Monday, December 31, 2007

The Weekend Which Was Overtaken By a Mystery Illness

Something of unknown name and origin wiped me out for the entire day yesterday. It was so bad, I couldn't even drink coffee! Consciousness was iffy for a while. Same with eating or drinking. I spent most of the day in bed. I took a sojourn to the couch in the evening for an hour or so before a quick shower and returned to chambers. Come to think of it - besides the feeling terrible part - it wasn't a bad way to spend the day. Wouldn't want to do it all the time, but a day in bed every now and again could do us all some good.

Saturday we went to get firewood. We are completely out. "Two or three hours" my husband estimated it would take. To his credit, he accurately estimated the number of trees to fall in order to fill up the trucks. Five hours later - one of those hours was spent sitting beside the truck playing I Spy with OC. The keys got locked inside and so we waited while my husband drove in the other truck we had, an old Ford loaded down with firewood, the 26 miles home to get the spare key. I'm thinking that last hour sitting huddled in the cold either caused or greatly contributed to my falling ill with whatever I fell ill with the next day.

In the department of good news, it turns out I can run a chainsaw with neither causing injury nor maiming myself. Although this is probably not a skill I will use much, on the occasions it becomes necessary to use a chainsaw, it will be nice to know I can do it without (much) fear of those three things. I'm fond of my appendages, and would grieve the loss of one of them.....especially if it came because of my own ineptness.

It's New Year's Eve. Do I have plans? Other than not repeating the Great Mystery Illness of 2007? No. Do you? You would think after spending an entire day in bed it would seem appealing to stay awake late one night for a holiday, especially one which consists of nothing more than celebrating the coming of midnight with lots and lots of booze. This is the way I spent much of high school and so enjoy fewer hangovers as an adult. This is not something I am proud of, but it does come in handy occasionally.*

Happy New Year!

* Not what I would recommend to high schoolers. If you are a high schooler, please do not drink! It makes you stupid. To wit: have you read my blog? Uh huh. The end.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sledding Hill Rules

1. Sled track is for sledding.

2. Walk up the hill on either side of sled track. Take your pick! The choice is yours. Either side is preferable to walking up the sled track. (See rule #3.)

3. The sled track is not for walking back up the hill.(See rule #2.)

4. The sled track is not for plopping down on your behind to relax. Sledders want to use it, and if you do this you are now IN THE DAMN WAY.

5. If you are going to run down the hill after a small child, please do not run down the sled track and leave your large, booted footprints which gnarl up the track for everyone else.

6. Outdoor fires are nice, but maybe - just maybe! - not appropriate to build one at the bottom of the sled hill. Do I need to explain why?

7. If you cannot or will not follow these rules, then please stay home.

Thank you.

- The Establishment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Here's the saucer I was talking about:


The kid in the background looks on in awe at OC's saucer sledding savvy.

The problems with using a saucer as an adult are twofold. One, there is no padding other than what one provides on one's backside. (Amazingly, it still hurts even if one's personal padding is plentiful.) Two, there is a tendency for the thing to spin around so that one may find one's self sledding downhill, backwards.

We've only gone sledding the one time but I've been able to parlay the pictures into numerous blog posts. Lazy!

Yesterday, we went for a little hike at Shevlin Park. It was a lovely day, with snow on the ground. We've never been there before, but the book we had said it was an easy hike and especially perfect for the winter. I would agree with all of that, except I would add that the underlying layer of ice on the path made it treacherous in several places. Most of those places were where the path descended and had a sheer cliff face with an accompanying steep hillside of death. I spent the first half of the hike anxiously warning, "Be careful! Slow down! Remember, if you fall to grab on to something!" Over and over again. Because I am old, because I have lost my fearlessness, because I am a mom.

The last half of the hike was much better. Flat land! We had a snowball fight, including stealth ambushes amongst the trees and a divided, two-against-one strategy.

I am not too old for that.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Old-Fashioned Fun

I know I just wrote about going skiing, but a couple of weeks ago we went sledding at a Sno-Park. (I hate the way that is spelled. It's not cute, it's incorrect! Anyway.)

Proof:



Girlfriend has pat the snow disk technique! She flew down that hill.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Diversionary Tactic

The tangle with the administration left a sour taste, even with the favorable outcome. To counteract, we went skiing.

Mt. Bachelor is my favorite place to ski. You should know that my experience is far from vast. I have skiied a total of four times in my life. Yesterday was my second time at Bachelor. I include in my repertoire one experience each at Mt. Hood Meadows and Cypress Mountain (British Columbia). Meadows was steep and slick and way too fast for me; Cypress was fun. I learned to ski at Cypress from a German (or Swiss?) woman, a decade younger than myself, who purported to have been on skis since birth. Or some ridiculously young age like that. She was a good instructor and yet, I still wanted to smack her darling little face - just a little! - for her annoying youthfulness. Doing so would've only brought out the rosiness in her young cheeks. Besides, I really liked her and when it comes down to it, I'm not THAT mean.

My muscles are sore today. OC? Not so much. Speaking of youth, isn't that is one of the glories? Being able to ski all day long and not feel a thing, I mean? Her muscles must be made of rubber, or her nerves don't carry pain as acutely as mine. Ah well. So much the better that she feels good.

We tackled the marshmallow run most of the day, with one trip down rooster tail. Once was enough. My husband has been skiing since childhood, and is quite good. He nonetheless is patient and slow with us as we make our way fretfully down the slopes.

My husband captured one of my many glorious falls in a cell phone video. I fell a lot, but mostly the falls were graceful and resulted in no serious injury. They did, however, start to really piss me off. Do you know how hard it is to upright one's self while on skis? Well, it's hard. After a time, your legs are sore and after yet ANOTHER fall, you consider sitting where you are and waiting for the snow machine to pick you up and take you down to the lodge where all the smart people are with their hot cocoas and knitting projects. Unless, of course, you happen to be sitting in the middle of the ski run and if you are sitting in the middle of the ski run then you would be called a snowboarder.

Not all snowboarders do this, but enough have done so in my experience. Do they know how the risk their lives by sitting down in my path?

This was also OC's fourth time skiing in her life. She did so well! She mostly snowplows down the steep parts, but she was doing some practice turning. It's hard, and with all those other people to worry about around you, I don't blame her for taking it easy. At any rate, her plowing is excellent.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Team Occidental Tourist Takes the Lead

If influence were measured by level of amount of ire raised in others, then it seems I am an influential woman. My husband and I met with the principal and the teacher yesterday afternoon and, wow. I am still reeling from it.

Our position was: We agree with your goal to match each student with teachers and other students that are a good match for them (the words of the principal in a past newsletter). We are here because a mistake was made in classroom placement, and it needs to be fixed. To do so would maximize academic success for our daughter. The classrooms are balanced now, and so moving one child will not significantly harm one teacher's workload/classroom. A change would significantly enhance our daughter's classroom experience. The end.

Their position was: we are sad, you hurt our feelings, the teacher is very upset, we're concerned because you haven't asked your daughter (six years old) what she wants, we can't run a school by having every parent come and request room changes mid-year, we can't set that precedence, here is anecdotal evidence that suggests kids do well even if classrooms are bad, whine, cry, sniff.

Sorry, but the level of emotion on their side was VERY HIGH. It was truly awe-inspiring to watch adults - professionals! - behave in such a way. Where's the coping skills? Where's the priority for the child's education? Where's the rationality? Criticism is a tool which can bring forth positive changes. Unless you only want to surround yourself with sycophants and hear wonderful things. In which case, one would not learn and grow.

I had to discuss why we wanted her moved, which meant talking about teaching style, classroom environment, and behavior. Over and over, I said it wasn't personal. I said it wasn't that she is a bad teacher. I said that it was about proper classroom placement. A mistake was made, simply.

This was not met with glee. In fact, it was entirely personal to them. It's too bad they took it that way. Really, no one had to be upset. Sadness over such a great kid (hee hee!) leaving one's room, but there should not be hard feelings.

At one point, I pointed out that school district policy allows parents the right to request teacher placement for the next school year. Numerous times before I brought this up, he said we would NOT be allowed to request a teacher each year.

I'm glad at least I know the school policy!

The teacher was upset, but her arguments were rational. She said that she would consider whether or not there was more harm than good by staying, versus the harm from a transition. Exactly! That's how I was thinking of it. I regret she felt bad about it, but I did nothing to directly make her feel badly. It's unfortunate that a mistake was made with classroom placement, but now it will be much better for OC.

Which is the entire point of it all!

