Friday, April 28, 2006

photobooth friday posted from vegas

Dudes, I'm in Vegas for business, but here's my photobooth friday which technically was taken outside of a photobooth from my glorious
Tara Whitney shoot, but I think it counts.

Yesterday, I was sick for exactly 12 hours which is really odd because I don't ever get sick. I awoke, as usual, around six but I felt queasy. I thought, Am I nauseous right now because I don't remember how this feels. Then I thought, Naawww, can't be. Until five minutes later, I was hurling in the toilet. I was pissed. Because of my lifestyle and eating habits, I'm actually insulted when I get sick. Though I felt absolutely miserable, nothing is really sadder than catching your daughters looking at you and wringing their hands while you're vomiting. I looked like death, but I went to the girls, who I don't think have ever seen me throw up, and said, "Did that scare you?" And they said, yes. And I said, "Mami's ok. Maybe just a touch of Tournament SARS."

After most every Taekwondo tournament, one of us has spent the next day puking our guts out. Remember Mina was hurling after the last tournament? Husband is up next and he should be in for a real treat at Junior Olympics.

So, it was either Tournament SARS or it could've been the english muffins. Here's some advise: When you're very hungry and you're totally into non-preservative sprouted grain english muffins and half of the muffins are moldy, maybe don't eat the one that doesn't (really) look moldy. BAD CALL.

So, I threw up all day. I still went to work (LAME!), but my favorite salesguy was getting a HUGE order that we've worked on for weeks and it came down on precisely the day I decided to give myself mold poisoning. I was not going to let someone else place my seven figure PO after all of that. I just had to puke three times while placing it. But I got home by three and slept like the dead smothered in pugs for two solid hours. I awoke sweaty and thrilled and in love anew with feeling well. Nothing tops that feeling, the return to good health.

And now I'm in Vegas. Initially I was bummed about having to go on this trip. Every year, I've gone to this event with Mandy and this is the first I am here without her. Our business trip was full of shopping and spa-going and and talking and hours of primping in a robe. Dudes, The Robe! Hours without children bossing me around or the pressure of time. But, you know, for the first time I have a room all to myself and I'm about to go shopping and then to the spa and then I'll spend hours drinking coffee with nothing on but The Robe and false eyelashes watching SportsCenter on this killer plasma TV. And now I'm excited to be in Vegas.

I'm also feeling a sense of euphoria about the Junior Olympic love and support. Thank you so much. I told Maya about the comments and the pledges for bracelets and her face lit up. When I get home from my Vegas Vacation of One (I'm giddy saying that), I will post the pay pal button and hopefully pictures of the bracelets, and we'll slingslot my baby athlete to Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On the Road

Last Saturday, Maya competed in her biggest Taekwondo tournament to date. For the last couple months she has stretched twice a day, she's attended extra classes and she's worked one on one with the director of her studio. She's put in a tremendous amount of work all so she could do well on Saturday. This tournament was a qualifier for the Junior Olympics.

Husband and I are in training too. Extra classes for Maya means extra classes for us. Two-a-day stretching means that I asked twice a day, "Maya, did you stretch yet?" It means I held her leg up against a wall at impossible heights because she needs a near-split side kick to medal in forms. It means Husband gave her pep talks and tips after every class. We are training a ten year old athlete and that means she follows our lead, not just our verbal instruction. Hardly ever did she whine or complain. Her desire never wavered.
Saturday, I watched my girl perform at a level I hadn't seen before. In forms, when she kicked her first side kick higher than ever before, my skin rose off my body. It was a near-perfect program and out of eight girls, she earned a silver by a subjective three tenths of a point. In sparring, she mercied the girl in her first match meaning out of two rounds, they stopped the fight in the first round because Maya had scored seven points to zero. In Maya's second match, she sparred a girl who had flown in from the Philippines. After the first round, the score was zero to zero and in the second, Maya started to slow and tire and her opponent scored points off a nice flurry of kicks. Maya lost, but she earned bronze. The girl from the Philippines, gold.

But what this all means is that Maya earned a spot to compete in the Junior Olympic Championships 2006. My ten year old black belt beauty gets to go to the Junior Olympics which will be held in Atlanta this July.

Immediately after the elation of her qualification, Husband and I realized the cost involved with getting to a Junior Olympics 2,600 miles away. We panicked wondering if we could even entertain the thought. We were geniuses in honing her natural talent, but we felt on the verge of failing her if we couldn't afford such an elusive opportunity. We were experiencing winner's let down. Maya had no clue. She kept saying, elatedly, "You guys were right, the work does pay off!" She was so proud of herself. And Husband and I said, "Yes, sweetheart," but we said nothing to each other, not wanting to admit the sobering practicality of the situation.

