And for once I was SuperMom

Friday, February 26, 2010

Un-American Moment

Today I caught myself doing a very un-American thing, after work I went to the grocery store and I bought an iced latte I had a longing to do nothing. Instead of jamming that latte into the gap between the emergency brake and the seat and racing home checking it doesn’t spill on the pockmarked roads I sat down and drank it. I had nothing to read, no list of things to mull over, no iphone, nothing to do, just me and a drink. I sat watching the European men in the food court at Village Market and wondered about my life’s choices. If I could rewind and choose differently would I do it exactly the same? Are we destined to pick what we pick? Could I have chosen differently? I think now what if I had dated one of these men with their splendidly sexy accent? But when I was single I wouldn’t have had the self esteem to think that they would have even looked at me. In fact I regularly got in my own way of having a regular dating life. The only reason that now I can look at these men and think that they would date is because of my increase in confidence because of the calm steady love of my husband.
What about the choices in my life that I did have, what if I had gone to Boston University? What if I had stayed in the Peace Corps? Or gone to graduate school at Fuller Seminary? Would I be married now? Would I be gallivanting across the globe? Would my name still be Lara Nicole Davis? One of my friends (who dares ask these kind of questions) asked me if I regretted having my baby. She was still only a month old and in a crying or eating or sleeping phase, so still quite stressful. I told her that you can’t let yourself think about things like that. Especially with a child, especially when they are difficult. You can’t change that, as of now I am always a mother. I can safely ask myself if I regret getting married and I think of the romance of still being able to do what I want with my life and I then I think of the loneliness of an empty bed at night. I think of Scott and how I just really like him and I think, ‘no, not at all.’ Now I think I think I can safely ask myself if I regret having a child, mostly I think, ‘well it’s too late now.’ I think in motherhood I found a completion of self. I remember looking down while I was nursing and thinking that this was why I was born, to take care of this little creature. There is something ultimately cosmic and profound about bringing another life into this world. At times I catch myself crying with the glory of it, of her. Of her little hands, of her little feet, of her sweet smile, of her jubilant little squeals. Regret is too small a word for this. I regret not having the photographer get a good shot of my hair at my wedding, that choice fits that word regret. A moment in time that I didn’t take advantage of, a moment I let slip, a word unsaid, a picture not taken, an opportunity I sat through. Those are regrets.
I look back at my life and think that if I had made one decision differently I may have ended up on a completely different course. If I had the confidence to know that boy liked me that I liked in high school liked me back, could I have married him or at least been his ill-fated girlfriend? I’d be his wife and not Scott’s. Would it have been as happy a marriage as I now have? Maybe not. Would I have ended up a mother? Yes, I think always I have been and will be a mother.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baby Stuff

