Cuteness reigns supreme in my world

Blah blah blah.

I must sound like a broken record:
Hollis is a champ.
Hollis is great.
Hollis is so fucking cute.

I can't help it, though. It's all true. Really, really true.

Take this holiday weekend for example. He had a short morning nap on Thursday and then we went to dinner at a tres chic restaurant in the Texas hill country (read: bloody expensive). He had his khakis and little sweater vest on and was a perfectly whirling dervish of a gentleman.

We basically fed him food for 2 1/2 hours straight to get him through it. I wish I'd taken a picture of the floor around our table when we left. It looked like a pack of starving hogs had gotten into a box of Cheerios.

:: Is this cuteness? Hell yeah it is!

Every day I try to get him outside to explore. I have a swing tied to our front tree (handily rigged by Anthony with his old climbing ropes, I might add) and a little person bench that Sheree's parents bought for Hollis. He loves that swing, but nothing compares to his fascination with that bench and what's behind it, on it, under it, and around it.

On Friday, he discovered some crab grass (or whatever that creeping, invasive shit is called) and every time he'd pull on a vine he'd say, "Uh oh!! Uh oh!!"

:: See?? C U T E N E S S everywhere!!

Saturday our trees in the backyard decided to dump their leaves in earnest. Anthony dutifully, and sweetly, put on layers and headed in the back with a leaf blower/mulcher combo. He'd argued with me that he "didn't need no stinkin' blower," but I assured him that he'd be better off than trying to rake those plate-sized leaves the old fashioned way. I honestly don't know if he tried it out for himself (as he is wont to do) or took my advice straight away, but the end result was him basically vacuuming the backyard, much to Hollis' delight. - Maybe it was because it rained for about 2 hours and who likes to rake wet, musty leaves by hand??-

As Hollis and I watched Anthony, Hollis would wriggle in my arms and scream "Da da!!! Da da!!!" until I set him down. Then he'd toddle over to Anthony's legs still screaming in sheer baby delight at the noise and sucking sounds of the wet leaves. Anthony said he could hear Hollis even over the noise of the mulcher and his iPod.

:: Now I'm gonna barf it's so cute.

My life is good. I don't know all the answers and, quite honestly, I've sorta stopped asking all the questions I used to yearn to solve. Maybe that's the ticket - just stop stressing about resolving everything. Or something like it.

My relationship with Anthony is incredible. I've never been so bonded to another human being like this before. Hollis is healthy and happy (although we did find him fast asleep in a bunch of barf Saturday night, but all is well now). I'm reaching out to friends again and feel less isolated and more firmly planted in who I am and what I'm here to do. I'm normally used to much pain, anguish, stress, and drama. You know like when I quit my job, went to school full time, bought a new house, moved, saw my dying estranged father, moved my infirm grandmother into assisted living against her will, had my mother move to my city, and got pregnant all in one year. That's the kind of shit I'm used to.

I have to say that this cute shit WAAAAAAAY better. Way, way, way better. Thank fucking God.


New developments

Hollis' development is forging on at warp speed. His language is becoming more sophisticated, his attention span is lengthening, his particular idiosyncrasies are surfacing, and his energy levels are at an all time high.

This means two things to me. On the one hand I'm fucking thrilled to know that things are moving along and that all signs point to healthy development. And on the other I'm screwed.

I realized today that I can no longer multi-task with him running loose around the house. I used to be able to put on makeup and dry my hair and I could be assured he'd just play with a bunch of books that we'd designated as "ok for baby" or play with a comb.

Today, he did this.

To multiple shelves.

I've zoned off a part of the kitchen for him, we've baby-proofed, we have gates like they're turnstiles in a subway, and we have toys and gadgets and pots, pans, big wooden spoons, and baby push-wagons galore. But he doesn't want any of it if I'm around. He wants me to hold him, touch him, talk to him, play with him, chase him, tickle him, feed him, and change him. He wants my full attention at best, but he'll happily take half of it, but he must have some of it.

I'm in love with it all, but it knocks my socks off. I haven't been this exhausted since we slept like we were keeping watch from invaders.

I've gotten in the habit of literally running him around so he gets tired enough for a nap.

Here he is pushing his wagon around on the lawn.

After he'd gotten done going up and down our street. And swinging in the swing for 20 minutes. And unrolling an entire roll of toilet paper. And tearing up his room.

