Race as a Requirement

I could not resist posting this. This is from  Oliver’ s public  school application for next year:

Racial/Ethnic Identification

Federal law requires us to collect information on racial/ethnic identification. As of 2010, there is no longer an option of “decline to state” or “unknown.” According to federal law, if a respondent does not identify, a third-party (the school) must do so.

Ethnicity *

Hispanic or Latino

Not Hispanic or Latino

Regardless of ethnicity selected above, please continue to answer the following by marking one or more boxes to indicate what you consider your child’s race to be, selecting up to five (5) categories.

What is your child’s race? *

American Indian or Alaskan Native (Persons having origins in any of the original people of North, Central or South America )

Chinese

Japanese

Korean

Vietnamese

Asian Indian

Tahitian

Laotian

Cambodian

Hmong

Other Asian

Hawaiian

Guamanian

Samoan

Other Pacific Islander

Filipino/Filipino American

African American or Black

White (Persons having origins in any of the original people )

I was quite baffled. in  fact, I am always baffled when I am required to put myself into a racial category, I mean – my colour is slightly pink, there is no option for that …. ever… but seriously, I never did feel like I could claim the same category as for example the descendants of “Mayflower” despite our similar colouring. And it is even more complicated for Oliver. I considered ticking Hmong (an Asian people who fought against Mao in China as  I later found out from wikipedia )  as that sounded the most obscure, but it just never felt right. Thankfully, it was possible to choose two categories. this is once more an instance where I feel like statistics is a good thing, but it has very little reflection on real life complexities.

Hummingbird and spring bulbs

Hummingbird is Oliver’s new preschool, which he loves. It is a small, Waldorf inspired school that we can walk to.  I will tell more about it in the future. For now, I just wanted to share some information about a fundraiser the preschool is organizing. it is for people who live in the USA and  who would like to buy flower bulbs that will blossom in spring. All the details are posted below in a letter carefully crafted by Sherwin and myself, the official fundraisers of the tiny preschool. That one is a first. There is very little salesman in me or rather has been thus far.🙂

 
Fall is the time for planting! And as a new school year begins at Hummingbird, many will fill the earth in their gardens with bulbs that will burst forth in the Spring. Hummingbird is working with Flower Power Fundraising again and will receive 50% of every purchase of flower bulbs made through the Flower Power website link below. We ask that you participate by making a purchase of bulbs through the site and by forwarding this email to 10 people. (Friends, family members and colleagues who are avid gardeners may be particularly interested in participating). You can also share the link on Facebook from the webpage directly.
 
Link to purchase flower bulbs for the Hummingbird Fall Flower Bulbs Fundraiser:
 
 
Flower bulbs are great for planting in gardens, planters and flower pots (in several layers, which works well). They make great gifts too! Flower Power’s bulbs are reasonably priced, even considering that half of the proceeds will go to Hummingbird. A variety of bulbs are available, including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses.  Flower Power also offers a 100% money back guarantee in case the plants fail to meet your expectations
 
The Hummingbird Fall Flower Bulb Fundraiser ends October 26th. Order soon since bulbs must be planted in the fall. Bulbs ordered now will be mailed out the first week of October. And if you place a minimum order of $40, you’ll receive 10 daffodil bulbs as a free gift! Bulb orders will be sent directly to your home. For those who wish to order by mail, Flower Power order forms will be available at Hummingbird Preschool shortly.
 
Happy Planting!

Update

So, I have been wondering if this blog is meant to cease existing, considering that I have not been writing for a couple of months and my readership (judging from statistics) is still mostly in Latvia, which means they can read what I write in Latvian on “Mans mazais”. But in order to keep in touch with my English reading friends and to pursue some of my doula interests, I will continue to post short updates. For now,  we are back in CA, Oliver is attending preschool (more about it in a second) and Aleksandra is missing him a lot. I am trying to balance this new preschool life with a very vigorous cavity fighting diet for Oliver. We will soon have grass in our bak yard. Life is good. 

Driving slowly after the Summer Solstice in the Land of the Stork

So – come and gone is the most Latvian of all holidays – the midsummer night, that we celebrate on the 23rd of June (Līgo), the eve of Jani holiday that is on the 24th. We are mindful however that the real summer solstice is a few days earlier (this year it was the night of the 20th), and quite a few people I knew did something that day as well to mark the longest day of the year. This year it was especially important, as it was already known that the weather on the Jani eve is going to be appalling. There is even an expression: “It rains like on Jāņi!” And it was very true this year.