We don't want to do any more mid-year switches, which the principal was afraid. The goal would be to have it sorted out correctly up front. That is what I plan to do by visiting each higher grade teacher's classroom and continue to volunteer and be a presence in the school so that I'm familiar with them and can constructively assist the placement process.

Go, us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Game On

ROUND ONE

We met with the principal today, and believe me, he was not my "pal". Broaching the subject of changing classrooms, he acted as though this were as typical as all those cats who like to play fetch.

I made my case, which was met with incredibly inarguable points such as: we can't move your child because it might hurt the teacher's feelings and create hostility between staff if one were preferred over another! It's as though they are not professionals and incapable of dealing with criticism. Not everyone likes pop art; so don't buy a Lichtenstein for your living room. What's the problem?

The main argument against switching classrooms is, if we make an exception for you, we'd have to make an exception for EVERYONE. We can't treat you differently than we treat everyone else. That's not a good precedent to set. How many parents, I wonder, line up outside the office door requesting a change? Right. Judging by how many line up to volunteer, not many, I think. And if there are, they should be given a chance to explain and then be considered on a case by case basis. If there is merit, the request should be considered.

In this district, apparently it is against the laws of nature and man to allow parents to change schools or to change classrooms. Doing so might mean the Earth's magnetic fields switch polarity rendering all compasses pretty, if useless, instruments. Much like meddling parents who want their kids in the right classroom.

Phhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

That's okay. If the school were to capitulate in the first meeting, who would respect them? Besides me, I mean.

The teacher does not instruct in a clear way. She begins by giving step 2, step 3, step 4.5, then goes back to step 1 with an addendum to add step 4; a reminder to write clearly on step 5; then gives steps 6-18 in similar manner, after which the children wander to their seats in a fog of confusion. I know, because I see it when I am there three mornings a week. I know, too, because I have messy notes from all that erasing when she gives me instructions in that abstract way of hers. I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm no slouch, either. If I have trouble understanding her, yet I am equipped with the ability to clarify, what are the kids to do?

Her classroom is most definitely not a model for admirable behavior. If she's not ignoring too much talking, she's explaining to death why the kids just shouldn't do that. No consequences, they get talked to death. After they awake from their boredom-induced comas, they ignore her to do it again another day.

Tonight I will spend writing argument to each point that was brought up in the meeting. After that, obtain a copy of the school district's policy on classroom changes. We have another meeting with the principal and the teacher tomorrow afternoon. Which is great, this way I get to complain about her shortcomings to her face. Oh well, if that's what it takes to make things right.

I should say that the watch-stealing kid got into trouble for the incident I wrote about last week. Or, the week before? It happened after I left for the day, and more importantly, after the class was disrupted three separate times.

That was round one. Set up the hoops, I'm jumping through. No matter how many ridiculous arguments I might face.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kill Me Now

No, it can wait until after Christmas. Or better yet, until after I've read all the books I want to read. Oh! And after the movies I want to watch.

I'm at the library again. The server is slow, people are sitting all around and probably reading this. Hi there, you behind me! I hate that they can see my blog name, then me typing, then my stupid email address displayed at the top of the screen. Let me scroll down.......there. Now it's hidden.

I need to pay my Visa bill, which I usually do online. There is no way I will attempt to do it here, out in the open. There are four rows of computers, for a total of 20. There are two computers in the back row but are only for 15 minutes of internet use. With the slow server I might get to type my account number and my cat's cousin's maiden name before I am automatically logged off. I guess I'll have to revert to the old-fashioned paper invoice and a check. Gadzooks!

In the movie "Snowcake" Sigourney Weaver plays an autistic woman who likes to play her own version of Scrabble where the only acceptable words are those from comic books, such as gadzooks. Zoinks might be another. It sounds like a fun way to play. I don't use those types of words very often. Same with penal code, but that just makes me giggle.

I didn't particularly like "Snowcake" but I did love "Stranger Than Fiction".

I feel exposed, so, that is all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Losing My Religion

My computer has a virus. The good man who came by to pick it up today told me the shop is a week out with repairs. Which means it may, or may not be fixed and returned before Christmas, which means I may be without a computer - and more importantly, internet access at home! - for a more than a week!!!!!!

I feel like I've lost an appendage or something. How does one function without a computer which is attached to every other computer in the world? How will I shop online? How will I blog? How will I check email?

I'm at the library, typing this. I feel naked. I feel lost.

Sad. Cry!

Moving on. This will explain why I'm such a loo-zur about responding to email, commenting on your blogs, and spending too much money. FYI.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We Have a Hillbilly in the House



This is the third tooth she has lost. The fourth came out last Friday while she was eating pizza at the ski lodge. We're all glad it didn't come out in the snow.

The tooth fairy forgot to come Friday night. She forgot. OC was not upset about it, saying the tooth fairy was too busy and would come the next night. She did, and left an extra quarter due to guilt.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day But I'd Like to Think So

I want things to change in a day. Once I make a decision, I want it to happen.

It's frustrating.

I'm talking about parenting. When OC comes home from school at 3:30, she's hungry and grouchy. I want things to be fun, but it's a struggle to get through eating a snack, cleaning up after, and doing chores. I'm the taskmaster, as usual. Soon enough, it's five o'clock and time to get dinner and a bath and on and on....

I realize that what's important is built slowly, daily, over a length of time. It's a longer length than I have the patience for. But this is a good thing. It gives me a chance to make tomorrow a better day. One bad afternoon doesn't cancel out all the work that's been done. Nor does one good day stand alone for the rest of our lives. Damn it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Go Left on the Right Roundabout

If there is one thing I do not like, it's change. Most humans don't, but I consider my particular aversion to be exceptional. As most other humans do as well.

I encountered my first roundabout in the mid-90's and did not enjoy the experience. It was new, it was different, it was round — completely unlike the 90-degree intersections and interminable traffic lights to which I was familiar. There was a second encounter on the east coast a few years later, this time much bigger and with the cars going much more quickly which only served to reinforce my aversion.

My family and I took a trip to Ireland in 2006. Dublin is a wonderful city but the streets take on new names in the space of a few twisting blocks. The lane directions seem inexplicable and are not always marked. It was easier to hire a taxi or walk, so we did. We enjoyed the train which took us to Northern Ireland where we rented car in Belfast for our expedition of the countryside. If they had had little red wagons I would've been first in line for the six bags of luggage we somehow felt we needed.

It was here, in Northern Ireland, while driving our rented American-made car where I fell in love with the roundabout.

The roundabouts in use on the Emerald Isle range from the large, multi-lane type with traffic signals (rare) to the tiniest version with only a white paint circle in middle of the road to mark its existence (also rare). The most frequent size was the medium range, with clear signage and consisting of two lanes of traffic.

The first day in which I drove the rental car was after seeing the downtown area of the seaside vacation spot of Portrush. We needed to find our way back to the motorway, and so I was reading signs AND driving on the left when I came to the street where I needed to turn. Which just happened to have the very small version of the roundabout, the kind with the paint circle on the surface of the pavement. I needed to make a right turn, so I did, but I mistakenly I entered the roundabout — or rather, skirted the perimeter of the paint circle — on the right. My husband said, "Go left!" and I said, "But we have to turn right!" and then he said "But you have to BE on the LEFT!" Oh. Right.

We all know about a certain town located 16 miles to the south of us here in Redmond where the traffic planners have made ample use of said traffic device while the roads in Redmond suffer (in my opinion) from a serious lack thereof. That is not to say that because Bend has roundabouts, Bend is a better town. It is to say that because Bend has roundabouts, there are many places where drivers can breeze through when it makes sense to do so rather than sit and wait for arbitrary reasons. In the case of the former, everybody wins!

The problem with the cumbersome three- and four-way stops which occupy a prodigious number of intersections here in town is the fact that one must stop even if there may be no other car or pedestrian in sight, or violate the law. It's probably not such a huge waste of time (it definitely feels that way) but it does take more energy to fully stop and start again. Aside from having gone the reverse direction on that one occasion, roundabouts always make me feel like I am moving forward.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that "Nothing endures except change." The use of roundabouts are a change from other methods, which perhaps means they will proliferate and endure. At least for the time being.

Reprinted with permission from the Redmond Spokesman; Redmond, Oregon. Originally published November 28, 2007.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Catch a Thief

I think I have a solution to the "I Can't Stand My Kid's Current Classroom Situation" ordeal.

