June 28, 2010

A Memory for Monday

I've been on this crazy cleaning frenzy since my mom left. I love cleaning sometimes because you never know what you're going to find. Case in point:

I made the local paper when I was in 8th grade! I was the lead in the local theatre's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I never meant to make the lead; I didn't even try out for it. I tried out for some small part and the director gave me the lead. (I guess I was a drama queen even back then.)

(PS - I'm the one in the red Chucks, which I believe were knock-offs.)

I miss performing so much sometimes. I was very active in dance and drama while growing up, and they were both wonderful experiences. I don't really aspire to be a famous dancer or actor, but there really is nothing like being up on stage in front of a ton of people to get that adrenaline pumping. And when the standing ovation happens, wow.

I love this newspaper clipping; it really takes me back to a whole other life that I almost never think about. I love how pieces of a past life get buried and then resurrected at random.

June 27, 2010


Yesterday we attended (and I photographed) a first birthday party. It was a great time, full of happy kids, yummy food, a bubble and balloon lady, and the most wow-inducing cupcakes ever. Not to mention the birthday girl herself, who was a vision of cuteness:

Since I've become a parent, I've realized how drawn people are to babies and children. They really have something that we lose as we get older: a sense of innocence, wonder, newness. One of the best parts of being a mom is getting to see the world through Charlie's eyes. It's kind of a miracle (and I hate that word) to be able to experience the world whole-heartedly again.

Kids are pure. Even when they become brooding teenagers, there's a purity there that's undeniable.

Today we attended the funeral of a 19-year-old boy named Zack. He was the son of one of my old work buddies, and his death happened completely unexpectedly. I had never met him, but I wanted to show my support for my friend, so the three of us (well, the four of us, actually) packed up and headed out.

It wasn't exactly the way I wanted to spend a Sunday afternoon.

But we piled into the church and we listened to the preacher talk about Zack. And as I held my kiddo and felt my other kiddo swoosh around inside me, Roy put his arm around me and the tears began to fall.

It all just felt so unfair. Yes, death is a part of life. Yes, the tears we shed are for ourselves, not for the departed. Yes, grief is ultimately a selfish emotion, but what emotion isn't self-centered? I still don't think it's right for a 19-year-old to die. I don't think it's right that a mother had to have her son cremated. I don't think it's right that the world keeps on spinning when there's one less person on it.

My heart is heavy tonight. And really the only thing I can do is hug my boys a little tighter, love them a little more fiercely, and be grateful for another beautiful day together.

June 21, 2010

Triple Birthday Extravaganza!

Wow, the past couple of weeks have been a real whirlwind!

My mom flew in the day before my birthday. I swore her flight arrived at 12:30 PM, so I was surprised when she called at 9:30 that morning.

Mom: "Where are you?"

Me: "Oh, I'm just headed to Target."

Mom: "Oh, okay. Well, I'm at the airport."

Me: "All right." (I seriously still had no clue she had already arrived.)

Mom: "Yeah, I'm here in Ontario. Pretty sure, anyway."

Me: "What?! I thought your flight arrived at 12:30!"

Mom: "No, that's what time I leave."

Me: "Sheeee-it. Okay, I'll be there in a little bit."

The old Leslie never would have forgotten her mom's arrival time. But the new Leslie is a complete space cadet and thus flew to the airport, unshowered and wearing her clothes from the night before, to pick up her mom.

And then the fun began.

We are a family of Geminis, apparently. My and Charlie's birthdays are a day apart, and my brother's fiancee's birthday falls just a week after mine. We made it a big birthday week, and it was truly awesome.

On my birthday, Roy went to work, leaving my mom and me at home with Charlie. I had to go up to campus to file for a leave of absence for next year, so I left Charlie with my mom and went to take care of that. While I was out, I went to the chiropractor and got a much-needed bone-cracking for free! We had dinner out that night with Roy's family. The staff was nice enough to give us two free desserts. Charlie got ahold of a maraschino cherry and then had a meltdown when I pulled the stem out of his mouth. Good times.

