June 27, 2006

Sirens

After dropping the Cat off at school, Splig and I ran some errands. After days of breakfast bars or cereal, I had a hankering for an Egg McMuffin. I saw “SuperSize Me” just a couple days ago, but it didn’t particularly dampen my love of McDonalds. I used to eat there much more frequently and once I stopped I lost twenty pounds, but the occasional meal from there hasn’t caused any gain in the last several months. It is all about moderation.

With the EggMcMuffin just across the street from me, I drove the van down a small incline towards the traffic signal. It turned yellow, but I decided to proceed through the intersection rather than attempting a quick brake. As I sailed under the signal, I saw it turn red. I also saw a police car.

My heart jumped a little, but I proceeded into the McDonald’s drive-through. So did the cop car.

As I ordered, I tried to be as sweet and calm as possible. “Let the officer know that you are a nice, calm, polite woman!”

When I drove to the payment window, I watched the policeman. Would he order, or just follow me?

He ordered.

I paid, and then proceeded to the pick-up window.

He was paying as I received my food.

I saw I had been given a small orange juice instead of large. I started to protest, but realized that if I just drove away, the cop car would have to either flash his lights to signal me that he wanted to “talk” to me, or I’d be home-free.

So I drove away while he was still paying.

I didn’t speed off in a burst of exhaust, so I knew that if he wanted to pull me over he could do so easily, but knowing that I was ahead of him by a bit made me more confident that he was ordering McDonalds, not following me.

Still, it took several minutes for my heart-rate to return to normal. Once I was on the freeway I was confident that the policeman was simply in search of breakfast. In fact, given his vantage point in the left-hand turn lane, he probably didn’t see the signal change so wouldn’t have known that I was in the intersection when it was red. Or, he chose to let it go.

Later in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s, I nearly dropped Spliggle when a woman yelled loudly from behind me, “Excuse me! I just want you to know I am here!” as she swung open her driver’s door to enter, thereby blocking my ability to put Splig back in his carseat. Clearly, I was still jumpy.

As luck would have it, another car drove up while I was buckling him in and I heard the loud sigh of the driver as she waited less than two seconds for me to be done. Then as I walked to the driver’s side, the car on that side was backing up. That driver gave me a nasty look even though I was waiting patiently to go to my door.

I have the Spliggle-removal and Spliggle-reentry routines down pat. They don’t take much time at all, unless there is someone “tsk, tsking.”

But, if you have a kid in your arms, then it is both incoming cars and outgoing cars that have precedence: whichever you are not.

Later this afternoon, I was about to make a right turn when I saw the “no right turn on red” sign. Whew! And when a white motorcycle with very bright lights came up behind me later on? Again, I felt my heart pounding, even though the cyclist was simply a private citizen.

I have heard many sirens today than usual. Thankfully, none have been for me.

Posted by karianna at 07:43 PM | Comments (1)

Changes Afoot!

Just a quick post to let y'all know that although I have a couple posts ready to publish, I have to hold off for a bit because this whole operation is moving to ClubMom!

I'll be back (hopefully shortly!) with more news on this exciting move.

UPDATE: I jumped the gun a little. I've known about this gig for awhile, but didn't know when an appropriate time would be to announce it. Today things moved quickly, so I dashed off this post to let everyone know what is going on in case they drop by and the blog is inaccessible. The transfer process will begin tomorrow, July 28th. So, I will do a couple more posts here, and then tomorrow will be an in-flux day.

Of course I will let you all know of the new url to bookmark or blogroll (pretty please!) but there will be redirects and stuff in case you forget.

In the meantime, visit my soon to be new neighbors, many of whom have personal blogs you may have already been reading.

As for me, the tone and subject matter of this blog will remain the same. Fear not, I will not suddenly start injecting forced posts on the benefits of Pampers versus Huggies, or other such behavior as my friend Nick joked about on April 1st.

Rather, I have been given a welcome opportunity to join some wonderful women on a great resource site for moms!

(Brought to you by the letter “I”)

Posted by karianna at 02:13 PM | Comments (2)

June 25, 2006

Serendipity

I went swimsuit shopping today. We all know how that goes, so it isn’t surprising it took more than a couple hours. I wanted to browse the store carefully and try on many different styles.

There were some green and brown flowered board shorts that I fell in love with immediately, but I needed something to go on top (and an actual suit to go underneath.)

Tops were too small, bottoms were too big. Vanity-sizing has gotten out of control, as I was wearing a tiny-digit size on the bottom yet not even the “large” could fit my top. It is as though they want everyone to believe they have a small waist and big breasts. (For people who actually want bigger breasts, that is.) Even more ridiculous was that all the tops were padded. There was barely enough fabric to equal me sticking band-aids on my chest, and yet that fabric was wrapped around a generous sized piece of foam. No, they weren’t removable!

I located some tankinis where the top looked like it would be cut such that it would fit my largesse (not to be confused with large-ass, which apparently I do not have given that I had butt-cloth-sag in many of the bottoms.) Unfortunately, these great tankinis only had tops in “small.”

I found T-shirts that were cute, but didn’t match the board shorts. I found a super-soft, beautifully colored bluish-purple hoodie that had nothing to do with swimsuit shopping and unfortunately had some strange seams down the front or I would have purchased it. I found adorable polos that again were pulling me off task. (Ten bucks says I buy a polo tomorrow.)

While the rule of shopping is that you aren’t supposed to buy something for which you can’t immediately find a match, I really liked those board shorts. I exited the dressing room with them in hand, expecting to simply go check out.

Magically, a size “L” brown tankini top was hanging in front of me.

Someone must have ditched it in the yoga section as they exited the dressing rooms. SCORE!

The tankini fit me perfectly. It matched the board shorts perfectly. In short order I found a T-shirt that matched everything and got some cheap flip flops to pull it all together. I tried on an excellent cowboy hat, but since I am neither from Texas nor a Republican, I left it on the shelf. (Oh, but it was adorable!)

Further happiness was that all of the items were on sale.

The next step was to go to the pet store. The Cat actually wasn’t too great today, but he had some good moments. I figured if I could get my nice blue fish, I’d just stick it in the tank without giving any good-behavior, bad-behavior commentary.

Last night he strangely hurt his thigh while peeing (around midnight,) then vomited several minutes later while in a tizzy. More vomit and sadness ensued. I still haven’t figured out whether he had some food poisoning or whether he was so scared about his leg (probably a muscle cramp,) that he worked himself up so much that he threw up. It was a sad situation, especially given that he had been so cooperative about going to bed in the first place. I think he fell asleep soon after the drama, but he was definitely grumpy today. In fact, it is no surprise that he is asleep now. So is Splig. And Husband.

It was a rough night.

So even though his behavior today wasn’t stellar, I wanted that fish!

The place were I got my excellent armfuls of surf-wear is in a strip mall that had two pet stores within three storefronts of each other. One was only for pet food, the other had animals. The place where I took Splig and the Cat the other day was in a similar strip mall just blocks down the street.

Three pet stores within walking distance of each other. Three.

I looked at the one next to the surf shop. The employees were attentive. The fish looked healthier than in the other store. I learned that there is such a thing as a blue fin-tailed goldfish. However, the ones they had were sort of a black-blue, and they had the bug-eyes.

Although I think the bug-eyes are cute, the truth is that those goldfish are extra sensitive. We had a black moor that lasted about a year, but once it started getting sick I could see it in his eyes. I will spare the details, but one eye became larger than the other and he was thereby put off balance, and thus unable to eat.

I am reluctant to get another bug-eyed fish while I am not a spectacularly attentive tank-cleaner.

They had some adorable bluish Dalmatian-like spotted goldfish. Blue-tint. White-tint. Orange-tint. All pretty cool.

But, I remembered that sapphire-aqua brilliance of that beautiful blue fish I had seen a couple days previously.

I drove to the other store, and crossed my fingers that “my” fish would be there.

He was!

I saw his tail swish around, the light hitting the sapphire-aqua fins.

I was so excited!

The salesperson said, “yo!?”

“Oh, I’d like to get that little aqua-blue guy there. The one that is hiding from me?” I was totally giddy, but trying not to show it.

The salesperson looked at me a little skeptically, eyebrows raised.

You want to know the punchline?

Beautiful Blue is a Betta!

“Oh, but um… I thought he was a fantail goldfish. That is what the sign says,” I stammered.

“No,” the salesguy laughed, “We ran out of cups for the bettas”

In the split second that followed, I simultaneously realized what would have happened had the clueless saleswoman from our earlier visit unknowingly given us a betta to shred apart our remaining goldfish and “huh… do I have a place on my nightstand for a betta?”

I laughed, and told the salesguy, “Um, I guess it won’t work then.”

But as I exited, I seriously considered stocking up on the bloodmeal and getting that gorgeous fish.

Naw, my cat would eat it. Or The Cat would knock over the container. Or Spliggle would. Or it would become overheated. And DIE. But of course, had I brought home that betta two days ago, our white goldfish would now be blood and bones. I don’t think our filter could have taken care of that. And I was squeamish as it was taking care of a fully intact dead calico fish.

So instead, I went to Baja Fresh and got a mahi-mahi taco. Yum.

Posted by karianna at 05:45 PM | Comments (3)

June 22, 2006

Ambitious plans versus sleepy reality

Last night husband asked me to stick my hand over the A/C grate to see if the air was cold. It felt cold, but not that stinging cold one would expect from an air-conditioner. He had let it run for awhile, but it hadn’t raised the temperature of the house. Plus, the machine itself sounded rather labored.

We already had our A/C fixed, but turns out it was two years ago and was apparently related to an electrical problem (that I think still exists in part) rather than with the actual A/C system. Was it really two years ago?

So tonight we are scheduled for a visit with the A/C man.

But last night, we slept with fans and open windows in an attempt to coax in the nice nighttime air.

I tossed and turned.
Husband awakened multiple times..
Spliggle squiggled in a pile of sweat.
And the Cat awakened grumpy.

The Cat has been a great boy this week. He has tried harder at school and has been fairly cooperative and polite at home. Certainly there are little infractions, but his overall demeanor was sweet and much improved.

Watching him this morning, my heart sank a bit. He was clearly “off” again.

Still, I crossed my fingers that he could pull it together for school. They were scheduled for a field trip, and he knows he has swim lessons this afternoon and perhaps a trip to the lagoon afterwards.

Imagining the calm, polite boy with whom I’ve interacted the last couple days, I planned a little mommy-son time for after school. Splig is in preschool until 3:00pm and Husband is picking him up, so the Cat and I had the potential of about three hours to spend time alone.

I thought we’d go to lunch; maybe do a little shopping (he likes to shop.) We’d visit the “flower store” (Lowe’s) and perhaps do a little planting (or at least plan the planting: it is expected to reach over 100 today, so time spent outdoors during daylight might be kept to only when we are in water.)

I was excited to have a little time with just my eldest.

But when I got to the Cat’s classroom, he was nowhere to be found.

The teacher somberly explained that he had had a horrible day and was currently sitting at a table in another classroom. “We needed to have him away from the other children,” she explained.

I was horrified as she explained how he had hit a classmate. He didn’t listen during the field trip. He darted away from the adults. He shrieked.

When she retrieved him, the two of them had a talk about what had happened and why he was on a timeout in the other room.

The Cat looked wiped out. His face was grey and droopy. He cried angry and exhausted tears as he whined his version of the story. “‘Daisy’ (not her real name) hit me first,” he pleaded, and then wailed “She hurt my neck!”

The teacher shook her head and then turned to me. “I saw the whole thing. Daisy put her hands up to block his hits. She didn’t hurt his neck.”

On one hand, I trusted her. If she had seen it transpire, then I believe what she saw.

But then on the other hand, I had a tiny bit of doubt. Spliggle had a run-in with Daisy months ago. He was on the playground with her (and other current students) while the Cat had his Kindergarten readiness assessment. I remembered her. She had been bossy. She had thrown a toy over the playground fence and blamed it on another child. Was this typical of her, or one bad day?

I don’t doubt that the Cat was a disaster today. I don’t doubt that he hit Daisy. But I must admit that the overall denial that Daisy couldn’t have had anything to do with it worried me. Chances are, the teacher is right. But I wonder what would happen “next time” if Daisy is bossy with the Cat like she was with Splig. Would the teacher believe her because she has seen the Cat behave poorly?

My expectation is that the teacher understands Daisy’s and the other children’s temperaments and will come to know the Cat’s such that it isn’t one child consistently being blamed. (After all, I certainly don’t want to be hypocritical and believe that Daisy is somehow a problem child given the one afternoon I met her!) But given our experience last year of how the Cat was treated differently than his classmates, I suppose I am twice-shy.

I don’t want to be “that mother” who insists that it is always some other kid presenting the problem. But I also don’t want my kid to unjustifiably always be the one in trouble. If he is sincerely the only one misbehaving, then I need to address that honestly. In the midst of my disappointment about the Cat’s behavior, I did have that little sliver of doubt, coupled with a concern that he will be the trouble child, whether appropriately labeled or not.

But my main focus wasn’t concern over the overreaching future as I unlocked the van. I was disappointed that I couldn’t take him on a little excursion. I was angry and wanted him to understand why his behavior was unacceptable. I was concerned that he gets enough sleep to do well at swim lessons this afternoon.

I fought with myself over how strict I should be. I shouldn’t blame his behavior 100% on his lack of sleep. But yet I know it played a role. Was I naïve to believe so? Would I be too soft on him because I figured it was partially caused by a factor outside his control? (After all, Husband is tired today. I am confused and drowsy. Our behavior is altered.)

I was stern as I spoke to the Cat about his difficult day. I explained why each of the things he did was wrong. I banished him to his room “until swim lessons,” but explained that if he didn’t shape-up, there would be no swim lessons. I revealed that I hoped he’d take a nap during his time in his room. (Three hours.) “Snuggle up in your blanket and relax. You’ll wake up a better boy,” I explained.

He erupted into a new batch of tears, “Sleeping will make me a bad boy. I have bad dreams and I become a bad boy.”

“Did you have bad dreams last night?”

“Yes. I don’t want to sleep. Mine dreams are very scary. I am a bad boy.”

“Snuggle up with your blanket and think happy thoughts. Think about playing in the water. Think about your friends. Think about the fun things you like to do. Then you’ll have happy dreams and you’ll wake up happier.”

As I mentioned the word “friends” he cried harder. “My friends don’t love me. Nobody loves me at Kindergarten,” he wailed.

The conversation that ensued both broke my heart and made me concerned that he was being a little drama king and/or manipulator. The words coming out of his mouth were the same pleads of feared isolation that I had spoken as an elementary school student. My mother had reassured me that if I was nice to the other kids, they’d be nice to me. But we know that isn’t true. Still, I heard my mother’s words as I spoke to the Cat.

Many of the other kids already know each other. Several of them had been in the school before and just happened to be doing the “academic” program that is required of all new kids. I think the Cat is only one of two or three brand-new kids. It makes sense that the “old” kids would congregate together since they are more familiar with each other. And if the Cat has had a difficult time behaving or has been hitting them, then it is understandable that they haven’t wanted to play with him.

Interestingly, though, the Cat hadn’t had trouble making friends in preschool. The year before last, he had been Tuesday/Thursday. He switched last year to MWF where the majority of the kids already knew each other. But he became friends with them. As much as I hated it when the Cat’s former teacher would remind me how lucky he was that the kids in his class were so accepting, I definitely believe it.

I hope that as he becomes more comfortable and is behaving better on a more consistent basis that he makes friends. I am trying to convince him that it is in his best interests to be kind, polite, and use his words because that will increase the possibility that he makes friends. But I know it isn’t a sure thing. I don’t want to give him the unrealistic hope that you just need to be nice to get nice in return. But for a Kindergartener, the intricacies of fickle children (and being a doormat as an adult) are best left quiet.

While his comments of “nobody loves me at Kindergarten” and “I want people to love me now!” might just be prompted by one bad day, I admit I’ve thought about his concerns on a more global scale. This is the upshot of my fears surrounding the whole ASD-like behaviors: Will he be liked? Will his teachers like him? Will anyone respect him? Or will he be isolated against his wishes?

For those who say the social missteps of those with an ASD are indicative of not wanting to be social, I beg of you to consider that there might be a deep desire to be social, but an inability to do it in a productive manner. I know I wanted friends so badly that I ended up sabotaging my efforts to earn them. I don’t want the same thing to happen to the Cat.

So instead of a peaceful lunch with my son, I’ve ended up with an afternoon rehashing my own insecurities in light of my son’s behavior, yet realizing that I shouldn’t overreact.

Hopefully the A/C man will make us comfortable tonight, for a more enjoyable day tomorrow. But in the meantime, I hope not to be dragged down by the Cat’s childhood fears.

Posted by karianna at 02:04 PM | Comments (1)

June 21, 2006

Jalapeño Questions and Elephant-dung Paper Answers

I am distraught because I cannot find my jalapeño chips. Was I not the only one who enjoyed those? Hmmm.

Spliggle loves Salsitas, so perhaps he snagged the jalapeño n’ cheese ones from the same maker. (Oh well, I ate some marshmallows instead. I am being particularly bad today: already two pieces of chocolate, two beers, and six marshmallows!)

I have heard of kids being sent to bed without supper, but in Splig’s case, he was sent to bed last night because of supper.

He has become quite a little independent guy. Our kitchen has become completely Spliggle-self-serve.

Yesterday, he brought me a box of pasta.

“Yes, I’ll make it in a moment. Mommy has to finish something up for a client.”

I then heard the din of bouncing tiny little pasta shells hitting the hard kitchen floor. And Spliggle-giggles.

“Squee poured out the pasta!” yelled the Cat, somewhat pleased. (Yeah, he calls his brother “Squee.”)

I put on the water to boil a new batch. Bonus of having the first thrown on the floor? Double-cheese for the second!

In the agonizing time waiting for the boil, and then the finish of the second batch of pasta, the Cat used the Dustbuster until it died. Alas, the majority of the pasta still lay on the floor. I think most of the charge was eaten-up by tormenting Spliggle than by sucking up pasta shells.

Splig was pleased when I set the double-cheese pasta in front of him.

I turned back to my work.

Then I smelled blueberry yogurt. Splig giggled and wiped some on my pants.

“How did he get blueberry yogurt?” I questioned, half-yelling.

“Oh, I am such a helpful, good boy!” responded the Cat.

The kitchen floor was now a combination of spilled uncooked pasta, fully cooked pasta, and blueberry yogurt. Add in some stickers and Husband’s shoe and we had quite a sight.

diningroommess.gif

When I entered the living room, I saw a new mess:

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The stuffed dog has died in horror. Pillows, elephant-dung paper strewn about. Yeah.

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(Thankfully, the Cat helped me clean up a bit!)

Oh well. I enjoyed the double-cheese pasta (served with Trader Joe’s almond-applesauce pork chops: Mmmm!) And once Splig was sent to bed, I was able to do a little bit of cleaning before being fully horrified with The Trials of Henry Kissinger. I had left a comment with Mothergoosemouse on her well-written post about the military about how I was completely ignorant about why we have to have war, and why we stick our noses into other people’s business. Whoa, did that movie reinforce my dumbfoundedness. How could we do that to Chile? Why would someone be so evil as to prolong a war for his own gain? Do we see parallels between what happened then and what is happening now? Add to that the video of the Pentagon security cameras (Where’s the plane? Where’s the debris a plane would have created? Missile anyone?) and I don’t know what to believe.

The Cat has been a great boy today. Splig has been crafty. He has already dumped out paperclips, scattered pens, and poured water on the floor. But like last night, he has now been confined to his crib. (He hasn’t remembered that he already knows how to climb out it. I wonder if he simply figures that if it is nap/bed time that he might as well sleep.)

Soon we’ll take off for swim lessons, and then probably go to the lagoon again. (I’ve updated the set to include some photos taken yesterday!)

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Posted by karianna at 02:37 PM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2006

Where Was I?

As we enter the third week of the Cat’s academic summer school, I find myself confused, particularly when Spliggle is off in his preschool forty miles away. Where are my sons? When am I supposed to pick them up? What day is it? Do we have swim lessons? We’re out of bananas already?

It doesn’t help that I took some Nyquil the other night for a cold and ended up having some very realistic dreams: some scary, some kind of cool, but all very convincingly real. (I actually had a BlogHer dream in the mix. Nice to meet y’all – can’t wait to do it for real!)

Fortunately, the Cat seems to have calmed down considerably from the start of all the chaos (his crazy graduation, a hectic weekend, continued wildness, and hopes for improvement.) He continues to enjoy his new school. The campout was a great experience for him, despite the little missteps that frustrated me when I saw his behavior as compared to other kids the same age. But, he is proud to have slept in a tent. And his teacher told me yesterday afternoon that he has been listening better in class.

Spliggle started swim lessons yesterday. (Originally we weren’t going to start for another two weeks, but openings became available.) The Cat was proud to introduce his brother and mommy. He puffed up his chest, walked up to the swim coordinator and announced, “This is my brother Spliggle. He is almost two. My name is Cat and I am five. Then this is Kari. Kari and Spliggle will be taking lessons today in the baby class.”

The Cat lucked out and is in a lesson by himself. We’ve paid for a group lesson for a half hour, but he’ll instead get a private lesson for twenty minutes. I glanced over a couple times and saw him cooperating beautifully. As much as he enjoys having other kids in his class, I am glad he is having a session worth of private lessons.

Meanwhile, Spliggle wasn’t hot on the bubble-blowing. He thought being dragged across the pool on his tummy was cool, but was less convinced about being on his back. He enjoyed throwing and retrieving a floating saucer (to assist freestyle arms.) His favorite activity was jumping into the pool.

We got a pass to the local park system over the weekend. One park has a swimming lagoon that is part sand and part “regular” cement pool. Husband was shocked at its size and how even with enough people to fill a large parking lot, the swimming area was vast such that we didn’t feel crowded. He says the photos I took last year don’t do it justice. I think we’ll be spending many hours at that lagoon! The Cat has already requested that we go there this evening after his lessons. (Apparently, the lessons are only the appetizer to the main course.)

My one big mistake yesterday was not changing Splig’s clothes after lessons. I thought, “Oh yeah, let the boys run around in their swim suits all night!” and then I remembered Spliggle had a swim diaper on. Duh. And of course he went #2. So I had to carefully remove the diaper and was shocked to find an entire lollypop stick. I am hoping the stick didn’t travel through his digestive system, though I can’t figure out how else it could have gotten there. It wasn’t there during the swim lesson and we don’t have lollypops at home. My shiver-inducing guess is that he had consumed it under his chair at the movies Friday.

Although it feels like my mind is a bit water-logged, especially given that several of my dormant clients all of a sudden decided NOW was the time to do some updates, it is an exciting time. In a week and a half, Splig turns two. Then he starts at the new school (thereby simplifying my commuting considerably.) As is always the pattern, I am right now content with the Cat’s behavior, but expect that at some point I’ll again be scratching my head trying to figure him out.

One of my clients wanted me to post information about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Their faith in the correlation was unwavering. It was interesting for me to compose their newsletter. Although I wasn’t convinced by their documentation in particular, I’ve seen lots of persuasive evidence. Of course I didn’t reveal to my client that I have a special interest in such research.

I admit it is strange to consider my reaction in different “hats:” as a former neuroscientist studying behavior, as a mother concerned about her child’s strange antics, and as a web-designer hired to post the scientific information without presumption of insider knowledge on the subject. Who am I again?

Posted by karianna at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Camping and Fathering

The Cat’s campout was both a success and a challenge.

My mom had called me Thursday night wondering what the latest was from her grandsons. I had explained the various ups and downs of the last couple weeks. She offered her opinion (prefacing it with “I know you don’t like to take advice, but…”) saying that she thought I should just leave an event the moment the Cat had a problem. “He’ll get the idea quickly,” she thought, if I were to remove him from a potentially pleasurable situation at the first inkling of disobedience.

The campout had plenty of opportunities where perhaps my mom would have counseled me to leave. However, I felt the potential for success was such that we should hang on even after minor infractions in the hopes that the Cat would have a triumph that would end up being foundation for something better.

Friday morning was the Cars movie. That went well for the Cat, and was a disaster for Splig. Not surprisingly, both boys fell asleep afterwards.

Later in the afternoon, I brought Splig over to my parents so they could watch him while Husband had an event. I took the Cat to the campout, and then Husband picked up Spliggle when he was done with his meeting.

I dropped Spliggle off a bit earlier than originally intended because I wanted to take the Cat to the store to procure Cat-safe graham crackers and chocolate for s’mores. I had already gotten some nice organic all-natural marshmallows, but had forgotten to get the other ingredients.

To my surprise, the Cat fell asleep on the way to the store. It was difficult to awaken him, and it took awhile for him to be completely cognizant. Thankfully, by the time we got to his school he appeared awake.

Unfortunately, he was reluctant to join in the games at the campout. He was excited about setting up the tent, and enjoyed the unstructured play-on-the-playground time, but when it came time for the scheduled activities, he had trouble following instructions. At one point he moaned, “I am sooooo tired!” Thankfully, the other attendees laughed, but I was concerned.

During one of the headmasters’ speeches about listening, the Cat didn’t listen. He ran away and started playing with rocks. I was definitely tempted to leave, but didn’t, as I hoped for later success.

The campout was on the campus, right smack in their play area. I thought it was kind of cool to know that I’ve now slept in an elementary school playground, surrounded by geese, goats, and a very vocal peacock. Until early Saturday morning, I could only imagine what it would be like to be awakened by a rooster. Now I know. Ugh!

The Cat was funny. One moment, he’d beg to roast marshmallows, but then when it was time, he’d freak out instructing me to do it. When the Headmaster dictated fire safety and talked about “grown ups do this” and “kids do that,” the Cat announced for all to hear that he was a grown-up. When the Headmaster told us it was time for a creek walk, the previously tired Cat became animated, shouting, “Okay everybody! Follow me to the creek! I am first. I am the leader. My name is Marie!”

It has been months since he’s referred to himself as “Marie.” The recently dusted-off Aristocats DVD has no doubt led to his revised obsession. I wasn’t pleased about this timing.

He jumped from not wanting to be involved to being the leader. He bounced from reluctance to bossiness every step of the way. I worried, as is my nature, and would try to get him to comply with the instructions.

“I want to play flashlight games”
“No, actually I just want to stare at the stars”
“Let’s go to sleep in the tent”
“No, let’s roast marshmallows”
“We have to sleep in the tent?”
“I am afraid to sleep in the tent!”
“That light is on, so now I will sleep a really long time” (after I put on a flashlight, which I switched off two minutes later after it started to burn my foot.)

Each time he would shriek or not participate, I’d wonder if we should just leave. But at the same time, I knew that sticking it out would enable him to have a success. Sure enough, five minutes after we entered our tent, he was asleep. The next morning he was surprised, “It is the morning? I slept the whole night in the tent?”

A success.

So even though he had some difficulty following instructions, I know he is proud to have slept in a tent all night.

I had the opportunity to chat with both headmasters, two of the teachers, and several of the parents once the kids had gone to sleep. We had wine and beer which magically appeared where once only hot dogs and punch had stood.

The candid conversation that followed was enjoyable and reassuring. I enjoyed bonding with these people since our family’s success at the school depends on my involvement as well as the Cat’s and Spliggle’s conduct while there. Hearing from one woman whose (successful) nineteen year old had been through this school’s elementary program was definitely a testament to the school.

The rest of the weekend has been similarly up and down. The Cat has had moments of wonderful compliance, and other times of stubborn defiance. We’ve taken the kids to a great swimming lagoon and tired them out.

Today, Husband was sad that he didn’t get a chance to sleep in, and ended up being the one who made the waffles. However, I still haven’t received a Mother’s Day gift, and I cleaned up the waffle-making mess. ;-)

Happy Father’s Day, Husband! Your ping-pong table is supposed to count for Father’s Day as well as for your birthday. :P

Both boys gave their daddy extra kisses today. (And the Cat had already made two cards, plus a chocolate-strawberry and chocolate-pretzel confection.) After Splig half-awakened from his nap he snuggled with Daddy for awhile before being completely energized. As we got ready to leave for the evening, he was distraught, “Where Daddy? Dadddddyyyyy??!??” Both boys love their daddy.

We went to an excellent Father’s Day BBQ thrown by my cousins. The boys had an absolute blast and were well behaved. I hope Husband had a good time as well. He allowed me to be the designated drunk to his designated driver, so I definitely had a good time.

My parents bought him a book on blogging and I had to laugh since they don’t know about this blog, and because several of the individuals mentioned in the book I have been two feet away from during the first BlogHer.

The weekend was a success, but during the campout I saw some of the listening problems about which the teacher informed me. I had a pow-wow with my mom (who had to deal with similar problems with the Kindergarten-aged me) last night that initially comforted me, but now makes me nervous. I know I am doing what I can to approach these concerns, but at the same time I end up feeling overwhelmed.

It is definitely a balancing act between being strong versus not trying to be a hero. The Cat tries hard, but at the same time his behaviors can be frustrating. The scale of teaching versus praising versus punishing versus just throwing one’s arms up is precarious.

And I know I am not alone. Husband is experiencing similar frustrations with the Cat: extreme love and yet confounding frustration. We have triumphs. We have challenges. And we have a near-two-year-old who is now demanding more attention than the Cat at times.

Thank you Husband for sharing in the Cat and Spliggle’s roller-coaster! Happy Father's Day!

Posted by karianna at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Days of Opposites: Day Two

The Cat again awakened brightly, calmly, and ready to behave. “I am going to be a good, good boy today!” he announced.

The two of us packed Cat-safe popcorn and Cat-safe soda, and then got dressed to go to the movie.

Spliggle was asleep and it was nearly time to leave. I reluctantly poked him a bit, but he kept turning over in an attempt to continue sleeping.

Finally, Splig was dressed and we were off.

We arrived on time and joined other parents and children in front of the closed theater. It took several minutes before we were let in. Then another fifteen to twenty until the rest of the kids were there. The logistics of everyone getting popcorn, a drink, and some candy had been taken care of quite well (there was an assembly line) but the arrival times were so staggered that by the time the movie started Splig had already eaten two boxes of candy, some popcorn, and a drink. (He had dumped one on the floor, too.) His attention span had already been maxed out. Perhaps I should have let him run around the theater as everyone was arriving, but there was so much chaos that I imagine he would have run out the front door.

Splig was spliggle-a-ble. He watched the movie short (“One Man Band”) and giggled. He was excited when “Cars” came on, but wanted to squirm away. I gave him a little leeway (we had a few empty seats near us) but I realized soon I couldn’t contain him.

I chased after him twice, ducking in front of others and in front of the very first row. (He wanted to touch the cars.) I walked him around the lobby, but he pointed back to the movie. We huddled in the entryway a bit. We ducked back into our original seats. I let him crawl under his seat, even though I knew he was eating the candy he had dropped on the ground and who-knows-what-else. I kept trying to position him in either his own seat or on my lap. He would agree, snuggling up to his blankie, but only remain stable for thirty seconds before the spliggliness began again.

I figured other kids would be running around the theater (the two-year old class was there, after all!) But everyone was sitting still. The area with the toddlers was a battlefield of popcorn, but they were all in their seats.

The Cat was in his seat. He had been in his seat the whole time. He was smiling at the screen and completely focused on the movie. When Splig’s foot would jab over to his seat, he would calmly push it back. No violence. No shrieks. No problems from the Cat.

After getting hit, grabbed, pulled-on, and after going deaf from his screams, I held Splig tightly as I whispered to the Cat that I had to take Spliggie away but that I would come back to get him at the end of the movie. The Cat nodded.

Outside, I was stunned that I had just left my five year old alone in a movie theater. Of course, it was closed to everyone except their school, so I wasn’t truly worried about anyone else causing a problem. But I wondered about what the Cat’s behavior would be. Given how interested in the movie he appeared, I figured he’d be okay.

Outside, Splig melted. We sat in the van for awhile, but it was hot. We walked across the street to check out a fountain, but he tried to get inside. We walked in the garden area of a restaurant, but he lost interest. We found another fountain and he attempted to grab coins off the bottom. I put him back in the car. Then it was too hot again, and we returned to the second fountain after discovering that attempts to re-enter the movie theater were in vain. The door was locked. Splig kept saying, “This way!” and “Movie!” which is more vocabulary than he usually expresses. Then he kept muttering, “Mamamamamama” as he rubbed his eyes.

Usually he calls me “Daddy.”

A man and a woman sat on a bench near the fountain. I let Splig put his hand in the water, but directed him back out as he attempted to climb in. I saw the people eye me suspiciously and their conversation dropped to small whispers. They clearly felt violated. Spliggle beamed. “Water! Water!” he laughed.

I had seen other people near this fountain earlier in our game of “waste time waiting for the movie to end,” so I assumed it was a public area. One man had gone into another building from this plaza. Another had gone into a restaurant.

After less than thirty seconds, the woman announced to the man, “Well, we’ve got to go elsewhere.” And she left.

The man started to leave, paused, and then grabbed the metal gate leading to the plaza. “This gate is supposed to be closed. The restaurant isn’t open yet.”

“Well, I didn’t open it.” I protested as I scooped up Spliggle.

“This is not meant for people until the restaurant is open.”

(“This” meaning an effing-fountain and a couple benches!)

Spliggle screamed, arm extended above my shoulder, reaching for the fountain. He then tugged on my ear and pulled my hair in protest as we walked away from the plaza.

(Clearly Splig realized the special value of “this that must be withheld from the public unless the adjacent restaurant is open”. And “especially take it away if it provides joy to a toddler.”)

I kept checking the clock. Minutes dragged on. When would this movie end?

I was tired of attempting to contain Splig. If he had his way, he’d dart into traffic or into a store. “This way! This way!” and then a scream. My ears hurt. My arms hurt. We hung out in the van again, A/C cranked up high.

When I saw a cinema employee cleaning the windows, I realized I could reenter. I took Splig and occupied him in the air-conditioned lobby with the drinking fountain. He watched with glee as large amounts of popcorn were being created in time for the official opening time. Splig was still darting around tiring me, but it was a more contained and cooler place than outside.

A teacher taking a child to the bathroom saw me and told me that the Cat had gotten frightened at one point and was now sitting with her. I hoped he hadn’t been disruptive, but when I crept in with Splig a few minutes later I saw he was silently engrossed in the movie.

Splig sat on my lap for the last ten minutes of the movie. I rocked him back and forth and let him snuggle up against his blankie. We were sitting on the floor in the aisle, which allowed him to use me as a recliner rather than being contained by his original seat.

At the end of the movie, the Cat followed my instructions as we signed out with the teachers and left.

As a reward, I bought him a hamburger and fries. I ate my own burger as we drove, spilling sauce on my shirt and arm but not caring because I was so tired and so hungry. As we got home, I licked my arm (yeah, I know = gross) and was surprised to taste pickle relish. I think Splig had picked up some old hot dog condiments from beneath his seat and it transferred to my arm during one of our struggles. What a pleasant thought! (Let’s hope Splig and I stay healthy. ICK!)

In a reversal of yesterday, the Cat has been perfectly cooperative while Spliggle as been quite a challenge.

Spliggle has been unable to get down for a nap. He is too hot, too thirsty, and without his blanket. Alas, his blanket was drenched in soda and spotted in half-eaten Mike N’ Ikes. It is in the washing machine.

So instead of much needed sleep, he is exercising his overused vocal cords from his crib.

Earlier, when Husband (who had been working from home) came out of the house to greet us, asking how the movie had been, Spliggle jumped over the seat, spliggled into the driver’s seat, and leaned up against the horn such that it blared loudly for several seconds.

That just about sums it up.

Posted by karianna at 02:14 PM | Comments (2)

June 14, 2006

Bee Guts

Yesterday was quite busy work-wise. A situation which we thought had been resolved turned up “bigger and not-so-better.” I was brainstorming analogies for it: Fighting off a bunch of sharks and then one lone shark comes back later to bite our heads off? Rock climbing up a steep incline but then realizing the last hold is loose? Nothing really seemed to capture the situation.

A past employee screwed us over big time. Because of the way employment law works, he ended up with money when he should have ended up in jail. Unfortunately, the laws created to protect employees against unsavory corporations end up squashing the small businesses. Had we known the scope of what this employee did to screw us over while he was still in our employ, perhaps he would have gotten his comeuppance, but likely not. If I were a dishonest sort, I would be pleased that I now know how to swindle someone out of six (or more) figures. But I am not evil. It astounds me that some people are.

When I learned of the latest problem, I was furious. I think this affects me more because it is my brother’s company. If I were just an employee of some random company, perhaps my protective instinct wouldn’t be so strong.

When I went to sleep last night, I didn’t know what we would do, and my mind ruminated on a situation for which I didn’t have a resolution. We have attempted to do everything honestly and properly, but have been penalized for the former employee’s deceitfulness. Thankfully, some new information came into play today, so we might be okay. (That doesn’t mean we get revenge, just that we won’t be living in a van down by the river.) But I didn’t know of the new information when I retired last night.

As I slept, I had a nightmare that made perfect sense to me.

I walked down the path to what was my home in the dream (stunningly different than my real-life home, surprisingly.) Ahead of me, a large bee was bothering another woman. I am not sure who this woman was, but I was surprised when the bee spied me, darted over, and suddenly started buzzing around my ear. I darted right and left, slowed and quickened my pace. I didn’t want to swat at it, lest I bother it, but I wanted it away from me. I saw its hook-like stinger as it circled me.

I was afraid.

