Friday, February 29, 2008

The winter of my discontent.

I feel like I'm in a daze. Like I have somehow managed to sleep walk through the last 2 months. February is OVER. We are almost a third of the way into 2008 and yet... where has it gone?

Law school has already sucked up most of this year. Studying for the LSAT; writing personal essays, statements of intent and resumes; filling out applications; gathering all the transcripts and Dean's letters and letters of recommendations. There is a reason not everyone pursues higher education. Even applying is a challenge. I hope I'm ready for this.

Listen to me. I'm not even the one who is planning to go to law school. I am simply supporting my husband - he's doing most of the heavy lifting himself. And he has a day job (or had one - hmmm, more on that later?). I think that makes it harder for me sometimes. I am an awful backseat driver. I want to either take the wheel or pop on my headphones and watch the world go by. I don't like to be a little bit in control. This has obviously been quite a struggle for me as a stay-at-home mom.

Everyone says the mom rules the house. And I agree. To a point. I can make sure the backseat is comfy and cozy and pack healthy snacks for us to eat on the road and get my child involved in a game of "I spy" along the way and read the map and tell the driver where I'd like to go but is that going to help steer the car? Maybe. Maybe not. Not knowing is hard for me.

I have to continue to have faith that my husband will steer us in a great direction. He continues to do everything he can to ensure this trip is fun for all of us. And I mean everything. My struggle with this has nothing to do with him. I know it's hard for him too. Sometimes I think he would be just as happy in the backseat.

I hope he realizes how much we appreciate him driving.

So, the whole law school thing has really consumed a lot of our time. But there's more to it than that. Liam and I have both been sick so much. It's like we CAN'T get better. I think it's probably lack of fresh air and exercise. The last thing I want to do when I don't feel well is venture out into the freezing cold for a brisk walk to the park. That's another thing. This weather is killing me. It's so cold and gray and depressing. It reminds me of the winter I lived in England. I think "lived" might be overstating it a bit. The winter I slept and smoked pot in England might be more accurate.

No wonder it's so expensive to live in California. Sunshine comes with a price.

Tomorrow is the first day of March. It is going to be a fresh start. Gone are the days of being sick and shutting ourselves in and moping around and forgetting to make dinner. Spring is a time of light and growth and new beginnings. I don't know or care what the groundhog said, spring is coming early this year.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just do it.

The first night in my photography class, our teacher said, "there's a two year learning curve on this stuff so don't get discouraged if you don't get it right away." Huh? Two years? That's crazy talk! You can forget two years from now, I'm already discouraged.

I think I'm getting better already - no Photoshop required!

I want instant gratification. I want to show up to yoga class looking like a schlumpadinka* and leave looking like Christy Turlington. When that doesn't happen, I have a hard time dragging myself back. Without results, it's tough to get motivated.

I've realized lately that motivation is kind of a lie. An excuse. You don't really need it. Sure, it helps, but you can accomplish the same exact thing with or without it. Am I motivated to do the dishes every day? Not even close. Do I do them anyway? Yes, on most days, I do. Can you imagine if I sat around waiting for motivation to strike? I doubt that would ever happen. (If it did, I think I'd be concerned. Motivated to do dishes? Get this woman a job!) Sometimes you have to take action first and hope that motivation will follow. Usually it catches up with me. About half way through the dishes, I actually feel motivated to finish. For me, that's huge.

The other concept that would really inspire me if it didn't instantly get an Aerosmith song stuck in my head is the whole, "life's a journey, not a destination" thing. (Now you probably have the song stuck in your head too. You're welcome.)

Think about it. If I do something (yoga, a photography class) just for the end-result (hot yoga body, mad photography skills), I am pretty much missing the point. If it's not fun or challenging or somehow rewarding to do something, why should I waste my time? I don't even know if it's possible to reach a destination if you don't enjoy the journey. If it is, I doubt it's worth it. You would feel totally unsatisfied.

