Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Fine Line

It's been an exhausting couple of weeks 'round these parts. No major events, nothing's gone seriously wrong or anything -- just snotty noses, sleepless nights and shitty weather. With spring so close, every grey cloud on the horizon, every raindrop that falls, feels like a personal attack to me; I'm so ready for sunshine. Please spring, get sprung already.

No one in our house has been sleeping through the night, and everyone's been up before six everyday for weeks, now. It's getting so that if we sleep past 6:15, we're thrilled. And both girls have been waking up at least once per night, usually more, so we're all a little on edge these days. Most of the time, I feel embalmed.

Violet has another ear infection; her fourth in three months. She's been referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist, and we may be looking at ear tube surgery for her. It's a relatively common procedure, and if it helps Violet in the long-run, I'm all for it, of course (anything but constant the near constant doses of antibiotics the poor girl gets). I hate seeing her in such obvious pain when her ears flare up. But surgery? Under anesthetic? For my tiny babe? Shit. I'm nervous about it already, and it's only a possibility.

Hazel has been fighting a cold off this week, and while she's held it at bay, it's taken a lot out of her. She's extra tired, and that alone is enough to send her over the edge on any given day. But that, combined with the nightwaking, combined with the major growth spurt she's going through, has driven us all over the edge. We can't even see the edge from where we are most days lately.

So, here's the thing: Parenting a preschooler takes a lot out of you. If you want to do it right, you've got to be patient and consistent, and willing to take the high road. You've got to be creative with discipline, strong about setting limits, and understanding when they want to dress themselves, eat PB&J for every meal, or whatever their quirks are this week. We've all read the books, we all know what we're supposed to do. But what do we do when that's not enough?

Right now, in this house, that is Just. Not. Enough.

See, Hazel is one of the 15 to 20% of children who are born with highly sensitive nervous systems, called HSCs, or Highly Sensitive Children*. These kids are deeply refelective, sensitive to almost everything - scratchy clothes, the way their skin or hair feels, loud noises, a change in routine. They notice even the most subtle details of every situation they encounter, and are easily overwhelmed by noise, new people, new situations -- in short, they are deeply sensitive to the world.

While this may sound like hippy-dippy nonsense to some, I'm here to tell you that it's very, very real. This is the best anaolgy I've heard for describing an HSC: Imagine an orange-packing plant. Imagine thousands of oranges coming down a conveyer belt. In a "normal" or non-sensitive person's brain, all those oranges are sorted into three slots - small, medium and large. In the HSC's brain, instead of having three slots for processing and sorting the information that's towards them on the conveyer belt, they have fifteen slots, making for very fine distinctions. All goes well until you have too many oranges coming down the belt at once (for an HSC that might be walking into a loud classroom, or trying to watch a new movie) - then you've got a major problem. You're in Emotional Meltdown City, USA.

Wonderful, creative, bright and funny person though she is, Hazel is also a very intense, very emotional, very particular little girl. Hazel's mood sets the tone for the whole house, and when it's good, it's really good, but when it's bad... well, you know. I try really hard to remind myself that Hazel is as much a victim of her intense emotions as we are. And I try even harder to model appropriate ways of handling those emotions; and that's where I feel like, as the days go by, I'm losing traction. We talk a lot about how feelings -- all feelings -- are okay to have, but it's what you do with your feelings that counts, especially those feelings that we, as a society, are taught to think of as "bad" - confusion, disappointment, anger. But I find myself getting spitting mad at Hazel at least once everyday, usually because she's bullying Violet in some way, or deliberatly braking a rule to get my one-on-one attention, for better or worse. And I find myself really resenting the fact that, even when I'm having a really good day, I can't just have a good day. Because it's never that easy. With an HSC, even a trip to the grocery store, or a snack forgotten, can cause major emotional trauma. Even a morning at preschool can be fun, while at the same time being totally overwhelming, and of course, the meltdowns and freakouts are stored up for the moment when you feel safe and comfortable enough to let them loose, i.e. when Mama comes for you. I understand that. I understand my role and my responsibility. But sometimes I just don't have it in me to keep it together for myself and Hazel; sometimes I just don't want to. And being so finely tuned, Hazel picks up on my resentment or frustration instantly. So, most days, it's a really fine line that we are walking.

On the flip side of this is the fact that Hazel, like many HSCs, is a very gifted girl. She is blessed with a quick wit, a wise soul and dear heart. She is so intelligent, and so imaginative. She has always stood out - even if for just being different. Hazel and I are making every effort to be kind to, and understanding of, each other, especially as she grows older. We take "time outs" and have tea together, or do yoga together. Mike makes sure he and Hazel have at least one "date" together each week, just the two of them, doing something special. For Hazel, one-one-one time with those she loves really seems to help. So do regular periods of rest spent reading, or doing a puzzle, or zoning out with a CD. I've found an online parent's support network and am working on finding a family therapist, to help us all have a little more balance.