I was talking to a friend who is due this week. We were discussing all manners of baby stuff. I was asking her if she had this and if she had that and did she feel like she had everything. It’s a daunting task to set up for a child. When I got married I knew what I needed for a house, dishes, and towels, pretty basic stuff. For a baby, I had no idea. I wrote my sisters in law and asked what do I really need? I mean I can navigate through some of it. Of course a baby wipe warmer is a little silly. I’m sure that bottles don’t need a special sterilizer, the dishwasher will do just fine.
I had questions like, ‘what are the best bottles?’
‘What kind of sling should I get?’
‘How many onesies do I need?’
During an overly active preparative stage during pregnancy I emailed friends and asked them what I needed. One told me it’s really your personal preference. I didn’t even know what my personal preference was, that was kind of the point of asking. Now I realize that that so much of this is not up to my personal preference, but Emma’s.
I love the idea of a sling. Strap your baby in and take them anywhere, I mean I live in Africa for pity’s sake! Emma hates them. Screams like I am giving her a titty twister (after all the nursing it would only be fair…), hates ‘em. She’d go in them as a sleepy newborn, now that she has a voice she definitely has an opinion. Emma likes to face out and look around, she loves to be held but she wants to see everything. SO the Baby Bjorn works for her, my very western baby.
Rocking chair? Delightful addition to a nursery, a lovely homey seat where you can rest your wears bones and gently rock your sweet baby to sleep. Not mine, oh no. Too easy. Emma likes to be walked to sleep when she was a wee newborn you could throw her over your shoulder and pace until she passed out. Not anymore, now she prefers to be held against your abdomen facing out. So there you are pacing, both arms feel as if they are going to fall off and you are beginning to face a black hole of doubt that says you will never get this baby to knock off. You think, ‘the nuk! Maybe the nuk will put her over the edge!’ You grab it, it is eagerly received and being aggressively sucked. But now you are holding a twelve pound baby at navel level with one dead arm and holding the pacifier in the baby’s mouth with the other. This situation lasts about ten seconds. You think, ‘The Rocking Chair! Sweet respite!’ You slowly sashay forward to the chair looking forward to the sweet rock. You carefully begin to bend and ease yourself back. And the second your butt hits the edge of the seat? Screaming. I tell myself that she’s just helping me loose the baby weight. I have a quick discussion with Emma about she can’t have both, so the pacifier gets tossed aside and I am back to pacing.
Oh and she only prefers the pacifiers that have the orthodontic shape, everything else gets politely spit back out. And all the fun sparkly toys we got, her favorite things are the used mirror and plastic rings that we got from friends.
So in all the preparation you can do and all the things you can buy you’ll never know till you get the kid. Most likely they will like the cheapest things. Take everything people offer or give you, and then pass on what you don't want.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love is a battlefield

So while living in Colorado Scott and I were watching a bunch of our friends go on a diet, one of these ones where you eat six small meals a day. We snickered as we witnessed the demise of their good intentions. We talked about longevity of a 'diet' and that we need to make daily choices rather than fit a food regimen. We jokingly devised our own 'diet:'
1. Don't eat anything with a cartoon character on the package.
2. Don't eat anything with more than two unpronounceable ingredients.
3. No monochromatic meals
4. Nothing that comes in it's own individually wrapped serving.
5. Nothing that needs to be put in a sleeve to be microwaved.
Looking at the tub of frosting that I treated myself to the other day, the only ingredient that was pronounceable in the whole list of ingredients was 'sugar.' I realized that in returning to the US I was going to have to start thinking about these things again. That I was going to have to start to taking action and thought into maintaining my weight and providing a healthy environment for my daughter. We're pretty good at being active but diet gets harder when everything has corn syrup and some kind of diglyceride in it.
Going back to the states I realize that there are so many cultural battles that I will have to fight. Here there are so many aspects of life that I don't understand and the battles are ones that I don't even know where to begin; corrupt government, crushing poverty, prevalent negative crushing attitudes towards women, etc. At home I know the battles; materialism, obesity, busy-ness, isolation from community, media, prevalent negative attitudes towards women. I know some ways to fight them and I know that I am going to have to get creative to make these battles last into victories. But I know and understand the context of America, I know how, I know what works. In Kenya I still have no clue.
Now being a mother complicated all these things. I have to raise a daughter in a country that tells her that being fat or even a little curvy will cause social pariah-hood. If she's built like me this is a battle that may continue all her life, unless, maybe, I can pave the way for her to feel beautiful no matter what. I have to show her the balance between health and happiness. I have to fight some of these battles for her, and others I cannot. Turns out that to love your child is a kind of battlefield...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy V-Day!

