Friday, October 22, 2010

fresh start

every time i move its a chance to start over. i think 'this time i'll be really organized'. i throw out old clothes or pants too tight i hope one day i'll fit into again. yesterday i gave our maid vivi two big bags of clothes to share amongst her 9 children. it was time to say good-bye to the 'cupcakes make people happy' tee from Magnolia Cupcakes that i bought on our 5 year anniversary vacation to NYC. i've decided that as i head towards the big 4-0, there are certain clothing items no longer appropriate - anything 'mini' - skirts, t-shirts, t-shirts with slogans are out, skinny jeans, etc. well, the list is in progress. shoes count too. converse high tops - out (ok, i never had any but many women here on the wrong side of 35 wear them).

hugh is on board with this idea and we've decided to at long last - adultify our home furnishings. our goal with the move is to have a home we can feel comfortable inviting friends and the president of any major company over for a drink. that means getting a new couch for the living room that utta is not allowed to sleep, drool, vomit, pee and smear eye goo on. the old couch will be cleaned and put in the new 'playroom'. we will finally invest in bedside tables and put the plastic set of drawers in the laundry room to house junk. the rugs will be professional cleaned, papers will be organized into tidy file folders and keys will reside in the key basket. i hope it lasts awhile. its so hard to stay clutter free with a toddler that roams room to room grabbing things and putting them somewhere else.

so our new apartment is bigger - almost twice the size of our current place. also we'll have what they call 'palier privado' - meaning only one apartment per floor so we don't have to share the elevator hall with any neighbors. i expect this to make a huge difference with managing utta's barking episodes (that wake up sleeping babies). here, utta barks every time someone stops at our floor alerting us of the potential intruder. she's become more and more protective (read: barky) with each move, with each new family member. some days it seems i spend every 15 minutes telling utta to shush. this new apartment should eleviate some of that. we'll also be a block and a half from valentina's preschool.

for me the hardest part of becoming a mother was the loss of personal space. some days i long for a tiny room of my own i can just go into for 5 minutes and close to the door to all the demands. well, i'm sure i'm not alone in that fantasy. moving won't get me that room just yet, but it will bring me a step closer. our plan is to have the girls share a room - at what point will depend on maxima's sleeping habits and my effort to force the issue. right now i can't imagine it as valen chats to herself - singing, having imaginary conversations with her babydolls and stuffed animals up to a half hour or so before drifting off to slumberland. maxima still cries for a minute or two while settling in for the night.

our neighbor carmen from the 8th floor has two girls - lola 3yrs and carmen jr 14 months. they've slept in the same tiny room since carmen jr was 4 months old. but, this is also the mother who said 'children are like animals, they can be trained'. she is not a fan of attachment parenting as you can imagine. when her girls were newborns, she let them stay in poopy diapers so that they would 'learn' not to poop in the middle of the night. she said it worked after only one or two episodes. she also had them on a 3-4 hour feeding schedule from birth. they seem happy and well adjusted so it's hard to judge but her parenting philosophy is pretty extreme. she comes from family of 7 siblings in spain and wants a big brood too. she's already 4 months along with #3 and should have no trouble getting this new one to cooperate with their structured family life. one thing i've learned from my own trial and error is that every child has different needs and every family has to find what works for them. there is no cookie cutter way to do anything with kids.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

school pictures

valentina had her picture taken this week at her preschool program. we selected this new outfit - a gift from grandma lori when she visited last month. she is a girlie girl no doubt. loves her tutu's, trying on new outfits, gazing at herself in the mirror and baby dolls.

she adores her new sister and often hears her cry before i do when waking from a nap. i wonder when they will start to beat each other up as siblings do. in my case, i liked to punch my sister in the arm and back. she used her long fingernails to scratch me and pull my hair. there were some pretty gruesome battles. its a miracle we ended up so close as adults. we laugh about it now.

