Thankful


A handsome, hard-working husband whose sense of humor is only outpaced by his generous heart. A man who has given me unconditional love and support; who has quite literally given me the world on a platter, mine to explore.

A healthy, vibrant, thriving daughter with spun-gold hair; enormous, expressive eyes that change color every day; a daughter with limitless curiosity punctuated by an infectious and joyous laugh.

A life of security, with good health insurance and reliable income; a life of creativity in which I am free to express myself through word and craft. A life with so many family and friends who are healthy, happy, and who bring untold hilarity and humor into my life. How they make me smile.

The depths of my gratitude are limited by words. May we all be so blessed.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Saturday is my birthday. I already have everything I could ever want. And for that, I am so thankful.

Reef Hawaiian Pro

A while back I won a gift certificate for a camera lens rental shop and I promised myself that I would rent a crazy telephoto and hit a surf competition. Problem is, surf competitions run the best few days out of a range, so it’s hard to book a lens in advance because you can’t be certain that the surf will cooperate. Last night I caught a lucky break: the Reef Hawaiian Pro portion of the Vans Triple Crown announced that the surfers would be competing today, which left enough time for me to reserve the lens online.

It was a crazy morning. Maggie and I left at 8, which is an hour before we’re usually up (I know, but she goes to bed late so we sleep in) and booked it down to east Honolulu, got the lens, and then hauled back up to the North Shore. We got to Ali’i around 10:30 and parking wasn’t the nightmare scenario I had expected, thank god, so we were settled on the sand around 11am.


Shooting with a Canon 100-400mm L-series lens is intense. It is seriously as long as my forearm and twice as thick. (Okay, maybe 1.5 times as thick. I’m kinda beefy.) Maggie busied herself with the lens cap and her favorite cooking utensils–she finds the slotted spoon fascinating–and I set about photographing.


Dudes. This was SO WORTH the trip to Honolulu, having to haul the stroller over sand by myself, and drinking the promotional RockStar energy drink because it was free. If anyone is curious, it tasted like Yellow #5, citrus, and despair. I was there for three hours but only photographed about half that time. The rest of it was spent feeding, bouncing, and playing with Maggie. She was as good as could be.


If you have a chance to see a pro surf competition, do it.

Actually, you should always do things you haven’t done before, provided they’ll make “Hey that was awesome!” stories and not “Hey we need to call the paramedics!” stories. Unless you can combine the two. Anyway.

These folks are serious athletes–they work with and against thousands of tons of water, cover huge distances and stay up under incredible wave pressure. It’s one of the coolest and best things I’ve seen since I got here. The Banzai Pipeline is the really famous one, but given the parking situation and how much baby stuff and gear I had I’m glad I chose to shoot Reef. There were more parking spots, more grass on which to push the stroller and some shaded picnic tables for us to hang out during the hot mid-day, and some semblance of a safe sidewalk–hard to find up at Sunset. When Tom can come with me we’ll do Banzai, but for just me and the baby Ali’i was a lot easier.


I mean really–that’s just NEAT.

Giveaway!

I love a blog giveaway. If anyone read this I would totally want to participate in one because I like giving away stuff as much as getting it.

Organic Girl gives away a ton of really awesome natural parenting stuff, so I am posting about her Thirsties giveaway. I can personally say that this is one of my favorite brands and anyone considering prefolds should give Thirsties covers a try. I haven’t tried the Fab Fitteds but I’m ordering a few now that Maggie is getting a bit wriggly for unpinned prefolds.

Check it out!

Three conversations about America’s Hat

Ottawa, of all places, is rather high on our list of places we’d like to live next, but in mentioning Ottawa to people we’ve discovered that Canadian geography totally eludes Americans. Further proof that even educated, well-traveled Americans are totally bleeping ignorant about our sister to the north. Specifically, we are those ignorant well-traveled Americans.

