And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, October 30, 2010

TwovYears Later...

A good friend of mine just lost her first pregnancy. When I told my husband and in-laws (who know her) a deep horrified sadness filled their eyes. My father-in-law said, ‘You’re well prepared to comfort her,’ and my mother-in-law cried. Nothing prepares you for the sadness and desperation of losing an unborn child. Nothing compares to that pain. As Christians and Americans we are taught to remake our pain, to make it okay, to say that this tragedy happened so that this good could happen. Losing a child, however, cannot be made okay. Not only do you lose the child, if it’s your first, you lose the promise of becoming a parent and you enter into the fear that there is something wrong with you, something wrong with your intrinsic human ability to bring life into the world.
Emma’s due date was the exact day that we lost that first pregnancy. Emma came two days before that day, but it felt like a promise. With that first baby I was in doubt of that pregnancy the whole time, with Emma I had no doubt that she would come into this world healthy and beautiful. Not that Emma replaced that first baby, not at all. You can’t replace one human with another. But her conception and entry into this world was redemptive, I remember sitting in church with her on my lap and resting my chin on her head and asking myself, ‘how can I still be angry when this one is so perfect?’
During my pregnancy with Emma I never prayed that she would receive specific characteristics from Scott or me, I certainly wanted her to inherit some aspects of us that I loved. Scott’s big eyes, and his easily tanned skin, my dark eyes and blonde curly hair. I won’t ask for it though because you get what you get and you love that baby. She seems to have inherited everything that I wanted for her, she seems to be exactly what I wanted. If I had carried that baby to term I wouldn’t have Emma. I would have that baby. I would love that child, but I am so thoroughly overjoyed at what I was given in this baby that is crawling on my floor right now.
Then I get crazy on myself and wonder if the desires I had for this feature and that feature caused that baby to be aborted, if that baby wasn’t what I wanted so it failed. Crazy, but I thought it, and then let the little dwarves that live in my head run angrily over that thought and stamp it out. There is no way that thoughts can cause miscarriages. Atleast that's what I tell myself.
Almost two years later from losing that one I think these thoughts. My friend’s pain brings mine back up, those horrible few dark days, the months after. Wondering if I would ever stop thinking about it. Talking to other mothers who had lost children ten years prior, who would fall into tears when they heard my story and then told their own. This grief is one that cannot be explained or shrugged off or one that can be ignored. You must just walk until it doesn’t hurt all the time. And i don't hurt all the time, but when I think about those days I remember the hurt and confusion, and it's not all okay or gone, but I have a child and I lvoe her and she's perfect.
I think I'll go kiss her now.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Art of Crazy

A few years ago I was at a bridal shower, I knew the bride fairly well and I knew she would soon be traveling to China to live. So for her present I bought a card and threw a twenty in it, because she can take the money back to China and buy what she needs. I sat there stewing in non-housewifely embarrassment as she opened gift after gift and homemade card after homemade card. Eventually someone cooed,
“I think cards are the new art of the twentieth century,” I recoiled at this. Art? Card making is not art. It is a craft. A craft, not art. A craft is something anyone can do follwing a step by step process, using pre-fabricated items to make an item that give the semblance of homemade, but isn’t really. Almost like using a cake mix and comparing it to a homemade cake.
Last night I sat there sticking craft foam stickers on a wet wipes box, and of all of a sudden it occurred to me, I’ve fallen into the trap. The crafting trap.
I am creative person, and when ideas get in my head, they get the better of me. They haul around my brain whipping me into a frenzy, like a drunken man on a mechanical bull. I egg the idea on, like the drunken friend who just keeps putting quarters in the machine, even though the drunk man is crying out to get off, yelling, ‘It’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.’ But the idea goes and goes, until the friend runs out of quarters, and the bartender talks some sense into both of them and takes away their keys. Sometimes the idea wins, and sometimes the drunken friend with way too many quarters wins.
Emma is having her first birthday in a few weeks. I call her my little bug so the thought to do a ladybug theme emerged. And the idea came, and like the mechanical bull it began to whip around my brain. I could make ladybug cupcakes, and I could make up a ladybug craft (remember I don’t like crafts) and I could make a ladybug scavenger hunt; where I make ladybugs and hide them around the yard and give out prizes….right now I want to claw the mechanical bull out of my head and throw it against the wall. So what did I decide on doing? I scaled it back a bit, just a bit. No craft. Just the ladybug scavenger hunt, and the cupcakes are going to become abstract suggestions of lady bugs rather than each one an individual creation.
