Friday, December 14, 2012

Just. So. Awful.

I don't think I ever really felt fear before I was a parent.  For those of us who live regular, mundane lives - that is, lives that don't require us to perform super-human tasks in high-risk situations, those of us lucky to never see combat or face enemies - there really isn't a reason to.  But once I became a parent, a tiny pocket of fear started creeping deep down inside me.  Not so much a fear of living, but more a worry.

At first, I worried that something could happen to me, and I'd leave my children, already once parentless, motherless again.  Perhaps that is narcissistic of me.  But I remember joking the first time Jason and I took a trip together, without the children, that perhaps we should take separate flights.

Then I also worried that I would lose one of them.  And not just in that moment-of-panic-because-my-2-year-old-just-ran-into-the-middle-of-the-street fear.  That (fortunately) is just a passing fear (at least it was for me).  But I remember driving down the freeway on my way to work one day before Tate underwent his cleft palate surgery, as I passed the hospital where he would be treated and worrying about how I would cope if something went wrong during that surgery.  That was a selfish fear, I suppose.  And of course Tate is fine.

But now, here I sit at the computer, my children are safely playing games and watching TV in the other room while noodles for Kraft Mac n Cheese boil on the stove, and I'm reminded of my parental fear again.  I'm not even sure if my children know what happened in Connecticut today.  I don't want to tell them if they don't.  There's no need for them to be afraid to go to school. 

I know that I am very lucky.  I can anticipate a holiday season filled with smiles and happy memories.  And I can only imagine the emptiness and shock that families living through the Connecticut tragedy must feel.  This should be a time for hope, not horror.  A time for giving instead of grieving.  A time for sharing, not taking from others.  I certainly didn't need a reminder of how lucky I am.  I know it.  I believe it every day.

I know what happened can't be ignored.  Our school district-- completely across the country and about as far away from Connecticut you can get while staying in the 48 contiguous states-- sent out a statement about school safety and the availability of crisis counselors for children in the district.  But I think the best advice I've seen as a parent was this quotation by Mr. Rogers (it's been posted in several places):
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
I can't stop bad things from happening.  But I can choose to focus on the good in humanity in spite of the bad things.  And that's a good lesson for me to remember.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Pedagogical Criticism

I admit it.  I have opinions about what my kids should be doing in school.  In many ways, I am much more hands-off than other parents, I think.  Even when I disagree with what a teacher is focusing on, and even when I wish a teacher might handle something differently, it's actually pretty rare for me to say something.  Mostly, I figure my kids will have to learn lots of different ways to get along in the world, and they will have to work with and for lots of different people.

But sometimes, teachers do things that are stupid things.  Not just silly mistakes- we all make mistakes.  But stupid, wrong things.

For example:
Why, why, why does my fourth grader have to study his "spelling" words (which are really vocabulary words) so that he can recite them word-for-word.  And write them that way, too?

To me, this is stupid.  It does him no good to recite a definition if he does not really understand it.  It is especially stupid when those definitions include other words that could probably be vocabulary words in themselves.  Doesn't it make more sense for him to define the word using his own words?  Then he at least demonstrates - on some level - his understanding of the words.

Another example:
When my child happens to omit or mis-spell a word in the definition he has memorized (or attempted to memorize), why, why, why does he have to write the words, in isolation, 5-10 times each?  What is the value in that?  We are not talking about words that a kid needs to practice either.  One week Casey had to write out the words, "of" and "where" five times each because he left them out of the definition.  Even though he totally knows how to spell them.  One week, he had to write the word "physical" ten times.  Even though on his test he spelled it how his teacher spelled it the first day she introduced the definition ("phisical").  She subsequently corrected her spelling.  But I don't think Casey should be punished when he learned it how she originally wrote it.

And that's what the silly exercise is-- punishment. It's writing to punish kids.  Which angers me, too.

But what's the point in expressing any of this to his teacher?  It will make her angry and defensive. Even though she's wrong.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Too Much Crying

Since changing jobs to be home more, I have definitely been home more.  That's sometimes a really great thing.  And sometimes not so much.

