14 September 2009

Big Girl Panties

Z is growing like crazy and I’m in complete denial that it’s going to keep happening. My idea of childproofing is putting things up on the arms of the sofa and I overlook the fact that she can not only reach the arm of the sofa, but has no trouble climbing on and off the thing. Partly I hope that by the time I face up to facts, she’ll have outgrown this phase where life itself is a choking hazard. But then I want to pull back hard on the reigns of time. She wore big girl panties to the playground today and is sitting on the toilet (boycotting the potty chair.. makes for a nice tote, but I doubt she’ll ever use it properly.) How is it happening that she’s wearing big girl panties??

The more I do it, the more I feel pretty clueless about this whole parenting thing. I’m glad that she won’t remember much of these first few years of life for the parenting mistakes I’ve already made. And I think there’s a natural schizophrenia associated with parenting a toddler. While on some level I’m glad she’ll forget, I want to savor and remember every second and partly there’s a deep sadness that she won’t remember and cherish every second too - even those terrible bad mommy moments.

She has a voracious appetite and is known to stuff a whole slice of cheese in her mouth. Or, stuff her pie hole full of turkey if the dog is watching (she hopes to make her jealous.) It’s not uncommon, in her enthusiasm, for her to start gagging and turn red with bulging eyes. I’ve become adept at the Heimlich. She has to be watched like a hawk when she eats because it’s not when they’re making noise when you have to worry about a blocked airway. When it’s blocked, one can’t make noise. Sometimes she can eeek out a little gagging sound as she tries to clear the block with the last bit of air accessible to her. Mostly she’s successful in clearing it herself these days. (Practice makes perfect I guess.) I usually wait to see if she can do it before I intervene. It’s unsettling watching her turn colors and her eye get all buggy. Night before last this happens, I hear the noise as I’m doing some prep work at the cutting board and I turn to watch her to see if she clears it. She does and I tell her, “Z that scares the heck out of me.” A few minutes go by and I hear the sound again, I jump and turn abruptly… she starts laughing. She thinks it’s funny, this reaction I have, when I fear for her life. So now she just makes the sound to see me jump. I can see where this all is going…

13 September 2009


There was a time before when I only used my computer for creative purposes. I never went on the internet. I’m a Luddite and a slow adaptor to new technology in many regards. I was just pondering my many uses for my old Mac Classic and think it’s pathetic that now that I’m tricked out with tons of technical capabilities and capacity, I’m far less creative and prolific. It seems tremendously wrong. I’m increasingly convinced that the internet is hindering (not enhancing) creative processes, overall.

With that said, you might find my words here more often and me here (online) less often.

04 September 2008

What The Fuck is Chasing Ursula?

It’s been so long since my last post. I’m a bad blogger. Little Z is now Big Z, eight months old and speeding toward nine. She can crawl, stand, cruise along the sofa, yell like a pirate, fart like a sailor, use her pincer grip on cheerios and lovingly say, Da da and Jihad. She has two teeth (which have more than put a damper on breast feeding) and a smile that lights the world on fire. I’m jealous of my mom friends who post weekly and have a lovely chronicle of these precious days. I find myself spent and lacking creativity at the day’s end. Sleep deprivation began sometime mid-pregnancy and persists to this day. It’s a wonder I can construct a grammatically correct sentence and an even greater wonder that the bathroom is clean.

I don’t have words to express how much I love her. It’s excruciating. I don’t know what I expected, but this love is enormous, beautifully painful and incontrovertible. At the end of the day, I think, love alone is not enough. I must be a thoughtful and engaged steward of her becoming and I must play with her relentlessly. It’s difficult to play relentlessly amidst the mountain of dirty laundry. The singularly most unexpected aspect of motherhood has been the volume of dirty laundry. She’s so tiny, I still don’t understand how she accomplishes soiling so much.

I’m getting the hang of living with her. It’s been a process and just when I think I’ve got something down, things change – she changes, she grows, her capabilities change and yes, even, sometimes I change. In truth, mostly, I change. She teaches me all kinds of things and I discover I’m a slow learner, but I’m getting the hang of it. Just give me time to learn to crawl.

I love alphabet books and Z’s friend Luke gave her a charming board book called Zoe and Her Zebra. Each page dons a letter and says, for example, A is for Alexander, but who is chasing him? And there’ll be a picture of an alligator chasing a boy. But then there are conundrums like this one:

This problem isn’t unique to Zoe and Her Zebra. It’s foreboding. I wonder if I’m going to be able to keep up with her. Not only is there New Math, but there seems to be new and bemusing things that start with the letter U.

I’m mystified by this changing understanding of myself – this new identity of mother. While on the one hand, I want to maintain some well rounded balance of interests and activities, there’s another part of me that believes being wholly a mom is the most important thing I could be doing right now. This is such a critical time developmentally. What could be more important (or more interesting) than swimming, hiking, painting, playing, whispering, singing, napping, reading, dancing, laughing, talking, eating, or dreaming with her?

