Search results for 'July'

A Slacker’s Christmas Card

19 Dec

It’s been almost 37 years that I’ve lived on this planet, and for not one of those years have I managed to coordinate a Christmas card. I’ve gotten close; one year I actually purchased cards, wrote them out, enveloped them, addressed them, STAMPED THEM, and….just as swiftly lost my mojo. The cards languished in a basket by the front door until the heat of July caused the stamps to peel off, at which point I took a cue from the universe and finally chucked them in the trash. Such is my dedication to Christmas card-ery.

In this day and age, what with the Facebook and the Instagram and the Twitters, etc., is a lengthy Christmas card even necessary? I think I’m not the only one asking this question because, of the Christmas cards I’ve received this season, not one has included a “here’s how we’ve been” piece. Mostly they’ve just been glamour shots of mom, dad, kids, and occasionally a somewhat forlorn looking pet (that is, when the pet doesn’t take center stage, begrudgingly wearing an ugly sweater, santa hat, jingle bells, etc).

I wrote a post a couple years ago about how I felt a little guilty for never having had Seabass photographed professionally. Eventually, my mom generously coughed up quite a hefty amount for the most beautiful pro photos of our little guy, but we never revisited the idea for precious Sweet Chuck. That girl, God bless her, has no clue what she’s missing, but will one day come to see the discrepancies between documentation of her older brother’s childhood and her own. I figure she’ll be stronger for it. Right?

So, in lieu of a pretty printed Christmas card this year (and, ahem, every year), I’m posting these shots of my kids on our front stoop, where we always take pictures. This is the best I could manage. And as for the “how we’ve been” piece, life is good. I have the big smile, the gorgeous husband, the healthy kids, the rad neighborhood, and the big fat therapist’s bill to prove it! But really, all joking aside, all is calm, all is bright.


DSC09800 DSC09803 DSC09804

May this season’s greatest joys – laughter, togetherness, peace and beauty – be yours throughout the year. Merry Christmas!


A quiet night at home, just us girls.

23 Jul

Jake took Seabass to the state fair tonight to ride the Ferris wheel, eat a corn dog, and watch the mutton bustin’. Sweet Chuck isn’t quite ready to stay up that late, so I kept her occupied at home with cooking dinner, picking blackberries in the yard, and reading some books before bedtime. We were just a couple of girls, enjoying one another’s company.

In the middle of our dinner preparations, Elliott Smith came on the stereo and everything suddenly became perfect – the music, the weather, the occasion – so I decided to document it. The results can be found here: Hopefully YouTube doesn’t put the kibosh on it because of our dearly departed friend who supplied the music.

I once heard that a man who endured horrible, terrible hardship in his life, when asked what he missed most from before tragedy struck, answered, “A quiet night at home.”

Spending the evening with Sweet Chuck may not have been the most obvious or monumental subject for a video, but there might come a day when I long for these wonderstruck July evenings when the kids are small and our biggest problem is getting them into bed by 8pm. This little movie will help me to remember.

Quick endorsement: I’m not usually one to pitch products, but I really like the results I’ve been getting from the Cinamatic app. It’s sort of like Instagram, only it helps users to create beautiful, meaningful videos quickly and share them via social channels like a Facebook, YouTube, etc. They didn’t pay me to say that, by the way. It’s really true.


The Mouth.

30 Dec

Isn’t it crazy how some of the world’s quietest adults were once bombastically loud children? My brother, now a soft-spoken man, once yelled “LOOK AT THAT MOMMY’S HAIR!” and pointed to the beehive coif of a fellow diner at a Mexican restaurant. My mom says she wanted to dissolve into the floor as the entire restaurant stopped and stared.

I hope Seabass becomes as quiet as my brother in adulthood, but if recent events are any indication, that hope is in vain.


Running through the hall of the Portland Airport on recent holiday travels, exclaiming (at the top of his lungs) “I HAVE TO POOOOOOOOP, MOMMY!!!”


Announcing to everyone in Fresh & Easy (once again, the one at Broad and South St., poor fools) that someone in the snack aisle had “VERY, VERY DARK SKIN.”


