Saturday, October 10, 2015

Summer days, drifting away

We're winding down the summer over here.  At least, as much of a summer as two full-time employees with a kid in year-round daycare can get (and yes, I know it's already October, but come on - a SoCal summer doesn't end until November at the earliest. We'll take our PS lattes iced, poolside, thanks). I think we made the most of our limited time and even more limited budget, and took some fun local day trips.


We hit the beach, of course.  Twice.

My child doesn't like the water or when the sand is too "sandy," but she built castles for hours and eventually, at the end of the second trip, was talked into playing in the waves a bit.  I love the coast, of course, but honestly my favorite part of those trips was the drive.  Our lives are so hectic and our schedules so jacked that spending an hour in the car chatting with my husband without multitasking was incredibly relaxing.  Amaliya does great while driving, as long as she gets full control of the music.

We attended a few parties, spending much needed time with friends...

We wandered the town incognito in our superhero outfits....

And there was lots of time exploring in the yard, of course.  At least, on those days when the temperature dipped below 95 degrees.

This is the first year when Amaliya's really been flexible enough to enjoy day trips and new adventures.  Last year she still needed a 2-3 hour nap every day, was not physically adventurous at all, and became easily overwhelmed by noises and crowds.  This year she was brave, much more self-assured, and could power through nap time like a boss, most days.  She still doesn't take well to crowds and noise and forced playing with other kids, but if we limited our outings to a few hours, she did fine.

This summer was special to me, as it will go down in the books as the last for our family of 3.  Next year, with an infant in tow, our days will be different and our adventures more complicated. Still, adventure we will.  Life is too short and the world is too vast to do otherwise.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Finding out in 10

Four weeks, and I'm just finding out.   I tested on the appropriate day and it was negative, so I had more or less given up, until I felt randomly terrible one Thursday evening and started to wonder.  I got the faintest positive line on Thursday night's test, so I wake up Friday 8/21 to use my last digital test.  I realize that, no matter how well planned and longed for a pregnancy is, seeing the positive appear on the test will ALWAYS bring about a mix of emotions.  Elation, terror, joy, dread.

After debating telling anyone, I end up telling basically everyone except work and the Internet (but don't worry Erin, you were the first). I know that, if this pregnancy doesn't progress, I will want to talk about it and will need to surround myself with a support network. 

Five weeks, and it's still sinking in. Running is immediately hard - I am slow and struggle with every breath.  Nausea hits now and then, and I could easily sleep 10 hours a night.  I gain 3 pounds instantly, just like last time.  None of my pants fit already, which is unsettling, but I resign myself to maxi skirts for the next 35+ weeks.

Six weeks, and Amaliya somehow knows somehow.  She's extra clingy, snuggly, demanding my attention even more than usual, and asks me over and OVER again, "when will there be a baby in our family?"  "Where is my little sister?"  "When my brother and sister are here (because she insists there will be two, yikes!) I will help you carry them and help them learn how to slide at the park."  She pointed at me, out of the blue, and said, "Mama, there's a baby growing in your belly!" It's adorable, and amazing, how perceptive she is.  I have two days during the week where my energy levels are high, my stomach is settled, and I feel relatively normal (though HUNGRY, all the time). Out of nowhere I have an excellent run - 10 minute miles, feeling strong.  I am hopeful that this pregnancy will be like the last, and I will escape the worst of morning sickness.

Seven weeks, and this pregnancy is nothing like the last. I rallied for a family outing to Oak Glen on Saturday morning, but spent the rest of labor day weekend on the couch fighting the urge to vomit.  My fatigue is so pronounced that I feel like I'm always moving in slow motion.  All week, I feel faint if I don't eat every two hours, but even the thought of food makes my stomach flip-flop.  I realize that the feeling is familiar - I am reminded of Mombasa, when I went out on the Indian Ocean with friends and a guide in a rickety wooden dhow.  I was so seasick that I ended up jumping overboard and swimming back to shore alongside the boat, to avoid passing out or losing my lunch.

There's no getting off of this boat, though.  The only thing that seems to help is Sobe Lifewater or Vitamin water, which I suspect has something to do with the B vitamins. I pound bottle after bottle of the stuff, and a random bag of Maple Bacon Kettle Chips because they were the only things that sounded remotely good.  I wish I could live on gouda sandwiches.

