Category Archives: Relationships

Fathering a Memory

This is the stuff that favorite childhood memories are made of. These are the moments that cast bonds between fathers and sons that transend the body and tie the spirit.

On this father-son day, it was the water that brought God into the moment. 

We joined our friends Brian and Ryan at Will Rodgers State Beach for the daddies to pass on a great love to their sons. Other great beaches to get cozy in the water or learn how to surf are Zuma tower 14, Mondos and Old Man’s near San Diego.

On this day, I followed behind with my camera and an extra set of eyes. So glad I did.
 Howard with 5 yo Kaleb: here it comes!

 go Kaleb go!
not a big fan of water in the eyes
we did it!
With my dad, it was cowboy movies and action flicks. We watched Clint Eastwood bury the bad guys and medieval warriors storm castles. Not very active or enriching beyond the actual time we spent together. My brother, Danny couldn’t recall our dad passing on any skills to him either. “He even hired someone to teach me how to drive a stick shift,” he groused. Though he did report they watched the rise and fall of Mike Tyson on the tube together. I’m sensing a theme here. But in my father’s defense, he immigrated us to this country and worked many hours each day to get us ahead. He was mostly just tired all the time.

All that hard work paid off. My father allowed my brother and me to spend days with our kids like last Sunday when the man I married got to share something that captured his heart with his sons.
And we got to hang out on the beach, just enjoying the day.
And we watched our kids gather the pieces of moments that will forever be the building blocks to their self worth and relationship with their own kids.

 Ryan and William (he’s a little older)
 Brian and Jacob (he just looks a little older)
 watch out below!
Howard and Knox (the baby)
I’m going to be forever grateful for the sacrifices my father made for me to live the amazing life I get to live today.  It is the gratitude that will forever bind me to my father, instead of the memories of these types of moments. And it is with great compassion that I see the other hard-working fathers who have to sacrifice the time they could be spending with their families to make sure their kids can get ahead. 

These are the real undercover superheros.



Babysitters 101

OK, you’re convinced ~ after my last compelling post ~ that you need to amp up your love life. Yes….with your husband! It’ll be good for you, your hubby and most of all your kids, who will see their parents in love and will then, in turn, choose someone to marry who embodies that ideal and who they will expect to looooove their entire lives. One of the whole points of a happy life, right?

(Or. If you’re single, then you need someone to give you an occassional break so you can have an adult conversation, a girl’s night out and maybe even meet the actual Mr. Right instead of that guy that was pretending to be him.)

But. Who will watch the kids while you paint the town in crimson hearts accompanied by harps and violins? (Or shake that groove thang in your sequin capris?) If your family lives far away, or is just not available, you may have to find a babysitter. But, is it really worth the effort?

I have one friend who told me, a few years ago, when I shared with her that I had gone on a date with my husband at a time when my kids were still pretty little that she and her husband hadn’t gone out in years. She said their dates consisted of sitting on the couch and maybe watching a movie on TV. I found out recently that they’ve since divorced. He cheated with ~ then married ~ her best friend, who went out all the time, ha ha.

OK, that’s an extreme example. But it does happen.  Maybe we don’t divorce immediately but those of us who don’t put energy into our relationship can languish in a murky sea of boredom and dissatisfaction. Who wants that? And it’s scary to think that every 13 seconds a couple does divorce.

If getting a sitter is the solution to a harmonious household or a merry, mellow mommy, then what are we waiting for?

Here’s the how-to list….

Ways to find a babysitter:

  • Ask around
  • Check babysitting websites: Sittercity or Care are good bets and you can even run background checks
  • Jen’s List is also a great resource

The first thing you can obviously do, is ask around. Which of your friends has someone whom they love? That can be a little tricky though. Because, if you start using them on a regular basis it could cause a conflict with your friend’s babysitting needs. This actually happened to me. I was so excited about my sitters that I started sharing their information with everyone that might need one including all my MOMs Club friends ~ which meant she could never babysit when I needed her. So ideally it would be best to find your own sitter. And only share her info with very close friends who will sign in blood not to use her on the nights you need her. One gal I did find from a friend (who wasn’t using her much), Emily, is this amazing 16 year old who works 3 part-time jobs ~ between school ~ with great enthusiasm. When I asked her how much she would charge to watch my kids, she said it didn’t really matter because she loved hanging out with kids so much. Really? Wow.

