motherhood

Lucky Seven by Susie Lubell

Seven.jpg

Dearest Sugar Bee,

It was your birthday yesterday and I fell in love with you again. We were out in the desert with friends and you were your beautiful, lively self. Enjoying your family and friends and the sunshine and the wacky antelope ranch where we stayed. You said you wanted to stay there for a whole week. We spent a lot of time holding hands and swinging in a hammock and talking about life. I gave you your number seven charm to wear around your neck this year. The charm that I wore when I was seven and Grandma wore and Aunt Lenore too. The charm that Grammy brought into our lives. Lucky seven. And how lucky we are.

Flashback a week and we are fighting about homework. Again. You are giving me that look. Slack jawed, tongue forward, rolled eyes, wobbling your head like you work in the Main Bazaar.

How do you even know how to do that? There are like three Indians who live in Israel.

And I want to kill you. I feel my chest tighten and I want to shriek that I can't stand you. That I don't understand why you treat me the way you do.

Why only me?

I try to diffuse your frustration and anger. I'm pretty good at that. I've had a lot of practice. Plus I know reading is hard but you've come so far! You can't hear me because you are too far gone. I excuse myself from homework and give myself a time out in my bedroom and hold my head in my hands until the anger dissipates. When you calm down you knock on my door and we hug. You give me the picture you drew of us together. I smile and thank you and add it to the pile. We continue to work, you finish your homework and peace is restored to our home.

And so it goes Sugar Bee. Two steps forward, one step back. Which of course mostly refers to my own progress in navigating our relationship. You are forging ahead as best you can and you are magnificent. You are strong and loving and confident and curious and wild and silly and expressive. You are finding your stride and it is beautiful to watch.

But we clash, as do mothers and daughters. And it reminds me of clashes I used to have with Grandma. And that's hard too. A friend of mine with a four year old asked me what was the deal with her "teenager" and I gave her a knowing smile. I told her it eases up with time. And it does. I can see that. Our clashes are fewer and further between. We no longer fight about the "bumps" in your high ponytail. Getting dressed in the morning is a non-issue (school uniforms help). We do that funny thing now when we feel a fight starting we put up our fists and make our meanest faces. And then we laugh. But sometimes the fury comes on so fast that we miss our window and it gets ugly.

It's all okay though, you know why Sugar Bee? Because you are still just seven. You are not a teenager. You just play at it sometimes and play is good.

You are still just seven,

I remind myself. It's been a year of big changes, like every year, but you still play with dolls and you still like unicorns and rainbows and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Loom and drawing and dancing in front of the mirror and snuggling and pretty hairbands and climbing trees and hiking and Ivy and Bean and Hello Kitty and Legos and riding bikes and baking. And you love Judo.

What would we do without Judo?

You have great friends who still like to play house and build forts and hold hands with you at school. You have one brother who thinks even your farts are magical and another brother, who, despite his constant teasing and antagonism, admits he can't live without you. And you have two parents who often find themselves staring at you and wondering how such an astonishing creature came from them. In fact you are surrounded by love and admiration going back generations and you know it. You feel it. So something is going right.

And as we swing in the hammock together and watch the clouds move through the blue sky on your seventh birthday at the Antelope Ranch, my chest tightens with love this time and I know it is all passing so quickly.  And you know that I love you.

Mommy

Revolution Number Nine by Susie Lubell


Hey Kiddo,

How did you get to be NINE? That's bigger than any other kid I've ever had actually. I look at you now and there are no remnants of the chubby tomato faced baby who came into the world nine years ago today. You are tall and frog legged and I marvel at your metamorphosis. I like this age actually. I know you don't want me to hug and kiss on you all the time, or at least during the day, but at night you still need your mommy to tuck you in and sing you songs and smooth your hair and kiss you goodnight. So even though I would sooner never sing another one of those effing songs I have sung every night for the last nine years, I keep singing them for you because soon you won't want them anymore and I'll be sad.

A lot has changed about you this year. Like you're willingness to wear something besides yoga pants. I know they're comfortable, but...a little variety right? Also very excited about your willingness to wear your cousin's hand-me-downs and your new interest in chess. And I love how you let your little brother tackle you and sit on your head. Very generous, especially now that he's potty training and often naked. Also delighted by the way you've taken charge of your social calendar by calling your friends yourself to set up your own playdates and then riding there on your bike! And, my favorite, your ability to wipe yourself without using an entire roll of toilet paper. You've become quite the conservationist.

But some things have not changed and may never.  Like your love of the Beatles. And how much fun you have with your cousins, even though you barely get to see them. Your mad biking skills. Your disdain for ball sports. All the silliness you share with your grandparents. Or how my sharpies and micron pens always end up in your desk drawer. How you continue to obsess over smart phones. How a quick jaunt to Office Depot followed by frozen yogurt at the mall is your best afternoon activity ever. How you love camping despite a tendency toward fanatic hygiene. And let's not forget your relentless teasing of your sister. That actually needs to stop. You're grounded. Just kidding.