We slept on it. And the next morning, without much discussion, Husband and I both knew we would get Maya to Atlanta one way or another. We couldn't let her miss this opportunity she worked so hard to earn. We are full steam ahead to work hard for her too. So, we started to spread the word about her accomplishment. We were pledged support. I ordered colorful custom rubber bracelets to sell for fundraising. On one bracelet, I had printed "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." For the other, I asked Maya what she wanted it to say. I said, "You could put 'Go Maya 2006', or whatever you want." She said, "I want it to say, 'Whatever it takes, follow your dreams.'" I rubbed her hand. "Perfect," I said. "Whatever it takes." The Rivera family is on The Road to Atlanta, whatever it takes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Family Portraits

For the first time ever, the familia and I got portraits taken. We were shot by the beyond fabulous Tara Whitney. She took us down to the Balboa Fun Zone and we went for it amid crowds and onlookers and tourists. I was very nervous about getting professional photos taken. I know I can unabashedly take five billion pictures of myself to get one good one, but being under the direction of an artist . . .that's just pressure, man. In person, Tara made us feel comfortable and the shoot flew by. Also, this was my first time meeting a real life blogger so it was oddly like meeting an old friend for the first time. During the shoot I still wasn't sure if I'd be able to relax my face or how the images would turn out. Even afterwards I had my doubts, and I decided to just be pleased that we'd have quality photos of the girls. But Tara’s photos of us blew me away. I was stunned that she was able to capture how we feel for each other. She was amazing. Here are a few. This first one gives me butterflies.

Check out the rest of the album HERE. And please check out my girl, Tara.

Monday, April 24, 2006

self portrait tuesday

Mina's Birthday Dinner
We went out for Italian.

This is my third entry for April's Silly Theme over at Self Portrait Tuesday.

Happy Birthday, Baby

Today is my baby girl's birthday. Mina is seven. This is not really computing well in my mind; that she is seven. Seven years old, in other kids, is more grown. But Mina is still my baby.

When I was first pregnant with her, I thought I was going to have a boy. Husband knew it would be a girl, but my first thought was Boy. My instincts were crossed with what I thought I wanted. But you can't manipulate destiny or rather you shouldn't want to manipulate it. At my ultrasound, of course I wanted to hear the gender, and when the technician said it was a girl, I cried. It was an instantaneous burst of crying because yes, yes, I wanted another girl badly. I wanted that little girl in my womb and in that moment, knowing it was a She, I became fiercely protective and possessive. When I told Mandy it was a girl she said, "Good. You are a good raiser of women."

The night I went into labor, it was two weeks before the due date and Husband had just gotten home from a long, grueling managerial shift at a restaurant. He had just stretched out on the floor and put his hands over his eyes. I then felt the cramp of a contraction. I thought it was prep, Braxton Hicks, but they started to come regularly. I told Husband and he seriously looked at me like, Do you really have to do this now? I nearly kicked him in the head. My pregnancy had been smooth sailing. I worked nine hour days without a problem. I had worked the day I went into labor which was a Friday and I was kinda pissed that the baby or the gods made me work a full day, a full week and then put me in labor on a Friday night. When I was eight months pregnant, Husband broke his ankle playing basketball. We lived on the third floor of a no-elevator apartment. Maya was almost four which meant I got to lug groceries and a three year old up and down stairs and care for a convalescing husband while I was weeks away from giving birth. If that didn't make me hot, our cat decided to break his hip the day after Husband broke his ankle. WHAT IN THE HELL? Which meant I got to wait at the vet emergency room until one in the morning with my stupid, beloved cat, and lug him around to his doctor's appointments up and down the stairs while the convalescing husband lived it up at home. Husband was in a lot of pain, obviously, BUT CAN A GODDESS CATCH A BREAK? So, my pregnancy was smooth but labor intensive before labor had even begun, and when HE looked at ME at the onslaught of contractions like, Fuck . . . I seriously almost kicked him in his teeth. This abusive thought was a distant second, however, to my excitement. My baby was coming. Nothing could get me down. Labor? What ju got? BRING IT. This is my theory about labor and why gestation is so long: By the ninth (tenth really) month, you are so ready to get that f'ing baby out that the gripping fear of labor you feel around the eighth month melts into a I Will Shove My Hand Up There Myself If She Doesn't Come Soon feeling. Nature is brilliant.

Labor with Maya lasted fourteen hours. It was steady and long. And I thought Mina's would surely be cut in half. But apparently I was built for the steady, long road of birthing. We were in for a long night. When I first arrived at the hospital they hooked me up to the monitoring devices because my water had broken. Each contraction was displayed with the sharp spike of a white line on the monitor to which Husband replied, "Oh, that's a contraction, right?" And then he followed a minute later with, "Ooo, they're getting stronger?" I violently said, "SHHHSHHHHHHHHHH" and he got the hint.

