Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wanna Dance…


One summer in high school I went to see the local community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. My friend was in it.

It was there that I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with Blaine Jacobson. He would grow pudgy and off-key not two summers later, for a very disillusioning performance of Carousel. But for now, he played Perchik, the rogue intellectual from Kiev. He had curly black hair, olive skin, and the most adorable way of singing through his nose. I immediately volunteered to work back stage.

For four performances I watched him from the wings and breathed the perfume off of his costume before he walked on.

Being in the theatre would have been good for me at the time and I could feel God nudging me to audition for the next show, but fear sat heavy on the dream. It’s an old enemy, see? We’ve been fighting it for a while.

During the cast party I couldn’t take it anymore, God’s nudging or my crush. I sat in the metal folding chair in the corner of the auditorium dressed all in black and made a deal with God. I said, “God, if Blaine Jacobson comes over and talks to me right now I will audition for the next show.”

At that moment Blaine Jacobson inconceivably decided to notice me, approach me, and ask me if I was going to dance with everyone else. I managed to mumble and fumble a refusal, blushed viciously, and kept sitting hard in my chair. God smiled to himself and I smiled back into the heavens abashed. I didn’t have the heart to audition for the next show and we both knew it. It would take me two more shows before I would fulfill my end of the metal folding chair bargain.

God listens.

My writing time has been moving around and sometimes gets swallowed whole. What was a little break after finishing my book, has started to become the self-loathing indicative of a victorious Resistance. This morning in Moms’ group I prayed that if God wanted me to write he would help me find the time to make it happen.

This evening the power went out in my husband’s office and the whole building went home. James came home four hours early.

Now I’m writing.

Sometimes when you ask for something it takes a while. But sometimes, yes, sometimes, Blaine Jacobson crosses the room and asks you to dance.

Potty Mouth…


This is where it gets real, people.

I wasn’t going to blog about this. I wasn’t.

I’ve blogged about angry nipples and vomit cascading down bunk beds, but this seemed, somehow, to cross a line.

But my husband texted, “This is where it gets real.” And if my blog is anything I want it to be real, so here it is. The truth is this: I am not the only one who lives here.

This is not my first kid. The house was thoroughly baby-proofed for the first kid. When he started to crawl the floors were clean. When he started to walk my husband and I were very good about keeping the bathroom door closed.

But there are two more this time. I am severely outnumbered. The floor is a little dirtier and now there are Legos, immense amounts of Legos. If any child dies from choking on a Lego it will be this one. And, then, my daughter started to leave the bathroom door open.

She was doing very well closing it after her, until last week or so. Luckily, my baby has been mostly interested in the bathtub, until today.

Today, I hear my daughter cry, “Baby’s in the bathroom!”

I run in to discover him standing at the toilet bowl mouth stuffed with toilet paper he fished from the water. It had been used to blow a nose, his nose. Does that make it better? I feel like it must. Rest assured, whoever had used the potty last had, thank goodness, remembered to flush, which is not always the case. The wet covered his face, dripped down his chin, and saturated his front with toilet water.

I grabbed him and washed his hands, pried the wad out of his teeth, flushed the potty, closed the lid, screamed a little, and changed his clothes.

I texted my husband, the one with whom I can share my parenting horrors without fear of judgment. He’s met my children. They look like him.

And he texted back, “This is where it gets real.”

The baby will survive. (But, I mean, just in case I’m keeping an eye on him.)

There’s a motto written on an index card hanging by my kitchen sink. It says, “Making dirty things clean.” It helps me to remember in the midst of the endless cleaning that this is the privilege of housekeeping, to perform the tangible illustration with my too physical body, the exhausting task of making dirty things clean into perpetuity. Me and Jesus, all day long, making dirty things clean.

I mean, this is where it gets real; you’re never too dirty to come back.

That’s why my baby just got a kiss on his cheek.



So, my search for the perfect meat spot continues.

There are two little neighborhood stores where I do most of my daily shopping. And then, every other week or so I augment my pantry with a trip to the Safeway across from Ocean Beach.

One little market is six blocks away down California Street and has a pricier product and not much produce. But that’s where I get my roast chickens from a guy named Chico who knows how to roast a chicken. I called to get one on Monday morning, but Chico was out-of-town. That’s how you know. When the roast chickens go away with the man then you know where the magic comes from. We’ve had many discussions, Chico and I, about the rub he mixes, how he cuts slices into the breasts so it will hold more of it, and how he always stuffs lemon slices inside. I always forget about the lemon slices until I’m tearing meat off bones days later. They always surprise me.

The other market is just two blocks away, has a wider variety of produce, and is as cheap as any chain market. So this is where I do my shopping. The store is run by a very nice lady and her husband who’ll order me what I want if they don’t have it. This is where I do most of my shopping.