I’ve been stung before and know that it really isn’t a big deal, but this bee was different. It was much larger, and the stinger was much more pronounced than I have ever seen.

My maneuvers allowed me to get in the house and close the door without letting in the bee. I hadn’t been stung and there was a thick piece of glass between me and the bee. But the bee was waiting on the other side.

I had to go outside to retrieve things from the car. (Groceries? Children? I don’t know. My kids didn’t actually appear in this dream.)

But how could I go outside when the bee was there? It was hovering in front of the glass door, waiting.

I stayed inside in the kitchen. Then I decided perhaps I could go out the back door. But the bee quickly repositioned itself.

It flew in my house.

Again, I tried to outwit it, but it didn’t work. The bee dug its stinger into my forearm, but only about ¼ of the way. I watched it in slow motion. I pinched its back to remove it from my arm and threw it outside, promptly shutting the door again.

Then a friend entered through the door and the bee came again. This time (through the magic of slow-mo,) I was able to catch it, and then squash it beneath my boot.

The mess that remained was catastrophic. But the bee wouldn’t bother me again.

We don’t know how this latest situation will play out in real life, but I am crossing my fingers for bee guts, even if the cleanup is difficult.

Posted by karianna at 06:59 PM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth and a Convenient Dinner

Since Husband’s birthday was the day after Election Day, I knew he wouldn’t be awake enough to celebrate. Plus, the Cat had swim lessons at 6pm, so a birthday dinner was out of the question.

However, today we got the opportunity to have a date. While my parents watched the boys, Husband and I saw An Inconvenient Truth and ate a delicious dinner at a friend’s restaurant.

If you haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth, do so. It is fascinating and scary all at once. I don’t like thinking of myself as an “environmentalist,” since that brings up images of hemp pants and not bathing, but I recycle obsessively (poor Husband sometimes prints out “official” documents only to find I’ve put scrap paper in the printer) and am always running around the house turning off lights. Husband drives a Prius and when I was looking for a new car I selected a practical van with better gas mileage than the SUVs that I desperately wanted for the “coolness” factor. Our vehicles are “carbon neutral” through our donations to Cooldriver.org and driveneutral.org. Plus we’ve gotten a “Cool Home” certificate through NativeEnergy. I know there is more we can do, and bit by bit we are doing it. It would be wonderful to have enough money to build a straw bale home and/or a zero-energy home.

After the movie, we ate for free at our friend’s restaurant. Husband had been given a gift certificate from his bosses as a birthday present. But when our friend saw us in his restaurant, he sat down to chat and ended up taking care of our bill. So we still have the gift certificate left for another evening out!

It was wonderful to get some time “away!”

Posted by karianna at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

Tears

The tears that didn’t come Monday came today.

I went by the Cat’s old preschool to drop off a check. The director was there, and we chatted a bit. Her daughter is the Cat’s good friend Lexi. Lexi was drawing pictures and name tags.

“Guess whose name she wrote first?” the director teased.

I thanked her and Lexi for being such great friends for the Cat. Then I burst into tears as I recounted how embarrassed I had been that the Cat was disruptive during the graduation ceremony. She reassured me, but her caring allowed the tears to flow.

I am glad the Cat seems to be doing well at his new school, although as I picked him up this afternoon I heard him announcing to the class in a bossy tone that he refused to do another art project. His self-portrait depicts what he describes as “my angry face.”

But he eagerly selected one of his new school-emblem shirts to wear today. (And then he requested to wear another when the first got dirty this afternoon.) He was ecstatic to purchase a school sweatshirt, cardigan, and fleece at the uniform sale yesterday.

The students don’t need to wear uniforms during the summer session, but once the academic year begins they will be required to wear special polos and pants, along with the long-sleeved gear when it is cold outside. (He looks like such a “proper” little man with his royal blue cardigan!)

When he talks about his new school, he is excited. Yet he is still wild and bossy more than usual. He is behaving better than he did Monday, but there is something “off” that concerns me. Perhaps it is just the transition to the new school and the “goodbye” to the old. Maybe it is because our family is still conquering a nasty cold (his voice is still altered, so I imagine his throat is sore.) I don’t want to over psychoanalyze it, but my worry-prone nature frequently takes over.

I hope that he is doing fine in the new class. His teachers haven’t revealed otherwise and at this point I don’t want to ask. I look forward to the next couple weeks to see how things pan out.

Today was the last day of swim lessons for a few weeks. The Cat looked comfortable in the water, but definitely wanted to grab onto his instructor at times. Perhaps we’ll go to a community pool and practice before his next session begins in July. He loves the water so much! Luckily Spliggle starts swimming (with me) during the next session, so he’ll finally have a chance to enter the water into which he’s been threatening to dive for months.

Frankly, I am tired. Spliggle has become harder to control, and the Cat’s recent wildness has left me drained. It has been a busy week. There have been many positive moments and several frustrating ones. The extremes have been just a bit more divergent this week. I imagine as routine settles in, so will the highs and lows.

But for today, the tears came.

Posted by karianna at 08:38 PM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2006

Serving up a Surprise

Husband and I have a notoriously difficult time with presents. Whenever a birthday or Christmas rolls around, we accidentally buy ourselves the very gift the other was going to purchase for us. Or, we buy the same thing for each other. We’ve tried a “no buying anything around a holiday” rule for the intended recipient, but sometimes there is a wistful mention for the very gift already purchased and wrapped.

I was definitely one of those kids who would start to clean their room, but then as soon as Mom said, “Go clean your room!” the motivation would be lost. I wanted to clean my room because I said so, not because my mother told me to.

It is the same way with gifts. Although it is great when Husband will mention that he wants a particular book or video game since I can go grab it, it is frustrating to have it mentioned so many times that I have to exclaim, “Remember the rule, Honey! Don’t buy it right before your birthday!” which is akin to saying, “Gee, I bought it for you!”

Just once, I want to actually surprise Husband. I want him to actually enjoy the present instead of giving a knowing nod when he opens up the gift he already knows he is receiving.

In the past, I’ve gotten two things that I thought would be appreciated and a nice surprise, but it didn’t work. One was a cassette of a favorite baseball song. The original cassette had become broken; perhaps it was the Cat who unwound it or maybe it was a moving casualty? I couldn’t find the song on CD, so had gotten the cassette to replace what had been broken. The other item was a David Letterman CD. I had searched everywhere for it. I finally found it, but at least six months after Husband had expressed interest in it.

Both the baseball cassette and Letterman CD remain unopened. But these were minor gifts.

I knew that to surprise him in a positive way, I’d need to get something I was certain he’d want, but also certain he wouldn’t buy himself or guess ahead of time.

I selected a ping-pong table. Last year, some houseguests had gotten us paddles and balls (in honor of Husband’s excellent beer-pong playing skills,) so we needed a table to go with it.

I put in lots of research to determine which one would be the best for our purposes. It wasn’t necessary to get a super-high-end one, but I wanted something a bit better than the cheapest.

The next hurdle would be delivery. I knew it would be too big to fit into my van, so I couldn’t do an in-store pickup. But since the Cat was going to be in school every day until Husband’s birthday, I knew I’d be out of the house at various times. The first available delivery date was the day after the last day I had both kids at home the entire day. I reluctantly selected a day when my dad would be picking up the Cat. I crossed my fingers the delivery would be in the afternoon, not in the morning when I would be driving the Cat to school. I also prayed that the delivery-time call the night before wouldn’t come at a time when Husband would be home. (“They’re delivering a what??”)

Plus, I knew that I needed to clean out enough of the garage to fit the table!

Cleaning out the garage didn’t really give anything away. I do massive cleanings from time-to-time, particularly before we donate clothing to various charities. So I don’t think the suddenly tidied-up garage was necessarily a clue. (Although having all the stuff pushed to one side with a convenient 9X5 space opened up may have been a bit obvious, even though I stuck some to-be-recycled boxes in that area.)

When watching Sesame Street the day after I ordered the table, “Global Thingy” showed a little ping-pong match.

“Those points were illegal,” Husband exclaimed.

“Ah.” I said, trying to keep my eyes on my magazine, hoping that we weren’t going to discuss ping-pong. He hadn’t mentioned his desire for a table in awhile, though I knew it was there. But if we were going to discuss how cartoons weren’t playing the game correctly? Well then, he might express an interest again.

Thankfully, he didn’t say any more.

The afternoon before the delivery, the company called twice. Thankfully, Husband wasn’t around. And doubly-thankfully, the delivery was scheduled for the evening of the next day. I would be home!

Once it was delivered, I covered the box with a blanket. There were still five days until Husband’s birthday.

If Husband saw the blanket-covered box in the garage, he didn’t reveal to me that he had found it. Thankfully, he was engrossed in election related tasks all weekend, so I doubt he’s scrounged around the garage lately. (Just wait, I may be horribly mistaken!)

Just a few hours after the box was delivered, a neighbor boy came by with an announcement for his family’s upcoming garage sale. Husband was home at the time and saw me open the envelope.

“Cool, it is a garage sale,” I said, and then froze because the advertisement touted, “Ping Pong Table! Lemonade! Furniture!”

Ping Pong Table?

Husband’s eyes lit up, “A ping pong table? Really?” and then his face fell, “Oh, they probably mean that they will be playing ping pong along with serving lemonade.”

Silly me, I corrected him. I think I was stunned because clearly I did the wrong thing, “Um no. I think it is for sale along with the furniture.”

I wanted to stick my foot in my mouth.

“Really!?” He was definitely debating checking it out. I figured if the price was right, he’d bite.

“Well, you have to walk the precincts, right? So you can’t go.” I tried to be kind of silly, but my words came out harsh and angry.

“Are you angry at me?” he exclaimed.

“Oh, no.” I shook my head, but knew I wasn’t convincing. I was frozen with indecision. Do I tell him about what is in the garage at that very moment so that he won’t go buy another table? Do I ask him to choose a new one versus the old one? My desire to keep the purchase a secret was fighting my practicality: if he knows, he can make an informed decision. He can check out the neighbors’ and choose that one if he wants for what will definitely be less money than the one I bought. But then he doesn’t get the nice surprise on his birthday.

I just stood there, sick.

When I visited the garage sale the next day, there was the ping pong table. I thought about whether to ask its price. I thought about telling the neighbor to tell my husband it had already been sold if he came by. But I didn’t want to actually tell anyone else about the table, lest they slip the information.

Thankfully, Husband was occupied with election tasks all that day and didn’t visit the garage sale.

Yesterday, on Election Day, Husband was gone the whole day, so I was able to put together the table with my dad’s help (I told my dad only the day before, so he wouldn’t slip any information.) The Cat became excited as he saw what we were doing. But, I knew Husband would be home after the Cat had fallen asleep, so he wouldn’t ruin the surprise that evening.

The clock has officially turned midnight, so Husband’s birthday is here. Hopefully the surprise hasn’t already been ruined.

And now I wait to officially post this story until after the surprise has been revealed.

Happy 35th Husband!

----

And the surprise has been revealed! Shortly after noon, the Cat eagerly showed his daddy the blue sparkled surprise and the two of them (with me at times) played around a bit. Husband says he hadn't seen the box in the garage. It was an actual surprise. Whew!

Posted by karianna at 12:06 AM | Comments (1)

June 01, 2006

Nostalgia and Noise

As Co-President of my high-school alma mater’s Alumni Association, I had the pleasure of presenting this year’s Alumni Service Award to a graduating Senior. I was asked about two weeks ago if I would be available to attend the assembly for the presentation today. I was concerned about whether the boys would cooperate long enough for me to participate. But, the Alumni Office encouraged me to bring the boys anyway.

I talked to the Cat earlier in the week about the upcoming visit to my “old school.” He grew more excited each day and thought the idea of presenting an award to “another kid” was great. This morning, he put on my old gym shirt, plus a school hat for good measure. Splig and I dressed in gold and black for the Tigers. I put a ’92 on my back, then taped ’22 on Splig and ’19 on the Cat.

The Cat decided that he wanted the ’19 on his front so that he could actually see the number. “I like numbers,” he reminded me.

When we arrived, both boys were eager to walk around campus. The Cat wore the cap longer than he has worn any other hat in the history of his life. The students giggled at my smiling boys and the silly scrunched-up numbers I had taped on them.

When we entered the auditorium, my kids’ glee turned to panic. The Cat darted around the room, then out. I was busy keeping Splig from falling into the orchestra pit. Neither boy wanted to sit down. Splig screamed and pulled my hair. The Cat disappeared. The Alumni Relations Director told me she would keep an eye on the Cat.

I was embarrassed and nervous.

I didn’t think the Cat would run far, but I was confused as to why he had run away from me. Surely he knew not to dart out of my sight!

Spliggle continued to fight me. I let him go a few times, but he’d dart between students and up the aisles. It was a losing battle.

A few minutes later, the Alumni Relations Director told me the Cat was back at the Alumni Office with another staff member. “He said it was too loud,” she explained.

Suddenly it made sense. The big kids and their enthusiastic chatter as they filed into the auditorium must have been too stimulating for the Cat. He is quite sensitive to noise but I tend to forget this. It didn’t occur to me that the pre-assembly chit-chat would indeed be like a Tiger's roar.

The Alumni Relations Director offered to take Splig back to her office. I was thankful, but also a bit sheepish. Spliggle was squirming all over me. It was clear I couldn’t settle him.

With the boys gone, I concentrated on enjoying the assembly. I felt a bit guilty, wondering how they were doing, but I also wanted to have fun. I figured the Cat was fine. After all, he wanted to hang out in the office anyway: the Development and Alumni staff have cats and a dog. Splig was more of a concern.

It brought back memories to be sitting in the theater built while I was a student. I got more than a few tears in my eyes when Coach led the student body in the same cheer I had recited many times before. (Same Coach: just a bit gray now!) I stood and applauded loudly when one of my former teachers received the yearbook dedication. Two of my former classmates are now faculty members, and several of my old teachers are still part of the faculty. In many ways, it was like “good ol’ days.” Yet I recognized that I was a 32 year old nostalgic sap who had taped her class year on the back of her (from the 1920’s, obtained at a silent auction) letterman jacket.

My award presentation went well. I got tongue-twisted once, and my voice is still husky from the cold Splig brought back from preschool last week, but everything went fairly smoothly. As always, I was impressed with the students. Several did dance and singing performances. The yearbook staff screened a hilarious video that included students and faculty lip-syncing. The Student Council showed a photo montage. The kids were enthusiastic, but also polite and respectful.

When I returned to retrieve my kids, Splig was red-eyed and sad. Apparently he had been rubbing his eyes and crying for a half-hour. The Cat was perfectly content and had decorated all of the concrete outside the Alumni and Development Office with various chalk drawings.

I expected that Splig would fall asleep in the van immediately. Surprisingly, it was the Cat who slumped over first, and not until we had been driving for 45 minutes. Splig didn’t succumb to sleep until we got off at our exit. Thankfully, I was able to transfer each to acceptable napping positions.

The Cat is still sleeping. It has been nearly five hours. Splig has awakened a couple times to chatter. I went upstairs at one point to retrieve him. He pointed at his favorite blanket (inexplicably lying across the room) and giggled. He appeared completely awake. I brought him the blanket and he keeled over, wrapping it around his head. I stared at him several seconds. He didn’t move. Surprised, I let him sleep.

Apparently, the kids were more tuckered out than I thought! I guess they aren’t quite ready for high-school assemblies. I am sure the time will come faster than I think!

In the meantime, I have to remember the Cat’s concern for noise and plan accordingly.

Posted by karianna at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2006

Lost, Lost.

A few days ago, I was having trouble with one of the satellites on our downstairs TV. As I pulled out the box to see if the connections were secure, one of the cables snapped. There went the input from Satellite One!

When Husband came home, he moved the cable from Satellite Two over to Satellite One so that I could at least see one channel. (I know, boo-hoo on not being able to see two simultaneously.)

I forgot about the broken cable until yesterday when I realized that the times when the TiVo was recording two channels at once, it was actually only recording what was on Satellite One. Any secondary recordings were blank with the “Searching for Satellite Two” message.

I scrambled around to make sure the downstairs TV would record “American Idol” and the upstairs would record “Lost.” At the beginnings of each show, I checked the accompanying TVs to make sure the channels were coming through clearly and the TiVo was recording.

I watched “American Idol” live (with the occasional back-track so the Cat could re-watch performances or commercials he liked.) I then watched a little bit of the news before going upstairs to watch Lost.

Midway through the show, the satellite kicked out. When it returned, the TiVo had changed the channel and “Barney” was recording!

One moment, the crew had discovered the large pile of completed Pearl notebooks on the ground, then a long black pause, then Barney.

So I don’t know what happened on Lost.

(If I had instead watched Lost as it was recording, and then scrambled downstairs when the satellite problem occurred, it is possible I could have caught the last part of the show on the downstairs TV since Idol was over by then. But we shouldn't live our lives with what-ifs, eh?)

I will eagerly read papers, websites, etc. to get caught up, but that won’t compare to the real thing. I will probably purchase the episode on iTunes, but that will have to wait... because I am now off to go to the “H Center,” a “Behavioral Training Center.” Fitting, no?

Posted by karianna at 07:55 AM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2006

Jumble

The Cat’s teacher said he had an excellent day on Friday.

What, has the universe turned over on its head?

It is true: the Cat’s teacher acknowledged a good day, praised him, and found it worthy of both telling my father (when he picked the Cat up on Friday) and me. She delivered this news without an eye-roll, smirk, or otherwise snarky look. Instead, her face was pleasant and honest.

This came after I had a strange dream last night. In it, I saw a Spanish teacher from junior high who I hadn’t thought about in quite awhile. I recall how she would have exceptionally moody days where she would yell at us for sneezing. I was careful around her, and recall approaching her relatively timidly after receiving an unexpected grade. I chose my words carefully, “Well, I was a bit surprised to receive this grade. I was wondering why I had gotten this grade and how I might improve.”

“You never, ever use the word ‘why’” she screamed at me. She went on to tell me it was disrespectful. She said that by saying “why,” I implied that I didn’t believe that she was capable of grading me accurately. Imagine the fury when we didn’t pronounce a word correctly en español!

And my mother wonders why I am fearful of speaking Spanish.

I have only questioned one other grade in my life. This time, it was in college, for a linguistics class. The subject matter was fascinating but more challenging than I anticipated. Linguistics is all about problem solving. We’d be given some example words, and asked to create the rules that might have governed them. Sometimes the languages in question were real, other times they were fictional. It was understood that we would not obtain outside assistance, particularly if the language was real.

For my final exam we were asked to prepare a list of rules based on a bunch of words. I worked hard, and produced a set of rules that properly described the list we were given and took into account other quirks that were noted in the problem set. I tested and retested.

I failed that question, which was over fifty percent of the final grade.

My rules were water-tight. But, they weren’t the actual rules in the true language. Even though they would have worked perfectly for a fictional language, the language was real and had slightly different rules, so I failed.

It is akin to answering the question “What three numbers added together equal eight?” by writing 5+1+2=8, but failing because the correct answer was 3+1+4=8. Or, “Suzy is wearing a T-shirt that isn’t blue” in which I would guess “green,” but would be incorrect because the true answer is “red.” Green is not blue. I am correct. But Suzy was actually wearing a red shirt, so I fail. I wasn’t given enough clues to alert me that my rules were not the real rules.

The professor agreed that my rules perfectly described the clues, quirks, and requirements posed in the question. But she asserted that since they weren’t the “real” rules of the real language, she had to fail me.

But on Friday, the Cat did everything correct according to his teacher, and ended up earning her praise. What factors were involved, I do not know, but I am glad that he has had a positive day in her eyes.

Posted by karianna at 07:26 PM | Comments (3)

May 17, 2006

Karmic Payback?

I had a wonderful night last night. Of course, the voicemail left for me during the afternoon brought me to a frustrating place temporarily, but overall the day was fantastic.

As is typical for following a good day, today was problematic. I write this in the midst of a horrendously dirty kitchen. Splig has thrown fries all over the kitchen and the family room. He has picked some up and placed them in his wagon along with his half-eaten cheeseburger in an attempt to be helpful. I think there might be some milk in there as well.

Earlier in the day, he brought a chair over to the counter. He attempted to make himself peanut butter crackers. He gave up trying to spread the delicious substance on the cracker, so instead stuck his fist in the jar and licked it off. He smeared peanut butter all over the counter, the chair, and himself.

He is now asleep.

Why was I not supervising him more closely? Lots of web-work. Plus, a coworker had forgotten to email me some billing reports that I use to produce invoices. It seemed as though I had just done invoices, so it didn’t even register that I hadn’t done them for May yet. Ooops. I am sure our clients don’t mind, and most of them pay on their own schedule anyway, so I don’t necessarily think it will affect cash-flow. However, I screwed up. Those invoices must go out ASAP. Oh, and there are several web-projects that are also Priority One. So I have spent lots of time at the computer. I shouldn’t be posting all my stories, but it is a needed break.

As I mentally compiled my work-related to-do list, Husband told me that he would need my van to transport some VIPs this evening. My kid-junk infested van? To Husband’s credit, he assisted with the clean-up, but it was an unexpected task thrown in the midst of what was already going to be a hectic day. Fortunately, this request had two positive outcomes: First, I found two autographed CDs that we had believed had been stolen along with the other items a couple months ago. They were wedged between a cup-holder and another portion of the door. Second, Husband was available to pick up the Cat from preschool. So I didn’t have to stop working to make the drive to and from school. This ended up saving me time. Plus, Splig was asleep at pick-up time, so not needing to do this errand meant he had a full nap.

The Cat has had a very difficult day. Ordinarily, it would be these days that would make me glad that yet another medical professional had called to “help” him, but today he has been trying so hard. He knows that he has been “off” the last few days, and he is making a genuine effort. He is exhausted and crazy. Husband said that he has repeatedly expressed anger and disappointment because his friends have insisted that he “go to the office” at preschool. He tells me that he didn’t actually have to go to the office, but I wonder what, if anything, he had done to prompt his classmates to label him as being naughty today.

He is having a tough time, but is now relaxing on my bed watching a DVD.

I am not looking forward to the teachers’ input on Friday. If he had a difficult time, I imagine I’ll get an eye-rolling report. Unfortunately, they seldom expound on the trouble other than to say “he had a hard day.” Pressed, they might explain a single behavior, but usually end up using general terms. They are unable to tell me what went wrong and why they would call his day “tough.” Therefore, it is difficult for me to give the Cat concrete suggestions as to how to improve his day.

On Friday, he will be attending a field trip. I didn’t know this.

I knew they would have a field trip to a tractor place at some point before the end of school. I figured it would be next Friday.

Today, the Cat’s main teacher asked me where his permission slip was. Surprised, I told her I hadn’t received one.

“Of course you did. Do you ever look in his bag to see if he has brought home paperwork?”

“Yes, of course!” I took the Cat’s bag, opened it, and started taking his extra clothes and shoes out, showing her there was no paperwork in his bag.

She huffed and puffed about how she didn’t have another copy and how perhaps the office might have one.

She said she’d go to the office and see if she could find a new permission slip. She left the classroom.

I watched as she went down a few classrooms and talked to another teacher. Perhaps she forgot why she was outside, because she didn’t go on to the office. Instead, she walked back to the Cat’s classroom.

I was confused and stunned. She saw me just standing there, walked past, and told the kids they were going to do an art project.

Am I invisible?

I grabbed Splig and walked to the office myself. They didn’t have an extra already printed out, but found the file on their computer and printed a new one. Not a big deal.

I signed it and brought it to the Cat’s teacher.

“Ah-ha! You found it.” She announced triumphantly.

“Well, no. I went to the office and had them print out a new one for me.”

“Oh? They printed a new one out for you!?”

Gee. I didn’t know that printing out a piece of paper was such a horrible imposition from her point of view!

I simply walked away.

I have so much anger that I will put it to good use: I will clean the downstairs, because my feet are bruised from stepping on my sons’ toys. Perhaps a less cluttered environment will assist me in de-cluttering my mind a bit.

It is no secret that I like things orderly and tidy. This week has been anything but!

Posted by karianna at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

Meeting a Legend

In college, a Society (Coed Fraternity) Brother gave me a couch that had been passed down to her from another Brother, and who knows who had passed it down to him. I later passed it on to one of my pledglings after it had been in my first post-college apartment and gotten covered in cat hair. Basically, it was the couch-o-germs. (I imagine my Pledgeling has since dumped it somewhere.)

But it was a good couch.

My senior year, I lucked out and got a double-room as a single. I was the President of the Chapter, plus I coordinated our pledging program because the Pledgemasters had resigned over the summer. I was the Lord of Everything. Of course I was going to get the best room!

The previous summer was hellacious. It was my first summer away from home and I had never experienced an East Coast summer. It was hot and humid. I was living with a young man who I had been dating as we signed the lease, but had broken up by the time we actually moved in (there were two other people in the apartment so it wasn’t an entirely dire situation.) The Pledgemasters quit. Our Chapter was hosting the Society’s National Convention and I had to help even though I was overworked and depressed. I worked two jobs to remain solvent. One job paid less than $2 an hour, but I accepted this because it was an internship that I really wanted. The other job was at a pizza parlor where I was the pizza maker; shortly after I left, the new pizza maker was the cause of a Hepatitis outbreak. Several people asked me if I had been the culprit.

There were some good things from that summer: during the Convention, I met the man who would eventually become my husband. But I didn’t know that then. It wouldn’t be for several years before we went out on a date.

There was something else I didn’t know as a Senior that tickles me now.

In that fabulous double-as-a-single, I frequently spent time in my couch reading, studying, or just relaxing to music. I’d put some candles in the windowsill in back of that first owned couch. They were visible from the outside, and once the Fire Marshall came to reprimand me. But more often than not, those candles were lit, and my CD player was on.

I played a variety of artists, but when I was just chilling out, I’d put on a little of my Dave Brubeck jazz collection. Trying to set the mood for a date? Interested in having some catchy background music? Just closing my eyes, deep in thought? Dave Brubeck.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I hung out with Dave Brubeck.

That moody Senior wondering what to do with her life listening to the cool sounds of Mr. Brubeck had no idea that ten years later she’d be bringing him plates of hors d’ oevres and snapping his photo in front of the newly renamed “Dave Brubeck Park.”

I was one of just eight people at the park. Then I was part of a larger crowd for a presentation of a slew of plaques from various local and state officials. Because I was there as a guest of the individual who set up the event, I got to go in the VIP area whenever I wanted and happily brought Dave and his wonderful wife some appetizers. Mr. Brubeck was patient with the long line of people who wanted to greet him. He smiled the whole evening and told magnificent stories about his childhood. The restaurant where we ate dinner and the square where the presentations were made were built above where his grandfather’s livery had been. We were only blocks from where his childhood home once stood.

It was surreal and enjoyable. I snapped many photos: here are just a handful.

Posted by karianna at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day?

Last night, the Cat fell asleep on my bed, his head at the foot. I didn’t move him; he slept soundly, so this morning there was a puddle. Fortunately, I wasn’t affected other than having to scoop up the bed sheets and place in the laundry. I’ve also cleaned the kitchen and started the bread machine.

My parents called to tell us when to arrive for tonight’s Mother’s Day dinner. They expected I would be sleeping in. My dad had suggested that my brother and I make tonight’s meal, but this morning’s phone call revealed that my mom had already bought a bunch of items from Whole Foods this morning.

I would have wanted to do a whole production to show gratitude to my mom, but the truth is that I am exhausted. Ready made food is a great thing, because none of us were put out, other than my parents’ trip to the store. I was relieved that I was off the hook.

Husband and Splig are at the store. Earlier this morning, I heard Husband whisper to the Cat directions to ask me what I wanted for breakfast. The Cat wanted chocolate milk before carrying out his daddy’s orders. After some additional prodding, the Cat announced, “Happy Mother’s Day! What do you want for dinner?” to which I replied, “Hot Dogs!”

“She wants hot dogs!” the Cat told his daddy.

“Yeah, but I wanted you to say ‘what do you want for breakfast?’”

“Oh, I want pizza for breakfast!” The Cat giggled.

“No, not you! Your mom!”

“Sure. We can have pizza for breakfast. That sounds fun,” I responded.

In the end, I decided I wanted some chicken-buffalo-kickers, but the Cat can have his cheese pizza. Unfortunately, the Cat tripped Splig and ended up in his room, so he is not on the excursion with Daddy.

The Cat is downstairs again, counting. He counted to 300 the other day in the car. He loves to ask about numbers and quiz me. “What’s 20 20 20 20 20?” he’ll tease, and quickly say, “That’s five 20s which means 100!” as I am trying to count how many times he had said “20.” Yesterday, he counted the number of squares on my shirt. Unlike many stumped sophomore geometry students, he included the squares that enveloped other squares. Husband and I exchanged stunned looks.

Those, along with his enthusiastic high-fives with his swimming teachers, are moments that make me proud.

For the last week, he’s been singing “I love you, a bushel and a peck…” from Guys & Dolls. He knows all the words (well, except for “you bet your pretty neck I do,” which he recites instead, “A cricky-cricky neck, I do!”) His small voice sings sweetly as a grin plays on his face.

Guys & Dolls was the first musical I saw. It was performed by my local high-school, the one that I imagined I would attend when I was older. In the end, I went to an independent private school, and ironically enough ended up performing Guys & Dolls as a senior. (Had I gone to the local public high school, I would have had opportunities to perform in several wonderfully produced shows, but Guys & Dolls was not on the rotation for the four years I attended high school.) It tickled me that the Cat was now singing a song I had performed.

When the Cat’s teacher had suggested that I take their class photograph before the Mother’s Day luncheon, it was the first time I had heard of the event. A couple days later, we received our preschool newsletter that mentioned the event. Still, I found it relatively late notice. Or perhaps I wasn’t paying attention to the calendar.

When the Cat started singing, it was apparent that there would be a little show involved. I heard him practicing “Bushel and a Peck” along with some other little recitations.

Husband and I had met with the Cat’s teachers earlier in the year. We talked about high standards, but also the notion that preparation for events is key. We know from experience that telling the Cat about an upcoming event and talking it through is much better than pushing him into a situation unannounced. We also know that when we mention such events, we do so in a confidence-building way. We establish that something will be done, such as an appointment or event, and that he will be fine.

When Husband heard the Cat’s sweet song, he got angry. He wondered why the teachers hadn’t told us about the songs so that we could encourage our son and practice with him so he would feel confident at his performance. We knew from the Christmas pageant that he needed to feel confident in the songs and talk about any fears. I remember being a little concerned that the teachers had expected so little of him at the Christmas pageant, but he ended up doing fine.

When we met with his teachers, we explained how if we tell the Cat what we expect, he will usually deliver. We emphasized how we needed to be kept in the loop so that we could reinforce whatever was being done at school.

They didn’t keep up their end of the bargain. I thought perhaps they didn’t tell us because the contents of the performance were meant to be a surprise, but Husband responded rightly that they could have contacted him directly.

In some ways, I wasn’t concerned that they didn’t tell us because I would prefer that they treat him like the other children. But Husband had a point, too. Still, I reasoned that since the Cat knew all the words and was practicing on his own so diligently that perhaps the teachers didn’t find a need for any intervention. I had high hopes by this assumption.

I arrived early to the performance so that I could take the class photograph. The teachers set them up against a bland wall in a straight line under the yellowy-lights. The kids fidgeted and tried to stand next to their “very best” friends. Smile. Cheese. Click.

Then I suggested we go outside. I quickly arranged the students on a wall above and bench below. This evened out their sizes, allowed the kids to fill up more of the frame, and provided better light. The smiles were bigger. The Cat beamed.

I went inside the multi-purpose room and sat down to watch the performance. Splig was in the stroller next to me, itching to get out.

The Cat walked out first, traveled across the “stage,” and sat in the far stage-left chair. The rest of the kids followed, sitting down in the same order. Then one of the Cat’s teachers went over to stand next to the Cat. She patted him on the head and said something softly to him.

The kids sang their first song, so did the Cat. But the teacher kept patting his head and his back.

The teachers gave the kids drawings they had made, filling in the blank “I love my mother because…”

Each child recited his or her answer, and proudly displayed the accompanying picture.

The Cat said, “I love my mother because she takes me to see trains.” He then started to behave like a train, “Chugga-chugga! Woo Woo!” as he scooted around in a large circle, arms pumping. Everyone laughed.

He went up to me and gave me the drawing. The teachers snatched it back as they collected all the pictures. Oh well, I wonder when we’ll get it back.

The Cat went to sit down, but he ended up crawling in his teacher’s lap. She kept patting him.

Mid-song, I went up to the Cat (who was just a few feet from me) and whispered to please stand up with the other kids. It wasn’t obtrusive since I was on the aisle, it wasn’t a raised stage, and the audience had their cameras poised on their own kids.

One teacher read, “I’ll Love You Forever,” while the kids recited various lines. The Cat sat in his teacher’s lap and made funny faces.

“I’ll Love You Forever” gets me every time. (I agree with the people who say the story is creepy; it is, but the message is touching.) So I was fighting back tears. But I was also crying because Splig had escaped from his stroller and was attempting to join the preschoolers at the front of the room and because the Cat wasn’t participating.

When it was time for “Bushel and a Peck,” the Cat just wagged around, sucked his thumb, and cuddled against his teacher.

The Cat never sucked his thumb as an infant. He has only recently done it in the presence of others as a theatrical display of mock-concern.

I knew the Cat knew the song. I could understand being timid if he were frightened, but the thumb-sucking and snuggling against the teacher were too much. He had a glint in his eyes that denoted that he was acting scared, not actually scared.

The Cat was playing into the teacher’s coddling. He was manipulating her, and as a result was not participating with the rest of the class.

At the end of the show, everyone went to the back of the room for cookies and lemonade.

I motioned the Cat over to sit in my lap. “I am really disappointed,” I started. “You knew your songs and your lines perfectly. I heard you practicing this week. I was so proud of you for practicing. But today you didn’t participate with your friends. I am sad that you made silly noises and funny faces.”

I don’t know exactly what else I said, but I tried to balance praise with criticism. I didn’t want to be unappreciative of the little show, nor did I want to deny that he was nervous, but I knew that most of his “performance” was a mock-shyness and faux-fear.

The Cat collapsed into my lap, crying loudly. I saw his heart break.

The teacher upon whose lap the Cat sat during the performance came up to me. She had seen me beckon the Cat at the end of the performance, and had given me a look when she heard me whisper “I’m disappointed.”

“I think he did very well, actually,” she announced loudly. Her eyes were fierce. She was standing a little too close. Our horns were locked.

The exact words of the exchange have eluded me. I have given myself a couple days to simmer down before writing about it and in some ways have tried to repress it.

She asserted that the Cat wouldn’t have even been at the front of the room if he hadn’t had been on her lap. She announced that he was fearful of the performance and had been upset all day.

Huh. When I came in to take the class picture, the Cat was chatting away with his friends, eagerly pointing out his brother and grinning. When he marched on “stage,” he was smiling and eager. It wasn’t until this teacher had started rubbing his back that his odd infant-like behavior and reluctance to participate had begun.

“I believe in treating him like the other kids.” I explained. “I give him high standards, and he will meet them.”

I didn’t want to outright tell her that I believed her coddling had caused his behavior. I didn’t want to get into a huge confrontation in front of other parents. But it was clear by her responses that she felt I was way off the mark for criticizing him. Likewise, I felt she didn’t understand the difference between instilling confidence in someone versus playing to their fears.

I did not want to fight. I don’t like confronting people. I usually stew in silence. There are some people on this earth who would probably be shocked at how deeply I’ve been hurt by their actions, and yet how desperately I’ve prayed to be able to forgive them. I’ve learned that my ability to make and hold a grudge is much stronger and maladaptive than I would want.

The Cat’s teachers have only frustrated me for a little over eight months, but for the last few months, what were ripples have become waves. I find it more difficult to just shrug my shoulders and let it go. Everything has built up, and yet I see the finish line.

I didn’t want to completely discharge all the anger and frustration that I have regarding the way the Cat has been treated by his teachers, so I didn’t raise my voice or bring up past events, but I also wanted to adequately defend why I had criticized the Cat. I didn’t want to break his heart or be cruel, but I did want to be honest with him. Likewise, I wanted to be honest with his teacher without being spiteful. I attempted to choose my words carefully so as not to directly attack her, even though I feel that she and the other teacher have done the Cat a great disservice by acting as though he is incapable of doing things.

I wanted to quickly respond to her statement and walk away. But she appeared up for a fight.

I don’t know how long our discussion was, or if any other parent noticed. I don’t remember how the discussion ended.

A few minutes later, the other teacher gave me a tissue paper wrapped present. “Open it now to make sure it is the right one,” she hissed. I peeked a little to make sure it was the one meant for me, but I was not going to open it until Mother’s Day when the Cat could be present to see my reaction. We weren’t going to attempt gifts when all of us were in tears.

We left without socializing with the other families.

I am nervous to see the Cat’s teachers tomorrow as I drop him off at preschool, but the school year is nearly over. I should be able to handle a few tense moments.

I know the Cat enjoys his friends’ company, plus I need the Cat-free time, so pulling him out of preschool for the last couple weeks would be an immature reaction. Still, I am frustrated to know that the Cat will be in an environment where he is treated condescendingly while his classmates are held to age-appropriate expectations.

Thankfully, today has been much better than Friday. I have a little handprint and poem from Splig, and a handmade picture frame from the Cat. I have heard “A Bushel and a Peck” several times, and received snuggles from both boys. That is what Mother’s Day is about.