Yesterday, I was in the classroom doing my usual 5.5 hours-to-life sentence, when there was a stealing incident. A kid stole another kid's watch. At three separate times during the morning, the teacher stopped class. The first time she asked the kids to search their pockets. No watch. The second time, she had them take off their sweatshirts and put them in their locker. The kid whose watch it was, began sobbing uncontrollably, saying this was a watch her mother had given her and I have heard that this kid's mother died a kind of violent death. (!!!) The third time the teacher - who halted everything because of crying kid whose entire table was now involved and no one was doing any work anyway - asked me to search their lockers. As I was digging around in the lockers and feeling very conspicuous and weird about it, the miniature perp was caught and the watch found in his jeans pocket. To top it off, after all of that drama and wasted class time, the thief was not punished. At all! No missed recess, no trip to the principal's office, nada.*

My heart goes out to the kid whose watch was stolen. That poor girl, weeping like that. I get sentimental stuff like that. I have a plant my father (NOT bio-dad!) has given me. When it doesn't look well, I panic that it might die, which would somehow be like my dad dying all over again. Which is stupid, I know, but there it is.

There's another first grade teacher whose classroom I'd like to visit. Each time I have walked by her classroom, I slow down a little to check it out. Every time, I saw quiet children, attentively listening or diligently working at their desks. Quietly. That teacher is in charge, in a non-nun, wrapping-the-knuckles-with-a-ruler kind of way. I like that!

Anyway, I see a meeting with a teacher and a principal in my future. If the kid was not punished, then that makes me furious. I don't want OC in a wishy-washy, free-for-all classroom with a kid or kids who are studying hard for their debut with fingerprinting ink and a mugshot photography session. I'm also mad about the wasted class time, not to mention that I don't feel that it was right to ask me to search lockers. Not that lockers shouldn't be searched (Oops! Can of worms!) but that I'm not sure I'm the one who should've done it. Too much time is wasted with a bs language curriculum, this was the last straw. What I'm wondering is, why do I feel nervous, as though I'm about to do something wrong or bad by asking for a different classroom? Now this teacher will be all "why don't you like my class?" and hate me. But, oh yeah, I forgot I'm not in junior high and it doesn't matter. We're all adults here! I can ask for another teacher and it won't be the end of the world.

Except...

Okay. In sixth grade I was moved to a different classroom because I had a friend I talked with too much. I loved this teacher, whose class I had to leave at my parent's request. I don't think the meetings they had about it were pretty, but I don't know because I wasn't there. All I know is that after I went to the other class, the teacher never liked me. I never got that. It wasn't my fault, except for the too much talking thing. So, that's in the back of my mind. I don't want this to be a bad experience. Every day already is, yikes! This is the solution to a problem. That is a good all around. Except, this current teacher will lose my volunteer hours and newly-acquired expert locker-searching skills.

(Whoa, what is up with all the hyphenation in this post? I just noticed.)

* At least, not that I know of as of the time I left school yesterday. I will confirm this before I begin my tirade, which I have written down in case I lose momentum. Go, me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All I Want For Christmas That's Fit to Print

I've been Christmas shopping. It's early, I know, but not if you are shopping online. Shipping times are ridiculous this time of year. If you don't order by the first week of December, your shipping times and rates become very large (and in charge).

This website FatBrain.com features toys made in the USA. Toys manufactured without lead or rufies, AND benefitting our local citizens? Hm, wow, imagine that. Shocking. Gratifying. It also features a wizard so you can shop within certain parameters, like toys about animals or planes or art; for boys or girls; within an age range. Whatever. I am not making any money by mentioning this, I just think it is good.

Occidental Girl is keeping it local.

It's funny now that OC is older, she has a lot to say about what she wants for Christmas. It's great, because trying to guess what she wants and then watching her ignore the carefully purchased gifts was not fun. Not that that every happened. This way, she has no one to blame but herself if she is disappointed.

Uh-oh, now, Occidental Girl is keeping it shallow.

As for me, I hope to buy some of the books from the FIVE PAGES which is my wish list at Amazon.com.

Occidental Girl thirsts for knowledge. And cds.

Monday, November 26, 2007

There's No Discount for Direct Butt-Plopping

Thanksgiving has passed, and I am still able to wear the same pants. This small victory is mine. How was yours?

It turns out you CAN get college advisors to meet with you. You just have to call the right college.

I am going earn my degree here, at the Bend campus.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bio-dad Dearest

It turns out that my bio-dad, who had a stroke two years ago, is now a burden on his 84-year old mother. Surprise! My grandma takes care of him in her home. She is not able to do this without considerable detrimental physical side effects to herself, but is unwilling or unable to express herself and/or get help. My bio-dad is unwilling to leave her home.

I received an odd phone call from grandma last week. Odd because we rarely talk on the phone. It was made in secret, she said, because she wanted me to know that she thinks my uncle is trying to take my bio-dad's things and money. She also asked me to send cards and letters to my bio-dad because "he's depressed". Newsflash: he's been very depressed for YEARS.

Last week was a fun week, what with the clandestine phone call but also because I received a letter included in my birthday card from my aunt which detailed various family members's illesses, mental conditions, and financial difficulties. Ultimately, her seven-page epistle ended with a plea that I step in and solve the problems.

How? And, um, how???

I don't feel responsible for this mess. However, if there is something I can do to help that would remove the burden of daily care from my grandma, I would be willing to do that.

I have a long history of no contact with my bio-dad. The clinical-sounding term "bio-dad" sort of gives that impression, I think. He's been depressed for years. He's been inappropriate with me and has never made amends. He barely survived my parent's divorce and spent subsequent years living in the past. He lived in his memories of me when I was little, before the divorce.

It was weird, weird, weird for me growing up around him. Luckily, it was only every other weekend. I had no way to cope with it in a healthful way until somewhat recently, which is the reason I can say I don't feel responsible. Because I'm not. (Responsible mental healthcare rules!) I don't feel guilty, either. I don't really know what to do, if anything. Doing nothing is an option.

However, like I said, there's my aged grandmother who I would help if I could. I don't know that I can help, because that would involve forcing people to do things they ostensibly don't want to do.

I need to find out more information from other, saner family members. I'll update you on that.

Does your family look a little better now? Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Which the Wind Blows This Way and That

Interesting content, sometimes it takes a few days to materialize.

I'm up to my ears in college catalogs (online versions, so the metaphor doesn't really work but sounds better than I've got bookmarks of college catalogs) because I've decided it's time to finish my Bachelor's degree. I have an A.A.S. plus extra credits lying around, so, while waiting to get pregnant I might as well go get smarter.

A manila folder lies on the table full of research into the schooling options for OC. She cannot stay where she is unless options for a more challenging curriculum are available. She is not ready for second grade, but she needs more instruction. Otherwise, it's either a large-ish chunk of change for private school, or homeschool. Let's read that again, shall we? I said homeschool. If you had asked me one year ago if I would consider homeschooling, I would've laughed and said no, because those are the weird kids in the weird families who spend a whole lotta time together. I have learned SO much about homeschooling recently and the non-weird families who do it that I'm considering it quite seriously. Amazing what a little information will do to one's viewpoint. Like I don't have enough to do but decide the educational futures for two people in one fell swoop. I'm not cooking the turkey on Thursday, but I am making the spinach dip which requires thawing of frozen, chopped spinach and mixing one day in advance. I had best focus.

Breaking news: I have a paying newspaper writing thingy. The first column ran earlier this month, and there will be one or two per month in the local weekly paper. It won't pay the bills, but it is a great opportunity to regularly write. An external deadline does wonders for my sense of priorities, and so it forces me to write nearly every day. Good practice. In other news, I will not use the word thingy in a professional writing arena. Just here, where I'm amateur and proud of it.

Speaking of here, if only I would update regularly. I realize I neglected to post Halloween costume pictures. If nothing else, there will be more pictures.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Birthday Girl

My birthday was Wednesday. The plan was to go out to a nice dinner, my husband and I.

We were at dinner when I looked up and noticed a woman coming in who looked like my friend, J. It couldn't be J because she lives three hours away. We were out to dinner on a week night, and no one drives over the mountains in the middle of the week for dinner. Except, it was J! She was there to surprise me. We spent the night at the resort nearby, (bow, pa chick, pow) and then my husband had booked spa treatments for me the next day. Luckily, J had helped him pick some things out, otherwise I might've been polished instead of buffed.

I was completely surprised. Honestly, I was in a little bit of a bad mood before dinner because of a crazy family phone call I had that day, and because my husband received a (expletive deleted) business call. It wasn't a client.

It was my birthday, I wanted to discuss my crazy family, bio-dad's side. (I don't talk about him much but if I did I would post a LOT more than twice a week.) If anything makes me feel better, it's unloading my burden onto others. Share the love, share the burden, I always say. Do I say that?

