Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some "Comin' Out" Pics

C'est la femme! (It's a girl) Not that you can tell in this lovely profile shot...

















Pictures of our completed kitchen remodel. Yes, we're quite happy with it :). (You'll have to scroll way down to see the post with "before" pictures.)




















Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Raising a Heathen

Sascha came home on Sunday to an exhausted post-four-days-of-supreme-attitude-and-sleep-deprived family. Ari was in rare form, wanting to play "socka" outside with Dad but also extremely tired and ready for a nap. Sascha comes in after 10 minutes of play with a strange look, his eyebrows elevated. Apparently, Ari was so tired that he cussed his way through playtime, proclaiming "shit shit shit" while running along and trying to kick the soccer ball.

I think we need to start watching our language...

-----------------------------------------------------------

Listening to an NPR segment on the history of Christmas celebration today, Ari and I held the following discussion:

Ari: Mugoo, mugoo! (music, music)

Wendy: Ari, Mommy's learning about Christmas right now, that's what they're talking about.

Ari: silence, as he considers this...

Radio: yadda yadda yadda Christmas yadda yadda

Ari (sudden gasp): Santa Clause!

Wendy (eyebrows raised): Yes Ari, that's right. Santa Clause...and Baby Jesus.

Ari: Deedas? Beebee?

Hm, somehow we've gotten our priorities messed up...

Update

For those of you sending up prayers, thank you.

Arnie is doing better, as of last night, despite a random rapid-onset fever yesterday. The chest tube (a horrible "discomfort") was removed, as were a couple other tubes and he was able to get up for a little bit.

My Grandpa has decided to pursue heart surgery and is doing better (although exhausted), back home, diagnosed with "angina" and awaiting a cardiologist's visit to his small, rural hospital to discuss and schedule heart surgery in Sioux City, IA.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hunkering Down

Once you become Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.

As it states to the right, Margery Williams wrote this in her profound children's book, the Velveteen Rabbit. And let me tell you, things are certainly Real right now. In this yuletide season of joy, gratitude, warmth and deliverance I find myself crying more than laughing. Of course, it has something to do with the month. December brings this on for me. But this year, my extended family is hunkering down with me. Time to weather the storm.

After surviving an away-from home Thanksgiving week, Sascha flew out to Michigan to be with his dad (Arnie) Thursday during his complicated and serious surgery on Friday. He came through very well and everyone was relieved. Sascha flew home Sunday after another Michigan blizzard and arrived safely in San Diego. A few hours later we received word that Rigo, Arnie's Rottweiler, had fallen through the ice and has not yet been found. Arnie was told while still recovering in the hospital.

Reality.

This morning, my grandfather was taken to the hospital for the third time in a week, this time by ambulance. Prognosis: an artery is blocked and his body is gearing up for a heart attack, after a stroke last week. A 91 year old man with more lives than 10 cats, he now has to decide whether to go in for surgery or allow "nature to take it's course".

Reality.

After all of this, topped off by the sheer exhaustion of single-parenting a toddler going through yet another boundary-challenging phase (along with a small death wish), I've come to realize that Reality isn't something I've really been facing lately. Hell, most people don't face it at all. Ever. The Reality I'm talking about is the stark in-you-face knowledge that life is *not* absolute. It is temporary. It is a fleeting thing and can disappear in an instant. We take it for granted, this life thing. We yell at people we love. We criticize. We trudge or drink our way through the holidays with a sense of duty and "just get through it" rather than joy. We lack faith in our fellow human soldiers on this field and lack even more faith in God. I've been picking at this bone for weeks now and, now that I'm emotionally, physically and mentally shredded, it's finally come to a head.

I plead with all who may read this...appreciate your loved ones while they're here. Tell them you love them, to their face, and mean it. If you don't mean it, if you really don't love them, then either deal with it and heal or admit when it's finished. For goodness sake, life is too short not to be honest (I'm talking real situational honesty, not that nit-picking criticism cloaked as honesty). And I'm as guilty as any other - for keeping quiet when I have something to say, for being scared to draw confrontation or for lacking the words to voice the thoughts inside. Well, as a resolution, this ends now. It will take time for me to find a new strength and a firm voice. Just as it will take time for others to work their way through the truth, if it happens at all. But if we have faith...

I first became Real when Matt died. The reality and truth of life hit me square in the face. And that slap mark hasn't gone away. It takes something like that to wipe the benign insouciance off your face as you trip your way blithely through life. Suddenly everything is meaningful and you're staring Truth in the face. As I re-entered life, some of that insouciance returned but the dark knowledge of loss keeps me pretty grounded and I manage to keep my priorities straight most of the time. I hope that continues, although I miss the blind innocence of the past.

