Monday, August 30, 2010

Mamasay . . .

" . . . mamasaw mu makusaw" ~ Michael Jackson

Me & my mom in Kauai, August 2007

When I decided that I wanted to dedicate more time to this blog, I also decided that I wanted to try to keep it light, to allow myself to release and vent and share, but to sprinkle it with humor. But, there's a driving force underneath this lightness, an event and a person that has shaped not only my voice as a writer but my entire being. I haven't wanted to write much about this event in the last several months, although I did try to create a separate blog to address my feelings of pain and darkness. But it just got too personal and I couldn't imagine others reading it. I thought it would be a downer. Perhaps too raw. Maybe allowing myself to be too vulnerable.

But now I feel the urge to write about her. To explain how much she has impacted me. To explain how much this event has impacted me and what exactly happened. On Feburary 23rd, 2009, my mom, also known as Mamasay as coined by my sister, lost her battle with a rare form of cancer called paraganglioma. After presenting to her doctor with symptoms of a mysterious nature for over four years, she requested a stomach scan. That's when they found the masses, and they were all over her body, in her bones, in her breasts, but mainly in her liver. I remember the day they found out -- October 30th, 2007 -- and called me out of work to share the news in person. My stomach still drops when I think about this day. In desperation, my dad had asked the doctor how much time he estimated my mom had left. And he couldn't help but share it with me, even though my mom had asked him not to. Six months. Six. Months. And I couldn't tell anyone else. We cried together. I remember calling my sister who was living in Las Vegas and getting her voicemail. I cried for her being alone to receive this news. I knew my mom had been losing weight, breaking out in hives, and generally not feeling well, but I had convinced myself it was an extreme reaction to menopause. Now I realize I was in denial.

The following year and months were tough but we remained hopeful and positive, especially when my mom found a wonderful specialist through UCSF who said she had a fighting chance if she was willing to fight. She was a fighter. She never gave up, through painful reactions to chemo and constant struggles with trying to eat and gain weight. The most vibrant, easygoing, funniest person I knew withered away before us. She became less sarcastic and more sentimental. But she never stopped being my mom. I could call her and moan and groan about my own silly troubles and she'd be the great listener she always had been. But I also tried to be there for her, to allow her to vent about her health and the dramatic turn her life had taken. We talked every day and I visited at least once a week. We still indulged in guilty pleasures like chocolate and Lifetime movies. She was tired, though. So tired. And in more pain than I could probably imagine. But she began to manage it and had her good days and bad days.

When T's dad also had a health scare, we decided it was time to give them a grandchild. We decided we weren't going to be officially "trying" but we were open to having a baby, even though we weren't in an ideal situation financially. And after the first month of this "openness," we were pregnant. My mom was overjoyed. It was the happiest I had seen her since her diagnosis. Right then I knew that the timing was perfect. I was a little nervous about not being able to be there as much for my mom when I was dealing with my own changing body, but it never became an issue. Fortunately, I had a really easy pregnancy. She came to the ultrasound when we found out we were having a boy. She came to both of my baby showers. She made my sister and I each our own photo albums of our entire childhoods. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received. She continued over the months to give me old photos to add to the album. I began to realize she was preparing herself in a way and preparing us for her departure from this world. But I still didn't want to believe it would happen anytime soon, especially since her doctor was really positive, saying that her numbers looked promising, whatever that meant. But I clung to those words like a lifeline. Like her lifeline had been extended. We had more than passed the six month mark anyway. She had something else worth living for now. She was going to be a grandmother!

To be continued . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moms for Mediocrity!

"Oh baby, can't we give it one more try?" ~ Timmy T

Pretty much as soon as Q's sizable head popped out, I was faced with one unfortunate reality of motherhood. No, not the burning sensation of delivery (like how I played that one down?). The other burning sensation. The one in your brain. That's right. Self-doubt. There I was in awe of this little creature in my arms who was the perfect blend of T and me, who had known immediately to latch on and nurse. But of course, I was also thinking, am I holding him right? Is he comfortable? My doula is watching me. My mom and dad are watching me. They know what nursing is supposed to look like. And so it began.

