Wednesday, July 29, 2009

getting back in the swing of things

So we're back. D and I flew back to California on Monday afternoon. The flight went well enough-- D slept for about 45 minutes, his eyes drooping down just as the plane was taking off. He had his own seat and sat in his car seat the entire time. Several times throughout the flight he looked at me and would sign "all done" at me to try to get me to take him out, but I was using my tray to hold stuff and so holding him as well wasn't very feasable, and luckily I could distract him with a toy or a book or just letting him rest his hand on my chin. All in all he did pretty great, even prompting a compliment from the young (20yo?) guy who sat next to us about how well D was on the flight. Mind you, the 3.5 hours in the air still seemed to creep by veeeeery sloooooowly but at least they weren't terribly unpleasant. The hardest part was more keeping him entertained at the airport in Austin, since our flight was delayed a little. I could have put him in his car seat and rolled him around, but knowing he'd have to spend several hours sitting on it on the plane, I didn't want him getting tired of it before we even got on.

So we're home, and have been dealing with the aftermath of a week spent away. Meaning feeling like I'm playing a desperate game of catch-up, all while D's been acting whiny and clingy the past 2 days. I'm almost wondering if he's coming down with a cold or something, being sick tends to put him in a bad mood. Then again maybe he just misses his 5 adoring grandparents, and Mommy just ain't good enough (especially when I don't let him do all the fun stuff he wants to do). But, I shouldn't complain. Just this morning D astounded me by showing me that he knows even more of his body parts, including his teeth. It's a fun game we're playing now-- I just keep thinking of new things to ask him about, and he'll grin madly as he points right to them. It's crazy how smart he is. I'm sure I'm the only mom that's convinced her kid's a genius, right? ; )

I still have all the pictures from last week that I want to go through and tag, but since I'm trying to limit computer time to when D is sleeping (and not hog it all night when Zach's home) it's, um, a bit difficult to find the time. Especially when a week of using my parents' home computers reminds me how much slower our laptop is. And I'm also just plain tired. But, hey, what else is new?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

wine and memories

The other night Danyelle and I went downtown to this winebar called Cru off 2nd street to meet up with some of her friends.  I'm writing about it partially so I'll remember it, as I kinda want to go back again with Zach on a date night sometime.  It was a pretty cute place, lots of romantic potential, and the waitress was super nice even when Danyelle confessed she knew nothing about wine.  It's nice to to be looked down on when you ask for "something pink and sparkling."  I had a glass of a shiraz and later a guwerztraminer (sp?) with dessert, both picked pretty blindly (they were on the cheaper scale) and both were really good.  They had appetizers and other things to eat, including a fried brie plate that was pretty tasty.  

We've had the grandparents come by kind of in shifts, thought not planned at all.  D will wake up between 6 and 7am and Mom will hang out with him, maybe taking him on a walk or to the park.  Then he'll nap at 9am, by which time Mom will have to go to work but then Daddy will arrive, and stay through lunch until D's second nap.  Then Zach's parents will hang out with us in the afternoon, and generally everyone's around again for dinner and bathtime (we've been giving D his baths in the master bedroom, simply because it accommodates more "spectators" lol). D's been loving going outside, pulling at the doorknobs of the front and back doors, in spite of the heat.  His face will be bright red within minutes of walking out there, but he keeps asking to go out.  Silly boy.  Mom and Philip have found all sorts of hand-me-down toys for him, including a perfectly-sized electric ATV (the motor's been disabled, for now) that was hidden away in the garage somewhere, and D spent most of today just getting on and off it, occasionally pushing himself around (his feet just touch the floor when sitting on it, so he can kinda push himself around).  

We've also gone to see Grammy a couple times.  And this goes back to that "ray of sunshine" bit, as she gets so excited to see him and just watches him and asks questions about what he's doing and his development so far.  Today she brought over a few presents for him, including some Big Bird slippers that are way too big for him but that D immediately picked up and waved around, making it clear he thought they were quite cool.  

Daddy brought over two bulging photo albums today, filled with pictures from Chile and our first years after we moved to the US.  I scanned in close to half of one of them, and will try to work on some more tomorrow.  I imagine I'll have to leave some for later, maybe when we come back in October.  Some of the photos I remembered, many I didn't.  He said a lot of them were just negatives that he found in a drawer, brought them up here when he moved and had them developed little by little.  It's so cool to look through them and remember our favorite toys and clothes.  One picture showed our very sad-looking christmas tree, from the year we'd tried to resurrect a potted pine (it was a bit of a Charlie Brown tree).  And how funny to look back on pictures from Christmas, of jenny and I wearing our new swim floaties around our waists as skirts, since christmas comes in summertime in Chile and so instead of snow and mittens we got sunshine and summer gear as gifts.  

D and I fly back home tomorrow afternoon.  I'll miss D's entourage, for sure, and my ability to read an entire book in a matter of days thanks to other people entertaining my child.  But it will also be nice to get back home and see Zach again.  I know D loves all the attention here, he's been in an amazing mood even when clearly tired just loving it all, but I know he also misses his daddy just as I do.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ok, I think I see it now

People keep telling me how Donovan looks so much like me, but I've had a hard time seeing it. I've noticed him looking like Zach, his brother, and often like my dad depending on his facial expression, but other than the fact that his eyes are brown instead of blue/gray/green/whatever, I've had a hard time really seeing the resemblance.