i took maxima for her one month check up yesterday. she now weighs 4.25kilos or 9.3 pounds. she's gained weight steadily since birth and weighs more than valentina did at this age. she's longer too, blond and generally peaceful. i feel the same bond and love for her as i did with her sister - no effort, its just there.

i practiced yoga twice this week for the first time since the birth. it felt so good to move my body but it was a terse reminder that i have a long recovery to go before a return to a 90 minute ashtanga practice. my ego wants to squeeze back into my pre-pregnancy pants but i know its rushing it. breastfeeding is going well but it certainly sparks the appetite.

i keep thinking of something my friend jenny said to me shortly after valen's birth when i was struggling with breastfeeding - that 'the best mom is a happy mom'. i know it to be true now and am trying to find that balance without the guilt. as a yoga teacher from san francisco who had two beautiful homebirths, one might assume i would also advocate the attachment parenting model - nursing on demand, co-sleeping, wearing your baby etc. i do see the value in each of those practices but for me, with this child, it's not happening. a few days ago i started maxima on a routine of nursing, wake time and sleeping that has had a profoundly positive impact on her and the rest of the family. it works for us and for me. i am a happier mom and a better mom with the predictability of her cycles and more rest. she is sleeping a bit longer at night too - 3 1/2 hours at a stretch sometimes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

postpartum news

wow - how did two months pass without a post? well, the final month of pregnancy and the first 3 weeks with a newborn and 21 month old are i guess reason enough.

lots of friends and fam are asking 'how are you?' 'how are the girls?' my husband asked me recently 'is it easier this time around?' for him, it was a simple yes or no answer but of course its not. some things are easier like knowing how to handle a dirty diaper, crying infant and all of the little things that go along with caring for a newborn. we've been there done that so the stress of not knowing isn't an issue like it was with valentina. harder - finding the energy and time to give to valentina when maxima isn't nursing, crying or sleeping. dealing with daily tantrums as she adjusts to a world where she isn't the center of it and where mama can't hold her exactly when she wants. it's been heartbreaking but i know its a necessary break. valen has developed a sweeter bond with her 'papa' who now does her nightly bath and bedtime routine.

i am too vain to post a photo of myself today. so, imagine it. my eyes bloodshot red from very little sleep (maxima nurses every two hours at night), nursing tank top stained with breastmilk on one side and infant spit up on the other side. yoga pants and slippers on - my uniform the last 3 weeks. showered - its my one new mom indulgence, though it feels more like a necessity with the night sweats i endure from hormones flowing out of every pore. on the positive side i gained 10 fewer pounds with this pregnancy so getting back to pre-baby body doesn't seem that far off. i've already shed about 20 pounds.

the days fly by in a blur of nursing, soothing, sleeping cylcles. i am trying to get out of the house once a day - usually to pick valen up from her preschool program and walk home. that little bit of air is keeping me sane. i am breastfeeding exclusively and it is going well so far. a few hiccups in the beginning but this time around production has not been an issue and maxima latched on right away. because she is well fed and/or due to a calmer temperment, she doesn't keep me up all night crying. she nurses, burps, poops and usually returns to sleep for another two hours. everyone said that nursing would be easier this time and 'they' were right.

maxima is different than her sister. although her personality has yet to reveal itself, i can already tell she is more mellow. with valen we spent nearly every night the first 3 months rocking/bouncing/shushing/jiggling her to a calm state of mind and sometimes sleep. we were exhausted and i cried so much from sleep deprivation. i am not exactly well rested now but a few hours of sleep at a time, a few times a night is a huge difference. after a thermos of mate in the morning, i can actually feel normal and refrain from bitchy stares for awhile. this is progress.

