And for once I was SuperMom

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hunting for Easter Eggs

It occurred to me the other day that celebrating Easter has become more of a memory for me rather than a yearly ritual. A few years back I attended a service at my church and then because the person I gave a ride to the service was going to a 'dinner' that an elderly couple puts on for people at my church that had nowhere to go. Now being defined as someone who has nowhere to go is awkward enough, let's just the 'dinner' was even more so, an ill-placed well meaning kindness by an elderly couple that only served to make it worse. I think this was the last time I did anything for Easter.
For awhile my mom abandoned going to church on Easter because she felt like it was a fashion show for all the people who don't come to church all year long. She didn't want to deal with the crowds and the posturing. I do respect that choice, sometimes we would highlight at another church where we could just enjoy the service without the pressure of looking good. But it did make one feel a little lost, because on a day full of meaning you do crave the familiar.
Why is this? This is the one day that really sets the Christian religion apart from others, the one holiday where our Lord rose from the dead. And all we can do is an awkward ramshackle dinner?
My best memories from Easter celebrations are as a child. I have memories of running through my Nana's backyard (a place full of treasures like bird feeders and antique glass) collecting plastic eggs filled with chocolate and placing them in a basket that I clutched with eagerness. Or coming down the stairs in the morning to find a basket at my place at the table filled with chocolate. (And my mom has good taste in chocolate, I still remember one year we had these little white chocolate cakes with flowers on them, looked like they fill right out of the rabbit hole from wonderland to my tummy.) That joy hasn't happened in years. Why do we abandon that tradition? We still keep up with pseudo-santa and open presents on Christmas day, why did we kill the Easter Bunny?
If you think about it it's truly silly, why abandon a tradition where you get a basket full of chocolate? A basket full of chocolate, people? This is a good thing!
Now that I have a daughter (she can't eat chocolate yet, but I can!) I can reclaim Easter and I am so excited! Bring on the Easter dresses and Mary Janes! Easter egg hunts, oh, hell yes! I know that my husband will be able to infuse our time with meaning and fullness. I picture our little family under the pines somewhere, in the blue-gray light of early morning. My husband's voice softly talking God's sacrifice as the sun slowly pours down through the trees. We're bundled up and shuck our blankets as the sweet sun warms our back. We return home to hot strong coffee and oven baked eggs and oodles of rich chocolate.
I have begun to realize that this is one of the joys of parenthood that we get to make our own traditions. We can pick holidays and make them wonderful. I can't wait until our baby is big enough to participate and to add her own sweet voice and joy to the proceedings.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mini Me

People ask me who Emma looks like. My husband or me. Most people say me and I joke that is only because she’s a girl. Or because I have a round nose that looks like the ubiquitous baby nose. Then someone usually comments that babies change so much that you never can tell at this stage.
My mother is tall and willowy, she has delicate angular features, auburn hair, and hazel eyes. I am short, built like a farm hand, I have round features, curly blonde hair, and dark blue eyes.
I don’t have any sisters. To be honest I look like my Dad. Now this is disconcerting for a young lady. Having your main physical counterpart be a man is a little odd and not at all comforting to one’s femininity. As I’ve grown my family has noticed that I look like my Dad’s sister. I don’t know my Aunt Claudia that well, only because she has lived in Colorado for all my life and I have lived in California. In the year that I did live in Colorado I did get to know her better. We kind of checked each other out. Same height (down to the quarter inch), similar build, same hair color, same capable hands, same shell shaped finger nails. The same hands that my brothers and father have, consequently making me feel like I have man hands. So it’s a comfort to see them on another woman. Emma was born with long thin fingers that had nails with a delicate taper. This was witnessed with some sadness, I desperately want my baby girl to look like me. Even down to my unfortunate un-ladylike hands. Early on while I was nursing her she fell asleep at the breast and her hand fell open, I saw that the lines in her little unused baby hands mimicked my own. My heart stopped for just a moment. Here in my changeable little child was concrete proof that she is my own and bears my likeness.
Why is it that I so desperately want my little girl to look so much like me? Is it legacy? Or is it simply having a visible link to another woman. I definitely felt more okay with myself after realizing that I look like my Aunt. As if seeing my features in another woman validates me. Like nature felt them good enough to repeat. I almost wonder if it saddens my mother that I don’t look like her.
As Emma has fattened up her hands have filled out and begun to look more and more like my own. Her nails have widened and have taken my characteristic clam-shell shape. Her big blue eyes have settled to a pretty ink blue color, not like my changeable green blue or her Daddy’s denim blue. Her eyes have her father’s shape, big, wide, and alert. Her skin looks mine, pale and fair, precious on a baby and unfortunate in the sun. Who knows what DNA has taken over, what recessive or dominant genes have receded or dominated. She will change throughout her life and become her own precious person. Her own special blend of all mine and Scott’s generations. Sometimes I still selfishly hope she looks like me, mostly I hope she feels beautiful. And often when I get a sweet priceless baby smile and giggle I just don’t care at all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nairobi Nights