There are some who may lift an eyebrow at this posting. Well, lift away. It's my blog. Start your own. But at least be honest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paraphernalic Update

Cat Update
All blood tests came back clean...according to the lab, Bella is a healthy cat. Oh, praise the whiskered gods. Although the vet did suggest doing a $300-400 ultrasound to "potentially" rule out Irritable Bowel Disease and/or Lymphoma since she's lost so much weight over the past year and a half. I said no, we'll just feed her more, thanks. If she has cancer, she'll get more sick and die. If she has IBD, she'll throw up and won't gain weight. Call it a low-rent, do-it-yourself diagnostic test (she's a cat for Christ sake).
Status
Weight: She's now filling out and doing just fine.
Fleas: Dead.
What I learned: Trust your gut. Don't freak out. This too shall pass. Don't always follow a "medical professional's" advice. An animal is an animal and people are people. Try to remember the difference. Sometimes vets forget that difference.

Remodel Update

Well, we'll be eating out for at least two more days although I have considered trying to create oatmeal in a coffee pot so maybe there are some merits down certain avenues I haven't yet contemplated. Ari loves our contractor. His name is Bob. Bob the Builder. Ari is nicer to Bob than he is to me. When Bob leaves for the day, Ari rushes in with his wooden hammer and says, "tools, work, fix" and bangs away on the sides of the cupboards. Ari likes to fix things. And while he doesn't like noise itself, he does like to create his own.
Status
Kitchen: Dusty, gaping hole with promise of resurrection.
Appliances: Slight hope for a sink this weekend. Little hope for a stove before Monday.
Spirits: Really not bad. Would be better with wine.

Here are some pictures from our dust-covered adventure this week.







Before (Sunday). Hmm, this looks nice, actually. Hint: you can't see the cracked, moldy tile grout, the plastic coating peeling off the cabinets, the chipped sink or the appliances-on-their-last-leg.













It's Hammertime.














Hey, who put that there?








Tuesday.










Wednesday. We're refacing the cabinets, not replacing.









Baby Update

Had our 4 month check-up today. I had to ask my midwife how far along I am...you tend to leave those kinds of details up to the professionals when it's your second. Answer: 17 weeks. Ari enjoyed weighing himself over and over again while waiting for the adults to stop talking.

Midwife: "Ari, how much do you weigh?"
Ari: "Two."

Status
Baby: Fine. Heart's a-beatin'.
Momma: Fine, albeit with varicose veins and killer heartburn.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Prodigal Cat Returns

Yep. She came home.

If you've been keeping up with the Freiwald Family Sagas, you'll know that our slightly dingy cat Bella disappeared three weeks ago last night. We had pretty much given her up for dead (and had gotten quite used to an enjoyable one cat household)...until she showed up Friday night. Un-friggin-believable. I was sitting on the couch thinking about dinner when I heard feline yelling through the patio door. My first thought, "No way. No. Freaking. Way." I walked onto the patio and found that the yelling was coming from our neighbor's patio. I looked through the crack between our walls and found a cross-eyed pair of blue eyes staring back at me. Yep, that's Bell. After three weeks. (No, our neighbor did not steal her...there's a large crack in her patio that a very skinny cat can wiggle through from the outside.)

After much ado, I managed to get a relieved/freaked-out Bella back into our garage and she scarfed down food and water like she hadn't eaten in, well, three weeks. Which she probably hadn't, given the way she looked. After a night spent in the garage, during which she threw up everything I tried to get into her, I took her to the vet. They were flabbergasted that she came home after that long. I guess that just doesn't happen here with all the predators. Everyone kept telling me how lucky she/I is/am. I'm not so sure "lucky" is the word...

The prognosis:
  • Bella's lost over 50% of her bodyweight in 18 months (since her last vet checkup), half of which was probably lost over the past 3 weeks...my best guess.
  • Due to the severe weight loss over 18 months, her psychosis and vomiting, the vet's testing her for hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. (Sometimes I think the vet can go a bit overboard...I mean, jeesh, maybe she's just a mentally disabled cat who hasn't eaten in three weeks.) We'll get the lab results today. I know Sascha's praying for cancer so I'll be okay with simply putting her down...but I don't want to drag our dirty laundry out on this sunny day.
  • And. She has fleas. Oh joy.

Ergo, Bella's been sequestered in the garage since Friday night, waiting for the flea medication to do it's lovely stuff. Mo's really not too clued in that she's back...or he just doesn't give a crap. Ari kept repeating "bawa, bawa, bawa" all Friday night and now every time I go into the garage to pull my feline Florence Nightingale he mantras "bawa cat, bawa cat". Add to that the fact that our kitchen remodel began today with much banging, sawdust, plaster, tools and boxes of kitchen paraphernalia taking refuge throughout our house...and you'll see that chaos continues to reign nicely in the Freiwald household. It's nice that some things remain constant, isn't it?

Serenity now.
Serenity now.
Serenity now.

Ari-Week in Review, an Update for Grandparents

I realized earlier this week that I never posted Halloween pictures...that's probably because Halloween was less than climactic in our household. Hm, scratch that. It was climactic, but not in a good way. During the day, Ari and I met up with some friends of ours at a pumpkin patch to do some ride-riding and popcorn eating. We had a blast.

Below: our friends (Syndney & Brandi) and Ari in the Bouncy House.



