Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Film Festival: 'The Last Unicorn'

Rob and I are always test-driving media for Westley. Now that he's 3-1/2 and approaching the point where I have vivid memories of myself enjoying particular books and movies, I'm all the more curious to revisit the world of children's entertainment. One of my absolute favorite films when I was a preschooler was The Last Unicorn.

Westley is not easily frightened by movies, but I wanted to re-watch The Last Unicorn on my own before sharing it with him because I remembered a few images in particular being especially dark. It turns out, my memories of the film are much cheerier than the film itself.

The film is about a unicorn who, upon concluding that she is the last unicorn in the world (this is later confirmed) goes on a quest to find the rest of her kind. And what a verbose quest it turns out to be! I had completely forgotten how talky the film is—and the dialog often comes as lengthy metaphor and grand observations. I was particularly struck by the powerful, magical female shit that goes down when the witch Mommy Fortuna captures the Unicorn for her Midnight Carnival:
Mommy Fortuna: The harpy's as real as you are, and just as immortal. And she was just as easy to catch, if you want to know.
Unicorn: Do not boast, old woman. Your death sits in that cage, and she hears you.
Mommy Fortuna: Oh, she'll kill me one day or another. But she will remember forever that I caught her, and I held her prisoner. So there's my immortality, eh?
Unicorn: Let me go. And let her go too. I cannot bear to see her caged. We are two sides of the same magic... The harpy and me, we are not for you.
After the Unicorn frees herself and then the harpy, Celaeno, and Mommy Fortuna (gladly) accepts her fate of death at the harpy's claws, I turned to Rob in disbelief.

"I fucking loved this movie when I was Westley's age!"

Rob grinned his I-know-you-and-that-doesn't-surprise-me-at-all grin.

I continued to be struck by the idea that as an adult—and the mother of a preschooler—I was finding this film incredibly challenging and mildly disturbing. This film I so adored when I was my son's current age.

I might still let Westley watch The Last Unicorn soon. He caught sight of the DVD case and was quite intrigued. ("What's dis?" he asked. Rob told him, "A scary movie Mommy and I watched last night.") But I'll want to be sure I can sit with him for the duration of the film. There's not a lot I object to in the movie. There is one awful moment during the climactic battle where the Unicorn is in danger and the film's resident "tough girl," Molly, calls out, "Somebody do something!" Rob pointedly corrected her: "Somebody male do something!"

Potentially objectionable material and general scariness are one thing, but Big Themes are another. Maybe I'm being overly cautious, but I feel like Westley might need me to hold his hand through the especially metaphorical parts.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hijacked Mind

In recent memory, I have not felt more or less like myself than I did last week.

I was singing "Hair" (from the musical Hair) to Westley and somewhere in the middle of the third verse I smacked right into someone who hasn't turned up in my mind for years: performance artist Janine Antoni.

I was introduced to Antoni's work in college when my favorite professor showed a video of Antoni's Loving Care (1992). In the piece, the artist uses her hair and a bucket of Loving Care hair dye to paint the floor of the gallery. I was beyond intrigued, in part because at the time, my own hair was one length and hung well below my waist (it weighed about 15 lbs.), and could have easily painted a gallery floor.

In college, Antoni's work seemed very cerebral and feminist-theory-y to me. Now, as I confront my choice to take on the traditional female role of homemaker, contemplating Loving Care hits me in a completely different place. And in this moment—suspended between the film theory student I was and the housewife I have become—my mind cracked open just wide enough for a frenzied, eclectic train of thought to come barreling through.

I thought about other performance artists: Chris Burden, Carolee Schneeman, Yoko Ono, Marina Abromović. Especially Marina Abramović.

From there, I—somehow—this is where I completely lost control of the process—got to Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf (who died on my brother's birthday, I just discovered), the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, The Jim Henson Hour, memories of being a Brownie Girl Scout, memories of things I liked to do as a preschooler, ideas about magic and transformation and eating disorders and marriage, the notion that human beings are both one with and different from animals.

Somewhere in there, I got out a drawing pad that I purchased months ago and never used and started sketching.

"I used to draw all the time," I reflected aloud to Rob, who was home sick from work and witnessing my psychic agitation.

As a child, I would draw during any moment when my hands weren't occupied with something else. In first grade, I would finish my schoolwork as quickly as possible so I could draw. I don't remember the last time I tried to draw anything other than, at Westley's request, the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba.

"You're good at it," Rob said quietly.

