Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nature vs Nature

We care for some feral cats who live on the deck in the cat house I built them a few years ago.  Well, it's springtime, which means the birds are nesting and baby birds are being hunted by the fearsome predators that are Simba and Mama Cat.  Every few days, we'll find a sad little baby bird skeleton outside the door, where they've brought it as a thank you gift to us.  Sometimes Simba eats it whole, and then he throws up the bones.  It's really gross.

Today Simba caught a baby squirrel.  The birds I can handle.  I don't like it, but it's nature, and I get it.  But the squirrels, I don't like.  To start with, we had a bit of a blight in the trees several years ago and all the squirrels were killed.  They're just starting to come back.  I'm a supporter of any squirrel living a long and procreative life.

Second, these guys look so damn cute.  Baby birds are cute, too, but in a sort of empty way.  They don't look like little mammals.  I don't feel as much of a connection to them.

I wasn't even that upset about the squirrel at first.  Jonathan was more upset than me when he saw Simba walking over with it in his mouth, still alive.  He made Simba drop it, and took the squirrel on a shovel into the woods where he placed it lovingly in the nook of a tree.  He said the little guy looked ok, he didn't see blood, he was just scared.

Two hours later, Simba's back with the squirrel again, probably thinking that this is a giant game we're playing, and he's ready to continue to the next round.  This time the Mama Squirrel was leaping around in the trees, making hissing noises at the cats, yelling and crying down, and the whole thing was just too pathetic.

Jonathan took the little guy to a protected place next to the house, where he had been doing construction and there were bits of wood around, and piled bricks around him in a way that he thought would be small enough so that the squirrel could get out if he needed to, but the cats couldn't get in.  We called up to the Mama Squirrel that we were trying to help, and we showed her how to get to her little baby.  She looked at us, and I think she understood that we were trying to help.  But she still just kept crying and leaping around from branch to branch.  My heart broke for her.  As a mother, I couldn't imagine how much every instinct was pushing her to try to save her baby.  I looked her baby in the eye and I told him that we were doing our best for him, and I sang him a song.  He closed his eyes and his breathing deepened.

We had to go get my mom from the airport, and when we came back the squirrel was on the deck, lifeless.  The cats had fished him out.  I was instantly angry at Simba, and wanted to ban him from the deck.

But I know it was just his own instincts, and I can't blame him for acting according to his nature.  It's just tough, having heard that poor mama freaking out.  We couldn't have brought him in the house with our other cats.  If he stood little chance outside, he stood no chance in the house.  I wish we could have done something more to try to save the little guy, but then we'd be getting in the way of nature doing what nature has to do.  It's hard to watch, though.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sometimes you just have to pay attention to the signs

So I've had a New Year's Resolution every year since about 2006 to learn to belly dance.  I think it's awesome.  I watch youtube videos.  I read blogs.  But I've never actually taken a class.  I just think about it.  This year I said, "Ok, I really want to learn how to do this, I'm going to do it."  I actually did some google searches for local belly dancing classes.  But it's not something that comes up in google much.  And we live up in the mountains, and I'm a new mom, and when am I going to get time to belly dance, right?  So I kind of just figured it wasn't going to happen.

Every Monday is Mommy Night when I go to yoga and then chorale rehearsal with 45 minutes in between for dinner.  I was walking back to my car to put my yoga mat back and grab my wallet, and I saw this sign on the sidewalk outside a store called Buddha Mouse, and it reads, "Belly Dancing, every Monday, 5:30pm."  The store was closed, but I knocked on the window and the woman came out and told me all about it.

So now I'm going to alternate yoga and belly dancing every Monday.  Mommy Night Rocks.

T-5 Days until New Zealand.  Yikes.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday at The Gentle Barn

For the past three years we've had a tradition where we go to the Gentle Barn on Easter Sunday.  If you're not familiar with the Gentle Barn, it's an animal sanctuary for abused farm animals.  The thing that makes it really special is that during the week they bring in at-risk kids, prisoners, seniors, or any other group of people who might be troubled and/or ignored.  They share the stories of the abuse and healing of the animals, and through the animals' stories, the visitors can see themselves and a path to their own healing.

It's a really special place.

