Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sits, Stands, Crawls and Speaks!

Little Vivian is well on her way to beat her sister's early action records of babyhood. As I try to remember when Lydia did things, which by the way is nicely recorded in her baby book serving as a reference text and a reminder that I need to print pictures to add to Vivian's, I feel like Lydia crawled for about two days and then walked. Lydia walked very early at about 9 months. By the time her peers were really walking, Lydia was running (insert Forrest Gump voice here.)

Vivian is firmly 6 months old. In the past week she has sat up by herself, stood up in her crib, gotten that belly off the floor completely and actually moved her back knee forward for a crawl, she has said "dada" establishing the large vocabulary of 2 words. "Mama" being her first word, naturally. She drags herself all over the floor as if she is sneaking by the enemy by pulling herself with her arms. She stretches them out, grips the ground or rug, and pulls. Man, she is strong.

This is really when the fun starts in the life of a baby. She is becoming more and more her own person. She really hates having her nose cleaned to the point she moves her face, gives you a look disgust, and then screams. She thinks Lydia is the coolest, funnest, funniest, person alive. Anytime, Lydia is near her she smiles and laughs. Lydia is demanding to play with her more often too.

Earlier in the week Vivian rode a swing for the first time. It was my impression that she really enjoyed being on the baby swing because she didn't have to hold on to anything and she could successfully suck her thumb. Now that thumb was apparently delicious and the swinging was just a nice treat. Within the month, they both will start swim lessons. Vivian will do a Parent and Tot class and Lydia will be back in her Advanced Tot 1 class. It looks like we will be at swim 4 days a week, since their classes do not coincide. Vivian will be swimming across the pool, running down the hallway and pulling Lydia's hair before we know it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Little Mommyisms

The kids have been sick for about a week. They have the sniffles and it looks more like allergies than a cold at this point, but it always call into question things that perhaps you could have done differently.

Maybe I shouldn't have let them go out for an after dark walk they likely got the chills which according to most Cuban old ladies is the central cause for most colds because they have caught "sereno" and now they are "refriadas."  Which really means that they were out at sunset and somehow the sunsetting has caused them to have caught the cold. Notice though, it is not caught a cold. They have actually caught the cold which has chilled them all over resulting in a cold. Rationally, I tell myself that real medical studies have clearly concluded that these old wives tales are not true. But somehow, old wives kept people alive with these sort of thing for generations and it crosses my mind when my kids have the sniffles.

I have stopped nursing. Vivian nursed very well for a good solid 6 months. Just a little less than Lydia did. My supply diminished significantly when I went back to work and that was that. If I think too much about it, I feel a little guilty because I feel like I could have done more or better. In truth, it was my body that did it. But really in truth, I could've tried harder. I could have pumped 5 times a day like others friends have done, I could've pumped earlier to save up for the low production time, but it was hard. It was hard to nurse and to have two year old need you too. And I have more help than most. But this is the kind of thing I overthink when my kids have the sniffles.

By this age Lydia was sitting up very well. Matter of fact, she was grabbing things and standing up. Lydia was above the physical ability curve for sure but I wonder if it was all nature or if there was some nurture there too. We focused every spare moment on Lydia and so probably held her hand a little more, sat with her a little more, and exposed her to things a little more than we have Vivian. Are we somehow causing the inequity of ability because our focus is divided? Lydia had her first cold when she was 6 months old, Vivian has had several small seemingly inconsequential colds is it because we have paid less attention or not protected her enough from the germs of her sister? More than likely this is not the case, you can't keep a toddler from spreading the germy fun,  but this is the kind of thing I ponder when my kids have the sniffles.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Crafts

