Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pinch Me

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Do we really live here? As we crossed the bay bridge today we had the most spectacular view of the city and the golden gate bridge. It was like a post-card came to life and we were sitting in the middle of it. "Wish you were here!" At Golden Gate Park today it was hard to believe that we were not tourists on vacation. Our family was there with other residents, spending a Sunday afternoon in what I would dare say is one of the prettiest city parks in the country. Last weekend it was the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, dim sum in China Town and sea lions on Pier 39. Our weekends are ridiculously fun, and I have to admit that I love being able to share these experiences with my children.

Growing up in the Midwest our weekend outings consisted of a drive to Mt. Horeb (otherwise known as Mt. Horrible) to tour a tiny main street and eat at a greasy spoon diner. While living in Minneapolis our get ways included frigid Duluth, the dreaded Mall of America, or a stay at the same old B&B in Stillwater. Things did get far more interesting once we relocated to Denver. In the mile high we enjoyed hiking the mountains and spending sunny afternoons at Coors Field, but the bay area my friends is the bomb. Of course there are the trade offs. My 1200 square foot home was "cute" for about three weeks and now I am entirely sick of feeling like a caged animal living in a piggy pen. The hour it took us to cross the bridge into San Fran yesterday to visit my girlfriend was no picnic either. So there are pros and cons I suppose, but for tonight anyway, I'll put on a rare show of optimism and admit there is a lot to like here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shalom, it's Christmas time!!!

"Shalom! It's Christmas time!" I wish that I could tell you that those words came out of my kid's mouth, but alas, it was one of his classmates. Although Zachary didn't think to put the "Shalom" and "Christmas time" together himself, he is certainly living the dream.

Since moving to Berkeley Zachary now attends the JCC for preschool. For those of you who do not know, JCC stands for Jewish Community Center. In Denver we probably knew one or two Jewish families, and here we have been surrounded by Jews. It has been a great experience for me and it feels really great to be able to expose Zachary to my heritage. The problem is... well, I am a Christmas Jew. Or that is what my husband likes to call me. Dave isn't Jewish and I have been celebrating Christmas myself since I was ten years old. And by celebrating, I mean really, really embracing the holiday cheer. Now let me explain. I am not talking about "the reason for the season", no Jesus here. It's the whole Santa, Christmas tree, and sparkly lights thing that does it for me. I love the music, the stockings, the gift giving and the parties. Really, Hanukkah doesn't have a chance against the fat man in the red suit. I mean come on, fried hash browns (aka, latkes), and a menorah? That has nothing on Bing Crosby, Rudolf, fudge and jingle bells. So I love Christmas, and my kids do too.

Recently David asked me sheepishly "those kids at preschool aren't going to tell Zack that there is no Santa are they?". Man, I hope not. But it got me thinking. Will we become the social pariahs of our Jewish preschool because our four year old blabs about his Christmas tree to his classmates? My fears were alleviated today however when I got to chatting with a couple of mothers from preschool at a play date. They admitted to me that they too have inter-faith families and that their homes will be adorned with Christmas decorations. It was one of those mother's in fact who told me how her son made up the "Shalom, it's Christmas time" song. She was equally concerned about how her son's Christmas spirit may be received at preschool and she was clearly relieved to see that there were other families who "go both ways", so to speak. Apparently, we fit right in at the JCC.

I am happy to say that Zack can have his Yule Log and eat his latkes too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Morning


I am not quite sure what time morning officially started, but breakfast time at six years old meant sitting on the kitchen floor in front of the heating vent. "I'm cold" I would whine to my mother who would then allow me to dress right in that very spot with the warm air blowing, keeping me warm. Then I would start in on a bowl of Grapenuts served up in a Milwaukee Brewer's souvenir baseball cup. The uber healthy cereal would quickly be covered with a thick layer of pure sugar, which would eventually sink to the bottom making sweet milk which I would slurp down at the end of the meal. Saturday mornings meant the smurfs and the muppet babies, and an occasional McDonald's run-nothing like processed pork product and orange drink mmmmm....


