Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's Mina Wearing Today?

After checking out yet another genius outfit that Mina had put together for school, my neighbor John threatened that if I didn't start posting Mina's daily outfits, he would.

So, here's the official launching of What's Mina Wearing Today?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fourteen Is Ripe . . .And Fun!

When I was 14 I wanted to run away with a devout Rastafarian named Jah-Leel. He dressed in white only, wore dreads to his waist and had sparkly black eyes shaped like half diamonds. We talked one afternoon into the evening at an outdoor concert and we made an emotional connection, and nothing more. The running off part was all a fabrication in my own young mind that I clung to for about a year. I would convert! And crochet tams to sell at festivals. I'd never cut my hair and wear longs skirts and cook simple, earthly food; maybe draw water from a river with a gourd . . . I never saw him again though.

Maya turned 14 yesterday and she's just now becoming interested in boys. I don't think she wants to run off, though it's not lost on me that most of my Jah-Leel wishings were just escapist fantasy that didn't have a lot to do with him.

My point is that 14 is super ripe, ain't it? The land of independent absorption and budding resilience; the beginnings of true maturity. And Maya makes for a spectacular 14 year old.

Her party was Sunday and as much as we planned to play and have fun, I was still a little worried that the party would morph into a group of girls sitting around and talking/whining/gossiping. It did not. Play we did! And I'll add that the girls who came seemed relieved in the freedom to play even with big ol' bras and size 9 feet. (They make middle schoolers on a larger scale these days.)

They started with an impromptu game of three-on-three football. I felt a sense of pride when I had to tell the girls to play touch and not tackle football. They let out a collective groan and decided touch would be ok too. Here's Mina wishing she could tackle Maya. Don't let the fashion sense fool you.Then the girls took the soccer ball to the softball field and as they organized a game of kickball, they recruited about eight boys to join the game. It looked like a movie version of Sandlot kickball with every type of kid and personality on the field. When they argued about a foul ball, they squashed it in a matter of minutes -- ignoring the adult reffing from the sidelines -- and went on with the game. Maya was mowed down blocking first base and girls caught balls rocketed towards them off of boys' size 11 feet! (I asked) Mina caught anything that neared her vicinity and the girls bogarted the pitching mound. There was not one mention or whine from the boys about the girls and how they played. Well, not until they headed to the basketball courts for a game of Knock Out. When Maya smoked everybody, one of the boys said, "She shoots like a boy." That, unfortunately, can still elicit pride in a young girl athlete, but I jumped in and said, "You shoot like an athlete is what it is." Maya innocently blurted, "He just meant I don't shoot like AW here." She was pointing to her BFF who then blushed.

After KnockOut there was a fierce water balloon fight and then we played with one of those high soaring frisbees which was retrieved from the trees twice, a backyard once, but when it got stuck on a high, flimsy branch of a pine -- despite a gallant, climbing, shirtless effort by one of Husband's friends -- the game was over. It was time to go home then anyway considering we had played beyond when we said we would. Here are Maya custom-made kicks that Papi & I gave her yesterday.
Happy Birthday, Baby! You do 14 so well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

And Yet More Kid Goodness Leading into Memorial Day

This year, every fourth grade class at Mina's elementary school was given a musical to practice and perform. One class was given the Sound of Music; another Oliver. Mina's class was given Hairspray. For weeks, they practiced diligently. Maya and Mina had already seen the current version of the movie at least five times (I did make them watch the old one once) and so each song was practically committed to memory already. Hearing Good Morning Baltimore BELTED by Mina, with accompaniment and quite often bogarting by Maya, was joyful and grating. After fifteen times at a single sitting, I was tearful in my utter resignation and nearly hallucinating. The tolerance of noise that a parent can bare is award-winning. Though I gotta tell you, it was all worth it come play time. Mina played a smaller role, but lord if she wasn't the cutest thing ever up there. Other mothers would disagree. WHATEV. (Notice Mina's man, FB behind her. Mina said, "It looks like we're holding hands here.")Man! Did she have fun, and the all the kids were just great. Here are a few beaming, post-musical shots.

