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These days it's all 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

Bennett is starting to self-regulate. Which is awesome. In food, he's starting to get really verbal about when he's hungry and what he wants. He even has his own set of crackers in an easy to reach cupboard for whenever he wants a snack. It's fab. (Step forward) But he's still nursing like his life depends on it. (Step back) In bed time, he's starting to put himself to bed and tell us when he's tired: 'Bennett cama. Mama. Cama.' [cama=bed] This is fab. Lately we have had several nights in a row when after the diaper change and jammies and whatnot, he wants to go to bed. There's usually some playing and then.... he asks for boo-boo and 'sing'. (Step forward) Even for naps he's telling us he wants cama and will go lay down in it. (Step forward) Of course, this is not completely consistent and we still have some nights where he just won't go to sleep and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (step back)

In diaper land, he is more and more aware of potties. He's peed in the big toilet twice. (step forward) Will not pee in a toddler potty. And during naked time will pee on the floor. (step back) But he's stopped freaking out when he poops! (step forward)

His language is fabulous. Turns out he knows that I have a name other than mama. Adam asked him, out of the blue, who N--- was and he pointed to me. Cool! His languages are all muddled together, but no matter. He's started two mornings a week at this wonderful day care centre here and it's mainly Welsh speaking.

Just like as adults our best traits can simultaneously be our biggest weaknesses, the same holds true for Bennett. He's always been a pretty chill kid (except for the nighttime thing). He's huggy, loves people, loves to interact, isn't phased if a kid whacks him or snatches his toy. In fact, B doesn't really care about toys. His favorite go-to toys? Butter knives, the kitchen tongs, our computers, balls - whatever random house hold object he can find. Puzzles? Games? Snooze. But all of this means that he also doesn't like playing by himself much or being alone. He's really *really* into interacting. So all that being chill folds over into being high maintenance.

What else? Oh yeah. This kid will not grow any more teeth. At nearly 25 months, he has grown 12 (of which, he has 9). I feel around every few days and - nope.
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Watching Australia v Germany. The Aussies are outmatched. Sigh.

It's been a rough day. B is feverish and miserable. Hardly ate. Napped twice. Passed out at 6.45pm. He crawled into 'Bennett cama' (Bennett's bed) of his own choosing at noon and asked to watch cartoons there, so that's what we did. It was sweet. All the business items I'd planned to do will have to wait until after football. I can probably quote Kung Fu Panda line for line.

Poor little guy.

I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' but I'm not feeling it. I think I've just read too much food writing: I'm the choir to her preaching, and I don't garden.

Leffe brown Belgian beer is really good. As are my mashed potatoes. I discovered the secret: butter FIRST, then milk.
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Poor B. Mon and Tues he was running a fever but seemed otherwise fine. After the fever broke on Tues evening he's been a pill. The cold is in full force and he's miserable in attitude. The littlest thing sets him off. I've never seen so many tantrums and out of the blue tears. It's rough. And I'm wrecked.

But for a little while this afternoon we sat out in the back garden nursing and reading and just happy in the grass. I listened to the birds chirping, watched a huge buzzard swirling in the sky, looked at the green green hills. I got hit with the thought that this land desperately wants to tell its stories and secrets. In fact, this land will offer it all up to the first ear that will sit and listen. This is not a shy nor even picky land. Whereas when I was in Australia I really felt like the land would not easily reveal itself at all. Australia is beautiful, but it is cautious. I know none of that makes sense. But there it is.

Last thing before I go zone out in front of some telly. Adam just spent an hour getting a cute little brown mouse out of his office. I'm pretty sure the cats brought it in. We didn't want to kill it and finally Adam was able to scoop it up (in gloved hands) and take it outside.
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B and I have been down with colds since Sunday evening. We're both doing better, but today has been a very hard day to be Bennett. Super fussy, tantrums, not hungry, super clingy, wants to nurse all day, and he keeps waking up every 20 minutes crying in his sleep. Poor guy.