8th Grade. I woke up in my own room for the first time in my life. We moved into my step-father's home when my parents remarried and my sister and I were both allowed to design our own bedrooms. Mine was rose pink carpet and a matching white furniture set. Yet those mornings were difficult ones. It was a year plagued with migraine headaches and insomnia. I would pull myself out of bed, exhausted and unhappy. I would fuss over what to wear, realizing that no matter what I put on I would never look cool. I would head to my new school feeling unpopular and alone. That was a crappy year.


The high school years. I would awake to the sound of my alarm, and rush to be the first in our family's only shower. I would then spend a ridiculous amount of time in my room "doing" my hair. This meant a curling iron and way to much hairspray. Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits was the soundtrack to the morning ritual. I would head off to school, backpack slung over one shoulder and walk a 1/2 mile to school, sometimes in the freezing cold-always without a hat (I wouldn't want to mess up that fabulous hair I slaved over). Each school day started with a little flutter of anticipation, maybe today he would talk to me, would I ace the Spanish test?, did I get into the school play? It was a time of angst and possibility.


College. On the best mornings I woke up next to my boyfriend (now my beloved husband!). Those were great days, there was nothing more encouraging then waking up to the guy you loved, even if he did wreak of stale beer and weed. Other days I would get up in time to hit the gym or the lake shore path for a run before class. The rest of my morning would be spent in lecture or at the library drinking coffee and munching a one pound bag of Chiclets. I loved studying. It was quite and productive. I felt very alive.


A newly wed living in uptown Minneapolis. I would awaken every morning with two kitties snuggled in bed with me. I would usually rise before the sun did and get an early start on my work day. I would get dressed in a very conservative work-appropriate outfit, taking inspiration from my mother-in-law's Talbot's wardrobe (what was I thinking?), I would stop and grab a coffee from Brueggers and arrive at my desk by 7:30am. I had my own office. I must be a grown-up.


Now in Denver I would often get up by 5:45 in time for a morning jog through our highlands neighborhood. I would hit the pavement just as all the sprinkler systems were kicking in, and I would run past the little brick bungalows admiring the landscaping and getting ideas for my own yard in our very first home. My husband and I would catch the bus downtown, and walk along the 16th street mall to the Tabor Center where we both worked. I wore Ally McBeal inspired suits and felt like a hip young business woman. I had a fancy office with beautiful furniture, and enough money to buy a latte each and every day.


I haven't had the need for an alarm clock in four years. I am awoken at 5:15 by the sounds of a raucous stuffed animal party. So much noise. Why are preschoolers so very loud? I cover my head with a pillow attempting to drown out the noise, to no avail. By 6:00 the party is joined by a crib sing-along "mommy! daddy! mommy! daddy!" over, and over, and over again. I procrastinate. I lie there a little longer until it escalates. Time to get up. Time to get everyone dressed. "I'm hungry" demands Zachary. "Please" Evan persists. Now we go downstairs where I play short-order cook. "More milk!" "I don't like this french toast" "Can I have waffles instead?" "I spilled". "Please" "Please" "I ruined my shirt!", "Bark! Bark!" (that's dog for feed me too damn it!) Now it's 8am and I still haven't had my first cup of coffee. I hurry for a 45 second shower... and then rush Zack to preschool. Now I breath. The day will start. I'll go to Gymboree, or the marina, or for a jog, the possiblities are endless. It's going to be a beautiful day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

There has been a great deal of chatter amongst the preschool crowd regarding Thanksgiving. Specifically, giving thanks. There is list making to be done, and even songs to be sung. On a recent post preschool afternoon Zachary informed me that he was thankful for the following things "Mommy & Daddy, preschool, Mr. Brown Doggie, grandparents, food and friends". "Great list Zack!" I responded, following up with "But I think you forgot something. Is there anyone else that you are thankful for". "No!" He said emphatically. "I am NOT thankful for my brother". Now that's the thanksgiving spirit kid.