Eight weeks, and it's rough. The thought of cooking fills me with dread and makes my stomach churn - all day long, I have anxiety about making dinner. Nothing sounds good, but I have to eat all the time (any thoughts of gaining less weight this time around quickly fly out the window). There are a few days I have energy, otherwise I am horizontal as much as possible.  Amaliya is wonderful - more than happy to lay on the couch with me, asks me all the time if I'm not feeling well, and snuggles up to the baby in my belly when watching TV.  On Friday this week we see my midwife for the first time.  An ultrasound revealed ONE baby (whew), measuring right on time and with a visible heartbeat.  I didn't realize how anxious I'd been until I saw that little flicker on the screen - it was reassuring, to know that all is well so far. 

Nine weeks, and my energy starts to come back just in time.  We spent the last half of the week in Austin, TX.  My body felt surprisingly good walking miles and miles around town, and without the need to cook my own meals and see my dirty kitchen, my stomach is relatively settled. The lack of responsibility lifts a huge weight off my shoulders, and the absence of stress (especially knowing that Amaliya is having a great time with my parents for five days) is a huge boost to my physical and mental well-being.  I start to feel more like myself.

Ten weeks, and I dry-heave pretty much the entire day after I get back from TX.  It's definitely cooking and the kitchen that sets me off.  Cold quinoa salad sounds amazing, so I make myself a buffet-sized vat of it and eat it all within 2 days. Runs are hard, and weightlifting wipes me out, but I feel okay to keep going with both and so I do. Nothing fits, and people are starting to speculate (both to my friends and to my face) so I tell work and the rest of the world that I'm pregnant.  By the end of the week, I feel like the worst of the nausea has passed. Beyond some fatigue, worsening headaches, and round-ligament pain, I am feeling more like myself (a weirdly emotional version of myself that cries over radio shows while driving to work, but nevermind that).

Ten weeks gone, 30 to go.  I didn't document much about my first pregnancy, aside from a few scattered blog posts.  Partly because I didn't use social media as much back then, and also because my head was spinning the entire time.  Everything was new and unfamiliar, so rather than reflecting I just took each day as it came.  This time?  I am trying to pause, take stock, and be more aware of what is happening in my body and with my family.  This pregnancy feels sacred to me for several reasons - because all pregnancies are, but also because this may very well be my last, and because it marks the end of Amaliya's stint as an only child. I am stopping to savor reality, to feel it, as often as I can (even though it hasn't felt entirely pleasant the last few weeks).

I'm very much looking forward to relaxing and enjoying every minute of this pregnancy, until the day we finally welcome our newest family member to the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm back! With 10 questions.

My little blog got a face-lift!  Nothing earth shattering, just a little freshening up. I miss this space, and I really do hope to return here more often in the coming days.

I am easing back into this whole writing-for-pleasure thing.  I'm rusty. It's hard. It seems impossible that, not so long ago, I would sit in front of a screen and let the words pour out of me effortlessly - now, every sentence is a struggle.

While I try to remember how to write again, and figure out what I want from this space going forward, I'll leave you with a little practice exercise that succeeded in getting my brain cranking and fingers typing again (nevermind that it's taken me three days to write and get this post up).

What are you really good at?  What are you really bad at?

I’m really good at:  making decisions, running a household, multi-tasking.  I’m really bad at: focusing on one thing at a time, making small talk.

Have you ever been in a car accident?  What happened?

When I was 17 I wrecked my dad's jeep. I was driving my brother to get a haircut and made a left turn in front of an oncoming car in the parking lot.  I'd only had my license for a few months so it was totally traumatizing, but a good learning experience - I've been much more careful ever since.

Why did you attend your college?

I got it in my head in high school that I was going to move to Africa and someday work for the United Nations.  I started college at a small private university in San Diego that had a sister campus in Nairobi, Kenya.  After 2 years, I took the plunge and moved to Africa for 2 and a half years, where I finished my B.A. (and determined that I would absolutely NOT be working for the UN).

Describe your morning routine today.