valentina is adjusting, albeit slowly. the morning after maxima was born and valen met her for the first time, she leaned down from her father's arms to give her sister a hug and unprompted said 'i love you'. it doesn't get sweeter than that. she enjoys helping with baby care so i always include her in the diaper changing event. she hands me the diaper and the cotton for cleaning. then she throws the diaper in the diaper genie. she changes the diaper on her baby dolls now and imitates me soothing her sister - rocking them gently against her shoulder cooing 'it's ok, it's ok'. this is a wonderful age for us to witness. valen is full of fantasy play now. she play bakes banana cake and broccoli soup (two of her fav foods), reads books to her baby dolls, dresses and undresses her barbies, sweeps the floor with her mini broom and calls her friends on the phone. she's speaking mostly spanish but has about 300 words in english too. often she mixes them together as we do 'dame la broom'.

hugh started a great new job as general counsel for an sf based company the week maxima was born. we are lucky to have viviana - our housekeeper/nanny/right hand to help out. i told her she'd get a 50 peso bonus if she could get maxima to accept a pacifier this week. she had it on the second day. i know she's learned a thing or two from the nine children she's reared so we are in good hands.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

our first car

Friday I picked up our first car here in argentina. its the chevy zafira - not available in the states but very popular here and all over europe. actually most american families would probably find it too small for a minivan but for us, its enormous. we've managed just fine via public transit and taxi's for 3+ years but with the 2nd baby on the way and a hell of a lot more stuff to lug around, it was time to get mobile again. buying a car here is not easy. i had to remind myself many times over the past month why we live here, why we stay - its not because of the ease of doing business, no that's not it. in the us you can walk into any dealership and drive away with a car that day. the guy checks your credit online, a quick call maybe and you've financed for 3 or 5 years the locomotive of your choice. there's no financing here - for cars or homes which makes buying them much more complicated. we had to transfer money into the country 3 different times, navigating the banking systems of both sides over two weeks. multiple documents signed all in spanish, none of which i understood. frustration, resignation and more frustration. finally the process inched forward. i could barely believe it when i sat behind the wheel for the first time. its also the first time either of us has owned a brand new car. i always bought used in the us and its so easy to buy and sell via craigslist these days. no way was i going to delve into the used car market in a 3rd world country. i just imagined myself broken down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with valen in the back seat crying, me 8 months pregnant and emotional and no idea how to get help. no thanks. the new car with all the warranties, roadside service and a few less mechanical issues at this point in the game is key. in a few weeks we will take our first roadtrip with baby, dog and gear in tow to our favorite estancia la candelaria.

Monday, May 24, 2010


tomorrow marks argentina's bicentennial - 25 de mayo. since it fell on tuesday this year, they also made today a national holiday. since friday the city has been a ghost town as most locals are taking advantage of a long weekend by getting out of town. those who've stayed are lining 9 de julio avenue where parades, concerts, speeches and all kind of patriotic fanfare is happening. we are holed up here in our cozy apartment enjoying the slower pace of the city. yesterday it stormed for hours and i pitied the poor souls stuck downtown to watch a parade or get a cab back home in the thunder and rain.

the days wiz by faster and faster as my due date approaches - august 5th. in between going to preschool with valen (she's still not adjusted to being on her own yet), going to prenatal yoga classes, attending an instructor course in yoga therapy, writing and going to my thursdaysatthree writers group, i've been looking at apartments for us to buy and going to car dealerships. with one kid, we managed to squeak by maintaining a fairly low profile lifestyle with minimal stuff. with two, its just a different ballgame. so, we are getting a car - a minivan that is popular here and in europe but not available in the us called a chevy zafira. we're also looking to move to a bigger apartment - one with 3 bedrooms, a maids quarters and of course a parking spot. i'd like to have another homebirth so of course tied into all this househunting is a ticking clock inside me screaming "where is my baby going to be born!". yes, its the nesting period and this pregnant mom would like to have everything in order but who knows when.

