Wednesday, March 31, 2010

angelina has nothing on us

have you seen the paparazzi pics of angelina on her venetian balcony with her kiddos,
sporting her version of bedhead?
she still looks amazing
glowing skin
fluffy hair
cute, classy pj's

we have morning snuggletime too,
but we don't have hoards of photogs
fighting for our picture below our balcony
or a lovely view of venice
or extra nannies on hand

but we are still sassy
M sees herself on the computer screen & says, "roro!"
we check out the garbage truck, recycling foragers or passing cars instead of gondoleers
not quite as sexy, perhaps, but very enthralling to an almost 2 year old
m is cuter than shiloh, knox or any of those jolie-pitts
(maybe i'm biased?)
dear angelina, look how fun we are. if you ever want a playdate,
bring your clan of kids and your saucy self on over.
(oh, but you can leave the paparazzi at home)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

roller coaster

matt & i have been in the process of trying to find a house to buy in oakland
for about 7 months now.

it has felt like this constant roller coaster of
selling ourselves on a vision of a place and what potential it could have...

(our budget, even for the flatlands in oakland is small small &
we don't want to overextend ourselves or make things too tight;
so that means we look at a lot of very beat down, lots of work, pitiful looking places.)

...agonizing over whether we should put in an offer
then (maybe) putting in an offer
and finally,
(up until now)
our offer not getting accepted.
so we grieve that house falling through
try to get excited about the next possible house.

meanwhile, the truth is that we are also fine renting.
our place now is great, and we've been here for almost 4 years.
i am not exactly sure how we would fit a fourth little person in our place,
but it would just take some creativity and shifting rooms around.

but, there are downsides to renting our place:
it has begun to grate on us that we have no dining room or even a dining area,
since we love hosting friends so much.
for now, our livingroom has doubled as a dining area; doable, but kind of a pain.
our place is also pretty small, so not so much space to have visitors stay with us.
and, one more blow-
we really don't have any freedom when it comes to painting or remodeling
in any way, shape, or form.

and so,
when our offer was accepted a couple of weeks ago on a place that seemed perfect,
we were kind of in shock.
note the sale pending sign.
crazy, right?

at the moment we are in contract,
and it has felt like every day the deal is going to fall apart.
so stressful!
meanwhile, we were waiting to find out if we qualified for a mortgage assistance program that oakland has for residents who make up to 100% of the median income.
we didn't think we qualified, and then this week we got the great news that
good thing
our income is low enough to qualify but high enough to buy a house.

so we wait.
and i try not to get an ulcer.
or pack boxes.
because we won't know for sure for at least a week or two
if this is going to go through smoothly.

i'll keep you posted!

Friday, March 26, 2010

the deaf question

last time, when m was born and diagnosed as deaf when she was a couple weeks old, we weren't prepared. deafness wasn't even on our radar, and i remember thinking, "i can't do this. i don't even know how to be a mom, much less a mom to a baby who can't hear me."

m's diagnosis plunged us into a place of deep grief and numbness. over time, and through the joys of parenting a child, the grief has ebbed. of course, there are still many moments when the sting of that loss- for our daughter and for us- feels as fresh as it was that first day we heard the words "profound hearing loss."

throughout this 2nd pregnancy, matt and i have thought about this new baby growing inside of me. inevitably, we think about who this baby will be. is it a boy or girl? feisty or mellow?

i have had friends ask me whether we think about this baby will be deaf or not. and the short answer is that yes, we do. can he or she hear? will we begin again with the onslaught of appointments, specialists, meetings with the school district, audiologists? will i nurse my baby in countless medical offices? will i be waging war anew with the insurance company for surgery? would we still grieve our second child's deafness? then again, what is it like to have a baby who can hear?

i don't know the answers. i do know that regardless of the results, that matt and i will both cry at our baby's hearing screening in the hospital.

on ci circle, a yahoo group for parents of deaf children with cochlear implants, the following interaction happened the other day. i felt like it spoke to the complexity of issues and emotions that matt and i feel as we think of our second child, and whether he or she will be deaf or not.