Posted by karianna at 01:01 PM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2006

Jen-er-ous Jen

Friday while Spliggle slept, I cleaned the kitchen, did some webwork, and decided to veg on the sofa for a bit. I had already walked the reservoir, so no need to get on the exercise bike. Instead, I would paint my toes!

I selected a nice light blue polish that my friend Jen had purchased at CVS for 99 cents during our college days. She gave me the polish, gratis. I am not sure why she decided to let me have it, but it has been a favorite of mine. (Surprisingly, the tiny bottle hasn’t emptied yet, nor has the polish dried out!)

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As I pondered Jen’s generosity, mid-swipe of my big toe, the doorbell rang.

It was a package from Jen.

The shape of the box was like a framed certificate, photograph, or plaque. I thought perhaps it was going to be a fancy framed wedding photo from her autumn nuptials.

Inside were crumpled bits of MA State Tax Return Forms. I giggled. What a nice use for them, as packing material!

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Then I found an envelope with two tiny photos on it, directing me to which present was for the Cat, and which for Spliggle. Inside, Jen had written instructions and revealed that she had gotten Husband to procure the boys’ size information for her. Indeed, I was a bit perplexed when Husband asked me about the boys’ sizes, but then didn’t return home with clothing for them!

Seems Jen was inspired by the Cat’s desire to wear only clothes with the number “5” on them, and by Splig’s “Arrrgh Matey” shirt that Husband had wished could read “Arrrgh Natey.”

So the Cat received a green shirt with the number 5 on it:

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And Splig received “Ahoy Natey!”

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And both were from Old Navy, which is the Cat’s new favorite store. As the Guinness Guys would say, “Brilliant!”

The Cat has made a short video to thank Jen. Transcript: "I like my shirt with the number five, Jen. Thank you! It's a number 5 on my shirt. I love it! Yes, yes, yes, yes! It's a nu--..." (and then I stopped the video.)

Plus, photos of the opening of the presents and excitement over their personalized shirts are up on Flickr.

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Thank You Jen!


Posted by karianna at 12:07 PM | Comments (3)

May 04, 2006

Ys, Whys, and Wise

On Monday I thought I had remembered everything: lunches, work-related filing, a shoebox for a special preschool project, that extra soap that the Cat needed, and so forth.

As I approached the classroom, I saw a large “Teacher & Staff Appreciation” banner and noticed moms with their children carrying beautiful flowers.

Ooops. I was supposed to bring flowers for the teachers, picked from our own yards. (Why did everyone else’s flowers not quite look home-picked?)

I ran my errands, drove home, and quickly picked some flowers. As luck would have it, most of the flowers had died the last week, so there were only a few in my garden. (Today, there are suddenly some in my garden again.) I grabbed six roses out of a bouquet my Mom’s Club “Secret Pal” had given me over the weekend.

Of course they all wilted a bit on the way over to the school, but I brought them into the office. I had essentially brought six bunches: the Cat’s two teachers, Splig’s two teachers, the Director, and the Co-Director. I forgot the outside teacher. Grrr. But since I hadn’t bundled the bunches, I covered my tracks by just inserting fewer flowers in each vase. But I only had six roses.

“Are those really from your garden?” the Co-Director asked, smiling.

I admitted that the lavender and geraniums were from the garden but that I was cheating with the roses. We laughed.

I gave the Cat’s teacher an extra geranium since I didn’t give her a rose. She didn’t notice.

However, she did ask me if I would be willing to take a class photograph. She had seen the photos I dispersed at preschool after the Cat’s birthday and said she had been impressed.

Therefore, on Wednesday, there were two things on my mind in addition to the usual: to remember to bring the fruit we were supposed to give to the teachers, and to bring my camera.

In the van yesterday (there is a “y” word!) the Cat said, “What “X” am I bringing for mystery box?”

Mystery Box! I forgot Mystery Box! But the Cat remembered.

“Oh, actually you are supposed to bring something that begins with “Y.” Monday was “X,” today is “Y,” and Friday will be “Z.” I explained, my heart sinking from forgetting. Wednesday is his day. It has always been his day all year. Ugh.

“What type of “Y” am I bringing?” he asked.

“Well, what starts with the letter “Y?” I asked.

We brainstormed: yam, yellow, yak. (We had a yellow banana, but that was supposed to go into one of the teacher’s baskets.)

“I am going to bring the potato!” the Cat announced.

“Well, it is actually called a ‘yam’ and we’d have to stop off at the store first. We’re already pretty late.” Traffic was horrible and I had slept in much later than I should have.

“Yo-Yo!” I suddenly exclaimed. “We have a yo-yo in the van!” While cleaning out the van in preparation for the field trip Friday, I had thrown a bunch of toys into a box now stored in the trunk. I remembered seeing a Star Wars yo-yo.

We arrived at preschool fifteen minutes late. The teacher asked if I could return in 45 minutes (at 10:30) to take the class photo. Not all the kids had arrived. She told me she would call if not all the kids showed up by 10am. She emphasized that at 10:30 they would be going outside, so she wanted the photo done before the kids got “messed up.”

Splig and I went off to the reservoir. It takes me 50 minutes to walk the reservoir with Splig. I figured I’d jog a bit faster to make up the time.

The parking lot was full. I saw a tent and a couple camera crews. I started to exit the park, but curiosity got the best of me and I circled around again in an attempt to either find a parking space or figure out what type of movie, commercial, or documentary was going on.

Again, no spots, so I started to leave. But then a spot opened. As I pulled in, I saw that one of the two buses that had been parked next to the camera tent was now going down the hill. Other cars followed. The camera was running. Had I not taken the parking space, I would have been in the shot!

I quickly put Splig in his stroller and set an alarm for ten minutes. I figured I’d walk ten minutes, then walk back ten minutes, and get to preschool in time for the 10:30 deadline. It would be impossible to get around the reservoir in 20 minutes.

There is one “big hill.” I figured I would reach it right about the time the alarm would ring. I decided that even if the timer rang at the base of the hill, I’d quickly go up it to really get my heart pounding.

The timer rang at the top of the hill exactly.

I ran down the way I came. The phone rang when I reached the bottom.

It was the Cat’s teacher, but I accidentally hung up on her. I quickly dialed the number on the caller ID.

“Hi, this is Kari,” I said when she answered.

“Um. Who?”

“The Cat’s mother.” I explained.

“Ohhhhhh!”

“You just called me?”

She said one girl hadn’t shown up, so we’d have to postpone the photo. I told her that I’d still be coming back to the classroom at some point because the Cat had forgotten his milk in the van. (Darn it!)

The good news was that I no longer had to cut my walk short, but now I was at the base of the big hill again!

I got some extra exercise.

On the way out of the park, the camera crew was right by the exit. Several good-looking people had jackets with hoods on. Were they actors? Were they well known actors?

They were twelve feet from my car. If I had been obnoxious, I could have stopped the car and tried to figure out who they were, if anyone. Or I could have asked what they were filming.

But I am not so bold!

Alas, I still don’t know what was being filmed. Snooping around various city websites hasn’t given me a clue.

Anyone out there in cyberspace been an extra in a movie or T.V. show, or watched one filmed?

Posted by karianna at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2006

Field Trip Fiasco (or “I am so Belligerent”)

Splig wasn’t feeling well on Thursday. He threw up chocolate milk on Friday morning while I was getting the various lunches, sunscreen, extra $6.50, and an extra booster seat into the van. I quickly used the carpet cleaner on the carpet, changed my clothes, and somehow got everyone to the preschool on time. Although Husband was staying home, I knew that he needed rest so probably wouldn’t want a sick Splig at home with him. Besides, I figured Spliggle would just chill in the stroller during the field trip.

When we arrived, I gave the Cat’s teacher the extra money and asked when I should return to pick up the kids. She looked surprised when I gave her the money.

I mentioned to her that I had an extra booster seat in case one of the other kids forgot to bring theirs. I figured the teacher could reassure someone that they didn’t have to go home to retrieve one. Again she seemed perplexed, shrugged her shoulders, and said indifferently, “Oh, well. Okay.”

If I had been in her position, I would have said something like, “Oh, good! How thoughtful.” Instead, she looked annoyed. Pre-field trip stress, I suppose. Or not.

An hour later, Splig and I returned. The teacher assigned several kids to my van. I overheard her tell another mother that she wasn’t needed to drive, but was needed to chaperone. She said the same to a second mom. Both women looked a bit perplexed that we’d need that many chaperones. I heard her murmur about how some were there just to drive. (I imagine that meant me and another mom who had a two year old.) Perhaps she could have relieved us of our duty instead?

One of my kids was one of a set of twins. She and her brother had identical booster seats, but they were labeled with their names. When I went to retrieve hers, it was gone, but her brother’s was there. I figured the mom taking her brother had taken the one with her name. Not a big deal, but I wanted to make sure that it hadn’t been mixed up with an entirely different kid such that if I took her brother’s that he would be without. So I approached the teacher to ask. She rolled her eyes and said, “They’re twins! They are the same size! Just take her brother’s seat!” Well, actually, the kids aren’t the same size, but luckily their boosters were.

Then the teacher said, “Oh, ‘L’ doesn’t have a booster so she’s going to use yours.” Not “thank you” or “thank goodness you have an extra;” just “she’s going to use it.”

‘L’ is the Cat’s best friend. He had said he’d hope she would be sitting next to him on the trip. I figured she would be, too.

However, little ‘A’ had a full-blown car seat instead of a booster seat. I guess she is still too tiny for a booster. The wide, super-large car seat didn’t fit in the back row. I could fit it in the row next to Splig (it had LATCH,) but that would mean loading the back row first, then installing the car seat, finally placing ‘A’ in it. Not a huge deal, but time-consuming.

I put ‘A’s car seat on the ground and went back to the classroom. Already, the Cat’s teacher was leading them to my van with a look of exasperation: “We have to get going!”

Twingirl was howling. Tears streamed down her tears as she wailed, “I don’t want to go with her. I want to go with ‘M’ because she is my best friend!” She pouted. “I don’t want to be switched!”

I tried to comfort Twingirl and direct her to the place where I had set up her (brother’s) booster. I was then going to place ‘L’ next to her, and the Cat next to ‘L.’ But the booster didn’t fit in the center seat, and I couldn’t put another booster next to the huge car seat that belonged to ‘A.’ Meanwhile, Spliggle was crying in his stroller. I put Splig in his carseat before continuing to shift seats around. The skin on my fingers was ripping as I tried in vain to position the seats correctly and safely.

The Cat’s teacher asked, “Is there a problem here?” I responded that the big car seat would only fit in one row, and fitting the bulky booster seats all in the third row wasn’t working.

“Well, maybe I can take ‘A’ in my car. I THOUGHT this was going to work!” She turned abruptly and went towards her car, shouting over her shoulder, “Don’t leave. You might still have to take her!”

I was pretty miffed at this point because how was I to know that I couldn’t fit five car/booster seats in my van? I knew the van seated eight adults, so I thought five kids wouldn’t be a problem. But I hadn’t counted on a very wide car seat and a rather bulky booster seat. I had never tried seating so many kids.

I knew there were two moms who were piled into other cars who had expected to drive, so I didn’t see why the Cat’s teacher would be so upset that I couldn’t take a third of the class in my van.

Thankfully, she could take ‘A’ but I had to move ‘L’ to the center row, so she was not sitting next to the Cat. (To have put them together, I would have moved Twingirl, and she was still crying and angry, so I didn’t want to do that!) During the forty minute ride to the pumpkin farm, Twingirl and the Cat fought while ‘L’ tried to mediate and kept asking if she could please sit next to the Cat.

The first section of the field trip was rather uneventful. The kids were eager and happy. We all wore red, as instructed. I took photos of the red sea and it was good.

redsea.jpg

Our M/W/F class was joined with the Tu/Th/Fri pre-K from the same school. I knew several of the kids and moms from when the Cat was Tu/Th last year. I saw one woman who I had met in the autumn. She had been introduced to me by a friend in my church’s Mom’s Circle. As I explained last fall, the introduction had been rather awkward because my friend had disclosed the Cat’s ASD situation and this woman had (in an attempt to be helpful) launched into a lecture on how to treat him.

On one hand, I was glad to see her. Our conversation that autumn day had been uncomfortable, so I hoped that being in a field trip situation would allow some small talk that would allow me to show that the Cat was doing pretty well.

But on the other hand, I was a bit worried. I hadn’t taken her advice. I didn’t see her wonderful doctor who is a brilliant advocate for the high-income school district of which I am not a part.

She approached me. I tensed a little bit out of nerves, but greeted her otherwise warmly. She addressed Spliggle first, commenting on how he had grown. Then she looked around. Her voice dropped a bit, as if ready to tell a secret. “Which one is the Cat?” she asked. I pointed at him. “The Thomas shirt.”

“Oh.” She nodded. In a concerned voice, she said, “Have you received the support you need for his condition: pediatrician, psychologist, school advocates…”

“Um. No. We’re just helping him ourselves,” I tried to act breezy, but was failing at thinking of a way to phrase my answer to imply that he didn’t have as much of a problem as she thought he did.

She again mentioned her son’s behavioral pediatrician and mentioned how he had helped their family tremendously. “Oh, that’s great,” I responded, smiling.

At that moment, one of the Cat’s teachers came up saying, “Wow! Did you see what the Cat just did?”

“Um?” I had no clue. I nodded. I thought it was going to be bad.

“Well, he is smiling for a photograph!” the teacher announced happily. “Usually he growls and runs away. He never lets us take his photograph.” The teacher was speaking more to the woman I was standing with, as if to offer explanation of why she would be so astonished that he was sitting for a photo.

“Um, yeah.” I responded. The teacher walked away.

My acquaintance gave a overly tender “wow, good for your son!” smile, then said, “How was it having him do the pre-K again?”

“Um. No. He was in the three-four class last year, then the four-five class this year. He is going to Kindergarten next year.”

“He is?” She seemed really surprised. “Where is he going?”

I told her the name of the school. She wondered where it was. I told her, and she was astonished. “That will be a long commute for you!”

Based on her knowing nods, I imagined her assumption was that it was an independent school for special children and that I was going to commute especially for that.

I didn’t want to outright say “Oh, this isn’t a special school,” because I couldn’t be sure of what I expected she was inferring.

“Oh, actually we live out there, so it is a shorter commute than what we’ve been doing for preschool!” Again, I tried to be nonchalant, but I felt tense. I was insecure about admitting I wasn’t in her school district, worried that she thought the Cat’s school was for challenged individuals, and yet I realized that because her son has Asperger’s that she wouldn’t be judging me per se.

I guess it would be akin to when a SAHM and a working mom talk about time spent with their kids, or if a formula-feeding mom and a breastfeeding mom are talking about nutrition. I felt like although she has a son on the “spectrum,” that her treatment of her son was down a different path than I have chosen for the Cat. His needs and the Cat’s needs I believe are quite different.

She then said something along the lines of, “Well, best of luck with that. I know Dr. Wonderful has really done great things for our family, but I take it that the Cat’s situation is a bit different than ours.”

I immediately worried that I had slighted her, but the teachers called for attention and she moved back to her class.

Perhaps I was too tense and too abrupt with her. I regret offending her in any way, but I felt uncomfortable discussing the Cat in the presence of all the other kids, teachers, and several parents. Having one of his teachers mention an odd behavior rubbed salt in the wound.

When it was the M/W/F class’ turn to ride the train, the Cat was too late to sit in a green car. The only car left was red. “I want green!” he shouted and pouted.

“No. The only car left is red.” I responded. “Come sit here.”

“No! I want green!” I was shocked and embarrassed.

“The only car open is red. So if you don’t sit in red, you don’t ride the train.” I motioned him over to the caboose.

I sat down in the caboose with Spliggle.

The Cat’s teacher swooped him up and put him on her lap. She was sitting in the green car. She gave me a backwards glance as if to say, “See, now he isn’t screaming.”

Throughout the day, I saw a pattern where the Cat would whine and his teacher would give an exasperated sigh, roll her eyes, and attend to the Cat as though he were a baby. He got his way.

I was horrified. Husband and I had met with both teachers and the director to explain that we wanted him treated like all the other kids. I told them that the Cat was malleable. If high standards are set, then those become the routine. Expectations have to be consistent. If he does not behave properly, then there will be consequences.

I was angry that the Cat’s teacher had heard my ultimatum: red car or don’t ride the train, and chosen to instead let him have his way.

This was not the time for an argument. Although I wouldn’t have wanted the Cat to continue screaming and having a temper tantrum, letting him have his way was worse. I didn’t want to get into a fight with the teacher in front of the other kids and the other parents, but I was livid.

If this is how the Cat is being “dealt with” at preschool, then it is no wonder he expects to get his way. It is no wonder that he whines and cries and screams.

All five year olds have their moments, but the Cat’s moments led to the exasperated babying, whereas other kids behavioral blips were ignored or addressed in an age-appropriate way. (Twingirl, incidentally, still moaned throughout the day about being switched and how mean it was that she didn't get to ride over in her best friend's SUV. But there was no eye-rolling coddling going on for her.)

If the Cat is not treated like a "normal" five year old, then he won’t behave like a normal five year old.

Most of the rest of the field trip went well for the Cat. He felt the difference between “sand,” “dirt,” and “clay.” He touched worms and examined them with a tiny magnifying glass. He learned about composting. He freaked out briefly during a presentation on bees when a classmate dressed up like a bee. He didn’t want to wear the costume and misunderstood that only the one student would wear it. But once the concern was addressed, he enjoyed the presentation. He dug for bugs. He went through a decorated tunnel in which various bug habitats were highlighted. He planted sunflower seeds. He had a blast!

worm.jpg

Spliggle was less happy. He was hot, both from fever and sunshine. He was lethargic and his tummy still hurt. He ran around a little bit and enjoyed the train ride. But I could tell he was still feeling ill.

spligtongue.jpg

At one point, I took a group of kids to the restroom. Splig stayed with another mom. When I returned, I heard the Cat’s teacher using a phrase she had uttered many times to me in reference to the class’ reaction to the Cat, “Well, these kids are so tolerant and loving of other people’s differences.”

“Yeah,” the mom who had been watching Splig agreed. “I remember last year, ‘F’ was in the MWF class. The kids didn’t even know there was anything different about her! Kids can be so great like that.” She turned to me, “F has auti - I mean, Down’s Syndrome,” she explained.

I smiled, “Oh, that’s great. These kids are really great,” I agreed. But I wondered if perhaps the teacher had mentioned the Cat’s “differences” and that is why the subject was being discussed as I returned from the bathroom. I can’t say for certain. If the teacher had brought it up, then it was entirely inappropriate. If the mothers were gossiping first, then so be it. Still annoying, but understandable. Still, the teacher shouldn’t have entered into a conversation with information about another student.

After I went home, I became angrier about walking into that conversation.

Both moms involved had been around the Cat for birthday parties. During one party, the Cat had completely flipped out and we had to leave early. That was in the autumn. Then the other party was the one just a few days ago where I tried to keep the “food sensitivities” as just a casual thing. I hadn’t mentioned any sort of “neuro-behavioral” reaction to the food, just simply said “food sensitivity” and “no, not life-threatening.” Perhaps the Cat’s teacher informed her of just what those food sensitivities were meant to solve. Perhaps the “why did he freak out at one birthday party and was unable to eat the cake at a different birthday party” dots were connected.

Perhaps not.

I can only speculate, and I know that thinking about it will only make me feel worse. After all, I was not a bee on a sunflower for that conversation, so the Cat’s name may not have even been mentioned. I should not “catastrophize” based on something I don’t know is true or not.

And what if the teacher did say “He has autism and they are trying to help him with a special diet?” It isn’t as though the world is crumbling. I probably will never see these moms again. They are in an entirely different school district. It shouldn’t matter what they think of me or the Cat.

But I am sensitive to perceptions about me, the way I raise my child, and my child’s behavior. I am overly concerned about “framing” my child’s behavior within a diagnostic box versus being more carefree about “yeah, he is quirky, but trainable.” Expectations shift rapidly when there is a label.

If a child freaks out at a birthday party, perhaps he is having a bad day. But slapping the PDD-NOS on him or simply saying “autistic,” shifts the expectation. The next time the child does something remotely quirky, or just a regular five year old aggressive or impudent behavior, it is seen as “oh, that is because he is autistic.”

I didn’t want those moms to have that bias. And it frustrated me to see that his teachers absolutely have a bias. Their interactions with the Cat were vastly different than with the other kids, even when the Cat and another child would exhibit the same behavior.

Last night I went to bed angry.

Perhaps I am not being fair. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive. But yesterday was not a fun field trip. I was proud of the Cat for behaving well the majority of the day. I was disappointed at the two freak-outs, but Twingirl had exhibited a freak-out of her own regarding switching cars. And several kids had problems following directions. Really, the Cat behaved well for most of the trip, and had a couple totally normal five year old moments.

I leave you with some pictures of the Cat at swim lessons. These teachers treat him like any other kid. They have no reason to suspect otherwise:

swim.jpg

Posted by karianna at 10:48 PM | Comments (3)

April 20, 2006

Backpost

Some of you regular readers have probably noticed that I cheated and back-dated a few posts.

Here are my excuses:

1) My ear infection has been making me crabby. I saw a different doctor today and she has given me some meds to clear out my sinuses since she thinks it is the pressure causing pain. I actually think I burned my eardrum a bit when I washed it out a couple weeks ago with too-warm water. She didn’t see any infection, so I think I am okay.

2) Taxes. No, wait, Husband did the taxes, so I can’t really use that as an excuse.

3) The Easter Bunny had to stay up late on Saturday.

4) I have been really tired. I am not sure why.

5) I’ve been away from the computer the last couple weeks because of doctor’s appointments, swim lessons, Easter related errands, leaving Secret Pal gifts for a fellow Mom Club member, hanging out with my friend, and so forth.

6) Last time I tried to start writing a post, Spliggle came to me, hand outstretched. He shoved a brown material into my mouth that I expected would be a little Easter candy. (He likes to share.) Instead, it was poop. That pretty much scared me off from writing for awhile, even though that experience was something I knew was bloggable.

7) The news of my maid of honor coming back into my life and the Cat’s scheduled tonsillectomy are big issues. I’ve been thinking, absorbing, and living rather than taking the time to write about these experiences.

But finally I’ve taken the time to finish the posts that I had started. The Cat’s Kindergarten Readiness Evaluation success was something I wanted to share ASAP, so filled in the posts with the news that had come prior to that.

Sorry I cheated. :P

Posted by karianna at 07:42 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2006

Batteries Recharged

Today my Maid of Honor visited me. If you had asked me last weekend where she was or when I would see her next, I wouldn’t have had a clue.

The last time I had been in contact with her was early 2002. She was on her cell phone in Central Park, calling me in California. She had her newborn niece in a Baby Bjorn, taking her for a walk. We were talking, reminiscing about college, concerned about what had just happened on 9/11, and then she announced her cell battery was dying. “I’ll call you back later!” she told me.

Monday, she called me back!

I asked her if it was okay for me to mention on the blog, and she gave me the go-ahead. People disappear for many reasons. Friends lose touch or grow apart. When I sent her Christmas cards to her parents’ address but didn’t hear back, I didn’t know whether her parents had moved, if she was angry with me, if she was just busy, or something else. I worried about her, but then wondered if there was even a reason to worry. I wanted to let her know that I was around, but at the same time, didn’t want to be pushy if she wanted distance.

She needed some time away, but her batteries are recharged.

She found my blog, and photos of my kids. Then last weekend, she emailed me. Needless to say, I was shocked and excited. We exchanged emails and phone calls in the next few days, and then finally saw each other face to face this morning. As coincidence would have it, she was in my area visiting relatives.

When I saw her, it was as if no time had passed. She looks the same, and hanging out together was pretty much what it had been, except Spliggie kept us hopping as he attempted to escape out the side yard as we sat outside (during the only sunny day we’ve had recently.) And we got held hostage at my parents’ house. I had imagined we’d drop off the Cat for his weekly “grandparents’ time” and skedaddle off to a nice lunch alone. Instead, my parents force fed us sandwiches. Finally we escaped back to my house.

Usually when I see college friends or other people from the past, it is a “worlds colliding” type thing as I realize that I am married and have kids. But surprisingly, this reunion wasn’t odd to me. After all, she had been in this area for my wedding, so I didn’t find her “out of place.” And she had visited me in the hospital right after the Cat was born, so the kid thing wasn’t uncomfortable.

Although I had originally been nervous about seeing her again, my nerves were immediately calmed when I saw it was the same ol’ D. All too soon, our visit was over. Thankfully, I don’t think it will be four years until I see her again.

Welcome Back D!

Posted by karianna at 07:50 PM | Comments (3)

April 11, 2006

Dreaming String Theory

As a young elementary student, I admired the beautiful art projects the fifth graders created. Amongst these were multi-colored string designs created using straight lines, but together approximating curves and circles. Indeed, my thoughts last night as I lay awake at 5am, unable to fall asleep, were individually tangents, but to the same circle. (Alas, I never made a string project as art was cancelled by fifth grade.)

I have experienced some vivid dreams recently. Most of this has been a result of various medications I am taking to cure an ear infection. Nyquil-induced sleep is definitely fun! Recently, I am taking amoxicillin plus Sudafed (at the doctor’s orders.) Alas, it hasn’t done much to quell the pain. The doctor said the antibiotics wouldn’t help with pressure or pain; that is Sudafed’s job. Still, I’d think that after a few days of fighting the infection that the pain would go down somewhat. Oh well. So I am doped up at night (well, and during the day…)

Last night, I dreamt within my alterna-home neighborhood. Frequently when I have dreams that take place when I am a child, and sometimes some when I am an adult, I imagine myself back in the house where I grew up. However, the neighborhood is altered. It is difficult to explain just what is different, but the hills are curved slightly differently, there are a couple extra streets, and the individual houses have different characteristics than in real life. The alterna-home neighborhood is consistent from dream to dream. Whether I am racing to make the school bus, or running away from a “dangerous stranger,” the terrain remains the same.

Last night’s dream was located on a fictional street located within walking distance of my parents’ house. The location was BlogHer II. But instead of being held at the hotel, all participants were in a large residence. At BlogHer I, I was more of an observer than a participant. Although I wrote for a group blog, I didn’t yet have this one. Also, I was shier than I would have wanted to be. Instead of making conversation, I found myself simply watching the people I had read about, as though they were walking toys. I regret being so bashful, so it is no surprise that in this dream, I was chatty. But I was overly loquacious. Instead of not making friends because I was too timid, I was driving them away with my egotism. I was pointing out my parents’ house and local landmarks while using them as basis for many anecdotes. I wasn’t asking about their lives (or blogs.)

Yesterday, in real life, I suffered from logorrhea while on a cell phone call. I was speaking to a friend who I hadn’t had contact with in about four years, and suddenly my mouth was just running and running. I was so happy to hear from her, yet so nervous about being in touch with her. I realized how much time had passed, and therefore how much had happened to me and my family. I wanted to play catch-up all at once. I wanted to ask her everything about who she was now. Thankfully, we have time to do that, but for that moment, I wanted to jam it all in. (I apologize for being such a hog on the phone!)

A few times, I had seen this friend in my dreams. I enjoy seeing various people from my past in my dreams, as though I can still have contact with them. For this friend, I am glad that the contact is now real.

Posted by karianna at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)

March 27, 2006

At the sound of the beep!

My heart pounds when I see I have a voicemail message.

For most, it is mundane. But for me, a waiting message usually means trouble. I may go several weeks without a message. Usually I get one a week.

Most of my clients and co-workers reach me either via email or see me in person. But if there is an urgent problem, one might try to phone. The irony is that I will receive a phone message later than an email, but the people who believe that I am in a physical office all day with the phone by my side believe otherwise. When a voicemail is left, the system sends me an email. So technically, the time between an email and a voicemail is similar. But since the caller believes a phone call is faster than an email, their psychological expectation for a return call is different than had they sent me an email. Therefore, the phone messages left are of a more urgent nature than the emails.

Another reason someone might leave a voicemail is if it is a brand new client. This is a “good news – bad news” situation since the scope of the project might be greater than I can take on at this time, but would have been perfect during a more “down” time. Or, it may be a simple project but a demanding client. (I could write quite a missive about how some clients believe that we web-folk sit around all day waiting for a call from them to update their site. Sorry, I can’t update your site right-this-minute since there might be another client who has as equally urgent a request!) It is all in the luck of the draw. More work for more money is nice, but it depends on the time and psychological cost.

“Official” agencies also leave voicemails when they have questions about returns, claims from ex-employees, and so forth. These questions can sometimes be complex, and the deadline is usually quite rapid. We recently had a former employee file an unemployment claim and our response had to be phoned in by 3pm eastern time the next day. I am in pacific-time and had received the message around 8pm pacific. So, I had to compile a bunch of information rather quickly. To make matters worse, the caller had a strong accent, mumbled, and left eleven digits for his phone number. It took me some trial and error to figure out the correct phone number. Thankfully, the area code was recognizable and the prefix belonged to the agency, so it was just a matter of tracking down the last four digits by combining the final five numbers that he had left.

Once I received a truncated message left in a forceful voice: “… M1. This form is extremely important. We must receive it by February 1st or we must take legal action.” That was it. No phone number. No mention of whatever agency was calling. I looked up “M1” on Google and couldn’t figure it out. I figure it was a wrong number or someone pulling a prank. We never heard back from anyone requesting such a form, be it a 104M1 or a cockle-doodle-doo-M1.

Usually I have to run the messages several times before I can make out the phone number. In the case of clients or other individuals whose numbers I already know, this is less of a problem than when brand new people or “official” people call. I find it interesting that the person calling will clearly articulate the reason for the call, but then rush over their phone number. It is second-nature to them, so they speed up! My other pet peeve regarding message etiquette is that many people wait until the end to leave their number. Fortunately, I can operate my voicemail like a tape recorder, so can easily rewind a bit and don’t need to hear the entire message. But my home machine doesn’t have that feature, so I must listen to an entire message again to catch the number at the end. Plus, if the caller hangs up just as they are leaving the last digit of their phone number, I am in trouble!

When I leave a message, I start with my name, company, and phone number. I then leave my reason for calling, and reiterate my name, company and phone number. Some people might think that is anal, but I know that I have made it as easy as possible for the recipient of the message to know who called and how to reach me.

Husband gives his cell phone number to everyone. I realize distributing my cell number would be a partial solution to my voicemail problem. After all, if a client needs an urgent change, I could be notified immediately. However, if I am in the middle of Whole Foods, or trying to calm a screaming Cat, this won’t work. Also, I have had clients (one in particular) severely abuse knowing my home number. I have been called super early in the morning (they are on the east coast and don’t think before they dial), on weekends, and on holidays. If anyone knew my cell, then I really would never have peace! (Actually, a pharmaceutical rep has the same phone number as me but with a different area code, so I frequently get her work related calls. Those don’t necessarily annoy me unless I am in the middle of trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air.)

Perhaps the ultimate solution would be either a work-only-cell or some sort of notification on my cell when a work voicemail was left. Even then, being reachable all the time would be rather difficult. Although I have to maintain the appearance that I work a “regular” job, the truth is that I do not. I work here and there, interspersed with my mommy duties and household duties. As it is, having my email always delivering “work” email can be psychologically tricky. A relaxing Saturday afternoon can suddenly be interrupted with a client who has a change request. If I were at a “normal” job, I wouldn’t read the email until Monday morning. But knowing that work is sitting there is tricky, so I usually go ahead and do the change. Job flexibility is nice, but being reachable and pseudo-expected to work at any spare moment is not nice. A phone call is a situation where it is anticipated that I will get back to the caller quickly.

(As an aside, I once had a job that was truly “on call” yet I wasn’t paid for my vigilance as most people are in an “on call” situation. I was the scheduler for a drop-in preschool. Any time someone left a message, my work-dedicated phone rang. I would then get the message, call back the parent, and either confirm their appointment or let them know we were already full for that day. Or, a parent would call to cancel their child’s appointment. I could then phone someone on the waiting list. Because parents needed to know quickly whether their child had an appointment, (and the preschool wanted to always be full to obtain the most revenue) I needed to get the messages as they came in. By definition, I was always in the middle of something when the phone rang. I could log in to record my time once I picked up the phone, and then log out when I hung up. I was paid for essentially 3-5 minutes at a time several times throughout the day. That didn’t add up to much money, even though I was constantly being interrupted! Thankfully, my current situation is nowhere near what that gig was like!)

Also, answering the phone without the information the caller needs at my fingertips wouldn’t work. It isn’t professional to say, “Um… I don’t have that right now!” At least the current set-up means that if I don’t have a document in question, I know I need to go to the office to find it before returning the call.

Similarly, finding a way to return the call can be difficult if both kids are up and wild. I usually wait for a relatively quiet moment when one of them is asleep, but sometimes the urgency of the call doesn’t afford me this luxury.

So, the nature of the call, the likelihood that it is urgent, the concern that I won’t be able to understand the phone number of the caller, and the worry that I will have trouble returning the call are all reasons to be a little nervous about picking up a voicemail.

Today I got home after standard business hours. I had a voicemail waiting. Thankfully, it was a nice guy from our payroll company who just wanted me to fax something over to him. No urgency. No mad voice. A perfectly articulate phone and fax number. And no need to actually phone him back. Perfect! Whew!

Posted by karianna at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2006

Jolt

That jolt back to reality to tell me how I am a spoiled brat?

Yeah... Husband's coworker had to put down her puppy because of a kidney problem. And a friend's fiance spent two weeks in intensive care.

Consider me cured of self pity. (Well, a little cured...)

Thankfully, my friend's fiance is now out of intensive care. But thinking about that poor puppy has me sad and crying all over again.

Husband made me margaritas to dull the feeling of being overwhelmed. All hail blue alcohol!

I wrote emails to the employees telling them of the payroll screw-up and buying myself some time by letting them know I'll mail them later about the implications for their particular situation. I will deal with a few of my clients tomorrow, giving them updates so that they are informed of my (lack of) progress. Honesty is the best policy.

Oh, and for giggles? After I wrote the previous post, Spliggle yanked the plug on the computer. Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to clean the kitchen, at least part-way, while the computer rebooted.

Posted by karianna at 09:16 PM | Comments (1)

Surrender

The last few days -- no, few weeks -- have been quite a roller-coaster. I’ve experienced some great things, but some not-so-great things have happened.

Today has been an extremely difficult day. I have a long to-do list, and every moment I spend on the computer is another mess made by my busy boys, but I feel compelled to “take a break” right now, even if there is a price to pay. The Cat is in his room, and Splig is happily playing, so I will seize the opportunity.

Among the wonderful moments this past week include snuggling on the couch with each of my boys throughout the day, the Cat earning his first badge for completing a level in swim school, the wonderful auction and dinner my alma mater sponsored last Saturday, and enjoying being out of the house Tuesday night for my Board of Trustees meeting for that alma mater. I am also thankful that my purse wasn’t stolen when the nav system was, and that the thief who took our garage door opener didn’t actually take anything out of the garage. I had a great lunch with an old friend yesterday while the Cat was in preschool. My friend has a daughter Splig’s age, so they enjoyed each other’s company, too. The Cat has shown some fantastic strides in both math and language recently. There are things about which to be glad.

On the other hand, the things that have been wearing me down include the recent thievery, some issues with the Cat, some work-related complications, and that Splig has decided to take very short naps recently whereas before I could get some work done or work out during that time.

The thievery speaks for itself. I am nervous about further criminal activity and frustrated with the need for discussions with the Cat about “bad people.” I find myself being more paranoid: slow cars in our neighborhood and people who look at me a little too long now make me more nervous than before. Yesterday while parking at the mall I avoided a man who stared at me as I entered that parking row and I instead chose a row far away from him. Today a disheveled looking man approached me as I was about to enter the grocery store.

“Um, ma’am?”

I kept walking quickly, pushing the cart with Splig in it, and motioning the Cat to walk faster.

“Ma’am. I need to ask you an urgent question!” he pressed, walking quickly to catch up with us.

I am sure he wanted to ask for money, or whatever. It was likely something minor, and only annoying but not dangerous. But I was nervous. I started heading instead for my car, and told the Cat we were going to another store. I realized there was no way to be subtle. The Cat wouldn’t be able to understand my need to leave rapidly unless I explicitly spelled it out. I tried to act as though I remembered that an item we needed wouldn’t be at this store, but I also wanted to convey urgency to the Cat. I am sure the man knew exactly why I was leaving. If he wanted to hurt or mug me, he would have just gone ahead and done so.

The issues with the Cat have been both frustrating and annoying. He has been exceptionally wild recently and he has started wetting the bed again.

The “I won’t put my milk in the car because a bad man might take it” and the “I don’t want to have any more birthdays because I don’t want my teeth to fall out” are understandable, but more difficult to address as they come up time and again. I respect the Cat’s worry about “bad people” and certainly don’t want to belittle his concern, but coming up with ways to both reassure him that I will do my best to protect him but still be realistic that the world can be a scary place is difficult. The teeth issue has somewhat diminished in the last couple days, but he still mentions it. I am growing weary of explaining the situation to him time and again. I know there are some books out there about kids losing their teeth and wonder if reading those would reassure his fears or put him into a further panic-mode.