Today we went to Target.  We had four objectives:  (1) to buy a birthday present for a cousin; (2) to buy a birthday present for one of Casey's friends; (3) to buy a birthday present for one of Marcie's friends; and (4) to buy Thanksgiving-themed napkins.

As a side note, this was my third trip to a store to buy these stupid Thanksgiving-themed napkins for Casey's class.  Why do they have to be Thanksgiving-themed anyway?  They're just going to wipe their faces on them.  You'd think we'd be able to find them with relative ease a week and a half before Thanksgiving.  There sure are enough Christmas-themed napkins available.  But no such luck.

Anyway, we start out in Target with Marcie complaining that it's not fair that her brothers got hair cuts and she didn't.  Never mind that I had the woman look at her hair and tell Marcie that her ends looked fine and that Marcie did not need a haircut.  Never mind that I felt guilty anyway and so let Marcie pick out a holiday shirt, even though her brothers were not getting anything from Target. 

After she let up on the haircut thing, she began complaining that it was not fair that Casey got to push the cart.  She ran off and hid.  When she came back, she did so (literally) stomping.  I ignored her and then Tate wanted to help push, so I took over the cart.

We picked out the cousin present just fine.  We even made it through the toy section and decided on gifts for the two friends.  But when it came to napkins, the wheels fell off the cart.  Figuratively.  I walked down an aisle to check on the napkins there, and while I did so, Casey decided to lay down, stomach-down on the bottom rack, with his head toward the handle and his feet dangling off the end.  When I looked up, I saw Casey there, with Tate pushing the cart.  Well, not really pushing.  Careening the cart all over the broad aisle is more like it.  I ran down the aisle, half hissing at them to stop and reached Tate just in time for Tate to crash Casey's feet into an end-cap.  I admonished them.  Told them they were embarrassing me.  But Casey wouldn't let it go.  Then he started in about how it wasn't fair that he couldn't push the cart. 

I tried separating Casey and Marcie.  Casey ignored me.  I tried pushing pressure points on him without too much luck.  And then finally Marcie moved.  But Casey wouldn't let it go.  Somehow, he thought it was all Marcie's fault that they'd gotten in trouble, and he reached in front of me, around the cart, to try and pinch Marcie.  I grabbed his arm to stop him, and I tired to re-direct.  "Let's get the cards," I said. 

But on the way to the card aisle, Marcie began yelling at Tate.  "Slow down!  Wait for us!  You know better than that!"  I know she was mimicking me, but it's especially irritating because Tate has a mother-- and I was right. there. next to her.  I huddled them close in and said, "There will be no Starbucks if you keep this up."

Then everyone was mad.  Casey disappeared.  Marcie began whining that she couldn't find a card. Tate ran off to hide with Casey.  When I captured Tate, trying to ignore Marcie's whining, I tried sitting him in the seat of the cart and buckling him in so I didn't lose him in the Saturday Target crowds.  But Tate was not having it.  So he hauled off and hit me.

Now pause for a moment.  What would you do?  I think, given this chain of events, that I actually did something right.

I left.  I pulled Tate out of the cart and carried him like a sack under my arm, keeping his arms tucked away so he couldn't continue to pummel me.  I still managed to push the cart to a Target representative and explain that I would have to come back later to make my purchase.  I counted backwards from 5 and told Casey that I was leaving.  And the kids trailed after me, Tate in tow, screaming bloody murder all the way.  Fortunately, everyone at Target has had one of these days, and instead of looks of horror, I saw only looks of sympathy as people (mostly) moved out of my way.  (There was one oblivious shopper who actually stepped in front of me with her cart-- and slowed down!)

When I got to the car and I got Tate buckled in (which was a feat in itself), one of the other two asked in a small voice, "Does this mean we don't get Starbucks?"