Spending time with a girlfriend was exactly what I needed! This is a friend I've had since 7th grade when she moved to our little town with her Guess? jeans and Esprit shirts. Yeah, we eyed her pretty closely for like, a week. We had to. As girls, it was biological and thus out of our control. She might've dated all of OUR guys, you see. Soon, we came to our senses and all became friends, and it's been Kumbaya ever since.

I kept the poor girl up until 1 am with the talking and the analyzing. It wasn't my fault, I've been all stopped up what with not having a girlfriend with which to analyze and discuss everything beyond a point which makes sense. She was like...prunes, for my emotional well-being. There's a picture for you.

The spa was two hours worth of salt-scrubbed, herbal wrapped, massaged delightfulness. I can't even tell you.

Now I'm 34 and my skin has never looked better. At least, better than it has for a really long time. My emotional health? Everything's moving along nicely there thanks to the prunes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Her First Reference (of Many) I Don't Understand

My six-year old daughter and I were watching "Gilmore Girls" and during the credits she suddenly said, "Hold on" with such authority I thought she found an easter egg. She picked up the remote to reverse the frames.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"I thought that said Barbara Park, but it didn't."

"Who is Barbara Park?"

She looked at me as if I was inquiring into the identity of the fat man in the red suit who brings the presents, so obvious was the reference.

"She writes the Junie B. Jones books!"

Of course. And so begins* my own special brand of parental ignorance.



*Begins! That's a good one. As if it up until now was displayed only enlightenment.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Day Off

I get to stay home today! I don't have to deal with kids! I'm not really happy about it as all that, but I've been feeling depleted lately. Being in the classroom three mornings a week in a place where energy levels encroach upon frenetic, all of this after my large morning coffee is a heady combination.

The kids in OC's class are sweet. They are also unfocused. There is good reason for that second thing.

The teacher is basically a good teacher, but I have some criticisms. For instance, I watch the kids wiggle and squirm as she talks. And talks. And talks and talks. She will give them instructions consisting of 48 steps and expects them to not only sit still and listen, but also remember back to Step One after she's gone through the other 47, and every imaginable corresponding exception. They have five stations where they can work independently while individual reading groups are assembled. At the beginning of the day, she goes through the numerous options of what they can do if they complete their work early. Listening to her describe the options makes you want to pull your hair out. It sounds something like, "If you get done early put your work in the basket. Then you can either go to the word wall or read the room. If you read the room, do it two people at a time. Or four. Four is okay unless you get too loud. If it gets loud I'm going to have to reduce it to two. You can go read the word wall, but same thing. At the listening station, you can listen to the tape but be careful. I've asked the PTO to order us some cd's so if they do then it'll correspond to our literacy stations and you can listen to those. But we don't have those now, so use the cassettes. But be careful. And don't press the red button! That records."

I am not making this up. She talks about what she's thinking, what the PTO might do, blah blah blah. All the while the kids look around for something, anything that might help them make sense of this strange world of too much unnecessary information.

Most do not so much complete their work early as fail to do much work at all. They'll start out doing something, get to talking, get bored, wander around, disturb other tables. Oy.

Another example: I asked the teacher if she would mention to the class that they should sit at their tables and wait for me to come around. When they do their writing, I go around the room and help kids with words they can't spell, and for many I will write out their entire sentences and then have them copy them in the proper place, going over capital letters, lowercase letters, etc. and I was having any number of children get up from their seat, incessantly tapping on my shoulder asking for help. It created a mass of kids around me at any given time and contributed to the classroom noise rather than productivity. I thought it better that the teacher say something like, "Hey kiddos, stay seated and wait patiently for our lovely classroom assistant who will be there to help you ASAP. Raise your hand, but stay seated. Keep writing, do your best, and I or (me) will be there to help. Capisce?" Instead, she took TWELVE MINUTES (I know, because I watched the clock) to talk about what they should do and why and what that means in the whole scheme of life and new world order and such. This left only 18 minutes for actual work.

It's all I can do NOT to roll my eyes in front of the kids when she launches into one of her spiels. I'm an adult and I get lost in all her talking, I don't see how the kids can absorb any useful information which may be hidden in all that speech after being bombarded by so much of it without a break. That's complaint number one.

Complaint number two is that this room full of first graders - mostly 6 year olds - are expected to make up sentences and write them on their own. They don't know what a sentence is! They don't know what words are or how they're spelled, some don't understand capital letters vs. lowercase letters, much less vowel and consonant sounds, and yet they are expected to - gag - be creative. Existential bullshit!

It's such a waste of time to have them sit there and think of a sentence and then muddle through an effort at writing. Most of them sit there, stumped. I go around to help and come up with most of their sentences, and I would do it for the whole class but for lack of time. They should be copying sentences from the chalkboard that the teacher wants them to write, and those sentences should include the week's spelling words and easy nouns. THIS IS CALLED LEARNING. Creativity is for second graders! Seriously, I don't get this.

Third complaint: All the kids in the school - including Kindergarteners - go to what is known as computer lab, but which would be more appropriately named Porthole to Time Suckage, or, Room For Young Underachivers, or no! Better yet: I Can't Decipher Letter Sounds, But I Can Point, Click and Fill In Shapes With Color. Kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, and even third graders do NOT NEED TO USE A COMPUTER, in my opinion. They need to know how to READ, they need to know how to WRITE, they need to learn parts of speech and basic math so that by the time they get to fourth or fifth grade, they will have surpassed those basic hurdles. They will learn technological things in a flash. It's what kids do. If they can't read by fourth or fifth grade, what then? Wal-Mart is always on the lookout for greeters. Several kids in OC's class do not know their letter sounds, but boy howdy, can they fill in a shape with a nice shade of blue! Useful.

The classroom is full of bright children, some of whom are labeled "advanced" while others are "normal" and others as "lagging behind". I can already see the "advanced" kids float down like sand while the laggers make scant, marginal progress. The entire class could ALL be elevated but for inane techniques which get in the way of actual learning.

The most sad part of all of this is the lost potential. The kids are capable - all of them - but they need clear, straightforward instruction and repetition of facts. That's exactly what they're not getting.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Human Behavior

A life is defined through relationships with others. If that's true, then my life has gotten very narrow. Or maybe it just feels that way.

I mentioned to my husband that I was looking forward to hosting bunco this week at our house. This way, maybe someone would remember me, might want to call or stop by and have coffee. I said, very quietly, "I want a friend." And I meant, here, now, and a very close one at that! Someone I can confide in with my most terrible thoughts, and they won't think ME terrible or off my nut.

My husband said, "You just need to get out there, put yourself out there." When he said the words, he wasn't really thinking about it. Because if he was thinking about it he would realize that there isn't much on the list of Ways To Put Yourself Out There that I haven't done.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Get involved at your kid's school? Three mornings a week, plus an hour reading for SMART.

Find a church to attend? Almost regularly.

Sign up for a group? Spanish group, which is how I came to have a Spanish-speaking and English-practicing Mary Kay lady; bunco; PTO meeting; fall carnival at school; college (once I get past the advising office which is staffed with the minions of Lucifer).

I have a hairstylist. A part-time writing gig. I know a couple of other moms. With all of these people I am talkative and inquisitive and friendly, each and every time I see them (more or less). I also force myself to be outgoing and convivial at things like soccer games until I'm sick of hearing myself ask questions and sick of hearing myself talk.

WHAT MORE AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?????

Everything is connected. You reap what you sow. If those are true, then I am connected to some people who don't need yet another friend, and at some point I am going to meet a very desperate, lonely woman, and I will brush her off.

I do okay most of the time. I realize this is going to take some effort and so I take lots of deep breaths and try to relax and give in to the waiting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'd Love to Read To You Honey, But First Mommy's Got To Deal With Her Rage and Get Out of the Seventh Circle of Hell

I thought it was a simple idea: call the college advising office to make an appointment to meet with an adviser who would look at my particular circumstance and answer questions concerning the endeavor I am trying to undertake which involves payment of money to their institution in order that I have classes and papers and tests. In return, the college in question would present me with a square of paper certifying my obtained wisdom.

I have an Associate's Degree plus lots of credits from a community college from way long ago. I want to finish my Bachelor's Degree. According to the adviser at PSU that I met with back in 2002 I found out that, after a math class or two, I can enter as a Junior. I wondered if this would be the same with the local college, however, this would prove to be harder to find out that I originally thought.