When we got home from dinner, there was a package waiting! And in it contained a disc of Charlie's one year photo session. Sweet! We watched the slideshow before putting Charlie to bed. It was a great birthday gift. I was teary-eyed, of course.

Roy normally puts Charlie to bed - it's their special time together since I've got Charlie all day. But that night I got to do the honors, so I snuggled my almost-toddler and felt the tears welling up. Meanwhile, Roy went to the store and got me a birthday cake. Chocolate, of course!

The next day was Charlie's big first birthday. Roy had plans to come home from work early, and I had plans to take Charlie out for ice cream and other fun stuff. He was in a rotten mood, though, which I attributed to another tooth threatening to pop through.

He had strawberries for the first time for breakfast. Although some don't think it's necessary to hold off on feeding strawberries, we decided to - just to be safe.

After his morning nap, I packed Charlie up and took him to Babies 'R Us for his complimentary crown and balloon. My mom stayed at home because she was mega-jetlagged.

He didn't have much of an opinion about the balloon and crown, but he did enjoy making out with a giant bouncy ball.

I really wanted to take Charlie to get ice cream, but he was in such a bad mood and seemed so tired that I just took him home. He went down for his afternoon nap shortly thereafter. Roy arrived home early, as promised. I was lying in bed, watching the video I'd made for Charlie's birthday, and then I felt it.

Tap, tap. Tippity tap.

I just knew it was the baby! I was so damn happy that I felt his/her first kicks definitively on Charlie's birthday - it felt like baby was just itching to wish Charlie well.

Once Charlie woke up, we got started with the family festivities.



See that clock in the photos above? I had a wooden version of it when I was a kid and I just loved it. I tried to find it at my mom's house the last time we were there, but no dice. Imagine my surprise when I saw a plastic version of it in Target! I scooped it up and decided it would be a great first birthday gift from us. Charlie was entranced from the get-go - it's one of his favorite birthday gifts.

We had bought a dinky little blow-up baby splash pool thingie for Charlie to play in, but as he was sitting in my lap, I noticed how hot he was. He'd felt hot all day, but then again it'd been hot as balls all day. At that point it had cooled down considerably, so I was concerned. We checked his temperature, and I was shocked that he had a 102 degree fever. We called off the rest of the festivities and ushered Chuckles into the bathtub. We Tylenoled him up and then put him to bed. We figured we'd sneak in at 8:56 so we could be there at his official time of birth, but he was already awake at that point. I rocked him in the glider while we softly sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

Despite the fever and general crankiness, I think it was an excellent first birthday for our boy. And the next day he was his normal happy self - sans fever.

The rest of the week was a blur of insomnia, errands, and party planning. My brother and his fiancee Clare flew in on Friday, the day before Charlie's birthday party. I left Charlie with his Uncle Paul and took my mom with me to my prenatal appointment (where we finally heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time). From there, we picked up Wade and Clare from the airport, ate lunch, and then came home. I spent Friday night stressing over getting to Costco in time to pick up the food and cake, while Roy was rounding up tables and chairs from various family members. But we got it all done, and we settled in for a good night's sleep: five adults, a baby, three cats, and about 50 fish all crammed in a little two-bedroom house.

I haven't been talking about this very much, but damn, my insomnia has kicked in once again, and it really was awful while we had a houseful of people. The cats were insane due to all the strangers in the house, so they spent each night crawling all over me and just being generally annoying. I woke up on Saturday feeling like absolute shit, but I was also really excited. I managed to drag my zombie of a husband out of bed so he could help me load up the truck. Then I left all the sleepy-heads at home while I went to Mandy and Paul's house to set up the party.

Have I mentioned I was exhausted? (Still am, but that's not really relevant to this post.)

