Truth Telling

O: I tooted, mom, and that's a fact.

K: Well, kiddo, sometimes you just have to speak your truth.

Truth? I have been writing. I just haven't been sharing. The post below was written on May 15th. It only took me eight months to share it.  Here's to that fortifying glass of wine and more sharing in 2018. 

Design credit: Sara Jensen

Design credit: Sara Jensen

 

I've had a hard time with writing lately. Some combination of personal circumstances and the sheer force of the injustice of the world, have left me with big, heavy thoughts, thoughts with consequences, thoughts that demand actions, and could hurt feelings, things that are hard to write down and even harder to share, especially without a courage building glass of wine before I click publish.  I try to sit down to write about how much fun first grade has been, or how much O, P, and Q have grown, or our seemingly impossible Los Angeles house hunt, but I find myself stuck, stuck on so many things.  So, I'm on the fence: remain silent, try to fake some lighthearted optimism, or speak my truth. 

I miss writing here. I miss reaching out and connecting to other people, and this space was always intended to be a glimpse into our lives, an optimistic insight into raising tiny people in a big city, but while optimism was always the goal, honesty was never intended to be the trade-off. I don't want to stop writing, but I also don't want to sweep under the rug the tremendous shift that has occurred in my world view over the past year. The problem is, at this point, I can't share insights into our day-to-day life and remain apolitical. Politics has inserted itself into our daily life in a way I never would have imagined before. I want to write about P and the challenges of diabetes. How do I do that without talking about preexisting conditions, the rising cost of insulin, and the ACA? I want to share with you about our housing search here in Los Angeles, but how do I do that without engaging in the issues of gentrification and the shifting demographics of the city that we love so much? I want to write funny, silly things about parenting tiny people, but how do I avoid touching on gender politics or how the privilege they have been born with will affect their lives in profound ways?  I think the answer is that I don't. I can't. It won't be all politics, but when politics touches our lives, as it inevitably does, I can't edit it away, or rather, I won't. So hang around, or don't, but I'm only going to edit for typos and grammar from here on out. 

One Heck of a Year

Well, It has been a year. A year, and a new house. A year, a new house, and a baby. A year, a new house, a baby and three shows. It has been a big year. 

We bought a house, a thing I wasn't sure we would ever do, in the city that we love. A special, lovely, old house in the mid city neighborhood of Los Angeles. We moved in July and occasionally Jim and I will randomly make eye contact and just sigh at each other, saying, "I love this house." We love this house. It feels like it has a soul. It feels like home. 

IMG_0430.JPG

We had a baby, a boy shaped human named Jack. He is very new and very yummy. Longer and leaner than any of my other babes, I have taken to calling him Shrimpy, a nickname I am sure he will love when he is sixteen and taller than I am. It seems odd to say, since he is only six weeks old, but he strikes me as the serious sort. He will round out our crazy bunch nicely. Everyone is smitten, but Penny, who called dibs on holding him first when I was only a few weeks pregnant, is over the moon. She calls him Jacky-Wacky, and begs to hold him, especially when he is sleeping or nursing or anytime that he is content to not be held. 

IMG_0367.JPG

I did three shows, more than I would have normally tackled in a year before we had kids. It was a lot. It was rewarding. I'm glad I did it. I probably won't do it again. Probably. 

I did not write a single usable word. Apparently, I can not write when I am pregnant, which is perfectly fine, because I plan on NEVER BEING PREGNANT AGAIN. (#finalfelton) Also, in this past year, the way I see the world has shifted. There are realities of living in America that I didn't have to confront before, things I could look away from, that are impossible to ignore now. I've been doing a lot of listening and a lot of learning in this past year. I still have a long way to go. 

All that to say, I'm back. I'm hoping to write at least once a week, to keep a record of our big little family growing and loving each other in Los Angeles, my favorite big little city. 

Still, not sure how today ends. 

A Parent's Love Letter to LA

Dear Los Angeles,

I'm sorry. I have spent the past four years lying about our relationship. I have spent the past four years threatening to leave you, rolling my eyes and bemoaning how hard it is to raise children in a place like this. I have spent the past four years dreaming of small towns and big back yards, but there is a reason we haven't pulled the trigger. 