Since I've been home on the couch for three days I've read all of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. So not worth it. The first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was great. The writing is very utilitarian - all telling, no showing - no subtlety at all, very little nuance or description, but the main female character is fascinating, I love the 'polyamorous' relationships, and the feminist angle. The second book was alright, but the third? Basically, the first part of book three should have been included with book two. It feels like an editor made an arbitrary decision to cut the books in half. Book one was stand alone; book three will make no sense if you don't read book two. The most disappointing part of the book is that Salander (awesome possibly Auspergers female character) plays hardly any role in book three. In 743 pages she hardly does anything but has shit happen to her. And why spend hundreds of pages on intricate build up only to need a mere handful of pages to tear it all down in the court scene? Sigh. What a let down.
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Lil' B said fuck tonight, and in context too. Oops.
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You can see by the time stamp that it's late. I just finished dinner. In the end, my puttanesca suuuuucked. Ah well. Adam got to play football/soccer tonight so I was going to put B down and then cook a grown up dinner. Mmmm, extra anchovies! But Bennett? I can't put him to sleep anymore. If I am anywhere near him at bedtime he *freaks out* about boo-boos. As part of my nightweaning process I stopped nursing him to sleep, but I broke it tonight and nursed him down. But I got halfway to the door and he woke up in frantic tears: "Boo-boo? GONE?" And if he gets to 'boo-boo touch' then he really just stays awake playing with it. How am I going to put him to bed when Adam is gone for two whole weeks in July??

Naps? Out in 3 minutes. 15 if it's me. We have a pattern and stick to it. But holy smoke, we have a kid that just. does. not. want to fall asleep alone (so we've stopped trying) or miss a single a moment of life with us. Bless him.

This too shall pass. And I'm sure at some point I'll miss these days of eternal snuggles and desire for no one but us.
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I'm barely cognizant of what is going on in British politics. What I do know is thanks to Facebook updates. How sad is that?

Come 5.30pm I am downright knackered. I've got a brief second wind, but I suspect I've got only 20 minutes left.

Bennett is growing so fast. New words every few hours. And the hitting. Oh my lord, the hitting. It's mostly just me. I'll take it. At least he's not hitting other kids.

B loves to tells stories. He loves to tell the one about when he and I were at our favorite cafe and the owner's baby A--- knocked over a glass of water. It goes like this: 'A---. Knock. Aga.' (That's how he says agua, water in Spanish) Points to the floor. He also tells me the story of how one day he and Adam and I were in the cemetery. I left and he cried and was sad and ran around with Adam. Every single time we go through the cemetery he tells it (which is at least once every day). That story looks like this: I'm pushing him down the hill in the pushchair. At the same place every time, he waves good bye in front of him. 'Mama'. He looks at me. He makes his sad sound and sign and points to the field on our right. 'Papa.' If it weren't so cute and such a fascinating developmental leap, I'd be driven mad by the repetition.

I keep forgetting to make vegetables for dinner. It's been very meat and carb heavy around here.

I'm reading way too many things at once. Mentally I feel like I have too many loose ends. They're all non-fiction items. I'm super close to finishing one book. When I do, I'm starting a novel.

Ok. I'm fading. I give myself 10 more minutes before I turn into mush.
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*Too tired to post coherently.
*Up a 6am every morning. By 11 am it feels like it's 2 o'clock.
*Really good meals this week. Tonight is amatriciana and red wine.
*Bennett is going through something: clingy, won't listen well, tired a lot.
*We ordered him his own bed. I will be grateful to move him out of my bed, and I'll miss his wee hour snuggles.
*Lots of change and energy. Some evenings I feel I lose my focus.
*Got some sunburn today - sunkissed. From a two hour walk. Delicious. The green looks almost unnatural here.
*So many 'at home' books to read: Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Nigel Slater's book/cookbook Tender, and The Night Watch by some Russian guy.
*I 'cleaned up' my friend's list today. I'm cleaning up security on a bunch of sites (like Facebook) and I'm contemplating my intentions around them.

My week

May. 2nd, 2010 09:54 am
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This last week has been so odd. I have crashed after more than a week of high energy, focus, and massive amounts of reading. I now can barely bring myself to string a coherent thought together. At the beginning of the week Bennett started a new trend of waking up at 5.30 am. At first I thought his was great: I was fed, dressed, checked in, exercised, etc all before 8am! Win! But it's been every morning this week. Doesn't matter what time he goes to bed, he is up with the birds. It hits me right in the middle of a dream cycle and I spend the beginning of the day somewhere in the spaces between dreaming and awake. It's unsettling. It is also difficult because he's waking up demanding boo-boos and crying when it doesn't happen RIGHTNOW. Being followed around by a whining, crying toddler whilst trying to pee and feed the now also whining cats at that hour of the morning is too much for me.

