31 March 2013


We have a bit of an architectural dilemma in our apartment, which is that in order to get to the back yard you have to go through Roan's bedroom (First World problems, I know).  Now that it's spring I have been trying to spend as much time as possible in the back gardening (which for me mostly means picking up 4 months of leaves and dog poop), so I've been putting Roan down for his nap in my bed. 

The first few times worked great, I created a sort of nest out of foam pillows,  but yesterday when he woke up (unless he never actually went to sleep) he must have gotten a bit curious.  I opened my bedroom door to find him sitting in the middle of a tornado of bedsheets with all the lights on, one of my bras hanging around his neck, hair like a firecracker, and the whole entire room reeking of Vicks Vaporub.   I found the empty jar of Vicks as well as an empty jar of my face cream (which was brand new).  I said "Roan, where did you put all the Vicks and the lotion??"  to which he joyfully replied "EVERYWHERE".

I was so stunned that it didn't even occur to me to take a picture, so I have used my skills as a photo researcher to find you an approximate illustration of the scene I was met with.

26 March 2013


When I was pregnant a funny thing happened more often than not when I told people I was having twins; they would say "do twins run in your family?" At first I thought it was a sort of benign question (ie "do you know if you're having a boy or a girl?"),  and I would reply "oh yes, they're are lots of twins and actually triplets too".  Over time, of course, I realized that people were fishing for IVF.

The more I became immersed in the culture of pregnancy, the culture of multiple births, and into the myriad of ways that babies were created, I felt this rift in the acceptance of those who had "natural" births and those who didn't.  Many people were fixated on the notion that if it didn't just "happen naturally" that maybe you weren't meant to have a child, or maybe God didn't want you to have a child, or that you were selfish for trying so hard to populate the earth when children were starving, etc etc. Somehow, saying that I had twins in my family felt like I was "defending" something I didn't think needed defending. I didn't want to hide anything, but I didn't want to affirm anyone's prejudices about how other people made their families.

I always wanted a family.  Even at my darkest, most pierced, and grungy I knew I would probably have a husband and kids some day.  The scenario in my head went "meet a guy, work on my career, get pregnant the moment I feel like we're ready, have a couple of kids, have a happy family, maintain career seamlessly throughout". I took for granted that this would happen.  Obviously that didn't work out the way I wanted.  Lula was the baby in mind, but not her illness, not her pain, and not her death. But she is still my family as much as Roan and Sam and always will be.

The truth is that, genetically speaking,  Sam and I are not meant to be together.  Although we have been together for 16 years, since I was 20 years old, nature made us incompatible.  Because we each carry some mysterious recessive gene, the odds of which are in the millions upon millions, we will always have a 25% chance of creating another Lula. Darwinistically speaking, we are to be weeded out 1 in 4 times. 

Does that mean that we aren't meant to be a family?  I don't think so.  I think Roan's mischevious seawater eyes are my answer to that every day.  I think Lula made Sam and I better parents, and better as husband and wife because we had to fight so hard only to have her taken from us by the same nature that created her.  If we ever decide to have another child it will have to be IVF.  It will be as unnatural as they come, geneticists combing through viable embryos to find the ones that are unlike my beloved baby girl.  Or we could leave it to chance and run the risk that God or the universe or nature intended for us to suffer twice. We may never even get there, but if we do my money's not going to be on nature.

In the end it doesn't matter how a family is made, only that the people who define themselves as such are committed to taking care of each other in the most profound and sustaining ways.  People who are not allowed to do that because it's "unnatural" are made to suffer for no good cause whatsoever.  Lonely people do not make for a better society. 

I am sure there are some people out there who married their high school sweetheart, and they were the exact same race, class, and religion and the exact opposite gender.  I am sure they got pregnant the first try and never got morning sickness, and had the exact number of kids they wanted.  I am sure there are families where everyone is healthy and not one single family member struggles or is different or challenged in any way.  But I've never known one.  And if they are the only ones who are entitled to have families in this country there will be very, very few families indeed.

20 March 2013


Maybe it's just a factor of age, but I am so over winter.