Above all, you are still the bright, sensitive, stubborn, curious, persistent, focused kid you always were. I hope all of your birthday wishes come true, but no, you can't have an iPod Touch 5 or a Samsung Galaxy Pocket.

I love you.
Mommy


Five by Susie Lubell

Love

Dear Sugar Bee,

You're five today and I can hardly believe I just typed that. What a year it has been for you, for all of us. We started off on the wrong foot with pneumonia and you are still talking about the shot of antibiotics you got in your butt. You might never forget that one. And then you got a baby brother. And then you went on a month long road trip. And then you moved to a new house. And then to a new country! Talk about resilience and an almost heroic flexibility. It hasn't always been easy. And you've had some rough spells. But you have an understanding of yourself that frankly startles me sometimes. You get upset; we all do. And then you remove yourself, set up your dolls and clear your head. That's your process. And soon you are back to your shining spunky self. And then you like to talk about what all just happened. How you were mad and crazy, how you calmed down and got back in control. How we can talk about it after and still love each other. I appreciate processing these outbursts together. I hope we can always communicate like that.

Probably the biggest event for you this year, even bigger than moving to Israel, was becoming a big sister. Even though I know you'd prefer to still be the baby, as you have made clear in words and actions, you are a fantastic big sister. And that little boy is bonzo about you. Everything you do makes him giggle and you know it. He gets flooded with joy when he sees you. I admit, I feel that way too sometimes. What a lucky boy he is to have a sister as animated and intuitive as you. And as much as you and your older brother make each other nuts, I know there is a closeness between you too. Not every brother would take the time to pick out his sister's birthday outfit for preschool. Thankfully he can put together an outfit.

Your Aba continues to think the sun shines from your tush. He's right. You are a lovely, lovely girl and we are so lucky to have you as our daughter. Watching you grow has been one of the universe's greatest gifts to me.

many many kisses,
Mommy

Perplexting by Susie Lubell

Snaggle tooth

This is the picture of my son's mouth that I texted to my dentist wondering if I should bring him in to be seen. He has this crazy stubborn snaggle tooth that for the last two months has been about to fall out. But instead of falling out it has completely shifted to one side creating a space for what I can only imagine is some kind of saber tooth. So it actually looks like he's already lost the tooth, but alas, he has not. And adding to his frustration he recently got his six year molars so not only is he the only six year old in the universe, by his reckoning, that hasn't lost any teeth, he's actually getting more teeth. Life is not fair.

My dentist never wrote back. Is it bad form to send pics and questions to your health care providers on their cell phones? He did give me his cell after all. I should have learned my lesson two weeks before when I texted the mohel a picture of my baby's penis to be sure that all was healing well. Never got an answer there either. I might need a refresher on what is and is not an appropriate use of texting. I think I will lay off sending pictures until my hormone levels even out.

Keep Calm and Carry Idan by Susie Lubell



I figure I better write this one quick before I forget again and have another baby.

Having a baby is rough. Even the third time around. I will admit that I sort of thought, well I've done this twice and my kids are older now, so how hard could it be to just add one more to the mix. He'll just get dragged around and he'll sleep though anything and he'll raise himself, kind of. I knew it would be a lot of work but somehow I thought it would be easier than it is.

It's not easy. Those first few weeks are horrible. Even if we take out the sleep deprivation and the hormones and the two other kids and the constant appeal for your attention, even without all of that, it's still so difficult. Because your body is wrecked. I was in constant pain for those first two, even three, weeks. I honestly forgot about the pain - nature's way of ensuring the survival of the species. And then add in everything we subtracted before and it's almost impossible. A former colleague of mine once told me that in her culture a new mom and baby are not allowed to leave the house for the first month after the birth and I used to think that was crazy. Now I think it's wise. And with my mom and mother-in-law helping me out this past month, it's basically what I was able to do - stay put. But now they're gone and in fact, everyone's gone.

I've actually been on my own with the baby the last few days. My other two are with Mr. Rosen and the extended Rosen clan in the Eastern Sierras for a camping trip (this morning my sister in law sent me a video of Mr. Rosen in his underwear playing Neil Young on his guitar surrounded by snow capped mountains, a flowing creek and green meadows - not bad). The day before they left I had a nervous breakdown wondering how I will manage with this grumpy baby who appears to be more in his tenth month of gestation than his first month of life. And how will I get anything done if I'm the only one around to hold him. Plus I was a little weepy about my kids being away for six days. That will be the longest we've been apart. And also wondering when my husband would ever bond with our son. I was basically an irrational basket case. The next morning the place was a complete circus getting ready for this trip but once they were gone I felt a calm wash over the house and over me. And the baby. For the first time since the hospital he could nurse without having his sister rubbing his head or kissing his feet or his brother asking a million questions. We didn't have to be anywhere. We finally had a moment to get to know each other a little.

So with the first tumultuous month behind us we are enjoying a few days of calm. We don't have to take anyone to camp or pick anyone up so our days are free to go grocery shopping or go on walks or see friends or do nothing at all but eat and poop. I even got around to filling some ETSY orders. And because I don't have to worry about when I wake up in the morning, the nights are easier. And then the whole day is easier and I can carry around this yummy little baby without carrying around the weight of the world.