The kids and I accompanied by their 6 year old cousin Jete went to the country side ahead of time, so we enjoyed two days of sunshine and swimming in the (not too warm) lake. Despite the fact that it seems that the real summer (with a nice warm lake) has not started yet, I am inspired to swim every time I get a chance, because of the wonders it does to my back, which has been hurting a lot. Swimming and … no kidding… crawling on all fours for about 50-60 meteres around the grassy areas in our country side (it is possible indoors too, but it is not very good for the knees).

And we saw so many storks on the way there and back. About 6,000 – 7,000 storks come to nest in Latvia from Africa every year. All through May one can spot the tops of their heads in their huge nests on the electricity polls everywhere, and then later they are walking around fields looking for prey (they do eat frogs and other small animals) and you can often see them feeding their young in their nests. On the way back from the country side, I had an ample opportunity to observe the storks, even though I was not my calmest, because one of the brakes of my car had a leak and I had to go 40 – 50 km per hour, so I can brake with the engine in the case of an emergency.

I took it as a learning experience. I did not know how little one had to brake if one was not going fast, and every time I braked (contrary to what is shown in movies, it is usually just one of the brakes that is broken and it is still possible to brake, even though it is harder than usually) I lost the precious brake oil, so I went miles and miles without braking at all on the lonely country road, which then turned into a major highway, where everybody was going faster than us with our emergency lights blinking at a fetal heart-rate. Being overtaken by everybody was probably the most challenging experience.

Feeling the stupidity of it, I was wondering what they all were thinking of me, a single woman with two small children in the car driving at the speed which was half the average at least. The day after Jani is always the funniest driving-wise anyways, as so many women who do not drive on daily basis, are sitting behind the wheel while their hang-over or still drunk (as drinking a lot of beer around a fire-place is one of the components of the celebration) other halves are resting next to them. Every year there is a huge campaign of not drinking and driving around this celebration, because it is really necessary.

But in my case, I was learning that if  one did not press the gas pedal that much, one did not have to brake as well. Just like in life, I though, if you do not go so fast, but are steady, you do not have to hit the brake nearly as much.

In Latvia

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Those raspberries from our San Francisco gardenLet’s see. I have been here for over a month, and have fallen right into the routine, with my San Francisco life seeming a distant dream, a nice one, like the three red raspberries, the picture of which my husband took in our garden yesterday before eating them. There are no berries of any kind here yet, it is too early in the season. In fact, that is the only major complain I have about being home (apart from single mothering), there are almost no vegetables that are ripe yet. I know, i know I could eat nettle and dandy-lion salad (if I got to the countryside, which I have not managed yet, because we don’t have a car), but my children… well… they will not eat it…. at least not direclty. I will have to try a smoothie though. That’s a thought!

Other than that I have:

1) Almost finished the Childhood Ethnography course (should be correcting exams instead of writing this right now);

2) Had the most wonderful birth experience of my friend’s baby boy who was born with the membranes still intact, which is called “the lucky shirt” in Latvian and  who totally warmed my heart;

3) Have been to the Latvian sauna “pirts”  four times, the latest at my uncle’s who has become a professional pirts master along with his wife and provided me with the best thrashing (part of the procedure, being beaten with birch branches) I ever got;

4) Have had to deal with my children’s (especially my son’s) intense missing of their daddy, which makes me sad and makes them sick (oliver has even said that his tummy ache is because he misses his daddy);

5) have been right back into worrying about my granma’s legg, my other grandma’s loneliness, the cat’s fertility etc. all the “natural” things to worry about when in Latvia that I manage to drag into the subconscious when not here;

6) and last, but not least have been warmly welcomed by the Latvian doula society and will meet with them again to discuss the experiences of doulas in the USA.

It really amazes me how normal it always seems to be back, the only difference is in appreciation, for example, despite the fact that I miss freshly grown vegetables (at affordable prices), I did value my last May in Latvia for a while, because once Oliver starts preschool in the fall, there will be school until June for many years to come. Presently, I am looking forward to the Latvian midsummer night celebration, arguably the most important festival of the year that takes place on June 23rd and 24th. And I am trying to take the most out of this summer and all the wonderful people I have met (not too many yet, as even my friends seem to be at least as busy as me) and will meet.🙂

good bye sanfrancisco, hello riga

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I have had a couple of glasses of wine, which I warn might impact my ability to write (correctly) in English or any other language for that matter. I also have packed a couple of bags, three to be more precise,  one with some useful help from Oliver, he is much better of folding his shirts (rolling them in fact) than me. And I am ready to embark on my three months in Latvia adventure. Very excited. Not so excited about being without my husband for the most of this time, but excited all the same. Our plane leaves at 1:55 pm tomorrow. Wish us a good journey and good-bye San Francisco and hello Riga!!!!! In about 30 hours (from now) we should be there.

