Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day--it's the title of a sweet children's book by Ezra Jack Keats, and it describes Portland today, at least from the perspective of an ex-Californian. I was walking back after seeing the mommy matinee, "The Corpse Bride", at the hallowed Kennedy School (http://www.mcmenamins.com/index.php?loc=57&id=82). Suddenly, the rain seemed soft, like it had texture. A nuclear fallout? Microscopic pod people? Just the weather...snow so mild that you question it as you walk through it.

The flurry compelled me to return to a Portland mommy obsession: how do you take new babies out in the rain and cold? During this bitter snowstorm, Jenny was in a bjorn and covered with a thick quilt, underneath an umbrella. I know it screamed Californian to bundle ourselves so, but I couldn't see myself prancing around in a t-shirt and jeans shorts like my neighbor was. I mean, it's in the 30s! That's cold, right?

I've been conducting a qualitative study on baby rain gear. My sightings include: snowsuits, velour outfits, a plastic tent over the stroller, a mini-umbrella attached to a baby backpack, and, yes, shorts. I've also been doing online research on this topic. I've found what seems to be called a bunting, but I cannot figure out how it's different from a blanket or footie pajamas. I saw a gorgeous thing called a Bundle Me that comes in urban styling (this seems to translate to "more expensive"), in the color wasabi. It's lovely, and it's $65. I am an anti-consumer for the most part, but I'm also an avid walker, so I was slightly tempted. Then, I decided it was the word wasabi that captured my imagination more than anything. So the thick quilt will have to suffice to get Jenny and I through the winter.

In Keats' "The Snowy Day", the main character is a little boy named Peter. He spends his snowy day playing and then comes back home and puts on his jammies. The pjs are beautiful in the book, kind of a '60s paisley. Wouldn't it be great if I could just put Jenny in some flannel pjs with a retro design and be done with it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Crappy at Yoga

I've been doing yoga since 1985. That's 20 years, and I never get better. I'm the one who everyone gets to know all-too-quickly, as in "Serena, shift your torso to be in line with your hips" and "Serena, straighten your leg" and "Serena, don't rest on your hands, lift from your fingertips". Last year the hatha teacher kept me after class. She had me planking and cobraing and down-dogging repeatedly, and she emanated annoyed disbelief at my refusal to demonstrate progress. I said, "It's not your fault. I've been doing yoga badly since the '80s." She didn't believe me. I'm sure she thought she could be the one to finally straighten me out. It didn't happen. I just got flagged a yoga failure again today.

I went to Yoga Shala (http://www.yogashalapdx.com/) on Alberta Street. I've been doing the mama and baby yoga class and I'm happy to report that my baby has also been flunking yoga. She gets carried by the teacher's assitant "baby carrier" for much of the class in an attempt to quell her screams. Do you know of this phenomenon? I wonder if it's just a Portland thing. Someone offers to cart your baby around the room while you try to do some yoga badly. It's a great thing.

Today was liberating because Steve agreed to watch Genevieve while I went to a baby-free yoga class. This was my first time truly away from her since she was born, and I was very excited. The class was lovely, with some other people not-so-good at yoga.

I was elated to be there. And there was a moment where a memory of my sister Jenny came back to me. I had convinced her to try yoga with me. We would go together. She never wanted to take off her socks, but then she would slide all around. Here I was at Yoga Shala, almost two years later, doing warrior two, and I could see her in her thick hiking socks. I thought, my outstretched hand is touching yours right now, Jenny. The Pacific Ocean has your ashes, but you're everywhere, you're in the atmosphere, the water cycle, the breeze. Your essence is there, however dispersed.

I felt a hand on mine. For a nanosecond, it was too real. Jenny was gripping my fingers of the hand I had stretched behind me. I turned. It was the teacher, adjusting me. I'm just crappy at yoga.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jenny's Fun Tips: Knife-handling

My sister Jenny was a creative, caring, and absurdly funny teacher. She ran an afterschool program at Seven Hills School. I've collected some of her techniques and activities and will publish a series of them here.