I’ve also had great luck in two places online: Sittercity and Care. I prefer Sittercity but I’m not sure why. I’ve just had better luck there, I guess. When I first tried Sittercity I found a wonderful sitter, Tabitha. I was 6 months pregnant and already had an 18 month old boy who wanted to do anything except sit and listen. Mommy’s swollen feet just weren’t up for the chase so Tabitha was able to help me 2x a week. (Mommy was not feeling up to dating daddy too much at that point). Tabitha moved on to a more regular position as a nanny but now I have three other great gals in rotation (because when you need someone, you need someone). One of my sitters, Desiree is a volunteer fighfighter EMT who is in nursing school. Total tomboy, loves to play with my rambuncious boys. Another, Lindsey was president of her high school and is now studying PR at Boston University. She sits for us in the summers when she’s back home (like now!). And the third, Allison (the one my friends stole) works at the CA Cartwheel Center and is studying to be an Occupational Therapist. 

These girls are more qualified to watch my kids than I am!

When you place an ad online, you can get many responses. Do yourself and them a favor and listen to your gut. You don’t have to interview them all. If she seems flaky on the website, she’s probably even worse in person. And if the picture she submitted shows her partying with her friends, you might consider passing on that one too. Do an initial phone interview before you meet in person. Make sure she can accomodate your scheduling needs. If you decide to have her come meet you, have her bring a casual resume with a list of references. You have to ask for this because most won’t think to do this and time is a-wasting! it’s a good idea to have the kids there while you talk to her so you can see how she interacts with them. It’s a great sign if she offers to help you with whatever comes up while you’re talking to her i.e. she helps distract one of the kids while you answer the phone or includes your child in a quick conversation. You want her to actually like children. The caretaker websites offer a list of suggested questions for the interview. Scan the ones that are important to you, like: what would you do if my child got hurt while you were watching them and how would you handle it if one brother tried to impale the other with his lightsaber? You know. The usual.

You can also try Jen’s List, which is btw, an amazing, free, local resource for parents who like to do stuff with their family. Jen’s List has a seperate section for nannies and babysitters referred by other Jen’s List subscribers so you have a built-in reference and they’re usually willing to talk to you and answer any questions you may have about their posting. And if they’re taking the time to post, then you know they love her.

You’ll know right away if a girl is a good fit for your family. Don’t feel guilty if she’s not. Just be polite and thank her for coming. During one of my babysitter searches, I couldn’t win between the aspiring models who showed up to the interviews in stage make-up to the dominatrix who showed up in thigh-high stiletto boots. To play with kids, really(she looked normal in her picture) But this last round, every girl was a winner. 

In my babysitting job ads, I ask for someone who will play with the boys instead of watch TV with them. I ask for someone who is willing to do small chores around the house while the boys sleep. Things like, laundry, folding clothes, dishes, straightening stuff up and restoring the play area to it’s original (or better) condition. All the girls that work for me, do all of this. Yes, they’re college girls so you have to actually ASK them to do the things you want done. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by assuming it will just be done when you get home. Say things like, “I would so love it if you could fold the laundry when the boys go down.” And, “It would really, really help me if you could do all the dishes and wipe the counters when you have time.” You have to ask and if you ask with sweet enthusiasm, you’ll feel better about it and so will they.

How much should you charge? And what should you have her do? Now this part is purelly a subjective call. Babysitters are asking outrageous amounts to play with your kids and watch TV while they sleep. For some reason, they think they are entitled to it because having them at your house is worth a lot of money. To them at least. I’ve found that the babysitters who ask for more than $12 an hour are usually too entitled to even do a good job for me. 

I pay most of my sitters $10 an hour. One gets $12. And they are happy with that. Yes, I usually give a little more at the end of the night, for instance, I round up from the hour in which we came home. Or just give her a $5 or $10 bump if it’s close to the end of the hour. But the agreement is for $10 an hour and that’s how you weed out the hard workers from the entitled ones. You don’t want an entitled girl. No one is going to make a living from babysitting for you, it’s just extra money so don’t feel like you need to support them. And going out shouldn’t run you $500 by the end of the night. It’s a tough economy.

Check her references if you like her and if she shines, put her in your smartphone. That way you have a string of girls and you can know in minutes whether they are available or not the day or night you need them.