Last night I sat there and painted rocks into the aforementioned bugs while watching TV and thought again, ‘why am I doing this?’ Earlier in the night I was decorating baby wipes boxes with craft foam for a baby shower gift. Having been the guest that brought a gift card and felt the sting of feminine competitive guilt I didn ‘t want to be the cause of someone else feeling less than adequate just because I have a creativity problem. As I was piddling about with the craft foam I thought, ‘Really? Am I doing this? I have a master’s degree I should be writing pieces on the effect of American pop culture on overseas workers, not making useless decorative items.’
Sometimes I think magazines like Better Homes and Gardens are created to keep women distracted, to guilt us into make our own picture frames and table runners, rather than taking over the world. My mother in law started talking about kids parties and the effort we had gone through for our own children and what our mothers had done for us. The only cake I can remember from my childhood was one for my brothers pool party. My mother had gone and had it specifically made and when she picked it up she had found that they had put a woman in a bikini in a hot tub on top, not exactly appropriate for a boy’s pool party. She couldn’t remember anything from her parties either.
Last night she walked by my basin of newly painted ladybugs,
“You know if you wanted to make them shiny I have some polyurethane,’ she offered, adding to my Better Homes and Gardening myself.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!” she laughed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I hate October. Okay, scratch that, I hate what Americans have done to October. I like fall; the leaves are beautiful, I love the magic of the warm fronts and cold fronts clashing together, and I love the food (cider, pumpkin bread). Maybe it's because growing up in San Diego fall is really all in your mind, you can drink cider and snuggle down in a blanket but, really, it's still seventy degrees outside. No protests people reading this back home, it ain't cold, it really ain't.
So what do I hate about October? Number one: breast cancer awareness month. What? You say? You insensitive pig. I'm not insensitive. Here's why I hate this, more women die every year of heart disease, why don't we have a heart disease month? Because a woman's heart doesn't look good in a C cup. More women die every year of malaria. Why don't we have a malaria month, because those women are dying in Africa and Asia and we don't care about them. We could eradicate malaria, but we haven't. Why not? Because it's not in the US anymore, it's not our problem. Yes, you read that correctly, anymore, the U.S. used to have malaria. Once we got our water systems under control it went away. Industrialization eradicated the disease.
And to top it off there is a very high incidence of breast cancer in my family, so all month long I feel like the death toll is ringing.
Number two: Halloween. That's right, I HATE Halloween. Trick or Treating is great, let kids dress up and get free candy, that part is awesome. I hate the whole horror movie, 'c'mon let's celebrate evil,' thing. I used to watch horror movies, but now I can't. I don't understand the value of creating depictions of evil when there is already so much real evil in the world. Maybe it's because I seen too many abused children, too many starving children, too many fat corrupt politicians living off money that should be feeding their constituency. Just too many. So why create a movie about a man who locks people in rooms and makes them kill each other in diabolical ways?
All month long I am assaulted by commercials that tell me that zombies are going to eat my brain and that most likely my boobies are gonna be surgically removed. It's enough to make a woman not leave the house and turn off the TV...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Priority Check II

When Emma was first born I remember countless meals that I could not eat because the moment I lifted that first forkful to mouth she would cry for her own dinner. I never mastered breastfeeding while eating, or really doing much else, so I would leave the table and feed her while friends and family chatted and ate. I resented it. Intensely. Every time I had to run away to take the half hour to rock her to sleep or go sit in the nursery and nurse for forty five minutes I would burn in frustration. My thoughts would bounce back and forth between what I was missing and what I wanted to do. The conversations I couldn’t participate in, or the paintings I could be working on.
This weekend Scott was invited to speak at a conference. We purchased his ticket and then debated for several days on whether or not I would go. He was told in his confirmation email to bring a sleeping bag. We figured that meant rustic accommodations, and most likely sharing a bunk house with lots of other people. If I signed on to go would we be given our own cabin or would they throw us in with every body else? I hemmed and hawed, on one hand I pictured a sweet retreat where I could sit peacefully with a book and all my journals while Emma slept soundly in the room next door. On the other hand I pictured a miserable situation where I sit in the dark in the same room while she napped and went to bed early. Emma also doesn’t really sleep well if she knows that you are in the room or even really in close proximity. She will cry hoping you will rescue her from her solitude. This turns in to tortured wails if you are actually in the room with her and she knows it. Eventually she will sleep, but by the time silence settles into the room your nerves have pulled your neck muscles into suspension cables holding your shoulders tight and you feel like the biggest ass that ever walked the earth.
