30 October 2010

Guess who forgot to take pictures

My trip was great. I didn't even leave the resort, but that was ok; I only had a very limited time there, and I was more than happy to be able to spend it hanging out with people instead of seeing sights. I would love to go back and see the sights, of course. I am bummed to have missed Chichen Itza and the other Mayan ruins, but I have the rest of my life ahead of me. Yes I do.

I remember every time I'm in a plane that is taxi-ing the runway that I am terrified of the takeoff. Conveniently I forget until then, so I have no dread until we're in motion. Then I'm like, "Oh yeah." And when we're making the final descent, I'm also pretty sure that I'm going to die. Every time. Each way to and from Playa del Carmen, I had three flights - 6 near death experiences. It was stressful. And I'm finding that over time, I am more and more fearful, even though I have spent a whole lot of time in the air. I used to find it all very exhilarating. Now, not so much

Needless to say, I made it alive. I witnessed the sunrise en route to Phoenix, and the sunset en route from Mexico City to Cancun. Long day, but it was pretty ok as I had a book to read and an iPod to listen to. What more could a woman want? I speak enough Spanish to understand where the signs are pointing me and when someone is asking me if I have any bags to check (NOPE!) or any connections, so the layovers were easy and carefree. I enjoyed the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) decorations all around the airport. (I enjoyed them immensely, actually. I could write a whole blog post about how awesome I found them, and how awesome I find the whole idea of Dia de los Muertos.)

Cancun was warm, rainy, and really humid (which turns my hair into crazy frizzy Gene Wilder hair - thanks to Melissa for pointing out the spot-on resemblance). My ride took me past myriad resorts and golf courses, all with impenetrable fortress-like entrances. My resort was 45 minutes away and appeared to be bigger than the sun.

Melissa said she would leave a message at the front desk for me with her room number, but lo and behold, she happened to walk up as I waited at reception to check in. I was given The Bracelet (the color of which determines one's class and therefore where one is permitted to eat and drink). We joined the others at dinner, hugs all around (I love hugs, and I give them away indiscriminately). I was thrilled to meet Melissa's husband-to-be and her brother's awesome girlfriend (I fell a little bit in love with her right away). And it was wonderful to see Melissa's parents who feel a bit like a second set of my own. I've known them for nearly 20 years.

We ate, we drank, we mingled and chatted, and then I went to my room (on the other side of the sun) to drop off my stuff. Walking into the room made me feel profoundly lonely, immediately. You have to remember that I spend a lot of time surrounded by people (especially children), so the big roomy luxury seemed a bit excessive without anyone to share it with. At least it did on that first night, hehe. King sized bed, huge jacuzzi tub, I could have lived there.

Melissa called the next morning while I was in the tub (I could have lived there specifically). We met and headed to breakfast. We spent the whole pre-wedding day together and with the brother, his lovely girlfriend, and the fiance. I do fifth-wheel well - when I'm comfortable I'm enough person to make up two people. We spent a long time in the bathwater ocean (I could have lived there too). The sky to the east, out over the sea, was almost purple with storm clouds. It started to rain as we were walking back to our rooms to get changed. The rain was warm. Incredible.

The wedding was beautiful. It was a casual, beachy thing. The bridesmaids wore purple dresses that made us "feel beautiful" which is perhaps the loveliest thing a bride has ever done for her bridesmaids. We were in a gazebo on the beach and there was a lovely warm wind (hello, Gene Wilder!). Declarations of love were exchanged, tears were shed. Life is good.

Post-wedding we drank, ate, mingled, and drank. At some point after dark we changed into swimwear and headed to the beach and drank some more. A resort security guard guy hung around to make sure we didn't get ourselves into trouble with the ocean and our alcohol. As my Spanish improves immensely when I have had a few drinks, I chatted with Aurelio (said security guard) and tried to convince him that since one of us was a certified lifeguard (or so I was told), we would be ok. He had heard this song and dance before. We negotiated wading up to our rodillos (knees - I had to ask while pointing). The rest of the night was a bit, um, foggy.

Melissa ordered me a wake up call, bless her. I was disappointed to find that I was still inebriated when I received that call, and hardly in a state to pack and travel. The rest of the day was a bit long and awful as I traveled back home. I got to my train station about 21 hours after I woke up, and even though I was wearing the warmest clothes I had taken with me, it was still a late October night in Portland and I was cold.