For the next week, my mind would not quiet down. I don't really believe in ghosts, but I was half-convinced that some sort of spiritual something had taken part of me over. I slept only four hours one night, three hours the next.

I finally feel things settling down. Whatever possessed me seems to be gone. It has occurred to me that all of this coincided with Rob's and my viewing of The Last Unicorn (a surprisingly grown-up movie I loved passionately as a little bitty girl), my reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, my second post-D&C normal period, and my first cup of coffee after several weeks of caffeine-freedom. Whatever the cause, though, something was upset in the process.

Be careful when opening the overhead bins. Objects may shift during flight.


Friday, August 26, 2011


Surf Hair

"Westley, would you like to learn to play piano?"


"What instrument would you like to learn to play?"


"Really? Not even drums?"


"Not even guitar?"

"No! I won't play any instrument when I'm a bigger boy."


"And I won't do any work, either."

"What will you do?"



"I will just watch scary movies when I'm a bigger boy. And I won't work in a building, either."

Beached Boy


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Separatist Radio

Last week I was talking to the mother of one of Westley's soon-to-be preschool classmates about entertainment for car rides. She was recommending books on tape as opposed to music.

"I tried some Radio Disney, but that's more for teens," she said. "So much of what's on the radio isn't appropriate."

I bit my tongue.

I wish I'd been un-self-conscious enough to lady up and tell her, "We're big fans of Top 40."

There are a number of reasons I like to play top 40 radio for Westley. I grew up listening to nothing but children's music, instrumental movie soundtracks, and folk. And while I'm very thankful to know Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary...all of those iconic bands and artists from the 1980s? I had no idea who they were for the longest time. I knew Madonna's name—my classmates either loved her or despised her—but I don't think I heard a Madonna song until 1992!

So, yes, I'm getting a childhood filled with popular music vicariously through my kid.

But another reason I default to the top 40 station and not, say, oldies or classic rock (both of which I enjoy as well), is that the mix of male and female voices in popular music seems pretty good right now. It's not exactly equal, but I'd guess that about 40% of current crop of top 40 artists are women.

Why should that matter, particularly to my preschooler? First off, it makes it much easier, vocal range-wise, for me to sing along and torture him. But the real reason it matters is that so much of what Westley is exposed to, even in the "child-friendly" media he experiences, can be summed up as: manly men (or boyly boys) doing manly man things and living to tell the tale. To other men. Male voices are the be-all, end-all, know-it-all. Top 40 radio is one easily accessible place where women's voices get some airtime.

Sure, women of popular music are mostly singing about men. Sure, many of them are playing the passive, "I wish he loved me" role. (And a few aren't.) But at least there are some eggs on the plate to offset all that pop-cultural sausage.

There are a few popular songs I just can't stand (and yet, somehow know all of the lyrics to?!), and I like to keep my car as commercial-free as possible. I keep a fair number of CDs on hand for these moments, but I hadn't realized until recently what a separatist radio station I've been running. I think there's one Mike Doughty CD in my car, but everything else is by a female artist. I shouldn't really be surprised—especially since a few weeks ago, I got on a kick where I decided to revisit the artists I listened to in high school. And, oh, my life was so female singer-songwritery in those days! The CD compartment of my car could practically be the lineup for Lilith Fair: Patti Rothberg, Liz Phair, Sinéad Lohan, Tori Amos, Kendall Payne, Natalie Merchant...

Is it "appropriate" for a preschooler? I don't know. In my mind, inappropriateness in music (or any art form) comes from being hateful or violent. I'd never play something hateful for Westley. And when objects to a song for whatever reason, I change it. He rarely objects to anything. (Every once in a while a song is "too scary.") And I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally feel out-voted in this little 2:1 boy-girl family of mine; female voices coming through the car speakers are my tiny rebellion.

Rob took my car out yesterday and I thought for a moment about warning him about the contents of the CD player. Rob is a Pink Floyd kind of guy. Getting all women's music festival on his unsuspecting ass seems mean. But then I thought, Rob lives in the same culture Westley does; he could probably stand to hear more female voices, too.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


As one might expect, I think Westley is pretty awesome. I'm not exactly unbiased, so I try to keep myself in check about it. But every now and then he says something that cracks my heart open and beams of holy white light go shooting from his body into mine and I believe, just for a second, that he might be a great cultural and spiritual leader.

Yesterday, as I was unbuckling him from his car seat, Westley looked up and asked, "Mommy? Is 'we' a number?"

I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. "We?"

"Yeah. Is 'we' a number?"

