Monday, December 31, 2007

Dear 2007

Dear 2007,

Don't let the door hit your bony ass on your way out.

The Engels


Dear 2008,

Bring your round, sexy, glorious self in here. That's right. Get comfortable and stay a while.

The Engels

P.S.-- We need a new President.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Josh and I were both raised by single mothers. Josh eventually got the best stepfather of all time (the "step" was abandoned many, many years ago), but essentially our mothers were on their own for the tough times. And I swear to God, I don't know how they did it.

We have, by all accounts, a reasonably easy child. Teachers and other parents all comment on how lucky we are to have a kid who can just roll. He has an easy laugh and warms to people rather quickly. Dash has good manners and isn't a biter (I know I will be punished for putting this in writing). But today he almost broke us. I was crying by six p.m., and I'm pretty sure Josh was seriously questioning his choice of wife and child (I know you don't choose your child, but sometimes it feels like you chose wrong anyway).

I eventually--after walking into our bedroom and seeing a child and surrounding white carpet covered in body lotion; after trying to go up and then back down an escalator with an insane and tantrum-ing child in tow; after giving him a bit of bliss on the mechanical cars at the mall only to be rewarded with wailing and clawing when it was time to go; after making a special trip to the grocery store to pick up something delicious for his dinner following such a trying day, only to have it spit back out at me--gave up and closed myself in the office for a few minutes so I wouldn't beat him with a wire hanger. I knew it would be ok to take a breath because Josh was there to be rational and wait out my little fit. Our mothers didn't have that luxury and I just cannot fathom how they did it.

Thanks, Moms, for not beating us senseless, as I'm sure we deserved. Thanks for setting the example that we strive to match, despite the fact that we are two and you were just one. You shame us into being better parents.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best. Christmas. Ever.

merry, merry

a walk around the neighborhood

Christmas Eve in front of the fire

Santa's gifts

were a hit

Baba, Gamma & Gampa came over for Christmas breakfast and more presents

it was a little excessive

a good day

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Glorious Excess

A walk around our neighborhood three days before Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2007


Well, really now. I am not one to start going on about my good fortune. I am, after all, a Russian immigrant and terribly superstitious. I don't like to invite fate or irony by proclaiming how very lucky I am.

But. But yesterday I was very, very lucky.

When I got home from work last night, late and tired and worried about the rain and what it seems to be doing to our drywall, I found a package on the porch. Look, just look, what was in it:

When I pulled this stocking out I literally started to weep. It is the softest, most beautiful thing you can imagine. There's something about the smell and the heft of it, too, that is so incredibly comforting. Even Josh caught his breath when he came home and saw it.

And, as if the stocking wasn't one thousand times more than enough, it was filled with an embarrassment of thoughtful riches. (There was a Santa toy in here, too, but the baby absconded with it before I had a chance to pull out the camera). There are lollies and cakes and cookies and teas and soaps and a candle and ornament and So. Much. Chocolate. (I gave Dash a piece of orange-flavored chocolate last night and when he woke up this morning he went running over to the table to demand more. At 6am! I must stop giving him candy.)

Thank you, Marianne. Thanks for the beautiful letter and the amazing gifts and for the love you shared with a stranger this Christmas. I hope it is repaid to you a million fold. And I pray my package (which pales so desperately in comparison) gets to you before Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fear and Loathing in the North Pole

As was evident from the picture below, Dash hated Santa. Trying to get him onto Santa's lap was like trying to get a cat into a cat carrier--he was less baby than pure muscle and will working together at anything OTHER THAN SANTA. I literally had to set him down and run and hope that he wouldn't roll right off St. Nick's jolly old lap.

When we got home with the pictures (there were two--one with the baby screaming, hand in mouth and one with baby screaming, hand out of mouth) I set one on the shelf in the entry. Moments later, when Dash spied it, there was teary begging, "no Santa mama, Cookie Monster." (I think he says Cookie Monster when he means monster, which in turn means scary. Goddamn that's a cute effing kid.) I had to stow the Santa pictures in a drawer and when I pulled them out to show his grandparents or Aunty, there was more crying.

Until. Until my mother came over with a picture of another baby on Santa's lap (her best friend's granddaughter). Dash took one look at the picture and became obsessed. He needed to own that picture so much that when my mother tried to take it out of his hands for a quick glance she was met with an indignant, "no Baba...Dashy's Santa!" He carried that picture around for two days until it disintegrated. Then another Christmas card came in the mail. This one had the Extra! Added! Bonus! of the three loves of his life, Masie, Mackenna & Hayden, on Santa's lap. So you can imagine what that card looks like now.

Thusly inspired, I picked up a teensy little copy of The Night Before Christmas for the baby who again professed his love for all things Santa and carried it around for ten hours. WTF? I wonder what would happen if I tried to take him back to see Santa again now (I won't, but I wonder.) I bet he would be just as terrified.

