Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Swedish is for meatballs

No offense to the Swedes, but if you want a good massage, you need to go Thai.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I entered the nondescript building a few blocks from our house, holding my Christmas gift from Toby - a $40 gift certificate for an hour massage at the Bangkok Thai Massage Studio. When I walked in, I nearly tripped over a pile of shoes in the small, brightly lit waiting room. I added my shoes to the pile and then handed my gift certificate to the woman at the front desk who smiled and asked me to take a seat. A guy in his mid-twenties was sitting across from me and asked me if I'd ever been there before. When I told him I hadn't, he responded, "I guarantee you will love it." He explained that he first came when his girlfriend had given him a gift certificate last year. "I was thrown off because it's in this non-descript building and you know, it's a little funky at first. Once you get used to that, you'll just have an amazing massage."

I've always loved massages. I haven't had as many as I'd like - probably six or seven professional massages in my lifetime. Usually they're expensive and not something I feel I can justify in my normal life and are therefor reserved for vacations or special treats. Despite my love for massages, I'd say that of those half dozen massages, half of them have been just plain awful. When you go in expecting a release from muscle tension and an hour of relaxation, there's nothing worse than finding that you will be spending the hour listening to the masseuse talk while she lightly rubs your skin with oil, leaving you feeling like a greasy chicken with your head spinning and your muscles non the better for it. But the good ones - one near Alison's beach house at the Jersey shore and one in Weaverville at the spa - make it worth paying for the bad ones in hopes of having such an experience. Up to now, a good massage for me has meant that I lie on a table while a masseuse kneads my muscles. A Thai massage is something quite different.

After a few minutes in the waiting room, the woman at the front desk called me up and we walked through a door in the back. I was then lead through a hallway with curtains on either side. In this one small hallway, there were probably twenty curtains leading to small "rooms" (divided by curtains) where people were getting massaged, which explained the pile of shoes at the front door. I was told to undress and then dress again in the light cotton shirt and gigantic pair of shorts lying on the mat on the floor. Then I was left alone in the room not much bigger than the mat on the floor. After changing, I lay down on the mat and listened to the sound of both Thai music and flesh being pounded all around me.

When my masseuse came in, she began rubbing my muscles with her hands, which felt much like the massages I have had before. The only difference was that she was sitting on my back rather than standing at a table next to me. But soon I found that I had more in store for me. She stood up and began walking across my back, legs and arms. Along with using her feet, she also began massaging my muscles with her arms, knees, and elbows. Next, she began twisting my body in various positions - grabbing my arms and pulling my body back and up, pulling my leg across the body while sitting on my hip, pushing both legs up and leaning on them to stretch them forward. It felt painful and wonderful at the same time. She cracked my back in about ten different ways and she continued to push and pull me this way and that. I wasn't surprised when I later learned that Thai massage has origins in yoga and Ayurvedic healing.

I left my massage feeling incredible. Waking up today, I still feel like my spine is somehow more aligned than usual, my muscles looser. It was a massage, yoga practice and trip to the chiropractor all in an hour and all for the price of a really cheap massage. At $40, I don't need to save massages for special occasions anymore. I'm already looking forward to my next Thai massage.

Monday, December 29, 2008


In church last week, our pastor talked about how the funny thing about making resolutions on New Year's is that we don't actually know what is in store for us that next year and therefor don't know what strengths we will need to use. That was certainly true for me this past year. I resolved to bring my bags to the grocery store, to prevent anyone in my family from getting sunburned, and to refrain from adding more volunteer activities to my list. The last resolution was actually contrary to my usual resolution to volunteer more, but I was feeling overwhelmed with two kids and a baby and decided it would be best for all of us to cut back a little just for a year. It turned out to be a good resolution since "overwhelmed with two kids and a baby" turned into "overwhelmed with two kids and a baby and a husband working across the country half the time and an entire house to pack and friends to say goodbye to and then an entire house to unpack and doctors to find and schools to find and dentists to find..." and well, the list goes on. As my pastor mentioned, sometimes you just don't know what's in store for you in a coming year.

I don't know what's in store for us this year either of course. We're starting it out in Los Angeles. Probably we'll enter 2010 (Really? 2010!?) in Los Angeles as well, though our landlord's housing situation is up in the air and therefor renting this house for another year is possibly up in the air too. I could be writing about my resolutions next year from this same white painted desk covered with bread crumbs from Noni (hopefully not the same bread crumbs a year from now) in the piano room of this same house. Or I could be writing from another desk down the street. Or across the country. Or from Alaska. Or China. Or maybe I won't be around to make resolutions at all, though I'm hoping that's not the case.

Regardless, I'm going to make resolutions.

