I was recently interviewed by YourBabyBooty.com, an amazing website full of empowering information for parents! Check out the video (click here, or on the image above or below) and share with anyone you know who's hitting up against a wall but knows, deep down, there must be a way through.
Christmas, over? Not if Kaspar has anything to say about it.
I took Kaspar to Austin's very own weekly Sunday morning Ecstatic Dance event today. It was exactly what you might imagine. I made this video about five minutes into the get-down; every time I watch it, I notice something different in the background that completely cracks me up. Only in Austin, y'all. (Kaspar's take? "When in Rome...") We had fun! Enjoy.
Kaspar gets his Folk Uke groove on (and breakfast sizzles in the background)
I had big dreams for a Spring Solstice and/or Buddha's Birthday party this year, but we've been so busy over the past couple of months (or, two years) that Easter ended up being a good minimum-planning-required fallback holiday option. I'm a big brunch girl, but not particularly invested in Easter as an excuse for one; Aaron, however, brought up both brunch and baskets several weeks ago, so brunch and baskets -- and an egg hunt -- all went down up in herrrr. Our Easter was low-key, festive and fun. Pretty much perfect. Have a look.
Exhibit A: The Easter Basket. Kaspar and I went shopping for his loot on Friday afternoon. I know these doings are supposed to happen secretly, but I already feel borderline uncomfortable with Kaspar's Santa Claus obsession (I have never said the dude is real, but Kaspar believes in him by cultural osmosis... And maybe because we somehow have six copies of The Night Before Christmas, which we only recently thought to put away until next December); I'm not about to start pretending there's an Easter Bunny. Plus, I didn't have time to shop until Friday afternoon, when Kaspar was also in my company. In any case, I didn't sweat it. I did put the bags of toys and such away when we got home. Kaspar knew he'd get them on Easter, even if he wasn't totally clear on when (or what) Easter would be.
He'd occasionally ask, "Can I open the Easter Basket?" and we'd tell him, "Not until Sunday!" Then on Saturday our response became, "Easter's tomorrow! You'll get your basket tomorrow." When Kaspar woke up this morning, I said (through my grog) "Happy Easter, buddy" and he asked, "Tomorrow?" I replied, "Today!"-- and it was game time. He jumped out of bed, chanting, "I want to open my Easter Basket right NOW. I want to blow bubbles!"
While he clearly remembered at least one of the items from our shopping excursion, he was surprised and delighted by the presentation-- everything was out of the bags and nested attractively among purple wooden 'grass' shavings in the basket, which I'd placed the night before at his seat at our kitchen table.
We got on the bubbles thing right away.
Some of our best family friends came over for brunch around 10:30. We all ate muffins, fruit and bagels ("Hey, Jesus was Jewish, right?") and watched the kiddos play.
Aaron ran out for plastic eggs from Walgreens, and hid them (we left them empty... why get fancy?) around our backyard. Kaspar and his very-best-bestie Finnegan took to the egg hunt like pros. We parents fawned over the cuteness of it all and took a million pictures.
It was all pretty idyllic, and easy and fun. Just the way Easter should be, right? And we wrapped it up by nap time. Pretty close, anyway.
Kaspar then jumped on our neighbors' trampoline for most of the afternoon.
Here's a video. Because, why not? (Btw, there's a big safety net around the trampoline, which you can't really see... it's there, though).
Happy Holidays, Y'all!
How is your family celebrating?
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.
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:
In New York, we were guaranteed visits from otherwise far-flung family and friends on a semi-regular basis. The combined factors of The Big Apple’s universal appeal and its sky-high hotel rates made for many an overnight guest (lots of day visitors, too). We showed a German relative around Times Square, Soho and Ground Zero—her requests— tourist traps I normally side-stepped, but actually enjoyed exploring with our out-of-towner (because who doesn’t love a naked cowboy?). We took friends and fam out to favorite restaurants, to live jazz in a jam-packed Harlem apartment with tin ceilings, to dance parties at PS1, to The Strand, the Village, Korea Town. And sometimes guests took ME out, to exhibits, the opera, to see the Rockettes at Radio City (that last one was actually a serious snore… sorry folks). Whatever we did, seeing the city through the starry eyes of passers-by always gave me a fresh perspective on the amazing metropolis in which we lived, on the many different worlds pulsing within it. And while I don’t pine now for life in New York (for living there, that is), I do miss being at the center of the passing-through universe, where face-time with our people, who live all over the world, was a reliable luxury.
Kaspar, my cousin Sep and live rockabilly sounds on S. Congress (Spring '11).
Given that Austin’s not, well, the center of the passing-through universe (except during South-By), or on the way to anywhere (except maybe Mexico), we’ve had an impressive number of visitors here, too. Our company’s just that good! All kidding aside, guests here definitely get a better Newman-guest experience (not that pop-up cots in the kitchen weren’t cool), and we still reap the rewards of showing our gypsy callers around town. While New York’s sights and sounds are infinite, Austin’s highlights can be counted on a pair of hands (though the number is growing), but seeing them with out-of-towners makes them extra fresh and fun for us, and reminds me of how unique this little city is, deep in the heart of Texas. I dare say I’ve acquired some ATX pride. Also, while we do travel whenever we can, getting off the ground takes a little more planning these days; we get our wanderlust fix vicariously through our guests between excursions of our own.
Kaspar also scores when guests come through. Since they’re usually here primarily to see us, rather than, say, us and The Statue of Liberty, and since Austin feels kind of out of the way, guests really focus in while they’re here… especially on the little guy. Just as we enjoy getting a taste of the transient’s take on our town, our traveler friends seem to savor the householder’s pleasures of home-cooked meals, couch-side conversation and (the ever popular) toddler bedtime.
Here's my brother's wife, Cate (who lives in Boston), reading to a very-smitten Kaspar before bed, several weeks ago:
Sometimes we get a date night out of the deal (suhweeet… Austin’s night-scene is really very fun), but we try not to rope our single-wanderer friends into more family time than their systems can handle (I well remember that while I always liked kids before having one, I also always liked giving them back). But our friends and family consistently request Kaspar time, and he adores the attention. I adore looking on. I’ve always felt it’s important that my kid(s… plural as in someday) be exposed to a wide array of positive, daring adults who show, through example, that there are many ways to walk this Earth (it takes a village and all). Luckily, we know a lot of positive, daring people who are walkin’ the Earth in style, both locally and remotely. It’s extra fun when the far-away ones walk this way.
Btw, if any of you readers ever come through Austin, let me know! We’ll show you the hottest playgrounds (literally) and the tastiest taco trucks.