29 November 2009

Mama space

So this is new motherhood - all kinds of things I want to write about from several missed days of posting. I am have thought about going back and filling in, but as I have mentioned before, the going back keeps me from being right here. And right here is a baby with his first cold, a tired mama and an awesome dad who is pulling out all his tricks to soothe stuffy nosed baby back to sleep.

So right now...

I miss Domino. I really do. More than the magazine perhaps, I miss the pure joy and excitement that I felt when I would open my mail box and see the plastic wrapped bundle of inspiration. Because it meant that at some point that evening, I would get to sit in the comfy chair and do nothing else but slowly devour each page. That is what I miss.

So when Wisteria arrived last week, I tried to see if it would do. And though it wasn't even close, I still relished the 15 minutes that I took for myself that had nothing to do with baby, husband, cooking or cleaning. And, as I always do, I found a few magical gems that made me smile.

Wisteria is one of those catalogs that is about that special-one-of-a-kind something, that may be more pretty than practical but surely is worth the imbalance. The red rim metallic basket and the hanging lamp were both described as having "rustic sensibility" - a description that is so very close to my heart.

And yes it is the 1st of December. And yes, I LOVE Christmas. And I love felted toys - so a felted Nativity Scene is just divine.

And lastly, there is this image - of an adult room, full of color and life. I love it. And I love it more because I am in the midst of baby proofing our small little apartment - which makes me see everything through the eyes of an 8 month old tornado, who wants to put everything in his mouth and climb the walls. So I will enjoy this grown up space from a distance and get to my present moment which includes plastic activity tables and wooden blocks.

28 November 2009


I am home, alone on a Saturday night.

That might not seem so exciting, but after a few days of family and friends and cooking and eating and talking, the quiet is divine. And after doing some of the things that I have been wanting to do, plus some of things that I needed to do, I realized that I should have just tried to close my eyes and sleep. And just as I am about to try to...

I am reminded that in fact I am not alone - for there is this little person asleep in the other room - a little person who has in the last few days had many firsts: first turkey eating, first belly scooting down the hallway, first standing hands free, first finger food and first time on the slide at the playground. Its no wonder that when we got home this afternoon he conked out on the big pillow on our bed like I have never seen him before.

So for this first Thanksgiving for us as a clan of three - I am gratful for family naps. I am grateful for the silence and stillness that follows the boisterous and lively time spent with grandmas and uncles and friends, new and old. I am grateful for the brother who cooked and for the friend who cleaned up. I am grateful for makeshift tables and mismatched dishes and left-over pumpkin pie. I am grateful for I am grateful for dishwashers and toaster-ovens. I am grateful for Skpe and video calls. But mostly, I am grateful, that we were together.

24 November 2009

Words of wisdom

37 years ago a pediatrician in Houston, Texas told my mother-in-law the following:

"Don't worry, they grow up in spite of you."

So, I will do what I can, when I can - and learn to give myself a break.

23 November 2009

First snow

It's funny, pre-parenthood I don't think we've EVER gone anywhere for the weekend without checking the weather forecast. But now, when it might even be more important, we both neglected to check.

We were just going to Tahoe, come on, there was no way we would have snow.

But as you can see, we arrived to a white winter wonderland. Luckily I had grabbed the fleece jumper and gloves just as we were leaving - just in case.

22 November 2009

8 months

Today the nugget is eight months old. And it is a Sunday, just like the day he was born.

I feel like I blinked my eyes and the last 8 months swirled by in a haze. Yesterday he picked up a banana puff with his tiny fingers and put it in his mouth, while sitting in a high chair. Today he pulled himself up to standing. Tomorrow, he may just ask for the car keys.

Me too.

Sometimes its the last line that says it all.

In the case of the first Chapter of Momma Zen, its dead on.

My mom gave me this book last Christmas - almost a year ago - when I had a big round tummy and a due date around the end of March. I think I started reading it the next morning, diligently highlighting the words of wisdom that I thought would have some relevance for this new journey into motherhood. I highlighted, I agreed, I got to Chapter 7 and I stopped. I am not exactly sure when that was, but I just remember feeling like I was not ready for the realities of her words and the realities of the lessons that were so inevitably in my path. I needed to stay in the moment - and my moment was 7 months pregnant.

