Monday, April 29, 2013

Denver Bound

When we moved to California, Evan was a toddler, Zachary was a preschooler and Julian was only a possibility. My husband had an exciting new job, I was unemployed and would be Chief Navigator of our family social life. I threw myself into my new role with gusto. I took my boys exploring Berkeley, the marina, the museums and the parks. I formed playgroups and hosted birthday parties, inviting the entire preschool class to our tiny home on Sacramento. Everything was fresh and new. I formed new friendships and eventually found a fantastic recruiting job.

Fast forward almost four years later. We live in Oakland, and I have given up my role as Playgroup Coordinator. I have a first grader, a preschooler and our Julian. Our cats have died, and new friends have moved. Years have gone by without visits to our family back in the southwest. It's time to go home. It's time.

So the Kargas family is packing up and shipping out, Denver bound as soon as school lets out for the summer. I know better than to say for how long,  but we will be in the mile high for enough time to reconnect with family and friends and show the boys their cow-town roots.

There is so much to be down between now and then. The organizing and packing. Fixing up our Denver home, making arrangements for  childcare and summer camps. It's all a bit overwhelming, so if you hear less from me, this is why.

Wish us luck as we navigate through these hectic months ahead, and Denver, we can't wait to see you!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Here they come... Terrible Twos!

Trying for a sweet family photo. Julian had other plans, pulling dad's hair!

Once a cute giggling bouncy baby boy, (almost) always happy and satisfied to play with his broken array of hand-me-down toys, Julian has transformed. Yes he is now officially.... ALMOST TWO. Damn. It's going to be a long 1-2 years.

Tantrums? Check. Back -arch while trying to secure in car seat, highchair or stroller? Check. Food throwing? Check. Drawing on any hard surface and destroying furniture? CHECK!!!!!! We have it covered on all fronts. We are now home to another MONSTER TODDLER.

Oh, I had forgotten those years. The era when baby is old enough to do damage but too young to reason with. The years when a child is too young to be babysat by SpongeBob, and to snooze through brunch.

This weekend was particularly bad. Julian was in rare form and for much of the past two days, inconsolable. It may be that he is coming down with a little cold, but more likely I fear that he has been struck with a serious case of the terrible twos.

It's difficult, Zachary and Evan have come such a long, long way, yet we still have one foot firmly planted in the toddler years. Where we could go out for a meal with relative ease when accompanied by our older two children, Julian is squirming to escape his highchair and hurling food at our neighbors. Sans Julian we could go to movies as a family, play board games and travel without wanting to take our eyes out with a hot-poker.  Having baby number three, three years after baby number two, certainly shifted what is possible for our family right now.

Today we attempted a hike. God, how we wanted to take a hike on this beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon. We headed out in the minivan, to Redwood Park so we could enjoy a known flat, yet scenic trail. The boys were charged up and ready to revel in the beauty of nature.

Julian had other plans. Julian would not ride in the backpack. Julian would not walk. Julian would not accept a lift in my arms. Julian was only satisfied when standing still and throwing sticks.

We tried, oh we tried, but eventually the entire family succumbed to the tantrums of a 26 pound holy terror.

And has frustrating as it is, and it IS FRUSTRATING, we all still love the little bugger, I mean who on earth could anyone resist his sweet, angelic, facade? Like I's going to be a long, long year!

Trying to make the best of us. The boys and I are hiking ninjas!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not in the cards

Last week my knee started hurting as I ran. By Thursday it hurt so much after 4.7 miles of a planned 6 mile run I stopped, my knee aching  the whole walk home. I stayed off my feet as much as possible for five days and the pain seemed to subside.

The half marathon I have been training for is May 5. Yesterday I decided to get back out on a short run to see how I would feel. After about two miles the dull pain returned. It felt better after I stopped running, yet today some soreness has returned and I am afraid this marks the end of my half marathon aspirations.

Murphy's Law? Self-fulfilling prophecy? I wanted this so very badly and weeks ago during the Oakland running festival I thought to myself "I should have ran this race." I should have. Now it may be too late. I have always questioned my body's abilities, strength and power. I never thought I could do distance of any kind or anything that would warrant a cheering crowd of supporters. I got so very close. 11.26 miles. The half marathon was mine...