last week was Semana Mundial de Partos Respetados. the direct translation doesn't make a lot of sense but its essentially the international week to recognize a birthing process that is respectful and natural. my ob is always involved in the events and workshops as he is a very outspoken and experienced natural birth expert. the local news channel telefe came to the yoga center where i take classes to film us preggos in action. after the class they interviewed us for a special program. to my surprise, they chose me and one other woman (out of 6) during the editing process. i wasn't sure when the program would air so didn't get to see it live but the following day the guy who run our local vegetable stand told me he saw me on tv and that i was famous. i've since been told by several people they saw the segment. its in spanish of course so for anyone that wants to test their bilingual skills, you can see the full program at this site: first is the interview with my ob dr. lodeiro, then an interview with the owner of the yoga center and last is the interview with me. in the background of the first two interviews you may catch a glimpse of me or my big belly lollying about on a ball - i'm in black yoga pants and a white tank.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We returned from our trip to the US about a week and a half ago. Actually it was March 17th - the exact day that three years ago I left SF and a whole different life to come to Argentina. Since our return I've been reflecting on what I left behind and what I miss most.

The trip was hard though no harder than expected. Valen was her usual energetic self - going nonstop all day but in different less baby friendly places where I needed to watch her every second and often hold her. She was clingy and sometimes nervous around strangers (including family members she'd met at 5 months old) so my arms got an extra workout.

The week in Dallas was fairly serene and Valen enjoyed the routine at Grandma Vincelee's who she quickly started calling "Mamita" as do all the grand and great grandchildren. She fell in love with Mamita's mutt "Paco" and never tired of chasing him around the house. She also spent countless mornings searching the house for meow meows - the two of which wisely never revealed their hiding places.

San Francisco was much more hectic. We had lots of friends to see, family flying up from LA and San Diego and trips across the bay bridge to visit my sister and nephew Anthony. The first few days in SF we made no plans and tried to just settle in to a routine at our friends the Fuchs. They live in the inner sunset just two blocks from Golden Gate park and one block from a long stretch of cute shops and restaurants. I'd missed just strolling around from our week in Dallas (where they don't have sidewalks and everything is designed for you to motor from strip mall to strip mall in an SUV) and immediately set off to wander the park. That Saturday was my nephew's baptism - the big family event of the trip. My mom had flown in from San Diego that morning, my aunt Sea Jai and Uncle Jon, cousins Elan and Aja came from Marin and all of Rey's side of the family was there too.

The family was waiting just outside the chapel for the ceremony to begin. Everyone was greeting each other and making small talk. We arrived and all heads turned. I set Valen down on the ground and she fearlessly walked up to people saying "hola hola". I saw my sister a few yards away holding her baby who I'd never met looking over at Valentina, my daughter of 16 months who she'd never met and the tears just rained down my face. My mom saw me break and rushed over to hug me and pat my back- "its all right" she whispered. It wasn't all right. It was overwhelming and an emotional knockout. This is what we'd left behind when we moved to and stayed in Argentina. These are my people, my family, my roots and in that moment I felt the distance like never before. Seeing Valentina again for my mom was like meeting her for the first time - the last time she visited, Valen was 7 months old and not even crawling yet. Now she was walking, laughing, talking and had a discernible personality. It hurt too much still to approach my sister who I missed desperately and couldn't believe she was now a mom too. The last time I'd seen her she was not even trying to get pregnant yet.

The ceremony was a blur. I tried to pull it together but new tears flowed every time the old set dried up. Hugh was baffled and genuinely worried. "what's WRONG??? he asked". It wasn't something I could explain. "nothing, I'm having a pregnancy moment". How could I tell him in a sound bite that I should have known my nephew Anthony. That I should have held him, cared for him, and known his habits. I should have seen my sister pregnant and dropped Valen at their place for a playdate many times over. That my mom should have known her granddaughter better, that my aunt and uncle should have had us over for dinner or visited when she was an infant. These are the things we gave up. In my day to day I don't think about it much but in that moment it was impossible to ignore.

The rest of the trip whizzed by. We saw oodles of friends, ate lots of asian food and organic fair trade eco friendly fare and shared early mornings and evenings with the Fuchs family. Their daughters Abby and Audrey taught Valen to sit at the piano with them and pound the keys. Their son Will showed her many wizardly card tricks. Everyone received besos multiple times a day and their Golden Retriever "Buddy" became her new "Paco".

