Tuesday, December 31

Year in Review

Another year has passed and this New Year's Eve has me looking back on all that's happened in 2013. By far the most significant event of the year was the birth of my second son, Connor Gregory Wells, on November 24th. He is a sweet baby and my greatest blessing this year. As happy as I am to be able to snuggle and hold my newborn son, I am not at all sorry to no longer be pregnant. I've not had a horrible or high-risk pregnancy either time, but I am not a fan of pregnancy. My first trimester was no fun thanks to a three-month bout with bronchitis, tonsillitis, and a double ear infection--not to mention morning sickness. Once I finally got past all of that sickness the pregnancy went well, I was just much bigger and more uncomfortable this time around. Eric still says he wants to have three kids, but I think I'm done. We have two beautiful boys and our hands are full as it is!

Although I was supposed to have a scheduled c-section this time, Connor had other plans. Three days before I was scheduled for surgery I began having contractions shortly before midnight. By one a.m. they started becoming regular and less than ten minutes apart. After an hour of regular contractions I told Eric to stay with Liam and had Mom take me to Torrance Memorial hospital. The contractions were strong and coming more quickly by the time we got there, so walking was slow going. Once I arrived at Maternity I had to fill out paperwork--just what you want to do when you're in labor. The nurses weren't in a hurry, and I thought there was time, but by the time I was in a hospital gown and hooked up to a monitor my contractions
were not just coming rapidly, they were peaking on the monitor. I was in full-on labor and experiencing a
kind of pain I had never felt before in my life. The doctor on call gave the order to get me prepped for surgery, and suddenly in the midst of those painful contractions I had people asking me questions, drawing blood, starting an. I.V., shaving me, and so on. All I wanted for the anesthesiologist to show up and give me an epidural, but I was told that it had to wait until I was in the O.R.

As they were about to wheel me out of the labor room my water broke, but I was in too much pain to say anything. By that point Mom had called Eric and told him to get to the hospital. I didn't see him until I was on the operating table, prepped for surgery. I was glad it worked out so that I was out if pain by the time he saw me. I'm not sure he would have handled it well when I was in so much pain. There wouldn't have been anything he could have done to help me. Being in that much pain there was nothing get could have comforted me but drugs--lots of drugs. The surgery went well and before I knew it my baby was born and crying--a wonderful sound to hear. When Liam was born the nurses gave him to Eric first, but this time I got to be the first one to hold Connor. The nurses laid him on my chest and I felt the weight of his soft, warm little body for the first time. While the pregnancy was not particularly enjoyable for me, starting with Connor's birth I began to revel in and truly enjoy the experience. The first time around I was so nervous, anxious, and stressed at the new and awesome responsibility of motherhood that I didn't get to enjoy those initial moments and days with Liam as I did with Connor. Because I was more relaxed I feel like I bonded much more quickly with Connor. Right away I couldn't get enough of holding him and felt that strong mother-child attachment much sooner. Now that we've been home for awhile, I also find I'm not passing up many opportunities to just sit and hold him and enjoy this newborn phase more than I did last time. Realizing how sweet this time can be is enough to make me wish it weren't my last baby, but reality brings me back to earth. Kids are expensive!

Aside from the huge event of becoming a mother of two in 2013, the other significant development was my involvement in a new company called Art Muse Los Angeles (ALMA). ALMA's director is Clare Kunny, a museum professional who used to be one of the Education managers at the Getty--until the layoffs of April 2012 happened. She launched ALMA in February 2013. I had the distinction of giving the inaugural tour at the Villa. Not long after, she recruited me to do ALMA's social media and blog. Before I knew it I was one of the company's regular staff members. The company is still very young and thus is not hugely profitable yet, but I hope it takes off as time goes on. If it does, I may be able to have the best of both worlds and maintain professional connections and generate a modest income while still being home with the boys full-time. The social media aspect of the job is no problem--I can do that from home and mostly on my mobile device. It's giving tours or teaching gallery courses that is a challenge because it requires finding free child care. My goal is just to do one ALMA event per month, so hopefully we can work that out. Here's hoping that 2014 brings more opportunities!

Thursday, August 8

A Light Has Gone Off

"A light has gone off in the world today, but the West is blessed by a new presence: Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters, a Shining One Thou risest, thou shinest with thy rays, and thou hast made mankind to rejoice for millions of years according to thy will, ankh wedja seneb."

--Salima Ikram, on the death of Barbara Mertz

August 8, 2013

Sunday, July 21

Odds and Ends

Yesterday I did my first lecture for an Art Muse LA (ALMA) course at ESMoA (El Segundo Museum of Art). It was for a class on nudity in Western art and presented as a supplement to a nudity themed exhibition at ESMoA and the Villa's antiquities collection. My lecture covered nudity in the ancient Mediterranean (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome) and was based on a recycled PowerPoint I created for a similar lecture I gave while I was an educator at the Villa. My goal is to see how many times I can use it to make money! 😉 The lecture went well and Clare (ALMA's director) seemed pleased with my work. I had fun, too. I really do enjoy giving talks about ancient history, and I'm grateful I still have the opportunity to do it in some capacity.

