Monday, September 30, 2013

Surviving two

Izzy is living up to the title of Terrible Twos. Lately, she likes to use the word stupid, as in 'stupid Mommy' and  'stupid Roxie' for which she gets put in time out and could care less. She would sit in time out all day if we left her there.

Izzy and Charlie often always want the same toy, book, meaningless object. The moment Izzy realizes she is losing the battle to her older and bigger brother, she will lean in and bite. Hard. We send her to time out (see above).

She refuses to let me pick out her clothes, help her get dressed, brush her hair. No amount of cajoling, or threatening to throw away toys can convince her to help clean up her room at the end of the day.

She will not be hurried when out and about and walks at her own (slooooow) pace. She has to put on her car seat harness "by myself!" In the car she is usually quiet, content with her fingers in her mouth and listening to Charlie talk. Other times, she will time her words to perfectly interfere with whatever Charlie is trying to say - frustrating him to no end. It's actually pretty hilarious.

She is stubborn, strong-willed, persistent.

She is also incredibly sweet and unbelievably cuddly. Most waking (and sleeping) moments will find her plastered to my side, asking to be 'up' and wanting to be held. She sits close, on top of me if possible. Sometimes she grabs my face in her hands and puts her nose to mine, and then just stays that way - content with the proximity. She gives spontaneous hugs, slobbery kisses, and has the best laugh when tickled.

She is two going on fourteen. The fact that she looks nothing like me is only her first major act of rebellion. I can see the others coming.

She is amazing, and I wouldn't trade her for a second. But I do need a little more patience if I'm going to make it through the twos. And if three is worse than two, as it was for Charlie, then I'll need a lot more than patience. I will need wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Crazy to think she was this chubby, bald-headed baby only two years ago. I love this sweet video of her and that stage of her babyhood. This reminds me that I need to take more videos of my kids. It also reminds me that this phase, too, shall pass.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Torn (circa 2011)

I am torn. Torn between work and home, career and kids, the age-old argument without new solutions. Torn between wanting to have something to call my own and wanting to be the best mom I can be. Can I be good at both my career and being a mom?  Are the two mutually exclusive? This idea was recently discussed on a blog I love, Motherlode (there is a link to the NYTimes blog on my sidebar). You can check out the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood and one of several blog posts on the book here.

As a college student I always said I was going to wait to get married until my 30s (check), I would marry a man totally supportive of my having a career (check, check) and he would be an excellent chef and do all the cooking (check, check and check!). I also said I wouldn’t get married until I made my FIRST million. Well, three out of four ain’t bad.  Back when I made those checklists, they were simply ideas in my head of how I thought my life would go. I was raised in a Gen X, post-Title IX world and grew up believing I could do anything and be anything. I always knew I wanted kids and never gave any thought to choosing one path or the other. I could have it all.

Fast forward to today, and I do have it all - a successful career that is both challenging and rewarding and a beautiful, healthy family that makes me crazy happy. And yet, I’m torn. I love my job and my research. Teaching future scientists and doctors is rewarding. I want to set a positive example for the young female graduate students I mentor - something I did not have as a graduate student – and show them that women in science can have success and a family too. But there are days when I want to take Charlie to story hour at the library and walk Izzy over to the coffee shop and let her take a nap in the park.  Sometime over the past couple months while I was teaching grad students physiology, Charlie learned his ABCs from someone other than me. Some days I just want to be the Mom, to be their Mom, and just be there.   

My research lab, Summer 2011

Charlie, me and Izzy (in utero), California 2011

But maybe this is how it is supposed to work. Missing my kids and wanting to get home to them makes me more productive and efficient during the time I am at work. An exasperating day at home full of tantrums and lacking adult conversation makes me crave the order and quiet of my office. On days when I fail to inspire and students fall asleep in the back of my class, I know I will have a rapt audience waiting for bedtime stories when I get home.
So perhaps I’ll always be torn, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. It’s like going on a fabulous vacation you don’t want to end and then suddenly looking forward to coming home. It’s like choosing between a post-work run or a cold beer on the porch – both are relaxing and rewarding in different ways and I wouldn’t want to give one up exclusively for the other. Maybe being torn is the new balance, that ugly word hated by so many working and stay at home moms. (Because let's face it, there is no balance. Only skilled juggling on any given day). So the next time I’m torn between two things I love, I will try to pause and remember how lucky I am to have a choice.  How lucky I am to be torn.  

Monday, September 16, 2013


Meet Baby Max, a tiny little slice of heaven. Born one week ago, after much waiting and dreaming by his proud and happy parents. Charlie and Izzy were so excited to meet their new cousin.

Iz wanted to sit close while I held Max. She liked his soft hair, his tiny ears and feet. 

Charlie and I reluctantly took turns holding Baby Max - neither of us wanted to share. Charlie held Max very carefully and gave him lots of kisses. He is going to teach Max everything.

Max makes the perfect addition to this group of cousins. He will be running with the gang in no time. 

Congratulations Kara, Karl and big sister Haley! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ahead of her time

My Grandmother Lo was extremely talented at just about everything. She had so many interests and she turned her passions and talent into a variety of careers (concrete dispatcher, community volunteer, counseling psychologist, publicist). She had a bachelor's degree in Chemistry when most women didn't attend college. She earned a PhD in her 50s. She owned and operated her own business. She traveled the world on her own and with each of her grandchildren - I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan with her when she was in her 70s. She did it All when no one even spoke about doing it all. 

She was a scratch golfer, and coached diving and synchronized swimming. She could sew and make pottery. She bought a loom and learned to weave in her late 70s. She could draw and paint. She did the lettering for each of the ready-mix trucks when my grandfather first started his company. She drew portraits of the first few employees of the company, and some 60 years later of her companions in the nursing home during her final days (she actually had an appointment book of people awaiting portraits). 

In 1956, my grandmother painted a mural in the basement stairwell of our family home - the home she raised my Dad and his three siblings in - the same home where my brother and sister and I grew up. She had each of the kids pose for their own picture, and apparently the image above of my Dad and my Aunt holding hands as young teenagers was especially difficult to get. 

I try to envision how she would have had to stand on a ladder to paint, perched on the steep stairs with kids, dogs, cats, balls and who knows what else hurtling her way and threatening to send her crashing down. Did she paint this in the middle of the night? How long did it take her to finish? 

In the image above, my grandfather is playing golf, and my uncles are shown fishing and stretched out next to the family cat. 

Up in the far corner of the stairwell, my grandmother included her own image - piloting a plane. Did I mention she was also a pilot??

I wish I could ask my grandmother how she found the courage to try new things, how she defied the norms of her time and made her own path. I'd like to ask her what it was like to be a mom in the 50s, how she approached career and family, and if she had any role models or mentors. I knew her well enough to know that she lived her life without regret, without looking back, without fear or guilt. And always, ahead of her time. 

Note: I took these images the last time I was at my parents' house with just my cell phone. I need to get some better shots with my real camera sometime. The size of these images are hard to grasp here but they run floor to ceiling in the tall stairwell, almost life-size. Amazing.