The only thing neither of them has is meat. There are cold cuts, salamis, sausages, and Chico’s roasted chickens. That’s it.

I’ve been cooking a lot with sausage. I’ve made couscous with fried sausage and brocolini so many times that my kids are starting to eat it. That’s how many times.

So, Monday’s city adventure was to walk down to 17th and Geary and follow-up on a friend’s recommendation of a meat store.

When we get there I realize that I have expectations. This is not the quaint city meat shop of my vivid imagination. It’s a grocery store.

Correction: It’s a Russian grocery store. There are a lot of Russian bakeries and groceries in this area. I’ve been in them before. Only this one is really Russian. I mean, I can’t read anything on anything. And most of the staff don’t speak English. Even the Hispanic guys running the meat counter have to confer before telling me, “Nyet.”

I mean, my daughter, my four-year old daughter, picks up on it enough that she starts speaking in her made up language. Did I tell you my daughter has been making up her own language lately? It’s something like “Buttero” from the country of “Praytie”. She will lapse into spells of speaking it and then translating for us in the most darling and, yet, still slightly condescending manner.

First of all, the store was half cookies. Half.

And then, the meat was good, but not what I was hoping for. I got a pound of beef for dinner.

So, I try to think of what else I need while I’m there. Oats, I need steel-cut oats. The grain aisle is substantial but, alas, there are only quick oats. There are, however, about fifty different varieties of bulgur. I guess Russians eat a lot of bulgur?

Then I check out the jam. Every culture makes jams, right? Right. Except the preserves were really preserves. The jars were filled with whole fruit in liquid. I imagined the look on my kids’ faces when I handed them their morning toast with a whole quince laid across the top. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t fly.

So, I buy a pound of beef for dinner and a jalapeno only to then read the sign that I would need to spend at least ten dollars in order to use my card. I almost always carry cash for just such a contingency, but, alas, I was out today. I had about four fifty to make up. I might have bought some cookies; I was surrounded by them. But I once had a bad experience with a Russian gingerbread stuffed with black licorice paste.

Luckily, the Russians also do vodka and one bottle would not only adequately cover my monetary deficiency, but also my deficiency of spirit that this had not turned out to be my meat nirvana.

So, my search continues. I’m going to ask Chico if he knows a place.

Also, I might try to learn Russian.

Also, maybe I’m bold enough now to venture into one of the Chinese fish markets.

The Bus…


Nothing yet has made me feel as much ownership of this city as riding the bus.

Perhaps I deceive myself when I adopt the kind of gusto that presumes to bring three children, two bags, and one semi-collapsible stroller onto public transportation.

There are a few places we go on the bus. Mostly we use the 1-line. Yesterday, since Daddy had the car, we took the 29 down to Golden Gate Park to meet some friends. And due to the early onset of lunchtime and a sudden heavy downpour of whining we ended up taking the 5 back to the 29 home.

It’s fun. The kids very much still enjoy the novelty of standing up while moving. At this point, there are no more questions about the lack of seatbelts. And I enjoy that I don’t have to worry about parking, setting the timer on my phone for two hours, and leaving halfway through events to move my car.

The bus drivers’ facial expressions fall somewhere on the continuum between admiration and the “souls unuttered groans” at the sight of my little brood, depending, of course, on the fullness of the bus.

Most of the time I’m prepared, with my clipper card bus pass in my pocket, a baby in arm, two bags slung over my shoulder, stroller collapsed, and other kids at the ready. My eldest son is responsible for his own fare of 75 cents.

But sometimes the bus comes right up on us, just as we arrive at the stop and I am a dervish of bags and kids and baby gets tipped precariously forward as I lug him up on the bus still attached to his stroller. In these situations I make bold use of the space in front of the yellow line as I dig out my wallet and locate my clipper card because I’m not so new that I have to use cash, but I’m new enough that I don’t have a fancy clear lanyard that are all the rage on the San Francisco Muni.

Must get a lanyard!

Riding public transportation with three kids, I’ve also noticed, is an excellent opportunity for the people of San Francisco to practice grace. You’re welcome, San Francisco.

Mostly, I’ve been very impressed by the kindness showed us. Adults give up their seats for my kids, despite their protestations that they want to stand. They make room for my paraphernalia. They coo at the baby. They offer my kids candy (!). Last week, a kind man heading out to the VA on a very full bus even held my stroller in his lap for the whole bus ride.

There have been hiccoughs, of course. Yesterday, the stroller suddenly un-collapsed and slammed into the person across the aisle. My baby made an Asian adolescent who was watching anime on his phone very uncomfortable by yelling at him over my shoulder. Occasionally, I forget to bring the second bag, the sweatshirt bag, and then there are four sweatshirts that are being tossed from lap to lap and cajoled into children’s arms as we disembark, which takes quite a bit of polish off the shine of our operation. And one ride I discovered my daughter was making faces out the back window. Luckily, the driver of the bus behind us was making faces back.