A quick account of a night in the life of Scott and Lara:
7:00-7:30pm: Emma goes down peacefully.
9:00pm: I pump while we watch episodes of 30 Rock or House or read. My body has become so used to this that if I don’t I am exceedingly uncomfortable. Can’t really go to bed early because of it.
9:30-9:45pm: I throw in the towel and slink off to bed. Scott follows after he finishes a chapter in a book.
9:46pm: As my head hits the pillow I realize that the next door neighbor’s thumping music is too loud, there is no way that I can sleep through this. I roll back out of bed and knock on the door. I unlock the padlock on our door and knock until I get an answer. “Hi, I am so sorry, can you turn your music down?” The reply, “I’m sorry I didn’t know it was so loud.”
9:51pm: My hits the pillow again. I sigh and settle into place. I hear a new thumping, it seems the downstairs neighbor is watching Jurassic Park on surround sound. I give up, I roll over and grab my earplugs off the bedside table.
9:51-11:11pm: I lie there, earplugs in place. Rolling this way and as different parts of my body take turns going numb on our expensive but cheaply made mattress. Might as well get up and pee.
12:34pm: “Bowrohr-rohr-rohr-rohhhhhh!” I awake confused, why am I awake? “Rohr-rohr-grrrrrrrrrrrr!” Ah, the neighborhood dogs have found their voice. I am sweaty and hot and confused. Scott gets up, bats the mosquito net out of place, “I’m gonna sleep on the couch.” I nod and roll over.
1:02am: “Dunh dah dah!” My cell phone beeps. Someone in the US has texted me. Not gonna answer, would only be angry…
1:21am: “Anh, ahhh, unh.” Emma is awake. I sit up and grab an extra pillow and place it across my lap. Scott stumbles in carrying her little body. I lift up the mosquito net, he passes her under and places her on the pillow. She grunts and does little baby crunches towards my belly as I rearrange my clothes to nurse her. She latches on to my stomach before I can get properly organized.
1:22-1:43am: I nurse her. Is that Jurassic Park that I hear? Yes, yes it is. Scott has flopped onto the bed beside me. I whisper, “she’s done.” He lumbers up and comes to my side of the bed. Lifts the mosquito net puts his head and shoulders underneath it and collects the baby, I pull the net off his head. A few moments later I hear Emma’s mobile and nothing else.
3:57am: Why am I awake? Might as well pee. Scott’s half of the bed is still empty.
4:33am: Scott is standing outside the mosquito net shaking my foot and holding Emma. We perform the same rehearsed mosquito net baby passing ballet.
4:44am: Wait do I still hear Jurassic Park? Yes, yes I do.
4:57am: “She’s done.” I glance at my cell phone. Maybe I’ll get two more hours ‘sleep.’
7:44am: Grayish light peeps into my bedroom. I hear coffee grinding. Emma is still asleep. I decide to get up now to give myself a moment with my husband and my coffee before she’s up….