Mina and proud sister. You might remember FN, the class cut up, from Mina's party. He played Tracy's dad in the play, and he sung his heart out. He was awesome! Here's Maya's Crew supporting Mina; AW on the left, El on the right. Can I talk about how beautiful Maya is? I obviously don't mean just outwardly. She'll be fourteen on Monday. 14! And next year, she's starting high school. Which is strange because I was just asking Betsy, "Weren't we in high school, like, just last week?" Maya really is one of the best people I know. She's so responsible and hard working and caring. I couldn't be prouder of her. I love this picture. Today Maya's animal rights group is holding a bake sale right after school. I hardly did any of the baking. Of what we're contributing, Maya baked the majority of the stuff and she did such a great job. The group will hand over the money earned to the teacher who has allowed the group to use her room for meetings. This teacher volunteers at a Boxer Rescue and all the money will go towards food and care for the dogs. Maya thought it best to thank the teacher by helping her organization. This is what I'm talking about: Fair and thoughtful!

Maya's English class is now reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm rereading it along with her so we can geek out about the book together. I recommend rereading classics when you're older because wow! what a spectacular piece of writing that is. I had a sharp and open mind when I was young, but there is something about savoring art more deeply, more dimensionally when you're older. When you're young, or when I was young, I wanted to be Scout so badly. Maya wants to be Scout. And now, I want to be Atticus. The shift to loving Atticus is just as profound as the love I personally once had for Scout. It really is like reading it for the first time. So, it's been fun diving into plot and undertones of the book with Maya. Scout's innocent sense of what's right, the race issues, Atticus' unflappable sense of fairness are all big topics at which we grind away. Seeing Maya's mind dig deep is a pleasurable kick in the gut. She is amazing.

Stay tuned for Maya's big 1-4 birthday post.
Happy Weekend and Memorial Day, mi gente.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Maya's Crew

One of Maya's best friends, El, is a lesbian, and at thirteen she is bravely out to everyone including the playgrounds of middle school. She is a true beacon of progress. I ask Maya if El ever gets harassed at school, and Maya says no. There was one cowardly, anonymous cyber incident but other than that, no. Everybody knows and it's no big deal. Except to El's mother. El's mother is not accepting the news well and their relationship is in severe crisis. The relationship took a steeper downward turn after El told her mother that she's transgender; she is a boy trapped in a girl's body. El is a quiet and handsome girl. Sad and confident. She's very sure of herself but a little distrusting except of her closest friends, Maya being one of them. I get choked up when I hear Maya talking to El sometimes. Maya tells her that no matter what, she supports her; that whoever she is, it's all ok with her.

Maya worries about El in private, about her home life or about how hard it must be for her sometimes. She doesn't understand why a heartfelt talk doesn't patch things up immediately between El and her mother. I tell Maya it's not that simple for El. We can't know exactly what either is going through. We can only be there for her as a friend. I tell Maya though that I think El is going to be ok. I believe that. I've never seen a young person so aware of the big picture and sure of who they are. But in reality, she is still a child, and a child shouldn't have to beg and pray for their parent's acceptance. I can't imagine the stress El feels at home, and sometimes I worry about her too. She comes to our house as often as she can, and when she does, she's at ease. I told her that our house is a safe one and she's allowed to be herself and that we love her the same. She relaxes, takes it in. Then she eats plates and plates of food. She's a growing boy, she says.

El is involved with a group called Safe Zone which is run through our local high school. It's a group committed to promoting awareness and sensitivity regarding the issues of sexism and homophobia. El is the only middle schooler who attends the conferences and meetings and she is driven to the Safe Zone functions by one of our middle school teachers who sits on the Safe Zone board. Through the program, El was invited to attend the Gay & Lesbian Prom given by Safe Zone for high school students. And El asked Maya and their other friend AW to go with her. Maya came home excited about the news. Then she asked, "What if I'm asked to slow dance by someone I don't know and I don't want to." This is a question that stems more from a general slow-dance apprehension at thirteen than anything else. I said, "Then you say no thank you, I'm with my friends. You don't ever do what you don't want to do no matter the circumstances." "Ok, cool," she said as she pulled out dresses from her closet. She began to imagine how her hair would be done. Then I said, "Uh, sweetheart, this is a prom, not an 8th grade gym dance. Did you ask how much the tickets would be?" Her face grew pale and surprised.