Yesterday was the worst day yet. I decided to take advantage of the early start and work on my paper. I need to add a section about suffering. I went to my cafe of choice and bought a coffee (which I rarely do). I had already had a cup of tea at home. Later in the morning a friend came by and bought me more tea and then.... it hit me. I had had WAY too much caffeine on far too little food and by 11 am I was CRACKED OUT. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I couldn't think. My mind was racing. Then I crashed in the late afternoon and felt ill. Whee.

So today, I'm wrecked. Up again at 5.30. But the house is clean(ish), the laundry hung. I made huevos rancheros. And then Bennett dumped all the cat litter out of the box and onto the floor.

Seriously, gypsies? I'm offering a special: I'll pay YOU to take him.
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[livejournal.com profile] erinya commented on my last post and got me thinking. Bennett is discovering male and female. Erinya liked that I asked if he wanted to be a woman when he shook his head no when I told him he was going to be a man. I realize that gender is something we're not supposed to play around with. I mean, I know this in grown up life. If you're gender-queer or a cross-dresser or transgender or just plain don't conform then you're in Big Trouble. But for kids gender continues to be Serious Business. Of course there's the whole pink/blue nonsense and I would probably die of a brain aneurysm if I had to watch children's advertising. But how is it bold to suggest to my toddler that he could be a woman? We play pretend all the time. Kids pretend to be fire trucks, dogs, lions, ghosts, monsters, etc and we don't bat an eye. But to let a boy play girl or a girl play boy... well, that's radical.

I suppose the radical part is that I seriously believe my son can be anything he wants to be. And if he grows up to be a woman, so be it. I admit that my heart would break (and heal up) if he felt so disembodied that he needed to surgically and hormonally alter it - since I love every pore on his little body, every hair and curve and crease. I have had a loved one go through that before and it was deeply difficult. But, ultimately, I want my son to be happy. I don't care if he's male or female, gay or straight or bi or poly or monogamous or asexual. I just want him to not be a jackass and to be happy with healthy relationships.

So far, he seems very boyish: trucks, cars, ka-pow, hitting, wands, and penises (which we call penne). But whatever.
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Bennett knows the word 'man.' He'll see a picture of one or a man on the street and say 'man!' This morning while getting dressed he was saying the word and listing some of his favorite characters. I said 'Sokka is a man. Papa is a man. Mama is a woman. And Bennett is a boy, who will become a man.' He shook his head. I said 'You don't want to be a man?' He shook his head. 'Do you want to be a woman?' He nodded his head vigorously.

Let the gender games begin!
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Bennett is 4 weeks + shy of his 2nd birthday and he is 36 inches tall. He still only has 9 (of 12) teeth. Perhaps his body could put some of that growth into more teeth, eh?

Last night's chowder was delish and so easy. I will make a recipe post later today, because wow, I've gotten some good stuff! Tonight I'm making amitriciana (or something like that). Basically, it's like puttanseca with more pancetta and no anchovies, olives or capers. But I might add anchovies anyway. MMMMmmmmm.

I am reading The Spell of the Sensuous. It's beautiful. The first chapter helps put into words some of what felt so suffocating in the Bay Area, what I miss about Alaska, and what I love about living here. I'm certain this book will provoke a longer post in the future.

Genius

Apr. 19th, 2010 08:45 am
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I think living in Wales is killing my LJ habit. There's just not much to write about. Life is peaceful, delicious, green, and utterly magical in its sheer ordinariness. The days blur: reading, laughing, eating, walking, playing outside. Bennett thrives. He is night weaned and is sleeping through the night. His language skills leap every day. In fact, for some words and concepts he seems to be functioning only in Spanish. Crazy. He knows colors in Spanish, English and Welsh. And he's nearing two. When he's tired - hoo boy: tears and gnashing of teeth, I tell you.