The next twelve hours were a dreamy, spiky-pained haze. I think I mentioned in previous posts that in pain I retreat into myself. During labor, I did not want to squeeze my love's hand or yell at him or have him touch me, or distract me from my meditation of receiving the pain then sending the pain away. He approached me once during the waves of contractions. He had gotten up from the Husband-Day Bed near the window, and when he came to me I tensed and lost focus. But he rubbed his hand down my leg and said, "I love you," and then went back to his post. I gushed with love and appreciation. When the situation was intense and when we were in the trenches, he understood me completely. This gesture is forever embedded in my mind.

When Mina was ready to come into the world, I pushed five times, setting her free. This was a welcomed relief because with Maya I didn't think I'd ever get her out of the birth canal. My first image of Mina is of the doctor's hand cradling her by the stomach holding her butt-up. I saw the mashed mat of black hair. She looked just like Maya. This is when a mother's heart leaves her body and does an elated, floating lap around the room. My breath sucked so far into my throat it would not release until tears forced it out again. The baby was as close to perfection as Husband and I could make.

And today she is seven. My heart sails no less for her now than it did the day we met. I love you, little mami, so much I can't really take it.

Here she is getting woken up this morning by Carmen and Maya and my version of Happy Birthday.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

photobooth friday

Easter, 2006
Mina and Husband were in New York until Monday for their annual Spring Break trip together. Maya was in Vegas for her Spring Break trip with her BD, but she got home on Saturday for our own weekend together. On Easter Sunday, my friend Quaniesha, Maya and I went to lunch at Native Foods and then went to the movies to see Take the Lead, the dancing movie with Antonio? AAAHH YEA! It was Sister Act II but with dancing. It was Stand and Deliver but with dancing. It was actually about the guy who was responsible for putting together programs featured in Mad Hot Ballroom, which we loved. And we loved this corny, predictable Hollywoodized version too.

Here we are doing our Easter pose.

Gratuitous Gorgeousness Friday is dedicated to this corner of the girls' room.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sleeping Beauty

Maya has always been a fitful sleeper. She's not active enough during the day apparently. Though she was an average sleeper as a baby -- up a few times during the night -- she became more and more restless once she hit a year old.

After I split from her dad when she was about eight months old, I took to the habit of letting her sleep in bed with me. This was not the most text-book of approaches, but all alone I felt my maternal vigil had become heavier and more intense. I believed she needed my constant hovering, my endless reassuring whispers. Watching her cheeks bunched against the pillow, lips parted and reverberating from heavy breath, lashes long and still affirmed that she was it; my everything. At night, I relished in her soft nighttime snorts and sheet shuffling or if a tiny hand unconsciously made its way to my face. Soared, my heart did. Bad habits be damned.

After she hit a year old, she became a flopper. Wild arms clotheslined me in the dead of night, legs thrashed. I considered wearing a helmet to bed. Most mornings I'd awake to her body perpendicular to mine. Or intersected. Raising her alone was exhausting, but the nightly slumber wrestling that robbed me of sleep left me emotional and drained during the day. My job was very demanding, and most nights after I picked Maya up from daycare, it took everything I had to keep my eyes open while driving home. Once, in dead-locked traffic, I actually did nod off and slowly rolled forward tapping the car in front of me. I cried the rest of the drive home, embarrassed, spent.

A few nights I attempted to put Maya down in her crib only to lose more sleep. I slept more with the thrashing than I did with the hollering and crying and the running back and forth. By midnight, she'd always be back in my bed, cradled in my spoon and eventually hitting me upside the head with her wild night swings.

When Maya was a year and a half, I met Husband. This sent me scrambling to undo the habits I had created. I had not planned on sharing my bed again with a grown up. Not that I had staunchly drawn a line in the sand between men and me, it's just that the only relationship that was important was the one with Maya. I did not look beyond that, until I met Husband. He lived on the east coast when we met so I did not have to wrangle her into crib prison at first but it was in the back of my mind that this would have to happen eventually. The wind in fresh-love sails can be abruptly let out by a baby screaming. After six months of bi-coastal dating, Husband moved out to Cali and in with us. And the sleep stand offs with Maya began. This period lasted what seemed like an eternity. The rocking and singing and soothing and reasoning were hardly making an impact or a compelling reason for her to sleep alone. We were graciously given a "big girl" bed which is a mini version of a twin with a little gate to keep a kid from thudding to the floor. We made a huge deal about it. Maya was stoked about the bed, but still didn't want to spend the entire night in it. I could get her to sleep in it by laying my head on her pillow as I knelt on the floor beside her singing endless rounds of Fly Me to the Moon. But deep in the night, she would scream/cry from her big-girl bed. I would go to her room and say, "Maya, baby, back to sleep, ok? I'll see you in the morning." And she'd reasonably say, "Ok, Mami" Sniffle, sniffle, head back on pillow. As soon as I would get back to my bed, the scream/cry would begin again. Every night. Over and over. Nothing worked. Until one night, dead exhausted and desperate, I said, "Listen, you have two choices, sleep in your bed or stand in the corner and cry. You choose. I'm going to bed." She chose to cry in the corner. For about five minutes. Then there was silence and then we heard the sweet squeak of her big-girl bed.

