Archive for Family

02 Nov 2010

Housewifery

8 Comments Cooking/Baking, Family, Personal Crap

Belts are being tightened around the Arch household. No, not in the “I’ve lost so much weight, my pants are too big” kind of way. More in the “It’s been a slower year than normal and we need to rein it in a bit” kind of way. Don’t worry! We’re fine. I’m not giving you a PO Box to send donations to… Yet. One of the things Russ and I agree on is how to spend money. We’ve always lived a little below our means and, since we’re both in an industry that thrives on never knowing where one’s next check is coming from, we try to keep big purchases to a minimum.

However, we are definitely changing our habits. For instance, we used to eat dinner (and lunch and some breakfasts) out a lot. I’d say on average we’d eat dinner out at least four nights a week. And I ate lunch out almost every day. There were periods of time when I’d cook a few meals a week, but it was never very consistent. And if we had leftovers in the fridge the next night, they’d sit there until they were thrown out, because we were at a restaurant. We don’t go to expensive restaurants. We like casual, diner-type places. But it doesn’t matter. Those meals out add up quick!

So, for about two months we’ve eaten almost every meal at home. I cook now at least four times a week, and we’re eating leftovers the other nights. And can I just tell you? I AM LOVING EVERY FREAKING MINUTE OF IT! I feel so… accomplished. And it feels fantastic to take care of my family like that. I feel like I’m nurturing them. Feeding people is a very powerful thing. I’ve always felt that way. But doing it consistently like this makes me feel like some kind of a super hero!

Yes, I am well aware that there are women (and some men) all over this Earth who cook every single night, and have done so for 10, 20, 30, even 50 years. I get it. I’m not the first person to cook for my family. But I can’t stop congratulating myself about it! I’ve learned new recipes and brought back old ones. I’m making soup and chili and about five different kinds of chicken! I’m roasting veggies and making pasta sauce. I’m putting awesome leftovers in Garrett’s lunchbox! Even the occasional “frozen food” nights are fun. And then I’m really counting the money we’re saving. Oh, and one night we had sweet potato pancakes, scrambled eggs and ham. Everyone was so happy! I’M KING OF THE WORLD!

Seriously though, I’m feeling very proud. Not because of the cooking, but because I’m learning things about myself. I am being given this time without work, and it feels like the biggest blessing. Ever since Garrett was born, I’ve wanted to be home more than anything. I love working, and I do hope to get back to it someday. But right now, in this pocket of time, I’m learning about what kind of wife and mother I am. I’m teaching myself new skills, and I’m finding out that I really like this side of me that I always knew was there. I’ve always joked with my friends, and they will attest to this, that I’m a 1950′s housewife trapped inside the body of a working actress. And, even though I’ve yet to greet my husband at the door with a martini, it’s true. I don’t even mind cleaning so much. I’m not a genius at it, but I’m good. And I like walking into the rooms I’ve cleaned and taking a deep breath, knowing that I did that.

The bottom line is this: I’m grateful and humbled. I’m so lucky that I’m able to stay home for this time, which could end at any moment with the birth of a new job, and find out that I truly love being this person. I feel more like me than I ever have before. That is such an amazing feeling. And I hope to take this new, authentic me to any job I have in the future. Because I think this person is much more interesting and happy than I ever used to be. Plus, if my work days are behind me and I never get offered another job, I really like the one I have right now! I’m humbled because of the women who do this job so beautifully all day, every day with more kids and less resources. I’m amazed at their grace and skills, and their ability to do it with very few thank you’s or pats on the back. I hope they take some time to congratulate themselves, like I just did! I’m also humbled by all the women who never get the opportunity to stay home with their kids because they have to work every day, no matter what. I believe that most of them would rather be mothering than working, and I admire them for doing what they have to do.

Friday night we decided to go out for dinner for the first time in a long while. Garrett asked what we were getting ready for and Russ said, “We’re going out for dinner!” Garrett whimpered a bit and said, “NO! I want to eat at home!” That might have been the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

01 Nov 2010

My Kid Made Me Like Kids

8 Comments Family, Personal Crap, Toddler

Okay, I admit it. I didn’t really get it before I had one. What’s the big deal? They’re just little people, only they’re harder to entertain and I have no idea what to talk to them about. I mean sure, they’re cute, but I have no desire to spend any actual time with them. They don’t get me. I don’t know what they want from me. They have nothing important to say!