Over the weekend I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. It's an easy, quick read and pretty enjoyable. What makes him enjoyable is also what makes him downright annoying to me. Just stick with a damn story and I don't need three examples of cultural miscommunication to get your point, thank you. However, I greatly appreciate his dismantling of the American success myths: being self-made, talent and genius being innate, etc. I've never bought into the first. I've long understood how one's context, environment, access to opportunity, etc can help or hinder a person's chances of success. Gladwell talks a lot about class being a factor in educational success but I think it's more of one's cultural class than just monetary class. He has several examples that point to this, without being explicit about it. This idea led to some personal reflection.

My family definitely had upper middle class values but was very, very working class (until I was in solidly in my teens). My father hasn't moved much out of the working class mind set - call him retired and he bristles (he's busy growing his own food and building the houses he lives in), call him wealthy and well.... I wouldn't say that to his face, even though he and my mother split their time between two continents. I see how my parents' value on education helped me pursue my academic desires. They may not understand the content of my studies, but they very much respect that I am pursuing these degrees. Fitting with the more working class idea of kids doing their own things, I was left to cultivate myself. I'm grateful for this because I think kids need to ample time to play and do nothing and learn about being bored. But this is easy to say because I have always been self-directed and one to take the initiative in my interests, which my parents would then try to facilitate. But we never went to the theatre or to hear live music, or all those other 'townie' things that I wished I could have done. It's amazing that I started singing at all.

Which leads me to another reflection: I completely bought into the 'genius is innate' idea. I started singing thinking I had some natural ability, which I do, but I think I've always thought that if I was really talented it wouldn't be so hard and so fraught with angst. But that's not true. The people who get to be great singers and performers are people who didn't let the angst and hard work stop them, people who had opportunities, who loved the process and worked hard, all the time. I can't say that I did those things, or at least, not very consistently. This 'talent is innate, so if it doesn't come easily then what's the use' idea is sadly ingrained in me. I see it crop up in many other areas of my life. I think it was easy to believe because some things have come absurdly easy to me: reading and most school. I didn't have to work hard to get a respectable B+. A smidge of effort and I'd get an A. (Except math, but that's another story for another day.) Reading and words are like breathing to me, so I think I just assumed that's how everything was. But what I didn't take into consideration is that my mother read to me from an early age (I don't remember this at all), that the house was filled with books, that I saw my parents read all the time, that I was allowed to spend entire days engrossed in a book. Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I'm pretty sure I've more than logged my 10,000 hours reading.

Interesting stuff.

Happiness

Apr. 15th, 2010 01:29 pm
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The other night Adam and I started gleefully giggling. We had just crawled into bed (well, me into bed and him onto the air mattress on the floor) and I said in a whisper "Every day here is like a vacation." That phrase sunk in and we laughed with joy. It's true! I'm not sure we've ever been happier. It's not like this place is exciting. Honestly, it's pretty damn dull. The only museum is a Welsh quilt museum. No cinema or theatre, no bands, only a small handful of restaurants to eat at if you want to go out for dinner (and really only two if you want to eat good food). But since we have a small child those things don't matter. There's nothing to spend money on here, so we can live frugally. Adam really only has to work part-time hours for us to pay our bills (though more money and work is always a good thing!). Adam loves what he does. I love what I do. We both get ample time with Bennett. It's clean and fresh and safe. We are outside all the time. The people here are friendly and things move at much slower pace than the city. The fact that we get to do what we love, that's there no rush: it's really truly like a vacation every single day.

And it's getting EVEN MORE so, since Bennett is night weaned. Last night was night 5 and he slept through the night. I discount to the two quiet requests for water. No nightmarish freakouts like the previous nights. No trying to nurse. He just slept, curled up tight in the crook of my arm, one hand on a boob at all times, but hey! It's a victory! It has had unintended consequences: I think it has sped up his daytime weaning. That's not a bad thing. As much as I'll miss the intimacy of it, it feels like it's time. My guess? By his second birthday (end of May) he'll be done. And to think: when I was pregnant I thought extended nursing was weird.

