cherry-picking bits and pieces of Sears' books, much of it out of context, she creates a parenting of philosophy which strips the parent of their sense of self and humanity, presenting a mother as a veritable machine who lets no one else touch, let alone tend to, her child; a woman sweating over dirty cloth diapers and toiling over baby-food mills, a baby attached to her breast 24/7. Calling attachment parenting "quaint" and saying it's goal is to "perfect" children shows me, as a person who has associated herself with attachment parenting to some degree since her child's birth, that Jong really doesn't have much information about it, aside from what she's formulated from a bunch of reading--and clearly much of that reading has been anti-AP.

I would like to personally assure Erica Jong, who seems so desperately concerned for my well-being as a woman, that I do not feel "victimized" by my choice to breed, to stay at home with my child, to have carted him around in a sling, to have co-slept with him in some form or another for the past 4.5 years, or to have breastfed him for a year and to not have a ton of help, aside from my husband and close friends and family. Nope. Not victimized at all.

Have I had bad days? Sure. Have I had days when I felt like I was going to lose my mind with the Backyardigans and the racing of hot wheels around the living room? Of course. But this is my job. I defy anyone with any job to tell me that they never have a bad day. That they've never left the office wishing they'd win the lottery and not have to go back. Of course, when moms have a bad day, we blame it on their decision to stay at home, we blame the parenting philosophy they've chosen, we say they've somehow done it to themselves and that they are flying in the face of feminism to chose to do something so backwards as to stay home with their children. When office co-workers go out for happy hour to blow off steam, we call it comradarie. When a mom has a glass of wine with another mom, we raise an eyebrow, "tsk-tsk" and wonder if they are drowning their regret at having bred in the first place, and using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

I do have to say that I agree with some of the points Jong is trying to make. I also think that some of the AP-zealoty types are eye-roll inducing and absurd. I made it clear here that I thought Giselle Bundchen's assertion that breastfeeding should be legally mandated, and all of the anti-choice implications that came with it, made her a Grade-A douchebag. So Jong and I agree on that.

However, I disagree with Jong that government should not play a bigger role in our jobs as parents. Just as there are government agencies to protect the safety and rights of a company's employees, there should be more laws protecting the rights of mothers--to breastfeed where and when their child is hungry, even if its in front of other people; and for those women who exercise their right to choose to go back to work, to be able to bring their breast pumps into their places of work and to have the time to pump food for their child. If Joe and Joanne have the right to go out for a cigarette break at a designated spot on the company property, Jane should be allowed to have a quiet designated spot to pump at regular intervals as well. That, in my opinion, is feminism. If Jane chooses to formula-feed her child because she's returning to work? Or just because it's what works best for her in her situation? Great. That, in my opinion, is feminism.

But I agree with Jong's assertion that there are a plethora of ways to parent a child and that parents should be free to choose the best way to raise their child. Amen to that, sister. So I guess that's what bothers me the most about Jong's attack on attachment parenting. I know few, if any, parents who ascribe to AP who will not let their child be cared for by another person they know and trust, just like any other parent. I know few people who ascribe to AP who expect all other parents to abide by the same philosophy or techniques, or bear the scrutiny of their judgment.

Sure, I admitted (I believe in the same post I linked in the above paragraph) that it used to be really easy to judge--as a new parent, your insecurities often translate into an ardent zeal towards your chosen philosophy that makes you look down on others who choose to do things differently. That fades. By the time my child was 2-ish, I'd long since given up my sleep-deprivation induced belief that there was one "right" way to raise a child. Now, 4.5 years into parenting, I know very few people who still feel any sense of "I did things the right way" as much as they feel a sense of "I did things the way I felt was best for my family." I cringe when I think of how I used to go 9-rounds on message boards with women who were making different choices from mine. The reality is that most moms mellow as they become more comfortable in their roles as mom; what others choose to do is far less important to them than what they are doing with their own families. Are there zealots on every side of every issue? Sure. But deriding an entire philosophy because of a few wingnuts hardly seems reasonable. Jong doesn't seem to come off any better in her article than those she's ridiculing.

