And for once I was SuperMom

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's the end of the year, time to look back on the year, time to think about what went great and what didn't. And most of all time to make New Year's Resolutions. If you're not me. I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I did it a few times back when I was younger and foolisher. They lasted till about January 15th and then they dropped, like a 92 year old man at a Polar Bear Swim. This year I will not be making resolutions. I won't do it.
I also don't have a lot of time for myself, it's almost all I can do to snatch a moment to write this. (It's 9:56pm and I would rather be in bed, but my creative monkey is on my back, so I type.) Self improvement is far from my mind, mostly I run after Emma and try to keep on top of chores so that we are well fed and live in not a pig sty. (Earlier today I thought 'there will be a point in my life when I am not whipping everything out of harm's way from Emma, it will come.')
I used to sit in church and hold my mom's hand and run my fingers over her nails. She wears long acrylic nails. I loved them, they were shiny, like drops of water frozen in time. I think that I thought I would get acrylic nails when I was a kid. I don't, they would be a waste on me. But I always thought those nails of hers were so magical.
I wonder what it is about me that Emma will find magical. What part of what I just do naturally will make her feel most loved? What part of what I do will make her think that I am beautiful? What part of me will she just be amazed by? I don't ever think that I should pursue that, but as kids growing up there were parts of our parent's that we just admired. I wonder what those will be.
I think that for this year I am good enough. Judging by the way my baby face lights up when she sees me, or that she eagerly toddles towards me, or reaches for me, I must be doing something right. This year I chose to rest on my laurels focus on my kid and trust that something about me is amazing. I may not know it's there or even think it's worth mentioning, but it's there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Great Expectations

I have three mothers. The woman who gave birth to me, the woman who married my father, and the woman who gave birth to my husband. My mom and stepmom live in California and I live in the basement apartment of my mother-in-law's log home in Colorado. A lot of you know that, some of you don't.
When most people find out that I live with my mother in law, they lower their eyes, look at me, and say, 'How is that going?'
I usually shrug and say, 'As perfect as that situation can be.' Largely I feel like the person asking wants me to go off on how horrible it is, quite frankly I won't slander my mother in law. She's a great lady and I love her. I face life much the same way she does which is probably why my husband married me.
I'm in California right now, making the multi-city journey from and to parent's houses and friend's houses. Coming home is always a journey that I take with some trepidation. I haven't lived in California for about five years. And I have changed a bit. I'm skinnier, wiser, tolerate cold better, more educated, and not to mention that I am married and have a kid. Just a few changes. Oh and I've lived in Africa. That too. So here we come, put the baby in the car and drive across Colorado, Utah and Nevada to wind up in Southern California.
How does it feel to see this expanse? First of all I am flabbergasted at how many more people live here. The eight lane street that bisects my home town is four times the size of the one that runs through Buena Vista. We went to church on Christmas and I was reminded that people in California actually look like the people in the magazines. Skinny and stylish. There's a lot of thin in Colorado but that is just because EVERYBODY runs, mountain bikes, hikes, etc. And I mean EVERYBODY. Since most of my clothes were ruined in Kenya, and I am two sizes smaller than I used to be my wardrobe is limping along. In BV that's not a problem, at all. I think there's a little limping in everyone's wardrobe, and no one really cares. So I sat there in the service looking at my Keen ballet flats that didn't quite match my grey tunic and felt a little less than. This is a feeling that I haven't felt in a long time. My life experiences have brought me to a place where I feel pretty good about myself. I heard this phrase once, 'At twenty you have the face that God gave you and at fifty you have that you have earned.' Appearance wise I am starting to feel that I have what I have earned. All the miles that I have run, weights I have lifted, mountains I have climbed have shown up on my body. And of course the baby that I have nursed, but a good bra can take care of that....I usually feel pretty good about the way I look. As for the rest of my life I feel pretty good about that too, good marriage, beautiful baby, world experience, and an education. But at that moment in that church the girl behind me wearing Laboutins and Dolce & Gabbana made me feel schleppy.
As I live with one of my moms I often caught in what the expectations of me are in that household and as I go to my other mom's houses I feel tangled in the expectations that each house has of me and who I am. I have started to realize that the expectations I feel are really often placed on my own head. Probably they all just want me to be happy and fulfilled and at the core I am. If they do have expectations of me that I am not filling I can't do much about it, I just wash dishes when I can, cook when they let me, and try to clean up after myself and my own. I know that even in the most well running relationships that there are bumps and expectations not met, but in the end I hope we all give each other grace and know that we love each other. And ladies I do love you.
Coming home to California makes me think about how I keep moving forward in life and am always trying to slough off who I used to be, the scared child or the awkward teenager. Going back to the church I grew up in reminds of that girl and how I wanted to show off for her and everyone else that I have turned out amazing. I got so caught up in making the outside look good that I forgot that the inside looks pretty good. I realized that the only person who's expectations that I can truly live up to are my own. Quite frankly I think I am doing pretty good.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Last year at about this time Emma was only two months old. I remember sitting in church thinking about being Mary; giving birth in a barn. No one helping you but your shell-shocked husband, who thought about divorcing you because you're knocked up with someone else's kid. By the way, you're giving birth in a barn after fleeing for your life. But think about that, a barn. A nasty barn, on straw, with livestock by you. A far cry from our sterile and beautiful birthing rooms. Then lying my new precious baby in a manger, which is a feeding trough. Can you even think of putting your new born baby in a horse's feeding trough? I can't.
Another Christmas carol struck me this year, 'no crying he makes.' I thought, 'how sad that the writer of this carol thought that the perfect baby doesn't cry.' That's a baby's only way of communicating is to cry. Well taken care of baby's usually don't cry, because their needs are all met. I hope that Mary and Joseph were able to meet Jesus' needs and care for him. But they weren't perfect. I can't even imagine how traumatic that birth would be and I'm pretty sure that had I given birth in those conditions that Emma would've cried terribly. In fact considering the way that my birth went I'm sure that Emma wouldn't have lived and I might not have either. SO praise God for modern medicine and C-sections that save lives. So praise God for healthy children that cry and let you know how they feel. So praise God that we can set aside all the presents and wrapping paper and focus on what is important. So praise God for this day where we all take a moment and regardless of what we believe spend it with family. So Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Eye