But who am I to judge? I don't know that I am really exuding Thanksgiving cheer when topping my list of blessings this year (besides the usual suspects-family, health, home, yada, yada, yada) is the fact that I am damn thankful not to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. That's right for the first time in years our family will simply be a guest at someone elses table. Hallelujah. I know that probably sounds a bit Scrooge like, but I have to admit that I have never particularly enjoyed hosting big family holidays. I do love my extended family but I feel that there are more pleasant ways to show it than packing everyone around a too-small table piled high with the type of food that could easily result in a heart-attack, and that spawns all of those after-the-holiday diet and fitness club marketing blitzes. In my house hosting Thanksgiving dinner means my husband feels he has carte blanche to destroy the kitchen, pulling out every cooking apparatus that we own to create cajun sausage stuffing, three different kinds of sweet potatoes, and greens fried in bacon grease, he won't be satisfied with the ordinary. It drives me nuts, all of that preparing, all of that mess, all for a meal that takes roughly 15 minutes to consume and then another two hours to clean up. And then....the leftovers. As if one evening of consuming a bird stuffed with it's own organs isn't enough, we have to continue on with it for days after.

So this year I am breathing a huge sigh of relief that our only responsibility is to show up at my Aunt's house with a bottle of wine and one of my husband's cooking inspirations (this year-Stuffin' Muffins). I'll leave the mess and the leftovers to someone else, and for that I am truly grateful. Bah-Humbug.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I have a big ol' bruise on my forehead. It hurts. I got it while I was cleaning our toilet. I was bending over and the lid fell down and whacked me in the head. I saw stars. I knew it was going to leave a mark. Glamours I thought. Figures. I get injured performing my housewife duties. I feel as though it is a perfect metaphor for my lousy week. I just feel a little beat up tonight. It has been a difficult week. Maybe a little empty after my busy weekend with Shannon & Heather. I had several play dates and get togethers planned, but all but a few fell through due to illness or whatever else comes up in everybody's busy lives. I spent time with Evan at the park observing mostly nannies and their client's children, or people meeting up for play dates. Everyone seemed content but I felt, well lonely, and useless. Sure, I am taking care of my kids, but I have to admit I feel lazy and a little alone. The shiny newness of the city has worn off, as has my enthusiasm and energy for searching out new friends. I'm tired. The rejection is getting to me. I'm bored. I want to feel a purpose. I need a hobby. I need a job. The market stinks. I haven't looked hard for a position, but the options seems sparse. Eventually I'll have to get off my rear and do something, to change the situation, but tonight I feel like licking my wounds and wallowing a little.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Merry Thanksgiving

I know. I know. I KNOW it is too early. We haven't even carved the Thanksgiving turkey yet, the pumpkin pies have yet to be baked, and we really should be fully focused on fall. And yet, I must admit I felt a twinge of good will when I turned on my favorite "light rock" station to hear Christmas carols. Yes, I am the one person you know who listens to "light rock", I admit that I have a strong affection for Billy Joel, Wham and I do believe that you can never hear "wind beneath my wings" too many times. I have discovered that it is always the light stations that turn their play lists over to holiday music around this time of year, and I will keep my radio tuned to the gluttony of forced holiday cheer until the 2009 fades into 2010.

I admit, I rolled my eyes as I walked into a Macy's shortly after Halloween to see the trees trimmed and the holiday marketing rolled out. Yet, the older I get the faster December flies by, and it starts to feel that the season just isn't long enough. I always have so many good intentions. We will have a family Hanukkah party and a neighborhood Christmas bash. We will go and see Zoo lights. I'll have Christmas tea with my best girlfriends. I will send greeting cards to all of our loved ones. I'll volunteer. There will be a cookie swap. We will take the boys to the mall with the best Santa. I'll try new recipes. I'll make gifts for all the neighbors. You get the idea. But the holiday season races by, and inevitably I accomplish very few of these goals. So maybe it isn't such a bad idea to stretch the season out a few weeks. And yet, it does seem a little silly to turn on the holiday tunes before we have even smelled a pumpkin pie.

