Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Four Stages of Good Grief: Gingerbread Edition

Before this holiday season I had never baked cookies before, ever. Not once. It's not that I have anything against baking cookies, it just never rose to the level of something I wanted to do enough to actually do it.

But kids are magical like that.

Both Judah and Noah heard a lot about the gingerbread man at their respective schools and kept asking if we could make some. So we did.

And I found out there are 4 stages of gingerbread cookie making.

Stage 1: Rolling out the dough and cutting the cookies. It's just like play-doh!

Stage 2: Decorating the cookies. Ridiculously messy. And sprinkles are from hell.

Stage 3: Eating the cookies. Mmmm high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Cancer tastes delicious.

Stage 4: Recreating the experience with play-doh! Noah actually ripped up pieces of paper-gingerbread men to put on his play-doh. Adorable example of art imitating life. Except they were Judah's paper-gingerbread men. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And there you have it! A tradition is born.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Did Thanksgiving Happen?

How is it possible that we're in the middle of December already?!?!

It honestly felt like we just celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend...or did we?

Every year I'm amazed by the speeding bullet train that carries us along after the week of Thanksgiving break. Every weekend in December is chock full of holiday parties and gatherings, visits from relatives, on top of the USUAL baby showers and birthday parties because people don't stop being born just because it's the holidays.

And of course I love it. I am a Christmas fanatic and nothing lights me up like holiday cheer. In your head, just picture Will Ferrell from Elf.

But seriously, what happened to Thanksgiving?

I remember vaguely, on the day of Thanksgiving, I combed through the internet looking for a good article on giving thanks. I would have loved to see something in the New York Times or Huffington Post about the science behind cultivating gratitude.

It could have read: Thanks Giving: how not to suck so much at being grateful.

The intro paragraphs would cite multiple well known positive psychologists and how they all agree that being thankful is one of the most important, if not THE most important traits for human flourishing and mental well-being.

Then the body of the article would explore all the reasons why humans are prone to discount what they already have, take things for granted, and have gratitude-amnesia when it comes to the good things in their life.

And finally it would conclude with tips on how to cultivate gratitude. Not just some rote recounting of things that we OUGHT to be grateful for - but some real heart-hitting activities that make us feel truly, truly, truly grateful.

Because I needed an article like that. I still need an article like that.

I want my thanksgiving to move beyond an academic acknowledgement of my relative position of privilege as compared to 99% of the world, and into a real, genuine, emotion-filled out pouring of wonder and awe that I should be so lucky. So blessed. So unbelievably blessed.

On thanksgiving day we went to a soup kitchen to serve food to the homeless. I felt like it was high-time for Judah to actually see people who were in need. I always tell him how lucky he is to have an abundance of food and shelter, but it's all theoretical to him when we live in a nice secluded suburb, far away from any kind of real material lack.

Mommy, you always say there are poor people, but how come I never see them?

That's a good point son.

Judah happily serves himself at the soup kitchen.

And so we went to witness poverty. Within 10 minutes of entering the soup kitchen Judah announces that he's bored to death and pleads fervently to go home.

I'm not sure what was going on in his head, but I think Judah was underwhelmed by poverty. Homeless people look just like us. They seemed just like regular people and there was nothing particularly exciting or entertaining about serving food to them and interacting with them. In fact, it was pretty hard to pick out the indigent from other people who were just there to help.

And therein lies the truth -- but for grace, there go we.

What separates us from those who have no shelter, no human capital, no possessions and no reasonable opportunities for advancement? Who have little executive control, resilience, optimism, and grit? Who have not the means to obtain means?

Gifts. Many, many good gifts.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

We Can Save Each Others Lives

This month is "mental health" month on Buzzfeed, or something like that.

Which means I get to see a lot of articles on FB about postpartum depression. Like these:
An Honest Conversation with Women of Color About Postpartum Mood Disorders
Is Postpartum Depression Really Postpartum Neglect?

Which means I get to reminisce about those crazy early months of motherhood and relive the horror and exhaustion in my mind.

When my first baby was born he was extremely colicky, sensitive and had horrible reflux. He would NEVER nap unless he was strapped to my body and I was IN MOTION the entire time. He would throw up rivers of breast milk all throughout the day to the point where, after changing my shirt 4 times in an hour, I just gave up and wore spit-up clothes the rest of the day. Hey, it's the "tie-dye" look!

But the worst thing about his reflux was how he would arch his back and wail in pain while he was frantically trying to nurse - crazed with hunger, but burning with acid when he swallowed. The entire nursing experience was a Catch-22 nightmare.

Often in his distress, he would scratch and pull behind his ears until it was a bloody mess.

