Natural History Museum of LA County Visit

For some reason, I had never been to the Natural History Museum in LA, even though the NYC version is one of my favorite museums ever. For some reason I thought it was on the smaller side, so I sort of ignored it, until this summer. It's actually pretty bug, and right now they have an Extreme Mammal exhibit, as well as a greenhouse that's pretty packed with butterflies. The museum itself has all the normal things a Natural History Museum does, like dioramas (these were lit extremely well, I noticed, for some reason), a gemstone area (we didn't go there), a local history wing, and dinosaurs, which Sawyer was super excited to see. We spent three hours there, including lunch, and then headed over to the California Science Center to take a look at the space shuttle, since, thanks to Little Einsteins, my child is obsessed with rocket ships. CSC has The Endeavor Shuttle, so for $4 we were able to walk around that for awhile (we were actually just here for the Pixar Exhibit last December, but I guess he didn't remember?). It was a really, really fun day and I can't suggest the NHMLA to local people enough! Their science labs were awesome and the place is just really well maintained and curated (the tech is far, far better then the CSC). 

Some pictures:

If I Could Only... [a survey]

So, I saw this feature in an old issue of In Style I was reading on the treadmill this morning and thought it would be fun to play along, since some of my posts have been a little heavy this week. So, in a (mostly) bookish manner:

If I could only... books by one author Ann Patchett- she publishes every few years and I've liked everything I've read by her

... read in one spot I would say my pool float, but that would eliminate most the year, so I'd have to go with the couch in my living room

... buy books from one place Amazon. I'm sorry, I am, but I have a budget. And then there's Prime. It's bad.

... drink one drink I want to say a gin and tonic, but you can't really sip on those all day long. So, Diet Coke. Shoot me. Take my kidneys. Give me cancer. I love it so. 

... teach one author That's really hard! If newer, maybe TC Boyle? If older, Oscar Wilde. 

... teach one literary element Theme! We talk theme do death in my classroom, but you can bring in so many other aspects of a text with it.

...subscribe to on streaming service Spotify; I can take or leave shows and movies, but I need music to work out and drive to (or entertain my kid).

... read one genre If "contemporary literary fiction" is too broad, I'd say "magical realism." at one restaurant So I sort of snub chain restaurants (but still go, since we have limited options), but I'd have to say The Cheesecake Factory because their menu is a book. There are like 3,452 options, so at least it wouldn't always be the same thing. 

... recommend one book Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. The social and political messages are so important and he's a fabulous writer (even if he does teach at USC)

... take one book while being stranded on a deserted island Maybe the Oscar Wilde anthology I have, or the Narnia books that compiled into one volume (I've been meaning to reread them for years and years). 

... meet one author Salman Rushdie. 

... visit one more country Switzerland (it just looks so beautiful, in summer and winter) 

... rearead one book right now I've been itching to reread Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics for awhile

...have one reading superpower I'd want to remember everything I read much, much better. Not that I forget, but with how much I read combined with life in general, details slip through the cracks 

... develop one better reading habit It would be to spend more time looking up unfamiliar things when reading them. For example, I read a short story by Richard Russo recently and they were talking about some gallery in Venice that I thought I had visited, but wasn't sure, but didn't take the time to investigate. I need to.

... develop one better life habit Stop over-thinking the future. 

Play along! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I go back to work in two and a half weeks, so that means mom guilt and time-off remorse are both in full-swing. I sat down the other day and added up how much time Sawyer will be in preschool compared to daycare last year, since my schedule is changing a tiny bit, and it's the same, but I still feel bad (it's always like that at the beginning of the year, and I always feel better after a few days). I also look back at the last two months and wonder if I did enough with him, for the house, with friends, etc... What can I cram into the next eighteen days while still relaxing? I WANT TO DO IT ALL AND I WANT TO DO NOTHING.

2. Speaking of friends, I have been so lucky to spend time with so many of the wonderful people in my life lately, with plans yet to come. It's so nice to catch up.

3. So, Sawyer dropped out of swim lessons. The first day was great, but on the second day they pressured him to put him face in and he was not having it. Then, when he started crying the instructor dunked him. My child literally screamed the whole thirty minutes. I took him out to use the restroom and tried to settle him down, but it didn't work. I tried again the next day after talking to the instructor about letting him keep his head up (it was the first week of level one, come on), which he agreed to, but Sawyer started bawling as soon as he got in. And that was that. I took him and left- he was scared, the other kids were confused, and parents were annoyed. So now I'm trying to work with him more at home and we'll figure something out for next summer. Water safety and learning how to swim is super important to me, though, since we have a pool.