Those are the basics, at least, for me. Did I forget something?

Secret Dates

Remember the drum circle beating inside your tummy, the feet running around your room trying to find the perfect outfit, the make-up so meticulously applied all in anticipation of that evening date with your special sweetheart? Then you married him. And all these years later, what happened? You still love him but now when you see him you’re running past each other, hair barely brushed (hoping you remembered to at least clean your teeth as you graze a fleeting kiss across his cheek), sweat pants hanging, yelling “Get off your little brother!” or screeching at your teenager not to forget her lunch.
            It’s not how you thought your love life would look before you married your Prince Charming. But between dishes and homework and carpools, what can we do? How do we go back and do we really want to?
Yes. Yes, you do want to go back and you really want to. Maybe you can’t be those swinging singles able to drop everything for a spontaneous out of town rendezvous  but you can still get excited, you can still appreciate one another and you can get those drums in your tummy beating again. But how? You may ask, between mouthfuls of a hastily put together lunch in the middle of the afternoon or right before finally clocking out at the end of the day after every person in your house has had their needs met.
I’ll tell you. Between my three active boys, two part-time jobs and a half-way put together house, my husband and I have gone past the conversations crowded with irritated undertones of “why are you doing it that way instead of the good way?” and into a space where hands linger on each other’s fingers as we walk by and kisses happen in the middle of the room, just because. 
We do something we call Secret Dates.
Yes, with each other. This is how it works: Every week one of us takes turns planning an evening and doesn’t tell the other what is in store for them until we arrive at our destination.
So simple. And yet completely transformative because it turns an otherwise blah blah occasion into an adventure full of suspense and intrigue. When’s the last time you had suspense and intrigue in your mommy life?
The last secret date we had was a lot of fun. It was his turn to plan and believe me, he’s getting better at this. First we went to a Peruvian Restaurant in Pasadena. This was improvised. He knew the area well enough to know there would be several options close to the actual venue where he was taking me. So Peruvian Choza Mama caught our eye. They welcomed us like family which I love in a restaurant. There was a live celloist/guitar player softly setting the scene in the spacious earth toned room, the drinks were local to the area and the food was dressed in savory spices.

Then we walked over to the main event. He led me to the Pasadena Playhouse to see a play by an author I enjoy, Mitch Albom. He called it Duck Hunter Shoots Angel
First of all, of all the things he could have picked, he picked a play. As I looked at the marquee, my mind started to jump up and down, clapping in glee.  
At one point in our relationship, this type of activity was about as far from his thing as things could get. We have had many “discussions” over the years about him putting more effort into making our relationship a priority, into me having to do “everything” when it came to making plans for us and why couldn’t he just be more romantic in general? 
 So, here I am staring at this play poster feeling so loved and cared for. I looked up into his eyes and he smiled down at me with pride. “Honey, you picked a play?” I asked incredulously. And he tried to sound very matter of fact, it’s a no big deal kind of thing when he said, “Of course. I knew you liked him and I thought it’d be fun.” Yay! I hugged him and we went up the stairs and proceeded to laugh out loud in a theater small enough to see the faces of the actors and big enough to host a very talented cast. The play spoke to our basic desires for love and redemption in the same way that Albom’s books managed to snag a part of our souls while we read them.

Last week, when I planned the date, we went to the Stonehaus for dinner and then to see my childhood favorite, Grease playing locally (which was a great change for us from having to schlep over the hill). But the point of these Secret Dates – besides the thrill of the surprise – is also supposed to be sharing what one of us really loves with the other. No arguments, no compromise because done is done.
So when he went out of his way to make me happy instead of satisfying his own needs, that to me was an unequivocal show of love. And it made me a better person because now I really want to find something that will make him as happy as he made me and if the competition is now about who can make the other happier, how can that be anything but good?

This just shows that even things that start out as mischevious acts of selfishness could blossom into beauty if watered with the right amount of love. Because this did indeed start out as a selfish way to get my needs met after we first started dating. I planned our first Secret Date when I decided he needed a haircut but we had just started dating and it was too soon to suggest such a drastic step. So, instead, I concocted this idea of taking him on a Secret Date which included us getting haircuts and mani/pedis. It’s a wonder he continued to want to date me after that! But at least he knew what he was signing up for and I can definitely say after knowing each other for almost a decade, we have both become a better person as a result of our love for each other, warts and all.