After Birth Story by Susie Lubell

Father and Son

The thing about the third time around is that the after part is horrible. Everyone said this would be the case, but I thought how bad could it be compared to pushing out a nine pound human? Turns out, pretty bad. My iron stores were already pretty low and some other blood related thing was low too. Clotting or white blood cell count or some such thing. So for two hours or more after the birth I had nurses and doctors pushing on my abdomen to help expel all of the crap that was hanging around in there. And there was a lot. Nevermind the placenta (which we brought home in a cooler, by the way, and had a friend dehydrate, pulverize and encapsulate for personal consumption. Kooky, to be sure, but good for the healing. And there's a lot of healing going on over here.) I'm talking about tons of blood and clotty bits of ME. Like human tissue. MINE. All this without even considering that I'm already in a world of pain from the 9 POUND BABY I have just passed through my vagina. And while I am grateful for what amounts to only about three hours of labor (as opposed to 28 with my first child and 9 with my second), a fast and furious delivery can often mean a train wreck downstairs, if you catch my drift. So the midwife puts on her seamstress hat and gets to work while the other nurses put on their baker hats and get to work kneading the flabby, doughy blob that is now my midsection.

After some time it appears that I am bleeding too much and there is some fear that something is left behind. Like maybe my lungs are still in there and my heart. Because I am sure that all else has been expelled. So they're weighing the blood and the doctor on call, the one I don't like, comes in to tell me that I will likely need a D&C which is short for drug the new mom and scrape out her contracting uterus with a small tennis racket. Terrific. At this point I sort of don't care, though part of me feels like I went through the trouble of having the baby drug free so it's a little annoying that now I need all of this medical intervention. Meanwhile my midwife is standing behind him mouthing don't worry dahling. We won't need to do it. The doctor's cookoo. The doctor says he'll have to come back in half an hour to see if the bleeding has slowed. That's when I get two shots of something in my thigh, another medication up my tush and a pitocin drip to try and get my uterus to contract, soften up (or maybe harden up - whatever it was supposed to do) and avoid the D&C. It works but the contractions are atrocious. Nevertheless I'm still flying on endorphins so none of it matters. And squishy baby is now being washed off and weighed and poked and rocked and kissed and swayed. Then he pees on Mr. Rosen. All systems are go.

I spend the next day and a half in the hospital getting pricked and poked and cathetered and pressed on. The baby slept both nights in the nursery because as much as I love the idea of rooming in, we'll be rooming in the next 18 years so I'd rather get some rest. Plus, Mr. Rosen was sleeping at home with the kids and there was no way I could get up at night to pick up the baby in a timely manner. Better they bring him in to nurse and hand him to me. It was painful enough just to sit upright in the bed.

My big kids come to visit with Grandma in the morning and they are thrilled with their new brother. My son is actually more thrilled by all of the medical equipment. And my daughter quickly climbs into bed with me. So I pick up my belly and move it to one side to make room for her. The rest of the day is spent getting my ice changed, getting my pee measured, taking ibuprofen and getting my son the snapping turtle to nurse. Good times.

And now it's just a matter of adjusting to our new situation. The first night home Mr. Rosen, in a sleepless fog, asked if we could just let the baby cry (he cried a lot that night. Big baby. No milk. Mad baby). I think we do that at four months, not three days. Lots to remember. Just today I remembered that trick about putting the baby down two hours after they wake up in the morning. Totally worked. Today anyway. Tomorrow is a whole other story...

Welcome by Susie Lubell

Welcome

Idan Hillel (ee-DAHN he-LEHL)
6.6.11 at 9:50 pm
8 lbs 15 oz
21 inches (23 with hair)

All are recovering nicely at home.
The epic tale of his timely arrival coming soon.
Plus a few words about his name and namesakes.
For now, a big sigh of joy.
xoxo

Am I the only one by Susie Lubell

chair

Or are there other mothers in the world who want to be alone on Mother's Day? Well not completely alone. I want to sleep in while my thoughtful husband prepares a giant yummy breakfast for me and I want my kids to adorn me with all kinds of noodle necklaces and popsicle stick frames and flowers from our garden. And then I want them to leave me alone for the rest of the day to do whatever I want, which in the case of Mother's Day 2011, was finish up some work, take a nice long shower, go get coffee and then Pinkberry, take a nap and loaf around. And that's how it all went down this year.  Total perfection.

And this beauty of a mid century teak chair in need of re-upholstery was my gift. I found it on Craigslist on Saturday and Mr. Rosen went to pick up for me. It was $25. Here it is with a few swatches from the Outside Oslo collection by Jessica Jones although I might go with a chartreuse naugahyde instead. Something that pops a little. I have to decide soon because I'm redoing my nursing rocker at the same time with the same guy and something tells me that the little gopher who is burrowing a hole to China via my pelvis might be on his way sooner than we think.

