Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Years Ago

I have flashbacks to all the winters I’ve known in LA, driving, driving, always driving before I had a baby, the hour when NPR turned into news and I had to switch the headlights on. I’d be in a cocoon of darkness with whatever joys or defeats of the day. I’d talk to my agent or manager one last time and then hang up, wrap my sweater around me tighter in the car, and drive on. Those dark afternoon felt so lonely.

I had always imagined babies and summer and white onesies in the yellow sun just always go together. Too many laundry commercials? But Akiva was born in December. It was very dark all the time. Especially since a newborn is as likely to be awake at 2 am as he is at 2 pm, I always seemed to look out the windows into blackness. He was always swaddled up tight and I was always in a ratty sweatsuit and the kind of large socks that aren’t meant to worn with shoes. When I’d put him in the big wrap around body sling I’d bought and take him for a walk, I felt like he had to be bundled in so tightly to stay warm that I’d close my jackets and zip it over both of us.

The early darkness these days makes me really think of that transition into motherhood. It rained the day we took him home from the hospital, I sat in the back seat with him. I was just getting used to how he was a totally different person. That after all those months, he looked like that! He has my husband’s eyes, and trust me, he really has them. Akiva’s tiny little strange delicate newborn body was totally mismatched with that set of eyes I already knew. Rain streaked down the windows. He was ours.

I didn’t feel immediate euphoria as a mother. I was exhausted. I had a c section after 4+ days of labor, and had stretches of sleep lasting no more than 4 hrs that entire time. My water had broken in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping. It was very anti-climactic. I woke up and went to the bathroom in a daze, trying to figure out if I had peed in my sleep and why would I have done that? In the back of my mind, I knew my water broke, but I was trying to convince myself otherwise because I really didn’t want it to be. It was 2 weeks early. My OB thought I would be late. At my last appointment there was no sign of anything happening. I was in that minority of beta strep positive women, and my OB knew I didn’t want to be hooked up to any IV antibiotics during labor, so I was taking oral antibiotics and hoping to re-test before I went into labor. I wanted 2 more weeks.

I went back to bed. In the morning we went to the doctor’s office and yes my water broke. But my contractions weren’t doing anything. I barely felt anything at all. My OB let me stay home, and drive to his office every 6 hours for antibiotics, a move he would laughingly tell us the other doctors at the hospital thought ludicrous. But I wanted to be at home as long as possible. I tried everything to get the baby out of me. Walking walking walking, spicy food, castor oil, you name it.

Finally my doctor ran out of IV bags to mix the antibiotics in at his office, and so I had to check myself in to the hospital. Dramatic, it was not. I was nowhere near having the baby as I filled out the paperwork. I spent hours and hours in a tiny pre-delivery room, enviously listened to cheers from other rooms as babies emerged into the world. I paced the halls, leaning into the rails with each contraction. I wasn’t allowed to eat at all, once I’d checked in, and I was soon starving on top of being insanely sleep deprived. I’d walk by the nurses’ station. I could smell their lunches. I had brought them some gourmet peanut brittle as a little gift, and I was salivating like mad thinking about it in its tin on their counter. (I had so much time on my hands in labor, I shopped for the nurses on the way to the hospital.)

And after a day and a half in the hospital, after every possible horrible medication I was opposed to had been reluctantly administered and failed to get me to dilate, ( for those moms out here I was at 3cm after 4 days) I had a c section. And I was exhausted.

To my most wonderful OB’s credit, on Sunday morning when the nurses had all been rolling their eyes, telling me a c-section was inevitable the whole time I’d been there, and I stormed on, (even with a pitocin drip cranked up all the way I refused the epidural ) my OB measured me and sadly told me I was 3 ½ cm dilated, but things would go so much faster if I could get to 4! He believed it was possible! One more hour? He said. Sure! But an hour later I had regressed to 3. My doula thought my body was saying it was too tired to give birth.

Akiva cried a gentle cry as the pediatric team got to meet him first. Matt and my doula were both there, and my doula ripped open my hospital gown for me while they stitched me up and I started nursing Akiva about 3 minutes after he emerged into the world. The pediatric team came to take him from me, but when they saw him snuggled in quietly nursing they couldn’t exactly take him away.

And so the world now had Akiva.

But as I said, I was most unfortunately drugged up and exhausted and living off endorphins. I tried to do things my way at the hospital, but didn’t have much in me to insist. For instance, the nurse freaked out when she came into the room and Akiva and I were cuddled in my bed together for a nap. “He could fall out!” she exclaimed. He wasn’t going to fall out. But I let her put him in the bassinet next to me. I never would have given him over now. But I was so weary.

Matt and I laugh now at the strange pieces of paper we keep as mementos: the purple charts we scribbled on detailing Akiva’s feeding, pooping and peeing. It was required while we stayed at the hospital. My introduction to parenting involved so much logging and chart work. It was like a science project. It was also exhausting.

And coming home was stressful. His breathing was stressful. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him, but those breaths were just so tiny! And I have to admit the umbilical cord was something I dreaded dealing with and then Akiva’s wouldn’t fall off all the way and I personally hate my own belly button being touched, so, well, it was stressful. Akiva was born but I didn’t have the calmness or brain power to know what I felt about it. When I was pregnant I would read accounts of other babies being born, and be a mess of tears- so deeply moved by each and every story! I'd read them over and over again! I loved them. But I was so deeply exhausted that my own birth story was a matter of fact thing that happened.