However, Ari awoke from his nap that day in such a snit that I feared dragging out the fuzzy puppy costume so we could go trick or treating at our local mall. As I feared, the world erupted when I even suggested he don such a garmet. He threw a fit for an hour, which is when Sascha stepped in and went all hard-core Halloween Nazi on him. "You will put on this puppy costume and we will have fun tonight, goddamit." I thought it was a little over the top for something that's a bit of an optional event...but it did work. Ari put that over-padded puppy costume on in almost 80 degree weather and sweated and scratched his way through trick-or-treating (I failed to check the inside for itchy parts...). All in all, it wasn't that much fun, but at least we experienced the holiday.

a) With friend Lexy...both of them looking dubious; b) Still doubtful.






The next day, Ari peed in the potty for the first time. I know, we'll post anything.










He also used his first name (aside from "mom, dad, pop pop" and his own name)..."Mo". Our cat. And I quote, "Here Mo, hey Mo, eat, eat!" And trying to feed Mo pieces of his train set.

Prentending has really become the new game over the past couple weeks. He pretends to be our dog by barking, sniffing, licking and bringing us blocks in his mouth. He pretends to cook a meal or a cake and then serves a round tupperware lid to me, placed neatly upon a rectangular lid. We pretend to sneak through a jungle looking for spiderweds while prowling through the bushes at the park. He pretends to see a bug and then "gets it" by slapping his hands together..."Got it!"



Modeling his sunglasses...loooves the groovy look.









Contemplating life while eating a snack.






Today we went to Balboa Park and played "tourist for a day"...or maybe it's "local for a day" since you could seriously pick out all the freezing tourists who only packed shorts for our 65-plus-a-very-cold-wind weather. (Everyone fails to realize that the posted temperature is sans consideration of the cold ocean breeze.) We love going to Balboa, it's a fantastic and unique place, full of history and things to do. Despite Ari having a moderate head cold, he didn't stop dashing from climbing tree roots to examing fountains to jumping off everything. We all had a great time. Not bad for a day free of charge.


Below: Ari jumping at the Hospitality House.

video

a) a massive tree in the Zoro Garden, Ari is the small speck in the lower left corner; b) climbing the roots to the top, he did it himself; c) on one of the walls in the Zoro Garden, where we watched a dozen teenage ninjas jump and flip over the railings; d) Ari wishing in the Botanical House.






















At the Botanical House...

Friday, October 31, 2008

With Child...

My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness. Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance. Their voices wear away at my nerves, their constant needs, above all their need for simplicity and patience, fill me with despair at my own failures, despair too at my fate, which is to serve a function for which I was not fitted. And I am weak sometimes with held-in rage...

...And yet at other times I am melted with the sense of their helpless, charming and quite irresistible beauty - their ability to go on loving and trusting - their staunchness and decency and unselfconsciousness. I love them. But it's in the enormity and inevitability of this love that the sufferings lie.

Adrienne Rich, from her journal, 1960
Sometimes another's words so better capture the wholeness of what's inside you that you are better off using them instead. This is motherhood. This is the Oh-My-God-if-you-whine-at-me-one-more-time-I-will-rip-my-hair-out BUT when-I-place-my-hand-on-your-peanut-butter-toast-scented-head-I-would-rip-the-heart-out-of-anyone-trying-to-harm-you...the bipolar dualities of parenthood. The lump in your throat while you look at your sleeping toddler and think of him, one day, leaving for college...while five hours earlier you were praying feverishly for that very day. Highs and lows. Ins and outs. Dirty and clean. Yes and no (an awful lot of no's). Given this, it's amazing anyone produces more than one child.

And yet...we are. Yes, I am with child. Back in August, I took a test. And it came back positive. Ari enjoyed playing with the results.

After a few weeks of denial, we visited our midwife and received visual confirmation. Yeh, that's a baby in there.

Several more weeks of denial...and morning sickness, junk food, mood swings, emotional outbursts and fatigue...later, I can feel the Little One moving inside me. That's right. Tactile confirmation. I guess we're having a baby.

The truth of this situation hasn't really hit us, I believe. We are distracted by many things...an energetic and opinionated toddler, the health of our parents, a kitchen remodel, the economy, politics...all of this occasionally punctuated by strange questions, "Hey, how about Rosie?" or "Whaddya think of Judah?" or "Do you think I'll hemorrhage this time?" There are certainties that we know:

  • We know April will bring changes we are not prepared for.
  • I know there is a life inside of me for which I am, at this point, solely responsible.
  • We know Ari needs to get into a big boy bed by March if we're to recycle this crib.
  • We know it will be a logistical miracle to rearrange this little house to accommodate everyone happily.
  • We know life is uncertain and the economy unstable and the where's and how's of our place this time next year are not set in stone.
  • I know my stomach, and thighs, are growing a lot faster than they did the last time (hmph).

So I guess time will tell. This isn't to say we're not happy. Thrilled, even. Re-reading the above, it seems melancholy and...reluctant. But I think a better word would be introspective. Because that is what I have been these past few weeks. More and more, thinking of this life...of the possible daughter I may bring into this world, of the legacy of strong Clausen-Schwarz-Boers-Freiwald women that waits for her...of the possible son who may grace us, how to continue raising my boys in a way that benefits them and the world. And how to do that without losing your head...or your own identity. There's the question. And there's the challenge. Time will tell...