To say I was stressed is an absurd understatement. I frankly marvel that I didn't develop some kind of horrific autoimmune disease from all the prolonged stress.

Looking back, it is obvious I had PPD or something like it. What kind of mental health toll does it take on a person when he/she has no idea how to take care of or comfort his/her baby who needs 24-7 care (waking up 3-5 times every night and constant holding during the day)?

It doesn't really matter if there's a label/diagnosis slapped on it or not. If you are getting less than 4 hours of quality sleep per day for months on end and you have about 25 minutes of self-care time per day (in which you triage showering, eating, napping, and socializing), your mental health is going to be pretty much shot to hell - diagnosis or not.

But what makes it even worse? The feeling that no one else is failing and flailing quite like you. Far from it. Why are all the other moms looking and sounding so normal?

I remember visiting a "new moms" support group when Judah was 10 weeks old thinking - all these women look so NORMAL. WHY AM I SUCH A FREAK?!

And then a few months later I looked at photos of myself during that period and realized, oh, I looked normal too. Even cheerful. Ha! What a load of crock.

Me during one of the lowest and darkest moments of my life, seriously.

But truly, there are undoubtedly new moms who take it all in stride.

Maybe they have a really good friend/family support structure.

Maybe they're just really good at asking for help when they need it.

Maybe they have the means to hire excellent child care.

Maybe they have one of those legendary "angel" babies who nap without assistance for 18 hours a day like all the books say they're supposed to.

Maybe they are just temperamentally comfortable with chaos and lack of structure/routine.

Maybe they are perennial optimists with strong can-do attitudes (I've actually met a new mom like that and I've never been more envious in my life).

All this to say, my number one advice to new moms is always this - if/when you're feeling "blue", seek help. If you're not ready or comfortable getting medical help, at least join a new mom support group in which women truly open up and share. (These are everywhere - in almost every hospital and even an online community is better than nothing.) You will feel less like a freak and a failure.

You will realize the struggles are real. And common.

You will get lots of sympathetic "hmms" and "ahhhs" when you share about clueless partners and callous in-laws.

You will feel informed and validated no matter if you choose to breast-feed or bottle-feed, baby-wear or not, sleep-train or co-sleep, stay-at-home or work full-time, etc.

It's jarring to realize that we are not self-sufficient (especially in our highly individualistic culture). Indeed, even the prototypical "mom and dad" are usually not enough. Now I realize why those with means always had extensive, full-time childcare employees - nannies, governesses, etc.

But there you have it.

Parents are the opposite of self-sufficient.

Especially new moms.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Raising an Underachiever

It's funny how you start to recognize your child.

At first, Judah was a colicky, demanding baby. A total stranger to me in every way.

And then his personality slowly emerged as he was more able to express his inner world of thoughts and feelings. Until now, at age 5, I have fully realized that Judah is exactly me (on the inside).

He is extremely sensitive.

He is driven by fear that others will be mad at him.

He is utterly embarrassed by any attention whatsoever.

And in a nutshell, he is a people-pleaser extrordinaire.

My sweet, (extremely) anxious, (overly) sensitive mini-me.

It's pretty freaky how much we're alike. Every posture and inclination he has finds complete resonance in my own heart. I'm now a big believer in Nature over Nurture.

So when Judah complains about going to school, I tell him things I'm pretty sure most parents would never tell their own kids.

I instruct him often: Don't try your best Judah.
And he objects: But Mrs. Hawkins will get mad at me if I don't do my best work!

It's especially hard to convince him to ease-up when his school actually recites a pledge every day, which includes a promise to do "your personal best."

But I know Judah.

I know the pressure of perfectionism is sucking all the joy out of school. I know his extreme efforts at forming the perfect upper and lower case letters completely stress him out. I know he kills himself to color intricately within the lines for fear. I know the kid who LOVED preschool doesn't want to go to kindergarten anymore because it's become a place of unbearably high anxiety born out of his desire to please his teacher, whom he loves.

So I implore him daily to NOT try his best.

But I can tell Judah is utterly confused by the blatant contradiction between my instructions and his teacher's mantras. And sometimes I wonder if I'm giving Judah the right message - don't try too hard, relax...I literally told him just to put in "HALF your best effort" because I didn't think he understood any other percentages.

Did I just basically tell my kid to half-ass everything at school? Does this make me a bad parent?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why yes Oxford, you may include these words in your dictionary

This week I made up two words.

Words that I think should easily slip into our vernacular with nary a thought.

Once I reveal these words to you, dear reader, I'm confident you will feel the same way.

You'll say to yourself - Of course! Those words exactly capture the essence of the things to which they refer! And now we have a name for them!