Mom: Your dad and I looked up Ottawa. That’s an easy flight for us.
Me: Oh really?
Mom: Definitely, we thought it was out by Vancouver.

Me: Honey, you’ve been to Montreal, right?
Tom: Yes.
Me: Where is Quebec City in relation to Montreal?
Tom: Between Montreal and Ottawa.
(later)
Me: You lie! I looked it up, Quebec City is not only not between Ottawa and Montreal, it is three hours in the opposite damn direction.
Tom: Seriously?!

Me: Okay, you know how I said if we moved to Ottawa we should take day trips and such to Toronto?
Tom: Yes….
Me: We can’t do that. It’s like five hours away. Definitely long-weekend material.
Tom: Seriously?!

Shameful. I’ve since familiarized myself with Canada’s Wikipedia entry and feel confident that I could identify the provinces on a map, but I’m rather embarrassed about our collective ignorance. My wholehearted embrace of Tim Horton’s notwithstanding, I promise if we move to Canada I will know all about the government, the provinces, and using the metric system without always converting in my head. (Maybe not the metric system.) I will know Celsius! Promise.

Out, damn spot

Last year when I went to the dermatologist the doctor was rather patronizing and blew off my concerns entirely. He even went so far as to mock my legs for being so pale, which I informed him was about as appropriate as a cardiologist teasing a patient for ordering the salad instead of the steak. He had the decency to look somewhat chastened but I’m not going to lie, I was thrilled to hear he had retired and allowed a new doctor to take over his practice.

Meeting Dr. C yesterday got off to a rocky start, since my appointment started about 45 minutes after the scheduled time. I learned during my own appointment this is because Dr. C is AWESOME and takes the time to explain and care for his patients in exquisite detail. Thanks to last year’s experience, I had prepared my speech about why Sketchy Mole had to come out, today if possible, because it was all of the things a freckle should not be: asymmetrical, multi-colored, raised, rapidly growing, and should be biopsied. I wanted to be taken seriously. While I was waiting, I read about his extensive education at Harvard Medical. Being a New England snob of the first order, I was impressed by his pedigree and hoped he had a matching bedside manner.

No problems there, either. After cootchie-cooing with Maggie, he took one look at my leg and said “Well, I’m going to get a closeup, but that little bugger has no business being there!” Then he got out the magnifier and was all “Asymmetrical! Multicolored! That’s coming out today for a biopsy!” and I was all “MARRY ME! I mean oh! Good! Not good that it’s there but good that I worried!” and mentally filed my speech under “Rehearsed Shit I Never Get To Say.” He then proceeded to have me strip down for a full body mapping complete with photographs and two nurses taking copious notes. Well, one took notes and the senior nurse played with the baby and then the doctor tickled her again once he was done.

Then we strapped Maggie into her car seat, the nurses quickly prepped a tray, they popped Sketchy Mole right out and stitched me up in less time than it normally takes Maggie to get pissed about being in her seat. I have to go back in two weeks to have a second freckle on my shoulder removed (how I got that freckle is a story for another day, when I feel like telling you about being electrocuted by an overly enthusiastic aesthetician) and will get the biopsy results then. He kept throwing the word “melanoma” around which to be frank kind of canceled the happy “MARRY ME” vibes I was feeling. But, he also said it was an early catch, likely to be easily treated, and that I should be commended for taking my moles so seriously.

So, forget worrying that you’re a hypochondriac and find a dermatologist who really takes moles seriously. It’s an hour or two out of my life, I don’t have to think about the Sketchy Mole any more and what it’s doing to my body, and I have the sweet and elusive satisfaction of being taken seriously by someone in the medical profession. Win!