The week before Halloween I had a shiner. A big black eye. Not in preparation for my costume. My husband put our child down on my goes a little like this:
At about 4:45-ish Emma woke up crying. We had been up most of the night with her, I say to Scott,
"Just bring her in here," so wailing her bring our daughter into the bedroom. I curl up in a ball on the edge of my pillow. He sets Emma down right on my head. Right on the curve of bone above my eye. Didn't drop or toss just set down. Her wailing reached a new pitch, he picked her back up off my face. I lay there fingering my eye thinking,
"Wow, that really hurt, wow, that actually really hurts, I am really kinda in pain here, wait why is she the one wailing? Don't I get to wail here?" The answer is no. I lie back down, Scott puts Emma in between on the bed. More wailing, still not my own, after a few minutes of this I say,
"Okay the magic is over," roll out of bed, find an ice cube and sit on the couch holding an ice cube to my eye. I don't know what your patience is like at five in the morning, but mine is a little short. So the ice cube situation only lasted a few minutes. In this time Scott had managed to quiet Emma down and get her back to bed. I threw the ice in the sink and slumped off to bed.
Later that morning after showering and getting myself ready my brother's girlfriend saw me and thought that I had made an interesting eyeshadow choice. It seems that the baby to the face manuever had given me a black eye that exactly mimicked poorly blended purple eyeshadow. So here she is thinking that either I was trying to be creative or mentally debating if she should tell me that I needed to smudge and blot more. Funny how personal injuries can place people in awkward situations. For about a week after I sported a one eyed faux makeup job, it actually didn't look that bad. Maybe I should see if Revlon sells a 'bruise' or 'shiner' eyeshadow palette.
This is the first time that motherhood has actually injured me, aside from childbirth...but that's a whole different story. So this makes me ask when have you ever actually been bruised by your child? By happenstance, accident, or maybe even on purpose?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making Magic