There was complete silence all the way home.  Except for Tate screaming like a girl in the backseat.  Once I calmed down, I explained to the children what they had done wrong that warranted their loss of Starbucks.  And then, when we got home, I sent them to their rooms.  Tate continued crying after we got home.  Marcie started crying after we got home-- why?  She said it wasn't fair she didn't get a haircut(!).  At least Casey fessed up to his inappropriate behavior.  (Why does he have to do such inappropriate - but HILARIOUS - things?)  If only he had better impulse control.  Sigh.

Oh, and the kicker?  I still don't have those Thanksgiving-themed napkins I was looking for!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Labor Day, Power Outages and Soccer Saturdays

A couple weekends ago we were fortunate enough to be included in a last-minute Labor Day get-together.  After our fire station visit, we really didn't the weekend could get any better.  But we had a blast.  Of course, I could not get the kids to take my picture-taking seriously-- so this is the best I could get:

We had a great time eating, chatting with friends, and swimming.  It's been a warm, warm September, so we were especially grateful for the invitation.

This week (and weekend) has seen what assume are record-breaking temperatures.  We have an almost-30-year old air conditioner, and it needs to be replaced.  We try not to use it at all because of the expense, but when it's 90 degrees at night, it's awfully difficult to sleep.  And in a one-story house, we can't really keep the windows open (not that there is much relief from the outside anyway.  But this Friday we decided for maybe the second time this year to leave the A/C on.  It had hit around 107 during the day- soccer had been cancelled* for the evening, rec soccer was canceled* for today, and we knew the kids would have a hard time sleeping.

Of course, our plans were foiled by a power outage.  It wasn't our whole area.  It wasn't even our whole block-- we could see the street lights on at the end of the streets.  So we gathered the kids into the family room, so they could feel safe.  The power came back on just a couple hours later, and we went the kids to their rooms.  Then it kicked off again about an hour later and kicked back on around 3:30am.  Every time it went off or on, it woke us up.  By morning, the temperature had dropped to around 76, so we grabbed the kids and headed to the park for an interval run.

By noon-time, the temperatures were heading toward triple digits.  We were surprised that Casey's soccer game was not canceled, and we were contemplating not letting him play.  In the middle of the day.  In the heat.  But there seemed to be a breeze, and so play he did.  I even remembered my camera today.  Here are some shots:

 I just love how graceful he looks in the first two pictures (he is number four), and I love the look of concentration on his face in that last one.  Someone must have gotten the camera when I wasn't looking, because here is what else I found:

Luckily, Casey is swimming now at an impromptu soccer gathering, and Marcie is headed off soon to a sleepover with someone who has a pool and functioning air conditioning.  Casey's game tomorrow is at 8:30am, so it should be cooler to start with.  Supposedly, temperatures should start falling this week.  I guess we're just getting a "late" summer this year.

By the way, I love my new job.  Even though I have a lot of papers to comment on each week, I love that I can sit through an entire soccer game and never once check my email.  For now, life is good.

*P.S. I spelled cancelled (canceled) two different ways and figured spell-check would catch it.  When it didn't correct either version, I looked it up.  Apparently both spellings are correct!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fire Station Visit!

A few years ago, when Marcie was just a little thing- not even walking yet, we visited Uncle Bobby at the fire station.  Now that Tate is active, he is obsessed with what Uncle Bobby does.  At night, he asks where Uncle Bobby is and if Uncle Bobby is sleeping and then asks again, specifically, if Uncle Bobby is at the fire station.

The last time we were visiting with Uncle Bobby, Tate brazenly asked when he could visit Uncle Bobby at the fire station.  And this weekend, Uncle Bobby was able to accommodate us. 

We all had a blast-- we met up with Uncle Bobby's wife, Aunt Tiffany (Jason's sister) and their two boys.  One of their boys and Tate just absolutely love each other and play, usually, pretty well.  So the gang of us headed to the fire station:

 Tate and then Casey got to try on the uniforms.  We were amazed at how heavy they are-- and how hot it must be to wear them, even for work other than fires.

A few years ago, Casey took a similar picture when we visited Uncle Bobby.  It's pretty amazing how quickly they grow up!