These concerns have been joined by others. Several days ago, he complained that his pants were too tight. I responded that perhaps he had accidentally put on some of the size 4 pants that were still in his dresser. Since the Cat tends to alternate between eating and not, it makes sense to have two different sizes available. Sure enough, they were 4s. I picked out a “5,” showing him the label. Now he will only wear clothes that say “5.” This is a problem because his underwear is size 6. I have tricked him a couple times and have also explained to him that he felt the size 5 underwear were too tight. But he is a literalist: if it says “size 5” then it is only for “5 year boys” and “size 6” underwear is for “6 year boys.” And we all know what happens when you turn six: your teeth fall out.

He is definitely in a “worry stage” which is problematic because I am in my own paranoid stage.

Meanwhile, he has been overly energetic, tearful, and loud. I am having a very difficult time concentrating on web-work or phone calls when I hear loud screeches, “Ninga-ninga-ninga,” “Ooohweeeebeetle!” “winga-choo-choo-whrahhhhrrrr!” or the sounds of various toys being hit together. Many times, my ears burn with the loud rumble of a plastic wagon racing on the hard floors. “Only on the carpet,” “Stay quiet while mommy or daddy is on the phone” and “No screeching” have been met with blank looks. Just now, he took a bunch of blocks together, crashing them with a happy grin and multiple vocalizations. I’ve sent him to his room, I’ve taken some toys away (but then I am punishing Splig, too), but the Cat hasn’t “gotten it” this week.

When we went to the store today, he ran out into traffic as a large SUV approached. I screamed “STOP!” and both the Cat and the SUV stopped. I am still shaking. The Cat has since accused me of breaking his arm, since I had grabbed his arm seconds after he bolted. I tried to explain that a hurt arm was nothing in comparison to what could have happened if the SUV had hit him. So he cried angrily and out of fear.

Related to the Cat, but not by his own actions is a frustrating situation with his five-year checkup with his pediatrician. When I phoned for the appointment, I was given one three and a half months into the future. That in itself was annoying, but then we received word that his regular pediatrician would not be available, so they pushed the appointment further into the future and assigned us a new pediatrician who I have never met. Last week, I received confirmation for a completely different appointment with a third pediatrician. I canceled that appointment, but it certainly doesn’t give me confidence that the appointment making process has been so difficult.

The wildness, his recent hearing test failure, and our concern about his inability to sleep well all make me eager for this appointment to arrive so that our worries can be discussed. But on the other hand, I am nervous about addressing a pediatrician unfamiliar with the Cat’s case. I have permission slips from his school next year, a “Physician’s Report” that must be filled out for the school, and the hearing screening referral letter that is supposed to be filled out and sent back to the testing facility. Husband and I are going to arrive with a bunch of paperwork, plus our own checklist about things such as the possibility of a tonsillectomy. I don’t want the doctor to be put off with what is going to appear very pushy! Meanwhile, I am concerned that a doctor unfamiliar with the Cat’s case will answer differently than one who knows him. I intensely dislike retelling the Cat’s “story” to medical professionals, especially when I don’t know their philosophy.

The work-related concerns are primarily because I haven’t had much time to spend on work. Instead, I am cleaning up spilled chips, dumped out cereal, poured out milk, smooshed banana, upturned shredder paper, and a large assortment of toys. Choke-able items that are supposed to remain in the Cat’s room migrate downstairs and into Splig’s mouth. Food products from the pantry end up stuffed in the sofa cushions. Artwork is askew because Splig climbs up on the bookcases. The Cat has affixed tape to a variety of surfaces such that if the tape is removed, so is the varnish or paint. If I attempt to do work on the computer, these messes multiply. Often, I simply make the choice that I must get things done for pay and I’ll deal with the clean-up later.

Although I usually don’t have to make phone calls, on occasion I must. I wait until Splig is asleep and the Cat is playing. Or perhaps the Cat is in his room and Splig is happily and quietly occupied. But recently, some of those calls can’t wait. I got one call yesterday where I went upstairs to be away from the boys. But of course the Cat followed me:

“Whhhooo-eee! Ninga, ninga!”

I motioned with my eyes and hand that I was on the telephone. “Be quiet, Mommy’s on the phone” I mouthed.

“Ninga, Ninga!”

And then two seconds later, he yelled into the headset, “Mommy! Splig’s head is stuck!”

I apologized to the payroll specialist who had been confirming some changes to our service and un-wedged Splig’s head from the bottom of the stairs.

When I got back on the line, Spliggle was crying and screaming while the Cat ran his wagon against the kitchen floor. I could barely hear.

I tried to get to a quieter place, but the sounds of my boys were difficult to drown out. The lady confirming the information had a strong accent. I had a challenging time understanding what was going on. I kept pausing to process what was being said. At one point as I hesitated giving my answer, she was annoyed and condescendingly said something along the lines of, “I thought you had used us before and that you would know our procedure.”

When I received payroll today, there were seven errors. Only one error was as a result of my inability to understand what the payroll specialist was saying. Fortunately, I will be transferred back to my usual payroll specialist in a couple months.

The other glitch with work is that I have been exhausted recently and have attempted to keep up with exercising so that I don’t regain the weight that I lost during the “Biggest Loser” competition with my friends. When I am on the exercise bike, I am not working. When I am walking, pushing Splig’s stroller, I am not working. When I am exhausted at 8:00pm and go to bed instead of staying up past midnight, I am not working.

I have one client who has quite a few ideas for his website. I cannot implement them all and have had limited success in getting others to assist me. I had a good experience with the rented coder I had used a few weeks ago, so will use that service again, but to do so, I need to flesh out what needs to be done! It is one of those situations where it is the layout of the project that is the hump. This is why I would be pitiful at “The Apprentice!”

I suppose the bottom line is that I feel overwhelmed. I am nervous about our safety. I am concerned about the Cat and his future. I am worried about my weight creeping back up. I am frustrated with our dirty house. I am not earning money and I am delaying my clients.

Husband has had a tough week because of various complications at his job. The Cat is worried about a variety of things. This afternoon, Splig had a long crying spell for no apparent reason (teething?) It has been a tricky week for our family.

I know my concerns are minor in the grand scheme of things, and in comparison to people who have been victims of major crime, serious accident or illness, starvation, etc. But for right now, I wish I could just scream or pound something.

(Interesting that when things are falling apart and it seems like there is too much to do that the impulse is to destroy things further!)

I know this feeling is temporary. Something will shake me out of feeling sorry for myself and I’ll realize I am a spoiled brat. But for this moment, I feel pretty angry.

During the time it took to write this, the toilet overflowed because the Cat stuffed too much toilet paper in it; the Cat got sent to his room four times because of various infractions, primarily related to knocking down his brother; Spliggle and the Cat together spread shredder paper around the floor (the Cat put a bunch on Splig’s head,) and Spliggle removed many items from the pantry and files from the file cabinet.

Posted by karianna at 06:35 PM | Comments (4)

March 20, 2006

Here We Go Again!

This morning Husband noticed the garage door was partway up. Our cat had been meowing at the door at 5:30am. He let the cat in, then saw the garage was open. He told me that he figured that the cat had bumped something that had opened the door. The button is by a shelf she frequently climbs on, so it wouldn't be out of the question that she could press against the tempting green light.

Husband asked me to check out the garage's contents when I got a chance to make sure nothing had been taken while it had been up. I agreed, but didn't feel any urgency. The door had been stuck yesterday and I had to press the button a few times to get it to work. I figured it had become stuck when closing yesterday, but became unstuck because the cat shifted some stuff around. Or perhaps she had pressed the button, as Husband suspected. I figured the open garage was a mistake.

I was busy getting the boys ready. I'd check the garage later, I figured. I wanted to go on a walk, file some papers at my brother's office, and perhaps run a couple errands.

Towards the start of my walk, Husband called. His car had been unlocked this morning. He noticed someone had gone through it. Our garage door opener was taken.

Related to our last bout with theives, or just coincidence?

I stopped my walk. It was raining and few people were on the trail, so I wasn't entirely secure with being there anyway. I was uncomfortably wet and suddenly very eager to figure out if anything had been stolen back at home.

Thankfully, it appears nothing has been taken. But, the theif has our garage door opener!

Two hits (or attempted, as the case may be for this one) in two weeks. Kinda freaky.

Prior to this year, I can remember only a few other incidents: a radio was stolen out of my Cherokee in 1994, my computer (along with all accessories, etc) and our DVD player were stolen when we moved cross-country in 2001, and our video camera was stolen at one of Husband's events in 2005. Oh, and my purse was stolen from my shopping cart at Target at the beginning of 2005.

I am glad nothing has been taken aside from the opener. But I must admit having an uneasy feeling. Two incidents in two weeks is unsettling.

Posted by karianna at 11:58 AM | Comments (4)

March 18, 2006

The 4:17 Train

Whenever I have an event in the city I aim for the 4:17 train. It gets in a tad before 5:30: just enough time to get to a 5:30 event without being too fashionably late.

Most of the time, I miss the 4:17 train and end up arriving about twenty minutes late to the event in question. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I made the train. Sometimes my tardiness means nothing. Other times it is a meeting that is set to begin promptly.

Tonight's event was of the former variety. It was a fundraising auction that I knew would last awhile before the dinner portion of the evening. Nonetheless, I wanted to get there on time so I could scout out the auction items, greet friends who had organized the event, and otherwise become acclimated to the surroundings. Like the Cat, I prefer smaller gatherings to crowd noise. It is better, therefore, to arrive when the attendance is small.

Knowing that I always seem to take longer than expected to get dressed and made-up, and that I have watched from the parking lot, the pedestrian bridge, and the escalator to the platform as the 4:17 train pulls away, I decided to take no chances and get ready significantly earlier than I estimated that it would take.

Sure enough, my toes needed to be repainted, the shoes I had picked out weren't quite right so I had to swap out several pairs to figure out the best, and my hair had some issues. But, I was happy how everything turned out.

When Husband saw me, he chuckled a little. "It's only 3:30!" he exclaimed, adding, "You look pretty."

"Well the train is at 4:17," I reminded him.

I bid the kids goodbye, pausing to explain to the Cat that it was an adult event. He wanted to join me and sadly queried, "They don't like me anymore?" when I told him I was going to dinner with friends. Then he told me he was a much bigger boy so could go to a grown-up event. He added that he wasn't going to get any bigger because then his teeth would fall out.

A few blocks from our house I realized I had to use the restroom. But I didn't want to turn back because I had to make that 4:17 train. Several minutes later, I realized I probably wouldn't be able to wait until arriving at the event. Many of the train station bathrooms closed post-9/11, and I wasn't sure if that was the case for the station to which I was going.

I stopped at a Macy's. Of course, the bathrooms were way at the back. A fast food chain probably would have been quicker, but I was dressed up.

Then I got confused in the parking lot and had to U-turn to get out the correct way to get onto the freeway. My hopes of making the 4:17 train were dashed.

At the train station I magically found a parking spot right away. Hope! I saw the train at the platform and wished I was wearing tennis shoes so that I could jog a bit. But instead, I walked quickly in my wedges. This ended up being sort of a sexy swagger, but it was faster than a regular walk. I got some stares and whistles. Annoying, but at least it confirmed that I looked good!

All of the ticket-buying machines were in use. Panic! But then one opened up. I got my ticket, walked quickly down the escalator, jogged through the train's open door, and sat down as the doors closed and we departed. At 4:18.

Either they were a minute off or our clocks aren't the same, but the result is the same: I finally caught the 4:17 train!

Posted by karianna at 04:18 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2006

St. Paddy's

The leprechauns have definitely been up to some mischief.

On Monday, I went to a few stores to pick up some decorations, cups, and napkins in preparation for hosting Tuesday evening’s book club. At one store, I saw a beautiful metal cookie cutter of a shamrock. I was close to throwing it in my basket, but thought that I already had a shamrock cookie cutter. I have three barrels of cheap-o plastic cookie cutters, one of which is a holiday assortment, so surely there was a clover there, right?

I ended up not wanting to make cookies, anyway. I decorated the house and served Dubliner Cheddar, Guinness, and then a bunch of not-Irish-but-yummy food. I wore my Irish fisherman cable-knit sweater and threw green glitter all over. I learned that green glitter on the floor looks like dirt.

On Wednesday during the frustrating conference with the Cat’s teacher, she had mentioned that today they would be throwing gold glitter around the classroom as “leprechaun dust” and that they might tip over a few chairs or put some items in incorrect locations. She was concerned that the Cat would freak out. I told her that I had dusted our house with green glitter and that frankly I didn’t think he would be worried about a little leprechaun mischief. I then asked her about food. Sure enough, she was planning to give them shamrock cookies. Ah! Okay, so I will bring in some cookies for the Cat.

Last night, I started to make the cookies. Ugh, forgot that it takes three hours to chill! I was starting at 7:30pm! I went through my cookie cutters and discovered that I did not have a shamrock cookie cutter.

It started to rain.

Spliggle rubbed his eyes.

But I had to take the boys out to find the cookie cutter. I couldn’t remember which store had it. We went to four different stores, each a bit more challenging between a scared-of-the-rain Cat and the wanting-to-go-to-sleep Spliggle. No cookie cutters. I was stunned.

At one store, I saw a parking space right next to the carts. I wanted to be near a cart because I wasn’t going to leave the boys in the car while I retrieved a one. On a sunny day, it might not be a problem, but the Cat wanted me to hold his hand and so forth, which made carrying Splig more difficult. But, a truck was coming towards me, so I paused to let it by. Instead, it blocked the space and motioned me to go forward. Apparently, I was blocking the space that it wanted. Yet there were many, many spaces on that side of the road. The truck could have either parked in front of me, or in back of me. There was no reason for me to have to move. Nonetheless, I went forward, made a U-turn, and finally got the space I wanted.

Then at another store, the cart rolled away from me and towards an approaching car. The driver honked the horn. But I was halfway through putting Splig in his carseat and couldn’t safely retrieve the cart. I am glad it didn’t slam into the car.

One of the stores I checked was the same store where my purse was stolen a year ago. I was reluctant to go there, but did in the hopes of finding the darn cookie cutter. Alas, the trip was not worth it.

At home, dejected, I put Splig to bed. The dough still had a couple more hours to chill. I was tired, so decided to bake the cookies first thing in the morning. Husband came home. The Cat and I went to sleep.

This morning, I baked the cookies using cutters of several flowers, a star, and the number “5.” I knew the Cat would like those shapes.

The Cat awakened and immediately started complaining that his teeth were going to fall out and that he was going to tell all his friends that their teeth would fall out too. He talked about it the whole way to preschool, except for when he counted to 110.

I had planned to take a walk on a local trail with Splig after dropping the Cat off at preschool. In my haste to leave the house this morning, I had accidentally worn the slip-on shoes that I keep by the front door for quick trips outside. This wasn’t the first time I had made that mistake.

I walked nonetheless, but now have blisters on my feet. Of course, because of the leprechauns, I accidentally stepped in dog-poo (and ran Splig’s stroller through it too.) Also, I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, so had to use a port-a-potty on the trail – ick!

Finally, when I started this post, I wanted to include photographs. But, the camera battery was dead, so I had to be patient.

As it turns out, the photos I took of my little Book Club Tuesday didn't come out very well. But here is one of some of the decorations: pilsner glasses w/ shamrocks on them and a shamrock plant. And then here is a photo of Splig that came out rather nicely.

Hopefully, the shoe-swapping, shamrock-hiding, dog-poo-creating, camera-battery-draining leprechauns will allow me some peace the rest of the day. I have poured a Guinness and will attempt to veg on the couch a bit – but Spliggle is laughing in his room instead of taking a nap, so relaxation might not be in my future just yet.

Nonetheless – A Very Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All!

Posted by karianna at 03:13 PM | Comments (3)

March 12, 2006

Loss: Weight and Otherwise

The good news? I got second place in my mom’s club “Biggest Loser” competition. Sure enough, the woman I saw at Oscar Night who had suddenly become rather healthy looking from originally being noticeably overweight was the big winner. She had lost 13% of her body weight. I lost 11%. Not bad. I got some money, plus some fake brand name things from China. (A Tiffany necklace! Prada sunglasses!) Cool prizes all around! And it was fun to hang with friends, of course. Not too surprisingly, the winner and I didn’t pig out on the candy and cake that were at the “weigh out” party. I think we’re going to try to keep our loss. It was great to have the motivation of money (and fake designer stuff!) plus the support of other friends trying to lose weight. A success for all!

The bad news? Turns out the thief didn’t only get the nav system, my husband’s bag, and my hands-free device. He also stole 5-6 DVDs from my van. I didn’t notice until the Cat asked for “space” tonight. He meant “Baby Galileo,” which I had put in the van to entertain him and Splig during our longer van voyages. Typically, a single DVD stays in the player for awhile until a new one is requested. So, I didn’t know the thief had got to our stash.

When Husband came back saying that he didn’t see “Baby Galileo” in the van, I went outside expecting to find the DVD in the incorrect sleeve, or another quick-fix. Instead, I saw that the entire pocket of DVDs had been cleaned out. Two DVDs that I had stored in another pocket were still there, but the majority was gone.

Originally, I only kept 2-3 DVDs in the van at one time. But in the last days of January, we took a trip down to Disneyland. So I put the boys’ favorite videos in the van – around eight to ten total – to entertain them while we drove to Southern California. I didn’t remove them when we returned. After all, it was convenient to have their favorites there, and I figured if they ever asked to see one in the house, I’d just have to retrieve it from the van.

I am having a difficult time remembering exactly which DVDs I selected for our Southern CA trip, and therefore which I need to replace. But until the boys ask for them, I guess we won’t buy them just yet. I know the Cat had a “Thomas’ Greatest Hits” and “James and the Red Balloon.” I know “Finding Nemo” was one, and of course “Baby Galileo.” But I know there was at least one more, and perhaps 2-3 more DVDs there.

Sure, I was angry about the nav system, but for the thief to have stolen from my boys brings my sadness to a new level. I feel kinda sick inside. And yet, Husband and the Cat are off buying a new “Baby Galileo,” and probably a new “Finding Nemo” right now. (The Thomas videos will wait, since the Cat has several more and hasn’t requested them in quite awhile, so we might not need to replace those.) So it isn’t like there is a lasting impression on the kids. Just on our pocketbook. And our sense of security.

Although, the Cat did say that he didn’t want “Toy Story” to be in the van, because he was afraid the “bad man” would take it. Originally, I wasn’t going to get into the whole “our van was burglarized” schtick with him, but he had asked about the navigation system (he loved watching the little triangle that represented us as it wove through the route,) so I told him that someone had taken it away from us. Tonight, I told him that same person had taken “Baby Galileo.”

I don’t want the Cat to be nervous that someone “bad” is going to take our belongings from us, but at the same time, I didn’t know how to respond when he was asking for things that had been stolen. When I said, “Someone took it,” he gave the logical, “Well, ask for it back” and “Let’s go to their house and get it back.” So I had to say, “Well, we don’t really know who took it, just that they were someone who was bad and took something that didn’t belong to him or her.”

Similarly, Husband’s trip to his grandpa’s memorial service has been called “a meeting.” We aren’t ready to get into death just yet. He knows two of his fish have died (although he blames me for flushing them down the toilet.) But since he didn’t know his great-grandpa, it didn’t seem right to get into the whole “he died” thing. My grandma is 94 years old. The Cat knows her and loves her (occasionally asks to go visit Great-grandma) so when she dies, it will be an interesting discussion. But hopefully we won’t have to worry about that just yet…

The Cat just returned – grinning that he had obtained “Baby Galileo” and “Finding Nemo.” He is watching the former, but warned me somberly that we can’t put either in the van. As he watches, he is making comments like, "Well, I missed this, so I had to buy a new one." My heart breaks for him.

Posted by karianna at 09:44 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2006

Paranoia

Yesterday Husband couldn’t find his computer bag. Luckily, his computer hadn’t been in it when he lost it, but a few important files were missing. The bag itself was costly and nice, and it was perplexing as to where he could have left it.

I looked around the house, in the van, and outside near the cars and porch in case he had forgotten to bring it inside.

He finally determined that he must have brought it outside to load into the van, but had forgotten it on the curb at his office on Wednesday evening.

I had a meeting Wednesday night, so had gone to Husband’s office to switch cars with him. He’d take the boys in the van, and I’d take Husband’s car to the rapid transit station.

When we arrived, I took my cell phone and bag and put it in Husband’s car. I then got the kids and locked the van. We went inside. The kids played with Husband’s coworkers and we visited for awhile. Husband went outside to load some of his belongings into the van. When Husband came back inside, I then went outside to load the kids in while Husband got the rest of his belongings.

They drove off and I drove off.

After my meeting, I was waiting at the station platform. Typically, I hold my bag tight to my body and look around fairly frequently. I am cautious that way.

This time, I decided to sit down on a bench. I opened my bag and was getting out a little favor I had received at my meeting. As I opened the favor, a man sprang in front of me, yelling “Yo Kari! Are you coming with me or not?” and touching my hand in a familiar way.

I stared at him. He knew my name. Who was he? He was around my age and well dressed. An old friend? I was silent and stunned. But I couldn’t place his face.

He then jumped up, announced, “Guess not!” and ran into a train.

Now I was scared. I looked in my bag to see if he had grabbed my wallet. I looked at my hand where he had touched me to see if there was any discoloration. I ran the odd monologue through my head and tried to reassure myself that perhaps he had said, “Okay, are you coming with me or not?” Rather than “Yo, Kari!” Okay. YoKari. Okay. YoKari. It could sound alike to someone who doesn’t hear well in the first place and has fluid in her ears from a lingering illness, right?

But still, what was the point of his antics? A bet? To shock me? Or was he hoping to steal something but couldn’t get his hand around anything valuable?

As his train went away and mine approached, I started thinking about how a quick thirty seconds can become a pungent memory. I remembered other times that individuals had approached me in an uncomfortable way. Those people probably don’t remember their actions, particularly if they do it for fun frequently, but their actions leave a lasting impression.

Did that guy know that I was now paranoid about whether he had stolen something from me or put some sort of biological agent on my hand?

As I pondered this, I remembered an encounter I had on a train coming home from school. I saw a man in his late twenties or early thirties in a wheelchair. It appeared that he had cerebral palsy, as his arms were misshapen. I was reading a book. He asked me about the book, and I responded.

We continued to have a pleasant conversation. When my stop was approaching, I told him I had to go. He looked forlorn, and asked me for my name and phone number. “I want you to be my very good friend,” he said.

But I didn’t want to give my name and phone number to a man possibly twice my age. Instead of giving him an honest answer, I wrote down a fake last name and a fictitious phone number.

By the time I got home, I was in tears. I had been nervous about providing personal information to this man, but I didn’t want to tell him “no” because I didn’t want to make him sad. Worse, I realized that he might try to call that number and be crushed when he realized I had lied. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and yet I realized that by providing a fake name and number, that I was doing just that.

I hope that man has forgotten that incident, but I haven’t. And it has been about eighteen years.

I started wondering about people who steal. Do they realize the impact they have on their victim? They are thinking of the cash they need, or a flashy item they want. My purse was stolen last year, and I remember being fearful that the thief would use my keys to get into my house or steal my car. We changed the locks on our house. But I was most annoyed that I had lost a photograph of my husband when he was five. And that I no longer had my favorite wallet-sized professional photo of the Cat. I was also frustrated to go through having to get a new license, wallet, and medical card. I remember wishing that the thief would have just taken the credit cards and cash, and left the personal items behind. Their memory of my purse and its contents are long gone. They had a shopping spree at Walmart, a dinner at Jack in the Box, and some sundries from 7-Eleven before the credit cards were cut off. But they probably just threw away Husband’s photograph. And they certainly didn’t care that they had hurt me.

I didn’t realize that my thoughts were prophetic.

On a typical preschool day, I turn on my portable navigation system so that the Cat can watch the map and so I can get an estimated time of arrival. This morning, I reached down to retrieve it, and felt empty air. I went to grab my earpiece for my phone so I could call Husband to ask him about it. But the earpiece was gone.

Suddenly, the mystery of where Husband’s bag had gone was becoming clearer.

Rather than just leaving it on the curb where it was later pilfered, it appears that Husband had brought his bag out to the van during his first trip outside. Between the time he got back inside and I brought the kids out, someone must have grabbed the bag, the portable navigation system, and my hands-free device for my cell phone.

It is whiny to be complaining and sad about the loss of a luxury like a navigation system. But to spend so much money on something and no longer have it is a frustrating situation to be in. All day today, I made the mistake of thinking, “Oh, I wonder which way is better to go! Let’s see what the nav system says…” and then realizing I no longer have a nav system.

But what troubles me the most is that pressing “Go Home” gives the thief a guided route to our house. Pursuing the “recent selections” tells the thief where I go and how to get there: preschool, Husband’s office, my brother’s office, my parent’s house, and the hockey rinks. If the thief wants to, he or she knows how to find me.

(A coworker told me that if I get a new system, I should program “home” to be a local public place to generate an ETA rather than my actual home. It is good advice! I might even program in random locations like a karate school, gun store, or some other location that is more intimidating than a preschool or church, or at least to provide many, many locations in there so that the most frequently visited ones aren’t as prominent.)

Realizing this made me particularly wary and paranoid about something that happened yesterday, before I realized the nav system was gone. (It had been stolen Wednesday night, but since I don’t usually use it for local errands, I didn’t notice it was gone yesterday.)

We were getting ready to go to the Cat’s swim lesson. I noticed a car traveling exceptionally slowly down our street. It then turned around, and crept towards the location precisely across the street from us, blocking our neighbor’s driveway. The car sat there for a couple minutes. It then moved forward to the next house and sat.

I was creeped out enough by it to mention it to Husband, who had just called me. I considered taking down the license number in case someone’s home was later burglarized. I paused in front of the car, and then I drove away. A block later, I considered turning back. I wish I had trusted my instincts. I wish I had taken that license number because I am now afraid. Even better would have been if I had noticed a nav system identical to mine in his car – but I didn’t know to be on the lookout for that.

I believe that I had programmed in “home” on the system by marking our location as a memory point. I don’t think I programmed in the exact address. I know that the nav system considered our home to be a street number that it isn’t. So, it would make sense that if a thief were using the nav system to find our house, they would be perplexed when the nav-lady cheerfully announced, “Destination on right!” but displayed an address that didn’t match with the house number. Is that why the guy was creeping along the street? The destination was reached, but the house number didn’t match?

I am simply too paranoid.

After all, if he had been the original thief, he would have recognized the van from where the system had been stolen! He’d then know my home address. But maybe this guy bought the system from the thief. Or is a friend of the thief.

But why would that matter? He could select anyone to rob, so why go after someone that you’ve already stolen from? Unless there is some guy who specifically wants to ruin my life, there is no reason for a thief to specifically track someone using a stolen nav system, right? There are many addresses in the phone book, many preschools, many ice rinks.

My hope is that whoever stole it programmed in their own stuff and/or erased everything to then resell it to someone.

But I remain paranoid. And frustrated. And angry.

Meanwhile, the thief is probably enjoying some drugs from the proceeds of the sale of something that didn’t belong to him. Or maybe it is a woman that is now exceptionally happy to have a navigation system like her rich friends. But whoever he or she is, you can bet that they don’t give a damn that I am sitting in my house afraid that something might happen to me or my family, and sad that something I enjoyed has been taken from me.

The real relief of all this, however, is that I had made a conscious decision to move my bag and cell phone into Husband’s car Wednesday night. I remember specifically thinking, “I should put my stuff in there now, rather than accidentally leaving it in the van.”

If I had left my bag in there, there is no doubt it would have been taken.

That would have meant another round of “replace the credit cards, driver’s license, medical cards, etc” that I am still angry about from last year. It would have meant my iPod and iTalk would have been gone. My leather tote, plus the purse inside would have been gone. Some papers that I am supposed to give to the Cat’s physician would have been gone (and revealing medical information about my son to the thief.)

I am absolutely relieved that my bag was not stolen. One lucky decision, and it wasn’t.

Husband is lucky is computer wasn’t in his computer bag. I still haven’t figured out why he would have loaded his bag in the van without the computer, but it was a lucky decision.

So even though some stuff got stolen, it could have been much, much worse. I am sad that someone bad entered our van. It is a yucky, violating feeling. But I imagine it was quick and with an eye towards a quick buck.

A coworker told me, “The world hasn’t changed.” And she is right. Just because something unfortunate happened (and for some odd reason, is coincidentally at the same time that a stranger on the train freaked me out and some random guy on the street drove slowly throughout my neighborhood) doesn’t mean that I am automatically less safe than last week, even though it feels that way.

Wanna know the kicker?

Husband’s grandpa died yesterday.

So while I am being a paranoid pansy, sad about the loss of a frivolous navigation system, Husband has lost a family member.

I am sorry, Husband.

I didn’t know what to say last night when you told me the news.

I don’t know what I can do today when all I’ve been doing is babbling about how I am freaked out that someone is going to follow me around using my stolen navigation system to place me.

But if you need me, I am here.

Posted by karianna at 03:42 PM | Comments (2)

March 08, 2006

Jonathan

Whenever a U2 song comes on the radio, or through my iPod, I think of Jonathan. I remember the concert in November 2001 when four of us friends were dancing, smiling, and passing plastic cups of beer to the music.

Four years ago today, Jonathan was killed by an avalanche.

Although the concert technically wasn’t the last time I saw him before he died, it feels that way. The last time I saw him was actually Superbowl 2002. We had a get together in honor of the game, and Jonathan was one of the friends piling into our tiny condo. Unfortunately, one of my clients had some urgent work, so I ended up working on the computer while everyone else watched the game. I have not made that same mistake again.

Husband and I had been taking cooking classes. The night we received the call about Jonathan, I had just finished making a dinner soufflé and was nearly done with the chocolate soufflé we’d have for dessert. I had made crème anglaise and was slowly stirring it on the stove. I imagine the Cat was already in bed.

Husband took the call. I didn’t know what was going on until he cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and quickly relayed the news. He went into the back bedroom.

I continued cooking, and after what seemed like a long time, I went back to the bedroom. I whine-babbled, “This is just so wrong and bizarre. I know I didn’t know Jonathan well, but…” and then I saw Husband was still on the phone. I quickly shut up and shut the door to the bedroom, embarrassed that I had interrupted Husband. He had been crumpled on the floor by the bed.

I ate my soufflés. I kept a portion out for Husband, but after awhile, figured he wasn’t going to eat it. I cleaned the kitchen and turned on the news. We knew there would be something on the news.

Sure enough, there was a report on “a bunch of snowboarders who went out of bounds and caused an avalanche.” They made it seem like a bunch of punk-kids were breakin’ all the rules. In truth, Jonathan was a skier. Not that it is a huge deal, but the snowboarding image is definitely different than the skier image. And according to the friends who were with him when the avalanche occurred, they had stepped out of bounds to look at a sunrise, not in an attempt to ski an uncharted trail. It was clear that the news report was meant to outline an irresponsible accident. Ski in bounds and you’ll be safe!

About six months ago, a Boy Scout troop suffered two fatalities when lightening stuck. I remember being angry at a reporter as she hounded a nature expert. The reporter kept trying to get the expert to say that the Scouts could have done something differently to prevent the tragedy. But in their case, there was absolutely nothing that they “should” have done. They had dispersed properly and stood in the proper positions. They had been responsible. Finally, the expert said that if they had happened to go to some other plane of ground, it would have worked better. The reporter latched on to that, saying, “The troop failed to go to a higher (or lower?) plane of ground.” Always looking for an excuse for tragedy. If you are safe, you will live forever.

The day after Jonathan died, we went to my cousin’s one year old’s birthday party. Husband went along, although I am sure he would have wanted to stay in bed all day. Jonathan and Husband had been very close.

My cousin had beer out for the adults. By the time the party ended, Husband had imbibed several. He moved downstairs to the game room for the hard liquor. He and my cousin’s husband did shots while Husband kept repeating over and over again that he simply couldn’t believe it. They determined that Jonathan was the type of guy who wouldn’t have wanted to be in a nursing home at a ripe elderly age. He would have wanted to go out in a risky way. An avalanche was certainly a dramatic way to go.

Husband kept muttering the rest of the day, “I got drunk at a one year old’s birthday party! I got drunk at a one year old’s birthday party!”

It was amusing, though sad of course. But it was an entirely appropriate way to celebrate Jonathan and mourn his loss.

It was Husband’s first real experience with death and I had no way of comforting him. Jonathan had been living in San Francisco, while his family was all on the east coast. The next week, they all flew out to deal with his affairs. His brother, sister-in-law, and sister stayed in our three room, 1 bathroom condo. His parents stayed at a family friend’s house. His father and brother are attorneys. My father, who is an attorney in California, met with them to discuss the CA probate.

For that week, I played hostess to those people staying with us, plus an assortment of Jonathan’s friends who came to see his family. His brother and sister are both in the same co-ed Society that Husband and I are in. In the mornings, I laid out piles of bath towels and breakfast items. Then everyone would leave to pack up Jonathan’s apartment, or to meet with my father about legal issues. In the evening, I tried out my Cooking School recipes on the crowd that had gathered.

It was a strange situation to be so close to the grieving family, and yet not really be a part of it. I knew Jonathan, but not well. That week, I saw firsthand the different ways people can grieve. His sister talked about him, bringing up happy memories. His brother wanted to play Strato-Hockey and was intent on finding a Strato-Baseball game at a toy store. His father was silent. His mother wept. His friends either wanted to join the Strato-Baseball game or join in the recollection of memories. His sister, sister-in-law, a friend and I all watched the series premiere of The Bachelor and used it as fodder for irrelevant conversation.

What really grasped my heart was watching Jonathan’s mother. She curled up on our couch and watched the then one-year old Cat. She sometimes held my son, carefully stroking his head. She sighed as we put on Sesame Street and the Cat would clap happily. I knew she was recalling memories of her baby son. I knew she was in deep pain.

Since the Cat was only a year old, I was still fresh with the knowledge of vulnerability that comes with being a new mother. I was still overprotective of him and acutely aware of how much he meant to me. I knew that the worst thing that can happen to a mother is to lose her child. And now I was witnessing that firsthand. It was horrible.

Of course, quite a lot has happened in the four years since. Jonathan’s sister got married, and now has a son named Jonathan. We are no longer in that small condo that held those memories. The Bachelor has had several seasons.

But, every time I hear U2, I remember Jonathan. I remember his smile and enthusiasm for life.

It’s a beautiful day! Don’t let it slip away…

Posted by karianna at 11:50 AM | Comments (2)

March 07, 2006

Not so much

So. Did you think it was a little odd that I would announce that we’re all on the mend and then… nothing?

Turns out, it was a little bump up before a grand plunge. All the vomity-goodness and fevery flashes one can imagine were mine for the price of a week of being in bed. What started out to be a mild annoyance and even a bit of a fun forced rest became quite an energy sapper. Watching my kids lose weight was sad. Watching me lose weight was a bit more fun, though my tummy hurt.

I think I can safely say we are officially much better, although I’d better knock on all the wood I can find!

The Cat and Splig went to preschool yesterday. Splig was apparently pretty low-key at school, but he has since become quite a ball of energy. In the last couple days, he’s attempted to eat the entire week’s worth of food that he had missed. The Cat has eaten a normal amount and is peppy again, so that is a relief. Of course, attempting to play catch-up with my work with too wired boys is a challenge, but I am happy to see them back to normal.

The last time I missed this much life was back in junior high. I remember how some teachers allowed me to skip a few assignments so that I wouldn’t be burdened by back-work but how there were a couple sticklers who docked me points for being late with assignments that I couldn’t have possibly completed while sick. That is the one difficult thing about recovering from being ill: not only are you attempting to have enough energy to complete the normal day-to-day tasks, but you are also frantically trying to catch up with everything that should have been done while you were ill.

In my mind it is still the end of February, but the calendar tells me we’re a week into March already. As luck would have it, I had scheduled lots of appointments in the first week of March. I have been busy rescheduling those!

On Sunday I went to a fabulous Oscar party, though I was hacking up quite a storm and didn’t eat much while there. I wore a bridesmaid’s dress from my own wedding. One of my maids had ordered the wrong size, so rather than return it, I kept it as a souvenir. It was fun to wear, since I had picked it out! It was especially fun that I fit in it!

One of the Oscar guests was a woman who a month ago one would have said, “Yeah, she’s overweight.” But on Sunday, we were amazed to see that she is now in the totally healthy weight category. She is part of our “Biggest Loser” competition that ends this Friday, and the rest of the competitors are now convinced that she’ll take home the top prize. I thought I had done pretty well, especially with the getting sick part, but this lady has done phenomenally!

Not much else to report, for I am busy playing the catch-up game!

Posted by karianna at 01:07 PM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2006

On the Mend

Yesterday and today have been rather relaxing, all things considered. Sure, it is no fun to be sick, but there is something comforting about snuggling up to my sick boys as they sleep. I used Spliggle as a little portable heater yesterday. He slept in my arms the majority of the day, spending only a little time in his crib. The Cat was mainly on the couch or his beanbag, but had some snuggle-time with me, also.

I didn’t toss my cookies, but I felt like I was going to a few times. It didn’t help when Splig threw up on me a couple times! Aside from a runny nose, congestion, nausea, and probably one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had, yesterday was a nice break. I was too sick to do work (my mind was mush,) but I was just well enough to watch T.V. and read the newspaper. It was a “forced vacation,” but in a way a welcome one.

Last night was not fun, as I had more “chills” than I did “fever,” so it was difficult to sleep while shaking. It didn’t help that Splig moaned every couple hours, the Cat was coughing loudly, and Husband was snoring up a storm. (The weather outside, however, has turned from stormy to sunny!)