But there is something so magical about those Christmas Carols. As I drove home this evening, with Frank Sinatra belting out Winter Wonderland, I felt a coziness that only the holidays can serve up. Somehow the streets seemed more animated. As I watched the pedestrians hurrying along Shattuck, I could almost envision a scene out of a Christmas Carole or the Nutcracker-busy shoppers in petticoats, and top hats carrying packages as fake crystal snow flakes fall from center stage. What can I say. I love it. I want it to last. Merry Thanksgiving....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Girls Weekend

My visit with Shannon and Heather was fantastic. Really great. I felt a tad guilty that I didn't play much of a tour guide or a host. We mostly just hung out in Berkeley and stayed away from my home and children. We shopped along Solano and on the upscale Fourth Street. We had sushi, drank wine, and only ventured into San Francisco for one evening on the town. To me it was perfect. I haven't had a weekend like that in ages, and it took me back to my pre-children self. It was almost like the early days in Denver when Shannon and I would spend Saturday afternoons on Pearl Street or at Flatiron's shopping mall, only with less disposable income and more chatter about children than promotions, raises or crazy coworkers. Instead of shopping at the Peppercorn and Pottery Barn, picking up high-priced sparkly holiday candles and table settings we browsed consignment stores and spent a significant amount of time in two or three separate toy stores, purchasing trinkets for munchkins.

Saturday evening we went out in San Francisco, we dressed up, all three of us wearing the black-pants and dressy top uniform. We started with drinks at a low key bar in North Beach, and then went on to a lovely dinner at the Steps Of Rome. From there we found a hole in the wall bar, where a chunky older gentleman who claimed to be a former pro- boxer told me that I had an amazing neck, which prompted us to leave before our drinks were drained, lest he decide that he wanted to break it-creepy. Another reminder of how our lives have changed, rather than getting glances from hot young college boys, we have old graying men trying to pick up our drinks. We finished off the night with pastries at a little bakery, and arrived back at home by midnight. There were no shots of tequila, no dancing at trendy clubs, but it was just what I wanted. Good conversation with great friends. So I have grown up a little, but I can honestly say that one thing hasn't changed-there are still few things I appreciate as much as real friends.

The fact that Heather and Shannon left their families and spent their "hall pass" here in Berkeley with me, doing little more than window shopping says so much to me. I am touched and grateful, and looking forward to a lifetime of future girls weekends!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road Kill

Today as I was going for a stroll with Evan I came upon a peculiar if not touching scene. At first it looked like just another dead squirrel lying on the curb, maybe a casualty of an automobile encounter-road kill. But something caught my eye. The animal was clearly placed there by someone who had carefully laid the creature in the grass and had sprinkled a few bright pink flower pedals by it's head. Who would do such a thing? I mean who would touch a dead squirrel? But it was, well humor me, moving. Passing by dead animals on our walks or in our cars is an almost daily occurrence. We may see a baby bird crushed on the sidewalk, broken wings and neck, such a fragile tiny creature, and we pass by. Or a deer on the side of the highway, once graceful and sleek, now lying open eyed, rotting on pavement. We speed by. What is one to do really? Bring a sack of flowers and plastic gloves along on every outing just in case we happen upon death?

But still, how little regard it shows for life to simply look the other way. I will be honest. Death creeps me out. I have really never touched a dead anything before. I stood helpless after I watched my neighbors fluffy white dog get hit by a car. I couldn't move it's crushed body to the side of the road, I had a passing mail carrier do it. I was so thankful that he rescued me from the task. He picked up the lifeless body and moved him over to the curb. He maneuvered one of the dog's floppy ears over his open eyes.

When I saw that squirrel with the flowers around it's little head I felt gratitude to the person who gave the rodent a bit of dignity in death, who showed some feeling for a fallen fellow living being. I highly doubt I will follow in this stranger's footsteps, but I would like to meet him, and shake his (gloved) hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Tummy

Dear Tummy,

Thank you. I am forever in your debt. You gave me two beautiful children. Tummy, you provided a safe home and nourishment to my babies before they were even born. You created life. I have endless gratitude for you.


Dear Tummy,

Would you please go away? I hate you. You repulse me. All your roundness. Your mushiness. You have no sense of style. You are not at all fashionable. Please I just want you to disappear.

Go bother Paris Hilton for a while. I am sure she has never met anyone quite like you.