We made Valentines! I got this idea from Pinterest (of course) and I thought it was super cute.  I also like the fact that it serves as a keepsake since her hands are on there.
 I folded the red construction paper in half had Lydia put down her hand to trace. I had to be sure that her pointer finger and thumb were on the crease. Afterwards, we glued it down.
She decorated with stamps and stickers. Lydia loves to place the stickers in very specific places. She also decides which one was daddy's, which one was abuela y abuelo's and which on was for gram and grandpa Gaurkee. I added the writing of course, but Lydia is working on writing an "L" which she knows as her letter.
In order to include Vivi and since she is still too little to make her own Valentine, I traced her hand and added it to the corner of each and labeled it too. Here is Vivi with her card from Abuela. Vivi got her ears pierced last week at her 6 month visit in her outfit for church this past weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let's Talk about Race Baby

I have been hiding in my cloak of whiteness for most of my life. I have not been exposed as a Hispanic woman because the shade of my skin is light and my English doesn't have an accent. When I was a kid my closest aged cousins would mock me because I spoke like a "gringa." I have been able to live a white privileged life and now that my last name is Gaurkee, my cloak has become thicker and harder to penetrate.

I have been thinking a lot about race lately. I have new role at school as the diversity director and part of my job is to think about these things and to encourage students to have conversations about all kinds of diversity. I have been thinking about my latina-ness. When I close my eyes and I think of "Latina" I think of a girl with very slick dark brown (almost black sometimes) hair parted to the side, red lipstick on her pouty lips and large hoop earrings. I should say that no one in my family actually looks like this but that's what I think of. I have never identified with that image and thus I have side stepped thinking about it for almost 37 years.

As a parent, I am very well aware of the importance of race. Last summer I read, Nurture Shock, a life changing book for me (friends can tell you because I couldn't stop talking about it) which has a chapter discussing race. Studies show that by the age of 3 most kids have already developed their ideas of race and discrimination. The white educated upper middle class families assume that if we don't talk about race that the impression that we give our children is that race doesn't matter and that everyone is accepted. However, omission of dialogue is just as bad. What happens if we don't talk about it then our kids have a more animalistic reaction of sticking to "their own kind." In the wilderness, similar animals stick together to protect themselves from the unknown. These studies have influenced me to talk to my kids about race. Lydia and I aren't reading through Black Like Me or the "I have Dream Speech", but when we watch Doc McStuffins I ask her what color she is, she tells me she's brown and I say, We like brown people, matter of fact we like people of all colors. When we watch Sesame Street, I ask her did you know Burt and Ernie are both boys? And then I tell her they live together and that's okay.

We read books about Asians, Blacks, Hindus, Jews, Christians and so on. We talk about other cultures, does that make Lydia inherently better than other 2 year olds, no but it does plant a seed that I hope some day grows into a strong woman that respects and appreciates differences among people of the world regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, ethnicity, age, ability or religion.

In my current reading of Why do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?, another study about young children presented the same information about children carving out their social groups by the age of 3. What I found this time was almost more influential. I have been living as simply white because of the advantages it brings me. I can run into a store with my sweats on and no one is suspicious of me, I can turn on the TV and see people that look like me, when I go by my daughters a doll I can easily find one that looks like them and when I move into a neighborhood people don't fear their property values are going to drop. What's the problem? There is a huge part of my identity that I negate because of the advantages.

I will likely never know what it really feels like to the the minority that I am, however I can make strides in understanding the impact of it. I will likely never know what it feels like to be an immigrant, but I can open myself to the experiences of my family. I will likely never know what it is like to raise my children in a place that doesn't quite fit in a language different than my native one, but I can appreciate my parents for doing it. I can do these things my continuing the conversation with my daughters everyday.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thank God I am a Pacifist.

In the Fall of 2000, I began graduate school at the prestigious Emory University. I was embarking on my theological education. One of the course requirements was contextual education course which quite literally put us into the community to do good works (which we hashed out during the protestant reformation, but anywho.) Each week we went out and spent time with a buddy. This buddy by in large was very poor, very urban and very mentally challenged. For most of my classmates, this buddy was a child. I however, chose to be with an adult woman named Daisy. I had spent most of my ministerial work with youth and children at that point and hoped to spread my wings a bit. There are so many things I learned from Daisy, mostly about unconditional love, but I will save that for another day. Each week we were also assigned to read articles and as most higher education the task was to put these ancient texts into action in our present reality. The rub was that we were all experiencing different things and thus the philosophically problem of relativism was amongst us. We were all right, because our personal truth was connected to who we were at that moment; our personal subjectivity.