The advising office of the college in question - OSU (Oregon State University) Cascades - does not want to meet with me until I apply. Apply for WHAT, is what I want to know. I need to talk and ask questions, why is this unable to occur before an application is submitted? Are there vast numbers of meeting-askers who don't end up going to the school, thereby consuming a corresponding vast number of advising time? Or what???

Two weeks ago I went to the college fair at the fairgrounds and obtained a brochure onto which an actual adviser printed her phone number. I called this adviser and left a voicemail. (This is the very same adviser for whom I had left a voicemail for in previous weeks and who hadn't returned my call. At this point, my optimism was dented, but not shattered.) She didn't call back that day. I called again the next day, and then she did call back. For this first returned call, I was on the phone with the veterinarian about my cat's continuing diarrhea. I would have answered the phone immediately because I knew that if I didn't, it would only end up to be more phone tag but, you know, DIARRHEA.

So....phone tag....phone tag....blah blah blah...the thing...my phone rang, it was her. I answered and stupidly thought I was on my way toward planning my triumphant return to college. Did I mention that it was a stupid assumption?

"No," she said, "It's better if you register and ONLY THEN will I bother with you, you worthless piece of sh#t."*

That was yesterday.

Today, I gathered my strength and called the main advising number and asked the receptionist for an appointment with an adviser. I told her I knew where I wanted to end up - Master of Arts in Teaching from George Fox - and that I had credits and an Associate's Degree, but I needed to find out about which Bachelor's Degree I should look into, as well as the minors offered by their partner colleges and where I should begin. I said I didn't need my transcripts gone over except informally, because I wnated to map out a course of action now, then apply and register for whatever math class I probably needed in the winter.

It's confusing because OSU Cascades is OSU in partnership with the UO and COCC (Central Oregon Community College) to offer classes to the communities in Central Oregon. It's nice, in theory. I wonder if people actually get to attend school? Judging from my own cursory experience and difficulty to begin to find out information and plan a course of action, my guess is, not many.

It turns out the receptionist, Snotty McSnottypants, earned her nickname after telling me I "wasn't giving her enough information to know who to transfer me to." This, after I spent several sentences detailing justification for facetime with the adviser.

You know, now that I can see more than just the color red I can see her point. Here I was calling the college's advising office and inconveniencing her with my inane insistence to meet with a qualified person to work out my COLLEGE PLAN, and yet? I don't remember her asking the right questions to elicit the right information. I don't remember it, because it never happened! I dumbly figured she could understand the degree-seeking, question-asking, action-plan-goal-making kinds of words I used but BARRING THAT FREAKISH OCCURRENCE, then she would be able to ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AND DROP THE ATTITUDE ALREADY since she works in the advising office and does this every day, and I don't.

Guess who she transferred me to? You're going to get this right because this is how these things work. If you said, the adviser who doesn't want to meet with unapplied students? You'd be right. Because they are not really students until they've applied.

So I hung up. I just couldn't deal with her YET AGAIN telling me to f*&% off. One time per day is my limit, thanks.

P.S. George Fox MAT program advisers? Are happy to meet with you, even if you do not yet have your Bachelor's Degree. Raise your hand if this makes you want to move to Newberg and go to George Fox University.


* Loose interpretation of actual comments, however, extremely accurate as an overtly implied sentiment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

I've gotten behind on the things in life that really matter: email, blogging, responding to email, reading other blogs, absorbing People magazine.

But, my kitchen floors have never looked better! *phhhhhhht. BFD.

Balance is needed so that soon, there will be equal time for both work and play which will mean I can go back to uploading pictures of my cats who ostensibly remark wittily about my existence.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mr. Sedaris and I

Last night in Bend, David Sedaris read a selection of essays. His own, I should say. Myself and 1,199 other people listened, laughed and clapped and then later made an unruly line to have our books signed. Honestly, the NPR-listening crowd really gets pushy when it comes to getting an autograph from an NPR-contributing author. But I was third in line, possibly due to the use of an illegal elbow on a skinny vegan.* Hey, this is a BOOK SIGNING we're talking about.



I had put some thought into what I might say when I met David. I wanted to come up with something different, something other than, "I really like your books, you're so funny, the stories are so wonderful, blah blah blah...." Because he's never heard THOSE THINGS before.

In between reading essays, he talked about a couple of books that he liked. An author he recommended was Richard Yates, now deceased, whose first novel, Revolutionary Road was a finalist for a National Book Award (1961).

'Aha!' I thought, as I sat in the auditorium, overthinking as usual. 'I could recommend a book to him! That would be different.'

Here's what I said:

"Here is my favorite bookmark (to sign) because I lent my copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day to my mom. I have a book to recommend to you! Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue. It's historical fiction and beautifully written. (Set in London, since he just moved there and became a citizen, I thought it appropos. And, a little clever. Oh, how the mighty do fall.) She also has a book of fable-like stories, sort of like your animal fables! (Ass-kissing is always in vogue! Except when it's not.)"

What I didn't say:

"I like your books. You're writing is funny and I enjoy it very much. One of my favorite essays was from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and it was about an uncomfortable visit you had with your sister and how you end up cleaning her apartment and washing her dishes because it's your way of saving her life. It's relatable and funny! Thank you for coming to Bend. I am so glad you came!"

Perhaps I should have given it more thought and said the latter, but, too late now.

Newly-signed bookmark:





As for the next time Mr. Sedaris and I meet, and I hope we do, I will give more credence to plain old "I like your writing" kinds of comments. Because standing out from the crowd and being unique is one thing, but being remembered for having talked about OTHER BOOKS to an author who is there to talk about his books is a whole other ball of nerd-wax.

* No vegans were hurt by me at this book signing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tripping the Light Fantastic

We were driving to soccer practice the other night when from the backseat a six-year old voice pipes up, "Uh-oh mama, there's Super Wal-Mart."

"Yes," I said.

"It's more like, un-super Wal-Mart, huh?"

Yeeees.*


EARLIER, THAT SAME DAY.....

To preface this story, it was recently our anniversary. (Two years!) I bought my husband the Pink Martini cd, "Sympathique" (It's not their new one - I like to wait for music to "ripen" before I purchase) and we had listened to it several times on a recent trip over the mountains. (A trip which requires it's own post.) Now we all know the lyrics through to the end of "Que Sera Sera".

Just this week OC and I were talking about her daycare days and I wondered if she remembered the girl who, for a brief time, bullied her. It was relatively minor stuff, relative to what it could have been, but nonetheless traumatic for me as a parent to see kids so young being mean to another kid. Especially my kid! For no reason. The kid's mom worked there, so it was a weird situation. Luckily, the girl went off to school after not too long. I'm thinking it was reform school. I don't know why I was trying to remember her name, except maybe because the voodoo chant requires specifics, but I wasn't coming up with it. I asked OC, " Do you remember Cedar Street Children Running Amok Center**?"

My daughter met my eyes with her gaze, nodded solemnly, yes, then began singing, "Que Sera Sera".

Such is life.

I'm not so old that finally, I did remember the name of that gremlin of Mephistopheles: Elika***.

* Now, if you like Wal-Mart and shop at Wal-Mart, fine. I don't have a problem with that - or you - and I don't want to argue. It's a choice and this is ours, to not shop there.

** Not the real name, of course.

*** Totally her real name.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Reprieve

I spent the evening at the library. It felt good to be out of the house and in a quiet environment where I could think. I wrote a little, and stayed until closing.

I think what bothers me the most about the last few days is how angry I've been after getting stressed out. I've forgetten things, I've dropped things, I've shaken with tension as I hurry at absolutely everything I have done.

My cat is sick, and has been inappropriately soiling and I am sick of cleaning it up. Twice a day! Then the whole kid-not-listening-not-to-mention-arguing thing, with my volunteer work not leaving me time to write or do anything of my own, and the struggle to keep up with daily tasks and watching, feeling helpless, while the day passes all too quickly and I have to stop what I'm doing yet again to move on to the next thing.

What I want - what I need - is more than a thirty minute block of time to put toward one activity. I need an hour or more to concentrate, to be absorbed. Whether it is sorting papers in the room that will be my work/craft/retreat area if I ever make room enough to spend time there. Whatever it is, I long for that feeling of getting lost in a project.

My daughter is not to blame. She's wonderful. I'm the one that needs to learn how to cope, be the adult, control the anger, to figure out a better way to get her on schedule without acting like our house is basic training and I am the drill sergeant.

Although, to my credit I haven't reached the point of calling anyone a maggot. Which is something!

Suddenly, She's a C and E Kind of Blogger

I've been writing this week, but I haven't had time to finish and then post. I am behind on responding to emails. Today's post is off the cuff and without edits. It's like being naked, showing all my flawed glory. Enjoy.

