Thursday, April 26, 2007

I Can Handle the Truth

The truth behind yesterday's post and the SMART-induced crankiness is that it was not SMART-induced. My SMART experiences of not listening were on top of a morning filled with OC not listening. Roll it together into a big ball of Why Do I Even Try? and that's where I was by the time SMART happened.

Lovely. Way to be a grownup, eh?

Yeah. Some days are harder than others. My daughter is wonderful - exceptional even - while she is also a normal child who does not like to listen to every little thing her mom says. Imagine that!

Sometimes I don't want to be needed by anyone or any being, the way my daily life includes a constant need for my attention by many sources: the cat who puts his paws on my leg to be up in my lap as I type; the cat who pukes on the carpet, always on the carpet and not the easier-to-clean floor; the other cat who rubs against my legs asking to be pet even as I sit on the toilet minding my own business; the child who talks and talks to me, constantly demanding my attention when she has a whim to mention something of consequence to herself, all throughout the day, heedless of any visual clue that I am otherwise engaged.

I have noticed that OC often replies to a suggestion of mine with her own. It happens more and more often. When I say, "Go get dressed" she'll respond with, "Okay, then I will watch a movie."

Wait a minute....what?!? Sometimes she asks, sometimes she informs, sometimes she completely changes what I have said. If I give her choices - choices! It's so Parent magazine of me! - "we can go for a walk or go out back and play soccer" she might return with "or we could go to the park". Um, yes, or not.

Sometimes we do what she suggests. I want to hear what she thinks, most of the time. Other times I just want her to listen and do what I've asked her to do. It seems like it's such a struggle just to get back to what I said in the first place.

Instead of being pleased with her copious ideas - and I should be - I am often caught by surprise by this and end up overwhelmed with too many possibilities and wondering where my parental authority has run off to. The question I have is one of balance and fairness: when do I let her have her way, and when do I not?

She's getting older. She's not a toddler anymore, and I recognize that as she grows she needs to have her ideas considered more often while being mindful of the balance of giving kids control vs. giving them a say.

It's all part of growing up, though, isn't it? Expressing yourself and compromising. I am the one who is behind the curve. My daughter is expressing herself, and I need to get with the program.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Picked a Bad Day to Stop Sniffing Glue

I cut the fric and frac out of my legs today while shaving with a cheap razor. I hate that. Now I am experiencing the aptly titled condition, razor burn. Lovely.

Today was SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) and I was a bad SMART lady. My first child, a first grader, liked the shoe project we did the last two Wednesdays that she wanted to do another one. Thanks to Nike for the farming out of market research to schoolchildren, cleverly disguised as a contest for kids - aka Young Influences on Parents' Pocketbooks - to covertly discover what children really want in a shoe if they could have anything they wanted. Of course, they want to do this the entire time I'm with them. You know, the time where I'm supposed to READ TO THEM.

We have half an hour to read a few books, people, which is not nearly enough time to delve into the inner shoe fantasy world of grade schoolers. The kids wrote things like, "I want the fastest shoes ever!" and decorated the page with foam stickers.

Really? Great, I want fast shoes, too! But there is more.

We read the first story, which she listened pretty well, then she said she wanted to write her own story. I thought this meant in the bigger sense, like, later, but no, she meant she wanted to do it right now. On the one hand, I didn't want to stifle her creativity; on the other we're really pressed for time and I want to do what we're there to do, which is read. A student sitting nearby offered a piece of paper, and I was like, "Well, we're really here to read books, so if you want to write a story I think that's great. You can do that anytime, like during free time in class or even at home tonight!"

Before us sat the second book she had picked to read, and we were running out of time. Her class gets back to their room after the time we're supposed to meet, which cuts into our meager half hour, then we have to walk to the library and I wait while she peruses the bookshelves. We barely have time for one or maybe two books. It's a struggle to get to two.

I said the thing about being here to read, all the while feeling like an idiot. She waited a minute before she said, "I really want to write a story." I repeated the being here to read bit, and exhibited more enthusiasm to get to the next book, hoping I could distract her with a shiny new story. It was not a minute later that she said, "There's a pencil over there" motioning to someone else's pencil atop their folder, the student nowhere in sight, at which time the vein in my forehead popped.

Being fully annoyed with a First Grader, and also completely unsure of what to do makes one feel a bit ridiculous. I couldn't get girlfriend to listen, or to get down with the concept. We read, we only read, we do that thing with the reading, with the exception of when we do that thing with the shoe. But there is no thing with the shoe today, or ever again if the gods smile on us. I'm glad she wanted to write a story, I encouraged her to write when she went home tonight, but holy freaking heck I just wanted to read!