This should have become abundantly clear to me following graduation from college. The whole time I was going to school, I just wanted to finish. My parents always stressed that they wanted my sister and I to graduate from college but never really told us why. I had no idea what I was supposed to get out of it other than a diploma so I just went for that. I never made friends or got involved or challenged myself to grow. I didn't enjoy myself or feel like I was learning. I didn't even think about it. I just kept going, and going, and going. Finally, after 8 years, I was done. Finished. A college graduate. And you know what? It was the biggest let down I have ever felt. Almost immediately I realized I had missed the point. I didn't have any college buddies or experiences I would look back on and laugh. I didn't network. I never let a class or assignment challenge me in any way that made me grow. I just took classes, did the work, and got my diploma.

It was all destination and no journey. If you ask me, it was totally pointless.

A picture of a picture that is stuck in a frame.
My sister is getting her Master's this spring.
Fortunately, she is taking a LOT more from her experience than a piece of paper.

Last summer in Hawaii I read a book about writing called Bird by Bird. The author stressed that most writers never get published so if that's the only reason you want to write, don't bother. I had always assumed I wouldn't get published so I never bothered to write. At all. That's the same reason I never drew or did art projects. Unless I had a specific wall space I wanted to fill with something I couldn't find in a store, I didn't see the point. Once I asked an artsy friend of mine what the painting she was working on was for. She just kinda looked at me. "I mean, like, are you going to sell it or do you have somewhere in your house you want to hang it? Why are you painting it?" She said she was painting it because she couldn't not paint it. I guess you call that inspiration. Or the desire to create for the sake of creating. The process.

Ah, the process, the experience - that's the point! Writing for the sake of writing is a perfectly fine reason to write. Or do yoga. Or go to college. Or take a photography class! Learning is the exciting part. Doing is pretty great too. Getting better at something you enjoy doing is amazing. Achieving? That's just icing on the cake.


*this was a test to see if anyone else saw Oprah yesterday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Inspiration strikes.

I'm not exactly sure why, but tonight while I was reading Liam his bedtime stories, Bill decided to write about all the Steves he's ever known. (If you haven't met my husband, this will seem very strange. If you have, it will seem totally normal.) It cracked me up so much I told him he should start a blog just so he could share it. Then I remembered that he has much bigger fish to fry what with his law school applications and all. So, I'm posting it for him. It's almost entirely un-edited (sometimes I just can't help myself) and a rather nice glimpse into the fascinating mind of my better half. Here goes...

The Importance of Being Steve

First Steve

Kid in my first grade class. He was Asian. Once he brought a sand dollar to school for show and tell. When I shook it I could hear that there were little hard somethings inside. I asked what they were and thankfully Steve knew. He told me that they were bones but when he said it, in his childish tongue with Asian accent, it souned like “birds.” That fucked with me for a long time.
I remember his father threw him in their pool at his birthday party. Steve wasn’t amused. In fact, he cried. What a dickhead dad.

Steve Doi-Doi

Second grade. Doi-Doi Steve lived at the Holiday Inn a few blocks from my school. Naturally I believed his father owned the Holiday Inn and he was incredibly rich. You know, if you own a hotel you might as well live in it. I'm only realizing now that he probably just lived in a motel. Steve created a green Martian-like character called a Doi-Doi. He would draw these incredible Doi-Doi comics everywhere and was well liked for his sense of humor and Doi-Doi comic book prowess.

A United Airlines plane crashed in the field across the street from his father’s hotel. Steve and his family were safely asleep inside The Holiday Inn but the crash was literally 100 feet from the lobby. Everyone died in the crash and there were reports of people sneaking into the field at night, stealing watches off the scattered body parts.

Tuttle

I didn’t know Steve Tuttle but he liked mini-trucks, bumpin’ car stereos, and turtlenecks. He seemed like a nice person though, in my social circle, his surname became a sarcastic expression for “cool.” Or literally, because it was sarcastic, “not cool.” So if we saw a dude with a gold cross hanging from a gold chain worn outside say, a blue turtleneck…yeah, hella tuttle.