At around three years old, Maya started to have night terrors. She would awake and inexplicably and inconsolably scream/cry until I completely woke her up, washed her face and talked her down. Her face would be bewildered and crazed. Like her eyes were open to another scene in her mind. At first I though they were just nightmares until I learned about night terrors. These occurred often. Other nights, she would awake because her feet and legs ached which we concluded were growing pains, but still at one in the morning I would rub her feet and legs and prop pillows under her knees to alleviate the pain. She outgrew the leg/feet aches, but the night terrors transformed into trippy sleepwalk/talking episodes. If we heard her murmur at night, we knew we were in for 10 minutes of crazy shit. We'd laugh, "Maya's trippin' again" and we'd take turns to calm her down, stop her from clawing at the closets, or poking at the mirror, or walking into the living room carrying all of her bedding, or wandering into our bathroom to huddle in the corner. She would cry-talk hysterically through the entire episode.

"Had to pass that gene down, didn't you?" Husband likes to say. Which refers to the severe sleep walking I did as a kid. I respond, "Uh, I wasn't all vocal and crazy like this. I was just trying to quietly escape." When I was six, my mother and I lived in a tiny town in England with my mother's boyfriend. I apparently wandered out of the flat and down the street. A policeman brought me back. When I was seven, my mother and I lived in a coastal village in Spain with another boyfriend. I walked out of the apartment, went down the elevator, walked the steps to the beach and looked at the ocean. I came back up the elevator just as I was starting to wake up. My mother's head was popped out of the apartment with her mouth wide open. I'll never forget that image of seeing her head only, her thick wavy hair swinging, her look of shock. That episode in Spain I remember well. I thought it was a dream, but I remember so clearly the dark and monochromatic steel-blue hue of the night and the ocean, looking at the water dotted with moonlight and then turning back. I have answered the beckon call of the Ocean forever, I suppose.

Maya, at almost eleven now, hardly has episodes anymore, but they are not gone entirely. When we hear her start, we can easily calm her down. It takes maybe two minutes now.

Last night I heard her murmur. I got up and went to her bed. She was starting to sit up and though her eyes were half open, she had a tremendous smile on her face. It was an expression she would have if I had told her we were going to Disneyland. It was excited and bright. It was gorgeous. I smoothed her hair and told her to lie down. She did snuggling her comforter, eyes closed, smiling. "Good night, baby, I love you." "I love you too, Mami," she whispered.

Monday, April 17, 2006

self portrait tuesday

I love hats. A lot. Beyond being stylish, they hide things. Lumpy heads. Bad hair. Grey roots. A bad mood. They bring out things. Some fun. Daring, maybe? A flash of color. I feel overtly fetching when I where one. But sometimes I feel silly trying to work one into an outfit. Though I am instinctively drawn to hats -- always, every store, every style -- when I buy one, I am instantly self conscious of maybe trying too hard. To cover things. To bring out things. Though I do wear hats quite often, I know that the older I get will be directly proportional to the frequency of my increased hat wearing. I'm gonna wear teeshirts, jeans and big old lady church hats with feathers and nets and beads and felt. I'm gonna try too hard, and not give a shit.

