Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Night

Was one of those nights.

When Ethan woke up at 11pm, just as I'd turned off my own light. Those are the moments when the inside of my head pounds with "no no no!!!" For the love of G-d, it's been almost four years and not one night has gone by without him calling to us. In those moments, I am quietly livid at three-years-ago-me for not attempting some, any, kind of sleep training.

But then I open his door and he's sitting up, rubbing his eyes and rasping, "I'm firsty. Can I have some water?" and all of that frustration pretty much melts away. And when his finished with the water I bring him, putting it back in deep chugs, he hands me the cup and then holds his arms out for me. Cuddling up with him, his head on my shoulder and his still-a-little-baby breath puffing back into sleep, whatever frustration I felt at being roused from my bed is melted away. These are unspeakably precious moments with my little man. They won't last much longer.

Last night after he'd fallen back to sleep, that realization hit me ferociously. The reality that Ethan will be our only child is settling into the part of my brain in which irrefutable facts take up residence. There will most likely be no other little baby to cuddle and to hold as Ethan grows further into boyhood and young manhood. The thought that he will one day be too big to hold, too embarrassed to be seen showing affection sent me into what I have to imagine was a full-moon induced sob-fest.

Years ago, when we first bought Ethan his first big-boy bed, Husband recommended we get a full sized mattress. His reasoning was that one of us inevitably ends up sleeping in his room with him anyway, why wouldn't we buy a mattress that we can sleep in comfortably. Also, he said, "this way it's a big enough mattress that he can take it with him when he moves out someday."

Ethan was not quite two years old at the time. The idea that he would one day be a grown man, striking out on his own and would leave our home pretty much melted me from the core on out and I sat down on a mattress in Macy's and cried. Yeah, I know. "Alert! Crazy lady in mattress department! Alert!" But still.

That same sense of far off in the distance but still impending empty-nest syndrome socked me in the gut last night and knocked the wind out of me. Maybe if we had a second child, I wouldn't feel so desperately sad that one day Ethan will be too grown up to snuggle with. I don't know. Maybe my melancholy would be doubled or tripled depending on how many kids we had--I suppose that would make sense.

I don't know, and most likely, won't know. All I know right now is that moments like the one I had last night, my three and a half year old, dreaming next to me but growing up by the second, make me realize how precious every day, every moment with him is.

It's hard to remember that from day to day. I certainly have my moments; moments when I am tempted to run screaming from the house like my hair's on fire because he is making absolutely mental. Now and then. When he was a little baby, at the end of the day, I'd hand him off to Husband, grab my keys and leave the house, to wander the aisles of Target aimlessly or sit in a chair in Barnes and Nobles, staring absently at a mindless magazine. I know that at the time I needed that break and space from him. I know it was good for me to get out of the house and away from the bottomless pit of need that he was as a baby. But now, there is a part of me that wishes I'd cherished those moments more than run from them.

I'm sure that tonight or tomorrow, when the call of "mommmmmmy" comes through the monitor at midnight, I will still feel that momentary gnashing of teeth and the frustration of "gotosleep! gotosleep! gotosleep!!!" But I'll take a few deep breaths and try to remember how I felt last night and rather than be annoyed, try to embrace these moments and remember their fleeting preciousness.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Lately it seems I've got nothing really to say. For anyone who knows me (and by that I mean has crossed paths with me for at least five minutes), this is major. I'm rarely able to keep my yapper shut for more than a few minutes at a time, and if we are more than three people deep in a Starbucks line and you initiate conversation, you're going to know my life story by the time you get to order that latte (a HUGE exaggeration, but you know, it's my blog; I can paint myself to be however I want--and apparently I want to paint myself as the world's most annoying over-sharer).

But in general, I am just feeling quiet lately. And it stresses me out. Especially here on the blog because in the world of blogging, quiet = losing readers. This makes me feel all angsty, because the truth of it is, knowing that people come here to read what I've written gives me a great sense of happiness.

I've hit the wall of realization that this blogging thing is never going to get me discovered as any type of writer; there was a time before I even realized there was a Jennifer Lancaster or Julie Powell or a Heather Armstrong, when I thought, "hey, maybe if I write this little bloggy thing, I'll get discovered and I'll get to write books! SQUEEE!" It's kind of embarrassing to admit that now, actually, but there it is.

Attending BlogHer last summer was a big turning point for me in terms of how I see my blog. I started my blog when I was on bed rest, googled my particular complication and found Amy's blog. It was the first thing I ever knew about blogging. I had never even heard of it before. I started my own blog as a way to pass the time. I told a few people about it, and loved the connection I felt to friends and family as they commented on my posts about doctor's appointments, hospital food and finally, bringing home our little screaming baby.