(From Thursday, when I started this) Woke up at 5:15; lounged in bed until 5:40; worked on the blog for a while; made breakfast; packed my lunch; put on running clothes and packed my gym bag; got Amaliya up, dressed, fed, and dropped her off at daycare; ran a 5K on the treadmill at work; changed; grabbed coffee; made it to my desk.

Have you ever snooped through someone else’s things? Did you find anything interesting?

I was a nosy kid, so I'm pretty sure I went through all my family members' stuff at some point (and yes, there are some things that I can never unsee).  I also went through my husband's phone a couple times when we first got together.  Once I hit my mid-20s I grew up a little bit and now mind my own business!

What do you think happens when you die?

I’m not religious, so I don’t really have a ‘guide’ or template for what happens at death.  I guess I have two instincts... feelings... possibilities that sit well and make sense to me.  First, that when we die, we just die.  It's not terrible or anything, it's just like before we're born.  We cease to exist.  Sometimes, though, I think that we might experience life again after we die.  Consciousness through a different body.  Again, I don't attach any dogma to this, and I don't think the circumstances of our next life are determined by our choices in this life. It's just comforting, I guess, to think that something might come after.

Are you superstitious?

Sort of.  I find "signs" in random occurrances, and I have to knock on wood if I so much as think a jinxed thought.  However, I acknowledge that I do these things to soothe my own mind and they in no way impact the outcome of anything.

Do people think you are younger or older than you actually are?

I used to always be told that I look way younger than I am.  Having a kid must have aged me though - I haven't heard that in a while, and I rarely get carded these days!

How did your parents’ relationship influence you?

That's a story best left for professional therapists. Ha! So many aspects of who I am can be directly traced back to the relationship role models that surrounded me. I make my decisions firmly but carefully. I always strive to educate and improve myself, and to maintain an identity separate from my family. I acknowledge that relationships take work, and try to address issues head-on instead of building up resentment and making excuses.

What were the three happiest moments of your life?

Easy!  1) the birth of my daughter, 2) finishing a marathon, 3) a tie between: swimming naked in the Indian Ocean, and seeing the absolute favorite band from my youth (Live) in concert.

I'll be back soon, friends!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Threenager


You've been three years old for a while now, in my mind.  Maybe it's your long limbs, ever-expanding feet, the gradual disappearance of your round toddler belly. Perhaps it's the complexity of your emotions and the way you articulate your needs.  It's probably due to you eating without your high chair tray, using the potty, dressing yourself, and doing an increasing number of "big girl" things every day.  You are growing up beautifully, my love.

We celebrated your birthday with two parties this weekend, one for your friends and another for the family.  I've spent a year attending parties where the birthday-kid bursts into tears under the weight of all those eyes and voices, but you didn't do that.  You looked forward to the song for months, and when the time came, you hesitated for a moment, and then broke into the biggest grin and basked under all the attention.  Interesting behavior, for a child whose teachers ask me if she talks much at home, because you are so quiet in class. They do tell me that you're one of the most musical kids they've ever had.  You won't speak up in class, but you have no trouble singing songs on the playground and dancing in the center of the circle.  You are not shy by any stretch, just discerning, careful, guarded... but when your trust is earned, you open up and your big personality shines through. 

You've been reserved and polite since birth, choosing to watch and listen in new situations rather than speak up and be met with an unpleasant consequence.  It's only with those of us in your inner circle that you feel free to push boundaries and, oh, do you push them. You are sassy and silly, with very selective hearing and an inclination to follow instructions but only in your own way, in your own good time.  You mostly go with the flow, and for that I am grateful - you cope well with surprises, upheavals, and sudden changes to your schedule.  If you are upset, you tell me or show me clearly with your actions, and we talk it through until you feel better.

You are more physical now, jumping, climbing, and running more than ever.   You are still not one of those crazy active kids, and I doubt you ever will be.  You love your books and, more recently, puzzles.  You can spend hours at a time on the floor with your puzzles and can put together 30 pieces by yourself (though you prefer to have "help..." and by help, I mean crying until I sit down beside you and then yelling at me any time I touch a piece).  You are going through what I think are typical only-child struggles - how and why to share, the necessity of taking turns, and the difficulties in relating with other kids who do not exhibit calm, adult behaviors.  You light up when talking to grown-ups, but are startled and confused when approached by other semi-verbal, rough-and-tumble children.

