Examiner

Shameless self-promotion:

I’ll be writing over at the Examiner as the Honolulu Baby & Toddler Gear Examiner, reviewing and profiling all kinds of nifty kid stuff. My first article on swaddling blankets went live today. Earnings are decided in page views, comments, and subscribers, so give it a look-see. Even if you don’t have a kid, you might find something cool you want for a baby shower. That is, if that darn Mighty Junior hasn’t already covered it.

All proceeds to go directly into my Diet Coke fund and/or Maggie’s college/therapy fund.

Confidence

Veering into mommyblog territory for the moment…

Almost seven months into this parenting thing, I finally stopped apologizing. “Do you co-sleep?” “Yes, we read X, this is what works for us…” became “Yes!” [wait for further inquiry]. “Are you starting solids?” “Yes, we know that delaying is best but…” became “Yes. She’s ready.” I have encountered my share of militant “You HAVE to do it this way!” parents and I realized my responses to even simple questions were becoming preemptive defenses against what they perceived to be flaws in my parenting. So much judgment, and from weird sources. This is especially awesome coming from people who ask “Can she do X and Y?” and then launch into a comparison. And by awesome I mean jaw-clenchingly unpleasant.

Screw ‘em. In the immortal words of Stewie Griffin, “I don’t need to f’in impress you.” 99% of the people in our lives are supportive, interested, and invested in Maggie’s well being without being up in the details of how we do it, so I’m no longer investing any energy into that 1%. This is almost as liberating as the time we realized we could just stay home for Thanksgiving and eat pie in our underwear. Oh, the freedom of choice!

Case in point: we were getting some flack about self-soothing. Must self-sooth! Will end up with a 15-year old drug addict if we don’t teach her to soothe herself back to sleep now! (Sadly, I was actually told that.) So I went on a hellish week-long crusade last month to push her toward napping and sleeping without any help–nursing, rocking, bouncing in the Moby–from us. There were screams. (Hers.) There were tears. (Both.) Finally I said “You know what? She isn’t there yet. I’ll get her on a more consistent routine, keep her there, and revisit this later. She won’t need to be bounced to sleep this time next year. She won’t need to be rocked in college.”

Now? Maggie has started to fall asleep on her own for naps and at night. She’s more responsive to me now that I’m not trying to shoehorn her needs into a box of my creation, and I’m enjoying our days even more than before. So the new mantra is this: “Nobody else has the right to decide what’s best for her. What other babies are able to do doesn’t matter.”

I feel better already. And I’m not even eating pie in my underwear.

UFC

Note to those who want to move to Oahu:

1. Laws re: fireworks/explosives are not enforced. EVER.
2. There is a huge military presence, the main demographic for Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Tonight is fight night. Do they make infant-size ear plugs? No? Where’s that Benadryl…

ETA: Ah! Honolulu’s Finest have been summoned. Good to see you, boys. See if you can’t grab the friendly neighborhood gas siphoners while you’re up here in the country.

Flashback Friday: The Bathhouse Beatdown

In the spirit of writing something every day that makes me happy, I think I’m going to institute Flashback Friday. We’ve amassed a fair amount of travel misadventures over the years, and who doesn’t like to read about the humorous calamities that befall others? Truthfully, nothing that bad has ever happened to me. I’ve never been scammed or assaulted, and the recent incident of theft at Newark Airport was the only travel-related crime I’ve encountered. Oh, I’ve been inconvenienced, certainly, but I’ve never experienced a serious threat to my person or property.

I have, however, had the everloving shit beaten out of me by an enormous naked Turkish woman in the company of twenty naked chicks.

In 2004, my parents agreed to send me on a study abroad program. Among its many experiences, this program included stays in five countries in four-star hotels, fine dining, a cruise of the Greek Isles, and enough booze to sink Sinatra. I know. To this day I can’t believe my parents signed that check. It also included four days in Istanbul. I’m not sure how the topic came about, perhaps it was the rainy afternoon spent drinking apple tea on enormous pillows, but it was suggested that we–as a group of 20-24 year olds–go en masse to a Turkish bath house. Specifically, the Cemberlitas Hamam, where the treatment on the site is exactly what you get: you lie on an enormous marble platform on a blanket where you sweat out every last impurity before receiving a scrub, hair wash and a massage.