...welcome Baby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CAT-astrophe

Where do I begin?

I guess...at the beginning.

Sunday night, we came home from a weekend trip to Nevada to visit Paula and Jay. Mo came pounding out to greet me, per usual, complaining mightily at being left in the lurch. Each of us caught a glimpse of Bella, we think. This is not usual...she usually comes out for dinner, at least. Before bed, Sascha opened the garage door to take the trash out. We haven't seen Bella since. That was almost three full days ago.

So, we're missing a cat. While I'm not remarkably bothered by this fact (she's been getting more and more reclusive and senile lately so I'm wondering if she's been preparing to die), I am bothered by the idea that she a) ran into a coyote; b) picked up the ubiquitous rat poison around here; or c) is lost, scared, starving and freezing. Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure Sascha's planning his own little celebration for tomorrow night, providing Bella still hasn't returned. Four days was his opined deadline for being "concerned" as to her whereabouts. "Concerned", my ass. I still love you, Sweetie, but I can read you like a book.

And then.

I've been noticing this weird dirt falling off the cats over the past couple weeks. They'd been itching and shedding more as well. Being that I was distracted by some other personal issues and was simply happy if they weren't sitting on me, I wasn't paying too much attention. So it took about four weeks to catch on to the fact that my cats have fleas. Fleas. Yes, fleas. Oh. My. God. Being from the Midwest and having, up to a few months ago, strictly indoor cats, I have absolutely zero experience, and tolerance, with said pestilence. I didn't even know what the friggin' things looked like. Well, I know now. One flea bath* and one "picking" session later (ugh), I showed up at the vet's office this morning with fleas still hopping on an unhappy Mo (Bella likely being coyote fodder by now). An hour later, I left the vet's office armed with a flea-treated and fully vaccinated cat, 5 more doses of Revolution, an appointment for a feline dental cleaning and the assurance that this is the worst flea season on record in Southern California** and, oh yeah, flea season doesn't really end here and, oh yeah, the fleas are becoming resistant to the treatments but maybe this one will work...and I was $130 lighter.

Thus begins the Eradication of the Household. Borax on the carpet, vacuuming every day (my favorite chore), washing galore. Well shoot, the house will probably never be cleaner, I should be grateful.

So, if you have any extra white light hanging around, wanna toss it this way? I'm tired.



*Sascha redeemed himself by helping me contain and wash a yowling Mo.

**We have encountered more pests since moving here than I thought possible in one year. Spiders, ants, termites and strange bugs of the what-the-hell-is-that!? variety throughout the house. Gigantor spiders dangling over the sidewalks. And now fleas. Oh, and then there are the coyotes lurking in the canyons, which are everywhere.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pre-Birthday Thoughts

I just received three birthday cards in the mail...from my mom, mother-in-law and grandmother. The matriarchs in my family all came through on the same day. It's a "woman" kind of day. Here's what the card from my mom said:

If I were your age again,
I'd spend a lot less time examining what's wrong about me,
and a lot more time enjoying what's right about me.
Because, you know what?
You're already perfect enough
So, live life on your own terms.
Be who you are and love what you love.
Reserve the right to be wrong.
If things take an occasional turn you hadn't planned on,
don't be tempted to call it a mistake.
Just call it life, and tuck the experience
in your back pocket for safe-keeping.
Pretty soon you can take it out,
share it with someone else,
and call it wisdom.
I'm not kidding. That's how it works.
So, hey-enjoy the life you're in.
Be as happy as you can.
And feel how deeply and completely you are loved.
Always loved.

Now isn't that just about right? About says it all, whether you're male, female, 33 or going on 16. I just wish I could hard-wire this prose into my brain. Because I've been a pro lately at focusing on what I'm doing wrong, what I'm not accomplishing, how I'm not mothering and what I'm not contributing to this world. Since when has the negative become so attractive? I'm a Libra for God's sake and have been, to a fault, optimistic for most of my life.

And so, today, while I was playing with Ari and mentally cataloging my to-do list, I unconsciously reprimanded myself for not accomplishing very much of it. And then Ari took a nap and I checked my email. And there was a letter from a friend who had a baby almost six weeks ago...as her little girl came into this world, her 7 year old nephew passed from it. An hour apart.

Who. The. Hell. Cares...

...About making sure the house is clean before you leave on a weekend trip or before the babysitter comes?
...If you didn't get up at 6am to get a jump on that writing project?
...Whether or not you look a little greasy at Target because you didn't get a chance to shower this morning?
...If you're the kind of mom who can get her kid to eat anything in the world or just Cheerios three times a day (this one really has nothing to do with the mom, but we feel like it does)?
...If you've been upset because you're pretty sure you're not doing the thing you're supposed to be doing?