And I can assure Ms Jong with 100% certainty and honesty that the last thing I am striving for in either my parenting, or in my child himself is "perfection." No where in any of the Sears' books I have read have I seen a contention that following AP will lead to "perfect" children or "perfect" parenting. That's just shoddy reasoning on Jong's part, in my opinion, and makes her entire article sound pouty and derived from her own sense of guilt. Guilt which I don't think she needs to have. I'm sorry if any one ever made her feel guilt over the parenting choices she made in the 70's and 80's, but hurling her anger at an entirely different group of parents, in an entirely different generation of parenting, hardly makes sense to me.

If Jong is trying to say that we, as women, should be free to choose to parent as we feel best, why then the attack on a method of child-rearing that a huge number of families find to be satisfying, rewarding and fulfilling? If she's saying that as feminists we should strive to be as true to ourselves as we can be, why would she be so adamantly against a woman making a choice about motherhood that is ultimately satisfying to her as an individual? I certainly don't blame Jong for having a bevy of nannies and for traveling for work while her child was young. People do that. And their kids grow up to be happy, adjusted members of society, just as I am hopeful mine will.

The most absurd part of Jong's argument, to me, is not even her attack on attachment parenting, as much as when she bitches because women are ultimately the ones responsible for prenatal care. As if it could be any other way? As if that's some sort of grand plot to keep women down? She doesn't go so far as to call a fetus a parasite, but she does bemoan the fact that we aren't "allowed" to down the Chardonnay during pregnancy like we can when we aren't. Nevermind the fact that her assertion about the no-alcohol hysteria is very last-decade. Most of us who have been pregnant in the past decade have been told by our OBs and encouraged by our older female relatives to go ahead and have a glass of wine after our 2nd trimesters. I know very few women freaking out about the possibility of fetal-alcohol syndrome these days. Jong seems to be flailing here, and reaching for a reason to be pissed off at motherhood, in my opinion.

I'm really exhausted by this inability to "win". If you stay at home, you are pitied as a woman losing herself among the countless games of Candy Land and loads of laundry, stuck in a "prison". If you work, you are seen as a detached parent not giving your best to your child (at least that's how Jong contends she felt). One 'side' says it's brand of feminism is the "best" kind and contends that women choosing the other path are somehow victims.

How about giving women the credit for being complicated and intelligent people that they are? I know women who have gone back to work almost immediately after giving birth; I know women who didn't reenter the work force until their children started high school. I know women who formula-fed from day one and I know women who breastfed their children into preschool and beyond. I know women whose children never spent one night in their beds; and I know women who joke that they will co-sleep until college. All of them/us have good days and bad days. We are all exhausted and drained at the end of most days. We all wonder sometimes, in moments of frustration, if we've made the right choice for ourselves and our families. But more than that, the vast majority of us derive tremendous joy from our families and the choices we've made.

I'm disappointed by Jong; I've always admired and respected her writing. I know other women who have read this article and felt that it was empowering, and that's great. But to me it just looks like another woman claiming to be a feminist while putting down an entire group of women for making a choice different from her. To me? That's not feminism.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Awkward and Inappropriate!

That's me!

So things have been a little rough here lately. If you've been reading my blog for any time at all, you know I am a big proponent of therapy. I have a history of depression and the times I've been in therapy have been some of the most productive and ultimately positive experiences of my life. So that's all good. Nothing awkward or inappropriate there, right??!!

Lately, with all the moving and the infertility hoopla (which? surprisingly doesn't go away when you stop shooting yourself up with drugs and subjecting yourself to the stirrups & turkey baster and talking about it all. the. time.) and the what-do-i-want-to-be-when-i-grow-up angst that swirls together daily with the am-i-a-good-enough-mother suckiness, I've been feeling a little, well, blue. Okay. A lot blue. In the past few days, I've been putting in calls to potential therapists to see if I can get myself back on track before I spiral down into the truly ugly place.

First, let's talk about therapists not returning your phone calls. Because that's awesome. I have called no fewer than four therapists in the past week. Until today, ZERO had returned my calls. Seriously. What is that about? I get being busy. I get not taking on any new clients at this time. Hell, I get "I don't really like the sound of you voice and I don't want to be your therapist". Fine. But call a girl back.

Presumably, people reach out to therapists when they are feeling pretty low, am I right? So what better to make them feel even lower than to ignore their calls, which could be true cries for help. If you can't fit a new client in, by all means, just give a call and let a person know. Maybe suggest another therapist--surely therapists know other therapists. Or if a therapist exists without community and within a complete professional vacuum, okay, but at least RETURN a call! Even if it's to say "I'm sorry, but best of luck to you." I'm just saying. You're primary professional interest in life is caring for the emotional well-being of others. Return a freaking phone call.

