Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Day Off

Yesterday, I had what I often wish for: A Day Off.

I had to drive to San Diego to see my doctors, and Justin spent the day fathering Ella.

"I don't know why I miss her already. It's not like I don't get to see her tomorrow morning before I leave," I said as we listened to her cooing and getting comfortable for her night's sleep.

I uploaded photos onto Facebook from our Ren Faire experience that day so that I could look at her while I was gone--and show them to my doctors when they asked how she was doing. (I kept my phone ready and I could feel my face light up at the moment I volunteered the pictures. I am sure they count my smile as proof that I am telling the truth when I say she is doing great and I love being her mom.)

Ella wearing Daddy's hat.

Ella wearing Grandpa Mark's hat.

I charged my Bluetooth, which has been relegated to the back of my desk drawer since I hardly ever drive beyond her dance class these days. I intended to catch up on phone calls to my long distance friends and sister-in-law while I drove.

During the hour-and-a-half drive south, though, I was mesmerized by stories on NPR without singing Skinamarinky Dinky Dink over them. By listening to country music (which Ella enjoys) without feeling the self-control and generosity of my chauffeur before he can't take it anymore and turns off the radio.

I must have left it on all day, as it wasn't working when I decided I really would call people on the drive home.

I got there early and shopped at the outlet stores before my appointments. I ate at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant before leaving town. I hit traffic on the way back and conveniently stopped at Ikea to stretch my legs and buy the clothesline-like picture frame I wanted for Ella's room.

I missed her from the moment I got into the car in the morning without buckling her into her car seat first.

I was jealous of Justin and Ella getting to spend the day together without me.

I envied their walk to the park, their lunch, her three-hour nap (the reading and writing and things I could do during a three-hour nap!). Her Easter egg hunt (a frequent request I usually reject), their dance party and bubble-blowing sessions, their reading almost all of her books together.

That's right. The habit of the day that I sometimes find monotonous was something I craved.

I did my best to live in the moment and, don't get me wrong, I did relish my quiet time. Except for cashiers and receiving one phone call before lunch (oh, and three or so to Justin to check in upon arrival and departure and just because), I spoke to no one but my doctors. Only one and a half hours of talking from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

When I got home, I stood silently smiling in the doorway, waiting for that glimmer of recognition to spread across her face as she realized Mommy was back. And we were off, sliding seamlessly into the routines of our day--hugging and kissing and reading more books and blowing more bubbles and making dinner and getting ready for bed.

I love that Justin got to spend that time with her. He misses so much while he is at work. I felt that tug he must feel when he leaves her, that rush he must get when he walks from the car to our front door, in his last moments of solitude before we are upon him with our love and our requests and our stories of the day.

During one of my quick phone calls to him I asked, "How's my baby girl?" It's what I say when she's with her grandma and I call to check up on them.

"'How's our baby girl?'" he responded.

Sheepishly, I repeated, "Yes. Sorry. How's our baby girl?"

Today, I got up when he left for work at 6 a.m. thinking, "If I'm lucky, I'll get two hours of quiet before she wakes up." Think of all the reading and writing I could do in two hours!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Body Image III

At the moment my favorite thing to do during Ella's nap is eat the "silky smooth hollow milk chocolate bunny" that the Easter bunny gave her this year.

I don't know whose idea it was to make it a fairy bunny (TM), but I love that this Dove bunny has wings. More chocolate for Ella!

OK. So Ella hasn't seen it since she took it out of the basket and I whisked it away while she reached for the more wholesome book he gave her, too. Whatever.

I need it more than she does.

That said, I just read a blog by a new mom with an 8-week-old son (I mean, seriously new!), who has given up sweets for a month and pledged to run twice a week as part of her get-back-in-shape plan. She doesn't even think twice a week is very much!

Two months ago I pledged to run (nay, jog) in the Seal Beach 5K. It's so truly in my neighborhood that we can't pull our car out of the driveway while the racers run by our house. I figured it would motivate me to start working out as promised. I even wrote about it and recruited friends to do it with me, thinking if we "trained" together we would all make exercising a habit.

Then, I got a bad cold and a cough that lingered for three weeks. Then, Ella got hand, foot and mouth. This week I've figured that if I actually run in preparation I'll be too sore on race day to manage anything, so my strategy is to eat chocolate.

I don't know what I'm going to do when I run out of fairy bunny. Maybe the race will motivate me to start exercising regularly.

Or, Ella will give me chocolate for Mother's Day.

(In case you're reading this, Ella, I don't really want chocolate. Ever.)

I mentioned that I lost a lot of weight over the last six months. As such, I finally gave away all of my maternity clothes and even got to buy new shorts and shirts for summer.