We had a fake Christmas tree when I was a kid. I never thought it was strange, that was just what my family did. I think my mom said we had it because she was allergic to pine. Maybe she did it because Christmas trees are so completely expensive, whatever the reason that was what we did. And you know I loved it. Why? Because my mom made it special each year. We would get sparkling apple cider, assemble the tree, Brett (my oldest brother) always got to put the top on the tree, until one year when I was finally tall enought to do it. A red letter year I can assure you. Then we would decorate it. We each had our own box of ornaments. My mom made ornaments each year and we each got to choose one. I remember them being magical, these special decorations that my mother lovingly made for us. We now have all these ornaments, my mom gave us our boxes when we moved out. As a result of my childhood tastes I now have an inordinate amount of pink sparkly Christmas tree ornaments. One she actually made out of my favorite necklace that broke. A redemption of a true sadness, I still can remember the exact moment when those pink opalescent heart beads scattered over the bathroom floor.
This year we took part in a tradition that is almost the complete opposite of assembling a fake tree we actually got to pick out our own tree in the forest and cut it down. A family that owns a fairly large piece of property a little outside our town, for ten bucks, you can cut down your own tree. We called and made arrangements, she told us to bring a saw. We ran errands in town, ans realised we forgot a saw. We called and were assured that there would be a saw to borrow. After a long drive up and up past lots for trailheads farther into the forest we came to their property gate. We parked at their house, the mom came out and directed us to follow her husband and son up into their property. We got out of the car, wind whipped around us blowing snow and chilling us to the bone. I tucked Emma into the sling. I saw one tree, it was about the right height. Standing next to it I saw a hollow spot. Nope. We hiked in a bit more I saw a tree that seemed perfect. I stood next to it and called out to Scott. It was a bit tall, but the sons of the family told us that they could cut it shorter. Within minutes the eldest son was carrying the tree over his shoulder. Scott and the son jammed it into our car and we were on our way back to the house for hot chocolate and to pay for our tree. As we drove home and a tree branch was poking me in the neck I looked at Scott,
"Did we just forget twine or rope?"
"I wasn't sure how do it yourself it was,"
"Neither was I," looks like we had a few things to learn about cutting down our own tree.
At home mounted in the corner of the living room the tree still seems perfect. The cold that forced me to decisive seems to be a good thing.
Now that we have a baby it's our turn to create traditions. To make magic for her. To turn putting together a plastic pine tree into a thing of memories. To make a child's piece of jewelry into a Christmas decoration that she will have for the rest of her life. Luckily she won't remember riding home with a pine tree in her face, so maybe next year we'll wear heavier coats and remember the rope..

Friday, December 10, 2010

Walking on water

When Emma was about nine months old she was looking like she was ready to start walking. She has seemed to be a child that is always interested in going, an active participant in life. My stepmother suggested that I give her two hard boiled eggs and that would give her the balance she needed to start walking. I was hesitant to do this because I didn't want to start down that long dark hallway towards pushing my child to succeed. I never want to be the parent that pressures her into performing in sports or academics. I don't want to start by pressuring her into walking before she's ready. I also didn't want to get my hopes that this magical moment would happen when I handed her these eggs and then have her just plop back on her bottom and start mouthing the eggshell. I hope that in life I can just open up experiences to her and allow her to decide whether or not she's ready or whether or not she wants to pursue them. I think some people percieved my hesitancy to give her the eggs as my desire to keep her a baby, that wasn't my desire at all, I really just want her to walk when she's ready and not when I think she should start.

When she hit a year old and still wasn't walking, I did start thinking about those eggs. She hit thirteen months this month and I really thought about hard boiling some eggs. Emma would get involved in examining some object and stand for several minutes without even realising what she was doing. I would offer the new push toy that she had been given for her birthday and sometimes she would push it and sometimes she would cry and drop back down on her bum and crawl away. I would take her by the hand and try to walk her down the hall rather than carrying her and depending on her mood she would turn and grip my pantlegs and I would give up and carry her.

I usually have chapstick in my pocket. Always. It's been a habit since, gosh, as long as I can remember. I have the most observant child in the world. In the past week every time she sees a chapstick she begs for it, tries to take the top of off it and put it on and then she tries to put it on me. Then she spends quite awhile ruminating on how to get the cap back on and off the lip balm. I have such mixed feelings watching her imitate a habit of mine. I love it, on one hand, because it means she is looking up to me and does want to do the things I do. On the other hand, some would argue, my attachment to lip balm isn't the best thing to emulate. So she will see all of me, flaws and perfections and might not chose the best parts of me to copy.

On Thursday Emma was examining the base of the lip balm and the cap and, tongue out in concentration, was trying to put the pieces back together. She was standing, and I was sitting a few feet away. She looked up at me and then took about five steps toward me. I was enthralled! She walked! She was able to forget her fear and actually walk. I cheered for her and scooped her up and smothered her sweet smooth cheeks in kisses. I felt a deep heart soaking satisfaction in watching her achieve such a big milestone. She giggled and squirmed and then didn't do it again all day.
Today she did the same, while holding her sippy cup and focusing on getting the cat she walked about five steps. She did it twice.

