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Kaspar got his first haircut this week—just in time for Thanksgiving. I’d been talking it up for days; Aaron promised me pre-pregnancy that if we ever had a little boy together, he could have a Mohawk until grew old enough to rebel and announce himself as a republican wanting a premature comb-over. I’m pretty sure Aaron thought the conversation a simple hypothetical at the time (hypothetical questions are my very favorite game. Such as: “Would you have gone on a second date with me if I’d been exactly the same as I am except for talking in a high-pitched voice and obsessively collecting Precious Moments figurines?”), but it came up again this fall when Kaspar expressed some frustration with his hair perpetually falling into his eyes (“Eeeyyyyes!”). It wasn’t Aaron I was talking the ‘hawk up to, though; he stuck to his word and agreed to it, no problem. It was Kaspar; I showed him some pictures and asked if he was in, then talked about clippers, and mimicked their sound—running my fingers along the sides of his head— for several days so that he wouldn’t be surprised by the actual experience. By the time we got to the barber-shop, which is less barbershop than Austin’s favorite hipster hair place (complete with bells and whistles like arcade games and free Shiner Bock... though no Bock for the babies, of course), he was pretty excited.

The day before Thanksgiving is evidently a popular time for haircuts, even at 10 a.m. We had a forty minute wait before Kaspar’s turn rolled around. He made himself at home flipping through magazines and manning a broom. The three hairdressers present had a rapid-turnover system down, and I could tell that they were interested in getting people in and out, getting paid, and getting out of there themselves. The usual laid-back hairdresser-hairdressee chatter wasn’t really in motion. Once Kaspar’s turn rolled around, our hair guy was all business. He had the booster cushion in the chair and asked what we wanted—no hello, no smile, etc.—and when I told him, he asked if I was sure, due to the clippers and all. I assured him we were ready, and he got to it. If I were to guess I’d say he wasn’t really a kid-person—he didn’t make any efforts to make Kaspar comfortable—but Kaspar was a total champ, and the cut was finished quickly. I realized afterward that the guy may have initially felt annoyed to be on first-haircut duty, thinking he’d have a crying kid on his hands; once he realized Kaspar was not that kid, he warmed up; he said “You look good!” to Kaspar when he was finished, and approached me when we were about to leave to tell me he’d noticed Kaspar’s scalp is a little dry, and to recommend I find some tea tree oil shampoo (we do our best to keep K’s scalp moisturized with a hypoallergenic shampoo, but I appreciated the gesture).

Kaspar does look good! He also loves his haircut. It’s attracting lots of attention from the ladies, and was a big hit at our Thanksgiving dinner (my parents were just in town for my birthday last week, so although Aaron’s mom invited us to Dallas, we opted to join some friends for dinner and keep it low key, party-style). He looks older to me, like the true toddler he is. And, while I’m always appalled by those beauty pageant parents who dress their children up like little dolls and rob them of their childhoods, I figured that Kaspar was due for a haircut of some kind, and even if I asked for a very normal, straight-laced version, I’d still be making a decision about his appearance. That’s part of my job right now, until he speaks up about his own style (we try to encourage this, too, by involving him in choosing his clothes, shoes, etc.). So we went with the perfect (in my opinion... and Angelina Jolie's, but that's purely coincidental) combination of cute and cool, and Kaspar is straight up rocking it.
 
 
We had a Murphy's Law kind of week up in here: Stomach flu (extra uncool for co-sleepers, for the record), broken phones and vehicles (utterly without warning), more bureaucracy than I even want to think about (two words: insurance renewal) and general chaos ensued. Yet, I bowed my head to the wind (and borrowed the babysitter's car...) and made it through three presentations at three separate conference-center locations, and a final exam, before finally collapsing into bed last night, feverish and begging whatever vengeful Voodoo god I've wronged to take pity on my poor, spent soul. My message must have been received, because I felt just fine today, and having no wheels and no desire to wander, spread out on the deck with Kaspar-- and some watercolors-- to wait out this full moon. 

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With Columbus Day just behind us and Thanksgiving just ahead, this time of year always feels a little disconcerting to me (hello, elephant in the room). What I always wonder is: which history are we celebrating here (and can we really pick and choose)? OH right. American history: invasion, false treaties, slavery, genocide. With a very glossy finish. Let me count the ways. 