I think so. And yet there I was, driving down the street with my Starbucks, listening to Christmas music of all things, enjoying the nice bouncy feeling of driving a truck. We'd borrowed Mandy's truck, and it is so much more fun to drive than my car. I just felt really happy.

Mandy and I got her house all set up, thanks to awesome Angelina, who showed up early just for that reason. I really took it easy with the party planning, because I knew we didn't have the money to go all out, nor did I have the energy. Still, I really like the way things came out, particularly the photo wall. (Everyone had the option of taking photos home if they wanted.)

The theme for the party was ducks, of course. I got tablecloths, plates, and utensils in blue and yellow, and also ordered some white rubber duckies for everyone to color. They were a pretty big hit.

I was surprised that everyone who said they would show up actually did. It was a good turnout and so much fun. We basically sat around and ate while the kiddos played. Then we sang "Happy Birthday" to Charlie - and his reaction (or lack thereof, I should say) was priceless. He just sat there with a blank look on his face while we were singing. I wish I would have gotten it on video because it was hysterical to me.

Once he got his cupcake, he took a few dainty bites.

But then he got all crazy about it. He ended up being a complete mess, so much so that we had to give him a quick bath afterwards.

Afterwards, we helped Charlie open his gifts, and then Roy had to hightail it out of there to get Charlie home for his nap. It was a really great time, definitely a successful (and simple) first birthday party. Considering our lame-ass budget, it all came together much better than what I was expecting.

For Clare's birthday celebration the next day, there was leftover cake in bed in the morning.

And then we went out to Santa Monica. It was actually pretty chilly out so we didn't really get a lot of beach time like she wanted. But we still had a good time. I played with my Lensbaby to get some cool pictures.

We took the opportunity to put Charlie's feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. His reaction was pretty anticlimactic. He's his father's son, all right.

The next day, Wade and Clare flew back home, and my mom stayed for a couple more days. Then, before I knew it, the house was empty again and things were back to normal. Normal really isn't a bad thing, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up when I said goodbye to my mom at the airport. My time with my family is always so short-lived and limited, and for that reason I don't take it for granted anymore.

This visit was a great one, filled with so many memorable moments, most of them having to do with my family being with Charlie and giving him lots of love. I haven't included any of those pictures in this entry, because they feel kind of special and private, something I want to hold close to my heart forever. What can I say? Some things just don't need to be shared with the world; they're things I will file away in my happy place for the rest of my life.

June 20, 2010

Father's Day

This is always such a bittersweet day for me. It's even more bittersweet this year because I recently got an update on my dad's condition, and he's just not doing well. I'm not surprised at all, but still, it's never easy to hear that his condition is worsening. We really, really, really wanted to send Charlie and me out to Texas to see him before it gets too late in my pregnancy for me to travel. But we aren't doing so well financially right now, so that's not an option. It makes me terribly sad.

Father's Day has always been a reminder of the way things aren't, the way things could have been. I'm not sure I will ever understand why my dad has had to suffer so much. Life is unbearably cruel, I guess. I know that he would have been an excellent father if he'd ever had a fighting chance against his condition. I know that he did his best with what was left. I know that I will always mourn the dad I didn't have but that I will also celebrate the one I do have. He has taught me so much, and I'm not sure if he will ever understand how grateful I am for that or how much I love him.

The good thing about Father's Day? I'm married to a wonderful man who is a fantastic father. I've loved watching Roy grow into fatherhood this past year. I love watching him and Charlie together. I love how I can hear the smile in his voice when we talk about Charlie or the baby. I love how involved he is in parenting.

The other day I caught Roy dancing with Charlie while listening to Belle and Sebastian, and it just took my breath away. I could not stop smiling. I just love how much Roy loves our babies and how that love shows in all the things he does. I am so proud of him - and so honored to be his parenting partner (and wife, of course).

