Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome Baby!

My brother's wife had a 7.10 lb. baby girl last week! Yippee! This is the baby he has wanted for about 25 years. She was born healthy and cute and everything good.

Then, this week, she stopped moving and was rushed to the ER, where she stopped breathing, and started up again on her own, several times. TERROR.

It turns out she was dehydrated, and is just fine now. Whew! One of the risks of breastfeeding is not being able to determine how much milk the baby is getting. She lost a pound in 24 hours (that's very bad) and gained it back in a day or two via IV drips and bottle feeding (that's very good).

The whole episode gave me flashbacks of my (now one-year-old) daughter's infancy. We had to bring her to the ER a couple times in the first 3 months. The first time was on her actual due date with meningitis. Yes, it was terrifying, completely, terrifying. She was born 5 weeks early, after trying to be born 10 weeks early. Little stinker put me in the hospital for a month on bedrest. Dragola. She survived the meningitis because there are 2 kinds: Viral Meningitis is usually caused by cold germs or something else equally common, and is beatable with IV fluids and round-the-clock care; Bacterial Meningitis is the deadly one. Don't get it.

So, happy birthday, Brooke! Welcome to the world and don't get sick again! We can't take the stress!

P.S. - My little peach has just started walking, putting on hats, and trying to drink from her bother's sippy cups. At 22 lbs., she's ready to have her car seat turned around and likes climbing into bed with her brother when he's trying to sleep.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Staycation at Seabrook

Okay, so it wasn’t technically a staycation; we drove for 3 ½ hours to get there, but it was in-state.

So we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverleee…no wait. Packing the CRV and driving off with a big red wagon, a folding, three-seat couch thingy, and a giant umbrella strapped on top of the car felt rather like we needed a granny up there to complete the picture. I guess I’d rather resemble a Beverly Hillbilly than a Joad from the Grapes of Wrath.

So Ma and Pa and our 2 chillin’ drove and drove the highways and byways of Washington state, through (de)forests and a plethora of inky-dinky towns, the existence of which is proven only by a tavern or a sign post.

Our destination was Seabrook. A Stepfordesque town in the middle of the woods by the sea. This little clump of houses calls itself a town, but so far it’s still only partway completed. There are many signs planted in clumps of scrubby beach trees and bushes announcing that “this spot is the future site of…” Someday, there will be a pool and a retail center and a grocery store, and who knows what else. For now, though, it’s a few streets of super-cute houses alongside empty, muddy lots that are in the works to build more homes. There are no yards. Every house is completely enclosed with a short, attractive wood fence. There’s just enough room for decks and porches and hot tubs. The well-tended green spaces are all shared, just like the bikes and the sports equipment.

We stayed in the plush and trendy, barn red Hodgepodge Lodge. With Crate and Barrel plates and Reed & Barton flatware, this is a house furnished by folks who like to shop. It was very comfortable and not too breakable; we just moved a few glass doodads into the closets no one uses.

A fun bonus: we placed a blowup mattress in the walk-in closet for our son. He’s almost 3 and he loved having his own little room.

The best parts of the trip? The outdoor hot tub and the master bathtub. Deep, hot water. Pure heaven for me. We also loved the plethora of sporty beach bikes available for anyone to grab for a lazy cycle around the development. Extra goodies that make it even better: Moseying over to Crescent Park, picnicking at benches under the big white tent. Playing on the swings and climbing toy, and playing volleyball, badminton, soccer and kid-size baseball with all the provided sports equipment, followed by ambling over to the little cafĂ© for dinner. Then, ambling back home and watching the Olympics in the “media room.”

The downside to this trip was THE FOG. Grey, wet, clammy, hot, fuggy, muggy, view?-what-view?, effing, flipping, incoherent roaring fog. It pretty much ruined the whole trip for me. We never actually saw the beach, even though we played on the beach, walked on the beach, jogged on the beach, built a ginormous sandcastle on the beach…we did it all in an eery, grey world with no depth perception and no way to judge size or distances. Seagulls standing in an inch of water looked as big as cars. Humans swam in and out of sight in just a few steps. My brave friend Jen ran up and down the beach for exercise and had to use the giant sandcastle as her only landmark. Even that was easy to miss if you were too close to the water or too close to the dunes.

I only walked on the beach and left all the fun-having to the friends and family that were with us. I grumped and bitched and snapped at everyone until, after a serious amount of ragging from 2 excellent friends, I realized that the fog had triggered a major SAD moment for me. Ooh, thanks. Once I realized that the fog was corrupting my perception of everything I had a much better time. Unfortunately, that realization came too late in the weekend to prevent a nasty moment between my hub and me. We got over it.

With no way to guarantee sunshine, I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to Seabrook. In another 5 or 10 years, it is going to be something really cool. Right now, it’s pretty spendy and you can’t really go anywhere on the bikes, just around and around. I can see its appeal for sure. The house are so darn cute; no two are alike! It’s safe. Kids can pretty much ride around without fear. Several houses take dogs.