But the harder realization came when I started reading the community discussions and more and more mom blogs. It seemed like so many moms had chosen the right direction for their families. They knew what kind of moms they wanted to be. I, on the other hand, vacillated between attachment-style parenting and wanting Q to be on a schedule. I once had some grand plans for being a superstar mom, but I started feeling more like a mediocre mom.

But as I watch Q grow and I grow each day in this crazy world called mama-hood, I'm starting to embrace my mediocrity. I'm finding what makes sense for our family. I may have felt a twinge of guilt here and there about these things, but now, it's like, whatever works, mama!

Evidence of my mom mediocrity:

- I don't use cloth diapers on Q, even though I fully believe that it would be the best thing for the environment and possibly for Q's booty. All it took was one horror story from my mom about cloth diapers and I was off of that boat. Thanks for twisting my arm, Mom.

- I wanted to make all of Q's baby food myself. But then T's mom started buying us all of this nice organic baby food, and that was SO convenient. I probably made about 40% of his baby food instead. Now I cook 90% of his meals, but I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a mediocre cook at best.

- I gave up on signing with Q after the first month of trying.

- I totally dropped the ball on Q's baby book and I don't scrapbook or do anything crafty.

- We saved a clipping from his first haircut and I look it and wonder, what's the point? What am I going to do with it anyway?

- I never sent a birth announcement. Mediocre sounds like a compliment right about now. 

- I insist that Q call me Flyrish.

Okay, that last one is a lie. But the rest I own. Sometimes, as moms, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to stop focusing so much on what we're not doing and look at what we're proud of, our little accomplishments as mothers. So, um, yeah, I'll have to get back to you all on that . . .

This post has been entered in this week's Word Up, Yo! meme. Check it.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quirks and Q-teness

"I used to live in a voodoo city, where every little thing had its own secret life." ~ Yacht

One of the best parts of being a mother is witnessing your child develop his or her own personality. What are they drawn to? What makes them hit a high note a la Mariah Carey (Q has been called Marioh Carey on occasion)? As Q's little persona develops more and more, I can't help but be in awe of his unique likes and dislikes. It's easy to recognize that he's "just like his daddy" when he wants to take something apart to put it back together again, or "of course he likes shoes, he's your child, Michie." That's pretty cool, too. But what really gets me are his quirks, Q being very much his own guy.

Lately, when we open the fridge, he likes to grab this mini can of V8 that's been on the door shelf that's right at his height. I don't know why it's there. We never drink the stuff. Plus, this can is low sodium, so I know it's not ours. We do love our salt. It may have even been moved from our old house. I think Q's grandma brought it over when she was babysitting. So, he grabs the can and cherishes it and pretends to drink from it. It is his precious. His precious tomato juice. It's not like he's into tomatoes. In fact, he frequently spits out the flavorful tomatoes grown in our garden. If only he knew what was in that precious can. For now, we will humor him. Until he throws the can and it explodes all over our cream-turning-beige carpet.

Another obsession? Poppa's clock. Oh yes. All you have to do is mention the P word and he lets out a torrent of "clock clock clock clock clock." His favorite clock is at my dad's house. You press a button and the clock's face comes apart to reveal its inner workings while playing one of six melodies. He can't get enough of that clock.  It is pure magic to him. Maybe he will be a clocksmith. Hello, 21st century!

Then, of course, there are his beloved "crucks" (trucks and cars). He is a classic boy who has found his happy place surrounded by trucks. But you don't want to be around when a truck gets stuck under the couch. Freak-out city.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Falling for Fall

"Pitter patter the rain falling down, little glamor sun coming round, take a walk when autumn comes to town" ~ Van Morrison

While I have always been a summer girl ("... wish they all could be like summer, wish they all could be like summer girls"), fall has its own special charm. Whether it's schoolgirl nostalgia or the lure of cozy sweaters, fall makes the fashion lover in me leap for joy. Some years I don't feel very inspired by the change in seasons, but this year I am excited. Maybe it's because we haven't had much of a summer in the Bay Area this year, so I've just been waiting for the fall clothes to make their debut. But then again, we typically have the best sunny weather in September and October around these parts. So, as we make the lazy transition between seasons, here are my muses, my inspirations, my sartorial daydreams for fall.