As a wise man once told me, "there is no supposed to. There is only what is and what you make it to be." (Thank you, Bernie.) If you don't like it, change it if it can be changed. If it can't, then accept it and change what you can to make yourself happy. In the case of my friend's nephew, change is impossible and acceptance is a long time in coming. I know this. But for so many of the rest of us who get caught up in the day to day displeasures that can rob you of joy...this is something we can change. We can choose to "live life on our own terms". We can choose to be accepting or proactive.

On my birthday, I'm usually a little introspective about the year that is closing and I set goals (spiritual resolutions, if you will) for myself over the next year. It's a tradition that I can't quite kick. My own personal New Year. Though I'm not sure I'll share those goals here tomorrow, suffice it to say that one will encompass change v. acceptance. The challenge will be in following through. But maybe, if we all keep ourselves accountable and remind each other that we're perfect just the way we are, then perhaps it won't be such a challenge. I'm game. Are you?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

87 degrees and counting...

...October heat wave. With no air conditioning.

Well, today is quite possibly the messiest day we've had on record for a very long time. It began around 11:30 this morning with tears while we were whooping it up at Gymboree. Some of the girls had decided to get a little vocal (i.e. toddler argument) and Ari absolutely detests confrontation. So after 15 minutes of listening to two little girls screeching it out, Ari sidles up to me with his big hazel eyes rich with tears and says, "home, home". I tried to tempt him with bubbles and "parachute time" but it was a no go. He was upset and I needed to take him home.

Enter lunchtime. And broccoli cheddar soup, his favorite. Picture a red dinasour bowl 3/4 full of beautiful broccoli cheddar "boot" (soup). Picture an eager Ari climbing into his chair and catching the edge of the bowl with his hand. Picture deep yellow soup covering his entire left side and a decent 3'x3' area around the kitchen table...and 1'x5' sludge toward the kitchen sink. Oh! no.....

I de-clothed and mopped off the sobbing Ari and proceeded to wipe up by the sink only to see him run back over to his "boot" on the floor and go skidding through it on his now-bare bottom. More sobbing Ari. The whole process, including "boot" replacement, took about 20 minutes...and a load through the washing machine.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen for the third time today, Ari peacefully "read" his books in the living room. I cheerfully walked in to ask what he was reading and found him looking at a flap book (one of those books with flaps you can lift up and see pictures/words underneath)...and saw that he had removed (i.e. ripped out) said flaps and piled them neatly next to his leg. That was a library book.

The flaps collected and the book placed high out of reach until I could get at it with some Scotch tape, I decided it was time Ari helped me for a change. So he helped me sort coupons...and did a fine job. Until I realized he had pooped (he had a diaper on by now). So I schlepped him upstairs for a change and, upon plopping him down on the changing table, saw a nice brown swath across my soup-stained shirt. I haven't had poop on my own clothes since he was an infant.

Did I mention he has a runny nose?

Like I said, messy day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Birthday Shots

Almost three weeks later...I almost decided to nix this post altogether but I pomised a couple of people I'd put up a picture of the train-wreck (ha!) of a cake I threw together. Not my finest culinary moment. But Ari had a great birthday, loved the choo choo cake - we had to re-light and blow the candle out three times before we decided enough was enough - and, of course, present opening was a blast. The pictures below encompass gifts from Sascha and I, Sascha's parents and my parents.


One of Ari's many blow-outs. He now calls candles "blow".


His new "cheese" look, with his new "boop".


Books!


The big-ass choo choo table.


Zoom zoom.





Ari Speed

So I'd like to tell you about my day...

I wasn't feeling a particular rush to be anywhere by a certain time today...maybe because it's Friday...maybe because we had no plans...maybe because I simply calmed down and decided to let life happen along with us today...I don't know. Be it as it may, the end result is that we took the morning at Ari Speed. We dawdled over breakfast and I poured my son more Honey Nut Cheerios when he asked for them, even though he still had some in his bowl (it's less frustrating to spoon your O's when there's a lot in there). I watched with amusement as he grabbed my devotion book, flipped through the pages until he landed somewhere in May and proceeded to hunker down on his elbows, "reading" the devotion (nary a juvenile literature page in sight) and spooning Cheerios into his mouth. Just like Mom.

I took the time and patience to politely ignore him while I washed my face and dressed for the day, letting him learn how to wait for five minutes while Mommy does something. And it worked. After five minutes of whining and clinging to my leg and getting zero response, he huffed and walked into his room. Two minutes later, I was finished and found him playing with his cars.

Then we went to the library. Instead of me jamming our book returns into the slot, I let Ari slide our read-up bounty down the chute and we counted each one as it went clunking to the bottom. We explored wall decorations and took the time to ask the librarian where to find some truck and train books after Ari loudly stated "tuck, no tuck" as we looked through the sections. You can't imagine his excitement and the number of "oh boy's" he let loose when she led us to a jackpot. All because I took the time to listen, understand and help him find what he needed instead of forcing him to follow my path for the day.

We ate our snack in the car and Ari got to sit in the driver's seat. After a quick count-down (i.e. "2 minutes left, now one minute, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, okay, all done"), he willingly turned off the hazard lights (loves that red button) and went into his car seat. Because I let go of needing to be in control every minute and trusted my son to cooperate...

