Wednesday, February 17, 2010

McGyver Visits Mexico

Call me McGyver, but I solved this family's bed problems! I am happy to say that last night, all 3 of us had a restful time. Anya was not flopping around like a fish-out-of-water all night, and we all had plenty of space for our sharp elbows. Here's how we did it:

From Oaxaca Sabbatical: Days 1-3

We turned our bodies 90 degrees, and added the couch (with the butt & back cushions stacked) up to catch our feet. Anya can sleep on the part without the couch-extension because, you know, she's 2 feet tall.

We did make a couple of optimizations after the first night of this setup (when the photo was taken). For example, we had our bedspread laundered, and are using that instead of the too-small pink blanket to cover us. And I put the folded pink blanket over the arms of the couch, because I was hitting my shins on them. And I put a rolled-up 3rd blanket (on loan from nat & gus) under the headboard so that Anya can't roll in there and hurt herself. The second night was blissful.

One thing I'm still getting used to is the terrible pollution (noise and air) when walking around in the city. The cross streets (like the one we live on) are quieter and cleaner, but the north-south streets are loud and smelly. The fumes make me a little nauseated, and I feel really bad for Anya's little lungs. Maybe we'll avoid walking around during peak traffic times; I doubt she would really tolerate wearing a surgical mask or anything like that. The lucky thing is that the pollution seems concentrated near the source - the air feels pretty clean in our apartment and courtyard, and it's very tranquil.

Our only parenting fail so far is that we forgot to protect Anya's little feet from the sun. We generally keep her face covered up when she's in the carrier, but her shins and feet stick out, and now they have turned like 8 shades darker than the rest of her. She doesn't seem to mind, and thanks to solid south-asian genetics, she hasn't burned. We have been making an effort to stay in the shade during peak hours (for our own sakes) so hopefully there is no damage done.

Also we bathed Anya in a tupperware tub that was a little smaller than one of those USPS plastic bins (you know what I'm talking about?). Basically just big enough for her to sit in with her knees scrunched up, though luckily, she insists on standing, so that made it less cramped. It was pretty hilarious, but got the job done. Normally one of us just carries her in the shower with us, but she tends to drink lots of water when we do that, so we figured we should probably avoid that in mex.

Hm...yesterday was a little more challenging than the first 2 days. I felt more challenged by Spanish, and got a little worn out from the heat and pollution (made some bad choices about when/where to walk, and ended up carrying heavy groceries home at 2pm in the hot sun - though G did most of the carrying, thankfully). Also, G went for a shave & haircut, and came back with lots of cuts under his chin, which was alarming at first, but fine in the long run (they use a new blade for each customer and lots of alcohol-based products, so no worries). I was so tired that I almost didn't go out for beer/nachos with our friends; thank god I went, because I felt *so* much better afterward, and met some new people who all seem awesome.

Today has been great so far. We're all well rested, had amazing coffee and a yummy scramble for breakfast with super-fresh tomatoes, and are laptopping in the courtyard while the bearcub naps. I plan to check out the bilingual library today to get some books for all of us. Also I have been delighted by the awesomeness of the produce here - I've been buying what I think will last 3 days, and using it all up in one meal. So I'll be making another journey to the market soon.

I finally posted photos & videos, so if you haven't seen them, follow the link from the photo above!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wu-Tang is for the Children

We all remember that time that Ol' Dirty Bastard (may he rest) crashed the grammys (or something), and proclaimed that Wu-Tang is for the children. Similarly, I am proclaiming that this current adventure, our 5-week long sabbatical in Oaxaca, Mexico, is for Anya. "She will see so many new things! Be so stimulated! Learn so much! Be exposed to Spanish!" Obviously this is all complete BS. Anya is just a baby. She would probably always prefer to stay in our little condo in Adams Morgan, cuddled up with her mommy and daddy on the couch, or sitting under my desk chewing on the power strip.

That said though, she has been a trooper so far. We arrived the night before last; she was fantastic on the flights, and has been napping in the backpack or quietly taking it all in while we roam around. She didn't seem to mind when it got hot yesterday afternoon, though she would always bury her face in G's back when the sun hit her in the eye (good reflexes? check.). She still has not adjusted to the new bed - this whole family slept very lightly and woke up about 500 times both Saturday and Sunday night. Anya was sleeping fitfully, the blanket was too small, and the bed might be a little smaller than our one at home, which is already too small for this family of 3 extremely sharp-edged Indians. I don't think this is a major issue; we'll acquire a new blanket, and will adjust in a day or two. Worst case, we train her to sleep in her little play pod, though I don't know if either G nor I have the perseverance to train Anya to do anything.