Alexa Chung has a huge following and it's easy to see why. That effortless cool, that perfectly disheveled chic. I even dig her barely-ran-my-fingers-through-it hair -- kind of perfect for this no-time-having mama. Plus, I'm loving Madewell and their collaboration should be available any minute now.
Photo via Garance Doré

I had seen Need Supply referenced before but only recently browsed their online store and fell hard for several pieces. Unique items with that easy citified feel I'm forever after and with awesome pricepoints that assuage my mom guilt. I'm totally buying this dress -- a perfect transition piece (with sandals now, with tights and cardigan later).

So intrigued by Black Swan featuring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis (two of my favorites) after seeing the trailer today. But I especially can't wait to see the Rodarte costumes. They're sure to kick off some naughty ballerina-inspired fashion.

And my number one source of inspiration, my always-in-style Q in all of his gleeful glory! (Thank you, Camille, for capturing such a perfect moment!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Little Lovahs

"Anytime, anyway, you're my playground love" ~ Air

Q had a girlfriend on our camping trip (he doesn't realize he is already betrothed to my bff's Vivi). At first, it was a mutual showering of affections with lots of kisses and hugs. Then Q started getting a little too rough as he followed this itsy-bitsy baby around, her crawling and him stomping after her. His head alone equaled the size of her entire body (my sister aka his Auntie Godmother was calling him the Dome Ranger all weekend). At one point, he tripped over her and almost squished her like a spider. But I could see why he fell so hard for Mia. She's a delicate, pixie-like doll. Such a beauty! Here they are together at their first meeting, before the rough stuff. I love how serious Q looks here, like he would never let go if it were up to him.

More of Q's sojourn into mountain life...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monthly Madness

"... when I'm angry inside, don't wanna take it out on you" ~ Monica

TMI alert: Do not proceed if you can't handle reading about other people's bodily fluids and monthly bloatfests.

When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I wanted to do was buy a bunch of books to educate myself on this growing bundle of love inside of me and all the ways my body would change during and after pregnancy. And read I did! In true researcher fashion, I really geeked out and gathered a variety of sources to cross-reference. I devoured pregnancy books, baby preparation books, parenting books, nursing books,, mom blogs, and on and on. One aspect of postpartum life that all of the aforementioned failed to address was how altered my PMS and "monthly friend" would be. Who the hell came up with "monthly friend" anyway? It's like calling a pap smear your "annual booty call." Neither are welcome visitors at my home down south. It's more like when an in-law unexpected guest pop tarts at my front door and I'm all, "Sure, come in," through gritted teeth.

*Photo via*
So, when my "." returned at about 8 months postpartum, I was prepared for it to be a little different because the books did mention there could be some change as far as becoming heavier or lighter or irregular. But what really took me by surprise were the days leading up to the return of the body snatchers. It was as if I was being fed an IV drip of MSG, I was so bloated and uncomfortable. Plus, breakouts that left scars. Cute! Then someone turned the volume up to 10+ on my emotional dial. The self-doubt came raining down on my head because I obviously was the worst mother in the world for not teaching my baby to sign. How I sucked at parenting, at work, at home, at life! I took JT's advice and cried me a river. It was like I was being given a taste of postpartum depression for a couple of days every month. And if Q happened to bonk his head or take a spill on those days? Oh lord. Poor Q, but poor, poor T. He basically became the single sane parent. I had to hide in my bed so as not to further traumatize my child.

Am I alone here? Have other mothers out there experienced the wrath of postpartum PMS? (I can't even imagine women who have postpartum depression and then get postpartum PMS on top of it.) Will this ever go away? Can somebody bring me some chocolate?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wanted: Vacation from My Vacation

"Can I get a window seat? Don't want nobody next to me ..." ~ Erykah Badu 

As all parents are well aware, your day-to-day life requires a major overhaul once you have a little imp tearing up your world. Your offspring has replaced the alarm clock, but this one doesn't have a snooze button. Not hungry this morning so you think you'll skip breakfast? Nobody cares what you want, especially not that hungry tyke. Co-workers invited you to a spontaneous happy hour? How lovely for them! You have a bottomless pit waiting for dinner at home. Oh, but that's not at all. Your vacations will never look the same again either.

Let's do a little compare and contrast, shall we?

