When Your Kid Parents You

Yesterday I took B to the Sacramento Zoo.  I took the stroller out of the car in the parking lot.  I put a foot on it to snap it open and a wheel snaked away from me.  The stroller lunged in my direction and me, being on one foot, fell on my ass, hard.  I drew my left hand back to catch myself and fell on my elbow.  I felt like I was still rattling for a few minutes afterward.

Blossom swung into action: “Aw, Mama you fell.  It’s okay, you’ll feel better soon.  Here’s a hug. Did you get an Owie? You’ll be okay, Honey.”

I didn’t feel pain immediately. I was distracted by meeting our friends.  It struck me as funny that Blossom just repeated the things I say to her when she gets hurt.

We went to the Zoo, which is always a mixed bag for me.  The animals are now dependent on these simulacrums of their natural habitat because we turned that habitat into timeshares.  Just like everyone else, I love to see the animals.  But they seem listless.  Unless they are lemurs or otters.  Of course, the kids when out of their continental minds.

Anyway, we had a great time but I could feel my hip and my arm tightening in response to the injury.  It was the weirdest pain I’ve felt in a long time.  It was as though I had done a thousand curls and I had intense muscle fatigue.  And kinda like a bad tooth, I couldn’t leave it alone.  So I would stretch and groan.  Blossom said: “I think you’re gonna live.”

When she was really little and she first started talking, she would call everyone “My Darwin.”  Especially when we did something she liked.

I think about how we hope and expect that our children will take care of us when we are old.  But they actually take care of us now.

They are feedback loops of our behavior, our worldview, our expression.  We get back directly what we put into our children.

This morning, B climbed into bed and I was still having trouble moving the arm.

She hopped back out of bed and I heard her pad down the hall to her room.  She came back in with a jar of salve that I sometimes put on her scratches or bug bites.

“I’ll put some medicine, okay?” she asked.  She opened the jar, dipped her tiny finger in and rubbed it on my elbow.

“That will make it feel better,” she informed me.

“Thanks, B. I do feel better.”

ADHD and Adderall; Alternative Treatments for our High Energy Children

I just published an article in the Elephant Journal about my experience teaching at the juvenile hall.  Many of them were taking Adderall or some other stimulant and so I decided to do some research.  You can read the article here:http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/01/monkey-mind-a-yoga-teachers-experience-with-adderall-miranda-culp/

and please feel free to comment either here on my blog or on the site.  

 

A thoughtful article about parental rage

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-bradford/the-part-of-parenting-were-too-scared-to-talk-about_b_4531665.html

This is something I think about a lot.  Because I am a single mom and because my child’s father only takes her on the weekends, I am always on.  I still haven’t dealt with the trauma of my divorce simply because if I stop to think about it I feel like I will fall apart.

Having a child is really alarming business; they mirror us back don’t to the words we use and the coping mechanisms we employ.  She regularly argues with me by yelling “relaxrelaxrelax, Mama!”  I can see that she is becoming more reactionary, more easily injured by my tone.  And it doesn’t seem to help that I can see in the moment that I am making a bad choice by raising my voice, by threatening to withhold toys/activities/treats in exchange for cooperation.  It’s easy to see how, in this situation, I could move abruptly and injure her, or myself.

I have been that person standing in the parking lot making judgments about the way someone talks to, or yells at, their kid.  But I have also been the mom about to burst into tears in public because I have no support and my child is testing me.

When B was a baby, a local charity organization sent a case worker out to visit me.  “Don’t clean the house for me,” she said on the phone, “you do not have to impress me.”

When she got there she gave me some literature and some other baby related things donated by a church.  And she said this too: “Remember that it’s ok to set the baby down and walk away for a little while when you see red.  And its when you see red, not if you see red.”  I remember this when B is screaming and I have spent the entire day applying for jobs and I feel like my head is going to explode.

There is an enormous amount of pressure in parenting: finding the right school, making play dates, even dressing them and owning the right stroller have a certain amount of caché.  But there is a deeper pressure and that is the ongoing responsibility of raising another human in an already overpopulated, complex, uncertain world.

“Welcome to a lifetime of worrying,” my doula said to me when B was born.

A friend of mine whom I consider to be a mother deserving of sainthood was dealing with her five yr old once when I was over.  He was in a particularly bratty phase at the time: whiny, sarcastic, belligerent.  She kept at it, asking him calmly why he was acting so angry, why he wouldn’t look her in the eye. The whole time they were having this exchange i felt like popping him right in his pie hole.   He finally relented and she released him.

“Well done,” I said to her.  “I was ready to fling him out the window.”

“Well, I was able to hold it together because you were here,” she pointed out.  “I wouldn’t have held it together if you weren’t here watching me.”  We had a good laugh.  The whole “it takes a village” thing is actually true.  We all need other adults to step in when our patience is spent.

As far as we have come with awareness about child rearing, we still keep our parenting skeletons safely hid in the closet.  It’s the reason that someone like Louis CK is so popular, because he is willing to voice some really uncomfortable truths about parenting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDwkVQL3Yb8

Here is what I tell myself after a long day of boundary defending, bath time negotiating, pajama wrestling, and multiple tucking in’s:

She is fed and clothed and warm.  And hopefully sleeping.

She is smart enough that I can tell her when I am having a bad day, and emotionally evolved enough to know what that means.

I am not traumatizing my child.

She knows I love her.

 

Rant: Rewriting Children’s Literature for Realism

There is a dark part of me, the ego-driven, socially conscious, bossy side of me that sometimes surfaces while I am reading to Blossom from the cannon of classic children’s literature. I feel this deep-seated need to rewrite the story.  I find myself tsking the writer, or the dated, unPC character:

“So what made you think you weren’t going to come home to a disaster if you left a monkey alone all day, Man with the Yellow Hat? Hmm?  That’s what you get for taking a wild creature out of his natural habitat.”

While my corrections might not be as entertaining, they would certainly satisfy the part of me that thinks modeling is important:

“I’m sorry, Son, that was my bad, I really am a terrible dad, Papa Bear admits he doesn’t know how, so maybe you should show me now.”

I secretly resent that most children’s programming tells them that as long as they are polite, and follow the rules that everything will go according to plan.  We keep it so nice for them.

I want Dora to sing a song about how she didn’t do it, she tried everything, she had all the help in the world, but no, she failed.

“We failed, we failed, we tried it but we failed!”

I want my kid to understand that often there is no resolution.  There are often desires that go forever unsated.   The world is highly unstable.  I remember the horrible feeling when I was eleven upon realizing that I was going to be required to do more and more math, that there were no longer any unowned pieces of the planet, that the social mesh we live inside just tightens with time.  It was not a slow realization, it was a car wreck.

To have a child in this lifetime is to really upgrade your level of denial about the state of the planet, our country, or even more fundamentally, about human nature.  We hope, as parents, to ease them slowly into these dismal truths, like the frog in the hot water.  That is why we lie to them in the stories we read them.

And honestly, as a person deeply committed to the literary tradition, I understand that these stories represent a time and place, that they have merit even when some of the particulars are no longer applicable.

My friend Gan Golan illustrated a great parody of Good Night Moon, called Good Night, Bush, http://www.goodnightbush.com/ and while it is a dark satire of the Bush Administration, it also deliciously satisfies the part of me that wants to call out the weirdness of the old stories.  A bunny in a nightgown, a bowl of mush even though it is night time.  ?

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There is another, unsettling thing that happens to me when I read her these books: I take them way too personally.

My mom gave Blossom a copy of Mr. Seahorse, a lovely Eric Carle book about all the Daddies in the ocean who take care of their babies:

“How are you, Mr. Kurtus?”

“Perfectly fine, Mrs. Kurtus just laid her eggs and I have stuck them on my head. Now I am taking care of them until they hatch.”

“You’re doing a good job, ” said Mr. Seahorse.

I read her this book right as my ex-husband was moving out.  In my mind it went more like this:

“How are you, Mr. Kurtus?”

“Perfectly Fine, Mrs. Kurtus just laid her eggs and I am going down to the Bay Area to do god-knows-what while she changes 100 diapers.”

“You’re doing a totally predictable job.” said Mr. Seahorse.

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Somehow knowing there are all kinds of male creatures out there holding it down for their offspring just made me bitter and sad.

In The Owl and the Pussycat:

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘you elegant fowl, how charmingly sweet you sing, oh let us be married, too long we have tarried, but what shall we do for a ring?”  I want to pull her aside and say, “you know, he is going to use this against you later, saying you pressured him into it, you’re going to let him pay that pig an entire shilling for a ring you won’t want to wear when you divorce, just sayin’, Lady. Besides, don’t you think there is some symbolism in your buying the ring from a pig and getting married by a turkey? Think it through!”

I get to the end of that book and I experience a pang of melancholy: “And hand in hand on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon…”  It’s wonderfully romantic story.  But in real life cats eat owls, a tiny boat like that wouldn’t survive a week on the open ocean and there is no island that would support their inter-species relationship.

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It’s getting a little out of hand, I admit.  I get that it is a metaphor, a glorious one.

I really do manage to keep this impulse under control for the most part.  I could get away with making comments when she was a babe, but now she cocks her head at me and says: “that’s not what it says, Mama.”

So if you have suggestions for Kid’s Lit that deals with real life, please send me some suggestions.  All this internal revision is exhausting.

Some of my favorite realist Kid’s Books:

The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst :http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/140185.The_Tenth_Good_Thing_About_Barney

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible no Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Spinky Sulks by William Steig

Wandering through the Dense, Modern Fog of Unemployment

In the old days, when I was a young person on the job hunt my Mom gave me good advice: show up early in the morning, put yourself together, look people in the eye, leave your resume, check back in person.

I was once in the grocery store on a Friday evening when I watched a man with his two children try to turn in an application to the manager.  He was in his painter’s pants and there were lines at every register.  Not everyone had received the same advice.

But the rules are all different now because of the internet: email your resume, don’t get too dressed up, don’t be too confrontational and if you circle back, they automatically put your resume in the circular file.  Show up in the afternoon when people are more likely to have the time to talk to you.  

Because I am a single mom, in a new city, it is hard to know the etiquette of job searching.  Some places consider it rude to actually show up and try to make a person-to person impression.  They look bewildered, as if they were never going to have to talk to you, ever.  Some places are so big that even if you impressed someone by doing so, they probably have no input at all.  And the rules about what you should put on your resume seem to change daily: don’t put the year you graduated from college, that will date you, don’t offer your references, that’s not the style these days.  

And please don’t get me started on what counts as “business attire” today.  I walked into an interview recently where I had been informed that business attire was required and the woman who greeted me was in a mini skirt and hooker pumps.  Skin colored, platform hooker pumps.  

Sheesh.  

I have never gotten a job from my resume alone; I always shook someone’s hand and said something unexpected to make them laugh.  I complimented them on something specific about their business in a genuine way to indicate why I wanted to work there.  I never got nervous in an interview because if I was honest people usually got it.  

But I am getting nervous now.  My savings is dwindling.  My expenses are many.  I realize I am in a much less precarious place than most people in this country, even this world.  I have roof over my head and food in the fridge.  But the threat of not being able to make ends meet makes me desperate, and employers smell desperate from miles away.  

And of course, there is always this lingering feeling that I’m trying to push myself into a space that was not designed for me.  There are many, many things I would rather get paid to do, like write fiction, teach yoga, sing jazz.  if I could find a job that combined all those things and paid me 80k a year with bennies, I’d be set.  

But here I am, in a blazer that fit me much better before Thanksgiving, driving around, clutching my resume, smiling and hoping to find a sympathetic bureaucrat to take it off my hands and put it in a stack of other resumes.  If I can even get through the door.

I am always tempted in my cover letters to blurt out: “you know, I could come up with some amazing adjectives to describe myself, but why don’t you just throw me in there and see what i can do?! You won’t be sorry!”  I’m sure that wouldn’t come across as desperate.  Maybe I should just try the hooker pumps.  

 

 

 

Sacramento

Blossom and I have been settled here for almost a month and I still startle when the neighbors slam a door or the mailman delivers.  The country really sensitized me and it’s a little weird to have other humans, strangers in such close proximity.  

We love our little house, it’s the perfect size and the landlords are retirees so if I need anything they are often here within the hour.  The camilia bush is blooming.  

On my first week here my mom offered to watch Blossom on a Friday night so I could go to a movie.  I looked at the map, saw how close I was to downtown and hopped on the business 50.  It was bumper to bumper and I thought: you idiot, you are in the city now, everyone is doing what you are doing.  Two minutes later I passed a fender bender and the traffic disappeared as if Sac was saying, “hah, gotcha, we don’t really do that here.”  As an Angelino I am traumatized but the deadening effect of relentless traffic.  I left the Bay Area largely because of the traffic.  Its a concession for me to drive at all.  In fact, moving here was so enticing because it is a highly bikeable, flat town.  But I am blown away by how manageable getting around is in a car here.  I took Blossom to her first day at preschool at 8am and it was like a sunday afternoon.  So hallelujah.  

Today was B’s second day of school and despite the allure of pajama day with popcorn and a movie, she was unmoved and wept loudly when I left.  I guess this is what other parents have to deal with alot, but B has always handled the transition with aplomb.  The school, Discovery Tree, is beautiful, the staff is warm without being cloying.  And out of all the places I looked at, it was the least expensive.  My friends in SF pay twice what I pay for two days a week.  

I just need work.  Today is really the first day I have had any time to make a concerted effort to join the workforce, only it happens to be the day before Thanksgiving.  Too bad, I am doing it anyway.  Yoga studios, the Juvenile Hall, recovery programs, UC Davis Med Center.  Wish me luck.  Today is the day.  

Hello and thanks for the mellow, warm welcome, Sacramento.  

Doze Green’s Gaia

There is a ghetto blaster in Doze Green’s House, circa 1982.  It still works.  It sits, like a robotic shrine amid a wall of records, tapes and DVDs.  His vinyl collection is a lexicon of psychedelic, hip-hop, hardcore, reggae, jazz, and on and on.

Doze’s house is a low-slung affair in west Nevada County, a remnant of the 80’s that is steadily transforming into a self sufficient, off-the-grid paradise.  He and his partner Nicole Strand moved here from San Francisco a few years ago.  Like many of us arriving in Nevada County, they wanted to try and repair their severed ties to Mother Earth. He and Nicole started, Ouroboros, an heirloom seed company with a fellow permaculturist in Sebastapol.

Doze is a monolith of pop culture.  He can reference any pop personality, place or happening in the last 50 years.  He is of that New York ilk that is faster, street-smarter and wittier by osmosis.  When he talks, he cracks himself up, bursting into sudden cartoonish motion.

I met Doze by house sitting for him last September while he was in Chicago painting a mural for three weeks.  I met his partner, Nicole, his dogs, his chickens, and his tomato plants and paintings months before I met him.  It was intense waking up to his art everyday.  I don’t think I got it at first.  I could see clearly that he had chops, but the intent wasn’t so clear to me.  Some of his paintings appear to be epic narrative glyphs, compressed and layered.  Multiple stories told simultaneously.  Some of them are so infused with sadness and rage that I avoided them first thing in the morning.  And some of them seem empty of emotion altogether. I would stay up late at night with a glass of wine, watching them for new developments.  I became familiar with his cast of characters.  It took weeks for Doze’s work to unravel enough, for my eyes to slowly penetrate the layers, so that I felt like I was getting the story. Or stories.

Image

(still life with Siddhartha)

Doze is a graffiti veteran of the 70’s and 80’s.  He and his compatriots went from being the most hated faction of New York life to the most revered.  “I’m no art critic but I can tell ya that ain’t art!” said a cop gesturing at a throw-up on a subway car in the 1983 documentary Style Wars.  It meant having a secret identity that was emblazoned on every imaginable surface.  As the form became more elaborate and more illegal, the accompanying hip-hop soundtrack was eeking it’s way from little local radio stations into big record labels.   Slowly but with increasing speed, outsider artists were beckoned into the money institutions: getting signed, getting larger venues, and getting acknowledged as culture makers.  To the rest of the country, hip-hop must have seemed to come out of nowhere.  But for the youth at the center of the counter culture, it was just the natural whipping together of hundreds of influences.

Simultaneously, punk and hardcore were lacerating crowds of teens at CBGB’s with the barely human sound of outrage.  Doze frequently found himself enthralled in the chaos of the Ramones or the Misfits.

As part of the Rock Steady Crew, he traveled all over the world, “every continent but Africa and Antarctica,” he laughed.  He worked for design companies like Jive and Bad Boy and painted murals in famous nightclubs like the Devil’s Nest.  He came out to California in the late 80’s and lived in Hollywood with Special K, Grandmaster Caz, Prince Whipperwhip and IceT.  In ‘91 he had the strange LA experience of living on Skid Row and in Beverly Hills in the same year. The empty-eyed faces in many of his paintings are echos of the homelessness he witnessed. The Beverly Hills mansion used to belong to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s House and was populated by ghosts and Scientologists.  “They tried to convert me.  It didn’t work.”

The first painting I bonded with was a single figure that hung in the living room: a golden alien robot floating on a white background.  I imagined if humans evolved for a few thousand more years we might look like that guy.  He was a protector of sorts, there was something soft about him despite his armor.  When I moved out, I missed him.  (Arawak 2011)

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(Arawak 2011)

This was a really brutal time in my life.  I took the gig house sitting for Doze and Nicole because my marriage was falling apart and I needed a neutral space to figure out a plan. Everyday Blossom and I would get up and feed the spastic black labs and then we’d go out to the chicken hutch to collect eggs.  Blossom would hunker down with an egg in her hands like it was a precious jewel.  “Thank you, Ladies,” she would coo to each of them.  Then we’d go back up to the kitchen and make breakfast.  We could pick tomatoes and grapes, swing in the hammock or watch cartoons on their old, tiny TV.  It was a relief to be away from my crumbling home and in a place where people were doing everything we dreamed about doing: growing food, making art.  Blossom would occasionally comment on a painting: “I like the blue bird,” or “that one is scary.” Doze and Blossom have since exchanged art; one of her original pieces (finger paints on card stock) hangs in his studio.

There is an interview with Doze back in his graffiti days where he is explaining the connection between dance and the trippy characters that make up a piece.  He has been building his own language for decades so of course it is esoteric. But he is also so deeply connected to some kind of instinctive cuneiform; his imagination parts so sharply from reality at times that it must be a struggle to come back to this monotone world.

A few weeks ago, we were standing in his studio and looking at Doze’s new works in progress.  He keeps about 6 or 8 going at a time, which attests to his restless energy.  This particular painting was a body, a humanoid body, in a sickened landscape of darkness.  Within her body there are faces with different expressions.  She is plowing forward in a gesture of elephantine determination with one hand behind, a black veil trailing her and a red orb floating inside it.

IMG_2390IMG_2393 IMG_2394 IMG_2400 IMG_2401 IMG_2402 IMG_2403 IMG_2404 IMG_2405 IMG_2406

“It’s Gaia,” he said, “in the apocalypse, pulling the seed of life from the void.”

There is a phenomenon called the Stendhal Syndrome whereby a person is so moved by what they are seeing that they are transformed physically, often getting ill with the shakes or dizziness.  Apparently it happens a lot in Italy when people are seeing the great masters for the first time.  It happened to me when I saw the Venus de Milo and it happened when I saw Doze’s Gaia.  I had to catch my breath and he patted me on the back reassuringly.  I had trouble sleeping, which is nothing new, but the image stuck on the inside of my eyelids.  Great art resonates with our experience, like a tuning fork.  It should reach in there and pluck that chord that feels unique to our body, our memory.  It should require no explanation.

I just spent the last year dialing back all my plans and dreams because it took all my energy just to get out of bed in the morning.  Add in the chronic terror of living in a collapsing system, an eroding ecology and all the helplessness and the denial it takes to keep going within that system.  In the grips of single motherhood I looked at Gaia and I saw…myself. Gathering up the babies, walking through chaos, dragging the void and the seed of life behind me.

Doze seems to permeate that thin membrane between the dead and the living.  People come to Nevada County to call out the last shred of the sacred. There are other artists here, cloistered away in the hills, exhibiting internationally, bartering their paintings for chicken feed.  This is another reason I don’t want to leave.  It changes me, to see and to be around people who are making their imagination actual.  It gives me hope and the sense that the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction, despite the smart phone pseudo-revolution.  Or maybe this is just a gold country phenomenon: that people like Doze and Nicole along with many other travelers on the path, arrive here.

Knowing them has made me all that much more resistant to moving, to getting a “straight job”.  I want to do in my fiction what Doze does on that canvas.  It maybe partly fear of failure.  A friend posted a quote for Beth Moore recently, “Writing is like throwing up: I know I’m going to do it, I just need to find a place.”

When I told Doze that I gave up trying to make music for a living because it sucked the joy out of the process, he said something that has stuck in my gut since: “Meer, you have to be willing to hate it, about half the time.”  When I sit down to write now, i think about that, I try to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I can see what it must feel like to have reached a point in your art making where you no longer wonder or care if it is good.  Doze may be a little eccentric, but he’s also free.  And that freedom produces magnificent results.

He is about to go to Las Vegas to paint a five-story mural.

“I’ll be in a cherry-picker the whole time.”

“Are you scared of heights?”  I asked him.

“I didn’t used to be,” he said.  “I used to run on top of the subway cars.”

“Jesus.”

“Ahh, It’ll be fun,” he said with a grin and a bombastic gesture of excitement.

dozegreen.com

watch a video about the Las Vegas project:

http://vimeo.com/76575366

 

 

I spend too much money at Caleb’s in Penn Valley

I read a book called the Automatic Millionaire and the author did the math on going out for coffee, even three times a week. in five years it amounted to something like 20,000$.   

So I have lived in Penn Valley for 5 years, and I’m not saying I come to Caleb’s three times a week but I estimate that Jeromy Laurin, the owner has probably earned about 15 grand off my household.  Between the ice cream and the bagels and the juices and the exceptionally awesome coffee, Jeromy has probably done quite well by us.  

Downtown Penn Valley has a bunch of nothing in terms of places to hang out.  Jeromy and his wife, Sarah, named their little ice cream and coffee shop after their son.  Jeromy is probably one of the happiest people in Penn Valley, as far as I can tell.  He laughs and manages to banter with even the grumpiest of retirees.  

I’d say 90% of Jeromy’s customers are regulars, he seems to know pretty much everyone by name.  When hipsters come in I feel tempted to ask them if they are lost and need directions.  

There are two gentleman who occupy the barstools daily.  They sort of remind me of over 65 versions of  Jay and Silent Bob from the Kevin Smith movies.  One of them just watches and they other one provides a running commentary.  Silent Bob occasionally chimes in with: God, you are embarrassing.  Eavesdropping at Caleb’s is highly entertaining.  

It is a tradition at Caleb’s to read from the Union’s police blotter out loud.  

last night: 8:27 pm a caller from the 200 block of Sutton Way reported her neighbor was attempting malicious mischief and was jumping up and down, causing light fixtures to break.

10:31pm a caller from the 1000 block of North Ponderosa Way reported coming home and finding her door open with the lights on.  (really, nothing taken, nothing broken, still worthy of a call to the police, knowing full well it will show up in the blotter the next day?)

 Often, the police are responding to a dispute over the existence of aliens or because someone’s livestock is too noisy.  Seldom do the police arrive to discover the perpetrator still on the scene.  It’s a really easy way for us to celebrate the fact that we live in a small ass town.  There is also a poetic quality to the language which I think deserves a little recognition.  

Regularly, politics comes up at Caleb’s but it never seems to get heated. Maybe the hardcore political conversations take places at June’s.  It often seems to me that people agree more than they disagree, no matter where on the spectrum they happen to sit.  It always seems to wrap up with a chuckle over how absurd the world is.  

Sarah also owns the Blue Cow Deli down the street, so people will roll into Caleb’s in the morning, caffeinate, and then roll over to the Cow for a sandwich.  There are probably even some people who roll back over to Caleb’s for ice cream.  The Blue Cow is honestly the only restaurant I eat at in PV.  It’s healthy and reasonably priced and fast.  Sarah and Jeromy have a knack for hiring nice people.  

I find that when I pick up Blossom from daycare, I have to distract her when we get close to Caleb’s or she will start intense negotiations for ice cream.  I admit, I let her win.  

 

Poop Management

I watched a Louis CK bit recently where he said something to the effect of: I wish someone had told me that parenting was really about cleaning shit out a tiny vagina several times a day.

As soon as you think about it, the diaper part, it makes sense, but no one really tells you that your primary job in the first 3 years is really Poop Management.

I am now in a difficult phase of my career as a poop manager: the potty training phase.  The real problem with this phase is that you are fooled over and over into thinking they have a handle on their various functions enough to at least warn you when something mighty is about to happen.  You get lulled into this post diaper bliss that is altogther illusion.  You drop your guard.  And your diaper bag.

For the last week, the girl was not sticking to her regular poop-right-after-dinner routine.  I didn’t think about it much, these things have a way of straightening themselves out whether I fret about them or no, but we were also taking a short jaunt down to the Bay Area for a peer’s birthday party.  The girl decided to wear a newly acquired magenta dress (she was adamant that we not refer to it as pink) and I made the mistake of adding tights to her little ensemble.

Half way through the party, while I was making a last vain attempt to get her to eat something resembling nutrition before the cake came out, she announced that she had to go.  So I trucked her out to the bathroom and put her on the training potty our hosts had made handy.   She then produced a couple hollow sounds not unlike beans in a tupperware.  The contents of the potty resembled some little, hard crumbs of corn and beet, neither of which the girl had eaten in the last few days.  It looked like brown gravel, more like rabbit droppings I noticed, but decided again not to think too much about it, I was just grateful something was coming out the other end.

So we went through the flushing and the struggle of readjusting tights and the hand washing and made our way back out to the party.  The song was sung, the cake was cut, the frosting was smeared all over most available surfaces, apologies were made.  The party was winding down when the girl suddenly howled from the play area that passes as a backyard in San Francisco: “Pooooop!” I could see from the way she was standing with her knees bowed and bent that this was not a pre-event announcement.

I scooped her up and returned to the bathroom.  Oh my.  I think is what i said, I really hope that is what I said.

Well, the tights and the big girl panties were, uh, transformed, and since I had no provisions I had to peel off the offending layers and, well now what?

“Whoa, das a man size poop,” she said employing one of my often used tactics to make light of a disgusting situation as i did my best to shake some of it off into the toilet.  I spent a good half a roll of toilet paper.  Kicking myself, I decided to go upstairs with a naked-from-the-waist-down child to find a bag to put the mess in, conceding, despite the several sangrias  I consumed, that leaving soiled underwear in someone’s wastebasket was not good manners.  Even if it had a lid.  I learned that lesson the hard way when I was in kindergarten.

But our hosts were the fastidious San Francisco types who have not a single plastic bag in their abode.  So I settled for a paper bag, folded tightly with every intention of dumping it on the way out.  Of course, in the hubub of leaving, saying good bye to a dozen people, I absently tucked the thing into my purse.  I dropped it into the car and promptly forgot about it and It immediately blended in with all the other useless shit that invades my car.

Not recognizing it as a parcel of mass destruction until I got home, I opened it with total curiosity.

I almost fainted, let me put it that way.  Bummer about those tights too.

You think there are no surprises after you witness your infant’s first bout of diarrhea.  But no.  The gifts keep coming.

When she is 15, I will still be following her around with wipes and a change.  Much to her abject humiliation.

Prenatal Yoga and Why You Should do it, Mamas.

ImageI just finished my yoga teacher training when I got pregnant.  I was in the best shape of my life after having practiced yoga at least twice a day for a month, eating only vegetarian food, giving up wine and limiting my sugar intake to a little good chocolate.  And spiritually, I had spent a month meditating on whether or not it was within my dharma to be a mother.  

What I wish someone had told me, after a month of exerting conscious effort to draw my physical and mental energy upward, was that becoming pregnant was like turning the hourglass upside down: everything my body and my mind had suddenly and radically dropped down into my womb.  The exhaustion, the nausea, the extreme dreams made me feel like I had fallen down a black hole.  I fell away from my practice and ate and slept my way through the first trimester.  

This is how nature sets it up, rerouting the bodies energy to form a placenta (can we just pause and note the miracle of the pregnant bodies’ ability to build a new organ whose sole job is to nourish a new baby?) but good grief!  It felt like my body had been the victim of an alien attack and something else beside me was moving my limbs.

Had I to do it all over again, and who knows I may, I would immediately seek out a prenatal class from the very git.  Because even after completing my own training, I did not know how to reconnect with my body through all this new experience.  When I finally found a class, it was like climbing into a warm bath.  I had to relearn how work with my own sensitivities, to deeply relax and in doing so, discovered a whole new store of energy.  I began an in vitro dialogue with my baby that continues to this moment.  And I also learned how to conquer heartburn, backaches and swollen ankles.  

My birth was a beautiful experience but there were many, many moments that everything could have gone off the rails.   Certainly I was lucky; birth is not a solo but a duet and it often doesn’t turn out how we plan or expect.  But the preparation of doing some simple breathing, stretching and movement sets up the nervous system for the full-tilt, hard work of labor.  Mentally, yoga allows us to release some of our expectations and be present to the moment when our baby arrives.  

It’s not just my anecdotal experience either, the research shows that women who practice are less likely to develop preclampsia, high blood pressure, diabetes and a host of other complications that can arise with pregnancy.  It shortens active labor time, it makes tearing less likely.  

Witnessing a roomful of mamas treat their bodies and their babies with respect and awareness is tremendously rewarding.  And being one of those mamas, doubly so.  

for more information about my prenatal yoga class visit : www.kinfolkyoga.com