Climbing a play structure, slipping, and screeching, “OW, MY PENIS!!”

…and my personal favorite,


At the park, staring, then pointing at our local resident cross-dresser, who was passing by and just happened to be wearing a long dress and a hat like this



which compelled Seabass to yell, “LOOK AT THAT QUEEN, MOMMY!”

Yes, son. How very astute you are.

5 days of nuggets: Day two: RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US.

3 Sep
First day of school.

First day of school.

There’s an old Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies a round-table talk show, and it’s called “Ruining It For The Rest of Us,” wherein a moderator asks several guests to describe how they ruined some part of everyday life for the rest of mankind.  One man arbitrarily puts razor blades in Halloween candy.  Another man uses a store’s private restroom only to pee all over the walls, the mirror, everywhere, just for fun.

Is this clear as mud? I couldn’t find the sketch anywhere to show you. Sorry.

The punchline is this: I believe the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in San Luis Obispo will forevermore prohibit three-year-old boys from peeing in its restroom because of Seabass.

The untamed Seabass has only recently learned how to recognize the onset of urination and defecation.  On Monday afternoon, he felt the urge while in the produce section and alerted Mama, who – with Sweet Chuck strapped to her chest and a handful of eggplant – scampered with him to the bathroom to make it all happen.

After one glance at the adult-sized potty, Seabass announced confidently that he wanted to pee standing up. For the first time.

Now, I don’t know how the male apparatus functions in such a situation.  I mean, I know that guys stand up to pee, but does it come out straight? Sideways? Up and to the left?

Bingo.  In this case, up and to the left.

Oh, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE.  It was like the freaking Fourth of July in there.  What else could I do but run for cover?

We will not be peeing standing up for at least another couple inches’ height, for everyone’s sake.

“A world swaddled in golden-hued mythology about parenthood.”

10 Aug

A dear friend recently passed along this article on postpartum depression from the L.A. Times.  Not only is it expertly written, it hits close to home.  The author’s son was born in 2010, just like Seabass.  I think the part that gets me the most is when the author describes most well-meaning peoples’ conception of PPD:

Part of the problem is we live in a world swaddled in golden-hued mythology about parenthood. It’s supposed to be full of nothing but joy. If it isn’t, then moms are told to get more sleep and toughen up. That’s not helpful when depression sinks in its claws.

Please take the time to read this and don’t hesitate to email or call that new mother you’ve been meaning to catch up with.  The statistics say she has a 10-20% chance of suffering from PPD.

Bringing new mothers’ pain out of the shadows

More needs to be done to raise awareness about the devastation of postpartum depression among the public and medical community and to make effective treatment widely available.

Public defender Kimberly Wong, who suffered severe postpartum depression, founded the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force to raise awareness about the illness. (Christina House, For The Times / July 29, 2012)

By Kurt StreeterJuly 29, 2012
Just like for so many others, including my wife, Kimberly Wong didn’t see the darkness coming, and nobody warned her that it could.

Here’s what happened. After years of trying, Wong got pregnant and at first everything went perfectly. The lead-up, the birth, the first week with the new baby, a cute little girl she and her husband named Marley.

Then out of nowhere this tough-minded public defender crumbled. Wong’s skin felt like it was being zapped by a cattle prod. Her resting heart rate was often 100. She could barely eat, sleep, slow down or think cogent thoughts.

Her doctor told her she was simply a high-strung lawyer who needed to relax. So she blamed herself, which made matters worse.

It didn’t help that the doctor’s advice made no sense. Wong had something relaxation can’t cure. She’d been hit by postpartum depression, brought on by, more than anything else, whipsaw hormonal changes that come with giving birth.

This isn’t something we can afford to keep sweeping into the shadows.

Experts say 10% to 20% of new mothers experience it: a steep drop in mood that’s far more devastating and lasts far longer than two or three weeks of the so-called baby blues.

Wong had the worst type. She penned a suicide note. By luck, her husband walked in on her. He took her to a Mid-City mental hospital so she wouldn’t harm herself. Nobody at the hospital had much expertise in what she was battling.

