Monday, October 11, 2010

Toot, Toot! (sound of my horn)

Hamma Lamma Ding Dong Triathalon finisher! And... #1 woman out of the water on the swim leg. Toot toot!

P.S. Rainiest tri ever???

Thanks to Becky & John Hamilton and all of us crew who pulled off the 2nd annual home-spun swim-bike-run from Seward Park this September. You guys rock. See you next year!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Review on the Brain

I'm polishing my final draft of a book review on Third Culture Kids--The Children of International Educators by Dr. Ettie Zilber (2009, ___ Press), for publication in The Journal for the Advancement of International Education.

I think I just put myself to sleep, listing all those long titles - and I also have double reason: that 10 month old who only fell asleep at 4:30 am, after screaming and wriggling for hours last night. Here I am, sitting upright, with her strapped to my back in the Ergo, sleeping against me, since I refuse to deal with another night like that -- and it was looking that way after her brother accidentally woke her up around 9 pm.

Wow. I must be tired. Because that's a really long winded way of saying -- I'm slightly incoherent, but I've got "TCK" on the brain.

You know -- Third Culture Kids. Well, maybe you don't know. People like me, who grew up outside of their home culture. In another culture. That essentially creates a the experience of a third unique culture inside one small soul. Such as myself.

Reading the TCK book for review brought up all kinds of memories, insights, and "family of origin" aha! moments. You'd think this would all be old hat, how growing up in five different countries from 0 to 18 years old impacted me. But since moving to the U.S. for college at 18, it's an identity I've gone under cover about. After all, I look-sound-smell... American. I've got nuthin' to show for my TCK-ness. Just lots of passports stamps and an inability to join in conversations about favorite childhood TV shows.

So, while coming across hard and fast evidence of "TCK-ness" may seem momentarily interesting to you -- it means the world to me. Like the news that not since John Quincy Adams lived in France for a stint have we had a TCK in office - until good ole Barrack. Turns out Obama appointed a slew of TCKs for office, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Heck, Geithner even attended the same high school I graduated from in Bangkok. And it's not that small of a world.

I haven't gotten the "aloof" accusation in a while, but I used to -- and it's a relief to read a quote about Obama like, "That cool manner of seeming 'above it all' is... a classic feature of the Third Culture Kid."

Or, "'I laughed when I heard a commentator call Barack exotic and elitist,' says Lois Bushong, an American who grew up in Costa Rica and now works a therapist for internationally mobile families. 'How exotic or elitist can it be to go home to visit your grandmother, even if she lives in Hawaii? She’s still your grandma. This TV guy seemed to forget that the world many see ‘exotic’ is simply home for TCKs.'"

I want to get back to web surfing and quit my exhausted blathering. One day I will put together a fabulous anthology of stories from us TCK folks--about growing up, about the dilemas we face raising our own families now (where? give our child a place to call home? or ramble, as we are used to?), about the every-day-ness of living our lives the only way we knew how--no "exotic" rose-colored-glasses crap.

For now, I just need one good night's sleep.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Between the various princesses, he chooses...

At what point is my son going to stop thinking of me, adoringly, as an angel? Perusing a catalogue of kids' Halloween costumes tonight, he pointed to the costume he picked out for me: "Beautiful Angel." Well, it was between "Beautiful Angel" and "Bride to Be" on the same page -- both decked out in angelic frilly white, looking lovely, peaceful, and perfect. Yes, ahem, that's me...

And it's damn sweet of him. Between the 24 pages of costume choices, between the various fairytale princesses and Queen Nefertitis and young vixen-y pirates--he chooses the virtuous for me. Gotta love him.

So. I'll take the compliment and fold it into my heart. At the same time as wondering, bemusedly of course, at what point along the parenting path will Noah's brain & being no longer adore me unfailingly.