Flashback Not-Quite-Friday: Sawyer

My sister once worked at a pretty swank hotel just south of Portland, and had the honor of meeting the King of Red Sox Nation: Theo Epstein. He stayed in her hotel while on scouting trips to check out the Sox farm team, the Portland Sea Dogs. One day he was checking out while she was at the front desk and asked her coworker to grab his receipt off the printer. The coworker bent over to get the receipt and as she did, her pants split open. There she stood, before her colleagues and God and the general manager of the 2004 Red Sox (so he might as well be God) with split britches and her underwear peeking out to say hello. His eyes immediately shifted to the ceiling, my sister’s to the floor, silently agreeing that eye contact would be disastrous, and his checkout went on in silence until my sister had an opportunity to collapse in gales of laughter.

I thought that was the most embarrassing way to meet a celebrity, until I met Josh Holloway in the hospital nursery less than a day after giving birth.

Permit me to explain–I never watched “Lost” until we moved to Oahu and Tom was gone for a few weeks on business and I had no friends yet. I mean I REALLY had no friends, I went to see the Sex and the City movie alone, had no friends. But I did have Tom’s DVDs, and so I started and now I’m hooked. When I first got pregnant, Josh Holloway (“Sawyer”) announced his wife was also expecting. I made a few corny jokes about how funny it would be if she delivered at the same time and pretty much forgot about it until my OB and nurse were discussing Josh Holloway’s presence in Labor and Delivery in between my pushes. Because having an 8 pound baby, y’know, hurts, and because Maggie was taken away immediately because she had fluid in her lungs and couldn’t breathe, I forgot again.

Given the choice of remembering the nurse fit my tiny girl with the world’s smallest O2 mask and then rushing her away, and the splendid visage of Josh “Hey Freckles” Holloway, well, I know what I picked to remember.

Thankfully, Maggie came out of it fine and didn’t even require extra time at the hospital, which makes all the worry seem rather frivolous but at the time it wasn’t. Which is why when I had roused myself from the bed, walked the 100 or so yards to the nursery braless in a hospital johnny, I wasn’t thinking about celebrities. I wasn’t thinking about the shower I hadn’t taken, the contacts I had ignored in favor of glasses, or the stringy hair piled on my head. Nor was I thinking about the blood I hadn’t *quite* cleaned off my ankles or my horrible odor. Just my wee girl’s lungs and how we would get through the next attempt to breastfeed on those godforsaken hospital chairs while wrestling with the oxygen tubes.

When the pediatrician started the rundown and all appeared to be well, I stepped to the side to wash my hands and looked up to a knock on the door. There in exquisite, tanned, well-rested glory was Josh Holloway, needing access to the nursery. I mutely opened the door, noted that he smelled fabulous while thinking of the reek I was projecting about three feet in all directions, and showed him in. We exchanged nods, one new parent to another. He went over to his daughter (Java, I think her name is) and said “Hey there, that’s a mighty strong grip.” The accent is real, and he is really tall, and under any other circumstances I would have demanded Tom rush to the room to find something for him to autograph. I struggled valiantly to pay attention to the pediatrician’s insanely long-winded explanation to tell us she was fine as the shaggy-haired Mr. Holloway wheeled his daughter off to her life of celebrity-by-proxy.

He didn’t see me, I know that. He has no memory of me, just as I have no memory of any other parent who was in that nursery. But damn, if there was ever a time to meet a celebrity who easily ranks at 3 or higher on your Celebrity Five, hours after being wishboned by an 8-pound ham loaf is so not it.

Buggy

Normally since it’s Friday I’d do a Flashback, but I can’t because I have things on my mind. Or more accurately, my kitchen floor. (Conservative family be warned: very, very naughty language ahead.)

Motherfucking bugs. Tom had to explain to me that life in the tropics would likely contain roaches, and I understood and accepted this. I understood that this could never possibly happen to me and accepted that as stone-hard fact. I understood it the way Glenn Beck understands liberals, the way Sarah Palin understands geography, an understanding that holds no basis in reality.

We have roaches. And ants. And little bitty geckos that jump out of my entertainment center and scare the shit out of me.