We decided that I would go. When we arrived our friend Amy, who was in charge of the conference, happily showed us our own cabin on the map. We marched over, hopes high. Once the door swung open and we saw the single room with a double bed and empty bunk beds our hearts sank. We sat on the bed and debated what to do. I stood up and said,
“I’ll go and talk to Amy and see if she can put us in a two room cabin,” I marched off. I found Amy and explained that the cabin is great but Emma doesn’t really sleep if we are in the same room with her and that I will largely end up sitting in the dark.
“Oh, let me talk to our host and see what he can do,” we waited in a calm sort of limbo. Our host showed up I overheard some discussion and he soon ushered us to the ‘Sheriff’s Office.’ The ‘Sheriff’s Office’ turned out to be a rec room filled with couches with a bedroom attached. The bedroom had a double bed. Perfect.
After dinner I shuffled off to our ‘Sheriff’s Office,’ ready to put Emma down and ease into a nice book. As I let my back sink into one of the couches I realized how funny my present attitude was, I was completely content to be left alone in a cabin with a book while my husband went off to the evening meeting. I didn’t even care that I was missing out. For the rest of the conference I wouldn’t be able to attend most of the workshops. The first was at nine in the morning and the second was at eleven. Emma naps from about ten to eleven thirty, smack in the middle of everything. I was more than happy to have the time away from email, my long to do list, and the pull of all the things a mother feels that she must do. So for three days I didn’t check Facebook or Gmail. I didn’t even crack my laptop. I only used my phone for a time telling device. I wasn’t able to attend fun workshops on wilderness leadership, and I didn’t care.
Funny how priorities and perspective changes…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food Fight

When Emma started showing interest in solid foods around five months old, I was actually pretty excited, a new milestone, more freedom from me. I whipped open one of my many baby books and read about what to introduce first. I was a little afraid because so far all she had to eat was pure breastmilk, clean, sanitized, perfect nutrition. I was a little scared about what would pass through my child's untainted lips. I bought the recommended rice cereal, mixed it up and offered it to her open mouth. Refused. I would try again a few days later, and still, refused. I talked to another mom about this, she said, 'They all hate rice cereal, it has no flavor.' So back to the store, I bought teething biscuits, the box suggested crushing them up and adding breastmilk or formula to make a cereal. I thought it was worht a shot, but I used apple juice instead because it's non-allergenic and Emma won't take formula and breastmilk is a pretty precious commodity. She loved it. Then we moved and they don't sell that type of teething biscuit in the US.
Over the next six months I have made her baby food. I read instructions for baby food, where they tell you not to boil it, or add water, or add fats or salt or sugar to it. And I thought, 'how in the world am I supposed to puree this if I can't add anything to it.' So I ignored the clinical advice, I boiled it, mashed it, added some of the cooking water when it needed it, threw in a little salt, maybe some butter to smooth it out. And guess what she loved it. She refused the store bought baby food and chomped mine down. One point for mommy.
Pretty soon she started refusing baby food and wanted what we had on our plates. This is a good transition, but she only has two teeth and we eat spicy food, a lot. Can she really handle what we eat? At first, no. After a few choking moments, I became a little gun shy and backed off the food. That's why children have daddies...
And grandparents. I think most moms have this view of being very careful about the first foods that they introduce to their children, slowly trying one thing at a time. Veggies first, so you have a little angel that loves their spinach. Certainly no sugar until that first birthday, when you give them a piece of their birthday cake and cameras poised, let 'er rip.
The other day while we were eating dessert I looked up and my father-in-law had his spoon outstretched to Emma,
"Emma, would you like some ice cream? Yeah," he nodded as she eagerly slurped off his spoon. Oh, jeez. Some things in life stick in your head so clearly that they remain with you throughout. I had a friend in grad school that had just had her first child, she was very all-natural. One day in class she was complaining that her mother-in-law kept giving her kid sweets and she didn't know how to handle it. After class one of the 'older' ladies in class very gently struck up a conversation with my friend, all I heard was,
"The relationship with your mother-in-law is more important than the lollipop," she did it so gently and kindly that it stuck in my memory.
This is what I thought as my father-in-law was giving my child her first taste of ice cream. I cringed inwardly and let him do it. Later that week he looked at me while holding a piece of french toast and asked,
"Can I give her a piece?"
"I would prefer you didn't just because it has eggs in it,and thank you, very much, for asking," he nodded and put it down. Goes both ways, eh?
I had also thought when he gave her ice cream, you know he raised five kids, he knows what he's doing. Later my mother-in-law reacted very strongly when Emma fell and bonked her head, a surprise from a woman I'm sure told her own children to walk it off. Later I looked at her, the one eye sideways squint,
"Would you have reacted that way with your own kids?" She looked off to the side, for a pensive moment,
"Probably not," it seems that grandparents have different rules than parents.