More silliness here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

photobooth friday & mami ramblings

OC Fair, summer 2001
Maya is about six here, the same age Mina is now. They look just alike at this age, but they are really different in a lot of ways. Maya has always been true to her exact age; not trying to act older, not acting younger either. I love that she's not trying to be fast and that she revels in being a kid. She celebrates it, enjoys every single minute from the second her eyes flash open until she crashes her head on her pillow at night. Mina is a baby and an old person rolled into one. She's in her head a lot so many people think she's younger, or pensive. She still speaks with a tiny limp because of the hearing thing which makes her seem younger too. Despite their different personalities, Mina can mix it up with Maya. They wrestle and battle, beat each other with Hulk Hands and square off with padded fake swords they got from Tae Kwon Do. This is great to watch because they have a whole ritual to the sword fight where they prostrate and bow first then proceed to lash each other . . . until someone's really hurt of course which gets minimal sympathy from us, if any. They sing and dance around together too, Maya hogging the spot light, with Mina coyly stealing the show from behind. They both know how to grab attention in their own ways. When they play dress up, Maya wears the black, curly Mama Morton wig. She honestly feels she looks fantastic in this wig and has asked me if she can wear it in public. I might've let her once or twice. She dresses in a long skirt and Candies and puts in little wads of toilet paper giving herself small, athletic boobs. Mina puts on the Britney Spears blond wig and tells me that at nineteen she will dye her hair blonde which makes me cringe, but what are you gonna do? She puts on a tiny mini skirt and Cinderella plastic mules and stuffs her shirt to form a gigantic rack. She looks like a baby Dolly Parton. Maya says, "Dang Mina, what's with the boobs?" And Mina says, switching hips and feeling up her wads and wads of paper, "I want big boobs!" I shake my head as Maya answers, "God, I don't." They fight, for real, but minimally. It's more of a Who Can Annoy The Other The Most Game. But then I'll hear them making up imaginary games of school or house. Or they'll color for hours together or play a computer game. Maya has long learned that as the oldest she cannot get away with imposing her will on Mina. Mina doesn't play that, but when they just settle in as true friend-sisters, there is a connectedness --a swirling energy -- between the two of them that floors me. Lately, Maya’s class has been talking about money and the value of saving up. They were asked to write down their top three goals for saving money. Maya's were: College, a car and to live in an apartment with Lola and Mina. At school and at their AfterCareProgram, they speak highly of each other and get each other’s back. I have no brothers or sisters so I am constantly in awe of the sibling dynamic. I realize I haven't just birthed two independent geniuses, but life-long best friends. It makes me weepy even if I can't grasp entirely what they feel for each other.

And for GGF (Gratuitous Gorgeousness Friday): Easter Bunny Sitting, 2002. Maya is 7, Mina is 3.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dudes, I Wasn't Gonna Do It . . .

But the Five Must-Have Meme was calling and I answered.

Top 5 Must-Haves (for now):
In my fridge:
1. A shit load of veggies.
2. Soy creamer. (If you search my blog for the words soy creamer, it probably would come up 1,158 times.)
3. Pre-cut mango and pineapple.
4. Earth Balance spread - good spread on anything . . .I'd eat it on cardboard if pressed.
5. Sprouted grain english muffins - my newest obsession.

In my closet:
1. J-j-j-jeans.
2. Many made up tshirts from this place. Think beyond the Mrs. Brad Pitt jackassery because here you can have personalized fun in all kinds o' colors. For the kids too. I made a tee for Mina that reads "Deep" and "Lupe" pug tees for Maya. It's my favorite clothing store.
3. Colorful sneakers.
4. A beautiful array of hand bags that don't really see the light of day. They are probably not must-haves, but seeing them lined up in my closet makes me happy.
5. As do these two Betsy Johnson pairs of perfection pictured here. Again, they never really go out much, but they were happy to be photographed.

In my purse:
1. A baggie of soy creamer (1,159th time) with agave. One never knows when a perfect cup of coffee will land in your lap.
2. Raw snack bars.
3. Lip gloss.
4. At least 5 pens for recording random genius that springs to mind.
5. Day calendar/planner. I follow my schedule like a trained monkey. Without it as a reference, children would be stranded at Tae Kwon Do and basketball practice, things would never get mailed; I wouldn't know what time to lunch or where to go after work.

In my car:
1. Many empty water bottles. It's like a battlefield of spring waters; and they all lost. Is that a must-have?
2. More pens.
3. Crayons, coloring books, empty notepads, word searches . . .because the girls, apparently, need to be doing something during every waking second.
4. A book on CD.
5. A few biodegradable doggie poop bags.

On my TiVo:
1. Wild N Out
2. The Shop
3. Sopranos
4. The Dog Whisperer
5. Scrubs

I kinda just bored myself to death with my own list so I'm adding another section here that has nothing to do with Must Haves. Good for me.

Follow Ups To Five Blog Posts: (I realize I often post epiphanic entries and then don't talk about them again. I live in the now, people. But here are some follow ups to a few recent posts.)
1. The Hair. I honestly did get a hair cut. A good amount cut off in fact. For those of you that don't know me in person, it may look like nothing was cut, but my hair was nearly to my waist, one length. Anyway, I go from day to day loving the cut and then not loving it. It's almost perfect I've decided. First off, I've discovered that long bangs --ones that scrape the eyelashes -- are not my bag. There is something about my lumpy forehead that makes me look better, oddly. When I have long bangs I look more plain and soccer-momish. Like, I asked for the Orange County Hair Cut #4, not the Hip Blogger Cut as I first imagined. So, I either need to grow the bangs longer or cut them Bettie-Page shorter. I am a big fan of the short-short bangs, but I'm not sure if I want to go that route. The rest of the cut is good; kinda too long in some spots, too short in others. I will say -- and I would not admit this idly because I was very possessive of my very long hair -- it is an improvement from what I had before. I'm learning to work with it and though the stylist really wanted me to commit more to blowdrying and products and all that shit, I'm just not that girl. The cut is really fun in up do's and it hats, but when it's down, I clip the bangs back and rock what I got which is not bad.