I'm keeping the first two:

1. Bring bags to the grocery store
2. Keep my family from getting sunburned

I got better at both this year, but not so good that they're second nature yet. And I'm thinking they're pretty much relevant no matter what happens this year. (Maybe with the exception of sunburn in Alaska.)

I'm adding some others to the list.

3. Keep our groceries under budget
You know you're a mom when 1/3 of your resolutions have to do with the grocery store...

4. Volunteer more
After a year off, I'm hoping to go back to being able to volunteer more again. I've signed up for Sunday school again and I'd like to get involved in some more community activities. It's not easy with an eighteen-month-old and no help, but I suppose resolutions aren't meant to be easy or else we wouldn't need a list to remind ourselves of what we plan on doing.

5. Go through the boxes in the garage and get rid off all the stuff we don't use
Like I said, resolutions aren't necessarily easy...

6. Take advantage of our time in California and appreciate what Los Angeles has to offer
We have no idea just how long we'll stay in Los Angeles, but I want to make sure that we experience as much as we can while we're here. These first few months have been full of adjustments - adjustments to a new home, new schools, new routines. Now we seem to have steadied our sea legs and I'm hoping to use this time to start exploring more areas. We have plans for Ventura and Santa Barbara this week, Joshua Tree and San Luis Obispo in April, and we've started looking into more camping areas this spring. Los Angeles itself sometimes feels like one big sprawling layer of cement (a statement I will refrain from focusing on in the new year...), but the areas around it (and the parks within the city) are beautiful and I'm determined to spend more time there in the upcoming months.

Evie and Lucy have a resolution of their own as well - to stop sucking their thumbs.

Alright 2009, we'll all be asleep when you arrive, but we're still ready!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Milk, then and now

Last night, Toby and I had a for real date and went to the movies. We intended to see Slumdog Millionaire, but due to a ticket mix-up, ended up at Milk. I'm sure SDM is great, but I'm glad for the mistake. Milk is a powerful, well-directed movie, but it also falls in that rare category of being an important film. I have to admit that before the movie came out, I had never even heard of Harvey Milk and yet watching the movie I couldn't help but think of comparisons between him and some of the most prominent civil rights leaders in our country. It's a story that every American should know.

When they decided to make Milk, the vote on prop 8 was in the distant future and the spot of president was still up for grabs. Yet it's impossible to watch the film without considering the current political climate. When I was listening to Milk spread his message of "hope" and campaign against considerable odds, I couldn't help but feel yet again thankful that Obama will be moving into the White House in January. I also felt a wave of gratitude that Palin will remain safely far away, as the film showed the eerily familiar self righteous former orange juice queen, Anita Bryant, step into the spotlight as a warrior for "family values".

At the same time, of course, I couldn't help watch the celebration of the defeat of Prop 6 without thinking of Prop 8 passing this year. Watching the passion, determination and energy that Milk put into leading the campaign against Prop 6, I could see where we went wrong. Rob Epstein describes the lack of leadership in the movement of 2008 here:

When we left the theater and the world of 1970s San Francisco behind, Toby and I talked about the actors (Sean Penn deserves an Oscar for sure) and the deft way Van Sant mixed real footage into the movie, but mostly we talked about Harvey Milk. It was inspiring to watch his passion and energy on screen and to consider what it takes to be a true leader. Much like Obama did, the story of Milk calls on all of us to become involved in working towards change. Hopefully it will inspire a natural leader out there to step forward in the current climate and lead us toward overturning Proposition 8.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is...pleasant?

This afternoon, the girls and I went to a holiday cookie exchange. When we walked into Sarah's house, we were greeted by a familiar scene - a tree with lights and a table covered with holiday cookies. The kids ran around, high on sugar, as we sat on the couch and chatted about, amongst other things, an upcoming Christmas party and a holiday lights show.

Walking to the party, I didn't think twice about our surroundings, but walking home after enjoying such classic holiday scene, I was suddenly struck by the weather. Lucy and Evie ran and scootered ahead of me in shorts and t-shirts while I pushed a barefoot Noni in the stroller wearing flip-flops, jeans and a tank top. When the girls stopped to marvel at a house decorated in over-the-top Christmas lights, I took in the sight of the dark palm trees towering over the festive house. We are about to experience our first California Christmas and, frankly, I love it.

My mom sent me photos today of her two dogs sleeping amidst a pile of cotton, torn out from pillows that had been lying on the floor. She titled it "photos from a rainy day rampage" and it suddenly brought to mind afternoons inside our house with the girls going stir crazy, the weather too cold for them to play outside. There have been times in my life when I've really appreciated cold weather. I love snowboarding and cross country skiing. I also love the feeling of a warm fire and cup of tea after a brisk walk in the cold. With kids though, the romance of the cold quickly disappears when you've spent three days cooped up indoors. I remember one winter in DC when Lucy was a baby and we were literally snowed in the house for days. I turned on the television, put Lucy in the Bjorn and walked up and down the stairs over and over, hoping that it would stir up some endorphins to help me get through the day.