I watch as my little girl crawls all over the house, collecting bites of pumpkin from her grandma, bites of my peanut butter toast, and bites of whatever off the floor. Sigh, her sweet mouth is no longer untainted. I didn't stick to a regimen of introducing non-allergenic foods. She apparently seems to have survived it so far...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rules are changing

Today for lunch I filled Emma's high chair full of a smorgasbord of toddler eats (did I just call my baby a toddler?), cheerios, grape tomatoes, sliced turkey, and peices of pasta from last night's dinner. (Yes, she is capable of eating all that stuff at eleven months old, crazy, I know) And she whined. She pointed at my bowl of salad and whined. She pointed at the cupboard and whined. I thought to myself,
'She really just needs to eat what I gave her.'
So here's a thought after a year of just meeting their needs outright, whenever they cry you are there. Instantly with a lilt of their voice they are fed, rocked, changed and cooed over. Babies start to feel comfortable that when they have a need they are taken care of, they ask for food, drink, cuddles, toys, and they get it all. Then we completely change the game on them. When they start to assert their desires that aren't so much needs and more wants we get all, like, 'Eat it anyway, kid.'
For instance: usually when she's playing with other kids she just picks up whatever and starts playing with it. Most of my friends have kids about a year to a year and half old, for this age someone just picking up their toys and playing with them is NOT okay. Quite frequently me or the other mom is taking toys away from the other child and handing them back to Emma, because she's little and doesn't know any better. Right? SO yesterday Emma is playing on the floor of our friend's house and their daughter, Penny, who is about a year and a half, is 'sharing' her toys with Emma. I look over and Emma had reached out and grabbed a toy right out of Penny's hands. Uh, well, no more hapless victim. I took it away from Emma and handing it back to Penny.
So I'm sitting there thinking about all this, eating my salad, while my child is continuing to ignore the food on her plate and whine for something else. So, sucker that I am, I start picking the peas and nice black grapes out of my salad and putting them on her plate. They are GONE, almost instantly. I continue the dance of taking more peas and grapes out and putting them on her plate, she continues to gobble until there are two grape halves left right in front of her. I pick one up and offer it to her, she turns her head away. I look at her and say,
"All done?" While waving my outstretched palms in a circular pattern. She looks back waves her hands and for the first time goes,
"All done." I guess she's growing up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mt. Harvard

Yesterday was Emma’s eleven month birthday, so to celebrate we left her with her grandmother and climbed Mt. Harvard. I guess I’m not really a helicopter parent.
The trailhead to Mt. Harvard is about a ten minute drive from our house. After a night of multiple wake-ups, including a two hour fiasco, we kissed Emma good bye, hopped in the car and started a six mile approach. The trail leads you up through Horn Fork Basin, what the guide book describes as a ‘beautiful alpine valley,’ and it’s right. For about the first four miles you are in western pine forest and the last two you are above the tree line in a valley, with the peak of Mt. Columbia to your right, Birthday Peak to your right and the peak of Mt. Harvard directly in front of you. Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia are connected by a pointy saddle, full of castle shaped rock formations. It’s this saddle that kept Columbia from being declared it’s own mountain for several years.
We started out talking about an upcoming job opportunity that Scott has, we talked excitedly about what we would do with our money, this portion here, and that portion there. The first time in our marriage where one of us would be making a solid salary has made us giddy with the possibilities. At one point Scott reached out and took my hand and we hiked holding hands. We have gotten out of the habit of holding hands (something we used to do all the time) because in Kenya if you hold hands with someone it means you are having an illicit affair. Which I thought was hysterical when I was pregnant. As he took my hand, inwardly my heart leapt a little, with a girlish inside giggle, I thought, ‘he still really likes me.’
Once we were out of the tree line and looking at the peak of Harvard we debated on what was actually the peak. There was a knob to the southernmost part of the top and several humps afterwards. As we got closer I kept thinking the third hump down was the peak, from where we were it looked the tallest. I steeled myself and saved my energy, I put one foot in front of the other, slowly, stalwart, tortoise like. When were probably about a quarter mile from the first hump over from the knob, the one I thought, ‘was not the peak,’ and Scott said,
“I think this is the peak, the guys on top are acting like it’s the peak.” Sure enough the men on top had stripped off their shirts and were doing hand stands. Not something you do on top of a false summit; usually a false summit gets an angry curse word and a deflowering of your hopes. The next hikers that came down I asked, is this it? Or is it that one? They smiled and said,
“It’s this one.” My spirits soared, suddenly I had so much energy I felt like jogging to the top. Not really, but I think I could have. Knowing that the peak was right in front of me rather than another mile or so to the right made me rush with renewed energy. We were at the top of Mt. Harvard within moments.