There really is nothing quite like 20 college girls in a situation that requires total nudity that doesn’t somehow involve booze or “Girls Gone Wild.” I have never seen so many people maintaining such vigilant eye contact in all my life, and that was just us standing around fully clothed in the locker room. Body image neuroses were on parade. Someone had to take charge, so a few of us led the way and stripped down. You see, being childless and spoiled, we had no idea that this was absolutely as good as we were ever going to look.

Fast-forward an hour or two, now that we’re all thoroughly soggy, frizzy, and light-headed. My turn came up, and I was summoned to the stone slab to be worked on. My friends, the word “pendulous” cannot begin to describe the woman before me. This was a woman who easily topped DD status and spent the majority of her working hours free of the bonds of underwire. If she was aware she was being sized up by spoiled American college girls, she didn’t show it or didn’t give a damn.

And then it started. I took karate for five years and have twenty cousins and even when we fought with weapons (in class and at home, for the curious) I have never experienced a working-over like this. Dispassionate and dead-eyed, she began the treatment. First the loofah, which was as rough as industrial grit sandpaper. It tickled, it scraped, it scoured my backside like steel wool on a pot. My body was redder than the faces of those journalists who had to cover Mark Sanford.

I have to believe the massage was an active therapy for having chosen such a profession. It was not a happy rubbing, nor a firm kneading. There were fists. There was pounding. At one point she might have been driving her knee into my spine while drumming the intro from “Longview,” it was so intense. Then a grunt, a bucket of water dumped on my head, and the scalp massage to end all scalp massages before shampooing and another bucket of water. My classmates watched in horror and submitted meekly before our droopy dominatrix. Anything for the authentic experience, I suppose.

But you know, I felt AWESOME at the end. Like I could have run a marathon, or like I had a low electrical current running through me. It was easily the most interesting 15 Euro I spent, if not the best. You want to know how to freak out a group of waspy collegiates? Tell them you loved your Turkish bath so much that you want one installed in your dream home. Shocks the Pottery Barn right out of them.

Tom just reminded me that he has a similar story, except it took place in Budapest and involved some hirsuite Hungarians. He doesn’t want to talk about it. We’ll add it to the therapy list.

And I see now that it’s Saturday. Well, can’t win ‘em all.

Sandy Cheeks

Before I got pregnant and had to spend every spare moment lying down so I wouldn’t fall off my feet, we went to the beach every weekend and I usually went during my lunch break. We’re slowly getting back into the habit.


Maggie does okay at the beach, though our attempts to take her in the ocean have been really mixed. It’s loud, it’s big, it’s cold, and much like her mother, Margaret has no tolerance for discomfort. When my parents came out and stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Maggie crashed out on the 500 thread count sheets and stared at me as if to say “Why don’t we live like this ALL THE TIME?” Because those sheets aren’t usually on sale, my love, and Mommy is cheap.


I truly have no idea where we’ll end up at the end of 2010, just that our time in Hawaii will be over and we’ll move on to the next location. The bulk of 2010 is looking kind of weird too, for reasons I can’t get into publicly just yet. What I can be sure of is that in the next place, there will be seasons. Ottawa is looking like a strong contender. Taking my Hawaiian-born daughter to Ottawa in the dead of winter seems worthy of a call to CPS, doesn’t it? I can’t wait until the day she discovers that she has to wear pants. And shoes. Not just for special occasions, either. Every day. It will blow my naked little hobo baby’s mind. And then I’ll introduce mittens, and oh, how she will scream.


But in the meantime, we’re almost 2/3 of the way through our time here. We’ve started making lists of things we must see before we leave, but mostly we’re just living in the moment. And what a pretty one it is.