Well, the other day while looking for pictures of Grampa to use at the memorial service, we came across an album of pictures of us as kids, and while flipping through the pages and remembering those favorite clothes I was wearing and the favorite toys I clutched in so many of the photos, I then saw this one above... and, um, yeah, I see it now. I see now how he TOTALLY has my eyes, down to the eyebrows, and may have my nose, too. I look at the whole top half of my face in this photo, and I feel like I'm looking right at D. Crazy.

Knowing how precious these photos are, and that there aren't a whole lot of them thast survived our move from Chile 18 yrs ago, I resolved to spend my morning scanning in the pictures so we'd have digital copies. I got through that album, and tonight worked on a different one from when my brother and sister were babies, back in the 70's. Daddy mentioned that he also has a photo album at his place that he might bring over, so I might try to scan those in, too. I'm so used now to having digital everything, and about 5 different backups of everything, so it makes me so nervous to know we only have this ONE SINGLE COPY of these precious photos, a copy that could at any time get lost of messed up and then be gone forever. And so it feels really good to be making these new copies, to be able to share and preserve, making it that much more likely that Donovan can one day sit here and see what his Mama looked like as a kid herself.

I may also head out at some point tomorrow to buy a better photo album to hold them, as the current one is kinda falling apart and no doubt made of pages full of acid and other picture-fading fun things. Then, once back in California, I'll have to pull out the envelopes containing Zach's baby photos and a few of my own and scan those in, too. I'm on a kick with this project, feeling pretty motivated to do it and do as much as I can, and I'm hoping it lasts. We shall see.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A recap that turned into reflections on family

Wednesday afternoon I left Donovan with my mom and Philip (they went to the neighborhood pool together, apparently had a blast, D being happy and very adorable right down to his bath where he was watching Philip shave and imitated putting shaving gel on his face), and Jenny and I went down to South Congress for a little shopping. We made a point to stop at Parts and Labour (see the blog here), one of my new favorite stores ever. They sell all sorts of really neat stuff, from jewelry to clothes to housewares, everything made by local Austin artists-- including my friend Kara's kailo chic line, and another acquaintance's Kandle Kidswear line of super cute Austin-themed clothes. After spending a bit too much money (including picking up this adorable armadillo shirt for D, since he's outgrowing his bluebonnet and bevo ones), but feeling good about supporting local artists, we then went to Chuy's where we met Danyelle for queso and margaritas.

The 3 of us then went to the Posse by UT campus to meet my mom and my uncle Casey and wife Barb, Uncle Tom and wife Vicky, and Aunt Marcie and her husband Jason (the others had left town earlier that day). This bar is imfamous in our family, as it's where all my uncles and my aunt hung out when in college, and later was also a regular spot for Zach when he was at UT. My uncles and aunts go there at least once, if not many more times than that, every time they come to Austin. Danyelle headed home after a while, and Jenny and I listened in as they talked more of the past and the present.

My siblings and I have always occupied kind of an awkward spot on Mom's side of the family. Mom was the first of her siblings to have kids, our first cousin being born 4 years after Jenny (our youngest sister). So while we had fun playing with our 14 cousins when they were little, we were still quite a bit older and so not really their "peers." But we were still far too young to be included with the adutls, so we were kind of out on our own-- niot allowed at the adults table at Tahnksgiving, but feeling way too old at the kids table. As we've grown older we've developed a deep interest for listening in to the "adults" conversations, hearing the stories of when they were kids and picking up nuances in the relationships among them all. But it's still felt like listening as outsiders, not feeling like it was appropriate to speak up ourselves (not in a dont-speak-till-spoken-to way, more like it's-not-about-you-so-just-listen-and-absorb if that makes sense). But this week some of them, especiallu Marcie, has been making a point to include us and the other older cousins in the conversations, to make sure we're there and listening and taking it in, and allowing us to bne included. I wonder if this was sparked by Grampa's passing, and the realization that our family reunions will not always be the way they are now.

Anyway, so this one night out at the Posse Jenny and I, for one of the first times ever, really felt included in the give and take of the conversation, as equals with the others. And it was really nice. It seems funny to say that, to be close to 30 and say you're finally being included as an adult, but I imagine that just as I still sometimes tend tpo think of my cousins as little kids even though they're in college, I'm sure it's also tough to adjust your vbiew of nieces and nephews to realize that they really are grown.

It's at these family reunions, and this one in particular, that pull me to thinking of having a large family. I love the interplay of all the siblings now that they're grown, and I would so love for Donovan to have that. But then I think about what that means in the shorter term (i.e. when they're young) and just don't know if I have it in me. My grandmother had 7 children in 12 years, almost all of them "irish twins" (would have been 9, if not for a miscarriage and one lost twin). We were at her house with Donovan the other day, and she remarked than by the time my mom was his age, she already had a 3 month old baby brother. I don't know how she did it. I imagine standards were pretty different then-- I joked to Mom that Grammy was probably not sitting down and doing art projects with the kids, and she looked at me like I was mad, it was THAT ridiculous of a thought. But STILL. I'll just say I'm very glad for birth control. I'd love to give D a few brothers and sisters, but I often feel like if I survive having a 2nd, I'll be surprised and very grateful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the memorial

Yesterday was Grampa's memorial service.  I'd brought my camera with me to the church, not thinking of taking any pictures there but simply so I'd have it when we went to Aunt Marcie's afterwards.  But I ended up taking pictures of the church and some of the displays there, and then we took a few family pictures including one with Grammy, all her kids, and all us grandkids (and the great-grandchild, of course!) and while I haven't looked at those on a screen larger than my camera's, it looks like it turned out pretty great.  