The first thing that entered my mind was a firm Yes. Absolutely. We is a magical number that can mean any number except zero. Even one can be "we," if you're feeling royal. But we can mean all my friends and me, it can mean everyone who shares a goal or belief, it can be all of us. We the People. The whole human race. Every person (or creature!) who ever lived or will live...held inside two tiny letters.


Hamming II

I said, "Well, 'we' is a way to talk about a number of people—you and I together are 'we'—but it's not really a number."

I should have said, It's the most important number there is.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A Normal Bad Day

I think I may have a yearly cycle in addition to the usual monthly girly one.

I woke up with a case of the "don't wannas"—an idea I was fairly certain I'd shared before. Indeed, almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this:
After going along for several weeks feeling more or less okay—and even semi-enjoying my little homemaker gig—I suddenly find myself in a near-constant state of "had it up to here."
This is exactly where I found myself this morning. As I scowled through a stripped-down version of my routine, I also noticed the twinges of sadness and heart-heaviness that I cheerfully refer to as "depression lite."

The thing that separates depression lite from depression classic (for me) is that I remember being happy.

Just a few days ago, I was totally happy! I'd been going along fine—feeling pretty healthy, moving every day, attempting to say kind things to my stretch marks, showering my husband with affection, enjoying my work—and then the boulder rolled back down the hill.

Well fuck, I thought, staring at the hugeness of the struggle in front of me. That I have to tackle again. For the bazillionth time.

Oh, and Westley seems to have a cold.

For a few hours, I gave up. I put on a bunch of TV for Westley. I didn't shower. I read the kind of essay that usually helps me feel better except that today it made me feel like shit because I used to be smart like that, damnit. I ate two handfuls of chocolate chips and a big spoonful of Dijon mustard.

Then I called Rob.

I wailed about never being recovered, always having that fucking boulder to push and gravity to fight. Rob listened without trying to fix anything while I complained. Then he promised, "At least one of your e-mails will make you laugh."

I felt my jaw relax as I smiled. "I guess it's normal to have a bad day and feel like crap. People have those, right?"

"Right." I think I heard him smile on the other end of the phone.

The day improved slightly when I acknowledged it as a "normal bad day," and not, say, proof that I was destined to feel awful no matter what I did.

Despite Westley's cold, he and I managed to have some fun. (The kid is almost never sick, so when he is, even a little runny nose can knock him on his ass for a day.) And Rob was right about the e-mail. This is what he wrote:
So I tried out the "reading on the treadmill" thing this morning and it was okay. For one thing, not wearing headphones left me in a position to realize that the song playing at one point was the unplugged version of Warrant's "Cherry Pie." Let me say that again: the unplugged version of Warrant's "Cherry Pie." You know, so we can appreciate the musicality and poetry of the song.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


Strangely, I've had the same conversation, answering the same questions several times this week. The main points are:

1. Yes, I'm home with my son full-time.

2. No, that wasn't my plan.

3. I did quality assurance for a small technical publications company, and for a short time, I was a technical copy editor. Which means I judge you for your bad grammar, but not as much as I judge you for your formatting. (That's right, I am mentally red penning your centered, white text on a medium-grey background, and I have stopped reading more than one blog because the layout was so bad as to be offensive.)

The fourth, unspoken question that hangs in the air seems to be something about whether I enjoy what I do now. It's often masked by a strained, "Oh, that's nice...that you get to stay home with him."

The truth is: it's not my ideal situation. But I don't know what would be. (Would anything be?) However, I have begun to see and appreciate the undeniable value in the work I do. And not just the work of being responsible to a growing human being.


I am a homemaker. It feels strange to acknowledge, because despite myself I still have a mental image of what "homemaker" looks like, and she ain't me! I'm too disorganized, too self-centered, too introspective. I despise any task that doesn't get completed and stay completed. I'm visually oriented, but I don't understand interior design. I'm a creative cook, but I can't sew on a button, I am an inefficient housekeeper, and I would rather do my own dental work than garden.

I have been at home full-time since Westley was four months old. But it wasn't until earlier this month when a huge shift took place in my mind and I realized that this home is my work. I've been thinking of the things I do as housework when I need to think of them as home/work.

It seems like a silly thing to come upon more than three years after the fact, but the change in me since I was struck by the home/work concept has been remarkable. For one thing, the house is a lot cleaner. While Rob is away doing his work, I'm home doing mine. Strangely, I no longer resent loading and unloading the dishwasher three times a day. I don't look forward to it, but I approach it with the same attitude I would bring to a page of copy. This needs to be done. It's my job to do it. It doesn't define the kind of person I am, and regardless of how simple or complicated the task is, I can appreciate my ability to do it well. (Plus, unloading and reloading the dishwasher takes five minutes. And then I get to do something else!)

