Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bedbugs and other visitors

Thanksgiving Leaves

Thanksgiving Leaves II

My daughter has been coming into our room every night since she could walk basically. I had set up a little blanket for her on the floor by my bed a while back so she could come in and not wake me up. But now that it's winter we use that blanket also so if I don't remember to set out another blanket then she comes in wanting a blanket or wanting in our bed. Either way she wakes me up. Every night. But thanks to what I can only imagine is a bed bug infestation in her sleeping bag, I may have broken her of this habit. Here's how it went down.

My brother came to stay with us for two nights around Thanksgiving and ended up sleeping in her bed, the lower bunk, since my mom was in the Murphy. So both kids slept in their sleeping bags on our floor. My daughter woke up the next morning covered in bites. Little ones. Dozens of them. Poor girl. My son got a few too so we thought either it was from putting them in the yardage bin while raking the leaves on Thanksgiving - an annual tradition - or the bugs came home with us from our last camping trip and have been living in the sleeping bags in our attic. Or there are just bugs in our attic and now, via the sleeping bags, they are living among us. The next night night she slept on our floor and we had our spare duvet down there for her. She got more bites. That duvet had been in the attic too. And it had also been camping. So we've now washed everything and the carpet cleaners are coming tomorrow morning to hopefully scrub away anything else lurking in the carpets. But she's convinced that sleeping on the carpet gives her bites so as long as we can keep her out of our bed, she only has one place to go and that's her own bed. Which hopefully is not infested too because that would totally ruin my plan. And we'd probably have to burn down the house.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life is Elsewhere


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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Back Page

Back page

Do you ever mean to just look at a few pages of your old journal and end up rereading the whole thing and then forget to pick up your kids from school? This always happens when I'm trying to purge some old stuff and I come across my journals and then I am completely derailed from the purging project. I don't have that many journals because I could never be bothered to write regularly. I have one, two actually, from when I was 17 and went to Israel to live on a farm for five months. I wrote every day. It's a thrilling account of a scared shitless teenager living halfway around the world wanting her mommy but instead waking up at 3am to clean incubators. Good times. And I have another journal from college that's mostly sporadic declarations of my unrequited love for some new pony-tailed, guiltar playing, pre-med goon that had the least bit of interest in yours truly. Sad but true. That journal also has some stuff from when I moved to Israel after college and met my husband. But then I mostly ever wrote in it when I was mad at him and wondering why on earth I was living in a place where you paid your bills at the post office for a guy whose idea of fun was reenacting Exodus by hiking in our underwear through the desert. It was like dating Moses.

When we left Israel I started a new journal. We had bought tickets to fly around the world for the 8 months we had before I started business school in the States. It was a fantastic trip full of adventure and turmoil and diarrhea and sand flies and hitchhiking and purple coral and Himalayan views and lost inhalers (mine - which sort of sucked at 14,000 feet), and 16 hour bus rides and yoga and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We even got engaged on that trip.

This list is on the back page of that journal. I wrote it while we were in Northern India, spending time in Dharamsala, the home in exile of the Dalai Lama. We arrived after a harrowing journey from Delhi, the armpit of earth, and even though I had a 103 fever and was hallucinating, we schlepped ourselves up to the temple where His Holiness was giving audience. And he blessed us and gave us little red strings. This was super awesome but had no affect on my Dengue fever. We decided we should stay put for a few weeks because the mere thought of another long bus ride was making me bleed from my ears. So every morning I'd wake up and listen to the rats run diagonally across the roof of our guest house accommodations. Then I'd go get a mango lassi at the cafe down the road and then do Yoga for four hours with a yogi named Akhilesh. Then I'd come home and read and eat and play card games with other travelers. And then I'd park myself at the Internet cafe and figure out where we would stay in Copenhagen, our last stop before London and then California. And who had the cheapest one way ticket from London to LAX.  And how we were getting from California to North Carolina. And how much money we still had left. And when I had to sign up for pre-MBA math camp. And who killed John F. Kennedy. And where was Al Capone's money if not in the secret vaults. And is there life elsewhere in the universe. And do they eat pita with Nutella.

Here I was living in a beautiful, albeit rustic, little village in Northern India with the Dalai Lama as my neighbor practicing yoga daily and eating as much chana masala and mango lassi as I could, all for $10 a day and yet completely consumed by the details of wrapping up our trip and starting business school another world away. Once again trying to control the ambiguity in my life.

How I would love to go back there now, and maybe stay in a place for $5 a night instead of $3 to avoid the rats, and just enjoy each day and each mango lassi and each yoga pose. And let all of my anxiety about the future waft away on a Tibetan monk's robes. I'd leave the back page of my journal for poetry or sketches. Or emergency toilet paper.

