10 moments in January

Hello 2022! Leoneli and I kicked off New Year’s Day with a sunset walk by the water. In addition to a new year, the other big change in January: I am officially on maternity leave (!!!). I went back to work when Leonel was 6 weeks old which was just as horrendous as it sounds. I finally qualified for parental leave (Note to Self: Don’t change jobs when pregnant and/or let’s change our parental support system so women don’t have to negotiate pregnancy timing with job searches…but that is a rant for another day). ANYWAY, I have twelve weeks of leave and go back to work at the end of March. I’m really grateful to start the year with more time with this cheeky baby. Here’s some other moments from the month to remember:

First Shabbat! Our first Shabbat in our new house, and first Shabbat of the year. There’s a lot we need to do to the home, but it felt really nice to finally be here together. AND-Leoneli is now in a high chair at the table!

Almanac: My COVID fears ratcheted back up this winter thanks to Omicron, so we didn’t see too many people. But it was really nice to spend an evening at Almanac with friends.

Diego’s first time ice skating: The Little Ice Rink in Alameda was a perfect ice skating introduction for Diego. I wasn’t sure if he would enjoy it but he was so determined with that dolphin and only left the rink when they kicked everyone off for the Zamboni.

Walks by the water: The extra time with Leonel is a treasure, and wrapping him up in the ergo for walks by the water is my favorite part of the day. I’m trying so hard not to get weepy already thinking about how this time is limited and soon enough he’ll be at daycare and I’ll be back to work. Really trying to enjoy it all and soak up these moments.

Gott’s seaside! Diego’s school has had a lot of random days off. Normally, this sends us into a panic, but thankfully, with me home, we’ve been able to hangout. My new favorite thing is walking to the Ferry and getting cheeseburgers at Gott’s at the SF Ferry Building. A very special treat.

Evening in SF: David and the kids went to Stockton one weekend and I enjoyed a solo weekend at home. I haven’t been apart from both of the kids since Labor Day, and I realized how much I needed some quiet time alone. I took the ferry to the city and biked along the Embarcadero. In nearly two years, because of….all the things…I haven’t traveled or really done….anything alone. I was surprised how invigorated I felt in the city, exploring at my own pace, lost in my own thoughts.

Reading and thinking: I’ve had more time for reading and thinking than I’ve had in a long time. January was a BRUTAL month for parents with young, unvaccinated kids. I read a lot of tipping point articles, and feel a rage inside me at how hideous this pandemic is for parents. I’ve also been thinking a lot about parenting, working, caring, all of it. Haven’t really sorted anything out, but man, its been an intense few years. Reading Nighbitch by Rachel Yoder and Out of Office by Anne Helen Peterson, back to back, definitely stirred up some working mother angst!

Nature Walks: Diego’s class is currently going DEEP into studying owls. Everything is about owls. Did you know that owls have 14 vertebrae in their neck so they can swivel, where we only have 7? Hang out with us for five minutes and you’ll learn all about Barn, Burrowing, Snowy owls and MORE. We took some nature walks to Redwood Regional and Samuel Taylor Park and didn’t see any owls but did get to hear a lot of “I’m so tired” from a certain four year old :)

Cheeseburgers: Always a highlight. We tried Lovelys in Oakland it was delicious.

Soccer! One of the parents in Diego’s class organized a Saturday morning soccer pod at Bladium. He loves it! With January’s intensity it was nice to have an outlet for him on the weekends to run around with friends.

Katie’s book at East Bay Booksellers! Leoneli and I were strolling around Rockridge when I saw Katie’s book in the window of my favorite bookstore! It was thrilling! Its been a big winter of Webber-Tsang reading at our house. David and Diego started the Sam Wu series and I devoured Katie’s gorgeous latest book, The Revelry.

Ruth Bancroft Gardens: I’ve been using the Discover and Go tickets from the library for tickets to local museums. I’ve always wanted to see the Ruth Bancroft succulent gardens and it was stunning. Equally enjoyable, the volunteer gardeners were eager to talk to anyone, and I was happy to listen. Observing their love for the garden and fascination at the way each plant is placed, how it changes, what it means, was a true delight.

