Mamatography/week 11: travels in Portugal

Okay, this is week 11 (week 11, folks!!) of our photo-a-day for a year challenge we are playfully calling Mamatography. This week was a week of visiting old haunts and old friends across Portugal, my home-land.

I am about two weeks behind on uploads, alas – but as you can see, I have been keeping the snapping up.

day 68:

just me and Pipoca on our own in Belem, near Lisbon. I used to hang out there a lot, as a teenager. We took the tram there (which she looooooooves!) and then wondered round and chilled. It was a fun, relaxing day. Alas, because I was carrying her (in backpack) plus my bag I didn’t take the ‘good’ camera, so this is all point-and-shoot action:

while we were checking out the big fountain near the monastery, a huge group of students approached with megaphones. At first I assumed it was some kind of protest… then it transpired it was a mass hazing event:

they lined the new students up by the side of the fountain (while it was, mercifully, off) and what was coming next slowly becomes obvious!…

oh, yeah, baby! The older students ‘forced’ the new intake to jump in. This kind of (sometimes even aggressive) hazing is famous in Portugal. First year students know it is coming. I always dreaded it (and then avoided it all together by going to study in the UK instead) but I must say this event here was all done in a super jovial atmosphere with much giggling, singing and photo-taking (by the proud and smiling ‘hazees’). They really did all seem to be bonding and having fun!

day 69:

Road Trip: wooohooo! Grammy drives the wagon across the country:

Vo-vo sleeps in the car:

Mommy tries to look cool with Vo-vo’s oversized fashion glasses.

baby takes a nap, too :)

day 70:

Spring, lovely time to be in Portugal. We had arrived at our destination, here, Castelo de Vide, in time to see the almond trees in full bloom.

Grammy and Vo-vo stroll into town for a coffee and a swing.

Grammy gives Pipoca a piggy back ride to the kiddy park:

and walking through Castelo de Vide:

[oh, this photo had so much potential… if only I could have come back at another time of the day AND if only my toddler would pose as I want her to AND… well you get the picture… :p]

day 71:

on to another destination, to spend a few days with some dear, lovely old friends (who declined to be made famous through exposure on this blog), but here is baby stylin’ in the car on the way over…

and then our friends took us for a picnic near this 7000+ year old stone circle in Alentejo, Portugal. I LOVE this stuff and literally talk to the stones… not so crazy, right? But here is the thing: I swear the stones talk back :)

day 72:

Pipoca playing at V’s house. This is the first time she ever asked me to take a photo of her, she said, ‘take a shot of this, mama’ (well… in Portuguese :)

day 73:

cute photo and… notice the ancient city walls in the background :)

One of the things that shocked me in Portugal was seeing little toddlers running around with sugary biscuits in their hands. I am used to being surrounded by hyper-health conscious, super-nutrition-educated California moms who often don’t give their kids sugar at all… much less by routine, everyday in the playground. Kind of weird to this ex-pat.

Nica was VERY happy with her apple :)

day 74:

ugh… and we were off on another adventure this time to another dear friend’s house. But I was only there for an afternoon and we were having so much fun catching up and letting our two littles hang out that I didn’t get much time to shoot. Bellow is a photo-fail of me trying to grab a shot of her jumping on the trampoline. You’ll have to auto-fill-in and imagine the action and giggles for yourself!

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P.S. as you may have noticed, travelling to Europe has meant that I am, essentially, two weeks behind on posting!!! I am trying to catch up plus I have several (word) posts in the final stages of editing. Man I need more time… or a nanny!  :)

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Are you up for a challenge? One that will take something from you every day, but give a whole lot back too? How about joining me for the photography challenge in 2012 then? A photo a day of whatever your day involved. You can jump in any time through the year!

If you’d still like to join us, you can start at any time, just sign up here and our host will email you further information.

Without further ado, here is the current list of all participants for Mamatography 2012 so far!