So, now that you’ve heard our sappy tale, I’d love to know what you do to keep your relationship vital and exciting?

Kaleb Turns One

I meant to go back and edit this one day but since Kaleb has recently turned three and even has a not so brand new one year old brother, I figured I’d better gitty up! I am publishing this even thought it’s ridiculously outdated because the pictures are cute!

Kaleb is one.

365 days of inching his way to take a bigger portion of space in this world and in our hearts.

That is crazy. When they say it happens fast, they don’t lie. He’s practicing a new word: no. He’s been shaking his head no since one night when we were taking a bath, maybe 2 months ago (the baby book didn’t have a line for ‘when he first said no’ so I can’t remember exactly when) and I asked if he was ready to get out. He shook his head no and that began the first instance of him communicating with me in a comprehensive fashion.

Since then, he’s started pointing at things he wants or where he wants us to take him or wants to know what they are. He’ll sometimes make sounds that resemble a drunk’s slurred “What’s that?” I try to encourage enunciation but he ignores me. Or just laughs.

Here are a few highlights since I haven’t had a chance to post since NOVEMBER.

He’s crawling now but it took a while:

Daddy tried to help:

Now crawling’s a snap. His favorite place to crawl is on the changing table – while I’m trying to change him with a big poop still stuck to his tushy.

He started expressing himself facially before he ever started saying any words. Here is how he began to express his displeasure with us.

He’s still not really napping and my mom is a godsend, she comes once a week (sometimes we’ll kidnap her for a few days, yay!) so I can at least wash my hair and get some stuff done. No, he’s still not napping more than 1/2 an hour if that. Unless I’m in the car, of course….

For some insane reason I thought it would get easier as he got older. Well, I know what I’m doing now (at least that I won’t drop or break him) but the problem is (and by problem I mean gift)….that he is growing at light speed.

Superheros

Sometimes I think if I could skip eating and going to the bathroom – I’d have more time to do other stuff. Stuff that’s gotten neglected because Kaleb’s average nap time these days is about half an hour……

I thought, I hoped and secretly prayed the day we introduced solid foods to him at 6 months, THINGS would be different: I would get more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep – I would have a chance to finally finish my thank you cards from my baby shower – I could maintain order in the house – I could call some friends – I could squeeze a yoga workout in – I could WRITE and submit stuff to be published like I was doing while I was pregnant – I could wash my hair…..oh the dreams kept piling and my expectations of the moment solids first hit the lining of his bottomless pit kept growing…until the moment came and…..

 

…nothing happened….

Well, not immediately anyway. You may have noticed that I am indeed writing right now (dishes undone and, uhm, some other stuff). I’ve even gotten the chance to make some pressing phone calls and still he sleeps. It’s been over an hour. I have to pinch myself.

Every once in a while I do get the gift of time. It didn’t happen right away but sometimes now I get an hour or (gulp) two! to spend any way i wish.

(definitely when I’m not teething that is: LOOK-my first two teeth!)



Don’t get me wrong, please, I love being Kaleb’s mother. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. I always dreamed that no matter how high-powered my career would be (which ended up more on the caring side instead of the high-powered one), I would spend the earliest, most formative years of my kids’ lives molding their silly-putty little brains into the musical, mathematical, analytical, eloquent and charming geniuses they would become. The world needs some heroes and I was determined to produce them.

Now, though – I’m thinking – maybe….that’s a little too much pressure to put on a 7-month old child. Maybe we could just just start by going to our developmental playgroup and making some art.



We could do experiments in crazy outfits.

We could wear beads and philosophize about life.

We could even make beautiful music together.

Maybe it’ll be enough that my son is a good, happy person that cares about others. Maybe that’ll be enough to make him a hero to somebody and it doesn’t have to be to everybody. I mean – if a person like Obama can’t be a hero to everybody – an open-minded, intellectual risen from the depths of food stamps and a racist society – it just shows there are too many everybodys to satisfy them all.

And speaking of Obama – during the Democratic Convention they aired a documentary that talked about Obama’s mama – an outside the home worker – and how she used to get up at 4 in the morning with him to go over his studies.

4 in the morning.

