Saturday, May 13, 2006

On the Road: Lessons learned, or not

As I drive up towards Parker from Blythe, I always pass through Poston, and I usually stop at the Poston Memorial.

Poston isn't really quite a complete ghost town in the physical sense, there's still a fire station, and Woody's II convenience store is always a draw. But in the metaphysical, and in scars on the desert floor, it is a town of ghosts.

Poston was built in April, 1942 for one purpose: internment. Almost 18,000 Japanese Americans lived there until March, 1946 in a place that was as far from epitomizing Japan as New York resembles a Yanamami village.

It's hot here, folks. And dusty - the common good stiff wind will put sand in all your nooks and crannies without the fun of a beach party. It's in a more interesting part of the Colorado Desert than, say, Thermal, but that's not saying all that much unless you're really into botany and the occassional gila monster.

Personally, I think the folks living in Poston during WWII were more interested in survival, and how to get the sand out of their teeth. But, they did manage to build a school, and have various social groups, so maybe botanizing was one of the ways to pass the time. Still, it's not the rainforest. You see one ocatillo, you've pretty much seen them all.

The thing that always gets me to stop here is the Memorial. Or perhaps the ghosts, pulling at me to never forget, and turning my steering wheel to the right. Here is a reminder to never repeat the mistakes of the past, a goal with every Presidential news conference I am less and less hopeful of meeting success.

The preceding few days on the radio before pulling up to take this picture, in addition to immigrant health care, Mexican polka, folk music, opera, and Roy Orbeson, were filled with news on vigilante groups patrolling the border, immigration "reform," secret prisons, Iraqi war, potential Iranian war, torture, illegal wire tapping, and detention of terrorist suspects without due process of law. The next day would break the news of a huge database being kept by the NSA on phone calls by unsuspected (and unsuspecting) American citizens.

And there, in front of me, was a tall cylindrical monolith practically shouting, "THIS IS WRONG! DON'T DO IT AGAIN!"

Some days, I think the only thing keeping vast communities of Mexican-Americans and Arab-Americans, and, Hell, French-Americans from being rounded up and sent to Glamis is this bit of concrete. And the huge off-road community- they'd have something to say about all those people taking up space on their sand dunes. Both of which are losing their influence with the people in power as they continually cite "national security" as a reason for thumbing their noses at constitution-protected rights.

Take a look. Read a bit. Think of losing your home and being sent to a camp in the middle of crap for no other reason than your ancestry.

May06gt 002

Don't let it happen again.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On the Road: In which I really look like an idiot

I brushed up on my opera and folk music today, and heard a show about Roy Orbeson. Man, I can see why he sang ballads. His high school sweetheart died at 16, his wife died in a car crash, his two kids died in a fire... how did that man ever get up in the morning?

Shades. It's gotta be the shades.

Even though my shades were resting ever-so-uselessly on the air conditioner in my hotel room instead of sheilding me from the blinding Yuma sun, I still managed to find this afternoon's adventure comical instead of toe-biting frusterating, because I was just grateful to not be Roy Orbeson.

Mere hours ago, I learned never to trust a Chevy. Particularly, a Chevy gas gauge.

The tow truck driver assured me that once a Chevy gets down to 1/4 a tank, it's essentially empty. Being once a poor college student, and a poor field biologist, and someone who doesn't particularly like gas stations to begin with, I'm used to viewing a quarter of a tank of gas as gold, Baby. I see it as 1/4 full, not 3/4 empty. Certainly I could do my little bit to help delay the next ice age and drive around for the afternoon without having to fill up with all that petrol in the tank.

I've rebuilt carbeurators, replaced clutches, towed a car over 200 miles with just a two strap, but I was convinced I had vapor lock when the Tahoe sputtered, lurched, and died.

Oh well, it meant I ended work a bit earlier today, so I was able to join my teammates for dinner.

Which means, you'll have to wait to hear about eating out alone.

Monday, May 08, 2006

On the Road: Radio Bilingua

Beinvenidos Yuma!

There are some benefits to travelling alone.

First, you can listen to any music you feel like. In the five hours on the road to Yuma this morning, I started out listening to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band a few times. I finally turned off the CD and tuned in the radio when I couldn't stand crying anymore.

You know. That song, "She's Leaving" or whatever its real title is. I tear up just thinking of when my girls go off to their own lives. I just hope that, unlike the girl in the song, mine won't ever feel like they're living at home alone. Of course, they're all under seven. Let's test this theory in about six years, shall we?

So, once The Beatle's were shunned, I was in reach of some of my favorite music: Mexcian polka.

Seriously. It's so lively and hokey, like Heimlich on helium.

An added benefit to listening to Radio Bilingua is I get to practice my Dora the Explorer Spanglish.

Now, I can see why some folks out there are so upset with Hecho en Taiwan on their backscratchers. It's all Dora's fault. Dora, with her salta this and estrella that, makes us all think we can listen to a simple Mexican polka station and understand everything being said.