Today I have alternated between lounging around and doing some work, though I haven’t tackled the dirty dishes since those make my stomach turn. My nose is a faucet and my tummy is a bit on-edge. I am exhausted, but forced myself to do 30 minutes on the exercise bike as I watched “Amazing Race.” Fortunately, the updates my web clients wanted were straightforward and didn’t require brain power.

I am going to go back to the television for awhile and veg. The Cat is already asleep on the couch, though he was awake most of the morning. We had a little pillow fight and he ate some ham. We watched “Deal or No Deal” while talking about numbers. I think he is feeling much better.

Spliggle has had a tough day. He cried for several hours before having a wonderful mid-morning of playing, giggling, and exploring. He then cried some more and is now asleep in his crib. He is still feverish and having difficulty keeping things in his tummy.

Yesterday, I gave Splig a tiny piece of a chocolate Balance bar. The Cat is typically the only one who eats them, so he was shocked and angry that his little brother would dare eat one of his bars. For the rest of the day yesterday, plus the beginning of this morning, the Cat would pout, “I don’t like him anymore.” When I would ask why, he would whine “Because he ate my Balance bar!” It was adorable but also sad. I kept explaining that I was the one who gave him the tiny amount of nutrition bar to help him feel better. Husband also had a talk with him this morning. Still, he distanced himself from his brother, deciding to play “far far away” from him because of the perceived slight.

Mid-nap, Spliggle started crying. The Cat went upstairs. I heard him on the baby monitor, “Oh, don’t be sad. I am not mad at you anymore! Come downstairs and play!”

The Cat was devastated that his brother had to take a nap. He wanted to play with him.

Last night, the Cat really wanted his daddy. He asked for chocolate milk. I explained that my tummy was too timid to get the chocolate milk, but that Daddy would get it when he came home. I explained that in the meantime, he could have some water. “Mean Time?” the Cat asked, “These times are Mean?”

Indeed, we had some mean times, but I think we are all getting better. Husband has avoided getting ill. Husband is the only one in our family who got a flu shot this year.

Lesson learned.

Posted by karianna at 03:05 PM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2006

Done!

I did it.

I signed up the kids for private school. (“independent school,” if I want to be more PC.)

This was the decision I knew in my heart that I had made long ago, but I was wary to officially take the plunge. I didn’t know if it was the snob in me who wanted my children to have a “private education,” or whether it was the pragmatic reasons that the Cat has a greater chance of success with a smaller campus, smaller class sizes, and a curriculum that mirrors the way he learns best. Structure, routine, and special attention to being kind to one another are emphasized at this school. But the hole in the wallet? And not knowing if perhaps he could get just as good an education at a public school? I was conflicted.

I first looked at this school nearly a year ago at the encouragement of a friend whose daughter has special needs. My friend had been so impressed with the way this school had been accommodating to her daughter that she suspected that it would be a good place for the Cat.

Her daughter and the Cat don’t know each other well, but they have met a few times and have instantly paired up to play together, so I expect they will enjoy each other’s company at school, too.

At the Open House last year, I was amazed at how perfect a fit the school seemed. But, the Cat was happy at his current preschool, so I didn’t want to make the switch for last fall. The Cat had wonderful teachers last year, and I couldn’t imagine any sort of improvement would be made by switching. It made sense to me for him to finish out his current program, “graduate” from that school, and then transfer to another school. It seemed cleaner. It also gave a little time in case some sort of profound improvement had been made in the Cat’s behavior such that public school didn’t seem like such a risk.

In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better to have switched, given that I haven’t been completely satisfied with his teachers this year, but I can’t say for certain. And what is done is done.

After attending their 25th Anniversary celebration, I was ready to sign him up. The teachers, faculty, and parents with whom I spoke painted an impressive picture. But of course, that was a biased set, since any stoic parent wouldn’t have taken the time out of their schedule to attend a grand school function! Nonetheless, the feel was comfortable and encouraging.

I fully expected that come January, we’d sign the registration papers. But a few of my relatives approached me to say, “You don’t know if it is truly better than public school,” and “Their philosophy might be perfect, but you need to observe the teachers and students in action.” I knew they were right. I shouldn’t be blinded by promotional materials and a flashy anniversary party.

So I went on a second Open House, this time while class was in session. I saw the smiling kids in their sharp uniforms and straight lines as they enthusiastically greeted their teacher. I saw the jubilant Kindergarteners as they went outside to eat their lunch, leaving behind math pages on their desks. I saw first graders learning about computers. Spliggle examined the toys in the early preschool class and the bulletin board with smiling toothbrushes the two year olds had painted. Everywhere I saw evidence of respect for one’s friends, emphasis on healthful eating and personal hygiene, and plenty of reading and arithmetic activities in symbolic, abstract, and conceptual applications.

But I hadn’t yet observed a public school classroom in action for a fair comparison.

And I haven’t yet.

I’ve been holding back. It seems like a chore. In the midst of an already busy schedule, I really didn’t want to take the time out to ask for an observation day.

Then my friend at the independent school told me that junior-K had a wait list, and she wasn’t sure about Kindergarten. I panicked. I knew I’d be upset if I had missed the opportunity for the Cat to attend a school which based on my observation is as perfect as one could come to meeting his needs.

So Husband and I determined that at least we should register to hold the spot. Husband admitted that he had hoped it would be possible to send our kids to public school, but the truth is that the Cat is going to need special attention.

It is easier to later decide to try public school than it is to try public, have it be a disaster, and then try to transition the Cat into an independent school after a “failure.” If the Cat were old enough to understand his own needs, then he could help in this respect, but his academic persona is being developed right now, and shouldn’t get off on the wrong foot. It would be horrible for him to be labeled a “problem child” by an overworked or impatient teacher (as has already happened to an extent this year in preschool.) That still might happen, but I think it would be less likely in the private environment where the school’s philosophy is one of caring relationships.

I registered today.

As it turns out, had I attempted to register earlier, there would not have been spaces available. Kindergarten was full. But then a family moved away, and I have successfully slid in.

I was excited when I went through the office doors. One of the headmasters met me, and she asked how I had decided her school is right for my children. I felt welcomed.

The process took two hours: Emergency contacts. Immunization records. Physicians Reports. Birth Certificates. Various consent forms. And then the official Application for Admission.

During the Open House, I had been given an Application for Admission. I had only seen the first side. I hadn’t bothered to turn it over.

I was disappointed to read there were three loaded questions on the back. I wrote to the best of my ability why I had chosen this school, and briefly explained “the academic level of the applicant’s previous work.” Then I froze for the third question: “Has your child been diagnosed with any difficulty or learning disability?” Small print read, “Failure to disclose official diagnosis or other such information is grounds for denial of the application.”

Gulp.

On one hand, I knew I had to tell them about the Cat’s “differences.” But on the other hand, I hate biasing their impression of the Cat. The diagnosis of “PDD-NOS” doesn’t completely fit him, and implies a much lower level of functionality than he actually has. Yet, both our health insurance and our local government sponsored center came to the same diagnosis.

The space in which to write was about an inch and a half. I am not concise. I had so much to say, and yet I wanted to say the bare minimum. I wanted to tell them everything to give them the full picture of how wonderful the Cat is and how he simply has these little “quirks,” and yet I knew that the more I wrote, the more “serious” the Cat’s differences would seem. Plus, this morning’s absolute crazy tizzy-behavior was still fresh in my mind.

Under the “why did you chose this school?” section, I had written things like, “The Cat thrives on routine, so will be encouraged by your daily schedule.” and “The Cat is a sensitive individual, so will appreciate your ‘Family and Friends’ program of learning to respect each other.” I had tried to reveal little pieces of the Cat’s personality in a realistic way while praising their philosophy and curriculum. I tried to frame the “learning differences” section the same way: truth, but with a positive spin. I believe I wrote something like, “The Cat is frightened in new situations, but once he is acclimated, trusts and loves his teachers.” Of course, I don’t have a copy of the application, so I will never actually know what I wrote! (I’ll just have to ruminate on speculation and expect that if they are concerned they will have a discussion with me. Of course I’ll talk to the teachers about the Feingold Diet and all that when the time is right.)

While I filled out the paperwork, Spliggle played on the playground with other kids his age and slightly older. He was in heaven. The other kids were curious about him, and introduced themselves, by voice or by a little pat on the back. It was adorable.

Once the paperwork was completed, I was given a parent handbook and uniform order form. Then came the contracts. Summer Contract. Fall Contract. Registration Fee. Application Fee. Materials Fee. Grounds Fee. Half-Month Tuition Deposit. I got out my checkbook and wrote a very large check.

As I was signing my life away, the Headmaster came back. When I told them that I’d be bringing the Cat’s lunch (a prepared lunch is included in summer school, though not in the regular school year), she asked me why. I told her he is on the Feingold Program. She said she is familiar with the program, announced she shops at Whole Foods, and told me that her hope is to someday have the entire school on a modified version of the Feingold Program. She said she is aware of how food choices can affect behavior and she wishes there were a way to buy bulk ingredients that don’t have all the preservatives. I was reassured by her familiarity with the program and desire to help the kids eat well.

As I left the school, I was both excited and nervous. The big check stung. The application questions about the Cat’s behavior confounded: did I say the right thing? But talking to the headmaster and watching the kids at play were encouraging. And knowing that he has a place in Kindergarten is a relief.

The decision has been made.

Thankfully, it is a month-to-month program, so the truth is that if it turns out not to be the right place, we can leave. It is not written in stone. That in itself is reassuring.

The next big hurdle is the Cat’s “assessment,” which will be next week. The school wants to put him in the proper reading group and the appropriate arithmetic group.

I am scared stiff about this.

The Cat doesn’t like tests.
The Cat doesn’t like new people.
The Cat doesn’t like new places.

It might be a disaster.

And what happens if he refuses to answer the questions? Will they deny him placement in Kindergarten? (The lower level is the one with the wait-list!) Will they be afraid that he is too much for their school to handle?

His behavior this morning was off the charts. Nobody observing him this morning would think he could be capable of going to a “normal” Kindergarten.

I am scared that he’ll put on a performance like that next Tuesday.

Perhaps he’ll agree to see the school tomorrow. If he looks around and sees the playground, the various “railroad crossing” signs, and the school cat, he might feel better. I think that the more he is exposed to the school, the less nervous he will be. But I also know that if attending that school seems imminent, he might freak out again.

I have already explained to him repeatedly that he is still in preschool for several more months. I have tried to remind him of the transition to this year’s class. “Remember how you loved Jan and Amy? And then you went to a new classroom? And now you love Miss Candee and Miss Cathy? Well, you will go to a new classroom and love those teachers!” But such logic isn’t understood by a frightened five year old.

We’ll see what happens.

Posted by karianna at 03:18 PM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2006

Taco Bell Hell

Confession: I ate Taco Bell for lunch today. Definitely not a “Biggest Loser” lunch. Fortunately, I feel really ikky and sick for doing it, so perhaps I won’t eat Taco Bell again for a long while. A few months ago, I got an Ultimate Cheeseburger at Jack in the Hut because I used to love them, but I ended up totally repulsed. So now I get Monster Tacos there instead (but not recently!)

Anyway. I was really craving something fatacious and delicious. I will work out extra-hard tonight as I watch the Olympics. Oh yeah, and I ate like 14 M&Ms too. So I am really bad. The Cat had a hellacious day today (wrote on the wall in Sharpie) so I guess I did the ol food-as-comfort sin.

But in the meantime, here is a meme! First time tagged for one of these ever! (Thanks, Renee.)

Four Jobs I've Had

Yogurt dispenser and sandwich maker at “Naturally Yogurt,” which was later renamed “Scoops.” I learned how to take apart the machines and everything. It was actually pretty cool.

Research Assistant in a Neurobehavioral Research Lab at Rhode Island Hospital / Brown University School of Medicine

Research Assistant in a Visual Psychophysics Lab at Brigham & Women’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School

Research Assistant in a fMRI Lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center / Weill Medical College of Cornell University

(Sheesh, sense a theme? The Fro-yo was so much yummier!)

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
Lost Boys
Sleeping Beauty
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Pulp Fiction

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch
Lost
American Idol
American Race
Grey’s Anatomy

Four Places I've Lived
Boston, MA
Providence, RI
New York, NY
Moraga, CA

Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Plantation Island, Fiji
Iguazu, Brazil
Brisbane, Australia

Four Favorite Dishes
Philadelphia roll (and basically any other sushi roll)
Anything with chipotle
Swiss cheese on baguette
An amazing taro root dish that I ate in Boston that I have yet to find again

Four Websites I Visit (Almost) Daily
Goosie, Mousie, Daddy and Me
Jenandtonic
Mommybloggers
Mandajuice

Four Places I’d Rather Be
Australia
Manhattan
At the beach
In the mountains

I won’t tag anyone, because everyone has done this already. :P

Posted by karianna at 07:49 PM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2006

The Cat’s Confetti

Yesterday I attempted to do something special for Husband. Sure, we had the requisite cards, candy, and cookies, but I was going to make a nice meal to top off Valentine’s Day.

I had already bought the sparkling wine, but had to procure the other ingredients necessary for a fine meal. I had made steak au poivre once before and it had turned out well. In a restaurant, it is one of my favorite dishes. I figured I’d complement it with green beans, probably with some almonds or walnuts for a little nutty kick.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked the usually eager Cat.

He responded that he wanted to ride his bike, but would refuse to wear his helmet.

Okay, ixnay on that.

“But would you walk instead of bike?”

“Not a big walk. Only a tiny walk.”

Okay, so we can’t walk with my mom’s group for three miles, but perhaps we could walk to the store to get the dinner ingredients.

We set off. Spliggle was excited. The Cat seemed okay, but only a third of the way to the store, collapsed on the concrete announcing his extreme tiredness.

We turned back.

When we arrived home, I transferred Splig directly from his stroller to the car seat. The Cat was confused, but I explained that even though we didn’t walk to the store, we still had to go, so would be driving.

The store trip was surprisingly uneventful. Both boys were well behaved and I obtained my ingredients without delay. The only controversy was when I selected checkstand “6” instead of checkstand “5.” The latter had a woman with a heavily stocked cart, whereas the former did not. The checkstand lady heard the Cat’s protests. She guessed correctly that he wanted to be in lane five because he is five. She told him that he should be excited to be in lane six since he would be six on his next birthday!

But the shopping trip went well. We then had a picnic outside for lunch using Valentine’s napkins as placemats (the Cat’s idea.)

When it was time to actually prepare and cook the dinner ingredients, it was another story.

Spliggle decided that the pantry was the most fun place to be. Ever. He unrolled a CostCo sized roll of aluminum foil, removed nine boxes of pasta from their storage location on to the floor, held the vanilla-cream hot chocolate powder hostage, and stacked canned fruit inside a freezer Ziploc container.

The Cat took a seemingly opposite, yet a net of the same, approach. He dumped a mega-sized hole punch compartment on to the floor. He grabbed the broom to distribute the punches throughout the kitchen.

“I am cleaning! What a big, big mess!” he exclaimed.

When asked why he dumped out all the punches, he responded, “So I can clean up!”

Of course, he didn’t clean up.

Afraid of the further mess that might ensue, plus vigilant of the sharp knives that I was about to use in the dinner preparation, I stuck Splig in his high chair and gave him a chocolate-chip cookie.

Of course, the Cat wanted a cookie as well.

When I gave him the cookie, he announced that he wanted to create crumbs.

I objected.

“But Cookie Monster makes crumbs.” His head nodded up and down and up and down.

Not prepared to argue, I simply turned to the task at hand.

As I prepared the meat, I was a bit repulsed. Usually, I enjoy a great pink steak. But I haven’t had a steak in awhile. In the fourteen days that I have been participating in my mom’s club “Biggest Loser” competition, I have tried to avoid hamburgers, pizza, etc. I have had a couple In N Out cheeseburgers, though.

Preparing the steaks was a bit off-putting. I pressed on, remembering the yumminess of the last steak au poivre I had eaten.

The Cat announced that the smell was too stinky.

I agreed, and put on the stove fan, hoping that the stench of dead cow would soon be sucked away from my nostrils so that I could concentrate on what would be the finished product.

I love steak! It is my favorite food, aside from sushi, right?

Husband called and the Cat announced that he wanted pizza for his Valentine’s Day treat.

I continued cooking the steak and green beans. It looked lovely, but smelled off.

When I combined the shallots, butter, and cream, my nose was rewarded. It was a fantastic smell, and I imagined the taste to be fantastic as well.

Of course, my wanting-to-win-Biggest-Loser-Competition stomach was a bit concerned about the large amount of butter and cream, but I reasoned it was one special evening, and I’d hang out on the exercise bike for awhile.

When Husband arrived home, the boys gave him and the pizza a very warm welcome.

I put the finishing touches on dinner while Husband opened the Mumm’s sparkling wine, dropping in a shot of Chambord for the occasion.

I eagerly took a bite of steak au poive.

And promptly spit it out.

It was disgusting. The peppercorns were wrong (I had used white, whereas last time I used black.) I could still taste the “off” fleshy smell that I had experienced during the cooking process. The creamy sauce didn’t comfort, but instead repelled.

I couldn’t eat it. I was mortified that the special dinner was actually disgusting.

Husband kind of chuckled and thrust a pizza box towards me.

The pizza repelled me too. Wasn’t I supposed to be avoiding that to win the competition?

Husband laughed and said, “Do you really think steak au poivre is a better choice than pizza?”

I knew he had a point. If I was willing to down that much cream and butter, I should be willing to eat a slice of pizza.

I had a small slice of pepperoni. It was good, but certainly not the Valentine’s meal I had anticipated.

Husband bravely ate his steak and green beans.

I am so sorry that it turned out ikky!

But the sparkling wine and Chambord was great! I fully enjoyed that!

The Cat made some additional Valentines while Husband and l chuckled over the Daily Show. So even screwing up dinner didn’t screw up Valentine’s Day.

Of course, the Cat’s confetti still lies on the floor, but I’ll deal with that later.

Posted by karianna at 07:44 AM | Comments (4)

Buxom Bidder Seeks Wine Database by Cuddly Coder

I have been swamped with various client requests recently. Some of these involve projects that I turn over to a more experienced programmer. But now that programmer has become swamped, so my boss (my brother) suggested posting the request to a popular outsourcing site.

After procrastinating a few days, I finally posted some jobs to the site. I must admit that it feels quite a lot like online dating. I posted about me and my needs, and now I am waiting to hear about them and their assets. Instead of picking a date, I am picking a coder.

Instead of using my real name or my company’s name, I signed up with an alias, much like I did for Match.com, ChristianConnection.com, and - just to be fair – a Jewish dating site as well whose name eludes me. (Alas, eHarmony didn’t exist at that point, or I would have probably given it a shot.)

After posting the requests, I received a confirmation from a “facilitator” and then the bids started coming. I don’t know whether a bid is reasonable or not until I have a few to compare, just like I didn’t jump at the first young man who would answer my personals ad.

Then I received a comment on my bid request. When I went to reply to the comment, I had strange butterflies in my stomach. I was interacting with a potential coder! What if I said the wrong thing? I didn’t want to act naïve, or the price could go up. But I didn’t want to imply too much technical knowledge or I could get caught in a situation where the deliverables weren’t what I expected. I had to make sure that whatever the coder gave me would be something I could understand how to use. I had to represent myself accurately.

I clicked on the link within the email to go to the website to reply to the comment. A large photograph of the coder popped up on the screen, along with his profile. It definitely caught me off guard to see the photograph, and since it was an older man, I had the knee-jerk reaction of my dating days of “No! He is too old for you!” (I am sure you are chuckling given yesterday’s story.)

But I am shopping for a coder, not a date. I have to remember that. It doesn’t matter if he is older than I am because he just wants to code a database for me, not take me to a hot club. Besides, he doesn’t know that I am a woman because my alias doesn’t indicate either way. Still, my protective instincts are active.

To continue the story a bit from yesterday:

That snowboard guy? Came from ChristianConnection.com. Said he wanted to wait on sex until marriage, but his definition of what wasn’t “sex” and therefore “allowed” was rather broad. Same story with high-n-tight man. In fact, high-and-tight man was the same as Jerry Springer man. Can you imagine it? A wistful man who wanted to be in the military (he couldn’t qualify because of a medical condition, but wore the high-n-tight as if he could) who had a rather mixed up family, said he was Christian (a Promise Keeper, even!), but wanted to “do” everything under the sun, just not “intercourse” before marriage.

Another story about snowboard guy: He wanted to get a tattoo. Like I said yesterday, he seemed to have money to burn, and wanted to experience life. He was from a Southern town and it appeared that he was previously rather sheltered. So now that he was in the great Northeast, he was asserting his independence by getting a tattoo. What did he get? He was a computer programmer, remember? So he got a floppy disk.

I will say it again: an Outdated. Nerdy. Light Blue. Floppy. Disk.

On his way out of the tattoo parler, he commented, “Hey, if we ever get married, you can get a tattoo of a disk drive!” Hardy, har.

And then there was Rugby Shirt N’ Suspenders Man. His profile had him slightly older than me, average build, above average income, etc. Although our email correspondence hadn’t been spectacular, I agreed to meet him. He had been rather pushy (which should have been a red flag), but I chalked it up to simply being eager, so agreed to the date.

He told me he looked pretty much like any other college kid around, so specified that he was wearing a red rugby shirt and suspenders. I was to find him at the Science Library using that description.

I walked into the library, and scanned the college students. Nothing. I looked again and saw a forty year old obese man. He was wearing a red rugby shirt and suspenders. In disbelief, I asked him his name.

The date was pretty terrible. I actually lost my appetite midway through. It truly was his personality, not his weight, but the fact that he had completely misrepresented himself angered me. I was polite, and stayed for the end of his lunch (I had thrown mine away,) but declined his later pleads to have another date. He accused me of being unfair because of his obesity. It didn’t occur to him that his lies and his age could have been more of a factor.

Then there was the guy from ChristianConnection.com who dated me to take me home to his family for Easter, but then dropped me rapidly. I think it was a “pose with a girlfriend during this family gathering so people don’t think I am gay” type thing.

My greatest success came from Match.com, where I met a young man I dated for two years. However, I noticed about eighteen months into the relationship that his Match.com profile was still active. I don’t know if he had been “searching” the whole time, or whether at the eighteen month point he was getting restless. I’ll never know. Clearly, I had suspicions, or I wouldn’t have logged onto Match.com to discover his active profile! (No, I didn’t reactivate mine.)

Luckily, this coding site is a relationship with a designated project end date! Nonetheless, I question whether my “complete by” date is too soon or too far away. I wonder if the description of my project is comprehensive. Will the coders chose me? Will I chose a good coder, or will I get dumped without a nice, attractive, completed project? (With bids so far from $50 to $1200, I am concerned about making a mistake!)

Posted by karianna at 01:05 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

valentine.gif

Yesterday was the Cat’s Valentine’s party at preschool. They don’t attend on Tuesdays, so had the party yesterday.

In preparation, I made the chocolates pictured above. Most valentines the kids exchange have the conversation hearts or other candy that the Cat can’t eat. I wanted to give his classmates the home-molded chocolates that he loves to make and eat. (Plus, I knew I’d need some on hand to “switch out” with the valentines he’d receive.) He chose the green paisley ribbon. He chose the pink bags and the pink hearts. He chose the candy mold and we made the candy together. Apparently, he cooperated well when asked to distribute them to his friends and teachers.

This week is also his turn to be Star of the Week. He is proud of his poster, but was nervous about having to explain it. I was quite the sight, bringing in a large poster, plus the box of chocolates for all the kids. I had the Cat’s lunchbox draped over one shoulder and his school bag over the other.

Knowing he had a party, I packed some extra chocolates, plus some cookies in his lunchbox.

Thinking I had everything under control, I went off to get my hair highlighted. Midway through the appointment, my cell rang: it was the preschool. They wondered if I had brought anything special for the Valentine’s party so the Cat wouldn’t feel left out.

Um. I thought packing extra chocolates and cookies was enough!

The Preschool Director explained that the children were going to have strawberries with ice-cream and were decorating cookies. She said the Cat’s teacher was surprised I hadn’t brought in something special.

I felt my skin turn hot and my stomach turn.

“Um, I packed some chocolate hearts and some cookies for him. I didn’t know they were going to have ice-cream.”

“His teacher said she told your father on Friday about the party.” (Grandpa picks up the Cat on Fridays so they can play together.) Sure, Grandpa had told me about the party, but not the specific menu. I wasn’t sure whether the teacher had told him the menu.

“Uh. What time is the ice-cream?” I stuttered.

When I discovered the party wasn’t for another two hours, I relaxed a bit. I would have time to buy some ice-cream and deliver it. I was already planning to go grocery shopping, so this just altered the timing a bit. I could no longer do a string of errands without interruption; I’d have to make a stop back at the preschool, and then return to the shopping area to complete my errands.

But my hairdresser took a very long time styling my hair. When I emerged, I looked like a bubble-head. She had done a good job straightening it, but always insists on curling it under a bit, so it frames my face in a very conservative way.

Feeling self-conscious about my hair, combined with disappointment that my preparation for the day was apparently not enough led me to the brink of tears.

But, on a mission to get some Cat-safe ice-cream, I bucked up and drove to Whole Foods. The parking lot was a jungle. I am sure everyone has experienced the “space steal” when someone going the opposite direction either cuts in front to get a space or arrives going the proper direction to take a space when you already have your blinker on.

I was cut-off twice. Then I was cut off in a triple move that I probably cannot explain clearly: There were two cars backing up, plus an empty space that had just emerged across the way from me. With three open or soon-to-be open slots, I figured one would be mine. I hadn’t seen the second car backing up, but soon saw that I was blocking it in, so I backed up out of courtesy. While I reversed, an SUV claimed the first of the empty slots. A man driving the opposite direction interpreted my backing up to mean that I was going to take the second space. His space. He honked at me and shook his fist. I let the car back up, and then passed it to let the angry man take the space. The second car had since backed up and another car took its place. There were no spaces left for me.

Admitting failure, I drove to a parking lot across the busy street. The lights were long and it took awhile to get a “walk” sign. Given the terrain, I knew I could only carry groceries over to this parking lot, not roll a cart over the steps. Plus, I was running out of time before the Cat’s party, so knew I couldn’t do an extended shopping trip anyway.

I was starving, so I dropped off a sandwich order while I quickly retrieved milk, ice-cream, carrots, and bananas. I looked for kiwis to approximate the taste of strawberries, but couldn’t immediately find them and was feeling the pressure of time. I returned to the sandwich counter and discovered my sandwich slip was fifth in line. When it was finally ready, I checked out behind a slow woman (of course!) and walked to the van.

I arrived at preschool just as the director was bringing the ice-cream to the class. She took the Cat-safe ice-cream and thanked me. I hoped that Spliggle hadn’t seen me through the window of his classroom.

I went back to the van and ate half of the sandwich. I saw the sandwich maker had forgotten to punch my “frequent buyer” card and return it to me. So now I have to start over again accumulating punches!

At the post office a few minutes later, there was no line. I got some supplies and went to the table to fill out an address label. Although I worked quickly, the line was filled by the time I was done.

The first lady in line repeated everything the postal worker said, as if unbelieving:

Do you have any 39 cent stamps yet?

Yes, we have the Lady Liberty.

No, I want antique cars.

Ma’am, those were 37 cent stamps. We aren’t making them for 39 cents.

You aren’t making antique cars in 39 cents? I want antique cars.

Well, we aren’t making them in 39 cents, and I don’t think we have any left in 37.

You aren’t making antique cars in 39 cents?

No, we aren’t. We have Lady Liberty, airplane, and… (he mentioned a few others)

You have Lady Liberty and airplane?

Yes. Do you want either?

You have Lady Liberty and airplane?

Yes.

She finally ordered some stamps, but kept repeating everything over and over again. I was impatient.

After a quick Trader Joe’s run, I made it back to pick up the boys from preschool. In fact, I was a couple minutes early. I sat outside the Cat’s classroom. Usually, they open the door when it is time to pick up the kids. The open door is the signal that the main activities are over, and the pick-up shuffle can begin.

I saw a mom leave the classroom. I figured “Oh well, she picked up her kid. I can pick up the Cat.”

When I entered the classroom, all the other moms were there, smiling and clapping as the kids threw glitter and paper hearts. I don’t know if it was a performance, or just part of the party.

Huh. I guess the parents were invited to the Valentine’s Day party.

Why is it, then, that the Director had told me to drop off the ice-cream at the preschool office instead of bringing it to the classroom? Perhaps the parents were only invited to the latter part of the party?

I felt pretty uninformed.

I collected the Cat’s belongings, including a white bag decorated with sparkles that was busting at the seams with candy that he cannot eat.

The Cat’s teacher asked me if I had done something to my hair.

“Um, yes, I had it straightened and it is blonder.”

“Yes, it is blonder? I like it.” She paused. “Do YOU like it?”

“Well, I like the blonde, I am not so comfortable with the bubble-head.”

I wanted to disappear, I was so self-conscious. I understand why the Cat doesn’t like attention, even positive, because I am the same way. Of course, if I liked my hair, I would have been more enthusiastic. Feel free to compliment me on anything I like myself!

Then another mom came up to me, “You cut your hair!” (Actually, I didn’t.) “Between you and Lisa, I think maybe I should cut mine.” She fingered hers.

Lisa? Hmmm. I’ll have to check that out. Lisa has always been my style inspiration. She wears great (and expensive) denim, cute tops, and always had perky hair. I aspire to look like Lisa.

In the parking lot, I saw that Lisa now has an edgy short cut.

I was surprised! She looks amazing, but to go from “perky” to “edgy” is quite a change.

I started to daydream a bit about fashion trends, and how one becomes a leader or a follower. Even though I think Lisa’s new haircut looks amazing on her, it is not something I’d want to mimic. I aspire for Lisa’s old hair.

That made me think about similar things that Mother GooseMouse was pondering yesterday as well.

I thought about where and how I want to belong. I thought about how I have been a big fish in a small pond and a small fish in a big pond and have actually preferred the latter. If I am comfortable in my style and status as compared to others, then it is less of a challenge than if I am the least stylish in a group of well dressed women. I aspire not to be the least stylish in such a group, but to instead be “average” within that group. I don’t want people looking towards me for trends, but I don’t want to be so far back that people shake their heads and wonder if I’ll get “with it.”

It is nice to be liked for exactly who you are, and I love that I have friends that I can hang out with wearing whatever I want. I’ve arrived at Book Club essentially fresh out of the shower with old jeans and the nearest top I could grab. But I think it is fun to also have the kind of friends where you have to be on top of your game. Should I wear the Citizens or the True Religion? A monogrammed polo or a handknit sweater? Which bag should I carry? Don’t forget the Kate Spade sunglasses!

It is an interesting dance, that of the will-I-be-liked?, that is for certain!

Thankfully, today on Valentine’s Day, we can revel in knowing that someone out there loves us. My kids have particularly enjoyed dirtying their faces with chocolate and adhering stickers all over the house. Red, silver, and white cookie cutters are strewn about the house, and a lone red daisy decorates my kitchen island. Husband specifically asked me if I wanted candy: I don’t, because I am intent on winning my mom’s club “Biggest Loser” competition!

But tonight we’ll enjoy some sparkling wine, toasting that in our family we “fit in” just fine.

Posted by karianna at 11:07 AM | Comments (2)

Brown Interview Train of Thought

Off to interview a perspective student for Brown, I immediately started thinking about the O.C. A recent plot line revolved around students having interviews for Brown. I saw palm trees on the side of the road, and remembered how Husband commented in Southern California how the palms felt in place there, unlike the sad transplants of palms in Northern California.

Of course, then I started thinking about the interview itself, and how it is becoming harder to know how to relate to the student. Right after graduating, it was easy for me to talk to a high school senior, but I was concerned they wouldn’t take me seriously. Now I am at an awkward point where I am not a seasoned professional, but I am definitely not a contemporary. I don’t know how the students view me. Certainly not as a direct peer, but do they see an “old” adult or a “cool” adult?

I was interviewed by someone who I saw as a young “cool” adult. I was aware that she was older than me and had been out of college for a bit, but I saw her as someone who was still trendy. I was still very nervous about the interview because I viewed her as wiser and more sophisticated, but I remember being relieved when I saw how “young” she was when we met for coffee.

Sometimes it is difficult to grasp that I have been out of college for ten years. The young woman I was getting ready to interview was born when I was fourteen years old!

But that reminded me of a time that I mistook the age of a guy in O’Hare Airport. Our flight was delayed. I sat against a wall, half-reading, half people-watching. A man with a blonde ponytail and red baseball cap bounced up to the check-in desk, tennis racket slung across his back.

I thought he was cute.

I started to watch him, but soon we went off to board in separate sections of the plane. During the flight, I think I caught him looking my way as he went to the restroom, but I wasn’t sure. In Providence, we awaited our delayed baggage. He struck up a conversation.

He asked if he could call me.

It was the first week of school, so I didn’t yet have my phone number. I tried to explain this while insisting that it wasn’t a brush-off. I told him I was a student at Brown.

I gave him my name. First and last.

Yes, very stupid in the safety aspect. But I figured he could find my number later. Of course, if I had done a little thinking, I could have asked him for his instead. But maybe that was before girls did that. (I asked a guy out once: he said “no.” I didn’t do it again.) When we parted ways, I didn’t know what to think. I figured he wouldn’t call.

But about a day or two later, my dorm room phone rang.

I was surprised that he had tracked down my number. Brown had given it to him freely. I have a feeling they don’t do that anymore.

I agreed to meet him for dinner. Before I left, I wrote on my message board where I was going and to please call the police if I wasn’t back by a certain time. I was a PledgeMaster for our co-ed Society, and I needed to conduct the Pledge Meeting, so wanted to reassure people that my absence was temporary and I would be back to perform my duties. Also, I was a bit nervous about going out to dinner with a stranger.

I remember what I wore: a flowered skirt with a wine colored sweater. I wanted to look sophisticated but not too fancy. The sweater had been a gift for my twenty-first birthday (get it: WINE colored.) The guy showed up (late) in a baseball cap and shorts. I was surprised. Although that look was cute on the airplane, I didn’t find it appropriate for a dinner date.

“Hey sexy!” he greeted me.

I was nervous. His comment made me uncomfortable. Long time boyfriends could call me sexy, but on a first date?

The date progressed in a rather neutral fashion. Okay conversation, no real chemistry. The food was great (sushi!) but I didn’t feel we were connecting. He was trying to act “young” and I was probably trying to act “older.”

I knew he was older. I figured around 27.

As we drank some sake after finishing our meal, he said, “I have something to show you.”

He took off his baseball cap to reveal a bald head. His ponytail had been composed of just the hair around his ears and the base of his head.

I was shocked, but tried not to let it show.

“Does this change things?” he asked.

I responded, “I would hope I wouldn’t be that superficial!” and managed a smile.

But what I meant by that was that I was that superficial and ashamed to admit it. The truth was that I had already determined that we weren’t a good match, so just because the ponytail that had attracted me in the first place was only part of the hair that originally was on his head shouldn’t have mattered.

“How old do you think I am?” he pressed.

I guessed 27 or 28.

He laughed.

“I figured you were the one around that age,” he laughed, “I am thirty-seven.”

As Summer would say on the O.C. “EEEEWWW!”

“I am twenty-one” I said.

Luckily, it was time for the Pledge Meeting, so I high-tailed it out of there with a true excuse. But when he phoned several times after that, I had to finally tell him I was uncomfortable with the age spread.

I think he thought it was the hair.

Truthfully, I have always cared about a guy’s hair. I like longer rather than shorter, although I don’t mean “long” in a greasy, hippiesh way.

I dated a man with a high-and-tight and hated it. I wished that he would shave everything off, because to me bald is more attractive than a military-style haircut on most men. (I’m going to get a comment from Julie on this one, so note the “most,” not “all!”)

The first and only time I have posed as someone other than myself on the internet was on a chat board discussing men’s haircuts. I wanted to figure out what power trip men got by knowingly butchering their hair against their girlfriend’s wishes. It sounds as though I was a total power-freak, but I honestly wanted to figure it out. I posed as “Eric” (interesting since my son’s name is “Arik”) Of course, all that I got out of the discussions was that the guys wanted to assert their independence by doing something drastic to show their women that they were in control. Of course, given the population of men who would chose to discuss such a thing on an internet chat board, this attitude is not surprising.

As I continued driving to the interview, the radio had a commercial for ski lesions for “Big Kids.” I remembered another dating experience during my college days. The man in question was recently graduated with a computer programming job that must have paid him lots of money. He was buying new possessions right and left. I was still on a college student’s budget, so was both in awe and wary of his spending habits.

The specific date I thought of prompted from the radio commercial was when the two of us went snowboarding. He had bought a new snowboard and a bunch of equipment. He wanted to show off for me, and thought it would be a fun date to snowboard together.

He was wrong.

When we rented the snowboard, he told me the typical beginning snowboarder has their left foot forward. I said I felt more comfortable with my right forward, but he insisted that “everyone” learns left foot front.

He taught me some basic moves on the bunny slope, but I had a horrible time trying to pick it up. I felt completely turned around, and my right foot kept trying to flip the board so that it could be forward.

He kept yelling at me.

He kept saying how surprised he was that I didn’t understand how to do it. Wasn’t I athletic? Didn’t I used to dance? Couldn’t I ski? Didn’t I play ice-hockey?