The roach thing bothers me the most, because to me roaches = living in filthy squalor = unworthy housekeeper = unfit mother and overall waste of a human. My house is the cleanest it has ever been, y’all, and still they exist. Pregnancy and the baby awoke the inner scrubber within me and my home is spotless, mopped and dusted and wiped clean enough to shine. I have wreaths, how could anyone so homey have roaches? And yet I do.

Immediately I enlisted Tom as my hostage on a bug-killing crusade, storming the bathroom and kitchen like Patton. We started with mixtures of tea tree oil and peppermint soap, progressing to dishes of powdered sugar laced with baking soda, anything that wouldn’t harm the baby (who never goes near the kitchen baseboards). We wanted to be naaaatural. Now after a few weeks of that crap I’m running around my kitchen, throwing out poisoned roach bait like miniature Frisbees and examining cracks with a full can of Raid screaming “Banzai!” when I see one of my enemies, the better to blast that little bug right on home to Jesus.

At least the geckos are cute. They used to startle me, but apparently they eat bugs. We have lazy geckos, then, because we still have bugs. What the hell, geckos?! Pull your goddamn weight if you want to live in my DVD tower, damn. This isn’t a free hotel.

Tom finds this all somewhat distressing, but more so the ants than the roaches. He’s used to giant fist-size specimens that dwell in Florida whereas we had black ants growing up in Maine along with an annual infestation of ladybugs. Ladybugs are cute. Not a damn thing cute about a roach scuttling up my cupboards. Now I’m washing dishes before I use them, staging sneak attacks in the night hoping to catch a few that have ventured forth.

In short, I am losing my fucking mind and killing my few remaining brain cells with Raid vapor.

It doesn’t happen often, but in times like this I wish for the subzero temperatures of Canada. And a functional staff of geckos. Fucking slackers.

Ode to Le Boob

Maggie is seven months old now, an age where the introduction of solids and juice may begin. We decided to try child-led weaning and put some small finger foods on her tray to examine, eschewing rice cereal. Given the way she voraciously approaches feedings, I was concerned that once she got her chubby little hands on some roasted carrots, baby peppers that fit right in her hand, and avocado slices, that would be it for nursing.

I needn’t have worried. Maggie likes applesauce. Maggie likes pears. Maggie couldn’t give a damn about anything else.

Over the course of a month, we’ve replaced exactly one feeding with solid food. That’s all she wants, and it’s usually applesauce. Mind you, she completely rejected the Gerber Organic stuff and because I was concerned about the sugar content of other applesauce, I make it for her myself. We tried to get her to take two different sippy cups after the applesauce affected her regularity, and nothing doing. Wouldn’t have it. I froze the finger foods we prepared, rinsed and dried the sippy cups, and dutifully took pictures of her eating and examining the few foods she was happy to gnaw but not swallow.

Here’s what I plan to do about her ambivalence to solids: nothing. My mantra is “It’s not like she’ll go to college [fill in the blank].” Maggie will get into solids when she’s damn well ready, and not a moment sooner. I can wait.

And truthfully, I love nursing my baby. I adore it. There’s the obvious benefits to her, but it’s great for me, too. It makes me more conscious of what I put in my own body; pregnancy and now with nursing Maggie is the first time I’ve eaten three solid, balanced meals a day with sensible snacks. Thanks to the calorie burn, I’m keeping my weight low. I drink my customary glass of red in the evenings, but I don’t ever drink to excess. I’ve almost cut Diet Coke out of my diet completely. (Almost. Ain’t nobody perfect.)

And it’s a beautiful thing. I have to resort to cliches to describe it, but it really is beautiful. When Maggie latches on, her eyes roll back, her body relaxes, and her hand settles on my face. Babies have the right idea: warm, dry, fed, cuddled. When she’s nursing, she’s four for four. She’s figured out there are no snuggles in a high chair–just googly faces and “Here comes the airplane!” Maggie calls shenanigans on the airplane. Why take the airplane when you can curl up under a blanket and snuggle-snack?

