Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Giving Thanks

As some of you may know, I recently participated in AIDS Walk Los Angeles. I've always wanted to do this walk because as a huge supporter of the gay community, this is an issue that is dear to my heart. Especially because when I was four years old I lost my godfather to the disease. My mom lost one of her best friends, my godmother lost her soul mate, and I never got a chance to really know the man who read Shakespeare to me as a baby.

Unfortunately, I didn't raise nearly as much money as I had hoped, and I showed up to the walk on Sunday, not having met my goal of $200. The reason for this is mainly that I was too timid about asking for donations. It's silly, really. It isn't as if I am asking for a handout. The money isn't for me. It's for a good cause. But, I know how awkward it can be to be put on the spot when you can't afford to donate.

So here's the deal. Next month I will be participating in the St. Jude "Give Thanks" walk to raise money for St. Jude's cancer research center. St. Jude treats and researches cancer and other diseases that affect children. No family is denied treatment due to an inability to pay.

So, why am I doing this, especially only a month after I failed miserably at fundraising for AIDS walk? Well, you've seen their commercials, right? Where all the celebrities tell you to "Give thanks for the healthy children in your life," and Jennifer Aniston says "OUR research..." and I'm like, "Really, Jennifer? Have you slapped on a lab coat and hunkered down with a microscope and come cancerous cells?" I didn't think so.

I digress. My point is that since I started blogging and "meeting" so many other parents on the web, I've come across countless heartbreaking stories of babies dying of congenital heart defects, kids succumbing to cancer, horrific accidents that cost people their children. And, it's very, very hard to take all that in sometimes. As a mom, I can keenly feel the potential for that kind of devastation and loss. But, nothing I imagine will ever come close to what those parents must be feeling.

So, I'm giving thanks for the healthy child in my life by doing my damndest to raise as much money as possible for the sake of these kids. Cancer is a horrible, ugly, monster that clearly doesn't discriminate. I don't remember this, but apparently after seeing the St. Jude ad in a movie theater, I started crying, looked at Chris, and said through my tears: "I can't believe kids get cancer!"

It seems a simple and naive thought, but it really is something that boggles my mind. I've witnessed people dedicate their lives, their paychecks, all their free time, and more to fight diseases like this, to raise awareness,and organize fundraisers. A perfect example is Kristine McCormick. Her daughter, Cora, died at 5 days old due to an undetected congenital heart defect. Her condition could have been detected if Cora had received a simple and inexpensive procedure called a pulse oximetry test. Kristine now raises awareness and saves lives by educating mothers about this life saving test. Check out www.corasstory.org for the whole story and to see what you can do to help prevent other parents from suffering the same tragedy. I know I had never heard of this test, and I will definitely make sure any future child of mine receives the pulse oximetry.

Participating in this walk might seem like a small contribution to the sick children in the world, especially when you compare it with some of the more heroic efforts out there. But, it's what I can do right now to show how much I appreciate my beautiful, healthy daughter, and how much I feel for the parents and children out there suffering from cancer, heart problems, and any number of other tragedies.

So, please, if you can spare it, make a donation to my page. Thanks for reading.

Here are some pictures of Chris, Charlotte, and me from AIDS Walk:

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This is a crappy picture. What you might not be able to see is that these assholes were there with signs saying things like "Homo sex is sin." Stay classy, guys.

Our cheerleader at the finish line

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Not-So-Terrible Not-Yet-Twos

Charlotte,

By now you have given up on receiving a letter for every month of your life, and you are wise to do so. It's clearly not happening. The fact is that you keep me so much busier now than you did when you were smaller and less mobile/talkative/playful/willful/bratty.

But, I do promise to write you a letter on each of your birthdays until you are sixteen, and beyond, if you want me to.

Right now you are eighteen months old. The reason I'm writing this letter even though I've just let myself off the hook until your second birthday, is that I need to remember this time in your life. You have never been quite so amazing as you have been in the past month or so. I suppose that's normal. You'll just keep doing more and more awe-inspiring (to me and your dad, at least) things as you grow older. But, there is something about you at this age that just makes your father and I swoon every time we talk about you, which is always.

A couple of days ago my mother, your grandma got married to the man you know as "Pop Pop". You and your cousin, Victoria, were flower girls, and you were both just lovely. The sight of you bravely walking the aisle, grasping Tori's hand, and resolutely climbing the stairs to the altar was incredible. You are fearless. And you're so...sure of yourself. You have a kind of self possession people my age crave. It makes me sad to know that this probably will not always be so. One day you might come home and toss your favorite shirt in the trash after someone at school has made fun of it. You may pretend to like a band you secretly hate because they're popular, and you'd rather blend in with your friends. And I'll insist that you be your wonderful, perfect, self because you're so much better than those other kids, even though I did the same thing when I was that age.

