Saturday, September 12, 2015

Two Mary Oliver Poems on a day that I need them both

This morning I found out that someone who I've known for many, many years passed away quite suddenly. I had found out within the last few weeks that he had cancer, and then two days ago that he was going on hospice. My history with him was somewhat complicated and closely connected to my history with my dad. I've known him since I was 12 years old, and he was someone I went to when my relationship with my dad was unraveling to get wisdom, direction and support. The past few months I had been processing how to contact and reconcile with him. I don't know that he knew the grief and need for reconciliation on my part. Maybe he did, or perhaps not. He added me as a friend on facebook this summer, and I left it be & didn't respond. He was on my mind so much, and the fact that he'd moved to Oakland & that I would see him every so often forced me to think through if and when I wanted to talk to him. On Thursday when I found out he was untreatable I sobbed in my studio for a couple of hours. It was a combination of many feelings: loss, grief, regret, anger, sadness. And today, at the news of his passing from this life into the next, I am incredibly sad. He was a really good man who loved and was loved by so many. I think he loved my dad so deeply and when my dad, for once, wasn't very loveable he still supported him. That had consequences for me, but at the heart of it I know he was doing what he thought was best. His life is a great loss, and I regret so much that I wasn't ready sooner to seek resolution. And so I turn to poetry, because like painting and music, I find God there. 
A Settlement
Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you
for everything.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

a short course on hearing loss in the classroom

this summer little m (now not so little 7!) asked if she could make a video for her new teacher explaining being deaf, her cochlear implants, and how to best help her in the classroom. we made it yesterday, just in time for the new schoolyear to start.

she first brainstormed a list with me about all the things she wanted to say, and then had me record her talking through each point. (i left out the one where she said sometimes she likes being deaf because she can take off her magnets and ignore people!) it made me incredibly proud of her, since one of our iep goals has been for her to become more of an advocate for herself. she covered so many of the things i would have had her say, and she spoke clearly and confidently. i am so thankful for this girl, and for all the ways she is learning and growing.

here's the video if you'd like to get schooled by a seven year old!

Friday, August 7, 2015

home sweet home

There is something about going home, to your people, your space, to whatever makes you feel rooted and whole. For Monrovia, we've found that one home for her is her old deaf school, where we took her from 7 months until she was almost 4. It is a trek for us, usually about an hour each way to get there, but it also is a place that changed our lives forever, and gave us an ongoing community of support and friendship that we still carry with us.

This summer we were able to go for one week of Alumni Camp, so every morning we piled into the car at 7 am to make the drive. As you can see, out of my two kids I have one morning person and one not-so-morning-person...
My favorite part of Alumni Camp is that feeling of going back to a place where you are known, and where other people share some of your experience. For Monrovia, she gets to be in a place where almost all of the kids have hearing loss- just like her. Since at her regular school she is the only kid with hearing loss (and she notices this), it is a special time.

Going into Camp with her friend Samantha...(Let me tell you how many times I have walked up and down the below stairs)
Morning Music started at 8:30, and even though Monrovia is now 7, she still loved it. And what can I say? I love it too. Monrovia used to sit in this same circle when she was barely walking. I love that she is now one of the old kids that the little ones can look up to, at the same time that she is singing and participating.

Monrovia's friend Kalia, who also lives in Oakland, was there for camp too. They were in class together when Monrovia was just 15 months old! Not so little anymore...
Monrovia's sweet class of kiddos, and their amazing teacher Lisa - who happens to be my dear friend and a mama to Monrovia's "sister" Lily. Her class theme was The Enchanted Forest, so they named themselves Peter Pan (in honor of the token boy in their class) and the Fairies. Love all of these sweet kiddos.
Monrovia and her friend Lily decided to be twins the first day, so they wore matching outfits, including headbands made to hold their cochlear implants. Melt my heart these two!
Meanwhile, while the big kids are at Camp all morning, the mamas had the younger siblings for a few hours. That usually (and historically) means hanging out at school, going to a park, going to Target and Whole Foods....After a long time apart, they old crew is back together!
Daily errands to the store...

Ruby with her first ever friend Ella. They've known each other since they were born, these two!
The big kids Enchanted Forest....

The kids made fairy houses
And made and wrote about their fairies...
Monrovia's friend Vivian led a cheer at Morning Music. People, these little kids yelling their little hearts out? All have hearing loss. I love it. It seriously never gets old.