I responded that in ice-hockey, I always stopped with my right foot forward. My strongest glides and quick direction changes were right-forward. I was more in control that way. Attempting to do a new skill with my left foot forward was difficult.

He told me that I was wrong and that I would have just as much trouble, if not more, attempting to learn the basic moves with my right-foot forward.

Dejected, I went to the ski lodge while he did several more runs alone.

The “Big Kids” ski school commercial made me remember that someday I’d like to learn how to snowboard, but right-foot forward, and by an actual snowboard instructor!

By this point, I was nearly to my destination, so started thinking about questions I would ask this woman. I thought about my days at Brown, and what experiences I could tell her about that would be relevant to her decision making process. Lots of adventures flashed through my mind, and I again thought briefly about how I didn’t realize the freedom that I had when I was actually in school because of my concern for the future.

So although in part I am envious of the adventure that my interviewee is about to embark, I recalled plenty of things during my drive that made me glad that those experiences are over. Lots of dating profiles and situations flashed through my head: Being stalked by one insecure man. Losing a fake nail at a dinner table. One of the best dinners I have ever eaten, but with a man I wasn’t attracted to. A young man who decided at the last minute that he didn’t want me coming home with him to meet his family at Thanksgiving. A man who dumped me because I told him he looked “sharp.” A man whose mother’s ex-husband was so violent that my date instructed me to hide under the desk in a darkened room when this man showed up to allow my date to see his half-brother for a brief moment (Jerry Springer, anyone?).

I am glad the dating disasters are behind me.

Happy Valentine’s Day Husband and Kids!

Posted by karianna at 09:11 AM | Comments (3)

Ice and Snow on the Mind, but Sunny Flowers Outside

I had a hockey game Sunday. We lost 3-1, plus I got a tripping penalty. I was not on the ice for any goals, nor did my penalty cause a goal-against.

The boys were there to watch. The Cat was upset about my “time out,” and Splig decided to run around the rink, keeping Husband busy.

Meanwhile, I was busy shifting positions. I was the fifth D, and to keep everyone else in their original positions, I switched from right to left depending on with whom I was paired. I got into a rhythm, so didn’t forget which side I was going on, but I must admit that with the usual direction changes each period, plus side changes each shift, I had to be vigilant!

I did okay. I got several shots off from the point and felt fairly strong on my legs. Of course, I had Olympic Motivation to help me!

DAH, DAH, da, DEE dee DEE DEE!

I love the Olympics. Lots about it is cheesy, and we can all complain about the lack of coverage of our favorite events, but I am having a blast.

What particularly tickles me is that the Cat has taken a keen interest in snow sport watching. He loves luge and keeps asking if it will be on. (“When is the fast ice?”) Downhill skiing is a favorite, though he was concerned that they were going too fast, and reprimanded Bode Miller for going outside the lines. Snowboarding is confounding: “Why are they skateboarding on ice?” and cross-country skiing was a bit perplexing: “Are they going to go down really fast now?” “Are they at the bottom of the hill?” He is not interested in figure skating, though he thinks speed skating is okay.

He has asked to go see snow. He doesn’t want to ski (“When I am bigger!”) but would like to see others ski.

I have only watched a bit of Olympic women’s hockey. It is on CNBC and usually early in the morning. But the couple of games I’ve watched have been fun. I devoured the 1998 Olympics, particularly because I recognized several players’ names from my college days. My alma mater had a strong women’s hockey team, so I knew the names of our stars, plus those they competed against. I didn’t watch too much in 2002, but followed the stories.

This Sunday, I watched a couple hours of women’s hockey coverage prior to my game. The locker room was abuzz with talk of the games that had been played and will be played. So when we stepped on the ice, it was with the motivation of little kids who had just seen their adult idols perform, except we are mainly much older than the Olympians!

Posted by karianna at 07:59 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2006

Memorizing Pi

On Tuesday I was supposed to go to Jury Duty, but was excused. So, I spent the day at home, attempting to complete work.

It was a disaster. The house ended up in shambles while I dealt with various clients, still leaving several on the “to-do” list.

I am glad I was home to get what “little” done that I did, but at the same time, I had longed for a little time off.

Thankfully, I had a committee meeting scheduled that evening that provided such a break. It felt a bit guilt-inducing to take that break, but as a Trustee of the school, it was also my responsibility to go to the meeting. Attending the meeting was an obligation fulfilling duty.

I enjoyed my train ride into the city. We are reading “A Million Little Pieces” for our book club. Actually, for both my book clubs: the one in the community I moved from eighteen months ago, and in my current neighborhood. I still stick my foot in the previous club from time to time to keep in touch with my old friends.

We had selected the book (in both clubs) before all of the controversy. I am glad for the timing, since our selection was made “blind,” but then my consumption of the book has been with an eye towards fiction. I don’t know how I would have reacted reading the book under the assumption that it was one hundred percent true, and then discovering it wasn’t.

Instead, I am enjoying the book for what it is: a well-written, detailed, fascinating story.

I feel a bit guilty for putting money in James Frey’s pockets after the deception, but it occurred to me that perhaps even this bit of negative publicity could have been planned to boost sales. Who knows?

At any rate, the train ride to and from my meeting was terrific. I could read without interruption (save the station announcements; one conductor was particularly chipper and surprised us with “Good evening” and “Thank you for riding BART” as though we were on a 747.)

The meeting itself was fine. Lots to do, and lots of different opinions on how to do it. There are a few projects in the works that are being way-over-complicated. Husband would laugh to consider that I would be one to simplify things, as he frequently tells me that I make things way too complex.

I considered volunteering for a task that I know I could do well, but given my recent feelings of being overwhelmed, I kept my mouth shut. Now that things have calmed down, I may stick my hand in that pot as well. We’ll see.

At my previous meeting, my eyes had started to wander around the classroom. A large poster of about fifty places of Pi snaked across the top of two adjoining walls. I memorized about twenty places during that meeting while attempting to also pay attention to the agenda.

This meeting, I looked at the poster, but did not attempt to memorize any. I had lost the twenty places from the previous time, and my mind was too mushy to attempt recapturing it.

Sometimes I feel as though my to-do list is like memorizing pi: never ending! (and impossible.)

However, today has been a wonderful day. I worked hard yesterday and got two projects completed for satisfied clients. This morning, I went on a walk with my mom’s group. The Cat decided that although riding his tricycle for part of the time was fun, it was too long a distance in his opinion, so we turned back a bit early. It was great exercise, nonetheless.

While recovering from our walk, we checked out a couple swim schools. The Cat keeps mentioning that he wants to take swim lessons, so I thought we’d take a step in that direction. He deemed one of the schools better than the other and has asked to sign up.

This afternoon, the Cat and I made a poster about him. He will be “Star of the Week” at preschool next week. He is excited about making the poster, but wary of the attention. “I don’t want to be Star of the Week!” he has protested frequently. “I will tear my person down!” he announces, referring to the outline of each “Star” that is positioned next to their homemade poster for the designated week. Inside the child’s outline are quotes from each classmate about the “Star.”

starweekposter.gif

The Cat is proud of his poster. He has had a fantastic day so far.

And although my to-do list still remains long (and the house still remains a mess,) I feel that we’ve accomplished fun things today.

Plus, the sun is shining.

The weather has been so inviting that we actually went on another walk: this time, the Cat walked instead of riding his tricycle.

Now I will conquer the house!

Posted by karianna at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2006

Hockey, Jury Duty, and the SuperBowl

Yesterday I had hockey even though it was the SuperBowl. The game wasn’t until about an hour after the game ended, but because I was in the car, I wasn’t watching it on TV. I saw the first half and a little more before leaving. The commercials were so-so in my opinion, though I loved the “magic fridge” one.

On my way to the game, I was in a grumpy mood. I am not sure why. I just felt a little dizzy, a little sick, and really frustrated for no clear reason. (Well, maybe it still was a feeling of being overwhelmed with work.) I thought about skipping the game, but figured that physical activity was exactly what I needed!

However, I nearly turned back several times. The first opportunity was when I stopped for a restroom break. I considered getting on the freeway the opposite direction. Then a few exits later, I again considered turning around. Finally, I reached a point where I was no longer familiar with the exits, so didn’t want to risk turning around. Still, I figured that once I was again familiar with the territory, I had the option to return home.

When I arrived at the rink, I was midway through putting on my gear when I considered just leaving. I had a bad attitude, but I was trying not to let it show. This was the most conflicted I’ve felt about a game yet! But I had told my team I’d be there, so I was going to keep my word.

My coach came up to me, surprised, saying, “Kari, you aren’t on my list!” She looked happy though, and stuck me on the starting line. I was stunned. I could have left all those times and my coach and teammates wouldn’t have thought that I was skipping out on them because they didn’t expect me to attend! A few moments later, our captain said, “Wow, Kari, thanks for showing up!” Of course that made me feel better. I thought what a cool story it would be if I took all my frustration out on the puck and ended up with a goal. But alas, that isn’t the ending of the story. Instead, my skates are in need of sharpening, so I was clumsier than usual, at least while trying to do the cool moves.

During the game, my coach told me there we had two fast lines and a slow line. Given the way in which she said this, I had a feeling she meant we were a fast line. I was surprised and pleased. I played fairly well during the game and got off many shots. Alas, I missed one tip-in that would have been a guaranteed goal. Instead, the puck slid past me as I stood in front of the net, goalie already down on the opposite post. We lost 3-1, but gave a good fight.

By the end of the game, I was feeling a bit better, but still a bit under the weather. A warm bubble bath and decompressing to some Gray’s Anatomy was enjoyable even though I knew I should have gone to bed a bit earlier (and/or done some of my work!) The problem with having hockey at night is that I end up too energetic to sleep, yet simultaneously quite exhausted.

Fortunately, having some kid-free time today raised my spirits considerably. As most moms understand, I love my kids, but I need a break from them sometimes! Since we had missed preschool last Monday because of our trip, I had also missed that short period of me-only time! It was nice to have it back, even if I filled it with doing laundry, cleaning toilets, and updating clients’ sites.

I expected to have some kid-free time tomorrow as well, as I was summoned for Jury Duty. I had mixed feelings about this, because I figured it would be nice to be “forced” to read a book in the holding area for awhile, but knew I’d be frustrated that I could have used that time to continue working down my “to-do” list. Pre-kids, I think I would have enjoyed the chance to be on a jury. But this time, I was fearful that I’d be assigned to a case and have to figure out childcare. Husband was going to take care of them tomorrow, but he certainly couldn’t take off work for the duration of a trial. Fortunately, when I called to find out my assignment, I was told my group had been dismissed. This is fantastic news for Husband, since he can go to work as usual, but frankly I am a tiny bit disappointed that I won’t have a little kid-free downtime.

But, I no longer have to worry about being put on a long trial, nor do I have to be concerned that I am not getting work done. A friend has scheduled a walk tomorrow morning for our mom’s club, so perhaps I will join her with the kids. The Cat loves walks. She is part of the “Biggest Loser” competition that our mom’s club launched Feb 1st (ending March 10th.) We all put in $25. Third place is $50, Second is $75, and the rest of the pot goes for first place (we think it will be $150, but are not sure because a couple more people might join.)

Confession: When I returned from the Disneyland adventure and did enough “catch-up” on work to read my favorite blogs, I was disappointed to realize that the Blogging Rock Stars had been in San Francisco while I was gone and oblivious. I knew the BlogHer website kick-off party was Monday night and I was sad I wouldn’t be around. (The Thirsty Bear is where my high school holds its Holiday Parties, so I was familiar with the venue.) If not for the Southern California trip, I would have met up with the BlogHer crew to celebrate. What I didn’t know – but would have had I been reading my blogs – was that there was another event a couple days later, when I was back in town. Ugh!!! Of course, I wasn’t invited to that other event, but knowing that “The Women” were hanging around the City while I was playing web-work catch-up was a bit frustrating.

(It kind of reminds me of the time I went shopping with a friend of mine, but then I went to the library while she continued browsing. She ran into Michael Stipe and was invited to a free concert that evening. Alas, this was before I had a cell phone, so couldn’t be contacted to attend the concert.)

Never fear – I know I will see them at BlogHer II – plus I’ll become further acquainted with more of my bloggy friends!

Posted by karianna at 06:41 PM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2006

Bits N Pieces

Like last week, it has been a busy week. But while last week was party preparation, excitement, and wrap-up, this week has been strictly business. You know: housecleaning, web work, getting 1099s out, filing other fourth quarter stuff due Jan 31, oh: the van’s oil needs changing?, laundry, visiting an independent school to see if it is right for the Cat, and trying to remember my own name.

I have one of those ikky colds that isn’t quite bad enough to be allowed to stay in bed (perhaps in my pre-kid years, yes) but annoying enough to impede my ability to think. I have a long “to-do” where half the items keep getting shoved to the next day. It isn’t because I am sitting around; rather, it is because I have lots to do and I imagine I am slower in doing it.

The to-do list is necessary this week because I absolutely cannot think for myself. The mind is muddy!

The week started out with a hockey game. I had missed last week’s on Tuesday because of the Cat’s birthday party. We lost Sunday’s game 2-0. I didn’t play well; I didn’t play horrifically. It was just… blah. In retrospect, the fuzzy brain eating cold was probably already manifesting itself. Plus, I was at left wing so was trying to remember that position. It is tough switching from D to right to left, although I am glad to gain experience in each. (I played a shift at center a couple games ago, too.) I look forward to the Olympics so I can see women’s hockey at its finest.

This week has been filled with little reminders of hockey. A friend of mine wrote me a letter on the back of her Christmas card that I didn’t find until recently, so I just now wrote her back. She got a “Letter to the Editor” published in USA Hockey Magazine. Then I received several emails from my NYC hockey team recounting some rink changes (changin’ the ol’ routine,) and some updates from a player participating in a tournament in Israel this week.

Before I lost my ability to taste, I had sushi on Monday. I am glad the cold didn’t completely set in until Tuesday! While I waited for my Dragon roll, miso soup, and roll de Lafayette, I addressed envelopes and delivery confirmation slips. I learned that one local post office had boxes of delivery confirmation slips while the other had none.

I also got my toes painted on Monday. “Wait!” Y’all are saying, “I thought you said this week was strictly business.” Well, I went to the spa for just a little bit and got my eyebrows done and now my toes are shiny pink. Okay? The appointment was made 6 weeks ago, and I didn’t know the week would become so jam-packed so quickly. Walking around with nude toes and a unibrow would just make the sniffling pile of snot that is me even less attractive.

One BIG piece of good news this week: BlogHer Registration! Get yer butt there, plus to the Hotel Reservations. It will be a big, big party. I am very excited and am eager to meet and re-meet my favorite bloggy buddies.

That is about it for now, unless you want the details of carpet cleaning the mats in my van and how everything tastes like cardboard.

Posted by karianna at 08:30 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2006

Forgetful, but Filled with Chocolate and Chambord

When I lived in NYC and was a member of the Brooklyn Blades, I made the trek to Prospect Park nearly every Thursday night for practice at the outdoor rink. It was mighty cold out there, especially for a native Californian. Sometimes, the ice was in particularly poor condition because of wet weather. On occasion, we’d press through practice even with snow accumulating on the ice.

On Thursday, January 14, 1999, the weather was bad. I was supposed to go to practice, but I was lazy. Instead, I stayed home doing homework and watching TV.

My boyfriend arrived, surprised to see me at home. He immediately ducked into the bathroom.

When he emerged, he wondered why I wasn’t at practice.

I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he had panic in his eyes, but I didn’t notice. I saw a plastic grocery store bag on its side on the floor, but for who-knows-why, I didn’t pick it up.

I always pick up trash. Plus, I am super-nosey, so should have looked into it if I thought something was there.

Back on the sofa, I did some channel surfing, while boyfriend rustled around in the pseudo-kitchen (NY studio apartments don’t have kitchens.)

He brought me a gift: a red Russell Stover heart. “Have some candy!”

“No thank you. I don’t want any right now.” I replied. I was confused that he had gotten me a Valentine’s heart. It was January 14th, not February 14th! Plus, I was skipping hockey practice; I shouldn’t fill up on candy without exercising. Besides, we hadn’t had dinner yet.

“Really, have a piece,” he insisted. He was beginning to sweat.

I reluctantly opened the heart. “There is a piece missing!” I protested. Now I was really confused. A Valentine’s heart a month early and he had the nerve to eat a piece before giving it to me?

“Look in the wrapper!” he stammered.

I stared blankly as he grabbed the box and held up the center wrapper.

Inside was an engagement ring.

(He had moved the center piece over, he later explained. He did not eat it.)

A few moments later, Fiancé brought out the champagne that had originally been tossed into the bathroom for fear that I would find it.

January 14, 2000, we exchanged chocolate hearts to commemorate the engagement anniversary. We were married May 7, 2000.

January 14, 2001, we exchanged chocolate hearts to commemorate the engagement anniversary. (And I was certain I’d give birth any moment; the Cat was born January 17th.)

January 14, 2002, we exchanged chocolate hearts to commemorate the engagement anniversary.

But in 2003, 2004, and 2005, I forgot. Husband did not. He surprised me each year with a red Russell Stover box of candy. I am good about our wedding anniversary, but somehow the engagement anniversary keeps slipping my mind. Perhaps it is because it is so close to the Cat’s birthday. But really, there is no excuse.

So I should have been suspicious when I saw Husband unload some sparkling wine from his car after his trip to the grocery store today. And I was a bit confused that while making chili, he was also putting a steak in the oven. I figured he had decided to have a mixed chili type thing with both ground beef and steak.

But then as I got Splig ready for bed, Husband told me dinner was ready. I knew the chili had more stove-time in its future.

When I came downstairs after tucking-in Splig, Husband handed me sparkling wine with Chambord. I was happy, but still clueless.

He toasted our engagement anniversary.

What a forgetful fool I am!

He made me a nice steak dinner, served sparkling wine, and of course emerged with a red chocolate heart to commemorate the occasion.

engann.GIF

He told me the chili was to throw me off. Now we have chili for tomorrow!

And I have put our engagement anniversary on my Treo. I mocked people for putting things like “Husband’s Birthday” and “Anniversary” on their calendars because I figured those dates would be engraved in their minds, but unfortunately my mind is full, so I apparently need the reminder.

Thanks, Husband. Sorry I forgot… again.

Posted by karianna at 09:05 PM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2006

People Behaving Badly

When a new lane joins a freeway or as an onramp merges, I am occasionally fearful that a car in back of me will jump the lines and join the lane before it actually exists, thereby preventing me from merging. If it looks like this might happen because someone is tailgating or otherwise displaying eager behavior, I delay my merge a bit. Still, this annoys me because I would prefer to join the new lane immediately, especially in the order in which the cars were in the “old” lane.

Today, a speeder in back of me jumped around me and into a new lane that was forming. The person then honked his horn and gestured wildly as I honked right back. He went from the new far-right to the middle (where I was) to the far left all within a few seconds. Although I reached for my cameraphone immediately, I was unable to snap a photograph of the Nebraska license plate. I merged into the far-right and went on my way, heart pounding wildly.

Just a half hour later, Spliggle collided with another child as they played at Pump it Up. Splig whimpered a tiny bit as he righted himself from the complete spread-eagle pancake he had become, but then went on his way happily to find more fun. The girl with whom he collided screamed at the top of her lungs and continued to sob for at least fifteen minutes with her head buried in her mom’s shoulder. Those minutes were the longest of my life, so perhaps it was only five minutes that seemed like fifteen.

The mommy scooped up her daughter, shooting me a nasty look. I tried not to connect with her look, because I didn’t want a confrontation. But then I remembered what my mom said yesterday about being assertive, so I got “pumped up” and decided I would be on edge for a rebuttal. I saw the mommy huddle with her friend, taking sideways glances at me and pointing to Splig, but alas, I did not overhear any distinct accusations. She didn’t actually approach me. However, it was clear by her body language that she expected an apology.

Splig and the little girl were equally “at fault.” Kids run into each other all the time, particularly in a place as jazzy as Pump it Up. I certainly wasn’t blaming her daughter for being excited and eager to run to a new piece of equipment, so why the dirty looks towards me? Did she expect me to do a, “Oh, poor dear?” She loudly announced that it was clear that she and her daughter had to go. Pity Party.

I wanted her to confront me. I was ready to claim innocence, because I was! I was still angry from the selfish driver. I wanted to take out my frustration at being blamed for two things that were not my fault.

Instead, I was treated to an incompetent serviceperson at McDonalds after we left Pump It Up. I ordered a “Number Two” along with a plain hamburger (for the Cat) and a plain cheeseburger (for Splig.) The guy handed over a tiny cup, which confused me because typically the value meals have a medium drink as a default, but whatever. Then I looked at my receipt, which read “Number One: Sausage Egg McMuffin.” Uh, it is past 11am, so the breakfast entrees aren’t being served!

I can understand swapping a #2 QPC (Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese) entrée with the corresponding #2 breakfast entrée, but the #1 breakfast entrée?

I corrected the mistake, but didn’t bother to correct my drink size because by giving me a QPC for the price of a breakfast entrée, I was ahead. It wasn’t until later that I realized that they had given me a full cheeseburger, not plain. Splig hated the pickle and wasn’t particularly happy with the mustard. I think he liked the ketchup. Thankfully, the Cat’s was correct and he happily ate it in the same car-table that we ate in yesterday.

(I swear I don’t go to McDonalds every day. Really. When I was pregnant with the Cat, yes. But right now, No. This is just a really bad coincidence!)

Other fun mix-ups at McDonalds have included: not giving me a straw (through the drive-through, so mighty inconvenient to find out later in the parking lot of preschool when there was no way I’d go back to correct the error,) burning my Egg McMuffin (again, the time spent to correct the error would have been substantial given the enormous drive-through lane), receiving a chokable beading toy after I had requested the under 3 toddler toy, and my personal favorite, “the lettuce and pickle with a bun (no meat)” given to me instead of a plain hamburger (“just meat and bun.”)

Oh well, I keep coming back!

Posted by karianna at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

Be Assertive, Dammit!

Yesterday I had a frustrating meeting with a client. It went beautifully for her, because she delegated the hell out of a variety of tasks. She was excited, I was stunned. She was asking me to do things that typically a web-designer doesn’t do. For example, if someone wants a brochure posted online, the client might email me a PDF of said brochure. Or maybe they will snail mail me the brochure, and I will scan it in to create a PDF. But this lady said there was a brochure at a particular location in town in “one of the boxes” and why don’t I go find it to scan it in and post it?

I don’t mind a little extra work, but busywork doesn’t really seem appropriate for someone providing what is supposed to be more of a professional service than a secretarial one. This website is one we are doing gratis, so there is an added confounding that had this simply been a needy client, we’d charge her for the extra time, but this is a free service. Additionally, her role in this organization is as a volunteer, so from her perspective the request was from one volunteer to another, no more. Apparently, she has already put in a great deal of her own time and effort.

Nonetheless, I didn’t speak up. I should have indicated that what she was asking was beyond the normal realm of what we provide to paid clients. I should have told her I’d discuss the issue with my boss (my brother) and indicate to her how much time we could donate versus how much we would have to charge the organization (perhaps at a reduced rate, but a fee nonetheless.)

Instead, I stayed silent, afraid of creating waves. I didn’t know what my boss had promised them when he had told them he’d do the site for them. I didn’t want to decline responsibility that had already been promised to them. So I kept my mouth shut.

When I recounted my frustration to my mom when I went to pick up Splig from her house, instead of providing sympathy, she dug into me for not being assertive. She lectured me about how I am too shy and let people walk all over me. She threw her hands up wondering why I was always trying to please people. I am always keeping the peace, but she said there was a way I could have expressed my questions without seeming rude.

Unfortunately, I have a tough time figuring out how to do that politely on the spot. I expressed this concern to my mother.

“Don’t be polite!” my mom countered.

So instead of feeling better after the meeting, I felt worse. I worried about the tasks for the website and how I had possibly misled her by remaining silent. I was angry that my mom used this as a teaching tool for why I should be more of a bitch. I was frustrated that I can’t think on my feet.

Thankfully, the Cat behaved beautifully yesterday, so I didn’t have to be assertive in any disciplinary action. (That particular realm I have no trouble with, though, when the time arises.)

Posted by karianna at 08:18 PM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2006

Confessions and Updates

Well, the Cat has continued to sleep in his bedroom! Last night, he started out on the floor, but went to his bed around 10 PM. Yesterday was tough behaviorally for him, so he ended up banished to his room around 6 PM. As expected, he fell asleep shortly thereafter. It is tricky to know whether to let him sleep or not. The night before last, he had taken a super-long nap, and as a result had a horrific time falling asleep, finally succumbing around 11 PM. Overall, I think the quality and quantity of sleep has improved since we got the new mattress cover and blankie. The Christmas Train Lights provide the perfect amount of light. I should probably scour the post-Christmas sales to find little replacement bulbs now for when the inevitable happens!

The carpet has actually improved remarkably. I poured boatloads of OxyClean on it last night and just let it soak. The red (now bright pink) is still visible, but the black and blue has nearly disappeared. Whew! So we may have avoided purchasing new carpet after all. Another dunk or two of OxyClean, plus some additional scrubbing with the carpet cleaner should do it.

Now for the confession:

We don’t have to buy new carpet, right? And I had a tough day yesterday, right? Well, I didn’t give in to the “hey, you can have a special treat for dinner” like I usually do. That typically means Chili’s (no, no going out to a fancy meal on short notice with kids around, but Chili’s Take Out is a nice treat.) Then, although my Christmas gifts were pretty fine ($50 from iTunes, some nice faux-diamond earrings, candles, and a Treo-keyboard) none were of the clothes-variety. So…

I spent $230 at Nordstrom’s today.

If that was the total bill for a whole list of items, or for an entire outfit, then $230 isn’t bad. But it was actually for a single pair of jeans.

For the last several days, I have been looking online for the “perfect” pair of jeans. With New Years sales and other such things, I saw some nice trendy pants way-discounted. However, I hadn’t done enough research by the time the sales were over, and I wasn’t sure that buying something expensive without trying it on would be the best route to go.

So I decided to hop in to Nordstrom’s today to try on some of the denim that I had seen online. My plan was to decide what I wanted, and then go order it online where I could get MyPoints (either from Nordstrom, eLuxury, or Bluefly, depending on the type of jeans I determined would be “perfect.”)

I didn’t count on having the Best Saleswoman in the World helping me.

Typically, I am ignored when I go into Nordstrom’s, particularly if I have Spliggle with me. I suppose it is pretty much assumed that a woman with a baby isn’t going to be staying long, so therefore wouldn’t earn the saleswoman a large commission. Or perhaps I don’t stand out as someone who would be spending money, particularly if I am frazzled with Splig.

Or, I am not ignored, but the lady is intimidating. She may get me a dressing room, but have a hands-off approach. She might coldly ask if I need anything else, but it is typically apparent that I should say, “No thank you,” lest I trouble her. I don’t particularly like to have someone breathing down my back, anyway, so the invisible approach doesn’t really bother me.

But the saleswoman I encountered today was altogether different. She was cheerful, friendly, and not snobby. I handed her a pair of jeans when she asked to start me a dressing room. She then asked if there was anything particular I was looking for. I explained how I wanted something that looked cute, but didn’t show the world my ass when I bent over. I cited my swayback and pointed to Splig, saying I had to lower to his level frequently.

She brought me several styles, and was attentive but not pushy when I was in the dressing room. I showed her how they fit, and I realized that one particular pair was both extra-comfortable and flattering. I knew I had to get them. I would have felt guilty saying “no thank you,” right after it was apparent that I loved them just so that I could go order them online to get points or perhaps a discount. I wanted this gal to get her commission!

So I did it. I feel as though I should feel really guilty, but I actually don’t. When I was cruising online, Husband was skeptical. He told me he thought $20 jeans were too expensive. Well, I am now the proud owner of some ten-times more expensive.

If I want to continue my justification process (which shows there is a teeny bit of guilt!) I know that eLuxury and Bluefly don’t have this particular style (True Religion : Joey, Dark Cowboy), so neither would provide a discount. Had I ordered them from Nordstrom’s online, the shipping cost would have eaten up the benefit of getting points. (6000 points = $50 gift certificate, and I would have earned somewhere between 200-400 points for the transaction. Then the huge advantage of buying them in person is that I get a free alteration, which is key for a 5’3 gal such as me: These fancy pants tend to run super long.

So, I got my happy jeans today. No waiting for the mail. And I know that super-nice salesgirl got a bit of a commission. I know I am not supposed to make up for being frustrated by going shopping, but at least this was a purchase I had been considering that simply was accelerated by the rough day yesterday. (Well, and also that I have had lots of web-work recently, so know that my paycheck will be a bit higher next week than typical!)

Posted by karianna at 02:19 PM | Comments (5)

January 05, 2006

Patriotic Carpet

Today was the meeting with the Cat’s caseworker from the government-sponsored center. After a caseworker shortage, a caseworker switch, a cancellation, and a rescheduling of time, the appointment stood finally at noon today.

The process for this center began June 22, 2005. Now today, January 5, 2006, we were finally getting a meeting in which the services applicable to the Cat could be explained. No matter how many times I asked what services were available to us, the response was always that our caseworker would explain the services. I wanted to know if it was worth my time to pursue this whole avenue, but could not get an answer.

Today, I finally got at least a part of an answer.

But before 12:05, when the caseworker arrived, I had some other things with which to contend. Yesterday, I cleaned the clutter downstairs and vacuumed the carpets. This morning, I finished up the dishes and wiped down the kitchen counters.

I realize that with the many homes the caseworker visits, she likely sees a variety of places in disarray, particularly if the clients act out particularly strongly or are severely disabled, but I didn’t want to fall into the “disorganized mom with a troubled kid” stereotype.

This morning, as I attempted to finish off a client’s web update request, I heard silence.

Two days ago, this was the result of silence (quiet which was replaced with the squeals of gleeful bodysurfing on the improvised snow by an eighteen month old who unfortunately I couldn’t catch on the camera.):

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So today, I asked the Cat “What is Splig doing?” I figured he was playing with cars or something else safe and clean. “Um, nothing!” said Cat.

This is “nothing:”

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“Nothing” is patriotic permanent marker I had stored out of Splig’s reach artfully adorning our living room carpet. I do not know if Spliggle somehow got it, or if the Cat reassigned the markers to a new storage location in the fifteen minutes I was on my computer.

No chairs were near the location where I had stored the markers. They were accessible only from the stairs which were blocked off from Spliggle. The Cat’s response of “Spliggie climbed the stairs and then got them!” and “Spliggle got a real long ladder and got them!” both seem pretty implausible.

After an hour of cleaning (the hour right before the caseworker arrived, I should add), this is how it looked:

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So the red has become a neon pink, all aglow with chaos, and the other colors have remained embedded in the fibers. The surrounding area is bright and shiny-clean.

I think it may be time for some new carpet. Our goal was to wait until Splig was potty-trained for any expensive home improvements, but I cannot have anyone over with an enormous stain on the carpet!

Oh, someone is coming over right now? Yup! Chaotic-can’t-control-her-kids mom here, awaiting a caseworker’s visit.

When the door rang, I had put the carpet cleaner away, but my pants were still wet from being on my hands and knees scrubbing and from dumping the various containers from the carpet cleaner onto the grass in the backyard. I stuffed socks over my wet feet and smoothed down my hair.

The caseworker was friendly and cheerful. She put me immediately at ease. I was comfortable talking to her, and even laughed about “well, just before you came my eighteen month old decorated the carpet!”

We did lots of paperwork together. Questions I had been asked before multiple times. She referred to old questionnaires, acknowledging that some information was there, but she wanted recent data. I understood and respected that. She seemed organized.

As is always the case, the Cat put on a little show of his behavior. He was overly excited and slammed two chairs together. I asked him to please move the rocking chair up a few inches so that it wouldn’t hit another chair. He refused. I asked again. He grunted and shook his head. I asked a third time, more sternly. “Don’t look at me!” I sent him to his room. He yelped, ran to the kitchen, and yelled that he refused to go. After escalating the time from five minutes to six to seven, I took him by the hand and led him partway up the stairs. Several of his problematic behaviors were exhibited in that display. This was embarrassing, but useful for the caseworker.

More embarrassing, however, was when the Cat first met the caseworker. She said “hi.” He said, “He has a real, real big belly” and proceeded to draw a big circle with his arms. “My belly is like this,” he announced, gesturing a small circle, and then put his arms out wide, “And his is like this! Mommy, your belly is smaller. Why?”

I felt the hotness rising up my cheeks. “She is taller than I am, so of course she has a bigger belly,” I managed. The truth is that she was exceptionally tall, but she was wide too. “I am so sorry” I said, eyes wide open, head shaking back and forth.

She smiled and told me not to worry about it. She actually laughed a little. I recounted the story about how the Cat had called an African-American checkout woman “dirty” because he didn’t understand skin color. I wanted to tell her he just didn’t understand differences in people’s appearances. I apologized again. (We have to work on those pronouns, too.)

I haven’t heard the Cat mention weight ever, which is surprising given that there are individuals in his life who happen to be large. Why did he have to bring it out on a virtual stranger? Ugh!

But she seemed unaffected. I am thankful for her easy-going nature, both because of the Cat’s faux-pas, but also because it makes it easier to discuss behavioral and social issues that I don’t particularly enjoy recounting. Her personality made me feel comfortable talking about frustrating and embarrassing aspects of life with the Cat.

Once the paperwork was done, she went on to explain the center’s services. As expected, I felt uncomfortable with the premise that the Cat is going to be part of this organization for life. She explained that she is trained for ages 3-12. At 12 he would be given another caseworker who is trained in ages 12-22. Then another for ages 22-40, then 40+.

Pardon my denial, but I don’t think he is going to need a caseworker past 12. Or maybe he will until 15-16, but definitely not 22! Or 40! Or above 40!

The other aspect of this whole journey that is frustrating is that the paperwork is a huge “check in” of status rather than an actual plan for forward thinking. I realize a base is necessary, but I’ve gone through these status reports since January of 2004 without any therapeutic action on the part of medical professionals.

She explained the services: diapers (not needed), nursing services (not needed), funding for special daycare (not needed, and not available to us because we aren’t low income), respite services (could be needed, but technically not available because we aren’t low income), and in-home behavioral services for parents.

No social-language therapy in a group setting. No one-on-one behavioral counseling in an office setting (the home one appears to be for parents, not for the child directly.)

The in-home behavioral counseling is apparently another set of assessments. The vendor used by this center comes to observe the child at home and how the parent relates to the child. They then report back to our caseworker with the number of hours needed to counsel us. Then once the center approves that number of hours (or an altered number of hours,) the vendor can visit again with recommendations. This service is free. Of course, there is a giant waiting list, surprise, surprise.

Frankly, I don’t want to be scrutinized. I don’t like the idea of someone watching my every move, and then telling me how to parent better. Although I recognize that the reaction that a parent has to a particular behavior is important, I’d prefer the Cat work one-on-one with a psychologist to map out constructive routines to deal with transitions, following instructions, and responding effectively to social cues. Parents can model that behavior at home, but when a large part of the Cat’s difficulty is interaction with others, it seems that being in a setting with new adults and new children would be more constructive than just beating the dead horse at home.

Still, I have asked the caseworker to pursue that option. Otherwise, there is no point in being a “client” in the center. The respite situation is interesting. Although it would be nice to “get away” once in awhile, I would want the Cat to be somewhere constructive to him, like his preschool. Next year, he’ll be in school five days a week, so I don’t really think separate respite is necessary. The ridiculous thing is that the center doesn’t itself provide the respite. The parent must find an outside vendor to whom the center reimburses a set amount. However, that amount is based on income level! So, it is a circular thing for people who are not low-income. The center doesn’t “provide” respite because they aren’t recommending a provider, nor are they paying for it!

The upshot of the meeting is that although I like the caseworker, I don’t know if anything can actually be done to help the Cat using their services. It seems silly to do this caseworker consultation on an annual basis (which is the requirement) if it is all talk and no action.

So, in some ways we are back to the square-one that has become well worn. I am not eager for another set of assessments, particularly as it relates to observing my parenting skills.

But I am thankful that our caseworker is kind and easy-going. If I have questions, I won’t hesitate to ask her. I just hope that she doesn’t disappear in the high-turnover center.

When the Cat’s teachers ask for progress, I can only shrug my shoulders. We agree he needs help. We don’t know exactly what. And whatever “what” is, it isn’t being given without more paperwork, observations, and theorizing.

Meanwhile, my carpet shows that we don’t have everything together in this household, regardless of effort.

(My backyard is equally confused, though in a positive way - several flowers have decided to come up, apparently unaware that it is still wintertime.)

Posted by karianna at 02:21 PM | Comments (4)

December 30, 2005

Cheers for a Happy New Year!

Thanks to Husband for guest-posting yesterday. I have been caught up in mounds of client work as I had anticipated. Several clients have prefaced their requests for updates as, “Since it is a slow time…” or “Our inventory shifts rapidly in the New Year…” Indeed, it is a “slow time” for one client vacationing who has been brainstorming new ideas and emailing them to me from the beach. But I agree that the New Year is filled with updates, new looks, resolutions, fresh starts, and other such things which lend themselves towards updated or brand-new websites.

The good news is that Husband is home to play with the kids and the additional work means some extra pocket change to cover what was already spent for the holidays. Truthfully, although there have been moments of freak-out-stress, the majority of the work has been fairly evenly paced. It has been annoying to think, “Oh, I was so productive yesterday that today maybe I’ll play with the kids and their new toys,” and then I will get an email with a list of updates. But I have gotten to sleep-in several days this week thanks to Husband, and I think I am starting the New Year off with several happy clients.