She won’t remember this time. Who does? But I believe it’s an important time for establishing expectations of relationships and the world. I want to show her wonder and laughter and help her to recognize the world as a place filled with joy and possibilities, mysteries and adventure. I want to cultivate an expectation of laughter in each day and manifest it, even if it’s stirred in right next to sorrow and frustration – the pot holds it all. I want to give her a good strong canvass on which to paint her life and her story – and I want to honor her brush strokes. I believe in her ability to reach. She always seems to come back with something in her hand.

And who am I in that picture? Will she say (or quietly believe) that her mother lacked ambition? My identity is increasingly mom. It’s like I’m being taken over by it. It’s been a surprisingly easy surrender.

18 February 2008


Becoming a parent changes everything. Okay. Not everything. I didn’t lose my political conscience, for example. I didn’t lose my ability to recognize that Zoe benefits by being part of a civilization that takes care of its elderly and disadvantaged, provides for the health and well-being of its citizenry and provides assistance programs to help those in need. I want my baby girl to understand compassion, tolerance and acceptance on their deepest levels.

We went for our first big sojourn on Monday past – Zoe, Secret Agent Dog and I – on a four mile trek through the Water District, around one of the reservoirs. Hiking with a 5 week old baby is like carrying a bowling ball with tiny feet. The entire mission of that bowling ball is to lose its socks.

I’m pretty committed to finding a way to get back to a life of some normalcy and integrate Zoe into activities and routines. The first several weeks of her life were pretty overwhelming – not just because she has an absurd schedule of need, but because I experienced some pretty debilitating post partum health complications. Now that my own health is gradually improving, I’m feeling more capable of rising to the challenge of motherhood and figuring out how to create a more dynamic life for the lot of us.

My first observation is that this whole notion of hiking with a baby includes a tragic design flaw. As I set out on our journey I was prepared to push myself physically in order to begin that process of rebuilding my body. I gained about 50 pounds during pregnancy and while I’m currently within about 5 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, those previously mentioned post partum health problems laid me up for several weeks and resulted in a phenomenal amount of muscle atrophy. Also, regardless of the added complications, it’s pretty inspiring how pregnancy makes mash potatoes of one’s abs.. That has been quite the surprise.

So anyways – the design flaw. The baby needs to eat about every three hours. It’s important to time activities to accommodate this need. This isn’t just for the baby’s comfort, but also for my own, because I engorge on her schedule. (TMI???) This requires that I keep a good pace on the hike, which is my intent nonetheless. But here’s the kicker – the whole time I’m huffing and puffing, pushing my physical limits, that little bird of a bowling ball, trying with all its might to de-sock itself, is sleeping. So at the end of the activity, I’m spent and she arrives refreshed, nicely napped and prepared to caterwaul for her dinner. There’s no setting her down, catching my breath, regrouping in a serene post-hike haze. To the contrary, she’s spent the last several hours in deep repose categorizing her needs and devising new indecipherable ways to communicate them.

In addition to the little glitch in baby-on-board hiking, we add the variable, the veritable wild card of Secret Agent Dog. The most awesome dog on the planet who has suffered and endured beautifully not only neglect associated with the physical compromise of my post partum issues, but really the prolonged neglect extending into the last month of the pregnancy. Despite it, she’s a champ, even though she’s showing overt signs of anxiety not only over the decrease in activity but also over the stress of the sock-hating interloper.

So it’s near the end of the hike and the bowling ball is getting agitated, making the socks ever more loathsome, and I’m tired, though mentally plotting the challenge in front of me – transfer screaming baby to car seat, drive windy road home, pour lemonade, promptly peel off shirt and shove a breast in baby’s mouth, lay on sofa and drink lemonade. This is where the wild card comes into play.

“Where’s my dog?” is equivalent to “come” in Secret Agent Dog coded language – so as I approach the truck and she’s not on my heels I turn around and call out. She fails to respond with the sharpness of her training – which usually means something’s amiss. I peer down the trail and spy her rolling on her back in distracted, euphoric glee. No good can come of this. No good can ever come of this. Enter the wild card: rancid diarrhea-covered dog.

On the turn of a dime, or a phrase, or however that works, ubermom in training rethinks the strategy. As I pull into the drive, as though on queue, the now hungry and angry sock-loathing, hat-hating bowling ball begins to make its full presence known by exercising her operatic lungs. It’s as though an unholiness has been unleashed into the world and she the only siren of warning. This warning, of course, first pierces the air of the truck, which is rank with the smell of rancid diarrhea-covered dog.