The Big Guy

Maggie and I were getting our SCUBA certification in Monterray when up the beach walks a middle-aged man asking me, “hey, where’s the big guy?” Now, I had no idea who this man was. I mean, sure we were wearing tight fitting SCUBA hoods that make peripheral vision a joke, but still I was certain I'd never met this cat. I laughed and replied, “who’s ‘the big guy’?” He must have realized that he mistook me for someone else because he just awkwardly answered, “Steve”. I laughed an equally awkward laugh. This made Maggie laugh and she makes fun of me for it to this day. It’s a nice little shared memory.

A couple of hours later Maggie almost drowned while uncontrollably laughing and rolling in a low tide while I stood above her saying, “get up”. She’s still with me.

Steamboat

My best friend through my 20’s. He probably existed before we met but I like to think I discovered him at Café Royale in his silky blue shirts and long, unruly hair. He was playing covers with his uncle or something (sidenote: it seems like this Steve has a million uncles who all play music). He looked a lot like Bernard Butler so I wanted him to play in my band. I took him to Corrigan’s Pub and told him that he could play in the best band in the world if he wanted; I just had to convince our other guitar player. I put Neil (the other guitar player) on the spot and invited Steve into the band that night. Asking someone to join your band is fucking huge, I don’t care who you are.

This Steve and I became super close by writing songs together, getting drunk off 32 ounce bottles of Miller High Life (cheaper than 40s even), and playing shows. Twice we studied together at UNR but he was too smart to teach me algebra and I couldn’t be fucked to learn it.
I saw him get punched once at this casino. We were walking out and this guy Kevin hit him. It was stupid but it stands out.

Steve got his long, unruly hair cut for my wedding.

Jacobs

When my band acrylic first formed this Steve would come to all of our shows and dance. He seemed wealthy and cool. Sure he had long hair and questionable friends but he still seemed to have his shit together. I went to a party at his house when I was 20. It was cool because he introduced me to his LA friends as “the singer of acrylic” which is who I wanted to be. I took my friend Jake and his girlfriend, Maggie. Yep, the same Maggie I’m married to now. She was my ex-girlfriend at the time. Writing this makes me feel queasy about how small our social circle was. Anyway, we went to his house and Steve kissed Maggie. She kinda kissed anyone at the time so it wasn’t a huge shock. Plus, I wasn’t dating her so I didn’t really care. The thing is Steve was like 40 and Maggie was 20, which is wild. We hung out and drank his booze and had a good time (apart from the Maggie incident). Here’s the kicker, Steve called Maggie and broke up with her a few days later. I mean, they weren’t dating but he still broke up with her. Awesome. This memory could be wrong but it’s funny this way.

This Steve asked me if he could manage my band when I was about 22. He created some flyer art for us, business cards (kinda weird for an “indie” band), and a lot of animosity between band mates. As a manager he dealt with our money. We didn’t have a fucking clue about money but we were stupid enough to believe money had nothing to do with the band, even though we gladly took it after every show. Tough to explain.

This Steve also had a house with an indoor pool. After shows we would take the party to his house for “afterburners” and swim and drink all night. Steve would crank Red House Painters, we’d slip from the marble into the warm pool, and “soak”. It was absolutely beautiful, though someone once told me a child was murdered in the pool area of the house many years before. That is fucked up but, the thing is, if I could float in that pool after a show, drunk, with Mark Kozelek’s voice in my ears, and someone came along and murdered me…well, I’d be pretty happy.

I have a clear memory of Steve wearing nothing but leather pants and a cowboy hat making an omlette with one hand with a shotgun in his other hand.

* Maggie insists that she didn’t kiss Steve. She’s right. Steve’s friend was the culprit. His name I can never remember but I stayed with him once in LA, on Robertson Street. He’s a strange guy but in an “I’m trying to be strange” way. He was obsessed with hand crème. I mean, it’s important but why obsess? His name was James. It just hit me. Maggie says she thought he was gay, which must have been an awkward thought while kissing.

(PS - I did NOT kiss everyone at the time. C'mon!)