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Running to the store to buy eggs and sugar should not leave you so stressed out that you are almost in tears….
Scott is out of town this weekend, he is coming home tonight. I wanted to plan a special dinner for him. I hemmed and hawed on this decision all week long. I had a bottle of red wine. Pasta goes great with red wine. But we also had all these ingredients to make quiche. Also suitable with wine. Decided to do quiche because I didn’t need to buy anything for quiche. I had my houseworker make said quiche, and through no fault of her own the crust didn’t bake leaving the bottom soggy and inedible. You can scrape it off and it’s just fine, but that is not something you serve to someone who just came off the mountain. So off to Village Market I go for pasta ingredients.
I collect my plastic chip at the gated entrance to the shopping complex and begin to turn the corner into the lot. A huge SUV comes raring around the corner, not only is it on my side of the road, it’s driving in the parking spaces on my side of the road. I honk as I swerve out of his way and quickly downshift. The man has the audacity to honk back.
I recover my breath and continue driving. I honk at another car as it starts to back out while I am right in back of it. I make the slow painful circumference of the parking lot and find a space. I pull Emma out and put her in the Bjorn then march into the complex with my back already gathering up into knots.
Nakumatt has most of the things I need, I pass on purchasing imported honey at seven dollars. I stop by the chocolate aisle on my way to the cash register for a nice bar of dark chocolate (our favorite dessert). The Czech Republic kind that we love, that’s not too expensive, is out of stock. So I look for the South African brand that is a close passable second. Also out of stock. There is a large bar in a beautiful package that I have not seen before, I flip it over, I can’t tell where it’s from but all the different European languages let me know that it’s probably from that continent. It looks good, but you never know. It’s four dollars for 200 grams. Do I risk it? It’s a special night. But I’ve already bought cheese and wine this week. I scan the whole aisle, to purchase or not? After several minutes of deliberation I choose not to, and grab our favorite cheap Cadbury alternatives.
I have the talent for choosing the slowest line. In Kenya this is lethal. The American looking elderly world traveler gentleman type paying at the register is carefully counting out about ten smooth perfect Kenyan shilling 1000 marks. They are carefully fanned out in front of the clerk one after another. As he lays each bill down I hear a whisper. As I wait not so patiently Emma begins to fuss, ever so lightly. I dance about and start to pile groceries on the belt. My total comes to 1634 Kenyan shillings, almost exactly twenty dollars. Historically credit cards can take forever and can clog up the system. I quickly count out my cash. Ksh 1600. I take a deep sigh and hand over my Visa. It goes through quickly, I struggle to sign with one hand, grab my bags and am on my way.
As I leave the building I walk in back of another SUV that is illegally parked right in front. It starts to back up right as I am in back of him. Fortunately he stops quickly, but still scares me enough that I snap. I walk up to the driver side,
“You almost just ran me over!” I snap pointing at the back of his car. The forty year old looking man startles and laughs nervously,
“Oh sorry.” Sorry is really not good enough. I storm off to my car, with the knots in my back now reverberating with stress and fear.
On my way home I end up behind a van that is driving 6 mph, when it goes over the speed bumps in front of the US Embassy it slows to 1 mph. We get to the end of the road I am silently praying he turns the other way. Nope he turns a very slow right, and stays right in front of me. He is back up to 6 mph, he then slows and puts on his blinker. Nope, changes his mind. A half mile later, he again puts on his blinker. I take the opportunity to pass. I honk and throw up my hands as I go. Another bewildered looking forty-something year old man.
I steam all the way home. Why is this so hard? Why is just going to the store a stressful experience? I pull into my compound and park in our rocky dirt parking lot. I get out and open the back door to unpack my kid. The car seat is hanging on at a forty-five degree angle. Emma looks up at me with a look that says, ‘mom, I don’t think it’s supposed to do this.’ I sigh, amid all my angry driving I did this. I pull her out (at least the seat strap worked) and look at the base. The little plastic slidey clasp thing on the center seat belt that is supposed to be holding the base down is sliding around uselessly. It’s impossible to cinch it back down and have it stay.*
It’s those moments that kill me, when I get so caught in frustration and anger that I forget what really matters. Yes, the driving I encounter here is dangerous and my tolerance for it has disappeared, but is it worth it?

*Emma now rides behind the driver where the seat belt works.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moments of Me

Do you ever have those moments in time where you realize you are truly yourself? I had this thought while watching the movie Seven Pounds. Ben and Emily walk into Emily's studio and she starts explaining all her print equipment. And I thought, "I love that! That moment when you walk into a studio and the smell of the ink and materials hits your nose and you have all these possibilities in front of your face, in your hands, and bumping around in your brain." It took me a second to tell my husband this, but I felt like if Scott is really going to know me he has to know this. Somehow it felt integral to my being. So then I started thinking what are these moments where I feel truly 'me.'
1. Driving a manual transmission on an open road with music blaring.
2. When I pull the wheel on a press across a print.
3. When I toss a chisel into my pneumatic hammer and start that first precious carve.
4. When I cut my angle grinder into a piece of stone.
5. Using my pitching tool to knock off those cuts that I made with the angle grinder.
6. When I'm all by myself in the studio, music blaring, the creation is flowing (whether it's painting, printmaking, or sculpture). Especially late at night when I have that crazy high of what I'm doing is more important than sleep.
7. That first hit of my paddle in the ocean.
8. When I reached that moment of flow during a run, that point where you feel unstoppable.
9. Apron on, elbow deep in some kind of dough or batter.
10. Hiking. All of it.
11. Lost in thought, composing some kind of description or moment in time.
Geez, look at all the art...
So what are yours? What are your moments when you feel that you are most yourself?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Get the Cat!!!