Every day we would hang out after camp and eat lunch together. The mamas would talk and the kids would all play for as long as we would let them, running and chasing and imagining and shouting and throwing and being crazy.

Then back on the road, home to Oakland!
Here is the daughter, who is naturally a social, outgoing, friendly kid with lots fo friends, is most herself when she is back with her hearing loss friends. I can't quite explain it, but even though they are so young they are so at ease with each other. And for me, I get time with friends whose kids are on a similar journey. Even though people forget all the time that Monrovia is deaf, we never do. It is a part of our routine and family, and one that we wouldn't change. But when I see my mama friends, or to a degree Monrovia's former teachers and speech therapists, it is home for me too. We can cut out a lot of the explaining and just get right to the stuff that our kids are going through, the high and lows and the logistics of hearing loss that no one else really cares or knows about. So for a week, we got to go home to our people. To our history. To our roots. To safety for Monrovia and comfort for me. Grateful for a week of home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

These are my favorite (a very short and incomplete list) things

To get back on the blogging wagon, and in no particular order, some of my favorite things this summer....
Summer evenings
Random astronaut sloth pictures airdropped onto my phone by a bestie
Time with dear friends 
Laughter with these twoSweet treats on the beach 
Watching movies late at night
Watching my girls discover new adventures 
Hunting for beach treasures 
These amazing pineapple daiquiris Matt has been making
Time to watch sunsets on the beach (no big deal, right? Thank you California for being incredible as usual)
Running while my girls bike alongside me
Swim lesson cuteness
Big girl snuggles
Almost kindergarten handwriting 
Crafty time 
Sugar explosion and hang time with Aunt Chrissy
Quiet evenings at home
Our new dining room light (photobombed by one of my paintings)

And now, as I'm about to tumble into bed, one of my favorite things? 
And once more just because...vacation!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Generosity

Last week, some friends were over and one of them slipped me an envelope. Inside was a kind note and a check to cover the cost of one of Monrovia's rechargeable cochlear implant batteries (or any of the extra costs that come along with having hearing loss.) It was so thoughtful, kind and touching. This isn't the first time these friends have shown generosity towards Matt and I. And we have many thoughtful people in our lives, but the times these friends have made an intentional and generous gesture to us it has stuck with me.

It isn't that they are wealthy (they aren't), and it isn't that they have cash to burn (they don't!) They have lots of expenses and they live in the Bay Area, one of the priciest places to live in the entire country.

Here is the thing their (and others') generosity has shown me:

  • It doesn't matter how much money you have. You can always share some of what you have with someone else. We live in such a culture of deficiency; we act as if there is never enough, no matter what our checking account says. 
  • Often the people in my life who have fewer resources are the ones who are more generous with what they have.
  • Generosity breeds generosity. Every time someone is generous with me, it makes more generous with others. It reminds me of how much those acts mean, and encourages me to be more open handed with what I have. 
  • If you make it a habit, generosity becomes a way of life. The more you give away, the more you want to do it! I'm not just talking about money, I'm talking about all sorts of resources: time, abilities, use of your belongings, etc...
  • I want my kids to be generous. So I need to be generous! Because that's where they learn it. As my kids get older, I know all of these activities vy for their attention and time, but we have to prioritize generous acts in that mix to ingrain that value into our children. 
This Sunday, our girls put on a lemonade stand in front of our house! We had read a lot about the string of black churches that have been burned down in the last month, and we wanted to do something to show care for these brothers and sisters of ours across the country. It's important for Matt and I to teach our girls that their "neighbor" isn't just the person who lives next door and who looks just like them. We also want to teach them to do what they can to work against acts of injustice and racism. We decided to donate all of the money they earned to a fund for those churches, to be divided equally between them. (You can find out more about the fund here)

The girls were little worker bees! Scrubbing our lemons:
Making signs:
Juicing lemons:

They sold lemonade for two hours, until our lemonade cups ran out! They raised $98.28 to give away! Most of all, they did something to benefit someone else.

I'd love to hear ways that you teach your own children about being generous? How do you model it for them? What are habits of generosity you've built into your own life? 

Talk to me, I'd love to learn more....

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Best Ever!