But I don't think there will be a race, a t-shirt, strangers and my family cheering me on. I don't think I will ever get there. Not on May 5, and probably not ever. The discouragement is thick and heavy. I feel defeated. All of the work, none of the glory.

Oh sure, I will continue to work out, it has become a necessary part of my lifestyle. I'll do my body sculpt class, and probably end up on the bloody elliptical watching Bravo reruns  until eventually I am running short distances on pavement. I'll try to keep fit. But that is an entirely different thing.

I wanted to be a runner. A real runner. One who wore the fanny pack with the water bottles and knew what goo tasted like. One whose legs were tight and strong and felt that six miles was a short run. I didn't want moderation. I don't want moderation.

With all the bad in the world I feel selfish for this self-pity and yet today I feel stuck. A bitter taste in my mouth.

I just wasn't in the cards.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The best day

I hate to brag, but have you seen what the weather has been like out here in northern California? Eighties and sunny, and YES, I am enjoying it.

Yesterday we made the best of it as a family and took an outing to Santa Cruz. These past few months, weekends have been hectic. We have strayed from our weekly outings in favor of baseball and soccoer games, birthday parties and workouts. I have missed our "family days."  So rather than spend Sunday doing the laundry, shopping and cleaning we left it all and headed to one of my favorite places in the bay area.

It was truly, truly a fantastic day. The sun was warm, the kids dodged waves and Julian chased seagulls. We dined on ice cream cones, saw sea lions and went to the "haunted castle." I can't remember the last time I felt so very...happy. It's amazing what a little sun and munchkin love will do for the soul.
As we sat on the pier licking ice cream cones and gazing across the water towards the carnival of bright colors, I made the declaration that "today was the best day we have had in a long time." The kids readily agreed and wouldn't stop talking about how much fun they had had.

As we headed back to the car I stopped in a souvenir shop to pick up a key chain, mine was broken and why not have a happy little trinket from our special day? I told the kids that from now on when I looked at my keys I would remember the fun we had.

Today as we were scampering out the door to get Zachary to school on time, the usual stress had taken over, until I heard a small voice say "mommy, look at your you remember?"

Yes I do. I always will.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


My right knee has been bothering me for my last few runs. Today, the pain turned to more than a nuisance, and it became clear that after 4.7 miles I needed to stop. Stop running. My race is just a few short weeks away and I'm on the bench. There are different theories, overuse, a tight t-band, resulting in poor form and too much pressure on the knee. Who knows. Who knows. My hope is that with a few days of rest I will recover in time to meet the goal I have worked so very hard for.

I have been sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  And yet in the light of current events I feel silly and selfish for my angst. 

I said I wasn't going to write about Boston, but I changed my mind. 

Boston. A highly competitive marathon. The ultimate challenge. An enormous goal. Runners who have trained endlessly, loved ones who have came out to support friends and families as they accomplish the impossible. Good will. Courage. Strength. Community. 

A bomb. Two bombs. 

Young lives terminated in seconds. Limbs, dreams and faith lost. Runners who will never travel on their own two feet. Families who will never hold their loved ones again. People who have lost their sense of safety and security. 

And today, though my run hurt, I give thanks for every second of it. For the wind I felt through my hair. For the smiles as I passed fellow runners on their daily circle of Lake Merritt. For the strength I felt in my calves, the crisp air in my lungs and the rapid beat of my heart. I hope to run my race on May 5, yet if I don't, I know that I will run again. I have that privilege. 

Bombers probably picked the Boston Marathon because there would be a crowd and damage could be done. Yet I believe many of us find significance in the fact that it impacted a proud moment for not only individuals and  families but for a community, a city and a nation. That bomb hit at our heart and for good reason. 

While this moment in history is profoundly tragic, it has given me pause and reason for gratitude. 

I am one lucky lady. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Messy Hair

Not a very polished look.
I briefly contemplated writing a serious post regarding yesterday's events at the Boston Marathon. It was a terrible day for our country. What happened yesterday touched me as a mother, a runner and as a human being.

I could write paragraphs about what happened, but I have decided not to. Our televisions and social media has been blowing up with the horrifying images from Boston.  So instead, I'm writing a light hearted post on the most interesting of topics: my hair.

It's been a long time since I provided my lovely readers with a hair update! It has been one year since I started growing my lovely locks. One very long year. A year of hats, pins, headbands and frustration. Trust me, you don't want to be around a woman getting ready for a night out when she is unhappy with her hair.