While browsing through the clothes racks, I saw some really cute shorts and skirts, and felt bad for a moment that I couldn't pull them off anymore. I mean, there's losing a couple of dress sizes, and then there's being a size zero or even two. That would take losing a decade. They are not the same thing. Even so, I know there are women who would give it a shot--there must be, seeing as the items are available in such a wide range of sizes. I just happen to think that at 37 I am now a "woman of a certain age" and should dress accordingly.

I'm hoping Ella was with me, because I know I was talking out loud when I said, "That's, OK. This body made a whole entire person. It doesn't need to wear those shorts."

I talk to her (Ella) all the time. Half the time it's just me thinking aloud, since she doesn't exactly hold up her end of the conversation. The problem is, I find myself doing it all the time--even when she's not with me. Then, I look like a woman of a certain age who is already losing her mind.

I'm finding the fact that my body carried a kid around for nine months to be an honorable thing. I mean, I honor myself for it. Look at this person. I made her. Amazing! I move through the world wearing her like I'm a marathon winner who can't take her medal off.

I want to be able to say I don't worry about the shape of my body. I do. I can totally relate to my new-mom blogger friend when she writes "there's still a very incredible muffin top just waiting to depress me whenever I try to put those [jeans] on." I'm pretty sure some of my pre-pregnancy clothes will never fit me again. I push around on my hips as I hold them against me hoping that this time it will seem worthwhile to even bother trying to put them on, but when I look in the mirror I can see myself behind them. It's like I'm a paper doll and I've cut a little too far away from the outline for the clothes to fit. I'm convinced my bones moved to accommodate Ella, and they just won't go back.

That's what I tell myself.

Once, when I was a teacher, a few students stayed after school in my "homework clinic" to get extra help on an essay. A mom came in to pick up her tenth grade daughter. She looked at one of the other girls wearing a really short, really tight miniskirt and squealed, "I have that skirt, too!"

I can't imagine pulling off a skirt like that now, and my daughter is only two. (Which probably means I'm still younger than that mom was that day.)  But I'm OK with that.

My legs probably look better with Ella's little arms wrapped around one of them, anyway.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What I Never Imagined

Working on the writing topics list:

  • Good Friday ("Happy Good Friday?" Really? Really.)
  • Race Relations and Kids (and Anderson Cooper)
  • The Bus as Field Trip
  • Laundry (again, really?)
  • Body Image (again. really.)
In response to my Tax Day post, a friend responded, "I think Ella is going to grow up to be a Republican. ;)"

I'm assuming the winking-smiley-face emoticon signals a lighthearted joke. The friend is herself a Republican. (Yes, I really do have Republican friends!)

Still, I've been thinking about it all day. 

What if Ella grew up to be a Republican? 

Good Lord. What would I do?

As a teacher, I always got so frustrated with high school students who brazenly spouted political opinions without much understanding of what they were saying. It was so obvious that they were just repeating--even believing--what their parents said. 

Of course, I found it even more annoying when it was a Republican point of view.

I don't want Ella to be a Democrat, or a bleeding heart liberal, or even just a liberal simply because I am. (Her dad is too, though his heart isn't quite so bleeding as mine. Just for the record.)

But, my God! What if she were a Republican?

It reminded me of this conversation I had with a former student and current friend. She created these pieces of art from a photo of 4-day-old Ella and early 30-something me:


They were posted on Facebook with this note: "A grassroots social media campaign called "COUNT ME OUT", whose goal is for social media users to “donate” their main profile image to include the word OUT or ALLY on National Coming Out Day, Monday October 11th. Participants are welcome and encouraged to utilize the days preceding and following Monday Oct 11th to participate as well." 

I responded under Ella's photo: Wow! Beautiful photo of Ella. :) I'm proud to be an ally--we'll see what she is when she grows up. :)

"haha I know! I was thinking about that. We can't really call her an ally yet! But it was so gosh darn cute!" she wrote.

"‎:) I think we can call her an ally for now," I replied.

The difference is, obviously, that Ella was born gay or straight or whatever sexual orientation she is.

But Republicans and Democrats aren't born that way. 

It has to be carefully taught. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tax Day

Working on the writing topics list:
  • Good Friday ("Happy Good Friday?" Really? Really.)
  • Race Relations and Kids (and Anderson Cooper)
  • The Bus as Field Trip
  • Laundry (again, really?)
  • Body Image (again. really.)

It's Tax Day tomorrow (Actually, this year, it's Tuesday, April 17, instead of Sunday, April 15--so if you just panicked thinking you're late, you still have a little time.).

It's Tax Day tomorrow and I want to have a party.

No, not a Tea Party.

A party.