I can't imagine myself as a life-long homemaker, but I'm finally proud of the work I'm doing. I'm not wishing for something else or mourning the loss of a "real job." In fact, I can't imagine a job more real than making a home and raising a child.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

For Granted

Yesterday morning, mid-way through my workout, I was hit with a sudden blast of Feeling Like Crap. I stopped what I was doing, staggered past my family playing and eating breakfast and lowered myself onto the bed, all the while letting out the occasional pathetic groan.

"Rob?" I called weakly.

My husband appeared in the doorway looking concerned. He sprang into nurse mode, bringing me a cup of water and my computer (so I could finish watching my workout entertainment, sans workout), and even took my sneakers off for me when I realized that the idea of touching my toes made me want to vomit.

I am so thankful to be able to take Rob for granted.

That idea—taking someone for granted—gets a bum rap. The longer Rob and I are married, and as I step up more fully to my role as homemaker (more on that later), I'm realizing that taking for granted doesn't have to hold the negative associations we so often give it. In fact, it's essential to a lifelong partnership.

We tend to think that taking others for granted means treating them with indifference. But treating in a careless manner is the second definition of the idiom "take for granted." The first is "to accept without question or objection; assume." With that definition in mind, being taken for granted by my partner strikes me as a completely desirable thing. To have my presence, my actions, be accepted without question? Maybe I'm reading too much into my dictionary entry, but that sounds like a compliment.

The word "assume" is, of course, a slippery slope of a word. After all, when you assume, "you make an ass out of you and me." (It ruins the wordplay, but should that actually be yourself and me? Where my grammarians at? [Somewhere behind that preposition! Ha!]) There's a fine line between assuming Rob will be there to take care of me when I don't feel well and not scrubbing the bathtub because I assume Rob will do it. But there's also trust inherent in assumption.

While I feel some pressure from Rob's assumption that the family budget will be taken care of and everything is fine with our money unless he hears otherwise, I also receive it as a compliment. He trusts me to manage our shared finances. Similarly, I assume he keeps tabs on the cars (literally and figuratively), and that everything is right with our shared vehicles. More importantly, when each of us is on our own, we are able to assume that Westley is safe, happy, and healthy in our partner's care.

When I had recovered from my bout of illness—which turned out to be a short-lived case of Icky Belly Syndrome—I ambushed Rob in the kitchen.

"Thanks for taking care of me. You always take such good care of me."

He shrugged. "There were some vows."

I reflected on my many recent maladies while pulling a bottle of mango kombucha from the fridge, realizing, "We get more use out of some of those vows than others."

Rob laughed. "Yeah, none of that 'for richer'..."


Monday, August 15, 2011

Something to (ad)Dress?

Attacking the "<span class=

Westley is nowhere near being able to dress himself. He can put on his sunglasses and maybe a hat, and that's it.

As I was jiggling Westley into this clothes this morning, I had the thought, looking at his giant limbs, I shouldn't have to do this any more. (Getting Westley dressed is like an athletic event. His arms and legs go on for miles, and he alternates between being totally stiff and going completely limp.) I didn't realize it was my job to drill my son on self-care skills, but (the now defunct) Wonder Time magazine informs me that this is my fault, for not starting with dressing at age two: "[A] year of practice usually results in a three-year-old's ability to dress himself (with the exception of more complex tasks such as buttoning)."

Yeah, not even close. And my kid is closer to four than three!

Mr. Cool

On one hand, I feel totally screwed—like my kid and I are way behind on this milestone that was, apparently, my job to jump-start. On the other, if Westley has reinforced any adage for me, it's You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think. (Wait, that's not...)

Westley has absolutely zero interest in clothing and being dressed. He will walk around with his pants and underwear around his ankles after using the potty rather than pull them up or take them all the way off. On the rare occasion that he does show interest in clothing, it's because he wants nothing to do with it. As soon as he realized he could undress himself (right around age two, I think) he decided nudity was the key to happiness. Or something.

Because Westley is so adept at undressing himself, my gut says he could probably also learn to dress himself. Perhaps not before his fourth birthday, but soon. He's clever; if I worked with him on it, he might actually get into it.

Except that, as far as he's concerned, he has way better things to do.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is He Healthy?