A couple of years ago we were at our friends Justin and Danelle's for dinner, and I found Matt in the kitchen, devouring slices of fresh pumpkin bread off of the counter. Our friend Jennifer had brought a homemade loaf of Tartine Bakery's recipe, and I think Matt ate almost the entire thing. It was delicious! Even though we have the Tartine cookbook we'd never made the Pumpkin Tea Cake. (The lemon bars are also incredible and my go to recipe!) After stealing a few slices to eat on our drive home, Matt decided to conquer this recipe at home sometime. Since then he's made this for special occasions, as well as for regular mornings as a treat.

This morning I woke up to the smell of two loaves baking, and I couldn't have been happier. (It tastes even more yummy when someone else does all the work and you get to roll out of bed and eat a slice)

Pumpkin Tea Cake from Tartine

1 2/3 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) baking soda
1 tbsp + 2 tsps (25 ml) ground cinnamon
2 tsps (10 ml) nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tbsps (255 g) pumpkin purée
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable oil (like safflower or sunflower)
1 1/3 cups (270 g) sugar
3/4 tsp (4 ml) salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsps sugar for topping
*** 3 tbsps pepitas for topping  (optional: we don't top it with these, but I'm sure it would be good)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×5-inch loaf pan. (You can do this recipe with a stand mixer or by hand.) 

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt together until well blended. Beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour and mix until just combined. You don’t want to overbeat the batter as it will result in a tougher crumb. Then beat for 5 to 10 seconds until smooth. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and tap the pan on the counter to help flatten the batter out. Sprinkle the sugar (and, if using, pepitas) on top and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and flip the cake out. Turn the cake back right-side up and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Lasts about 4 days (well-wrapped) on your counter or up to a week in the refrigerator. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How cute are they?

I usually think my girls could care less about what I am currently working on - whether it is my paintings or my freelance illustration. They just like to come into my studio and use all of my supplies and then hang up their art all over the walls. Otherwise they are very blase about it: an artist is about as exciting as a bank teller in their world. 

The other day we were shopping, and as I checked things off of my list I turned around to see my girls hunting for my cards. Monrovia had one in her hand, "Isn't this yours mommy?" Much to my surprise, it was! And my cute little hunters looked through the entire section to find my cards. They were  melting my heart with their earnest smiles (which was a good turn of events, since about five minutes before I had threatened to walk out of the store if they didn't stop bickering!)

Monrovia announced that the store should order more of my thank you cards, and Ruby insisted a card of a popsicle covered in glitter should be one that I made. My two opinionated munchkins! I guess they pay more attention than I think they do. 

Happy weekend!

Life is Messy

I've been thinking a lot about how messy life is.

Sunday was Father's Day and two days ago would have been my parents 42nd anniversary, and both are bittersweet days for me. The pain is no longer acute, but it's funny to me how things will come up out of nowhere - an email from someone connected to the last day I saw my dad, a comment he writes on a relative's Facebook page, running into someone who knew me a long time ago when my parents were together- that remind me of how when relational fracture happens it doesn't just go away. We carry it around with in our bodies and in our memories. It doesn't just affect one person, but it reverberates out and affects small communities of people.

On Sunday, as I was thinking about Father's Day, I thought about good things about my own dad, even though now it is so hard to sift through the past and know what was true and what wasn't. I'll never know how many years ago my dad started lying to me, and what he did and didn't lie about. Sometimes I'll remember something that happened many years ago that didn't add up at the time, and I'll work it through in my mind, wondering if that too was a lie and that's why it didn't make sense at the time. That said, I know my dad loved me. It was flawed, as all love is, and the reality of it versus the projected public version of it feels like two different entities, but it was still love. I know there were things my dad gifted my family that I am thankful for.

Then I started thinking about Matt: what a good dad he is, how he rounds me out, and gives the girls habits and qualities that I wouldn't be able to. I started thinking about all of the other men I know who have modeled good dad qualities to me over the years, and who do the same now to my own children. So instead of dwelling on the messy and the hard, and the parts of Father's Day that feel sucky, I decided to think about and be grateful for all of those people.