That’s when Wong realized how few options there are for women who need psychological help related specifically to motherhood. She had to drive 50 miles to find a doctor and a support group that really understood.

You should know that time has passed, about eight years since the height of it, and Wong and her family have bounced back. In fact, she has turned her struggles into something good.

“I’m trying to make sure other moms don’t go through what I did,” she says.

When she’s not working at the public defender’s office, she focuses on the nonprofit she started: the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force. Sure, clunky name, but can there be a more important cause?

Experts say that in L.A. County alone, about 22,000 new mothers suffer from this awful malady every year.That’s 22,000 women — as well as their babies and partners — who need special support and too often aren’t getting it.

The task force — bare bones, operating largely on the energy of volunteers — aims to push us out of the shadows: moms and families who need help but are too embarrassed or just don’t know where to turn; doctors and social workers who are either ill-informed on the nuances of this illness or just don’t look hard enough for the warning signs.

Wong’s doctors didn’t really talk about the possibility she could grow terribly depressed after giving birth, she said. They should have.

She’d suffered childhood trauma: Her mother died when Wong was 11. There was a history of mental illness in her family, and she’d struggled to conceive. Those three facts put her at risk, but no doctors warned her, nobody came up with a plan that could have shielded her from near-fatal darkness.

“There’s just so much stigma that needs to be shattered,” Wong says. “I want people to talk about this like they talk about diabetes or having a bad heart. Not enough has changed since this happened and when it did happen I could barely get help.

“I’m a professional from West L.A. and it was hard enough for me,” she adds. “So think about women in poor communities with little access to good healthcare. Add it up and so many are suffering and the long-term effects for families can be devastating. Yeah, we need to talk.”

I know.

After the birth of our son in 2010, my wife battled postpartum depression. It wasn’t anywhere nearly as serious as what Wong went through and that’s important to know: This malady shows up in different strengths.

My wife’s was a more typical case. She wasn’t close to hurting herself or being put in a hospital. She did everything anyone could ask for our son. But for long, long months she lived in a world of sharp, shattering emotion that could have been avoided if we’d known more or had more aggressive help.

It could have broken my wife. What if she hadn’t had a partner to help? What if she had been poor? We’re insured, and even then it took a while for her doctors to understand how serious this was. But eventually she found a therapist who could talk her through the trouble.

Part of the problem is we live in a world swaddled in golden-hued mythology about parenthood. It’s supposed to be full of nothing but joy. If it isn’t, then moms are told to get more sleep and toughen up. That’s not helpful when depression sinks in its claws.

“A lot of us hide from this issue,” says Wong. “That has to change.”

She’s talking. So am I. So is my wife, who pushed me to write about her ordeal. If you care about mothers and children and families, well, you should be talking too.

Raising kids in a party town.

2 Nov

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween. We certainly did. Our neighborhood held its first Trick or Treat Promenade and the response was overwhelming. Kids I’d never seen before came out of the woodwork of our community, all in the name of free candy. Jake and I had major warm fuzzies strolling down the street with our friends, watching our little ones say please and thank you at each door, and managing the neighborhood-wide sugar crash that inevitably followed. It was sort of like a Norman Rockwell painting-turned-Salvador Dali. Still, it was lovely.

Is it just me, or are kids these days wearing more sophisticated costumes? Sure, there were the standard bumble bees, fairies, monkeys, cowboys, etc. But I had some pretty intense moments on our front doorstep, passing out candy and innocently asking, “And who are you supposed to be?”

Kenneth from 30 Rock.” (9-year-old boy.)

DJ Redfoo from the band LMFAO.” (7 years old.)

The Spanish Inquisition from Monty Python.” (10-year-old girl.)

Whoa. What happened to the sheet with two holes cut out?

Coordinating the masses of trick-or-treaters

The biggest shock of the evening was the ‘hood’s constituency of college students. Not only did they participate, but they rocked it with the kids! For some reason, I assumed they’d be too drunk or high or busy having weird sex to pass out sweets to little kids.