I guess she wasn’t breastfeeding every two hours but still! I had to dig myself out from under this particular inferiority complex by realizing that I’m doing the best I can – Kaleb and I go to school three days a week. He has his little backpack with all his “learning tools” – maracas, bells, streamers, spiders on a stick – you know, the usual.

Sometimes, we’ll even do homework.

We read, we sing songs, we do tummy time but now it looks more like table time since he is preparing to crawl.


I do more stuff for him than anyone else in my life and I was gratified to hear, from actually my mother – who loves him like crazy and has plenty of baby experience – that he wasn’t an easy baby. Really? How could I know? I don’t have anyone to compare him to.

I was going to throw in another slideshow of “firsts” but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with cuteness so be on the lookout for another blog soon (nap willing, that is!)

Kaleb the Sailor Man!

Today Kaleb is 14 weeks old. (that’s 3 months and six days for the laypeople)

And he is changing and growing. Fast. Too fast (see previous entry….).

When I first met him I thought he looked like a little Asian boy. Then he started to look like an Eskimo. I thought, who has Eskimo in their family? Then he started to fill in and started to look more Slavic . Which actually made sense since I am Russian and Howard has Polish in him. The outer edges of Kaleb’s beautiful, cobalt blue eyes have that Slavic upturned swing – like a dancing, drunk Russian.

Which is a little funny since I always think after he finishes eating at my breast, that he resembles a drunken sailor. When he’s rolling around on my lap with that drool barely hanging onto his lip, I’ll often sing to him a song they taught us in Elementary School music class:

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?
What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?
What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor Early in the Morning?

(which also begs the question: why are they having little kids sing about drunken sailors? who makes these decisions?)

At his three month check-up, the doctor told us he was 24 inches long (I think they say “long” until he can actually stand up – at which point he becomes “tall”). He was 14 lbs. and 8 oz. which puts him into the 75th percentile, down from the 85th percentile of last month. (85%! I couldn’t believe it when the doctor told me – and then the dr. called him chubby and said something about cellulite on his tushy – WHAT! – I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not – aren’t babies supposed to be chubby? at least they are in my family!). And his small head is still in the 35th percentile. He gets that from his daddy.

He laughs and giggles all the time now. At least in the morning. Or after he’s had a nap.

He talks up a storm. He says Ma-ma (or at least he puts those sounds together and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt).

He sings with me when I sing to him – or when the iPod is playing he’ll sing along. (maybe I’ll video-tape this for next time).

He rolled over from his tummy to his back two days ago. Twice. (Or maybe he was just trying to get out of tummy-time).

He grabs at his hanging stuffed animals and sometimes swats at them when they’re not responding to his opinions the way he likes.

He’ll hold onto a stuffed bear now and will suck the fibers out of any blanket.

And sometimes when he’s giggling and cooing at me, he starts to get shy and tries to hide his head. If he starts to giggle after he eats, which he frequently does, because who doesn’t feel great after getting to eat your favorite food yet again (boob milk, my favorite, how did you know?) he’ll be giggling, get shy…and then try to hide his head beneath my booby. He’ll not know the irony of this for some time.

But at night (or even some afternoons) he still sometimes acts like he’s auditioning for the next Freddy Kruger flick. (How is he able to scream that loud and that long and not lose his voice? There may be future for him in Rock n Roll.)

And the beautiful thing is when I say he only sometimes uses his vocal chords as claws on a chalkboard, I do mean sometimes.

Some may call this “colic” – that mysterious ailment that had doctors previously giving drugs (anti-depressants and anti-spasmotics) to infants (!) to cure. But I read an article recently that said colic can start at two weeks, peak at 8 weeks and decline until it completely disappears at 12. I guess that must be a statistical average.

But why does it seem like some babies have it worse than others? I think I know. Or, I have a theory anyway.

I think when babies come into this world, they’ve just left G-d. They’re closer to that World than the one in which they find themselves. They stare intensly into “empty” air for lengthy periods of time and laugh at things no one else can see (angels? fairies?). And at times, they all experience a type of separation anxiety. It must be shocking to realize that they’re no longer there and instead find themselves with these strangers. Sure, they may be nice but when they’re that new, they must also have a clear memory of their most recent bond and connection to their Love and Creator. I believe “colic” is a spiritual malady.

