Friday, July 13, 2007

Wack Attack

Lyra is sleeping more and it makes everything So much better. She and I have been keeping busy this past week. We’ve rocked out with rattles and laughed at mobiles and gone for long walks (she likes trees better than anything inside). We’ve been to new parent groups, seen both The Namesake and Sicko at baby-friendly movie showings, attended her second wedding, and examined the jewelry exhibit among others at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Also this week while feeding her I have read The Ha Ha by Dave King and half of The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson, watched several episodes of Man Vs. Wild (I so love that show) and watched and fast-forwarded through 22 hours of Live Earth concert footage and related short films. I’ve had a leisurely lunch out by myself one day, and then of course there was the one dud day, today.

This day started off stupidly, though I did find it pretty amusing. It went like this:

I decide to skip the new parent coffee down the street from my house and go on a walking tour of former factories in the ‘hood that was leaving from the main library branch. It was the first time I’d been to this branch with Lyra.

The tour started at 10AM and we get there at 10:02 and rush up to the door. It’s situated atop two steep stairways, and I have Lyra in the stroller. I know there are a lot of parent activities at this library and assume there is an easier way inside. I follow the handicapped accessibility sign around the entire large building and finally get to the open door in the back. Two signs on it say NO STROLLER ACCESS, which confuses me.

So I walk all the way back around the other side of the building, seeing no other entrances and I then haul the stroller with Lyra up the stairs and inside past a group of teenagers leaving as part of some group. I wait for what seems like an eternity while the one person ahead of me in line talks about computer programming with the guy behind the counter. I ask if the tour left and where they went first. He points me up Broadway toward Harvard Square.

I leave the library and aim the stroller for the Square. I see ahead of me the group of teens I had huffed past and realize that maybe they are my group – I’d been expecting more of a senior set at this and perhaps I had made a stupid generalization. So I rush and catch up. “This the walking tour?” I ask a kid lagging at the back. “Yeah,” he nods.

The group stops and everyone oohs and ahhs over the baby for some time. The kids are super friendly for a tough looking bunch. The sound like they might be Haitian. I tell them not to stop on account of me, “I was just trying to catch up.” The leader is a young white woman with a bag with folders and I quell the urge to ask if I missed anything and just tag along with her hoping she tell me. I chat and try to make eye contact with everyone as we are all on this trip together and I don't want to monopolize the leader just because I'm older and have a cute baby. The leader talks about when she was a nanny for her sister and asks me various questions about Lyra, and I stop and go, staying purposefully in the middle of them for at least five blocks.

I am wondering what the first stop will be as I thought all the factory buildings were concentrated the other direction when they all peel off to the right suddenly…to go into the high school. “Bye!” they all yell. “It was very nice walking with you,” says the leader, “Enjoy your day.”


So yes, wrong group. And yes, I just spent twenty minutes being a friendly neighborhood total friggin’ wack job.

After I got some coffee and recovered a little, I headed back to my neighborhood and attended the New Parent group after all. A mom there told me people routinely leave their strollers on the sidewalk at that library. She doesn’t like that much. I looked at her stroller and realized it’s one that cost at least $700.

From there Lyra and I headed to the movies in Brookline and Lyra would not eat and started getting Very Fussy. Everything I tried failed, but we made it through the movie. At home the fussiness continued and the hunger strike went on and on. Twelve hours after her last good meal she ate again finally and is now asleep. My nerves are shot and I will now do the same.

Today's moral: Be nice to your neighborhood wack jobs. They could be me.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Final Stretch

I'm in the last couple weeks of my pregnancy, thank god. I'm so happy it got nicer out this week because it is a great aid in just laughing at how ridiculously hard everything is. I mean really, the dorky clothes, the weird body changes, the unwillingness to look in a mirror, the mourning of friends and family, the exhaustion and resting with feet up after walking an incredibly slow mile, how different will being 80 really be???!!

The baby is still crazy. She seems to be attempting to kick and punch her way out my side, cartoon-style. Not only that, but she's in a bunch of extra amniotic fluid, so she has room to wind up and let it fly with great force. Yeah...did I mention they think she might already be over nine pounds? Whew. Hey, I guess I'm an excellent host at least. (Yeah, but I'm over it. Out, damn parasite! Out!) I think it's time the baby takes an evolutionary tip from the cats -- this is the part where she can save her butt by totally winning us over with her cuteness, not body slamming me.

I've been reading some fascinating but challenging books on the neurobiology of experience. That's how what we do and how we bond with each other during our infancy actually changes how particular, significant pathways form in our neural networks. It's complicated, but very interesting, and the passages I've read on attachment theory and memory and how we learn to modulate our own states of being seems very valuable information for parenting.