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Mamatography/week 10: surprise visit to grammy, in Portugal

Sooooooo, here at last is last weeks installment of our 366 adventure, now in Portugal. (Sorry it is so late, but you know/can imagine how it is with flying across an ocean with a two year old… on my own!) These are the photos of our first week here. If you remember, I flew to Lisbon to surprise my mother for her birthday. She loved her ‘present’ as we knocked on her door and waved a birthday card at her, saying ‘you just can’t trust the post these days, so we thought we’d deliver it ourselves!’ Alas, I failed to take the crucial ‘surprise face’ photo but I can reveal it looked much like this :O !!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, here’s what we got up to that week from packing to enjoying time with grandma and grandpa:

day 60

the day before our big adventure… here pictured chillin’ out and reading a good book, trying to create an oasis of calm energy in the midst of a sand-storm of activity and preparations for an 18 hour trip:

day 61

in the airport, with daddy (who drove us there and stayed to say bye-bye). We’ll miss you. See you in three weeks, daddy!!

riding the suitcases:

in the airplane, watching ‘toons (an exciting treat):

day 62

connecting with Grammy after the big surprise arrival!

[you can see I have been enjoying that (lazy) iPhone ap :p  ]

day 63

horrible self-portrait. hate it… but it is the best photo of a bad batch and I was having too much fun, catching up with my parents to slow down and think about photos. This was taken at a seafood restaurant we went to. Yumm!

 day 64

still getting over our jet lag and settling in, this was taken when we went shopping for some basic goods at the local ‘mall’. I think this is pipoca’s first ever coin-operated ride  :)

day 65

my little diva, singing her heart out at the breakfast table.

and later that day…

at a dinner party in celebration of grammy’s birthday!! (guess who ate the first bit – scooped right off with the fingers)

day 66

a day with old friends (who asked not to be shown :) but first, a tram ride (she loves it and enthusiastically calls it the ‘leletico’, instead of ‘electrico’ – sweet)

day 67

start the day with visit to cafe with grammy and friend (not shown)

then afternoon with vo-vo on the beach:

(yes, I am working a ‘theme’ with this one)

1 Award, 7 Secrets I Have Been Keeping and 15 Mommy and Photography Blogs

I have been nominated for a Stylish Blog Award by the lovely Rachel of Racheous, bless her. It seems like this ‘award’ is one of those happy-viruses that gets you to play a game (which in this case involves answering some questions) and then tag other people, whose work you admire, to do the same. Here is the scoop on this one, to accept the award I must:

  • Thank and link back to the person who gave me this award.
  • Share 7 things about myself.
  • Pay it forward to 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
  • Contact those bloggers and tell them about the award.

So, first and foremost: thank you Rachel you are gracious as well as Racheous and I think everybody should go over and give you some blogging love. You deserve it truly.

7 secrets revealed:

  1. I suffer(ed) from postpartum anxiety. The symptoms are much eased now and, though they were scary to me, never interfered with the practical skills of mothering or indeed with my bond with my beautiful daughter, they just somehow cast a shadow of self-doubt over my inner being. More on this to come, no doubt, as I  have been meaning to blog about it forever but finding the words just didn’t come.
  2. We have not vaccinated Anya. We may or may not do so in the future. I was not vaccinated myself except for immunizations I had to have for school in Portugal (Tetanus) and some for travelling to exotic destinations. So far, at least, I chose to treat Anya naturally, only. For me this is a decision based in love. I know this is super controversial which is partly why I have not blogged about it yet, either. Again, consider this a teaser of posts to come.
  3. I hate sleep training.  Many people I know have done it and this is no judgment of them – you did what you had to do for your family. I can understand mammas that sleep train their babies as a last resort, because they have to, for themselves, for their sanity. I really get it. Honestly, nothing has brought so much empathy and understanding to me as motherhood. However, I don’t get it when it is defended as a good thing for babies or as a given for all families. I mean, I understand that it might be necessary for families to function, for mother’s (especially working mothers) to finally sleep. I don’t at all buy into the whole ‘getting babies to sleep on their own early helps them become more independent and better sleepers in the long run’ or the converse argument that ‘co-sleeping leads to soft, spoilt, dependent babies’. For one it doesn’t make sense that doing what at least 80% of the world does in bringing up kids leads to dependency and adults who can’t sleep properly. Clearly they can. And, for two, I was brought up like this myself and am perfectly good at ‘self-soothing’, thank you very much. In fact I have always been a great sleeper. My mum just trusted that when I was ready to sleep alone I would and guess what, it worked. I feel the same and am inspired to trust nature, biology and my baby’s own sense of inner timing in finding when she is ready to sleep on her own. [I wasn’t going to quote science ‘cos I think you can always distort or pick at research to make the point you want, but then topically the Times just published this: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1083020.ece with some of the arguments from neuroscience as to why co-sleeping is best for babies. So, there it is, one reading of the science on this.]
  4. I am drawn to unschooling. Alas, I am not sure it is for me, the whole home-schooling thing. I mean I think it is awesome and yet my feeling is that for it to work the parent doing the homeschooling has to have a real passion for it. After all, that is the point you are trying to impart to your kid. Unschooling is all about letting your kid follow their interests and trusting that they will be thus driven to learn what they need to, not only to further their hobbies but to get on in life. Now, surely, the best and highest way to ‘teach’ this is by example, no? So while I heartily embrace the principles of unschooling and totally want to encourage my kid to freely follow her passions, I need to follow mine too and see where they lead, and being a home-teaching (un-teaching?) mum may or may not be it. But then I still have time to see how that develops within me. In the meantime, I would say that my every interaction with my daughter has been in the spirit of unschooling or child-led learning and we are both the richer for it. I don’t force learning on her but I do watch closely and support her need to explore whatever is catching her interest at that time. Again, this may turn into a post in its own right. Watch this space.
  5. I have a guru. Yep, I am sure that sounds bizarre or unusual to many of you. I usually substitute it for the word ‘spiritual teacher’ which seems a bit more palatable, nowadays. Guru, in the original hindu, means ‘remover of darkness’. This points to the fact that a guru does not teach, they only remind you of your original essence by ‘removing’ what is not you, whatever doubt or insecurity is clouding  your vision. It is very sad to me that the word ‘guru’ has become synonymous with all kinds of crazy things, especially in the US. It is unfortunate, too, that most people automatically assume that those who have a guru are weak and dependent or something like that. For me having a spiritual teacher or guide is freeing – it is somebody who a) provides a living example of effortlessly being in the Now, not of human perfection – a contradiction in itself – but of living comfortably, harmoniously and effortlessly with imperfection, if that makes sense; and b) somebody who knows ‘me’ well and can catch my ego-mind at its tricks. Many very spiritual people don’t have a teacher. They say they don’t need one. That always sounds a bit like a paradox to me. If they think they are above teaching is that not a likely sign that their ego is in charge? Some people are at ease and done with ‘searching’ – that is another matter. But if they are in some sense still seeking some kind of relief or self-development and convinced they are better than those who turn to a guide… uh-oh: alarm bells. Only the ego would think it is above teaching and guidance, no? I do think we are in a new era where the role of the guru is much changed from the traditional role it had, mostly in India. Many people are waking up, becoming self-realised or enlightened through their own life-trials with no guru to guide their way… then again many people are not. But when the student is ready the teacher will come. No need to force it. I, too, used to think I didn’t need a teacher, now I am very grateful for the presence of Mooji in my life. The inner-guru still reigns supreme, of course, always. Your ultimate guide is God… or some may call it their inner voice or intuition but sometimes an outer voice of reason, that keeps us grounded and catches us out – especially when we think we have got ‘it’ – can be super useful.
  6. I like reality TV. I know, from the sublime to the ridiculous, ei? Well, there it is, I do. I have always been a people watcher and I consider my love of reality TV (things like Wife-Swap or The Apprentice) as a kind of extension of that. Many of my friends are surprised by this. Many of my friends don’t even own a TV and when they do watch a screen it is a documentary or a French film. I obviously attract that kind of intellectual friend… and yet as soon as they find out my own viewing habits, well… but it is all good fun to me and all about balance.
  7. I love my husband and my daughter dearly. I guess you already knew that, if you have been following this blog, but I just wanted to throw that in again, for good measure, ’cause you can never say that too much!