So now, about 10 months after putting it down, I am picking it up again. And reading one chapter every Sunday, until I get to the end. That way, instead of simply highlighting and taking it all in at the same time and therefore retaining nothing, I will slow down and try to digest it properly.

And it's amazing what happens when you re-read something several times. Different words pop off the page and different sentences strike different places in your heart - even though nothing on the page has changed. But you have changed. Of all the things I highlighted these many months ago, today, on this day 8 months exactly since the nugget was born, there are 2 sentences that for me run circles around the rest:

It {your life as a mother} will prove how capable and creative you are, how boundless and free. You are just not likely to believe it right away. {Momma Zen, p. 8}

I have always wondered about women who are mothers who say they aren't creative. The fact is that you can't be a mother and not be creative. And it has nothing to do with glitter or knitting needles. Its every soothed cry, every no turned into a yes, every made up song used to get through the line at the grocery store. It is true that I considered myself a capable and creative person before becoming a mother, but somehow this is different. How, I am not quite sure yet. And the boundless and free part, well that just makes me excited for what lies ahead.

And secondly,
I know. I understand. Me too. {Momma Zen, p. 8)

This is it - these may just be the only 6 words that I ever need to hear. Ever. Because they are the only ones that help when your hair isn't washed, your clothes are spit up on, your thoughts are consumed with your lack of sleep, your baby is on a boob strike and you just ran into one of those moms whose hair is perfectly straightened, her white shirt is pressed, her purse is actually a purse and not a 10 pound diaper suitcase and she is actually accessorized with a necklace and shiny battle flats.

Because, I am not alone in this. Ever. Not matter what it is. And neither are you.

20 November 2009

Dust collecting

My house looks how I feel - dust collecting at the edges, disorganized, needing some TLC.

I always know when I have overbooked myself by the state of my house - don't get me wrong, I have certainly softened around the cleanliness of my house since having a baby and for the most part it feels just fine, but this week was different.

I had in fact overbooked myself with too many activities and commitments on too many consecutive days. Perhaps I got overzealous with this new found energy I have some how found. And so I broke one of my rules - only one scheduled activity or commitment per day.

So at the end of this very full week, including yesterday's locked car debacle, I am simply needing a bit of rest and my house is needing a bit of attention.

19 November 2009

First panic

This is indeed a year of firsts. First tooth, first steps, first word, first moment of panic. Most will belong to him, the last one belonged to me today.

I knew it would happen - that moment when your heart stops and world stops spinning. I just figured it would happen later, when he is mobile and as quick as the wind. But it happened today, and it had nothing to do with anything he did. This, was all me.

Straightforward day - mail thank you card, drop of project at printer, drive to Oakland to deliver food for new mama, papa and baby, cuddle new baby, pick up baby gate, feed baby, feed me, come home. I had it all figured out - timed perfectly so the first nap could happen in the car on the way to Oakland and the second on the way back. Easy, perfect, no problem.

Left the house, drove six blocks to the post-office, doubled parked, left keys in ignition, got out of car, left driver side door open, went to get card out of bag in trunk, went back to close driver side door, closed driver side door, went back to open back - and its locked. Go back to driver side door, and its locked. They are all locked. And the ignition is on. And the baby is inside. And then in one millionth of a second, I was helpless and terrified.

All of a sudden, he was in there and I was out there and I had no idea what to do. My keys, my phone, my baby. I could have panicked. That would have been understandable. But he was fine, the motor went to battery power (because its a hybrid) and all I needed to do was call a locksmith. Luckily I wasn't the only one mailing things this morning, so I chatted up a nice looking lady, told her what I had done, and asked for her phone. Who do you call? Do you call 911? She had internet on her phone, we found a locksmith, gave him the address and he said 15 minutes. When we figured I was okay, she dr0ve away and took her cell phone with her.

And then, he started to cry. No he started to scream - and I there was nothing I could do. I could see the tears streaming down his face and these little red eyes looking at me longingly. I sang Itsy Bitsy Spider through the tinted glass and hoped that my hand gestures would make him think this was an intentional game. But I could feel the panic start in my gut. And what was probably only minutes felt like unbearably long hours.