I also read a really interesting novel called Ordinary Wolves. It's from the point of view (which mimics the author's real life experience) of a white kid who grew up in a sod igloo in more of what we think of as traditional circumstances for the area than the native Inuit who lived in the closest town and are getting trapped in the drips and trash of the super consumerism of the US as a whole. The cultural mish mash that happens in his brain as he tries to fit in with the wolves and with the humans that prey on him and in a brief stint in the big city (Anchorage) is just fascinating. Of course, I have a bit of a natural connection with that part of the world, and have traveled to AK twice, to the Yukon, and to the Northwest Territories, so I'm bound to appreciate the descriptions in this book anyway. I sure hope my kid likes to travel.

It's so weird knowing I'm about to have one of my biggest life events happen, that it's so big I can't even guess how it will change me, and yet I have no idea when. But very soon. I know that. Meanwhile I'm unable to work or do much, and I'm just waiting.....

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Recent Reading

A few of the books I've read recently – at least those I remember at the moment:

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne: A mostly enjoyable fast read with an only slightly untrustworthy first person narrator. It's a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving in Concord, MA populated by a few too many unnecessary characters and eventually focusing on a central conflict that just wasn't a big enough deal to me. I read this one for a book group I belong to, and most of the women in it enjoyed the book more than me. It was, however, an excellent book for discussion purposes.

March by Geraldine Brooks: I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. It was another book group choice. Like say, Ahab's Wife, it takes a barely mentioned character from a famous book and imagines their story. In this case it chronicles Mr. March, the father who is absent throughout Little Women and his experiences with the US Civil War. As Little Women is much based on the Alcotts real life, and I grew up visiting their house in Concord and idyllic Fruitlands in Harvard and learning about the transcendentalists of the time, I was fascinated.

Three Junes by Julia Glass: This would also make a likeable book group book. It takes place over several generations, with different related narrators telling each third of the book. It has some nice contrast between gay male New York eighties culture and Scotland countryside with hunting dogs going on. Not quite the contrast of say, the movie Babel, but perhaps more interwoven and familiar. I enjoyed this one, and found myself staying awake a bit too late to finish it.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: This is a good pair with the next one. It's a memoir of a fucked up childhood – and not your average dysfunction here but a fascinating mix of intelligence, imagination, and addiction with extreme poverty and kids just trying to cope as their parents drag them about in various moves and schemes and non-realistic solutions for getting by.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre: This is a novel about a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time in an ignorant southern town. School shootings, media frenzy, and border crossings all play parts. It's very entertaining.

Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegel & Hartzell: This is a book written by an early education specialist and a brain scientist that explains how an infant's mind forms and the implications of how we communicate with our kids. I found this book extremely informative and helpful.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell: I loved these short stories. They are snippets into fantastic other worlds where animals play other roles than you may be used to. Kids row around or get stuck in the shells of giant creatures we don't see, are literally raised by wolves, and other fun. A good jump start for the imagination.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott: This is a memoir of this writer's first year with her kid and all the ups and downs and honest realities of her experience. It's a welcome relief in the midst of the fantasies people have and support about being pregnant and having kids. And it's funny.

I've also of course been reading various pregnancy books. I reference the What to Expect book but something about its tone here and there puts me off and I find it more useful for the latter half of pregnancy than the first half. All said I've much preferred the newer book written by a doctor at Mass General, You and Your Baby Pregnancy. It's another week by week book but seems a bit more grounded in just scientific facts and a bit less chastising in tone.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Recent Reading

Some of the books I've read in the last couple of months:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark – It's quite a feat, this book, and the fake historical footnotes are genius, but they and the somewhat mannered tone grow tiresome. I do not believe this book needed to be so very long. Recognizing author intelligence is not enough to stop me from sighing "Oh Shut UP already" during certain passages.

The Brothers Bulger by Howie Carr – This is a really, truly frightening book detailing the degree of inside deals and mob-like connections of countless well-known names in Massachusetts politics, FBI, Irish and Italian mobs, and more. Carr is not one of my favorite pundits but the book is fascinating and permanently disturbing.

The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka – Non-fiction, an architecture book about creating livable-sized houses that feel warm and inspirational with soul instead of overly big empty mcmansions with rooms rarely used. I walked by an architect in Cambridge who was moving one day and offered me a bunch of art supplies and books, including this one.

Martha Peake by Patrick McGrath – This book is a nice gothic dark and dreary day read, but it seemed to really lose its fire a bit once Martha went West. It was nice to combine reading about its anatomical museum with a trip to the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston.