I was slow to feel the quiet and deep force between us. It was like a large ocean wave rising around me, coming to swallow me up over the next few days. The cold dark December days became beautiful to me. As I rested, as things came into focus, through those dark afternoons, the brightest shining light of love I have ever felt burned it’s high beams through the black night. It was so big, so monumental, this change from being a couple to being a family. This bond this little circle forever.

It is almost 2 years ago that my water broke at night. With these early sunsets, these dark afternoons, I remember that sweet bright gush of light that first falling in love with Akiva was. The biggest most beautiful transformation of my life.

Happy almost 2nd birthday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Once you become a new parent there are two pretty weird things that happen simultaneously. The first is you start pushing your child-free friends to make a baby. It starts with a fun a and light-hearted little comment within some other conversation: "oh- you guys should totally have a baby! What are you waiting for?" or something. But then you find yourself bringing it up again. "Seriously. If you guys had a baby now, your baby would be friends with OUR baby! Are you thinking about it? At all?" And then it slides into conversations with your single girlfriends. "You could TOTALLY have a baby on your own! Then they could play with MY baby! ha ha!"
You don't know why it is you're doing this. You talk about it with your mate: "So and So should have a baby soon. Wouldn't that be great?"

Which brings us the second weird thing. When your friends have this baby- (or if they already have a baby, or they are friends you made because of your baby) -you start setting them up together. It wasn't about "they could be friends!!" Oh no. It's about they could be boyfriend/girlfriends. It happens so naturally that you almost don't catch how strange it really is.

So now I have to confess. Akiva has a girlfriend named Fia. And he also has a fiancee named Loe. They don't know about each other. Loe's mom even saw the picture of Akiva surfing with another girl and asked me about it. I told her the truth: he was young! He needed to see what was out there! He was a boy! And to be fair, Akiva and his girlfriend Fia really did have some bizarre moments as babies where we'd be pushing them side by side in strollers and they'd reach out and hold hands. They'd stare into each other's eyes and Akiva talked about Fia all the time. He still does. They're still together.

But why do we do this? Why are we creating these fictitious romantic lives for our infants? Is it some weird sort of way of complimenting your friend's baby?- that they are cute enough to want to set your own baby up with? I guess it's a cute way of saying you like their baby. But it's something more than that that I've yet to put my finger on exactly. Maybe it's a way of saying you like your friends? Often within these baby set-ups are some jokes about where the wedding will be and who's paying, so maybe it's some subconscious desire to create a family with your friends? And while I'm talking about it, although I have a funny little desire that Akiva turns out to be gay, (we can shop together!) it's a statement that we assume our children are straight. I haven't yet set Akiva up with a boyfriend, although maybe I should? I wonder what kind of harm I'm doing with Akiva hearing all this girlfriend stuff if he is gay? He did say to me yesterday that "Brady" (our 4 year old next door neighbor) "is cute".

I suppose for all of those cultures that practice arranged marriage, I have to give them a little credit- I suppose there really is something deep inside of us - even in the most liberal artsy fartsy households in America, that ultimately just wants to play old fashioned offspring matchmaker. Let's hope when Akiva starts bringing home girlfriends and/or boyfriends I can refrain from mentioning that he's already engaged.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Books to ban

I remember hearing about how, in the old days, groups of misguided people were known to "ban books". From print in certain countries, from school libraries. Making them very hard to acquire. Some very great books have notoriously and stupidly been banned. My opinion is that no book should ever be banned, and that censorship of ideas is very destructive.

I don't feel differently at all now, but there is a blog called "PhD in Parenting" that brought to my attention a very disturbing book that has, until today, been selling. They even defended selling it last week when this was brought into the media's attention. Apparently it's been all over the news, but I just found out about this today. The name of the book is "The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct."

As a mother of a young boy I am completely sickened that something like this exists, and even more upset that sold it, and even more upset that they defended selling it, saying:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

But the issue is not book censorship. is not our government. Their not selling a book doesn't mean it has been censored or banned. This is so completely not comparable to book banning. They are not required to sell all books, and there are many many books that they choose not to sell. Why did they choose, until today, TO sell this one? And the LA Times reports they are still selling another pedophilia guide.

I am not someone who thinks boycotts work, but this really makes me want to never ever buy anything from them.

My apologies for an upsetting post- things got serious on this blog recently!- but I learned about this earlier today and haven't been able shake it. I thought this holiday season as we all think about where we are spending our money on gifts that this might be valuable information for some people.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

will Akiva ever want a dollhouse?

Because if so, check this out:

Too Santa Monica beach-side PCH? Then how about this?

...and how about this for a kitchen!:

...or will children still prefer the classic Victorian? Who knows, but I thought these were adorable. I stumbled across these from a company called "brinca dada" here, (researching prefab contemporary playhouses- I was looking for full-sized since this one isn't gonna work) and since I have a boy not a girl, I felt I had to share them. I don't mean to be sexist, but the dolls and little bed the dolls sleep in that I bought for Akiva have never been touched except for him throwing all the dolls out and jumping in the little bed himself and doing something that looks like a bucking bronco.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RIE in the news

Recently the NY Times magazine published this article about RIE. RIE, or Resources for Infant Educarers, (although unfortunately named), has given me so much as a new parent that I hate to see it written up as a celebrity trend or compared to a cult. The fact is that the founder of RIE, Magda Gerber, came to Los Angeles and set up teaching here, and so yes, many celebrities who live here have found RIE. And many people can understandably feel a little questioning about even the notion of a parenting philosophy- aren't we just supposed to know what to do- instinctively? Hmm, well, when you're raised in a less than perfect culture, you're bound to emulate some pretty weird stuff I think unless you put a lot of thought and consideration into what you're doing. In other words, sure I have positive and nurturing instincts but toddlers fighting over a toy? Help? Right?

