One Year: A Retrospective.

This will be my last GGC post of 2007 as I'm taking a two-week break to love on my family. (You can visit me over at Straight From the Bottle in the meantime. Will be blogging through December o'er there.) Thank you all for hanging out with me this past year, for reading and commenting and supporting and being ridiculously cool and good. It's been a very surreal year for me and I feel incredibly blessed. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K, as they say. Strange, wonderful things. Life is tre belle.

Holiday wishes to all and a beautiful and brilliant new year for you and yours.



*Music Credit: With Whom to Dance by: Magnetic Fields (covered above, by The Divine Comedy.) And also, because I'm all for showcasing the awesome of strangers: this version by a bunch of kids in the back of a car. Cute.

Baby Leave A (Christmas) Light on For Me

(Yes, that was a direct Belinda Carlisle bite. Good ol' BC, the first rock star I ever loved. Because of this song. And her badass denim jacket and cowboy boots. Don't get me started on the Go-Gos. I'll get weak.)

Anyway... where was I? The holidays, yes! I guess I haven't been embracing the season like I should be as a parent of a young child. We don't celebrate Christmas in our house. Hanukkah, yes. But no Christmas. There will be no Santa round deez here parts which is fine by me. I'd rather Arch not have to deal with the whole "finding out the truth" thing. Because that's just rough. It was for me, at least.

I do miss having a Christmas tree, mainly because of the smell of pine and all those beautiful flashing lights. But we get to celebrate Christmas at my parent's house for a whole week, which is exciting, mainly because my brother and sister will be in town and all my cousins which is super news, indeed. Go, team!

Archer and I have been spending our afternoons at The Grove, which is a relatively new local mall, the likes of which I cursed during its construction because it seemed so tacky. So Disneyland meets Las Vegas. Which it is, of course. And yet, I hate to say it... But... I love it there. I love it secretly, quietly, knowing I should hate its guts for being pre-fab, a landmark of capitalism, etc. but there's something so comforting about it. One can grab a coffee and chill while their children are entertained by musical fountains and riding trolleys to nowhere for hours on end. I really can't explain my crush on such a place but this time of year, with its fake snow and Christmas music blasting from rock-speakers, it just seems so... cozy? (You are now free to roll your eyes at me. I do it all the time.)

The Grove isn't our only destination de festivity. We spent our evening at the Venice Beach canals, watching the annual boat parade on the water, which was the highlight of the season, maybe even the highlight of my entire life. Because I got to watch this for three hours:

Archer danced like a maniac as we stumbled by the various waterfront parties, high-fiving frat boys who embraced him as one of their own. Strangers passed-out candycanes, sticking them in the pockets of Archer's pea coat, an unprecedented look of gratitude his face. And of course, the cutest thing ever-ever: the "Whoaaa! Bo! Yay! Bo! Whoaaa!" as Archer watched the boats on the perimeter of the canals:

Archer's awe was complete and didn't waver, especially when it snowed soap-suds...

...And then, post-sunset, a light display unlike any other (this was where the faux-snow-machines were hard at work.)

I never knew how fabulous this insane-o season was until I saw the reflection of the light in Archer's big beautiful eyes:

Such wonder and magic and innocence. Such total and complete awe.

Shucks, man. I love being a mom. It's really just the best thing ever in the history of life.


Archer Road Rages, And Takes Self Portraits

Here's the thing, friends and strangers: I have a dirty, cussy mouth. Especially when I'm driving and people are being dickfarms: changing lanes without a turn signal i.e. cutting a bitch off. Archer's speech-delay has sort of tricked me into thinking Archer hasn't been absorbing every word I've uttered in the last so-odd months. Like "shit". And "holy balls" and "dickfarm" of course, which is a word I coined myself. Thank you, thank you.

I don't even notice when I say these things, of course. I accidentally curse in front of little old ladies and small children and oh, sweet lord! I'm a horrible role model! When you see me RUN. THE. OTHER. WAY! ( coming soon to a browser near you!)