I love cows and dream of hugging their necks and smooching their soft, wet noses. Except the only time I have ever come within 20 feet of a cow (in a pasture in England where I imagine these types of interactions are common) I nearly passed out from fright and made as fast a getaway as I could manage. It's probably like that for Dash and Santa, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Who the fuck stole my baby and replaced him with this boy?

Santa 2007

It went slightly less well this year than last.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

News You Can Use

* Josh found a YouTube clip of Earl Scruggs & Steve Martin playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on Letterman and played it for the baby, who promptly lost his mind and started wagging his bottom and pumping his fists in the air. Serious. This child loves the banjo. What he didn't know was that his very own father also plays the banjo. Not as well as Earl Scruggs--but really, who does? Anyway, Josh broke the thing out for the first time in a year and started plucking out a tune. I'm pretty sure Dash now thinks his father is God. Also, every time I sit down at the computer Dash storms in and demands, "Daddy mango!"

* The baby lies about poops. He'll walk past you and you'll know there's a poop in there because you won't be able to see through the thick green fog that surrounds him and his deuces (dice?). So you'll ask, just for kicks, "Dash, do you have a poopy?" And the child will look you square in the eye and say, "No." Which is bad, but not as bad as when you've got him on the changing table, diaper off, poop exposed, and you ask again, "Dash, is this a poopy?" And he answers again, this time barely stifling his laughter at your gullibility, "Nope."

* But! Remember that potty I bought him to save $2.36 on shipping from Target? He found it in the coat closet and now he carries it from room to room. It is his most favorite toy and I think he considers it his throne. Which is awesome except I can't wait to see his face when I suggest he starts shitting in it.

* Unrelated but important to know: Journey never made a bad song.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


The lovely, witty, talented and skilled baby-namer Tonya challenged me to Reveal My Dream. I've been thinking pretty hard about it for two days now, and, although I reserve the right to come back and add a Rolex and these shoes:

I'll start more broadly.

The biggest block between me and living my best life is worry. If I could stop worrying long enough to actually enjoy what I have, I would truly be living my dream. I don't need a million dollars or the apartment in Paris. I want all the things I already have. I just want to stop worrying about them.

I dream of a time when I can stop worrying that there will never be enough money. Not extra. Not so much that we need to start worrying about where to keep it all. Just enough that going out to dinner once a week stops being a pipe dream. Enough that I can pay all the bills at once. Enough that we can start to imagine a time when we're out of debt.

I dream of a time when I feel confident about how we're raising Dash. I want to know that he's getting the right education. That he's eating enough leafy greens. That he feels safe and loved every minute of every day. I want to know that the way I respond to him when he's being a pain in the ass is as right as how I respond to him when he's being angelic. I want to stop worrying that we're wasting his potential.

I dream of a time when I can walk past a smudge on the floor or a spot of dust on the dresser and not have to go back to clean it up. I am so terrified of the housework getting away from me that I can't stop cleaning. I was warned during my pregnancy that if I didn't instill a sense of order right away, chaos would reign forever. And I believed it. Too much. So much that it keeps me awake some nights.

So that's my dream. To live my same life, but with less worry. Now that I've confessed, said my dream out loud, maybe the universe and I can start taking baby steps to help me get there.

Thanks, Tonya!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Part the Second

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. I start thinking about it around the middle of August and am pretty much fed up only around January 1. That's nearly five months of me planning and orchestrating and, well, just dreaming about Christmas.

It's only just recently occurred to me that I was suffering a touch of postpartum depression last year this time. I was in complete and utter denial at the time, but when I compare the glee I feel right now to the desperate, unnameable sadness I felt last year, it's obvious. A little scary to contemplate, but we're through it now and I have yet another reason to celebrate and feel grateful for the multitude of blessings in this house.

Last night we had Dash's Aunty over and we went out to Get the Tree. We bought a lovely, manageable-sized one from a lot nearby that grows them mere yards away. After a dinner of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, we got to work decorating. We stuck to unbreakable ornaments this year, so the tree looks a touch spare and a little like a toy shop, but I have to admit I think it's my favorite ever.

We don't trust Dash or the cats enough to keep the presents under the tree, so I shoved his toy baskets under there so it didn't look so very bah humbug.

Uncle Santa

Josh's most favorite ornament

I made the Christmas village this year, the stockings, last.

They're unfinished bird houses from the craft store that I tarted up. Dash has a barber shop & I have a bakery.

Josh drilled holes into the bottoms so I could put lights in. They're extra-adorable when they're lit up, but we don't have a tripod so I can't photograph them in the dark.

The cabin has a Christmas tree inside and a flickering light to look like a fire in the fireplace. The grocery store is "Papa J's."

You can almost see the clothesline I made with teensy clothespins and felt mittens and socks. 1/18 (the address under the wreath) is Dash's birthday. I am unbearably twee.

$5 paper garland from Target decorates the valance.

Birdcage is full of ornaments and the pine cones have been elevated on sterling pedestals.

What we wish you this Christmas season and all year round.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Sometimes, getting bad news that isn't the worst news brings into sharp focus how blessed we really are.