I imagined myself as Gary Larson's dog Ginger:

Only, in this case, instead of talking about what happened to the garbage, I'm hearing "spanish spanish spanish Medicaid spanish spanish salud spanish spanish emigracion spanish spanish Arlen Specter." At first, I thought they may have been talking about drinking to Medicaid, being a bit confused as to why Arlan Specter is chasing shots with immigrants, until I finally remembered "salud" means "health."

With just those little snippets of recognizable words in a jumble of ignorance, who wouldn't think that there's a vast underground society addicted to a drinking game played by illegal immigrants who pound down a shot everytime Arlen Specter votes on a Medicaid issue? No wonder the next radio station I listened to (after Radio Bilingua inexplicably petered out when I neared the border... go figure, what next? No technorock in Germany?), a conservative Christian talk radio show, are reading the entire Charlie Daniels manifesto on why the Mexican flag is an affront to American values. MADD must have gotten to them.

Ok, wait, I'm now getting into the negatives of working alone - no one to make you tune into a different station. Luckily, I was able to realize they were sucking me in to the vortex of disbelief before it was too late.

Next segment: the art of dining alone

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Night Weaning

4:00 a.m. S wakes up and won't go back to sleep. Just like the past few nights.

Cry, whimper, pat her on the butt, she falls asleep. I make a note to tell Hubby to try a nice butt pat when I'm gone next week.

4:10 am. S wakes up again. Butt pats aren't working. Cry. Whimper. Cuddle. Make note to tell Hubby cuddles work.

4:25 am S wakes up. Butt pats aren't working. Cuddles aren't working. Cry. Whimper. Soft talking telling her I know what she wants. Make note to tell Hubby soft talking helps.

4:40 am. S wakes up again. Butt pats, cuddles, and soft talking aren't helping. In frusteration she kicks and accidentally turns on the mobile music. She falls asleep to Mozart as I rub her back. Make note to self to keep at this so that Hubby and S don't have to go through this next week.... I hope.

At fifteen months old, it's time for night weaning. Not because I want to, but because I have to, since I will be travelling for work for five days next week. What's getting me through it this time better than when I had to do it with her older sisters is that I do remember I did feel much better during the day after I was getting better sleep. And that Hubby will be doing better as a single parent for that long if they all sleep well while I'm away.

Some might think I'm nuts for having nursed her (and her sisters in their time) through the night for so long. Some might say I'm so inspiring, nursing them for so long, knowing that they needed this. I say neither. Honestly, there is little to no altruism in my nocturnal nursing habits. It's the only way I get sleep, and get my cuddles in as well.

I never thought I would co-sleep. The thought was kinda scary and, well, weird, when I was pregnant with my oldest. Then, when she was about three weeks old, and I woke up with her sliding off of my lap towards the floor after I fell asleep nursing her in the glider, I realized this cradle thing wasn't going to work. I had to bring her to my bed for her safety, and my health and sanity. I've been an avid co-sleeper ever since.

Nursing is great because I don't have to get up out of bed when the newborn is hungry. I get a lot more sleep, which is really fantastic so I don't fall asleep at my desk. None of this "nap when baby naps" stuff for us working moms. I get some close time with the baby that I missed out on during the day while at the office. Sure, we may be asleep, but it really does make a difference to me.

As the baby gets older, and most have slept through the night (at least, I think they do, because the pediatrician by three months always asks if my kids are sleeping through the night yet.... I just chalk that up to cultural norms than normal baby development), I'm still nursing at night. By now, night nursing is done so I can sleep. It helps me relax, I'm not kept awake by a fussing baby. I don't have to wake up extra early and wake her up as well so I can nurse her before I head to work. And, I'm not a cry-it-out (CIO) kinda mom.

I can't CIO. I don't see any point to it other than to make other people feel better about the sleep habits of my children. I am firmly in the camp that babies cry for a good reason, not for manipuation. I have friends who CIO, I'm not going to criticize them.... much. I try to be supportive because, well, that's what works for them, I know they love their kids, they are doing what they feel is best for them and their children. Fine. But I'm not gonna do it.

Yet, the time comes when work demands that I night wean. Which really sucks, because, really, where in my perfect world should work take precedence over family? When I have to travel, and that leaves Hubby to care for the kids by himself. Hubby, who thanks to my night nursing, never has to get up at night to care for the kids, aside from the occassional nightmare when he goes into the older girls' room to comfort. He does not do well when he doesn't get much sleep. More for the sake of the girls having to live with a grumpy old man for a week than for the sake of the grumpy old man himself, I'm doing what I can to help everyone sleep better.

Except me.

Night weaning is CIO. I try to justify it by saying it's a "modified CIO", meaning that I'm always there, I try to comfort her through the night as she fusses, cries, and pulls on my shirt asking to nurse. I become a master at strategically placing pillows and blankets to shield myself from questing hands. But, I know what she wants and I'm refusing to give it to her.


It's at these times where the depression sets in hard again. I mean, really, crying to my kindergartner's teacher the other day? Seriously, that's whacked. In addition to weaning against my and my baby's will, I'm also stressed with leaving my family for a week. That always sets me on edge, making the last few days at home not very pleasant.