For the first time in my life I have an inkling as to why people move to places like Sun City in Arizona, where old people toot around on golf carts down the highway and have orange trees in their front yards whose oranges you aren't allowed to actually eat. Such a thought, and the notion of missing the magical winter wonderland of the intrepid New York snow storm, was bizarre and depressing to me just a few years ago. 

The only way to survive is to experience it vicariously through my jubilant little boy, which I know is cheating.  I always swore to myself that I would not turn him into a proxy for my own feelings because it was not fair to him, but fuck it, it's winter and I'm tired. The last bitter days of cold are stubbornly hanging on here even though the daffodils have peeked their stalks up through the snow and I feel as though I am just holding my breath until I can peel off one more layer.

Even Sam- who is from Scotland for gods sake and a fervent snow sport enthusiast - has been lacking in love for the winter.  We did manage, however, to have some utterly joyous moments in the snow in the past few months, before retreating for hot coffee and bagels.

 The first big snowstorm we went to the park with Roan's friend Cole. Cole is a classmate of Roan's and as luck would have it we knew his parents through a friend and they are great, which makes playdates all the more appealing.  Roan and Cole get along so well and Cole seems to inspire better behavior in Roan, which is great.

Fort Greene Park is perfect for sledding

Roan and Cole get a lift

Cole and Roan

Last month Sam planned a mini vacation for us.  I think I can safely say that this was the first time in nearly 16 years that he planned an entire vacation by himself with only minimal nagging from me.   We just needed to get out of the city desperately.  Sam found this crazy, fabulous place called  The Roxbury Motel in the Catskills.  It was quite something and really quite perfect.  We got one of the simplest, smallest rooms and still had glitter wallpaper and no fewer than 5 polka dot pillows on the bed.  It had a spa and a jacuzzi and was near skiing.  They arranged for us to have dinner at a nearby restaurant called The Peekamoose, which I have to say was as good as any restaurant in Brooklyn, but with an impressive kids play area and an outdoor fireplace where you could toast marshmallows.

Roan in the lap of luxury, snacking on the bed with the iPad
First Jacuzzi experience.  He loved it!

Then we went off to the mountain for skiing, which I always slightly dread. All the set up, the gear, the schlepping, the cold, the cost, clumping around like Frankenstein in boots that garotte my ankles only to be terrified of death or serious injury hardly seems worth it. Sam, on the other hand, could live on a slope. Which way would Roan go?  I think it's obvious.

We borrowed his friend Zephyr's tiny snowboard

Going up at Belleayre

Two peas in a pod

It was insane what a natural he was.  I promise not to be one of those braggy parents who is convinced that every crap their kid takes is a work of genius, but I have to say I was blown away.  The instructors on the mountain were blown away.  When we went skiing in Hokkaido in Japan every third person blowing down the mountain was about 3 years old but I guess here it's not so common, thus the fuss.

Check me out!
Balancing act

He practiced for a good 2 hours the first day.  For a kid who can't sit still for 5 minutes I think this level of focus is remarkable. 

Sam got a little over ambitious and tried to take him down an entire run which was a bit exhausting and stressful, but only for Sam.

Thanks to the very knowledgeable guy on the ski rental department I actually had a great time myself.  He asked me what kind of skier I was and I said "Terrified.  I like ambling down gently and I'm petrified of going fast or falling" and he said "OK I'll give you short skis then"  and he gave me short, fat skis that were half my height.  They were a revelation.  So much easier to manage and not get all tangled up, and I sauntered gently downward on every run.  It was really lovely.

The next day we went to another mountain, Plattekill, and did something called Snow Tubing.  The snow had hardened into sheet ice so holy shit it was fast.  The only part Roan didn't like was getting snow in his face so Sam lent him goggles.

We linked our tubes together and went flying downhill. You can hardly feel the cold at this speed.

10 March 2013


We went to Barbados for Christmas because we just couldn't stand the thought of being home this year.   In true modern family fashion, "we" was my sister, my mom, my dad, my stepmom, me, Sam and Roan. I was worried I would miss all the tradition and festivity.  Nope. I am now, forever more, a worshipper of the winter sun.

06 March 2013


A friend who also lost a child once said that one year after was the darkest time in her life.  I couldn't fathom how any time could be worse than the immediate tangible loss of the days after Lula's last breath, but now I know exactly what she meant. The adrenaline that flushed my body in the aftermath mixed with grief like a surreal cocktail that made me drunk with a flourish of gratitude and earnestness.  It's a hazy vacation in a horrifying parallel universe where nothing seems like it's a part of your own life anymore.