She needed to have that moment where she was so focused on what she wanted that she forgot her fear of falling and just took those steps. I couldn't force her to do it. I couldn't cajole her into doing it. All I could do was give her the space to do it in and then just let her do it in her own time. I didn't use hard boiled eggs, she choose chapstick instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Phone Book Death

This is my mom's response to the blog 'Kleenex Death.'
Hi, I just read your description of Emma demolishing a box of Kleenex.

Just for the record, I let Brett do pretty much the same thing to a phone book for pretty much the same reason. I wasn't getting dressed, I was trying to fix dinner; same issue. I rationalized it by deciding that he was learning about hand-eye coordination. I'm good at that, if you ever need help, just whistle, I can always think of something they're learning that's good.

Here are some other axioms I learned. Quiet is better that clean, usually. Quiet is better than almost anything. Junk food is better than crying, always-especially in the car or on planes. French fries were invented by God for keeping bored children in cars from ruining their parents mental health. Never take a hungry child and coupons on the same grocery shopping trip. Never take a hungry child anywhere, for that matter. Never put siblings in seat belts close enough so they can actually reach each other. Never ask a child if they want to eat a given food; just tell them this is what we're having. You have 2 choices; take it or leave it. Never go anywhere with out food and an activity for your child and a soft snuggly, as well.

Gotta go, I'm actually at work and I should do some.

Love, Mom

Timeless advice, I actually did laugh out loud and actually did read this aloud to my mother-in-love and my husband.
Here are some that I've learned:
1. You want good customer service? Plop that baby on the counter, look frazzled, and smile.
2. Kids freaking out? Change the scenery, go outside, go in another room, go take a walk, or just wander around a store.
3. A little Disney Channel never hurt anyone.
4. Making memories is more important than a clean house or a fantastically organized birthday party.
Since Emma is only one year old that's all I got. Please write in with your hilarious or just completely true axioms!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Please, don't hurry down the chimney tonight...

This afternoon I made some cookies; a holiday twist on the classic chocolate chip, I replaced some of the four with cocoa, used white chocolate chips, and then added about a cup of crushed candy canes. As I was smashing the candy canes in a plastic bag the Christmas carols that my father-in-law had playing on satellite radio only increased my will to crush.
I don't particularly like Christmas carols. Sometimes when I have said this I'm pretty sure that the listener doubted my salvation. I love Jesus, I just don't like quite a bit of the music that we play around his birthday. And I don't hate all Christmas carols, some are quite lovely, these are the ones that drive my candy cane crushing:
1. Anything with onomonopeia (sp?); i.e. pa-rump-pa-pum, jingle jangle, clip clop, etc.
2. Anything with references to how much loot Santa is going to bring you.
3. Anything by Manheim Steamroller.
4. Anything with a refrain of 'ho ho ho'
5. Anything with a reference to a bowl full of jelly.
6. Anything sexually implicating Santa.
As I read this list I see Santa appearing a lot. Maybe I just hate Santa. Oh no, this is where my inner therapist crosses his hands in his lap looks at me over his glasses and asks me if I have any unfulfilled Christmas wishes. Oh, wow, I feel the beginning of a Hallmark Christmas specail coming on..I confess I never got that pony and dissolve into tears. Throughout the movie I resolve my issues, meet the man of my dreams, who is great with my kid (because in the movie I'm a single mom, because aren't they all in movies?), and at the end I discover that there really is a Santa, and what does he bring me? That pony I've always wanted.
So where does this tradition of Santa come from? Apparently it's Dutch. St. Nicholas used to bless poor children with coins in their wooden shoes overnight. What did we turn it into? An overweight man who fulfills your gross material desires. But only if you're nice, if you're not? BAM. Coal. Sorry kid maybe your parents will put you on Ritalin and next year you'll get that bike.
So many of the songs are actually just about winter and not actually about Jesus. When I was teaching elementary school in Kenya it was very hard to extricate the cold from Christmastime art lessons. We did a lot of stars and angels. One of the first grade teachers had her students make snow flakes and i pointed out that I was struggling with that, most of these kids have never even seen snow. Her shoulders slumped, 'I know it was in the curriculum and I was running out of ideas,' i laughed. Been there, done that.
Growing up in San Diego, do you know how I felt listening to 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland?' That's right, left out. Oh no, I do have Christmas issues...where's my therapist, is this breakthrough part of the movie?
I do actually have some Christmas carol damage, I used to work at Starbucks and I used to work the opening shift. That means at five am i was stocking a pastry case. Some of you have seen what I look like in the morning, it ain't pretty. I can tell you right now I have never been so angry at scones in all my life. Now throw in a co-worker who cranks on the Christmas CD, which included 'Santa Baby,' (see above requirements for hatred of a song, this one fits most of them) and then sings along with them in her Ukrainian accented English. Had she not been slightly scary I might have started whipping scones at her head.
Anyway all of this curmudgeonly-ness aside, I do actually love Christmas. A dialed down Christmas without all the pressure to have a perfect house or give amazing gifts. One where we focus on time with family, Jesus, and maybe some magic for the children. Or the children inside of us...oh, shoot, maybe my therapist is Santa...
Oh, and those cookies? Turned out flat, bah-humbug.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Name is Memory