Eli was so sweet when he woke up and realized I was next to him. He said, "Hi Mommy" about 15 times and just hugged me and stroked my face. When the other two woke up, they ran in and we snuggled and loved eachother. It was great to be home.

21 October 2010

It's getting so close.

I leave for Mexico in less than 48 hours! I am so excited. Looking so forward to temperatures in the high 80s, swimming in the ocean (assuming that part of the Gulf of Mexico is swimmable...), and mostly hanging out with my bestie. Not looking forward missing the kids, and looking forward to missing the kids. If that makes any sense. Four days and three nights of looking after nobody but myself. Putting nobody to bed but me.

I'll be desperately missing my family by the end of it, and that will be pretty great.

But first I get to see Sam Harris, and that's going to be awesome.

17 October 2010

No Makeup Day

So I was on the elliptical, reading a magazine (yeah yeah, I know). There was a section about women accepting and even (gasp!) highlighting their "flaws". Like the chick with glasses getting, you know, really cool funky glasses and wearing lots of sparkly eye shadow. And the one with the curly hair just letting it be curly ("I rarely flat-iron my hair") and finding lots of creams and gels to keep her curls neat and tidy. There was a freckled woman talking about how she likes her freckles, so she rarely wears heavy foundation to cover them up; she mentioned how easy her post-gym routine is - just wash, moisturize, concealer, bit of blush and lip gloss, some mascara, and voila!

I've never been a makeup person. I have dabbled, but I always felt like a little girl playing dress-up, so it isn't something I make a part of my life. I don't even own makeup.

All this being said, I get it. I don't judge people that wear makeup, not at all. Unless they have lived under a rock, they have been sent the message - no, that implies that the "message" is subtle and implied - they have been TOLD that women need makeup to "accentuate features" or "hide flaws and imperfections". (We also need to shave/wax/laser numerous areas of our body to keep them in a permanently hair-free state, but that's a different blog post.)

Dudes? Not so much. I've never heard any guy say that he knows he doesn't *need* makeup, but his eyes just get lost in his face without a bit of eyeliner. He just uses a bit of blush to accentuate his high cheekbones. He knows he doesn't *need* it, but it makes him feel more beautiful. So it's okay, because it's his choice. Nobody is making him do it.

No, none of that. It's a woman thing. And for once, we have nobody to blame but ourselves; the truly diabolical part of the whole makeup affair is the fact that it is perpetuated by WOMEN. It isn't dudes putting together those "Stars Without Makeup!" shockers. It isn't dudes that care whether we are wearing makeup or not. It's women. Women wear makeup because it makes them feel better about themselves, because most of our role models are women who wear makeup!

I decided that I wanted to organize a "No Makeup Day", and found out after posting the idea on Facebook that, of course, it has already been done. There was a Blogging Without Makeup Day last May where bloggers posted pictures of themselves without makeup, which apparently was a huge thing for a lot of people. I have never posted a picture of myself *with* makeup, so I don't really get it. Some people from the Today Show went makeup free on No Makeup Day, and there was a *huge* difference in their appearances. Like UK television where the actors look like, you know, humans. Why can't this be normal?? I just don't understand.

The kids got some school pictures packets from Village Home where they take classes, and I noticed that there is an option to have your child's photos retouched. Just a little bit, to erase blemishes, or a jumbo retouch which whitens the eyes and teeth, removes flyaway hair, and clears the skin. I am completely amazed by this. Is this really where we're at? It is now a normal and acceptable thing to "improve" your *child's* appearance (by whose standards???) so that we will look back on our memories and see things the way they weren't.

What's wrong with looking like humans?

I'd like to change people's ideas of beauty, and that really does start on the inside. Hey, some cliches are cliches for a reason.

Watch this space.

15 October 2010

Today was a good day.

Non-parents (or at least unenlightened people) might not appreciate the goodness of today on paper. But it was awesome. And I'm gonna write about it.

This morning, Nate and I went out to buy a birthday present for his new friend whose party is tomorrow. First of all, I feel totally blessed (you know, in a secular way) to have met this family because not only are the kids wonderful (and coincidentally nearly the same ages as my kids), the mom is really nice and fun to talk to. Great combo. But I digress. We had a birthday present to buy, and the mom mentioned that the birthday boy might like a book of his own as the books in the family tend to be communal. So off to Powell's Books Nate and I went.