The thing is, a dirty past does no good just left there, unexamined. We have to honestly assess the damage and then make the very best possible causes for righting all that's gone wrong. Having recently watched this haunting TEDX talk by our good friend Aaron Huey, and then last week heard this heartbreaking, infuriating story on NPR's All Thing's Considered, our country's collective hypocrisy has been on my mind more than usual this year.

The good news is that Huey's work has attracted national attention, and since evolved into a collaborative billboard campaign for Pine Ridge, enlisting the artistic talents of Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena and Huey himself. And the NPR reporting in South Dakota has sparked a congressional investigation, as well as efforts by the Lakota People's Law Project to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act. Americans-- native and otherwise-- do care about this history, and this present, we all share. People can work together to create positive change.

And meanwhile, here in Texas, The Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival celebrated its 20th year bringing the diverse cultures, traditions, heritage and foods of this country's original residents to the general public (for free) in an enormous, impressive event just five minutes from our new home. So, naturally, we went to check it out. 

It was a blast. From the story tent, to the food court (featuring lots of traditionally prepared dishes), to the drumming, to the dancing, this was a seriously happening scene. It had a great turnout, too, despite Fun Fun Fun fest taking place this same weekend (we're going tomorrow). I could tell just from people-watching outside that many friends and families meet up at the event each year, and have for a long time; kids ran around together as their adult companions compared notes on everyone's recent news, and on which notable dancers would be competing this evening (hefty cash prizes are given to the competition's winners, so the dancers the event attracts are nationally known, and really top-tier). Yet having never been to the powwow before ourselves-- and not knowing anyone there except the friends we came with-- we still felt entirely welcome and included. Kaspar was fascinated by the traditional costumes, and head-dresses (okay, I was way psyched about these, too), and everyone he (or I) approached was more than happy to chat about what they were wearing, where they came from and what we should be sure to see before leaving. 
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Given the history referenced at top, I had to hand it to everyone involved in this thing for making a point of providing access to the event to the greater community. In fact, the event's website states up-front that:

The mission of Great Promise is to preserve the traditions, heritage and culture of American Indians, and to support the educational and health needs of their youth and families. We do this to honor the past, and to ensure the future. We work to dispel myths about American Indians, and to educate the public about their many nations and cultures.

I think they've done a phenomenal job in realizing this mission. And I think it's important to note that these efforts-- to preserve, to support, to honor and to educate-- are coming from within the Native American community. From the outside, we sometimes only see the images of poverty on reservations, hear the stories of the broken treaties and learn about ongoing and outrageous injustices like those in South Dakota. And while these are incredibly relevant aspects of the history and present situation for American Indian people, so are the rich cultural traditions and open-hearted, self-empowered activities like those taking place at the Austin Powwow. Struggle and subjugation are not the whole story here. It's crucial that we recognize history's whole truth-- that we do, in fact, acknowledge the elephant in the room on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving (and any day, really)-- but recognize also that the story is complex, with many layers. It is also still being written. Or told aloud, created now. And the story told today was one of celebration, for a past and a future, of expanded communities, and appreciation across cultural lines. I felt invited warmly into its depths, into its telling.

Btw, I'm interviewing the above-mentioned NPR story's reporter early next week, and will blog up the Q&A next weekend on Parenting.com. Let me know if there are any specific  questions you'd like passed on.

And now for more Austin Powwow awesomeness:

Here's Kaspar getting a handle on the dancing from our seats (plus our friends, with their sweet baby Hudson, who we went with):

And here he is about ten minutes later, totally feelin' it:
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Kaspar befriended a young, self-described aspiring Medicine Man from Round Rock, TX.
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Stunning!
 
 
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Supa-cute Baby E sporting a hand-dyed tee and crib sheet.
For those of you that didn’t catch wind of this, Austin was stupid-hot this summer. Like, days and days and days of 100+ degree heat kind of hot. It was brutal. And although our apartment complex featured a small, shaded pool to which we ventured across the non-shaded parking lot each day around 3 pm (when we just couldn’t take our imprisonment anymore), we eventually grew bored. Of the pool. Of the bathtub. Of crayons. Of crayons on walls. Of all the other air conditioned baby-friendly places in Austin.

Then I got an idea for a project. And a glimmer of hope and transformation shone in the distance, somewhere beside the blinding, blazing hot sun.