For years I sported my super short haircut. I received many unsolicited compliments and my hairstyle became part of my very own spunky personality. It made me feel unique, brave and confident. Yet so many nights I would dream of myself with my long hair in a tight spiral perm (like I had in the early 90's) or a long ponytail. Those dreams made me feel young. I equated hair with youth. My short hair after all, came only after I had my first child.

My attempt at a flat iron. You have no idea how hard this was

I was reluctant to grow out my hair for a number of reasons. To begin with, I have never had particularly beautiful hair. It's a plain brown, with some funky waves and a strong colic on only one side of my head. When I had hair I would fight it. I would curl it, or iron it, pull it this way and that. I spent entirely too much time and energy on my freaking hair. It was so refreshing to wake up every morning and know exactly what I would look like and be certain that my morning routine would be brief. 

I was also afraid that growing out my hair would take away my something-special-factor. As mentioned earlier, my hairstyle became my signature look-it was a part of my identity.

But my husband pleaded. Grow it out! It will be fun!  For whatever reason, he really, really wanted me to grow out my hair again. And so as my youngest baby turned one I conceded. I started the process.

And here I am one year later. A shaggy mop of unstyled hair. It isn't particularly pretty, but my husband likes it and I admit that it does make me feel softer, more feminine, prettier. And you know what? Surprise, surprise, I'm still spunky Rachel! Okay, sometimes I spunky pissed off at my hair in the morning Rachel, but that was to be expected.

Since I finally have some hair to color, I am doing blond highlights and loving it. It's fun to play with my hair color again and switch things up from time to time. As for styling,  now I get to mix that up too-I can spend 30 minutes fighting with a flat-iron to get a semi-polished look, I can look disheveled and messy and leave my hair down, or I can be funky and silly and wear pigtails. So while, I will never, have beautiful flowing waves of hair, I can say that I am happy with my decision to make a change and grow it out.

So lovely readers, do you have "difficult" hair? If so, how do you look pulled together, polished and professional when needed? Advice wanted!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mother & Son

Today was one of those really, really good days. In my last post "The Carrot" I wrote about the sadness I felt when I was overlooked in my eldest son Zachary's school essays. He wrote about the fun that he had with his father, and I felt left out and forgotten.  I vowed to make some special mommy/Zachary time. Make memories, make connections.

Today we did just that. It could not have been any better.

My seven year old and I left brothers and dad at home and spent an afternoon together, outside, hiking and playing frisbee. It was fantastic.

Holding the tiny flower, picked just for me!
I'll admit I was a bit nervous as we head out for the twenty minute drive to Robert's Park. I felt a significant amount of pressure, I had to make this as fun as it would be with dad. I am so different than my husband. We interact with our children differently, and I am afraid that I am just....not as fun.

As it turns out, I'm just different fun. We talked as we walked through the redwoods, about school and friends. We noticed interesting plants, sticks and flowers. We listened to the drip, drip of the almost dry "stream" and the call of unknown birds. We happened upon a random pack of lamas lead by an evangelical preacher, and told silly jokes. We played a silly game involving kicking a tiny rock down the path and earning points for bounces and distance.  We played frisbee in an open field, congratulating each other on "good moves" and encouraging one another after "bad plays."

Zachary, who is not always very affectionate gave me unsolicited hugs and even picked an itty-bitty flower just for his mama.

I realize that times like this will be critical for our long term relationship.  It is so very easy to become the mother that packs the lunches, washes the sheets and checks the homework but that role simply falls short. I want to be the mom that he talks to, is silly with and has fun with. I want to be part of the colorful childhood memories he collects and savors for a lifetime. And I want to share his joy. I want to notice sticks that are shaped like letters, animals (and yes guns), I want to live in this beautiful moment of youth and innocence with   him. No longer simply facilitating, I want to participate.

Zack and I made a deal today. At least one day per month will be our day. We will hike, go to movies, shows, museums and even on sushi dates. Just he and I. Mother and son.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The "Carrot"

Yesterday was Zachary's science fair and school open house. The whole family went to see Zack's project and tour his classroom. He was very proud and excited. So was I.

He happily showed his dad, brothes and I around his crowded classroom. His teacher had their work on display and we walked around looking at Zack's drawings, experiments, and work. His teacher pulled me aside and urged me to take a look at Zack's essay on spring. She informed me that he wrote ten pages, and at a third or fourth grade level. I admit it, I felt pride.

