msLaura: Modern Mama Laura Hamilton + Dan Baker = Julian Hamilton Baker & Adrian Hamilton Baker "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her."
- Adrienne Rich



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the portable baby


recent posts
Exclamation Point! Exclamation Point!

My beef with Paul Theroux

Good and bad

Having a Ball


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« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

April 14, 2006

Exclamation Point! Exclamation Point!

Hysterical Dooce blog today about hate mail she has received. Excellent laugh-out-loud reading.

Makes me glad that I have a readership of about five people, plus the random search engine people who came looking for photos of freeballing.

April 10, 2006

My beef with Paul Theroux

I have been reading Paul Theroux lately. He's a very prolific writer, probably most famous for his travel writing, and for writing "The Mosquito Coast", which was later made into a movie with Harrison Ford.

I read "The Happy Isles of Oceania", which was wonderful. PT travels to 51 islands in the South Pacific, starting in Australia and making his way to Hawaii. He takes along a collapsible kayak and camping equipment, and travels as much of the way as he can under his own power. He stays in a lot of remote villages, but really he goes everywhere and comments on what he sees along the way. Sometimes things are rough, and he gets crabby and acerbic about trash on beaches and polluted lagoons and fast-food loving islanders living on the dole, but it's all very entertaining and thought-provoking.

Now I'm reading "The Pillars of Hercules", which is about his trip around the Mediterranean. He starts at Gibraltar and, over the course of 18 months, he travels all the way around Spain, France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa, and finally ends up in Ceuta, which is a rock of an island very close to Gibraltar, at the mouth of the Mediterranean where it meets the Atlantic. (Gibraltar and Ceuta are the two "Pillars of Hercules")

I literally couldn't put either of these books down. He's a really great writer, plus it's a trip that's interesting. You want to see what's around the next corner, what happens next.

My big beef with him is not a direct beef. It's just that *I* could never make the kinds of solo voyages and explorations that he does, because he's a man, and I'm a woman. He travels all over, and asks people all kinds of questions about their culture, politics, everything. In a lot of the more traditional places you don't even *see* the women out and about. He meets several women traveling alone who are being harassed by locals, soldiers, police, etc., and he has to step in and speak up for them to drive the a-holes away.

I didn't know anything about the guy, except that I had heard his name fairly often ("the travel writer Paul Theroux") and he was on my list of authors to read. Today I Googled him to get some biography, and I found an interview with him where he says this:

Theroux is obviously immensely proud of his sons. Raising them, he says, was the most rewarding thing he's ever done, and he talks of their childhood years as if they were the happiest of his own life. For the 18 years he lived in London, he spent most of his time at home, writing, while his wife, Ann, worked as a producer at the BBC World Service.

'It made me very intolerant of the wife and mother who complains because her husband's off at work. It's great being at home with the kids! I never saw them as an irritation. I never knew bad years. I never knew strife with them. I loved it.

'But also I was happily married. It was a nice household. We had moments of great happiness which are peculiarly English - we used to play games a lot, word games, silly games - Squeak, Piggy Squeak.' He laughs.

'Can you be happier than when you're with your children and a bunch of people, you've had a couple of drinks and you're playing Squeak, Piggy Squeak?'

He was lucky, he says; family life accommodated his urge to travel. He would go off for weeks, sometimes months at a time, 'and no one ever said, Oh God you're going away. They'd say, it's exciting; tell us about it. And I would get very sentimental when I was away. I'd see domesticity being acted out in another place - people with their kids, going to a school play, going on a picnic, and I always found that difficult. I missed it.'

Theroux pauses and thinks about this. 'I'm talking as if I want it back. But it's a period of life that you have, and if you've done it well it's wonderful, and then you move on from it.'

So I also have a slight beef with him personally, because he scoffs at women who get sick of being at home with the kids, but then again, he can just pack up and take off for months at a time whenever he likes! NOT exactly the situation of the typical mother.