Heather McMahan! Janou and I got tickets to her show in SF and she was AMAZING. Honestly, she could have been terrible and it would have still been a thrilling experience-being at a show! Out at night!-but her storytelling is incredible. The way she spoke about grief and loss, with HUMOR, was incredible.

Alameda Point Waterfront Park: A new park opened up on the water in January and its been another happy spot to enjoy the sunsets :)

10 moments in December

Catching up on memories from this winter! Looking back, I feel like we lived five lives in December. It was a full month, cramming some big life changes into an already busy season. Here’s some memories:

Hunkering down: Definitely not a pleasant memory, but a big part of December. Strep throat/pink eye/colds absolutely walloped us. It was an awful few weeks, but this little tea party was pretty cute.

Abu time: Thankfully, my mom happened to be in town during the viral fog and stayed with us for a weekend. Our apartment was a mess, we were a mess, and she didn’t bat an eye and just jumped in to cuddle the babies and make it all a bit better. So grateful.

Camp Dewberry: Eventually, the kids and I got better and we flew down to Camp Dewberry for Early Christmas. Diego and my dad played many, many rounds of chess :)

All together! And then David got better and flew down to join us! Diego insisted on a selfie of the four of us.

Babysitters! We were never great about finding reliable babysitters pre-COVID, and now, in pandemic world with a new baby, we haven’t even tried. SO, when we were in Irvine, with the kids in Abu and Saba’s wonderful care, we were able to go away for one night by the water. It rained the whole time (and now, as we’re on week 6 of no rain, I’m desperately wishing it would rain again) but it was still beautiful and a very nice parenting break.

Early Christmas! Janou, Max and Will drove over on December 23 and we all got to celebrate Christmas together. We haven’t been able to do that in several years and so finally being together WITH two new babies felt so special.

Rainbow onesies :)

Karaoke Christmas! We flew back up to Stockton on Christmas Eve for Silvia’s delicious Christmas Eve dinner. Diego stayed up until 10:30 backup dancing for each karaoke song, absolutely determined not to miss a moment.

Moving Day: And then, just three days after Christmas, we moved. NOTE TO SELF: I do not recommend this. The phrase “moving during the holidays” suggests a stressful experience and-it absolutely is! We closed on a townhouse in Alameda at the beginning of December, and, knowing the move would be stressful no matter what, decided to just push through and do it. It all worked out but–oof! It was a lot. Here’s Diego and I the day after Christmas, walking to Cole Hardware to rent a power cleaner for our sofa and buy a new vacuum. At the time I thought, this is the last time we’ll be SO close to so many shops and restaurants that I can literally lug my child and major appliances in my stroller. Rockridge was a special place and I do miss the incredible convenience.

But these guys are pretty excited about the new place :) It’s hilarious to hear Diego say, “I live in Alameda now,” with such conviction. For all my nerves about anything related to change, I’m grateful that this transition has been pretty smooth.

Getting to know the neighborhood: When we found the house, we knew it was close-ish to the water, but couldn’t quite understand how close on Google maps. After we moved in, it was a great surprise to find out we are a short walk to Encinal Beach and its stunning water and city views.

And, since my favorite thing in the world is sandwiches at the beach, it was doubly exciting to find this darling Italian deli, also a short walk from home. Also, hello, Diego the Middle School Years-what an expression!

Paris New Years Eve: The Dillons had a New Years Eve party where we toasted to New Years in London, Paris, and the Azores before it was officially too late for us to be out (ala 7 pm). I neglected to take any pictures, but do love this one of Diego and Isla ringing in the New Year in a ball pit.

Glad to get those moments off my phone an on to something a little more permanent :)

Never Pick the Playlist

Here’s the funny thing about a C-section: the anesthesiologist becomes your confidant.

I should clarify: the funny, unexpected thing about a scheduled C-section is that the anesthesiologist becomes your confidant. And, in our case, also our doula, friend, videographer, and the person who brought us Leonel’s name.

Diego’s delivery was an urgent C-section, and thankfully, David’s aunt was the lead nurse. I completely relied on her patient and wise guidance throughout the process.