By the way, he chose the 'baby pirate' for Katie (super cute choice); the football player or man-eating-shark for his papa (odd and fitting, in that order); and some Clone Wars/Star Wars-looking outfit for himself. In his mythical dream vision of family. Or, just want he thinks everyone should be for Halloween this year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A (Good) Day in the Life of...

We are eating breakfast in the sun room, Ken and I, when we hear the front door slam. Question mark. Did someone just leave? Or come in? No sound after that. I sit and listen for clues. Hannon appears in the door frame. No hello. He simply announces in his 5-year-old voice, "I-want-to-play-with-No-ah." Stacato emphasis on each syllable. Legs planted wide, mismatched socks.

It's cuter than heck, his no-knock entrance into our house, his one blue sock, one white sock, and his no-hesitation proclamation. It makes me laugh, and my heart feels light at the sight.

"Well, I'd like you to play with Noah, Hannon, but unfortunately we have a rule about not letting him play with boys whose socks don't match."

Hannon's brown eyes give me a steady gaze, waiting to see if I'm bluffing. I give him an eye twinkle and he knows I'm kidding. He smiles, walks into the sun room, snuggles up next to Ken on the brown leather couch.

Saturday at Walker Creek Community. Noah, still sleeping at 10:30am, praise the lord. Hannon leads the way up the stairs to wake him. Ten minutes later, another front door open and slam. Joe, Hannon's dad. Needs to help build sets for the play down at Big Lake Elementary. Can Hannon stay here, or does he want to come with Joe? Hannon says he'd like to go, but wants Noah to come with. Joe,that okay with you, I ask? Yup. Alrightie then, quick dress & shove a buttered cinamon raison english muffin in Noah's hand, watch him clamber into the back of Joe's giant red truck.

Baby Katherine nurses and falls asleep in my arms. The next few hours, Ken and I lounge in the sun room and listen to This American Life. Wow it's nice (and entirely rare) to be uninterrupted. I listen with my eyes closed. I hold my sleeping baby who just yesterday Noah sniffed and announced, "She smells like blueberry pie!" She does. This is bliss. I sink deeper into the couch.

The red truck roars back around 3 pm. Someone showed up with cheese pizza at the school, Joe says. They each had a slice. Can you take them for a while now? Yup. No sweat. Noah's already flung his boots off, barefoot stomping and giggling in the garden dirt. "Hey! Not in the garden!" I point them to their Dirt Fort, roll up Noah's pants legs, and off they go. Darn, they are playing with the hose water again, I can hear it spraying full force. "Hey! Turn off that hose, guys." Katie on my hip in the sling, I hump a wheelbarrow over to them and fill it with water. "Have at it, this is your water quota for the day okay." Immediatley they chatter plans for how they will make their mud city.

Teresa wanders over to get the community mower. It's in our front yard from mowing yesterday. "Have you seen one of these before?" she asks, waving her new weeding hoe like a proud flag. We talk weeds, county issues, and walk the community raspberries recently mulched with sawdust. She rides off on the mower full-speed down the driveway, white hair flying, waving her long hoe in the air hooting like a wild rodeo mow-girl.

I catch up with her later in the meadow. Shovel plowing up deep weeds from the edge of her garden in big dirt-sodden clumps. Katherine's getting heavy in the sling. I sit down on a nearby bale of hay, solid and only slightly damp. Baby K sits on the dry cardboard below me, pulling at the grass in front of her. Fist + blade of grass pushes into her mouth. I alternate between monitoring the grass intake and the clumps of grass Teresa's tossing into the wheelbarrow. V wanders up, kisses for T. Wanders off. More fistfulls of grass pulled up by baby K. More clods of earth dug up by Teresa. Joe wanders up. Kid logistics. Sure, we can take Hannon for the night. What's the school thinking to schedule a play showcase at 9:15pm? Sheesh.

Kid report from Joe, too. Hannon and Noah are playing down at the creek. Ken's with them, he's just cracked a beer. Hannon and Noah are splitting a beer, har har.