I think it's clear from my post about Frederick that I miss it back east and will always be an east coaster heart. But there are some things I do love about Los Angeles. The weather in December is definitely one of the things at the top of that list.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Drag Queen Bingo

The other night, we headed out for my friend Jane's birthday and an evening of Drag-Queen bingo. It was pure entertainment. Since Sarah already summed it up quite nicely, I will let her tell the tale:


Tuesday, December 2, 2008


"The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones..."
- Billy Collins

When Lucy was three, Evie was learning about silent vowels in school. She had overheard us talking about them and one day she lay down on the floor and twisted around in a way that looked nothing like an "E" and announced to me, "Look, I'm an E!" I looked skeptical and told her I didn't quite see it. "Well mommy," she said patiently, "That's because I'm a silent E."

I love that story because it is quintessential Lucy, but the only reason I remember it is that today I looked through my old Yahoo blog, a blog where I occasionally jotted down a story or two about the girls just for the purpose of remembering them. It's funny how many stories we have like that about our kids - stories that we can't imagine forgetting, but that are soon replaced in our brains by something entirely mundane like a grocery list. There are so many things I swear I'll remember even as time goes by - the way they say certain words, the expressions that they make - but often they blend together with other memories so that can't remember which girl did what. My friend Natasha sent me the Billy Collins poem I quoted above today and it inspired me to write down a couple things that the girls have done recently that I want to remember before they head off to that fishing village in my brain.

I want to remember how Noni says "no" for yes. I'm wondering if this will ever change, since it completely works for her. Toby, Lucy, Evie and I all know that if she responds to "Do you want a banana?" with a "no" in a slightly Canadian accent, she means yes. If she shakes her head or yells, "NO!", she actually means it.

At 17 months, she's also at that stage where she can say a lot of words, but most of them are indecipherable to people outside her family. "S" is generally pronounced as a "D" such as "dower" and "doap". Her favorite song is "happy birthday" (Yes, now I can actually say I know her favorite song! See October's blog entry: "Noni, part time model") and she regularly sings it to anyone. She doesn't quite have the words down, it's more about the tune. It's also nothing a million babies haven't done before - Mozart was probably playing "happy birthday" on the piano by the time he was her age - but we still find it so brilliant and cute that we make her sing it over and over again.

Another thing we make her repeat over and over again is her animal noises. The girls love going through the list with her and get frustrated when Noni tires of it before they do. They'll sit next to her in the back of the car asking over and over, "C'mon Noni, what's an owl say? An owl? I know you know it. An owl?" Speaking of animal noises, the other day I found her sitting on top of our poor tortured cat yelling, "Neigh, cat, neigh!"

Probably what Noni says most of all though is, "Wa Dada?" ("Where's dada?"). She started this one night at dinner when Toby wasn't home yet.
Noni: "Wa Dada?"
Evie, Lucy or I: "At work."
Noni: "Oooooh."
She did this so many times that it started to be funny. Eventually we just laughed when she asked. Now she will ask it again and again just to get a laugh.

With Lucy, I want to remember her skipping down the road when we went camping in Malibu the other weekend. She skipped and ran on ahead of us until she came to a fork in the road. At that point, she turned around and yelled back to us, "Which way do I go?!"
"Right!" Toby yelled back.
She paused a minute. And then, "Which way is right?!"

I also want to remember the way Lucy can be overly candid without even realizing it. The other day, I convinced her to talk to her grandmother on the phone for her birthday. Usually she is reluctant to get on the phone, but once she started talking, she chatted on and on for about half an hour. Then suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, she asked, "Gram, how much longer do I have to keep talking?" Fortunately her grandmother found this hilarious. Again, I just love how it was so typically Lucy.

As for Evie, she's entered a new stage where she's not as likely to say something that is funny because it is such a different, purely child-like interpretation of the world, but she is young enough (and hopefully always will be) to have kept that same level of enthusiasm for life. When I think of her at this age, I'll remember her dancing the pata-pata for Nid and Tiggy at Tiggy's house, spending hours creating something (anything - a cardboard house for a Littlest Petshop, thank you letters for the Troll at Peek's house, or, as I write this, a complicated snack made from graham crackers, peanut butter, raisins, Cheerios, sugar and cinnamon), playing an imaginary game with friends in the tree house or pulling up her knee socks as high as they can go and urging me to hurry up because we might be late for school.

There are a few things that I will gladly release to that fishing village part of my brain - the hours of constant cleaning (see snack mentioned above), the nights of not sleeping, the frustration that comes with tantrums and talking back. But for all the good stuff, I'm glad that I have this blog to help me remember the things that are too important to forget.