So Archer's cussing, now. He says "Oh, shit" and "GO! Adhole!" when we're in the car. I've created a monster which is not good (at all) especially because Archer starts preschool in T minus three-weeks and I'm seriously scared. Because a child with a speech delay who can curse like a sailor? Well, that's kind of suspect.

Okay, really suspect.

At least he's cute. I mean, how can anyone be hard on a rubber ducky who makes bathtime so much fun?

Oh, who am I kidding. I'm so fucking effing busted.


In other news, Archer masters the art of the self-portrait, and I flirt with the idea of *actually* printing my own digital photos for once in my life. Sheesh, I have issues.

Let's Go Fly a Kite!

...And send it soaring.

Up! To the atmosphere!

Up! Where the air is clear!

Oh. Let's. Go....

...Fly a kite!

(And he did.)

(For the very first time)

(All by himself.)


Hop on Pop (Culture): Article of the Week

This weekend I went and saw Juno, which I loved. Loved. I cannot say enough good things about this film, minus a few funky dialogue bits it was perfect. I sobbed through the whole think, which pretty much happens to me whenever I go see a movie alone (I'm a crier, ladies and gents, especially without a chaperone) which is totally embarrassing because there is never anyone to tell me if I have mascara all over my face, which I always do, of course. But whatever. Juno is not today's Hop on Popic, I just wanted to follow-up on my post a couple weeks ago about Juno and Diablo Cody (it's writer) who I am more a fan of than ever after seeing her film. Brilliant performances. Strong women roles. Perfect little film. Go see it when it arrives in your town. You'll enjoy it. Swear.

One of the trailers before the film was for a documentary called Young @ Heart about an elderly chorus that tours around the world performing all kinds of venues and has been going strong since 1982.
"...these men and women are up on stage singing their hearts out about the big taboos surrounding old age: about love and sex, loss of youth, loneliness and death. In their mouths, familiar lyrics take on whole new meanings."
You can learn all about the chorus, here.

I'm not a huge Coldplay fan, but this video was my favorite of all of the Young @ Heart videos I watched over the weekend.

I also loved the bit in the "about" section of the Young @ Heart website about Fred Knittle, lead vocalist:
Look for the Young @ Heart documentary release (Fox Searchlight) sometime next year. And for more videos, here's Young @ Heart singing Sonic Youth, and The Ramones among many other incredible renditions, including Young@Heart performing "Forever Young" at a prison (taken from the documentary and sure to to break your heart with awesome.)

Watching these clips makes me proud to be a human being and excited that age is just a minor detail with the right attitude. It's never too late to rock out. Which I kind of knew already thanks to my incredible grandparents.*

My dad's mom dances on the table with a buncha Santa impersonators at her 80th birthday. Whu-whut!

My mom's mom (Nana) arrives ready for a road trip up the coast dressed like a Banana, honoring our nickname for her since we were kids, "Nana the Banana"


*I realize I don't have a photo or a post about my Grandpa Milt (who I adore beyond adoration) so I would like to take a second to mention that dude still does a daily 20 mile-bike-ride. For a man in his mid 80's, that aint bad. He also rules the stage (total thespian) and the microphone (sings at temple) with a voice like no one I know. And he along with my Grandmothers reads this blog so hey, Grandpa, Grandma and Nana! Love you!

The Way it Used to be. And Now: Part II

Playing peek-a-boo with the animals at The Natural History Museum

The day Archer turned two and a half he said his name for the very first time. Ah-tu, he said because he can't pronounce his r's very well. And a week later, when I put him down to bed, he stood up in his crib and said "Nigh, nigh Mommy." I hadn't prompted him. He had said it on his own. Instead of blowing me the usual kiss and waving he spoke to me. In English.

"I love you, bug," I said back to him, trying to mask my shock at hearing him speak like that, all on his own.

"Ay yuv you gug," he said, waving his little hand between the bars of his crib, crashing face-first into his red blankie.

I cried afterwards. For no other reason besides the fact that it was literally the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. Because I had sort of, in my head, wondered if he would ever say "mommy" or his own name, let alone "I love you." I guess I sort of figured it would happen eventually but I wondered, still.