The college kids from Sherwood are circled in the meadow, bundled in cold sunshine. Their second annual retreat here at Walker Creek, free and sister community, why not. I don't know a single one of them. I do remember being them. Young and just me.

My black boots kick through the wet grass, I walk by them, smiling, baby K leaning towards them from my left hip. Her eyes bright, watching them. The basket of dinner greens I just harvested from the greenhouse bounces against my right hip. Two things I've grown, both held in the crook of my arms. Baby Katherine on one side. Greens on the other. My jean hems soak up the moisture from the grass. Another good day at Walker Creek.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feeling Forty: On Fashion

Enter, 40. Enter, The New Fashion Demographic. Or shall I say: the Old Fashion Demographic.

I look around at the new fashions parading Broadway Avenue in Seattle. I was never eternally hip, but I do recall noticing new fashions and choosing whether I wanted to partake of them or not. I look at the puffy elastic waisted minis now and realize - even I wanted to wear that, I should not.

Young fashion, at forty, suddenly no longer feels like a choice. Why? Because I would now not look fashionable. I would look like an aging woman, clinging to youth. Ouch.

Jeggings? Joke. Robin Hood boots + cuffed shorts? Uh, not for me thanks, pass. Now to stay younger-looking, I have to stick to flattering classics. And worse - clothes that are hip and appealing to my demographic. The Born in the 70s and Now Forty Demographic, say Helllllllllo! "Comfort over style, baby, Comfort over style."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wind in My Hair, Now - Still.

The wild hairs, they disappear so slowly these days I barely notice. These days as a mother now for nearly five years. Five years of now mostly keeping the windows rolled up so I don't blast the sleeping baby in the back seat. Five years of turning the music down low so I can hear my son talking to me from the back seat. Where is that woman I knew so well twenty years ago? The one with the wind whipping through her hair, across her face, as she drives with the windows down, cool air and cool tunes thumping through the car's body, feelin' free.

She's kid wild now. Laughs with abandon at her four year old son's joke. Cranes up at the sky and the trees with her 10 month old baby in arms looking up too, sharing love for the blue and the green, the shape of the earth above us.

She's definitely kid wild now. This woman who once drove a motorcycle under a moving truck. The one who knew she'd have made a great EMT or stunt woman had it occured to her just a little bit sooner along the career path. Her risks now? The most fearless includes: a hand down the back pants of her baby's dipe, to check for - well, you know. Brave mama, indeed. Fearless lover of two.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homebody Hardbody I am Not

I'm just not one of those folks who can exercise at home. Okay, I can't - and I don't want to. Part of the gift of exercise for me is - change of scene. Getting outside. Especially, now that I'm a parent - getting away. Sanity check. It's not all about the sweat (or the buns of steel, hah!).

Still, sometimes I wonder why I don't just carve out time to do an exercise video while Noah entertains himself. Rather than getting no exercise that day. Then I remember. He'd be interrupting me. He'd be in my space. It wouldn't give me what I need. Because exercise means clearing my head means: don't talk to me. Shhhhhhhh.

And just when I was about to lose my mind from a stretch of days with no break from the kids ~ when I felt this hot rage surge in my chest, caged animal feeling ~ I pleaded Ken my case and hopped my bike for a quick ride around Walker Creek. Found a trail I'd been curious to explore up at the Boy Scout Camp. Sunshine on the snow dusting the lowlands from last night cold rains. Soft tires digging into rocks and mud. The only sound my breath and my tires and the soft swish of my coat as my legs pedal me along.

This is what I need. Shhhhhhhhhh. Only my breath and my bike and my quiet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kiki

Four months old and wise as a sage. Katherine Isabella


I can do it. I can start the fire and keep it going and bring in the wood from outside and crank up the generator and re-set the well pump when the water's not working and keep my baby in dry cloth diapers and drop everything to nurse her when she's crying and keep my four year old fed and alive and (somewhat) happy.