My doctor recently took a bunch of my blood, on which to run a bunch of tests. It's not quite accurate to say we were hoping for bad news, but an abnormal something might clue us in to why I'm still so tired and achey and seemingly allergic to everything.

It wasn't long before my doctor called to say everything came back perfectly normal. As far as physical exams and extensive blood work can tell, I am a perfectly healthy 28-year-old woman. Which is odd, because I don't feel especially healthy. (Though I'm much better than I was three years ago.) I don't think of healthy people has having difficulty breathing or chronic pain.

After hanging up the phone, I peeked in on Westley as he peacefully napped in the middle of the big bed. He was breathing deeply, snoring lightly. He looked so perfect and beautiful to me. And I found myself wondering, with a sudden strange anxiety, Is he healthy?

I have no reason to doubt that Westley is the picture of health. He is rarely sick, and shakes off the occasional bug in what seems like a matter of hours. He's something of a picky eater, but still enjoys a huge variety of fruits. (That particular day, he'd packed away five bananas, in addition to lots of other healthful food.) At every doctor's appointment, he passes with flying colors.

But so do I. And while I may be healthy by the numbers, "health" is not usually my experience. (Or perhaps my standard of "health" is too high?)

It frightens me just a little to think that I can't really know what's going on with Westley's health. I have to trust in what I can see and measure: a boy who plays hard, sleeps well, and certainly seems to be growing stronger and learning things.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: "Best Ever" Guacamole


I did not give this guacamole its name. It's just "guacamole" (or maybe "my favorite guacamole") around here, but everyone I've ever served it to says something to the effect of, "This is the best guacamole I've ever tasted!"

I think the secret is it's basically mashed-up avocado. There's not a bunch of tomatoes or peppers or cumin or mayonnaise (yes, I really know people who put mayo in guacamole) there to take away from the avocado flavor.

Because my family will happily eat avocados straight up.

Avocado Thief

"Best Ever" Guacamole

2 3/4 avocados (or 3 whole ones, if you don't have an avocado thief hanging around)
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2 scallions, chopped (I cheat and use kitchen scissors)

There are many ways to prep avocados, but this how I do it:

Cut avocados in half, and remove pits by whacking your knife into the pit and lifting the pit out. (Ed. to add: Do not hold the avocado in your hand while you do this! Put it on the cutting board to avoid the possibility of hand-slashing.) Cut avocado halves in half. Pinch the "point" of the peel and pull it away from the avocado flesh. Now you have pretty avocado quarters...that you're about to smash to death with a fork.

Using a fork, mash avocado in a bowl. Add lemon juice and salt, and stir-mash until you reach a consistency you like. Fold in scallions. Eat!


My current favorite vehicle for guacamole is a baked potato. Just split your hot baked potato open and top with a giant blob of guac for an easy, filling lunch.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Contemplating a Name Change


This isn't about going back to my maiden name. I'm still thinking about doing that, but I'm also slowly getting used to the mail addressed to "Rob and Noelle His Last Name."

No, this is about my blog.

Despite what Baby in Broad suggests, I was not pregnant when I started blogging here. I created this as a kind of pre-mommy blog, chronicling my thoughts about becoming pregnant, becoming a parent. It was a place for haphazard planning and romantic imagining. A digital hope chest. Of course I also planned to blog about my pregnancy when the time came.

But then I didn't do it. I was so taken aback by the reality of pregnancy (and my life at the time) that I completely lost my blogging momentum. I eventually got rolling again, only to shatter against the wall of postpartum depression.

There didn't end up being much pregnancy or baby to this (apparently) pregnancy-and-baby blog.

Beach Exploration

I am fully confident that I have no idea what my babymaking future looks like. If I could somehow garantee that everything would be complication-free and lovely, I'd have at least two more children. And two more really means three more, because I don't believe in odd numbers of children. Numbers of odd children, however...

(It's not just children, actually. I don't like odd numbers...unless they're multiples of five. Ideal, of course, is an even multiple of five. Ahh. So lovely. The volume in my car is almost always set at either 10 or 20. I can't really imagine having 10 children, though.)

So there's currently no Baby in the Broad, and there may never be again. Which is fine. But what happens to Baby in Broad, then?

I have no plans to stop writing. I enjoy telling my life story as it happens. Writing is a way to remember and discover and make connections. (Hi, everyone I've met through blogging! I love you!)

Beach Broad

So. Yeah. Here we are. Without the "Baby in" it's just Broad. Which is essentially the kind of blog I've been writing all along.

Still, if I do opt for a name-change, I think I'll go with something more personal.