Today Eric is over doing chores for his grandma, and I am home with Liam. Sometime around mid-day I was taken over with a nesting urge, and I decided how I want to rearrange the kids' room. I think I can
make some good improvements cheaply as well as prepare the space to have newborn/infant stuff in it again. Soon we will get a toddler bed for Liam so he will be adjusted to it long before we need the crib for a
baby again. I have no idea if he will take to it or not, but we will give it a try. If he doesn't make the change right away we can get by for awhile since the new baby will be with me in my room for at least the
first three months. So, we have some leeway when it come to converting Liam to a "big boy" bed.

For half of my life I've kept a journal. It has always been a handwritten journal, and I've always loved picking out a new journal each time I need a new one. However, in today's 21st century world, whether it is blogging or whatever else, I most often write on the computer or some other digital form. For a few years now I've tried to have both and write my computer typed entries into my handwritten journal. As much as I love my handwritten journal, I know I'm not writing as much in it because of the extra time it takes to hand copy the typed entries into handwritten form. On an impulse I downloaded a journaling app on my phone, and already I've written more in only a few days. I can export my entries to my computer in PDF form, so there is a way for me to archive them. Since I'm writing more, I'm going to continue to give this new methodology a try--even though I'm still tempted to write them out long-hand in my paper journal. But can I justify that time as a pregnant mother of a two-year-old? Thus, my dilemma: I love the paper journal, but the convenience and speed of the digital option suits the life of a busy mom.

Monday, April 15

Parenting Handbook

If parenting came with a handbook, what would you add to it?

You are about to learn that all of the cliches are true. The worst job you'll ever love. The days are long (very long) but the years are short. A love like no other. All are true in some way. The sacrifice, pain, and joy motherhood begins in defines the entire experience. You will give everything everyday and most days will get nothing in return, and you will think nothing of it.

After carrying this baby for nine months it feels like he or she is more yours than anything in the world. It's true for a time this baby will belong to you--but only for a time. As time passes you realize the truth. You create, love, nurture, sacrifice, and give everything of yourself and hold tight, only to figure out that the point of it all from the beginning is letting go.

You have to let go to go back to work. You let go so they can take their first step. You let go on the first day of school. You let go in little ways and big ways when the time is right so that your baby will grow to live a life as full as yours. Letting go is a defining act of parenting.

When it gets hard--and even when it is joyful and easy--I remember that, and it helps me appreciate the moment, whatever it is, because it reminds me this time will pass and someday my son will have a life of his own because that is why I gave him life.

Twenty years doesn't seem like such a long time anymore when you are a mom.

So don't blink.

Thursday, January 31

January Highlights

Going for a walk with his "tay-bear."
This year has gotten off to a pretty good start. Over the past month I had fun getting to see more of Liam's budding interests and talents. He is fast becoming a little boy, interacting more with the world around him physically and verbally. He continues to develop his vocabulary and communication skills with a speed that I find fascinating. In just the past month he's gone from the occasional sentence to full sentences most of the time, and I'm constantly amazed at his vocabulary. The speed at which kids soak up new information is sometimes jaw-dropping, and is fun to watch.

Experimenting with scribbling on his LeapPad.
This month Liam showed a lot more interest in scribbling with whatever he could get his hands on. From his LeapPad to crayons to sidewalk chalk, he loves to make his mark. He is currently especially taken with sidewalk chalk--I think it's because he has complete free reign and a huge canvas to make his own. We've also had some fun with puzzles, but he is more concerned with just seeing the picture than figuring out what piece fits where. Over the past few weeks we've worked on learning colors, shapes, and numbers. He has picked up a lot, but doesn't quite have it all down pat yet.

I've noticed since Christmas his imaginative play has gotten more sophisticated, which is fun to see. For example, Curious George just has to go on a walk with us, and he has to use the potty occasionally as well. George used to belong to Daddy, but Liam has claimed him for his own. He even told me the other day that he "yuves" (loves) George. Too cute. 

Thanks to the MLK holiday, we had the chance to take a family outing to the Kidspace Museum in Pasadena for the first time. I had heard good things about it, so we made the drive over to Pasadena to check it out. It is definitely a cool space for kids, with a ton of hands-on exhibits and sensory experiences, but I think Liam is still a bit young to get a lot out of them just yet. He still had a good time, of course. Anything to do with water is always a hit with him, and he had a fun time with Daddy riding around on the little tricycles they had out for the under 5 crowd. We will definitely make another trip to Kidspace later this year.

One of the water exhibits at Kidspace Museum.