But someone did call back today! So that was super! And she was so nice and warm on the phone. She asked me a bit about myself and what was going on that made me feel like therapy was a good choice for me at this time. I told her about my history of depression. About how I'd been in and out of therapy for about a decade. About the infertility. And the moving. And the uncertainty about what I wanted out of the future and my questions about my competence as a mother. Your basic snapshot at my Crazy.

She commended me on my self-awareness (which I think might be therapist code for: thank goodness you already know how crazy you are so I won't be surprising you with that news about 5 sessions in) and we made an appointment for Friday. I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. Just knowing I was moving in the right direction gave me a tremendous sense of peace.

Nothing awkward or inappropriate here, right?!!!


About ten minutes later, she calls me back.

my therapist: "Um, Sarah," she says to me hesitantly. "I have to ask you a question about something that might be a little awkward and could have an impact on our ability to work together."

Oh my. Here comes the awkward and the inappropriate.

my therapist: "Does your child go to Name of the Preschool My Child Goes To?"

me: "Why yes, he does go to Name of the Preschool My Child Goes To."

not my therapist: "Yeah, so does mine."

OHMYGOD, people!!! OH. MY. GOD.

Turns out, the lady who would be my therapist thought she recognized my name while we were talking, but couldn't place it. After our phone call, as she was going through her email for the day, she saw an email FROM ME, as the secretary for the preschool's parent council. That's when she realized that she did, in fact, know me, know my son, know that it would be totally inappropriate for me to be her client.

There *may* have been an abundance of nervous laughter on both of our parts and "wow! that would have been SO embarrassing!!!"s in reference to me walking into her office on Friday and having a face-to-face moment of recognition. Because can you imagine??!!! She apologized a hundred times over for not putting it together sooner (like before she let me carry on for 5 minutes about the details of My Crazy?? Which she now knows all about and will undoubtedly be thinking about any time she passes me in the hallway of Name of the Preschool Our Children Go To.)

zOMG, people. Clearly, I'm not shy about struggling with depression; I have shared it here on numerous occasions (like right now!). But there's something about a classmate's parent knowing, like one who you don't even know well enough to be able to recognize her name when you see it on a list of your insurance company's mental health care providers and say, 'better not call her! I see her every single M-W-F at drop off and pick up!'

So we both agreed amidst the nervous chuckling that yeah, to pursue a professional relationship as client and therapist would INDEED be awkward and inappropriate. So very awkward. And so very inappropriate. And after a plethora of profusely effusive apologies for knowing each other and for not knowing that we knew each other sooner, we got off the phone.

She did tell me that she will call back with a list of referrals for me to pursue. I just really hope that someone she recommends to me will actually return my call. And not know me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Well, Hello.

First let me say I'm having major upheavals of existential doubt about neglecting my blog, which I know (some) people read (and thank you for that, if I don't say it often enough, which I know I don't. Thank you for reading and commenting and validating my need for attention because it is really a lovely thing and I adore you. *kisskiss*), to write this novel for NaNoWriMo, because really? I am sucking at the novel writing and no one is ever going to read it, if I even finish it and zOMG what if I neglect the blog for so long that no one ever comes back to read it again and I'm left with a defunct blog and a crap quasi-novel at the end of the month??????!!!!! What am I thinking???!!

Yeah. I know. It might be time to call Dr Xanax.

It turns out, as far as NaNoWriMo goes, I'm awesome with scribbling down pages of thought-process, internal monologue and description. But not so much with the plot, conflict or dialogue. You know, those key components that make a story, well, a story. Thus far, I am 7000 words in and all that's happened so far is a main character driving down a dirt road on her way back to her childhood home, reflecting on the reasons she's not been back in a decade. There is a smattering of dialogue thrown in there as she wanders down the proverbial memory lane, but thaaaat's about it. Not really a super duper action-y page turner. You might say, "Well, Sarah, perhaps its truly striking prose, a character sketch of depth and beauty, preparing your reader for the burst of action to come as she arrives at her childhood home and the story unfolds with great passion and momentum!" And you'd be so kind to say it, but you'd be wrong. It's just not that good.

