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 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


Where do I begin?

I 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 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".


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.