Our neighborhood is a strange mix of equal parts older folks who have lived here for 30+ years, randy college kids, and young families. Basically, the old folks and young families all dislike the college students for passing out on our lawns, screaming “YOU GOTTA WANT IT!” repeatedly while playing quarters in their backyard at 4am, and leaving a trail of red Solo cups wherever they go – but the young families have a little more grace with them since college was only a few years ago, and we haven’t completely forgotten what it means to have a good time. (The memory, however, grows fainter and fainter.)

Jake attended the local university but I didn’t, so my patience with these monkeys is perhaps scarcer than his. Our back neighbors are my main aggravators. Twenty-four kids live in something like 14 square feet, and everything they do is audible at any point on our property. They are renowned throughout the neighborhood as Trouble, and most of the old folks call the Police Department whenever they so much as breathe funny. We’ve only done it once, and it was after they ignored repeated requests to turn their crappy music down in the middle of the night.

In this particular instance, I didn’t want to leave things awkwardly unresolved, so I bought a case of beer, saddled Seabass to my hip, and walked over to make nice. As soon as I stepped foot on their driveway the unmistakable aroma of pot hit me. But this wasn’t just an errant wisp of pot smoke; No, this house was pulsating with weed. I considered making a new entry in Seabass’ baby book: July 13, 2011. Baby’s first hot box!

Undeterred, we knocked on the door and were met by two skinny guys high as kites. They were nice enough, gladly accepted our beer peace offering , and agreed to keep the blaring midnight Eminem sessions to a minimum.

That lasted about three months.

This past weekend, Eminem and Friends made another high-decibel appearance in the wee hours of the night. The next morning, I took the opportunity to remind the neighbor monkeys that they aren’t the only people who exist in the entire world. This time, I went alone.

A Seabass dressed as a giraffe!

We had been gardening that morning, so my shorts and shirt were covered in mud. My hair was nappy – perhaps even matted in places – and my armpits were on overdrive. Still, when the shirtless 21-year-old guy opened his door to find me standing there – NO EXAGGERATION – he put his arm up on the door jamb, eyed me head-to-toe, and said, “Well hello, hello.”

Really? Yes, really.

That arm came down pretty quick when he discovered that a) I’m his neighbor, b) I was pissed, and c) I was ready to stop playing the Nice Neighbor Game and get the cops involved again. By the time I was done with him, he all but dissolved into the floor.  Oooh, did that feel good.

Anyway, that’s why I’m shocked that the rest of the college kids in our neck of the woods were so great on Halloween.

One nearby house looks a lot like the one from Animal House, though I think these guys are probably rowdier than those in the movie. Apparently they’ve been visited by the Health Department a number of times for breeding rats or snakes or weasles or God-knows-what. But on Halloween, they were on the ball with creepy music, plenty of candy, and even guys yelling BOO! from behind trash cans. Another house full of college girls had jack-o-lanterns on the front doorstep as the girls waited with a giant bowl of candy for our little ones to trick or treat. It was awesome. I can’t wait for next year.

P.S. Here’s the official Halloween portrait as taken by Robyn Berry. I thought you might like to compare it to last year’s.



P.P.S. Seabass also made it into the paper! Well, the online version. Here’s the link – we’re the last photo.

Shameless Bribery

21 Jul


Seabass and I are pretty shocked at the interest we’ve received from readers around the world.  I had no idea that exposing the blase innards of my new mommy heart would attract such a crowd.  Thank you for the 5,000 hits and 200-something comments that it took me well over 2 hours of Seabass’ nap to read through.  What fun!

Seabass is one serious fuss monkey today (I think I had too much dairy in my WHITE SAUCE, TRIPLE CHEESE LASAGNA, do you?) so I’m going to make this post quick.  Putting on my mercenary hat:

All new subscribers to Higher Highs, Lower Lows by next Wednesday, July 28 will be entered to win a signed copy of the newly-released 6th edition of The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins.

And by “new subscribers” I mean anyone I didn’t already know before getting Freshly Pressed.

Back to the circus…