I asked another guy if he would check the hardware store around the corner - he simply shrugged and said they weren't open yet. I knew I just needed to wait - help was on the way. So I stood with my hand on the glass, hoping the nugget knew I was right there.

It was that hand that must have alerted her, because she knew. A few moments later a gentle looking woman asked me if I was okay - when I told her what was happening, she said "I knew - I saw you. I saw you talking to the glass and I knew there was someone inside. I am mom too. I will get my husband - he'll help."

And what happened next is 8 minutes of my life that played in fast forward. It looked something like this:
"Oh there is a baby in there - oh my god."
He called AAA.
His wife sang songs to the nugget.
I asked her name, she said Alejandra.
I said, me too.
She said it would be okay.
AAA arrived.
In 2 seconds the door was open.
I took nugget out and just held in my arms.
In 2 seconds he was fine.
AAA left - the husband had settled it all.
He won't let me pay.
He hugged me and said get AAA.
She hugged me and said Happy Thanksgiving.
I put nugget back in the car.
I got back int the car.
And I wept, uncontrollably.

18 November 2009

This is so NOT me in the kitchen. It's actually not really any woman in the kitchen but there are those who are so very skilled at creating divine things in the kitchen - that they seem magic to me. I get that there is no magic wand, but sometimes I am not sure.

I have always observed from a distance, accepting my role as the "best cleaner upper around" and am always very happy when I somehow found myself in the company of others who love to cook. I don't love it. I don't really even like it. But I am learning.

In my family, the love of cooking has been passed down in the male genes - I have two brothers who usually knock my socks off and I had a dad whose profound pleasure for nurturing his family through what he concocted in the kitchen was evident at every meal. So I feel like I have a bit of an excuse. But now that I am some one's wife and some one's mother, the reality is that someone has to cook and I can't expect my 7 month old to do it.

So I am learning. And tonight is a perfect example. You see tonight I did not cook for myself or my family, I cooked for a friend - a friend who has been a mother for just about 5 days. A friend who was always the one to feed me. And tomorrow, it is my turn to feed her.

And as I was chopping and dicing and mixing, I realized that something has in fact changed. The pre-mom me probably would have stopped at Whole Foods on the way to her house and picked whatever looked the best. Or maybe the pre-mom me would have chosen a few easy to heat up things from the Farmer's Market. But instead, I actually cooked.

It's nothing complicated, really, but its handmade and its full of heart. Because I can't repay this friend for the many times she has taken care of me. And I don't have a magic wand. But a have a messy kitchen, a home that smells of baking gingerbread and a bag full of goodies for a new mama and her babe and that feels really good.

15 November 2009

Momma Zen

Part of navigating the first year of motherhood is learning to get very comfortable in the world of unpredictable chaos. Some days schedules work, other days they end in the trash with the mound of dirty diapers. For me, part of the "oh I am starting to feel normal again" thing that started around 6 months came with the addition of re-introducing rituals or habits or structures that were solely for my benefit and no one else. Part of that, was starting to write again. Another part was starting to read again.

Last week I committed to start reading Momma Zen again. (I had started in my 7 month of pregnancy and then needed to put it away - I wasn't ready for this real a look at motherhood.) But last week, I felt ready. So, I committed to read one chapter, every Sunday and then write about it.

So today, would have been that first Sunday. But what happened instead is that I read Karen's blog an hour ago, and what she wrote today, is better than anything that I could have put together. So, I pass along to you, her words, on this first Sunday of committing to reading her wise and witty words:

How to make a baby

Add baby.
Dispose of birth plan.
Put all cashmere out of reach.
Abandon eurostyle.
Abandon style.
Piss on style.
Shop Wal-Mart in haste and desperation.
Beg for hand-me-downs.
Wear husband's sweatpants.
Every day.
Leave room for baby weight, flat feet, worry lines and permanent scars.
Resemble your grandmother.
Forget bathing.
Luxuriate in a hot shower for 7 seconds one day.
Forget that day.
Chop off your hair.
Lose your head.
Soak all stains overnight in salty tears.
(The stains remain and the tears return.)
Simmer in fatigue.
Whisk in exhaustion.
Churn the night into the day.
Let surface harden until brittle.
Scrape the bottom.
Let time evaporate.
Give up completely.
Make nothing.
Except mac and cheese microwaved for 3.5 minutes on High.
Love without doubt.