This feels like a lot of personal information to be putting out into the blogosphere. Part of the reason I've been M.I.A. is that I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, or even if I really wanted to say it. But I am going to put this out there because this blog was started as a sort of virtual time-capsule; a chronicle of this time in our lives. The Salad Days, as they're called. And even I, who is in the trenches with muck up to my eyebrows right now, knows this to be true: with the not-so-good, comes the great. With the yin, comes the yang. And if I wrote about only one or the other, when I look back on these pages in 30 years, I would be disappointed at the lack of truth in them. Also, I want to reach out to other parents with Highly Sensitive Kids, or high needs kids, or anyone who is struggling with the daily joys and challenges of being a parent. Because we've all been on the other side of the fine line at some point or another, right? And no one wants to stay there for too long. I know I don't.

*For more information about Highly Sensitive People, visit

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Morning Funny

Shane turned me on to Toothpaste For Dinner. They make my day, everyday.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wedding Belles: A Bay Area Rite of Passage

Hazel, Violet, Mike and I had the honor and pleasure of attending the wedding of two of our closest friends, Lesley and Laura, last Sunday night. The wedding took place at the Log Cabin in the Presidio, which was perfectly suited to the occasion -- it's warm and romantic, way off the beaten path, with a lovely view downtown San Francisco. The entire building, twinkling with candles and flowers against the dark, wooded Presidio, just oozed love.

This wedding was a really special one for many reasons. For our familiy, it was a night of firsts: It was the first wedding my girls have ever been to, so explaining what a wedding is, and what it means, to Hazel, was really sweet. Hazel loves Lesley and Laura, and was so excited to go to their "wedding party" and be a part of their special day. It was also the first wedding, besides my own, in my group of best girlfriends. And it was the first gay wedding any of us had ever been to.

It's lamentable that it's taken me, who lived in San Francisco proper for 10 years, and the 'burbs for 3 (and counting), so long to achieve this major Bay Area milestone. But it was well worth the wait, to have my first lesbian wedding be that of one of my oldest, sweetest friends, and the wonderful woman she has made her lifelong partner.

It meant so much to me to be present that night, and stand in support of our friends, and the committment they made to each other. The country that we live in may not officially recognize their strong, loving relationship, but I know in my heart that someday, that is going to change. It simply must change. The day it does change will be a great one in my life, in all our lives.

It is my greatest hope for Hazel and Violet that they grow to be as strong and passionate and loving as Lesley and Laura. That they listen to their hearts, instead of the masses. That they know themselves and love themselves for who and what they are -- whatever that may be. And that someday, they too, can marry anyone that want to, and walk down the aisle with pride, knowing that women like these paved the way for them, and so many others.

Congratulations, Les and Laura. We love you guys so much.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Milestone Alert!

At just a smidge over 10 months, Violet has reached some pretty major milestones lately. ((Sniff)) She's growin' up so fast!

Violet's menagerie of tricks includes waving bye-bye and hello, using her index finger to point at things she recognizes (Mama, Dada, Hazel, Zoe) and clapping for herself. When she's done eating, she holds her hands up and says "aahhh duuhhh" (all done). Whenever anything, anywhere hits the floor, she's ready with her cute little "uh oh!" She's loves to play catch with Hazel and is shockingly proficient at throwing the ball -- she throws some heat, too. She loves to hold the phone up to her neck and say "yai ya?" And she is on the brink of walking (I give her a month), and is infinitely frustrated by -- and hair raisingly vocal about -- the fact that she can't quite do it yet.

I don't know why I feel compelled to keep track of these things, but I do. Not trying to brag or compare, here (did I mention that she throws heat?), but I think it has something to do with the fact that I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Violet can do anything. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that she was a tiny, squealing little raisin with a faux-hawk? Wasn't it just last month that she was happy enough to be wedged between the couch and the coffee table, cooing to the furniture and talking to the carpet schmutz? What the hell happened?

It's hard to believe that in just eight weeks, baby Violet will turn one year old. Her infancy has gone by so frighteningly quickly, it almost makes me want another baby, so I can make sure to catch all the tiny, insignificant details, and hold them tightly against my chest, and never let them go.


Friday, March 10, 2006

HTML is confusing and dumb.

And so am I!

Next time I want to clean up my blog a little, remind me to pay to have a professional do it, please.

I don't know shit about HTML, and I ain't gonna pretent I do. I was just dying to get rid of those annoying dots and the tiny font on the old template... but this new one seem a little too clean. A little... how do you say... boring, non?

I'll make it work, for now, but I'm in the market for someone who knows a little somethin' somethin' about cool banners, and how to make them happen. Know anyone?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Salad Days is Under Construction!

Back to your regularly scheduled programming in a couple of days.

