Friday, July 18, 2014


For every time I've rolled my eyes, subtly or not-so-subtly, at the kids screaming, spilling water, or throwing food in restaurants...

For every time I blatantly stated that MY child would spend their afternoons playing with me in the great outdoors, instead of sacked out on the couch with a movie while I snuck a few minutes of peaceful phone time.

For every time I've nodded and smiled as harried parents describe to me the struggles of dealing with their strong-willed, spirited children, but in my head thought, "that will never be me..."

For every time I've heard a mother yelling at her child in public, and thought she's probably either out of control or seeking attention...

For every morsel of processed food that I swore my child would never eat...

For every time that I, in my childless naivete, had a judgy thought about the personal choices of my friends with children...

For every single smug thought that ever crossed my mind in relation to kids, parenting, and the joy/struggle of mother/fatherhood...

For all those.... I am truly sorry.  Just know that karma came back to bite me.  Wait.... that wasn't karma... it was a 2-year-old with a full set of teeth!  It's a good thing she's so cute.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mini-vacation semi-fail

I already know that the best part of parenting, for me, is going to be experiencing things again through the wonderstruck eyes of a child.  Though I honestly love every phase that Amaliya has passed through (even the challenging ones) I can't help but look forward to the day where she is able to come on adventures with me, see amazing things and have memorable experiences.  Sometimes I get carried away though, and try and push things too soon.  Hence, we ended up at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park a couple weeks ago.

With a very tired baby.
We were in Escondido for a friend's baby shower and I thought, why not get a hotel room for the night, and go to Safari Park the next day?  Amaliya loves animals, and running around parks, so I thought she would really enjoy it.

Things did not go as planned, of course.  We stayed late at the baby shower, keeping her up past her bedtime.  She was wired and refused to sleep in the Pack and Play in the hotel, and ended up sharing one of the double beds in our room with me all night.  She only slept 8 hours as opposed to her usual 11-12.

She was mildly excited about some big birds, and pointed out the water wherever we went.  Otherwise?  Our crazy active toddler spent the whole trip happily strapped into her stroller.  Every time we took her out to show her something, she would crawl right back in and ask to be buckled.  Elephants?  Who cares!  Sleeping lions?  Not impressed.  Not even the baby gorilla sparked her interest (though, I thought it was amazing).

I admit my mistake.  Almost-two is not quite old enough for some types of adventures.... at least not when you're sleep deprived and overstimulated.  It was still a great time though. We strolled around for a few hours in the gorgeous weather, met a very nice man who walked us through the park (where he's been coming regularly for over 20 years) and told us interesting stories, ate lunch, and packed up to come home.

We'll try again, maybe in a year or two.  It's easy to forget that, when you're two, you don't need expensive parks and big attractions.  Amaliya would have been just as happy if we took her outside and let her climb a flight of stairs 20 times, or spent the afternoon swimming in the apartment pool.  Still, I look forward to the day when she's up for the big outings.  I know she's going to be a phenomenal traveling buddy.

It wasn't a total fail, though.  We did get a few smiles out of her!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An accidental poisoning

So the thing about dining with toddlers is... don't do it.  Just don't.

They scream, they won't sit, they either throw the food or mash it in their hair, their armpits, their belly buttons, basically anywhere except their mouths. They make the thought of any sort of peaceful dinner conversation laughable.  Not only is it frustrating, it's dangerous!  Having a full sippy cup of water spiked on your foot, grains of rice flung at your eyes... I need protective gear just to eat a family meal, these days.

We went out to our favorite Mexican place a couple weeks ago, because Amaliya behaves ever-so-slightly better when we're out in public (our most recent Chipotle run notwithstanding... innocent strangers were beaned...  I don't want to talk about it). Anyway, we were at Maria's Cafe, it had been a rough week, and I was indescribably relieved to have a meal delivered to my table, fully cooked, and eat it without a kid screaming in my face.  So relieved, in fact, that I did not take my usual precautions when ordering.  I asked for a salad, and did not blink when it came to me in a fried tortilla bowl.

I passed on the cheese and sour cream, but for some reason, downed half the bowl without even thinking.  I noticed it tasted strange, but it never crossed my mind that it might be a flour tortilla - off limits, for someone with Celiac Disease like me.

I started feeling off on the ride home, but it wasn't until I was on the couch two hours later, barely able to hold my head up, that I realized what had happened.  I ate gluten.  I poisoned myself.  It brought on what I think might have been a migraine.  I've never had one, but the symptoms - massive headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light - fit the bill.

