Tag Archives: motherhood

Heavy

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So many things have been weighing heavily on my heart lately.

I see the face of the man holding up a tattered cardboard sign on the street corner, beside the freeway onramp, the man whose eyes I dodge weekly, behind my sunglasses, before pushing through the intersection instead of rifling through the handbag beside me to find a dollar bill.

I wonder where he sleeps at night and whether the absence of my dollar in his hand will make his life that much more difficult for him. And then I feel ashamed, driving in my clean car, hands resting comfortably on the steering wheel. His face will stay with me the entire day, if not longer, until it blurs into the face of the next man on a different street corner, the next woman holding a sign and clutching her life’s belongings in a single bag.

They are a sea of anonymous souls, yet they’re familiar. They seep into my subconscious — my conscience — and stay there, as daily reminders of the fragility of life, of life’s misfortune and unrelenting pain.

Since I was a child, I’ve been afflicted with an unnerving sense of worry and on darker days, a nagging sense of outright dread, which I’ve dragged around with me like a clunky, over-packed suitcase. It’s ridiculously odd, I know, yet I somehow always felt I was in control of bad things or good things happening in life, simply through my own actions, which I balanced steadily as if on a delicate tightrope made of a strip of threadbare fabric.

I foolishly thought that if I followed my own imagined “rules,” and maintained an overall sense of duty and benevolence, mostly “good” things would surround me. Or the opposite would result with my bad behavior. I suppose I believed in Karma. As if by stepping the wrong way on a proverbial crack in the pavement, with the wrong foot at the wrong time, the ground beneath me might give out and crumble into dust, or some kind of doom might strike either myself, loved ones close by or complete strangers far away.

“Step on a crack, break your mama’s back.”

I used to believe such silly childhood idioms. I suppose I’m slightly superstitious and I thought my actions were connected to everything in this world, that consequences hinged upon my behavior or my attempts at being kind to others and trying not to break any rules. That one false move, a single misstep on my part, could throw everything off –kilter in the universe (or what makes up a child’s very small universe), a footstep on a crack might render everything doomed — or worse — might do some kind of irreversible damage to someone, somewhere, family, friend or stranger.

I made every attempt to follow the rules as a child and probably into adulthood, to be a good girl, because at the time, I believed good things happened to good people. Good always prevails over evil, right? That if I didn’t step on those real or imagined “cracks,” in the pavement, if I played by the rules and was “good,” nothing would be rendered broken around me. Nothing bad would happen to others or me.

I blame such simplistic thinking on the childhood naiveté of a nervous, tightly wound and somewhat idealistic girl. I obviously know now that I’m not in control of much at all, that I’m certainly not in control of another’s fate, let alone my own. Yet still, I worry. I worry about complete strangers I’ve never met in other countries and best friends in the next town over. I worry about suffering, illness and loss, about sadness, loneliness and hopelessness.

I fret about children I’ve never met and my own children, about scenarios that haven’t yet played out for them and might never play out. Yet still I lie awake at night, worrying, chewing my fingernails down to the quick, running down a mental list of all the possibilities and feeling a sense of overwhelming helplessness. Helplessness about all of the sadness and tragedy in the world that I can’t do anything about, that I can do some miniscule, seemingly insignificant things about in the big picture, but even that makes me feel unbearably small.

I know now that bad things happen to good people and that good things happen to bad people and that an unfair and inexplicable cruelty exists in this world, that there are evil people living amongst us who make it their mission to inflict pain on others. That misery and plight is as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise. And still, I wish it wasn’t so. I wish in some way I could prevent it all.

I see the face of the mother in the Target parking lot with her two young children from a few weeks ago, pleading in capital letters scrawled in black ink for help. And again I divert my eyes. And again, I feel ashamed. I’ll think about her worried, near-hopeless face that night as I lie in bed, and I’ll feel helpless and tiny and insignificant all over again. It’s her I worry about and everyone else.

I worry about them all. And each of them feels like a thousand pounds weighing on my heart.

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A Week in Photos (and a little shameless self-promotion)

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The boys and I were able to get outdoors and explore quite a bit this week.