2. Yoga. Remember when I went to yoga and saw god or at least realized how great it was? Yeah well, I haven't been back since. It was too good, that yoga, and maybe I'm not ready for all that clear mental goodness. I feel lame admitting this because I really don't have a good reason other than my typical time constraints. If I really wanted, I could make time. But I don't. And I don't know why. I'm a slave to Turbo Kickboxing where there's no sleeping at the end of class.

3. Going Raw. December 19th, 2005 (my rawnniversary), I went "Raw Until Dinner" where I drink a juice concoction and eat fruit in the morning then salad, nuts, avocados, raw crackers for lunch and then a cooked meal for dinner. Unlike my one night stand with yoga, going raw may be a lifelong marriage for me. I love it. I have cooked lunches and breakfasts every now and again, but I do not crave them. I do crave the juice and salad. I eat the same thing almost every day, and I can't wait until the next day to have it again. Unintentionally, I've converted at least four people to the Raw 'Til Dinner regime. Husband is bummed I didn't make raw and vegan conversion into some kind of pyramid scheme.

4. Coffee. A little while back I grappled with my coffee intake which, with as much as I talk up my love of coffee, is not that much. But when I was converting to a more raw lifestyle I considered cutting the coffee out altogether because it is arguably toxic. I decided instead to have my one cup in the morning and cut out the second I enjoyed in the afternoon. Which eventually made me very angry, hateful even. I have since resumed the second cup without a speck of regret, and all is right with the world.

5. Gymnastics. Back in November, Mina was gung ho about doing gymnastics. I have a strange fear of gymnastics and was not excited about her persistent desire, but I am all for letting her discover her own passions. The gym was creepy with intense parents and militaristic coaches. There was a huge sign that read: Gymnastics, The Art of Perfection and that about summed up the atmosphere. Mina quickly advanced to an excelled class and showed a sort of promise that brought a glimmer, with an agenda, to her coach's eye. We saw the gym licking their money-grubbin', champion-wantin' chops. But during classes, as the other 6 year olds patiently waited like little soldiers to pull themselves up on the parallel bars with bionic strength, Mina would do handstands and sneak jumps on the irresistibly spongy floor. This did not please her uptight coach though it did not bother us. I'm 38 years old and I want to jump on that floor every time I'm near it so I can only imagine the temptation for a 6 year old. Even though Mina showed tremendous strength and potential, the more she rejected the marching and the stiff discipline of gymnastics, the more the glimmer dimmed in her coach's eye. The coach gradually paid less and less attention to Mina, concentrating more on the more dedicated, robotic children. This pissed Husband off while I muttered under my breath, "Oh, like we didn't see this coming." Then one day Mina said without sadness or irony, "I don't want to do gymnastics anymore." We said, "What? Why?" And Mina said happily, "I want to play basketball." And inside my soul I shrieked with joy. "Whatever you want, sweetheart," I said. And now my baby girl is a baller too, a good one at that. She shows a lot of strength and potential and since Husband is the coach of her team, he knows how to keep it fun and not all gymnastic-torture like. She doesn't seem to regret the decision.

Monday, April 10, 2006

self portrait tuesday

Miguel, the guy that works in our warehouse asked me in Spanish and with much concern in his voice, "There's a bag of trash in your car?" My friend Kim also asked, "Why is there a big bag of trash in your car?" When The Lotto Club went out to lunch last week I said, "Can one of you drive because I have too much shit in my car."

A couple months ago, my apartment complex inexplicably got rid of the one recycle bin that they had stashed at the farthest end of the property. They all but camouflaged the bin with leaves and brush. It was the best kept secret in the complex, sending the message, "Sshh, we care." Before the bin disappeared, it was a big trek to the bin and when your home is just over 900 square feet, I understand the urge to just toss stuff in the trash. But recycling is probably the most basic of environmental responsibleness, so I wouldn't let my family trash my bags.

Then the one recycle bin disappeared, and it still hasn’t returned. I go to the management office every other week to ask about it and they either pass the buck or they say, "We're looking into that" which pretty much means, "Fuck off, Renter." I know they think I'll give up asking, but my strategy is to needle them to embarrassment and ultimately make them submit to a smidgen of environmental consciousness. Or at least do what I say just to get rid of me.

Until then, I carry my bags of recycling around in my car for sometimes days until I take the girls to the library where there is a recycle bin. Or when I drive by a particular complex where I know there's a bin. This is such a pain in the ass because my schedule is so tight, but I just can't bring myself to throw the stuff in the trash. The sight of me driving around with a big bag o' trash must look pretty silly though.