Neighbor

This Steve walked over and introduced himself shortly after we moved to Nashville. He said, “jump in the car and I’ll give you a tour.” Who does that? I mean, how cool is that? He then drove us around the neighborhood telling us about our new digs. He proceeded to introduce us to Sunny. Sunny then introduced us to Robin and Anna. Robin introduced us to Guy and Bieke. Anna introduced us to Richie, Jeremy, and Gwyn. From that moment we had friends in Nashville.

I can’t drink with the Steve. I tried once but he drank me under the table in seconds. He casually drinks like I would drink if I was trying to die by alcohol poisoning. I think he may have a problem, but in a “not yet a problem in fact still laughable” way.

He thinks his dog was poisoned but I suspect insecticide.

Burns

This Steve, the latest Steve, has become a good friend to my son Liam. This Steve has helped me with the shock of having a child. He also helps baby-sit Liam if Maggie is out and I’m watching him but I have to pee or make dinner or get a beer or whatever. This Steve is the original Blue’s Clues Steve. He’s an angel. Sure he only exists on TV and Liam likes him more than me at times (I like to think that is a phase) but he is still a hell of a guy.

The man, the myth, the very funny husband!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ode to sleep.

A couple of weeks ago, Liam's perfect sleep schedule started to veer off course.

First, he woke up crying in the middle of the night. It was such a surprise I didn't even think before running into his room to hold him and give him milk. He settled down pretty quickly and went back to sleep. Then the next night, he did it again. The next night? Same routine. I started having flashbacks to the newborn days - days we are lucky to have survived. This family does not operate without sleep.

Then, just to completely throw us off, he woke up really early one morning - like in the 6:00 range - and tried to convince me he was ready to start the day. While we may not have a lot of rules in this house, waking up when it's dark outside is a definite no-no. I stood by his crib bleary eyed repeating, "Sorry Liam, it's just too early." When he refused to reason with me, I had no choice but to toss a bunch of books in his crib and shuffle back to bed. Mama needs her beauty sleep!

Even when he manages to sleep until a decent hour these days, it's not the same as it used to be. Instead of waking up slowly, talking to himself and singing songs for as long as it takes me to come get him, he now goes from completely silent to crying, "MAMA!!!" just like that. No five minute warning, no chance to quickly make and drink a cup of coffee, definitely no chance for a shower - nothing! I don't know what happened but I'm clinging desperately to the hope that this is some kind of teething side-effect. It's possible, right?

Teething or not I know that by going to him every night we have trained him to keep waking up. Our only choice is to un-train him by ignoring his cries.

This brilliant epiphany came to me when I was rudely awakened at 2:50 this morning. As Liam cried for me, I laid in bed feeling very strong and victorious. Just a few more minutes of ignoring him and we could go back to sleep and let life as we knew it resume. Bill obviously didn't get the "cry it out" memo. He kept sighing loudly and rolling over, non-verbally asking, "why the heck aren't you doing anything?!" Finally he threw off the covers and started to get up. "No, no, no - you can't go to him - you'll train him that this is OK." Even in the dark I could tell he was looking at me like I was crazy. He was concerned because Liam was coughing a lot; I was convinced it was either because he was crying so much OR because he knew I was onto him and was upping his game (I obviously don't think clearly in the middle of the night).

Finally I decided to appease both boys by offering Liam some water for his cough. Just water - no holding, no milk, no reason to do this again tomorrow night. Hard as it was to not pick him up, I stuck to my guns. I offered the water, hugged him, and then told him to go back to sleep as I left the room.

I got back in bed and told Bill we had to ignore him until he went back to sleep. Since our room is right next to Liam's and connected by a door that even when closed is not a great sound barrier, ignoring a crying child in the middle of the night takes a lot more effort than you might imagine. Last night, it took more effort than Bill could muster.

After a few minutes of me trying to convince him otherwise, he went to Liam and rocked him until he was ready to go back to bed. Then he told me he thought Liam was crying because he didn't feel well. Sure enough, he still has a cough this morning. Darn.