Each of my uncles and aunt spoke at the memorial, all saying wonderful things about Grampa.  By the end most of us were at least a bit misty-eyed.  Afterwards we all went to Marcie's, where we grandkids got to indulge in one of my favorite parts of these gatherings-- sitting around with my mom and aunts and uncles, listening to them tell stories about their lives growing up-- Uncle John eating dog poop; Uncle Greg getting lost for 2 hours in Atlantic City and finally being found by some nuns who managed to return him to the family; Uncle Mike being left behind at the pool, climbing the wall just in time to see them all drive off.  Sports games played, sibling rivalries that can now be joked about, shared old friends that hadn't been thought about in ages.  Grammy spoke of one of her most treasured moments, when Uncle John graduated from the University of Texas business school, and she'd sent the president (of the school or department, I'm not sure which) to let him know that he'd be the 6th of 7 children to graduate from UT.  And then at the graduation itself, the person reading out the names paused at John's to mention this same fact and pointed to them all sitting up in the stands, where the family got a standing ovation (at the time Mom, the oldest, was the only one not to have gone to UT as they moved to Texas after her college years, but she later got a masters degree there after we moved back to the states, and so Grammy and Grampa have proudly boasted of their 7 children all to have graduated from that university).  

It's crazy to see my cousins, whom we used to see about once a year but since moving to California has been more sporadic and so suddenly I see them now and have to ask Mom which one is which because they look so different.  My oldest cousin is 4 or 5 years younger than my younger sister, and I tend to think of them as being little kids but one of them is about to start her last year at Columbia and the others are rapidly following suit.  They all LOVED Donovan and had such a great time playing with him, and he loved them in return never seeming overwhelmed by the attention but instead just laughing and running around absorbing it all like a pro.  

Sunday, July 19, 2009

my little ray of sunshine

The flight went well yesterday. I'd ordered a GoGo Kids Travelmate a few weeks ago in preparation for our trip here in October, because I wanted to check it out and make sure it worked and have time to return it otherwise, and it's a good thing as we then had it to use this time. We used it to roll D's car seat (Britax Marathon) through the airport. I'd read reviews that it won't fit through some security checkpoints, but it worked fine on our departure (San Jose airport, we laid the whole thing facing downwards on the belt). The handle could feel a bit more sturdy, but it seems good enough (a little wobbly, but not like it'll break). Overall, it was very very very nice to have!

We didn't buy D a seat for our flight out here, so we gate checked the car seat (with the travelmate attached to it). No problems there. Turns out we magically had an empty seat next to us, which was AWESOME. D spent a good part of the 3.5 hr flight sitting in that empty seat, playing with the seat belt. He was in pretty good spirits the entire time, getting slightly cranky towards the end (by then he'd missed both naps that day). Mom, Philip, and Daddy were all there to greet us at the airport, and D went right to my mom and let her hold him till we got out to the cars. I think that made her day.

He slept a bit in the car driving home, then was up again and kinda wired as he rediscovered my mom's house and all the toys and people and animals all there to play with him. My step-brother and his wife came over for dinner last night, bringing their 6 months old daughter with them. It was our first time to get to see little Mira, who is precious and adorable. D at first didn't pay too much attentioon to his cousin, but then they sat at the table together for dinner and they kept reaching over top each other and touching hands. Seriously, adorable. After dinner we played outside a bit, where D became infatuated first with Ryan's old Barbie Jeep (like the kind he can ride in and actually goes), and then with her old (also pink) bike, that's just small enough so when sitting on it his legs can touch the pedals. We eventually got him down to sleep, at around 9pm Texas time (his usual 7pm bedtime back home) and he had a little trouble but not too much. He thankfully then slept through till 7 am today, with one wake up at 6 where Zach put him back to sleep for a bit longer.

I got up with D this morning, and before too long Mom heard us and got up, too. At one point he heard Joey (the dog) barking outside and he looked up, walked towards the back door and started saying "No! No, no no no!" I suppose still remembering our scoldings of Molly in Tahoe. He then got super excited to see Joey and the cats so then we played outside a bit, demanding to ride on the bike again as soon ads he saw it. Mom, the wonderful grandmother that she is, obliged him happily.

It feels really good to be here right now. And it feels so good to know that D brings my mom so much joy. He's like a little ray of sunshine that I bring along with me, leaving smiles and happy hearts along the way wherever he goes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

calm before the storm

Zach took Hank, Susan, and Donovan to Vasona Park to ride the carousel and just get some outside time. I stayed behind and packed my and D's suitcase. After the stress of packing for Tahoe (wanting to make sure we brought everything, not knowing what the weather would be like, or if everything would fit in the car, etc) packing to go back to Texas is pleasingly simple. I know it'll be hot, so all the clothes are small and easy to pack. Both sets of grandparents aready have stashes of toys and books at their houses, so I only need to bring enough to entertain D while on the flight. They also each have cribs already set up, and there's a hand-me-down stroller we can use. It's a relief not to have to think about all that stuff.

I also finished the park photos this morning. We're leaving the laptop here (D and I will be flying back on our own, so I want to have as little carry-on stuff as possible), and I imagine I'll be able to still load and share photos on one of the computers at Mom's, but we'll see.