So what is RIE? When I expressed interest in RIE to a TV director I was working with who had a daughter who had been through RIE, his reaction was to nod and smile and say "oh you're a hippy too."

RIE, as I remember reading in one of Gerber's books, has the motto "do less, enjoy more" - not "do less observe more" (although observation is a huge part of RIE) and that's really it. Enjoy more. For me, I can remember the first few RIE classes I went to with Akiva, and the beginning of the class was just simply observing another baby. And as my eyes wandered back to Akiva, it felt like it was some of the first moments where I really saw him. I wasn't hurrying through something, or catching my breath, or planning a feeding or a nap or looking for a burp cloth, or answering the phone or any number of things that filled my day as a frazzled new mom. I was given the opportunity to see him, and see that what he was up to- even as a very young baby-was some pretty serious and beautiful work of learning and experiencing and teaching himself in his own amazing little way. I didn't need to do anything. I needed to stay out of his way! He was busy. That made such a huge impact on me.

RIE basically encourages parents to provide simple toys that invite active interaction (not battery powered plastic passive interaction toys), to treat your baby with respect the same way you would a grown up (tell your baby what you are going to do to him before you do it, don't pick up a child roughly when you can do it gently, don't pick them up at all when you can ask them to move, and wait for an appropriate moment to step in and interrupt play) and encourage your children to do as much for themselves as they are able which helps them develop self esteem and authentic behavior.

One of the things people seem to think is strange about RIE is that I don't force sharing on Akiva and I don't run to him when he's fallen and swoop him up and tell him he's OK. It is hard to be at a playground and do things differently than most of the moms around you. I feel terrible in front of other parents sometimes when Akiva has a toy and another child comes along and grabs it and a struggle ensues and I don't demand that Akiva give the toy over.

I feel there is an unfair expectation that our children must be little extensions of ourselves and what our behavior would be. I'd like to think that if the child's mom came along and said to me "Hi, I like your shovel, can I use it?" That I'd hand it over knowing that it feels good to share things and make friends. But Akiva is not me, and he doesn't feel this way yet. He could not possibly grasp those reasons for "sharing", and he can learn those things when he is developmentally ready.

At his age- he's not even 2-, little scuffles over toys often solve themselves, and through that, children learn to deal with each other and have self reliance in social situations. If the scuffle escalates, the RIE thing to do, I think, would be to just say what you see going on. If some physical altercation seems inevitable, I'd gently put a hand between the children as I talked to them. If someone is left crying, those feelings are valid feelings about the situation and I always let Akiva know I see that he's crying and I am right there if he decides he needs me to hold him for comfort.

Its similar if he falls. If Akiva has a tumble and cries and I walk towards him, I tell him I saw what happened and wait to see what he needs. I never tell him "you're okay" because how do I know? Even if he has no physical harm he might feel scared or embarrassed, and thats not being okay. Who am I to say he is or he isn't?

Also, it can be hard in front of other adults sometimes because I don't tell Akiva what to say. RIE philosophy believes that children learn through observing and imitating what they see. (For good and bad right?) I never tell Akiva to say bye bye or to hug or kiss anybody. I say bye in front of him, I kiss people I feel like kissing, and hug to say hello and goodbye. He sees me do this all the time. Sometimes he feels like kissing and hugging our friends and relatives and it's so amazingly wonderful to know that he feels like doing it! The first time I sneezed in the car and Akiva said "bless you" from his car seat in the back is one of my all time favorite moments of being a mama.

So yes, I can see other people might think what I'm doing looks weird and that can be tough. We are all doing what we think is best. So I hope the next time you hear or read about RIE or see someone like me and Akiva in the sandbox, that some of these ideas make sense to you, too.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I just received and email from an organization I came in contact with over a year ago after Akiva was born. I was invited to a store opening, and the author of the book "Healthy Child Healthy World" was also at the opening. There is a "Healthy Child Healthy World" organization and website, and their mission is to help educate parents about using non toxic products so kids can grow up healthier. I think it s a pretty fantastic resource. Anyways, the email happened to contain a link to a documentary called "Toxic Baby" and the trailer scared the bejeezus out of me. It reminded me how thankful I am that we have a made a a small amount of changes in our home. I thought I'd share what we've done. Even if you don't have kids, these changes will help your health, and if you might one day have kids, making changes now will make a big difference. I hope sharing this list is helpful. When I was pregnant, it took so long and so much research to figure all this out. Much of this is also on the Healthy Child Healthy World website.

1. Open your windows! There are so many toxic chemicals in the home, a little fresh air helps. Seriously.

2. Use natural or non toxic cleaners from health food stores. Some cleaners trick you. Read ingredients. Never use "antibacterial" hand soaps, there are chemicals in them to make the "antibacterial" that are far worse for you then the germs they kill.