Can I make a side-note here about how much I love Powell's? I love Powell's. A lot. I have early Oregonian settlers named Powell going way back in the family history and I have always liked to think there was a connection between my ancestry and the bookstore that I loved and frequented as a kid. Maybe there is. Maybe I should look into that... Anyway, I haven't set foot in a Powell's in years (having lived overseas), so walking in today, even though it was a branch I have never been to before, really brought back memories of reselling my already-read Babysitter's Club and Christopher Pike books so that I could get my fix of new ones. And there was a Chinese food place that sold awesome spring rolls near my childhood Powell's, and my mom would buy us some when we went there. Good times. And then I would read my new books for hours upon hours.

Where was I? So off to Powell's Nate and I went, that's right. On the way we stopped at the coffee shop. I knew that they would have a "pumpkin spice" flavor of some sort, and I knew that Nate would love a Pumpkin Spice Steamer, and I always love a latte, so that was a pretty special and decadent (for us) first stop. Then to Powell's, which was awesome (as always - America really knows how to do a giant bookstore). After some looking, we found what I think will be a great and loved gift. Can't tell you, because the walls have ears.

Back home. Lazy morning. Nick spent awhile looking for jobs while we were gone and had finished his search for the day. We had nothing in particular to do. So we decided to go to the zoo.

I should tell you all that my beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful mother gave us the gift of Oregon Zoo and Portland Children's Museum memberships when we moved here. We have gone to both but not very often because, well, it was summer and they were crowded. No fun. But being a "homeschooling" family, we can visit interesting places during school hours and find them pleasantly deserted. So off to the zoo we went.

It was deceptively gorgeous outside. Clear, blue, still skies. Sunny and beautiful. Having spent the last 6 years in Australia, we under-dressed. In Sydney, if the sun is out, you'll be warm in a t-shirt and jeans (well, an Oregonian would - seasoned Sydney-siders would be wearing heavy coats and scarves). In Portland, not so much. We checked out the Cascade Trail, which was awesome. Black bears, bobcats, bald eagles, salmon, turtles, beavers, river otters, all native stuff. I have never seen that part of the zoo before, and it was really fun. And, unfortunately, cold. We decided to ditch the zoo (hooray for memberships!).

On the way to the car, Maya asked if we could go to the Children's Museum. As it happens to be right on the other side of the parking lot as the zoo, and since we have a membership there as well, why not? It is indoors (and heated), and that was our only real issue with the zoo. It feels really good to say yes. So we spent the next couple of hours at the Children's Museum, and since Nick was there too, we were able to let the kids wander rather than stick together. They had a ball, and there was hardly anyone there! Enough kids to play with, but not so many that they had to wait to do anything they wanted to do. Perfect.

We headed out of there at 3:30 or so. I realllllly wanted Eli to get a haircut. He had the Hasidic Jew curls thing going on at the sides, and I was pretty over it. No offense to any Jewish folk out there that enjoy rocking the curly cues, it just doesn't suit him. So Eli and I hopped out at the local cheap salon while Nick took the others home. He had a haircut (soo cute, should post pictures but I neglected to take any) and we walked home.

This part, I think, was my favorite of the day. For anyone who has taken an 8 block walk with a 2 year old, you can appreciate that you aren't going to get anywhere very fast. I knew this, and I didn't have to be anywhere at any particular time, so I was primed to enjoy the walk for walking's sake. Eli doesn't get a whole lot of opportunity to walk like a 2 year old, being the youngest in the family with two parents and two older siblings that inevitably have somewhere to be. And as much as I *try* to be mindful and present (and as many times as I have read Buddhism For Mothers, trying to absorb some new nugget of inspiration), it is really hard to let Eli go at his own pace unless it's just the two of us, which it rarely is. Today we walked the 8 blocks home, hand in hand, at a 2 year old pace. We jumped on crumpled leaves and compared the crunchiness. We ran across crosswalks like mad people. We talked about people and dogs and bugs and the big fountains at the park. We jumped off of, and then onto, curbs like it was the accomplishment of the century. It was wonderful.

As if all of that wasn't good enough, we got home to find that Nick had prepared all the fixin's for pizza! We go all out with veggies and whole grain lavosh bread for the best pizza ever. Zucchini, red peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes... yum. Delicious pizza and company, warm baths (and clean hair all around!), and exhausted littlies into bed early after a wonderfully busy day.