It kinda feels like the calm before the storm here right now. Tomorrow we'll board the plane, all of us (Hank and Susan changed their flights to be able to fly back with us) and head into the mass of family and activity and remembering. I've settled on D's funeral outfit-- a UT polo (to commemorate Grampa's beloved university) with navy blue khaki shorts. I read online that you should dress kids in black for funerals, but when I called my mom she said the dress code isn't that strict, and it just feels really odd to me to dress such a young kid in mourning clothes. Like he shouldn't be tainted by death that way. I don't know. I at first didn't think we'd take him to the funeral itself, but we have a few different volunteers (my dad and Zach's parents) who'll be going and offered to watch D if he gets restless and needs to go play outside.

I'm exhausted. I think it's time for bed. Big day tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

life, death, and a last-minute trip to texas

So, Grampa died this morning. The funeral will be on Monday. Zach's parents are here visiting till Wednesday. So Zach, D, and I will fly home for the funeral and leave them here. Which feels pretty sucky. But they still get the break from the Texas heat, and we'll see them there anyway once they get back. I'm thinking that D and I might go ahead and make it a longish stay, then come back on our own. We'll see. Gotta try flying solo with the kiddo sometime, right?

In an interesting twist, I have a friend in Austin who may be giving birth to her son today. Life and death, always connected. My mom has often commented, while watching D play and just be a kid, how much the late stages of life, approaching death, resemble the early stages of life, baby- and toddlerhood-- a baby on one hand growing, developing, and becoming more independent and able, while on the other side of the spectrum one begins to break down and need more care all over again.

The past day or 2 have been quite the emotional rollercoaster. I'm sure Grampa's death will hit me once we get into town and see everyone, and see Grammy alone, without her partner of 60+ years. I'm nervous about seeing an uncle who I'm usually very fond of, but with whom I am currently furious after an ugly fight between he and my sister this week. I am feeling a sudden instinctual urge to rush home and be comforted by my mom, although I doubt she'll have a whole lot to offer as she deals with her father's death. I was glad to have Hank and Susan here today, as I practically ditched them with D while I went out to run errands and just get away and be for a while.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Donovan is in bed, Zach is at his weekly Spanish class, and my in-laws are somewhere along the train-then-taxi route back south after spending a few days in San Francisco. In other words, I'm enjoying that rare occurence upon which I'm at home alone, with free time on my hands and no one to tend to. I should be taking this time to edit more of the photos from yesterday morning. Instead, I am feeling physically and emotionally drained from the hot weather and some extended-family in-fighting that has completely taken me by surprise. So I think instead I will curl up in bed with Jhumpa Lahiri until Hank and Susan arrive, or Zach gets home, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

beating the heat

Realizing that the 8am-ish sunlight could be really nice for photographing, I brought along my camera and 50mm lens to the park with Donovan and I this morning. It's been warm lately, and while normally we have to bring a light jacket for these early outings, today it already seemed to be in the 70's by the time we left... which was nice for the morning, but foreboe of a hot day today. I did get some good pictures, and I went through and managed to edit one batch of them today, but the decision to try out RAW format again means much larger files, which means Lightroom running a bit slowly (our computer's fault, mainly) and so I still have lots more to go through but here's a peek at a few of them so far:

(More on flickr) I've been having a bit of trouble with white balance. Just for fun I followed a tip I remember reading once to I switch the camera setting from Auto to Cloudy which should help make the pictures warmer, but they all still came out pretty cool (blue-ish) except for some that were taken out in the sun. So then I've been adjusting it in lightroom, and I'll get it where it seems to look right but then later I look back and compare one picture to another and it'll look "off" (like the 3rd pic above, I love his facial expression but the pic suddenly looks kinda yellow). Ah well, practice, practice.

While at the playground a man came up and started talking to D and I over the fence. He said he had a daughter about D's age, and so at first I wondered if he was just being nice, striking up a conversation as fellow parents often do. Then it became clear he was trying to hit on me, complimenting me on maintaining my figure when so many other moms don't and then asking if he could give me his number even though we'd established that I was married. On the one hand it felt nice to be noticed, but it also was kinda creepy. He said he did maintenance work in that neighborhood on Tuesday mornings, so I might make a point to avoid the park on Tuesdays for a while. That's trash and recycling pick up day anyway, so if we stay home D can watch for the trucks to come down the street.

Once we got back I put D down for his nap, and then closed the house down as much as I could (kept the bedroom shades closed, closed all windows, etc). This did manage to keep the house cool enough the rest of the day-- I think it stayed below 80F inside, while outside it got to at least 95F, I think. D kept insisting on going outside to play, I don't know why. Julia had offered to have us over to play in the lagoon in the afternoon, but then I realized going anywhere meant 1) walking in the heat, or 2) getting in the car which had been baking all day. So I pulled out the small inflatable pool I bought recently, this time setting out front on the grass where it'd be easier to dump the water back out, but being out there made D just want to take off towards the Brazilian family's house. So back inside we went, and D played fairly happily the rest of the afternoon. I kinda feel bad for Zach's parents, who came out here with hopes of escaping the heat in Texas (where temps have been regularly above 100F). It's still a good 10+ degrees cooler here, but when you don't have air conditioning that doesn't always mean a whole lot. They're up in San Francisco till tomorrow, but I heard the city's just as warm as down here. Oh well. Hopefully it still cools off before they leave.