The kids all got to try out the water hose (not at full force, of course).  The little ones thought this was hilarious and stomped through the puddles after we sprayed.

We also got to climb on the ladder truck and see what it was like inside.  The first picture is of Marcie and Casey talking to the rear driver of the ladder truck.  Jason looks a little nervous.
Tate's cousin Kai and Tate enjoyed visiting the back of the ladder truck, too.  Below are Kai and Tate posing, and then you can see Tate "driving" the ladder truck with his uncle.

Marcie did not climb as much, but she still had fun hanging out with one of her favorite aunts (who am I kidding?  Marcie adores all her aunts!). 
And this picture is my favorite of them all-- we are so lucky that Uncle Bobby invited us to visit him-- what a special day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Safari Park

Now that I have some more free time, we have been hanging out together on the weekends.  We know our time is limited because soccer games start the weekend after labor day, but for now, we are enjoying ourselves.  This past weekend, we went to Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park).  We made it in time to see the keeper talk for the carocal, which is a pretty amazing cat.

We had a picnic lunch.

And we hung out with the bats.  I was surprised at how active they were-- we watched them eat and climb and even stretch out.  And we found a few bats of our own:

Friday, August 24, 2012

One week down

This week we returned to school.

We took our typical "back to school" and "on the way to school" photos.
It was fun to see familiar faces and feel the energy of the new school year.

Marcie has a teacher new to her grade, but she seems nice -- and I loved that she walked down the line of kids on the first day of school and introduced herself to everyone.

Casey gets to bring an iPad to school this year.  His teacher is pretty technology-forward-thinking, so we are interested to see (and learn) from him this year.

Tate slept at school for the first time this week.  Successfully.  Today he hugged a new friend good-bye.  Even though the school wasn't our first choice, it's actually looking like it's just what Tate needs-- lots of opportunity to play in the water, make new friends, play dress up and general explore life as a preschooler.

Jason started work this week, too.  So far, so good.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oh My.

So I just discovered that I have not posted on my beloved blog since February of this year. That's six months. Six months is a long time. Let me just say that I could share a million excuses. But the truth is that when you spend 12+ hours a day staring at a computer screen, researching, drafting, emailing-- whatever -- it is hard to come home at night and blog.

But here we are. It's August. And I have left big law. I admit, I am a little sad to see it go -- to say good-bye. In my short time at my last firm, I made some really great friends. I got to try all sorts of new things. I was given increasing levels of responsibility. And people seemed to like my work. I even managed some pretty successful actions and developed real client relationships. It's everything a girl could want in big law. And that was my problem.

Even the best of us with families - those of us who really, truly wanted to put our families first - were limited in our ability to do so.  Because to be part of a culture where client service comes first, that often means that work has to come before family.  Not if you have a family emergency.  And in my practice group, everyone was very supportive of my role as a mother in addition to being an attorney.  But, truth be told, money isn't everything.  And so, while I was well compensated, I felt like I was never present.  Even when I was home, it wasn't present.  I left super bowl games to work.  I worked on Mother's Day.  And Father's Day.  I missed school events and activities.  I skipped out on parts of Halloween trick-or-treating.  (Though, to the firm's credit, when I went on vacation I had a real, honest, no-contact-with-work vacation.)  Much of that was probably my "choice."  But when you are driven to do excellent work you have to push through.

So I left.  Jason took a job as a senior software engineer-- and my amazing husband was able to get a job that is treating him as if he basically has been working for these past two years in the industry.

I took a job at a local law school, where I am directing their Academic Success program and teaching courses as an adjunct professor. It is totally up my alley.  I'm only two weeks in, but I love it already.

And thought I actually think it will be more difficult in many ways to balance/juggle work and home-- before I could (and did) just check out from family life, it also means I will be more present.  And I am looking forward to that.

And to having time and energy (and things about which) to blog.

So I'm home.  I hope you will tune in to follow me again . . .

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Tate has been very chattery lately. I usually cannot understand what he is saying to me. But there is no question he is talking. And putting words and ideas together.