We went to Trader Joe's and he almost learned how to say "Wazzzuuup" from the very loud, yet friendly guy that checked us out. And even though he was more intimidated than enlightened, the guy still gave him four Trader Joe stickers, which he decided to plaster all over my arms. I was extremely flattered, since Ari usually covets all stickers, and took it that he was happy with me today.

Then we went to Ralphs (our grocery store chain, but at a different location). And that's where my day got really interesting...and enlightening (yes, I know that's the second time I've used that word).
Quick digression: I've noticed, in my two years of being a mom, that I now have a lot more conversations with complete strangers. All because I have a child with me. There's something about a young one that acts as a liaison between human beings and makes us...more open, friendlier, more aware of each other's humanity and worth, I guess. And, frequently, those strangers that come out of the woodwork because of a child are ones that pass my character radar.
Again due to my unhurriedness for the day, I let Ari out of the cart and allowed him to help me push and to jump alongside me like a frog. At one point, he climbed up and clung to the mesh, feet up on the bars, and announced, "OKAY, GO!" Apparently, I was supposed to start pushing now that he was Monkey-Boy. So, we wandered around this strange Ralphs looking for eggs, with Ari asking for kisses along the way (I'm telling you, it was a kick-ass morning). That's when we bumped into Elan Cohen. A complete stranger for all of 2 seconds.

So, about 10 feet short of the eggs this morning, I had a meaningful conversation with a lovely gentleman whom I never would have noticed had Ari and I not just let life happen today. For five minutes, Elan held Ari. And I mean held Ari - he was draped right over Elan's shoulder in the nicest Grandpa kind of hug. We talked about his grandchild, children, love of family, spouses, his history, how to raise children with love and respect and truth. In ten minutes, I learned more from this 57 year old French-British Jewish man, born and raised in Egypt, then serving 20 years in Israeli intelligence, than I have from most of the moms in our playgroup. Granted, I didn't share much from my life...but with people like this, the ones whose paths you intersect, I've found that what I need to do is listen. That is why this person was sent to me today. And when it comes to my elders, what I always need to do is listen. They've lived. And they have earned the right to speak. How else am I going to learn?

Ari and I walked away from Elan, both smiling, both warm in the fact that we had learned something. About trust. About openness. About the value and community of each of us doing this thing called life. Ari learned, as a little boy missing his grandparents, that there are grandparent-types to be found everywhere. Even one that sounds kind of like his own Grandpa Arnie. And what I have recently been exploring and learning about motherhood and being a family was underscored with every word Elan and I shared.

So, a thank you to the Universe and to God for handing me Patience and Understanding as I climbed out of bed this morning. I am the better for it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To All Those Sometimes-Hurting Moms Out There...

Occasionally, I have a rough time. Contrary to popular social thought (according to Ari's playmate's mothers), Ari is not the mellow, easy-going child you'd think when you see him playing calmly at the park. The minute we get home, sometimes, all hell breaks loose unless I have a solid Ari-accepted activity with which to woo him. Play by himself? No, not really.

Also, contrary to popular grandparent thought, I am not what you'd call a "natural mom". I did not take to this. No duck in water, am I. Nope. This chick flounders. But she also tries really hard.

Take Monday night, for instance. Dinner was a flop. Ari, although starving, refused to eat the intended-to-be delicious and nutritious meal that was lovingly placed in front of him. After trying it myself, I had to agree. It sucked. So, thoroughly heartbroken and amidst a chorus of whining and drama coming from the general direction of the booster seat, I toasted a Gardenburger and doused it with Ranch dressing. And then had to leave the table when His Highness refused to eat that as well. Judging from the conversation downstairs (as I hid out upstairs), Sascha got him to eat most of it. God bless him. He also cleaned up the kitchen...my husband can be a saint at times.

And so, Monday night sent me spinning to the safety of my laptop. My first action was to email a group of girlfriends, just to connect with some kindred souls. My second action sent me to the Hearts At Home website for a little inspiration and a little direction in this swirling madness known as stay-at-home motherhood.

Which brings me to the title of this blog...for the hurting moms...

When Ari was born, my best friend told me about Hearts At Home, an organization for the professionalizing and emotional support of stay-at-home motherhood. I was skeptical. And then...we moved away from my entire support system, Ari started his tantrum-phase and I was going through a substantial depression. I needed all the help I could get. At about this time, Hearts At Home came to San Diego for a motherhood conference and I jumped on board immediately. Let me tell you. I get a lump in my throat when I think of how understood I felt that day. Hundreds of ladies were present and we all laughed and cried together. I didn't make any bosom friends that day but thanks to the wonderful speakers and workshops, I did start to forgive myself for my failures as a mother; cut myself some slack and allowed my frustration to show at times; learned a trick or two in organizing our lives; and began the realization that I needed to put Sascha's and my marriage first, not our parenthood...something that had been lacking since we moved here. We're still working on that but at least we're aware of it.

And so, when I need inspiration or a little nudge to keep on keeping on, I frequently turn to Hearts At Home...either my notes from the conference, a book by one of their speakers or their website. Thanks Jolyn, for the recommendation. I owe you one.