I'm tired of pretending. I'm done complaining about the problems and the downside. I will never again claim to wish I lived in a small town, or on a farm.  I don't. I don't even want to live in the suburbs. I want to live right where we are, in LA. I want to live in this big, beautiful, bustling, sprawling city, with its pollution and crime and traffic, because the flip side, the diversity and the culture and the vibrancy, is so clearly worth it. My children won't have a bucolic childhood. We've chosen something different for our family. We have chosen Los Angeles and all of what comes with it. 

But now that I have confessed my undying devotion, can we talk about the traffic?

Love Always,

The Tale of the Small House

I often have this dream, where we live exactly where we live, but suddenly, after years of living here, I find a door or an archway or an opening into a new space. Sometimes it is an extra room and sometimes it is a garden. At first, it is a relief. I start to imagine what this new space will mean for us. Inevitably, I find the extra room is attached to a busy bank lobby separated only by curtains, or the garden is overrun with terrible, wild beasts. Even in my dreams, more space isn't really the answer. 

Love grows in a small house.

Love grows in a small house.

We live in a small house. We live in a small house in a large city with big housing problem. I can't tell you our square-footage, because I don't know it, but it is small. It's not Tiny House small, but you get the idea. 

The forest

The forest

We have two small bedrooms and one impossibly small bathroom, and yet, somehow, all five beating hearts manage to squeeze their way into it, en masse, at least once a day. Ah, the joys of family togetherness. 

O cookin' on the the O'Keefe 

O cookin' on the the O'Keefe 

There are advantages. I love my antique O'Keefe & Merritt stove more that I hate not having a dishwasher. While I hate our impossible closet situation, I love that my kitchen door opens up to some outside space with trees and room to play. They call it "the forest" and while our more rural friends would be right to laugh at them, it warms my heart, when on a cloudy afternoon, they insist on flashlights before entering its leafy depths. I love the vintage details and the craftsmanship of old construction and the way the hardwood floors creak in only predictable places. I love having a parking spot right outside my kitchen door and having a garage in which I can hide Christmas decorations, old paperbacks and my shame. I love it here: the neighborhood, my neighbors, Jim's 2.5 mile commute. Living here means he is home before 6:00pm almost every night. I especially love that. 

Living within earshot of my children has shaped the way I parent. We never had a baby monitor. There was no need. We are on top of each other almost all the time. We chuckle when O says she is afraid to be alone at night, with only one wall to separate us at all times. 

It takes organization. It takes discipline. It takes patience and compassion, and maybe I'm just rationalizing, but I really believe that love grows in a small house, or at least, ours has. 

A Museum, a Park, a Beach, Repeat

O: Momma, are we starting the day, or ending the day, or in the middle of the day?

I love summer, or at least I used to, when I was a kid. As I trudged into adulthood it has started to mean less and less. Sure, it is warmer and it is light later into the evening, but gone is that free feeling of having nothing to do, nowhere to be. I no longer live in my swimsuit, my hair in an eternal matted pony tail. 

But here we are, at the beginning of O's second summer off from pre-school, and somehow, that tingly summer feeling is returning. This week I rolled down a hill, swam in the ocean, and ate ice cream for dinner. Our bathing suits are living on the line outside and haven't been fully dry all week. In a few days, we are going camping. We will return home, exhausted and that first post-camping bath will leave a dirt ring around the tub as satisfying as the trip itself. Summer is a time to be dirty, to roll in the sand, to eat cherries until your fingertips are stained red, to lay in the dirt on your belly and look for bugs, to lay in the grass on your back and watch the clouds. I'm ready. I suppose, if O and P want to join in, they are invited too. 

This summer, my recipe is this: a museum, a park, a beach, repeat. Every week, we are going to attempt those three things. That should leave plenty of time for cloud gazing, getting dirty, and cherry eating too. 

It Doesn't Take Much

O: The car is too hot. I won't get in the car. I guess we will just have to live here.