I had watched him watch the world with such interest for so long. Watching him make friends. Watching him watch me, listen to me, understand my questions. Listening in such a real way it was almost heartbreaking. Waiting for him to answer back. To communicate about a world he was obviously so interested in, sensitive to, understanding of. Like a quiet wise-man. A miniature sage.

Archer, watching the world as he does so well.

The only feeling comparable to my waiting for Archer to speak on his own was the feeling I had when I was traveling by train around the lesser-known parts of Italy and France my very first summer traveling alone. Waiting for trains to come. Trusting they would find me all alone in the middle of nowhere. Trusting that I was at the right stop, on the right side of the tracks. "Come on, come on," I'd think. "Be here already."

The train will come, mom. Just be patient.

Trusting that the train would eventually come and pick me up, I was at peace most of the time. But there were days, there have been days for the last year or so, when I was afraid. Afraid the train had broken down. That there was nothing I could do to get it going. Nothing I could say. I couldn't talk the train into coming. Or Archer into speaking: it was out of my control. He was out of my control. A valuable lesson and one hard to digest by someone with such undeniable control-issues.

With Archer it was hard to believe he would ever really speak to me. It was hard to believe we would ever be able to communicate without our hands. We had both adapted to his lack of communication in such a way that there was never a time when I didn't know what Archer was talking about. I knew when he was hungry, or sad or sick. I knew when he wanted me to turn up the music or dance with him. I knew when he wanted me to scratch his back. When he wanted to go outside. When he wanted me to cut his apple into smaller bits.

I waited for months to hear him speak. "He'll probably talk any minute," people said to me. "Complete sentences, even." But that wasn't the case. And then a year passed and pretty soon I stopped waiting. There was plenty to do at the station, I soon realized, and one day I just forgot the train entirely. Forgot what I was even even waiting for. Where I wanted to go.

There is something so poetic about waiting so long for Archer to reveal the part of himself that I have never been able to hide. Like an odd couple who could not be more perfect for one another... Me who can't shut up. Who has put so much emphasis on words. On communication. On language and all that it means it express it and a son who can only express himself in wordless ways: kissing flowers he likes best in the garden, giving strangers cookies instead of saying hello, pointing at the birds and clapping. Always clapping.

Playing with pigeons

These days, and especially as a first-time parent, so much depends on developmental milestones: our road map to where we need to go, how and when we should guide our children, when the time is right to buckle them in and pull away, towards the road. Or school. Or class. Or special-needs therapy. So when our children aren't walking or talking or doing what their peers have been doing for so long. For what seems like ever. It's hard not to stall in the driveway. It's hard to put the map away, focus on the child: his unique identity, like a snowflake to protect, understand, memorize before it falls into a winter of packed snow...

I don't know that I see Archer differently now that he is really starting to communicate. Not sure I ever will. That's what's so amazing about being a parent: our children will always be geniuses because every little thing they do has the power to greatly change our lives, make us better people, more patient and accepting and understanding.

Parenting is a journey no matter what. Even when the train is late. Especially when the train is late, in my case. Because there's so much to think about while sitting at the station. So very much to learn in the silence before the engine sounds.

Toot, toot!


Mustaches and Bald Men = Good. Early Intervention = Not So Much

First of all, Archer's going through a very interesting phase where the only people he likes have mustaches and/or are bald. Which means Hal and my dad are big winners and I can finally put my feet up and relax I'm chopped livah. It's just a phase, I'm sure. Pretty soon he'll fall back in love with me and I'll never be able to put my feet up again we'll live happily ever after.

Ah, the wonderful 2's (I try to steer away from using "terrible" because I'm trying to maintain some positivity and plus, Archer's never been more lovable, even in times of madness. You see, he's talking now. More and more every day which I will be blogging about at length, later in the week when there's time to wax poetic about the past week's monumental events.) As for now, T minus 20 minutes before Hal and I are out the door, on a mission to eff some ish up down at the Early Intervention Regional Center office (because they haven't been holding up their end of the bargain) and, you know, tell them who's boss.