Shooting water at snare drums at the "Water Symphony" exhibit.

Around mid-January we also began attending a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. Over the past five months Liam and I have done just fine, but I've known for awhile we need more social activities. I hope to make friends with some local moms, and I want Liam to have the chance to socialize with kids other than his cousins so he will be better prepared for preschool when the time comes. MOPS came highly recommended by my old college roomie Jenn (Thanks, Jenn!), and after the first of the year I finally got around to signing us up. I had looked into some other local moms groups, but none seemed quite right for us. I guess that was a good thing, because it turns out MOPS is a great fit for us. Liam gets to play and hang out with other kids his age, and I have already met some other nice moms in our group. Until I went to our first meeting, I didn't realize just how much of a positive experience hanging out with other moms who are in a similar place in life can make. There's no doubt these gatherings are time well spent.

New moms received roses at our first MOPS group meeting.

Monday, January 14

Jumping Through Hoops

Since November I have made it my business to be familiar with the museum education job market in L.A. and apply for any jobs that match my qualifications. I put this time into research and applications, not only because it is a requirement of unemployment, but because a) I want keep current with the job market and be fully aware of what is out there, b) gaining experience and practice at navigating online resources and writing cover letters are always good skills to hone and sharpen, and c) while I am enjoying the blessing of this time I am able to see my son and grow and change everyday, when that next great opportunity surfaces I want to be ready to snatch it up and run with it. (There is already a part-time gig I am pursuing that I hope to be able to say more about in the near future.)

Given my diligence, you can imagine the dismay and annoyance I felt when I received a (rather threatening) letter from the state telling me I had been "selected" to attend a four hour employment workshop. The selections are made through the system based on profiles that meet a specific criteria, so it is not intended to be personal, but it sure feels like it. So, like the good student that I am, I reviewed the materials, arranged for a babysitter, and showed up at the appointed time and place last Friday morning.

Kent Twitchell, “Six Los Angeles Artists,” 1979 --
Mural at the Employment Development Department, TorranceCA
I have never had cause to enter an employment office (they prefer to call it a "career center") before, but I quickly figured out it's not a very cheerful place. First of all, the office staff are harried and impatient and are used to dealing with people who are rude, confused, frustrated, anxious, or all of the above, and they not very nice. Add to that atmosphere people summoned to a workshop like I was, and you have a lobby full of irritable people who feel like they are being called to the principal's office for no offense save being recently laid off by their employers. Sure, I wasn't thrilled to be there so early on a Friday morning for an extended session, but I had some coffee, a bottle of water, some snacks, and no one was constantly demanding anything from me. It was the first morning in over four months I was able to sip my coffee in peace. What mother of young children can't appreciate such a rare occurrence? 

Clearly, the other twenty-some people in the workshop with me were not looking for the silver lining in the situation. We were led in to a small, cramped conference room, and as people squeezed into chairs that were too close together, the body language was unmistakable. Most people sat with their arms folded, radiating annoyance that was compounded by the fact that the room allowed for little personal space. One woman planted her purse in the chair next to her as things got started, then refused--loudly--to remove it so an elderly woman who came in late could sit in it. This led to what must have been at least a five minute verbal scuffle, as the workshop leader tried to resolve the situation so she could get things going. She never moved her purse from the chair. It was shameful to see such behavior from a grown woman.

When the workshop at last kicked off, it was mostly of what I expected. That is, the tone was patronizing and the information was remedial. Listening to the workshop leader and watching the videos, you would think the session was designed as an orientation for a job-seeking Martian arriving on Earth for the first time. I did learn a few things, however. For instance, I learned I was selected because they target M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s because they consider highly educated people harder to employ (i.e. over-qualification). The irony of that fact is that the workshop information was so basic as to be useless for anyone with a graduate degree or doctorate. No one who has earned an advanced degree needs to be told how to write a resume or how to dress for and behave on an interview. The whole thing was clearly designed with those with little to no education, which is also a targeted demographic--and the larger one, I'm sure. During the online tutorial in the computer lab--if you can call four computers for twenty-five people a "lab"--the woman running the workshop implicitly acknowledged this point when she recruited me to help her facilitate the session ("Hey educator, go help that group"). I spent most of the computer lab time helping others learn how to navigate the CalJobs website and use the various search tools to find the types of jobs that suited their qualifications.

Even though the workshop was not helpful for someone like me, the experience did offer up a couple of memorable moments which you may find funny or sad, depending on how you look at them: 

Job services rep: "What was your job title?"
Me: "Museum educator."
Job services rep: "Pick another one. How about customer service representative?"

Fellow workshop attendee: "Oh, you work in museums?"
Me: "Yes."
Fellow workshop attendee: "Have you tried the Getty?"

Those two exchanges pretty much sum up the whole experience for me. It was definitely a long four hours.