Grub by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry – Daughter of the Diet for a Small Planet woman gets radical about what to eat. It's a little reactionary, but the facts are facts in it. I didn't bother with the recipes as I'm okay in that department.

Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny – I understand Maine cooking, maybe from having come from a long line of it. This book made me very happy. I got it out of the library after reading a review in the Globe, but may purchase it. It's full of the little tips I would ask my mom if she were still alive, like I know a good lobster or crab salad has very little in it so as not to mask the sweet meat, but just how much lemon juice would you add, mom?

My Latest Greivance by Elinor Lipman – A good one for a young adult. An entertaining fast read about a super liberal family living at a boarding school.

Crawling at Night by Nani Power – I enjoyed this short book a lot. It's a tapestry of flashbacks that tell a story. I thought the end was structured stupidly though – a woman's alcoholic downfall is related in terms of a very odd interpretation of the 12 Steps that looks more like a teenager's poking fun at AA than anything interesting.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami – This is an odd book. I appreciated its oddness, but wasn't sure I was catching all the philosophical themes from it that I might were I Japanese. I was avidly turning pages until I got bogged down in details about the war, which I think I was missing the point of. Everyone was sort of excused for everything along the way.

Kissing the Virgin's Mouth by Donna Gershten – This one is written by a non-Mexican and the narrator is Mexican. It was a fast fiery read, but sometimes it struck me as just a little fake sounding but I couldn't pinpoint why.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Under My Nose

My reading is a little behind lately. I am still working through Vikram Seth's book, Two Lives. It's a study built on research, correspondence, and interviews that attempts to depict his great uncle and aunt's lives. It's an incredibly captivating story – his grandfather's brother Shanti came from India, studied in Germany, and moved to England before WWII started. His dear friend Henny who was engaged to a German, also escaped to England and Shanti and she are later married. Henny's whole world in Germany was exterminated, and Shanti continues his life as a dentist even after losing an arm in the war.

The details of the war are in the context of this story and somehow so much more accessible to my attention span and me than any account of WWII I've encountered before. The description of Henny's sister Lola's last hours of life in Auschwitz were especially straightforward and horrifying. I think I read once that the Holocaust Museum in California has visitors follow the life of an individual through their experience. It seems like a really powerful way to understand history.

My book purchase this week was Ana Sortun's new cookbook, Spice. Ana is the chef at Oleana, a restaurant that is down the street from my house. She is a master of combining spices, rather than fats to control flavor in food, particularly Middle Eastern food. In the introduction she talks about how chefs rarely consider how people will feel After eating their food. She wants us to be in the mood to go dancing. Who doesn't want to be in the mood to dance?

I've only read a bit of it, but the anecdotes throughout the book of her trips to Turkey are fascinating. And like the way I understand history, I understand this book by following her journey to the spices involved. She is reading at the Harvard Book Store Friday night and at Porter Square books next week I think.

I was in Harvard Square last night and was tempted to go buy X-Men comics, having just seen the X-Men movies this weekend. It's way beyond where my reading stopped, so I can't say if they're following the story lines, but I can say it was really enjoyable. I've always felt at home with the mutants though. What is it about the effects in that series of movies that is so satisfying?

Instead I checked out the new home of the Globe Travel Bookstore, one of my favorite stores that had disappeared from its spot over by Club Passim in the last year. It's reappeared in a brand new building that's gone up. And they still have a couple of copies of my book. (I'd say "yay!" but it probably just means they only ever had these two copies and THEY'RE STILL THERE.)

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now

Today I had an appointment with the eye doctor. So of course I brought my camera.

I asked her at least four questions per instrument or test. I made jokes. I complimented her. I let her rediscover the weirdo formation my right optical nerve has.

But she wouldn't let me take a picture of my eye through anything. She said slyly: "There are special cameras for that. But I don't have one." I was bad. I asked her about whether she had to study a lot about the brain in school and got her to say "Yeah, but I don't really use it day to day, you know?"

I giggled to myself while I sat in a chair waiting for the drops to dilate my eyes. Another eye-drop tripping guy sat down next to me. I looked at his Fluevog shoes and asked him if they were Trippen shoes just to entertain myself. "Oh. my. god. Do you know where you can get Trippen here?!" he practically yelled, turning to lock dilated irises with me.

When I left the office, I stopped at each store in the complex on my way out and asked if I could have a token for the restroom. Then I walked home a couple of miles instead of taking the subway so that I wouldn't run home and make Restroom Token earrings out of them before I could actually see clearly again.

On the way home I did a couple of errands. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone in any store I stopped in so they wouldn't think I was tripping. This is hard for me. I felt like I would with a blind spot, like I was missing important information. Like if only I at least had a picture of my eyeball to refer to . . ..

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