Nate is heading off to bed now. That leaves me and Nick and a bunch of movies to choose from...

10 October 2010

Money money money money

I use Facebook. Yeah, I know, say what you want. But I do, and it has enabled me to keep in touch with people from the other side of the planet and to become reacquainted with people that I would have otherwise lost touch with forever, and this has been an awesome thing.

So Nick and I went to see The Social Network today. I find "success stories" fascinating. Computer nerds + right place + right time + good idea = BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Crazy money. And the whole "intellectual property" issue is really interesting too.

I use Facebook, but do I think it makes sense for the creator to be worth over $10 billion? I mean, I appreciate that it is well made, it is addictive, it was a great idea, and some people put a whole lot of time and nerdiness into it. But for it to be worth $25 billion as a company? Crazy. I have made the same complaint about sports; one dude who plays basketball or baseball or soccer making millions of dollars in one year is insanity. Nick argues that there is that much money in the industry because people watch sports, so where else should the money go? Isn't it fair that it goes to the players?

Millions of dollars per year? For one person? When so many people have so little? I'm not saying anything new here. Not the first person to have these thoughts, I know. I just wanted to acknowledge the craziness.

I just want enough to live on. I'm not asking for a lot. Tons of people just want enough money to be able to, you know, feed their children. And this Facebook dude (who is like 5 years younger than me) has literally billions of dollars. Billions.

09 October 2010

Penis reading

I just read an awesome blog post called Routine Nose Removal at Authentic Parenting. It highlighted all of the cases that could be made for removing the noses of infants before they can cause any trouble, like "unhappiness and depression due to an ugly nose, and subsequent rhinoplasty" and "congested noses, especially in the small child, this can be a serious pain in the nose, because they are unable to clean or blow their noses". Etc. Made my day.

I know I come across as... I don't know, judgmental? High and mighty? I rarely judge *people*, but I confess that I often judge *choices*, in a big picture kind of way. Like the choice to circumcise one's child. I don't agree with the choice to permanently alter someone else's genitalia, particularly the genitalia of a helpless infant. It doesn't make any sense to me why that is acceptable in any circles. But I can also recognize that I have made some decisions that don't make a lot of sense, because at the time I didn't know any better and, more importantly, I didn't know that I didn't know better.

So hopefully people can see through the high and mighty and look at the actual message.

If you're up in the air about circumcision, or if you're pro-circumcision, or if you have never really thought about it, please just do a little bit of reading. Here are some great resources:

Circumcision Decision from Intact America

Publications from nocirc.org which address any possible question you may have about circumcision, whether male or female

Circumcision slideshow (necessary viewing for anyone who plans on subjecting a human being to this antiquated custom) from International Coalition for Genital Integrity

I recently posted a great article called Seven Ways to Reduce Unwanted and Unnecessary Circumcisions from Code Name Mama on my Facebook page.

So there's some penis reading for you.

06 October 2010

It's he-eeere...

At long (loooooooooooong) last, our stuff has arrived. As multitudes of friends and family have predicted, it was just like Christmas.

Gee we have a lot of kitchen stuff. And we brought all of it with us, not knowing whether or not we would be starting up the baking business again. I have more loaf tins and cake pans than you could shake a stick at (to which one should ponder on the need to shake a stick at any large quantity of anything). Utensils! Our awesome quality, super sharp knives! Big ole wooden cutting boards! Storage containers galore! And since it's all been sitting in boxes since December, it all got washed, and let me tell you, that was a project. I'm so thankful that Nick is a finisher, because I would have lost steam before that project was over. Actually, if we're being honest, I totally lost steam. But it's still done. Yay Nick.

The kids have been loving having a bunch of dress up stuff again, and being so close to Halloween (which they are rapturously excited for since they have heard plenty about it but never participated in) they are busy adjusting their outfits. Endlessly.

I am just thrilled to have my favorite jeans back. It's amusing to me that, while waiting for our stuff to arrive, I bought myself some chocolate brown pants and a charcoal grey t-shirt, only to find that I already owned some chocolate brown pants and a charcoal grey t-shirt that I had completely forgotten about. I guess I have a style. Who knew?

02 October 2010

First Child Neurosis

My pregnant friend recently asked me why it is that oldest children tend to have a higher level of neurotic tendencies than subsequent children. She has noticed a trend, and wisely wants to try to avoid it.