I have nieces and nephews, and I love every single one of them, but I never totally understood them until I had Garrett. I don’t think everyone is like me. As a matter of fact, I think there are tons of people who are just innately good with children. They have a childlike quality that kids relate to, and a place inside themselves they can tap into that tells them how to make a kid smile. I have that place now, but I was not able to tap into it before. Maybe it was hidden in my uterus and needed a baby to activate it.

Here’s an example of what an ass I used to be around kids. My boyfriend’s (now husband’s) niece and nephew were in town and we all went to Universal Studios. Britt was eight and Tyler was three. Britt and I had a pretty good thing going. I could tell she thought I was cool, and I thought she was quite adorable and very well-behaved. We were sharing laughs as the day went on and I was proud of myself for not screwing up. She then convinced me to go on some Jurassic water ride that looked terrifying. As we stood in line watching the people on the ride screaming and getting soaked I turned to her and said, “I hate you!” Of course, I was kidding. I was being sarcastic. I thought everyone understood sarcasm. Even eight-year-olds who weren’t born into a sarcastic family. Well, that did it. She looked up at me with such hurt in her eyes, and started to cry. OH SHIT! I had no idea what to do. I scrambled. “I WAS KIDDING”, I said. “Please, Britt. I was totally joking! I don’t hate you at all! I LOVE YOU! You’re the BEST!” She didn’t seem to believe me. I said I hated her, so that must be the truth. It was a lesson in kids taking what you say seriously.

When my brother’s kids were born, I was equally inept. I loved their son, Sam immediately. He was adorable with his big, blue eyes and curly, blond hair. I’d hold him and coo. But I wasn’t ever totally comfortable with my skills. Am I holding him right? Is he okay? Should I make a funny face? Is he pooping? And even when Julia came along, I still wasn’t really… There. Again, I loved her. Again, I was confused and a little unsure.

Russ was an expert from the get-go. I think he’s like his mom. If there’s a kid around, they gravitate toward my mother-in-law, and the big, cuddly man I married. He doesn’t even have to try. Kids just always like him.

So, I was afraid that I wouldn’t bond with my own child. I thought I’d be tentative and scared and like, “What the hell am I supposed to do with you?” But, of course, I wasn’t. It was easy and second-nature for me. I knew what he needed, what he meant with each sigh and burp, and exactly how to make him laugh or fall asleep. That was all a surprise. But the bigger surprise was that, all of a sudden, I understood OTHER kids too!  I liked them and wanted to be around them! I’d point them out to Russ and say, “Aw. Isn’t that little guy cute?”

I understand now. I wish I had always understood. Kids are nothing short of amazing, little, sponge-brained, innocent, beautiful beings. They deserve pure happiness. They generate pure joy. Sure, they’re stinky and loud and they need you to do EVERY LITTLE FRIGGIN’ THING for them, but they are so much damn fun to be around. And they’re funny! And smart! They can teach us so much about who we are and the world around us. Now I see a kid, and I feel like I get them and they get me.

I think the biggest thing is that I used to look at kids and think, “What do you want from me?” Now I look at them and think, “What can I offer you? And what will you show me?” I thank God that Garrett activated that part of me. It’s a part I cherish. I’m jealous of those of you who have it naturally. But at least I got it!

20 Oct 2010

Mother. In. Law.

5 Comments Cooking/Baking, Family

Oh shit. My mother-in-law reads this blog. All the personal stuff, all the complaining, all the stories about her beloved grandson, all the evil things I plan to share about her son, she reads. She told me. She was very complimentary and said she enjoyed my writing but that’s beside the point. She reads this blog.