3. Use sulfate free shampoos and conditioners on yourself and your baby.

4. Get rid of your vinyl shower curtains. The vinyl off-gasses some pretty bad chemicals, especially when combined with hot steamy water. You can install glass, or buy hemp or even polyester shower curtains.

5. Buy 100% wool rugs and keep your floors hardwood. Many flooring products are full of chemicals that continually off-gas. And small children spend lots of time of the floor.

6. Get an organic crib mattress, and use organic cotton and wool bedding and pajamas. The flame retardants in regular mattresses stay in your body for years and years.

7. Get a water filter for your shower, and bathe your baby in this filtered water. Unfortunately, our water supplies are full of chlorine and other crazy bad chemicals.

8. Buy a really good air filter for your child's room. Get the most expensive one you can afford. Especially in LA, with all the freeways, there are these tiny particles in the air and when we breathe them in they are so small they will lodge themselves in our lungs. Forever.

9. On the same note, use a HEPA filtered vacuum.

10. Get a good water filter for your drinking water and avoid bottled water. There are many misleading claims about bottled water, but at the very least, the plastic leaches into the water, so filtered tap water is much healthier.

11. Don't use weed killers on your lawn. Again, children roll around on grass and (should) spend lots of time playing on it. And if you have a gardener, ask them to use only organic products. They will. If not find a new gardener.

12. Try not to buy toys made of plastic or made in China when your child is still at the age when things go in their mouths. I personally think there have been way to many news articles about China using really toxic ingredients in children's toys to even risk it. We can't completely help it, but I have a rule with certain toys with Akiva now- if they go in his mouth, I take it away and give him something that can go in his mouth.

13. Eat organic, and avoid canned foods. (Cans still contain BPA) There are too many studies linking pesticides to developmental problems in children.

How about you? Any suggestions to add to this list?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We aren't sure Akiva actually enjoyed being an airplane for Halloween. That's the thing about Halloween costumes for very small children. It's complete guesswork. We thought we knew what he'd like. I asked him what airline he wanted to be and he quickly replied "Air Kotrea" (Korean Air). He likes the yin yang on the tail. In fact, the most enjoyment he got out of my handmade costume was picking the yin yangs off. Oh well. Happy belated Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dreams Coming True

Akiva, obsessed with planes, was invited into the cockpit of our US Airways flight last week. We took a special little trip because of this obsession. (Overkill wish fulfillment parenting? Maybe, but we also got to visit Uncle Simon and take in a little desert sun.) The pilot even got up and offered Akiva the chance to sit in the pilot's seat, but Akiva got a little freaked out. They turned on all the lights for him (there are a MILLION little switches) and frankly, I got a little nervous. I don't want to know how complicated it looks in there.

I thought this sort of special trip was impossible post 9/11 but I am glad the terrorists did not win and prevent the toddlers of America from having their dreams come true.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Racing. Waiting.

I have to admit I am totally confused and frightened by two alarming and seemingly contradictory movies I have seen in the past month. “Waiting For Superman” which made me cry, and “Race to Nowhere” which also made me cry. Have you seen them?

“Waiting For Superman” is a moving, depressing and intelligent film which essentially paints the teachers unions as the major villains in our ineffective education system. It’s the teacher’s unions’ contracts requiring apparently immediate tenure for all teachers which keep terrible teachers teaching students. These terrible teachers leave kids barely literate and wanting to drop out of school as soon as possible. Who could blame them? I have suffered through terrible teachers. Although mine were few and far between. I remember the greasy ponytail of a young man assigned to teach me math in 9th or 10th grade. It was some sort of one year assignment, maybe he was a grad student. I don’t know. He was majorly inexperienced. I remember his glasses, a thin tortoise shell, the fluorescent lights tiny rhombuses reflected as he stared upwards. And how a model of a house I’d made for a project got totally smashed to bits in the trunk of his car. And I remember the sickening feeling of barely understanding the math he was mumbling into the chalkboard each day. I don’t remember any of the math. It was horrible. If this man had been entirely in charge of my education I would have become pretty desperate. But I went to a very well funded highly regarded public school with terrific teachers and I enjoyed school. “Waiting For Superman” shows it's pretty much a direct route from being placed in one of these “drop out factory” schools- schools full of teachers like this- to prison.

“Race to Nowhere” is a sad and shocking film about the pressure put on students to achieve academically at the expense of almost every other aspect of being human. The stressful overload of homework and after school activities inflicted on students is meant to keep children competitive for being accepted into college and ultimately into high paying careers. There is a section on tutors for toddlers to get into New York City preschools. But this film convincingly shows the overachievement culture is actually is a direct inhibitor to actual learning, a major contributor to serious depression, and actually causes poor test scores and lousy future college and job performance. One employer said that recent graduates are bad employees because they are always waiting to be told what to do.

What’s going on? Kids who live in neighborhoods with bad public schools drop out because they are stuck with teachers who don’t expect anything from them and can’t teach them, and kids who live in richer neighborhoods aren’t able to actually learn much either because too much is expected of them to the point where they are doped up on Adderall and cheating their way through medical school?

It seems that what everybody wants the educational system to do is more more more. The charter schools that the kids in Waiting For Superman are hoping to get into have better more inspired teachers, but also more hours of school work. One is even an elementary boarding school. One student it seemed, was having a hard time in his public school learning to read- but he was only in first grade. From what I know, historically it has been considered developmentally quite appropriate for a child to learn reading in the 2nd and 3rd grades and be considered quite normal and in fact may turn out to be ahead of other students in subsequent grades. Not to say this child's school wasn't awful, but not teaching him to read in 1st grade isn't by itself awful at all. However, it would be ludicrous to think, watching this movie, that those children are seeking out anything destructive in those charter schools- winding up in prison is destructive. It makes Race To Nowhere look downright silly.