(And in the event that another baby eventually makes his or her way in, I'll be sure to write about it, whatever my blog title winds up being.)


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good in the Sack

As my five-pound bag of garbanzos from the bulk bins moved along the conveyor belt, the checkout guy's eyes widened.

"Whoa," he said. "You boil your own chickpeas?"

Chicks + Oats

Me, cheerfully: "Yep!"

Him: "Wow, that's intense."

Me: "Uh..."

I mean, I'm not sure I'd call soaking and cooking legumes from dry "intense." Natural track luge is intense. Labor is intense. Cooking dry beans isn't even labor-intensive. Pot, water, chickpeas...done!

I kind of wanted to say, "Dude, you work at Whole Foods. Have you really never seen someone buy a giant bag of dried beans?"

But I think he might not have been the brightest bulb in the box. He also seemed to think the tattoo on my wrist was a butchered chicken. Meanwhile, my son is chattering (loudly) about vegan food.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

6 Years

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Yesterday was Rob's and my sixth wedding anniversary. We kind of forgot about it.

On Friday night, while going over the budget, I realized, "Hey, our anniversary is coming up."

"Oh, yeah," Rob reflected, "it's...tomorrow!"

Then we had a good laugh. Way to plan, guys. There wasn't even anything in the house to toast each other with.

This is the problem with having multiple anniversaries.

Still, we were feeling very pro-coupledom, and it just so happened that Westley suggested going out to lunch and we ended up with free Mighty-O donuts (for the gluten-eaters) and then there were lattes made by a cute barista in dork-chic glasses who thought I was super foxy and spelled my name correctly, and Westley got to play in the frog-and-turtle fountain at University Village while Rob and I sat under an umbrella and held hands.


Later I made a very un-romantic but totally delicious dinner out of every single leftover in the fridge, plus corn on the cob (for the corn-eaters). Then we drove to the beach and Westley fought waves until bedtime.

With a satisfied sigh, Westley declared it "a very successful outing."
Fighting Waves

Rob tried to explain to Westley that it was the anniversary of a special day, but Westley didn't really get it—and didn't really care.

I didn't really care, either.

Yesterday was so much better than our wedding day.


Saturday, August 6, 2011


He said he wanted to help me do yoga before nap, so I knew he was there. I had no idea he was mugging for the camera.

Yoga Assist

Yoga Assist

Westley is one of the few practitioners of "bobo yoga," which requires that you have your pacifier ("bobo") in your mouth at all times...even though you're three and a half and should totally be DONE with that !@#$%^ thing already!

Wait. That's not very yoga-like. Breathe in the cuteness, Noelle.

Yoga Assist

Yoga Assist
One person's "om" is another's "ta-da!"


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Whose Home are You Making?

I just had a moment of awakening while chopping onions.

As a child, I was enchanted by white onions; they always looked so perfectly oniony. Almost manufactured. But my mother only ever bought yellow onions. Or, if we were having hamburgers, red onions. I don't know what she had against white onions. Maybe to her they looked too oniony. Who knows.

My mom might have made the onion-decision without noticing, just like she ironed without noticing.

When I was eight, my family moved from a rambler to a two-and-a-half-story condo. (The "half" was a loft which we treated like a third bedroom.) The master bedroom and the big family room were on the second floor, and the washing machine and dryer were in the garage, underground. The process of doing laundry used to go like this: someone (usually my mother) would haul all of the dirty clothes from the big hamper in the master bedroom down two flights of stairs to be washed and dried. Then she'd haul it all up two flights of stairs to be sorted in the family room. The clothes in the "to be ironed" pile would then go back down one flight, to the kitchen, where my mom would set up the ironing board.

And because all of the "to be ironed" clothes belonged to my parents, they would make one final trip up the stairs to the master bedroom to be put away.

My mother did this for years before it dawned on her that she was ironing in the kitchen because (and only because) her mother had always ironed in the kitchen. She started ironing upstairs after that.

Shortly after Rob and I moved into our first home, I caught myself ironing in the kitchen one day. I promptly called my mother and we had a good laugh about it.

But it wasn't until last night, as I stood in my kitchen—not ironing but chopping onions—that it dawned on me: I am the homemaker in this home.

(I have trouble with the word homemaker. I had to fill out a form for Westley's preschool on which I ended up checking the box next to "Full-time homemaker." I recoil a little whenever my "employment status" comes up. Because it's so cliche, and anti-feminist, and I can't help but feel guilty—like I'm wasting my very good, very expensive education by spending the day cooking and cleaning.)