On Sunday's they open to the public, and you can hug cows, rub pigs' tummies, and generally get to know and love the animals (and feel guilty if you still eat meat).  Last year we went on Easter, and I was about 20 weeks pregnant, and freaking out (when wasn't I freaking out?) because I was reaching the point where I'd lost Baby T.  It was lovely to go back with Baby Hannah this year.  We brought a little book with pictures of farm animals along, to show her the real things after she saw the pictures, and Hannah had her first experience touching cows and horses.  She was actually more interested in the other babies there though, including Reece, who was born on August 2.  They compared teeth (he has ten, she has zero), cloth diapers (he wins), and cuteness (Hannah wins that round).

We drove home on Route 138, a desert two lane highway that runs parallel to the LA mountains, stopping for veggie burgers at Charlie Brown's Farms, a farm stand/kitchy gift shop/amazing food joint.  It's hard to believe, driving out there in the middle of nowhere, that on the other side of those mountains is one of the biggest urban areas in the world.  Just one of the things that makes Southern California such an awesome place to live.

Hannah decided that for her first Easter that she wouldn't nap much all day.  Half an hour in the car on the way out.  Half an hour on the way back.  AWake for twelve hours with an hour in naps.  She was exhausted and rubbing her eyes all day, but just didn't go to sleep.  I guess we kept her up and gave her too many things to pay attention to all day.  I'm hoping this doesn't auger difficulties when we're on the plane to NZ.  

I started packing for our trip this weekend, and I'm thinking that I'm going to be able to fit everything on my list, except maybe the inflatable bathtub.  I was hoping to take it because our airbnb only has a shower, but it might have to be sacrificed in the name of toys or books, and we'll just have to shower.  We'll see.  Bathtime is an important part of our bedtime routine, so I'd like to take it if possible.  I'm still hopeful.

I'm also obsessing a little bit.  Must sleep soon.  9:30 on a Sunday night.  I really know how to live these days.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Old Music Friday

I wish I could say that when I'm in the car I only ever listen to Sirius channel 76 - Symphony Hall - and never ever listened to Hits 1 with Nicole and the Morning Mashup (and I wish I could say that I didn't know that Nicole just had a baby, or that I was more familiar with the saga in the Ukraine than with Sypder Harrison's voice...).

But I digress...

Anyway, a few days ago I was sitting on the 210 freeway, and switched over to Symphony Hall where they were doing their regular Baroque show, and I was happy to hear music by two baroque English composers I hadn't known before.

Matthew Locke ( was born around 1621 and trained in the choir of Exeter Cathedral under the direction of Edward Gibbons (brother to Orlando, one of the Renaissance Grandaddies).  He was buddies with Orlando's son, Christopher, and partnered with him to write the score to Cupid and Death, a masque by James Shirley, and their score is the only surviving soundtrack for a dramatic work from that era.  In 1673 he published a treatise on music theory, Melothesia, and in the introduction he was credited as being the "Composer in Ordinary to His Majesty, and organist of her Majesty's chapel"  He was also Composer of Wind Music and Composer for Violins (he was succeeded in office by Purcell).


Christopher Simpson ( was born around 1602 in Yorkshire, and was the son of a Catholic theater manager.  He fought in the English Civil War on the Royalist side, and then became a music tutor.

He's most famous for his music for viols, having written several books on how to play, and all his surviving works are for the viol or a viol ensemble.  The viol or viola da gamba looked like a modern day cello, but had six strings rather than four, was tuned in fourths with a third in the middle like a lute, rather than in fifths, had frets, and several other differences)

Both of these composers are going into heavy rotation on Spotify for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Project Fitness starting again

Jonathan and I were talking today about how having a kid has made us so much more productive.  There are a couple of reasons.  First, before having a kid, if I was "tired" I wouldn't do the things on my list.  Since having a kid, "tired" has taken on a whole new meaning.  If I stopped doing anything just because I was "tired", I would barely be able to get up in the morning.  I wouldn't have breakfast.  I wouldn't work.  Nothing would get done.  And the second thing that has made us more productive is simply that we have to be.  If you want to do anything outside of feeding, changing diapers, and being a human amuse-the-baby machine, you simply can't spend time thinking about doing things - you have to, in the famous words of nike, just do it.

So things are getting done.  The house is getting clean.  Projects are being completed.  Things are getting crossed off lists.  It feels good.

One huge project that I'm undertaking again is my fitness.  I had reached a point before Baby H where I was feeling really good about myself.  That all went down a Lucky Charms sliding board when I had pregnancy cravings.  And so I gained like 53 pounds.  I still have about 20 to go to get to where I was pre-baby.