I thought about it. And here's what I came up with.

Our first children usually teach us how to parent. Right? Unless you grew up in a village or tribe of some sort, or into a big, attached, extended family to parents who had grown up in big, attached, extended families, parenting (the way that baby humans have evolved to expect to be parented) is pretty foreign. I spent my first pregnancy reading reading reading, but mostly I was reading about pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding. I figured that parenting would be pretty simple since I was gonna love the crap out of that baby and follow my instincts.

Nate's early days of infancy were spent largely on the couch. I didn't know how to use a sling (or a wrap or a mei tai or a [insert your favorite baby carrier here]), and it was clear that he preferred my arms to a stroller. The Baby Bjorn-type carrier just seemed so big for his little body, so mostly I held him. And he was heavy, so mostly I just held him while sitting down. His view of the world was my loving face and the wall behind the couch. I thought my loving face was all he probably wanted/needed in those early days.

Maya's early days of infancy were much different, because I had a toddler in the house as well. I didn't just sit around and stare at her all day. I put her in the sling and went on with my life. While Nate completely shaped my life, Maya had to fit in. Can you imagine the pressure of having to shape someone's life completely? You enter the world after 9 months spent in a lovely floating world full of movement and muffled noise and stimulation, and all of the sudden everything is still and quiet and everyone is looking at you expectantly. Yikes. That vs. *emerging into* a world full of movement and muffled noise and life. Continuum.

After Maya was born, I read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, and it was all so clear. I had thought that I had done everything right for Nate and that he was "just one of those fussier babies by nature", but reminiscing on his early days made very clear the point that he had had to go through a huge shift when he was born, from a life of stimulation to, most probably, boredom and yearning for stimulation. I really, truly hadn't given the human infant mind enough credit.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, here is the Wikipedia article on the Continuum Concept:

The continuum concept is an idea relating to human development proposed by Jean Liedloff in her 1975 book The Continuum Concept. According to Liedloff, in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings—especially babies—require the kind of experience to which their species adapted during the long process of their evolution. For infants, these include such experiences as:

* The infant being placed immediately in the mother's arms at birth, and from then on carried constantly in arms or otherwise in contact with someone, usually the mother, and allowed to observe (or nurse, or sleep) while the carrier goes about his or her business—until the infant begins creeping, then crawling on his/her own impulse, usually at six to eight months;
* Co-sleeping in the parents' bed, in constant physical contact, until leaving of their own volition (often about two years);
* Breastfeeding "on cue"—nursing in response to the child's body's signals;
* Having caregivers immediately respond to body signals (squirming, crying, etc.), without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of the child's needs, yet showing no undue concern nor making the child the constant center of attention;
* Sensing (and fulfilling) elders' expectations that he or she is innately social and cooperative and has strong self-preservation instincts, and that he or she is welcome and worthy.

Liedloff suggests that when certain evolutionary expectations are not met as infants and toddlers, compensation for these needs will be sought, by alternate means, throughout life—resulting in many forms of mental and social disorders.

When Nate was a toddler, he required constant attention and interaction. Maya could play alone happily. Nate's world was all about Nate, while Maya was compassionate and more willing to contribute to the good of the tribe (er, family). Of course there are lots of factors, and I'm definitely not one to draw black and white conclusions. But do I think their early days contributed to these facts of their personalities? Most definitely.

I just plain knew more by the time Maya was born. I knew by then that humans are clean animals that don't want to soil their own clothes (including diapers), so they send plenty of signals to let their caregivers know that they need to relieve themselves. By 4 months old, Maya very rarely (maybe once a month) pooped in a diaper because she made it abundantly clear when she needed to go, and I put her on a potty. Nate's signals, by contrast, were completely unrecognized and therefore ignored, and he became chronically constipated until he was almost 3 years old. Looking back, I can clearly recognize that he was very aware of and tuned into physical sensations (such as sitting, albeit for only very short periods, in his own feces), but he was sent a message that he should ignore those sensations. I just didn't know better at the time.

So. What would I recommend for expectant parents who want to avoid the First Child Neurosis? Read The Continuum Concept. Read up on Elimination Communication (EC) through websites like Diaper Free Baby. But most importantly, be ready to use a sling! Find a babywearing mentor so that you're completely confident, and your baby's safe pocket will have simply relocated from your womb to your pouch.