And speaking of which, there are only three days left until my ETSY shop closes for the summer. Maternity leave starts at midnight on Friday May 13th. You can still find plenty of goodies in the shop for 20% off when you use the code MATERNITY at checkout.

No rest for the nesting by Susie Lubell

This sparkling oasis is not my bedroom unfortunately. 
It's from the May Anthopologie catalog.

I am officially in crazed nesting mode. Running around buying new pillows. Reupholstering my nursing chair. Desperate for a mid century walnut credenza. And my god if I don't find just the right fitted sheet I might die. This is what brought me to Anthropologie this morning. A single-mindedness so sharp and a belly so large I could only be one thing - a woman in her ninth month.

Unfortunately a woman in her ninth month does not have all her wits about her as she is too focused on putting the final touches on her baby - some more lung tissue, longer eyelashes, a few more feet of intestines and, in our case, seven more inches of hair. She cannot be bothered to remember trivial things like the fact that her husband's bike is strapped to the roof of her car.  For instance.

I pull into the lot and find the closest spot to the entrance because we are having a heat wave and my feet have suddenly swelled to twice their normal size. And this spot is especially lovely as it is under a shady tree. A very low-branched, shady tree, and now with fewer branches, as I plow Mr. Rosen's bike right through it. Oops.

I reverse and pull into a different spot further away, get out and examine the damage. The bike is on its side now, but seemingly intact. With no alternative I hoist myself onto the roof of my black wagon careful to avoid scalding my hands and knees and try to unhook the back tire so I can realign the bike and resume my mission. The wheel does not budge and no matter how I fidget with the strap I can't get it off the back tire.

Do you have an image of what's going on here? There is an eight month pregnant woman in a tank top on the roof of her car wrestling with a mountain bike. And it's me. Hi. So I get down and call Mr. Rosen who is home sick today with a high fever and the sweats. He explains what to do but says he's coming over anyway to be sure my water doesn't break on his mountain bike. Because that would be HORRIBLE. For the bike.

But I don't have patience so I get up there again and follow his instructions, get the bike vertical and strap it on. Now I'm covered in bike grease and shiny with sweat but the bike is back on and I have exactly five minutes to spend at Anthropologie which is exactly how long it takes me to peruse the three items in the sale section. I emerge from the store to find Mr. Rosen tightening the straps to protect me from future harm. What a guy.

Tomorrow I will attempt to re-roof our house. The end.

Thar She Blows by Susie Lubell


I'm getting large. And, trust me, I am profoundly aware of my size. So when I say that I'm five and a half months along, do me a favor and say this exact phrase: Gee, you look great.

Do not veer from the phrase. Clever add-ons like "for a whale" or "Any day now right?" should be avoided. And I don't need to know about how you looked like I do now when you were on your way to the hospital. Or how I must be having twins. Good one. Original.

But speaking of whales, and originals, this chunky little original acrylic is today's Daily Deal. Thar she blows.

Life is Elsewhere by Susie Lubell

Destinations

I'm a little bit stuck on this subject.

I was chatting with a mom from my son's kindergarten class and she was telling me how before they had kids she and her husband had lived in Alice Springs, Australia, for three years.  And then they lived in England for two years where both kids were born.  And then they moved here to be closer to family. I told her how I'd lived abroad for almost five years too and we lamented the end of those days since now we are both fully embroiled in motherhood and elementary school and suburban splendor all the while wondering what the hell happened? When did we turn into these other people? 

Not that I used to live such a wild and crazy life. Let's be clear. In college I always took language classes at 8am so I went to bed at 10:00. Sometimes earlier. I sang in an a Capella group so that's about as nerdy as it gets. I never drank. My friends had to beg me to order a beer on my 21st birthday. In high school I only broke curfew once and that's because I didn't know Dances With Wolves was a three hour movie.

But when I was sixteen I went to London by myself to visit a friend and since then I've had the bug. The next year I went to Israel for five months. After college I went to Chile for five months with side trips to Peru and Argentina. Then I went to Israel for what I thought would be a year which turned into four+. During that time I traveled all over Europe. Always with a backpack, a Lonely Planet and not much money. But often with the address of a local friend or cousin or friend of a cousin whose couch was free. And then we took our big trip which brought me to places I'd never dreamed I would visit. Even in business school I managed to find an internship that had me living in a charming apartment in northern Belgium.

Those were my twenties. Running around the world, meeting wonderful people, learning languages. It was a ten year Eat Pray Love fest. And then I turned 30, got a job, bought a house, had babies and here I am looking down the barrel at the next thirty years feeling kind of hollow about the whole thing. And it's not just the kids. Lately I am bursting with love for these kids. But they have a funny way of making me feel tethered. Or maybe I'm the one doing the tethering.

Either way I can't figure out how to stop feeling like life is elsewhere. Because even when I was living my life elsewhere, I was still thinking about the next place. I even remember reading the book Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera, whose many books I have quickly devoured and just as quickly forgotten entirely, while staying at a guest house in Cuzco, Peru and wishing I was somewhere else. BESIDES CUZCO! Epically beautiful, spiritual and charming, "turn alpaca wool into just about anything" Cuzco. But for me life was elsewhere.