Fortunately for my karma, I got an almost immediate chance to make up for my shoddy parenting. After Bill got Liam back to sleep, a thunder storm started. Our dog, Cloey, is terrified of thunder. Since she sleeps in our room, we've all grown to hate these storms. When she's not pacing around the room, tap-dancing on the hard wood floors, she's shaking and whimpering. It's annoying on an average night but on a night that we were already up for an hour, it threatened to push us over the edge. We thought for sure she was going to wake up Liam so every time she started tap, tap, tapping around the room saying, "harm-harm," we would both shoot out of bed to shut her up. This is no way to spend a night. Finally I grabbed her dog bed and took her into the office with me where we both slept. No sense in all of us having a lousy night's sleep. Or, lousier than it already was.

Once I wasn't concerned about Cloey keeping Liam up, I was able to go right to sleep. Hopefully my awesome cry-it-out technique will teach her to self-soothe next time there's a storm.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My first Aquarian.

Today is my sweet husband's 31st birthday. I wish I could say we've been partying non-stop since the clock struck midnight but the truth is we've barely had a chance to celebrate at all. He had to work really hard all day and even had a lunch meeting with his boss from Cincinatti. Then as soon as he got home, I ran off to my first photography class. Great class, bad timing.

Hopefully he had a fun enough birthday weekend to make up for it.

We went on a date on Saturday night which is a rare and wonderful treat. We went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner because, dammit, sometimes a chain restaurant is exactly what you want. (PS, we LOVED every minute of it!) After that we went to the Hustler Store which, as our friend Sean puts it, is like the Gap for porn. I had never been before and it was a fun way to end our date night.

Then last night, a few of our friends came over to eat pizza and watch cartoons. Watching cartoons is a great Sunday night tradition that we missed the last couple of weeks and it was great to get back into the swing of things. We even had a birthday key lime pie. With candles!

OK, so maybe it wasn't the greatest weekend of all time. Now that I've written it down I feel a little like Will Ferrell in Old School. We had a real nice little Saturday. We were hoping to make it to Bed, Bath & Beyond but we ran out of time. What can I say? 31 is OLD.

Last year, when he was just a 30 year old pup, we had a party to beat all parties. I don't even know why it was so great, it just was. We must have found the perfect mix of keg stands and karaoke or something. It was just one of those nights that words cannot do justice. Perhaps these photos will paint a better picture:

The birthday boys: Bill and our good friend Guy.

My sister's wearing a hair piece. Still, we look pretty fierce.

Pimp cups & crowns - Martha Stewart's got nothing on me!

It's Guy's fault - he said he wanted a stripper (thanks, Richie!).

The night was never the same after the Mexican wrestlers showed up.

Now that was a real nice little weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Makes me smile.

He has my teeth. I mean my grill.

"Nice bling." "Nice shoes."

"They're even nicer on me."

Do you think he liked his gifts or what?

OK, this video just had to be shared. We might have to change Mr. Bird's name to Mr. Goose!

video

His business.

I just realized something funny about Liam:

He doesn't like to poop at school.

Maybe he's shy. Maybe he doesn't want to be that kid who stinks up the room for everyone else (and by everyone, I mean all the parents too - the current that kid does it right at the end of the day so the room doesn't even get a chance to air out before we arrive). Maybe it's genetic. Like father like son? Too far?

It could just be that he's too busy having fun to bother with things like that. He doesn't nap at school either. Or eat. This is his lunch after he came home from school yesterday:


I could use the exact same photo for the before.

When he's not sleeping for the 2 hour nap time, he's making up stories and acting things out quietly on his mat. He's so quiet that he doesn't even wake up the other kids. His teachers can't believe how imaginative he is. "We don't know what he's doing but he sure keeps himself busy!" I think mostly he's talking to Blue. As in the blue dog from Blue's Clues. Yeah, she lives with us now. Liam will say things like, "All done lunch. Get down and play with Blue?" They mostly just run around looking for clues but it involves a lot of talking and singing. Earlier Bill gave Blue a big hug and then asked if he could get a hug from Liam too. Suddenly our mama's boy who only divvies out small rations of hugs to Dad really laid one on him. It almost knocked him over! I guess if it's good enough for Blue, it's good enough for Liam.

I can't wait to try his technique out at dinner. Blue might be a great imaginary friend for all of us!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stormy weather.