It's been a year of near misses for us and ours. Josh's mom, Dash's beloved Gamma, found she had stage one breast cancer and got a double mastectomy. Just yesterday we learned she was cancer-free and would not have to endure chemo.

My mother, Dash's adored Baba, had knee replacement surgery that eventually resulted in a blood infection so severe that she was hospitalized multiple times until the doctors were able to figure out what was wrong with her. While she was undergoing test after test they found lesions on her spine. I just got the call moments ago that it's mild arthritis rather than cancer. The tears of relief won't stop coming.

Even I had a little scare with some skin cancer that was caught early and removed quickly.

So you see, a bunch of bad news that was actually good news because everything could have been so much worse.

I don't forget to be thankful in my everyday life. I honestly don't. Our struggles to have Dash have left a permanent well of gratitude in my heart. And I recognize how rare and beautiful it is to have a partner who you adore and makes you laugh. How unlikely it is to have a life full of friends and family and teachers who love your child as if he were theirs. How incredible it is to live in a house that you love in a place where you feel safe. I really, honestly remember to be grateful every day for the blessings that are rained down on our heads. But some days, when you are bracing for bad news that doesn't come, the gratitude moves your feet so you feel like dancing. That's how we all feel right now. And, serendipitously, we get to say it out loud on Thursday--on the very day that's carved out for the sole purpose of gratitude. Now truly, what could be more lovely than that?

I hope, hope, hope, that you get to be grateful (but in a much less dramatic way than we) for all the blessings that rain down on your heads, too.

Just Click This


Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Thanks

More of what will be on the table the Thursday after next:

I printed these favor boxes from Martha here. They're a bit of a pain in the ass to assemble, but once you're rolling they go fairly quickly. I filled them with fall-colored Hershey's Kisses.

I was inspired to tart up these plain old cloth napkins by MollyCoddle. I just cut one apple and one pear in half, spread on fabric paint with a foam brush & stamped to my heart's content (we're having 10 for dinner, so I did five of each). I let them dry for a few hours and then ironed them to set the paint.

I love them more than a normal amount.

Friday, November 09, 2007


This is my first year hosting Thanksgiving for the entire family and I am vibrating with the pleasure of planning the menu and decorations and new traditions I want to introduce.

So far we've got this:

"thanks" garlands in French, Italian & Russian strung up in doorways and over valances
give thanks

phonetic translation of thanks in Hebrew, spelled out with Martha's alphabet flashcards

corn husk couple

cat painting by Baba (for which I am truly thankful)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No, Mama

We are trying to make Dash into the kind of person we would want to hang out with. This, obviously, involves an introduction to the Beatles. He loves "Yellow Submarine" so much that he starts demanding "again" before we're even halfway through. Tonight, after our 50th audience, I couldn't hold it in and started--quietly, ever so quietly--whispering along. Dash turned around to see what insanity was developing in such close proximity to him, placed one teensy finger to my lips and said, "no, Mama."

Well then.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I wasn't even going to comment on this newest wave of infection sweeping through the Engel residence. I mean, yes, we get it: it's near Winter and kids get sick. But c'mon now.

First I get the call on Friday afternoon from daycare that he's doing the seal bark and wheezing. They think it's Croup. (Which, the fuck? Croup? Is it 1812? I thought Croup was eradicated with consumption and the vapors?) Except by the time we get to urgent care the cough has evolved into a more mucous-y hack and a bright red rash has cropped up on his cheeks. Also: fever. So, not Croup but Fifth disease. Cool, we can deal with Fifth disease. Just a little baby Tylenol for the fever and lots of love and slices of apples from Mama.

Cut to Monday morning when he wakes up with a subtle pink sheen under his left eye. I honestly thought I had caused it when I wiped a bit of sleep from his lashes (all you mystery buffs will recognize that as foreshadowing). By 1pm the gloop was so thick he could hardly see out of that eye. By the time we left urgent care (second time in five days, folks!) and got his eye drop prescription filled, the pinkeye had migrated into the second eye.

Meanwhile, the original infirmity rages on! His cough is so loose I keep thinking he's going to choke on his own phlegm! His nose is so crusty with boogers that he has to take breaks from drinking his milk in order to breathe.

OK, it's out of my system now. I promise to let all future Winter 2007 ailments pass without comment.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Noah's Ark

Although sometimes I get sad that we don't have a creek running through our backyard or that Dash's walk to school won't be through the woods, there are some things about living in a big city that just plain rock. Take, for example, our recent visit to the Skirball Center's Noah's Ark exhibit.

the calm before the storm (the zebra's rump was a painted swamp cooler and its mane was made of piano keys)

is it braggy to mention that he knew this was a camel?

the rain begins

quick! load the animals onto the ark (two by two!)

the Ark and its inhabitants: rope elephant, macaroni porcupine & violin case crocodile

someone has to clean up after all of those beasts

time for a drum circle break

though Dash mainly wanted to eat pretzels

even Baba got her groove

Dash decided he would collect all of the red noisemakers, which was a good plan in theory

just like in the story, it ended with a rainbow and lunch at the Getty down the road