It's his job, OK, but STILL. Who is taking care of the kids while he's gone? If I were taking off on solo trips on a regular basis, I'm sure I'd be a lot more patient too. Not that I want to go on solo trips right now, but you know what I mean. Anything is easy if you *choose* to do it and can take off whenever you want to. I think his memories are based on his sons as *older* children too, not as fussy toddlers.

It's a minor beef, but I had to bring it up. I did love this part though:

'Can you be happier than when you're with your children and a bunch of people, you've had a couple of drinks and you're playing Squeak, Piggy Squeak?'

Because really, it's so true. There is nothing more fun than playing with your child when everyone's relaxed and happy and there are friends around. I've never been to a hip party that was more fun than a good backyard BBQ can be with good food, good wine, good friends, and kids running around having a blast.

Dan and I have a grand old time playing with Julian before dinner, eating cheese and quaffing a nice glass of wine, tickling, kicking the ball, laughing, wrestling. Bugs always has to jump in and provide some comedy too. Domestic life with kids is a drag sometimes, but when it's good it's the happiest, most pleasurable experience there is.

I can't wait for the word games. And I definitely need to find out more about this Squeak, Piggy Squeak!

Good and bad

Time for an update. I've been posting a lot of external stuff, and references and links, but not a lot about my personal life since the miscarriage.

Well, things have been good and bad lately.

1) Business is booming. I'm getting a lot of good feedback from people, and I feel like I've made a significant contribution to their quality of and dad can now get the hell out of the house without toting a ton of crap, strollers, etc. They can go for a walk, or a hike, stroll downtown with their baby, travel around...hassle-free. More time enjoying their baby and living life instead of being tied down with a bunch of heavy crap.

I also got two new contract web design projects, which are easy-peasy and low-key. No hard deadlines, just pretty catalogue sites. No real thought required. I can put myself on auto-pilot, sit down at my laptop, and crank away. *Getting* the time to do so is another matter, but the work itself is easy and satisfying. So that's nice, because I've burned through all my savings building up my business and buying inventory. Now it's paying off, but I need to rebuild my reserves a bit faster. I hate having no savings. Thanks to the influence of my Jewish husband, I am no longer a financially irresponsible idiot. Hooray! So these contract jobs are all good.

2) Dan is putting Julian to bed now. It's like a happy dream-come-true every night as I kiss the boy and pass him over to Daddy for rocking. They get bonding/cuddling time together. I get a long shower, and time alone with a book in bed. Or catching up on emails on my laptop and doing web work (see above). Or grooming. Whatever I'm missing in my daily life. I am so grateful. I will gladly get up in the middle of the night, wake at the first light of dawn...just don't make me put the kid to bed after a long day. I absolutely hate it. By that point, if Julian does anything but close his eyes and immediately drop off to sleep, I go ballistic. Too burnt OUT by then, and I'm usually exhausted too.

3) Lots of good books to read. See #2.

4) Daylight savings time is here. It doesn't get dark until 7:30pm now! Too bad it's been raining for about 4 months nonstop, which feels like forever (see BAD).

5) Julian's language skills are moving along at light speed. He is quite the little communicator and, when he's not having a meltdown (see BAD), or sick (see BAD) he's a very lively and amusing companion.

6) Dan and I are getting along great. Not only because of #2, but overall our home life is sweet and loving. He helps me out a lot around the house, and cuts me slack when I'm tired and sick (see BAD) and cranky. He's having his own frustrations with his job, but he's still being loving and helpful and patient and a good father and sweet husband. And sexy! Mmmmm! I'm very glad that I married this man.

1) Sickness! Crankiness!
First I had a miscarriage, then just when I stopped bleeding I got a nasty-ass cold that wiped me out for about two weeks solid. I felt horrible. Every movement was torture. Just completely exhausted, not sleeping, not eating, feeling like shit on a shingle.

Julian never got the cold outright, but he has been running a fever off and on for about two weeks, with an occasional runny nose and major, massive crabbiness to go along with it. He just melts down all day long, over everything and nothing. I'm sure it's because he feels sick, but after half a day of crying and whining I am definitely ready to sell him on eBay. Which is why I'm so eternally grateful to Dan for stepping in and taking over when I'm ready to lose my mind and be a Bad Mom.