On my parents' would-have-been-anniversary I thought of the same thing...the parts of my parents' marriage that taught me, supported me and shaped me, and the marriages around me that scaffold me now, that encourage and inspire Matt and me in our own marriage. I remember before Matt and I were married, we met with a bunch of married couples to get advice and wisdom before getting married. One of the couples we met with was my parents. At the time my parents were still married. A piece of advice that my dad gave me was that you can always learn something from another couple- no matter how much you don't like their relationship or regardless of how different it is from your own. So in the spirit of that, I often try to think of the things I learned from my dad or from my parents marriage, despite all of the pain and disruption that happened towards the end of my relationship with my dad. You can always learn.

The messy isn't going anywhere, and so for today at least, I see the mess and make some mud pies out of it all.

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Growing Up & Growing Old

Dear Little M,

When I first started writing this blog you were a newborn, just hatched into the world. So much was unknown back then; I'd never been a mom before, and as much as I couldn't wait to be a mom- your mom- I also wasn't quite sure how exactly to be a parent. Add on that we'd just found out you were deaf? I felt a little bit like I was doggy paddling out in the middle of a large body of water with no rescue boat in sight. But then, because it's life, you just have to make your way and head into the unknown because the next day is bound to come whether you want it to or not.

I make a lot of mistakes as a mom and in all the other life parts too: as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. That's life too: we are human beings and so we mess up a lot, and then hopefully learn enough from the messing up to do it a little better the next time. There are so many days that I want to rewind and change what I've just said to you or Ruby because I know I didn't do it that well. I let my frustration or impatience come out of my mouth instead of kindness, grace and love. Sometimes I hear you scolding Ruby or talking back to me, and if I close my eyes it's my own voice I hear.

So here we are, seven years into life for you, seven years into parenthood for me.

Here you are on the first and last day of first grade.
It feels like this year sped by even faster than Kindergarten! In some ways I just want to freeze time, and keep you at this age forever. It's so much fun to be your mom, even though I still learn every day how to be a good parent to you and Ruby. But I also see how you are maturing, and I can't wait to find out who you become over time. 

This was a year jam packed with emotions- I am trying teach you to be patient, kind and to slow down when you feel all the big stuff coursing through your little body. You have so many feels: the joy, the grief, the frustration, the anger, the impatience, the delight. Lots of feelings, just like your mama. This year those feelings have intensified, and while you practice having those emotions and knowing what to do with them, I'm working on giving you good boundaries for how and when to show them. I don't always do that super well- sometimes I cut you off when you just need to try out your anger to see what happens, or I snuggle you when you really need some space. 

This was also a year full of learning! You had an amazing teacher (and two great student teachers) and every day you came home with new stories spilling out about what you'd learned that day. You are reading so well now, even though it's been a lot of really intentional for you! You soaked up new ways of doing math, discovered history, and loved science. You learned how to write your first essay with a begging, middle and end! You worked hard to speak up when you couldn't hear something in class, and you taught your classmates all about cochlear implants and being deaf. 

What makes me most proud is that aside from all of your growth academically and in the classroom, that your teacher told us how compassionate and thoughtful you are: you stick up for kids when they are being left out, you help others when they are hurt, and that you always include others.  
I'm so proud of who you are becoming as you navigate the world. Grateful for your laughter, your generosity, your sensitivity, your insight, your kindness, your tender heart, your imagination and bravery. 

I love being your mom, even when it's really hard and I feel like I'm botching all of it. There are days, hours, minutes, where I am at a loss because you are pushing so hard and I am reacting to everything you are saying and doing without taking pause to remember that you are a child, and that I am an adult, and that you need me to show you how to push appropriately. I'm sorry for the times I am more concerned with managing your behavior and getting you under control than I am with listening to what you really need, and in being patient, gentle and slow to anger. Forgive me for sometimes wanting the quick solution instead of the better route of compassion and positive discipline.
When it comes down to it, I think being a parent is a lot like being a kid. We are both trying to figure out how to be in this world, and how to take on every new stage with the tools we've got. We move toward each other and then away from each other, in different roles to be sure, but learning from each interaction.
I hope I'm teaching you well, my little one, how to engage life, how to mess up and ask for forgiveness, how to be wounded and still extend forgiveness, how to laugh at yourself, how to try over, how to stick to something, how to work hard, how to pray, how to ask for help, how to love others, how to feel confident in your own skin, how to use your words, how to share, how to know when to keep fighting and when to throw in the towel, how to be vulnerable and how to be strong. You're certainly teaching me all of those things just by being you.