But the confusing thing is, it wasn’t silly.

It seems we are lost as a country. The knowledge is there about effective ways to teach, and what’s healthy for children. But we can’t seem to provide that for anybody. What’s going on?

How about you? How was your school experience? Do you have children? What do you think of their schools? I’m lost.

Akiva's Music Pick of the Week 2

More guitars of course.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

children + dogs = meant to be

Akiva and Kula the other day.

This morning Akiva woke up early. He was sleeping in our bed, and I walked him back to his room. Our conversation:

Me: Akiva, lets go to your crib and you can read your airplane magazine* for a few minutes while we sleep.
Akiva: Maybe Kula come in crib?
Me: (extremely touched) You love Kula, don't you?
Akiva: SO much.

*(Akiva is obsessed with airplanes. We take him to LAX to watch the planes land. He knows the difference between an Air New Zealand 747 and the Qantas A380. We were at the book store the other day and I bought him an imported British magazine called Airliner World: The Global Airline Scene - to have something to read on the potty. It has about 100 pages of airplanes. This issue specialized in the history of various Slavic airlines, and has a 4 page spread on Baltic Air. Akiva went a little berserk when we showed it to him and insists on reading the entire magazine several times a day)

We went out for coffee this morning and Akiva met Max, who was whimpering for his owner to return from inside the coffee shop.

Me: I think it misses it's master.
Akiva: Doggy crying.

We watched it and then some other dogs showed. Lucy and Bruno. Akiva made fast friends.

Then it was time to leave. Akiva walked Kula.

And we came across a puppy named Tank.

Kula liked Tank, too.

But Akiva wanted to make clear who was number one in his heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy

Akiva had a nature walk this morning in Temescal Canyon with his toddler program group. It happened to coincide with a book I ordered arriving in the mail, Hand To Earth: Andy Goldsworthy. Akiva has been really into our Banksy book on the coffee table, and I don't know- I guess a toddler can really relate to graffiti, but I thought I'd have a book around that had less... disruptive... examples of altering the world around us. Aren't these photos just amazing?

The nature walk was awesome too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Brain this Week

Okay there is just so much you need to know in order for this to all make sense.

Firstly: I still breastfeed Akiva. (Is "breastfeed" a word? My computer is underlining it in red. Breast feed?) I don't know. -But this is my point- I feel so shy about it, even writing this post I just feel a little nervous- like everyone - even the staff at Microsoft Word or Blogger or whatever this program is underlining the word in red - is in some way against breastfeeding. And my MO about it has been to try not to bring it up, keep it on the down low, do it behind closed doors. Because I get the sense other people think breasts are for other things, and their hijacking by babies for sustenance and a sense of comfort in this terrifying world should be just a brief paragraph in the story of their adventures.
I think this way because I've encountered comments from people I know about children being breastfed until age 2 and that it was "awful". Hm, I think I might have even given a subtle shudder when talking about my breastfeeding plans- ugh! breast feeding plans- wait, doesn't "breast feeding" seem creepier than "breastfeeding"?- I digress. Yes even I was known to frown and pull my lower lip to the side when I heard about children being able to "ask" for it, this when I was contemplating my own breastfeeding future during pregnancy. See, that was the popular marker- "they're too old when they can ask for it", right? So even I was judgemental and skeeved out by toddlers nursing. It was easier to be that way.
And I thought it was entirely up to me. I didn't realize then there was actually another opinion that would weigh in.
Well, as you know Akiva was saying "guitar" at 11 months, and was able to talk in 3 word sentances by 14 months, so, instead of the usual thing about boys talking so late- I had to deal with this "asking for it" thing before most. And many of you will probably find it highly disturbing, (I found it incredibly adorable) that Akiva, around 14 months, would finish slurping up one boob and then say very matter-of-factly "other side?" (sounded more like uzzer si-i-ide?) It was even more disturbing/adorable when a month or so later he could say "uzzer side, please?"
And, as my thought was that I would nurse to at least a year, as recommended by the AAP, and then we'd be done in the coming few months once the asking started, this had to be rethought. You see, with his ability to chat about it, I realized he was very passionate about it. How could I say no? Literally. He would have a whole debate with me.
Anyways, the fact is he is 21 months and in my head I kept pushing 1 year to 2 years and now 2 years is coming up pretty quickly and I just keep reading articles about how much healthier and smarter and well adjusted breast fed kids are, and it gets more so the longer the nurse- and how the age for human weaning, if you look at stomach enzymes, and ratio of baby size to adult size, and teeth to teeth and archeological bones and families in aboriginal cultures and if you take the name of the first pet you had with the street you grew up on, etc, the age for human weaning should be like 3.2 years or something, so I feel SO totally normal to breast feed until 2. It's only 2!. And he only breastfeeds morning, nap and night, well....except....