I place the car seat, replete with baby, in the crib, which is really just a staging area given we co-sleep with her in our own bed (the BEST invention!) I haul her highness Ms Princess Honey Bee into the yard for a hose down and washing, all the while, Princess Stinky Buns, Ruler of the Baby Do’s, is busy in her car seat making messy and hollering loose hell’s gates.

I towel the dog, wash my own hands and proceed to attend to the unholiness in her panties while she squirms and screams – now red-faced and spent. This is truly the saddest moment, when she begins gasping for air, her vocal chords quivering as does her entire chin and lower lip. This is the most heartbreaking and deeply sincere form of baby sign language – her rendition of Hamlet …. “Is there no pity sitting in the clouds that sees into to the depth of my sorrow.” She is profoundly inconsolable. She has suffered her first tragic abandonment by her mother and the world. There is no coming back from the darkness now touched. For the first time, she has seen the abyss.

I try to alter the tenor of the moment by tossing a joyful air into the tone of my voice. I scoop poop off her naughty bits and freshen her with clean diapers and a nice change of clothes and as I change her I remind her, “Change comes from within, Zoe. Change comes from within.” If she had the coordination and wherewithal, I’m sure she’d roll her tear-filled eyes at me. She screams at my attempts to comfort her.

I grab the lemonade and back track to the original plan where I peel off my shirt and stick a breast in her mouth. This is where I begin to understand why new mothers never find time to eat - I’m starving but I can’t wait to feed her – it wouldn’t be right in the face of her all consuming sadness. As we cozy up on the sofa and being the ritual, I’m struck by the smell of Secret’s offense. The longer I sit, the more nauseated I become as the rancid poop smell curls twice around the house and goes to sleep – or rather, doesn’t sleep, doesn’t go kindly into that good night – begins its own rage of life. The bowling ball has had vengeance on the socks and its greedily eating while I spy Secret Agent Dog with unspeakable disdain. It’s the one and only act that makes me lose love for her – and she knows it in this moment.

Eventually I just can’t take it anymore – I can’t take the smell or the idea that she’s rubbing that smell on the loveseat, reclining chair and anywhere else she goes for comfort. She feels my displeasure and is cowed on the loveseat, tucking herself into pillows and throw blankets, making herself small. I cut the feeding short and draw a bath – begin to begin again with more potent shampoo.

Zoe’s needs left incompletely fulfilled, she starts caterwauling again as Secret sheepishly gets into the bath without protest. At the end of the task it’s like an explosion set off in the bathroom – the tub drain clogged with dog hair and water on every wall and surface. Nothing escapes the madness. All the while, we’re serenaded with the melodious crooning of blood curdling screaming baby.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. Okay, rewind again to the original plan. I leave the bathroom a mess, throw the blankets from the loveseat in the laundry and again retrieve the baby from her freshly inconsolable darkness.

This time we retire to the bedroom – baby’s sense tension, tap into your mood, as do dogs. We all need to calm down. I made the bed cozy, crawl in, plant pillows all around and recommence with feeding. Breathe, okay, let’s all just love each other. Secret Agent Dog, seeking emotional reprieve, hops up on the bed and I lazily pet her and I start trying to relax and deconstruct how this beautiful day devolved so miserably. I close my eyes and start making a mental list of things I now need to get done before I start dinner. It was 1 pm when we left for our first magical outing together – it’s nearly 6 pm now. Finish laundry; clean bathroom; feed Secret; change Zoe; clean out poop-covered back of truck, etc. And as I’m finding a place of contemplation and calm, I sense Secret starting to shiver. She cowers in the face of disapproval and is in her own way inconsolable until she finds a way to redeem herself. She relies on the love between us, comes to expect it like air, and really, no one could love her better. I pull the blanket up around her and give her reassuring works and gestures. It’s okay. It’s all okay now. And I think it is, until she throws up all over the bed. Which seems to put a cherry on this disaster. I just exhale and let it go.. something else to add to the list… wash bedding, clean vomit off bedframe and floor.. and I just let it go and keep feeding Zoe… so she does it again.

21 January 2008

Can I Have This Dance For The Rest Of Your Life?

New Years Eve was destined to be disappointingly uneventful. There were festivities at the Pavilion, the artist in residence organized a New Years ball. I was too pregnant and tired to even consider it, but I was weepy for being so immobile and big and insisted that I accompany Ed on the evening walk with Secret Agent Dog in hopes of rising out of my melancholy. I’m not good at sitting still or down for long periods. I sat on a bench at the ball field and watched the lights swirl in the Pavilion while music rose on a breeze in the crisp cool evening air and Secret ran and jumped and whirled in acrobatic feats to catch her Frisbee. It made me smile and breathless.