My second child, a second grader, is a talkative one. She's very excited about maybe getting her ears pierced tonight, maybe not, and debated with herself whether or not it will hurt, like, nonstop. I read one book to her while she interrupted only about 600 billion times. The second book, she read to me. She did great, I was so proud of her when she worked through words she didn't know.

After I was done for the day, the SMART coordinator gave me some pictures she had taken the last week of me with the kids. I felt like such a dork for getting mad at stupid things like one of them wanting to write a story and the other interrupting to say things she felt were important. It's supposed to be fun. Sometimes all I can do is follow the rules and it makes me act like such a wet blanket. Rules are there for a reason. I like reading as many books to them as I can, we only have half an hour! And, Type A! Type A! Oh, for Pete's sake...

I saw the first child when she was walking home from school and I was on my way to pick up OC, and she said hi. I was glad she said hello, and I said the same in return and smiled, glad to have seen her. I only hope she didn't notice the contusion on my forehead from the vein explosion.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Things I Forgot to Say

About our time in Sacramento:

Some friends of my husband's live in Sacramento, and so we went to dinner with them the first night to a popular restaurant, Buca de Beppi. After a significant wait, we finally were seated in a corner table located behind a large party with about as many kids as there were adults who were celebrating a birthday. OC was seated near the outside of the table rather than against the wall. This was in case of bathroom trips were needed, and they were, and so this was more convenient.

The birthday group were having a great time, with the kids climbing around and shouting while everyone talked over the noise. The mood at their table was boisterous and loud. The mood at ours was low-key, bordering on murderous, because none of us could hear a thing, or else you were forced to shout if you wanted to talk. We decided informally to wait to have our conversation because it looked like they would leave soon and because it was so much work to try to shout and listen when all we wanted to do was plug our ears with our fingers. They did leave, just before we had gotten our dinners.

We enjoyed the food and when we were done, I was surprised at what happened next. A man and a woman were seated next to us. They were in the middle of dinner and as we put on our coats they caught our attention and said, "Your child is a joy to be around. She is so well-behaved! It restores our faith in children. Thank you."

I wish I could take credit! OC is a naturally good kid. REALLY GOOD, in spite of my faulty parenting.*

I was SO PROUD of her. She is a great kid. She fits in to whatever we're doing while being her refreshing, honest, observant self. I made sure she knew that I was proud of her and why, even though she was right there when the compliment was given.

And now I will reveal the secrets to happy dining out with a child: Polly Pockets. All those little pieces can keep them occupied for hours while you sip your mojito and wait for the loud people to leave. Also? Take OC with you when you dine out. You will not be disappointed.

I also forgot to mention that, when we were in Old Sac, we went to the California Railroad Museum, and it is awesome! Even if you aren't particularly interested trains but like history, like myself, you will enjoy going to see it.

They have a sleeping train on display - among many, many others - and it is set to move back and forth as though the train were in motion. OC loved that! She took me through that one three times. There is a dining car set up with all the different dishes throughout the years. It's attached to the sleeping car so we went through that three times as well.

I felt like a kid again, watching those model trains go around and around on their loops of track, through the town buildings in the front and then disappearing behind trees and into tunnels in the back, only to emerge again in triumph. Yay! Trains are cool.

The best restaurant that we experienced in Sacramento was in Old Sac, and it was California Fat's. The Fat family came to Sacramento from China a long time ago and are well-known names in the town and have three or five restaurants, we never figured out the final tally. California Fat's is an Asian/California fusion (I don't think this word is used enough - fusion, fusion, fusion...) of taste sensations.

Most importantly, they have really good mojitos. And can I just say? OC was an angel in that place, too. That's why we can travel with her, you know. It's nothing I'm doing, it's her. She is the coolest kid ever.

Now that I've remembered everything, I think, I can tell you about the Nevada leg of the trip, with pictures, which will be a shorter post.

* It's not the first compliment I've gotten about her behavior. I used to have to bring her to work occasionally, if she had pink eye and couldn't go to daycare but was well enough to be out and about, or whatever. My previous boss was at first reluctant to have her there because he thought she'd be loud and obnoxious and into everything. You know, a normal, curious kid who gets bored? Yes. She'd sit in my cube or at the light table and draw, look at books, find office supplies to play with, pull things off the printer and take it to whoever printed it out, or visit my coworker's cubes for a little chat. On his way out of the office, my boss looked at her and told her with a smile that she is welcome here anytime, she was so well-behaved.