The tickets cost far more than Maya could have imagined -- it's prom! -- and the price was too expensive for even El. I said, "The prom should be a fun thing in high school anyway. You guys are young yet." Maya agreed and she fastened her helmet to go skateboarding with her crew. And a good, smart, funny, grounded crew it is.

El, Maya and AW.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Leanness of My Tree

Last week, I thought my mother had discovered my blog. My initial reaction, as it has been in the past, was sheer panic. I wanted to shut it all down and hide it away. I wanted to burn my writing, including my most recent story. I wanted to disappear back into nothingness. I didn't want her to be upset. And I free-fell for a minute. But then in the most intense moment of clarity, the panic dissolved and floated away. It was the first time I folded up the fear and set it adrift on a burning barge. I mean, really, I'm a grown ass woman and, surprisingly, I'm allowed to feel what I feel and write what I want to write. It's the silliest and simplest of epiphanies, and frankly one of the more liberating ones for me. I am not nothing.

The fact is, she may have discovered the blog. I'm not sure. I hadn't communicated with her in a long, long while, until this weekend, and then it was only by short and blues-filled emails. I can tell she is on a downward spike. This is something that also induces panic for me and my reaction was that it was because of me. Thinking clearly now, it's obviously not. But, lord, I'm so slow at all of this. Each time, I shake a bit more free the stuff that's tangled in my tree.

Here's another story of simple realizations. My spin gym invited a Bod Pod to visit and conduct testing throughout the weekend for members wanting such a thing. A Bod Pod is a space-capsule-looking chamber that apparently is one of the most accurate tests of body fat, lean muscle mass, resting heart rate and metabolic resting rates. That last thing means the minimum amount of calories one should eat even if you're lying in bed all day. If you eat less than your metabolic resting rate one runs the risk of burning off muscle, not the kind of weight you want to lose. As an athlete, I was beyond excited to see where I was. As a woman not unaffected by the bombardment of "ideal standards" and having fought a life-long battle to deflect and reject my enslavement by scale #'s and jean sizes, I confess I was a bit anxious. The athlete in me most certainly dominated in that I wanted to know what could improve and set a realistic path on how to improve it. When the practitioner said, Ok strip down to your speedo bathing suit, the enslaved woman in me, no matter how small, choked me up for a nanosecond. It was not a noticeable choking by any means. I didn't hesitate. And I certainly refused to act coy and say self conscious things. That, in my mind, adds two fold to any private embarrassment. Besides, I'm an anti-shame kinda girl even if I have to fake it.

After a series of questions, I slipped off my sweats and put on a bathing cap, and I did not say a word or skip a step when the practitioner instructed me to step on a high-powered, fancy scale where I had to be very still. I couldn't see what the number was, which was fine with me, and I then stepped into the space chamber to complete the tests. Outside of the chamber, I heard the results print and I dressed, quelling fears and mapping out worst case scenarios. I was not anxious then, only accepting what was to be told to me. I had even asked the guy if people freaked out going into the little bod pod and he said, no, only when they heard the results of the test. People like to be in denial, he told me.

When I was younger, the last time I took a body fat test, I was about 23-24%, which is healthy and fairly average. I prayed that my current number wasn't larger than that though I had to have been about 15 years older from when that test was taken. I have wondered a lot about the changes our body goes through as we age. I work out a lot, but my weight has not gone down much at all. Where my fat is distributed too is different. That doesn't bother me, much, though I do wonder about all of that. I will admit that I prefer the bigger butt-flat stomach days of my youth more than the shrinking butt-softer stomach days of now. But what can I do? I think a lot about what am I not doing correctly, not so much in a vain sense but very much from a performance sense. It all fascinates me really, which is why I couldn't wait to hear about the Bod Pod results. Though as I waited, my anxiety climbed.