I'm frustrated and have blown my stack a few times, luckily, in private. I think part of it is due to burnout at being the only parent a lot lately. My husband's been officiating football games and while it doesn't take much extra time - especially compared to coaching did - it means he has been gone all day on Sunday. I'm glad he did it but I'm so ready for it to be over. I'm tired of being the disciplinarian, struggling to get my child to do what she knows she is supposed to do. Every day, it's the same thing. She acts like a soap star and develops amnesia when it comes to what she should do after school (chores, homework, THEN free time), then suddenly recovers her memory in time to ask to watch "The Simpson's" and oh yeah, what's for dessert?

Also, maybe I've been volunteering too much. I'm at the school three days per week for the mornings. That's really not a lot. Maybe I'm not coping well. I've been annoyed at the kids when they're loud and don't listen, which is all the time.

I haven't talked about what it's like at school yet. I have plenty to say, now. The teacher, who I think is mostly pretty good, does a few things that drive me up a wall and which aren't working well. Today, for example, she made them sit through 20 minutes of instruction. I know, I watched the clock and listened in disbelief as she droned on and on. By instruction, I mean that she told them how to do their assignment, one after the other. I think it would be better at the FIRST GRADE LEVEL to go through things step by step. At the very least, give the kids (six-and-seven year olds!) two or three steps to do and then LET THEM DO IT OR THEY'LL FORGET.

!!!!!!

The teacher is a talker. She talks and talks and talks, and the kids wiggle, and talk to one another, and completely lose track of what they're supposed to do. This is evident when they FINALLY are allowed off the carpet to their desks and immediately ask, "What do we do?" Yeah, I feel for you guys because I have trouble knowing what they're supposed to do, too!

Anyway, now to my daughter. She is doing normal, growing up stuff that is driving me batty. She argues with me, doesn't do what I've asked her to do after three or four requests. At that point, I'm so mad I could spit. I have to remember a lot of things, and I take care of people in this family to keep them on schedule, and I really need to be listened to and for her to do what I say when I say it because there's a good reason why I say it! It sounds like I want a robot, but in this case yeah, maybe I do! Here's what you need to do, now do it. End of story. AGH!!! That's what I need to happen. So often when I remind her of what to do she complains and argues and sighs, and it makes me mad because I think of all that I do to make life good for her and.........oh, I need a vacation. Or a drug habit.

Anyway. Nobody's getting beaten or yelled at (except me, yelling at myself) so it's going to be okay. Eventually. After I run away.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Weekend in Pictures

We had a busy weekend, and I'm just now getting the photos together to prove it.

First there was OC's soccer game:


She's the player in red. Notice the ball is nowhere to be seen, because 1) my camera is slow and 2) feet of fury.

Then it was off to the pumpkin patch for the corn maize which was the shape of a ship, and then a hay-bale pirate ship where kids could walk the plank.


And jump from it onto some old mattresses and hay bales. Well, they hay bales were new.


A pony ride on an extremely bored miniature pony on his last go-round before his break.


GI Joe and Jane preparing to launch their pumpkins. He aimed, she fired.


The air-compressed-powered "cannon" made an impressive puff! as it lobbed each pumpkin hundreds of feet away. Very satisfying, I am told.


There was also a caramel apple and pumpkins. Ahhhh, fall.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kidspeak

My daughter is funny. You may not enjoy it as much as I do, mostly because you have to hear it delivered from her serious, small face, but it's still mildly amusing even if it's read. She offered up this gem not too long ago:

"I want to give this rubber band to Dakota. I don't think he's experienced one yet."

Great! Because what cat shouldn't miss the experience (???) of a rubber band?

We were in a Chinese restaurant the other day and some people came in that we knew. (I know, I can count on one hand how many times that has happened since we moved here.) Anyway, after they left OC said, "Well, THAT was a pleasant surprise!"

I'm sorry, 'pleasant'?

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she's using words like pleasant, I just don't know where she heard it. Not from me. When I see people I know I'm more likely to use words like: no! Don't go! No! Stay! Please!

So, you know, mystery.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In My Day Kids Spent Their Free Time Being Quiet and Sat With Their Hands Folded

I volunteer at OC's school three days a week for about two and a half hours a day. It's not going too badly. That amount of time gives me a chance to get to know the kids in her class and to help them with things that are hard for first graders, like writing.

It also means I listen to a lot of stories. I know which kids have dogs, cats, and or fish, I know which kid's dad is in jail because she keeps mentioning it. Most of the time, I love it. There have been a few days where I come home with a headache. Twenty short people with so much energy! So many things to say! Their teacher does a pretty good job of getting them to focus and then reminds them to be quiet and focus and focus quietly and then remember to be quiet. I appreciate her efforts. Her futile, futile efforts.

Her efforts are for not for naught (ha ha), only that it must be done repetitively which is a good thing. It gives the kids a sense of what's expected. Over time, they learn that they really, really can't get away with acting like wild monkeys let loose from the lab because someone's going to make them stop. Eventually, they'll not bother to start and resign themselves to working quietly at their desks learning Euclid's geometry. This is my theory, anyway, and I like to think it with my fingers firmly planted in my ears as the classroom noise exceeds that of an F-14 jet engine.

I want them to learn as much as possible. I hate to hear statistics about how many kids aren't learning to read, and that after a certain point it's basically a lost cause. I don't believe that, although I have nothing upon which to base my belief except hope. There is no reason why every one of those kids shouldn't know the alphabet, letter sounds, how to write, basic math, and to love reading as much as I do.

At the end of my day at school - which is when they go to lunch - they all say "Thank you, Mrs. Tourist!" Some of them want a hug, a lot of them smile and wave goodbye. That's when I melt. How sweet they are! How happy they are at having spent the morning with a grouchy rule-follower like me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Piano Girl

I spent some time cleaning the upstairs bedrooms in anticipation of my mom coming for a quick visit. I want her to believe I clean it regularly, so it's taking a lot of time. And then I notice that I'm up against a mess I had not anticipated.

OC has an interesting sorting method best described with words like random and haphazard. Of special note is the way she takes and places one of her 271 plastic necklaces into each of her 98 purses. The leftover necklaces she puts in various other places, but never in the SAME CONTAINER. It makes my whole face twitch to think about it. I don't get it, I really don't. That, and the way she hangs onto things because EVERYTHING IS SPECIAL. Things like, wrappers and packaging. I want to tell her nothing is special when everything is special, but I'm afraid that would be too much reality for a six-year old's world, so I refrain. And then I twitch.

The other thing going on is that OC is learning to play the piano. Before she takes formal lessons, her father is teaching her the basics so we don't have to pay $70 an hour for her to learn simple things like which notes are which.


I so love this haircut, mostly for the extra bits of neck I can see and therefore attack with my face, by which I mean kissing, because look at that neck!


One day, she'll be too old for outward displays of affection but until then - and as long as I have to sort necklaces every few weeks back into their separate containers like I'm pretty sure the Bible says they must - I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Party Like You Did in Highschool

Friday night, I headed to my hometown to watch the high school football game and to go see some friends who were getting together.

My graduating class was 75 people, four of whom I talk to regularly. In fact, we go to the beach together one weekend a year. I think I stayed up until 3 am, laughing and talking and having a great time.

We're a little older, a lot wiser:

I'm the gaping, open-mouthed dork on the left.

The game was exciting, with lots of interceptions and long, expertly thrown passes. Awesome! I've always loved high school football games although it was not that long ago when I finally learned what sayings like "first and ten" meant. That may explain why many years later I was attracted to and then married a high school football coach? Anyway. I think my love for the game comes from living in the country in a house that was five miles from town (population 640) and unable to get together with friends unless some event, like a football game, was going on.



There's a lot I could say about high school. For now I'll just say that it felt good to be in town again and great to talk to old friends. Especially now, when I live in a place that is new and unfamiliar and where I haven't a close friend. I stayed up so late because it felt good to be surrounded by people who've known me for years.

High school is an odd time, full of insecurities and self-doubt. But it was a long time ago.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Glamourous Way to Start the Day

This morning as I walked home after dropping off OC at school I thought about what I needed to do today. What I really wanted, I decided, was a pastry to go with my coffee. Something like a really good cinnamon roll or muffin.

Then I thought about what I really didn't want to do: clean the litterbox. Not scoop....clean. I thought about the most pressing thing that needed to be done which was also? Clean the litterbox. The cats have spoken, and their language of choice wasn't pretty. Preciouses need a clean box and new litter for precious furry selves.

