And for once I was SuperMom

Monday, August 30, 2010

Snack Attack

I was reading an article in an un-named women’s magazine, an Emily Post-ish sort of column, and a reader wanted to know what to do if someone kept bringing unhealthy and overblown snacks to their kid’s soccer practice. My first thought was, “Really? This is a main concern for you?” They had a few different responses for this person, two people said that you shouldn’t do anything about it and just enjoy the cheesecake brownies. One person said tell the coach. And the last piece of advice was just enjoy it and next year hand out fliers that outline the type of snacks that would be appreciated.
The two women who responded with, ‘just enjoy it,’ are right on. Since when did snacks at soccer practice become a right? When I read this a light bulb went off over my head, ding, Americans are only concerned with what they want and not the feelings of others. How offensive would that be if I spent all this time baking and then someone told me to stop or the next year handed me some paper that said my work wasn’t appreciated.
Some may think, ‘well what if that mom wasn’t giving those snacks as a gift, what if was in the spirit of competition?’ Really? So in her head she won. Good, my children are just as well loved if I hand ‘em an orange slice. Or, gasp, if I don’t even bring snacks because Americans are overfed as it is.
And the lady who wrote in with this dilemma, who has the emotional energy? You really care what type of snacks people are bringing, enough to more than just go home and gripe to your husband (because that is why they are there, husbands, to keep us sane). Relax, if you really care that much, actually no just stop. It’s not that big a deal. And, yes, I will remind that there are millions of children around the world who would give anything for those snacks, much less the luxury of soccer practice. Nay, the luxury of an actual soccer ball.
Alright, off my box.
What ever happened to orange slices and Capri suns?
And, yes, I know I am in so much trouble when Emma starts playing soccer, a lot of trouble...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Laughing baby

My mother-in-law said the other day,
“There are two kinds of people, those who say ‘There’s nothing like a laughing baby,’ and then, ‘there’s nothing like sleeping baby.’” Under my breath I mumbled,
“I kinda like both.” The following conversation detailed that those that like a sleeping baby prefer children to be out of their way, and those that like a giggling baby actually enjoy children.
So what does it mean that I like both? I ponder this with guilt lurking in the back of my head like a monster in a closet.
The first time that I heard Emma giggle my heart soared and peals of soul ebullient laughter soared from my own mouth. I am only mildly jealous that my husband seems to get more laugher out of her than I ever do. I love it, I love that half developed soft gurgle that comes bouncing out when you bounce her or tickle her feet. I find myself turning myself inside out just to hear that sweet sound. I cherish watching her new developments, seeing each new gesture and hearing each new noise. Her sheer cuteness amazes me.
But I also love it when she’s sleeping, because I can get stuff done. When she sleeps I can type a full blog uninterrupted, drink a full cup of tea without it getting cold, I can finish a thought. Right now she’s in her walker (that’s right I said walker, they were invented for a reason) and I type a sentence, look up and imitate her baby talk, hold my thought, and then look down and type again, then look up and make a face, then look down and type a sentence. (So forgive me if this entry is a little choppy.) For a few moments I can type and she bangs on her toy and talks to herself, then remembers I am not paying full attention to her and she whines until I look up and make faces at her or pick up the toy she just dropped. Then there are the times when you just sit down to read a book and just reach for that fresh cup of coffee and you hear her wail from her crib, frustration slides up your back like a selfish worm and you think, ‘Why do I even bother? Why don’t I just give up altogether and sit waiting at her door until she is done napping?’
Today I was making pico de gallo as part of dinner (otherwise known as an excuse to eat corn chips by the handful) and had to stop right as I was about to throw the cilantro in the food processor because some little creature starting climbing up my ankles. Do I ignore my little bug and continue or lean down and pick her cuteness up? Pick her up kept winning, took me a long time to make that salsa…
I struggle with this, as I am sure all mothers do, that I do cherish my child and love her, but at the same time I have a sense of self and things that I want to accomplish in my life (and my day). I think this comes from having waited to have children, before I had Emma I had worked and discovered my talents. When I had Emma I wanted her and was excited to have her, but I wasn’t sitting around waiting to have a baby to complete my life or self-hood.
So what is a mommy to do? How do you deal with these feelings of guilt or do we just accept them as part of mommyhood?