But that's okay, I keep telling myself. It's not about quality so much as it is about getting it out on paper. This idea has been brewing in my head for a long time and there will be time later to either redo it in its entirety or tuck it away on a shelf somewhere in a file called "At Least I Did It," and forget about it. For now I'm just happy to have written 17 pages of anything, given that I've not devoted that much time to writing anything since my graduate year of college and never to any work of fiction.

Baby steps.

In the mean time, there's this:

and he, fortunately, does not care about whether my writing is any good or not. He's just happy to dress up like Yoda and make silly faces at me in the front yard. So it's all good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Virtual Coffee II: The Birthday Edition

join me for coffee!

Today I'm participating in Amy's Virtual Coffee. If you get a chance, pop over to her blog; I love her thoughtful writing, and her photography always makes me smile.

If we were really meeting for coffee today, I'd go ahead and splurge on a venti no water, extra hot, soy chai tea latte (and maybe a pumpkin scone) because it is my birthday today. My 39th. And I might be tempted to joke about it being the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday, but I'd take a deep breath and tell you how I am trying really hard to embrace this birthday for what it is.

I'd tell you that I've been thinking a lot about how to approach this last year before the closing of a decade-long chapter of my life. Knowing that I can come at it from a place of angst, fear and perhaps even a bit of disappointment, I'm working hard to approach it with a sense of gratitude, open-heartedness and hope. The past decade has been filled with tremendous happinesses and opportunities--marriage, motherhood, relocation (twice!) and rediscovering, at least to some degree, my creative self. But it's also brought with it its share of disappointments, primarily infertility, and to a somewhat lesser degree, at least in terms of my own sense of self and self-worth, leaving friends and family behind as we followed our fortunes West.

As I near 39, which brings me closer to 40, the age I said I was officially going to forever be done with the hope of another child, I am finding it hard to let go, to say goodbye to the dreams of that child I will never carry, never hold. I am spending a lot of time lately trying to find the middle ground between honoring the empty space left behind in the wake of infertility and walking away from it without regrets. It's a work in progress, but I feel like I'm finding the space I need to be in to be able to look back gently on those years of trying to conceive another child while at the same time turn my face to the future and see the possibilities that lie ahead. For the past two years, I have seen my inability to conceive as a flaw in my being, a reflection of my self-worth and I know as I move into the part of my life where the idea of becoming a mother again will simply be off the table, I have to let go of that. This year will be, in some small part at least, about that healing.

Naturally, if we were really having coffee, at this point I'd apologize for being such a Debbie Downer, but if we were having coffee, you'd know me well enough to know I'm incapable of small talk and if we're going to invest an hour together sharing a cuppa, I want us to know what's really going on inside of our minds. I'd ask you how you have found ways to heal from difficult experiences in your life, things that have happened to make you feel less complete, less yourself. While I'd hope you've never dealt with such a challenge, if you have, I'd want to hear about it.

Because I'm a ginormous Friends nerd, I'd probably joke about how this year I'm pulling a Phoebe. Remember "The One Where They All Turn Thirty," and Phoebe has her list of all the things she wants to do before she hits the big 3-0? While I don't want to go to sniper school or ride a hippity hop for a mile (even though Phoebe claims that had some unexpected perks to it, ladies....), I really do have a list of things I want to do this year, and rather than wallowing in the woe-is-me-I'm-almost-40 cliche that would be so easy to dive into, I want to spend my year embracing the "before I'm 40 to-do" list:

1. Complete a novel. (I'll be starting next week w/ NaNoWriMo and hopefully will be done w/ 50,000 words by Nov. 30, after that? Who knows. I would like to send out a big WHOOO-HOOO! AND CONGRATS to my friend Kita, whose NaNoWriMo from last year will be published at the end of this month--so very happy for you, Kita and so inspired!)

2. Learn to knit. I tried this years ago and ended up giving my ball of yarn to the cats, but for some reason, it is just something my mind keeps coming back to--something in me wants to learn how to do this, so I guess I am going to have to invest time and energy in getting my inner grandma on and rocking the knitting needles.

3. Garden. Like, build a raised garden bed, plant stuff like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and actually have it grow, produce fruit and provide for the family. I'd also like to keep some house plants alive--that would be nice, too. Husbands lucky we rent, because I really want chickens, too.

4. Learn to use my camera for real. Right now, I shoot about 150 pictures each time I take my camera anywhere, and I'm lucky that I get 15-20 decent pictures. That's great, but it would be fantastic to actually know what all those knobs and buttons on my camera are about and how to use them to raise the likelihood of more good pictures.