I can't take credit for it. I'm bragging about her, but it's not about me being some great parent. It's her.

I know how it is when, as a parent you can't necessarily get your child to behave a certain way. It happens to me all the time, more so when she was a toddler. That's called NORMAL. OC has a personality that makes her observant and act like the people around her are acting, mostly. She's six, and she does that more often all the time. If we're in a museum for example, she looks at what other people are doing and if they're quietly looking at displays then she quietly looks at displays. As soon as she is bored, she tells me quietly that she is bored and asks to leave in whispers over and over again until I cannot concentrate anymore and we leave.

She can last for hour-long funerals. She is perfectly content on overnight flights to Europe. I've complained about her enough, it's time to write about some good things.

You may be wondering why in the hell I ever complain about her. I can only offer that it is because I suck. Or, I have a low threshold for parenting. The point is, you should try California Fat's if you are ever in Sacramento. And take the kids.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Tour of Northern California

April, 2007:

California/Oregon border. It had just rained, so the road is all steamy.

The rest area at the border has this marker showing you are at the 42nd line of latitude. If you are dorks like us, you stop and get out to read the historical signs and take pictures of them. I took pictures of them so I could read them later. (If you want to pretend like you don't know me, I understand why.)

Our first overnight was in Redding, Ca. We went to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which features, among other things, the Sundial Bridge:

It is environmentally sensitive because it doesn't have any bridge structural elements in the water, it is architecturally gorgeous because of its clean lines...

...and startlingly simple design...

I highly recommend Redding and Turtle Bay Park. I had no idea how nice it was in that area, and would go back again. There's Shasta, Trinity, and Whiskeytown lakes for camping, boating, swimming, and hiking. Not to mention all kinds of sites to see, like waterfalls and mountains and old west towns.

If you ever find yourself in the area driving south from Redding, I highly recommend stopping in Chico and go to the Sierra Nevada brewpub for lunch. Or dinner.

What I don't recommend is stopping for gas at a station in Gridley and, after getting gas, listen while your spouse complains about how irresponsible you've been to let the gas tank get so low and wonder at your audacity to not know the precise mileage from where you are to the next town with a gas station when asked by same spouse who was, up to then, napping, and who won't hear of it when you complain that his mapreading duties have been reluctant and only performed when asked which has been irritating.

No, don't do this while your car sits there with a full tank of gas and your daughter watches while snacking on popcorn, because that would be not only pointless, but go a long way toward ruining your day. Moving on.

The state capital of California is Sacramento. They have a lovely capitol building...

...the inside is pretty, too... can take a tour of the building and photograph the inside of the dome, like I did:

The seal of the state, in stained glass:

The Governor's Office. The word "Governor" is embossed into the marble, while the words "Arnold Schwarzeneggar" are done in relief (sticks out from the background), painted gold, in case you might forget the Governor's name.

This is purported to be the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi. I would have to argue with anyone who says it isn't the prettiest. It's absolutely gorgeous! We went inside, where we saw a marble baptismal font, gorgeous wooden pews, amazing stained glass, ceilings that went high into the sky, and tile floors. It's amazing. I can't offer enough exclamatory words to appropriately describe it. I'm not Catholic, so I don't have a lot of cathedral time under my belt, but I'd say this one is amazing, amazing, amazing...

We also visited Old Sacramento, which is just a quick walk under Interstate 5 through a lighted, mural-painted pedestrian underpass away from downtown and the capitol area.

I call this one Gorgeous Child, With Carriage:

Old Sac, as it is referred to, contains many gift shops where we resisted the urge to by "The Governator" t-shirts. It was very, very tempting. Also, I enjoyed the contrast between old and new:

More old and new:

On our way east toward Nevada, we stopped at Folsom. The place with the prison:

After that, I couldn't get Johnny Cash songs out of my head, which was not a bad thing at all, and nothing like the time I got "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" stuck in my head. I don't know how that happened, except for listening to the All American Folk Song radio station, which doesn't exist, so I still have no explanation.

Nevada pictures will be in another post. Hopefully it will happen tomorrow, or at least on Monday, but with my track record I would advise you not hold your breath.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Cannot Take Credit For This

My friend sent me the following email. I did not write it and I don't know who did, but it's funny. You may have already seen it. If not, enjoy! It cheered me right the hell up:

It has been scientifically proven that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in feces.