You love belly snuggles, kisses, and at least three "biggest, biggest hugs in the whole world" before bed every night.

You are so sensitive and perceptive, and seem to feel everything very deeply.  A slightly raised voice leads to tears; even the threat of me counting to three makes you panic and leap into action (I have no idea what I'd do if I actually counted to three and you still weren't obeying, but you don't seem eager to find out, so I won't worry about it); the very few times that we've spanked you have led to hysterics and serious grudge-holding, with days of you constantly telling me, "you hurt me, Mama!" and bursting into tears about it.  We don't spank anymore, unless your behavior endangers your life and needs to cease immediately.

You are such an enlightened being, Amaliya.  Such an old soul.  From the moment you were born, I never really felt like I had a baby.  I didn't see you as an infant, but as a fully-formed person who happened to inhabit a tiny body.  Parenting you is not at all what I thought it would be - I anticipated leading, enforcing, instructing, but instead?  Instead I am gently guiding while you, incredibly, absorb all this new information about the world and march onward, without me. I never could have anticipated learning so much from you, or needing to follow your lead lest I risk being left behind. Parenting you is not about dictating, it is about listening, engaging, and opening up.

Sharing an ice cream bar with Daddy on her real birthday

Parenting a three-year-old requires you to become a three-year-old - wildly curious, totally candid, purely creative, and utterly free. I am your Mama, always, but I am hopeful that as time goes on I will also be your friend, partner, confidant, and fellow explorer journeying through this life hand in hand with you.

Happy 3rd birthday, sweet girl.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Random notes on life, June 2015

I don't write much these days (for fun, anyway), but every once in a while I'd like to stop by this space and drop a snapshot of life in the moment.  I feel like I will regret it if I don't - life is passing at lightning speed, kids are growing, wrinkles are appearing, (no gray hairs yet, but I'm waiting for it), and the pace of change is merciless.  But here's where we are right now.

- Amaliya has a whole slew of imaginary friends right now.  Pluto, her fishy (she calls dogs "fishies" for some reason. Pluto is the stuffed dog lovey that she sleeps with), Crab (an imaginary crab that is "super cute" and who likes to perch on our bellies while we watch TV), and Macho (not sure what Macho is, but he's an A-hole with a capital 'A' and is blamed for all the messes and disobedience taking place in our house these days).  She refers to them all as her best friends. 

- Her other best friend is.... my feet.  She talks to my toes.  She occasionally tells ME to be quiet so she can talk to Toes.  She's much nicer to Toes, anyway.  She confides in them, tells them about her favorite things and what makes her sad.  She insists that toes give her hugs and kisses at night (note: I shower a lot more often these days).  Is this weird?  I mean, by the standards of preschoolers, where does it fall on the spectrum of "strange?"  I'm going with it.  It's adorable.

- I was wrong to expect peace during this stage of our lives.  Careers need to be grown, families are destined to expand, our responsibilities seem to increase by the day. I feel like a walking circus act - the lady with a dozen plates spinning on delicate poles, who looks masterful from a distance but is always in danger of dropping one and ruining the whole illusion of ease and perfection.  Just when you get comfortable, feel like everything is stable and balanced, someone throws a new plate at you.  But can I confess something?...

- ... I love it.  I do much better with too much responsibility than I do with not enough.  It's my Type A side, I suppose.  The more control I have, the more decisions I need to make, the more people relying on me, the more content I feel with my life.  I feel so good about where we stand right now - parenting is joyful, marriage is edifying, our material well-being is stable, and we are SO close to making some of our long-term dreams a reality.  I know there will be ups and downs in our future, but I think the greatest feeling is knowing, deep in your soul, that you will be able to weather any storms that may come.

- Now let's bring it back to Earth for a second, because life is never 100% perfect.  My primary struggle at the moment is with my physical health.  I'm trying to be transparent about our plans for a second baby, and the first step in those plans was for me to come off of hormonal birth control and return my body to a healthy, natural state.  It's been a rocky 6 weeks, in that respect. I've felt terrible most of the time, physically and mentally - I can sense my body struggling to find equilibrium, to restore it's natural rhythms after being chemically disrupted for so long.  I've been experimenting with essential oils and a few herbal supplements (maca root, etc), and hopefully in the next month or so I will begin to notice a change.