And finally, my mom has had a flu that has lasted for two months, which means that it's likely pneumonia by now. She hasn't seen a doctor, and the whole thing is just bad, bad, bad. She sounds terrible. I need to go down and see if I can help, find out what's going on, get her to a doctor, but I need to wait until Julian is over his *whatever*, because the last thing I want to do is bring down yet another cold/flu bug and expose her to it.

So yeah....sickness is a major BAD lately.

2) I finally wrote my Dad a letter about, well, everything that has been bothering me for the past 10 years. I tried to do it diplomatically, as a way of opening dialogue with him, and getting that load of weighty bad feelings off my chest and out in the open. The guy never even responded. It's been almost a month. One of my main complaints is that he acts like his new family is the only one he's ever had. Not only does he ignore me, he ignores Julian, didn't even call or send him a card on his birthday, and every time the subject of being a grandfather comes up, he finds a way to turn the subject to his own mortality. I guess the primary emotion he feels when he ponders his only grandson is "HOLY SHIT, I'M GETTING OLD." Nice. So to not even get a response...well, that justifies my complaint, wouldn't you say? Of course, it's possible that my missive got lost, or was never opened, or whatever. I need to follow up. But right now I'm still too bent. I need to calm down a bit first.

3) The weather just sucks. STILL. Not only is it unseasonably cold, but it just. won't. stop. raining. It's killing me. I'm daydreaming of blazing hot sunny weather. I have been cold for so long that I can't even imagine what it's like to be hot, and hot just sounds good right now. A blazing desert sun...mmmmm. Not wearing a sweater and pants and wool socks...unimaginable! We can't go to the park, we can't go on hikes, can't keep up on gardening, etc.

Julian and I hate being stuck inside. I was going to yoga and taking him to the childcare there, but then he always either caught a cold or else he was the only kid there, and therefore had a miserable time. I'm sick of all the indoor alternatives. I just want to play outside. Stop raining already! We need a social life! We need playground time and fun outings and picnics and hikes and all that stuff. I'm a California girl, I don't know how to amuse myself during interminable winters. Let me outside!

My garden is so overdue for some attention. But it's just too cold out there. On a warm day, there's nothing I love better than working in the garden. But when it's cold and rainy..forget it. I didn't even plant a winter crop this year. And I plan on getting some chickens, but I don't want to get them when it's so crappy outside. Welcome to your life with us chickens! Now have fun out there in your coop. We'll never come and visit you, or hang out in the backyard with you while it's this crappy outside. See you when the weather gets better.

I think that finishes my list of good and bad for now.

Having a Ball

Having a ball, originally uploaded by mslaura.

Here are my men, big and little (and even furry). Aren't they great?

April 02, 2006


Back in December, I started a group called GoBabyGo for local moms to get out with their kids and go hiking together. Since the SF Bay Area (and especially the Peninsula and South Bay) has so many incredibly beautiful open spaces, the hiking possibilities are almost endless. Within 45 minutes of my house I can go to redwood forests, gorgeous beaches, chaparral-covered hillsides, silvery marshes full of birds on stilt legs, bucolic meadows, rivers and lakes and reservoirs. It's really amazing. And here are all these moms isolated at home with their kids, putting on weight and losing their minds. Payng hefty prices for the privilege of living here, but not really enjoying it.

Plus, I got tired of hiking alone with Julian, and not having enough opportunities to hang out with the cool moms I met through The Portable Baby who were actually interested in getting out and doing stuff.

GoBabyGo is up to 56 members now. I can't believe it! And the mamas that come on the hikes are so great. I think I've finally found my village.

The only bad points are:
1) The weather is AWFUL this winter. We only had a few days in March that weren't rainy and cold. Now it's finally warmer, but stil raining. Here's the weather forecast for the next 5 days:

and the extended forecast? SAME. The result is that we have barely gotten out and about, except during the brief moments of non-rain.

2) Most of the moms live up in San Mateo/Palo Alto, so it's not like we can drop over for lunch or a cup of coffee or anything. Still, I'll take what I can get.

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