-----------------------------------------------------

Upcoming conferences dates:

October 3-4, 2008 Grand Rapids, Michigan
November 7-8, 2008 Rochester, Minnesota
March 13-14, 2009 Bloomington, Illinois

If you don’t live close enough to drive to a conference, and hopping on a plane isn’t an option, you can also order a Home Conference Packet which gives you the conference via CD.

http://www.hearts-at-home.org/

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Random Thoughts

Seems everyone is having babies. I just posted another "congratulations" in the announcements section and it gave me a moment's pause to count how many of those I've posted in the past year...

Hm.

When you get right down to it, I guess not that many (at first it seemed that all my friends were procreating like rabbits). One new baby boy, two sets of twins, one new baby girl, one new baby boy. I think that's it. That's seven new kids since November (God help me if I missed someone). Well, I guess, given the stage that we're at in life, this is pretty typical. In 15-20 years I'll probably be posting graduation announcements.

Deep thoughts...Jack Handy (remember him?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Perspective

Today is better. I managed not to lose anything. Yet.
However. I would like to thank my mother for emailing me with the "positive spin" I needed. And thank you, dear Julie, for commenting with honesty on how this happens to all of us. And I'd like to thank MSN.com for the video clip on the North Carolina mother who survived 5 days pinned in a car. Nothing like sweet perspective. My day wasn't so bad.

It makes me wonder if I'd have the wherewithall to survive for 5 days like that...they said she did it for her kids...

Speaking of kids.

After a brief melt-down this afternoon, which soon became obvious that it was merely for the purpose of reminding Mom that it was "TIME FOR MY NAP", Ari and I settled down to read books. He picked out a book entitled, "Why A Son Needs A Mom." Now, this book is boring for toddlers. Filled with black and white photos of moms with sons and bits of sweet advice on why moms are important, it's really more for parents and grandparents who want to get all weepy and nostalgic. However, Ari ate it up. While I read the captions, he looked at the pictures and got all giggly when the mom was kissing the kids. Then he wanted a kiss from *his* mamma. We pointed out the mammas in the picture and the sons in the picture and then I asked where his mamma is and where my son is. Darned if he didn't nail the son part. Pointed right at himself.

So that was neat.

If you're going to fingerpaint, at least have the foresight
to do it in a hotel room.
(Our condo was fumigated last week and this is how we whiled
away some of our time at the Hampton Inn.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Supreme Personally-Directed Frustration

Have you ever lost a credit card? Have you ever had to cancel said credit card?

Okay then. How 'bout this?

Have you ever completed the afore-mentioned process twice in six months?

I rest my case.

For some reason, over the past 10 days, my brain has chosen to vacate the premises surrounding my head. This has been a recurring (is that a word?) condition over the past year but it seems especially virulent this time around. Enough so I finally allowed myself to burst into tears at the sorry, disorganized state in which I've allowed my life to crumble. It didn't help that it took me 40 minutes to finally talk with a human being at my bank, merely to find out if I left my card there. I wasn't on hold. I just couldn't get past all of the "automated services"..."services" my ass.

This brain-vacation is especially noticeable (and aggravating) when you're married to the poster child for Supremely-Organized-I-Know-Where-EVERYTHING-Is. Apparently he has his shit together. Apparently, I do not.

I'm searching for a positive spin on this but, frankly, I'm coming up short.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Anniversary

One year here.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote, "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." I'm not entirely sure which kind of year this has been...maybe some of both.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Week in AV Review

We went to a Move-in-the-Park last Saturday on Coronado Island. Tres fun. You can see the movie screen and the Coronado Bridge in the background.

We walked around while we were there and saw this sky-writing in progress over the San Diego Convention Center. Sascha thought for sure they were writing his initials. They weren't.

video
Oreo cookies at the park.


video
A little more cookie action.

Swim gear.



I'm fairly certain this is in no way legal. Or safe.



Ari's World

Aaah, silence.

For the past seven hours, I have been at the epicenter of the whirling, chaotic exuberance known as "Ari". And the exuberance is finally napping. Albeit reluctantly.

It's difficult to effectively describe what it's like to spend that much time in the company of a lone, yet highly energetic, toddler. And I'll probably fail miserably and you'll wonder "so why the hell is it so exhausting?"...unless, of course, you've been there yourself. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, imagine, if you would, a three-month old Labrador Retriever after a nice, restful nap. This post-nap phase lasts for seven straight hours. You can't kennel him. You can't really scold him because he's not misbehaving. And he wants you to join in with every game, song and dance that meanders through his head.