I have accidentally poisoned myself 4 other times since I stopped eating gluten forever in June 2010.  The first time was August 2010, I ate a cheese croissant at Panera and had no reaction, but my body had not yet adjusted to the new diet.  July 2011, I ate a fast food hamburger (my first since 2004, and definitely my last) and was incredibly sick.  September 2011, I ate a contaminated fish taco and was sick.  December 2012, I ate a chocolate chip cookie, and felt off but not terrible.  My body has definitely grown more sensitive over the years, since the gluten has been out of my system for so long.  I used to eat bread three times a day.  Now, half of a flour tortilla makes me very sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I am cautious with my diet to an anal-retentive degree. So why, and how, did this happen?  The short answer: complacency.  We don't eat out too often, and when we do, we frequent the same places.  I am familiar with the menus and know what I can and can't eat.  Honestly, my gluten sensitivity seldom crosses my mind when I eat out these days, because knowing what to look/ask for is second nature.  This time, I was distracted, frustrated, and just plain lazy about my food.  I didn't take the appropriate precautions, and I paid the price.

A rare peaceful moment during dinner.... also, could they BE any more related??
There is a lot of negative backlash against food sensitivities lately.  Those who adhere to "special" diets such as gluten-free without thoroughly understanding it are being called out and publicly shamed.  I, too, am irritated at people who have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon without really understanding its implications, because these people damage the credibility of all of us. They make it that much harder for those of us with intolerance due to an autoimmune condition to find compassion and understanding when eating in restaurants or asking questions at grocery stores.

The bottom line, though, is this.  Every one of us, Celiac or not, gluten-sensitive or not, has the right to experiment with our diets.  We have a right to know what we put in our bodies.  We are paying for food products, purchasing meals in restaurants, and (hopefully) tipping our waitstaff, and therefore have the right to expect transparency and accountability from vendors when addressing the products they serve.  I'll speak for the gluten free community when I say that most of us aren't out there looking for freebies.  We don't want to you bend over backwards and make us a special meal in your restaurant that we can eat.  If you will do that for us, great!  We're likely to vote with our dollars and frequent your establishment.  But above all, we just want to know.  We want to know what ingredients you use in your food, so we can determine whether or not it will make us sick.  That's all.

This experience was a good reminder for me to always be mindful of what I put in my body, and also to be compassionate towards others who have allergies, food sensitivities, or other medical conditions that they have to deal with on a daily basis.  It is not easy, especially when the wider world seems to think you're just seeking attention or mindlessly following a trend.

Be kind to each other, friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Father's Day 2014

After her first bath
When I was growing up, the thought of marriage and having babies was no where near the top of my priority list.  Deep down I wanted it, a family, but something about saying it out loud just didn't sit well with me.  I knew that people would make assumptions about me, the whole of me, if they found out I wanted to get married.  They'd think that, just because I wanted a marriage, I must want to be a wife as well.  Wanting a baby meant that I wanted to be a mommy, willing to accept all the responsibilities and pressures that society heaps upon mommies. It meant I was willing to sacrifice my time, body, career, and any personal aspirations for the sake of that family.  To a younger me, it sounded like you could have a family OR you could have your self.  Not both.

But I didn't want that. I wanted my family, but I did not want the prepackaged roles and titles that came with it.  I did not want a family that consists of mother, father, and children.  I wanted a safe, warm community of individuals surrounding me, bonded by love and blood, working for a common future. To me, that is family.

I'm lucky to say that that IS my family today.  And it wouldn't be possible without this man.

Blowing on hot soup.

He is gentle, steady, and patient to a degree I find unfathomable. 

He is not stuck up on superficial gender roles. He doesn't see me as a woman, wife or mother; he sees me as a friend, partner, and human being. Our roles are fluid, each of us jumping in to do what needs to be done at any given moment, balancing our strengths with each others' weaknesses.

He is going to teach our daughter so much more than "how a man should treat a woman." From him, she will learn how to live conscientiously, with love and respect towards everyone regardless of color, class or creed.

First beach trip

I am proud to call him husband, and my daughter's father.  Here's to many, many more Father's Days to come.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tough days with the tiny dictator

Can I confess something?

Parenting a toddler is hard. 

This week was particularly rough.  Work was difficult for my husband and I for a variety of reasons, and we came home every day desperate for a little relaxation.  Instead we frantically launched into cleaning up and preparing dinner all while an angry Amaliya cried, whined, and threw avocados around the kitchen.  I got dinner on the table and ended up shoving it in my mouth in under five minutes, without tasting it,while my daughter screamed from her high chair.  She refused to eat, or let us eat, she didn't want to sit.  I was beyond frustration.  Worn down.  I looked at her and was horrified at the first thought that crossed my mind, which was, "you are ruining everything."