Two of my friends were pregnant at the time. Which makes me look pretty lame for bitching about the heat, but hey, it was bad for everyone (though no doubt the worst for them… To be fair, we did extend an open invite to the pool to the Austin Mama… And she sure cashed in, believe you me). One of these pregnant friends was back in New York, too, and she actually inspired my project. I wanted to send her a gift, something that somewhat approximated the in-person girl-date we’d have otherwise had were I not landlocked on the hottest spot on the planet, and wherein I'd take her out for lunch, manicures and the mom-to-be business of good friends. I wanted to make her something that would simultaneously build upon her excitement, welcome her little one, and communicate my love for her whole fam (which would soon expand to three).
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Baby E. "before"-- her mom's supa-cute, too, and internet-shy. :-)
And I wanted it to be colorful. So that’s when it came to me: I was going to rock some dye! I was going to mix up colors and let all of the white fabrics I could find just steep in the heat, become saturated and bright and bold. Fuck pastels. These babies—both of them girls—were late-summer arrivals, and August don’t mess. Not in Austin, and not in Brooklyn. Color was called for. Loud and clear.

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A Happy Chewbacca
We had plans to trick-or-treat with three other families, but ended up canceling the powwow due to our family's current status as total germbags. This head cold that Kaspar carried home from daycare over a month ago has been circulating through our ranks ever since. Kaspar and Aaron, while still snot-covered and coughing (respectively), have mostly recovered. I, however, held out until about Friday, when this thing finally took me down, and hard. I've taken about twelve hot showers since then (the congestion war is on), but haven't changed out of my lounge pants. I feel pretty gross. Omit the pretty. But, I've got my echinacea and my juicer, and I'm skipping class and work today in the name of R&R. Sick days aren't what they used to be (i.e. my R&R is up at noon when K arrives back home), but I've got a whole lot of stuff to do, so the goal here is a fast recovery.

We'll see our family friends soon enough, but I was seriously disappointed to be sick during Halloween; Kaspar was going trick-or-treating for the first time, and we decided Aaron would accompany him, while I stayed home wallowing in my sicky filth. I loaded Aaron up with the Epi Pen and camera (adding that the former better not get used, and the latter better get filled). Then couldn't help myself, and trailed them on their first stop of the trick-or-treat tour (costumed as a, um, crackhead). 

Holy cuteness. So glad I did.  

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For the record, Aaron is not freakishly tall. This is an angle-driven optical illusion (and Kaspar is really pretty short, so...).
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Signing for "more" blueberries.
Kaspar and I had practiced the trick-or-treat routine. He was on board for one round, but lost interest after that first house. Aaron took him for a little walk in the stroller and started up another driveway, but Kaspar preferred to keep strolling. Fine by us. I went home, and the boys returned in about five minutes (Kaspar was yawning).

I'd been a little concerned that confiscating Kaspar's loot would traumatize him for life. It just seems so wrong, as a concept; Aaron and I both remember rolling in our giant candy stashes, as kids, at the end of the night, and making ourselves sick on Reese's cups. But, Reese's cups are bad news bears for Mr. Allergy over here, so, confiscate we must. I'm happy to report that trading blueberries for candy went over like a charm. I'm still hell-bent on curing Kaspar of all allergy-related stuff (we're still rocking the Chinese herbs, and adding Homeopathy back into the mix... More on that soon), so am not going to think ahead as to whether this trick will work again next year. We'll take next year as it comes. I'm just glad this year's holiday didn't end with a sad Chewbacca. Quite the contrary.

After Kas was in bed, Aaron and I hunkered down on the couch to watch Midnight Cowboy and eat Almond Joys, occasionally peeking through the blinds at the little flashlight beams trailing up and down the street, and listening to the happy chatter as our trick-or-treaters claimed their prizes on our front porch. In lieu of actually scaring the shit out of all of our new neighbors (my voice is totally shot, so I sound like I'm talking through one of those Christopher Reeve voicebox things), I put out our candy with an honor-system sign and called it done.

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Kaspar dipping into our own supply.
What did your kids (and/or you) dress as? And for those of you with food-allergic kiddos who are old enough to know you're stealing their candy... how do you swing it? 

And, welcome to November! It's my birthday month. I'll be 27 by the time it's over. That's freaking me out. But that's another post for another day.


I hope you all had a Happy Halloween!



xoxo