But as I further explored the vast world of blogging on the interwebs, opened a Twitter account and found a whole new world of bloggers, and attended BlogHer in Chicago last July, I grew increasingly intimidated. And uncertain about what I was doing and why. Was I simply a "mommy blogger"? Would I ever get into the world of product reviewing (I have since figured out my answer to that---a resounding, big fat NO; that whole genre (for lack of better word) of blogging makes me twitchy, as tempting as it is to get things for free.) Is it worth blogging if your blog never gets 1000s of readers? Should I start doing give-aways and contests to get more readers? The list of "should I''s and "why do I"'s went on and on.

There are millions of us out here writing stories, making people laugh, taking photographs, waxing philosophic and basically just sharing little pieces of ourselves with a largely anonymous audience. And the full realization of that kind of took the wind out of my sails. Rather than being inspired by BlogHer, I walked away from the experience feeling, for the most part, insignificant.

Don't get me wrong; it wasn't all bad. At BlogHer, I got to meet some people who have inspired me and made me laugh for years, some of them no more "successful" than me, when standing in the lobby of the hotel surrounded by the likes of Amalah and Jennifer Lancaster (I even got to have dinner with Lancaster, which was pretty damn cool) and other bloggers I can't identify, but who were being interviewed by dozens of different social networking sites.

Since then I've struggled to make peace with the disillusionment of my delusions of grandeur when it comes to the whole blogging thing. It's not so bad to be tiny and insignificant in the world of blogging, I guess. I've realized that my blog is simply what it is: a place where I share my stories with as much humor and honesty as I can muster on any given day, and where I can count of a handful of readers/friends to reach out with a comment or two. And I know that whenever I get a minute, I can click to any number of blogs I frequently read and find something to think about or laugh about as well. I've discovered that that is really all I care about when it comes to blogging. Checking in with those people I've come to genuinely care about, whether they live one town over and I see them often, or thousands of miles away and we've never met--that's what blogging is about for me now.

It's that connection I worry about losing when I start to feel a little quiet, like now.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Picture Book...

This week, when I wasn't sitting slack-jawed and glassy-eyed in front of my TV, watching Olympic coverage of curling or of Lindsey Vonn breaking one bone or another, I was exploring San Francisco with friends.

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my best friends came with her two tween-aged daughters. Last year they came to visit me in Los Angeles and this year they made their winter-break vacation plans to come to the San Fran area to see us again. Given all the places there are to go in this wide world and all the things there are to see, I'm always pretty humbled and grateful when they choose to spend their vacation time with me and my family. And because of that, I always want to show them an awesome time and make sure they go home with memories that will motivate them to come back again next year.

I definitely get a little twitchy turning on the Julie McCoy action as social director and usually plan too much. You know, because they are tween-agers. Just like when I was teaching, I used to plan 75 minutes worth of stuff for a 55 minute class because oh-my-god-what-if-this-idea-totally-flops-and-there's-silence-and-rolling-eyeballs-and-they-hate-me. I care more about the 'what if they hate me' aspect of it since they are my friend's children. My students could hate me if they wanted to--as long as they did their work. But I was a classic over-planner because the idea of being caught with five or ten minutes at the end of class as dead-air was enough to make my ass sweat with anxiety.

So overplan, I did. Our day exploring Fisherman's Wharf and China Town left us catatonic on our drive home. Our day in Golden Gate Park was over-planned to the point that we were parked for five and a half hours in a four-hour parking space (thank goodness for lax enforcement) and still missed the playground and carousel, the arboretum and the botanical gardens. Luckily, we did see the windmill, the buffaloes, the tea garden, the Academy of Science and the pedal boats at Stowe pond.

They arrived on Friday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, I was informed by Miss Ten Year Old (the other being Miss Eleven Year Old) that she had no intention of doing anything whatsoever or of moving from the couch for the entire day (until it was time to head back to the city to see Wicked). Perhaps an indication that I *might* have run them a bit ragged? (or, worse, deargod, what if I bored them so much that she just wanted to forget the agony of Sarah's vacation planning by watching four hours of the Wizards of Waverly Place on Disney??!! GAH!!!)

Anyway, some highlights, in pictures...

Guitar Hero. A big hit with the 3-10 year old crowd in our living room...

Fisherman's Wharf

China Town

Golden Gate Park

yeah, buffaloes.

this is what I get when I say "smile, Ethan!"

...or I get this

I'm exhausted just from uploading all of that....

for the record, I did in fact take many lovely pictures of my BFF and her girls, but she doesn't post pictures on her blog so I wanted to maintain that on my blog. So you just get lots of Ethan!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ethan versus the turtle...

This past week, one of my very best friends and her daughters came to visit. We had a wonderful time, being touristy in San Francisco. There were walks through Fisherman's Wharf and China Town, copious amounts of chocolate consumed at Ghirardelli square, street cars ridden, and pedal boats in Golden Gate Park, well, pedaled.