I'll make it. They'll make it. It could be worse. We could be in Falujah.. or Bakersfield for that matter.

Here's to all the working moms and dads out there, who do what we must to keep our family safe and happy, even if it means being unhappy every once in awhile.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Questioning Authority

(warning, stream of consciousness post as I ramble on trying to figure this out myself)

So, N came home from kindergarten on Monday saying that the teacher said ducks are not birds, humans are not apes, and when N said they were, the whole class laughed at her.

I told her ducks are birds, humans are apes, and I'll discuss this with her teacher. Tuesday morning Mrs. O and I made arrangements for me to talk to her this morning.

I wanted to find out what happened from the teacher's perspective, as I couldn't believe Mrs. O would say those things.

Ok, ducks are birds, Mrs. O agrees with me, she said there was a lot of talking going on when she was starting a discussion about animals, that's probably where she heard that. That was my easy lead-in into the ape discussion....

Mrs. O was talking about animals, how insects are animals, fish are animals, even we humans are animals. Much disagreement from the class on that one. She said, oh yes, we're animals, and we're mammals, too! The class in general was in disbelief. It was then that N, being the true daughter of a zoologist that she is, raised her hand and said that we're apes as well.

The class laughed at her. Mrs. O then told her that we are NOT apes, we're humans.

N, being the smart yet sensitive child she is, was totally confused and ended up crying when she told me this story. I don't think she cried in class, though. But it was obvious that this conflict was upsetting her.

Here's the thing. Hubby and I have been telling her we're apes since, heck, I have no idea, probably ever since she started showing an interest in animals. So, like, for the past five years? The fact is, we are apes. Evolution or creation, we are classified in the Linnean taxonomic system as hominids, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, and (for some camps) orangutans. If a creationist can agree that we are mammals, then I don't see how they can't agree we are apes as well. The taxonomy doesn't say we are descended from apes, just that we are apes, like we are mammals, chordates, and animals. Mrs. O insisted in my talk with her that we are not apes, we are humans, not grasping that all humans are apes, but not all apes are humans. Fine, I knew I wasn't going to change her mind (especially since I somehow, unforgivably broke down and started crying over this whole thing myself), and I felt bad enough about coming in and questioning her about this little incident since she has always shown herself to be such a thoughtful, sincere, effective teacher. And I know that kindergarten is not really the place to debate creationism vs. evolution.

Or maybe it is. I mean, not a debate, but allowing an open, respectful environment for discussion of different beliefs. Shouldn't we be teaching our kids how to listen to and respect different viewpoints from early on?

Yah, in a perfect world where the teachers have the time to do that, and the willingness, and the support of the parents as well. Which means that, no, kindergarten or high school for that matter is not the place for such things. Sigh.

So, here she is, after listening to and believing her parents for most of her life about what she is, her teacher is telling her something different. And the kids are laughing at her for believing her parents.

I know that I will have to talk to her in the next few nights about how, yes, we are apes, yet Mrs. O doesn't know everything about taxonomy, and that I'm proud of her for sticking to her guns regardless of the kids laughing at her and the teacher disagreeing with her. I'll have to discuss how the topic of humans as animals and apes will lead into the very sensitive subject of evolution for many kids in her class, since they are taught that humans were created, and this somehow conflicts with them being apes. I don't really understand it, I can't get my mind around why that's a conflict, but it is and we have to be aware of that.

Which leads into why Mrs. O let the class laugh at her and agreed with them. She can't and won't get into an evolution/creation discussion (if I came in because she said humans aren't apes, imagine the parents she'll have storming in about her saying we are apes..... I guess, even though I still insist it isn't a true evolution topic. Yet, I did come in with the idea that her insistence we aren't apes stemmed from some force keeping her from even remotely dismissing creationism..... is it all in my head, or not? I mean, Natassia has been pounded by religious fundamentalist (mostly Christian and LDS) classmates this whole school year, I am already sensitive to her - or perhaps in reality my - beliefs getting trounced. No, it's not just in my head, because Mrs. O did say she wants to avoid parents on the other end of the faith spectrum getting angry over this.)

So, this all winds down to questioning authority. Should she believe the teacher, or her parents? Should she toss both aside and find her own truths, as it were? When is it appropriate to say to a teacher, or a parent, "No, you're wrong." (and, do I put a question mark in there, or keep it as a period?) When should she simply dismiss her teacher/parent and not cause a disruption, and when should she insist that her views be taken seriously and be given due consideration and respect? Should she have just sat there and let the kids laugh at her, or should she have insisted that she is right and keep insisting until the teacher stops the laughter and tells the class that Natassia is entitled to her beliefs and respect for those beliefs?

I hate it when I have to bite my tongue and let my peers or superiors say and or do something I completely disagree with. Sometimes I'm ashamed that I did nothing. I struggle with this issue myself all the time... how do I help guide my kids through it as well?

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