I laugh even though I find myself having to start the whole "No, Hollis" thing. I say, "No," but then immediately try to give him something he can do. I don't want to be this asshole who shits on all his fun all the time. He doesn't know he's not supposed to eat the toilet paper, after all. It's just fun to suck on and spit out, you know??

A friend of mine has recently had baby #2 and the way she describes just going to the grocery store his hilarious and terrifying all at the same time. As Hollis gets smarter and smarter you'll probably watch the gray hairs spring from my head. And my teeth turn purple from the wine...



The day after I got back from San Francisco, November 12th, the leaves started to drop from our tree in the backyard. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but its trunk is smooth and dusty gray and the leaves are giant, three-pointed things that are as large as a dinner plate.

I LOVE fall. It's my favorite time of year. It means the holidays are coming, parties, dressing up, gift giving and winter (which is my close second favorite season).

Last year I took this precious photo of Hollis in the leaves and Levi came up behind me and decided to investigate the newest member of his pack. (...sigh...)

I have it framed on our mantel.

Yesterday afternoon, despite the 75 degree weather, I took Hollis to the park to play. He's mostly interested in whatever's on the ground, versus playing on the jungle gyms. I noticed a pile of leaves and plopped him down next to it. He made leaf angels and tried to taste some of the leaves (cuz, you know, maybe they're yummy). In this shot another little kid had just run up to investigate all the commotion.
As you can see, Hollis is quite pleased by the visitor.

As a side note, I should have taken pictures of all the dads at the park yesterday. I wonder if it was Dad Day or something, because generally the ratio of moms to dads is 5 to 1 and yesterday it was easily reversed. Holla to all the fellas!

Today's weather is perfect: high in the mid-50s, tonight's low in the 30s. I'm in freaking h e a v e n.

Every major relationship of my life started in the fall. I had Hollis in the fall. I look better in sweaters than I do spaghetti straps. I have a spring in my step in the fall (no pun intended). I love spicy pies and the burn of peppermint on my tongue. I love bows and pine needles, the slow heat of a burning log, and scratchy scarves on my neck. I love to eat, cook, and drink. It's so much more satisfying to have a full belly when it's 40 degrees outside than when it's 100. I get to see my sister when it's cold.

For those of you who don't know, autumn began almost two months ago on September 22nd and precisely at 11:44 am.

I think we had a 90 degree day that day, so for me, it wasn't too real. I need more concrete proof besides my own internal clock to start wearing argyle. Like the leaves I saw on the 12th. Or Hollis playing in a pile of leaves yesterday. Or tonight's bone fide cold weather.

The next exciting date to look forward to is December 21st, 7:04 am. It marks the start of winter. Yay!

Note: I realize that many of you reading this are already very aware of fall due to your weeks long need for thicker socks and an extra five minutes to let your car warm up. You know who you are...

Lucky bastards.


Trip to SF

His first steps ever!!

It's been a week or two since I got back from San Francisco and I wanted to post a few picture highlights. Our trip started off with quite a bang with Hollis deciding to walk! We were just playing on the floor, all alone in Gabby's apartment, and he did his thing!

Then I let him loose in the kitchen. I like to call this picture "Baby Heaven."

The next day, Aunt Larry, aka my sister, took this incredible picture of Hollis in his PJs.

Later that night was a party for Maurice's 33rd birthday at Guin's apartment downstairs. Sadly, Hollis and I missed all the fun, but we did help set up. Here's Guin oinking at Hollis who, bless his little baby heart, can't seem to figure out what the hell it is she's doing.

Saturday afternoon we were then off to visit some old high school friends at a great, and extremely loud, pizza place where kids could run absolutely wild.

This is the only way most people are taller than Tom.

Linda, Katie, and me hamming it up.

Sunday was a day of leisure for me and Hollis. In the morning, we walked down to Philz Coffee with Gabby.

Later, she had to do more work. Luckily for us, though, she had to go to a studio in Potrero Hill. Here's a shot of me and Hollis on a hill (not Potrero, specifically) with the city in the background. Gorgeous!!!

That night we went to Villa Romanos in the Inner Sunset. Aunt Larry and Hollis kissed on each other for about 10 minutes with Hollis beside himself with squeals.

On our way back to the car, Gabby got some cash and Hollis was on the look out for any hoodlums.