Probably my favorite thing was our stop at Boudin's sourdough bread bakery on the wharf. Yeah, sure the bread is tasty. But it's never tastier than when it's shaped like little reptiles.

We wound up being pretty obsessed with the turtles.

Look at the cute little turtles!! Into the blazing hot oven for you, my pretties!

Then we bought one for each of us. Because who doesn't want their own pet sourdough turtle? Crunchy on the outside, squishy on the inside!

Look at mah turtle!

Off with it's head!

I have no idea what he's saying here, but let me tell you, he is ALL about this turtle.

so glad he didn't chip a tooth on that damn turtle.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Green(ish) Thumb..

I can kill a plant like nobody's business. Really. In college, I killed the ficus (didn't everyone kill a ficus in college?) Violets? Not a chance. That sucker will never flower. Cactus? I'll drown it because it HAS to be thirsty at least once a week, right??? For years, I didn't even bother. Then, in Virginia, I did manage to keep one plant alive for about three years. A miracle! Until it got left under the tarps in the dining room when the contractors came in to remodel the kitchen. For two months.

When we moved to Los Angeles, my mother-in-law thoughtfully sent us a planter full of beautiful ivies and assorted other plants and I was so excited to have happy green plants in my new always-hot-and-sunny climate. I immediately repotted them into their own happy little pots, put them out in the backyard so they could soak in the California sun and the returned four days later, only to be horrified that all of my beautiful plants were burnt to a crisp. Because they were "low light/indoor" plants. And I left them in my always-gets-sun-at-everytime-of-the-day-except-night backyard. I am awesome. We're all very very lucky that Ethan's main form of nutrition isn't chlorophyll or he'd be in serious trouble having me for a mother.

Upon arriving in our new home in Northern California, my mother in law, either by design or happy accident, sent us another planter of the exact same plants she'd sent to Los Angeles. Having learned my lesson this time, I repotted them all in their own pots, kept them on shelves and mantlepieces INSIDE my house and away from the scathing glare of the sun and zOMG! They are ALL still alive! Plant killer no more, my friend!!! Green, leafy things are now officially safe in my presence!!!

So I decided to take my newly discovered green-ish thumbs outside. Our landlords lived in this house for a lot of years. They planted flowering trees and shrubs and planted flowers in pots and planters all around the back porch. They took a lot of time and care to make a beautiful yard (around the basketball court). When we first met with them, sitting in their living room, which would become our living room, Mrs. Landlady said, "we really love our plants. You'll take care of them, right?" To which I took a deep breath and knowing how much I wanted the house, said, "ABSOLUTELY!! I love plants!" Which is really kind of true. I DO love them. And if by "take care of" them she meant a sort of Mob-esque meaning of "kill them," then I was really being honest. Not lying at ALL. But clearly I knew that's not what she meant.

So fine. I kept four indoor plants alive AND grew one of those Amaryllis thingies over the past five months. I can surely handle the vegetation in the back yard, right??!

Amaryllis thingy, all alive and everything...

Earlier this week, Ethan and I headed to the back yard. Me with my nifty new gardening gloves, complete with little blue nubbies that are for I have no idea what.

See? Nubbies.
Our backyard has a lot of pavers in it (as you can see in the above picture if you can tear your eyes off of those sexy gloves). And we have a moss & weed issue with said pavers. They look a lot like this:

Yes, I realize I could go at these weeds with a spray bucket of RoundUp or something like that, but we did that in our driveway and now I just have a driveway of pavers that have dead, brown weeds stuck between them. So I got down into it and ripped the weeds up from in between the pavers all the way from one side of the back yard to the other.

Ethan was a big help, eating a lollipop and bringing me a little red wagon for collecting my weeds. Because after the pavers, I had to figure this out:

My friends, I have NO idea what any of that is. What is week? What is intentional? How to deal with the weird mulch they use that looks like an orangutan's fir? Oy.

So I essentially cleared the old leaves and then ripped out anything that looked like it was either dead, or just started growing. If it looked like it had been there since the landlord's planted it and it was still growing, it won the lottery and got to stay. At the end, my little red wagon looked like this:

Yes, I guess it actually is a little pink wagon. But it used to be red. Chalk it up to the same blazing sun that killed all my plants in Los Angeles. Brutal.

And what was Ethan doing while I was cultivating the beauty and contributing to the background eco-system?

One-man band-ing it up with his stick-drumstick and blue bucket drum ensemble..

....and taking a spin on the big wheel, while making loud driving noises and weird faces. So generally, super helpful.

I do have to say, though, that I love the fact that it's February and the flowers are blooming.

And the little garden cherub that the Mrs. Landlady left behind? I kind of dig him, too, even if he does creep me out just a little bit.

Dear Creepy Garden Cherub: Nice hair. It's a shame about that foot...

Also? Please don't come to life in the middle of the night and eat my family.