I've been reading Julia Cameron's The Writing Diet (count words, not calories) which is a series of essays about creativity and food, and how linked they are.  I'm really clear that I'm not expressing my creativity in the way that I would like, and I wind up numbing it with food.  What's comforting about "comfort food"?  The essays all are thought provoking and have assignments - usually writing assignments, though there has been the occasional assignment to take yourself out to eat a really special meal to see what you really like, etc.

The one today was on taking one day at a time, like AA.  I don't know if I can commit to eating healthy for the rest of my life.  It seems so daunting.  But I can commit to it today.  Today is doable.  Tomorrow, I don't know about.

So I've gotten into this habit of stopping at McDonald's on the way home from my walks around the lake.  We all know I have this Diet Coke addiction, right?  I used to stop at 7-11 for my fix, but with a baby it adds extra steps of having to take her out of her carseat, etc.  The drive through seems way easier.  But then it's easy to get a McFlurry.  Or some other genetically modified crap that makes me miserable.  I know it's terrible for me.  But I keep doing it.

Today I was walking around the lake and started feeling really hungry.  I thought about what I would get at McDonald's; ie a small snack before dinner.  But then I remembered.  No, I've committed to being healthy today.  I passed by the ball fields where the little league game was going on, and I bought a diet coke from their snack bar, and then ate a handful of almonds in the car.  When I got home, J and I cooked dinner together while Baby H sat in her high chair.  We made a coconut tofu carrot curry, and nibbled on bits of tofu and carrots as we were cooking.

McDonald's was avoided.  Small Victory.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The continuing quest to be able to live in a tiny house

In the past year or so, I have become obsessed with Tiny Houses.

Tiny Houses are homes less than around 650 square feet (the exact numbers vary depending on who you talk to), and started becoming popular during the Recession as people were being foreclosed on their giant homes they couldn't afford, and starting to turn to more sustainable forms of shelter.

Now there are entire sites like Tiny Happy Homes, and the Tiny House Listings site that focus on Tiny Homes, and you can have hours of fun on youtube looking up Tiny Houses.

I first discovered them via the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, a company based in Sonoma that sells plans for tiny houses.  My dream is to have so little stuff that I could live in a place like this, hooked up to a truck, and the three of us could drive around the country and make our home wherever we are.  I'm not sure what I'd do with Christmas decorations, but I guess if that was the only thing I had to think about, I could figure it out then.

So in other Simplifying News, I've been going through my books (again), culling more and more.  Mostly because we're starting to babyproof the house, and Hannah is at the point where she can start to reach up on the bookshelves, and I've heard horror stories about babies trying to climb bookshelves and then having them crash down.  So I've been taking out the lower shelves on my bookshelves.  

Here's how I'm deciding what to do with my books.
- Am I reading it now?  If so, it stays.
- Am I going to read it in the next month?  If so, I look to see how much it is on Amazon for my kindle, or if my library has it.  If it's less than $3 on the kindle, I'll buy it.  If it's available as an ebook through my library, I'll borrow it.

If it's one of those books I've been hanging on to, thinking I'm going to read it, I look it up on Amazon and add it to my wishlist.  I can always get it later from the library, and in the meantime, it's not taking up space. 

Now, that doesn't address the 3 dozen or so books that I'm emotionally attached to.  The books with Borders price tags, for example.  Or from the UK and not available here.  I'm still working my way through them.  At some point, maybe our next move, I'll decide I'm not as attached to them as I think I am, and I'll either sell them, or donate them.  In the meantime, they're still taking up shelf space, which I don't like.  Baby steps...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Yoga and tips for baristas

My yoga teacher tonight didn't seem to realize she was teaching a beginner/intermediate yoga course.  Spider downward dog?  WTH?  Shakira's hips don't lie.  My hips haven't moved like that since the pre-Monica Lewinksy Clinton administration.

But it was good practice, and inspiring to me to watch her move like that, like it was no big deal.  If I come to yoga often enough, and practice at home, and come to the mat at least several times a week, someday, God willing, I will be able to move like that.