I’ll tell you why it makes me a bit jumpy. It’s the recipes. Yup. Not the personal crap or the other crap, or the other crap. It’s the recipes. Know why? Because when I first met my mother-in-law I didn’t know how to do a gosh darn thing in the kitchen. (Well, I knew how to do SOME things, but I can’t print them here because my mother-in-law reads this blog. Let’s just say I got an engagement ring out of it.) One time on a trip to Oregon, when Russ and I were still dating, I asked if I could help with dinner and she gave me the toddler-sized job of cutting celery. A test, perhaps. I failed. I cut the celery slowly and poorly, one stalk at a time. My mother-in-law stepped over to me, having just plucked and cleaned three chickens in the time I cut half a stalk and said, “You know Lisa, you can cut them three at a time, like this.” She then took the knife and showed me. And we laughed. We laughed a lot. My laugh was saying, “Oh my god. I feel like such an inept asshole. This woman thinks I’m a bimbo.” Her laugh was saying, “Oh my god. My poor son is going to starve to death in that apartment in California. This girl is a bimbo.”

Since then a lot has changed. Now when we visit the in-laws, she trusts me to make three quarters of a meal, if not a whole meal all by myself sometimes! She’ll even ask me cooking advice every once in a while, which I personally think is just to make up for how I still feel about the celery incident. She seems to feel less like her son is being held prisoner and only being fed stale bread and cloudy water through a slot in his metal door. And I think she likes the way her grandson is fattening up.

She and my step-father-in-law are coming to visit for a few days at the end of the month. They usually like to go out to dinner when they’re here, (which I find suspicious), but this time I think I’ll surprise them with a gourmet meal of celery soup, celery stew, and roasted celery. I think she’ll laugh. And her laugh will say, “This girl is a bimbo. But I like her.”

20 Oct 2010

It can’t all be bagels and cream cheese

5 Comments Family, Personal Crap

Growing up, my Grandma used to have us over frequently for Sunday brunch. It was a long drive from Woodland Hills to Fullerton, but just the thought of the bagels and lox, and blintzes and goodies that Grandma would make was totally worth the drive. She and my Grandpa (these are my dad’s folks) lived in a delightfully cozy little house that was immaculately kept and always smelled like something baking and my grandpa’s cologne. Oh, and pipe tobacco.

We always ate at the dining room table in front of the dry sink with the big, wooden salad bowl on it that now sits in my dining room, beneath a picture my dad painted when he was in his twenties. There was always a ton of laughter at the table and a lot of eating. Grandma always made the best coffee, too. A teaspoon for each cup of water plus one for the pot. I still do that today. My grandpa would sit at the head of the table and cut all of our bagels with a giant, serrated knife. I would watch his hands, tanned from golfing with long fingers and thin knuckles. There was something incredibly deliberate and delicate about the way he cut a bagel. I can see it so vividly now.

Grandma would have everything prepared and get up constantly to make sure we all had what we needed. She’d always make sure our elbows were off the table, our napkins were on our laps, and we weren’t talking with our mouths full. Grandpa would usually tell some brilliantly hilarious story, complete with 9 different accents. He was one of the last great story tellers. After we ate, she’d bring out homemade cookies or rice pudding or chocolate cake. Then we’d all go into the family room where there would be a newspaper opened to the bridge section on the table and a book that someone was in the middle of reading. My parents and grandparents would talk about life and politics and my brother and I would play with their metal tic tac toe set or watch TV, or go into the office and look at Grandpa’s things.

I swear I look back at these times as “Rockwellian”. I feel like you could paint a picture of any of these brunch Sundays and hang it in a store that sells Americana. And it would sell. My grandpa passed away when I was 14 and I was devastated. For weeks I felt like I was walking through fog. The next ten years, my grandma and I became very good friends. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I would drive to Fullerton for lunches or dinners just to hang out and talk. She was still cooking and baking, but we’d eat at the kitchen table now; the dining room saved for only very special occasions. She loved to know everything that was going on with me, with boys, and with friends. We’d shop for clothes together. I still have a skirt I bought the last time I shopped with her. I can’t throw it out. That was 15 or 16 years ago.

After my grandpa passed away, my grandma was still very social, very active. She dressed beautifully and exercised daily. But there was a tiny bit of her that had clearly changed. A part of her that was lost. I wonder what my niece and nephew see in my mom now. Is she different to them? She isn’t to me. She’s just in mourning. Grandma passed away when I was 24. She did it gracefully, just like she lived her life. One day I’ll tell you the story.