And then these words will enter into popular usage and no one will remember who coined them first. Do we know who first coined the term "selfie"? or "hangry"? or "mic drop"? or "awesomesauce"? or most important to everyone's life "beer o'clock"?

But maybe, just maybe, some young millennial researcher will do some googling and realize, the origins of these words came from here. This humble little blog from a humble little suburb and cement my everlasting legacy thenceforth.

So without further ado, my contributions to the American language are:

(1) Pre-partum depression. Sure everyone's heard of postpartum depression, but what about the depression that you get BEFORE the baby comes out? The news of pregnancy is often greeted with excitement and joy, but not always.

For example, I knew a family that had a pair of twins. They were EXHAUSTED running after them and when the twins were toddlers, the family found out they were (accidentally) pregnant again. The ultrasound showed they were having twins yet again! The news was greeted by them and by their friends and family with great somberness. They described the reaction as "funeral-like". And then, though they didn't say this because the word had not yet been invented, I'm pretty sure PRE-PARTUM depression set in.

If I had found out I was pregnant when this pic was taken, I would DEFINITELY have had pre-partum depression.

Or, a more common example. A couple is already overwhelmed with their two kids all under the age of 3 and then finds out they got "accidentally" pregnant with a third. The couple shares the news of the impending birth in drooping tones of defeat and dread. They definitely have pre-partum depression.

(2) Fakebook. Yes, everyone is on Facebook (even you really hipster people who like to pretend you're not because Facebook is OVER), but it should more properly be called Fakebook.

When I took journalism class in 7th grade, my teacher taught us that overemphasizing a small aspect of an event was called bad journalism, aka, lying. Also, omitting the majority of true things in a report is also called lying.

I can think of nowhere that "lying" is more rampant than on FAKEBOOK.

If your entire week has been horrible and you felt like absolute poop and wore sweatpants every day, BUT, you had one morning in which the light hit you just right and you felt like smiling sweetly, that's the picture you post on Fakebook with the caption - Life. Love. Sunshine. Lollipops.

If your toddler has been a holy hell the entire week, re-decorating your walls with crayon scribbles and leaving little turd droppings everywhere while having screaming tantrums every 13 minutes, BUT you had one half-second when he smiled sweetly with you after you bribed him with gummy bears, that's the picture you post on Fakebook with the caption - Kids. Love. Sunshine. Lollipops.

Kids. Love. Life. Sunshine. Lollipops. ALWAYS. *wink wink*

It may seem humorous, but I do think the Surgeon General (of mental health - well, first we should appoint one) should slap a warning label on Facebook (after making it change its name to Fakebook):

Prolonged usage of this medium will result in depression by comparison, delusion, and strong beliefs in the lie that everyone else's life is much much MUCH better than YOURS. No one's life is just "life, love, sunshine, and lollipops" and even the tamer captions do not come close to capturing the reality of despair, emptiness, and just total messed up crap that is the human condition. If you must be on Fakebook for more than 5 minutes a day, make sure you purge those delusions with a commensurate amount of time reading a Russian novel.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Random Week in November

I literally have 5 minutes to pound out an entry before I need to pick up the kids. So hold on to your seatbelts kids. It's going to be a quick and superficial ride.

Thank you veterans for not only serving and protecting our country, but for giving us a random holiday in the middle of November when ALL schools are shut down. The first part was sincere, the second was sarcastic.

But actually, our forced holiday was awesome because we hung out with 2 other families that had 2 boys each. Six boys + a giant playground under the redwood trees + 2 awesome mom friends + perfect California sunshine = pure bliss.

Also, Judah and Noah are continuing on the Brothers of Love Tour. I don't know how long this will last, but I'm going to enjoy every second of it until they grow out of this phase (which, Dear God, I hope they never do).

All day long they are hugging and playing well with each other. I know, weird right? Judah constantly exclaims "Friends forever!" and gives Noah giant hugs. Noah is eating it up. Judah is his number one hero of all time and Noah worships him like a god.

I remember putting my older brother on a pedestal too...but he wasn't that fond of me, haha. I kept wanting to play "store" and Candyland. He wanted to do advanced calculus instead. Whatever.

And in other news, legwarmers: they're not just for aerobics instructors. Noah wears them constantly now that the weather is colder and I'm potty-training him FO REALZ this time. So far so good. I ask him literally every 30 seconds - do you have to go potty? And he responds - Mommy, stop asking me so much.

And then once in a while he'll say - Mommy, I have to pee! And I'll whip open a used plastic bottle and place it under him to catch his stream. I'd say this is boding well for...wait for it...wait for it...

DIAPER FREEDOM 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so excited I'm going to pee my pants...ironically.