One day Jenny was chopping an enormous hunk of cheddar cheese for snack time. As she sliced away, she mis-aimed and cut her finger. In her anger at the pain searing through her finger, she threw the knife across the kitchen. Upon reflection, she realized that throwing the knife did not solve the problem and, in fact, had the potential of creating larger problems. Fortunately, none of her students were in the room at the time.

Note: This story contains a tip-within-a-tip. The first tip: Don't throw knives. The second tip: When working with children, it is better to employ the phrase "chopping an enormous hunk of cheddar cheese" rather than the phrase "cutting the cheese".

Sunday, November 20, 2005

In Search of Multicultural Portland: Alberta Park

We went to the Portland Children's Museum a little while back and were invited to watch the free puppet show. It was a surf-style version of a fairytale and featured many repetitive, lengthy songs. The whole thing went on so long...

I scanned the audience--the room was packed--and saw a theater full of white faces. Every single face was white. People had told me about this Portland phenomenon, but to see it firsthand is surprising, especially because I have spent the last 20 years of my life in Oakland. It worried me because I am raising two children here, and I am determined that they will see diverse races and hear diverse languages in their daily lives. So, I am seeking Portland diversity for myself and my family, and will report on my findings.

The other day, I was happy to hang out at the neighborhood park--Alberta Park--with my son Max. Although he spent half the time at the top of the twisty slide, refusing to come down because of all the off-leash dogs, the other half of the time he spent playing with two girls who were African-American. It turned out that their mom is a jazz singer and performs at the Candlelight Lounge (7334 NE Glisan) every week.

Maybe someday, when I'm not nursing every three hours, I will be able to explore Portland's night life rather than just its day life. I have dreams of the Candlelight Lounge, VooDoo Donut (at http://www.voodoodoughnut.com/), happy hour at Pambiche (http://www.pambiche.com/), joining the Spanish group at that cafe on Alberta Street, crashing the Portland Artist Trading Card meetup [ATCs are my favorite tiny art obsession; find out about them at http://www.artist-trading-cards.ch/), and going to some lowbrow art openings.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Another Mama-blog-a-rama

Welcome to the bloggy version "Have You Seen the Dog Lately?", my old pop culture, lowbrow zine. A lot has changed since those heady zine days--I lost my sister and co-editor, Jenny Makofsky on February 17, 2004.

And now there is a new Jenny in my life. My daughter, Genevieve "Jenny" Rosa Lafler, was born September 1st. She has my sister's crooked smile and sunshiney aspect.

I'm hoping that she'll bring Jenny back to me in surprising ways, surfacing some old memories. I already like the excuse of saying Jenny's name again, several times a day, the way I used to, and having it hold echoes of the past as well as possibilities of the future. I whisper secrets to my baby about people and places, and show her the moon and stars because my sister loved gossip and a nocturnal existence. She always said she got a burst of energy at around 10 or 11 at night. Funnily enough (and sadly, sadly enough), baby Genevieve also gets a burst of energy at around this time, just as my husband Steve and I surrender our books and try to turn out the lights. Let's just hope that tonight will be different, that Genevieve won't wake up 7 times to nurse and then retire to her crib for a bout of furious throat clearing, gasping, farting and clicking.

Now that I've introduced everyone else, I'll tell you about me: I'm Serena Makofsky. I live in Portland, Oregon, in what some people (maybe mostly realtors?) are calling the Alberta Arts District. I moved here 5 months ago, a California cliche, migrating from my beloved home in Oakland, California. I have a son, Max, who is four, and a baby girl, Genevieve, who is 2 1/2 months old. My husband Steve is a cartoonist ("Dog Boy" and "BugHouse") with a blog of his own called Self Employment for Bohemians. See it at http://www.bohoworker.blogspot.com .

I look forward to sharing more with you soon.