About once a month, I empty the litterbox and wash it with soap and water, clean the floor under the box, and wash the scooper. Not something to look forward to, but it only takes about 10 minutes. The thing about me is, I'm pretty good at finding other things to do when something like cleaning the litterbox awaits doing. Is there anyone else who would want to do it? No? Is there anything else to do? Anything?? Sorting through junk mail and stacks of papers starts to look like fun - even if they'll take HOURS - compared to cleaning a dirty litterbox which takes ten minutes. This is the scary way my mind works.

Not today. Today, I cleaned the litterbox, scooper, and the floor.

I'm looking forward to that cinnamon roll, and feeling pretty good about it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A New Week

It's Monday and I've managed to keep track of my child all weekend. It's a miracle.

Everyone is getting sick, it seems, and they're spreading it around. In our house we are on the verge of full-blown colds...but not quite. OC got up - twice - to tell us she sort of, kind of, isn't feeling well. I think it was more that she was bored and lonely and as long as she was up, hey, we all might as well be up, too. Except, no; you are not a baby anymore and nighttime is sleeptime or else daytime will be angrytime.

This morning I spent an hour with a Spanish-speaking Mary Kay representative. I do not speak Spanish as a first language, and if you're wondering how that all happened let me say that for one, I have learned that it is not in the cards for my life to be simple; and two, it is a long story.

There I was, being told or when that didn't work, pantomimed as to what to do with the lotions being placed on my person. I was so tired after being awakened by my nearly-sick child - twice! - last night that I just. wanted. to. go. but she kept TESTING things on my hand while I smiled and nodded and opened my checkbook because I figured an open checkbook was an internationally recognized sign of wanting to stop the show and pay the money. She's a lovely woman but ohmyfreakinghell I am tired and now, NOW I am too awake to sleep.

Looking tired, but smelling good.Could that be my new personal motto? Well, that and, Don't Lose The Girl (again).

Friday, September 28, 2007

For Two Minutes, I Lost My Kid

Tuesday was a terrible day. I went to pick up OC at school, and she wasn't waiting out front. I asked about her to the teacher who was waiting with the kids, she said she hadn't seen her. I walked the long hallway down to her empty classroom. My eyes filled with tears, I couldn't help it. Her classroom is on the other side of the school which gave plenty of time to consider all the many horrifying possibilities, which only got more horrifying on the long walk back to the office.

I checked the playground, then as I got back to the office I managed to choke out, "My child isn't here!" And as her name rang out over the paging system, she walked into the office.

She's fine, she was not where she was supposed to be, and I didn't see her where she said she had been.

Crying in public, my old companion. What fun.

I'm so relieved my child is safe that this morning when she woke me up at 5 am to tell me she wasn't feeling good, I was glad to have a child to get up early for.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Slammerkin

Emma Donoghue has written a highly entertaining novel. I read Slammerkin recently, but have waited to talk about it because I wanted to express my opinion of the book in a better way than "I loved it! You have to read this book because it is soooo good!"

It IS a good book, but it is much more than that.

The word Slammerkin is a noun, eighteenth century, of unknown origin. 1. a loose gown. 2. A loose woman. The novel begins:

"The ribbon had been bright scarlet when Mary first laid eyes on it, back in London."

The book chronicles with careful presentation the physical details which are not tedious, but serve to make the story rich. Psychological detail is gleaned from the use of the third person subjective point of view. We get into the main character's head and see things from her vantage point, but also we learn a bit from the other characters as well, making for an exceptionally well-covered tale. This story is based on a real case from the same time and place, where not many details are known.

Mary Saunders is a girl of thirteen when the novel opens, set in London in 1760. Her family consists of her step-father, a coalman, and her mother, who takes in patchwork sewing. Her father was a cobbler but died while in gaol - English for jail - where he was thrown after daring to protest against the king.

Her dead father's wishes were for Mary to attend school, and her mother keeps this promise even though they all think the girl old enough to work and help supplement the family's income. She is bored with school, and wants none of what her future seems to hold. She hates the family's dark flat, in a dingy corner of a dirty street. She wants a better life. A cleaner, brighter life than what she knows awaits her.

Mary wants to grow beyond her station in life, she wants to excel, and she wants to experience fabulous clothes. In 18th century London there wasn't much hope for a change in one's station. The class you were born into was where you stayed. Society in Mary's time left no room for abilities or aspiration. The punishment for sins were great. If you were accused of stealing you could be assured of hanging. A rich person's word was worth far more than a servant's. Jails housed inmates in pitiful conditions; workhouses were places you went to die. Judgments were harsh and plenty; forgiveness and trust, spare.

One day an event happens to Mary that changes her life, sets her out on her own. Still a young girl, she has to find her way all alone in a dangerous, uncaring city. That's when things gets interesting.

Everything about London is dark, dirty, dingy. There are pockets of brightness and color, but only briefly and certainly not for the poor. The story elucidates Mary's dreams and ambition enough that hopes rise in the reader that they might allow her to rise above her station and achieve great things, somehow. If there's a way, we are sure that Mary can find it. It's interesting that the thing that gives her money also constrains her. Instead of giving her freedom, it is just another station in life. Is it better than being a patchwork sewer like her mother? Were there any other options available to a young, pregnant girl?

I like this sentence:

"All in all, Abi was glad she'd told this old story. It made it smaller, she found, to wrap it in words and fold it away."

The series of events that follow are believable, if shocking. They are inevitable, although I have to say I didn't know the book would end this way. Emma Donoghue captures the truth of the character of Mary Saunders. I believed Mary would act and think the way she did from the realistic way it was written. All throughout the book and the events that befall Mary, we are reminded that she is still a child. A child of thirteen at the beginning of the story. It is amazing to think of all this hard life happening to a girl of this age. Her resilience is real; her flaws and decisions completely appropriate.

Isn't this true for all of us:

"It came to Daffy then, how easily the worst of oneself could rise up and strike a blow. How even the most enlightened man had little power over his own darkness."

Mary's early lessons are to never give up your liberty, clothes make the woman, and clothes are the greatest lie ever told. Going back to the opening line, the use of the color scarlet, first used to describe the ribbon, is then a metaphor for desire both sweet and lustful; for life, both lived and lost. Of course, it's also the color of blood, the very color of life.

The author obviously has done her research into the historical aspect of life in London and England in that period. Without taking a didactic tone she manages to use the terms for things during that time period quite effortlessly. The amount of detail in setting up for us the setting of everyday life leaves even the darkest corner of squalid London a sumptuous picture against which the events unfold.

In the end I come back to offering you this: read this book. It is so, so good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

When Mommy's Away

Last night, I went to a meeting and that left daddy in charge. I don't have any qualms over doing this because OH is a great dad. Very responsible, and happily involved. I remember that before I left I told OC that she needed to take a bath but not wash her hair (we do that every other night) and that her homework was on the table. I showed daddy her math homework and he said he'd help her to complete it.

You know what's coming, let's just get to it.

Here's the list of things that DID happen at home last night:

1) a bike ride in the dry canyon

2) the pepper plants were repotted

3) a viewing of a "Simpsons" episode

4) OC went to bed at a reasonable hour with a bedtime story

I am all about routines and schedules, because that is the glue that keeps my day together, which in turn keeps my sanity from packing its bags and skipping town. Witness the glue:

Beaming colorfully from its station on the fridge where anyone is free to see, attended by Andy Warhol's cats magnet.

Here are the things that DID NOT happen last night:

1) bath

2) homework

When I came home OH was asleep on the couch. I woke him and asked how the night went. He told me what they did, and then I asked about the bath and the homework. He said he forgot to do the homework and that he didn't know that OC needed a bath, but that they did watch a "Simpsons" episode.

!!!!!!!

Luckily, her homework wasn't due until Monday, and she's gotten a bath every other night so I'm not bothered if she misses one. Or two. Because sometimes I don't give her a bath because I'm just too tired. But, what if her homework was due the next day?

Either he needs to be the only parent at home more often, or I'm going to copy and glue the schedule to the Simpson's DVD box, just to be sure.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Forgot to Say...

In the last post I meant to also say that, getting involved in school is a good thing IF THAT'S YOUR THING. I didn't mean to imply that is was a good thing and everyone must do it and if you don't then I judge you from on high.

When I'm writing, I know what I mean. But I forget to completely flesh out (or I'm just not good at it yet) what I mean and I should really do that because the whole mind-reading thing hasn't gone mainstream. It was either that, or I was high from the sugar in the chocolate chip cookies they had at the PTO meeting. Damn, those cookies were good!

