A Prayer

It goes something like this:

Dear God,
I'm talking to you, but I'm really trying to find Grammy. I'd like to talk to her. I once asked her to find me after she died, just to let me know she was all right. Can you help me find her now? And not in a sign kind of way, in a God exists and heaven is real kind of way. I just want to feel her from wherever she is. Magnolia asked me the other day what happens when we die. My honest-to-God-who-I-hope-is-there answer is: I don't know. I said, "I'm not sure; I haven't died yet. People believe all kinds of things about it, and while I don't really know, I hope there's a heaven where we all get to go." She said, "And if not, it's just like falling asleep for a really long time?" "Yes, it would be like that." She seemed okay with that. I think I am too. Knowing there was something more - a heaven - used to be such an easy story to tell - a happy ending story that could make it all better. Knowing isn't really part of my vocabulary any more, despite still regularly engaging in prayer. I really hope you're there. Thank you for all you've loved me through and all you've blessed me with.


After Dan died, I read a book, the name of which I can't remember, and it talked about all of the energy that we create and continues on forever in the universe. I was determined to tap into that energy. His energy. It still exists in some form somewhere. Communication through time and space and plane. I'm still working on it. Still wondering what's out there - what's beyond this realm of being. Tonight I am just trying to find my Grammy. Desperately wanting to reach my heart out and feel hers reaching back to mine. 

Peanut the Elephant

I was browsing through Facebook this evening after making a menu and grocery list for the week. I came across a post from a local baby boutique, Green Bambino, asking what product you bought first after finding out you were pregnant. I couldn't remember a product, but I quickly remembered Peanut.

We found out we were pregnant for the first time the Saturday before Thanksgiving in 2006. I went into the health clinic at OCU on Monday to confirm because I didn't want to wait the extra weeks to get into an OB. I took another test at the clinic. Positive. I had blood work sent to the lab at Saint Anthony. It came back on Tuesday. Positive, and my hormone levels had me right in line with all of the dates. I was right around seven weeks. 

I went to Target to get a little gift to give to my brother-in-law to break the news over the holiday. Peanut was the first thing I picked out - a plush green elephant. It was perfect, so small and soft, and I imagined little hands would love to hold it. I left with that and a package of pacifiers, thinking a stuffed animal might not be obvious enough. 

We told everyone on Thanksgiving. It was so fun, and everyone was so excited. We spent Christmas in Arizona that year, and it was fun to be with my family while it was still new.  

I ended up starting the miscarrying process on New Year's Day. By then I had a few more baby goods, clothes, a blanket or two, an ornament for the tree. After I finished miscarrying (it took about a week and a half), I put those things away, but the thing that broke my heart a little was Peanut. It just wanted to be held and loved. 

[I just wanted to hold and love someone.]

About six months later, I got pregnant with Cora. I didn't buy anything. I kept the news mostly to myself and close family. I thought I was miscarrying her around 10 weeks; I fell apart. Making it to the 12 week mark didn't feel safe, but that's when I broke the news. I was excited, but guarded. We all know how that pregnancy turned out. Despite all of the wild complications at the end and the few in the beginning, she arrived safe and sound. She was here and she was mine. 

When Cora was about six months old, I walked into her room to check on her while she was napping. She was holding Peanut's trunk close to her face. I couldn't help but cry. It was her little hand I'd been waiting for. I could have never imagined that a stuffed animal could be the symbol of so much pain and later so much joy for me. That silly, sweet little elephant.  

I can hardly believe this baby will be 10 in less than two weeks.

The Day Magnolia Fell Down the Basement Stairs

Once upon a time, on a Sunday morning in January, I had just finished showering and was standing in front of the mirror putting moisturizer on. Before I got in, my daughters were talking about building a fort in the basement and Jake was sorting laundry. A quiet Sunday morning, indeed.

And then I heard the loudest rolling tumble. It went on for too long. And then screams. It was Magnolia. I grabbed my towel from my hair to wrap around my body, and I ran downstairs. Nothing on the first floor. I jumped off the step into the dining room and rounded the corner to the basement stairs to see Jake coming up with Magnolia in his arms. There was also a dining chair at the bottom of the basement stairs in three parts, with one of the leg caps still sitting on the landing at the top.

Magnolia was holding her nose with both hands, screaming, "Am I bleeding?! Is there blood?!"

I grabbed her hands and she released them from her face. No blood. "You don't have a 'blood face'," I said.