Secondly: Akiva has been waking me up in the middle of the night. To nurse. Because he was sick AND teething at the same time! How I could not help him out with his sore throat and throbbing mouth?
But this had to stop. So Matt has been enlisted to go into his room very gently to tell Akiva that when he wakes up at 4am, ( never crying, but we hear distinctly and demandingly over the crackling monitor: "Nurse. Nurse. Nurse...."), Matt reminds him "you can nurse IN THE MORNING"
and I hear Akiva try a new angle: "Need a cuddle Mama"
Oh, he's sneaky.
Matt will tell him he can cuddle daddy.
"Mama! Need a hug Mama"
He's so good he's almost a girl!
I hear this and my heart strings are pulled so tight I almost can't breath, but then I realize I'm the one still in bed and how lucky I am.
So, anyways, this is why I have been a little out of it all week. I'm a little sleep deprived. Matt is even more sleep deprived. And because of this I found myself back in my college mindset of listening to something on NPR in the car, alone, about the universe and how it's expanding, and I'll go home and say to Matt "This whole thing that's going on? It's really weird. That it's like this. Just like this. That there are even planets, and look at us, these things -arms." And we'll both stand there, looking at Akiva "He's weird too!" "I made him in my body" We blink and watch him drive a fire truck across the floor silently.
It's gotten to that.
Or, maybe it's that it rained this week in LA. That's everyone else's excuse.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Akiva's Music Pick of the week

Akiva and I were listening to the radio in the car the other day. I think Akiva was a little entranced by this piece we heard: Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albeniz. I'll call it his music pick of the week. After it finished he called out "More?"

One note: His first word was "guitar" and he went through a pretty heavy guitar obsession.

Crank up the volume.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

paranoid parent product

I am a paranoid parent. I have read too much about the toxins in everything we eat, breathe, bathe with, play with, garden with, cook with, clean with, sleep on, compute on, and on and on. So I really do my best not to freak out, because I think if you really thought too hard on all of the information about what babies and children can be exposed to, it would just make being a parent in the US unbearable. That said, I try to casually research and find the best products I can that aren't going to overtly poison Akiva.
I'm sharing this product, only because it was SO HARD to find it.
Akiva recently started asking me "What does this say?" when he sees words printed on things. So I'll tell him, and he's gotten curious about what letters are. He's really into O right now. But we haven't had any toys with letters and numbers on them around the house, and so the only place Akiva can practice finding O's when the passion hits him is on Matt's text paintings:

So I wanted to find some alphabet fridge magnets. And since Akiva is only 21 months old, he still is tempted to put everything in his mouth. So I didn't want plastic. I looked for wood. The only ones I could find were Melissa & Doug. And I read the "review" of them because why not. And some fellow paranoid parent had bought them and actually sent them to a lab. The magnet on the letters tested high in lead! Yikes. I searched and searched and finally found these cuties by a company called Rubbabu:Made of natural rubber. Here's the safety info. Only problem is that if you don't live in Spain, you have to buy it from some website that charges a lot of money to ship it possibly from Spain? Ours are in the mail. Happy speling.

my architect

Matt and I have decided its time to make our back yard into a desert no-water landscape. A friend had a great idea and suggested we do a sort of zen garden meets desert experience. And since we have no suitable trees for a treehouse, I want to include a playhouse for Akiva.

I have to admit I have been obsessed with forts and mini houses my whole life. I think it's because my father was an architect (now retired). I remember the best summers of childhood were when he would construct some sort of wonderful fort for us out of something he found- like sticks and hay. If there was enough snow, he'd build us igloos in the winter- one was big enough for the whole family to sit inside and sip hot cocoa by candlelight.

And then we took a day trip once to Newport, Rhode Island, and saw the mansions and I was haunted by how lucky those Vanderbilt kids were- not for the huge mega mansion with platinum leafing on the ceilings,

but for their amazing little mini mansion playhouse!

And so I thought Akiva should have a little playhouse built into the design of our new back yard. And if we are doing the zen garden thing, how about a little mini japanese tea house? I found a website, called "Life of An Architect" where the architect had posted all elevations, renderings, blueprints and final shots of the very thing I had imagined!
I was so excited! Being the daughter of an architect, clearly I was able to tap into the children's play house design zeitgeist. I showed Matt my findings to add to our own little piles of amateur renderings,

...and Matt was silent. "It kind of looks like something out of Apocalypse Now, like maybe some torture is going on in there." Hmm. Unfortunately, he was kind of right.

We might have to call on Grandpa for another stick and hay fort.

Friday, October 1, 2010

time to surf part 2

Akiva practices his moves on land. He is a little unsure about this whole surf thing. Going to the water's edge is a bit intimidating for those under 2. He might scrap the whole idea, and just watch Dad surf until...

Luna shows up.

Suddenly its cool to surf. Akiva heads for the waves.

Brr. It may have been 107 degrees, but the water was a bit shocking.

And here it is. captured forever. Akiva's first surf. Monster waves!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

more things to love about LA

Time: 9:30 pm last night
Place: Mandrake Bar
Who: Matt, Me, and our younger freer child-less friend

Friend: "I actually have a new job with this crazy man."

Us: "What do you mean?"

Friend: "Well I'm his assistant-"

Us: "What do you mean assistant? What do you do?"

Friend: "Well he's starting this company, and I think he thinks that- I'm like his partner or something. He keeps saying 'we're starting this company from the ground up' - you would absolutely not believe the things that he says. Its--"

Us: "Wait, what do you DO?"

Friend: "I keep him company. I listen to him talk, basically."