Tonight Garrett was walking around using his baseball bat as a cane. He put on a different voice and came into the kitchen saying, “Hello!” I said hi and asked him who he was. “I’m Grandpa! The one with Grandma Joan!” I asked if he meant Grandpa Art. “Yes! Grandpa Art! Do you want to come with me?” I said, “Sure! Where are we going?” “Just to my room”, he said. I bent down and hugged him a little too hard. “I miss you, Grandpa Art”, I said. “It’s good to see you.”

Garrett won’t remember much about his Grandpa. Heck, he only knows him walking with a cane or a walker, and that didn’t happen until the last year or so. I hate that he won’t have a memory of him like I do of my grandfather. I hate that he won’t know what my mom was like when she was around my dad. But I sure as hell hope he knows her until he’s well into his teens. I’m so lucky I was able to know my grandparents as long as I did. I had my mom’s mom around until I was 21, too. She was sweet and beautiful and could cook anything better than I’ll ever be able to. I can’t stand that Garrett won’t have stories about my dad. But I’ll tell him as many as I can, and I hope he can see him in those stories the way I see my grandpa still today. At least he’s thinking about him. And he let me see him for a minute tonight, too. That’s a start.

I’ll tell you what I just realized reading this post back. Garrett will have all of these people in his life forever. The way I make my coffee, and will teach him to make it. The way we laugh at meal time (and ALL the time), the traditions we have that will be passed down. The storytelling and the discipline. The foods that we love, the games that we play. All of this is a part of me because of Them. And all of it will be a part of Garrett. That is a very comforting thought. As comforting as a bagel with cream cheese on a Sunday morning in Fullerton.

18 Oct 2010

Becoming a Man

4 Comments Family, Personal Crap, Toddler

This weekend my family celebrated my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish ceremony marking a boy’s (or girl’s) 13th birthday and the fact that he is becoming a man. It represents the change from a boy with little social responsibility to a man with the onus to do good in the world and to affect positive change. It’s a lovely service at temple where the young man reads from the Torah, surrounded by all of his friends and family.

A Bar Mitzvah is also a big, fat party with music, food, dancing and pure chaos. It was an absolute blast, and I saw my kid do some stuff that blew my mind. First of all, he was in a suit. Garrett, my adorable little man, looked like a lady killer in his pin-stripe jacket and tie. When we got into the tent that held the festivities, incredibly loud music poured out of the speakers… And Garrett promptly covered his ears and scrunched up his nose. “It’s too loud!”, he screamed. And I thought we were in for a very long, frustrating night. But then a song came on that must have been “his jam”, because all of a sudden he ran to the dance floor and started rocking out. I mean, he wasn’t merely dancing, he was feeling the music and busting a freakin’ move! This dance fest lasted for about an hour, and I’m still sore. I danced with him (well, NEAR him) the entire time and I had the sweat pouring down my face to prove it.

I finally pried him away from the dance floor long enough to say hi to some folks and have a little drink. Then the DJ started playing a song I requested at the beginning of the night: “The Final Countdown”. If you haven’t read my post on this little ditty, now might be a good time to do it. Suffice it to say, it’s Garrett’s favorite song. And as soon as he heard it, he ran full speed onto the dance floor and started going nuts! Within seconds, he was surrounded by every one of the 80 tweens attending the party. Outside of them were the rest of us, staring in wide-eyed awe at the three-year-old in the middle of the floor. At the chorus Garrett started to jump up and down, and so did all the kids around him. It was like he was their short, blond czar and they all had to do exactly what he was doing. Then they all started chanting, “Go Garrett, Go Garrett, Go Garrett!” and he kept dancing. Read more

14 Oct 2010

Spinning

13 Comments Family

This morning, Garrett spun around too long in the bathroom and, when he stopped, fell on the tile floor with his cheek against the toilet. I only saw it the second after it happened and thought, “Why is he lying on the floor?” He started crying and, as I picked him up, he said, “Everything is spinning!”