Monday, November 02, 2015

A Blurry

Last week was a blur / flurry of activity...a blurry of activity, if you will. Thank you Halloween. [sarcasm intended.]

Every day there was something off schedule. Translation for child-free people: Mama be going crazy cuz she did NOT get her usual clean-up, organize, do-me time.

Monday - Judah's field trip to the pumpkin patch. Weird schedule.
Tuesday - the only normal day of the week!
Wednesday - Noah's preschool Halloween fair. And Judah's Halloween class party.

Noah and his best school friend. He has no idea where to look when I take pics with an iphone, hahaha.

Thursday - Judah's school-wide Fall Festival.

Kindergartners in costumes - very cute BEFORE the sugar induced meltdowns.

Friday - no school!
Saturday - HALLOWEEN!

They look like they're in costume...but it's also how they dress EVERY day.

Reason number 24,364 why kids are awesome - they make you wear costumes when you otherwise wouldn't. 

Sunday - "don't trust your clocks day"

I'm gonna need a couple weeks to recover.

Before arriving at the actual day of Halloween the kids had already been collecting MOUNDS of candy from various events. But nothing topped the crowning glory of acquisition that is "real" Halloween trick-or-treating.

Both Judah and Noah were having a blast, going door to door with their giant pumpkin buckets. Seriously, I have NEVER seen them happier in their entire young lives.

The dragon's horde.

Afterward, they spent an hour laying out all their candy and sorting and trading. I kept hearing Judah tell Noah: You don't want that one. That's "bad guy" candy. Give that one to me.

And like a putz, Noah would comply and occasionally ask: Is that one "bad guy" candy?

Finally, I asked Judah (knowing full well he was taking advantage of his little brother somehow): What is "bad guy" candy?

Judah didn't skip a beat: "Bad guy" candy is candy that maybe Noah wouldn't like...like, it would be bad, for him.

Sounds totally reasonable and not at all like Judah was taking Noah to the cleaners. I was duly impressed with Judah's b.s.-ing skills. You truly are my son - the son of a lawyer. (And as we all know from Arrested Development, Lawyer is Latin for liar!)

But of course, I kept going with the cross-examination. As a lawyer, you know the devil is in the details: So what kind of candy might be bad for Noah?

Judah: Oh, you know...like weird flavors like blueberry...or chocolate.

AHA! I rest my case. You are hereby charged with swindling your younger brother out of all his best candy.

Judgment rendered against you in equity: The judge and prosecutor will now take all your Twix and Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups.

Now go to bed!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Oh fun

Two-year-olds are so mean.

Noah made me cry in the car today with this conversation:

Noah: I gonna be three on my birthday Mommy!

Me: Yes, you are!

Noah: I gonna be a big big boy. No more baby, Mommy. You sad you have no more baby.

Me: Yes, Mommy is so sad her baby is all grown up.

Noah: You miss your cute cute cute little baby.

Me: Yeah, I do.

Noah: Your baby's gone! No more baby!


This is the chubby guy I think of when Noah taunts me about losing my baby - now excuse me while I bawl.

In other news, Judah slammed his finger in the car door last weekend. His finger swelled to twice its size and his nail turned completely black.

Judah is the kind of kid that freaks out when I dip his hand into lukewarm water to soften his skin in preparation for taking out a tiny speck of a splinter. So you can imagine the hysterics when his finger was throbbing with pain and looked like something out of Mordor.

Kids. Never a dull moment.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Week in the Life

I don't have any organized thoughts so here's a random sampling of our week...

--I caught a nasty bug and got my first cold of the season. Getting sick always makes me think about ingesting more veggies, which always makes me think about buying a Vitamix, which then makes me wonder if they've invented a version that doesn't leave tiny teflon flakes in the blender mix...have they? Anyone know this?

Sick mommy = lots of eating chips in front of the t.v. No complaints from this kid.

--I found a new favorite show: The Great British Baking Show. It's a PBS baking competition and feels like Project Runway meets Chopped. I've been binging on it non-stop and now find myself speaking in a vaguely British accent to the kids sometimes. Carry on!

--Noah's preschool teacher got fired. Drama. Ugh.

Random picture. Because cute.

--I went to my first parent-teacher conference. I love Judah's teacher! She's perfect! But she's going on maternity leave after winter break, argh.

--I've been enjoying doing various legal contract work projects while the kids are in school. Yup, my first paying job after 2.5 years as a SAHM. I love that it's very low-key - I can literally work just 2 hours a day in the comfort of my own home. And surprisingly, I realized that I actually really truly miss my old friends: legal provisions, case law and contract construction principles. Really, I do!