Us: "You don'"

Friend: "Well, he doesn't have any clients yet."

Us: "Oh. And so you just...listen to him talk?

Friend: "Pretty much."

Us: "About what?"

Friend: "Well, anything really. We'll stand in the middle of his apartment, and he'll just sort of point out where stuff should go, and then talk about himself. And then I'll sort of suggest we go out and get the stuff he wants, and then he decides not to go after all. That's sort of his thing- he'll have me make all these plans to go somewhere, and then at the last minute he decides not to."

Us: "Like where?"

Friend: "Well, you won't believe this. He had me make all these travel arrangements to Detroit. To see his family. And then he reconsiders. I have booked the whole thing. He's stroking his chin. And then says 'Nah. I can't do that. The unemployment in Detroit."

Us: "The...unemployment?"

Friend: "Mm-mm. He says: 'Well, I can't just show up in Detroit, Mr successful-head-of-this-business-we're-starting-from-the-ground-up, doing so well, and just shove that in everyone's face. Not with the unemployment.'"

Us: (slack jawed)

Friend: "I think I have to write these things down."

Us: "Is he putting the moves on you?"

Friend: "No- no, he has a girlfriend. I went with him to help chose an engagement ring."

Oh man.

I remember before I met Matt, before we were parents, I seemed to myself now- so young. And somehow found myself in all sorts of weird situations, many with my friend Halina, that typified a certain kind of male-female dynamic. I don't mean dating wise necessarily. It would be in an audition, out to dinner, grabbing a Balance Bar off the shelf at a mini mart, sipping diet cokes at the Chateau Marmont, wherever. Its something that feels very Hollywood to me. Some guy with a dream and he wants someone (usually young and innocent) to witness his awesomeness. To be complicit in his dream. That might be the closest to reality it gets. Its something that I have a feeling I probably won't see first hand again. When you are toting a toddler around, you don't seem to have the innocence or the time to be the (sometimes paid) audience for all the little movies going on across this city.

My friend was still there. I could hear about it in stories.

I was a little melancholy as we drove home from the bar, figuring the math for how much to pay the babysitter. I pumped up the KIIS FM and watched the streetlights shoot past.

things to love about LA

Matt and I used to eat burritos all the time. It started when I was pregnant, and needed the extra, um, nutrients. Then I was breastfeeding and learned I need even MORE um, nutrients, so our lovely habit continued. Then the breastfeeding started tapering off and we were in Toronto all summer. Not exactly a hot spot for authentic Mexican cuisine. And Matt and I noticed we looked a little slimmer. So we tried as hard as we could to say no to our lovely vegetarian burrito lunches Today the stars lined up perfectly: Akiva was at Grandma's, the weather has been HOT (you just crave cheese and spice), and Matt noticed a new taco place to try...
It was SO GOOD! (look at those chips- so light and tasty, on those classic melamine plates)

except this guy was staring down at me my whole meal:

Mmm. Boy we missed LA.

Monday, September 27, 2010

time to surf

It is incredibly hot here in LA and so we are taking the afternoon off to go to the beach and we are bringing my foam long board so we can attempt toddler surfing with Akiva. Lately when we go to the beach, he will run over to the surfers and try to play with their boards. I can't believe he is old enough to even be interested in surfing. 21 months. Growing up happens so quickly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

all nighter

Have you ever gone through a break up that threw you into such a state that you couldn't eat, you couldn't sleep, or if you could, sleep was the only relief from the one and only topic of conversation you were capable of with everyone you encountered?
Our good friend went through something like this a few months ago and is doing pretty well. Because we have been out of the country we had major catching up to do with some people, such as with this newly single friend.
Last night after Akiva had been put down, I lit some sweet smelling candles for the house and cracked open a bottle of wine. Our friend was finally coming over to tell us the whole tale of their break up.
Think back to how these stories start. They start pretty early on in the relationship, no? Our friends had been together for over 8 years. We were ready for a long talk.
About forty five minutes into the story of what went wrong, I heard a little muffled wail. Akiva has been sleeping through the night for a pretty long time, but if he wakes in the middle of the night, its always around the 4-5am hour. Never early on. Matt and I shared a quizzical glance and refocused on the story. It was such a sad story.
But no, Akiva was awake and demanding me to come hug him. He was very upset, uncharacteristically so. Squirmy. Or as we sometimes call it, squirmy wormy.
I returned to the living room after Akiva settled.
"Squirmy wormy" I explained. "Teething" said Matt. Indeed- the signs were all there today. I returned to give him a little squirt of cherry tylenol and then back to the wine and candle light.
Our friend had politely waited for me to return. New details I couldn't believe. It was bad. Matt and I were wide eyed.
Akiva cried out again for me. I sort of apologized to our friend. He was articulating some excruciatingly painful memories and insights and it was pretty awkward to have to stop in the middle of a sentance and... wait. I checked in on Akiva and soothed him. How long does it take for tylenol to kick in?
And back to the story. For about twenty minutes. "mama. mama. mama come here."
It hadn't been like this - a seeming all-nighter- since he was a newborn. The next few hours went something like this:
Story story story. (soo sad!)
Akiva. (soo sad!) rock rock rock.
Story story story. (soo sad!)
Akiva. (soo sad!) rock rock rock
Story. (soo painful. SO painful)
Akiva (soo desperate! so SO painful)

and on and on for HOURS until around one am we just brought Akiva out to hang out with us. It was the only thing that got him to stop crying. He lay, bundled, on top of me, the candle light flickering in his red eyes. He listened to the end of the sad love story which had unravelled into disbelief, betrayal, and deep heart ache. Akiva gently repeated the name of our friend's ex. We all sighed.