I am so, so lucky. The situation with my dad is always going to hurt - and badly. But I know it's really shaped me as a person and helped me realize that you can't take life for granted, that each moment is something to be grateful for. And so that's why I consider myself lucky. I've learned some hard lessons and dealt with some things I wasn't sure I would ever be able to get through, but life on the whole has been good to me. I have so much love in my life. I'm so honored to spend my days with my husband, who is the best daddy ever, as we raise our TWO boys to be responsible and loving men - who will someday, if they choose, have wonderful little children of their own.

Yes, that's right. TWO little boys. Baby #2 is a boy! A little brother for Charlie!

(A seriously uncooperative little brother! This is probably the best shot the tech could get of him, because he just wouldn't wake up. She lovingly dubbed him Spock. But we like Giggles. And Burt Reynolds. He looks like a Burt, doesn't he?)

Life is good, even when it hurts like hell. I'm so grateful for all the men in my life. Happy, happy Father's Day.

June 13, 2010

Little Boys Love Their Mommies

That's pretty much what people always tell you once they find out you're having a boy, that little boys love their mommies.

Charlie and I had quite the time of it bonding in the beginning. I loved him from the start, of course - I thought he was absolutely perfect and I would have done anything for him. But I was scared of him. I had no idea who he really was and yet I was supposed to meet his every need. Imagine being scared of a tiny little baby! It seems ridiculous, right? I think it's because no matter what I did, there were times when he would just scream and be inconsolable. It's such a powerless feeling - to listen to your baby scream and not know what to do. I was more than happy to let Roy do the soothing, to pass Charlie along to family members so I could have a break.

I truly didn't fall into motherhood easily. It seems like so many other mothers just ease into it naturally, but it wasn't like that for me. I used to think that made me a huge failure, but now I understand that everyone's path is different. Some women feel that glow of warm happiness descend on them almost immediately after giving birth. But for me, I had to work for that feeling. I had to work hard to make myself into a mother. (But actually, I think time did most of the work.)

I'd always wanted to have kids, so needless to say, I was shocked at how alienated I felt from my own baby for awhile there. I was so scared of dropping him, hurting him, and in general, I was feeling pretty shell-shocked after his birth and my life completely changing.

But finally, after almost two months, I began to feel like Charlie and I were really bonding. And from that point on, I've never really had to doubt that I'm the one he prefers. (Well, he prefers Roy, too.) Let me tell you, there is no better feeling than the one you get when you see your baby looking anxiously around a crowded room for you like Charlie did at his birthday party mere hours ago. It's not that I get happy at seeing him perturbed, but knowing that I have the power to make him feel better when he's upset is pretty damn intoxicating. It makes all the crap from this past year totally and completely worth it.

I am his mother, and that is something that no one can ever take from me.

June 8, 2010


My baby is one year old today.




I simply cannot believe it. But then I look over at my 24 pound kiddo with his mop of crazy blonde hair and his mouthful of teeth, and I know it must be true. He's a baby no longer.


In the Six Feet Under finale, Claire, the youngest of the Fisher kids, says good-bye to her family. She's off to New York to fulfill her destiny. Crying, she thanks her mother Ruth for giving her life. Ruth shakes her head and says, "You gave ME life."

And that's just how it is, isn't it?


Oddly, I find myself at a loss for words on this day. I made a video that does a good job of expressing just how much I love my little man. It's twelve minutes long, so consider yourself warned.


I love you, Charlie. Thank you for giving me life.

June 7, 2010

Some Kind of Thirty-One(derful)

Today I am 31 years old.

When I was 28, on the verge of turning 29, I spoke to a professor of my fears of entering the last year of my 20s, because 29 evenutally led to 30 and all that. She told me not to worry about entering the realm of Dirty Thirty because Thirty-One(derful) was just around the corner.

And here I am.

I spent my 30th birthday with my husband and mom. We went to lunch and to see Up. I was hugely pregnant and uncomfortably swollen, but I knew I would meet our little boy soon. I was scheduled to be induced the day after my birthday, and I was very nervous and anxious about it. After our day out, we had dinner with Roy's family, and I was having mild contractions and cramping. I kept hoping I would go into labor on my own, but sadly, that never happened.