--All the kids want me to do all day long is wrestle and tickle-fight. And because I'm obsessed with food I often pretend that their tummies are my favorite foods - chocolate cupcakes and bacon. So now, when they jump on me Judah announces - I'm bacon! And Noah proclaims - I'm chocolate!

Forget laundry - "bacon" and "chocolate cupcake" are attacking. Again.

Delish! Now if only I could get my food without a side of foot-in-my-face.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Noah at 2 and 3/4 years is charming my pants off.

I love how, without fail, he always insists "Mommy, I not tired at all. I want wake up," exactly 90 seconds before he falls asleep.

I chuckle when he calls me Wonder Woman when we're out in public. And I have to call him Superman. And he calls his big brother Batman.

Wonder Woman and Superman doing what they do best - take selfies

And his dad is, wait for it, wait for it...the Incredible Hulk.

Only to a 2-year-old could a man of average height and very low BMI be the Incredible Hulk.

Yesterday before bed we read the story of how Joseph did not take revenge on his 11 brothers but instead forgave their treachery as a foreshadowing of how Christ would forgive all of humanity. I was pretty sure it went way over Noah's little head.

But this morning Judah was annoying Noah in the car and refusing to be nice or to apologize, and out of the mouth of that sweet babe came this:

Judah, you make me sad, Judah. But I not revenge you. Like Jesus not revenge us.

Oh. My. Heart.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Brother Report

Having and raising Judah, my first baby, was such a traumatic and exhausting experience, I never ever ever wanted to have another kid again.

But when Judah was around 10 months old, I realized he needed a sibling. The guy wanted CONSTANT people-interaction. He didn't care for toys and do-dads, he wanted human friends, of the high-interaction kind.

And so Noah was born.

Judah was almost 2.5 when Noah came into the picture and we were kind of kicking ourselves at the time. Judah had just become so much easier, but here we were, "blessed" again with another cycle of high-dependency and constant neediness.

But now that Noah himself is 2.5, our lives have gotten to the golden tipping point once again. And this time around? Much much better.

These two boys are everything we hoped and dreamed they'd be for each other. Mentors, comrades, partners, plotters, and the best of friends. Watching their daily interactions is the highlight of my days.

Some moments from last week:

Noah was feeling extra cranky one day so Judah made him a "paws"-itive slip - in the shape of a paw, cute right? Judah gets these at school for good behavior. I guess Judah thought it would also elicit good behavior too. He's always doing stuff to make Noah feel special and loved, awwwww.

The kids found some old ninja costumes. I died of cuteness.

Judah used up an entire roll of tape to make a pirate ship. Please excuse the pantless-ness. It was hot last week!

The kids can play for almost an hour building stuff - legos, bristle blocks, magnetic tiles. I'm in heaven.

Every night is full of kisses and hugs and Noah digging for gold.

It's just like Wrigley's gum says - double your pleasure, double your fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Love Hurts

This week Noah started his pre-school (five half-days a week).

The whole ordeal of finding a pre-school for Noah could in fact occupy an entire (very lengthy) blog post in and of itself, but I'll just boil it down to 2 words - unicorn search.

Apparently I look for pre-schools like wealthy handsome bachelors look for life-long mates - never satisfied with the options at hand. I kid you not, this search started 6 months ago and resulted in no less than 5 pre-school tours.

Is it SO hard to find a school that's nearby, with cheerful, energetic, loving teachers, that teaches Mandarin a little, has decent facilities, and is reasonably priced? Yes. Yes it is. Learn from my failings - it doesn't exist. Just like the unicorn.

Anyway, I settled for a school that had all the things I wanted EXCEPT it is freaking far away and pretty darn pricey. Oh well.

The upside is I get to spend a lot of car time with both kids, listening to Judah boost Noah's morale and get him pumped up for pre-school.

Brothers and school-boys and best buds.

Judah: You're going to have so much fun Noah! Are you excited?

Noah: No, I'm sad. I don't have any friends.

Judah: It's okay, it's easy to make friends. Just say "Hi, my name is Noah. Want to play?"

Noah: No, I'm shy.

Judah: Yeah, I'm shy too. When I started pre-school I didn't have a friend for a long time. But then I made lots of friends in the end and I loved it! It just takes time.

It's pretty amazing how often Judah will repeat to Noah almost verbatim all the things I've said to him in the past. That last sentence he uttered is a prime example. Parenting your oldest kid really is like a buy-one-get-one free deal. He just passes it right along to the younger one!

Of course, when Judah and I actually had to leave Noah at drop-off, he totally lost it and cried. Funny enough, he cried more and more each successive day. As a parent, I knew Noah would stop as soon as Judah and I left the room, but poor Judah was racked with grief and sympathy for his brother.