So where does that leave me? Us! Almost everyone I know around my age feels this to some degree. Bankers who wish they could open a deli. Lawyers who want to be chefs. Engineers who want to be bee keepers. I think that's why life coaching has taken off in the last ten years. We're a whole generation of people who have bought into this idea of having it all (work, family, love, adventure, passion, happiness, balance, inner peace) which, for me anyway, comes with a constant feeling like I've come up short.

To fill a gap, insert the thing that caused it.
Fill if up with other and twill yawn the more.
You cannot solder an abyss
With air. 
-Emily Dickinson

I feel the gap. Sometimes I feel like I might have found what will close the gap. I thought painting would do that. Sometimes I feel swallowed by the gap. Sometimes I'm at The Gap and nothing fits right and there's a long line and I'm wondering what am I doing here?

Seriously, what am I doing here?

And yet, of one thing I am absolutely certain. Ten years from now, thirty years from now, I will look back on this time in my life with an aching fondness and remember how simple it was when the kids were small and relied on us for everything. How squishy they were. How a kiss fixed anything. How they ran to greet us at the front door. And I'll wish I could go back. Or hopefully by then I'll have learned to live in the present.

Blame by Susie Lubell

image from Picard Creative

I had a crazy preschool mom experience this morning that left me so livid I almost kicked the woman and her sorry kid. I was completely blindsided. I don't even know where to begin. And I'll just warn you up front that I may come across as an absolute bitch in the post but I'm fine with that. The story must get out. The truth must be told.

I had just dropped off my son and was walking to my daughter's class with a friend who's also a teacher there and the mom of one of my son's good friends. We were planning for today's play date chez moi. We were actually in the middle of a conversation when a woman approached, someone who I have seen around many times, someone who back in September I had overheard while sitting at Starbucks with a friend and thought to myself, I hope to god this woman's son is not in my son's class. Because that's the thing, I notice everything. And mostly no one ever notices me. This actually plays into part of the story. I ALWAYS notice stuff.

So she introduces herself, completely interrupting the conversation I was already having with someone else. And then, with her son right next to her, starts to explain how the other day I hit her son's head with the office door and he's been really upset about this ever since. Now I remember being in the office and I remember they walked in behind me but I think I would have remembered if the door I was holding had struck the head of a four year old. He definitely hit his head and his mom definitely overreacted. All that is spot on. But no part of my person or anything my person was touching came in contact with her child. No matter. I apologized.

Me: I'm so sorry. I must not have seen you. I'm sure you're feeling better now right?
Him: You shouldn't hit people in the head because it can hurt them. You really hurt me.

And that's when I kneed him right in the face. 

His mom: Sweetie I'm sure she didn't mean to do it. Accidents happen. But she's really sorry, ok?

Uh, did I miss something? Wasn't this the conversation you should have had with him two days ago in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room private? Why am I here?

At this point I am wishing I had hit him in the head and her too. So I say my last apologies and start to walk away and as I'm walking away he says to me: Don't ever do that again. 

Unbelievable. What kind of mom makes this kind of big fucking deal over an accident, very likely caused by her own son running into a door. I'll tell you what kind of mom. The freakishly indulgent kind that gave up being a lawyer or banker or director of some bullshit to make babies and now feels she must, to borrow a phrase from Aimee, manage her child's feelings on a molecular level. What is she teaching him? That there is always someone to blame?

So I drop off my daughter and I'm heading back to my son's class because I'm supposed to read a story to his classmates. And just as I'm thinking none of those kids better cross me or I might slam a door on their head, I run into her again, this time without her kid. And she starts to tell me that she hoped that I didn't mind her little drama but it was for the benefit of her son. He'd been really upset. This happened TWO DAYS AGO. I mumbled a sure, forget about it and kept moving. But I will surely see her tomorrow and on Monday and every freaking day after for the rest of my life.

And I am sure you are asking, why is she having such a tantrum about this little incident. The woman's crazy and the boy's crazy because of her so what's the big deal? True. No big deal. But I've been thinking a lot about blame. Because I'm one of those people who is more than happy to find someone to blame. I get charged a credit card fee for a late payment? Well it's because you didn't send me the reminder in time. We show up to the wrong pool for swim lessons? Well it's because the confirmation letter went to spam. You won't take these shoes back because I don't have a receipt? Well, you must be pea-brained jerk-faces. It's not one of my finer qualities. And it even comes out when I'm with my kids. And then they start name-calling and blaming. I don't want to teach them to blame. So maybe this incident was the medicine I needed to seal my commitment to stop blaming everyone for my misfortunes, big, small or accidental.  I hate medicine. Almost as much as I hate crazy preschool moms.

Houston - we have a problem by Susie Lubell

Cockpit

Sometimes I wish I had a kind of control panel like this one from the Aviation Museum where I could just turn a dial and dinner would be done. And press a button for laundry. And another for grocery shopping. And one for paying property taxes. And I'd have a dial to know the current disposition of my children and husband. And if someone was going to blow a gasket it would be right there on the dial. So I'd flip the happy switch and we could change course. And I could switch on auto pilot in bed every night, you know, so the mr. could get some action on a more regular basis. And I would definitely want an eject button.