His favorite things right now are:
  • "I got it."
  • "You hold it."
  • "Going?" (as in, "Where are we going?")
  • "No! THIS way!" (as in, "Don't turn the car that way, turn it this way!")
and, of course:
  • "Why?"
I have been wanting to take the kids tubing in the snow for a while. They are off this week for President's week, but alas, I am not. So I decided we should go this weekend to Big Bear. But then I came down with the flu, and I have been playing catch up ever since. Luckily, some friends of ours suggested we head out to Mt. Laguna instead (a one hour drive instead of a 3-hour drive)- and they even loaned us a sled! It was perfect for introducing the kids to snow.

Parking only cost $5, and we got a great spot at a picnic area.
The kids had an absolute blast sledding. Someone long before us had built up a little ramp, and when the sled went off it, the kids caught air. They laughed and laughed and laughed. Tate just kept screaming "PUN!" (We're still working on the "F" sound.)

Casey's hands got way too cold though, so we had to leave rather abruptly, after taking in a beautiful view of the desert below.

In very not-like-me fashion, we didn't really go with a plan, and didn't even pack lunch! We stopped at the Mt. Laguna lodge and bought the fixings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and had an impromptu snow picnic.

Casey and Jason had a brief snowball fight. Once, Marcie threw a snowball and it knocked Casey's snowball right out of the air! I can tell her softball practice is paying off!

Waiting to go sledding. Of course, when they actually went, they sat on the sled heading in the correct direction. The snow looks patchy in this picture. It was. But further up the hill, there were a few inches, and that was plenty. We didn't need a long run for the kids-- so this was perfect because they had a blast and didn't have to climb a super big hill.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I remember, now

I started this blog back in 2006 to document our journey to Marcie. After we returned to the U.S., it was so easy to continue writing. At the time, Casey was a preschooler. And a hand full at that. Then Marcie began doing more and more interesting things. So the writing came. They were so amusing.

It's not that they aren't amusing anymore. They are. It's just that the events are less action-related and more conversational. Their stories now are less about my coping with them and more about me helping them cope with the world-- and in that sense, I have felt (obviously) less motivated to write about them. Because somewhere in these past few years, the stories have become theirs and not so much mine. I think that's a good thing, though. We're all growing up.

But I find myself drawn back to the blog lately. I know I haven't been posting, but I have been composing in my mind. Mostly about Tate. And, given the trajectory of this blog, that makes perfect sense. He's in the midst of his terrific twos. And I don't know if we are more tired or he is more energetic, but he seems to be a bigger hand full than either Casey or Marcie were. In a different way. Somehow, some days I feel caught off-guard. Maybe I have been too confident in my parenting- this is our third after all. Whatever it is, Tate has introduced new challenges.

At first, I thought it was because of our changed family situation. When Casey and Marcie were two, Jason and I both were working full time outside the home. They were in preschool (Marcie full day, Casey half day and then to Grandma S.'s house). With Tate, it's all on us because Jason is home full-time. So I wondered if Casey and Marcie were really more rascally than I realized.

But I don't think that's it. I just think Tate is making his own way in the world. My sister recently referenced him (lovingly, I might add) as "Tornado Tate." Sometimes that's how it feels. He is a whirlwind of activity, blowing through our home, and when we are at home, we spend a lot of our time following him around and cleaning up after him.

Don't get me wrong. We love him to death. In retrospect, we can acknowledge that we were crazy to adopt a third child, busy as our lives already were. Night after night, while he is still racing around the house at 10pm and I am falling asleep on the sofa, trying to keep one eye open on him, I wonder, "What were we thinking?!?" But of course, we were guided by instinct -- and, let's be honest here -- we can't imagine life without him and really wouldn't want to. He's a force to be reckoned with, and a total love bug, too.

So I remember, now, why I kept writing this blog after bringing home Marcie. And I think I will be doing more of it soon-- there are already so many adventures to document: the nail polish incident, the sharpie incident, the dresser incident, the medicine cabinet incident, the kitchen sink incident, the hair color incident-- and so many more to come, I am sure. . .