Oh no mommy! I hope Noah is going to be okay! Oh, it makes me so sad to see him cry! When I see him again I'm going to give him the BIGGEST hug. I'm going to squeeze all his guts out!

Judah was so distressed sometimes, I would suggest he pray.

Dear God, please don't let Noah be sad or scared. Please let him have a really fun day and not forget his teachers' names. Amen.

I always love seeing how truly empathetic and sensitive Judah is to other people's feelings. I swear I spent way more time and effort comforting Judah than Noah!

It reminds me of this pic taken when Noah was getting shots when he was only 3 months old. Judah cried much longer and harder than his little brother too.

Oh the sympathy pains!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Me - losing, Judah - winning

This was Judah's first full week of kindergarten and he's off to a great start.

Me, not so much.

Noah's preschool doesn't start until after Labor Day so I've been running around trying to keep him happy all day and what can I say...the struggle is real.

Two and a half year olds be crazy. Totally irrational, megalomaniacal, certifiably crazy. He thinks calling people "poo-poo head" is hilarious and putting his hand down my shirt and "tickling your boobs" is the best thing ever.

And the hair-trigger anger issues. Oh. My. Goodness.

Even when everyone is doing their best to bow and scrape and cater to his every imperial whim, he capriciously melts down and puts people in time-out. That's his thing now. On a particularly grumpy day, Tyrant Noah put all the members of his family, at one point or another, in time-out in the course of an hour.

But enough of about Noah...where was I...oh yeah, Judah's first week of school.

The hardest thing for me each day is finding out what Judah's day was like.

I pepper him with questions about going potty, snack-time, recess, stories read, etc, but I always feel like there's a giant black-hole that I can't quite touch called "what you did during the rest of the 2.5 hours that wasn't covered by my too-specific questions."

But so far I've learned that he's really latched onto this guy named Anthony. Judah looks up to him. Judah tries to please him. Judah genuinely rejoiced when Anthony got a "good behavior" reward from the teacher. Judah thinks he's smart and funny, mostly it seems because Anthony taught him the "interrupting cow" joke. And Anthony is amazing on the monkey bars.

This makes me want to get close to this Anthony dude. Figure out what's his angle.

Is he a nice guy? Is he kinda manipulative? Is he a controller? What's his deal...

Too smother mother? Maybe...or maybe not...

Anyway, Judah's gotten into the habit now of "ranking" his day. So far, on a scale of 1-10, he's ranked his days a 10, 11, 9, 9, 4, 9, 9, 8.

Why the low scores of 4 and 8?

Because while Judah is winning, I am failing.

The 4-ranked day was because I forgot to give him his lunch and he was starving all day.

The 8-ranked day was because I didn't pack enough food for him and forgot his water bottle so he was mildly hungry and dying of thirst all day.

But my biggest fail thus far? I freaking missed the first school Open House. I swear I marked the date on my calendar well in advance, but it turns out I marked the wrong date. Seriously? Seriously?! I kid you not I checked THREE independent sources for this date.

My only explanation is I've finally done lost my mind. 5 years and 2 kids later, it's gone. Gone, baby, gone.

But despite his mother's incompetence, Judah is doing great. Today he was recognized in front of the entire school assembly as a positive role-model. He got the "Paws"itive slip reward which goes to one kid in each class and had to stand up while his teacher commented on the good behavior.

Judah gets recognized for vaguely "doing something for someone."

Apparently he helped some kid named Omar by sharing something with him. Seriously, that is the level of detail I had to settle for after grilling Judah for 10 minutes about what he did to get recognized. I am obviously the worst interviewer/investigative journalist ever.

But I totally remember this kind of thing from my own childhood.

I wanted SO BADLY during every assembly to get this kind of recognition all through elementary school but it never happened for me.

And there was Judah. His first week of school and he got a golden ticket.

Apparently kicking butt at elementary school is a generation-skipping trait in our family.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


I perused the cover of Self and saw the lovely Ms. Washington and this caption:

Body, baby, kickass career, "It's handled."

Uh...I love me some Kerry-fabulosity as much as the next person, but, I think we're missing some full disclosure here.

I would like to suggest a more accurate caption:

Body, baby, kickass career, "It's handled...by my giant entourage of household help that includes a personal chef, personal trainer, stylist, day-time nanny, night nanny, and weekend nanny."

Inside, Kerry reveals that she likes to start her day with "stretching and meditation."

Uh, no mother of a 5 month old starts her day with stretching and meditation. It's more like, stretching (out my arms to reach my wailing baby) and lac-tation cuz every baby I've known demands to gulp down morning milk between 5:30 and 6:30 am.