His cheek was red and we iced it. I checked his mouth. No bleeding. He didn’t even bruise. He only needed a few more minutes of ice and several kisses. I felt like we dodged a bullet, I felt lucky, and I felt guilty all at the same time. “Why wasn’t I watching him? What was I doing? Brushing my hair? Yeah, brushing my stupid hair. I heard him but I thought he was just stomping, not spinning. That could have been really bad. Thank God it wasn’t.”

Clearly I can’t watch what my son is doing every second of the day. I can’t even do it every second we’re in the same room together. Sometimes a lady’s gotta brush her stupid hair. But all of my little fears come to the surface when something like this happens. Who’s watching him on the playground at school? Is he careful when he rides that bike on the bike path they have there? Is anyone paying attention to him when he’s eating the grapes I packed in his lunch? (They’re cut in half, of course.) I mean clearly, even when I’m the one in charge, shit happens. Shit is going to happen.

The thing is, I think about this kid all day. All the time. I sometimes struggle to find something to talk about besides the little, brilliant, funny, blond three-year-old that lives in my house. One of my big fears when I was pregnant was that there was going to be someone else living with Russ and I.  I remember saying to him, “Do you realize someone else is moving in? And he’s NOT leaving! How can three of us live here?” And now I don’t even blink an eye when that guy follows me into the bathroom to pee (or worse)! I never knew. I didn’t know.

And I want this kid to know no pain. I want him to make all the right choices and choose all the right people and follow all the right dreams. I want him to know more laughter than tears, and to live a beautiful, blessed life. But I know that shit happens. And our desire to protect every moment is an impossible one.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this except to say that as moms,  every little hurt that happens to our children creates a personal pain for us. The bigger the hurt for them, the greater our pain. On the other hand, their joys are ours too! When you have a kid, it’s like a piece of you is out there living a separate life, but one that you feel insanely connected to, and fiercely protective of. I never imagined having these feelings. Every mom should be connected by them.  Funny how Garrett NOT hurting himself today made me think all these things.  He’s incredible. I’m so grateful. I’m spinning.

08 Oct 2010

Daddy

7 Comments Family

My father passed away July 14th, 2010 after a three-and-a-half-year struggle with myelofibrosis and three different bouts of leukemia. He got sick right about when I got pregnant, and we used to joke about how our symptoms were so similar: nausea, a pit in our upper stomach, exhaustion. I would say, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant, too?”

My dad and I spoke on the phone every day, at least twice a day. He was what every little girl dreams of: attentive, loving, there to talk to, home for dinner, in love with my mom. He was so positive and happy and brilliant. He never had a huge career because it was more important to him to be an active member of our family. I really don’t remember a night when he wasn’t at the dinner table, asking about my day… And listening to the answer.

When I got my period at the age of 12, I called my mom at work but she was in a meeting. Without hesitation, I called my dad’s office number. As soon as I told him he said, “Oh! Good for you! Do you need anything?” I said no.  ”Okay”, he said. “Make sure you don’t tell mom that you told me first! She’ll be so disappointed. I love you.” How many girls do you know that could have called their father with that news?

I loved everything about my dad. He was stubborn and opinionated, soft and loving, handsome and strong.  He was in love with family.  And his nearly 44 years of marriage to my mom were filled with such beauty and laughter. It’s been almost three months since he passed, and I still can’t believe it.  I’m not sure how to go about accepting the fact that he’s gone. He should be here, watching Garrett grow up. He should be here watching me be a mom.  He should be here with MY mom.  He should be here.

My dad died a week before he was to turn 70. For a little over three years, he fought his ass off to get well.  He survived a splenectomy, a bone marrow transplant, and several rounds of chemo and radiation. When we got the news that his latest cancer was terminal, none of us believed it. He was Superman. He wasn’t supposed to die.  I was at the City of Hope with my parents when the news was given: A month to three months, they said.  My dad looked me straight in the eye and said he wasn’t scared. He said it was pain and suffering that scared him, not death.  I believed him. I knew he meant it.  And I didn’t want him to suffer anymore. Selfishly, I wanted so desperately for him to keep fighting.  I wanted him HERE. I would drive to the hospital every fucking day to see him, or quit working to care for him with my mom.  I would do anything. But I saw a resolve in him at that moment.  The same resolve he had in fighting for his life, he was now going to use to die.  He and Mom shared several kisses, giggles and a few tears that day. Mom cried harder away from him.