Monday morning, Hollis woke up before dawn, but once the sun was up he was able to watch all the dogs and their walkers 5 stories below.

That afternoon, we headed back to Martinez to Katie's house to visit with Jenny and Kristina and all our kiddos.

From L - R: Sophia (Tina's youngest), Jordan Otto (Jenny's), Jasmine (on the slide, Tina's oldest), Isabella (Katie's), and Hollis (crawling away!).

And here we all are with all the kiddos crowding around - except for Hollis, he was busy playing with the fence.
(From L - R: Jenny, Katie, Tina, and me)

Our last morning in the city.

And back in Austin with Mom and Terry.

Yes, I shamelessly let other people feed my child whenever I can.

All in all the trip was great. The weather was pleasant, although still not cold enough for my liking (I should really consider Wisconsin - or hell, Manitoba). Anyway - Gabby had to work, but I still got to spend a ton of quality time with her (which was the whole point). We got to hang with Maury, Guin, Linda, Katie, Jenny, Tom, Tina, and all sorts of sweet, chubby-cheeked children. We also got to tour San Francisco in a way we never had before: in a car with a personal tour-guide. Thanks, Gibby!! I drank a lot of tea and wine and ate terrific food. Gabby and I walked down to Philz just about every morning and Hollis, not so surprisingly, napped twice a day and was out like a light by 8 each night (although, he only made it to sunrise once - ouch).

So, that's all - nothing special, just felt the need to get this posted.


I've got proof!!

Our neighbors down the street, a married couple in their 50's or 60's, offered to take pictures of Hollis as a gift when they noticed I was pregnant. We've been generally shy with our neighbors so we, "Yeah, sure, ok'd" them and forgot all about it.

A few months later I ran into the wife on my way back from the mailbox and she again offered to take pictures. "My husband has a studio and we always offer pictures to our neighbors for free."

I considered it for Mother's Day (for my mom), but then forgot about it.

Then I ran into the husband (again on my way to the mailbox) and he brought it up again. At this point, I'm thinking I'm just flat out rude to refuse the offer so we set something up. And this picture is one of the outcomes.

Incredible, isn't it??

We're not really an "Olan Mills" type of family, but I gotta tell you, I LOVE these photos. They almost seem to say we've graduated to a fully fledged family. We got dressed, we coordinated (well, *I* coordinated us), and we have a back drop with mixed media around us. The only thing I wish we had that isn't there is fake snow on the ground.

Hollis was a champ, as per his norm, and rallied despite it being close to his nap time. Ken and Terri said he was the best little kid they've ever had. Isn't that special?? I love it!!

He particularly loved this stretched, wooden star in the studio. How incongruous is it to have a big, white star in a cozy, firelit living room? Aw, fuck it, right?? It's the holidays and we're a real family with a real kid and the pictures prove it!!


Life goes on

Hollis spit me out on both sides today.

He's been rejecting my left breast for about 3 weeks now. It's never been a super producer, instead my right has always been lovingly called "garganta-boob" because of its over-achieving tendencies.

But today, just now as I was putting him down for his afternoon nap, he refused the right one, too. Instead preferring his pacifier.

Oh, a mother's sadness.

I never thought I'd be one of those "hippie moms", but when I had my own child I thought, "Why would I NOT breastfeed until he was done??" The idea of giving him formula, when I was available, seemed counterintuitive and just plain sad to me.

But here we are. Almost 13 months after he was born and all on his own he's weaning himself.

All these things, so important to me, are coming to a [natural] end lately. Not to be irreverent, but I wish my chin hairs would come to an end. I could do without them. I sure would have liked to have a little more "baby time" with Hollis, though. And of course I would have liked some more time with Levi - eternal, really.

Oh well, such is the way of things. I'm just one big sigh these days.

And for some inexplicable reason (well, it's because I don't ever catch/hear/listen to lyrics) that the song "California Dreaming" has been going through my mind. The lilting chorus, the harmony, it evokes a sense of cycles in me. (I apologize to anyone who actually knows the words and meaning of this song, but I pretty much make up my own meanings to every song out there.)

I don't have a picture for this post. I think my words sum it up pretty well enough.


To friends of Levi

This picture was taken yesterday afternoon.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that Levi is now in Doggy Heaven. After a year-long diagnosis of mast cell cancer Anthony and I had to put him down at an emergency clinic early this morning.