Still, it feels so good to be home. Yes, Buenos Aires is home. I'm glad to be back to balmy weather and our simpler life. I missed our parks, the small playground where I take Valen every day, and our friends Carolina and Pablo. I missed our small easy apartment where I can see Valen from any room and not have to worry about her falling down stairs or poking her eye out with a fireplace tool. I missed our maid Viviana who gives me breaks from childcare to shower, run an errand or practice yoga. I missed getting kissed on the cheek when saying hello to someone (even the doorman!) and my group of expat moms that meet every week to share life's little joys and let the kids run wild. I missed shopping for fresh veggies and fruit every day for the meal I'd prepare that night. I missed speaking spanish.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The wettest summer in history

Today it pours, again. It doesn't rain like this in California where I grew up. The rain here comes in tropical storms. Neighbors can smell a storm coming within 20 minutes. After 3 years here I'm starting to notice it too. The wind picks up, the clouds loom in, its warm (at least 70-75 degrees) and the small shopkeepers peek their head out the doors peering up at the sky. It's about to start they think.

Last week within 4 days of each other, we were hit by pellets of rain that after just one hour, flooded whole neighborhoods, killed power in most of the city and halted all public transportation. Friday, the second time it happened I had to leave the house right in the middle of it to get money out of the ATM to pay our maid Viviana. (no, it would not be an option to pay her on Monday as she lives so hand to mouth with 9 children of her own and an unemployed husband that she needed the money to feed her brood over the weekend). I donned my knee high rubber boots and headed out. The water on the sidewalk in front of our apartment reached the top of my boots. I was one of the only fools on the street. On the corner of our street is a Cafe Martinez (the Buenos Aires Starbucks) where about ten trapped customers huddled in the back booths with their arms wrapped around their knees to keep their feet from getting drenched on the floor - then a river of rainwater with no where to drain. I slogged on, clinging to the buildings for support. The deepest flooding lasted only a block but it was nothing I'd ever experienced before. What happened to the drains? Apparently they were all clogged, again - for the second time in a week. The news showed a police rescue of a woman and child cross Santa Fe Avenue(just 4 blocks from our house) in a small rubber boat. As I stare out the window listening to the thunder, lightening and pounding rain I just know we are headed for the same.

Yesterday in the paper they cited this month as the rainiest February in Argentine history (well, since they started tracking 50 years ago). I guess we will not bemoan leaving a glorious summer here in the southern hemisphere when we board our flight for the States tomorrow night.

Summer this year, sucked.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Day After

A slightly bruised up nose but otherwise good as new. She's long forgotten while I tear up just thinking about it.

Worst day

Most days are neither good nor bad, glorious nor horrific. Most days pass in a semi blur of routine and happenstance. Yesterday was hands down my worst day as a mom.

It made me think of other worst days of my life. When I was little (6ish maybe?) and we awoke in the middle of the night to a scary drunk guy kicking on our front door yelling obscenities. The worst of it was not this random dude threatening to break in but the look of complete terror on my mom's face as she held us close - single mom of two young girls. We huddled in the darkness of her bedroom in the back of the house as she phoned the police and tried to enlist their help ("sorry lady, we got real emergencies to deal with here"). I knew at that moment for the first time in my short life that my mom could not protect us - that she too was vulnerable and that my childhood would soon end.

The next most memorable involved my first broken heart. The day I found out my love, the first real one at 14 years old (he was 16, a popular school DJ and bad boy) had been cheating on me with my best friend - freckly, red headed cheerleader goodie two shoes lived across the street from me Julie. Classic betrayal. A young heart torn by the loss of boyfriend and best friend in the same cataclysmic instant. Many many many tears.

The most recent was the day I said goodbye to my dying friend Joni. The conversation we shared with a clear understanding that we would never see or talk to one another again paints grey a tiny part of my every day since.