It was hot last week. No, scratch that. It was mind-boilingly, unreasonably, unacceptably hot last week. I wore my bathing suit cover-up in public because I couldn't imagine putting on real clothes. 

hot, sweaty, and cranky, even if she doesn't look it

hot, sweaty, and cranky, even if she doesn't look it

One day, we went to Pamper and Play, and you should seriously check them out, and not just for their wonderful air conditioning.

air-conditioning and an adorable, tiny, retro-kitchen, and a wonderful staff that watches your children while you enjoy some peace in the PARENT'S LOUNGE (that is a real thing with wifi and coffee)

air-conditioning and an adorable, tiny, retro-kitchen, and a wonderful staff that watches your children while you enjoy some peace in the PARENT'S LOUNGE (that is a real thing with wifi and coffee)

One day, we went to school and melted at the park and sniped at each other for the rest of the day, except while we had a french fry party on the floor in the girls' air-conditioned bedroom.

One day, we just stayed home. Now, we don't have a pool, heck, we don't even really have a yard. I had thrown away last year's kiddie pool the week before because someone small, blond, and adorable had thought that it would be fun to fill it with rocks and potting soil, and it was genuinely too gross to salvage.

Instead, I filled three plastic storage tubs with water, grabbed a ton of small cups and two grown-up paint brushes, and set them to work. 

P washed her precious rock collection.

O repainted my stairs.

Nothing like a fresh coat of water 

Nothing like a fresh coat of water 

When they started to lose interest about two hours in, I pulled out a tray of ice and frozen teething toys.

They drew on the cement with half of it, and ate the other half. Win?

They drew on the cement with half of it, and ate the other half. Win?

When that lost its novelty, we had popsicles. When O snuck the last bite of P's popsicle, it was time to come inside.  

There were a few casualties.  Poor Fred, the teddy bear, got an unexpected and un-needed bath. P did attempt to wash Sam, with Poor Fred as a sponge, much to Sam's displeasure, but all and all it was a very enjoyable day.

I often try to do too much, or even worse, I often feel bad about what I can't do, what they don't have. We have made this choice, to live in this city, to live in this small space, to forgo a yard, to not live in what, I image, is a more typical suburban neighborhood. Most days, I feel good about that choice and genuinely believe that there are positives that outweigh the negatives.

The day we stayed home during the heat wave was one of those days. It really doesn't take much. Most of the stuff is superfluous. In fact, it might even get in the way. Play is so much easier than we grown-ups imagine it to be. 

It doesn't take much

It doesn't take much

But I still really wish they had a garden. 

Last year's bounty, our closest garden approximation.

Last year's bounty, our closest garden approximation.


Mother's Day: a photo essay

P: Mooma, Mamoo, Mama.

Once you become a mother, you become the keeper of memories. You are suddenly responsible for the collecting, compiling, and storing of all of the firsts: teeth, steps, words. You store them away jealously, guarding these details that mark the passing of time. You study them and file them, like there might be a pop quiz at any moment. 

One of the most important parts of being the archivist of your children’s childhood is the photographic documentation of their every waking moment, and frankly a fair number of their sleeping moments too. I started to notice, when scrolling through the countless digital images, that something, or rather someone, was missing. I had become such a diligent archivist, that I had managed to eliminate myself.  It was then that I started making an attempt to pass the camera to Jim.  

 

Compassion

Compassion

I realized that I couldn’t be alone, so I started to make a real effort when I had my camera with me, to watch, when I was around the other mothers in my life, woman that I admire and respect, and if I could, to snap a picture for them.  While I started out just snapping pictures for them, I ended up finding so much joy, beauty, and strength.

 

Bliss

Bliss

Joy

Joy

Genetics

Genetics

Tenderness

Tenderness

Warmth

Warmth

Beauty

Beauty

Strength

Strength

Delight

Delight

Being the keeper of the memories is not an easy job. Some of those memories are heavy and hard to hold. We are all someone’s child, and even if it isn't a mother who holds your memories, tomorrow is a good day to say thank you.  

 

Love

Love

And to those of you have taken on your own archival duties, remember to pass the camera off, to make yourself a part of the record, because your children deserve to see your joy, your beauty, and your strength.

Happy Mother’s Day. 

 

Home

O: I just want to sleep in my own bed, or in your own bed.  