Ye olde vacations:
- Get to your vacation destination in record time because you can wait to eat, piss, stretch your legs, etc.
- Beer-thirty! 
- Naptime in the sun
- Cocktails!
- Have a leisurely late dinner because all of those libations are keeping you going anyway
- Loud music, dancing, bedtime shmedtime

Brand spankin' new vacations:
- Road trip takes on a whole new meaning because most of your first vacation day will truly be spent on the road, getting pissed and pooped on, scrambling for snacks to feed the bottomless pit, praying that he naps so you can get a few minutes of shuteye, etc.
- Setting up camp is constantly interrupted by chasing the torrential toddler as he scurries away from you down a rocky hill
- Feed toddler
- Coat toddler in sunblock and consider gluing his hat to his head
- Plead with toddler to take a nap for longer than 45 minutes so you can find a moment of relaxation
- Dinner by 6pm
- Bedtime met with screaming and flailing
- Repeatedly telling others to turn the music down (yes, you're that guy now)
- Wake up call at 4:40am because toddler is cold and wants a "bah ... bahhh!"

What happened to my rejuvenating, indulgent vacation? I used to wish I had an extra day to recover from vacation, but that was typically because I was hung over had gotten used to sleeping in. Now it's because we got even less sleep on vacation than when at home. I am wiped out and T is beyond exhausted as we both head back to work.

*Photo by Paloma Sales*

But if you can roll with the toddler headbutts, you'll still find a way to enjoy a change of scenery. Look at that gushing stream, the tall, green trees for miles, the enormous mountains through his eyes. Watch him frolic and squeal in fits of glee to be out in all of that open space. Admire how he has bonded with all of your vacation companions and made new little friends. The world is truly his playground. And it's beautiful to see. (Photos of Q's 1st camping trip as a toddler coming soon!)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Getting Over the Guilt

"And I like the stylish clothes you wear"~ Debarge

Marion Cotillard via

When I worked as a copywriter for an online clothing boutique, I had to assist in hiring a junior copywriter to help with my workload. I remember snarking with the copy manager about how many applicants had a "passion for fashion" and how if we had a dollar for every time we heard that, etc.  The phrase may be overused, but few others can so perfectly capture that sentiment. "I love clothes" is trite and "fashion is my life" is overzealous. So, yes, I have always had a passion for fashion. (Does anyone remember EJ Gitano? The colorful mix-and-match  girls' clothing brand from the '80s? I used to get the catalogs and I was obsessed in fifth and sixth grade. I even had favorite models. Also, Esprit! But I should save all of this nostalgia for another post because tangent ...).

Shopping, fashion blogs, Project Runway. I'm all in. But, now that I'm a mom, my forays into fashion come with something else -- guilt. How did one of my favorite forms of self-expression become a guilty pleasure? It's that mom guilt. Everything must be all Q, all of the time! His health, his happiness, his toys, his development, his meals, and, of course, his wardrobe. How dare I spend time and money on my own wardrobe? New shoes? Sure, but they'll come with more than a wallet-denting price tag. New dress for that upcoming wedding? Well, we really should start putting more money away for Q's future school expenses. My personal style dilemmas suddenly seem immature and shallow.

The thing is I don't truly feel this way. I don't judge other stylish moms. In fact, I admire them wholeheartedly. (On the same token, I certainly understand why some moms could care less about clothes ... but I might still judge if you're rocking mom jeans. Just being honest!) Why, then, am I so hard on myself? It would be one thing if I was buying myself $800 handbags and $300 jeans, but usually I'm content to pick up trendy items at Forever 21 and H&M. If I'm having a hard time resisting something higher end, then I can wait until it's on sale or I find a good coupon code. After getting a 50% off discount at the aforementioned workplace (how I miss it!), it's hard to justify paying full price anyway.

It's about time that I crushed this guilt. Who ever said that a mom can't be both attentive to her child's needs and to her own sartorial well-being? Why can't two of my most visited blogs be Fashion Toast and Girl's Gone Child? I've watched enough What Not to Wear to know that moms so often put their children and others first to the sad detriment of their own appearance. I refuse to be a fashion martyr for motherhood!

These sweatpants I'm wearing are American Apparel, by the way ...