I recently just raed the book My Name is Memory, a romance story based around the religious belief of reincarnation. The underlining premise is that we are all reincarnated, but we forget each former life. The protagonist is cursed or blessed with the ability to remember each life. He remembers the woman that he loves and in each life finds her, and whether or not he gets her is left to fate. I don't believe in reincarnation but the story sounded incredibly interesting, I'm not the type of person to eschew a book just because it espouses a belief that i don't have.
My daughter has night terrors. Something that I don't completely understand. She awakes at night screaming, and when i go in there her eyes are squeezed shut, her arms are flailing, and she has usually squirmed herself into a corner of the crib. It's terrifying for a mother or father to see their child in such ununderstandable psychological pain. We have no idea why she gets them, i have been with her almost every moment of her life, nothing has harmed her, for the first year of her life she has had no trauma. Why would she have nightmares?
After reading this book it was the first time that I could understand why someone would believe in reincarnation. The theory that our soul lasts throughout many lifetimes and keeps coming back seems less implausible to me after reading this tale. Take Emma's night terrors, if you believe in reincarnation she is just experiencing a psychic watermark from her last lifetime. In the Christian tradition the only explanation for night terrors seems to be demonic interference. Now, which makes me more comfortable? I definitely prefer the reincarnation explanation.
As for the book the author, Ann Brashares, the path her tale takes is a convoluted. She include a more dramatic path about a 'brother' that really distracts from what could be an amazing exploration of reincarnation and the nature of romance. She works through reincarnation and how it would affect memory in a beautiful way that makes me rethink all the jokes that I have made about coming back as a dung beetle. I am not sure how much research she did and how much was just her conjecture, but I like the romance and I really liked the premise.
All in all it was a good read, but I wished Brashares had been thoughtful and just explored reincarnation and character development, instead she got caught up in a sensationalistic rabbit trail.
But hey, maybe I'm just an old soul...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elk Roast

Today was my first foray into cooking the elk that we helped process. Our friends gave us a cut of the backstrap (steak), a rump roast, and a package of stew meat. Since we've had a lot of soup lately, and the backstrap should be saved for a special occasion, so a roast it would be.
I had heard that to reduce the 'gamey-ness' of a wild piece of meat you should soak it in milk. I don't know why that works, maybe it's an urban myth, who knows? After defrosting the roast I dumped about 3 cups of milk over it and walked away for a few hours. I had a recipe for elk roast taht had very specific instructions like 'sear at high heat in an oven for about a 1/2 hour, then turn to moderate heat and cook for two to three hours.' Knowing that Emma had an afternoon appointment and i wouldn't be around to hover over our oven and baste this low fat piece of meat in butter, I decided to pot roast it.
Here is a miraculous moment, I don't like pot roast. I am usually bored by it, just meat and potatoes? Really? And for a long time I didn't really like cooked carrots. Three strikes, you're out. I also don't like meat loaf, when discussing this with my husband he lowered a finger at me and proclaimed, 'You just don't like it because you think it's plebian.' So? Call me food elitist, I can take it. Anyway the lure of the crock pot won over my distaste for plebian fare. At around 2pm, when Emma was safely stowed in her crib for nap time, I rubbed the elk roast in garlic, and covered it in pepper, slapped bacon across it, surrounded it with shallots, sunk it into three inches of vegetable broth, flipped it on low and walked away.
At five it looked at bit raw, up to high and again i walked away. I do love a crockpot. Did I ever tell you what I did to the one I had in Nairobi, why that's a whole 'nother blog.
I served it with winter vegetable bake and sauted greens, local and seasonable. Quite smugly I may add. And it worked, it was good. We happily ate and talked and there was only enough left for a sandwich the next day.
So my first foray into roadkill eating was successful, but then I covered it in bacon and garlic, how could I really fail?