If you can handle the weather, it’s a great destination when you want to stay close to home and still get away. But for now, I’ll just stay home and not pay for the fog we get in our own back yard.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Today I Start Ritalin

Did I even spell that right? I’m 41 years old (that’s forty-one, not fourteen)and only just found out that I have a “whopping” ADHD score. That’s a quote from my psychiatrist. My long-time friends have all said, “Well, no duh!” and “What? You’re surprised?”

Funny, isn’t it, that we blame ourselves our whole lives for not living up to our (shudder) potential. I was a crappy student (way back in the 80’s) and got no end of guff from teachers and parents about how I could be so much better than I was. So nice to hear. “You have such potential to be a good student. You have such potential to be pretty. You have such potential…” I will never, ever, ever use that word around my children. Yes, I’m sure they do have great potential to be many things. But what and who they are right now is more important than what they could be in the future, don’t you think? I do.

So, this past year has been this big exploration into how to fix me. “Let’s make Suzanne happy again!” I’ve been on Zoloft for a few years, moved on to Welbutrin a few months ago, and now I’ve added Ritalin. What is wrong with our world that we can’t be happy when we live in the land of plenty? We have the opportunity to eat easily and cheaply, educate ourselves, speak our minds, choose any industry in which to work, live in any city we like, vote (debatably successful as it may be right now, keeping in mind Florida’s lost ballots in the last election). And yet, we are a miserable society. We live so fast; we live instantaneously. We don’t even vacation leisurely. My little family is going to the shore this weekend. We’re driving almost 4 hours to stay 3 nights and drive back. We’re power vacationing, like power napping. Fast and furious, we charge around achieving and doing. I’m hoping that the Ritalin will help me focus enough to chronicle its effects on me over the next few weeks and months.

God, I love to just sit and read. Even writing about how busy we are is making me jumpy. Or that could be the first dose of Ritalin having its way with me. Hard to tell right now. Looming over me is the threat of all the packing I have to do in the next 4 or 5 hours to accommodate 2 adults, 1 toddler, 1 baby, 3 nights indoors, 2 days at the beach, and 7-8 hours driving.

Here’s a partial list of things to pack in our car.

Big red wagon for dragging kids and crap to beach and back, beach toys, something for shade on the beach, bathing suits and extra suits, beach towels, hats, sunscreen, aloe, chairs, coolerish container, clothes for me, clothes for Hub, clothes for almost-three-year-old, clothes for one-year-old, shoes and sandals for all, water bottles (stainless steel, not plastic), toys for car ride, toys for indoor playing between trips to beach, games for grownups, FOOD for 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners, snacks, drinks, sunglasses, water shoes, mesh bag to carry wet stuff back to house, books for all…

We opted not to bring the kayaks. We’d have had to bring 2 cars. Gas is costly enough for one car.

Wish me luck! I’ll be back next week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kuchipudi - Shiva Likes to Watch You Dance!

What I saw this weekend was a dance of extraordinary strength and stamina performed by 18-year-old Mayuri, who has studied this form of Indian dance since she was 10. Her demonstration of Kuchipudi was a 2 ½ hour, gorgeous ceremony of love; love for Shiva, love for the Guru, love of history and culture, and love of being a part of antiquity. The story starts in the 13th Century, long before anyone thought to include women in any form of dance. Women became the central dancers of Kuchipudi several centuries later, perfecting the art of the dance drama style now known as Kuchipudi, telling stories, conducting prayers, and dancing while standing on the rim of a brass plate.

Close to two hundred people, both Indian and not, came to view Mayuri’s masterpiece. Men in beautiful purple turbans and long white or purple and magenta robes were resplendent among the women in their saris, glittering in every shade of purple and pink, turquoise, yellow, and gold. Children dressed in saries, tutus and t-shirts came to witness Mayuri’s achievement. At one point, speaking with a friend of mine, who is also not Indian, we agreed that we both wanted to wear saris but lamented the inevitable perception by others of being posers if we did. Oh, to wear such diaphanous, sparkling, shimmering raiment! The Gap just doesn’t compare. All the beautiful garments were surpassed by the costumes worn onstage. Mayuri glowed within her colorful costumes and with the vibrance of a young life living up to its fullest capabilities.

Not only is Mayuri an outstanding Kuchipudi dancer; her diligence carries over into the rest of her life, winning her multiple scholarships to a renowned university, academic prowess, and the demeanor of a woman, not a teenager. In an age of instant gratification, sound bites, texting, and ever-shortening attention spans, Mayuri defies those who cry that a generation has gone to waste. Not all are lost.

After dedicating herself to this strenuous art form for 8 years, she was here to demonstrate her prowess and step across the boundary from student to performer. Never mind the numerous elaborate costumes, the incredible body paint on face, hands, fingers, toes and feet and the headdresses and intricate layers of jewelry. Never mind the three musicians and vocalists who also dedicate themselves to this preservation of culture. What we saw was an athlete of Olympic stamina and perseverance, a woman of beauty and vigor, a dancer with endless grace and agility, and over all, we saw the goddess in an icon of Indian culture and pride.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Berries! Berries! Berries!

I’m drowning in berries and happily wallowing in their juices. If I had to take a stab at describing heaven, it might look like summertime in Seattle, with free time on my hands and fresh berries in my bowl. Blueberries under my cereal, strawberries on top, and raspberries, blackberries and tay berries sprinkled on for a bursts of sweet and sour tang. I sprinkle them in salad, stir them into my son’s oatmeal, and grab them by the handful all day long.

Ooh, and the best part is when we have too many berries and it’s time to make cobbler. A berry cobbler is the quickest, easiest way to enjoy the taste of pie without the labor of rolling dough and making a crust. It’s been featured in plenty of magazines and cookbooks, I’m sure. I got the recipe from a friend, who got it from Martha Stewart Magazine, I believe.
Berry Cobbler
8 - 10 Cups Berries or enough to overfill your pie pan or baking dish
¾ Cup Flour
¾ Cup hard-packed Brown Sugar
1 stick Butter
1 tsp. Cinnamon (or more to taste)

Preheat oven to 350°. Place fruit in pie pan or baking dish. In medium bowl, crumble together butter, flour and sugar. Cover fruit with mixture and sprinkle cinnamon over all. Bake until it smells wonderful.

I’ve never timed it. It’s always ready when you smell it and your mouth waters. Stick it in the oven right before you sit down to eat and it will be ready when you start to clear the dishes. Let it cool while you break for a little cleanup, and enjoy it with ice cream, Soy Cream, whipped cream with a little vanilla and sugar, or Soy Whip, my new favorite whipped cream substitute. Yum!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Disillusioned, but Love Will Out

I just read in the news yesterday that Orson Scott Card, an author who has done more than most to change how readers think, is openly, demandingly, frighteningly homophobic and is calling any support of same sex unions a “war on marriage.” I am struck dumb. I had no idea he was such a bigot.

The man who wrote Ender’s Game, a definitive novel about manipulation and mercy; who wrote the Alvin Maker series, about using your talents for the good of all mankind; who has written umpteen-gazillion stories of all genres, and whose talent I have admired for most of my life, has just popped yet another bubble of mine.

Way back in 2004, Card wrote, "We care about moral issues, nobility, decency, happiness, goodness—the issues that matter in the real world, but which can only be addressed, in their purity, in fiction." He cares about nobility, decency and goodness, but can’t find it in his heart to accept a form of love that doesn’t match his.

I always knew he was a Mormon and always admired him for being a brilliant writer who didn’t proselytize Mormonism, although mentions of it are sprinkled throughout his repertoire. I will never understand how free-thinking, creative, artists of any kind can rationalize bigotry. I hate it when someone’s writing is so good that I believe that the writer must be a good person by extension.

Have you ever watched PBS or the animal channel when they are showing animals mating? Four or five cheetahs will all get in a long conga-line-o-sex. One lucky male hops on the female and all the other males hop on that male and each other and everybody gets off. I’m not sure the female enjoys it, but the males don’t look too unhappy.

Then there are the Bonobo apes who keep the peace through mutual masturbation. They are the unmentioned fifth ape (humans, chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos). I think that television producers are afraid to show bonobo research because the apes are so peacefully sexual and the producers think showing non-aggressive sexuality will damage young viewers somehow. Open, relaxed sexual behavior frightens the decision-makers, who must answer to their constituency, a public face which can always be traced back to the not-so-hidden machinations of the Church.

People are so silly about sex. Love doesn’t damage anyone. Hate and fear and guilt and damnation do. Now, I'm not talking about abuse disguised as love. I'm talking about true-love, be-together-forever-love, for-better-or-worse-love, build-a-life-together-and-support-one-another-through-thick-and-thin-love. Besides, how can the Mormons, or any religious organization, object to homosexuality when the Catholics have been silently supporting it for centuries? Married to God, my eye.

When will the "God-fearing" folk wake up and realize that they are afraid of themselves and each other, and it has nothing to do with faith? The church, temple, mosque, whatever, will remain dominant so long as people are willing to subjugate themselves and their children to people propounding the veracity of ridiculous stories created by power mongers thousands of years ago.

So, sorry Orson. You've been knocked off the pedestal upon which I mistakenly stuck you. The veil has been drawn from my eyes. You're a fantastic writer but a mixed up man. Love simply is. There's no "Love is not..." or "Love is only..." You can't legally define love. Love simply is. Bigotry isn't.

Friday, August 1, 2008

good news bad news good news bad news

In 24 hours I have sat with a friend in the midst of a miscarriage, heard that my brother’s wife is dilating and effacing (though not delivering), and discovered that good neighbor-friends have become pregnant after years and years of trying. I’m sad and happy and thrilled and worried and running in several directions emotionally.

I also got an email this morning, that set all kinds of alarm bells ringing, from a friend I haven’t spoken to in ages. She thanked me profusely for my email recommending that she check out a networking site I like. It was the nicest thing anyone had done for her in a long time. Whaaat?!?

Now I’m worried about this friend in her still-newish marriage, grieving for another, anxious for my brother, and ecstatic for my neighbors. But enough about me. Stay posted for further newsbreaks.