I want to celebrate the day we all (well, most of us, ahem, not, of course those big corporations, they got out of it, and Mitt Romney, he wants to wait a while longer)...

I want to celebrate the day we all chip in to run this country.

Go ahead, call me a bleeding heart liberal. I won't be insulted. I take it as a compliment.

Despite your tone.

I've always been proud to pay my taxes. This isn't to say I wasn't a little bummed when I saw the difference between my gross income and my net income, I was. But when April 15 rolled around, I was proud to mail off my form full of numbers.

Granted, I usually got a refund, because I didn't ever want to be surprised to owe a bunch of money all in one month, and I know I lost about 50 cents in interest because of it, but I was proud.

This year, we are definitely paying a lot of money to the IRS. They'll be happy to get our big fat check in the mail.

I'm still proud to pay my taxes.

(I said, "Well, your taxes," when Justin and I were talking about it. He said, "They're your taxes, too. We're a team." God love him.)

You see, I like the roads, and the libraries, and the parks. I'm thankful for the regulations that keep the air and water clean. I appreciate the work our military does. I believe in public education, and giving aid to people in emergency situations (FEMA), and making sure babies have healthy food and our senior citizens aren't homeless.

I'd like a single-payer healthcare system, but I'll settle for Obamacare, which is CHEAPER than the system we have now, the one where tax payers foot the bill for the uninsured who can never pay for their emergency room visits and use the ER as a primary care physician.


Obamacare is LESS EXPENSIVE for the tax payer than no healthcare system at all.

Taxes are good.

Now, I've been told I would become a Republican or at least a fiscal conservative one day.

"You just wait and see," they (yeah, more than one person) said. "When you have money you won't want to pay all those taxes. You'll change."

God, I hope not.

For one thing, I didn't think I'd ever have money. Being an English major doesn't usually lead to lucrative employment. Being a high school English teacher seals the deal.

When Justin and I met he was working as a security guard at night and going to college full time. He's a disabled veteran, and it's not like Marines get paid all that much in the first place. Medical school is infamously expensive, and med students are not allowed to have jobs. (Not that if they could there would be time for one anyway.) When I had to go on disability because of my debilitating depression and then that ran out, we had no income. For years. We took more than the usual med school loans. Most residents (that's that internship-for-doctors kind of time after med school and before getting a real job as a doctor with a specialty) are young and single, and the salary is just enough to keep them afloat. Justin was married and had a kid at the beginning of his third and last year of residency. I was a waitress and then worked in an office and then got laid off and then had a baby during his residency program.

There was a year before medical school when he worked in a lab and I taught, and we felt comfortable, but for most of my life, money has been something to worry about. I'm used to worrying about whether to buy a coffee at Starbuck's because it's such an indulgence. I hardly ever bought clothes and when I did they were usually from the clearance rack at a big box store. I had a budget for groceries and the like, and would stand in front of the displays calculating the best deal per roll of toilet paper.

I never believed we would "have money," not even when I knew that Justin was really going to become a doctor. (And it's not like he's a dermatologist--they make the most money, as doctors go. Interesting little fact, huh?)

I can't believe we can rent such a big house in such a nice neighborhood. I can't believe we can buy new clothes even if they are not on sale. I can't believe I don't have to feel scared because I can't find a job. I can't believe I can stay home with Ella and even enroll her in some mommy-and-me classes for fun.

I can't believe Ella is growing up in a world where we can walk to the beach, and buy lunch if we're hungry and not at home, and even go to Disneyland without worrying.

My dear, sweet Ella and I are going to go on a field trip with our friends. We are going to ride the city bus to a park in the next town, play, and ride back. It's not even the ugly city bus, it's the special one that goes through downtown along the touristy areas.

That's right. Ella lives in a world where riding the bus is a special treat.

Not a special treat as in we-get-to-ride-the-bus-instead-of-walk-in-the-rain, but a special treat as in won't-it-be-fun-to-ride-the-bus-instead-of-going-in-one-of-our-cars.

Justin says he's not worried about it, "I've ridden the bus enough in my life," I think were his exact words. Sometimes, when he was in high school, he would forget and accidentally spend his bus fare at lunchtime, and then have to walk home. It wouldn't have been too bad, even with the long distance, if it weren't for part of the walk being through gang territory.

I am so hopeful that Ella will not feel financial stress as she grows up. I am grateful to have lived the American dream--the rags-to-riches-is-possible story. Really, Justin and I are a case study in possibility, what with my parents coming to North America from India with nothing and being able to eventually buy a house and have their kids go to college, and his being the only kid from his group of childhood friends to go to college.

I am hopeful. I also realize we are going to have to be very intentional about teaching Ella to handle money gracefully.

One day, she will be proud to pay her taxes, too.