I’m grateful to have this luxury, and it IS a luxury. We can afford for me not to work right now. Maggie has been able to nurse on demand since birth, and the only time she’s ever had formula was when the neonatal doctor insisted she take some in the hospital to help boost her caloric intake to burn out the fluid in her lungs. A friend gave me a great Medela to help relieve myself when Maggie slept through feedings. In addition, my supply was great, I had fantastic spousal support and Tom’s aunt is a lactation consultant, available to me for free 24/7. It was work at first, catching on, gritting my teeth through the soreness and the exhaustion and sitting up at night on stitches that ached for weeks, but it paid off.

Hard work and an equal amount of luck–it paid off. Some women work even harder and it doesn’t work out for them, and I feel for that work. It’s a huge investment.

Sooo…where am I going with this? Yes, Maggie and solids. Not ready yet, not happening, and that’s cool. We’re in no rush; we’ll try here and there to introduce more solids but when the time comes to wean from nursing it will be Maggie’s decision. And really, I’m okay with that being a very, very long time from now.

Flashback Friday: First Aid

Let us put the past week of civil rights violations, idiot mechanics and potentially nasty skin bumps behind us and speak of pleasant things. First, two new articles at the Examiner: Baby Bedtime Gift Basket and Surfer Room Makeover. And below, I offer you a giggling baby. I may market this at $0.50 a view as an alternative to Prozac.

Today’s Flashback Friday is inspired by Hawaii’s rainy season, which started earlier this week and aggravated the knee I dislocated in 2005 in the process of picking up my cell phone. Really! It was the most mundane injury ever. Anyway, I dislike the rainy season because of that, and also because my customary flip flops become slick, smelly, and ripe for slipping and tripping. With a baby in my arms I can’t be flopping about the sidewalk like a fish, so I force my feet into close-toe shoes and hope for sunnier days.

About a year prior to that knee injury, I was living in Madrid with a host family. Host families are funny things, it’s like a blind date with an authoritarian figure that doesn’t speak your language but does occasionally wash your undies. Because I have no talent for languages, I was placed with a roommate but didn’t need her to translate to see that our host mother had some control issues. A nurse by occupation, she had several quirks (my doorknob stuck, for example, and I was often accused of opening the door too loudly) and wanted to be involved whereas I wanted, mostly, to enjoy the quiet. She was nice enough, but I tried to avoid her interventions at all costs as they turned into animated and loud affairs where I was yelled at for eating tomatoes after it was determined that I normally do not eat tomatoes (true story).

One night, out on the town with friends, we ordered wine. Oh, how we ordered wine. And cider. There may have been a platter of wings. I know that there were churros con chocolate from the chocolateria at 4am, reason enough to visit Madrid for anyone who likes using sugar-encrusted pastry to dip up pudding-thick hot chocolate (and if you don’t like that idea, I don’t want to know you). And there was rain, lots of rain that poured down the steps of the Madrid Metro, carrying the filth and pestilence of the urban street with it. And obviously, boarding the 6am train home because in Madrid anyone who goes home on the last midnight train is a sucker, I slipped and fell on the stairs in my seasonally inappropriate rubber flip flops.

This didn’t concern me until that afternoon, when upon waking after passing out on top of my bed fully clothed, I discovered my foot was encrusted in red and black foulness. Close inspection revealed a long gash in my foot, scraped open as I slipped and my ankle rolled. Gently clutching my head to filter the harsh glare of the sun, I ascertained that though filthy, I probably didn’t need stitches for my social blunder. Not wanting to succumb to whatever infection lurked in the stairwells, I knew I needed something to kill the germs and wash out the wound. The problem was that all the first aid materials were in my host mother’s sanctum sanctorum, not to be accessed without specific permission and in my case, pantomime. Not an option.