In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of Poop. However, we do not run that risk when drinking wine (nor rum, whiskey, beer or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling or filtering and/or fermenting.


Ergo: It is better to drink wine and talk stupid than to drink water and be full of shit. There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I am doing it as a public service.

* * * * * *

Currently Experiencing a Down

Lately marriage - or, my marriage - has been difficult; fraught with discord, argument, anger, and resentment. Maybe there has been too much togetherness?

I was uplifted today when I came across this passage from a book I happened upon in a display while leaving the library:

"Like so many other things, people have also misunderstood the position love has in life; they have made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play and pleasure are more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, precisely because it is the supreme happiness can be nothing other than work.

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation."

--- Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, by Roger Housden. The passage is taken from a letter written by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to another writer. See page 81, located in the appropriately titled chapter, "The Ache of Marriage".

The thing is, I'm having a hard time with the work of love. I know people for which love does not seem to be that much work. I envy them! I do not like fighting with my husband, steeling myself for another round of his excessive anger. The ups and downs of his mighty anger wears me out. Not knowing what to do about it wears me out. Not saying the right things to placate him wears me out.

There is something else, the omnipresent cloud that colors my everyday: I do not like living here. I do not like the cold and the dryness and the constant sunshine, being isolated from my friends and everything that I enjoyed. Greenness. Rain. People I knew. The extremely excellent school OC attended. I miss home.

I make the best of most days, I get out and meet people. I do try to have a positive attitude most of the time. But I cannot deny the reality that I do not like it here.

I like our house, where it is because at least we are in town and close to things; I like teaching my daughter to read, finding good books to read myself, working at knitting, making new beaded jewelry.

Mostly, I feel lost. I don't know what I'm doing here. I feel as though I have been forgotten about by Life and God and the Universe, that I don't have a place, that I am disconnected. I don't know what to do about that. I suppose I'll have keep going. I don't have any better ideas. Concentrate on the good, and keep going! Whoop de doo.

I'll keep reading Datinggod. She's always good for a spiritual uplift. I don't know how she stays so positive.

I have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Triumphant Return

I realize I may have written the last post too hastily. When I wrote "Back with more state capital photos" underneath photos of my child with our cat, it didn't make much sense.

See, we have this goal of traveling to see every state capital in the U.S. Why? I don't know, it's just a goal we have. It is a challenge, it will take us to places we wouldn't normally plan a family vacation (e.g. Jackson, Mississippi; nothing wrong with Mississippi, but it isn't a destination since we have no family there, or other real attraction to make us travel that far to get there) and I think that makes it interesting.

I have some pictures to share, but they are not ready yet. In the meantime, check out this website. I love the design! It's Flash, apparently, and you can scroll around on the left half of it, click and look through what's there. My cat liked to watch the bug fly around and get zapped in the light. Then, you can go to the right half of the page and there are things to read. I found it after following a link from Cape Buffalo.

I like this a lot. Hope you do, too. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Here Are Those Photos I Mentioned

OC loves Dakota:

I'll be on vacation this week starting tomorrow. Official vacation, that is. The past few days have been hard. I started writing about it but I am not finished. Between houseguests and readying to go on vacation, I've had plenty to do other than sit down and write.

Back with more state capital photos next week!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Met today with a contractor to talk about a new roof and new windows. The roof is really bad and must be replaced soon, and the windows are oldoldold and are not energy efficient. That's going to be a hefty chunk of change, but worth it since our utility bill was nearly $200 one month! It is VERY cold here, yet we keep the ol' thermostat at 60 degrees, wear sweaters and drink a lot of alcohol.

Earlier this spring, I signed up OC for soccer. The first practice is tonight. She is SO excited. I guess this means it's official: I am a soccer mom. Oy vey! I can't believe it. Now just let me find my SUV and my travel cocktail shaker and work that stereotype....

I am bored with this blog's design. I bought a new URL but need to find a web host and start designing a new site. Trouble is, I don't know much about how to design a functioning blog. I need to learn about CSS and how to use interactive coding. I know there are people out there who design blog templates and headers and things, but I AM a graphic designer - albeit sans the proper equipment at the moment - and I want to do it myself!

Witness: Creative Frustration.

Harrumph. Bah humbug. And razzberries.

I can't really devote much time to it right now because of other pressing issues that need attention. Nothing exciting, just crap that needs to get done which means I can't spend time on the redesign of this site quite yet.

Meanwhile, I think what I need to do is share more photos and do less whining....starting tomorrow.