I booked an airbnb in New Zealand today.  The ladies will be staying in a garden flat underneath a yoga studio five minutes from the beach.  I'm totally excited.  It's turning into a very different trip than I had anticipated.  It's becoming a yoga/beach retreat.  We're a ten minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, so we'll be out of all the hustle and bustle and noise.  Baby H should sleep like a log.  One hopes.

In other news, the barista in the Starbucks across the street from yoga flirted with me.  I guess he probably flirts with all the old mom's to make them feel good, but he got an extra big tip from me, so it worked.  If you're a barista at starbucks, and you're under 25, here's a free piece of advice: flirt with tired old mom's who don't have the energy to put on makeup.  You will get big tips.  I promise.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Adventures in packing simply

In three weeks Babygirl and I will be in New Zealand.

I am using my "pump money" and taking Hannah (with my mom) to see one of my dearest friends, from when I lived in London.

Right in the middle of teething.

I may be insane.

But I really want to go, and I can't see being without her for that long (she's been outside of me for a shorter time than she was inside me still) so she got a passport, and an infant bulkhead seat, and we're heading off to Auckland.

I've started my packing list, and am trying to keep things as simple as possible, taking inspiration from Project 333.  If you haven't seen it yet, it's a challenge to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months (and put the rest in storage in your attic).  And "items" includes shoes and accessories.  Every 3 months you get to pick a new 33 items (ie sweaters for winter).  

So here's a brief story of my own journey to simplicity:

Our bigger closet is in what is now the nursery.  Once Hannah was on the way, I had J build a new closet in the laundry room section of our bathroom.  We had switched over to a stackable washer/dryer, so we had all the space sitting next to that combo which had, at one point, been where the dryer had sat.  I designed a custom closet (one narrow row for shoes, one wider one with 7 shelves for folded shirts and jeans, and two hanging racks).  I got rid of a lot of stuff while moving clothes over to that closet last spring, and again once I got rid of my maternity clothes in the fall.

Then, a few weeks ago, our washer broke.  The repair man needed to get behind it in order to fix it, which necessitated taking the dryer off, which in turn led to the dismantling of the closet.  I wondered why I had a lot of the things I did.  Why do I need a Blink-182 tshirt?  I mean, yeah, I love them, and I like remembering their concert, but surely I don't need a shirt taking up space to remember that I saw them?  And back when Stephen Colbert started a SuperPac I bought a tshirt.  Why am I keeping that?  These are all taking up space in my house, which isn't large, as well as mental energy when I'm going through my closet wondering what to wear.

I've been keeping the thrift shop busy lately.  

I always think back to the time when I was 24 and my most prized possessions fit into three suitcases.  Somehow I've accumulated all this crap since then, and I'm all emotionally attached to it.  Why do I need to keep earrings I bought 15 years ago, which I don't wear, and would probably give me an ear infection even if I did?  Looking at my collection of earrings gives me angst.  So many beautiful dangling sparklies, and yet after thinking about it for five minutes every day I always wind up wearing the same pair for simplicity's sake.  Honestly, couldn't that five minutes be spent doing something more productive?

That's the point of Project 333, and while I haven't yet accepted the challenge of living with only 33 items or less, I am down to only 8 pairs of shoes and 5 pairs of earrings.  And most of my clothes are now sitting on top of the washer, folded in three piles (trousers, long sleeved shirts, short sleeved shirts) with about a foot's width of hanging things (dresses, etc) in Hannah's closet.  The rest is either at the thrift store (6 pairs of shoes went there yesterday) or in the attic.

I'm spending less time thinking about getting dressed, because I have fewer options.  When I go shopping, I don't get distracted by clothes and shoes, because I don't want to think about what would have to go in order to make room.  If I should come across something truly fabulous, I can figure that out later.  

And, the point of this post to start with, my packing list for Hannah is a breeze.  I'm taking laundry detergent (woolite comes in travel packs) so can wash things.  I'm packing for three days, and just planning on doing laundry every few days.  Plus an extra outfit in the carryon.  Diaper stuff (diapers, skin protectant, wipes and pads to lay on the floor).  Travel Mustela products (love).  Some tylenol (for the aforementioned teething).  A couple of toys (following advice on traveling with infants, I have purchased three new toys to distract her on the plane).  Books.  Blankets.  Formula.  Bottles.  Travel bottle dryer.  Done.

Well..."done" in theory.  We'll see how it actually works out as we get closer to the time.  Once I get it all sorted out, I'll take a picture with the final packing list.