It was July 1st I believe, when we got that news, and my dad was being admitted for further testing; he might even be eligible for a clinical trial, they said. He happily went along with the blood tests and poking, making the nurses laugh and smiling at me whenever he could. Dad told his doctor he was leaving the hospital the next day, no matter what. He wanted to be at his friends’ house for the 4th of July and he had had enough of hospitals.  He came home the next day, sat with all of us in the living room, joked, laughed, ate a decent meal.  Then he went into his room.  That was the last time I really talked to my dad. After that, I told him I loved him a lot.  I got him ice chips and drinks, helped with his medication.  Read while he slept.  I did as much as I could for him and my mom while being a mom and tending to my family.  I was with him when he died.  My mom and I were each holding one of his beautiful, loving hands.  I’ll always be grateful.

There was nothing left unsaid.  There is nothing I regret.  I always told my father how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how grateful I was for him and how he was the reason I married such an amazing man.  I don’t know how long I will hurt like this, or if I’ll ever stop thinking I’m going to see him again.  I wish so many things.  And when I see really, really old men, I wonder why they got to live so much longer than my dad.

When people die, everyone says you should live life to the fullest! Live every moment like it’s your last! That’s hard to do. Little, stupid things get in the way. So as a tribute to my dad, I just try my best.  I try to be the best mom, wife, friend, person that I can be. And I try to always tell the people I love how much I love them.  That’s not a hard thing to do.  And it leaves you without regrets.

I love you, Daddy. Forever and always.

07 Oct 2010

Only Child

10 Comments Family

I’ve recently come to the realization that I’m too old and tired to have another kid.  Of course, there’s another voice inside my head that says not having another one is a bad, bad idea.  There’s always been a stigma attached to being an “only child”, but there’s no label given to those with siblings other than “brother” or “sister’.   My husband and I started late because we weren’t ready one minute before we were ready. So I got pregnant at 35 and pretty quickly realized that I was going to be exhausted for the rest of my life. As tired as I am, I love being a mom more than anything in the world. Garrett enriches my life in ways I can’t even explain, and I hope I’m making his life incredibly fun, while instilling all the values and goodness in him that I can.

Of course, once you have one kid, the inevitable and constant question is, “When are you having another?” Well, I don’t believe we’re going to. I just don’t think I have the kind of stamina and patience one needs to have two kids. I want to be able to give Garrett everything he needs and still have enough energy left over to crawl into bed at the end of the day. It makes me sad for him sometimes, and also sad for us. But I know my limits and I also know the limits of my marriage and my wallet. I don’t want to stretch any of us too thin.

Now, I happen to be friends with several only children who are very well adjusted and quite happy. The only thing they seem to lack is the ability to defend themselves when they’re being teased. This is a skill that can only be honed as a child with a sibling who relentlessly jabs at you. So we’re planning to hire some neighborhood kids to tell Garrett he’s a weenie and sock him a few times. Maybe even pin him down and fart in his face. I hope it works.

A lot of people have brought up that it might be cruel to leave Garrett “alone in this world”. Well, we’re all alone, aren’t we? Read more

06 Oct 2010

We Suck at Pics

2 Comments Family

My husband and I are obsessed with our kid, as any parents will tell you.  But most of those parents are also obsessed with taking really high-quality pictures of their kids, posting them everywhere, and creating a library of memories to look back on when everyone is old and the only joy they have is to remember the joy they used to have.

We take pictures and videos with our iPhones and, although they’re good, they’re not great.  And a lot of them are blurry, because it’s impossible to take really good photos with the iPhone unless your subject keeps absolutely still.  The problem here is twofold:  One, we’re lazy.  We’re not the kind of people who bring a big camera everywhere with us so we can capture those perfect moments. Two, we want to be those people, but so far we haven’t felt justified in spending the money on one of those fantastic, digital cameras with the different lenses and the wh0osiwhats.  And, if we do get that camera… Won’t we still be lazy?

SO, maybe the real reason I started this blog is to force myself to cut out some spending, save up some money for the camera, and start taking some really great pics of my really great family.

Or, I can just post a bunch of pics that look like this:

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