D was in a great mood today, was being so funny at times with his toys. It's incredible how he immitates and catches on so quickly now. When Zach got home he at one point was being silly and having one of D's stuffed animals play with one of his other toys, and about 15 minutes later D went over and repeated exactly what Zach had been doing. He also was playing with a cell phone my dad brought him as a gift, having me hold it to my ear and pretend to talk, then taking it himself and holding his own conversation. It's so funny listening to his gibberish, and ten hearing him continue to say new words all the time (duckie and strawberry are new as of the past couple days), though he still will say them once or twice and then not again. I figure he's building up an arsenal of vocabulary and one of these days it's just gonna come spilling forth and he's gonna be talking up a storm.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I got an email from my sister last night. She's in Austin right now, as my uncles, aunts, and grandparents gathered together this past week for a family reunion. Her email served as a warning to Jenny and I-- that Grampa's health seems to finally be on its last downslope and that it seems we are at his finals days, perhaps weeks, of life.
This wasn't much of a surprise-- while Mom was here last week I became well aware of Grampa's current state, and was reminded yet again of how much time she spends tending to him and Grammy. Every day it seemed she spent time talking on the phone with Grammy, Grampa, Aunt Marcie, or all three. My grandparents moved into a retirement home several years ago, and have since been battling various different health issues: minor strokes, tongue cancer, blood infections, etc. For years I've been kinda waiting, in the back of my mind, for that call to let us know that one of them had passed, but they seemed to weather each of these problems and come back, relying perhaps on that ingrained stubbornness they each possess in vast quantities. My mom and aunt have been bearing the brunt of their care, visiting them often, dealing with the staff at the home, battling decisions such as whether they should still be allowed to drive and what level of care they truly need, and how to find a nurse that Grammy won't fire within 24 hours. My uncles, scattered across the country, have also helped however they can, but for Mom it's been constant and daily. I don't know if I'd say that it feels like a burden, exactly, but it certainly takes its toll, I'm sure. Grammy seems to be doing pretty well these days, considering, but Grampa's been doing steadily downhill it seems. His mental lucidity has been coming and going for a while-- whenever we'd visit we wouldn't be sure if he'd sit in his chair seeming dazed, or engage Zach in an involved discussion about business and his career path. But it seems now he's more and more losing touch, and has even been diagnosed as in the last stages of dementia. His body and brain seem to be breaking down, and Cristina informed us in the email that he is now refusing food and drink.
The realionship between Grammy and Grampa, and me and my sisters, has always been a bit complicated. We grew up in Chile with my dad's mother, the quintessential sweet and loving grandmother. She brought us chocolate and gifts on our visits, and always had kind words to say to us. So when we moved to the US and instead were presented with my mother's parents, with their gruff demeanor and propensity to dole out criticisms instead of praise, it was a bit of a shock. Especially in those first years, Grammy never seemed to feel shy about letting us know what she thought of our dad (a scoundrel who stole their daughter away to a 3rd world socialist country, a marriage they never approved of, followed 20 years later by a divorce that they must have felt somewhat happy about but gave them yet another reason to dislike him... despite giving them 4 grandkids and being overall a perfect gentleman and great father). I also remember quite clearly, as I'm guessing my siblings do, too, when Cristina told them she was marrying her boyfriend of just a few months and Grampa loudly declared that to be the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. So yeah, I don't think many of us liked them very much for a long time.

Over the years things changed a bit, though. I think they mellowed a bit on their ways, and we became more understanding of them, their upbringing, the era they came from. It doesn't excuse the cruel things they've said or done in the past, but it does help to know that they love their family more than anything in the world, and that their every action has always been out of love and a genuine desire to do what they believe is right. I may not like their methods but can't help but respect and love them as people. They were a great source of support to my mom in those years after we moved to the US, suddenly a single mother to four children and trying to make ends meet. They formed a close bond with my brother, spending much time with him as he recovered from brain cancer in his 20s. And as a testament to how much they really had relaxed over the years, they didn't even (publicly, or to us, at least) object when Zach and I *gasp!* moved in together 6 months before our wedding (it probably helped that he was an upstanding gentleman, a graduate of their beloved University of Texas, who'd been recently hired to a professional job with a good salary). At our wedding I gave them my bouquet, in honor of their 60+ years of marriage.
I think Zach and I have also been bestowed with an added level of warmth since providing them with their first great-grandchild, named partially after them. They've met Donovan a few times, and have always been thrilled to see him. I'm almost wondering if he and I should make one more emergency trip to Austin, but in Grampa's state of mind I'm not sure it would matter much anyway. Part of the reason Zach was hesitant to buy tickets for a trip home before October was that he's been expecting us to need to go back pretty soon for a funeral, anyway. It's sad to think of Grampa passing on, but in some ways it seems better for him to go sooner than later since his quality of life sounds, well, pretty crap right now. I don't know... I guess all there's really left to do now, is wait and see.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

six word sunday: The beginning of a beautiful friendship


"What those books taught me, finally... was that they couldn't teach me very much at all."

My aunt sent me this in an email a while back, and I never read it till this morning. And then I felt the need to share it with all of you, because it is brilliant. So here you go. Happy Sunday, everyone. =)

All My Babies Are Gone Now
By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow, but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education -- all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations -- what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did" Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language -- mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that here.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I've been re-thinking our morning routine lately. Donovan normally wakes up around 6am (sometimes 6:30 if he's being nice), then goes down for his first nap at 9am. Usually in the hours between we'll have breakfast, he'll play in his room and living room, and I'll follow him around and try to squeeze in morning computer time (checking email, facebook, google reader, etc). We often also stay in our pjs till after his first nap. But I'm realizing this isn't really a very effective use of our time, and I think in some ways it sets us off to a bad start to our day. It also means D watches me sit on the computer a lot, which doesn't make me a very good role model especially if I'm gonna be laying down limits on how much time he can spend on the computer/watching tv/etc when he's old enough. Inspired by how Mom took D on morning walks to the park every morning at this time while she was here, I decided to make some changes to our mornings.