Dear Tummy,

You deserve a medal. You stretched to an inhuman shape and accommodated an almost 8 pound baby. You survived two c-sections and still function normally. You are truly amazing.

With admiration,

Dear Tummy,

Don't you see you embarrass me? I do everything I can to hide you. I try to disguise you with loose fitting blouses. I have experimented with every type of denim available, yet there you are. You give away all my dirty secrets. You are happy to display every ounce of weight I gain. You show my lack of discipline, you have to tell everyone that I just can't seem to stick to sit-ups and that I have no interest in yoga and Pilate's. You're such a blabber mouth.

Please Tummy, please you're not wanted here.

Please do not try to contact me again,

Dear Tummy,

I understand that we are stuck together for better or for worse. It seems that you are unwilling to leave me, and my children still have a fondness for you-you make a nice pillow. We are going to have to find a way to coexist. Maybe we can strike a compromise. I will try to love you more, if you could try to take up just a little less space.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record. One day I am on top of the world, the next day I am worn out and talking about needing vacation. It is cyclical. Good day/Great Day/Exhausted/Crabby. Today in the exhausted phase-bordering on crabby.

Hubby had his first Clorox business trip to New York City. He left on Wednesday and returned today. He came home very tired and ready for some R&R. I saw him and was ready to deposit the children in his care and run screaming from our house. "I have had enough!!!". Broken record-I know he is working, and my job is at home-but sometimes I get jealous! He called me last night from a little shop picking up trinkets for the boys, and was off to happy hour in NYC with former co-workers. All I could think was-Damn! You are in the best city in America, with no children-I would KILL for one night like that! I would kill for one night in a hotel room with my TV and room service. I know, I know, I KNOW-it isn't that easy. There are early morning flights and meetings, prep work, all that jazz, but still. So although I have no "job" myself, TGIF all the same. Thank God the husband is home. Thank God, he can help with Evan patrol.

Next weekend, my Denver girls are coming for a visit! Shannon and Heather are traveling out just to see me and needless to say I am forever thankful and so honored. Next weekend is my weekend. Husband-beware the kids are ALL YOURS! Have fun! I know I will.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Knock on Wood

I am afraid to put in writing. If I put it in writing the stars will align, lightning will strike and everything will be reversed. So I am going to spit twice, knock on wood and throw salt over my shoulder... and here it goes. Things are going well. Really well. Our house isn't so bad. The area is great. I love the marina, and I am actually meeting nice people. I am happy. It is like it has been too easy. So I am waiting for something bad to happen. That's how I roll. I worry. I complain. That's who I am. So to sit here and tell you, things are way better than I expected they would be, is very well, unexpected.

Today I hosted my very first playgroup in our new home. I have to give myself some kudos and say that I took some initiative to get this group together. I simply sent out an email to the Berkeley Parents Network a couple weeks ago and put it out there. I need some friends. Zack and Evan need some friends. It isn't as though I received an overwhelming response, in fact only three women actually showed up, but they were three very nice women, and a little boy Zack's age, who got along so well with him. It was a good playgroup, and I feel confident that we will see each other again soon, in fact there was already an email sent out to discuss next weeks play date.

So there you have it. A happy day. I'll leave it at that, and pray that I haven't jinxed it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Department of Motor Vehicles

Is there any place on earth more dreadful than the Department of Motor Vehicles? While I personally do not believe in hell, I think that if such a place did exist it would have a lot of similarities to the DMV. Really unless you are a 16 year old who was lucky enough to earn his or her drivers license, there are very few good reasons to visit the establishment. Most trips to the DMV are simply a hassle-replacing a lost or stolen driver's license, reinstating a drivers license taken away for some unfortunate reason or in my case getting your vehicle registered in a new state. All scenarios will usually involve long lines, cranky worker bees, and large fees.