Books… books … books

Hmmmm…. I have been reading a lot of books lately. I will attempt to review them for the Book Review section (some time in the future), because some of them were particularly interesting.  I have been both preparing for my Childhood Ethnography course (that I will teach in Latvia in May)  and  exploring different parenting styles, other than the all too familiar attachment style of parenting, that we have been practicing for four years.

I have read the book by the infamous (for attachment parents) tiger mom Amy Chua and found it well written and frank, but it did not convince me that the tiger mom parenting style would work for me. I think I would loose my mind, if I put so much pressure on myself and my kids. Have also been reading about what  the French feminist Elisabeth Badinter has to say about why breastfeeding is an impediment to achieving equal rights for women in a very good analytical piece in BrainChild magazine Spring 2012.  This one was not online, but there were several others that were great and that can be read online, so please check them out here. I have not read the book by Elisabeth Badinter, so I will reserve my opinion for now on that. And just because I like to approach the issue from all different perspectives, I will read the “Bring up Bebe. One American Mother discovers French parenting” by Pamela Druckerman, when I can check it out from the library.  Also read a book that among others schools trashed my Alma Mater Mount Holyoke called “Who Stole Feminism. How women have betrayed women.” It was not bad actually. I mean, I never was a complete fan of an all women’s institution, but  you know how it is when somebody strikes close to heart, it is hard to really be objective. Her basic argument is that the current feminist movement and she uses the example (MoHo women will love this) of the Smith college (and several others) are more anti-men than pro-women and are pretty scared to really look at their movement introspectively.

And I went to the UC Berkeley Anthropology library yesterday to do some childhood ethnography related reading. That felt heavenly. I think I will try again to apply to a Phd program there or UC San Francisco (they did not accept me for the medical anthro program) some time in the future. I just belong in a library (as long as I get to get some outdoors time as well.)

Short update

Let’s see. What have I done lately.

1) Dyed Easter eggs in onion peels and blueberry jam. A technique practiced by many Latvians (blueberries are not as common as the onions), which I  highly recommend. A bit more complicated with Aleksandra trying to break the raw eggs before bundling them up with the peels, but it worth it all the same.

2) Went to Santa Cruz, a small university city on the coast with Sherwin,  the kids and their Latvian babysitter, who is visiting.🙂

3) Found out from a caring heating efficiency professional that we had asbestos tape in our heat ducts, that has been there for ever (i.e. that Sherwin grew up with it). It was not even his job to look for it, so I am very grateful. This is what happens when one starts doing home improvements. And then one wonders how many other hidden flaws there are in the place you live in.

4) Started preparing the Childhood ethnography course that I am going to deliver while in Latvia this summer.

5) Watched too much of  Korean mini-series … they are addictive…. so don’t even start watching them, but if you want to – Pasta is a good one.

6) Started to dream about what we will do in Latvia this summer. We are leaving on May 1st and will be there until August 1st.

7) Hanged out with some newborn babies. That was… oh… so lovely….

My first birth doula experience

Yesterday  I had the honor of attending somebody else’s birth but my own and my children’s. It was also my first hospital birth in 34 years, the first having been my own. I never meant to be a birth doula, but the circumstances demanded and I rose to the occasion. As I have not been authorized to disclose any details by the parents, I just wanted to comment on my own personal feeling about it, and it is very similar to the one that Aviva Romm, the midwife (and now a doctor) whose books were of enormous help while I was expecting my own babies, has expressed in this powerful post comparing the hospital births she has been participating in as a doctor in residency for the last 6 years (after having been a homebirth midwife for years) and a recent home birth of her granddaughter she was fortunate to attend. Hereby I also have to express my gratitude to all the homebirth midwives in the world, including Aviva and of course Dina Ceple, the Latvian midwife who actually delivered both of my children, who have had an enormous impact on how I view birth, a miraculous and a natural process.

A new blog to follow for those who like to do natural activities with their kids in the Bay Area

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I have been following this exciting new blog by a mom who does a lot of outdoor play with her son and has some great tips for places to visit in the Bay area. I have already been inspired to visit the Japanese tea  garden in Golden Gate park while the cherry blossoms are in season (which I have not yet done, as I want to wake up early to make the free first hour between 9 – 10 am on Mo, We and Fr, but that still has not occurred), also have found out about letter-boxing (that is looking for clues hidden everywhere), which sounds like a great adventure to take Oliver one, considering his birthday treasure hunt success (he still wants to look for clues in the Sutro park). So, here is the link to the blog.  Enjoy!