SPT's theme for April is Documenting Silly. Check out more aqui.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

photobooth friday

Santa Monica Pier, April 2006
When I was eleven, my mother rented a room from an ex nun named Jean. Jean was great and she had a friend named Vito who fished off the Santa Monica Pier every day. Vito was in his eighties. He was about five feet tall and he wore a beat up, small-brimmed fedora and a huge grey mustache. Every once in a while I would spend whole summer days fishing off the pier with Vito. We didn't talk a lot since he preferred visual instruction. I once a caught a good-sized fish that was borderline regulation. Fish have to be a certain size to keep. Vito said it looked a little undersized but if I was quick, I could probably get it off the pier and keep it. This was such a dilemma for me. I envisioned myself getting caught by some unseen fishing police. Vito kept saying, Go, go, already. And I just stayed staring at the fish. I didn't really know if I wanted to keep a fish anyway. After a lot of time, I went to the side of the pier and threw my fish back in. And it floated back to the top on its side. I didn't tell Vito, but my heart still sinks when I think of that image. I didn't fish with Vito again.

Maya and Mina have officially started their basketball season. Mina's first game -ever!- will be this Saturday. Maya had her first game last night. Here are a couple photos for Gratuitous Gorgeousness Friday.

Maya's new kicks.

Maya about to make a free-throw.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"The Movie"

Coming to a classroom near us . . .later this month Maya will watch the much anticipated "The Movie" with her fifth grade class. We cannot say this in our house without pause, air quotes and stressed syllables. Maya and I have been talking about it for months. We giggle about our exaggerated "The Movie" announcements, but then we get down to the brass-tacks speculation of what exactly "The Movie" will be about. We've concluded that it definitely will be about puberty and How Our Body Changes -- which Maya has down pretty pat -- but we haven't decided whether "The Movie" will talk about sex or not.

Our almost daily discussions now cover all topics because I don't want anything in "The Movie" to be a surprise and because I'm on a mission to eliminate as much body/self shame as possible in my daughters. One of my biggest goals as a mother is to raise self-loving people and I know a lot of that starts by squashing body shame.

"Feh, we get our periods. Whatev. We're gonna get them every month for a long time. It's a pain in the butt, but we might as well not feel badly about it." This is the bulk of my period speech. Then we branch off into the details: Fun with hormones, why are we actually bleeding, where exactly does a tampon go . . The questions from her have been randomly asked and pretty phenomenal. Brushing her hair the other morning, she said, "Does a baby come out of your pee hole?" "Yoowza," I say. "No. We have a pee hole, a poop shoot" -- we laughed -- "and have you noticed another hole down there? In the middle? That's the actual china. That's where a baby comes out of, and your period too." She said, "I was WONDERING what that one was." I put down the brush and drew her geometric shapes that were supposed to illustrate the uterus, the bladder, the intestines and then the corresponding outlets. "But, we're special," I said, "Because women and girls are the only ones with the three holes." She giggled.

Maya's best friend Lola just recently saw "The Movie". Maya reported from Lola's recount, "Did you know that if you put a tampon in a glass of water it explodes?" I said, "Cool, right?" She asked, "Can I wear a pad and not a tampon when I get my period?" I said, "Absolutely. But dude, sometimes it's like a diaper and trying to play sports with that thing is so uncomfortable." I saw a pained looked on her face as she tried to imagine getting a tampon up the mysterious third hole. I said, "I know it sounds impossible, but the key is to get it up far enough, and then you don't feel it at all." This did not change her expression. She looked at me, "Tell me about your first time again." She loves it when I tell her the story of when I first tried a tampon. I've told it a few times if only to make her feel better.

While experiencing my first or second period, the summer I turned 13, and while my mother was at work, I was invited to the beach to meet some friends, including a boy on whom I had a crush. I knew tampons were used during periods though I wasn't clear how. I scrounged under my mother's bathroom cabinet to find some and retrieved a box of OB's. I looked at that oval piece of cotton sans applicator -- I didn't even know tampons came with "applicators" -- and I thought: What. The. Fuck. I unfolded the directions that were tucked in the box, put my foot on the toilet as the illustration instructed and attempted the first OB launch. I remember so clearly thinking in that flash of discomfort that having sex and having a baby especially will be IMPOSSIBLE. After several rushed attempts -- I knew I was missing precious moments of beach fun the more I fucked around with Tampon Insertion 101 -- I felt satisfied enough with what I had done. I put on my bathing suit, grabbed my towel and ran down to the bus stop. On the bus, I squirmed and shifted. I felt as if I would give birth to the tampon at any moment. Was I bleeding? Did all the bus patrons know what was happening to me? It was the same at the beach. I couldn't relax around my friends, nor the boy, and I sat on my towel, knees clamped shut. Swimming was out. I just wanted to survive the day without depositing anything in my bikini bottoms.