So this past week we've been sitting down for breakfast pretty quick after waking up, then getting dressed, and then playing outside in the patio or walking to the neighborhood playground by about 7:30 or 8am. Then we come back in time for his nap, and once he's asleep I'll open up the laptop and do my stuff. I've always had a hard time with self-discipline, but not allowing myself computer time till his first nap is working out nicely, and D seems happy enough to get to play outside and have my uninterrupted attention all morning. I also tend to do better when I focus on one thing at a time, rather than try to do multiple things (catching up on blogs and keep D happy) at the same time and end up doing neither very well.

I also discovered yet another benefit to our early morning outings-- as we were going to the park the other morning I passed a bush of these pretty purple flowers that were sparkling with water drops, either from dew or recent watering. It was 7:30am, so the sun was low but rising and casting really nice light. At first I lamented that I didn't have my dslr with me, but then realized that my point&shoot camera, with the macro function turned on, would probably work better anyway. It was interestingly one of those times when I knew I was being presented with gorgeous photographing opportunities, but didn't quite know where to start or how to frame my shots. So I just started shooting (D sitting patiently beside me in his stroller). And came away with some fun pictures. =)
We then got to the playground and D had fun, with the whole playscape to himself, and I again realized that we were there pretty close to the famed "golden hour" and that I really should take advantage and bring my dslr with me next time, and see what I could get of D as he plays.

Here is one fun shot from that day's playground adventures. =P

Thursday, July 09, 2009

adjusting to parenthood

A blog post by my step-brother got me thinking about a conversation Zach and I had a few months ago, about how difficult it can be to adjust to the realities of being a parent. Zach has always benefited emotionally from the physical outlet provided by exercise, and so would often spend a few hours each weekend going on a bike ride or a hike to get outside and burn some energy. But when you've got a kid, a mama who also needs a break, and any other activities with friends or errands to run, it gets tough to find the time to fit in even a little bit of exercise. So this one day he was venting to me his frustration with how difficult it was to find this time away, and that maybe it was time to realize that being a dad meant giving up certain things and that he might need to adjust his priorities and expectations. Meanwhile I had been nursing for a year and hardly been able to get time to myself for more than an hour or 2 at one time, and while I didn't want to seem insensitive or mean I couldn't help looking at him and saying, "Babe, what do you think I've been doing this past year??"

I think in some ways this adjustment into parenthood is almost a bit easier on moms, in that it is more sudden. You HAVE to adjust, because you have no choice. Especially for mothers who stay home, even if just for the first few months, and who breastfeed, you are suddenly thrust into this whole new world where this person is literaly attached to you nearly 24/7, and in order to cope and survive you have to accept that nearly every aspect of your life is now entirely different, and that is just that. I look back on what my life was like before and then after having Donovan, and it's like entering a new dimension.

Most dads go back to work sooner, just a few days or a week or 2 after baby's birth, and so while their lives change radically as well, their direct, day-to-day experiences aren't nearly as different. They still get up and go to work, do the same stuff at work, and there's a few hours in the evening whre they come home to mom and baby. They might help at night when baby wakes up, depending on their routine and whether mom's breastfeeding. So I think the transition takes longer to take hold an to get used to, because it's not so... obvious. I remember joking with a friend a while back about how livid we each were upon hearing our husbands comment that those first weeks/months weren't "all that bad" to others, while we ourselves felt like we'd been sucker-punched in the gut with no chance to catch our breaths. I don't mean to say anything negative about dads in any way, this is not saying that dads aren't pulling their weight or helping out-- Zach has been incredible since D's birth, taking on more than his share of the housework and supporting me as much as he can emotionally. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a loving, helpful, and understanding husband. I think the adjustment thing is just a result of the way the roles get divided up. I also wonder if often dads are more likely/willing to speak up about what they want/need, while moms might behave more like martyrs and just keep trudging along, nurturing others and letting their needs be the last to be tended to.

I'm kinda just spilling out thoughts here, would love to hear others think of all this.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

moody child

So Monday was great, yesterday he was cranky to no end, then today he's been super-adorable all day long. *throws hands up in the air* I won't try to understand it, just enjoy the good and hope it's not a cycle that'll make him super cranky again tomorrow.

I ordered some new, bigger clothes for D online the other day, and was very excited to see that the boxes came in today. Among the adorable shirts and pants, also came 2 new pairs of shoes- crocs (D's favorites) to replace his outgrown pair, and a pair of toddler-sized converse all-stars. Both seem to fit well, and are incredibly cute. My little man's gonna look mighty snazzy for Sophia's birthday party this weekend! =P I may not have the energy/time to make myself look presentable most days, but I can at least make sure my kid looks good.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

back to reality

It's odd getting back into our usual swing of things, with just Donovan and I after having everyone around for 3 weeks. Yesterday actually went really well-- D woke up happy, was in a good mood most of the day, I got a lot accomplished. Today, was different. Today he woke up cranky, and was cranky off and on all day long. I think it's his teeth, he's getting a new molar on the bottom and from the look of the size of that thing I can't imagine it being anything other than supremely painful. Of course then I go through the whole to-give-or-not-to-give-Motrin conundrum, wherein I feel guilty if I don't give it because then I'm letting my child suffer needlessly, but if I do give it I might be drugging my kid for no reason not to mention that this tooth has been trying to come in for weeks now and who knows how long the pain will last and I can't be giving him Motrin every day for weeks on end. So I didn't give him any today, though maybe I should have-- he was just acting funny and pissy all day, like throwing a fit when I told him he needed shoes to go outside when normally he LOVES putting his shoes on.