Monday, April 7, 2014

To the Faire

Yesterday Mommy Daughter Culture Day turned into Family Culture Day when Dad tagged along and we all went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale.

Ok, let me say this to start with:

Going to a Renaissance Faire, seeing Queen Elizabeth traipsing around in her finery, and the knights in their armor, in the middle of the desert when it's 90 degrees and the sun is beating down on you - well, it's just weird (even if it is the oldest one in the country)

But Renaissance Faire's are, by their very nature, weird.

You get a bunch of creative types together, who are all geeky into various things that could be cataloged in the "Renaissance" drawer, throw some modern-bawdy-Shakespeare into the mix, and make someone Queen Elizabeth, and you've got a recipe for weirdness.

I spent the day being snarky and pointing out that dressing in RPG video game types of costumes wasn't Renaissance.  Someone was playing a harpsichord, and I had to point out that it wasn't actually invented in the Renaissance.

It seems kind of like the Renaissance Faire is a summer stand in for Halloween.  You dress up like a freak, you act goofy, and it's not supposed to actually be authentic.

But I'm a stickler for authenticity.  Which means that, as much as I love it, I will never actually be at home in a Renaissance Faire.  I pick on the accents (why is a Lady in Waiting speaking like she's from Truro?  Surely she would have lost that by now).  I pick on the clothes (I see zippers!).  I pick on the music (trying to Celtic-ize pop music and call it "Renaissance" does not work for me).

So why do I even go?

Maybe I wish I could be that carefree.  That blatantly disregarding of rules.  And just have that much fun without caring that I'm wearing zippers.  I mean, who cares, right?  Do I want Hannah to grow up being so rigid?  I hope I can let some of the German-ness out of me.  Going to Renaissance Faire's are a good practice for that.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The paradox of modern parenthood

I've started reading All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior, a book about, well, modern parenting, and just in the first few chapters I've started thinking about things I never considered before when it comes to parenting and parenthood.  Here are a couple of tidbits I've thought about so far.

1) The Pill has given couples the ability to plan when they want to have children, yes.  But in the days before you could plan, and choose to have children (and when), there wasn't so much thought and expectations about it.  You did the business, you got pregnant, you got married if you weren't already, you had the kid, boom, done.  Now there's all this thought about it - ie when, how will it affect my career, what if we wait until we can afford it, etc - and that leads to all these expectations.  Once we make the conscious choice to have a kid, we then expect it to come with all the joy/spirituality/beauty/etc of the other choices we make in life, and there are all these expectations that pre-pill generations didn't have.  Like the kid will complete us.  And we will guide the kid on a spiritual journey.  Yada effing yada.

2) The concept of childhood as we know it is relatively recent.  Pre-WWII you had kids and they worked in fields and factories as soon as they were able to.  Now we have all this pressure to provide a supportive, nurturing environment to help them be the best that they can be.  Not like that's a bad thing.  It's a great thing.  But it leads to a certain pressure that our grandmothers and great grandmothers didn't have.  It used to be that the kid would contribute economically to the family.  Now, not only do they not do that, but they cost us in all these self-actualization classes that we do with them (I know a 10 year old who is in 2 different scouts programs, takes clarinet, plays water polo, is in youth group, is in math olympics, plays soccer, and is in band.  When he does homework, let alone sleep or play video games, or do other kid stuff, I have no idea).

3)  Fights between parents once a kid is involved take on a whole new level of urgency.  Now I'm not just upset about my husband being a lazy SOB, I'm upset that this is the example he's setting, and the way he's training Baby H.  That ups the ante a few notches, and makes things a bit more heated.

4)  Chronic sleep deprivation has the same effects as being drunk.  And we've outlawed drinking while driving.  Yet parents of babies and young children are going through life, going to work, (and driving on the freeways) with these glazed eyes and inability to concentrate, lower inhibitions and higher levels of anxiety like drunk people.

5)  With smartphones allowing us to always be able to work, we never switch fully into family mode and turn off work, and we wind up never actually pleasing anyone or getting anything done the way we'd like.  I'm typing this as Hannah crawls around and chews on my toes.  Am I paying attention to her in the way I'd like?  Am I writing as creatively as I'd like.  No.  But I'm writing something, and Hannah gets a little bit of me (after having me all day, I should say), and so we make compromises.

And with that, it's getting time to start the bedtime routine.