I've always known I would enjoy parenting young, school-age kids.  Four-ish, five-ish.  I've been around that age enough to know that we sync up well.  I'm scared of pre-teens (who isn't?), and I look forward to the teenage years.  The newborn, baby stage was terrifying to me in my ignorance, but I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would.  There was anxiety, there was a crazy amount of sickness and sleep deprivation, but on the whole it was so easy.  There are no personality conflicts with babies.  No need for discipline, boundaries, or negotiation.  They need, they cry, you give.  Simple.

Toddler parenting, I feel, may not be my strong suit.  They are obstinate with no focus, stubborn yet nonsensical.  They can clearly tell you what they want, but can't understand your explanation of the "no."  I know, in my rational mind, that this is just a phase and will pass quickly.  Amaliya's second set of molars are coming in, which must hurt, and she's definitely gone through some developmental leaps lately that I think are stressing her out.  She is gradually figuring things out, making sense of the world, and I know that once her emotions even out things will be easier for everyone.  She needs my patience, even when I don't feel like I have any more patience to give.

I'm digging deep this week, to find enough grace for her and I both.  Negativity seeps in when we're on the third straight hour of evening tantrums - I am a horrible parent, I'm not cut out for this, I'm not sure I want to have another kid.  I am trying to let those feelings come and go without taking them too seriously.  The bad moments are just moments - seemingly endless, but unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

And anyway, we still have bedtime.  A few precious minutes every night when I can change her clothes without a fight, watch her do a happy little dance when she picks out her books for the evening, and hold her in my arms while we read to each other.  She clings to me tightly in the darkness, head on my shoulder, and begs to hear lullabies (these days it's "Let It Go," every time) while I sway back and forth, just like I did when she was new.  She lays down in her crib, asks for her blanket, gives a big stretch and looks up at me with a sleepy smile.  My worn-down, deflated heart grows three sizes when she says, "I love you, Mama," and reaches up for a kiss.  I close her door and am so relieved to have some peace at last, but also?  I kind of miss her.

Isn't it amazing, how one little person can ruin every other moment, but make all the moments in between infinitely brighter?

This phase is just that, a phase, and we'll get through it.  Amaliya is a very spirited personality - stubborn, sensitive, and quite demanding, but even on the hardest days I wouldn't change her for anything.  I love that she's such a force, so determined and curious and expressive.  She will always keep me on my toes.

I love her.  So much.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

This and that

It's hard to find the words to post today. This week has been lovely, but draining.  Good things in the works, changes afoot, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all.

I'm two weeks into my 20 week marathon training plan.  Have I mentioned that I'm training for the Long Beach Marathon?  Since I made it on the Ragnar Napa Valley team as an alternate, I figured I needed something else to train for in case I don't end up running with the team.  It's good timing for the marathon - I have the time in my schedule to train, am in good health, and mentally I am ready for it.  I'm taking it one run at a time, since I get really scared looking too far ahead (at the 20 mile runs and 40 mile weeks).  For now, I feel fantastic and up to the challenge.

Amaliya has changed so much in the last few weeks.  She sings all the time now, and knows all the words to a handful of songs.  Tonight, she read her Eating the Alphabet book to me, and only needed help on two letters.  Her vocabulary must be close to 200 words now.  She's also started acting out very intentionally, and when I go to discipline her she dissolves into giggles and says, "I'm so funny!"  She's not, really, but I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness.  I can't believe she's almost two, guys.  TWO!

I am really loving this summer.  We have lots of plans, something going on practically every weekend.  Amaliya is getting to the age where we can take her places and enjoy activities together, which I have honestly been looking forward to since before she was born.  As much as I loved having a baby, I am really excited to have a kid.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Don't hit, kiss!" 5 ways we help our daughter love herself

Amaliya throws epic fits, as most almost-two-year-olds do. When her limited vocabulary fails her and she is overcome with anger and frustration, she bites.  For a while she was sinking her sharp little baby teeth into my forearms when I brushed her hair, or into my legs when I was cooking dinner.  If that didn't alleviate her stress, or if my tender haunches were out of reach, she would bite herself instead.  It was hilarious at first, I'll be honest - watching her shove her hand into her mouth or take a bite out of her own forearm and look shocked that, hey, that hurts!