4. More fun times with kid activities: at gymnastics yesterday an ornery little child put his hands around Sawyer's neck to "playfully" choke him. Sawyer ran away to me and looked so, so sad. I told him he did the right thing by leaving and telling a grown up, and that the other kid wasn't being nice, blablabla. The kid's mom was right behind me. Ha! She asked me what happened and immediately removed her child was a stern talking to. Parenting. It's lovely.

5. I finished the cross stitch above in record time (thanks, summer!) and I love how it turned out.

6. I am current reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaily Honeyman and am enjoying it, although it does remind me at times a little bit of The Rosie Project (not that it's a rip off, just some similarities with the tone/voice). I am also still listening to Beartown, which is definitely entertaining. 

7. So many fun things coming up (see number one... ha)- two days of breakfasts with different friends, a day at some museums with Sawyer Saturday, and then Sawyer starts going to preschool in the morning for two days a week on Monday.

8. Not fun: I just got a cortisone shot in my hip and as soon as I walked out of the office I almost passed out. I went back in the office and called for a ride. Sigh. I can run half marathons, jump out of an airplane, birth a baby, hike Half Dome twice, and get a tattoo but I just suck at needles. In my defense he did it standing up, so that was uncomfortable and weird. 

One and Only- Some Personal Thoughts

Disclaimer: I wish I was the type of person who had the "I don't care what other people think" sort of attitude, but alas I do not. I know that topics regarding things like family size, fertility, etc... are sensitive; it's easy to offend and easy to take offense. But, I'm feeling daring, so let's see if I can be both honest and respectful. If not, know that's my goal. Also know that this is a long, rambling post that is me explaining a part my life when I probably don't need to, but a lot of people have been mentioning baby #2 lately, so I feel a little... defensive? Reflective? Conflicted? I also know that there are a lot of people who want to have just one child but they're almost afraid to admit it, since there are so many stereotypes out there. So, here I am, putting it out there.

Over a year ago I bought the book One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler and then let it sit in a drawer, out of everyone's sight, until this past week. I had always said that I wasn't going prepared to make any big decisions about having a second child until Sawyer was three, which he turned in April.

The book itself was fine, offering some personal insight from the author (she was trying to figure out if she wanted a second, and also happened to be an only child herself). There's quite a bit of research provided, albeit dry at times. She focuses on economics, parental contentment, child behavior, what it's like to be a grown only child, and some historical perceptions. While it was nothing amazing, or shocking, it was reassuring and very thought-provoking. 

Sandler starts the book off by discussing why her mom only had one child, and what she said echo my growing sentiments. Sandler paraphrased her mother's thoughts that, "To have a happy kid, she figured she needed to be a happy mother, and to be a happy mother, she needed to be a happy person. To do that, she had to preserve her authentic self, which she could not imagine doing with a second child" (Sandler, 1). That, right there, is me in a nutshell. 

I always was pretty sure I wanted to be a mom- to how many kids, that was the question. My husband and I struggled for over a year to conceive, which was very hard, but still so much luckier than many. After an incredibly easy pregnancy and delivery Sawyer was born. He was a happy, healthy baby who didn't really love sleeping in long stretches (still often the case), yet was otherwise flexible, fun, and oh-so-cute. But as a working mom who brings home buckets of work (I am an English teacher, so there are literally hundreds of essays on my plate to grade at a time), an individual with hobbies (reading! running! yoga! writing!), a friend who actually likes to interact in person, and a wife (whose husband worked long hours with a long commute, a fact of life I accept, understand, and am in agreement with), I was falling apart. Every second of every day was accounted for, I was never not exhausted, and I always felt a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from losing my shit (I am fully aware this is normal for a new mom, or even just moms in general). Nonetheless, I was happy. I had a baby, a husband, a core group of loyal friends, and a job I was passionate about. But me? Who I am and what I love, including time to be alone occasionally? I was fighting a losing battle. 

And this is what my life was like for probably two or two-and-a-half years. I always have had very high expectations of myself at work and at home, and I constantly felt like I was failing (and some people purposefully, and accidentally, made me quite aware of my inadequacies). I was constantly sacrificing one thing for the other, and that's not even considering my lack of sleep. Multi-tasking was my norm- that baby on the floor playing with blocks, me on the treadmill walking on an incline reading for work. Or me, in the kitchen uploading pictures, while baking cookies for a work meeting, while playing with my toddler with measuring spoons. I needed more breaks, so much so that two or three or seventeen times I considered how great it would be do have my appendix out so that I would get a few nights in the hospital. 

In the last six or eight months I started feeling more at ease. Sawyer is older and he and my husband have been spending more time together. I got things at work under control with a new organizational system and by being hyper-efficient every second I am there. I purposefully schedule in down-time at home, and I started changing my cleaning/laundry/errand routine. I see friends, I pursue hobbies, I am trying to spend more time with my husband, I am a good mom and interact with my son constantly, I work out, and I've worked hard on making anxiety productive. I am also planning on doing some traveling again soon, hopefully, which is something I have greatly missed. 