I knew, even before it came to pass, that this past year would be hard. I knew that becoming a mother would change me forever. Because everyone tells you when you're about to have your first baby that your life will never be the same. It's something that you can somewhat understand, but you can't really know it until you do it. I had no idea what I was in for. I had prepared as best I could, but nothing could have prepared me. You can have the perfect nursery, a closet full of freshly washed baby clothes, and a car seat in the backseat of your car, but none of that really means anything.

When I came to after being put under general anesthesia for my c-section, it was like swimming upward toward an unknown land. I saw my husband holding our son, and I will never for the rest of my life forget that moment. It's clearer to me than the first time I held Charlie. It was the most wonderful sight, but it broke my heart in a thousand pieces. I was so proud of myself: I had grown that perfect, beautiful baby. But as my labor stalled and I ended up in the OR, I had failed him - and myself.

I was broken.

The incision on my lower abdomen, even as it healed and became a light pink scar, was a constant reminder that I had missed one of the most important moments in my life - and Charlie's life: his birth. I never got to hear his first cry or see him straight out of the womb. We never got a moment to be together, just the three of us, basking in the glow of our new family. Instead, it was pure alienation: bright hospital lights, a steady stream of visitors that I tried my hardest to look happy for, and a baby that screamed so loudly it tore the marrow right out of my bones.

Over the course of this past year, I've been working towards putting the pieces of my shattered heart back together. The work has been so difficult. There have been so many times that I've wanted to give up, times when I have been so positive that everyone would be better off without me. There is nothing worse than the feeling that you are a failure as a mother - and as a person. I have had to constantly remind myself that the pain is worth it and that I am doing my best. And it is. And I am. Today I run my fingers over my cesarean scar and know that because I have it, I have learned so many things.

This year I have learned compassion. I have learned love. I have learned family. I have learned how to let go. I have learned that there is no such thing as balance, not a balance that can be maintained day after day. Life is just too fickle, and I am just a woman. One woman.

I have learned to trust myself. To stop giving others the ultimate authority over deciding who I am and what is best for me. To realize the truth of what's throbbing in my heart and squirming around in my guts. I have stopped looking to others for the answers. I have stopped denying my own wisdom. And so I look deep within myself, and I see her: woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, child.

Survivor. This year I've been through a war. A war between the mother I am and the mother I thought I would be. A war between the birth I wanted and the birth I got. A war between the thrill of happiness and the depths of depression. I have had such wonderful cheerleaders on my side as I've mucked my way through; I've made so many phone calls, sent so many emails and texts, and reached out through this blog, and every time I have been received as a person, not a failure.

Thank you. I could not have done it without your support.

Tonight I will put Charlie to bed for the last time as a baby, knowing that in the morning he will wake up a toddler. I will do this knowing that I am leaps and bounds away from the woman who swam upward towards her son (and her new life) one year ago.

31, I am ready for you. Happy (re)birthday to me.

June 3, 2010

Let Go/Be Still: The Art of Balance

Let Go/Be Still (Intro)

I think it's safe to say that I pretty much hit rock bottom in the first couple of months of this year. I don't have a moment where I'd say, "Oh, that's it, that's the worst that it got" because I pretty much felt like hell all the time. I do know that my mood plummeted after Christmas and our wonderful trip to Texas (which I never blogged about - but I still want to, even though it's six months after the fact).

My first trimester of my current pregnancy sucked. (No surprise there. I've never met a woman out there who had a fun first trimester.) It was pretty unexpected to end up pregnant in the midst of a major depression, and to be honest, more than anything I felt extremely overwhelmed. It doesn't mean I wasn't happy. (I was. Am.) But it was hard to see that things were going to get better and that we were going to be able to handle having two children so close in age. Most of the time, I felt like I barely had a grip on parenting one child; now we were going to have two?!