It almost seemed like Akiva realized life has a lot more agony in store. Maybe this particular night, this particular tooth poking through, wasn't so bad in comparison?

Or maybe not. As soon as our friend left Akiva started wailing again.

Sometimes it is just so so hard to be human.

Monday, September 20, 2010

on the road again

This blog was supposed to be about mamahood in LA, but it seems we have been everywhere but LA.
Back before the baby, before pregnancy, when I was oh so young and spontaneous, there was a life I can at times recall that involved a lot of sleep...a lot of going out...a lot of sleep...and making friends in the crazy loft building Matt and I lived in. There were really wonderful people who moved downtown into lofts during the loft boom. One of those friends got pregnant (in the same loft building!) right after me, and also decided she and her man had to move ASAP out of this loft building - I mean, we were living in Skid Row, actually in Skid Row. We woke up each morning to piles of human feces and rivers of pee on our sidewalk. This is true. Seriously. Things had to change with a baby on the way. Matt and I moved towards the beach, and Eryn and Jeff moved... to Paradise.
We went to visit them this weekend. Our dog had spent all summer with them in Willits so we went to fetch her.

There was an orchard, a garden, barns with things like a drum kit set up inside...

The kids could run free in the fresh air...

I mean, they couldn't even get internet where they lived. They didn't even live in a TOWN at all- it was 7 acres of rolling hillside outside of Willits. There were no radio waves, cell phone waves, smog, cyber bullying, over chlorinated water, over contaminated air, lurking pedophiles- (but maybe a meth lab down the dirt road?). We had to stop and do a Trader Joe's run on the way up there for chrissakes. I think they missed the charm of exchanging money for food, since they have a huge garden with a vineyard- Akiva and their son Lars picked bunches of grapes right off the vine if their tummies rumbled.
There were mountains of zucchini and tomatoes. Tomatillos and pumpkins and apples and watermelons and corn and sage and lemon cucumbers and lettuce and blueberries and pears and basil and cilantro and parsley and on and on all on the way or ready for picking.

It was parenthood paradise. Matt and I have been doing RIE classes with Akiva since he was a baby and part of this philosophy encourages babies and toddlers to spend time exploring their world without interference from the parents. Lars had a whole huge fenced in garden he would toddle around in, accompanied by two kittens and our dog, while Eryn plucked ripe organic home grown tomatoes for his snack. She would find him under a grape vine hugging the dog or something, the kitties watching perched from an apple tree. I mean it wasn't even real or something. We had no words to tell Eryn and Jeff how beautiful it was, except some lame comments about how quiet it was to sleep, how great to have 5 kinds of swings in your backyard, how lovely and juicy the lemon cucumbers were, how great the blackberry crisp (I could go on)etc. It was more than beautiful and nice and delicious. There was a solid connection to life, to our planet that they had given themselves and their child. And time and room to breathe. A child could really experience a sense of freedom. (But not necessarily bodily safety- I mean, snakes and poison oak...)
Of course I am romanticizing and glorifying the pastoral. But I think in this day and age it is very deserving of that.
And by the way our dog didn't want to leave.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The lifestyle of a west coast tot. Weekdays in Laguna Beach...

and weekends in Palm Springs...

(its nice to have cousins visiting and friends having birthdays so Akiva can relax in style, or in nothing at all!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Than Zero

I have been thinking about recording my experiences as a mom for a while, as if this were a completely novel idea. But once I realized how many women with babies were blogging it just seemed preposterous that I should add to the huge canon of mama blogs already available. I mean, there are just so many, and so many fascinating views into the wide world of raising babes!
But here I am, an actress, mommy, wife, screenwriter, and now blogger about being an actress mommy wife screenwriter blogger. It's happened.
If you are in the majority of Americans and the world who has no idea who I am and you are curious, you can go here
I moved to Los Angeles in my 20's and really my only experience of this city before that would be a childhood of watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air" and reading "Less than Zero". I can tell you I was mighty star struck when I became acquaintances with Alfonso Ribiero (Carlton!) and his wife. And when I met my husband, who grew up in Santa Monica, I assumed his childhood was high school parties snorting cocaine off the coffee tables in his friend's producer parents' mansions in The Colony. Not the most accurate picture. The edgiest thing I think he did was jump off his condo's balcony into a swimming pool.
But still I struggle with the stereotype of what LA is and how to raise a child here. I obsessively watch documentaries and read articles about what it means to grow up online, to have more hours of homework than hours in school, of how tutors are rampant in a culture of ultra competitive college admissions, of three year olds with detectible levels of stress, and consumerism and marketing to children that far far exceeds anything I dealt with as a kid. Matt, my husband and I joke about home school because it's hard, especially in LA to keep those crazy influences at bay... ah, my childhood of riding my bike around by myself, no helmet, my mother having no idea where I was for an hour or so at a time- those days are gone. It seems like a lot of work to find ways just to raise a happy, healthy, smart, low stress person with a good head on his shoulders whose life doesn't revolve around material possessions, sexting, and gorditas.
But that is what this blog will be about- a little record of raising our lovely son Akiva in a pretty extreme city. Welcome!