(Frankly, I probably shouldn’t mention that I do website updates. For what will be expected of this site? Ack!)

I am not a super programmer; I am self-taught in college since it was at the time novel to have one’s own site. And I have slowly added skills to my list, particularly when a client will ask for something seemingly impossible. At that point, I run to my brother or one of the actual programmers and beg for assistance. But then the next time, I know the solution to the problem.

(There are exceptions, however. One of my latest requests from an expert programmer resulted a response of “Good lord, that's some complex code- It's going to take me a while to go through their code and get familiar with it again. I wouldn't be able to say for sure whether I can even do that or not until I do that.”)

The last few days haven’t been all programming. I’ve also started knitting a small project. Maybe if it starts to look nice, I’ll Flickr it. My other hobbies these days involve reading Holiday letters, checking the “sent us a card” box on my Holiday Card Spreadsheet, vacuuming tinsel, chasing sugar-high boys, going through magazines that I hadn’t previously had time to read (alas, many contests have expired. I once won a lacy black MiracleBra and matching panties from Glamour!), trying out my new candle warmer (it doesn’t work on super large candles because the heated stuff on the bottom doesn’t create the smell on the top,) eating marshmallows for lunch, drinking Chambord margaritas for dinner, and being super-tempted by some sweet looking sales.

Meanwhile, the Cat has been rather rambunctious. We know he snagged a bit of artificial frosting on Christmas Eve (we think fairly innocently, since it was a cookie decorating project and he probably figured the frosting was okay to eat.) But also, he’s been eating sugar more frequently than usual (yes, I know that “experts “ say there is no such thing as a sugar-high, but I feel more energized and irritable after tons of sweets!) Plus, the excitement of Christmas, the letdown that it is over, along with the overwhelming desire for more presents, especially with his birthday just a few weeks away has made the Cat rather crazy. He has been overly energetic and more likely to cry. He has also been exceptionally affectionate and happy. It has been interesting to watch him try desperately to contain his enthusiasm and impulses. Sometimes he succeeds; other times, he does not.

The Cat has taken a keen interest in Spliggle’s new toys. One toy is a duplicate from his grandparents’ house. My parents had bought the Little People garage for the Cat when he was around 2 years old. He paid no attention, favoring trains. Husband and I noticed that Splig would entertain himself quietly at my parents’ playing with the garage. So, we bought him one. Suddenly, the Cat has to play with the garage! Brightly colored foam blocks for Splig? Best thing on the planet for the Cat! Little peek-a-blocks for babies? “Wow, so cool,” says Cat!

Thankfully, the Cat has also had enthusiasm for his own stash, but typically when Splig is taking a nap. (How is that for timing?)

One adorable moment came a couple days ago when the Cat asked to see Santa again. He wanted to thank Santa for all the cool presents. Nice.

In sum, this “holiday” week has been busy but productive and enjoyable. It is a good way to end out 2005. In case I don’t write before then, may all of you have a safe and enjoyable New Years, and best wishes for 2006!

Posted by karianna at 05:58 PM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2005

Over the Top Christmas Eve!

We went to my aunt and uncle’s for Christmas Eve. My aunt had vowed to do a traditional Scandinavian feast this year (but without lutefisk, thankfully!) Still, the menu was absolutely fish-heavy, but in a delicious and satisfying way (gravlaks tasted tremendous with caviar and lefse; pickled herring on lefse was divine!) Plus there was pork for the fish-phobic. Ginger sauce (and salmon sauce) were amazing paired with the pork. Gingerbread was a great side-dish. One might think “dessert,” but in the context of the other savory foods, it made sense to include it as part of the entrée. We had difficulty identifying what the celery root was, so had to ask my aunt. Dessert was rice pudding with raspberry sauce, topped with a rosette. We had many other cookies as well.

The real event of the night was the alcohol pairings. The gravlaks course was meant to be served with champagne (we had Dom Perignon; might as well go all out!) Pork with Zinfindel. Then who-knows-what with dessert, and then the cap-off to the evening was the traditional shot-of-aquavit paired with a Christmas-weight beer. We joked that the Norwegians probably just got in their sleighs at the end of the night and the dogs just brought them home; no “drinking and driving” danger there!

We had loaded up the van with gifts for all the cousins, and ended up coming home with a van just as filled. Tomorrow morning’s opening spree is going to be crazy!

Here are some photos of the events today.

Posted by karianna at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

Kids 4 (and Counting) - Mom 0 (but Improving)

I wrote the following Thursday night. I’ll give a brief recap at the bottom:

I am on a train heading to San Francisco for a holiday party. At home, there are messes to clean, laundry to fold, and client work to do.

It is indeed a hectic holiday season, but I have paced myself pretty well.

This evening's entertainment will be a nice time to relax, but I can’t help thinking that it would have been a bit nicer on a weekend night. I know there is work to be done still for a client before tomorrow. The excuse that it is the day before the holiday weekend and my kids aren’t in preschool wouldn’t fly, even though I have a suspicion that this client is at a holiday destination rather than in the office!

The kids have been a bit rowdy, which isn’t surprising since it has been raining and they haven’t had preschool. I had bought the Cat some art projects to do, but errands and other messes got in the way of setting up the kitchen table with glue and other potentially messy products.

Yesterday, I put Splig in his crib so that I could take a shower. Although I usually wait until his naptime, I wanted to buy some double stick tape for our Christmas cards. I wanted the assembly addressing and stamping to occur ASAP and during the valuable naptime. However, I didn't want to go to staples with grimy hair!

After my shower, I heard the cat giggling. He ran into the bathroom, replaced his grin with a serious look and solemnly announced, “He made a big, big mess. I didn’t give anything to him!"

Splig was covered in diaper cream. The crib bars were covered in cream. The cream was from the bottom shelf of the changing table, out of Splig’s reach.

The Cat then admitted he had given the cream to his brother. “That was not a good idea?” he asked, explaining that he wanted to make Splig happy.

I removed Splig from the crib after cleaning him as best as possible. As I cleaned the crib bars and changed the sheets, I heard more giggling.

This time, Splig was covered in shaving cream. I put him back in his crib to clean up the fluffy white mess in the bathroom.

I forgot that the paper towels from my diaper-cream cleaning were on the changing table. Splig unrolled them waist-high.

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I wanted to just freeze the scene, take a nap, and then return to erase the chaos. But the juggling continued.

Downstairs, Splig poured out a bowl of pasta. The cat smooshed a cereal bar under a plastic ball, mashing the jelly innards on the kitchen floor. Splig squeezed his bottle over his head, pasting his hair down with chocolate milk mousse. The Cat decided to play with PlayDoh (“I will clean it up, mommy!”)

Let’s just say there is still pasta on the floor (after several rounds of cleaning, then feeding and throwing) the cereal bar has been cleaned, but PlayDoh keeps popping up in unexpected places. And before I left for my various errands, Splig had poured out a bag of corn chips onto the carpet

The good news is that 100 holiday cards have been created, signed, addressed, and mailed (even the ones to Switzerland and Tokyo!) I have more to create, but the majority are done. (And the stack of unwrapped presents is now an impressive tower on the stairs and a pile under the tree.)

And the client for whom I am busily updating has been happy with what I have produced thus far. I want to give him "one last update" before the holidays, so will do some work this evening, but then I think I can safely enjoy the weekend before continuing the revision process

Today husband was home, albeit sick. I got my hair highlighted, ran to the office to pick up mail and distribute paychecks, and delivered a CD player to my grandmother so she can listen to some holiday music. it made more sense to stay out where I was running errands than to come home before heading out to the city, so I hung out at my parents house for a bit before getting on the train

I am heading off to a holiday party for the "young" alumni of my high school alma mater. It will be the first time I have been able to go, so I am looking forward to it.

I am typing on my Treo using a portable keyboard that husband just got. I believe Santa is bringing me one too, given the excitement with which I greeted husband’s: "I could type on the train! Or in those awkward 20 minutes before picking the boys up from preschool!" Indeed, typing this way is much easier than with the tiny phone keyboard.

It has been a nice productive way to spend the train ride. I will now be off to hopefully enjoy the party.

--

Recap written 12/24/2005:

The party was indeed fun. The walk there was a bit perplexing, as the map I was given took me a circular route to get there. Thankfully, I got someone to drive me back to the train station so I wouldn’t have to navigate the rather empty streets alone.

I saw some classmates who I hadn’t seen in years, sometimes up to about ten years. The alumni relations director bought me a beer, but I promptly spilled it on my nice new Nikon D50: not the way to start out the evening! Food and conversation were great and the time flew.

When I returned home, the atmosphere was not so merry. The house was still a mess and I saw that several clients had emailed me with updates. My brother had informed me that one employee would be leaving the next day, so I would have to do the final check and other termination procedures. Our accountant wrote that he was going on vacation, so could I please send him our backup by Friday morning? Meanwhile, I had a list of things that were supposed to be entered before creating the backup for the accountant.

Long night short, at 3:15am I finally made my way upstairs. 90% of my work had been done and the house was clean. (I should note that Husband helped me clean once the Cat had gone to bed. Also, Husband would like me to mention that the cake he baked for my mom’s 60th was made from scratch, as was the frosting: no box for that man!)

I did 5% of my work the next day, but the other 5% simply didn’t get done. In the case of one client, I will email him with the update Monday. In the case of another client, she didn’t call me back after I had some questions, so I cannot proceed.

Although I definitely have some items on my to-do list, I will push them aside until Monday so that I can enjoy the holiday weekend. I did the final five Christmas cards yesterday that will be mailed today. The Cat and I made some peppermint bark last night that turned out fabulously, so we may buy more chocolate to make more this afternoon. Then it will be off to spend Christmas Eve with eleven children and at least sixteen adults.

Merry Night Before Christmas!

Posted by karianna at 10:38 AM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2005

Mission Accomplished!

My mom turned 60 last week. Just now, we hosted a party to celebrate. It was much better than I expected. Husband steam cleaned away the evidence of our highly trafficked route through the living room from the front door to the kitchen, the errant boy-puddles of various substances, and the seasonal bits of garland and pine-needle-mush. I half made half bought appetizers. Half of the batch of spinach-artichoke dip that I made and froze two weeks ago was perfect warmed up. I made potato-dill-salmon.

Husband made a delicious cake. He made icing that part-way through he realized was going to be vanilla instead of lemon, but it turned out fabulously nonetheless. I cleaned the kitchen several times. Husband cleaned the kitchen several times. We both picked up clutter and vacuumed. Several Times.

Spliggle accompanied me on grocery shopping because it was easier to shop with a seventeen month old than it would be to leave him to mess up the house.

Garland strung, ornaments re-hung and positioned straight, presents re-stacked, toys organized. Food organized, bought, and prepared. Drink menu compiled and printed.

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The operation was a success! My mom enjoyed herself, as did the guests. The Cat had been looking forward to the party for days, cheerfully announcing, “Happy Birthday Grandma!” when she arrived. He had already recommended calling her several times to “remind” her to come to her own party. His eagerness was adorable. Splig napped at an opportune time as the last minute details were accomplished, but surprisingly crashed shortly after the party started, only a half hour after he awakened from his rest. It was for the best I think, given his chaos-potential. He was adorable, and then fell asleep: perfect for a baby.

Now I have to realign my mindset: the next few days will be all about an important client who wants some things done before the New Year. It is time to impress on that front, and then enjoy myself next weekend for Christmas. Thankfully, I am not responsible for anything over the weekend (aside from the obvious, the shopping and wrapping for which has been completed), so it should be enjoyable.

Poor Santa had purchased some nice presents a couple months ago thinking that he was being efficient, but the Cat then has made it perfectly clear that a “big black bridge” is the ultimate gift. Santa misheard, thinking it was a “big green bridge,” given the Cat’s love of the color green, but the Cat has since corrected him. Alas, Santa has only found a dark blue bridge and is hoping this is that which the Cat wants. Meanwhile, the Cat has covered his face in icing to create a mustache and beard to look like Santa, and has requested a shiny red nose to approximate Rudolph. The season is in full swing for the Cat for the first year ever.

Posted by karianna at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

Happy Holidays Fred!

The seasonal shuffle continues! The tree has been trimmed (and re-trimmed whenever eager boys pull down sparkly ornaments,) more presents have been wrapped (still a couple to buy and a few to wrap,) snacks and serving dishes have been procured and delivered for the Board of Trustees sponsored “Faculty Treat Week” at my high school. I have baked Christmas cookies for the preschool holiday pageant, and then quickly bought a few more cookies when it was clear that I was too tired to bake any more. The Board meeting and pageant are now over, with just a big birthday bash for my Mom’s 60th left to plan and execute for Sunday. Overall, things are under control considering that holidays are meant to be hectic.

My day for “Faculty Treat Week” was yesterday. It was also a day for a Board meeting. Therefore, I ended up making the trek to my high school alma mater twice yesterday. It is over an hour away.

The morning commute to set up the snacks was an opportunity for the Cat to ride the commuter train. He had been excited about the trip for days, so it didn’t take any convincing to get out of the house yesterday morning. Carrying several serving dishes, a large bamboo bowl, two 3 pound bags of tortilla chips, eight bags of cut-up (the night before) pita bread, a jumbo jar of salsa, three containers of hummus, one jug of garlic-bacon dip, and four packets of guacamole while also pushing Spliggle’s stroller was a bit of a heavy challenge, but the Cat actually helped with the stroller pushing part.

Thankfully, the train wasn’t very crowded, so our bounty wasn’t a problem. Spliggle was quite squiggly, and ate all the food that I had packed for the entire trip just on the way to the school. Technically, food and drink isn’t allowed on the train, but I figured that I could monitor small pieces of food better than I could convince Splig not to cry, shriek, or run around the train.

Managing the elevator was a bit of a hassle because the platform level and street level are different than the ticket processing concourse. So I had to go from P to C, exit to process my ticket, and then return to the elevator to go from C to S. The elevator resets itself to the platform level. So even though I was gone less than ten seconds to process the ticket on C, the elevator had already reset itself. Entering and exiting the elevator quickly with my stash was tricky.

I pressed the elevator call button immediately after processing my ticket. A lady came up, pressed the call button again, then aggravated because the elevator wasn’t coming rapidly, pushed the agent-call button. Just then, the elevator arrived, she pushed her way past me and the boys, and she pressed the platform level! I entered and pressed the street level. Again, aggravated because the elevator wasn’t immediately moving, she pressed “P” again, and then “C” for concourse!

As a result, we rode from C to P to C, finally back up to S. I was pretty happy to finally emerge at street level!

Set up of the snacks in the faculty lounge was a breeze, though the Cat kept proclaiming, “I want to go home now!” to any faculty member who would listen. He was glad when I announced we would be going back to the train station for our return trip. I still feel funny when entering the faculty lounge since it was of course off limits to me as a student.

The return trip was fairly uneventful, although with no food left Splig was pretty spliggly and unhappy. The Cat was happy to be on a train, but Splig wasn’t in the mood to continue sitting in his stroller. He made one little shriek and a man yelled, “SHUT UP!” The train was rather empty, so I had hoped we wouldn’t have any difficulty with other passengers. However, this man yelled something else at us a few moments later, though I couldn’t understand his words over Splig’s bursts of alternating happy and sad sounds. Truthfully, his noises weren’t all that loud or frequent given the whole of the trip, but one five minute period was a bit troublesome. I was shocked that when we exited the train, the unhappy man walked out with a three year old. I guess either his son never made any noise, or he wasn’t around his son when he was a baby. Who knows? Maybe I misidentified the man.

A few hours later, I returned via the same train route to the Board of Trustees meeting. It was a nice dinner gathering, although the meeting ran late so I was doing quite a bit of yawning. On the return trip, a fellow trustee joined me on the commuter train. We made a bit of small talk waiting for the train, sat across from each other on the train, but then got out our respective reading material for the ride itself. When his stop arrived, I looked up from my magazine and called out, “Have a happy holiday, Fred!” but he didn’t turn around as he exited the train. The man sitting next to me looked at me funny and a couple people standing around the exit looked at me and back at the door to see to whom I was speaking.

My guess is that Fred was so tired that he forgot that I was there. Or he simply didn’t hear me. I don’t think it was an intentional snub; but what was amusing was the reaction of my fellow passengers. The man sitting next to me had been twisting a piece of wire over and over again, and frequently reaching into his bag to poke around without actually bringing anything out. I was a bit worried and thought he was shifty, but when I made my announcement to Fred, he looked at me like I was the odd one.

Today was no less hectic. I brought the baked cookies I had made, plus serving trays to preschool. After dropping off the Cat, Splig and I made a mad dash to the store in the half hour before the pageant was to begin. I bought some additional holiday cookies to add to those I had made myself. As always happens when one is in a rush, the traffic signals were against me, the “express” lane included people paying by an assortment of slow means, and the cashier wasn’t attentive to where one person’s purchases ended and another began (despite the plastic barriers that to me were pretty clear.) We made it back to preschool in time to snag a front row seat (as requested by the teacher since she anticipated the Cat would want to sit on my lap instead of up with his classmates) and to set up the cookies.

As expected, the Cat entered the room separately accompanied by his teacher. He sat next to me. Three minutes later, he said he wanted to enter with his class. I brought him back to his classroom. The class entered and lined up, but there was no Cat. He was apparently hanging outside.

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He then walked in back of the audience to sit next to me. Once his classmates started to sing, he wanted to stand up front with them. He sang the majority of songs with his friends with the occasional dash back to the seat next to me. Surprisingly, he even gave his little solo line!

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All in all, I was proud of the Cat’s performance. He was nervous, but overcame his concerns long enough to participate.

At the end of the pageant, Santa burst in! The Cat was initially nervous, but then begged to sit on his lap, when he asked for a “big green bridge” and lots of trains. He had asked for the same bridge when we saw mall Santa. He will be pretty disappointed if he doesn’t get a big green bridge now that Santa has been told twice of his wishes!

One little guy spouted rapid-fire a list of items he wanted. The first was “a big laser to cut everyone’s heads off.” Charming.

Treat Week and Pageant down, Mom’s 60th to go! (Oh yeah, and then Christmas Eve and Christmas. Heh!)

(Also, I finally uploaded the pictures from two weeks ago when the boys and I went to an "inflatable party zone" to run around while it was pouring outside.)

Posted by karianna at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005

Not Too Impressive

While running errands, I was driving on a four lane busy street through a residential area. I passed a house where an elderly gentleman was stringing Christmas lights on his home. The ladder looked a bit old. I saw that one arm was up high, reaching for the lights. As I passed, I thought the other arm was clutching his chest.

I got over to the far left lane, waited in the left turn lane for traffic to subside, made a U-turn, and traveled back to this gentleman’s house. I was concerned for his safety.

It was a mannequin.

So kudos for the occupants of the house for coming up with a realistic looking scenario. But shame on them for being too Halloweeny for the Christmas holiday. If it was meant to be a joke, I don’t think it was funny.

I was confused a second time today, just a few minutes later:

I received a voicemail from someone claiming to be the Cat’s caseworker from that government-sponsored center, saying that she is about to go on holiday and would like to make an appointment for January. Huh. I thought we had made an appointment for next week!

I compared the number she left today with the one left last week. They were different. But the voice sounded familiar.

I called the number she left today, leaving a message that I was confused that she was calling me for an initial discussion when I was under the impression that our meeting was already scheduled.

Then I called the “original” number and heard a voicemail saying that person was on medical leave. (Amazing, since according to our assignment letter, this person was brand new, but perhaps it was an unexpected medical leave.)

Perhaps I had made an appointment with someone who is now on medical leave. Or, I made an appointment with the new person while the new person was at the desk of the old person (this would make sense if she was going through the assignments of the person on medical leave.)

If the former, I would think the new person would say “your old caseworker is now on medical leave, so I would like to reschedule the appointment.”

If the latter, I am concerned that the new person is not well organized. Calling me again “for the first time” is not impressive. It makes me wonder if the appointment we made was ever written in her calendar.

Either way, there is confusion. Someone dropped the ball. I hope that I receive a call back shortly.

Furthermore, while I was looking at my “assignment letter” that tells us the name and phone of our caseworker, I noticed that it was “signed” by someone typing in a handwriting font. This is not objectionable, particularly if the person has a disability that prevents her from signing her name (or there are so many letters to be signed that it isn’t practical.) But what was a bit off-putting was that she had misspelled her own name. The “signed” name and the typed name with title don’t match. There are four extra characters at the end of her name, “/ gl.” If this letter is being reproduced multiple times (and it is, based on the observation that my son’s name was simply stuck on with a sticker,) it should have been proofread much closer.

This is not the first time we have received a letter from this center that has included typos. Perhaps they are just very overworked, but I don’t think that is an excuse for sloppiness.

It reminds me of a letter I received from Yale after I asked them for application materials. The letter was poorly written and included several typos. I didn’t bother to apply!

I am such a snob.

Incidentally, I do not claim to write free of typos or grammatical errors. In fact, I made an embarrassing error awhile back when I wrote “shit” instead of “shirt” when discussing Mrs. Kennedy’s lovely Fussy shirt. But I have repeatedly seen evidence of sloppy work from this center, so that doesn’t give me great confidence in its ability to help the Cat. Still, I know that the administrative staff is different than the professionals who ultimately would be coaching the Cat, or at least I would hope that would be true!

UPDATE: The answer to my caseworker confusion is that the woman with whom I scheduled an appointment did go on medical leave. The center did not inform me of this. The new caseworker apologized for the confusion and we have set up an appointment for next month. The result is more delays in a world where everyone keeps saying, "GET HELP EARLY!!!!" and then are stunned when I explain I've been attempting to get the help since 2003.

UPDATE #2: Just received an assignment letter in the mail re-assigning us to this new gal. Irony of timing! Then, I must hang my head in shame, for apparently the "/ gl" at the end of the signature is intentional. It was on this assignment letter, and then I saw a second “gl” at the bottom of the letter. So I guess it is a code of some sort. (Just watch, someone will tell me in the comments that it is a commonly used code like “cc!”) I was mistaken and admit my error.

Posted by karianna at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2005

When You are Needed

Those poor NFLers who have Thanksgiving and Christmas games! I used to think about this from time to time when we’d be relaxing at home with friends and family watching television. My uncle was involved in professional football, so it was tradition for my cousins to go to the games, then deal with holiday dinner and festivities later. They made their own traditions. I am not so worried about those people, though.

But for rescue workers and other “public service” figures, sometimes a holiday really isn’t a holiday. And most times disaster isn’t an opportunity to sit slack-jawed in front of a television set watching replaying footage and flashy graphics. TV reporters, cameramen, and those graphics people are all at work. Instead of evacuating or fleeing, they must arrive and stay on-scene.

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the role of providers, regardless of what they “provide:” entertainment, news, support, parenting, or life-saving measures.

In the case of this past weekend, I felt helpless as a provider. I was lucky that my stomach flu hit on the weekend when Husband could be there to take care of the boys. And he was able to take Splig to and from preschool yesterday so that I could focus my energy on continuing to recuperate and tending to the Cat. Today’s efforts with a grumpy (but very active) Splig, still weak me, and increasingly frustrated Cat were definitely exhausting. But on Saturday, I couldn’t think of anyone but myself. I remember when I was pregnant with Splig and I just rewound a video over and over again for the Cat when I was at my sickest. I felt like such a horrible mom, but I couldn’t get off the couch without vomiting. So, I entertained the Cat from the couch!

Then just about fifteen minutes ago, I received an email from a client. The unfortunate thing about working from home is that I see my “work” related email anytime of the day. Flexibility also means being “on call” virtually always. I realize I don’t need to respond until “typical business hours,” but knowing what needs to be done can wear on one’s mind. Or, it can mean that if I am up to it, I can do the project right away and have the email sent out first thing in the morning! I learned my lesson about sending an email as soon as I finish the project, since that indicates that I am up that late (or on a weekend / holiday,) and some clients then naturally assume I’ll get to their project immediately, regardless of time of day or week. (I once received an email from a client sent at 5:30am on a Sunday morning marked "urgent" and with a "reply-by" timestamp of 9:30am that same day. I didn't even see the email until I awakened, which was after 9:30am!)

In this case, the email outlines a series of major changes the client wants done to the look of the website. My first thought was, “Oh, man! They did this to me last year! They wanted a whole new look for their site and it happened right during the holidays!” But then I thought about it more. Of course they want a brand new look for the New Year! It just so happens that to accomplish that, I need to work over the holidays, which is not something that would even register in a client's mind. Last year, I had several projects and was extremely stressed the whole time that others would typically be on “vacation.” I worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas with just a bit of time to go do the typical family dinner. But the work I still had to do was still on my mind, even while I took a break to be with my family. As others get ready to go on their vacations, they delegate their work to others. And it isn’t fun to be the “others.” (Although on Lost, the Others have some exceptional skills!)

Hopefully, this particular case will not take so much time as to drastically impact my ability to enjoy the holiday season, but I imagine that for some providers, this is definitely a time of stress. Dentists and doctors probably have a flood of kids in while they are out of school. Restaurants, retail, and other such establishments increase the workforce for the holiday rush. Medical institutions and highway patrol put more people on call as greater crowds are on the roads and more likely to be drinking. For me, the end of the year and start of another means a bunch of bookkeeping details for my brother’s companies.

The upside of increased responsibility during this time is a fatter paycheck to cover those presents. But I do wish for a relaxing time for all, whether it is spent on a particular holiday or on an “alternate day.” May those of you who work have a true “vacation” from said work!

As for parenting, there is no real time off and no overtime pay. I essentially had two days off from parenting last weekend while I was sick, but I much prefer having my health. Spewing bile is not the way to earn a hiatus! I recently spoke with a friend about her new holiday traditions and how she is trying to create “magic” for her daughter. She was frustrated because it didn’t seem like a “holiday” to her anymore. I agreed that it is sometimes hard to change traditions as people die, move, or get married. I would love for my boys to experience my family’s traditions from when I was growing up, but of course that isn’t possible. The work behind the scenes that parents have in creating the holiday “magic” creates the traditions for our kids that they will hopefully cherish.

Then the whole concept of going somewhere for vacation has its own set of problems, as people who have traveled with children know. Thankfully, my family is local, so I don’t have to worry about that. But our trip back east a few weeks ago and the anecdotes I have heard from other parents indicate that parents are still not “on vacation” even if they are in a vacation locale.

Yes, there is no Santa, Chanukah Harry, Kwanzaa Kim, or Agnostic Amy to leave presents for parents. And there is someone manning that movie theater on Christmas Eve and on patrol on New Years Eve. There is someone reporting the news or playing football on your television while you are relaxing. There is someone on the computer support line when you can’t figure out how your new fangled present works. The snow plow guy is out there clearing the roads so people can travel. The caterer is serving the holiday treats. The housecleaner is picking up the pieces of the party.

Hopefully, amongst the holidays that people do and don’t celebrate, the simple “on call” shifts can be delegated such that each person does have a vacation time to call their own to be home with friends and family, even if that isn’t on a particular date that some consider a holiday. But I know that in cases like disasters and illnesses, sometimes people don’t have a choice.

These thoughts have been all over the place, but the common theme remains that we can’t all be on vacation at once. Some have more flexibility than others, and some have less. There are some things from which we cannot be on vacation from, but hopefully we can find a moment of peace (without throwing up.)

But whoever you are a provider for, and whoever provides for you, I wish all a happy rest of 2005 and safe start to 2006. (Now does that mean I don’t have to do my holiday cards now? No!? Okay then. I’ll put it on my list of responsibilities.)

Posted by karianna at 06:11 PM | Comments (1)

December 05, 2005

Sick Again!

On Thursday, I was going to post a tale about some spinach-artichoke dip from hell (only in its preparation, not in its taste) along with some pics of my boys bouncing their way to happiness at a local inflatable playground zone (Sunny California wasn't so sunny that day!) Plus I have all kinds of “random” things that I would have blogged had I had the time.

But then the “to-do” list became longer and I put off the post "until Saturday." Unfortunately, Friday night began an exciting and violent bout with the stomach flu. Fortunately, I am feeling eighty-percent better now (enough to clean the kitchen and do some computer work) but I definitely feel wiped.

But I felt I needed to say a quick "hello" to the bloggy-folk I love.

After all, I was supposed to give interviews for my high school on Saturday and when I didn't show up, the Director of Admissions and assorted faculty thought I had been kidnapped (so says the Director of Development.) So I didn't want y'all to think I had disappeared off the face of the earth.

Similarly, I was supposed to go to that same high school alma mater this morning to assist with a development project. But, the Cat succumbed to the flu last night. He stayed home in bed while Splig went off to preschool.

Splig had been vomiting earlier last week but seemed so cheery that I thought I was giving him too much whole milk. What a trooper!

Cross your fingers that Husband doesn’t get this bug. Already he says he feels weak and grumpy. ACK!

So, HELLO everyone! I promise I’ll post more Flickr photos shortly. Recently I uploaded Splig searching in the fridge for a snack, some stormy rainbow pictures, and a photo of my cat posing with some elephant dung paper that my aunt and uncle gave me (and one pic without the cat.) Yes. Elephant DUNG.

OH! And the Cat’s caseworker from the government sponsored center called me for the first time, nearly a month after she had been assigned to the case. She seemed friendly enough, though not familiar with the Cat’s file. Either that or she assumed based on the diagnosis that he is more serious than his presentation. She was talking about diaper services and things which we don’t need. I will be meeting with her in our home in a week.

The meeting in-home is the one really cool thing about this center. It is a true hassle to go elsewhere for meetings, and the Cat is much more comfortable in his own home.

She also talked quite a lot about “low income” things. Now I realize that since this is a government sponsored center, the clientele may include a large percentage of folks who qualify for “low income” services, but it is a bit perplexing to receive letters addressed to “person who is legally responsible for [the Cat]” instead of “[the Cat’s] parents” and multiple queries about welfare and such. Our HMO caseworker had touted this center’s benefits as being “free,” but it turns out that they are only free if the applicant is “low income.”

We aren’t rich, but we are not “low-income” so we won’t qualify for free services. I will know more after I meet with this woman

Posted by karianna at 05:03 PM | Comments (7)

November 29, 2005

Only 2:30?

Bliss! I finished payroll and other bookkeeping tasks for my brother's companies. I ordered Christmas candy from The Squirrel's Nest (their chocolate covered marshmallows are divine and they even have red and white candycanes that aren't dyed with artificial red!) I ordered a new stroller to replace the one the airlines lost. I gathered the receipts from the old stroller to complete the airline's claim form. I wrote evaluations of the college candidates I interviewed. I wrote all my thank-you notes from my birthday. I deposited a check.

And it is only 2:30PST. I feel like I am ready to go to bed and the wet and dark weather outside makes it look like the evening. But I am glad to be kicking back a little bit, catching up on bloglines and flickr.

The Cat has been well behaved all day. I believe he will get his toy trains back from when they were taken away after he peed under his train table. He has been polite and sweet. He has spent the majority of the day watching The Polar Express. He had seen it several times when it was in the theater, so we knew once the DVD came out that his life would be consumed. Indeed.

And Spliggle is doing his own consuming. After that week or so long bout with the stomach flu, Splig has decided to pack on the lost weight and then some. Several times he has hijacked food while I am eating. Husband saw him swipe a biscuit right out of my hand the other day and asked, "You're gonna blog that, right?" Pretty much every meal has now become a cause for him to scavenge. It doesn't matter if it is halfway in my mouth or on the floor; he grabs it and goes! A happy squeal with a cock of the head, he approaches with glee, but then is gone in a flash with his meal.

I'm going to go wrap more presents!

Posted by karianna at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

Battery Banshee

Last Wednesday, I was giving college interviews for perspective students, shopping for my yam and green bean dishes for the potluck Thanksgiving, cleaning the kitchen in preparation for the cooking, picking up mail from the office, distributing paychecks at the office, and sorting through emails.

One email was from Husband, informing me that on Monday a few of his colleagues would be at our house for a conference call.

“Huh. Gotta remember to clean the house,” I told myself, but pushed that email to the back of my mind as I scanned for more urgent messages. At that moment, the house was a mess, but my priority was to make delicious dishes to bring to my cousins’ house the next day.

Thursday had the usual hectic pace of attempting to prepare food and realizing that it either takes longer than anticipated, is more complex than anticipated, or both. I made a mess of the kitchen while doing my last-minute round-up which included packing a separate dinner for the Cat (and baking biscuits that were safe for him to eat) and beverages for both boys.

Friday through Sunday is somewhat of a blur. I tried to be lazy, and succeeded in sleeping in until 11am on Friday morning, plus caught up on many TV shows throughout the weekend. I read lots and cuddled with the kids. I pushed the work “to-do” list off, deciding that this was Thanksgiving vacation and I was going to take it as vacation!

Several times, I scanned my email in-box to make sure nothing was urgent.

“Oh yeah, clean the house Sunday night for that Monday conference call,” I reminded myself briefly on Friday (or was it Saturday?) “And maybe get some cheese and crackers to serve.” But Sunday was so far away, there was more time to veg before having to gear up for the week ahead!

I wasn’t completely unproductive over the weekend: I did make a couple phone calls, and I did a web update, though dated the confirmation email for Monday morning so my client wouldn’t think “Gee, she’s working on the weekend; let’s give her more work!”

But my overall theme was to relax. My secondary theme was to decorate for Christmas! Last year, we were a bit tardy with our decorations, so this year, I wanted to be festive earlier in the season.

On Sunday, I did some preparation for the next day, such as baking bread for the Cat’s sandwich. But my main accomplishment was wrapping a mountain of gifts. Alas, I ran out of wrapping paper, ribbon, and packing tape.

Packing tape? Well, the presents I purchased for the nine child cousins are large enough to be packed in moving boxes. The heavier cardboard necessitated extra reinforcement to keep the boxes closed.

That $40 worth of beautiful wrapping paper I purchased from the neighborhood boy for his school fundraiser? They were supposed to be “jumbo rolls,” and for the price I was paying per roll ($10) I assumed they were. Alas, they were shorty-rolls. They aren’t as wide as the traditional roll of wrapping paper. As a result, I couldn’t use them to cover the large boxes that I had prepared for the cousins. Perhaps they are longer than traditional, but absolutely not as wide or wider. The paper is lovely, so I will use it for smaller presents, but for the large boxes, I was left empty-handed.

I strung the house lights, helped the Cat stake some little lighted green trees in the yard (close to too cheesy, but the Cat really wanted them!) and bordered the main windows overlooking our street with various lights. I put green glittery garland on one banister and green lights on the other. Little tchotchkes are now positioned on the mantel, sofa, and various bookshelves.

By the end of the day, the house was decorated but messy. The kitchen was a disaster, but satisfied that I had a perfectly productive plan for the next day, I wasn’t concerned.

I would bring the boys to preschool, go to my dentist appointment, run errands, and pick up the boys from preschool. Picking up the dry-cleaning; purchasing stamps; obtaining additional wrapping paper, ribbons, and extension cords; buying and then writing thank-you cards for my birthday gifts; and picking up mail from the office would all be done by the time preschool was done. Then the boys would be tired! The Cat would play while Spliggle took a nap. I would clean the kitchen, vacuum the family and living rooms, clean the bathrooms, and put out the garbage and recycling for the collection the next day. I’d then do the bookkeeping duties for my brother’s companies and any other work-related tasks that had appeared in my email box. I would write up the interviews I gave last week and do a few solicitation calls for my alma mater. I had a perfectly productive plan!

Monday morning came. I got the boys to preschool on time. I went to the dentist. I ran all my errands. I stopped by my parents’ house to write my thank-you notes, but my parents were home so I chatted with them instead. (My parents live near the boys’ preschool, whereas I live about a half hour to 40 minutes away.) I figured I’d write the notes when I got home. After all, the afternoon was going to be productive!

When I drove the boys home, I was surprised to see Husband’s car in the driveway. I told the Cat to be quiet in case Daddy was sick. I was concerned.

Daddy met us at the door and said something about, “Oh, they want to see the kids anyway!”

The conference call. I had completely forgotten. Cleaning the house had been pushed down to a lower priority than all my errands.

I was mortified.

Husband assured me that he had done the dishes. But our guests were sitting in the kitchen on the chairs that my kids had dotted with pen, food and beverage. Partially emptied grocery bags lined the kitchen counter. The toaster used that morning remained on the counter covered in crumbs. There were crumbs in the living room, entry hall, and family room. The stairs had little pieces of ribbon and broken garland. The front bath had been sprinkled by a boy with imperfect aim and the mirror had been the canvas for some soap finger-painting.

I put Splig to bed; he hadn’t napped at preschool, so was perfectly primed for slumber. Thankfully, the Polar Express DVD had arrived in the mail, so the Cat went upstairs to watch it. Neither boy would make noise over the conference call! I quickly cleaned the front bathroom, finishing at the precise moment that one of Husband’s colleagues had to use it (she didn’t see me cleaning!) One small complication was that the Windex was in the kitchen and I wasn’t going to show that I was tidying-up by invading their call to obtain cleaning products.

I was hungry, too. But again, I didn’t want to enter the kitchen while they were on their call. After cleaning the front bathroom and picking up bits and pieces downstairs out of sight from our guests, I went upstairs.

My computer is right by the kitchen table. I couldn’t do any of the bookkeeping, web work, or other computer-related duties. I couldn’t write up my interviews, nor could I order Christmas candy and a new stroller (since U.S. Air still hasn’t given us any sort of update.)