I wonder if this is contributing to my fading urge to get pregnant. I don't know if it's the return of more bodily autonomy, more sleep, or the fact that spring is here and I want to get moving, that has nulled the ovarian cry for another baby. I definitely want another child. If I was pregnant I wouldn't be sad. But I'm not in a rush anymore. I'm also losing weight. The jiggly tummy fat seems pretty damn permanent, but in general I'm getting more exercise and I'm almost back into my smallest pair of pants. Which means I need yet more pants. SIGH. It would be nice to have at least a few months of a fit, relatively svelte body again before I go back to work that is being pregnant. There are a few ladies that I interact with in town that are pregnant and I've been watching them swell. I'm so short that I just look like an oompa-loompa when I'm pregnant. My already substantial boobs grew to an enormous size. That I do not miss!
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Firstly, LJ is being weird so I can't access my friends page. Hurrumph.

We watch a lot of Avatar: the Last Airbender in this house. It's B's favorite thing ever. After mama and papa his next most used words are: Appa (Aang's giant flying bison), Momo (Aang's lemur bat), Aang (the Avatar). I've seen every episode multiple times. Believe it or not, I'm not sick of it. It holds up. I've only noticed one inconsistency (season one, episode 3: Iroh says that his favorite tea is ginseng, but ep 2 and later on it is jasmine). For quite a while I've been thinking that a person could write a little book called 'Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Avatar.' So I'm going to start it.

Here are your lessons, in order, as I re-watch them with Bennett:
Season One - Water
Ep 1: Running away from your problems and duties only makes them worse.

Ep 2: Sometimes what you're looking for doesn't arrive in the form you expected.

Ep 3: Always remember your basics.
Mercy and compassion look like weakness but are always honorable.
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I was just looking through some old posts of mine for something and I am struck with the realization that since B was born my writing and thinking have taken a definite turn for the worse. But as I sit here watch B dismantle a PB&J (breakfast of champions) in the messiest way possible while staring intently at the washing machine going round and round, I kinda don't care.
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So..... we did get to see the moon tonight. That's because a little boy slept for an hour and hasn't been back to sleep. Ai yi yi. I keep telling him the books, the boobies, the cats.... all asleep. It's half twelve. It is rather a romantic, bewitching scene: a little boy in fuzzy footy pajamas making a mess by candle light.
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In the spirit of gratitude.

*Spring. It is here. There is red growth on the tree branches, the faintest of buds on some. The snow drops have been bloomed for weeks. The daffodils have had their green out but yesterday I saw the yellow bits all enclosed waiting to bloom. I saw some purple crocuses over the weekend too. Birds are building nests and chirping like mad. The sun is warm. Today I hung my laundry out on the line for the first time since November! Ah, sun, miracle elixir, you take away the stains of the world.

*My homemade chicken noodle soup. Lately, I've been nailing the broth. Bennett drinks it down.

*Mutliculturalism. Adam, B and I went to a birthday party yesterday. It was one of the the most diverse parties I've ever been to. It was the first birthday of a little boy that goes to one of B's playgroups. The little boy was asleep through most of it. He is Nigerian. His father is a student here. Aunts and uncles from London came. There was a Polish couple. Locals, though mainly of English extraction. Two Muslim families from Libya were there too - the hosts are also Muslim. And one little boy who is half Bengali. Languages heard: English, Spanish (thanks to Adam), Polish, Yoruba, Arabic. Amazing.

*Friends. We have friends here! Not really close friends, yet, but friends nonetheless. It's wonderful. It's like we live here.

*Best of all, Bennett goes to sleep at 8pm. Cut for those who couldn't care less )

ETA: How could I forget?! Adam got a great gig today. So we will have money for bills one month in advance. This is a great step toward getting back on our feet!
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It's only Sunday afternoon but it's been a great weekend. I took Friday off studying and spent it with B and Adam. I can't really remember what we did, but I know the pacing was perfect. We received a new sweater each from MM, which made me feel glamorous. Adam bought some wine in a spirit of generosity.

But the best part has got to be making friends with the neighborhood boys. A group of boys play football/soccer in the little yard between our house and the cemetery. Their goal is the wall of our house. Bennett loves to hear them play so Friday afternoon I took him out to watch. The boys, about 5 of them, aged 10, asked B to play. B was in heaven. He just chased after the boys, laughing, falling down and getting filthy muddy. For the last two days the boys have knocked on our door and asked if Bennett wanted to come out and play with them. The boys are really nice kids.

And to think that we were warned that this neighborhood was 'rough.'

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