I'm getting the tiniest bit better at this actually. The living with ambiguity. We have a lot up in the air right now and while I still make lists and do research, I'm mostly letting it all simmer and thicken while I try to just enjoy where I am and trust the path. Maybe this comes with age? Our trip was already ten years ago. And here I am in the same breath that I write about enjoying the present, wishing I was traveling the world again. Sigh.

This Tuesday list was brought to you by the letter A.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I will meet you there

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. - Rumi

Over the summer when I was desperate for more useful parenting tips I did a search on Positive Discipline training in my area and found a woman named Linda who does parent training workshops in this method. With very little understanding about the theories behind the methods, I had tried a few Positive Discipline tricks in the Spring to resounding success, but my tricks had run their course. The kids were on to me and I needed more ammo. We signed up for the course and recently completed it. 

The painting, my first watercolor in months, is for Linda. For showing us that beyond our daily struggles, the wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a place where we can meet as a family.

*warning - here is where I tell stories about using Positive Discipline in our home. You are free to jump ship.

Things are much better now. Many of the power struggles are gone. I slip back into my old ways. Sometimes daily. But the kids are responding well and the conflict in our house has lessened. As has my own anxiety about permanently damaging them. This stuff is not easy. And in the beginning it feels  mostly counter intuitive and also like everything you've done the last six years has sucked.

 A few things that are working:
  1. Family meetings
    We just started having family meetings on Sundays. We start out with family yoga led by my son who takes a yoga class on Thursdays at the JCC. Then we talk about something great that happened this week. Then we can talk about something that's bothering us. Everyone is calm. We establish any new rules and revisit rules previously established. It's important to do this at the family meeting instead of in the heat of rule breaking or misbehaving. No one can listen or understand when he or she in limbic mode. In those moments we just try to diffuse and move on.

  2. Allowance
    We started giving the kids a dollar a week. And we stopped buying them stupid crap. Now they can spend their own money to buy their own stupid crap. But if they'd rather save their money, then we match it.  And the allowance is not compensation for doing their chores. They have chores, like bringing their plates in from the table, but they know they have this job because they are part of our family and that we all have responsibilities. If they don't do their jobs, they still get paid, but we mention it at the family meeting. So far, they do their jobs and they feel they belong. 
A few weeks ago my son had a complete freak out because I wouldn't buy him something or take him some where after school. I don't even remember. When he got home he continued to shriek about it while wearing his favorite pink plastic high heels. He ended up stamping his feet so hard that he broke both shoes. And then I had to put him in a straight jacket because he started to foam at the mouth and his head was spinning 360 degrees. After close to an hour he stopped crying and begged for new shoes. In this frustrating moment I reverted to my old ways and told him there was no way he would ever get new shoes because he didn't deserve them since this is the way he treats his belongings. Then the next day he begged for the shoes again and I said if he behaved well for the next two weeks I might buy them.  Genius. Now we're in a power struggle that he can never win with a nebulous target we have no way of measuring. Outstanding. His only choice would be to one up me by being an even bigger pest. Three cheers!

I finally figured out what needed to be done. I told him that since he has his own money now he is welcome to buy himself a new pair of heels. His little bank only opens for withdrawal when he hits $10 so he had three weeks to wait but that I would continue to give him his $1 each week and that he could take his $5 to buy the heels and save the other $5. At first he wasn't thrilled about that idea. But once it sank in that he could buy his own things with his own money, he started to feel in control. And, like me, the boy really just wants control. He has one week left before the payout so he's getting excited. And he hasn't had a major come apart in going on three weeks.

Lots of resources on Positive Discipline on Linda's website and the Positive Discipline website. I haven't read any of the books but it's on my list right after I finish that third one in the Swedish murder media sex trade books.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Special Ops

Special Ops
Second Generation Special Ops Reconnaissance Unit circa 2006

So my son goes to the parent participation school in our neighborhood which I know I've moaned about because it means I teach there and I get more emails than President Obama and it has generally taken over our lives. And yet we couldn't be happier about the place and the community and the education that our son is getting. Our closest and oldest friends in the area also send their son there and even though the boys are not in the same class they play a lot at recess and are generally happy to be together at school. The funny part is that the husband of this couple and my husband were in the Israeli army together. Basic training and the whole bit.

Fast forward twenty years and these two comrades in arms are sitting in parent education class for entering kindergartners at a public school halfway around the world. We were laughing about that the other day. I mean what are the chances?

The story goes that on the third day of training the parent education chair, a tiny woman from Hong Kong, asked for five volunteers for a role play activity and this friend leans over to my husband and whispers, in Hebrew, oh man, this is going to be rough. As if their commander had called everyone into formation and shouted, I heard that someone fell asleep on guard duty last night...

Oh man, this is going to be rough.