Last weekend, I took the two older boys to see a movie in an actual movie theatre, which we rarely do. The three-year-old is finally at an age where he can (mostly) sit still through a nearly two-hour film, without too much”Shhhhushing” on my part to get him to stop TALKING OUT LOUD and narrating all the action for us. There was a little bit of this going on, but I think our neighbors were mostly okay with it, since it was a kid’s film after all.

Later in the week, we visited a beautiful arboretum on the campus of my old college, where I was a little wistful reminiscing about being young and quietly studying for exams in the shady gardens there as a teenager, when all I had to worry about back then was studying for exams and being a teenager. I used the outing as a vehicle for not only allowing the boys to study nature, while using their imaginations and getting their hands dirty poking around bubbling streams with sticks and leaving with muddy knees, but to continue to explain the concept of college to my oldest, who had never actually stepped foot on a college campus before.

We stood beneath giant cacti in the sunshine, got up close and personal with vibrant orange monarch butterflies, who let us nearly touch them with our fingertips, and ran through make-believe jungles, pretending we were lost there, using our sticks to guide us through tangled vines.

We also hiked through our favorite canyon this week, under a canopy of oak trees. It was the first time I really let the baby walk around on his own and hike along with us, instead of strapping him into a stroller or onto my body, carrying him on my back. He was giddy with the freedom of exploration, grabbing sticks to carry like his big brothers, stomping around in piles of autumn leaves, touching new textures and throwing rocks. I’ve realized a large part of boy behavior involves searching for the biggest stick you can find on hikes and wielding it as a sword to fight your brother, while also chucking rocks at anything and everything that moves.

“Yeah, boys? Let’s not throw that giant rock at that beautiful bird resting peacefully in that tree, okay?

This week, we also tackled a little project I’d been talking about for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to. We finally moved the baby’s crib out of our bedroom and into his brothers’ room so that all three boys could finally share a room together and the baby could sleep in his own crib overnight instead of co-sleeping with me, as he’s done since birth.

I dreaded the process because I knew it would be met with major screaming tears on the baby’s part. I wrote about why I was ready to get him sleeping in his own crib here. It’s time for him to learn how to sleep in his own space, without still waking up to nurse every couple hours when he’s co-sleeping with me. I am more than ready to get some solid sleep again. They say it takes 72 hours to break any habit and last night was night three of him sleeping in his crib overnight with his brothers.

The first two nights didn’t go very well, my husband was up with him several times, coaxing him back to sleep, but last night, he did much better. He only woke up once, fussed for a few minutes and got himself to go back down. It was the first time in fourteen months that I was able to sleep a solid six hours without waking up and it was blissful. Let’s hope tonight goes just as well. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US and we feasted and gave thanks along with the rest of the country. This year, it was just us five gathering around our table, which I decided to decorate and make festive for the occasion. My husband roasted a delicious turkey and we collaborated on the side dishes: mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney and pumpkin pie. It was a lovely day and an opportunity to be grateful for our blessings, especially the three little lively boys who have stolen our hearts more than we could have ever imagined.

They have taught me so much about loving and living.

And to tie this week up with a beautiful holiday bow, a book I contributed a piece of my writing to, was released today. It’s an honest anthology of funny pregnancy stories from twenty moms called, “Bumptabulous,” and if you’re so inclined to buy it for yourself or an expectant mom, you (or they) are sure to get some laughs and a candid  peek at pregnancy and motherhood.

You can read more about it here and purchase the book here.

If you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful one with your loved ones. I’m thankful for those of you who visit and read about this little life of mine, with my Three Wild Things and share your stories as well.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Quiet Time

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In my twenties — many years before I had children — I spent a considerable amount of time in very loud places. I stayed out late with my friends in trendy bars and nightclubs in Hollywood and New York City, attended concerts I’m sure caused some kind of irreversible eardrum damage, where thumping music blares from giant speakers at an amphitheater or those you stand next to in a bar, sound vibrating through your rib cage with a gust of wind, sound that leaves you temporarily deaf at the end of the night, where you start asking your friends to repeat sentences and try to fall asleep to ringing in one ear, or both.