The whole family gathered to view his piece of writing genious.
"I like spring becasue it is warm."
"I like spring because I can play baseball and celebrate Easter."
"I like spring because my brother's birthdays are in spring."
"I like spring because I can go hiking with my dad and my brothers."
"I like sprin...."

Wait what? You go hiking with your dad and your brothers? My heart sank. Wasn't someone missing from that piece of writing? To be ommitted stung, yet I shrugged it off, it was probably just a simple oversight.

We took home a giant stack of Zachary's work and I started reviewing it with him this morning. Spelling tests, book reports, math assignments and more essays.

The next essay was about winter.

"I like winter because of the snow."
"I was born in Colorado and it snows there."
"I  made snowballs in Colorado."
"I would build snowmen and kick down icicles with my dad."
"I like winte...."

There it was again. With my dad. No mention of mom. Had he forgotten when I took them sledding at my father's Christmas party? Had he forgotten how I took him to music classes every friday for three years? How I planned each of his birthday parties? Where was mom in this picture? Where?

So I asked him. He quickly apologized and I could tell he felt badly. I told him it was fine and I went up to take my shower...wounded.

After my shower he presented his paper to me again. "Actually mom, I added you with a "carrot." And there I was scrawed in,
a little triangle pointing up to "and mom." He added me in. Kind of him really, he has empathy no doubt, but the troubling factor remains, he forgot me to begin with. His teacher must think I'm never around. I am absent from his memories.

He has always been a daddy's boy. Always, save a few brief moments as a baby.  I have to work harder.

So Saturday afternoon, I am taking my eldest son for a hike. Just the two of us. No brothers, no daddy. Quality MOMMY time.

I don't want to be just a carrot any more.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kargas Inc: Letter to the staff.

Dear Staff,

Recently I have been fielding many questions about staffing at Kargas Inc. I feel the need to address these issues and make it very clear where the executive team stands on headcount and succession planning.

It is with great sadness that I must acknowledge the loss of one our beloved administrative team members, Flanders. While I recognize that he was a valued member of the Kargas Inc family, we have made the executive decision not to replace his position. Since Flander's sad departure we have come to realize that our organization is functioning very well without him. We appreciate your suggestions and referrals for his replacements. While a gerbil, bunny, or lizard would bring some members of the team great joy, we have determined that the extra headcount and overhead is not in the company's best interest.

In the coming months we will be recognizing two staff members anniversaries. The end of May will mark Julian's two year anniversary and on June 12 we will celebrate Evan's fifth year with the company. Congratulations to both of you, we are pleased that you have made it this far. While we will mark the occasion with celebratory cake and bonuses (in form of fabulous prizes via Target), we need to be clear that the company will not be promoting any staff members this year.

Kargas Inc is in a hiring and promotions freeze and we expect this to to last indefinitely, or at least until staff members are able to transport, feed, bath and go to the bathroom by themselves. Promotions will be given only to employees who become self-sufficient and contribute to the health of this organization. By that we mean that staff must do more than brush their own teeth and ask nicely for milk. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.

Additionally, although there have been several (hundrad) requests to celebrate anniversaries and milestones at Chuck E. Cheese, we are sad to say that Kargas Inc. no longer has a contract with the restaurant and will need to seek out other venues for company parties.

Thank you for your continued support.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Fitness, punching people in the face & stuff

No, look closer there is a muscle there
Is anybody out there? Anyone? Bueller? It's interesting my analytics seem down from a year ago, I have few comments and I haven't gained a follower in months. Still every now and then I'll hear from someone saying they read my blog and yet I had no idea. In any case it would be so very nice to get a shout out from you if you are reading and following, sometime it feels as if I am speaking to no one. Not that it really matters, I would probably keep this little blog/journal anyways.

I can't decide the direction of this post. I have a lot of people I would like to punch in the face today and in all honesty I am in a pretty foul mood, yet I don't know that I have the energy for a full on rant.

So here goes a half-hearted punch-in-the-face post and fitness update. Don't get too excited.