Oscars 2006: The Night TiVo Betrayed Me

Everybody is talking about how boring the Oscars were, but I rather enjoyed myself. As a big fan of The Daily Show, I particularly enjoyed host Jon Stewart. His smarmy, self-depricating, shot-in-the-dark humor sits well with me. Plus, I think he's totally cute. He was obviously out of his element, but I think he made it work, although he sure could've used a little Stephen Colbert sidekick action up there.

It must be said that the main source of my excitement this awards season, besides playing the self-appointed lead role in Fashion Police: 2006, was TiVo. And I do mean was. See, we didn't actually watch the telecast live, but followed about two hours behind, so we could fast forward the commercials and really boring speeches/technical shout-outs and "honorary" awards. Good plan, right? Right. Except for the part where the ceremony ran longer than it's scheduled 3 hours and TiVo stopped recording during the Best Actress Oscar presentation. AAAAaaggghhhhhrrrrrrrr! F*ck you, Tivo!! TiVo and I are not on speaking terms today. Not only did I miss Reese's Best Actress acceptance speech, I also missed the awards for Best Director (I *heart* Ang Lee!) and Best Picture (O, Brokeback, too bad! so sad!). And the winner of the f**k you award goes to... TiVo!

Lucky for me, E! will have the best parts of the ceremony, plus red carpet interviews and fashion hits and misses, on endless loop for the next week. But still. Half the fun is the anxiety, that split-second after the envelope is opened, but before the name is called. And the speeches can be really boring, but they can also be really touching, especially when the award recipient is truly suprised and a little shaken up, a la the Wallace and Gromit guys, with their little bow ties for their statuettes (British humor -- you either love it or hate it). I love it when they give hearfelt thanks, as when Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my long time favorite actors, dedicated his award to his mom. I love that shit! I heard Reese's speech was a little contrived and that Ang Lee's was lovely, but again, I'll have to wait to see it today on E!. Double f**k you, TiVo.

Despite the fact that I'm working with a slight handicap, having missed the last, and in my opinion, most important part of the show, I still feel confident enough to present:

The Salad Days Loves and Hates of Oscar 2006:

Loved, loved, loved Michelle Williams in saffron. Loved Salma Hayek in electric blue. Loved Felicity Huffman, Rachel Weisz and Hilary Swank, in black. Loved Jennifer Garner's nursing boobs. Loved Paul Giamatti's dork chic glasses. Loved Will Smith's vest, Lauren Bacall's drunk tussle with the teleprompter, and Will Farrell with Steve Carrell in the worst makeup ever. Loved Tim Burton's crazy hair and red shirt and ever present blue glasses. Loved Ben Stiller's green screen bit. Loved Meryl and Lily, loved Jake Gyllenhaal and his uberhotness, loved Keira Knightley va-va-vooming it up. Loved Jon Stewart's opening short film. Loved Joaquin Phoenix all surly in his black suit. Hell, I just love Joaquin, period. Yowza!

Bored, bored, bored by Nicole Kidman's dress. Bored by Reese, whose dress would've looked amazing on someone taller and more striking, but just overwhelmed and washed her out. Bored by Naomi Watts' weird net dress thingy. Bored by Uma Thurman (what was that eye makeup about?), Jennifer Aniston, who has no business being at any Oscar ceremony, and bored by George Clooney -- yeah, okay, he's cute, but what else you got? Bored by Sandra Bullock, although the pockets on her dress were kinda cool. Bored by the musical numbers -- man, what a snoozefest. Bjork should be nominated every year, just to keep things interesting. Bored by Luke and Owen Wilson presenting... something... bored by most presenters, actually. The dialoge is just so trite.

Hated, hated, hated
, Jennifer Lopez's severe hair, puke-green dress and insane fake tan. Enough with the fantasy tans, people! You look like you're made of clay. Hated Helena Bonham Carter. You can get away with a lot if you're with Tim Burton, but hello? Dynasty called -- they want their hair and wardrobe back. Hated Charlize Theron's fashion nightmare. Who gave her the green light for that dress, Edgar Allen Poe? Hated Jessica Alba. The dress was lovely, but homegirl needs some In n' Out pronto. Hated poor Maggie Gyllenhall's weird beigeness. Hated Heath Ledger's facial hair and they way he kept fixing Michelle Williams' hair. It looked creepy. Hated that Paul Giamatti didn't win Best Supporting Actor, although I understand that his nomination was just an apology for snubbing him for American Splendor and Sideways, both of which showcased what a phenomenal actor he is. Hated that Frances McDormand didn't win Best Supporting Actress because I think she should win an award for just about everything she's ever done, but I was happy enough just to see her looking cool and casual next to her hubby, Joel Coen, the finest filmmaker in the world. Hated that Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash, which was actually a fine film, but... I really thought it was the year of the Gay Cowboy. Oh, well.

In any case, next year, I'm going to do Oscar the old fashioned way: live. With friends and snacks, maybe a little Oscar pool. But no TiVo -- TiVo's red carpet pass has been revoked. TiVo is on probation like Isaac Mizrahi, and better watch it's damn step. Stay tuned til 2007, folks.