I lived out loud back then, quite literally. And it was fun. The kind of fun you remember for a lifetime. The kind of fun that found you accidentally locked in bathrooms of underground parties in Paris all alone, giddy and tipsy off too much champagne. Parties so loud, your friends couldn’t even hear your very loud knocks on the door to get their attention, over the sound of very loud French lyrics blasting out of very loud speakers.

Back then, it never dawned on me that one day I’d seek quiet. I used to love being in a loud room or restaurant, voices competing with each other, lively laughter stacking on top of each other like bricks, creating a rhythm all their own. Being surrounded by noise meant I wasn’t alone, even if I still felt alone in a crowd. I craved sound — any sound — music, laughter, dinner conversation, the clink of champagne flutes celebrating a loved one’s birthday, the raised voices of friends debating politics, the cacophony of New York City traffic noise, horns honking, taxi cab drivers shouting with diverse accents, the bass line of a hip-hop anthem blaring from a passing car on a Brooklyn street.

Noise made me feel alive. Quiet made me feel lonely.

So many years later, the days of loud music in sweaty NYC nightclubs, dancing until the sun greeted us the next morning, or the volume cranked up as far as it could go on my car stereo dial while driving solo to the beach on a hot summer day, moon roof peeled back, are long, long gone. So long gone.

The noises of my twenties have been replaced by the noises of my thirties, the wails of newborns needing diaper changes and feedings, the whines of toddlers pleading to have their way, the screeching of “Mo-om!” from the bathroom, requesting some item that always seems to be needed at the most inconvenient time, the conversations of animated characters on the television I somehow know the names of (like I used to know the names of all the hotspots in the exotic cities I traveled through), their exaggerated voices intertwined with those of my children, taking on personas all their own like extra family members: Elmo, Barney, Olivia, Caillou, Dora.

Don’t get me wrong, the sound of my children’s voices is by far the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard — their laughter, the baby’s contagious giggles, my three-year-old’s adorable voice reciting his numbers or singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, my seven-year-old confidently reading to me from his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books like a pro.

Yet still, where I used to crave noise, these days, all I want is quiet. The kind of quiet that doesn’t even include tranquil, new age music in the background, or birds chirping in trees, or crashing waves on a solitary beach.

Just pure, uninterrupted silence.

Quiet no longer equates to loneliness for me. Quiet is the peace I feel I have less of these days, caring for the demands of all these tiny, yet very loud voices who need something, right now, right away.

Admittedly, I yearn to have quiet back. If only for a few hours.

Disneyland Diaries

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I’ll admit, I’m not Disneyland’s biggest fan.

In fact, I wasn’t even a big fan of the place as a kid, when I grew up with it practically in my backyard, an easy, twenty-minute drive up the 5 Freeway on a good day. I can’t even completely pinpoint what it is about Disneyland that makes me uneasy, it just does.

There’s something so saccharine about it all, the squeaky clean image, the creepy, robotic characters and animatronics (I’m talking about those inside the attractions, not the real-life “cast members” themselves), the contrived “fun” that comes with an obscenely hefty price tag, how the entire place is stuck in some kind of bizarre time-warp (I mean, Tomorrowland still looks like 1986 to me), that it’s capitalism, Americana and over-consumption at its finest: buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume and you’ll be happy!

After all, it’s the Happiest Place on Earth, right?

Maybe it’s something about all that happy that creeps me out. Because, it’s not really a true reflection of life itself. Life just isn’t that darn happy all the time. Why should people spend $150 apiece to enter a theme park that promises them happiness by gorging on overpriced churros, super-sized buttered popcorn in cheap plastic Mickey Mouse containers, waiting an hour and a half in lines that snake around buildings for nothing more than a mere three-minute thrill? Is that really happiness? I feel like some of the best happiness I’ve found costs absolutely nothing at all.

I’m sure I’m completely overanalyzing Disneyland.

My point is, against my better judgment we visited Disneyland last weekend for my middle son’s third birthday. And we consumed and consumed and consumed. Until I literally felt kind of sick.