It's no secret that I am on a workout kick. It was actually unexpected. After several years of lame attempts at exercise, (mostly jogging a weak 2.5 miles on  weekends) I went in full throttle. During my ankle injury I took up strength training at the YMCA. I have settled into a class called "Body Sculpt" which focuses on light-weight, high-repetition lifting. It turns out I love it, particularly since I have actually noticed a real difference in my body. My arms have some definition for the first time in my life, and everything else is tighter and stronger. I have received unsolicited compliments from family and even strangers. Talk about an ego boost! The real bonus is that it is great for my tiny bones. Getting my little gym class in has become a major priority. 

In addition I am also in full on training for my half marathon, coming up May 5! Tomorrow I'm scheduled to run eleven miles. Eleven. That is a lot of freaking running, thank you very much. I went to the running store today and purchased a water bottle belt and some sort of energy chew to give me a little boost if needed. I'm  officially a runner!

So on to the punch in the face portion of this long boring post. Today I arranged my whole afternoon so I could attend a 5:00 body sculpt class at the Y. I was having one of those frustrating days where every single damn thing seemed to go wrong. I needed a good workout. I made arrangements with a friend to watch Evan while Zack was at soccer, and I was going to take Julian to childcare at the gym. He loves it there, well at least he always has in the past.

I dropped the little guy off 10 minutes before class, and he seemed as happy as can be. The woman working there seemed clueless and asked if this was my kid's first time. No, I informed her, in fact she had watched him just last week and raved about him, said he was an angel. She looked confused. She started asking if I had paid. I answered yes, just last week I purchased six hours. She insisted that she could not find my payment card. Annoyed, I informed her that I had handed it to her last week and let her know that I needed to get to my class. I looked over my shoulder and saw my happy toddler playing trucks with another little boy.

I got to the gym room, set up my bench and weights, and just as the instructor arrived the loud speaker boomed: "Rachel, please return to Child Watch." For the love of God. This never happens. Was this woman totally incompetent? I wasn't even gone five minutes. I huffed on back to the child care center to find Julian sitting on the floor crying. The woman explained that he had fought over a toy with the other little boy and then became inconsolable. Inconsolable? It had only been five minutes, she hadn't even tried, it was obvious. It was also obvious that now that I was back, Julian wasn't letting me go. I could already feel my muscles atrophy.

Man did I want to slap that child watch employee across the face. There were only two kids in the center, and she was kicking one out for crying. Didn't she see that she was pushing me to tears as well? I needed that workout. I needed that fifty minutes of sanity.

So here I am. Knowing that while I won't wake up with sore muscles tomorrow, I will be back again, I'm not returning to the old Rachel. I got me some tiny little arm muscles and I'm keeping them. And as for Sunday... I'm quiet sure after my 11 miles on Saturday, my legs will be plenty sore.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mama Working From Home. Maybe I should wear heels?

Office-fancy Rachel. Well at least I did my hair.
I work from home. I am so very, very lucky. I get up in the morning, throw on yoga pants, a sports bra and a tank top. I don't shower. I walk Zachary to school, greet the nanny, and walk one small flight of stairs to my office. There is no commute. No dry cleaning. I take a mid-day run. I eat out of my fridge. It's pretty convenient.

And sometimes it's lonely. For those of you who know me, it's understood that I certainly enjoy an opportunity to dress in a cute skirt and heels, take the train into the big city and work in a sleek professional office. I like meetings with co-workers, I thrive on my relationships with others. I like being out in the world.

It's a trade off.. At this point in my life, I need flexibility and convenience. Working from home provides that. I am ever so grateful that I have a job and a company who allow me this amazing arrangement. But damn, I miss feeling like a grown woman. I miss people recognizing my face. In most of my professional interactions, I am faceless.

Yesterday I got up early, took out the flatiron, put on a pair of heels and took the bus into San Francisco. I met with real life coworkers, and worked in a spotless, peaceful environment. After work, I met a girlfriend for drinks and dinner in a trendy financial district restaurant. It was energizing. I loved every minute of it.

Life as a working mom of three is a balancing act. At times I miss what I could have been. If I hadn't taken off so much time, if I hadn't accepted only part time positions, I wonder, where would I be professionally?

But I am taking the time for my family, and ultimately I believe it is the right decision. I may have had a bigger title, a bigger salary, and  an office without a litter box, but my boys come first. I am lucky, so very lucky to have that choice.

And as long as every now and then I can put on something other than yoga pants, and break out the mascara, I'll be good.
Normal work from home Rachel. Yikes.