Maya thinks this story is hilarious. So do I. But I tell her the point is, I'll help her get through her first tampon ordeal more smoothly than mine.

She and I have had many fantastic discussions lately. For example, most of her lunchtime homies at school are boys so she'll repeat stuff they say and then ask me about it. "When Ryan got hit in the weenie with a basketball he yelled, 'OH Larry hurts so bad! Ricky's fine, but LARRY!' And then he fell over in pain." This one took me a minute until I realized the kid was talking about his Left and Right testicle. I laughed so hard at this. And then I realized that Maya had no clue that boys have three separate items down below. I explained all of this, and she said, "I wonder if that's gonna be in 'The Movie'?"

Another boy from her crew announced that he saw a condom in his uncle's bathroom trash. (GROSS & WTF?) And when a boy asked, "What's that?" the storyteller said, "That helps you have babies, stupid." This is almost my favorite part of our discussions; straightening out what she hears at school. I said, "A condom KEEPS you from having a baby" which of course was followed by "How?" Until very recently, Maya believed women had babies by themselves. This was revealed with the great question, "Why don't we all look a like? I mean, what's the point of men and women looking so different?" When I discussed function, she stopped me and said, "Wait -- we need a man to have a baby? I thought women did it all." I could've taken a crack at men there, but Maya has perfect examples of great fathering around her. Luckily, she had been studying the pollination of flowers at the time. I said, "The men have the pollen." And a light came on. She said, "OOOHHH. And women get the pollen when the car is pulled into the garage." This is how her classmate Anthony explained it a few weeks ago. I said, "I prefer 'Special Hug' for now." And we laugh at that too because we can't say "Special Hug" without the beloved air quotes.

Maya enters middle school next year. She'll be going to school with kids three years older than her, and god knows what she'll hear then -- or what she'll start to see. I've heard so many stories about how oral sex is popular now among very young girls, and it's not considered sex. It's how a girl can gain popularity within certain groups apparently. This summer, as a primer for middle school, I'm having that self-respecting talk with Maya too. I call it the "Don't Put A Boy's Penis In Your Mouth Talk." Many of my friends cringe and think I'm kidding when I say this, but I'm not kidding. How's a young girl gonna know when she's feeling pressure from a boy she likes if her mom hasn't said, "Hey, don't put a boy's penis in your mouth to gain popularity. It's ok to say no."

These kinds of talks and topics will be and get more difficult I know. I just plan to stay honest and open and discuss it all; squash myths and interpretations, without shame. And until then, bring on "The Movie."

Monday, April 03, 2006

self portrait tuesday


The April theme over at Self Portrait Tuesday is documenting Silly.

Personally I don't think dressing up is silly. I've been known to take it very seriously, and I'm actually very bummed that campy lip-synching is not a competitive sport. I've always been a lover of wigs and dress-up themes. Thank god for halloween or then I would look a little, y'know, silly. Since Mandy moved away from me, I have not had as much of a chance to dress up. This makes me sad. Maya and Mina like to dress us too, but they really aren't on our level yet. Here are just a couple photos from past years.

This is husband and I at an 80's party a few years ago. I was a Siouxie Sioux fan club president and he was Morris Day. I hot curled his hair, shaped his 'stache and drew on freckles. He eerily channeled Morris. I think it was the ascot. I loved this wig so much -- the cut and color -- that I really thought long and hard about how to incorporate it into my everyday life. I wore it to a club once and then passed it down to the girls who really know how to fuck a wig up. There may be a lollipop stuck in it right now. *sweet, heavy sigh*

When I worked at the Big Corporate Job, one Halloween I had my whole purchasing department dress as tragic beauty contestants. I was Miss Understood. Mandy was Miss Demeanor. Others where Miss Hap, Miss Conception. I even got our CFO to dress in drag. He was Miss Ter.

Mandy and my big claim to fame -- in our minds -- was a Halloween drag lip synch contest we performed in for years. We thought we knew drag better than anyone. Mandy would come up with brilliant ideas and I would choreograph elaborate dance numbers based off of real life videos or films. Together we were unstoppable. This was the year we did Chicago. Mandy looked so much like Velma Kelly it was scary. Here I am as the Mama Morton character, loosely based. Any time my boobs get wrangled into a corset, they act as extras in the performance. I should have been billed as Miss Morton and her Mamas.

This was the year we were The Britney's. Three of us dressed as different aspects of Britney Spears and we gave an intricate and profound performance that year. I have to admit, our dancing was so hilariously on-point and in-synch that we really should've taken the act on the road.

And this was our first year in the contest. We performed the modern version of the Moulin Rouge song. Here I am shyly performing Pink's portion of the program. We knocked that shit out of the park that year.

Silly? I think not.