So, yesterday. It started out as routine as any other. I took Valen with the umbrella stroller and Utta for a spin around the lake across the street. Multi-tasking as all moms do, Utta got a good morning workout and the baby entertained by the scenery, fresh air, and passerbys to shout out "Hola! Hola! Hola!".

We finished the loop and started the return for home. I stopped at the crosswalk waiting for the green light and white man walking sign. I'm always extra careful and nervous frankly crossing Libertador - either from our side or from the park back over. Its a double-wide busy street with cars zooming in both directions. People run red lights all the time and never look to the right to check if a pregnant mother with infant and a dog might be crossing.

The white walker blinked on and I lowered the strollers' front two wheels down from the high curb to the cobblestone below. (many parts of Buenos Aires are still paved in cobblestone - Libertador is not but for some reason on this stretch of the street, there is a 4 foot wide lane of cobblestone to cross before the asphalt begins) The stroller wheels stuck in the cobblestone for a split second and the rear of the stroller lifted up in the air a few inches. My hands were well position on the handles of the stroller but just at that moment Utta charged ahead to cross the street - ahead of us but attached to the left stroller handle via her leash. I tried to hold it down but the forward yank caught me offguard. Utta continued ahead taking the stroller handles with her as the baby (buckled in) catapulted forward face down in the asphalt. Just like in the movies- yes, "it all happened so fast".

I immediately tried to lift the stroller up off the street (at this point face down with my 15 month old inside) - at the same time I couldn't just unleash Utta as she would surely jet into the oncoming lanes of traffic. With all this swirling in my panic stricken mind, I tugged Utta's leash back with my left hand and tried to lift the stroller and baby with my right. Just at that moment, a car stopped and two young men jumped out to assist me. They helped me right the stroller and I immediately pulled a screaming and bloodied little baby into my arms. There was a lot of blood. It streamed out of her nose and seemed to come from her mouth too. Her face was dirty from street soot and she looked scared as hell. Blood smeared my shoulder and arms as I tried to wipe away and access her wounds. The assists asked me if I needed anything else, if I knew that Clinica Trinidad was just one block away. Shaken, I thanked them but said I could handle it from there. Obviously I couldn't handle it but they left anyway. Paula, the maid who brings baby Joaquin (born on the same day as Valentina) to our neighborhood playground everyday was standing on the other side of the street with Joaquin in her arms and witnessed the whole ordeal. She crossed over to us quickly and offered to help bring us home. I let her take the stroller back across Libertador while I carried Valen in one arm and led Utta with the other. When we arrived at the other side, Valen looked at her friend and said through teary eyes and bloody boogers "Hola Joaquin!" and then laid her head on my shoulder. I knew then that she would be ok but I just sobbed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello 2010

My friend Tara reminded me recently of an apt quote "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" for the close of 2009. I really did intend to make at least a few posts in December but obviously failed. I had plenty to write about. The completion of November's novel writing month - which produced 15,000 of my own words, a start but not the whole novel. Then my first "mommycation" a 5 day retreat to a lux hotel called the Llao Llao in Bariloche, Patagonia - alone. I used to take solo vacations every year to a hippy spa in the hills outside of Guadalajara called Rio Caliente. It was something I always looked forward to and went every year for nearly 7 years. I thought those days were long gone with the birth of Valentina but Hugh insisted. Yes, he deserves the Daddy of The Year Award and all my mommy friends were pea green with envy.

December passed quickly in a blur of end of year dinner parties. I brought Sour Chickpeas and chicken tandoori to more than one potluck event. Mostly, I endured nausea and tried to nap when Valen did. The news of baby number 2 took us by surprise but in a good way.

This year we'll visit family and friends in Dallas/San Francisco from late February through mid March. Then, come August, we'll welcome a Leo to the family and in November we'll celebrate 10 years of marriage. Whew, I better get another nap in....