For a variety of reasons, we haven't been home for about five days, and even though the places we were are all places we like to be, as I pulled into the driveway, last night after rehearsal, a huge feeling of relief and peace rushed over me.  The people that I love are all safe under one roof.  After the earthquakes, urgent care trips, and the late nights of the past five days, I can't ask for anything more.  

Home is wherever these two tow heads are, but it sure is nice to sleep on my pillow again. 

Home is wherever these two tow heads are, but it sure is nice to sleep on my pillow again. 

Growing Green on Concrete

O: When my sweet pea plants turn into sweet peas, I'm gonna do a sweet pea dance. 

We love living in Los Angeles, but I would be lying if I said there was nothing I wish I could change.  I wish people drove down our narrow street like it was a residential area, which it is, instead of like it was a highway, which it isn't.  I wish I knew the names of all of my neighbors and we would congregate on the front porch for cocktails and a catch-up on a warm summer evening.  I wish my girls had a garden, a verdant hideaway, where they could chase butterflies, make mud pies, hunt for fairies, and grow sweet peas. 

There are gardens in LA, beautiful public spaces to roam, private back yards of multimillion dollar homes, and, even, community gardens, where you can rent a patch of earth to call your own and get your hands dirty.  

Generally, we, the renters, are left with potted plants, sad window-box herb gardens, and that lush basil that I buy at Trader Joe's every few months that makes my kitchen smell like heaven, until I denude the poor bastard to make pesto.  

 

Out of my own sheer stubbornness, we do have a garden, a little plot of dirt, a raised bed that is intended to sit on harder-packed earth.  Ours sits on the concrete pad outside our dining room window.  The roots of the plants often creep out from under the forest green plastic, seeking soil, but we forge on.  We have grown kale (attacked and desiccated by cabbage worms), tomatoes (never ripened), pumpkins (this was acknowledged, in advance, to be folly), and cucumbers (of which we harvested 3, making them approximately forty-six dollars each). 

This bull shit is expensive  (the above contains actual bull shit)

This bull shit is expensive

(the above contains actual bull shit)

This season, it is sugar snap peas.  As we scattered the seeds, O was already planning for the harvest, listing the names of dear friends who would share in our bounty. I love, at times, how short her memory can be, how the failures of the past months don't even register in the face of this new and hopeful venture.  The tiny green shoots have been measured daily, their growth tracked by comparison to her tiny index finger.  The first bloom, (see, I can be hopeful too) will be an event, celebrated with leaping and dancing.  

 We have a garden, not the garden I imagined, not the garden I would hope for, but a garden none the less.  

It is pretty good for making mud pies

It is pretty good for making mud pies

Mostly, we just make a mess, but sometimes we make magic.  

When those sugar snap peas are harvested, dear friends, be they five or five hundred, they will be the best sugar snap peas you've ever tasted.  I'll keep you posted.  

You are raising Angelenos if...

O: We are on Pico! (this is said regardless of our actual location, but every time we pass a fire house)

You are raising Angelenos if...

1. They think a heavy mist is weather, and warrants an umbrella, a pair of sweet rain boots, and some serious swagger.

2. Someone, somewhere, has told you your kids should be in commercials.  

3. You have a real love/hate relationship with sand.  You love the sand at the beach and you hate the sand in your car, which makes you start to hate the sand at the beach in a way you never thought possible when you were in your early 20's and lived in a bikini, but I digress.  

4. They call this a quesadilla cutter.

It is multipurpose 

It is multipurpose 

5. You have them tested, and find that they are 90% avocado, and that half of those avocados came from someone's backyard.

6.  They have had sushi, pho, carnitas, beignets, dim sum, tom kah kai, saag paneer, and bibimpap all before their second birthday, but they might make it to college before they know the joy of Lucky Charms.  

7. When getting in the car, they ask, "Are we going on the freeway?" If the answer is yes, they act as though you have stuck hot pokers in their eyes. 

Are we there yet

Are we there yet

8. They have a vegan friend, a vegetarian friend, a paleo friend, and a friend who eats KFC on the reg. 

9. Dealing with a film crew in the parking lot of preschool is a normal occurrence.

10. You have uttered the sentence, "If you want to go play in the fountain at the park before yoga, we are going to have to hurry," in a Starbucks, in December, more than once.