But Ms. Washington's night nanny probably doesn't clock-out until 8 am so "it's handled."

But can we just stop??

Can we just stop with the fake baby-mama celebrity glorification? (I'm looking at all you uber-wealthy moms too, ahem, Sherly Sandberg and Marissa Meyer). Can we stop giving young women a distorted expectation that bodies, careers, and life in general will get handled smoothly along with a new baby?

Can we stop making real moms who are not part of the 1% feel crappy because it's NOT all handled? And maybe it never will be ever again?

How about some reality checks like:
--the horrible statistics on failing marriages when babies come in the picture
--the real nightmare costs of quality childcare
--the complete lack of meaningful jobs that don't demand 50+ hours per week
--the severe lack of sleep that verges on CIA torture technique territory
--the body and skin elasticity that will NEVER be the same again...without ahem, some "medical procedures"
--the overwhelming, crushing, unceasing, weight of it all

Can someone PLEASE just tell it like it IS about raising young kids in this world when you don't have a fleet of helpers (paid or unpaid)? Now that's an article that would actually do society some good.

Dear media world: please handle that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Beginning

Today my "baby" had his first day of kindergarten.

The whole world (read: FB) saw this confident happy face:

But, as always is the case with FB, that wasn't quite the full story.

Judah's true emotional state more resembles this face:

And then the Spouse said - Judah, don't look so nervous, open your mouth!

And then the Spouse coached - look happy Judah! look like you're having a good time.

And thus, a confident looking kindergartner was born...for the camera.

But in truth, Judah is a bit of a nervous Nellie, like his mom. I'm an anxious person. I don't like meeting new people. And I especially don't like being in places where I know no one and have no friends.

And that is exactly why Judah told me he was nervous about school. After bravely anticipating his first day for months, he let his strong exterior slip last night and tearfully confessed that he was scared to go to kindergarten. Mommy, I don't have any friends there.

Judah is shy. Judah is sensitive. And Judah is not at all a rough-and-tumble active boy like most kids his age. He always tells me he's an "inside boy" and begs off going to the park so he can sit at home and peruse comic books.

I know it will be at least a few weeks, maybe even a month or so before he makes a friend. And until then, every day will be a struggle. All emotions I remember very, very well from my own childhood.

While Judah was in class I worried.

I worried he would have a pee accident and chastised myself for forgetting to bring a clean change of clothes for him as his teacher had requested during orientation. Dang it woman! Why couldn't you just do that ONE thing right?! Argh.

I worried he wouldn't be able to poke his straw into his 8oz prepackaged milk container.

And I worried he would feel sad and lonely.

When I picked Judah up after his 3 hour class, I wanted to hear the full report. I peppered him with questions like Larry King.

He told me the special sign for needing to use the restroom.

He told me everyone has to wear brown tomorrow from head to toe (shoot - he literally does not own a single shirt with even a little bit of brown on it).

He said everyone has to use 1 squirt of hand sanitizer after using the restroom, but not 2 squirts because there are harmful chemicals in the sanitizer. And then he added that he refrained from going to the restroom because he doesn't even want to have 1 squirt of harmful chemicals on him.

I asked him to rank his day on a scale of 1 - 10. 10 being the most awesome day ever and 1 being the worst. At first he said 4, then adjusted it to 5, and finally landed on 10.

Really Judah? A 10?! You had a really great day?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Birthday Un-Party

A few weeks ago Judah turned 5.

I wanted to be really low-key this year (read: lazy) and decided just to bake him his cake of choice (chocolate with real whipped cream and berries) and share it with our immediate family.

This sad (but yummy) cake was so slap-dash I thought the Pinterest Police would show up at my door to arrest me.

Easy, peasy, backyard breezy.

And then I thought, why not have balloons. Balloons are nice.

And while I was tying up balloons on our patio chairs, our neighbor (Judah's best big kid friend) did the coolest thing - he stuck his head over our fence (a la Wilson does to Tim the Toolman Taylor) and said - watcha' doin'?

And that's how we ended up with a very sweet little neighborhood party.

So unbelievably blessed to live near these awesome kids.

Our sweet neighbors even drew big celebratory posters and taped them all over our backyard. I absolutely LOVE kid art - such pure and joyful self-expression.

Customized art at its finest- everything Judah loves is on this page!
They crafted some home-made gifts that they KNEW Judah would love (because he's always fondling these things when he goes over to their homes) - origami ninja stars and a necklace with a giant gem.

The best "big boy" friend Judah could ever ask for.

And one very lovely gal rehearsed and directed a song and dance for Judah - he stood in the middle while she sang this sweet folk tune. For a minute our suburban fences fell away and I felt again the strong bonds of tribe and community. Oh what we've been stripped of in our tiny subdivided individualistic western societies.