Many of the little "rules" I have about how to do this job of mine come from...well, I have no idea. Except that my mother always bought yellow onions, so obviously, those are the onions to use.

But I had bought white onions for homemade salsa, and didn't end up using all of them. So when I went to make last night's dinner and needed an onion, that's what there was. Then I'm standing at my cutting board, chopping up this perfectly oniony, manufactured-looking white onion and feeling vaguely transgressive...

...except that this is my house, and we don't have any rules about onions.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Film Festival: 'Peter Pan' and 'Peter Pan'

I have a certain amount of pride concerning my ability to choose movies and television shows for Westley and have him love them. I was pretty sure he would enjoy the Broadway musical version of Peter Pan, provided the production was good. I was disappointed to find that the 1960 production starring Mary Martin (that I grew up watching on a grainy, recorded-from-TV VHS tape) is difficult to come by. But I decided to give 2000's Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby a shot. Can you really go wrong with an Olympic gymnast as Peter?

The answer is No, you can't.

Westley was decidedly not interested in the Darling children and wanted to turn the movie off after the first few minutes, but I convinced him to keep watching. If I twinkle my eyes at him like I know something awesome he doesn't, and throw out a conspiratorial, "Watch what happens next!" every now and then, he'll usually stick with a movie long enough to get sucked in. Peter Pan's entrance—the nursery windows burst open and Peter soars toward the audience on an invisible (digitally removed?) fly-wire—was all it took for Westley, and I was right there with him.

The thing that struck me immediately was that Cathy Rigby moves like a boy. Mary Martin always looked to me like a woman dressed up as Peter Pan, which I found frustrating as a child. The male pronouns never seemed to fit Peter. While Cathy Rigby never fools me, per se (I'm always vaguely aware that this is an adult woman portraying a teenage boy), she projects a very masculine spirit with her body language, and also in the alpha-male pomposity she brings to many of Peter's lines.

By the time Rob got home, Westley was singing along with the pirates (imagine a tiny child bellowing, "We're bwuddy buccaneers / And each a murderous crook! / We massacre Indians, kill wittle boys / And cater to Captain Hook!") I was in full-on theorist mode, working on a queer reading of the story in which Peter is bisexual or transgendered (or both) and this is why he doesn't really fit in Neverland (land of male homosexuality) but also can't return to live in Victorian England (site of patriarchal heterosexuality).

Rob was fairly certain that both Westley and I had lost our minds. Still, I managed to rope him into a little theory-crunching with me. Why does Peter Pan so often feature an actress in the title role? Should it? Doesn't that instantly "queerify" a story that, at its heart, examines relationships between men and women? WTF?

Rob (who knows a thing or two about Shakespeare) brought up the long-standing English theatrical tradition of cross-dressing, but he didn't have a strong opinion on the question of whether a woman should or should not play Peter Pan. He indulged my queer reading, however, imagining Peter's insistence that "you mustn't touch me" as a means of portraying him as an AIDS pariah. Finally, he reminded me that, on film, Peter Pan is more often played by a young male actor.

If you were to try to pin-point a "first date" in Rob's and my relationship, you might settle on the night we went to see the P.J. Hogan-directed film Peter Pan. I think I'd watched it one other time since then, but after holding a queer lens up to Cathy Rigby cartwheeling around while singing, "I've Gotta Crow," I was much more interested in revisiting the 2003 (non-musical) film.

After multiple viewings of the stage musical, seeing actual children in the roles of Peter and Wendy was slightly odd at first. The film, much more so than the musical, is told almost entirely from Wendy's point-of-view—which ends up presenting Wendy's attraction to Peter Pan not simply as a crush, but as genuine first love. It can be gut-wrenching to watch.

There's something very real about the romance—followed by the heartbreak—that the two children experience. This is an area in which film has an advantage over stage; casting age-appropriate actors automatically makes the relationship seem more authentic, and shooting them in tight close-up easily boosts a scene's emotional tone.

Of course it's very satisfying to see a Peter Pan who really looks the part. Jeremy Sumpter (who has gotten quite teen-heartthrobby since) might have been plucked out of F. D. Bedford's illustrations for J. M. Barrie's novel. But there's something lacking in his performance that Rigby delivers in spades: a sense of having lived.