This would have been especially handy yesterday when we got home from a long weekend in Tahoe (skiing) and our belongings were spread out all over my studio (read: triage) but before I could clean it up I had to help my son make his "friend of the week" poster which put my disposition dial in the danger zone because while I was trying to figure out why my printer was printing his hair purple he would not stop talking. Mommy, my hair's not really purple so I can't put that on my friend of the week poster because then my friends wouldn't know it's me. Maybe it's printing it like that because the black ink isn't working and we could take it out and put in a different ink that's really dark black so that my hair comes out right and then we could restart the computer and the printer so that it works better and then print all the pictures..I would definitely want a button for his mouth. Or maybe just the volume.

So we added construction paper, markers and photos to the mess (did I mention that I ironically don't enjoy doing this kind of crafty school stuff? Need a course redirection for that one too). And then we noticed the ants. The ones that show up whenever it rains. Which it is. Now. Raining.

I could have used my control panel to clean the place up, make the poster, do the laundry, exterminate the visitors. A million other things. It could be awesome. A girl can dream.

Play dating by Susie Lubell

Playdate

I have an afternoon problem. I pick up my kids from school after lunch, my daughter goes down for her nap, and my son and I are left to kill each other softly, one nerve at a time. We can't leave the house. We don't have much in the way of a yard, not that he wants to go outside. And there's only so many times a day I want to play (insert Zingo, Candyland, What's Gnu?, Guess Who?, War, Memory, Go Fish or Hungry Hippos). I mean if Candyland is not the most insipid game ever created, well then my name is mud. It gets to me. Sometimes we paint which can be nice. Sometimes we do a puzzle or a project. We often bake for part of the time. My thighs can attest. Sometimes he sorts the recycling when I'm really desperate.

And the thing is he has had plenty of play date invitations - to friends' houses, to the pool, to the zoo, to the library. He's in demand. But he won't go anywhere with anyone unless I drive and his sister comes. Two impossibilities since she's napping and I'm watching her.

The other day my daughter was fighting her nap so I decided to call our neighbor and invite her son, who's in kindergarten, to come with us to a park to ride bikes.  I could nearly see her beaming with delight through the phone. So we piled him in the car and threw all the bikes in the back and set out for the park. Keep in mind my son and her son have barely ever played together. I'm not really sure why. They're perfectly nice people. The kids are basically the same age. But that's how it is around here. We're all just too busy coexisting to be in each other's lives. It's the grown-up version of parallel play.

But the minute we got to the park and started to ride the boys were best friends. They only stopped gabbing long enough to sneak up on a squirrel and send it running up a tree in sheer terror. On the way home my son invited him to spend the night. We decided to save that for another day but I could tell the tides had started to turn. Solo playdates might be in our near future.

And as it happens, yesterday, after much persuasion, my son agreed to go to the library with his friend from school and then over to his house. And he LOVED it. He loved the library. He loved scanning my card. He loved driving in her fancy mini-van. He loved his friend's remote control train. He wants to go there again tomorrow by himself and every day forever. And I want to send a personal thank you to the patron saint of play dates for smiling upon my family.

Corner View - Wisdom from an elder by Susie Lubell

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My dad used to always say, there are two rules to live by:

1. Don't sweat the small stuff.
2. It's mostly all small stuff.

I know he didn't make that up. But it's still true. I find that the older I get, the better I am about this. Yesterday, when my kids were engaged in a painting project, to transform the huge cardboard box that our stove came in into a kids only playhouse (this is doubling as my entry for last week's theme: re-purposed), my son decided that my house needed a new coat too. It was just a porch beam. It was tempura paint. I chose not to care. Though I did explain that my house was already painted the color I wanted and he best stick to his own abode, lest he start on the interior walls tomorrow.

Head over to Spain Daily for more words of wisdom.

One announcement: The lovely Liv Lane of Choosing Beauty is hosting her weekly Wednesday give-away and this week it's one of my pieces - Woman of Valor. Please stop by her inspiring website and leave a comment about the bravest thing you've ever done and she'll draw a winner at random on Friday. This is my first time doing anything like this so go over and leave a whole bunch of comments...xo

Fully Formed by Susie Lubell

Forms

I am so up to my eyeballs in paperwork these days that I can't even see straight. I have a new callous on my right middle finger where my pen rests. The kind I used to get during final exams in college. I have forms coming out of my forms.

It started last weekend when my husband and I decided to buy tickets to visit his family in Israel. In March. That's tomorrow basically. But it's actually our favorite time of year and it's been raining a TON over there so that means by mid March there will be entire fields teaming with red poppies and wild irises. Which totally makes up for the hideously long plane trip and the week of jetlag. Plus we get to see all the people that we are otherwise missing so that's good too.