"It has been a really hard day...Our second son who is now 7 days old was just diagnosed with hearing loss...We've said all along that we'd be okay if our 2nd was deaf since we know what what to do, but it still really, really hard. I need to live by my words and be okay with this, but combined with the emotion of having a 7 day old, I'm having a hard time coping..."

a couple of responses from parents:
"I have been there, and it was so tough. Our second child is now 9 and was diagnosed at birth, when our oldest was almost 4. My husband and I grieved so much, for our tiny newborn son, for our daughter and remembering when she was diagnosed and what she (and we) had already been through, and for our little family, which would never have kids who could hear without help. Yes, you know what to do and where to go, but every child is different. I wasn't that
thrilled about doubling my time in hearing-related appointments, keeping track of twice the equipment, bugging providers twice as much, etc."

"I have three children, the oldest and youngest born deaf. Getting the diagnosis a second time is very hard, just in a different way than the first time around. The first time for us was a total shock. It came out of nowhere, and we had no clue what to do or where to turn. The second time, we knew the ropes, but that meant that we also knew what having a child who is deaf entails. We knew about the emotional toll, the hours spent working on language, the CI surgery, the extra expenses, etc. So, knowing what we had to do and what was involved wasn’t necessarily a comfort. It was more of thinking that I had to find the strength to start all over again.

The one plus to having two is that there is a definite bond between them. Rachel was almost 8 when Jessica was born. The day we brought Jessica home from the hospital, I went to Rachel’s room and sat down and told her that Jessica was deaf. She quietly looked at me and said, 'I was
hoping my little sister would be deaf like me.'"

we don't have control over so many things in life, including what this baby's gender, personality, temperament, or hearing capacity will be. i know we'll love him or her. i know we'll figure it out along the way. and i also know it feels like a very emotionally complex thing to consider as we prepare to be parents again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.

Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

~Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859

here are two of my dearest, safest friends:
nancy grace, with micah, who is 4 months younger than little m.
amy nicole, with judah, who is eight months younger than little m.

amy, nancy and i have been friends a long time.
real, true friends-who-have-seen-it-all, heard-it-all, and who still love each other.

when we had kids within months of each other, matt said, "you three can't do anything by yourselves." ha. maybe so. or maybe we just like living life's seasons with each other.

last night, after our kids had all gone to sleep, amy and nancy came over and we made chocolate chip cookies (classic), sat around in the kitchen and talked. and listened. and laughed. and talked over each other. and switched topics constantly and then came back again to what we were talking about earlier. we figured out plans for each others' lives. we were each others number one fans. we ran out of time before we ran out of conversation. as they got into their cars to go home to their babies and their husbands, our laughter spilled out into the darkness and we shouted final thoughts to each other across the quiet street.

it was one of those nights that we used to have every single night
before we were married
& had families of our own.

and it was perfect.

do you ever have those moments where you share a moment or an hour or a day with a good friend, and later you think to yourself, "that's why we have been friends for so long."

it was that kind of night.
that's why we have been friends for so long.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


{big girl roro & little girl sadie}

rise & shine all hours.

one of the not so fun aspects of pregnancy for me is that my body decides it can't sleep. it pretty much happens from day one of pregnancy and stretches, well, until the little bambino pushes out into the world and continues to deprive me of sleep for another 10 months.

i can never predict when it will happen or what will spur it on, but usually it is either my mind racing, or restless leg syndrome (another gift of pregnancy), sciatica or general discomfort. i toss and turn until i can't handle it anymore.

here i am, with about 2 months to go in this pregnancy, up at 5 am on a saturday morning. matt and m are sound asleep, and here i am, sitting on the couch tired
i've been awake since 3:30, trying all of my tricks to fall back asleep. at a certain point, i just give up, and out to the couch it is to read, or blog, or somehow occupy myself.

i always thought i would be one of those women who loved being pregnant, and who had such an easy pregnancy at that. (not sure where that concept came from) and yet...not so much. both times around my body has paid the price for carrying a little one.

dear little baby, i love you already, but seriously. you are going to keep me awake at all hours come may, so why not give me the gift of uninterrupted deep sleep until then? xo, your mommy who really would love two more hours of sleep right about now.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

happy hearing birthday!

march 18th.
one year ago,
our daughter
at 11 months old
heard sound
for the first time ever.

at first it was bleeps and blips.
now she hears voices, birds, airplanes, lullabies, laughter.