In a year the buzz has worn off.  Now I am here and she is not.  The only experience that seems parallel to me is that of soldiers returning home from combat. It seems absurd to try to go back to a "normal" life, but there is nothing else to do.  I am no longer the same person, but there is no other play for me to act a part in than the one that was written as my day-to-day life before Lula.

In some ways there is nothing more overwhelming for me than the good intentions of other people.  I can sense the tightness, the gently prodding urgency from those who care about me to feel from me that I am OK so that they can be OK. A new job? Or grad school? Or maybe a new career?  Maybe a new baby?  I've had 3 different people ask me if I was pregnant within the last year.  Isn't that amazing?  That anyone could fathom that possibility just shows how wide the chasm is between where I am and where others would imagine I might be.

In the space of 2 1/2 years my world shrank from the world to my apartment and further still into myself.  I'm like Russian nesting dolls; there's a smaller me inside of every me and the more I open myself up the smaller and smaller I become. But what else it there to do?  Keep busy?  I will tell you that doesn't work.  That catches up with you when you have busied yourself into total distraction. 

I took a freelance job as a photo editor at a news magazine and thought I was doing fine until 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  I had to find the photos of twenty dead 6-year olds almost exactly one year after Lula died.  I white knuckled it through work every day that week and sobbed on the subway home every night.  I was still feeling what all those parents were feeling and knew how much worse it would get.  I barely made it through that job and haven't worked since. 

The literary device, "a willing suspension of disbelief", is defined by Wikipedia as this:

...the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, 
so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises.  These fictional 
premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps
proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories.

Suspension of disbelief is often an essential element for a magic act or a circus sideshow act.
 For example, an audience is not expected to actually believe that
 a woman is cut in half or transforms into a gorilla in order to enjoy the performance.

Actually, I think we need this trick to get ourselves through day to day existence.  Once the illusion that you are assured a measure of safety, that the universe is somehow looking out for your well-being evaporates,  your whole story collapses.  How do you build on to anything after that? You are left with a minefield of your own making.  

I don't know what to say to all those who want me to be OK.  Right now I'm standing in a mine field trying to find a path and everyone is going to have to wait patiently until I map a way out.

01 March 2013


"Your blog is great, you should really do something with it"

It was a well meaning directive of a friend that managed to achieve exactly the opposite of its intent.  I thought the blog was doing something?  Still, it made me think; what am I doing this blog for?  What is it's purpose?  Who is the audience?  Where is this supposed to take me?  What was it supposed to do?

It is the kind of reckoning that I have never been comfortable with.  I seem to be much better at things before anyone has any expectations about whatever it is I am endeavouring to do (including myself).  My first love, photography, began as a completely self-motivated exercise.  Since I went to a brainy math and science school my little hobby was of no consequence, which was just how I wanted it.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
The more involved I became, however, with the career of photography, with the industry, with the million other visions competing for the same few eyes, the more I retreated.  I am aware of how petty and immature I sound to say it, but the more people ask me to show them something the less I want to do anything worth seeing.

I am feeling a bit like that about blogging.  What started as a vague need to update people en masse about the endless goings on of the babies evolved into a mouthpiece for me. At the time I was experiencing a tragically unique situation and I was trapped in my house, so my need to feel connected was pretty desperate.  But I am not at all comfortable with sharing so much "me" so much of the time.   My posts started to feel a bit self aggrandizing. And while I was most happy to share the pain of my situation with other people out there who had experienced something similar, to everyone else I felt a bit like I was in the car crash on the highway being soaked up by the slowly passing eyes in other vehicles.

It is odd to ask this, it is ridiculous in fact, to ask for a bit of privacy on a blog that anyone can see. But ultimately I think it is good for my head and my heart to keep this process going, to fight the urge to swallow it whole when it begins to crumble. So I suppose what I am saying is that I would be most grateful to a silent audience, that I as I am struggling to figure out what private part of my voice I am able to share I have the privilege of no expectations.

Unless, of course, you have a book deal to offer me, then I will probably consider anything.