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Are You?

Buena Vista is a town of around 2,600 people, roughly the same size as my Southern Californian high school. Living in a small American town is not quite as large a cultural jump as Nairobi, but there is definitely a leap to be made. There are certain things that you just need to embrace about living in a small rural town. Each one has it’s own particular character, since BV is tucked into the mountains and has a cold river that cuts right through it certain kinds of Americans are attracted to it. There is a contingent of retirees, yuppies telecommuting to fancy jobs in other shinier cities with less hiking, teachers and doctors who like the mountains so have chosen here over those other shiny cities, and, of course, a contingent of rednecks.
Another part of small town life that one must embrace is that everyone knows everyone. I usually drive my mother-in-laws sporty little aqua RAV-4, I have had people I didn’t know or recognize wave me down while driving it and ask questions about the goings on our home without introduction, I knew who they were and they knew who I was.
Earlier today Emma had hit her afternoon crabbies so I plopped her into a baby backpack and went for a walk down the trail that is a part of our housing development. At one point the trail passes through a meadow and buts up against a neighbors backyard, as I passed the brown house that owned that yard, a lady walked towards me, paint brush in hand, broad smile on her face, and said,
“Are you the Barnett’s daughter-in-law?” I knew that she knew who I was, and even thought I didn’t know her, and even before she spoke I was willing to bet large sums of money on the fact that my mother-in-law knew her. She said I gave myself away by the baby on my back. We had a pleasant conversation about my daughter and her grand-daughter (Ruth, born a day before Emma), about the trail I was walking on, and eventually she asked if Scott would like to help her finish painting her deck. Then she, with meaning, asked how it is to be back.
“How are you?”
“How is it to be back?”
“How was Kenya?” Are the three most difficult questions to answer right now.
How am I? At moments thankful to be back in a country where I understand the customs, I know when people are being rude to me or kind, I am not treated like a freak or foreigner, a country where there is an infrastructure that works. At times enraged to watch the most pampered population in the world complain about non-problems. At times depressed because maybe post-partum depression in nine months late in coming, or because we are unemployed, or because this sweet lady just offered us a job, that one would normally offer to a summering college student, to my Ph.D husband. Other moments hopeless thinking about the mess that is Africa. Sometimes relieved because abject poverty and corruption isn’t pressed up against my nose every day. Guilty because abject poverty and corruption isn’t pressed up against my nose every day and I’m relieved about it.
How is it to be back? Mostly I think about going shopping, a lot. I have eaten a lot of cheese, a lot of brie, gouda, cheddar. If you ask me what I want for lunch I’m usually thinking about a very large block of cheddar. Sometimes I sit down in the shower just to enjoy the hot beautiful water pressure. I still struggle to throw away Ziploc bags, I just leave them on the counter, I don’t really want to wash them, but it only had a sandwich in it…how do I go from struggling to get resources to struggling to save them?
How was Kenya? That was two years of my life, where I taught for the first time, lived in another country, and had my first child. Does anyone ever just ask, “How was the last two years of your life?” Not that you shouldn’t, not that I don’t want you to, it’s just hard to answer. Then there is the not knowing what people want to hear. What do they know about Africa? Because (spoiler alert) it’s not like what they show you on TV. If they even do show it on TV, because CNN is not very international. Do they want to hear cheesy God platitudes to make their world okay again? Do they want to know about the friends we made, the safari’s we went on, the baby we had, or the poverty, the hopelessness of a failing country. We worked with people, there aren’t good stats for what we did, we don’t have numbers.
I’m not saying don’t ask. Ask, but expect me to stall and squint and not know what to say. Narrowing down the subject line is great, what was it like to teach overseas? What was it like to have a baby overseas? What was it like running a household in Nairobi? I will probably still hem and haw a bit, but I will have a bite rather than trying to eat a whole steak in two sentences. I’m glad that you recognize where we’re at and care enough to ask instead of ignoring that we were never gone, thank you. Expect me to be a bit awkward about answering, they’re big questions. If you have asked me those questions please, please, please don’t feel bad, but maybe now you know why I might have said something kinda weird…