With Leonel, I walked (walked!!!) into the OR. Seeing the familiar sterile white room and bright lights, I felt a wave of calm anticipation. This was my third trip to a Kaiser OR in 15 months, and this time, the occasion was one of joy. I scooted onto the OR table, and as the first anesthesiologist prepped me, we chatted about our children. He looked like he was maybe my age (or maybe younger? This keeps happeningI’ll think someone is my age, and it turns out, they’re like, 27. The hubris). Anyway, I told him the one thing we weren’t ready for with this child: we couldn’t think of a name.

It wasn’t even that we couldn’t agree on a name. We literally had no names. Nothing stuck.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “With my first, we changed his name after we got his birth certificate, and with my second, we left the hospital without a name.”

Huge relief. If it took us some time to think of a name, that would be fine. Nothing to worry about. Just focus on having a baby.

Eventually, it was almost go time and another anesthesiologist took over. We chatted about his band and then he said, “Ok! You pick. What music should we play?”

As if picking a name wasn’t hard enough! I can’t handle the pressure of picking a playlist for a car ride, let alone deciding the music that would accompany my son’s entrance to the world.

“I’m sorry,” I said gesturing at my body, “this is kind of all I can think about. I can’t chose the music.” What I thought was: whatever you all need to do this surgery well-play that. For my breast reconstruction the previous fall, the playlist was 90s R&B. For my double mastectomy last spring, I vaguely remember classical music.

The anesthesiologist shrugged and smiled. “No worries, everyone likes Motown. Let’s do that.” And, within moments, David entered the operating room, Smokey Robinson’s Oooh Baby Baby echoed from the speakers, and I could not stop smiling.

As I locked eyes with David, with music booming around us, and the knowledge that we were so close to meeting our baby, I was in a rhapsody that carried on throughout the delivery.

At one point, we started talking about names, and what our grandmother’s thought of them. Thinking of my grandmother in Argentina made me think of Lionel Messi. For most people, an association with Argentina and Messi is perfectly normal. However, I know very, very little about soccer. I only think about it when I happen to see it on TV.

However. Every night, when Diego goes to sleep, he listens to a Moshi story. It’s an app, with a bank of meditative stories to help with sleep. And for months, Diego has listened to the same story. We’ve heard it hundreds of times. It’s about a little soccer player called Dribbles, and his opponent, MoshMessio (a nod to Messi).

SO. In a span of a nanosecond, likely due to bedtime story subliminal messaging, my brain went: Grandmother – Argentina – Messi – Lionel.

Leonel. Just as I was about to open my mouth to say

“What do you think about the name Leonel?” David asked.

My jaw dropped. “You’re joking. I was JUST about to suggest that.”

Grinning, David and I just stared at each other, shocked with relief. It just felt so right. And after a year and a half of walking on pins and needles, of navigating the pain of my breast cancer diagnosis, and then my miraculous pregnancy, and all the joy and anxiety wrapped up in thatto have something that just felt right, that felt spontaneous and and jubilantfelt so good.

“But wait, how? How did you think of Leonel?” I asked David.

“The playlist,” he said, pointing at Pandora on the computer screen in the OR. “There’s a Lionel Ritchie song coming up. It made me think we could do something similar, like Leonel.”

Little Leonel. And when they placed him on my chest, moments after this, I couldn’t stop whispering, Leonel, Leonel, you’re here, you’re here.

The sweet relief. And to make it even better? We have incredible photos and video to remember it all. Our anesthesiologist jumped into action, taking David’s phone and documenting the first moments.

Of course, once we were home, I looked up this wonderful doctor to learn more about him. Usually these bios are very formulaic, but his includes a meditation on the beauty of helping mothers with pain relief. He writes: “The anesthetist’s role in the relief of pain offers tremendous rewards; there are few activities in life more fulfilling than relieving another person’s pain.” What this doctor didn’t know was the painful road we’d been on prior to that operating room. How consumed I’d been with wondering if that moment of holding Leonel would ever happen. And how instantly that fear’s energy transformed into bliss as we relaxed, listened to Motown, and held our sweet baby.

So thank you, Dr. H, for truly the best playlist.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale —an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “A Name”