From Cheerio Road - the delightful blog of Karen Maezen Miller

12 November 2009

Waiting for rain

Urban Outfitters has always been a secret weapon of mine...for inexpensive home decor items. Every now and again I would find a shirt or necklace that wasn't too "20 year-old-art-school-student", but I will admit it has been a while.

However, this younger sibling to Anthropologie has grown up a little. I got a catalog in the mail yesterday and was fascinated with this picture. Mind you, she seems to be missing some pants, but aside from that, this new mom loves this look and loves the utilitarian rainboots. And since the forecast is for rain, I might just have to go and take a look.

11 November 2009

Take comfort

Here is why I love Pandora. Because without trying, gifts like this fill your living room in the moment when you need it most.

Comfort by Deb Talan

When everyone has gone to sleep and you are wide awake, there's no one left to tell your troubles to. Just an hour ago, you listened to their voices lilting like a river over underground and the light from downstairs came up soft like daybreak, dimly as the heartache of a lonely child. If you can't remember a better time you can have mine, little one.

In days to come when your heart feels undone may you always find an open hand and take comfort wherever you can, you can, you can.

And oh, it's a strange place. And oh, everyone with a different face but just like you thought when you stopped here to linger, we're only as separate as your little fingers. So cry, why not? we all do then turn to one you love and smile a smile that lights up all the room.

Follow your dreams in through every out-door, it seems that's what we're here for. And when you can't remember a better time you can have mine, little one. In days to come when your heart feels undone, may you always find an open hand and take comfort, there is comfort.

Take comfort wherever you can, you can, you can.


It's her voice and the lyrics - what I wish I could say to the nugget, every day. Another mama must have felt the same way...take a look.

10 November 2009

Too big, too long, too mobile

And then, just like that, in a matter of a few days maybe a week, everything was too small. He is now too heavy for my favorite sling, too mobile for my favorite bouncy chair, too long for my favorite towel, too big for our favorite hammock.

So on Sunday, with a sort of bittersweet longing for what was, I packed these favorites into a storage container and placed it in the garage, to be opened again should there be a baby number two.

What has stayed with me is how much effort, time and energy I put into choosing and obtaining these "favorites". Some were gifts, others were the divine answers to the unexpected needs that arose in the first weeks of new parenting (ie. the hammock saved our lower backs from endless hours of bouncing on the yoga ball). The decisions all seemed so important, and then a little over 6 months later, the results simply lie dormant in a box in the garage.

So it is once again a lesson in the fluidity of the first 12 months of life - how much change and transformation occurs in such a short span of time. And it is a lesson for me, to not get attached to the "stuff" of child-rearing, because I have a lifetime of favorites still to come.

As a side note...I read this post aloud to my husband just now. And as I read, he blurted out "The hammock's gone?" And it made me smile - that was one of his favorites too.

This is why

And so the student asked, "Why then do we meditate?"

And the teacher's answer was "To be peaceful for you, useful for them."

This has never been more true than in motherhood. I was in Thailand on retreat when I heard this, and it rang true then. Now, it seems there is really no other way.

So this morning, as soon as the nugget was asleep for his morning nap - instead of doing the dishes, answering emails, folding the laundry, straightening the living room, writing a to-do list, making phone calls or catching up on my blog reading, I sat. I sat on my pillow and observed a mind that was fighting every moment. I wanted to get up a hundred times. But I didn't. Instead, I decided to just breath and stay on the cushion. The point is to be where you are - and today I was able to sit and breathe.

And though it was only fifteen or so minutes, something about today was different. Something about me was different.

So, find your tools - do the things that create inner peace and calm for you.

Whoever and whatever your "them" are, they will thank you for it.

09 November 2009

Bon Appetit

I wanted to love Super Baby Food, I really did. But it was dense and complicated and seemed to make me more anxious about diving into the world of solid foods than not, so I took what I could and stuck with sweet potatoes and pears. Knowing I needed to branch out, I went to my trusted source: my comrades in arms, the two new mamas I meet with each week. And of course, the answer was there, as always.