All the fussing left me exhausted, as it tends to do, and my saving grace was when we were playing outside and D suddenly decided he was gonna walk right on over to his Brazilian girlfriend's house to go play, except everyone in the family except for the grandmother is away right now, but the grandmother welcomed us in anyway (she kinda loves him) and let him play for a good half hour or more and he was happy as a clam the entire time. I may have hurt her feelings when I declined her offer for this stuff she'd made that was like a sweet version of corn bread (I did have some later, when Zach showed up and gladly accepted her offer). I didn't realize till afterwards what a typical American thing that is to do-- refuse food out of politeness-- and that I should remember to always, always accept whatever food items a friendly neighbor offers especially when she comes from a latin culture. So anywaym her home was a nice break, then the screaming continued anew when we got back home. D ate a dinner of 3 strawberries, then screamed all through Zach's attempts to give him a bath. He's now asleep, thankfully. That is one area where he's spoiled us, he almost always goes to sleep easily. Knock on wood. I'm sure it won't last.

Last night I finally sat down and booked tickets for us to fly to Austin in October to visit everyone. D and I will stay for about 10 days, Zach will join us for 5. Which means that he'll fly there with us, and then on the way back I'll be the sole parent. Thank god Alaska Airlines icked up the direct SJC-AUS flight after American dropped it, b/c while I'm slightly nervous about a direct 3.5hr flight with a toddler, I would really really not want to do a 5+hr flight with a layover with a toddler. I got D his own seat, and today I went ahead and ordered a rolling attachment for our car seat, which will hopefully make things a bit easier. So I think we'll take that along with our car seat, I debated taking the Maclaren but think we'll instead keep it here and use the hand-me-down stroller my parents have at their house... we'll be charged for checked baggage, which sucks. And I'll try to limit our carry-on bags to the bare essentials, and if luggage gets lost well Target and Walmart are right down the street from their house so that's not a big deal. It'll be more important to have fewer things to juggle on the plane, I think.

We've flown with D a bit before, but it's been a few months (last time was at christmas when he was 10-11 months old) so if anyone has tips on flying with an active toddler I'd love to hear them. Thanks!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fish, Food, and a (mostly) Fog-Free Weekend

Mom, Philip, Zach, Donovan, and I all drove up to the city yesterday morning...ish. We'd kinda-sorta planned to leave around 9am, but didn't make it out the door till closer to 11am. Oh well. We met up with Jenny at the In-N-Out at Fisherman's Wharf, then all went over to check out the Aquarium of the Bay. None of us had ever been, and surely it wiuldn't be as nice as the aquarium at Monterey, but it's a heck of a lot closer and I figured Donovan would enjoy the fish. And I'm a bit of a sucker for aquariums in general. Awesomely enough, our SF Zoo membership got all the adults in our party a 50% off discount (Donovan was free). Woot!

D was a bit tired (I wonder if he's been fighting off some low-grade bug) but he did like looking at the fish swimming around. I brought our camera and 50mm lens and got some decent photos which will be fun to look through (I'm currently uploading the last of the Tahoe pics to flickr, so tomorrow or next week I'll get to go through this weekend's photos...). I don't know what it is, but marine life just fascinates me. At one point I considering majoring in marine biology in college. There's just so much cool STUFF that lives underwater, so many creepy creatures and things that resemble nothing you would ever see on land, ever. In one section they were playing videos of different tests they'd put the resident octopus through, an animal that can stretch out several feet or squeeze down into a tiny ball and fit through holes the size of a softball, that has the mind of a 3yr old child (and looking at how friggin smart Donovan already seems to be, that is mighty impressive) and it's just astounding how COOL these creatures are. So yeah, as you can tell, I enjoy checking out aquariums, more even than I like zoos, and I look forward to many trips with Donovan as he grows up. Judging from how he was watching the fish, and how he always immediately points out the shark picture in his animal picture book as soon as I turn to that page, I have a feeling he and I might share this interest.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we left the aquarium. Jen went off on her way, Mom and Philip drove back home with Donovan, and Zach and I were FREE! lol We drove downtown to our hotel, found parking, checked in, and lounged in our room for a bit before dinner. I'd scouted out a few places to eat on, and when I was telling Jenny about them she suggested we try one called Cafe Claude which she recognized because they are apparently frequent supporters of the organization where she works and wanted to send some support back to them. It's a little French bistro near Union Square (an area apparently overrun with French bistros) that had good reviews. We found it pretty quickly, and it really did have a classic European feel to it-- tucked away inside a little alleyway, using the same decorations from blocking off the seated area from the street as we would often see overseas, lined inside with white-tablecloth-covered 2-person tables squished in together so tightly that the staff had to pull the table out forthe person sitting on the inside booth. The interesting thing here, though, is that while in Europe people usually were more intent on privacy and not wanting to bother the people next to them that they usually kept to their own party, whereas here in this Euro-styled restaurant filled with Americans, conversations overlapped tables frequently. We were at the center table of a row of 5, and at some point throughout our meal each table along this row had a conversation with one (or more) of the tables next to it. We talked to 3 different couples, from a kooky pair where the husband reminded us of that crazy professor you had in college with the white man's afro, to a Persian woman who recommended a great Persian restaurant right down the road in Campbell, to a cute young couple visiting from Kentucky. I know Americans sometimes get a bad rap with foreigners for being "superficial" or "fake" for being so chatty and warm with people with whom we have no intention of forming long-term connections, but I really like how open and friendly we are (or at least can be) as a culture.

