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!)

Kinda Camping

If you put your face close enough, these days, Kaleb may reach up and give it a squeeze. He may explore your cheeks with soft, tentative fingers and sometimes you might even get a heartbreaking giggle. And if you’re still standing, he’ll knock you over if he accompanies this burst of love with a cavernous display of his toothless gums. Or maybe that’s just me.

He’s really gotten very social lately. He smiles at strangers when they stop to compliment him in a store (as mommy tries to slyly back away from the nice, potential germ-carriers).

He used to cry when someone would stick their faces to close to his “turf” but no longer. He may glance at me for a quick smile of reassurance and then he’ll turn it on for his guest.

His mystery crying has stopped. I guess he’s old enough to start becoming a bigger part of this world (see previous entry). If he cries, there’s a tangible explanation. Mostly it’s because he’s tired. Mommy will sometimes lug him around because she’s still learning to live between nap times. Sometimes it’s hunger (And that’s a particularly loud one. No mistaking that one for say – boredom).

The hair blow dryer has become my best friend. Times when he’s too tired and fussy to sleep are quickly remedied with a 10 minute blast of rushing air (pointed away from the baby, of course!). I tried this as a potential remedy when I read that this “white noise” mimics the sound he heard in my womb. I don’t know, I wasn’t there but I’ll tell you – it works like a charm.

Turns out he’s a multi-tasker. He’s found his thumb and will suck on the little bitty thing whenever his heart desires. And sometimes it desires right in the middle of mealtime. Boob will compete with thumb for oral terrain. And sometimes he’ll miss his mouth and instead stick his thumb in or on his nose or maybe his eye. Occasionally it’ll end up in his ear.

We went camping last week. Well, kinda camping. We rented a motorhome so the baby would be more comfortable.

Now, I have always had very strong opinions about people who camp in motorhomes (Howard always laughs when I go down this road). When you have access to a bed and don’t have to walk across a campground in the middle on the night to pee, you’re not camping. When you can watch a DVD on a giant TV set and listen to the radio, you are not roughing it. I know some may disagree but I don’t care. If you don’t have to give up some of the modern conveniences to focus instead on the beauty of nature and your inner strength to endure it, what is the point of leaving your living room? Just make a day trip.

Anyway, we rented a pretty sweet 33-foot motorhome “for Kaleb’s sake.”

We parked it at our favorite surf beach in San Onofre.

And took turns surfing.

Kaleb joined in on the fun.

Though his “board” is the land-locked training wheel version.


Our friend Rebekah came down to join us for the day.

And my college friend, Kelly also visited with her two little girls.

They actually camped!

We played Trackball.


We made s’mores by the campfire.

We had a blast.

Camping is fun in a motorhome. Even if it’s not all that rough.

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! ( 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.