at this exact time in the morning last year
her cochlear implants were activated,
making today her 1st hearing birthday.
after one year of soaking up sound
constant narration of every noise we hear
small & large milestones
booth tests
wig tape
she speaks in words & some short sentences.

there is still a long road ahead.

but after a year of listening and talking,
we celebrate the joy
that is the miracle
of her
being able to hear
her own laughter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

my newest favorite thing

i love sparkling water
(although i like what our friends' daughter call it even better: bubble juice).

still or sparkling? flat or gas?
i say give me the sparkling every single time.

for christmas my mom gave matt and i the most awesome present.
which makes sparkling water (and soda if you add flavoring) in about 30 seconds.
it's fantastic, especially because i never drink enough water,
but if there is sparkling water i drink it all the day long.
but who wants to pay $1 a bottle, when it is basically 3 glasses of water's worth?
not me.

enter the soda stream...

it is so easy:
1. cold tap water
2. pour it into the bottle
3. attach it to the soda stream maker
4. press the button 3 times to add carbonation...
and that's it!
5. lots of bubbles (you can add or more less fizz to taste)

it's my new favorite thing.


yesterday i flew to michigan for a few days to see my good friend daphne and to meet her new little two month old son. we stayed up late talking last night & then since i was sans child, i slept in this morning until 8. so good.

this morning i am lounging on her livingroom couch, playing with cooing ishmael whose sweet head smells of wonderful new baby, listening to bon iver, drinking tea, just savoring a morning of no plans, no lists, no to do's

and full of gratitude for friendship,
for seasons of life,
for the time to be here.

funny how being grateful for one thing reminds you of another thing to celebrate...
and on and on...
a recognition of the points of joy and goodness in one's life leads to spotting additional reasons to be thankful.

at the same time, it's so easy to downward spiral (at least for me)
and once i start dwelling on one or two things that aren't exactly going according to plan,
i begin to wallow in all of the things that i think are difficult, or frustrating, or discouraging, or plain hard about life.
and then i just feel sucky
and none of those circumstances have changed.

my friend hannah is someone who consistently reminds me of this-and she makes me want to be more like her-because she lives with gratitude and appreciation and hope for life's points of joy (whether her life is feeling awesome or not).

i am grateful
*old friends who you can sit in silence with & waste the day away with
*newer friends who open new worlds & conversations
*the amazing aunts & uncles that my daughter has: to see her developing independent relationships with them & to hear her say their names and light up with joy when she sees them makes my heart so happy. they rock. i love love love you guys-you make being a mom so much more great.
*and along those lines...super great grandparents who send our daughter fun mail, go on adventures with her, play the piano with her, and delight in her. i didn't have that, and it gives me so much joy.
*our little niece sadie. i love her. and so does little m-she adores her new cousin.
*the blossoming trees all over oakland in cream and pink and all other shades of loveliness
*this new baby growing inside of me who does a whole lotta moving and shaking
*the sound of my daughter's voice as she says new words and begins to speak in sentences!

(and a whole lot more, but now daphne and i are going to hang out)
what are you grateful for?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

the best chocolate chip cookie you will ever eat.

maybe i am thinking about treats because it is my brother's birthday,
and birthdays equal treats.
maybe it just seems like a baking kind of day.
(then again, isn't
every day a potential baking day?)
my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is out of the awesome baking illustrated cookbook that my mom-in-law got me for my birthday. i love it. it is so so yummy, and trumps even my own chocolate chip recipe (which is pretty good in and of itself, if i do say so myself.) if you have a craving for a treat-and who doesn't?!-haul out the chocolate chips and bake away, my friends!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Source: Baking Illustrated, page 434)

Makes about 18 large cookies.

These oversized cookies are chewy and thick and awesome. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. Make sure you take these out while they still look slightly underdone; I usually err on the side of gooey. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Also, I've found that I have better results once I chill the dough for a few minutes. If you can't wait that long (um, I can't), then just bake a small first batch, and refrigerate the remainder of the dough so it can chill before baking.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

older, wiser, and more awesome

happy birthday jonathan eric!
when i was 25 months old,
my little baby brother johnny came into the world,
full of spunk and energy.
i don't remember what life was like before he was my brother.

he has had a rough couple of years
on the job front
the family front
the marriage front.
you know, sometimes life just isn't easy or the way we planned it.
my wish for year #33 is that it surprises him with
a winning streak in his softball & bowling leagues
quality uncle time

and most of all,
a new chapter in the story

Sunday, March 7, 2010

happy sunday!