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Observations

Upon this return to the United States I have noticed a few more things about our culture. Of course I have already been through, ‘gee, we’re kinda fat,’ and, ‘you spent that much money on what?!’ my observations have begun to become a bit more nuanced. Here’s are a few things that I have noticed:
1. EVERYONE has life-threatening allergies. I cannot talk to a group of moms without one of them talking about how one of their children has had some kind of allergy and how they couldn’t eat this or eat that while they were nursing. I don’t tell them that I knock back whatever I want and Emma doesn’t seem to have a problem; I use hot sauce like ketchup, I cook with more onions and garlic then your gnarled Italian grandmother, my morning cup of coffee would probably stop the heart of a small rodent, basically I have the taste buds of a sixty year old man, only a matter of time before I switch from red wine to scotch.
2. Dietary CLEANSES; really, people? I have to tell you that after getting regularly roto-rooted in Kenya that doing that to myself on purpose seems a little silly. A little local Indian food and lets just say I’m pretty sure there were no more toxins left in my system.
3. Our government is AWESOME and no American is happy with it. Seriously your dog has more rights under our law than any Kenyan citizen. Outside of Europe and North America every government is dripping with corruption. Dripping.
4. DOGS. That last one reminded me, dogs are not children, dogs are not people. A lot of Americans have an unhealthy emotional attachment to their pet. Go make a friend, they don’t scratch themselves in public, most of the time…at least.
5. Is it called health food because it doesn’t taste that good and then you don’t eat it, so then you’re skinnier? And why is it so damn expensive? Five dollars for a box of carob cookies, why spend that much money to make myself miserable?
6. The movie Kick A**: is a** no longer a bad word? When did that happen? What’s next? Porn on prime time?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beautiful Distraction

When I was a child I read almost everything that I could get my hands on, including my brother’s boy scout magazines. I would flip past the articles on knot-tying and how to get yourself out of a pickle in the woods and read the stories and cartoons. Whenever I would get a girls magazine I would study the articles on eye shadow application and what a boy really meant by what he said or did. This seemed odd because the boy's magazines were full of useful information and nothing about girls, and certainly nothing about the application of eyeshadow. Now, while I studied the pictures that showed me exactly where to put the highlight (under the brow) and the eyeliner (above the eyelashes) I was nagged by a feeling that this wasn’t so useful in the grand scheme of things. This certainly wasn’t going to help me if I was ever caught in the woods or needed to lash an extra paddle to my canoe.
The other day as I was putting on mascara I wondered how much of my life had been spent in makeup application. I’ve never felt the wearing of makeup to be necessary in life and have gone in and out of phases of wearing it and not wearing it. I also wondered how many minutes of my life had been wasted gazing at open pores and blackheads. Beating up my self-esteem for having these flaws. Flaws that I have never actually ever noticed on another human being. Flaws that have been airbrushed off every model, making you believe that there are people who do not have them.
I now have a hair ‘do,’ I have a style that needs some care or I look ridiculous. Before this ‘do’ I have had super short hair or something that I could pony-tail. I have realized that I spend a fair amount of my life undone. I often don’t shower until well into the day. So now I spend the first half of my day looking more than a bit mussed and making mental notes to expand my hat collection. So if I want to be presentable to any human with eyes I have to spend five or fifteen minutes scrunching or artfully mussing my hair. (Thirty or so if I want it straight.) What if I would rather be playing with Emma or running or writing a story?
One of the few channels that you can get on DSTV Africa is the style channel (yes, maybe I should just turn off the TV rather than wonder how much of life has been wasted on mascara and use that time instead), I have wasted more than a few hours watching style tips that grate me into believing that my hair and make up isn’t good enough and should be the main focus of my life. I find myself wanting to perfect the ‘goddess look’ (whatever that is) or that I should never just throw on jeans and a t-shirt.
While I do think that feeling beautifal is a part of being a woman and is validating I also don’t think I should spend hours perseverating over it, especially when I just want to throw on my boots and go for a hike.
Naomi Wolf wrote a book called the Beauty Myth and I believe it talks about how society uses a focus on women’s looks to hold us down. I almost wonder if there’s not something to this hypothesis. Maybe there would be more women in political science classes and less in beauty school.
I love maps. Part of this stems from being a wilderness leader, you get to love maps when someone drops you off in the woods, hands you a map, and says, ‘We’re lost, figure it out.’ I was sitting at a women’s Bible Study a few years ago and we were talking about traveling with our husbands and the navigation of all kinds that occurs therein (and the fights). A chorus of, ‘Ugh, I hate maps,’ and, ‘It must be a man thing,’ went up. I sat there with my bewildered jaw bobbing up and down, wanting to liberate them and say, ‘No, we can read maps too!’ I have often found my husband and I while traveling because of my proclivity for following along on our whereabouts with the map. Maybe if Teen ran articles about map and compass instead of eyeshadow there would be less arguing couples on the road...