After weeks, we were suppose to receive criticism from our group members. Where we sat in a circle and people told you what they thought of you as a person based on a quarter semester of discussions. Sounds more offensive than it actually once in general. Ironically, I was offended. I was told in these discussion groups that I was a pacifist; that I was afraid of conflict. At that time, I found this deeply offensive. I had spent 3 years of undergraduate study in deep battles of theological value (or so I thought.)  Many late nights in the sunken lobby of
Allan Spivy turning red trying to prove the importance of general revelation or the relevance of divinity of Jesus to suddenly be told that I avoid conflict was appalling.

There are so many things that occurred in my life during my two years in graduate school. Some events were of great magnitude, and thus there are many moments that I do not remember. But I remember that one. For years, I have  wondered why that was their observation. Perhaps the group mistook my occasional silence as an apprehension to debate. On the other hand, perhaps their debate was so angry that when I spoke I only spoke of possibilities of reconciliation; the middle ground so to speak. I should have asked at the time but I didn't.
It was just recently that that conversation flashed before me and I was finally at peace with being considered peaceful. Thank God that I don’t naturally find anger in all things. Thank God that bringing people together is more important to me that dividing them. Thank God that I can be passionate about what I believe but somehow have the foresight to acknowledge others beliefs. Thank God. Every now and again, your greatest strength is even a surprise to you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What is she wearing MOM?

For a moment things slow down and I finally have a real second to see my daughter as she begins her gymnastics class. Her hair hasn't been brushed, she is wearing a turquoise skirt that is a little too small for her and somehow always on backwards, pajama top that has a art deco type image on it and striped tights. In that moment, I see the little bow on the skirt which should be near her belly is of course right above her tush. Her top is actually a boy top from some pj's that she had been wearing all day and seconds before she met on the mats she tried to drink from the water fountain which was noticeable by the soaked shirt. The tights aren't tight. They are sort of slouchy. Needless to say, my toddler looked a mess. I shook my head and muttered something under my breath that was heard by Coach Tori who asks kindly, "Did she dress herself?" I pondered for a moment my options. If I told her no, which was the truth I would be taking responsibility for the disjointed sloppy appearance of my child. If I told her yes, well I would be morally corrupt by perpetuating a lie. After not thinking about it at all,  I told her yes. Coach Tori, smile, "She's cute! She almost matches!"

Earlier in the day my mother sent me this picture:

As a parent there are always going to be things that you have to let roll off your shoulder. What she wears at 2 is certainly not going to make or break her future college choices or possible career opportunities. But once again what I think is the latent Cuban mother that is in me, turns out is very much on the surface. I want her to look coordinated and lovely all the time. Her father on the other hand, pulls out the first two items and puts them on regardless of size or color. I think he does it to drive me nuts, which it does. Lord, knows I am the least high maintenance person out there, however I find myself caring more about their appearance then my own. As if the culmination of her outfit is a reflection on my parenting.

Parenting which of course at 2, really has begun. Vivian is just a rolly, joy. Every thing is easy and fun. New foods are yummy, moving in circles is a treat and attempting to crawl is the challenge on deck. She says Mama and Dada and her every utterance is a reason to rejoice. Not much parenting.

Sometimes I wonder if its purposeful. Babies get you all comfortable. Mushy emotional on the insides. This is why after they turn 1 we keep using months to determine their age 14 months, 16 months, 20 months, because while they are in months they are still babies and we are still amused by them walking around and grabbing things they aren't suppose to grab. We still think it's endearing when they spit out their foods. We don't mind when we change a diaper because they are babies!