I usually am not one for the holidays. Really of any kind. Okay, I like Thanksgiving, nothing wrong with remembering to be thankful over a grotesquely large meail. Christmas is great, but the commercialization makes me ill. There are certain things I don't like about holidays. Holiday specific clothing for one. Why would I buy a a sweater that I can only wear for three weeks of the year? Have you ever seen a Christmas sweater where you thought, 'Yes, that was a good fashion choice.' I bet you haven't. I pointedly do not wear green on St. Patrick's Day. Whenever I think of people who truly enjoy holidays and all their trappings I usually picture an overly rouged woman, in a red jumper with heart antennae on her head bopping around an office or school with a glittery heart wand wishing everyone a 'Happy LOOOOOOVE Day!'
Sometimes I would wear black on Valentine's Day. Just because. Of all the minor holidays this one is a good one to hate, especially if your single. I get that, I respect that. I spent a lot of Valentine's Days hoping that a mysterious bouquet of flowers would show up. When it didn't I would claim that this was a stupid holiday only created by Hallmark. Which it probably is.
Now that I am happily married and have a child some of the bitterness has worn off and I can appreciate a reason to go out to dinner with my husband. What do I do for my baby though? What kind of cute thing can I do that won't make me feel like a total tool? I like to cook, seasonally appropriate baking! Maybe that can be my thing, I can make cookies and cupcakes according to the season! I can do that, it's food so it's not completely Martha useless.
Our friends, Jill and Nate, just had a baby, and we're on the list to take them dinner tonight. Like me Jill likes to bake, she'll appreciate Valentine's Day cookies. So off I to Nakumatt to buy all the things I need. The only cookie cutter they had in the shape of a heart was roughly the size of Emma's head, I snatched it up because largely I was just glad they had one. I got the appropriate red food color and treated myself to a tub of Betty Crocker frosting (costs about four bucks, so we usually don't buy it). I make my dough last night and per the instructions refridgerate it all night long.
This morning I whip it out eagerly, hard as a rock. Dang. I followed the instructions, I swear. So I left it out near the cooker for several hours until it was once again pliable. I happily rolled it out and cut away. Everything baked up great, now to frost. THis is usually the part of the process where I remember that sugar cookies are the more labor intensive of the cookie family. I had bought 'butter cream' (nowhere in the ingredients does the word butter appear) and realised that this would make the cookies stick together in transit and soon I would have a gooey tower or meteor of cookie-ness, rather than delightful heart shaped cookies. I opted for the icing sugar and milk route. The only available bottle of red food coloring did not have a convenient dropper spout. Only the recent past have I become okay with the color pink. I wouldn't wear it at all from about age ten to about three years ago. I still don't really gravitate towards it. I surprised everyone by selecting pink as one of the colors for Emma's nursery. Only as an accent though, and light pink I still can't do hot pink. I had forgotten in my selection of color that usually red food coloring and white powdered sugar make pink. I tipped the food coloring bottle carefully over the side of the bowl...BLURP! Hot pink frosting. I was too scared to make red because I didn't want it to look like the Texas Chainsaw Cookie Massacre. I started to carefully spread this hot pink concoction on the huge heart cookies. Emma was in the Baby Bjorn attached to my front, this was prime time to coo and bat at my knife. I never make enough frosting. So three batches of frosting later, in varying shades of pink and the last batch with too much milk and the last of the sugar so it was runny and violently pink, I was done. There they are the actual cookies well cut out and nicely shaped, the frosting, almost disastrous. Maybe I'll get better next year......