In any case, right now, you know what you want, and when you reached your destination in front of me and the other bridesmaids, what you wanted was Daddy. And, you stomped your little feet and yelled your little yell, until I let you cross the stage and be with your father. For the rest of the night, I graciously accepted all the compliments about how beautiful you looked and how well you performed in the ceremony, while trying not to let on how annoyed I was that you had shunned me.

But, I forgave you a few days later when out of nowhere you called for me while I was pushing you through the mall, and you actually called me "Mommy" instead of what you've been calling me for months, which is "Mom." I was grateful that it wasn't "Mother", at least, but I had always dreamed of hearing my child yell, "Mommy!" when she saw me and I was really afraid you wouldn't ever make the switch. But, you did, and it stuck. And hearing you call me is just as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be.

That's the thing about you: one day you just learn a new word or skill, or you start saying something differently than you used to, and you act like you've been doing it all along. We're cheering for you, and you get this look on your face like, "What? I've always been able to walk down the stairs by myself. You mean you've never seen me feed myself with a spoon? Pssht. Where have you been?"

I've found that watching you grow has me in a constant state of simultaneous bliss and agony. With every new development I'm rejoicing, I also have the burden of mourning the stages long gone, never to return again. Like how you used to say "Das?" instead of "please", and I made fun of you for sounding German, and it was sososo cute. You did it for months. Then after a few days of replacing "das" with the inexplicable "tee-ta", you started saying "Pees?", which is damn near completely accurate and totally awesome, except that now you'll always know how to say these words properly, just like normal kids. You won't be my baby who says things funny forever.

But, honestly, I am loving your brand new communication skills. You can tell me when something is bothering you: "Eyes. Hurt." I mean, that's a VAST improvement on whining and/or crying while I guess what could be ailing you. You are also now able to express your opinions and desires, which is a blessing and a burden. It's great to have you just walk up to me and ask for milk or tell me what toys you would like for us to play with. But, pointing at the risotto I've made for dinner and saying "Yuck!" or responding to me telling you we're going to be eating some broccoli with "No. Noodles.", is not quite as helpful.

It's fascinating to watch your verbal skills blossom. Your dad and I don't do anything differently. We just keep talking to you like you're a grown up, and then one day, you respond like one. Yesterday, you looked at me and said "I'm eating pretzels." My mind was blown. I could sit here and name all the new words and sentences and mastery of pronouns that have had me tempted to alert Harvard and request a spot be held for you, but the list would just go on and on, and I have a very small laundry/cleaning/cooking/screwing around on the internet/watching Dexter (I'll show you when you're older) window of opportunity while you sleep.

One of my favorite things about you is the way you embody all that is precocious and sweet at the same time. One minute you will pretend that you are going to give me a bite of your food, then pull it away at the last second or walk away from me saying "No." when I say it's time to change your diaper, and the next minute you're asking me if I'm okay when I bump my head, or saying "Bless you." when I sneeze or running towards me to give me a "flying hug" as your dad calls it. You are amazingly empathetic. If we tell you one of your stuffed animals is sad (especially your beloved Bunny) you will say "Hug!" and then look them in the face and say "Okay?" If we're reading a book with an animal or character that you happen to like, you will kiss the page of the book on which they appear. You are much more likely to kiss a stuffed animal or book than your own parents. What's up with that?

You love to go to the park and ask me to take you there almost every time we get in the car. You love kids, especially your cousins. Sometimes out of nowhere you will look at me and inquire, "Athena? Tori? Kayla?" I tell you they're at school, and then you'll start to ask about everyone you know: "Gamma? Pop pop? Gigi? (other) Gamma, Poppa?" Depending on the time of day, I will tell you they're at work or school, or that they went night-night. This seems to satisfy you.


A couple weeks ago we took you to Disneyland, even though I always swore I would never take a child as young as you. Predictably, you slept horribly the night before and woke up earlier than you needed to. I steeled myself for a day of tantrums and for the possibility of having to leave early. But, you surprised me. You were incredible. Your dad and I spend so much time marveling about how well-behaved you are and how wonderfully you handle stressful situations, like performing in a wedding or being kept out past your bedtime. (I want you to remember all this praise because from what I hear, in about six to twelve months I'm going to be writing about the lengths I go to every day to not put you in a basket and leave you on a random and more patient stranger's door. Please don't get all evil on me when you turn two, okay? Just...don't.)

Here is a video of you meeting Mickey at Disneyland. We introduced you to him a couple months ago, and in an attempt to imitate his laugh, you call him "Hoo hoo." It really is the cutest thing.

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And here you are at the park, totally ditching me on the slide.

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Happy eighteen months, bunny. I love you.

Mommy