Since we already celebrated Liam's birthday on Sunday, I didn't really plan anything for today. All I wanted was for the birthday boy to call the shots. Chocolate bunny grahams for breakfast? OK! A trip to the bookstore? Coming right up! Blue's Clues on repeat? You got it!

As soon as we got to the bookstore and I let Liam down to walk to the childrens' section, things took a turn for the worse. He wanted to carry his blanket, White Bi, which is a crib sized satin number that he drags with him wherever we go. What's a girl to do? I certainly wasn't going to take away White Bi. Not on his birthday!

As we were walking down the aisle, I noticed an older gentleman coming up behind us. I turned toward him to do the usual exchange of pleasantries that typically accompany a trip to the bookstore with a gregarious toddler. Well! This man was not amused. Just as he was about to pass us and get on with his miserable life, the Liam/White Bi train swerved and blocked his path. He grumbled something under his breath and then squeezed past and stormed down another aisle. A grown man pissed off at a 2 year old! It was so ridiculous I couldn't help laughing. Then I said loudly, "Wow! What a grump!" He definitely heard me because he started grumbling under his breath again as soon as I said it.

After that, the bookstore just didn't have the charm that it normally does. Liam still enjoyed himself but as soon as he wandered from the train table perimeter, I got worried that I'd have to face the grump again. So I steered Liam outside and we walked up and down the sidewalk. That's what's so great about kids - walking around a parking lot is just as fun as anything else.

On our way home we met Bill at the neighborhood hot dog stand. The plan was to eat a quick bite and then walk over to the ice cream shop for a birthday treat. Trying to get Liam from one place to another without a stroller proved much more difficult that I imagined. He's usually such a compliant child. The extent of our babyproofing was to tell him what he could and couldn't touch and it totally worked. Today was different. If we'd say, "let's walk this way," he'd reply, "no, that way." Now we finally understand the one, two, three, whee! game that parents play where they each hold one of the child's hands and swing them into the air every few feet. Sometimes it's the only way to get from here to there.

The this way/that way debate is OVER.

When we got to the ice cream shop, it wasn't open yet. I guess we're the only ones ready for a chocolate cone at 11:30 in the morning. We went back tonight after dinner and it was perfect. Liam had about three licks of his chocolate peanut butter before I took over. That's what moms are for.

By the end of the day I realized that although he might be a very big boy, he's not really old enough to be in charge. We were sitting together on the couch watching Dora and I noticed his head was getting very warm and sweaty (a sign that he's tired). It was perfect timing. The show would be over at about 7:45 which is just about when I like to get him to bed. But when the show ended and he asked for more I found myself turning on another episode of Dora without hesitating. I don't know if it was the cuteness of him saying "more Dora?" (he's never asked to watch Dora) or the fact that it was still his special day. Whatever it was, it was a bad decision. About 30 seconds in, he started whimpering like he does when he's really, really tired. It was like he was saying, "You gave me the rope and I hung myself. Are you happy now? Why would you possibly give a 2 year old so much rope?"

Birthday dinner - goldfish crackers and Blue's Clues.

Bill just told me I have about 10 minutes before there's a tornado overhead. I guess this is goodnight and goodluck.

Happy.

Happy birthday, Liam!


Our beautiful, wonderful, special boy. You amaze us and thrill us and make us laugh and make us cry. We have loved you since the day you were born. Since the doctor exclaimed, "you delivered a toddler!" and Daddy cried, "he's purple and he has a cone head!" Since you grabbed onto Daddy's finger and immediately stopped crying. Since you locked eyes with Mama and told her everything she needed to know. You made time stand still and changed our lives forever. Your birthday is a celebration for all of us.

Every age, every stage, every day with you has been our favorite. We keep thinking that you're perfect, that nothing could top exactly what you're doing right this moment. Then the clock ticks and you amaze us again.

You're two. You're bright and curious and imaginative and creative. I doubt you'll ever find time to be terrible. There are too many songs to sing and clues to find and pictures to draw and books to read. Much too much to learn and do. Such a big boy, such a big year!