Now, mind you, I'm not complaining (for once). The kid has been unusually happy and relatively tantrum free for the past week or so. He's been a pleasure to be around, in fact. We've had a blast. But mom's pooped. Ari's bedtime has been stretching later and later. He's now going down (wide awake) at 9:30 and Sascha and I are left scratching our heads as to how it happened. The kid is simply not tired. Granted he sleeps in till almost 9 am now so I suppose if I were to start getting him up earlier, he'd then go to bed earlier. But, oh, let me tell you how much I savor those quiet Wendy-time mornings. I cringe at the thought of waking him up before I finish my pot of coffee. However, here's the kicker, my day still starts around 6:30 am (usually). Ari's doesn't start till 9 am. Ergo, his nap doesn't happen till 4 pm. That makes Mom's day ultra-long...I'm practically comatose and drooling by 3:30. So, still drooling, I decided to update the blog with a little blast from Ari's world :).

He's talking now. In fact, we have achieved, "No, I do." I shit you not. He did not want me anywhere near his toothbrush last night. "No, I do." We have also achieved a vague "Luv vu." Then there's the usual, "truck, car, kitty, cat, dog, puppy, baby, momma, dad, wawa (water), choo choo, apple, ball, eat, Adi (Ari), poop, pee, pee pee, poo poo (he also calls Pooh Bear "poo poo"), penis (yep), hair, eye, ear, teeth, sock," colors, animals and animal sounds, etc. etc. It's very neat because he finally understands most of what I explain to him and I can finally understand about 50% of what he's saying to me. We were driving to the library today to turn in his summer reading hours (okay okay, our summer reading hours) and he starting pointing violently and saying "cannes, cannes, cannes". I thought, huh, we have a francophile on our hands here...and then was relieved to see that he was pointing at a crane from construction site. He likes anything truck, car, construction or train-related. The bigger the better.

Songs are huge right now. He, himself, has been singing the ABC song and "Bingo" (you know, about the dog B-I-N-G-O). Anytime I start randomly singing anything (which is often), he's right there asking me to do more. Today he had Bingo stuck in his head for about 4 hours.

Climbing is also topping the charts as one of the top things to do at any minute. He's conquered our bed, which is about 32" high, every chair in the house, the couch, the stroller, the car and his car seat, playgrounds and the stairs (facing front, like a big person). The only apparati he hasn't attempted are his crib and table-like surfaces, thank God.

Reading has been taking up a lot of his/our time lately. Especially any book about trains or trucks. We sat at the library for an hour the other day, just reading and looking for "more choo choo" books.

Praying. The boy likes to pray. Don't ask me why because I wouldn't describe either of us as "devout". I have a well-used devotion book sitting in the kitchen, which I call the "God book". Almost every day while we're eating one meal or another, he says "God" and goes to get the book. "Pay, pay", he urges and folds his hands. I've tried to tell him that we don't need the book to pray, we can make the prayers up, but he insists that the book must be there. And it must be open. On the back, this book has little pictures of all the contributing authors. After we pray, Ari turns the book over and points at pictures while I read off the names. Today, he kept looking up at me and saying "God?" while pointing at one picture or another. I had no idea what he meant. "Yes, Ar, this is the God book." Points at picture, "God?" Again, points at picture, "God?" Oooh. I'm a little slow sometimes. "No Ar, God isn't in these pictures. We can't see him. He's invisible. These are the people that wrote the God book." "Ooooh. Okay." Like he totally got it.

Water. Water. Water. Any water, anywhere. Mud puddles. Suspicious-looking puddles. Bath water, hose water, water standing in flower pots, sprinkler water, water in a Rubbermaid container on the patio, water in spray bottles, water sitting on the countertop, water trickled from his sippy cup onto his highchair tray. Any water except pool water and ocean water. Go figure. He stills says "no" when we walk into swimming class. And he ran away from the water at the beach last week, laughing, like he knew it totally flummoxed me. This dissapoints Sascha just a little, being the water bug that he is. I kind of want to remind him that he was scared to death of even bath water at Ari's age.

We've been spending more and more time with kids Ari's age and, by default, mom's my age. So much that we're out socializing almost every day of the week. This gets a little tiring for me by the end of the week and I think it does for Ari as well. Today we were supposed to head to the park to meet up with the Thursday gang and he simply refused to don his clothing and leave the house. He wanted to play at home in his jammies. Well slap my ass and call me Judy. You could've knocked me over with a cat hair. This is the kid that always wants to leave the house. The kid that isn't happy unless he's out, away from the house. I guess I had finally out-played him. So, by God-Almighty, hallelujiah, we played at home (which, ironically, is more tiring for me since I'm then the prime playmate).

Oh. And he's still drooling. Check out that shirt.

That's about all that comes to mind for now, when it comes to the World of Ari. Which is good because I have, in all probability, lost all of you except grandparents by now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July Shots

Trying on the new life vest. He seems to like it.

"That sure is a stiff breeze there, Mom."


The Schwarz Clan, et al. sorting their fire power (i.e. firework prep).



Ah, boys and fire.



Gettin' jiggy wid it. Ari introduces Aunt Paula, Uncle Jay and Grandma to "Naked Dancing".



Ari and I sharing an "aha" moment on the boat.



At Sascha's Dad's place on Lake Michigan.



"Build a castle, knock it down. Build a castle knock it down. Build a castle knock it down."



Snack time with Grandma Nana.



"Oh my gosh!"



Learning lawn care with Grandpa Arnie.