Anyway, what we failed to realize was that our son's passports had expired. Both of them. And my Israeli passport had also expired. Oops. That's six forms right there. Our covert secret ops mission to the unmarked Israeli consulate in San Francsico is a story for another time. But there I had to fill out another form because apparently when we got married and registered our auspicious union at the Ministry of the Interior, someone wrote down that I took my husband's last name, which I didn't. Please fill out this form.

And before we leave on our trip I have to sign up my son for kindergarten. Twenty more forms. And though the private school application is in, the financial aid application is not.  More forms. And then there's summer camps. Yes. Most of the United States is still a frozen wasteland but over here in California we're signing up for summer camp. Because we are LUNATICS. So not only do I need to figure out when my kids are going to what camps but also what we're doing in between and how on earth will I get anything done this summer and should I just keep my son at the place where he goes to school or can we venture to some other, more interesting camps, like one that focuses entirely on ELECTRICITY for a whole week, but where he doesn't know anyone and will likely be miserable. And what does it all mean? Nothing. Except more forms. And with every over priced summer camp, comes financial aid. Surprise. More forms.

I'm just waiting for the sanitarium forms to show up so I can sign on the dotted line.

Time for some self love by Susie Lubell

Narkisim

Happy February gang! I'm thrilled to report back that indeed I accomplished my two goals from last week. I applied for my business credit card and I opened my bank account. So this little goal setting system appears to be working. For now anyway. But in addition to my weekly goals for February I want to set a wider intention regarding the way I'm running my business and running my life frankly. Things are a little out of hand. I'm kind of falling apart. In a slow, tiny pieces at a time kind of way. I'm not taking care of myself in the way that I'd like to. I'm not sleeping enough. I'm spending too much time on Facebook meaningless things. I'm not taking care of my body or the way I look. This all became painfully obvious when I took my kids to Costco yesterday to get new passport pictures. I marveled at how my son has changed in the five years since his last photos were taken. He was two months old and I was balancing him against the white screen and to this day it's the one picture of him that makes us laugh the most because although at the time we thought he was beautiful, he was pretty crazy looking. And this time he stood confidently, looked right at the camera and flashed his beautiful smile (and dimples). I needed new pictures too for my Israeli passport. My picture, on the other hand, shows an exhausted, unhealthy woman. I looked at that thing and thought, it doesn't have to be like this

It's time for a little self love. Starting appropriately with these narcissus blooms which I bought for myself at the farmer's market on Sunday. If you lean your head into the screen you might be able to smell them. They are that potent. And they make a nice segue into a list of intentions for this month:

Eating
We always talk about wanting to go the farmer's market but we rarely go because it's too expensive. But after seeing the movie Food Inc. last week we decided that we could and would spend more money on food and eat food that made us feel good and feel good about consuming.  Plus we ran into five people we knew at the market which gave us a welcomed feeling of community in this place that we're never too excited about. 

Sleeping
I have been going to sleep past midnight for more than a year. And I get woken up every day at 6:30. It's not enough sleep. I'm never rested. I'm setting a goal to shut down communications every night by 10:30. 

Exercising
This one is so obvious and so important and it never. gets. done. I have spurts. They never lead anywhere. So this month I am making time to do this. Some form of exercise everyday. So I can feel strong and have energy.

Disconnecting
This warrants it's own post but suffice it to say that even though I don't own a smart phone, I am online in a way that defines unhealthy. Today was the first day I put my computer to sleep when I went to pick up my kids after lunch and didn't turn it back on until they went to sleep. Please, stop. The standing ovation is totally embarrassing...

So there it is. A declaration. A commitment to self-love this Valentine's season. And a wish that these changes will help me be more present for the people in my life that I cherish most.

Mental Accounting by Susie Lubell

Well I went to the doctor today because I'm sick. Again. I hacked up a green glob this morning that could have been a spoonful of wasabi. It was that green. And that solid. And I've been trying to stay well because we have some trips coming up. I've been squirting salt water up my nose and out my mouth which, if you've never done this, is really awful but does open up the nasal passages. Unless you have total nasal blockage and then water just sprays everywhere including out your ears because it has no where else to go. So I went to see my doctor. And she said just what I wanted her to say. You have a sinus infection. Go get this prescription filled. Because usually I'd just wait it out. Steam my head a few times a day. Spray some grapefruit seed extract up the old schnoz. But I am driving to my mom's (7 hours) with my kids on Monday and then we're all flying to Santa Fe a week later, so I can't risk it.

And thank god she gave me that prescription and made no mention of the five pounds I'd gained. Um, is your scale off? Yes, five pounds. I suddenly had visions of myself on whoever is replacing Oprah talking about how I didn't even notice that I was suddenly four hundred pounds because it just came on five pounds at a time.

After, I went home to get some work done, all the while thinking, where the hell did those five pounds come from? Maybe it's the bowl of cereal I eat every night at 10:00? Maybe I should exercise more than once a month? Those thoughts somehow stimulated my bowel. And I started thinking, that's a good two pounder right there. So really I only gained three pounds. And then I started thinking about how much my huge hooded sweater and bootcut jeans weigh - maybe a pound or more. The hood and extra fabric for the bootcut make the outfit very weighty, you know. And then I hacked up some more wasabi. Quarter pound at least. So then I didn't feel so bad. I had only gained like one pound, when you round down. Which I do. And since it's Hanukkah and I've been eating only fried food for the last six days, I feel like that's actually pretty good.