It's not entirely ambitious; its nothing that's going to set me apart from eleventy billion other suburban housewives who have novel-writing-farm-living-yarn-store-owning-professional-photographer alter egos. Believe me, we are out there. In droves. I'd laugh that all of this probably seems like the "I'll take a ceramics class and pop a Mother's Little Helper!" of the '50's and '60's, and who knows, maybe I am trading one cliche for another, but given the option, I am happy to take the cliche that celebrates learning, creativity and validation of self over the one that invites self-pity, woe and inertia.

After I'd rambled on about my goals for my 39th year (for probably what felt like a year to you--sorry!) I'd want to know what some of your goals are for yourself--are there things you want to accomplish before you get to a certain age? Things you want to let go of? Emotional baggage that isn't welcome on the next leg of the journey?

If we were having coffee today, I'd tell you that since its my birthday, I think I'll take my camera with me and go up to the city to walk through Chinatown. I've been wanting to do that for such a long time, just wandering through the streets there taking pictures of signs and people, and ducking down little alleys to find the hidden temples, camouflaged in between all the other brightly decorated buildings. I'd ask if you wanted to join me, to take pictures of your own, or just to keep me company. I'm sure we could find a nice pot of jasmine tea somewhere....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkins & Projects: Weekend in Review

This weekend I had two things on my mind: pumpkins and Ethan's first school project. We had a birthday party at a pumpkin patch to attend on Saturday, a plan to carve pumpkins in the afternoon and then bake pumpkin bread as a thank you for the building custodians who helped a few weeks ago with the preschool rummage sale. Along with all of that, it was Ethan's weekend to bring his class mascot, a plush little butterfly hand-puppet, home with him, with the instructions that we take a bunch of pictures of super fun things that Ethan did with "Marty the Monarch," put them all into the class journal and write a little narrative about each picture.
So basically the type of weekend that screams, "This is exactly what you expected parenthood to be all about!!! Parties, fun! family! bonding!, baking, artsy school projects!! You will rock this! YAY!"

Except. Not so much with the rocking this. At least as far as the school project went. See, those "you are the best parent in the universe" moments that play out in your imagination are often altered in their real life translation by, well, the child involved in the scenario. Not in a bad way, per se, but in a way that will inevitably make you less of the WonderParent you imagine yourself to be. You will grow impatient, the child will refuse to "cooperate" (and by "cooperate" I mean read your mind and do exactly as s/he does in your Normal Rockwell imagining of idyllic scenario of parenting perfection you envision), the whole thing will fail to live up to your not-even-really-achievable expectations and you'll likely end up feeling at one point disappointed, and at another, like an ass.

See, for weeks, Ethan's been carrying on about Marty coming to stay with us. Oh, what fun we were going to have!!! I envisioned pumpkin patches, Marty "helping" us carve pumpkins, Marty at the park, Marty at the birthday party---nothing transcendent, like Marty Goes to the Moon or anything like that. Just Marty Spending the Weekend With Ethan--Rockwell has a painting of that, right?

But a strange thing happened on Friday afternoon when Ethan took temporary custody of Marty and his traveling sack. He refused to have anything to do with Marty. Didn't want to take him to the park. Didn't want to take him out of the car for the birthday party. Didn't want to bring him back into the house after the birthday party, when we were carving pumpkins. It wasn't until this morning that, panicked we'd be returning Marty and his "what I did this weekend" journal without any evidence of having done ANYTHING this weekend, I sent Husband and Ethan to the park, with Marty, with instructions not to return until we had some good pictures.

Really, really not my finest parenting moment. More of an "irrational harpy" moment if we're being honest. We then carted Marty with us everywhere, lunch, Pinkberry's, home--I lit the pumpkins we carved yesterday and had Ethan sit with them, Marty puppet in hand. Then we printed the pictures out, Ethan glued them down on the paper and I hand-wrote his narrative by each picture. I fought my every urge to just do it all myself and let Ethan purple-glue stick the pictures to the notebook (trying to ignore the fact that the people who had Marty the week before us had their pictures professionally developed and put their pages together like they were the undisputed scrapbook champion of the world, complete with wavy cut edges for every picture). When he finished dictating what I should write for each picture, I gave it to him to sign him name. At least it is what passes for his name at this point.

Some people took Marty the Monarch on a whale watch on their weekend. We took Marty to Target. Naturally.