Look out Regional Center peeps who think it's totally okay to flake-out on us, we're extremely threatening in person:

photo c/o Rachael Porter and the Holiday Sweater Party


Hop on Pop (Culture): Article of the Week

In today's New York Times' Modern Love (Style) section, Kelly Valen wrote of an abusive experience she had in college that occurred as a result of a date-rape: an action that in itself is awful, not taking under account the condemnation and black-balling of her so-called "sisters," her would-be friends. The piece hit home for me for many reasons, the first being my ability to relate to the following, the opening of her essay, My Sorority Pledge? I Swore Off Sisterhood:

My life’s greatest sorrow stems from my inability to feel close to other women. At 41, I’ve cautiously cultivated a few cherished female friendships. But generally I feel a kind of skittish distrust and discomfort when dealing with most women, particularly women in packs.

The few female friends I have kept and maintained over the years have had the same issue I have: a distrust and discomfort around most other women. Becoming a parent has magnified my distrust of women ten-fold, as in ten times out of ten I would rather be alone than within a group a mothers. Motherhood it seems, brings out the quiet bitch in us all.

Women can be horrible to one another more often than not, torturing each other psychologically, ratting each other out, stabbing one another in the back, violently. More violent even than harassment. And in Valen's case, rape.

Valen's essay lead to a discussion between me and several friends about feminism in general and the idea that perhaps the feminist "movement" has outgrown itself to such an extent that women have had no choice but to turn on each other, pointing fingers, pulling at the hair of former colleagues and teammates. Perhaps this is a recent phenomenon or maybe women since the beginning of time have been at each other's throats in the same way. I have a feeling though, it has changed. There is something that seems to happen after every war or societal movement, a kind of inability to put down one's weapons and accept one's new, "liberated" life.

The conversation drifted over to Hillary Clinton and whether or not a woman candidate could and can be celebrated in a country overrun by competitive alpha-women who are so crippled by jealousy that very often they/we cannot look at the bigger picture.

Sure, Hillary isn't the most likeable of women or even political candidates for that matter, but I think a great much of what she is criticized for is the result of her "masculine" thirst for power. It is hard for us (as women) to support strong women without familiarizing ourselves with their "weaknesses," and so in the case of a hard-bellied Hillary, there is a disconnect. Because she is a woman lacking the vulnerability of a trusted female confidante, and therefor threatening to women who might normally support her.

Women are manipulative. We hold one another down in ways that are debilitating to ourselves, often gesturing toward men and misogyny as a what's-what to blame. And none of us are innocent. It is far more difficult to congratulate a friend on exciting news than it is to console a friend in times of need (jealousy is the antithesis of pity). A strange paradox during a time when women are congratulating themselves for being so modern.

Women aren't evolving as much as we say we are. We're just talking more shit behind each other's backs. And what is perhaps most upsetting is that, as I criticize this inexcusable behavior, I am more likely than not, just the same, a judgmental and often catty creature unable to see such character flaws in myself.

Valen closes her essay with an unfortunate conclusion:

I’ve been a full-time lawyer, a working mother and a stay-at-home mother. In each role, I’ve found my fears about women’s covert competition and aggression to be frequently validated: the gossip, the comparisons, the withering critiques of career and mothering choices. We women swim in shark-infested waters of our own design. Often we don’t have a clue where we stand with one another — socially, as mothers, as colleagues — because we’re at once allies and foes.

I want to remain optimistic. After all, here I am with three daughters. What am I to teach them? Cautionary tales about men’s harmful proclivities abound. But how do we help our girls navigate the duplicitous female maze? How do we ensure that they behave authentically, respect humanity over fleeting alliances, and squash the nasty tribal instincts that can inflict lifelong distress?

I don’t know. I’m afraid I never will.