Our waiter was impressive, keeping both ours and the table next to our's multi-course order in mind without writing a thing down. The food was great- I ordered the coq au vin before realizing I've had that dish before (elsewhere) and don't really love the sauce, but the chicken itself was so tender and yummy, and I had a bite of Zach's lamb and it was delicious. For dessert I went with the creme brulee, which I ordered constantly in Europe and it totally hit the spot. I mentioned to the waiter that we'd been recommended to the restaurant by my sister and the organization she works for, and I'm pretty sure it was because of this that he later brought us each a complimentary glass of dessert wine. Overall a great dinner. I can't remember the last time Zach and I went out for a really nice meal like that... We probably shouldn't do that too often, since the bill was not cheap, but sure is nice to treat ourselves every so often. ; )

We walked around a bit afterwards, then headed back to the hotel for the night. In the morning we took our time getting up, eventually made our way downstaurs for breakfast, went back up to figure out our plan for the day and ended up watching one of the recent Harry Potter movies on tv until check-out time. We then walked around Union Square, marveling at the gorgeous sunshine, did a bit of browsing and shopping, and eventually (around 3pm I think?) headed back on home.

Donovan seemed happy enough to see me, though he really threw his arms out to Zach, of course. We played a bit, and at one point he was laughing and I looked at his teeth and realized that the teeth that he got on top that I'd thought were cuspids are actually his first molars, and HOLY COW no wonder he's been a bit more whiney lately! These things are HUGE and one of them hasn't even come all the way through yet! Impressive. Also, kinda cool, since I think his bottom ones are gonna come through soon, too, which won't be fun but then once he has them he'll be able to chew things better which is exciting (you can probably tell by that last sentence that our teething experiences, while not pleasant, have truly not been all that bad, something I am extremely grateful for, considering some of the doozies I've heard).

Tomorrow is om and Philip's last day. Luckily their flight's fairly late in the day so they get to spend a good bit of Sunday with us still. It's gonna be sad to see them go, I know Mom's trying not to think of how much she'll miss Donovan after getting to spend 3 whole weeks with him. These are the moments when it really tugs at my heartstrings, and I feel guilty that we've chosen to live so far away from so much of our family... Oh well. We'll just have to visit often, right?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Mom and Philip took a trip to the city to see Jenny's work place and go out to a (very well -deserved) dinner date out. They left around 1pm, and Donovan actually cried when they left. He cried big crocodile tears, as much if not more than what he usually cries when I leave the house. I am choosing to be happy about this and taking it as a sign of how much he's bonding with his grandparents, rather than letting me ego get bruised.

Little D seems to be fighting some sort of bug lately. Nothing big, he's just seemed ever so slightly unwell. A touch of a runny nose, and his eyes look pretty tired. We spent the afternoon playing, interspersed with lots and lots of snuggling. I imagine that's partially from not feeling 100%, and trying to make up for not seeing me as much as usual this past week.

Zach and I have a hotel booked in San Francisco for tomorrow night. We'll all drive up tomorrow morning and hang out with Jenny, maybe take D to the aquarium (he'd LOVE it, I bet), then Mom and Philip will come back with D and Zach and I will get a night away, just the 2 of us. I'm sure we'll miss him, but I'm also beyond excited about it. I've never been the type of mom who feels guilty leaving her kid with (able and loving) babysitters or who needs to call obsessively to check up on the baby. I don't know what that says about me as a mother, but I am very much looking forward to a couple days of hanging out sans-kiddo, without having to worry about snacks and naps and keeping him entertained, and being able to sleep in in the morning, etc. Besides, judging from how much he's been loving his time with his Grandma Laurie and Papaw, he might hardly even miss us. ; )

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This is the life

Zach and I have gone on little dates both last night and tonight. Each time I've actually gotten a bit dressed up, with full make-up, etc. Kinda feels like "old times." Mom's been getting up with Donovan, meaning I've been sleeping in till about 9am the past few mornings, and then she and Philip have been taking him out to the playground or other outings. D's seeming to feel much more comfortable with them, to the point where he doesn't cry anymore when I leave or when I come back after being out for a few hours (which is what usually happens when he's baby-sat by anyone else). Zach and I keep talking about buying a duplex and getting one of D's grandparents to live in the other unit, and only kinda half-jocking when we say it. It sure is nice to have the help.

I've been able to run different errands the past few days, including this afternoon heading over to Karen and Benjamin's to drop off some stuff I'm lending them, and get to see little Cannon again. It's fun to see how much he's changed over the past few weeks, and they're all just doing so well.

Donovan's been so adorable, it's so fun to watch him playing with his grandparents and enjoying them so much. He's also amazing me lately with his development. He's been eating more and more with a spoon and fork, and even is starting to insist to feed himself. Which can be messy, but he does amazingly well with it. It makes me so proud. Today he also astounded me with his first clear time to show pretend play. He loves playing with little bottles, like his lotion bottle or a toothpaste tube, and occasionally I've found him doing this thing where he'll pretend to pour some of whatever's in the bottle onto his hands, and then rub his hands together. Which I guess in itself is "pretending" but I just saw it as immitating what we do when we put lotion or sunscreen on him. But then today he was doing that when I was next to him and I told him, "Donovan, put some of the lotion on Mommy" showing him my arm. And he actually did-- he pretended to pour stuff out onto his hand, and then rubbed it onto my arm. And he kept doing it over and over, for several minutes. It was a very proud mommy moment. =)


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