A gift like no other.

Even now I can hear her sweet clear voice - O happy birthday, O happy birthday. We think you're great, let's celebrate, your happy birthday.

It makes my heart ache for a homeland I've never known.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The secret to actually enjoying a trip with (my) kids

A few weeks ago we took another 500 mile trek back down to L.A. for a dear friend's wedding and again we went in the car. With 2 whiny kids. In particular, one tiny but loud and extremely inflexible dictator-tyrant (aka, a two-and-a-half year old).

This time, however, it was a thousand times better than the first trip we took a month ago. For starters, we rented a giant SUV instead of just going in our compact sedan (this gave us the room to road trip with our lovely friends):

All we're missing here is the tiny tyrant-dictator in the back with me.

Also, I finally figured out what car activities actually work:

Forget fancy toys, just get masking tape. Lots and lots of masking tape.

And sticker dots.

For 2 year olds, the Melissa and Doug "water magic" coloring books are fantastic. And the good ol' smartphone selfie camera is always entertaining for a few minutes (but have fun deleting all those photo bursts of your toddler's blurry nose).

I now have 1000 photos of essentially this.

Another great perk we had this time was spacious, beautiful hotel rooms. Apparently toddlers like to nest in down as much as baby birds!

Kinda unbelievable how long "nesting" occupied Noah.

And the food. Omg the food. L.A. rendered me unable to button up my pants for a few days. But it was totally worth it.

Korean BBQ - I still dream about you.

The wedding we attended was a glorious affair - at a beautiful traditional church with stain-glassed windows and classic architecture. Every design detail was impeccable and just quirky enough to capture the sweet goofiness of the bride and groom. Sigh, if only I got to enjoy it...

Here's my experience of the wedding under El Dictator-Diablo:

At least I had a pretty corsage to look at.

But all in all, it was a great time. And my number one tip for a successful road trip with little kids? (cue the drum-roll)...

Go with friends!

This awesome kid was THE BEST toy my kids could have had and provided us with hours of endless chuckles and silliness. He single-handedly saved me from having to play with Judah and Noah for hours.

Uno, bionicles, minecraft, angry birds - this kid entertained like a pro.

But seriously, our sweet, kind, generous travel companions made all the difference, especially this lovely lady who not only watched my kids so I could get ready in a leisurely way every morning, but also plied me with drinks at night.

My matron saint of good times.

Sorry sweet friend, you have to travel with me forever now.

Now that I've tasted the good life, I can never go back!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Long Goodbye

I had a thought last week that made me inconsolably sad.

Ever since Judah was a baby, he was so needy. Needy for hugs, needy for attention, needy for interaction, needy for ME.

Back when he was 1 and I was his whole world.

Sometimes he would sense my exasperation and say, "It's okay mommy, you can leave now."

And with great relief and a quiet prayer of thanks, I would free myself from his suffocating grip. Finally, a little "me" time. Time to do all the things I want to do (aka, watching netflix with a bowl of ice cream).

But the thought hit me - in a few years, we will trade places.

I will want him to hang out with me. To share his thoughts with me. To share his heart with me. To stay awhile. And sensing his exasperation, I will say, "It's okay honey, you can leave now."

You can go hang out with your friends. Go to that party. Go play your video game. Go to your fortress of teen solitude, aka, your room, and shut the door.

And he will be relieved that his needy mom has finally released him to carry on with the things that he really enjoys.

For all the pains of parenthood, it is this pain that aches the most, by far.

The inexorable march toward independence - independence in every way.

I will look back at the small boy who left me dozens of love notes every week. All the crumpled flowers he picked to put in those notes. All the hearts he cut out "for love, because I love you mommy."

The things that were so mundane and taken for granted. So rote and common place.

Asking for hugs. Asking to sit on my lap. Asking for ME.

Already he asks for hugs about half the amount he did last year. Already he much prefers to play with his friends than with me. "Sorry, but you don't really know how to play Bionicles, mommy."

Already he has started leaving me.

Back when he was 2 and only wanted to play with me.

For so long I wondered how to help Judah be more independent. I scoured the wisdom of the interwebs and googled "emotionally needy child." And now I have my double-edged sword.

Darn it if it doesn't hurt. Darn if I'm not crying right now as I type this.

And darn if I don't spend the next few years, whatever years I have left, trying to catch every little drop of love Judah sends my way.

Back when he was 4 and told me everyday I am the most beautiful girl in the world - even more beautiful than Elsa.

And you bet I'll be frantically googling a new topic from this day on - how to make your kids like you more so they don't ever want to move too far away.