It always amazes me how easy it is to give up your stance on so many things you previously vowed you’d never do, once you have kids. For example, per his request last year, I spent my oldest son’s sixth birthday at a local Chuck E. Cheese’s. That’s something I swore I’d never do, pre-children. Ever. But, there I was, happily eating slices of bad pizza and playing skee-ball.

So. When your adorably spirited three-year-old has a newfound interest in all things Mickey Mouse, you know what you do? You stop being jaded and cynical. That’s what you do.

Yep.

You go to Disneyland.

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

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Oldest son, circa Halloween 2005, four weeks old.

Middle son, circa Halloween 2010, one year old

The baby, circa Halloween 2011, six weeks old

I know plenty of adults who celebrate Halloween each year with as much fervor as when they were children. I’ve never been one of those adults. It’s been years since I’ve dressed up in a costume, but I do think it’s so much fun now that I’m a mom, to see Halloween through a child’s eyes. We’re not a family who really gets into Halloween each year — we don’t go wild with creepy decorations or carve out rows of  jack-o’-lanterns to line our doorstep. We don’t do the Monster Mash. But we do visit a pumpkin patch every year and pick out a pumpkin or two to carve up.

We dress the kids up in costume and we do some trick-or-treating, but that’s about it. There are families on our block who spend thousands of dollars each year decorating for Halloween night. I’m talking elaborate video displays projected on walls, all set to creepy timed music, with people dressed as wandering ghouls, lurking through dry ice and scaring the children. We take full advantage of this, of course.

Fall signals birthday season in our house, with all three boys’ birthdays happening in September and October. I think by the time Halloween rolls around, we’re kind of done with celebrating. The past few Halloweens have been very simple for us — especially for my oldest — because there has been either a newborn or a baby in the house, which sort of limits our trick-or-treating abilities.

I’m sure Halloween will start to get more festive when the boys are a little older and can really take advantage of dressing up and trick-or-treating on the big night.

Middle son, Halloween 2010 as a baby skeleton, one year

Young Indiana Jones, Halloween 2011 six years old

The baby, Halloween 2011 as a little pumpkin, six weeks old.

This will be the first year we’ll take all three boys around the block, dressed in costume, and really make the most of Halloween. We’ll recycle a skeleton suit for the baby, the middle guy will go as his recent obsession (Spider-Man) and I need to come up with a Frankenstein costume for my oldest, per his special request. Maybe I need to consult Pinterest? Here’s where I wish I was crafty.

What about you? Do you get into celebrating Halloween in your house?

If you have kids, what will they dress up as this year?

Introducing…Copeland!

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Back in July, I photographed and interviewed beautiful pregnant mama-to-be, Audrey. She told the story of her and her husband’s four-year struggle to get pregnant, resulting in their journey with IVF in which Audrey ultimately became pregnant with a baby boy. Well, I’m happy to announce that baby boy arrived on August 25th, weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 oz.

They gave him the name they’d planned for him all along: Copeland Michael.

Isn’t he so handsome? I think he looks just like his mommy.

In Audrey’s own words:

“It was the most incredible and amazing thing I have ever done in my life. I am really loving every second with Copeland and with being a new mom.”

I haven’t met precious Copeland yet, but I hope to. I’m so overjoyed for Audrey and her husband Scott. They went through so much to bring their baby into the world. And now he’s here and he’s perfect.

Dreams really do come true.

Keeping it Real

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I have a few confessions to make.

I don’t live in a perfectly decorated home. I don’t do creative, DIY crafts with my kids. I don’t make homemade meals from scratch every night. On the nights I’m in charge of dinner (my husband does most of the cooking in our home — he’s just better at it), meals are home cooked, as in cooked at home, but mainly consisting of something from the Trader Joe’s frozen section. I at least make sure there’s a fresh vegetable to accompany it. Other nights, we eat out or bring take-out home.

I get impatient with my children more than I’d like to.

I love them deeply and unconditionally, but I sometimes crave moments alone without them, without the boisterous shouting or whining that makes our loud house so very loud from sun up to sun down (and beyond), until the boys finally succumb to sleep. My children go to bed very late (we do everything late and we like to joke that we’re on “European” time). We start our entire nighttime routine on the later side, especially during the summer months, with dinner starting as late as 9:30p.