- In the meantime, I've been trying to make the most of this stage in our lives, with only one child who is at a perfect age for sleepovers with her grandparents and adventurous day trips.  I hope to have a few nights away with my husband this year.  There are a couple work trips coming up that I am looking forward to.  We have tickets to see The Lion King in October, from the front section of the orchestra (a dream come true).

This is where we are right now.  Busy, but at peace. Challenged, but content.  In a frenzy, but enjoying the moments of stillness.  All in all, deeply satisfied in life and love and ourselves.

I hope you can say the same, friends.  I really do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Letters to Amaliya - Two and Three Quarters

My love,

This letter is almost a month late, because I've been having too much fun with you to stop and write about you.  Toddlers change at lightspeed, and I see you becoming more and more of a big kid every day.  So much has happened in the past three months - I'll never capture it all, but here are some notes.

Your ability to pretend has flourished, and your fantasy worlds grow more elaborate by the day.  You play "Daycare" constantly, which involves lining all your stuffed animals up and changing their diapers, one by one, and then grouping them all together while you climb into the rocking chair and read them stories.  Your pause every few seconds to remind someone to be quiet, and then you dole out imaginary treats afterwards, but only to the ones who behaved themselves.

I can't help but wonder (a wonder fuel partly by mom-guilt but mostly by objective fascination) how this early experience with institutionalized education will impact you later in life.  Some kids play "house" and call themselves "mommy," but you call yourself "teacher" and play "daycare."  You are kind to your stuffed animals, praising them and caring for their imaginary physical needs, but you don't snuggle them or carry them around in a nurturing way like a mother would.  I am almost positive this will change when you have a sibling (oh, what a shock that will be), but for now, it's very interesting to see how your play manifests.  I am always happy to sit with your class and hear you tell stories, or to receive checkups when you switch gears and want to play doctor (which melts my heart, hearing you ask me to "take a deep breath.  Okay great!  Now it's time for your shot.  See, that didn't hurt a bit!")

You are smart, Amaliya. So smart, it befuddles me most of the time.  You can spell your name and are beginning to recognize words on a page (you can point out 'baby,' 'moo,' and 'Dr. Seuss').  You point at words and ask what they say, and you want me to spell words for you using our fridge magnets. You read along with me now, repeating the words immediately after I say them (you do this even with brand new books that you haven't memorized), forming a perfect echo to my voice; Occasionally you look up from the page and exclaim, "I'm learning to read!"  I can't tell you how proud this makes me.  Words have long been my joy and refuge, so to see you taking such an interest in the written word makes my heart happy.

There are a few Spanish words that are ingrained in your vocabulary now (Empujen!  Abajo!  And the numbers uno through diez; Thank you Dora.), and wait, can we talk about your vocabulary?  You knew 100 words long before your second birthday, so I shouldn't be surprised, and yet.... you are so verbose now.  Your sentences are long and complicated.  You  use words like "proper" and "carbohydrate" and "bacteria" and "stethoscope" frequently and in context.

I am not ready to pigeonhole you yet, but my suspicion is that you will be a verbal or aural learner, much like your dad is.  For me, kinesthetic to the core and unable to absorb a thing unless my physical body is somehow involved, it is strange and impressive to watch you absorb so much through spoken words.  I am in awe of you the way I am in awe of your father, with your brain's ability to take words and make a million far-reaching connections.

You are smart, yes, and I am impressed by you daily, by my admiration goes far beyond what you do and encompasses all of who you are, who you are becoming.  I am still learning you every day, and will for the rest of my life I'm sure.  So many of your inherent personality traits, the nature and not the nurture, have been consistent since the day you were born.  You are still a listener, an observer, a people-pleaser, a law abiding citizen, and you think carefully before any action you take.  You don't like taking risks, and don't appreciate being pushed to try new things before you are ready.  Other kids might climb up the biggest rock at the park and throw themselves off with reckless abandon, causing many booboos and giving their parents gray hairs, but not you.  You want to talk about the rock, ask why the rock is there, have me help you climb up the rock (even though you don't need help), stand on top for a while, discuss how and why you plan to jump off the rock, do a dozen practice flexes, and then finally take an extremely cautious hop onto the ground (while holding hands, of course).