Running with 80 lb. packs for six days? Good times. Long reconnaissance missions in the dark with no food? Easy. Crawling through artillery fields along enemy territory? No problem. Getting up in front of fifty parents to act out some positive discipline concept? We surrender!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To Buy List


This is the list that's on our fridge of the things we need to buy. Even though it's on the to do side of the list. You'll notice glasses is on the list. We've been on a spending freeze the last few months so the list has grown. We also lost a few things and a few things broke. But in the last month we've started working through the list. Buying the bunk bed and toy bins was huge and has helped to realigned my chakras. My new watch arrives on Thursday. And I used miles to buy an ipod shuffle since I lost the ipod nano that I got as a gift from an old employer. Thankfully my daughter found my husband's ipod in my car today. We had looked there, in the exact spot where she found it, without success. But last week I had the car washed and I suspect a very honest car washer found it and put it in that safe spot.

So now we're down to only a few more items. My husband needs new prescription sunglasses because his are broken and I need new glasses because I feel like I've been wearing the same pair of shoes for three years. He also needs a new bike (unfortunately one that will likely cost more than his car is worth, by a lot). I need a new wallet. We both need new phones. And then we just need the minivan and a new house. And a winning lottery ticket. And a nicer list pad. Done.

Artsyville has more lists for your Tuesday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Handmade Hanukkah

Friends of mine are hosting an intimate Handmade Hanukkah open house on November 14 from 11-3 in Sunnyvale, CA so if you live in the South Bay I encourage you to come and get some holiday shopping out of the way. I am selling my matted prints for 20% off. Such a deal!

See you tomorrow for List It Tuesday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Other Stuff Everyday Month

Well art every day is not happening. I really applaud those of you doing the art or the writing or the journaling everyday. It's completely awesome. And every successful creative person will tell you that it comes from some daily creative action. I wish I had it in me lately. I tend to be a little less aspirational on an everyday basis. I'm more of a "brush your teeth every day" gal. Or a "reorganize the bookshelf by category everyday" type. Maybe I'll make a badge and everyone can participate in my non-clinical  OCD. How about "check craigslist everyday for toy storage bins"? Because that's my latest obsession. And thankfully I indeed found what I was looking for. So, along with a "new to me"  bunk bed and three large bins for toys and goodies, it looks like we might be able to stretch this house for a while longer. And it might even be the case that my kids can actually put away their own toys since they now can see where the toys go AND access that spot without climbing the shelves of their closet and risking their lives everyday month. AND, even better, they can see what toys they have and actually play with them. AND since all of this coincides with my sinus infection, their newly imposed independence suits me fine. So instead of art, I'll be squirting warm salt water up my nose everyday month. There must be a badge for that.

Here are more of my own personal badges. You can use any you like. Or tell me your own everyday badge in the comments. Let's start a revolution!

Thursday, November 4, 2010



In an effort to get myself out of my raggedy funk and to half-assed participate in the Art Every Day Month, I went to Michael's last night and bought some acrylic paints. I have two very small chunky canvases that I bought years ago thinking I would love to be able to paint with acrylics on these little fatty canvases and pop them on the wall without the torment of framing. The thing is I don't really know how to paint in acrylic. Some initial observations:
  1. Adding a new acrylic color on top of an old acrylic color makes it the new color and not a neat hybrid of both. 
  2. Must mix on the pallet and not really on the canvas. Not so with watercolor. 
  3. Adding water does not solve any problems and only thins the paint and makes it yucky.
  4. Accidentally putting my quilted paper towel on the wet paint makes for a cool texture.
  5. I have no control with acrylic. 
  6. I don't know how to add text to a canvas. Initial attempts were not pretty.
So this is a little whale. He's part of a series I am thinking about that incorporate some of the quotes I use in my name prints for kids. I want to add a quote to this guy and I'm not sure how to do it. Or maybe I should just leave him be. The nice thing about acrylic, I'm discovering, is that I can screw up plenty and cover my tracks with more paint. Watercolor is not so forgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Raggedy Ann

My mom brought my old Raggedy Ann doll with her on her last visit to give to my daughter. I got it as a gift when I was born. So she's 37 also. And I was looking at her while I was trying to clean up our house and figure out creative ways to make more space where there is none and I thought, George Jesus we look a lot alike. I'm growing my hair out and it's looking crazy. My clothes are ill fitting. I have giant bags under my eyes that just kind of fade into my crow's feet. And I have that same grin. That "everything's fine" grin. When actually everything feels like it's about to come undone. And I thought, tell me about it sister. Maybe I need some red striped sock therapy too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Double take


Homemade lion costume: $22.50
Old Navy butterfly costume: $10.00
Realizing I dressed them exactly the same three Halloweens ago: Priceless.

Happy November!