And that’s why I climb mountains, the top. The conquer and the view. The challenge, the success and then sitting at the peak of the world and seeing a view that few people have the privilege of seeing. We could look all the way down the tips of the Sawatch Range. The dark blue and purple tips of Princeton, Antero, Shavano, and Tabaguache poked the sky and reminded us of our small-ness.
After a few celebratory handfuls of trail mix and the discovery that my husband doesn’t really like pretzels, we started down. I hate down. Peering over the edge of the rocks that you just took in stride, realizing that you have to turn yourself around and traverse that all without falling flat on your face. I mostly go down on my butt. I know it’s not cool, but when in doubt use the largest part of your body, which for most women is our bottom.
For the remaining five or six miles of descent, we marched. We were eager to get home to our awaiting shower, and beer. Our post-hike tradition. This time I felt another strong pull on my nose to home, the pull to see my little girl. I did miss her, missed holding her and hearing her precious giggle. We strode along in silence this time, thinking about things to return to.
We called my mother in love on the way home from the trail, she was waiting outside for us, with Emma on her hip. Even though couldn’t hear her we knew that she was pointing to the car and telling her that Mommy and Daddy were coming home. Emma’s face turned from one of baby hopefulness and confusion to all smiles when she could recognize us through the windshield. As mom shuffle-ran up to the car we could hear her peals of baby giggles. I do love the mountains, but it’s good to be home.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tomato Fire

Grocery shopping in Kenya, as one would expect, was a completely different experience from shopping in the states. For produce we had three options, a green grocer shop called Zucchini’s, our local produce stand, and the grocery store, Nakumatt. Zucchini’s was usually the best deal, they had the best selection, it was pretty fresh, and it wasn’t that expensive. The local produce stand was by far the cheapest and it always felt really good to support the ladies who ran it, Miriam and Lucy, they knew our car and watched my belly grow and cooed over Emma when she was born. But, they didn’t have a large selection and they were out of the way. Nakumatt was the worst, it was older, and much more expensive. So you think problem solved, right? Yes and no. The same vegetables and fruit were available all the time, it never changed. I could never get a handle on what was in season and you had no idea where any of it came from. Most likely it all came from local farms which is good and most likely it was pretty close to organic. There was that one apple that tasted like paint, though…
I was looking forward to coming home and eating seasonally and being able to buy produce with an informed attitude. Scott got me a copy of the cookbook Simply in Season for my birthday, so that I could actually know what is in season right now. As the leaves have started to change I have eagerly dived into the Autumn section planning my meals around pumpkin, squash, chard, and apples. I have been uber-pleased to see that our local grocery store offers Colorado grown produce and at cheaper prices than the imported produce.
Knowing that the winter is long here and that the quality of produce will actually drop I have been trying to purchase large quantities of produce and ‘put them up’ for the winter. That’s right, like the good farm wife that I am. It’s a tricky process because it’s really only worth the time and work if you get a really good deal on the produce. So far I have bought a 25lb box of peaches for $12, a 25lb box of tomatoes for $15, and a box of roasted green chiles for $15. The peaches became jam and peach ginger chutney, the tomatoes got skinned and are frozen, and the chiles got skinned, chopped and frozen. I would say that the peaches were by far the best deal, I now have Christmas presents for quite a few people. I have chiles coming out of my eyeballs, because you really only use about 4 ounces per recipe (if you are reading this and you have green chile recipes, please send them my way). The tomatoes may not have been the best deal, but I have ‘canned’ tomatoes that will probably last me through the winter and after doing the math I think it will actually save money.
Earlier this week I was at the grocery store and realized that enchilada sauce costs $3.59 a can. I sat there and thought that I had most of the components at home that needed to be used up, tomatoes, garlic, onions, chiles, etc. So I thought, hey I can do that. I threw 36oz of my frozen tomatoes, an onion, four cloves of garlic, cumin, oregano, and four chipotle chilies packed in adobo in the crock pot and let her rip. Okay, those chipotle suckers are not kidding around. I made a vat of hot sauce. I added a sweet bell pepper, hoping that sugar and more bulk would break up the heat. Still fire. I added some fire roasted bell pepper, hoping to keep the chipotle flavor but soak up beat. Still fire. I added a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Still fire. I added another precious freezer jar of my tomatoes. Well, it didn’t burn my esophagus this time around…
I tell myself that it’s still worth it because I am controlling the amount of processed foods that we are eating. Less preservatives and fake sugars and fats are always good, right? I didn’t do the math to see how much I ended up plunking into the crock pot to make three 16 oz freezer jars of enchilada fire. Pretty sure it cost more than $3.59…