But  suddenly they hit 2 and the rouse is up. We want them potty trained and so every poop we wipe we give the speech about the potty. You bribe them with m&m's, and stickers. A mini pep rally occurs every time there is contact. They grab things they aren't suppose, particularly at the store, we tell them to keep their hands off. They can't touch. Don't touch. Our voices get stern and somewhat under your breath because you don't want other people to hear you, " Put it down. You are going to break it!" You ask them what they want to eat, they say nugget, then they don't want nuggets. You sign and ask again, they say mac and cheese and as soon as the nuggets are in the trash, that 2 year old cries out, "OH NO my nuggets!" and starts crying. It's really enough to make a parent go coo-coo. This is when the parenting really starts, you have to stay calm more often then you really would like.  You have to take a deep breath and give that potty speech with the hope that at some point it will just stick, forever.

It is a privilege to be a parent, but it certainly isn't always easy. So I lie to the Coach Tori easily and willingly because in truth, it's a speck in the jar of what is going on that day in the life of a mom.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Life of Pi

Over the weekend Eliot and I had the rare luxury of seeing a movie and we decided to see Life of Pi. We saw it in 3D which I am not sure was terribly necessary for the development of the movie; technology for technology sake doesn't always have the best outcome, however that is another blog and for this movie, it was fine. As the movie unfolded, the world religions teacher that lives in me began to conjure the possible lesson plans. Ironically, because of that very role once I posted on Facebook that we saw that movie, tons of people have asked me to explain what it means. At the risk of sounding trite, explaining the Life of Pi may be about the same as explaining life itself. Meaning, there is a lot of room for interpretation, and to quote our dear Sophist friend, Protagoras, "Man is the measure of all things." Fear not, that doesn't mean that I don't have two cents to add to that pile of coins. (yes, I do just make up idioms.)

In some ways, I think the movie illustrates the concepts of Hinduism very well. Especially in the beginning when Pi is discovering the beauty in the practice of various faith traditions. The idea that God sends his son to die for the world in Christianity, or the fulfillment of ritual prayer in Islam. Whether you believe it or not, the concepts are lovely. Hinduism allows for many paths. The understanding that God is within many vehicles; that we can encounter God in a variety of different ways is a powerful theology. Pi embraces that. However, the movie is about his struggle.

Pi and Richard Parker (the family tiger) get stuck on a tugboat together for what appears to be at least 6 months. The how or why or when are all for Ang Lee to tell when you go see the movie, nevertheless the symbolism of the struggle on that tugboat is what may need some defining. In some ways it is obvious, it is life. There are good days, when the stars in the sky are mirrored by the surrounding Pacific Ocean and they appear to be in a magical universe and there are other days that the blistering sun is scarring him no matter how much he attempts to shelter himself. Life. There are days that are terrific, magical, we are enriched by our loved ones and filled with hope. There are other days that are dark, sad due to loss, illness, aging, or suffering. Just as for Pi it is the strength of our character that reigns. How do we handle adversity? Do we define it or how does it define us?

**Spoiler Alert**

At the end Pi survives, and so does Richard Parker. They have hit a seemingly safe shore and Pi falls onto the sand barely able to breathe. The tiger almost dead as well manages to get out of the boat and walks into a nearby jungle without looking back at Pi. It is that moment that Pi reflects over, why doesn't Richard Parker look at him? Why doesn't this animal realize that it was because of him that he survived at all? And this is what I pose, if Richard Parker, the tiger, the animal, symbolizes life's great struggle, then why would Pi want the beast to look back at him? Isn't it the best poetic justice for the beast to slip away? The struggle is over. It's done. The most we can hope for is that we survive life's beasts and the struggle fades. Sometimes life doesn't always do that. Some folks live with the suffering forever, I am certain that those individuals would happily hope for their beasts to vanish.

There is no doubt that for Pi, as well as for all of us, it is a story of triumph over beasts, or evil, that allow us to grow in magnitude. It is through our suffering that we tend to understand what is worth saving within us. Pi becomes a man, and I don't mean in the gender bias way, I mean that he becomes who he is meant to be. He grows into himself. He is different but in a good way. Suffering doesn't always do that for us because we fear what will happen when it just fades way. What are we left with? Life's greatest challenge is shaking off that sand from the shore and walking into your own sunset without chancing that tiger into the jungle.