And, for the most part, keep my nervous system and brain mostly even keel.

That it's green and fresh outside and that I can hear the creek rushing by helps. A lot.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Girl Gets Out for a Night, Packs Breast Pump but Leaves Mama Hat At Home

I live on Capitol Hill, so I've been "among people" regularly since Katherine was born four months ago. But I've yet to go to a fullblown event out on the town. Til Last Night.

"Krishna Das and Deva Premal are playing tomorrow at the Moore. I'd like to go, but I've been doing lots of fun stuff lately. Why don't you think about going?" says my husband in a fit of thoughtfulness.

Cramming one last nursing session in at 15 minutes to showtime. She blows it all down my back, on to my pants, splashing to a puddle on the couch. Change, or eat? Food, I need food. There I find myself, among the spiritually fashionable, wearing a plain old shirt with dried spit up on the left shoulder.

But, spit-up-free Kimberly and I made it. On time.

Survey the scene as we're seated. The sheer number of prayer-shawl-like scarves: overwhelming. And I could feel a part of myself wanting to make fun of the bamboo flute player, standing in his shiny gold shirt, tight pants and bare feet.

And the moment Deva opens her mouth for the first sound of the first part of "Ohm"... I am instantly grounded, instantly released from cynicism, instantly transported. Yes, to a higher realm, there I said it. Have a listen to one of her CDs. You'll know what I'm talking about.

"Won't you join us?" she says. All us of there invited to sing along. Her voice spreads golden honey. Shakti. Love. Swirling feminine divine. I think of my sweet girl baby at home. Tears pool in my eyes from the swell in my heart.

We sit in silence between each song. Like the fourth sound of "Om": a + u + m + Silence. An integral part of the sound Om. After a few sets, darkness on stage, then Deva in soft light, kneels on stage. "Time to get down," she says with a wry smile.

She invites us to chant Om Shanti Om - 108 times. She'll do the counting. Breath in. Go. Om Shanti Om Om Shanti Om Om Shanti Om Om Shanti Om. I'm working hard to keep up with the fast pace of the chant. Like on a run, I sip in air every fourth cycle. The tops of my ears start to tingle. I realize the secret of the mantra 108 times. It's another form of pranayama. Breath control. As you vibrate the hell out of your body. Quite literally.

I'm left fantasizing about waking up each morning to chant. Creating a community to join with me in chanting. Forget church. I've yet to find "my home" on Sundays. But Chanting? Yes. Chanting I think can be my church.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

3-6-9 The Goose Drank Wine

The lyrics from a song I listened to in the 80s came flooding back to me last year - without remembering its name or singer - and I was compelled to teach the words to my son Noah. Because it's a catchy fun song. Seemingly childlike, and he loves singing it, but I sometimes think, hmmm, will someone call CPS? (I mostly think that when he belts out the song among strangers. And because no one in the U.S. seems to know this song, so he sounds a bit nutty).

But this song and I go way back, I have a relationship with it, and that overrules any silly etiquette that might be appropriate in this case.

Here's the song as I heard it in the 80s when I lived in Antwerp, Belgium. It was a hit song, Top of the Pops and all that:

Thanks to the Internet, I now know that it's called "The Clapping Song," originally recorded by Shirley Ellis in 1965:
No one in the U.S. seems to know what the hell I'm talking about when I sing this song. I guess it was only popular in 80s Europe and 1960s America when it was in the Top 10?

Greens & Rice

Mmmmm, mmh!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Noah often shows up next to the bed in the middle of the night. He crawls in the middle of us. Lately, he's taken to showing up with his little orange pillow... or his yellow giraffe... or, dragging his bright red quilt behind him. Sometimes ~ impressively so ~ he's shown up craddling and dragging all of it at once - plus his blue glass water bottle. It's sweet. Like he's moving in for the night. I love that little guy. B.Y.O.P., buddy. Crawl on up here. Bring Your Own Pillow.