She has put into words what I have been unable to voice without becoming defensive on behalf of men and boys, my son included-- that women and girls should be more cautious of themselves and one another. Betrayal and judgment of one's own sex can be far more paralyzing than that of the male equivalent, with lasting repercussions that are far more difficult to understand.


Friday (Afternoon) Fashion: Rainy Day Edition

The last few times it's rained in L.A. we've been out of town so when I woke this morning to the sounds of drip-drip against the window I was ecstatic. Looking forward to a late-morning pajama fest, catching up with the last few weeks of New York Times Sunday Editions and skidding around the house in slipper-socks, and of course, dressing Archer up snug in his raincoat and boots, two items that rarely make an appearance 'round these here parts. (A crying shame.)

Frog Raincoat by: Kidorable
Rubber Alligator Boots by: "Puddles" which I can't find online so Kidorable will have to do.
Dark jeans by Osh Kosh for Target (Not available online, sadly but I found Archer's at our local store for any of you locals.)

Happy splashing!


The Way it Used to be. And Now.

"This building's new and this building. This building didn't even exist when I lived here. There was nothing, here. Just sky and the view to the ocean. It's changed. It looks so different now."

For Hal it was a homecoming of sorts. And for me, an introduction to his past, an opening of locked doors with scratched-out peepholes.

"So this is where you came from," I said.

"This is it. Except it's really different now. So different."

It was the first time Hal was able to show me his old life. When we met there were no photos in shoe-boxes. No albums or files to prove his past even existed. Where I am a pack rat when it comes to memorabilia, keeping boxes of papers and photos, folders full of old notes, proof of history, keepsakes, Hal has kept nothing. And so for many years, I quietly guessed. Filling in the gaps of his stories and retellings with my own assumptions and images and characatures. Adding contrast, shading in the skies, exaggerating characters-- creating cartoon-like life.

Hal moved from Miami to L.A. four years ago. It was his 29th birthday the day he arrived. It was also nine months before we met. He left South Beach for personal reasons. He couldn't be there anymore. Too many demons and so... the city of angels. The city of independence and fresh starts and gambling with dreams. There was nothing more to lose, Hal said. He sold every item he owned, pawned his watch. Sold his car. Keeping only what he could fit in the trunk of his rental. It was what he had to do to start over. To look ahead. To focus on change. To create a new life for himself. Independent of anyone he had ever known. From scratch.

When we met Hal was unemployed. Sleeping in a kitchen pantry of a house some college friends of his had rented. He converted the pantry into a bedroom, just large enough to fit a mattress, which we slept on with our feet against the small screen window, its view overlooking a pool freckled with June bugs.

We weren't supposed to become serious. It was a fling at first. He didn't want a girlfriend and I was fresh out of a relationship. We wanted to have fun. He had just arrived. Didn't want to be distracted. Wanted to do what he needed to do. To find himself. "I'm new here."

But sometimes it helps to have someone. "Every gambler needs a lady luck," I thought. But I waited until the time was right to say so.

A gambling man can be incredibly romantic. He was to me and I think in a way, to him as well. Free of possessions. Responsibility. No boss to answer to. All the room in the world to be selfish. Leaving the past to pursue a future blank and unknown. A canvas without so much as a fingerprint... But all that changed months later: Gambling was no longer an option with a pregnant girlfriend and suddenly the wildness of the west, the pool of independence had to be covered. The closet with the mattress against the window no longer sufficed.

Los Angeles became a place to settle down. Get a real job. A job that would provide for us. For our future child. And though I have written at length about how hard it was for me at first, I've left out the fact that it was even more difficult for him-- seeing the canvas suddenly paint itself. Three silhouettes and an electric fence and the reality of having to suddenly support a family. Yes, I was working, then and still am. But I'm not going to try to pretend it is I who brings home the proverbial bacon. I could still gamble with a pregnant belly. I would still be able to pursue my dreams as a stay-at-home mom. To write.

Until this past trip I had never been to Miami or even Florida. I never had any desire to go. My entire life I had imagined Florida as a place where the elderly went to die, flamingos in lawns and all that. I had figured Miami to be some shitty LA knock-off, where Ricky Martin a la Menudo dined with Vanilla Ice in fake Versace. Fake Gucci. Fake everything.