I also think some babies just feel things on a much deeper level than others. It’s the emotional seedlings of the people they will become and some carry the echo of this mysterious loss into their adult lives (you know who you are). But when these babies first arrive into this world, they must have an insatiable yearning to return to that Love. It must literally feel like they’re going to die without that Love and they wail their frustration at having been abandoned, screaming out the injustice of it all. Then, they (we) start to forget (or the lucky ones anyway). And slowly – they start to also notice the new love being showered upon them by their new guardians: their parents. And eventually they calm down because they like it.

But – then again, it’s not like we can ask.

Please Don’t Grow


The first time I met my son I immediately fell in love.

Well, not immediately, if truth be told. Immediately I thought – “Who’s that?” after they laid his slippery body on my stomach and his face shot up to within inches of mine – and we looked at each other with mutual fear and surprise.

But later, as the pain became something I would gladly endure again and again to receive such an amazing reward (mostly because it was now a memory), I gazed on his sleeping form on the eve of our first night together and thought I’d never loved anyone so shamelessly and completely.

And I could tell he was an old soul – not just because he came with male-pattern baldness and a comb-over.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t want TIME to hurry up and get somewhere else.

All I wanted was to hold him and love him and have him in my arms. I wanted TIME to stop so he wouldn’t grow up and leave.

Other mothers have said in consolation that TIME brings new joys with children and that it just keeps getting better. Two months into Kaleb’s life (10 weeks and three days) – I believe them – but am happy to just enjoy what I have. Although….I have to admit I am really enjoying the awareness that TIME is bringing into my son’s life.

Last week, we were hanging out in Kaleb’s room, my iPod playing in the background, me putting away his laundry – him lounging on his changing pad. Suddenly, I heard coos and aahhs join the chorus to Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ Yeah! I yelled and grabbed him up to dance with me. And we rocked out together.

For a few weeks now I’ve had a couple cute, stuffed animals hanging off the handrail atop Kaleb’s car seat. Mostly, they were for me. They looked adorable but he was completely unaware of them. A handful of days ago, he started engaging the black and white cow and the pink teething pig in an emphatic conversation. I’m pretty sure he’s convinced them to see things his way.

And on occasion, my soothing voice actually cuts through his senseless fussiness. And by fussiness I mean: brain shattering, throat ripping, heart piercing wails for which I’ve been given no translation guide. (That part hasn’t been as much fun). But kisses will sometimes now turn his heartaches into smiles. It’s the best.

Right now he’s mine. Or ours. Our little guy. And my worry is: when he gets older, I have to give him up. And of course I do. That’s my job: to raise him to be a self-sufficient adult and a kind and happy man. But that also means I’ll need to let him go. And I am already dreading this.

I’m already seeing it happen with my 10 year old step-son, Kyle and his father, my husband Howard. Just a couple short months ago, Kyle would turn his head away in disgust when he’d witness people kissing on television. “Ewwwwww,” he’d plead if it was us showing the affection.

But last Wednesday, he graduated from Elementary School. He’ll be attending Lindero Middle School next year. And before they sent them off, they gave them a 5th grade graduation dance. And he asked a girl to be his date. A girl….with no ewwws in the vicinity.

Howard suggested Kyle ask her if she’d like for them to pick her up beforehand. And Kyle almost immediately picked up the phone to call and ask her! With no hesitation. Wow. I was really impressed with his temerity.

Before talking to him, she made sure when she answered his call, that it was really him by quizzing him about things only he’d know (like his last name). Apparently, some not as mature 5th graders had been plaguing her with crank calls pretending to be him. After ascertaining that it was indeed her date, she informed him that she planned on going with her friends and she’d just meet him there.

Then Howard suggested he bring her flowers. “OK,” he said and went across the street to a vacant neighbor’s house in search of the perfect rose to clip off their bushes. Just like that. Again, I didn’t remember being so fearless with the opposite sex when I was his age…..or even when I was 30.

He went to the dance and we got to peek in and see him jumping up and down with the girl and their friends and later we heard there was a slow song that he danced to with his date. Again, wow. I couldn’t believe this was the same boy I had met four years ago, age 6!, now a budding pre-teen.

I am happy for Kyle because he seems more relaxed in his new awareness. But I am watching my husband’s pain as he grapples with the reality that next year they won’t be walking to school together every morning – as they have done since Kyle entered Kindergarden.

And now I understand.