Blogs that I love:

On birthing and mothering:

  1. There’s a baby out there, that’s the reality – makes me laugh
  2. Uninteresting::Amo-isms – real, insightful, personal account of a journey through mommyhood
  3. Freechildhood –  opens my mind to birthing and mothering alternatives (but no activity on there of late… has she moved?)
  4. I’m unschooled. Yes I can write. –  lovely to learn about unschooling from the perspective of the (grown) kids
  5. Attachment Parenting – the title got me first but I keep reading for a ‘daddy’s perspective’
  6. Natural Mama –  kindred spirits, producing a blog full of insight and practical tips
  7. Erin Ellis Homebirth Midwife – strong on the politics of homebirth
  8. My Funny Bunny – cute, funny and linked to an ethical store
  9. Classic Mommy – down to Earth, human and easy to relate to
  10. Women in Charge – beautiful, healing and inspirational birth stories
  11. Journal of a Mom – touching, honest and with great, original photos, too
  12. Raising Kvell by Mayim Bianik (aka ‘Blossom’) a clear, passionate and articulate advocate for attachment parenting

For photographic inspiration:

  1. Beth Armsheimer – wowee! I love her tones and textures, they really capture a mood
  2. Becoming Mom – a mommy blog with GREAT photography
  3. Robyn Russell – OMG you have got to check out her newborn photos!!

And for good measure, one bonus slightly off-topic blog:

  1. Food Politics – interesting and informed commentary on, well, the politics of food :)

Super mom meets her match: ‘not quite together but just about doing it’ mum

SuperMom, in all her packaged glory

Image by happyworker via Flickr

I met super-mom the other day. Actually, I met a bunch of them. Scary thing. I finally made it to a different mother-and-me group I have been meaning to check out only to feel frankly intimidated by the level of togetherness of some of these mothers.

It was 9am and their hair was set, their make-up perfect, their clothes cute and ironed… one of them even baked cookies! I, on the other hand, turned up late with avocado stains on my trousers (from my baby’s breakfast), a smudge of food still on Anya’s face, and having forgotten to bring toys to entertain her while we talk! But hey, I was just happy to be out of the house.

Nothing changes. It is a grown-up version of high school. There are still super people and the rest of us. I still feel inadequate when I compare myself to the popular people, it is just that now they are mums rather than teenagers. It struck me that these super moms were probably cheerleaders, in their day. Nothing changes. As I look around this group of moms I realise that just because we are adults doesn’t mean we have grown up all that much, that we are all confident, with it, organised (as parents used to look, when we were kids). Yes, there are super confident, beautiful yummy-mummies… and there are others that are struggling to get by; some who seamlessly juggle career and kids, others who are picking spaghetti out of their hair 4 hours after the last meal. We are not all cut from the same cloth.

… Slowly, it also occurs to me that mothering is a skill that benefits from experience. I am beating myself up here, but, the moms I admire and learn from the most are usually second (or third or fourth) time moms. By the second child a talent for not sweating the little stuff, taking the rough with the smooth and riding the wave seems to have emerged even with the least confident-seeming mums.

I look again… how many of the ‘super mums’ are second time mums or have super-support-systems? Hard to tell for sure. But lines get more blurred.

Finally, as my inner teenager stops screaming, an old adage comes to me: ‘perfection is the enemy of good’. As I look at other mums and judge them to be flawless I remember that when you get to know people a little bit more you tend to find that everybody has their strengths and their weaknesses, their insecurities, their human foibles. That which looks perfect from afar may well turn out to be cracked if you get up close enough to see it. It is true that people tell me I look like a ‘natural’ at this parenting thing, all the time. Hahahah!… if only they knew.

And in truth, I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be ‘good’. I just want to love and be loved. I want to be perfect for my daughter, even in my imperfection. I want to be happy and proud of the kind of mother I become. I am ready to let go of (my idea of) perfect in order to work on the attainable: being as good as I can be, given my current knowledge, confidence and skills… and keep learning and growing. Maybe that is the secret of happiness.

Maybe it is not the ‘super moms’ I should be comparing myself to, but the ‘happy mums’… and maybe those are the ones who turn up with spagetti in their hair and a smile on their face as they remember their child having the time to explore and experiment freely and gleefully with their food. Maybe, I just need to ‘compare’ myself to me, let the inner me, the joy in my heart be compass. Heart full of joy: good day. Heart constricted and held tight (even if I look outwardly super, on-time, clean, tidy, beautiful, etc): not so good day. Phew. Exhale… Perhaps that is what our kids would want for us, too, not to be ‘super’ but to be happy. And don’t you just know those happy mums also have the happy, confident, outgoing, engaged kids? It has got to be that way, no?

Super-mom move over, an army of happy, relaxed, bumbling-through-it and learning-as-you-go mums are marching through with their dirty but smart, sassy kids, joyful as pigs in mud.