As the papers came out of the printer, the practitioner said, "Impressive." And for some reason I said out loud, nervously, "Uhoh." I was mad that I inexplicably blurted that because the guy looked at me, puzzled, and handed me the papers. He said, "You're the leanest woman I've tested so far." My body fat was 17.2%. I stared at the number simultaneously stoked and suspicious. My resting heart rate was 60 (excellent), my blood pressure very low. He pretty much told me awesome job, keep it up. I said, "So, my weight not going down even after all the working out?" He told me my muscle mass has taken the place of fat. Who cares about the scale #, which embarrassed me because I say that kind of stuff all the time to myself and other people.

I wondered, after all my self love and low-level self consciousness, if I had still become a woman who can't see herself clearly in the mirror. Having a piece of paper that told me how strong and healthy I am made me incredibly sure of every decision I've made health wise; being a vegan, commuting often on my bike, putting down and passing on my baking talents, working hard at cycling and strength training. I plug along because it feels good and right, physcially and emotionally, but I was oddly suspicious of the validation. Light headed, I unlocked my bike and took a ride to the beach after the test. My shoulders were back and I checked myself out in every window and thought, man, right? Look at me. I'm strong and low-fat, baby! Though duh, right? My clarity seems foolish and elementary sometimes. But I just gotta say again that each time, I shake a bit more free the stuff that's tangled in my tree.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Where Were We?

Yes, Mina's birthday . . .we had a party last weekend at this killer park that's crammed between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. The park is hidden behind eucalyptus trees and tucked down into some hilly residentialness. It's a gem when you can find it. When I was a kid, my summer camp would go there now and again, and I told the girls that we campers would play Wolves up behind the tennis courts on a little woodsy path that circles the park. The good wolves would get chased by the bad wolves. We'd run on the rolling dirt, ducking branches. We hid in trees. I told the girls, "It was so fun, but I can't really tell you why or the real object of the game. It was just a blast."

I think that was the point of having the party there; to just play. Husband comes from an outstanding tradition of childhood made-up games; stick ball and Ninjas (kids just really kicking each other in a dirt lot) and on. And I used to pretend my bike was a horse or I'd set up a fort out of cardboard behind the apartment building next to the car ports. So for Mina's party we didn't want themes or gimmicks or the Entertain Me pressure. Deep down, kids still want to play it turns out. Adults too.

Papi grilled up tofu dogs on the park BBQ's and brought some Hebrew Beef Nationals for guests who wanted those, which worked out perfectly for the Kosher and Muslim kids, we found out. The tofu dogs were devoured first, I will add (propagandaously). Maya and her BFF AW baked four dozen vegan oreo cupcakes for the party, which were just enough for the kids who wanted thirds and fourths; most of them. Maya and AW are taking on the baking torch passed to them quite famously. I heard them talking about the vegan bakery-cafe they'd open together when they get older. I love that.

Here are some pictures of our day! They're about to run off and find the gift bags that Maya & her friends help me hide along the woodsy path behind the tennis courts. We made these kids work for their bags, which were filled with 99 Cent Store stuff. The most coveted item was the 99 Cent swim goggles. Score! Does anything beat a water-balloon toss? The answer is, No! Some of our grown friends and neighbors joined in.Here are the winners of Water-Balloon Toss, Round One: the boys of Mina's party FB & FN. Mina's crush is the gentle-natured half Peruvian, half Italian blond on the left there, FB. He's one of the best soccer players in school. Mina likes that. FN on the right is the class cut up. He's half Israeli, half British with eyes (and accent) that will devastate in a few more years.Here's our friend and neighbor Drew with Mina about to go long with some water balloons.Here are the winners of Water-Balloon Toss, Round 2: Margaret & Molly! Nice third balloon boob, Margaret.The water-balloon toss turned into a full-on water-balloon fight, which is really inevitable. Here's Maya post pelting, I think by our grown friend John.Maya got him back pretty good though. I think this is after ice went down the back of his shirt. Then we took it to the trees. Here are Maya's best friends, AW, Mina, Maya and El.El, Maya, AW. Mina's BFF Kai.Had to get this one (for Mina) of FB on a branch.
And of course my birthday Beauty, Mina.

We all had so much fun, we decided to do this again in a couple weeks for Maya's party!