Monday, August 16, 2010


We’ve been in Buena Vista for almost three weeks now. Our home is about ten minutes out of town, so trips in are intentional and sometimes not so frequent. Often I carpool with my mother-in-law or husband. There is always a time of hibernation when returning from oveseas. You settle in, unpack, look around at ‘home’ and remember. It takes awhile before you’re ready to explain yourself; your shock at a menu in a restaurant, your confusion in the grocery store, your extra relishing in a bagel. After three weeks I am ready to come out, ready to be caught by an old friend in a coffee shop or the local library. I was also ready to leave the house and get a little ‘alone’ time.
I asked Scott if it was alright if I took that time, Friday morning, he looked at me and said, ‘You better go.’ So I went. As I kissed Emma good-bye I felt guilty, dirty, free. I drove down into town and cranked the Janet Jackson song on the local radio station. Mother’s, a local coffee shop, was my destination.
I ordered a single cappuccino and upped my order to include a blueberry scone to fit the five dollar card limit. BV the only place in America where you still have to carry cash. I look down at the tiny scone that Barista serves me, for two dollars it would be nice it filled a dinner plate. Oh well.
I go outside to chose a table on the patio while the barista makes my drink. There was a marble sculpture in the midst of the mismatched chaise lounges and wrought iron tables. I rotated around it, it was good work. The sculptor had deliberately left scars from the anfle in the meat of the stone. I never know what to think about that choice, Lazy? Artistic? Nonetheless it’s a pretty sculpture and obvious the artist has talent. I feel some jealousy, as I think about all the artistic things I want to do, and all the time I don’t have.
I go back in to collect my drink. The barista is still making, I lean on the wall and wait. She turns around, calls me honey, which I find humorous because I think I may be older than her, and tells me she can’t get good foam. So take this one to sip on and I’ll bring you another one outside. I shrug and thank her, take the first drink outside and watch the local Coloradans shuffle in and out of the patio area, with their scraggly hair and bra-optional attire. When she brought me the second one she was right, the first one the shot tasted a bit old and the foam wasn’t great, the second hit my tongue with that perfect espresso bite.
I loved this. I can tell when I get a bad espresso shot, I think few can. Many prefer their coffee laden with vanilla or caramel, I like it pure, either black or with milk. I do hate when I spend my money and get a drink reminiscent of old dirt rather than that smooth dark bitterness. This cappuccino was a treat, this excursion was a treat, and rather than giving me a bad cup of coffee because she was lazy she re-did it. I would have been disappointed with a bad drink, maybe a little more than is emotionally sound. You never know how your actions will affect a person and for her she definitely made me happier…who knows with this she may have just made a regular customer.