Friday, February 12, 2010

Working in Africa

What is it like teaching in Africa?
First I teach in a strange school. Rosslyn is an international Christian school. The students are largely missionary kids, embassy kids, or upper class Africans. We have 44 nationalities represented. Every time I get a roll sheet I have no idea what gender half the students are, much less how to pronounce their names. I have turned the initial attendance call into a joke, to take the pressure off the poor kids who are sitting there with clenched shoulders waiting for this new white lady with a fat consonant squashing American accent mis-pronounce their name. The students are phenomenally well behaved. They come into my class and know exactly what to do and get started without prompting. Most are motivated by grades, so even in a class like mine where they think Art may not count for nothin' at least they want a good grade, so to keep their GPA. The worst behavioral problem I have is cell phones going off in class.
Most African schools lack funding, teachers are teaching off dirt or cement floors and are lucky if their compound gets water or electricity. Resources are scarce and usually gained through prayer rather than a budget. At Rosslyn I was handed what I thought to be a fat budget to order supplies from the US. I haven't been able to spend the whole sum either year. I tried pretty hard though...
My classroom is huge with big picture windows. I had the main wall painted a deep orange, the tables are aqua, I had aqua curtains made, and am attempting to achieve some kind of color harmony in the room. While I love my room there are drawbacks. It is always covered in a light film of red dust. No matter how much I wipe it's always there. So there I am in my business dress casual hacking through layers dirt, up on stools getting supplies and bending down to pick up the leftovers of my students always with marks on the knees of my dress pants. I have begun to make my 6th grade boys clean, in the vein of, 'it's not that fun to do a quick job on your art and finish first.' No free draw, you wipe counters.
My class is on the third floor. Now somehow pumping water up to my class is an almost impossible task. About once a day a student looks at me and says, 'Mrs. Barnett the water is finished.' One of my faucets makes this horrible sucking noise, it will often go off on a face-melting solo right in the middle of lecture. I think it knows....
Then there is the vermin. Lord have mercy on me, there is the vermin. My classroom last year was infected with three inch long fuzzy brown spiders that apparently had a poisonous necrofying bite. I would find about one a day. That classroom had a wall of floor to ceiling cabinets. The spiders loved these cabinets. I HATE spiders. I can handle mice, geckos, large bugs, bears, (that's right Colbert, I said BEARS, I'm not afraid) almost anything the great outdoors has to throw at me. I HATE spiders. I usually approached each cabinet door from the side and stomped loudly with my feet. They hated that. Each opening of a drawer was a breathe holding moment of fear. My classroom was next to the music room, which was never occupied, which was next to the teacher's lounge, it was like my own private hallway. This was a corridor of vermin. Dead rats, gigantic spiders, geckos. Geckos are the worst, because they are completely harmless but are wiggly and scare the crap out of you. You jump and scream and then realized you wasted all that energy on a harmless lizard. Once I even responded, 'oh, I'm not afraid of you.' Then I stomped at it. Geckos do poop. They leave their little droppings allover my classroom and house. Looks like rat poop. Uch.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Case of the Mondays

Monday was my first day back at work. The night before I went to bed in full denial of the day. People kept asking me how I felt and you know I just wasn’t thinking about it. I could get all stressed out about it, will I have time to shower, between watching Emma and feeding, will she nap in the morning? Will she take an hour to go down and I won’t have time to do anything else? I decided to not think and just take whatever came, just one foot in front of the other, like I have done so many other things in my life.
Emma woke us up at 3am that night, and then again at 8:30am. I didn’t have time to get my morning run, but I did shower and eat. At ten I kissed everyone goodbye and I was off.
My room had been left clean. I spent large portions of the day putting away stuff in the RIGHT PLACE. Each class started with,
“What did she teach you?”
And because they are good kids I got honest answers and knew where to go. At the beginning of last year walking into class without concrete plans would have scared the pants off me. I did spend lots of time last semester making plans, overheads, questions sheets, so I had stuff.
The bell rang at 3:30, I was in my car by 3:33pm. I hadn’t thought about Emma much of the day. Mostly because her daddy is a competent man and I am very good at compartmentalizing my life. I drove my bumpy commute home, I felt sophisticated and successful, maybe I can have it all. Maybe you can be a fabulous working mom.
I kicked off my shoes in a silent hallway, and walked into a living room with just my husband. I sat next to him and eagerly listened to him recount the day. She slept! She ate (Two bottles! I’m going to have to pump more….)! She held her rattle! She woke up shortly after I heard all the stories. The smiles and baby pre-giggles I got were ah-mazing. I spent the next two hours playing with her, which now consists of making faces at her and turning myself inside out to get her to smile. I happily took the forty minutes it takes now to rock her to sleep, I may have held her a little longer than I needed…