So here is one of the reasons why I love my husband…
My mom has a cat. It’s name is Phoebe. It is named after the Friends character, because the cat, while beautiful, is Weird. I mean capital ‘W’ Weird.
While we were visiting our family in the states we stayed at our brother’s house in Merced for about a week or so. My mom came up and stayed at my brother’s house with us. She brought her cat.
Ever since I got pregnant my husband and I seem to get super hot at night. Like two hot water bottles sleeping together. We would open the window in the evening to let in cold air so that the room would be maybe kinda cool at night and we could actually keep the covers on us.
Since we were traveling and staying in other people’s houses I was trying to be sensitive to people’s sensitivities and since breast feeding is seen by some as a lewd act every time I needed to feed my baby I would run, baby fussing in my ear, to the bedroom we were staying in, grab my boppy, leap onto the bed, settle in and feed my child. I would usually leave the door open because it’s really not a lewd act and I was saying, ‘it’s okay if you want to come in and talk to me.’
This particular evening Phoebe joined me. She sauntered in sniffing as she went, I glanced up at the window, and thought, ‘this could be bad.’
Of course in about two seconds she sniffed her way to the window, stood up on her hind legs, and sniffed the ledge and went back down. I thought, ‘I better act now before she actually goes out the window.’ I called out to my husband, with just enough of an edge to my voice so that other’s wouldn’t think anything was wrong, but he would know that dallying wasn’t an option,
“Scott could you come up here please?!” I heard no answer. Yelling at my husband is of course a better and easier solution than popping my baby off and setting her down as I leap to save a cat from hurtling it’s dumb self to the ground. Therefore causing my baby to scream disconsolately.
The cat sniffed again. She leaped and I saw her little furry butt begin to disappear out the window. Scott arrived in the nick of time.
“Get the cat, Get the cat!” I hiss, only loud enough for him to hear. He leaps forward, grabs the animal by her haunches and tosses her out the bedroom door.
Now many people would have turned and been angry with me, for leaving the door open or allowing the cat to come in, or whatever. Scott turns from tossing the cat into the hall and is laughing as hard as he can.
“We would have been in so much trouble! It would be like that scene in what’s that movie called?”
“Meet the Parents!” I’m laughing hysterically, and feeling light and okay, rather than heavy and guilty. Emma has stayed latched on and blissfully unaware of all of this ruckus.
And that’s one of the many reasons why I love my husband.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Body After Baby?

My luscious and full pregnancy hair started falling out about four weeks ago. The entire nine months I didn’t lose one hair. Now it’s coming out in little hairballs everywhere. I find it balled up in Emma’s fist. Stuck to my arm. Stuck to Emma’s mobile. Stuck to Scott’s shirts. I had a mild psychotic break and cut off about four inches, just took scissors to it and hacked. Then I made an appointment with a hairstylist. While she was cutting I changed my mind from, ‘just clean it up,’ to, ‘could you take off another two inches?’ I needed a change I was sick of my hair and people kept talking me out of cutting it off. I should never let people talk me out of haircuts. So now I have a bob type thing and have been assured that it’s not ‘mom’ hair.
I’ve been waiting with bated breath for my body to return to normal. I run. I occasionally throw myself down on my living room floor and perform some routine of calisthenics. Somehow I think this is going to shrink down the gushy belly that my pregnancy left behind. Every couple weeks I whip out a pair of pre-pregnancy pants and try them on. They usually get tossed back in disappointment. I blitzed a sales rack at Old Navy right before we left and bought a few pairs of pants that were a size up, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fit back into my work pants right away and would need something for the first several weeks of school. Last week thought I was grabbing the khakis that I bought in that guerrilla shopping attack, but realized in mid pant leg pull that they were a pre-pregnancy pair, I thought, eh, why not? And kept pulling. They fit!
Ah-may-zing. Little triumphs, I take them where I can get them.
Setbacks come in the shape of glimpsing my flaccid belly loll about my torso when I’m lying on my side or sitting down. Emma is in the stage where she likes to ‘stand,’ we hold her up by her little arms and she wobbles on her little legs, grinning all the while. The other day after nursing her I was ‘standing’ her on my belly, I looked down at my stomach and thought, ‘oh sorry kid, that’s like learning how to stand on a water bed.’ We practiced on the floor instead… I know it will never be the same, but I would take similar. Maybe no more linea negra, maybe a belly button that looks morelike a slit rather than a hole dug in the forest floor. Maybe a semi firm mattress instead of a water bed?