Monday, August 9, 2010


It’s eight o’clock. Scott is working, Emma is down, and I have given myself permission to stop. The last load of laundry from the day lowers it’s eyebrow and glares at me, ‘Fold me.’ Intoning the voice of Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, I look back and say, ‘Not today,’ in my firm elementary school teacher voice. I allowed myself a second helping of dessert and made myself tea.
Emma cried herself to sleep tonight. Up till this point in her life we have felt like we could allow her to shriek and get traumatized or we can get her back up and try again twenty minutes or so later. I kept hearing Scott’s voice in my head, ‘Was she showing signs of being tired?’ My response, ‘no, but it’s seven o’clock and we are old enough to have a bed time.’ I put her down, elected to leave the baby monitor off, and went upstairs to get dessert and make tea. I came back down about five minutes later and she had worked herself up into a red-faced, blanket tossed aside, gasping, high-pitched fit. I pulled her out and held her and rocked her for another few minutes, she calmed down, but eyes remained open and occasionally she would let out the occasional high-pitched, ‘ah-eeyow,’ noise. I put her back down in her crib and rushed upstairs to finish making tea and putting dishes away. When I came down seven minutes later she was asleep but making little baby gasping cry noises. I felt like a complete a**hole. I left her room and sat on the couch and allowed a few tears to roll down my face.
Our full situation creeps it’s tendrils of frustration and doubt into my heart. Why are we here? What was that last two years about? Here we are two weeks in Colorado and I still don’t understand why or what just happened. Periodically I get filled with my own doubt, what am I doing? Will my life now be measured in loads of laundry? Without the structure of work to point to proof that I am doing something with myself I flounder to understand what I am doing in this world. Yes, I know I am raising a child. But I also know that I can’t take my whole worth out of another human being.
A few job opportunities have popped up for me, but I don’t know if I want them, for the last year my job just proved as a distraction from what I really wanted to do, which was take care of my baby, write, and make art. My heart feels pulled at the desire to make money and ‘be responsible (a role I have played to the detriments of my own talents), but sling-shots back to my three main desires.
Then there’s the striking reality that raising a baby and getting anything done that requires more than one hand at a time, like typing, is an almost near impossibility.
Argh, what’s a back in the states from two years in Kenya, unemployed, confused, mommy to do?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Priority Check

So this Saturday morning Scott was given some work by a friend, who does cabinet making on the side. Emma is already napping, because of a rough night of tummy troubles. I find my heart needing a minute to sit and think, nay, meditate on my life. Finally I am on the other side of a big transition; I am a mother, I am not working, and I am back in the U.S. What does this look like?
If you’ve read my last blog or so you’ve read that I am going through, ‘what do I look like?’ I cut off my hair, I have lost about fifteen pounds, and most of my clothes are ruined or no longer fit. I get the opportunity to rebuild my appearance thinking through, ‘who am I now?’ Kinda fun.
I also face other questions the main one that I am thinking of is how do I transfer from going to a resource poor country to a country with more resources than we need. My life in Kenya was simplified by the sheer fact that I couldn’t get certain things, and life in the expat community tends to be calmer and less showy. For many of my baby shower gifts I was given presents in shopping bags from a local store; instead of purchasing new bags people had just recycled ones they had. This to me was refreshing, I hate wrapping paper, we spend resources to create something that we just throw away. Often sitting at American showers or parties I feel like there was an unsaid competition going on, a pageantry of cards and wrapping, who can come up with the most creative handmade work? Time and money spent that will get thrown in the trash just moments later. I usually sit there feeling crappy because often for these events I buy a card and throw cash in it, because who doesn’t need that?
Scott and I, the intentional people that we are, have been talking about this and what this looks like for our little family. We’ve taken this two year hiatus from our pile of stuff that we felt necessary to store to go back through it and see what we really needed. Did I miss it? Do I still like it? Keep it. Did I forget I even own it? Toss it. While going through a box of books he pulled out a book called Simplify Your Life, I have started reading it a few tips at a time. Quite a few of the things we already do, like menu planning and only shopping once a week. One of the tips was about pets, only get short haired animals. I thought about this, but I like long –haired animals. My in-laws own a St. Bernard named Beethoven, many of you have heard me talk about this dog, I adore him. He’s sweet, he’s gentle, he’s hilarious, and he’s big, stinky, and puts enough hair to start weaving rugs out of it. If Scott and I ever get our own dog I would really pull for this breed. Should I toss this out in the name of simplicity? Yes, brushing this creature takes time, and you are constantly battling huge amounts of pet hair. He’s work. I thought about this and I think the way to start thinking through my life is not using simplicity as my marker for everything I do, but priorities. Make choices and know the consequences and benefits. Animals do not simplify your life, but instead of knee-jerk responses to the work and responsibility and I can think, why do I want this and what does it do and how does it fit into what I want my life look like?
I also find myself rushing around constantly to get things done. What things am I doing and why am I doing them? Is having a clean house a priority? No judgment if it is for you, but is it for me?
At this junction in my life I need to take a priority check, what is important to me:
1. A happy family.
2. My art and writing. (Selfish? And true)
3. Use what I have and have been given wisely.
4. Relationships; family, and friends.
5. Leave the world a better place than when I left it (tall order, I know, but just to be a force of good, rather than a negative force).
I think there are more, but Emma just woke up from her nap...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Monitor this...