Who knew that all this would actually make me feel more capable, another example of the odd math of motherhood. Holy unanticipated occurrences!

The First Birthday…


My baby had his first birthday a couple of days ago. We didn’t do much. In fact, I couldn’t find the birthday candles, which was okay because I don’t have any matches. He still enjoyed the singing. But the first birthday is less for the baby than it is a celebration for everyone that loves that baby of keeping him alive for a year. Whoop! We made it! We kept another one alive for a year!

I wrote this little bit of thought after he was born. I didn’t have a forum for it at the time, but thought I would put it here now.

So, here it is, this is where I was one year ago:

I am three days out from the birth of baby three and it’s official. The endorphins have moved out and the postpartum hormones have moved in. I’m sitting in my cool dark room like a mother wolf in her den, with a sleeping baby on my bed and lanolin on my angry nipples. I hear my other two children getting ready for bed with Dad but I can’t seem to break out of my room to say goodnight. It’s the perfect place right now to explore the reeling sensations left over from the wonder of another birth.

I’ve been very fortunate to have beautiful home births for each of my children. And just as my children are different their labor stories differ as well. Of course, no one is ever prepared for motherhood. I knew birth would be a “spiritual” experience, but I had no idea of the parallels I would see between this life and the one I have been adopted into. With each of my three babies I have learned different spiritual truths hidden couched in our circumstances and situation from conception to delivery.

My first, my son, was conceived not two months after the death of my dearly loved Daddy. As fall and winter went on I grieved much and learned to hope for spring. With greenness and life came those first fluttering kicks that weren’t as surprising as much as they were exactly what I might have thought they were going to feel like. And in the summer he came. The whole experience was full of the contemplation of life out of death, the pain coming before the resurrection, salvation coming from laying oneself down. I couldn’t get away from it, the new wonder of the goodness of God that would not let death come without clearing a place for new life.

With my second, my daughter, I was resolved to do it again, not to have an only child, though my son had thoroughly made me aware of my lack of knowledge and energy for parenting. I doubted my ability to do this whole “mother” thing well. I dreaded the pain of labor in those brief instances when the amnesia lifted and I was able to remember. But God was teaching me much at the time about work, the work of being a mother, working harder and more selflessly than had previously been required of me. Work was the curse, but in it also was the blessing.

I ran across this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Get leave to work in this life, ‘tis the best we get at all, For God in cursing gives us better gifts than men in benediction.” And how I knew what a blessing the curse of work had been to me. I was more capable, more efficient, knew how to get an incredible amount done in the window of a two-hour nap time. And I applied this to the labor of delivery. Was it not also a curse, the pain of labor? But hadn’t I already experienced the blessing in that particular curse? The knowledge that kept me going through the first two difficult weeks of my first son’s life was this: If I could do that, I can do anything, the labor of babies, the labor of children, the labor of teens, the labor of life, etc.

The second I felt I had to have, the mandatory sibling. But the third I decided to have, I asked for.

With my third, another son, the phrase kept coming to my mind, born of blood and water. There’s a verse that talks about being born of blood and water. Having done two births already in my midwives’ water tub I was fascinated by the parallels it brought me to.

As the time for me to deliver grew close I experienced three painful exhausting weeks of pre-labor. I realized I was terrified to go through it again, the labor part. With my daughter it had been more intense than with my eldest and there had been a few times when I had barely been able to stay on top of it. I knew this would be worse. My lovely midwife who was crazy enough to have nine kids commiserated and reminded me of Jesus’s prayer in the garden. He was so concerned he took his friends with him to pray. “If it be your will let this cup pass from me.” But there is only one way to be born, isn’t there? There is only one way to get our babies here. And I had signed up for this, a thought that did not bring me much comfort during those early transition contractions when you realize that everything is getting away from you very quickly.

And so I descended again into labor and this much more intense. The groans that emanated from me were new to my birthing experience. And then it was too much. I couldn’t stay on top of the pain. And I realized I would have to go through it, under it, let the pain roll over me in hopes that the resultant endorphins would do their job. I clung to the promise of a baby and lovely mommy amnesia at the end.

And I thought about the sacrifice I had known ahead of time that would be required of me to have another baby. I had chosen it willingly to have my body break for another because it was the only way to get my son here. And I thought about Jesus breaking his body because it was the only way to get me there with him. And his body broke and poured out blood and water. And then my boy came out, into the tub that was quickly growing red, and my midwives told me, “Pick up your baby.” And I reached down and brought him to my chest hearing his first cries. And I remembered my baptism brought out of the water to new life. And I heard the words of Jesus say to me even as I said them to my son, “I got you, you’re safe. This new life is just beginning. You’re already on the other side.”