Stream of Snotconsciousness

Hmm, I am a little stuffy. My throat hurts.

Are my glands swollen? “Honey? Feel my glands? What do you mean, NO?”

[Checks mirror] They look swollen. Or I’m still fat from the baby.

How can I still be fat? I lost 90% of the weight the first month out. It’s the nightly brownie. I’m going to die a fat diabetic.

But my throat still hurts, and tickles, and now my head aches, so maybe I won’t die a fat diabetic. I’m going to die of swine flu.

Oh my god, I have swine flu. This is the beginning. I’m going to spend the weekend flat on my back sick.

What if I give the baby swine flu? What if she has to be hospitalized? Oh, damn me for not getting her a flu shot when I had the chance! She was already getting four shots, I didn’t want to add a fifth elective poke!

Hmm, I feel much better after that glass of water. Dehydration? Are my glands still swollen?

“Honey, feel my glands? ‘Stop asking.’ Nice. Real nice. You’ll miss me when I die of swine diabetes.”

Ravi-whoa-li

A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make ravioli. Partly because I could, partly because I was bored. Mostly I liked the idea that if I got good at whipping up ravioli at home, I could control the ingredients and serve local/free range/exotic wacky filling/dough woven with gold fairydust fresh pasta. So (see above re: bored) I photographed the excursion.

The filling: beef, asiago, and mozzarella. Note that empty wine bottle in the background.

fig. 1: Mmmm, beefy.

I didn’t *quite* nail the dough mixing proportions and my hands were too dirty to capture the ensuing farce. But trust me, we did laugh at my inability to pour the egg and water into the flour well. Well, Tom laughed while I muttered about my failure to conquer ground wheat. I also discovered that we don’t have a flour sifter, after which I mentioned that had to be the only kitchen implement we didn’t own. I’ll get back to that.

fig. 2: not a slug.

Next came the dough rolling. At this juncture, I discovered the second kitchen tool we do not own: a rolling pin. Did you note that empty wine bottle above? Gooooood.

fig. 3: It was already empty. Swear.

I had thought that after our wedding and various cooking misadventures we had at least all of the kitchen basics and most of the wacky stuff, but I was wrong. For the record, wine bottles are usually tapered and not quite heavy enough to get the right weight distribution. Rolling the dough took a WHILE. But I got several usable strips, and sealed the filling inside.

fig. 4: Runaway beef, never goin’ back.

Well, “sealed” is a loose term. There was a great deal of runaway beef, re-rolling to make the dough thinner, and the odd tears. It was very difficult to get it just right with the dough being a bit too thick and a little dry.

fig. 5: Frowny-oli.

But behold! The finished product! I am not strong enough to get the pasta as thin as it should be, so it was hard to cook.

fig. 6: Take THAT, Chef Boyardee!

Would I do it again? Yes, if only to prove that I’m tougher than pasta. I found a mold on Amazon that looks like an ice cube tray that would make my life substantially easier if I pursued this a second time. I would also grind the filling up more so it would be a bit smoother. The edges were very thick and a little too chewy, but I suspect they were a bit undercooked. Overall, this was a hearty meal, the ravioli didn’t fall apart in the pot, and it was declared “Not bad for a first effort” by the diplomatic husband.

"I Can Tell You, I Love Him Each Day"

September 12, 2009.

The day was gray and a little gloomy. The wedding was anything but.


The minister spoke beautifully, honoring grandparents who had passed and the young son who cemented his parents’ love; the son who brought these two families together in mutual caring and adoration.


Owen Joseph, a bold, strong, smart, wonderful son given to parents who would sacrifice anything for him, and for each other.


A day where our father, still young and strong himself, gave his last baby away.


A day where the groom, at last, received his soul mate.


And in the end, they came together to honor each other, their son, their family, their future.


Congratulations to my baby sister and new brother–may you be as happy every day as you were on your beautiful wedding day.