The most amazing thing happened about a month ago.  You - my shy girl who never speaks a word at daycare and clams up under the attention of strangers - woke up one morning and decided that you were a frog.  You insisted that I call you Mr. Frog, and you hopped everywhere you went that week.  As Mr. Frog, oddly enough, you blossomed.  As a frog, you spoke to your teachers (primarily to correct them when they called you Amaliya), you felt free to be loud and silly in public, and you thought nothing of being the center of attention while hopping around on the playground.  Mr. Frog lasted a week - then you woke up asking to be called Apple, and that one has stuck.  Apple has the same silly, charming, brash personality as Mr. Frog (and, of course, as the Amaliya I've always known).  This is the beginning of social awareness for you, and seeing you start to interact with the larger world is thrilling. 

This is long, baby girl, but there's one more thing I have to mention, and that is how happy it makes me when you take interest in the things I do.  The saying, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is spot-on.  I love when you sit on the counter with me for hours while I cook, asking questions about each step and wanting tastes of each ingredient.  I love when you ask questions about my painting, and want to sit in my lap and tell me which colors to mix and where I should touch up the canvas.  I love when you put on my badge, break out your pink toy laptop, and tell me to be quiet because you are working like Mama and need to make some money.  I love most of all when you ask me to go for a run, and we do laps on the sidewalk in front of the house until you are sweaty and out of breath.  Yes, I feel proud and flattered and validated, but most of all, I hope you genuinely learn to love the things I love, and that it fires you up to learn and explore and fall in love with things that are far beyond my own reach.  Life is short indeed, but not that short, and there is plenty of time to do a million amazing things with it.

You're on your way, my love.  But I'll always be there to hold your hand when you jump.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015


On my 20th birthday, my college roommates took me to the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown San Diego, a hookah bar, and then back to our apartment where they bought me copious amounts of alcohol. I felt good about life - I had just started changing my habits and had lost about 20lbs. I was awaiting my acceptance letter from USIU-Africa. Life was on the upswing, but little did I know what was to come.  In the 10 years since then, I...

...moved to Kenya.
Met a boy.
Swam naked in the Indian Ocean.
Experienced intense culture shock.
Lived with the boy.
Learned to love weightlifting.
Earned a B.A. in International Relations.
Muddled through an 11-month-long immigration process.
Landed my first full-time job.
Married the boy.
Experienced intense culture shock again, through the eyes of someone else.
Doubted that the marriage would survive.
Cried, raged, and gradually learned to communicate better.
Doubted myself every day.
Received a diagnosis of Celiac Disease, and changed my diet forever.
Lost a total of 90lbs
Started running, and joined a running group.
Ran a 5K...
a 10K...
Six half-marathons...
and a full marathon.
Experienced the joy of a healthy pregnancy, a peaceful natural birth, and the addition of a daughter to our family.
Learned the true meaning of tired.
Breastfed for 13 months.
Earned my MBA.
Moved to a job in a field that I love.
Have surrounded myself with a loving community of truly phenomenal people.

I had one of those "pinch me" moments the other morning.  I was walked out of Starbucks in the morning, looking forward to the work day ahead, reflecting on my daughter's happy smile when I woke her up, feeling healthy and confident.  The "me" of 10 years ago used to think a lot about the future, what it would look like what I would be doing... but that "me" could not have imagined my reality.  A life so simple, that doesn't look incredibly impressive on paper, but brims with joy and love.

I have no sense of dread over getting older, because I can look back and see that every single year of my life has been better than the last. I saw the world in my 20s, but more importantly, I came to know myself.  I am entering my 30s with so much yet unknown, so much wisdom left to gain, but comfortable in my own skin, and what more can you really ask for?

I have been blessed, and I am grateful.  The next 10 years will hold many challenges, I think.  Grief, loss, various pains that I cannot guess at and have been spared thus far.  Life is short, yes, but it is also long, and lots of things can happen, both good and bad.  I can't say I am prepared for the bad - is anyone, really? - but I am confident that, whatever happens, I can face it.  I have my family, my friends, my tribe, my community at my back, to buoy me up and carry me through.  I can only hope for more joy than sadness, and to be able to share that joy with those around me every single day.

That's enough rambling for now.  Thanks for reading, friends.  Onward!