My ex-boss - also known as the Guy Who's Traveled Everywhere Except Ireland - is riding his bike again. This time it's the LiveStrong Challenge in Portland on September 30th. In case you have ten dollars burning a hole in your bank account, I have a solution for you: donate it. He's raised $180, with a goal of $250.

Cancer sucks.

And, thank you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To Be a Soccer Mom or Not to Be, That is My Question

The first meeting of the parent-teacher organization was held last night. I was a few minutes late arriving because I had to change into my miniskirt before walking the three blocks to the school. This was my first meeting so I didn't have any dirt on anyone in order to sock it to 'em.

Ha ha, does that joke ever get old? For me, not yet. Ahhh, it's PTO now, instead of PTA, and I don't live anywhere near Harper Valley or any valley, so, I guess it's just funny to me.

I can't get over the fact that I went to the PTO meeting. It's not that I'm a goth-mom non-joiner type, nor would that be a bad thing. It's that, I've been overwhelmed by school starting and helping in the classroom and soccer practice and my husband's football officiating during the week....excuse me, I have to go move my SUV and then bring in the wine coolers because I've TURNED INTO A YUPPIE SOCCER MOM SCHOOL SUPPORTER RA RA RA WHERE ARE MY DAMN POMPOMS???!?!?

When did this happen? When did I go from cool mom to soccer mom? I say that in the hopes that at some point I actually was a cool mom. Hmmmm, it must have changed right about the time we signed up for soccer, I am thinking? And what's so bad about it, anyway. So I went to a PTO meeting. That's good, right?

Part of me knows that it is a good thing to get involved and help the school, to be present and get to know people. The other part of me thinks that there is a reason the soccer mom stereotype exists, and it exists because of the annoying people who drive the Canyoneros and go to precious' soccer games with their perfect hairdos and nails and purses, perfect clothes worn on their perfectly toned and tanned bodies and talk about how they just LOVE their kid's Mandarin language teacher and how you must absolutely just should call them some time, really. Kisses to poopsie!

The thing is, I have nothing against working out, or having your hair and nails done, or Chinese language classes, or even the nickname Poopsie, if it's in jest. I guess there are different levels of soccer-momdom and I have not ascended (descended?) to that icky stereotypical realm. It's a weird feeling when you find yourself doing all these things that possibly could set you into that place to be That Person who you don't think that you are. I don't like how I worry about how I look. That is so high school, and I am way too old to be in high school, so it follows that I am way too old to go back to those insecurities. Funny how easily they come back to haunt.

I want to be there for my kid and help out at school and yes, she plays soccer. I don't think that's part of the soccer-mom stereotype, at least not the one I'm so worried about.

I think it's that women are always defining and redefining our selves and our roles, and let's face it, society doesn't really lend much support to the idea that what we choose is acceptable. There's more contention than acceptance. Seemingly more women and mothers criticize one another for an endless amount of topics, be they wine playdates or debating cloth or disposable. Ug. I'm tired of the criticism and the categorizing.

I'm too exhausted to judge you.

It comes to this: I want to define myself. I don't want anyone else to do it for me. I hope you reach the same conclusion.

In other words, no one's going to tell me I've been wearin' my dresses way to high, or anything else. Now, let's raise some damn cash for the school so I can get home to my hooch!

Amen.

Interior Decorating

I bought some new things! I finally feel like my living room/dining room space looks like it is in a grown-up's house, and that grown-up is me. This is not nearly as exciting for you as it is for me, but at least you get to look at pictures. Check it:

This is the bar where mommy keeps the alcohol, which in turn makes mommy happy. It doesn't look like it's full. Hm. Writing down: buy more hooch.

I used to have a black and white photograph hanging above the mantle, and my mom said I needed a bigger object there instead. My mom is good at these types of observations, so I listened to her and at the same store where I found the bar (above) they had this:

Voila! Big object to go over the mantle. I like. Sort of doubles as a full-length mirror, or darn close.

Since we're being all practical, I thought that this lamp, which was ON SALE, would go well in the house somewhere. We are in need of more light, and the color scheme fit right in. Well, here, see for yourself:



I need a full-length mirror for my bedroom, and they had one at the same store where I purchased the above items but it wasn't on sale. I spent my "crazy spending money" (also known as "What Budget? money") on the big, round mirror, so, you know. Next time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cross Two Items Off the List

I have a text document saved on my desktop that contains ideas for future blog posts. It's my list, known as The List, when I've got no ideas and need ideas. At the top of this rather perkily described melange of thought is this:

1 package of Oreo cookies
1 package of cream cheese
white chocolate for melting


I do not know the miniature zeitgeist under which this particular entry was written, so I cannot remember where I might have seen or heard of it, nor what one is supposed to do with these ingredients once you assemble them. All I can say is that the combination seems winning, and good luck to you if you attempt to construct something. Let me know how it turns out.

The next entry is something I do remember, it's from the teevee. (sidebar: I learn so much from that black electric box.) During the summer, I let OC watch cartoons for a while in the morning. It's the only way I can have some quiet moments to settle in with my coffee to read email and blogs, or write a little. I have to do it with the television going on very near where I am at the computer because they are in the same room, but I figure that since the rest of the day is me listeninglisteninglistening to her talkingtalkingtalking, I'll take what I can get. This is from It's Big, Big World, a show I really, really don't like:

Sloths are very good at Tai Chi, mainly because they move very, very slowly.

Really? Gee, thanks for telling me. Now imagine this line delivered by an overexcited-about-sloths male voice, a voice in which EVERY! THING! ABOUT! ANIMALS! IS! EXCITING! There you have it, annoying overgrown kid on tv must DIE. Here is where I don my Pollyanna bonnet and say: At least it's not the purple dinosaur. Amen.

Now I have to wonder why, exactly, I wrote down that line. It was funny? There was something else happening? Context, please!

*sigh

Anyway, I feel better having told of these things. Now I can delete them from my text doc with peace of mind. No, I couldn't just delete them from the text doc without actually posting them. And if this doesn't tell you a little something about me, I don't know what other quirky (read: freaklike) thing would. Well, maybe someone who writes down something to do with both Oreo cookies AND white chocolate might be allright even if she doesn't know what to do with the cream cheese that is supposed to go along with it.

And I call myself a mother.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hair, Baby

In addition to being OC's fourth day of the first grade, it was haircut day for both of us.


Behold:

I know I'm the mommy and all, but this girl is cute enough to eat with a spoon if I do say so myself.



I think my last haircut was four months ago. I was desperately in need of color and the good feelings only a good trim brings.



Okay, I took the pictures of OC right when we got back from the salon. I took the pictures of me at the end of the day, after soccer practice out in the wind. So. You know...a little slack with the styling judgments, please.



The above two photos are self-portraits, although not for lack of trying. I asked my husband to take a picture and I ended up with this:



Men.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Globular

Last week a globe came in the mail. I bought it because it is better to show visually rather than explain verbally to a six year old, I have found. For example, explaining how the Pacific Ocean touches both the Oregon coast and New Zealand is hard because my daughter doesn't know what New Zealand is. This way, we cover both ideas by pointing and saying something like, "Look at the big ocean!"

OC was looking at it when she said, "Mom, they have some kind of 'Republic' on here."

Turns out, there are quite a few republics on it.

The globe sits on our dining room table, for now, and we look at it because it's there. It's fascinating. I find myself staring at it and saying things like, "Huh. I didn't know that French Polynesia was there."

Because today is 9/11, I got to thinking about the people living in all those different countries, republics included. It seems to me that there are a lot of places in the world where I would be scared to live. Although, to be fair, a lot of them probably only seem that way because of my own sheltered perception that those places are scary. It is true that there is a lot of danger in the world and a lot of places are scary and dangerous, especially for women and children.

Thinking about it made me appreciate the good things in life. My daughter was sick, but she recovered and today is back in school. Thank goodness it wasn't a life-threatening illness. Thank goodness she can attend school. Obviously there are parts of the world where she couldn't or wouldn't be accepted at school. While I want her to have the best education she can get and so it brings me to complain about it, it helps to remember that we're lucky to be able to pursue education at all. (Although I will probably continue to complain about it and find ways to supplement her education.)

I'm glad we have the globe because it means we can afford to buy it, and have the luxury of sitting down to study it in relative peace in our own home. I'm glad we don't live in a lot of those places on the globe where the struggle between life and death every day leaves serious question about whether life will win out. We're very lucky, indeed. Life is hard. It's a good reminder to me to figure out a way to give back to the world in some way, with whatever gifts or talents I may have to offer.

Today, OC was looking at it for a while and then she said, "I'm sure glad we have this globe."

Me, too.