Clearly Ethan's in a super mood. Just right for entertaining plush stuffed hand puppet guests.

He insisted on wearing his DIY green halloween mask, complete with purple and black glitter stickers. I *heart* Michaels. He tried it on Marty, but was disappointed by the tiny proportions of Marty's noggin.

The project-in-progress:

master of all things purple glue-stick....

signing his name....

and indulging crazy mama by holding up the final page of the finished product.

In addition to the first class project, this weekend we got ourselves geared up for Halloween; we have a party to go to next weekend at a friend's house and we are dressing ourselves up, at Ethan's request, as Yoda (Ethan), Obi Wan & Princess Leia. Just when I was at a complete loss and ready to go online to order us 2 brown bathrobes (one large adult, one small child) and one white bathroom (large adult), we happened upon a party supply shop that had what we were looking for. Sort of. They had the Jedi costume I can whip into Yoda with a little bit of green face paint, an Obi Wan Jedi Master robe and a child's large Princess Leia that happened to fit me (WTF?!) except for the wig, which is so tiny my 4.5 year old son can't get it to fit over his head. I cannot get my brain to even try to picture to proportions of the woman this costume was intended to fit. So I had to go out and buy a long straight wig that sometime between now and next Saturday I will have to fashion into two giant ear-muffy buns someway, somehow. It's not likely to be pretty, but whatever. At least I won't be wearing a white bathrobe...

Yoda and Obi Wan practice. Also? Our living room is still overwhelmingly brown. Sigh.

Don't tell him he looks more like the Emperor than Yoda; he will be crushed. We will amp up the green face paint so he looks Yoda-ish and not just sickly for the actual party. Also please note the Ethan art work that he has taped up to all of our bookshelves. It's like having my own museum (or preschool bulletin board) in my living room.

Even though we have been to no fewer than three pumpkin patches this fall, we headed to the local grocery store to pick out a few more for carving. Because we're classy like that.

I'm adding a couple pictures of the warty pumpkins because they give Husband a serious case of the heebie geebies and he forbade (yes, forbade!) me from buying them. Here, honey! I picked one out just for you!! *smooches!!!*

Buy one get one free, yo! *small children not included*

We took our decidedly NON-warty pumpkins home and carved the ever-loving crap out of them...

We laid down enough packing paper to cover up a crime-scene; fortunately we still had some in the garage left over from our move more than a year ago--sometimes laziness just pays off. Ethan's not such a big fan of the flash on my camera....

We selected our designs from a little kit....

cut their heads off....

and then gutted them mercilessly. It's kind of creepy, actually.

Ethan is not pleased when anyone tries to help him with anything these days.

Our three pumpkins, Polka Dot, Skeleton Man and Kitty Girl, as named by Ethan:

and all three of them lit up, with Ethan and Marty:

It's not Norman Rockwell, but it's good enough for me...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parks and Rec

Guys, Ethan is not adjusting to autumn so well. As I greet the day giddy at the sight of clouds out my window and the sound of rain tapping on the roof, he is becoming increasingly forlorn at this turn of climatic events.

"When is the sun going to come back?" he asked earlier this week, after two measly days of cloudy, cool weather. His assimilation to Californian boy is complete. I fear he is in for quite a rude awakening as the fall and winter wear on and it rains like it's never going to stop (14 days in a row at one point this past winter). I should probably contact my doctor for the Zoloft prescription now, just to be prepared (for me, not him! well, maybe him. I kid).

So after school on Friday, taking advantage of the increasing space in between rain drops and a couple breaks in the clouds, we headed to the park.

He won't be scaling Everest any time soon, people. But with some help from mom he managed to get to the top of the rock wall. I would have taken pictures of that, but I had one hand on his butt to keep him from falling.

Then we made our way over to the swings.

Serious boy contemplates sunnier days:

Then decides to get his twirly swing on & the fun begins:

We've been so busy lately with play dates (seriously yesterday Ethan play-dated from 9am-5pm, like it was his job, people), and house guests and birthday parties that we've not taken much time at all to just hang out and *be.* It was so nice to have no agenda, no place to be, no plan and to just run around the park, twirl on the swings and kick the soccer ball around. I'm thinking that as long as Ethan can tolerate dashing in between a few rain drops, and putting on a couple extra layers we will have an un-plan to go play at the park as much as we can this fall.