Blood face. Ever since Magnolia was two, 'blood face' symbolizes the worst kind of injury to her. She was jumping on the bed one day, fell off, and face planted on the wood floors. While she wasn't actually bleeding, she looked in the mirror and saw her red scrape and said, "I have a blood face!"

The warning for any kind of "dangerous" activity since then has been, "If you do that, you might get a blood face."

As soon as I let her know she didn't have a blood face, some of the terror left her eyes. I looked at her arms and legs, no noticeable breaks. I looked at her nose, it looked straight. I looked at her back. Lots of scrapes.

She screamed again and grabbed her head, saying that it hurt so much. I looked at Jake and said, "Let's take her to the ER." He replied,

"Let's just watch her for a minute."

I went to the freezer and got an icepack for her head. It wasn't very flexible, so I switched and got a bag of frozen corn. The only thing better than frozen corn are frozen peas for an icepack. We were out of peas. She held it on her head and grew calmer.  After a few more minutes, we were putting her emoji bandaids on her back, even though she didn't really need them. Bandaids make everything better. After she was covered up, she told us what happened.

She had moved a dining chair to the top of the basement stairs so Cora could come and get it and carry it down for fort building like she had the first three chairs. We have old dining chairs with chrome legs, so we put white rubber caps on the bottom to avoid scratching the floor. When Magnolia moved the chair to the landing, one of the caps fell off. She was standing with her back to the stairs trying to replace the cap when she fell backwards. She grabbed onto the chair to try and catch herself, but it fell down too. There was a minor sense of relief that the insanely loud sound I'd heard from two floors up was more dining chair than Magnolia hitting the stairs. Thinking about it still makes me want to throw up.

My initial irrational mom thought was to call the realtor, put Joan on the market, and start the search for a one-story house. I think I'm over the initial panic.

We got so lucky today. So very, very lucky. When I put her to bed this evening, she said her nose hurt. I'm going to keep an eye on it. No bruising or swelling on her nose so far. She legit fell down a whole wooden staircase and landed on a tile floor, all while tumbling down with a dining chair. The stairs have a few gouges, Magnolia has a few scrapes and bruises.

Grateful, grateful. Truly grateful I am.

Dwellings: Los Angeles

My heart sank when I saw our apartment in Los Angeles for the first time. "This was it?" I thought. I'm not sure what it was that hit me first: the industrial carpet, the peeling vinyl flooring, the 800 square feet? Or maybe it was the awful golden oak cabinets and pink countertops in the kitchen? I don't know.

I took a deep breath and walked in. This was it.

University Village. UCLA Graduate Student Family Housing.

I know I'm an aesthetician, and I can be picky about what I surround myself with. I was trying to put all of that aside so I could roll up my sleeves and get to work making it a home. But the truth was, I hated it.

I learned to be okay with some things: I had maintenance remove the vertical blinds in the bedrooms. A year after we moved in, we got new vinyl flooring. And we seriously had the best view of any other apartment in the complex - the lit buildings of Century City at night, and the San Gabriel Mountains during the day; some apartments faced the 405 freeway. At least we weren't in one of those apartments - industrial carpet AND a view of the 405 - it could have been worse. In lots and lots of ways.

I was looking through pictures today, and I was struck by the fact that so much life happened every single day in a dwelling that never quite grew on me. I wanted to share those photos here today - to honor the place that sheltered our family for three years, the life that happened there, as well as the moments I captured, but didn't always see.

Alice's Favorite Spot

Sunset hitting the storm clouds over East LA

 Birthday Parties 
(Cora always insists on having her party at home)

Girls' Room

Reading Nook

Dollhouse Day

Teacher/Student Learning to Read

Dining Table/Art Space/Game Center

Jenga. And then some.

Practicing Sewing Skills

"Is that water?" 
"Jesus could walk on it."

New Skater Falls in Kitchen.

Budding Yogini [dressed as Elsa] Flies in Living Room.


So Much Practice in this Space.

Jake's Hair, Jake, and Alice.




(She played Priest, blessing and passing communion to her family)

Despite the ugly kitchen, I still made pretty food sometimes.


The orchid I travelled to The Los Angeles Flower Market to find.

PhD Studies.
(AKA, Jake's side of the bed)

Discovering I could turn myself into a shadow giant with my reading light.

Seriously hours of fun.

[Every] Morning When I Rise.
(Tree House)


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