When the original diagnosis came a week before Hollis was born we decided to aggressively treat the cancer with a lumpectomy and consequent radiation. Those radiation treatments were my first outings with Hollis as a new mom and I'll never forget them. In a way they were something very special; I was fighting for my beloved dog no matter what.

Levi came to dread the vet, a place he'd previously had no nervousness about. In addition to the cancer treatments, we were also going to get bi-weekly blood work done. The end result was that he would tremble with fear and agitation upon entering the door of the vet's. We began drugging him to help relax him, but it was little help. The treatments ended in late winter/early spring and the cancer seemed to have responded despite being the most aggressive type possible.

Then, on October 4th, exactly one year to the day when we originally found a lump on his belly, he came to us whimpering and limping. He had two huge lumps of swelling at the top of his right leg. By the time the vet's office opened his leg was blown up to three times its normal size and the lumps were bigger, too. The vet had no idea what was happening and sent us home with some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. He seemed to respond well to both and the swelling went away within a couple of days.

But then on the 24th, while out front in the yard with Hollis I noticed more swelling and he was limping again. I immediately took him back to the vet where more tests were done and I was again sent home with antibiotics. Within a couple of days it was clear he wasn't responding and he was still in pain. I asked for pain meds and the vet gave me more anti-inflammatories. The meds weren't working at all it seemed, and this time, instead of edema in his leg, the swelling was concentrated along his ribcage and underbelly.

Friday night he was clearly in much more discomfort and so I called the vet yesterday morning to ask for pain medication. Overnight the swelling had increased twofold. He looked disfigured from one side and normal from the other. It was so sad. We knew that his time was near. I actually thought that maybe Monday would be the day so we kept our plans last night to attend a party for a close friend. At 10 o'clock my mom called to tell us that Levi wasn't doing well. We left for home immediately.

I had given my mom free license to give Levi as many pain pills as was necessary to keep him comfortable. Instead of the 2 per day the bottle instructed, I had already given him 2 as a jump start and within 4 hours of babysitting my mom had given him 4 more. When we heard that bit of news we knew...


We took him to the clinic and he was very calm. The drugs were definitely working and he wasn't in too much discomfort. The staff were incredibly kind and we got an exam room immediately. Techs came and went and a boy-faced vet came in to do an examination. From an ultrasound we determined that the swelling was fluid-filled and not a mass. And from a needle aspiration we knew that it was blood-filled and not pus.

At this point the prognosis was dire. After the trauma of cancer-treatment from a year ago and Levi's stress about needles and such there was no way we were going to do anything invasive to him again. He was 10 and a half years old, after all and a big dog.

So, it was with a clear conscience and sad heart that I knew it was his time.

Watching him pass from living to death was one of the most miraculous things I've ever been witness to. One minute he was warm and breathing and beside me and the next he was really gone. It was beautiful and peaceful and of course I cried my eyes out. Anthony did too, much to his own surprise.

Levi was an incredible dog. His energy was patient and sweet and he could adapt to any situation with that wonderful doggy essence that only they seem to have. He has known more people in my life than anyone else I know. He knew my dad, all my ex-boyfriends and friends. He knew all my old animal friends, too. He watched me struggle and he lived to see me succeed. He weathered my crazy hormonal shifts while pregnant and he molded to our new family composition with ease and happiness.

Absolutely everyone loved this dog. Everyone. Dogs, cats, people, babies, kids. And he loved them all back.

I'll end this with one of my happiest memories of him. For two and a half years Levi and I lived a block away from the green belt and Barton Creek. I was laid off and so every day at around 10 am Levi and I would go for a run on the cool, shade-dappled trails. I'd let him off his leash and he would run all over the place in reckless abandon. Ears flapping, tail wagging, sides heaving with sheer excitement. He'd run in and out of the creek, soaking wet, tongue lolling and then race to catch up with me. I could hear his wet paws pounding on the dirt behind me and then zip past me only to disappear behind a wall of bushes. I always knew where he was by the sounds of splashing from below the trail.

I imagine him chasing really slow rabbits in Doggy Heaven right now where there are no fireworks or baths and just lots of shade-dappled trails and cool creeks for him to run on... I miss him very, very much already, but feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to share his entire life with him.

Thanks so much for being Levi's friend.