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
(john wesley)

image via

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

leaving a trail of fire

"the only chance of renovation
is to open our eyes and see the mess."
samuel beckett

bubbles, in a narcotics anonymous meeting

matt and i just finished watching the hbo series "the wire" this weekend. if you've never seen the wire, it is a gritty drama set in baltimore, essentially about the american city. each season shifts its focus slightly while retaining core characters; the seasons highlight different facets of contemporary urban life - the illegal drug trade, the city's port, city government, education & the school system, and the local newspaper/media. the show is sort of the epitome of good but hard- it is so well written and constructed, but the reality and despair captured in the narrative as it portrays institutions within our cities is overwhelming. i could write an entire series of posts on this show, especially as a resident of oakland (a city that shares a lot in common with baltimore); after all, there are entire university courses devoted to deconstructing and analyzing the wire.

one of my favorite characters throughout the seasons is bubbles, a drug addict/informant for the police/sort of entrepreneur. in many ways, bubbles is scum-he is a liar, a thief, and an addict to the core. despite his flaws, he is a likeable, genuine character, who i found myself rooting for throughout the show. partly, i think we long for redemption in people, even those who seem so far gone that it seems hopeless; we see glimpses of glory in others (and ourselves) and we hope for a new story instead of the same old broken narrative.

i've written before about the current state of my relationship with my dad, which is intentionally estranged at my own request.

here i am, someone who follows in the way of jesus, purposefully drawing boundaries with my own father to have no contact. jesus calls us to forgive those who have wronged us, and to love our enemies. jesus hung out with and shared meals with the most despicable and messed up people in his society. he loved them even though no one else thought they deserved it. i believe in radical forgiveness. i want to love when all seems lost.

but i also think true forgiveness and authentic transformation comes slowly and painfully. it isn't just a switch in which you say the right words and magically everything changes. it's more than going through the motions and pacifying the people whom you've wounded.

throughout the seasons of the wire, bubbles has hit rock bottom multiple times. i keep rooting for him that he wouldn't get killed or die form his own vices.
miraculously, in the final season, and after a very close brush with death, he has been clean for a year and is living in his sister's basement. the door between the basement and her home is locked. she doesn't trust him, and for good reason. their interactions are minimal and cold, yet he tries to prove to her that he has changed, that he is winning his battle with drugs and that he won't steal from her or lie to her. on his year anniversary of being clean, bubbles shares at his narcotics anonymous meeting. he has invited his sister and her son, hoping they'll be able to come and support him. as he shares his story he scans the room and looks at the door for a sign of his family, but they never show up. in that moment, i wanted her to be there at that meeting. i wanted her to extend forgiveness and grace. i wanted them to end the scene with a hug of restoration and hope. but it didn't happen. she doesn't show up. my heart sank. but that accurately represents the slow road to redemption.

bubbles says, My name is . . . my name is . . . Reginald. Round the way, they call me Bubbles. I'm a drug addict. Celebrating my anniversary. My people couldn't make it here tonight. I left a trail of fire behind me. Time going to make it right, I guess.

"i left a trail of fire behind me."

that is what true change entails- openly acknowledging the trail of fire and damage, and then, recognizing how long those wounds take to heal. bubbles gets why his sister isn't there, even though he wishes she was. he knows that he is the one responsible for her mistrust and hesitance.

i watched this drug addict do something i have not experienced in my family's own trail of fire- he didn't justify, or blame shift, or make excuses, or backpedal, or sweeten the story. he owned it all, and more. he didn't just own it once or twice; he owned it daily. he made amends. he took inventory of his entire life. he laid bare every facet of himself to himself and his sponsor, even the most ugly parts. he waited. he lived in the basement with little hope of ever making it back upstairs.

the scene with bubbles and his sister is brief, but its authenticity resonated with me. it is so far from what i have experienced that it served as a reminder of what true repentance is: messy and slow. it is in incremental changes that take a very long time to add up, changes that maybe no one wounded will ever see or give credit for. it is when we look in the mirror and know we aren't hiding a single thing from anyone. it is when the change isn't to make someone else happy, but to make oneself whole. and that is where the healing begins.