For some reason, we just can’t seem to get it together before then.

Dinnertime itself isn’t always tranquil or pleasant. In my fantasies, it’s filled with charming dinner conversation over a savory, herb-infused roast chicken, which I start baking from scratch early in the afternoon. There’s an exchange of everyone’s days, with each boy eating every morsel of food with vigor. We eat with matching flatware and without a rainbow of ugly plastic sippy cups lining the table.

And then I wake up.

In reality, our dinnertime usually consists of a battle of the wills and lots of enforcing of food-eating because usually (with the exception of the baby), there is plenty of it that’s unwanted, that’s met with scrunched up faces, turned up noses, or outright disdain. The children are such messy eaters and the aftermath is so appalling, I’ve often contemplated buying a large trough and lining them up, farm-style.

If I’m lucky, I’m usually picking at my food from a bowl at the kitchen counter, in between repeating, ad infinitum, a string of commands that even I get tired of hearing every night:

“Eat your dinner. You can’t do (fill in the blank) until you eat your dinner. Please, eat your dinner. Get back to that table and finish your dinner.

Our boys are for the most part sweet, loving and well behaved, but sometimes they’re not. I find it difficult and challenging when they’re not.  Of course, I don’t expect my children to be perfect, but I do expect a few things: participation in family duties (age-appropriate, of course), some manners, respect for one another, compassion, empathy, responsibility for their space and for themselves (this mostly applies to the oldest who is responsible for showering and brushing his own teeth, wiping up counters, putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, setting the table, cleaning up toys and making his bed). The “babies” are less self-sufficient of course, but we’re slowly working on that with the almost three-year-old.

All this is to say, when getting a glimpse of other families’ lives through social media, many times they look so dreamy and charming and effortless. I see perfectly decorated homes and I wonder where the stains on the sofa are, where the toys are scattered, where the sticky fingerprints on the walls are – or worse, all out toddler wall murals (like a few of ours are covered in). I see stylish moms who look so together. Where’s the frustration? Where’s the repetition of commands? Where’s the exhaustion? Most importantly, where do they find the time? The energy? And how in the heck do they keep their houses so clean while wrangling small children?

How do these moms find the time to make complicated homemade meals from scratch each night with vegetables lovingly grown in organic backyard gardens, while I find it difficult to get five meals on the table at the same time, let alone all sit down together peacefully without someone complaining about what’s on their plate and me having to coax them into eating it.

“Just four more bites, okay just three more bites. Fine, two more bites and you can get up from that table.”

I once read a blogger’s description of her family’s pre-dinner routine, which she illustrated through photos. It involved a sun-dappled living room with squeaky-clean floors, complete with kids quietly painting alone while daddy plucked a quaint little song on the piano for the family. I didn’t see any signs of chaos whatsoever. I thought to myself: “This looks nothing like my evening.” How is it that I can have such an opposite nighttime scenario and how do I get it to look more like hers?”

I really don’t know the answers. My kids are still young and they’re not robots. They’re loud and rambunctious and wild and untamed. I can’t foresee serenity until they’re a little older. Maybe?

I can only hope.

It’s hard not to feel completely inadequate when someone else’s life looks so charmed and idyllic through social media. Where homes look like they’re straight out of Domino magazine or Elle Décor and — and although I aspire to have a comfortable, well-designed interior – for now, mine still ends up looking like a hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture ruined by toddlers, with food and dog hair on the rugs thrown in for good measure. It’s true, we really can’t have anything nice in our home. The boys just destroy it.

In our house we’re messy, we’re loud, there’s chaos, there’s exhaustion, there’s whining, there’s frustration. But there’s also a lot of laughter, affection and love — even if it doesn’t come in the prettiest of packages.

Some days, I really wish I could be one of those moms. The ones who have it all together, all the time. Or the ones who seem to have it all together, some of the time. And other days, I’m okay with being “good enough.”

Sometimes good enough is okay too.

Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.