My anxiety level was also sky high. I was terrified of losing the baby. I don't have a history of miscarriage, but even so, I am very well aware of how pregnancy can have a tragic end. I had the same fears with Charlie, only these felt amplified. Additionally, because I have several friends who are dealing with infertility, I was scared shitless to tell them that I had gotten pregnant unexpectedly. I really thought they would hate me and never want to talk to me again, even though I knew that they weren't like that. In general, my anxiety level had been pretty high since Charlie was born, so these fears almost sent me over the edge.

And then there was the birth to consider. I'd been collecting books about VBAC for months, and I had "find midwife" on my to-do list, but I didn't feel there was any rush. And then all of a sudden, I had to face the thought of giving birth again. And my only experience with birth was a hellish one. I was so scared.

So Roy and I decided to keep the pregnancy between us for awhile. We needed some time to mull it over without all the weird and annoying things people tend to say when you're pregnant, like "How are you feeeeeeling?" every time they see you. I had no desire to share the news. It just felt like too much to handle on its own; how in the world would I be able to handle it if everyone knew and wanted to talk about it?

When the all-day nausea and exhaustion hit, I found myself at a complete and total loss. I had no idea how I was going to handle Charlie, all the ickiness that comes with the first trimester, depression, and everyone else's expectations (including my own). I cried buckets. I was very, very low. But I was in therapy, and that gave me hope.

In order to just make it through each day, I let everything go. I focused on making sure Charlie was getting his needs met, and when he went down for naps, I went down, too. Most of the time I didn't sleep. I just laid there in silence with my thoughts, and then eventually my thoughts melted away. I was resting. Not at peace, but just being still.

I let the mail pile up, the mess accumulate, the laundry stay undone. I put my thesis way on the back burner, and I didn't force myself to do anything I didn't want to. Some days we holed up in the house because I just couldn't physically handle going anywhere. My attitude eventually became "the world can wait." And actually, truer words have never been spoken. Because it really can.

Even though I felt like shit, that process of letting go of all that extra stuff was very liberating for me. I'd spent so much precious time trying to find a balance and trying to accommodate everyone else's needs and desires - while pretty much putting mine aside. Feeling so awful gave me permission to take care of myself, but more importantly, it gave me permission to take it easy on myself. I came to realize then that pregnant or not, it was ridiculous to expect myself to be able to be perfect at being a good mother, keeping a clean house, maintaining a happy marriage, and having time for my own life - all at the same time.

I don't think balance exists. Not the way we tend to define it, anyway. I think it's an illusion that society would like to see us work towards, but like perfect happiness, it's unattainable. There's nothing wrong with leaving the dishes undone for the night or leaving the clean laundry in the basket so that you can read a book. Society would have us believe that we need to fill up every second with productivity, because if we don't, we're lazy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I no longer work towards finding a balance. I still have a to-do list. I still have goals. I still have a schedule that I like Charlie to stick to. In the depths of my soul, I am one of those people who is way too hard on herself and who will always feel the tiniest bit guilty for pretty much everything. But I've taken a step in the right direction by realizing that I'm done with trying to be Supermom/Superwife/Superperson. I am a good mother and a good wife and a good person. And that's enough. It has to be. There's no room in my life for being a martyr.

I am so much happier now that I'm embraced this simple truth about life. The world can wait, and I'll do what I can when I can. Oddly enough, it took a journey to the depths of hell for my healing to begin.

As I write this, the house is an absolute mess. Charlie has been on nap strike the past couple of days. My to-do list is taunting me. It's been like this for the entire week. Any one of these things would have sent me over the edge two months ago. But here I am, writing away on my laptop, feeling perfectly content.

Because finally, after such a long time, I have figured out the art of balance. And it has nothing to do with my to-do list and everything to do with letting go of what ultimately doesn't matter. I've got an amazing child asleep (finally) in the next room, another little cutie on the way, a wonderful husband, and a great support system. And I've got myself.

Nothing else matters.