It's interesting to note that when comparing the Peter Pans of stage and screen, we're not talking about age-peers. Sumpter was 14 when the film was shot. Similarly, Bobby Driscoll provided the voice and inspired the movements for Disney's 1953 animated Peter Pan at age 16. However, the youngest of the well-known stage Peters is Sandy Duncan, who played the role on Broadway in 1979 at age 33. Mary Martin was 41 when she first portrayed Peter, and Cathy Rigby, who turns 59 in December, is set to resume the role in a new production this fall. I'm very much in favor of actresses not disappearing after age 40, but Peter Pan seems like a strange role for someone with, say, adult children. I would argue, however, that life-experience is part of what makes Peter who he is, and in this sense (and perhaps only in this sense) it's correct to cast an actor who is more than double the character's suggested age.

One advantage to having a woman perform Peter Pan onstage is the ability to capture the quasi-feminine appearance of young maleness while also suggesting some of the life-experience that is inevitable even for the boy who wouldn't grow up. The story suggests that part of the reason for Peter's narcissism is a reaction to being rejected by his mother—and his ongoing attempts to separate himself from that pain. Peter doesn't grow up, but time does pass for him; he should seem wise beyond his (apparent) years. Besides, there's something comical but also poignant (and yes, also a bit queer) about a woman performing a boy singing the lyric, "Never gonna be a man!"


Monday, August 1, 2011

Body Mind + Fresh Starts

I love it when the first of the month falls on a Monday. It's like a little gift from the Universe—or a kick in the pants, if you prefer. It's a new beginning! Change for the better!

July threw me completely off my health-and-wellness game. I began the month with exhaustion from post-D&C anemia and ended it with exhaustion from, well, failing to care for myself. Except for my period's welcome return, nothing good happened in July, health-wise:
  1. I went on vacation and ate a bunch of things I don't normally eat. As in, Hello refined sugars and saturated fats! Let's make out! Also, I drank a lot of alcohol. Not just a little alcohol. A LOT of alcohol.
  2. Two days after arriving home, I was in the ER with shortness of breath and chest pain.
  3. The weather finally got summery, and Westley and I went to the beach.
One of these things is not like the others? Yes, well, thanks to the desserts and the stress mentioned above, I have lost some muscle and gained some fat, and my weight is up a bit. This was vexing, but not a life-shattering crisis.

Until that day at the beach.

The skinny, fit mothers were out in droves that day. Right in the middle of building a sandcastle with borrowed toys, my somewhat-rational thinking was kidnapped by what Anne Lamott calls Butt Mind.
I've spent days and entire weeks comparing my butt to everyone else's butt. Sometimes my butt was better-than, although it is definitely the butt of a mother who keeps forgetting to work out. Mostly it was worse-than. — Traveling Mercies
So there I was, sizing up all of these other mothers with Belly/Tits/Upper-Arms Mind, and that day, my body was MUCH-worse-than. Especially compared to this one mother who could have been my better-looking twin. She was about my height, and we had the same hairstyle—except that she actually knew how to style her hair. Also, she had two children to my one, and (here's the kicker) both were younger than Westley. Super-fit mothers with children older than mine are a little easier to ignore. But a blonde with two tiny kids and a slammin' bod? Enough to throw me into a serious depression.

Like any eating-disordered person would, I used this stranger's beauty as the perfect excuse to binge-eat a bunch of refined carbohydrates, many of which were made of corn, and I felt absolutely like I wanted to die, which makes me think I may need to break up with corn. Then, all bloated and jiggly and MUCH-worse-than, I decided to purge with laxatives for the first time in years.

For better or worse, it didn't work. All my laxative cocktail did was make me crampy and irritate the hell out of my hemorrhoids (which are a side-effect of—guess what!—laxative abuse).

The thought did occur to me, as I was witch-hazeling my ass, that I could up the dose. But that thought was the ticket for a trip that I do not wish to take again.

Today, my health and I started over.

I ate things with proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I drank tea and tried to sit up straight while driving and did a little bit of yoga. I tried to think kind thoughts about my belly and my tits and my upper arms. (I'm bringing saggy back!) I thought about the ways I've participated in creating my own ill health.

Too often, when one of the habits that keeps me healthy falls away—exercising, eating healthfully, eating mindfully, taking vitamins, drinking enough water—the others fall away also. Putting them all back into alignment can feel overwhelming. Where do I start cleaning up this mess?

I don't know why it should matter that the first day of my fresh start with myself be the first day of the week, or the first of the month. But it does matter. It feels easier, somehow—like starting at the Universe-sanctioned beginning. I suppose this is what New Year's resolutions are all about.

My biggest obstacle seems to be that I want the change to come from outside of myself, even if it's just the date on the calendar suggesting, "Start now." I'm not yet at the place where I can begin anew whenever I decide I need to.