Sunday we spent the day in Miami, in South Beach, Hal's old stomping ground with Hal's old friends. Former life. I have never lived anywhere, as an adult but Los Angeles. A brief stint in London, but Los Angeles is a large part of my past. My old life is LA. My old life is also in boxes in the closet. Under the bed. All over books and blogs. I have no secrets. No mysteries. Hal on the other hand...

Crossing the bridge I found myself suddenly surrounded by my husband's past. The place that helped define him. The place that pushed him away. To me. The place that influenced him quietly and probably still does. In a way. Because that's kind of the way things work. Nothing is ever really forgotten. Memories don't just disappear. Not all moments can escape.

And for an afternoon two very different lives overlapped.

I always figured I'd hate Miami. But I loved it. Maybe because I got to see it with Hal, his old home, sniffing the trail of his former life. Like spending the day with an ex-girlfriend. Asking her questions. Trying to organize clues. What was it about this place? Who did you used to be? How have you changed?

I suddenly found myself in the shoebox I had been searching for since we met three and a half years ago, under the bed. The past. The life before me. Before us. The people he lived with and stayed up nights with and chased mirages with and experienced with. People suddenly among us. All three of us. How strange it must have been. And yet, not at strange as I supposed.

And the whole afternoon I kept looking at Hal, wondering if he could have ever believed in a million years he would leave what he had once called home for long enough to one day return... With a family. A wife and a son: his proverbial winnings. A very different kind of jackpot than the one he set out for not so many years ago.

"What did you think?" Hal asked as we were leaving.

"I loved it."

"Yeah, but it looks so different," he said once more, the city receding in the rear-view mirror of our rented Nissan Altima.

Except this time he wasn't just talking about the change in the skyline.

"I can only imagine," I said.


Cars Are More Our Speed

In other news, tonight while watching Hal's favorite show, The Hills (wtf, right?), Archer pointed at the clips of Hollywood in the end montage and said, "Iz home! Home! Yay!" before clapping his little hands. I was surprised, impressed and in agreement. Los Angeles iz home and when I'm away for long enough I realize how happy I am living in such a wacko town. Everywhere else seems so normal. So quiet. And clean.

Looking forward to hitting the skies tomorrow morning for what I'm hoping is a much more pleasant round two of airplane travel. And falling into a heap of dirty laundry bed tomorrow afternoon.

Ah, yes. There's no place like ghetto bird nests, hooker-ville with plastic blondes driving Escalades, homeless dudes with laptops for boom boxes, nudist neighbors, porn-star pool parties, dudes who have tattoos under their eyelids, Santa Ana firestorms, drunk-naked drug-addicts, motorized-cart shopping sprees, actors acting even when the cameras aren't rolling home.


Planes, Trains and Roadtrips to Miami

It's getting better all the time. Bettah awl the ti-i-ime! We're still alive. Still in Florida. We've caught up on sleep and are now effectively kicking back with Hal's parentals at their condo in Palm Beach-ishville...

...Shopping for (squirt) guns and pawning off oversized bags n' shit:

Also watching trains:

And blowing bubbles:

Experimenting with electricity:

And kaleidoscopes:

Watching more trains (obviously)...

Straight trippin' in some badass disco-light rooms:

And more trains! Hooray!

Tomorrow we set off for Miami. In search of La Vida Loca and A1A Beachfront Avenue. (Police on the scene! Ya know what I mean?) Luckily, Archer's a champ at road-trips so what went so totally wrong on the airplane might just... Actually. Stop. Wait. I'm not going to say a word at the risk of becoming even more of a failed optimist. I'm just gonna ride this one out with no expectations whatsoever and the rag top down so my hair can blow. (The girlies don't stand by waiting just to say hi, ya know?)

Yo, man, let's get outta here. Word to yer mother.


(too cold.)

*All photos taken in/at/around the South Florida Science Museum. Awesome, stuff, Florida. You go!