I realized, though, that this probably isn't a good behavior to encourage.  I know this is normal for her developmental stage, but its never too early to discourage self-harm as a means of dealing with difficult emotions.  I started telling her, "Don't bite yourself!  Kiss yourself, because you love yourself!"  And she does!  It is amazing actually - in the throes of a mad fit when she is centimeters away from chomping on her own arm, she will pause to say, "No bite!  Kiss!" and will give herself a loving smooch (sometimes two or three, depending on how angry she is!).  Instead of running up to bite me when I'm cooking, now she wraps herself around my legs and showers my knees with kisses.

I've always had a healthy self-esteem.  Well, mostly.  As a teenager I had my share of "I don't want to be me" moments, occasional feelings of worthlessness because so-and-so didn't like me or a friend said something harsh, but these negative feeling were very, very few and far between.  My self-talk was largely positive: I am smart, I am a good listener, I am funny, I have beautiful eyes, I look cute when I wear that shirt, and so on.  I have no idea how I ended up that way, though.  High self-esteem certainly does not run in my family. I experienced bullying in elementary and high school (though not to the debilitating degree that many kids today are going through it).  I was always independent-minded.  Not very sensitive.  Tough, I guess, and I never let my own failures or the cruelty of others get to my heart.

Good for me, however, this has left me rather clueless when it comes to my own daughter.  She might turn out just like her father and I, functionally self-absorbed to the point that she doesn't give two craps what other people think of her.  Or, she might be different.  Sensitive.  Inclined to be her own worst critic, and let the judgements and opinions of others weigh on her.  It hurts me to think of her in the world by herself, doubting her awesomeness just because of what other people say about her.

It is never too early to start emphasizing self-love and acceptance.  Here are a few things we're doing now, and will do in the future, to make sure our daughter grows up with a healthy, positive sense of self.
  1. I will never bash my body, or hers, in front of her.  I've posted before about how we love our bellies, and bodies, in this house.  I let her see me naked, and I talk nicely about my own body in front of her.  I tell her that I love my shoulders, or "look at mama's muscles," or that I put on lotion because it makes my skin soft. We talk about how beautiful her curly hair and brown skin are.  We three compare our different bodies, and shower praise on all of them

  2. We use lots of positive verbal reinforcement, and not just limited to her physical appearance.  We applaud her (literally) whenever she tries to do something new, pronounces a tough word correctly, or shows kindness to others.  This article, all about the importance of praising a child's character instead of only acknowledging the good behaviors, has stuck with me.  I try and emphasize her good character as often as possible, telling her, "you are such a helpful person," when she puts laundry away, or, "You are a very loving girl," when she comes up and gives me a hug for no reason.  Conversely, when we need to correct her, we comment on the behavior ("that is a bad thing to do") instead of her nature ("bad girl!").


  4. We exercise together.  I try and incorporate little workouts here and there in my evening routine, and Amaliya is now old enough to watch and try and make sense of what I'm doing.  We make games out of it: we hold hands and "run fast" throughout the house, collapsing at the finish line (the beanbag).  I do pushups in the living room, with her on all fours imitating me.  We do crunches in front of the TV and squats at the kitchen sink.  I tell her, "Go, Amaliya!  Strong girl!"  I want her to understand from an early age that movement is not punishment, and exercise is joy and play instead of regimented obligation.  

  5.  We're going to involve her in activities.  She's a bit young now for serious structured play, but by this time next year we're going to start introducing her to sports, music, and whatever else catches her fancy.  I want her always to be involved in at least two activities - one that benefits her body, and another than benefits her mind.  Everyone I know who really struggled with self-esteem as a kid had something in common - they were never really involved in anything, never had the opportunity to cultivate their passions and learn about themselves by pushing their own limits in sports or the arts.  These things build confidence, a sense of self, and social skills. It is important to us that Amaliya have the opportunity to try different things and find her niche.  

  6.  We surround her with positive people.  I know that we will gradually lose control over this aspect of her life; she will make her own friends and relate with her friends' parents who may send her conflicting messages.  However, as much as I can help it, I want the people that I bring around her to be joyful, optimistic, energetic people who show love to themselves and others.  If she sees that we surround ourselves with life-affirming people, and do not entertain drama and negativity, hopefully one day she will be able to chose friends and partners who add value to her life instead of dragging her down.

No parent wants to see their child struggle with self-esteem issues.  I'm really hoping that, by surrounding her with lots of positive reinforcement and giving her the confidence and opportunity to define herself, our daughter will grow up to know what I know already: she is perfect, just as she is.

Did you grow up with a healthy self-esteem?  What are you doing to encourage self-love in your kids?