Fast forward to yesterday: we are in Colorado setting up our apartment:
Because we are living in our in-laws basement apartment (a less crappy situation then you may think) our lives now necessitate a baby monitor. If we put Emma down and go upstairs in their monstrous log home we can't hear her scream. I have been largely opposed to baby monitors in my short life as a parent because we have lived in small apartments, I can hear her. I can hear her shout when she wakes up in the middle of the night, I can hear her cry when she's done napping. I have talked to other mom's about these devices and quite frankly they sound a bit like torture. Devices that map their every breathe. Beep with their every movement. Tell you every time the child might possibly stop breathing. They record every rustle and cough, keeping you awake and vigilant. Or awake and cray-ay-zee.
But we had to get one, because now when she naps or goes down for the night she might be miles away. (Or atleast a few flights of stairs) We purchesed a Safety 1st model that touted it's eco-friendly packaging and energy saving AC adaptor. Plus it was on sale. When I opened itup later that day to set it up I laughed at this re-adjustment to American living. I didn't have to 'set it up,' I didn't have to find a converter, a transformer, a plug adaptor, or grovel around the floor of the room cussing at the lack of plugs in the wall. I just plugged the thing in, that was it. It was glorious.
And the packaging was actually eco-friendly (which may the companies smart way of disguising that they are too cheap to put lots of protective stuff around the device), there was only a cardboard box and a plastic insert to keep it from jostling around in the box. There were no twisty ties, or bubble wrap, or pages of 'we're gonna assume you are a dumb-ass' directions. I found this refreshing, like they were saying, 'hey, you were smart enought to be concerned about your child's safety, you are probably smart enough to figure this thing out.' And, you know what? I am.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow

I love ‘what not to wear.’ I lust after the opportunity for a five thousand dollar shopping trip in New York. I would love to sit in the chair of a fabulous hair dresser and say, ‘do your worst.’ I would love to have someone help me fine tune ‘my look.’ I would love someone to give me more options in eyeshadow than just the sparkly taupe I’ve been wearing for years. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I’m not totally clueless, and as my husband said, ‘there’s no way you’d get on that show, Lara, you’re too stylish.’
Lately my desire to sit in the chairs of experts has grown into an itch so bad that I think about it almost all the time. Lots of things are rubbing up against each other to make me want to throw myself at the feet of a designer and yell, ‘Just tell me what to wear!’
I think the main thing is that I stopped working. I have worked since I was fourteen. I have paid into social security since junior high. Three weeks ago my job ended and I let it. I didn’t have another job lined up. I wasn’t flipping through want ads. I wanted to stop. I wanted to take care of my baby. Full time. That’s it, no more classroom, or office. Just me and my laundry room and my baby. To say that hasn’t caused an undercurrent of self – doubt and identity confusion would be to lie. Who am I now?
I don’t want to end up wearing hoodies and yoga pants all the time. But it’s kinda tempting. It might happen a few days a week. Is that who I am? Am I that mom? The ‘tie my hair up in pony tail, I give up mom?’
About four months after I had Emma my glorious thick pregnancy hair starting falling out. There was two foot long pieces of hair everywhere. Everywhere. I marched into the closest hair stylist in Nairobi who knows how to cut white people hair, slapped down my fifteen dollars, and said, cut it off. And that’s what I got: a fifteen dollar cut. I have curly hair. Hardly anyone cuts it well. Every now and then I run across a stylist who seems to know what to do. Most of the time I end up with a lumpy hair do that makes me long for straight hair. Glorious, sleek, straight, non-lumpy hair. Four months later this hair has grown out and I have shoulder length lumpy hair. Most days it ends up in a pony tail.
A friend here in South Africa (with a great hair cut), needed a change. She booked us hair cuts with a guy in Johannesburg that she claimed was a real artist. I said great, I couldn’t wait to say, ‘do your worst.’ When we arrived in the salon he greeted us by coming over and tickling Emma under the chin and sitting down in the waiting area and asking us what we wanted. His lanky body folded in half as he perched his elbows on his knees and gazed at my scalp and as I babbled about just having a baby and not knowing what I needed but I needed something different and that in wave of rash action I let someone do this to me. He talked me into a hundred rand moisture treatment and I was off. In the chair my head back in the sink holding Emma on my lap.
When I got to his throne, a worker whisked Emma to the back of the salon, he draped his body into the chair next to mine and again asked questions. I explained that I would be living in a dry climate, that I needed something that would look good straight and curly because my hair flattened in the crackly thin air of Colorado. I told him that my hair had been long and I just wanted something different. He jumped up and began to comb through my hair, calling it pretty. He explained his vision for my hair and I said that I needed to do something with it when I exercised, and he said he’d have to leave this much. I sighed and said, just do it, just cut it. He chuckled and went to work. Talking to my hair as he went I could see that, like me, he was an artist. With his fluid motions and explanations of my hair and what he was doing I wasn’t too nervous.
After he was done I gazed at my short in the back long in the front, sassy new short cut and was in…
The thoughts running through my head were; Look at my cheekbones, look at my jawline, how am I going to find someone in my tiny one stoplight town to do this? The words out of my mouth’
“Okay. Cool. Thanks.” My friend sat there in horror, ‘Oh no. She hates it,’
she thought.
I didn’t hate it; I just didn’t know what to do. I would have never picked this hairstyle out for myself. In a day or two I loved it. I found myself watching one of those makeover shows, I leaned back smugly and thought, ‘this is the first time in my life I feel like they wouldn’t cut my hair off.’

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Babes in Wonderland

Dinner at Moyo was on July 6th, I think.
Monday this week some new friends of ours took us to a restaurant in Pretoria, South Africa, called Moyo. The wife of the couple described it as, ‘what Africa should be.’ We pulled into the nature preserve where it was located, parked, and were immediately greeted by two smiling hosts dressed in long tunics made of heavily patterned clothe. We walked up the long walkway chatting with them about the World Cup, we quickly noticed that the pavers in the grass were made of large slices of log. We ended up hopping from each one to another like children commenting on the resourcefulness and creativity of these pavers.
The restaurant had a gigantic wrap-around patio covered in couches and tables. Being winter we opted to sit inside. A large circular bar was stationed in the middle of the circular building. There were tables tucked in around staircases and couches in the corners. The inside of the restaurant was covered in beautiful glittering mosaics and there was a gently repeated peacock motif. It was gorgeous.
We perched on chairs and wrapped fleecey blankets around us (they were draped over the chairs) and pored over the menu. We had to send the waiter back three times until we could decide on what we wanted. The menu featured entrees inspired by Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and a few other countries. Literally the best of Africa on a plate. Emma woke up from her car ride induced nap and began to look around. She was squirming around in my arms and couldn’t seem to get enough of the surroundings.
Our meals arrived, ostrich fillet coated in Ethiopian seasonings and Nigerian beef Kebabs. Scott and I took turns holding our baby and eating our meals. After dinner the staff had been tipped off that it was my husband’s birthday. The waiters and hostesses surrounded us and began a rhythmic drumbeat on several bongo drum, they thumped and sang my husband into his next year of life. Emma was enthralled, my back was to the performance she strained and stretched herself over my shoulder, her wee little hand gripped the back of the chair. Her pink tongue poked out of her rosebud mouth as she stared in amazement. I kept waiting for her to burst into tears out of fright, but she didn’t. She was thrilled. For the first time in a long time some of the cynicism that my heart has gathered about Africa was shucked. I felt the drums and heard the singing through my daughter’s big eyes.
I think that is one of things about becoming a parent you can see the world through the eyes of your children. Some of the chinks and jadedness that we gather as adults go away when we see things we have seen a million times before through their brand new perspective.