Most Photos are provided by our photographer friend, Suzy Shearer (that’s why I’m in them). Thanks Suzy! (shearergs@aol.com for more info)

It Takes a Village

Always I hear this, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Well, I didn’t have a village. My family immigrated to this country when I was almost 5 and it was me, my pregnant mom and dad (later my brother, 5 1/2 years my junior, came on the scene). My dad’s brother also moved here with his wife and daughter. But we didn’t really hang out with them too often because they ended up moving to the valley and we moved to Santa Monica. So, really, it was just the four of us in this really big land called America.

But on Mother’s Day 2008 – my first official, just had a baby Mother’s Day – we had a village at attendance around our dinner table. The boys, with Auntie Mara and Cousin Melinda, made us lunch. The Moms sat around and ate and laughed and admired the newest member of the Nehdar clan. The Moms included three generations of family. Kaleb has a great-grandmother. I didn’t even have a grandmother (in this country). Or a grandfather (ever – long story). Kaleb has a whole family tree that more resembles a forest.

He is a lucky guy.

I always envisioned myself marrying a man with many roots sprouting from his lineage. I married a man who is related to half of Los Angeles. And they hang close together.

And now that I’ve had Kaleb, I’m part of that history.

I have been admitted to the sacred mom’s club. This is a little like when you’re traveling in a foreign country and you see someone that you recognize originates from yours – suddenly you are bonded and feel like you’ve been reunited with someone that gets “it”. This is the mom’s club that I know belong to and this is how I felt that day sitting around the table sharing a meal and a world with these women for whom I had suddenly found a whole new dimension to appreciate.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! (click on the slideshow pictures to see an enlarged view of our day)

Binky and Bottles.

Kaleb still lives in the Valley of Firsts.

Everyday (almost) it seems he is experiencing something within his world for the first time. I doubt he’s as aware of the implications of this as much as we are. I doubt he cares – when he bobs his head up and smiles at us – but we are overjoyed, ecstatic with glee. “Did you see that?” We point at his toothless grin, “He loves me!” Further proof of his genius.

Everyday it seems he is becoming more cognizant of his surroundings. He makes eye contact and holds his gaze evenly until his attention becomes focused elsewhere.

He is three weeks and five days old now. Oh, they grow up so fast!

I had certain plans for how I was going to raise our son – at least in the beginning: Breastfeeding, cloth diapers, no pacifiers, lots of hugs and kisses.

Even though I had planned on breasfeeding, I bought a pump so I could express milk and have other people join in the feeding fun. Well, when the recommended three week milestone to start to introduce the bottle came, I discovered, to my dismay, he didn’t like the bottle.

He cried and threw distress at me with his blotchy, red, contorted face, that, really, he wasn’t very interested in this plastic nipple thing and would much rather prefer the real thing. OK. No problem. I am patient and I could work on it with time.

So, he fed on my tit. Relentlessly.

I complained to Kaleb’s doctor about my sore (and now damaged) nipples and he told me to give him a pacifier in between what should have been the time between feedings. He should have been eating every two hours but at times, he would give me a bathroom break (maybe) and ask for more. Sometimes for hours at at time. In the middle of the night. I was hallucinating patterns on my baby’s face. That didn’t seem good.

At this point, I felt I had no choice. The doctor said he wasn’t really eating for all those hours and my boobs really needed the break.

So, with a cocktail of feelings mixed with guilt, shame and hope, I gave him a pacifier. And he hated it. Secretly, I felt a little relief. My boy was above that. He didn’t need any false stimulation to address a burgeoning oral fixation. I didn’t need to hang that on him.

But the bottle, I was determined to work on. I had a plan. Maybe if I started with the boob and then switched over to the bottle, he might not notice.

It worked.

Yay! My boy would eat with other people. Yay! I could go and do things for more than 1/2 an hour outside the home and know my son would not starve or be uncomfortable!

Then he started to cry. And I thought to myself: maybe now that he took the rubber nipple, he might be coaxed to take the pacifier too. I tried. And again, it worked.

I put him in his stroller and we walked into the park where I treaded on a path of guilt. How could I encourage such false dependence, based solely on my comfort? How could I sell out my own son, so quickly, because I needed a break?

This was the day that he first ate from the bottle and he first took a pacifier.

I wasn’t so sure I was happy with either.