Then after I picked up my kids we went to Walmart to fill my prescription and I felt even better since most people there are twice my size. Which is why I had no qualms inhaling this giant potato, onion and green bean omelet for lunch (otherwise known as "leftovers omelet"). I mean the bottle says must take with food. I'm just following directions. It also says, follow with Nutella chaser. Swear to god.


What kind of mental accounting are you doing this holiday season?

Someone old and someone new by Susie Lubell

Say it together with me.
Ahhhhhh....
I just came back from a much needed, too short and deliriously enjoyable weekend in Portland, a place I had never been, to meet one of my newest old friends and one of my oldest new friends.

Aimee is someone I met online. Huh? Yes, I met her online. I commented on her blog. And then she commented back. And then we started emailing. Very long emails. The kind you used to send in 1996 before people stopped writing in conventional language in favor of short phrases with no vowels. Yes, those kind of emails. And it just happened we were both artists with MBAs (so incongruous!) and mommies of small children and makers of ketubahs and well the list of similarities goes on and on. And so, one day, when we were both feeling the need to get away, we hatched a plan to meet in Portland. And that's just what we did. We flew in Friday night, I met her at her gate and we didn't stop talking until she left Sunday morning. And we wandered around freezing Portland and talked our heads off, drank coffee, ate amazing food, bought matching sweaters (well, different sweaters from the same woman at the Saturday market) and got lost in Powell's bookstore. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. And that is why Aimee is my newest old friend.




And my oldest new friend is Jenn. Jenn lives in Portland and is chef and owner of Lincoln Restaurant and Culinary Artistry. She is someone I worked with when I was 16 and a counselor at summer camp. We hadn't seen each other in nearly twenty years. About five years ago we were in touch briefly. And then about 8 months ago I saw a little blurb on her in Real Simple magazine so I nearly had a heart attack and looked her up to find that she had opened a restaurant in Portland. I immediately wrote to her and we even spoke on the phone. So when Aimee and I decided on Portland I knew I needed to see Jenn too. We ate dinner at Jenn's restaurant on Friday night and it was amazing to be in the company of two incredibly talented and creative women. Catching up. Getting to know each other. And eating the most delicious food I've had in a very long time. Maybe ever. Go eat at Lincoln if you're ever in Portland.

Aimee flew home early Sunday and I spent the rest of the day with Jenn. More talking. More eating. And even though in some ways it felt like we just slipped right back into the our old friendship, in many ways it felt more like our friendship, or at least this chapter of it, was entirely new.

So there it is. A weekend of grub and gab with two exceptionally inspiring and supportive women. It was just what I needed. Because, friends, I am not great at reaching out. I'm shy. I get intimidated. I assume no one remembers me. But I'm finding that the more I do it, the easier it is and the happier I am to be connected.

Mish Mash by Susie Lubell

I'm having a kind of identity crisis. When I started this blog more than two years ago with two daily visitors, I was not really in artist mode. I was on maternity leave actually and feeling like a bad mom for never having kept a baby book to record all of those precious details like the color of baby's poop on day 137. More specifically I was in my head a lot since my only interaction was with a sleeping baby for seven hours a day (don't feel bad - I got to watch seasons 1-3 of LOST on DVD. Just what I needed) but I needed somewhere to write down all of that head junk. I figured it would be a journal mostly and I figured other moms would feel happiness and solidarity to know that their kids weren't the only ones who took comfort from sleeping with their parents' shoes. Although I'm pretty sure I'm still the only one whose kid ever did that. The point is the blog was never about my journey as an artist.

But then came my friend's ketubah and my revelation that I love to paint and create and my realization that I didn't want to work full time while my kids were still little and the time I did spend working I wanted to enjoy. And I started to paint again. Every week. And build my website and shop and start my newsletter and outreach. And so here we are. I have this blog about being a stay/work at/from home/studio mom/artist called Inner Toddler and this creative venture called Mishmish Studio and an online store called Mishmish Market (that's the ETSY shop - Mishmish Studio was taken). Does it all fit? Are you confused? (sorry). Do I seem confused? (I am a little).

Some artists just go by their names which I considered but my name doesn't really just roll off the tongue you know? Am I thinking about this too much? Does it even matter? Frankly I can't imagine only writing about my process as an artist. I mean you would fall asleep at your monitor. I would too. I'm falling asleep right now just thinking about it. Maybe I should have TWO blogs. But that would be a lot of extra work. Blogs don't need siblings.

And then sometimes I type so fast that I end up typing Inert Toddler and that makes me laugh thinking about a blog about toddlers that are inactive but then I think that's probably not funny at all and there's probably something wrong with those poor inert, toddlers. Wait, I'm losing my train of thought...

Yes, my brand. It's a mishmash at this point. I should have gone with Mishmash Studio instead of Mishmish Studio in the first place and saved us all the confusion.