It seemed like such a short spell and we were walking back home. We’d bring in the New Year watching Angel (the spin off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) because I love Lorne (the green demon who sings show tunes and looks so wonderful in yellow) and I’d go to sleep early, likely drift off on the sofa and hope the Zantac kept the acid reflux in check. But then, WHOA what was that? In the middle of the second episode on the Netflix disc I was hit with a wave of contraction. I think I just had a contraction, I announced with a bit of surprise and disbelief. That was the beginning – at about 11 pm on New Years Eve.

Because I was so full of amniotic fluid, the technicians at the fetal monitoring lab told me that I might not even feel contractions associated with early labor. That might have been true. I moved from “early” labor (contractions 10 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 5 minutes apart) within a mere half hour and dove right into active (regular contractions, five minutes apart) labor by midnight.

Neither Ed nor I really believed it. He kept urging that we gather our many’s and get a move on. I kept saying that I didn’t want to drive into the City on New Years Eve night only to be turned away because I arrived too early or it was a false alarm. He packed the truck with my hospital bag and labor kit and called LB to let her know we’d likely be dropping the dog off. I lay in bed as the contractions worsened.

I’d really wanted to have an un-medicated delivery, but after about 9 hours of active and transitional back labor, I asked for a fentanyl shot and when that wore off and the contractions came on two fold (literally, two at a time, less than a minute a part) in timing and intensity, I surrendered to the epidural at about hour 10. She was facing the wrong way and despite being fully dilated, she wasn’t budging beneath the pelvic bone. I pushed for hours, with no progress. In the 11th hour (which was actually the 18th hour) the epidural began wearing off and the anesthesiologist was in a c-section. We pushed right through it and the attendant finally offered either suction or a c-section. I opted to try the suction first – so he came in with vacuum/suction at about 6 pm on New Years Day… he turned her head and literally she was born two contraction, four minutes later. Why didn’t we do that several hours earlier!?!

I was spent, but she was healthy as they come - pink and beautiful. The nurses said there was a rush on labor/delivery that night and ten couples arrived, ten babies were born. They said that she was hands down the healthiest looking of them all. (I guess newborns often look yellowed and jaundiced and all pruned…. Not Zoe, she was plump and pink and full faced.)

She weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces and was a sleek and tall 21 inches long. Her hair is coppery red and as the attendant said, “she looks a little grumpy.”

06 December 2007

Repeal Day

Here I sit, big as a house, while the baby rat-a-tat-tats a little soft shoe from the inside, my internal organs are merely her percussion instruments. Right then, it’s gone beyond soft shoe as she’s gotten stronger and bigger and the space available to her shrinks. She’s moved from dancing to boxing.

I keep meaning to write and then lose track, lose focus. So I’m not going to even strive for a great deal of sensible narrative tonight.

Whenever I see a bay nut this time of year I think of Cassie (aka Indigo.) They’re made of her favorite colors and I keep thinking that she doesn’t realize just how much she likes yellow.

They say that babies know who their core family is because they recognize the voices of people from the womb. Since I’ve been pregnant, we’ve watched all seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD. So I guess she’ll think Sarah Michelle Gellar is part of her core tribe. That’s just wrong.

Yesterday (happy Repeal Day, by the by) I stopped by Goth@m, what remains of a once renowned San Francisco piercing parlor called The G@untlet (they seem to use the same “G” logo) to have a few personal body ornaments removed in preparation of the girl’s arrival. Years ago, the SF-location closed down and one of the piercers started Goth@m. I’ve walked by it several times, it’s a stones throw from the old place, but I’ve never been in. I was in the neighborhood dealing with my tax guy, so I figured “no time like the present.”

A beautiful black man was working behind the counter of this somewhat sleazy looking hole-in-the wall of a place (no pun intended.) (The G@untlet was the equivalent of a clean well-lighted place to modify your body, this place had a rather dingy, back-room abortion clinic feel about it.) The beautiful black man, heretofore known by his nickname, T@sty C@kes (I don’t lie), had awesome tattoos – some of which included scarification, all of which were raised. He tells me that tattoos on people of color are raised because of their pigment. I had no idea and I don’t remember T. Lee’s tattoos being raised and I’m thinking, am I so insulated that I don’t have many friends of color with body art? He let me run my fingers over the tattoos – I love that raised feel.

So the beautiful black man called T@sty C@kes, with the fantastic raised tattoo and body jewelry has me hop up on an old and rickety exam table in a small grey room with a window that looks out into a dimly lit, dirty light well and he’s holding the needle nose pliers between my legs, shaking his head, saying he hasn’t seen a vagina in over ten years and how his Mom isn’t going to believe this. I try to console him by telling him I haven’t seen it for several months either. And I’m thinking, this is one of the things that make me different from other pregnant woman– who talk about the wonder of the baby moving and wax whimsical at the notion of motherhood. Their stories never seem to involve a T@sty C@kes between their legs with a needle nose pliers.

10 October 2007

Kosovo Music

Okay, this is very old, but I love these boys and had to share: