I Am Mother

P1380675It was little more than a glance.  Any other day, I would have missed it, but I didn’t today.  And I was glad.  It just about took my breath away.

I was chasing my preschooler, as she tumbled out the door.  I didn’t have time to “get modest” while breastfeeding my son, so I just hugged him tighter and ran out the door.  She was racing around the car and I made to run after her, but something caught my eye, and I turned.  And there was my reflection in the window.

A Mother.  My son cradled in my arms.  His arms wrapped around my breast, and face nuzzled close for comfort.  I was like a painting.  A work of art.  Like a model, in an Alphonse Mucha painting.  I straightened my shoulders and stared a little more.  I don’t usually feel glamorous, in fact, I rarely do.  But today, in that glass reflection, I felt beautiful.

I am Mother.

I felt like a hero, stance strong.  Strong arms, strong character, strong love.  I felt, as I do only once a while, like the beautiful mother I am.

I heard a grunt, and the trance was broken.  I looked down at his eyes, and he looked up at mine.  I heard a squeal, and the second trance was broken.  I looked over and her and she looked at me.  An impish grin and a flash of keys later, I was yelling, “NOooOOOo!  Don’t scratch the car!” and the third trance was over.

I am, after all, Mother.

That Camera Smile

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My daughter is in that awkward stage where she’s learning to do the “camera smile”.  You know the one I mean.  Someone holds up a cellphone or a camera and shouts, “Smile!” or “Say cheese”, and you freeze your face into an expression you’ve been honing for a long time.  Big smile, usually toothy, eyes open, chin thrust forward a little bit.  It’s an expression that takes practice.  And falsehood.  Because it’s always pretend.  You may be happy, but real smiles are messy, and wrinkly, and awkward.  They’re involuntary, and you lose yourself in the emotion provoking it.  But photos are usually staged, so we stage our faces, too.

But babies and very young children don’t know how to do that.  They don’t know how to project falsehood, because every emotion is sincere.  Which is why I’m feeling a little melancholic about my daughter learning to smile for camera.  At this point, she’s very bad at it.  She looks like she has a stomach ache in every picture where she’s trying out this smile.  It’s adorable.  In the picture above, though, she’s smiling for real, telling me excitedly about the giraffes.  The difference is stark.

Sometimes, when I’m holding my baby son, he’ll gaze up at me.  He loves me.  There’s love in those eyes, and the feeling is radiant.  He smiles, and my heart melts.  Once in a while, when I’m playing with my daughter, we laugh together.  The game pauses, and for a breathless few seconds, she looks at me.  She loves me.  Her smile, her eyes, her laughter.  It’s all so genuine and devoid of any pretense.  I’m mesmerized.  Then the moment is over and the world spins again.

I try to capture the moment.  I open my cellphone’s camera app.  “Smile, sweetie!”  And she does.  It looks like she’s about to throw up.  I close the app.  She tries again.  It almost looks like a camera smile.  And, with a pang of pain, I put the cellphone down.

I know it’s an inevitable stage of development.  We all learn to project false emotions at some point.  But it is so terribly sad when we finally learn to do it well.

Why I Want to #NormalizeBreastfeeding

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Backstory– I live overseas, in Chile. It’s a country that’s pretty much open to breastfeeding, though they also push formula an awful lot, not because it’s more “modest”, but because they honestly think it’s better to supplement. I still had to fight to exclusively breastfeed at the clinic, but have encountered no barriers anywhere else. I breastfeed in public without a cover and no one gives me a second look. Actually, with my first, I was nursing with a cover one day and a little boy ran over and peeked under the cover, asking me why on earth I would cover the baby up when it was eating. And you know what? I think that was the beginning of my journey toward being comfortable feeding without a cover.

Latin America in general has a fairly healthy view of breastfeeding.  It’s a mother feeding her child, and that’s that.  Yes, some people have sexualized it, but most have not.  If someone feels uncomfortable, they just avert their eyes.

A friend took these pictures of me, and I really loved them.  They not staged.  They were taken while we had a fun day at the park.  When I began my breastfeeding journey, I would have been mortified to have a picture taken, but today, I am not only unashamed, but comfortable.

After a while, I updated my profile picture with the picture above– me, my daughter, and my son.  The only thing making it more perfect would have been to have had my very supportive husband in there, too.  I confess, I was surprised at how many likes it got, but looking at who did it, I felt a little bit sad too.

I got 53 likes (that’s a lot for me), but only 9 of them were from men.  Usually, I get almost 50%-50%.  And of those 9 men, only 2 were American.  Two.  Now, I don’t know if they were afraid to be judged as “perverted” for liking it, or if they honestly didn’t like the photo, and so just abstained from giving it a like.  Either way, it shows a judgment barrier that I just wish wasn’t there.  I know the men I’ve added to my Facebook.  They aren’t judgy, so I suspect they’re just afraid of being improper.  And I have a problem with that.

And that’s why I want to #normalizebreastfeeding.  Not only to free women, and protect them from harassment, but also to protect the men who support the movement, but are afraid to show it.  No one should be afraid of breastfeeding.  No one should be taken aback or disgusted by it, either.  It can easily be done in ways that are modest, if that’s what you want to do.  You can go in a separate room, if you prefer.  Or wear a cover, if you prefer.  Two shirt system.  Leaning and barely opening the shirt.

In any case, I want everyone to feel at ease around me when I breastfeed. I’m not angry at American men for the lack of likes, I’m disappointed in a culture that can’t tell the difference between the mundane and the sexual.  A culture that has taught either arousal or disgust, and not respect and normalcy.

We are taught about context in so many other situations.  I wish we could do it in this matter, too.

I’m not really saying anything that hasn’t been said before.  If anything, I’m adding one more voice to the crowd.  Not living in the US, I’m not aware of what size this crowd is.  But I am a part of it.  Happily so.

Residual Smile

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You know when you’ve been laughing so hard that tears are gathering at the corners of your eyes, and your belly hurts, and you’re out of breath?  When you’re basking in that endorphin-driven warmth after your moment of hilarity, and you’re done laughing, so you relax your face?  But your muscles aren’t ready yet, so you’re left with a residual smile.  Not a laughing smile.  Just what’s left over afterward.

I love that smile.

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It means that, even if you were having a bad day, you had a moment of real happiness.

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It means that you had a time of, perhaps, unexpected laughter.

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It means that there was sun in your life before you settled back into the daily drudgery.

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It means that your life was hijacked by joy, and it’s an interruption you don’t want to interrupt.

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It means that someone or something burst into your day and shattered your concentration.  And that was wonderful.

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It means that, if you laughed once, your soul is ready to laugh again.

Here’s to residual smiles.  May you have many this year.  Some this week.  Maybe one today.

Not Your Day

I have an amazing toddler.  She’s sweet, respectful, obedient, and smart.  Not that she’s perfect, but she’s probably as close as toddlers come.  Each day with her is a blessing.  Once in a while, though, she just has a rough day.

She woke up very early (5AM) and then very late (10:30AM), when she normally wakes up around 7:30 or 8:00.  Sleeping in tends to put morning people in a bad mood, so we were already off to a bad start.

She barely ate all day, threw hourly tantrums, and then skipped her nap time, so that when she finally did collapse around 6:00PM, she didn’t even make it an hour before waking up in a foul mood.  She wailed for an hour, throwing things and kicking things.  She stumbled and tripped.  Tumbled and slipped.  If there was a toy, or bag, or corner, or speck of dust out there to trip over, she found it.

Eventually, she calmed down enough for us to go to the supermarket.  I took her to some games nearby to get her a little bit of fun playtime.  She found friends there, and they played.  And what I mean by that is that the other kids played and ignored her running around in the same space as they were.  But she was happy.  Bless her heart.

When I took her to meet up with Papa in the supermarket, he commented that he could hear her coming all the way from the entrance.  She did three more faceplants before we found him.  She cried most of the time we were there.

She cried most of the way home.

She cried right up until she got her bedtime snack.  Then she choked on the milk and she cried some more.

Before Papa took her up to bed, I gave her a kiss, and told her I loved her.  I always will.  Even on rough days.

She fell asleep quickly.  Then around midnight, she woke up again screaming.  It took two hours to get her settled down again.  She never told us what woke her up.  It might have been a nightmare, but she said it wasn’t.

As I lay there, snuggling her and rubbing her back, I reviewed the day.  It was, all told, a pretty bad day.  “It just wasn’t your day, was it?” I murmured to her.  She whimpered.  “And when it’s not your day, it isn’t my day either.”  She shuffled.  “You know what the nice thing is about going to sleep?  Tomorrow might just end up being your day.  We’ll wake up tomorrow and find out.”  From the other room, I could hear her brother beginning to wail.  “Scratch that.  We’ll MAKE it our day.  Sound good?”

I went back to see to her brother, and she took up her wailing again.  Her Papa took the last turn with her until she fell asleep.

No, today was not her day.  Tomorrow might be.  Scratch that.  Tomorrow WILL be.  Each day is a blessing.  Gotta think positive at 2 in the morning.  Nighttime is the hour of dreams, and I always hope that mine will soar.

Easy Peasy

“Your son has seborrhoeic dermatitis,” she tells me, “and that’s going to involve some life changes.”  I look across the desk at the doctor, in her bright white coat.  She points at my shoulder.  “He just spit up on you.”  I dig through my bag for a burp cloth with which to clean it up.

“You’ll have to buy these special soaps and creams for him.  They’re expensive, but very effective.”  I can hear my wallet uttering a tiny whimper of despair.  I look at her intently and nod, trying to remember everything.  “It’s chronic, so there will be flair-ups throughout his life.  Please get your daughter down from there.”  I hurry over and pull my daugher down from the cot she’s jumping up and down on.

Unperturbed, the doctor continues.  “The layer of clothes that touches his skin will have to be cotton, preferably white.  Keep them as clean as possible.  He spit up again.” I wipe the sour milk off his shirt.  My daughter is now playing with the doctor’s scale.

“Keep him on his tummy as often as possible, don’t carry him in a baby carrier too often, and don’t even pick him up and bounce him, because that will rub his clothes against his skin.”  By now, my eyes are beginning to glaze over.  “Have him sleep on cotton, and you need to wear cotton, too, so that when he falls asleep on you, he won’t get a rash.”  By now, my wallet is screaming.  “No, don’t touch that!”  I snap back to attention and run over to keep my daughter from pulling things off the counter.

“You’ll have to keep all his things as clean as possible.”  My toddler picks up the baby’s blanket and flings it across the room.  “No letting it touch the floor, where it’ll get dusty and aggravate his allergies.”  Toddler girl drags the blanket all around the office, pretending it’s chasing her.  Then she spreads it out on the tiles for a picnic.  I pick the blanket up and drape it over my backpack.

After a moment of silence, wherein we are both watching my girl spin around in circles to make herself dizzy, the doctor comments, “She’s a handful, that one, isn’t she?”

“She’s not bad,” I murmur.  “Energetic.”

There’s another silence.

“Well, that’ll be all,” the doctor says.

“Right,” I say as I pack up the stuff, wrap my milk-soaked son in his dusty blanket, grab my spinning two-year-old and head toward the door.  “Have a good day.”

“Good luck,” I hear as I close the door.

“Easy peasy,” I mutter. And off we go.

Why I am cynical of science

Ok, I’m not cynical of science itself.  But I’ll get to that.

 

Coffee is really bad for you. Ok, coffee is not that bad for you. Ok, coffee may actually be good for you.

You must drink skim milk! Hold on, skim milk isn’t good; drink whole milk instead.

Fats are bad for you!  Oh wait.  Fats are fine.

CARBS ARE EVIL.  No wait, you do need carbs.

Don’t eat gluten, though.  We’ve developed a sensitivity to gluten.  Gluten sensitivity does not exist.

Coconut oil is THE BOMB.  Coconut oil isn’t so good for you.

Marijuana is definitely bad for you.  Marijuana is good for you.  No, it’s bad.  No, it’s good.  Shut up.  You shut up.  “Maybe there are risks AND benefits?” squeaks one timid person (and then gets beaten up by both sides).

The list goes on and on and on.  But I’m tired of looking up links that *probably* no one will click on to read.

Eat organic.  Organic is a myth.

Evolution is a FACT.  Evolution is a theory.  How about intelligent design?  Only a moron would come up with a theory like intelligent design.  “But we can all agree that Creationists are idiotic dorks, right?”  *deafening cheers from everyone but the Creationists*

Global warming.  No wait.  We’ll call it climate change.  It’s a natural cycle.  No, it’s caused by humans.  Save the planet!  Um, the planet will be here long after we’re gone.  How about we save the humans and animals?

Moringa cures everything.  Moringa is nice, but has its limits.

Essential oils cure everything.  For Heaven’s sake be responsible with those oils.  They could kill you!

You have to have kids before you’re 35, because the likelihood of birth defects goes up after that.  Hmm.  Scratch that, the rate of birth defects goes down.

You must let a baby cry it out to go to sleep, or you’ll end up with a spoiled child.  You must pick up a baby every single time it cries, or you’ll do permanent emotional and mental damage.

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Photo from Freeimages.com

And here’s my big issue:

I truly do believe that science is fact.  Science is pure.  But humans are not.

Every pure scientific fact passes through the hands of humans full of their own experiences, perspectives, and biases.  The same evidence can be examined by three different people, and three different conclusions can be drawn.  To deal with this problem, scientists adhere to the scientific method, which minimizes the chance of the facts getting trapped in personal paradigms.  Often, theories remain as theories for a long, long time.  And their findings are not flawless.  Many findings have been countered by later studies.  It’s the nature of science and discovery.

Does that mean that I think we can’t know anything?  Not necessarily.  We get a lot of things right.  It just takes a lot of careful study and frequent questioning and experimentation to get there.  And theories change.  Constantly.  Consider the theory of gravity (the law of of gravity deals with measurement, the theory deals with why it is), which has been studied frequently.  By now, we know how it works.  We know what it’ll do.  But guess what?  We still don’t really know what causes it, and how much it affects the universe at large.  Many theories take a stab at how this works, including the theory of relativity, quantum theory and string theory.  Throw in some significant anomalies, and you’ve got an enticing mystery.  It’s fascinating.  But it’s also still a big question mark.

When you use studies and science to make an unequivocal statement, you’re using them wrong.

Science “proves” very few things.  Mostly, it theorizes and experiments.  Studies and findings are meant to be used as evidence, such as what you would present in a trial.  Those who listen will decide whether that evidence is stong enough to sway them.  Is there a truth, a reality?  I believe so.  The very existance of a universe that runs on natural laws and principals suggests that.  But can we be sure we understand it?  Maybe.  I dare say, probably!  But we need to be SO careful about the information we take in.

Question everything.  Analyze everything.  And keep in mind that theories change.  Now, you are free to disagree with me.  That is the wonderful thing about freedom.  You can think I’m dead wrong, and that’s ok.  But please, don’t push friends away over this.  Please.  Science gives us knowlege and context, but relationships give us meaning.  Keep the peace.  Debate, develop, and interact respectfully.  “The truth is out there”, but the conversations are right here.

My First Time

I have to be honest.  I thought it would be different.  You know . . . special.  Well, it kind of started out that way, but towards the end it was just kind of . . . disappointing.  But, seeing as it was my first time, I’m going to assume that practice makes perfect and things will get a lot better over time.

Yes, my first time getting the kids to take a nap at the same time was certainly an emotional rollercoaster.

First emotion is disbelief.  Is this for real?  Did I ACTUALLY manage to get both kids to sleep?  At the same time?  I just kind of stare at them for a stunned minute.

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Now I’m beginning to feel slightly power-mad.  I, the all-powerful mother of two, have made them both fall asleep.  I take a minute to drink in the intoxicating nectar of freedom.  I savor the joy, the sweetness, the life.

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Eventually, that wears off and the next emotion comes rushing toward me.  What am I to do with my newfound freedom?  Work on that project I’ve put off forever?  No, it’ll take too long.  Clean?  The house certainly needs cleaning.  But I should do something I’ll enjoy.  Sleep?  No, I might not wake up.  Ever.  I’ll just crash land into that bed and sink into the eternal resting place that is unharrassed sleep.  Watch a non-G-rated show?  Now that one has promise.  I get ready to watch a show.  But then I hear a moan.  A rustle.

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I wait, paralized.  Are they waking up?  No further sounds, so I relax.  But the happy moment is gone forever.  I realize that I have no idea how long I have before my happy time is over.  The toddler is sleep trained, she’ll stay asleep, but that baby . . . ticking time bomb, that one.  WHAT am I going to do with what time I have left?

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It’s almost a relief when the baby cries, about 5 minutes later.  I’ve spent my whole time worrying about what I’ll do, and I’ve gotten nothing done.  I pick up my baby and cradle him, saying, “Look at you, sweet boy, waking up so soon.  No rest for Mami, huh?”  But inside I’m thinking, “Thank-you.  I was so lost.  I love you.”

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I’ll get the hang of this.  Probably.  Until then, I’ll keep pretending like nap time is a fantastic utopia that I have yet to find.  We’ll pretend this never happened.

Invierno en Santiago

Es invierno en Santiago, lo cual significa:

 

Nena, adentro hace frío.  Olvídalo.  No me voy a salir de esta cama.

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“Mami, ¿puedo acariciar al gato?” “Esa es mi pierna, mi amor.”

harry

 

¿Parfina, gas o eléctrico? No, todos esos son muy caros.  Estoy bien así.

frozen

 

“¿De nuevo horneando?  ¿Qué se supone que vamos a hacer con todas estas galletas? Engordar e invernar.  Obvio.

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Esta es la pieza calientita de la casa.  ¡No!  ¡Me toca a MÍ sentarme junto a la estufa!

warmth

 

¡Las montañas se ven tan bellas! Lástima que nadie las puede ver por todo el smog.

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¡Tiempo de compartir!  COMPARTIR ENFERMEDADES.  ¿Por qué no lees un libro mientras estás con licencia.  Tú sabes a qué libro me refiero.  Creo que se llama “Cómo enfermar a amigos e influenzar a personas.”

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“No me gusta el café helado.”  Debiste haberlo tomado hace dos minutos, cuando estaba caliente.  Imagínate que es uno de esos cafés hipster que preparan en agua fría.

cold coffee

 

¡Oh, bravo!  ¡Bufandas!  ¡Y botas!  ¡Y gorros! Ahora puedo pretender saber algo de la moda.

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¡Mucho regaloneo!  Ya, po. Lo admito.  Esto sí es agradable.

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Winter in Santiago

It’s winter in Santiago, which means:

 

Baby, it’s cold inside.  Forget it.  I’m not getting out of this bed.

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“Can I pet the kitty, Mami?” “That’s my leg, sweetheart.”

harry

 

Kerosene, gas or electric? Nah, man, those are all too expensive.  I’m fine.

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“You’re baking again? What are we supposed to do with all these cookies?” Get fat and hibernate. Duh.

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This is the warm room in the house.  No, it’s MY turn to sit by the heater!

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The mountains look beautiful! Too bad no one can see them through the smog.

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Sharing time!  FOR SICKNESSES.  Why don’t you read a book while you’re on licencia.  You know the book I’m talking about.  I think it’s called “How to make friends sick and influenza people.”

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“I don’t like iced coffee.”  Should have drunk it two minutes ago, when it was hot. Just pretend it’s one of those hipster cold brew coffees.

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Oh, yay!  Scarves!  And boots!  And hats!  I can pretend I know something about fashion again.

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Extra snuggles!  Ok, ok.  This part IS nice.

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