Today I had the displeasure of visiting the El Cerrito DMV to register our car in California. My husband had already taken a stab at obtaining the necessary document earlier this morning, but left empty handed because he lacked some of the needed paperwork. I therefore had to return with my squirmy Evan in tow. I arrived to find our branch of the DMV looks very similar to any other government building I have visited throughout my life. A dingy old building which clearly hasn't been renovated or updated since 10-15 years before I myself obtained a Learner's Permit. The line to simply obtain a number was out the door. I immediately realized that forgetting the stroller at home was a bigger deal than I initially thought. I also saw that El Cerrito's Department of Motor Vehicles is blessed with the same shall we say, colorful characters as any other DMV across the country. What is it about the DMV that attracts the worst of our society? The folks who wreak of cigarette smoke, swear into their cell phones and pick their noses in public. I don't know. But this office had it all.

We waited in line. Evan did surprisingly well, munching on a piece of dried mango and charming the people around us. As we got closer to the head of the line, a fragile looking elderly woman dressed up in a blue polyester suit circa 1980 was escorted to the front underneath a sign that read " For those with appointments or the disabled". The woman behind me snickered then blurted to the DMV employee "Is that woman disabled? Why is she going to the front of the line?" The worker responded "Yes this line is for the disabled". The woman then snarled "She ain't disabled, I don't see no cane. Where is her cane if she's disabled?" The worker shrugged her off. Now I must admit, I was a little frightened at the idea of this very old looking woman possibly renewing her drivers license, but still, lets give the lady a break, she must have been 85 years old. Do long lines somehow omit the value of respecting your elders?

Finally we received a number and were waved to the seating area to stare at a television screen willing it to display my number- B158. We waited and waited. Evan started playing his favorite game "chase me". We had an audience and people laughed at our battle of wills. As I chased Evan past the same group of patrons for the 15th time a man looked at me and said "you have your hands full with that one!" "Yes" I agreed "This is his favorite game". "Him??" he replied. "Nah lady, that looks like a girl to me, shit". Ummm.... well he is my son and I probably spend 1/3 of my life changing his diapers, so I should know. Okay, mental note to self, I really do need to cut Evan's curly locks, but did that guy have to be so rude? Did he have to swear? Oh were at the DMV. I forgot.

Our turn arrived and I had to fork over $1501 (including a late fee of $273 for being ten days overdue on registering our vehicle after the move). I am now the proud owner of California license plates. Hurray.

As we were walking back through the parking lot and I was thanking my lucky stars that I finished in time to pick up Zachary from preschool we passed a woman talking loudly into her cell phone "Your a poor ass excuse for a dad" (she repeated this about five times), then "Your going to hell"... maybe he was meeting her at the DMV.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Toddler Time

What is it about toddlers? The goofy smile that melts your heart. The wild hair, the forever snotty nose, and filthy t-shirt. The sweet cuddles and the sly naughty hands that instinctively get into whatever is off-limits. My Evan has it all.

Most parents of a second child seem to say the same thing "I simply forgot". So very true. I forgot all the mischief and trouble making. The way shelves and drawers and meals are torn apart and their contents are strewn in every direction. The way they tear from room to room and have the inability to sit still for more than a minute or two. The tired feeling you have by 4:00 in the afternoon after chasing after your little rascal who so desperately wants his independence, yet really hasn't mastered the ability to do anything for himself. Exhaustion. Frustration. Adoration. All mixed in the lack-of-rest induced haze.

Most times I am overcome with love and pride for my 17 month old trouble-maker. Tonight however, after a day that seems to have extended far beyond the extra hour we received courtesy of the end of daylight savings time, I am wishing that I could put the little guy on a shelf for a while, and play with something else, preferably my television. I want a break. Not the kind of break you pay for by hiring a babysitter, and then feel as though you have to do something worthwhile. No just some mommy "quiet time". Time to watch bad TV or read People magazine. As I am writing this post the kids are on the floor playing with kitchen instruments. Daddy is here helping to referee the chaos, but I too must stop every sentence or two to rescue my glass of wine from tiny hands, or block my head from a swinging wooden spoon.

I know, I know this time will pass too quickly. Someday in the not so distant future I will have children who don't want to hang out in the living room with me, or require my constant attention. I'll kick myself then. I'll miss this chaos. But tonight I just want a little vacation... a break, some non-toddler time.