Williams Sonoma's Cooking for Baby

Here is why I love it:

1. It's easy to read, easy to follow, easy to use and makes me feel like I know what I am doing

2. It's broken down into months with suggestions for what is appropriate for your little one

3. It offers alternatives to rice cereal as baby's first food

4. The recipes could be for adults too - one meal for everyone (brilliant concept)

5. It's practical and pretty

For someone who would rather do the dishes than make the meal, this is a really good place to start. They say it takes baby steps, and it seems these little steps for my babe may just turn me into someone who likes cook.

But let's wait and see.

08 November 2009

Being read to

I am a little behind. Okay maybe a lot behind. But I am a new mom and a trip to the movies sounds about as exotic and mysterious as a trip to Shanghai.

We live without a TV. And though we used to keep Netflix in business, we have slowly stopped watching movies as well. And mostly, I don't miss it. We talk to each other more. And read more. But I miss the true escapism that movies provide me. So when two trusted sources recommended The Reader in one night, I couldn't resist and headed straight to our neighborhood Blockbuster. And on Saturday night, watching each nuance of this masterpiece projected onto the wall of our living room, I escaped.

Kate Winslet is stunning. This whole movie is stunning.

If you haven't seen it, see it.

04 November 2009

My wild thing

He will probably hate me some day for posting this on the web. But I just had to...

It was at the end of his first official photo shoot today for the first official grand-ma calendar that will be given at Christmas.

Do you see his wild thing socks? A splurge, but worth every penny. Available at cotton sheep {san francisco}.

02 November 2009

My mindfulness teacher

In the childbirth class that we took before the nugget's birth, our teacher Nancy Bardacke would often remind us that I was "Giving birth to our mindfulness teacher." I always thought I knew what she meant.

Today at Spirit Rock, surrounded by other mamas and papas, I really began to realize what she was talking about. You see, since this class started just a few weeks ago - so much has already changed. The baby who was at one point content to lie on the floor and suck on one of Sophie's limbs for at least part of the seated meditation turned into the baby who could sit up and be content with my keys and the new wooden car that grand-ma bought. Then, in just two weeks, that baby turned into an active 7 month old who can pull himself up on my pants and who seems to look at every little detail in his new world with a devouring and insatiable desire. Needless to say, there was little meditation or "paying attention" for me today. At least in the way that it used to look.

And when I realized that I would not be participating in the class today in the way that I would have without a baby or with a younger, more serene baby, I realized that what he was forcing me to do was to be in the present moment. His present moment - where everything is new and interesting and magical.

So everything always changes and live in the present moment - two lessons to learn over and over again.

01 November 2009

Catching my breath

Last year, for the first 10 days of February, I was in silence at a Buddhist meditation retreat in Thailand. I sat, I watched, I learned and I listened. But above all else, I caught my breath.

Today, I caught it again.

It seems such a simple thing to do - this breathing thing. And in fact, it is simple but it is not easy. Sometimes, at the end of the day, after dinnertime and bath time and story time, I sit down and realize that perhaps I hadn't breathed all day. Really breathed - like those deep breaths that plummet you back into the moment, back into the present instead of the land of anticipation, preparing and planning. And I know that if I allowed myself a few seconds several times a day to let my breath bring me back to the present moment that I would feel less anxious about the grown-up dinner that is not ready or the decision I have to make about this season's flu shot.

So today, I allowed myself. In fact, I allowed myself 6 hours of it at the Mindful Motherhood daylong at San Francisco Zen Center. There were seasoned moms and new moms and moms-in-waiting, all hoping for that nugget of truth or that "ha-ha" moment that might make their 3 year old's tantrum more tolerable or their 3 month old's nighttime feeding precious again. But in the end, there was no nugget of truth, just the breath that we all had with us from the start.

I did leave with a powerful insight into the physical contraction that follows after loosing one's breath. It is a gnarling of the joints,a stiffening of the muscles, a hardening of the shoulders, a clenching of the jaw, a grinding of the teeth and worst of all a tightening of the heart. This place of contraction, in which I am holding my breath and living in constant anticipation of the laundry that needs to be washed, the diapers that need to be purchased or meltdowns that will inevitably happen, leaves me stiff and inflexible - both physically and mentally. So today, one breath at a time, I softened.

And everything and nothing has changed.