I think my first 24 hours were dominated with germ paranoia. I was trying to find a reasonable middle ground; I am not normally one to worry about such things, but I think it would be a disaster if Anya or I got sick, especially in the first few days before we know what the hell is going on. It was a tradeoff between tasty street food vs. trying to figure out another option when we were hungry. The street food won out, but we took care to only eat cooked stuff (ok, and maybe a dash of salsa). Luckily, so far so good.

The other thing that I tried to worry about was whether or not Anya should crawl around on the floor. It took maybe 20 minutes of holding the wriggling mass before I was like F it - she's going to crawl. So far so good there too. We'll try and wipe down the floors pretty often.

The hardest thing for me about using Spanish is that I start to panic every time I try to speak. This morning, I had a series of successful exchanges, and the panic problem seems to have subsided. Its SO much easier to think of words when you're not panicking! I was able to get some supplies from the landlady and ask about procedures (laundry, etc.), and buy lots of veggies from vendors.

Speaking of which, Natalie took us to the market today and we bought chicken, produce, and some spices. G and August had made a grocery run yesterday for milk, cereal, coffee, etc. We're getting set up! I'm getting a picture of what our days will be like, and I'm liking it!

Its lovely to be all set up here. We are living in a little complex with a bunch of retirees from Minnesota (why are all the American tourists in Mexico always from Minnesota?). Our apartment is adorable. I am adjusting to the india-style floors and bathroom (don't worry, western toilet, just india-style shower). Photos will be provided soon. Our apartment opens onto a wonderful garden/courtyard with tables and chairs. The kitchen is great. Its all great.

My main anxiety now is how to wrangle this adorable creature I call my daughter. She's sleeping less and moving more. She is not yet used to Natalie and August (our awesome friends here), so we can't even really hand her off yet for a break. I guess we'll be taking lots of walks with her in the carrier. Cest le vie (anyone know how to say that in Spanish)?

Ok - that's all I've got for now. Sorry for all the repetition, disorganization, and lack of photos in this post. The wiggle worm calls. Will try to be better about it in the future!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Five Most Annoying Phrases in Product Reviews

#1 - "Exactly what I expected - but I only gave it four stars because I haven't tried it yet"

When reading reviews for baby products, I think about 90% of all products have one of these reviews. Something along the lines of "I got this for my baby shower! It was great! I was able to set it up over my 8 month pregnant belly with minimal assistance from my super-handy husband! But...I don't have a baby yet, so I have no idea how this functions in the real world."

You people clearly do not understand reviews, math, or assessment. This screws up the whole overall rating, which is usually an average (or some function) of all the reviews. Also, why are you reviewing a product that you haven't even used yet? If you *really* have that much time on your hands, go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or knit something and sell it on Etsy. Or whatever else it is you "have always dreamed of" doing. Jesus.

#2 - "That can't be good..."

Example: "I also don't like the crumpled up look that newborns have in car seat travel systems - it can't be good for the spine!"

Listen lady. The "lack of imagination" argument is not an argument. Why can't it be healthy? Are you a baby-spine expert? And B all, I have no reason to believe that anything is even crumpled (except that your slouchy baby looks crumpled to you). Your review is useless. You get zero stars.

#3 - "My husband is a picky eater, and even he asked for seconds"

Example: "My husband really liked it (but this is a man who only likes veggies when they have been boiled beyond the point of recognition!)"

Who cares about your stupid picky husband? Unless your husband is 4 years old, this is ridiculous and you should both be embarrassed (and if he is 4 years old, you should also be embarrassed....and in jail.) All I read from this review is "This dish was bland. Add some garlic, and reduce the amount of cheese by 75%."

#4 - "The instructions were too complicated, so I didn't read them, and then xyz happened"

Seriously? Ok, the first half of that statement is valid for a review. Its good to know that this product comes with complicated instructions (though we all have different thresholds for this, so it would be nice if you specified why). The second half, not so much. If you didn't follow the instructions and a product malfunctioned, then its not the product's fault. Its your fault.

#5 - "I gave this to my son/daughter/friend/mom as a gift, and she loves it!"

Example: "My daughter loved this set up and claims it will work perfectly for them."

Of course they told you they love it. It was a gift. That's how gifts work. I know you feel really good about yourself now, but you need a reality check. If this product really is that awesome, let your son/daughter/friend/mom write their own first-hand review. Thanks.

Sorry I couldn't find more links. My baby is a ticking time bomb, and I need to publish before she wakes up and asserts her ownership over my teat.