Gingerly lowering myself in the tub, I swabbed my foot as well as I could with the shower gel. It took care of the external layers of grime, but I could see lots of specs of…something…deep in the cut. It was then that I remembered a souvenir bottle of Absolut Vodka I had picked up a month or so before in a Greek duty-free shop that was collecting dust in my closet. Pouring a shot or two onto a clean sock and thinking that sock that would have served me better the night before, I steeled myself against the nauseating fumes and slapped it against my foot.

The sting was appalling. I yelped like a poodle. It had a wicked bite, but as the days wore on it seemed as though it had served to keep any infection at bay.

So the moral of the story, children, is to keep a bit of vodka or other grain alcohol in your emergency travel kit. An airplane-size bottle will do nicely. Perfect for antiseptic purposes, if you just want to freshen up your juice, will save you from gangrene.

Hey, I didn’t die. It worked well enough. (Hmm, “Hey, I didn’t die” = future memoir title?)

Consider the Lobster

In retrospect, it was probably a good thing that our mechanic decided to get a jump on his work and call us at 6am this morning to clarify some paperwork. I needed a place to direct my rage at my home state, and he fit the bill nicely.

I had several friends who were out in high school. It just…wasn’t a big deal. I had some friends in the closet, too, and their concern was mainly how their parents would perceive them–not their peers or our town.

It’s quite a visceral gut-punch to see how Maine, which I genuinely believed until about 7pm HST yesterday would be different, in the end was just like the rest. Several people I know voted No, and were deeply ashamed and depressed today. I know the feeling. My sister spoke to a close friend from Biddeford who, as he cried, told her he had never in his life felt uncomfortable about who he was or where he lived until today. Of course, she was unable to offer comfort aside from a hollow “Next time.”

Next time. Why not this time? Why? What did you gain, Yes voters? You have the unique knowledge that you made several lives worse yesterday, and for whom and for what? My god, these are parents, children, families that you’ve hurt, to protect what? Is your marriage so insecure, your idea of right and wrong so skewed, that allowing gay and lesbian couples to have full marriage would destroy your own? Your lives would not have changed with a No vote.

Do you delight in the idea that a gay or lesbian couple is more vulnerable financially because it is harder to protect their assets? Do you think it fitting and right that non-biological partners have to go through humiliating second-parent adoptions to legally connect with their own children? Does it please you to know that a doctor may keep loving partners away from each other in the hospital as one dies, alone, without the comfort of the one they love most, because they are not married in the eyes of the state? These things happen all the time, and given the opportunity to make things right you decided to squash the civil rights of your fellow man.

Worst of all, watching the Yes coverage on the news, and the pictures and video, you did it with glee. You looked upon your neighbors and classmates and colleagues, your aunts and uncles and cousins and your own children and said from the anonymity of the voting booth, “Your rights are worth less than mine. You are worth less than me.” And then, you celebrated. How could you? How dare you?

I try, I try so hard not to be angry, to accept the differences of my countrymen and women, and sometimes I fail. I have failed at understanding that viewpoint. I have hatred in my heart tonight.

Mainers are a wacky bunch, distinct from the rest of New England, and until today I thought them–us–to be lovably so. I always saw a “mind your business and we’ll mind ours” philosophy from so many Yankee men and women who were fiercely independent. It’s hard knowing that the image you grew up with was a lie. My home county (York) carried a No majority, so I suppose my home is still what I remember it to be, but my faith in the state as a whole is shattered. I saw the opportunity there to make history and I believed with my whole heart that it could be done, that it would be done; instead the place that I love more than anywhere else in the world is just another footnote in the history of bigotry.

I don’t want civil unions or domestic partnerships. Nothing less than full equality for all of America’s citizens will do, as our founding fathers intended. Separate but equal is not okay, has never been okay.

Question 1 was called just after I went to bed last night. Reading the news this morning, I held my daughter and nursed her and cried and cried into her curls, hoping that someday she will inhabit a fairer world.

Maine, you broke my heart.