But I am still very, very tired. I am happier, but I am so tired. 

I cannot go back. I cannot rewind the clock. I cannot focus more on surviving than thriving. I cannot. 

Let's say it takes me a year to get pregnant again. Then I cook the thing for nine months. Then it takes two and a half more years for me to return to me. That's over four more years. It's easy to say that that's not a long time, but it is. 

And then there's the money. I'll be honest- we paid anywhere from $450-$625 a month for daycare and will be paying $800 for preschool. Times two? Dear God. Then there's college, later. I'd like to help my child get an education but also not go severely into debt (again) myself. 

Some people are good at having multiple kids and looking at life's big picture. Some people are more patient, can survive better on little sleep, and cut themselves more slack. But I know myself, and I know that I just... cannot. And knowing my weaknesses is something I consider a strength. Different people need different things to be happy. 

Am I depriving my son of a sibling? Yes. Saying no would be a lie. It would also be lying if I said that I'm worried what will happen if he needs a kidney later in life. But is that an acceptable reason to bring a kid into the world? 

"Hey kiddo, you're super cool and all, but I was just worried about Sawyer's renal future, so thanks for the potential spare parts that you will hopefully match for, if so needed." 

(Sawyer has no renal issues, I am just being hypothetical). 

So yes, I'm not giving my son a sibling, a live-in playmate, and he might be sentenced to a life on dialysis, but I still feel like I am giving him a lot. I am prepared to spend countless hours with him playing with LEGOs, taking him to parks, visiting museums, and signing him up for summer camps so he can hang out with other kids during weeks off. And I totally volunteer my husband to take him to every single super hero movie that comes out, ever (by the way, my husband is not even close to begging for a second child; if he was then I'd have to do that thing you do in marriage when you consider the other person's desires and opinions). It cracks me up when parents of only-children are accused of being "selfish." There is nothing selfish about having a child, even if it's only one. I spent forty minutes the other  morning involved in a conversation about Mama Batman and Baby Batman going to Target for apple juice, thankyouverymuch. 

Am I 100% sure? No, but closer every day. Could something in me snap in a year and make jump back on the multiple-child train? Maybe! There are plenty of things in life that I said I wouldn't do and then decided otherwise. But sometimes you need a book to help you articulate what's going on in your head and your heart (and your ovaries). So, here we are. 

Families come in all different packages, and at the end of the day, I really truly think that there are so many ways to raise a good little person (or good little people). Maybe you and your partner are lesbians and you have five kids of all different ages and colors you've adopted. Maybe it's you, your husband, and your two dogs (pets are family members too). Maybe it's a husband, wife, a daughter, and  a son. Maybe you live in wealth. Maybe poverty. Rural? Urban? Stay-at-home-mom? Two working parents? Divorced? Remarried? The possibilities are endless. And that's good. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[another from Skylight Bookstore]

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1. Thanks to those who alerted me about the photobucket issue- I think/hope it's resolved for good now!

2. This month, July, is probably the only month I will not have substantial childcare costs until Sawyer is in first grade. Three years down, three years to go... Because he is in between places this summer I lucked out, but tuition goes up next month for preschool and we are back at it. How people can have more than two kids in daycare/preschool at one time is beyond me!

3. The last two nights I have gotten almost seven hours of sleep and I feel so much better about life. Combined with ample caffeination, I am READY TO GO. 

4. I am so thankful for having several other moms that I can use as resources when I am curious/concerned/frustrated about a kid thing! It's come up lately and it's great to know who you can ask what questions, depending on where they're at and where they've been. 

5. I am rereading Fahrenheit 451 for the fourth time right now, so that I can advise a student, and while it's an awesome book, I prefer not to have to reread things. Considering my current backlog, I have more than enough unread books to focus on.

6. I just finished listening to The Nest and while most of the book was fine, I thought the ending was so rushed and so contrived. If I was to rate it (I don't add audiobooks to Goodreads) it would have been downgraded a star then and there. I just started listening to Fredrik Backman's Beartown and so far it's a good listen. I read A Man Called Ove, and enjoyed it, but I think that his books are simple enough fiction for me to listen to while  driving around (I typically don't listen to fiction because the books I tend to read don't permit daydreaming or navigating around unfamiliar areas... you can fill in the gaps with Backman).

7. I think I want these popsicle molds. I hate regular ones, but it would be nice to make some healthy ones for Sawyer (read: yogurt and spinach, haha). 

8. Tomorrow I am going to do P90X yoga with my husband, since he's back on that plan. I can't wait. I'm going to win.