I folded laundry instead. I cleaned the upstairs bathrooms. I emptied the garbage from upstairs. I ended up being as productive as I could upstairs while wishing desperately that I had remembered to clean downstairs.

All the while, my heart was pounding as though I had been caught naked in public. My dirty house was on display.

I remember one similar situation where my (very perfect, beautiful) cousin had called me saying she was five minutes away and would it be okay if she and her son dropped by for a play-date? I was pregnant with Splig at the time, and very behind on housework.

We lived in a very small house that became cluttered easily. I very quickly pulled the grown-up version of “shove everything in the closet,” but this version was “move everything extraneous into the Master Bedroom!” I then quickly vacuumed the great room, put the remaining toys on the shelves, wiped down the kitchen, and cleaned the second bath.

For the majority of the play date, everything was great. I may have even managed to serve some snacks. Then the Cat decided to go to the bathroom. He was potty-training, so I wasn’t going to discourage him. Simultaneously, his cousin had to go. They are the same age, and he similarly couldn’t be asked to wait. My cousin pleaded with me, “Is there another bathroom in the house?”

Yes. The Master bath.

She saw the Master bedroom, piled high with all the toys that didn’t fit neatly into the shelves. She saw the blankets I had simply thrown on the bed. Most importantly, she saw the disastrous Master bath where I had done the majority of my morning sickness vomiting and other not-so-glamorous parts of pregnancy.

I was shaking with embarrassment. When we moved into our new home and this cousin came to bring me a meal after Splig was born, I was sure the place was spotless!

Yesterday was thankfully not as bad, especially because I had managed to clean the front bathroom before anyone used it. Also, Husband kept reminding me that two of his colleagues have grandchildren and understand the clutter of kids.

I inhaled the last two slices of the pizza left over from the conference call and sat down at the computer. I worked several hours straight, updating things right and left, getting through the list of emails (snorting when I found Husband’s again.)

I didn’t get to my thank you cards, solicitation calls, or interview write-ups, and I haven’t done the online shopping that I need to do shortly. But that is on today’s to-do.

I ended up being fairly productive.

When I went to bed, I really wanted to sleep. But I was tossing and turning. Then I heard a beeping sound. At first Husband thought it was the TiVo. Then I thought it was someone’s fire alarm. I opened a window and confirmed that it was louder outside. Husband went downstairs and into the back yard.

It was a toy left in the rain with empty batteries. It was shrieking the way toys left on with dead batteries do. It was a battery banshee, screaming the way I wanted to when I realized I had reversed the priorities on my to-do list and should have cleaned the house Sunday night before the conference call.

But thankfully, a screwdriver stopped the screaming on the toy. As for me, I think I accomplished quite a lot yesterday even if it didn’t turn out exactly perfectly productive. (Besides, the boys are making an enormous mess right now, so I guess it is good that I didn’t clean yesterday.)

Posted by karianna at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Tales

Thanksgiving included the following:

Truthfully, this Thanksgiving was more chaotic that I would have hoped, but it was definitely nice to see family and wonderful to have excellent food. Our post-Thanksgiving day has been lazy, which is nice. But then I went into super-clean mode to take care of all the preparation dishes from yesterday. Husband went into fix-it mode to fix our side yard gate and purchase a couple green lighted trees for our walkway. I put the Thanksgiving decorations away and replaced them with some of our Christmas decorations. Husband is now preparing hazelnut chicken for us AND he is making stuffing!!!!!

I caught up on my shows for this week and was excited that the Weavers from Amazing Race were last, but disappointed that it was a non-elimination round. But I was especially sad to see Kim from America’s Next Top Model and Gary from Survivor say their goodbyes. Both were my favorites from their respective shows, so it was a blow to have them both go away this week! I still have half an episode of Lost left, plus Veronica Mars.

Hope everyone had a happy Turkey Day and have remained safe in their trips back home. I was lucky to have everything local.

Posted by karianna at 06:41 PM | Comments (3)

Thanksgiving Tales

Thanksgiving included the following:

Truthfully, this Thanksgiving was more chaotic that I would have hoped, but it was definitely nice to see family and wonderful to have excellent food. Our post-Thanksgiving day has been lazy, which is nice. But then I went into super-clean mode to take care of all the preparation dishes from yesterday. Husband went into fix-it mode to fix our side yard gate and purchase a couple green lighted trees for our walkway. I put the Thanksgiving decorations away and replaced them with some of our Christmas decorations. Husband is now preparing hazelnut chicken for us AND he is making stuffing!!!!!

I caught up on my shows for this week and was excited that the Weavers from Amazing Race were last, but disappointed that it was a non-elimination round. But I was especially sad to see Kim from America’s Next Top Model and Gary from Survivor say their goodbyes. Both were my favorites from their respective shows, so it was a blow to have them both go away this week! I still have half an episode of Lost left, plus Veronica Mars.

Hope everyone had a happy Turkey Day and have remained safe in their trips back home. I was lucky to have everything local.

Posted by karianna at 06:41 PM | Comments (3)

November 22, 2005

Three Martini Plan

For my birthday, Husband and I went to a restaurant that has a copious “martini” list. Technically, they aren’t martinis, but they are served in a martini glass and use vodka in some form.

I was excited that I would get to try several of the martinis since Husband was driving. I selected first a mix of raspberry vodka and champagne, deciding that my next would be their version of a Brandy Alexander, and the final would be a chocolate-mint concoction.

While I drank the raspberry vodka-champagne, we had crab cakes, steak brochettes, and warm fresh rolls with tons of creamy butter. The service was impeccable, and I soon received my second “martini” as the appetizer plates were cleared.

Husband had a prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes while I had ahi tuna in a brandy sauce with winter vegetables and shoestring potatoes. Every bite was heaven. It helped that I also had that Brandy Alexander right next to my plate. Mmmm. Brandy! (I am making Brandy Yams for Thanksgiving!)

Towards the middle of the very first martini, I was feeling the effects, much to my horror. I knew at the start of the second that my third would have to wait for another time. I had started on an empty stomach, and now I was filled with lots of delectable goodness.

I was stuffed, but felt obligated to have dessert. I selected a Frangelico cheesecake with a custard filling. Husband would share, for he was too full for an entire dessert. We were lucky he didn’t order more, for they soon arrived with a candled chocolate blob for my birthday, so we ended up with two desserts after all.

The chocolate ball was essentially the largest truffle I had ever seen. It was dense, but smooth and oh-so-chocolately. The richness of the blob perfectly juxtaposed the more butterscotchy cheesecake. The few last sips of my Brandy Alexander Martini were the perfect accompaniment.

It was a fine time, although I was too wimpy for that third “martini!”

Posted by karianna at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2005

Symphony of Smells : Hockey Game 7 Recap

Game Six was Friday, but since Spliggle was vomiting and I was stressed, I decided to abstain. Sometimes, hockey is exactly what I need in those situations, but for Friday I wanted to climb in bed and watch TV for awhile instead. But for Sunday, the physical activity is what I absolutely craved! So even though Spliggle was still vomiting, the Cat was “off,” and I felt I had lots of work to do, Sunday was the perfect hockey day!

Driving to the night game was eerie. I turned on the radio to discover songs that hadn’t been played since the 80’s, and they weren’t those popular songs that keep cropping up. I felt as though I was back in junior high or high school. I thought it was creepy that I was listening to a soundtrack of my childhood. True, I have been musing about my earlier days, especially in light of the interviews I’ve been giving perspective students for my college alma mater, but I didn’t think my thoughts could control the radio station!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the fifteen minutes of eighties and was relieved to soon hear some up-to-date selections. I arrived at the game with enough time to change comfortably. I did leave my purse in the bathroom one brief moment, and had flashbacks to when my purse was stolen back in January. But more striking was carrying a little purse in to join my big bulky bag of hockey equipment. My coach laughed since it was a disconnected sight.

The game itself was great. I was back to forward and played with one of our best Centers. She ended up scoring a fantastic break-away goal. She set up so many shots for me, yet I didn’t connect with any of them. It was both exhilarating and frustrating to know I had come “so close.” I blame the defenders from the other team; they were excellent at roughing me up and lifting my stick. My coach made some terrific pointers about drawing them back, but I didn’t succeed in actually scoring this time around.

We ended up tying 2-2. I was 0 for the game, which leaves me at -1 for the season. No G, A or P.

The ride home was odder than the ride to the game. During the game, my sense of smell and taste shut down. Once in awhile, I’ll catch a whiff of a teammate, or notice that my water bottle tastes like swamp, but most of the time I am focused on breathing, skating, hearing my teammates, and watching the puck.

On the way home, my sense of smell rebelled. At first it was pleasant. I smelled lots of fireplace fires, sometimes mixed with pine, although that may have been a figment of my overactive imagination and eager heart for Christmas. Coming across a section of freeway in the City, I smelled a combination of Skintamate Raspberry Rain mixed with Chinese food. Fortunately, the fireplace fire and pine smells returned briefly, later replaced by roses. I smelled wood. I smelled my stinky self. Then when I drove through our “rival” town, I smelled poop. Yes, the rival town stinks of poop! Soon the poop turned to scorched rubber and I saw a car fire on the side of the road. Fortunately, by the time I reached home, that smell had disappeared. My neighborhood had a cold, crisp spicy fireplace smell. As I entered my house, I discovered a new smell: a freshly baked cake for my birthday! Yay Husband!

But the smells were not the craziest part of the ride. It was the radio again.

The station played song A, then B, then some commercials, then C. Then there was a wacky commercial that may have been a drunk DJ mumbling while the microphone was on. Song B was played again, followed by Song A. Four songs later, Song C was played again.

Either the DJ was truly incapacitated, or they have a very short play list!

I was shocked when two songs later, song A arrived again. That means Song A was played three times in an hour! That song was “No Such Thing” by John Mayer. Oddly coincidental given my thoughts recently.

Posted by karianna at 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

Youth is Wasted on the Young

I vividly remember studying for an exam one night in the Science Library at my college. I was on the verge of tears, frustrated with endless reading and unanswered questions. I was scared that I wouldn’t do well on the test, and more importantly what that would mean to my class grade or my ability to graduate from school. I kept thinking about how adults say that college was the best years of their lives.

“If these are the best years of my life, then what is there to look forward to?” I wondered angrily. I was frustrated that adults would look down on me thinking that I was partying and dating rather than studying. Where was this “freedom” that adults said college kids have?

If I had a blog back then, I would have composed a rant about that concept instead of actually studying for my exam; my future was troubling me that much. Instead, I will write the rant ten years later, but from a slightly different perspective.

Of course I understand what those adults meant. After all, being “tied” to children definitely takes away the “freedom” that college kids have. For those with a paying job, reporting to one’s boss takes away the “freedom” that college kids have to skip a class on a whim. Being in school means having the opportunity to go into any career possible, to make decisions that could lead to further exciting choices.

But those decisions are the antithesis of freedom.

If I could return to college now, I would have more freedom than I did before. This is because I have learned that committing to scientific research was a mistake. I learned that what I studied for nine years would be for naught. In other words, I would know that even trying to “pick something” and stay on the straight and narrow would not guarantee success. I won’t say I “failed” because although I sometimes feel that way, it wasn’t a “failure” to pick neuroscience as much as it was an innocent mistaken choice. It was the wrong choice, but not in the way that partying too much, drugs, and alcohol overindulgence are “poor choices.”

If I could return to college now, I could enjoy my classes. Instead of being so afraid of picking a major and being dedicated to it, I could take a variety of classes and really figure out what made me happy. Instead of trying to be responsible, I could be adventurous.

But I have the luxury of hindsight. I know that I eventually get married and have kids. I know that I end up having food and shelter. But my college-self doesn’t know that. The person studying in the Science Library doesn’t know if she will ever find love. She doesn’t know if anyone will want to hire her, or whether she’ll end up having to move back home. She doesn’t know what will prove to be most important to her: family, career, or money. All she knows is that she has to succeed at something. What is the meaning of life? Who knows, but my college self wants to excel at it.

I don’t think that the college years are the best years of one’s life. I think that the opportunities that they present and the ability to be “free” without familial responsibilities can be enlightening, but it can also be constricting. I think that the college years and what they provide would definitely be empowering to someone who has made mistakes and can take advantage of choices that a college student’s life allows without being burdened by those choices.

Essentially, the college years could be the best years of one’s life if lived by someone who had already graduated!

Along those same lines, I haven’t forgotten what it felt like to be a child. Sure, I didn’t have much responsibility, but I wanted respect and freedom. With freedom come the choices and the responsibility. College is the precise intersection of these which is why it can be so wonderful and so horrible all at once.

I do wish I could talk to my college self studying in the Science Library and tell her to just chill: to sit back a little and enjoy the view. But I know it wouldn’t matter. She is too dedicated and serious at age 22.

Happy Birthday to me. I am now 32. :)

Posted by karianna at 07:01 AM | Comments (4)

Allure

I am not a girly-girl who hugs and kisses everyone she meets. I am not dressed in head-to-toe pink, nor do I have a tiny dog. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I wasn’t a sorority girl. I don’t have a high voice or a convertible. I don’t speak with a tremendous amount of slang and when I do, it sounds forced.

Mother Goosemouse posted about forced and assumed intimacy, and it made me think a lot about my social cues and expectations. I don’t feel comfortable being embraced with an open-armed squeal. Instead, I am self-conscious and don’t wish to be touched. A firm handshake is sufficient.

But, the truth is that frequently I wish I were more of a girly-girl. I wish I could sling my arm around a friend with abandon, or giggle to a group of gals about nothing. I have started to wear pink more frequently. I tried out for cheerleader both in junior high and college. I made the finals for both. But in the end I was told that I was more of a dancer than a cheerleader, and we didn’t have dance teams for either school.

In high school, we didn’t have cheerleaders, but I started a spirit club and bought a black pleated tennis skirt as the closest approximation to a cheerleader skirt that I could find. Our colors were yellow and black, so that would have worked, except my other spirit-mates thought it would be cooler to wear white T-shirts and plaid boxer shorts. Then the steam hissed out of our club when it was apparent that many of the interested girls couldn’t dance (and I didn’t want to exclude them because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings!) but most importantly because one of the most enthusiastic girls got into a car accident that paralyzed her.

I thought about rushing a Sorority in college, but the people I met at Rush absolutely ignored me. I clearly didn't fit in. (Why? I wish I knew!) Fortunately, one of my upperclassman advisors brought me to the Rush for his co-ed Fraternity and I felt right at home there. That is the Society for which I had a Convention weekend before last. These people welcomed me warmly and I felt comfortable.

But sometimes I daydream about if things had been different. I wonder if what would have happened had I made cheerleader, or made a friend in a Sorority. Would I feel more comfortable around other women than I do now? Or would I just have felt uncomfortable because I am not a girly-girl?

What is the allure? Why would I even want to become something with which I am not comfortable?

I guess it is because the more exclusive something is, the more attractive it becomes. Those blonde convertible-driving Sorority cheerleaders seem perfect. I know their lives probably aren’t, but from the surface everything seems fantastic. It appears that many of them grew up to be the mothers at my son’s preschool. I feel the same disconnect with them than I did with the “popular kids” back in school.

When I look at pictures of my college-self during Society cocktail parties, I look the part. I am attractive with long blonde hair and a hot body. Alas, I went to college during the grunge days, so my everyday attire wasn’t flattering to the body that I wish I still had. When I didn’t make cheerleader, I started playing hockey. When I wasn’t dressed up for a special event, I was pretty androgynous.

But appearances only get you so far. I wonder what it is that makes one comfortable with the physical contact and open glee. I’ve always been more “serious” and less “frivolous.” But I have wanted to dabble in the fluffy. I read silly magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, and Lucky. I watch TV shows like Laguna Beach, the Real World, and O.C. But when approached in a touchy-feely way, I back off. It is uncomfortable to me. And yet at the same time, I want to be part of the fold.

Perhaps it is because while I was growing up, I thought I had to be serious to get a good job and earn good money. But now that I am a SAHM, that means to an end no longer exists. I’ve gotten my degrees. I have a resume. But I change diapers instead. So already, I am questioning my identity, so why not question my social stance as well?

I don’t grapple with these questions in a heavy way very frequently. They don’t keep me up at night. I just think about it rather superficially as I watch my guilty pleasures, or observe kids at my alma maters. I do interviews for both my high school and college alma maters, and it is frequently surreal to remember myself in their shoes.

Last weekend’s trip back to college of course stirred up many memories, and this week I am doing interviews for prospective students. Then since I am on the Board of Trustees for my high school, I am frequently out there on campus and will be doing interviews for them in a couple weeks.

For the most part, I do live in the present. But since I have heavy involvement to aspects of my past, I can’t help but reminisce sometimes, especially when it correlates to something someone has already written, like Mother Goosemouse’s musings.

UPDATE: I did some more thinking about this. There are definitely people that I enjoy embracing, and not just family members. People who I feel comfortable with in conversation can be people I am comfortable with greeting in a physical way.

One of my highlights of BlogHer was getting a hug from JenB. It was wonderful and comfortable to me because I felt as though I knew her through her writings. There are several other people about whom I would feel the same way, just based on our online friendships.

Of course, we get to know each other more quickly online than we would in person, so it makes sense that this comfort level would exist, but it is funny nonetheless since there are many "in person" friends who I enjoy as talking buddies but wouldn't necessarily want to be locked in a hug with!

Posted by karianna at 06:04 AM | Comments (3)

November 20, 2005

Like Minds

Husband and I frequently purchase gifts for each other that we have already purchased for ourselves. For years, Husband would buy a book or video game just a few days before his birthday or Christmas, and it would nearly always be exactly the gift already wrapped for him.

Last year, I bought him America. He bought me America. Fortunately, my dad wanted it, so we gave him the extra copy.

Just now, the Cat and Husband returned from a trip to Staples. It was really a trip to Staples and Barnes & Noble. Within moments of coming home, the Cat announced, “We got a green book for Mommy, and I got a green book!”

Husband slapped his forehead. “Uh, yeah, that was supposed to be a secret.”

“Let’s go get the green books!” the Cat continued.

Yesterday, I did some holiday shopping. I bought something for Husband (which I won’t reveal here for obvious reasons) and for the Cat. I also included The Grimmerie to be used as a gift from Santa to me. I figured this was obscure enough that Husband wouldn’t think to buy it for me. (Well, except it is on my Amazon.com wish list, and I should have removed it immediately once I decided to buy it from Santa.)

It is a green book.

Now, my birthday isn’t until tomorrow, but I have a suspicion that I have done the very thing that I have told Husband not to do: right before a holiday bought something I wanted that is scheduled to be given to me for said occasion.

If that is the case, I guess I’ll have a book-returning trip tomorrow and Santa will have to figure something else to give me. However, I will be very impressed that Husband has paid attention to what I would like.

If it is not the case, then at least I’ve had a laugh thinking about the possibility, I will have obtained a different green book, and Santa can still give me the original gift.

Either way, I’ve won in some way or another.

UPDATE: Yes! It was the Grimmerie! This means Santa has to find me something else. I have already enjoyed paging through it and highly recommend it to any Wicked fans.

Posted by karianna at 04:42 PM | Comments (1)

Spinning

Last night was definitely a "so good, so bad" type adventure as the rest of the past week has been.

Spliggle continued to vomit. He walked around the kitchen spewing his dinner (thank goodness it wasn't on the carpet!) He went to bed early, and I cleaned the floor.

I then sat down to watch "Bewitched," but the DVD was having some trouble. Nonetheless, I fast-forwarded through the scratchy parts and was glad that the Cat wanted to snuggle a bit. At one point, the Cat jumped over the sofa and went to his play area. I heard strong urination. I was horrified to realize the Cat was crouched under his train table, peeing away.

The next half hour or so is a blur of shock, carpet-cleaning, taking the Cat's toys away, attempting to get a straight answer as to why this was a good idea, and anger. Husband and I were outraged and at a loss as to what to do. We sent the Cat to bed after attempting to discover his reasoning. He immediately fell asleep.

It is this sort of thing that leaves me completely confused. Why make the effort to get into the play area and go under the table? Why not just walk to the bathroom?

The pee stains that I have discovered on the carpet upstairs I had attributed to middle of the night confusion. While the toilet was broken, I knew the Cat had been peeing on the floor to avoid that toilet, but I thought we had discussed it with him and that he was using the Master toilet. But I had found some new pools recently, but wasn't sure what to make of it. But this under-the-table situation was a completely cognizant act.

I have not heard of other kids doing this, aside from in my developmental psychopathology course in college when we discussed severely disturbed kids who had failures for parents. I suspect that mentioning it to any behavioral psychologist that we may end up seeing will elicit the big-sigh-knowing-nod look that I have seen so often before being told, “Yeah, he needs lots of help.” (But I won’t tell you how to obtain the help.)

In the aforementioned course, the “reason” for the “acting out” was nearly always because the parents were distant, didn’t discipline the child appropriately and so forth. Either that or it was a kid who ended up being institutionalized. I may be in denial, but I don’t see that in the Cat. I don’t think he is peeing on the floor to punish me. But maybe I am wrong. He doesn’t try to strangle the cat, nor does he empty the refrigerator of all its contents. His difficult days involve throwing or spilling his own toys, and refusing to participate in preschool activities. The peeing is the only defiant behavior that is truly over the top.

Once the Cat was away and Husband had done several passes on the carpet cleaner, I went back to "Bewitched" to discover the rest of the DVD was broken. I put in "Revenge of the Sith." Husband and I attempted to enjoy ourselves, but of course I was distracted.

I fell asleep midway through the movie, but kept awakening in an attempt to keep watching because I was so eager to see it. I was fully awake for the last portions, but immediately fell asleep after it was over.

This morning, Spliggle continues to vomit. The Cat is attempting to be a good boy to earn his trains back, though he is pretty upset that his toys are gone. In a few minutes, I will go outside in the backyard so that the Cat can run around. Tonight I have hockey. I hope to get some aggression out.

I am truly spinning. I absolutely don’t know what to do about the Cat because his actions are so divided. He can be relatively “normal” for days, and then do something like last night to shock and confound me. This entire week he has been wild and “off,” and I don’t know the cause(s). If he were always a disaster, I would feel better about attempting something like medication or a series of therapies, but because he has shown normalcy, I am confused because clearly he is capable of behaving appropriately.

The “professionals” don’t believe me when I explain this. They figure that if he is “off,” he is always “off.” This also lends credibility to the assumption that the problem is me, not him. If he is capable of behaving appropriately, then it must be parental interference (enabling) that causes the wild periods. Well, I don’t think it is so black and white. I will be happy to consider suggestions for various techniques, but I don’t appreciate the blame and condescension.

Posted by karianna at 09:59 AM | Comments (2)

November 19, 2005

Early Morn

After the emotional day yesterday, it was nice to snuggle up with the Cat last night. I wanted to catch up on some TiVoed shows from when we were gone, and he wanted to be held. He was peaceful and affectionate. Of course he fell asleep rather quickly, at which point I was able to switch from Extreme Makeover Home Edition to Reunion, then Lost. Other Cat-friendly shows include Amazing Race and Survivor. He loves to tell me about the things he would and wouldn't be willing to do on those shows. But he particularly likes Home Edition, which he calls "the building show." He has told me that he likes our house, but wishes that it had a bridge (balcony.)

I love Reunion. I don't hear about it much in the entertainment magazines, so I expect its one of those shows that wasn't embraced as much as expected. I know it is cheesy, and it is probably a bit too twist-oriented, but I am enjoying it. I then started watching Lost from the night we left on our trip (so I am two episodes behind.) Alas, I was too tired, so had to pause it midway through. (So no giving away anything!)

Both kids awakened early this morning. (Ack! I want to sleep!) Splig seems happier (he had vomited more last night.) The Cat is in good spirits but his nose is running full-force. This means we will be unable to go to my parents' for dinner.

Last night, I learned that my Grandma would be unable to make what was supposed to be a joint-birthday-dinner. Her health is failing. I hope she gets better for the holidays.

So my plan was to go to my parents' this afternoon, then before dinner go alone to see my Grandma for a little bit and bring her a potted plant. But now that the boys aren't feeling well, I am uncertain what to do, since I might have germs on me to which my Grandma shouldn't be exposed. I'll call my parents when they get up to ask their opinion since they know what my Grandma's situation is and whether it would be prudent for me to visit or not.

In the meantime, the Cat has been drawing in a little green notebook. He has created little stories like "The Cat is Hungry" (which is a silly title given that he dislikes eating!) and "The Cat and the Ball in the Rain." He loves to draw and tell stories. Often, we can explain a situation to him by telling a story. The playacting worked well as preparation for the airplane trip. Perhaps if we get advance notice on preschool events we can try a similar approach.

Husband and the Cat are making waffles while Spliggle breaks into the refrigerator to obtain water for squirting fun. We finally tightened the "child-proof" lock on the pantry such that it actually is child-proof. We need to do the same for the fridge, and find some other type of "child-proof" lock for the china cabinet. Most cabinet locks are easily manipulated by Splig's agile hands, or at the least, broken out of stubbornness. (Those two pronged cabinet locks can bend and snap when a determined little boy pulls on them!)

Perhaps we'll go stroller and camera shopping today. We'll see.

Posted by karianna at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

Fly Turkey, Fly!

I hate that if you complain about something, it only makes it worse. Vulnerability is shown if you break down and cry. That weakness is then proof of greater limitation.

I cried today at preschool. I almost broke down on Wednesday, but instead left with the kids as subtly as I could, attempting not to make a scene as the Cat wailed and Spliggle attempted to jump out of the difficult-to-maneuver stroller we have on loan from U.S. Air. They lost our stroller and haven’t yet returned it to us, nor have they phoned to make an apology or update.

Thursday was fairly nice; I had moments where I was quite happy, though even that day had its down-points. I have ColdPlay’s “Fix You” and the Goo Goo Dolls “Better Days” on heavy iPod rotation. I know I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself; there are so many people having a truly rough time right now, but a lot of little things have added up to frustrate me. I don’t want to be defeated, but this week has been tough.

I had signed up to bring mashed potatoes to the preschool Thanksgiving Feast. The Cat’s teacher then strongly suggested that I be one of the parent helpers at the actual feast so that I could dole out the appropriate food on the Cat’s plate and so that I could be around to mediate what she expected would be a stressful situation for him.

I have mixed feelings about being present for such events because sometimes I think he “gives up” faster if his mom is in the room. If I am there, he can put on a show for me. He can expect to leave early (which we did.) And I knew it would be tricky to have Spliggle around. However, I agreed to be there.

Husband made mashed potatoes. He used six potatoes, which we both thought would be fine. When we have potatoes for ourselves, we use fewer and end up with enormous quantities of leftovers. Somehow, these six shrank into a paltry helping, so Husband made another six. I made biscuits that the Cat could eat, since I knew other parents were bringing instant-bake type biscuits that would have preservatives in them. We were running late, and I didn’t have time to put on makeup or attempt to look put together in any meaningful way.

Someone else also made mashed potatoes. I was running after Splig while trying to eye the mashed potatoes to make sure I knew where “mine” were at all times so the plate I made for the Cat would contain those potatoes and not some that might potentially have artificial margarine or something in it. I was also making sure that the plate I had set aside (far away on a piano) wouldn’t accidentally have cranberry sauce or gravy put on it. I hid the biscuits I made until I could put a couple on the Cat’s plate. Then I put the rest out for the other kids.

I heard the screams before I saw the Cat, and knew it was him. The children all marched in with Pilgrim hats and collars. All except the Cat, of course, who was shrieking. The teacher looked at me as I called out, “Hey buddy, ready for a feast?” and said to me, “We even put green cats on his collar, but that obviously didn’t help.”

I had strapped Spliggle in his stroller and put him in a corner with a biscuit and some milk. I had a hard time attending to the Cat while knowing that Splig was also unhappy. Yet if I let him out, he would have run out of the room and towards the construction zone as he had the entire hour preceding the feast.

The other kids lined up on the wall and were joined with the three year old class who had been dressed as Indians. (Yeah, we aren’t very PC, but it was cute!) Every three year old was dressed as an Indian. Every four year old was dressed as a Pilgrim, except the Cat. All the kids smiled to have their photograph taken. The Cat was standing next to me, whimpering.

The kids sat down. I directed the Cat to a place near one of the kids he enjoys. He was skeptical, but obeyed. I brought him a plate with corn, mashed potatoes, and two turkey-shaped biscuits. He screamed. Apparently, the mashed potatoes that Husband had worked so hard to make and I had guarded so carefully were offending him. They had to be scraped off before he would touch his biscuit. (The corn didn’t disturb him, but he wouldn’t eat it.)

The Cat squirmed, ate a little, cried, complained, turned around in his seat, looked for me, grabbed Spliggle’s stroller to race him around the room, screamed when I directed him back to the table, and the cycle repeated again.

I sat down with my lunch, took Splig out of his stroller, and started feeding him. I figured I’d ignore the Cat for a bit in the hopes that he would continue sitting with his friends.

One of the moms said, “Oh, this is supposed to be fun!” while she looked over at the Cat. He then ran up to me and jumped in my lap.

I was angry and disappointed at the Cat. But I was also sad for him and worried about how scared he was. But most of all, I was selfishly jealous. All the other kids had dressed up. All the other kids had their picture taken. All the other kids were sitting nicely. All the other kids were participating. None were crying. The other mothers were all beaming at their little angels.

I am thankful that none of the other mothers made negative comments or nasty looks or anything like that. I imagine they just assumed it was an isolated bad day. Or maybe they knew that he is frequently “the odd one.” I didn’t feel pressure from them that I was a failure, but I felt it from myself. I blew everything out of proportion: Why were the other younger siblings quiet in their strollers or wandering around within their proper limits whereas Splig would have run far away and was now screaming in his stroller? Why were the other kids just so “perfect?” Why were the other moms made up so perfectly and how come they have tiny waists and exquisite hair?

I collected the kids and exited as quickly and quietly as I could. It was an hour before preschool was to end.

Once I had loaded everything and everybody into the van, the Cat announced that he had to pee. I was frustrated already and doubly-so because as the Cat spoke, he was kicking off his shoes. I told him that he shouldn’t have taken his shoes off if he expected to go to the bathroom. I started to drive away. He screamed. I explained calmly that if he asked me politely, we would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s to use their toilet (I really didn’t want to put his shoes on and use the preschool potty when I had been so eager to get out of there.)

He asked properly, so I drove to my parents’. My mom was there, and started doling out advice about the Cat’s behavior. It wasn’t the right time, and I was frustrated. Given how mobile Spliggle is, and how wild the Cat was Wednesday, my mother shook her head and explained that she would only be able to baby-sit one of them while I went to a luncheon the next day.

The luncheon Thursday was the annual charity holiday fashion show that a posh woman’s organization throws each Thanksgiving. My aunt is a member of this society and enjoys buying tickets for all of the women in the family. Typically, my mom goes along with me. This year, she announced that she would baby-sit the boys and forgo her spot.

But now she was reneging on it. She explained that when she had made the original promise, she had suspected that my dad would be around to help her. (My dad is semi-retired, so although he works, he makes his own hours and can typically help out for a few hours.) But she remembered that while all the women go to the festival, all the men go out to lunch. She didn’t want to make him miss The Guys Traditional Lunch.

She asked if perhaps Husband could take one of the boys.

I froze. I was already sad about what a disaster the preschool feast was, and I was looking forward to having a couple hours to go to a fancy luncheon. But now I would have to ask my husband last-minute to watch one kid while my mom watched the other? I didn’t want to rely on either of them, and figured I would give up my spot to my mom. Why inconvenience two people just so I could go to lunch? I wanted to scream. I hate being in this position. (I’ve tried finding local sitters, but my friends don’t have recommendations, and I am distrusting of simply calling up random teenagers. And teenagers aren’t available in the middle of the day.) Yet I know that even if I had a nanny, that person could call in sick. I am never completely off the hook.

Thankfully, as I drove home, my mom called to let me know that my dad would help with the boys. I was glad, but I knew what had happened: for me to go to the luncheon, my mom was missing it herself, and my father was missing the annual guys’ lunch out. Guilt.

But I pushed the guilt aside, and woke up Thursday morning ready to take on the group of diamond-dripped women. I dressed up in a satiny green shirt with fake jewels and a swishy pair of black pants that looks like a skirt. I wore green jeweled shoes and elaborate earrings. I felt fancy. As I floated into the event, I saw some people look twice. One lady complimented me, saying my shirt looked like one she had seen Oprah wearing.

I enjoyed hanging out with my aunt and cousin. (My other cousins had various excuses for why they were absent.) Lunch was delicious: salmon, roasted vegetables, and a creamy risotto. We had tiramisu and See’s candy for dessert while we watched the elaborate fashion show with its empowering and festive music. I had essentially a front-row seat on the runway and felt wonderful. My aunt purchased a centerpiece for me, so I lugged home an enormously heavy mirrored box that had been stuffed with greenery (along with gold leaves.)

For those short hours, I had a wonderful time!

When I returned to pick up the kids, I got more advice from my mom: time outs on a stool, stricter discipline, make him wear sweaters that aren’t green, read him a variety of books. And I got a call from my brother that a client of mine wondered if I had received his email (because I was so swamped, I hadn’t responded yet.) And I got more emails from other clients with updates. I was so overwhelmed!

But I pressed on, and got a lot of work done last night. I then tackled the kitchen, and finally the play area that had been a disaster even before our trip. I knew I had to vacuum up the decorative corn that the Cat and his friend had strewn about during my packing day.

I was angry and at a definite breaking point. But once I vacuumed the play area, Husband swooped in to finish vacuuming the family room. He knew I was at the brink and thankfully stepped in so that I could go to bed.

I thought today would be okay. I have some work to do, but not extremely urgent. My dad is picking up the Cat from preschool, so I figured I would have a bunch of time this afternoon since I wouldn’t have to worry about him. I envisioned going grocery shopping, and perhaps stopping by the mall to find some Thanksgiving outfits for the kids (and me.)

When I brought the Cat to preschool, his teacher looked at me wearily and asked, “Did he calm down after Wednesday?”

I didn’t want to think about Wednesday.

“Um, no not really.” I tried to be dismissive and to look busy as I put his belongings in his cubby.

“Because something is really wrong with him. He needs help. His social skills are lacking.” She announced.

I looked up from the sign in sheet and went through my spiel: yes, I know he needs help, yes we have tried to get help, yes I know early intervention is best but nobody seems to be able to help us.

“Early intervention is really important. Have you talked to his pediatrician?”

Yes, duh. Did she not remember how there had been a psychologist observing him in class two weeks into the school year?

“Kindergarten will be really difficult for him. Thankfully, these kids don’t shun him. They like him. But next year will be different.”

She went on to ask which school system he would be in, whether we had pursued private help, and so forth.

I didn’t want to have this conversation and this time. I didn’t want to continue to hear how my child is so different from the other kids and how it will be a “disaster” next year. There are times when I want to have a serious conversation about specific examples of how he is different, but this was not the time.

I started to cry. I felt so embarrassed, both for my child and because I was crying in front of the teacher and the other parents. Forget it, I am done pretending like everything is okay! Those other parents in their size-0 jeans and fancy jewelry now know that I have been defeated. I shouldn’t care about what others think, but I do. I hate that my child is the odd one, and because of that, I am also in a different class. And for me to cry, well that just proves I am unstable and not put together like those other women. At least that is how it feels, even though I know it isn’t true.

In book club at the beginning of this week, one of my friends explained how she had gotten so frustrated and sad that she went driving once her husband and children had fallen asleep. She told her husband she’d be gone for awhile so that he would know, but then she just drove around to think and to get the anger out of her system. She says she ended up in Barnes & Noble in the “I am a bad parent, so I need a parenting book” section.

I feel that way frequently. I love my kids, but sometimes I just have to get away.

As I wheeled Splig to the van, he vomited all over the cheap loner stroller. (I find that kind of amusing actually, since I hate it and wish to wring the neck of U.S. Air for losing my Maclaren.) I put him in his car-seat and he christened that as well with large white globs of sour milk. So much for my shopping idea. He is now in his crib, sleeping intermittent with loud screaming.

And I had to rant. Sorry. ;-)

So as to leave this post on a happy note, here is what I am thankful for:


Posted by karianna at 01:14 PM | Comments (6)

November 15, 2005

Recap and Return

I am back!

Overall, my trip was a nice mix of business and pleasure. There were frustrations with lazy individuals who aren’t proactive, excitement over seeing old friends, pleasure at meeting new friends, thankfulness for people who pulled off amazing feats in the midst of logistical nightmares, and drunkedness (well, not too much) in the midst of pool-playing and general revelry. I learned that a Starbucks card, although decorated with similar colors, cannot open a room at the Crown Plaza.

It was nice to be back on my old stomping grounds, and a bit surreal to be showing off my kids in the Society House where I had spent my college years. I felt simultaneously young again and very old. Similarly, the trip was both long and short; the packed days led to exhaustion and the feeling that the conference was much longer than it was, but the social time spent with friends was over much too rapidly.

You’ll be happy to know (or maybe you won’t if you are a meanie!) that the return trip was much more pleasant. We gave Splig some decongestant before each flight and before the landing of the second flight. He slept a bit and was definitely more comfortable.

At first, we thought we were doomed.

Splig was screaming in the airport even before we checked in. Husband was trying to work an overflowing luggage cart that was broken and I was juggling the carry-ons and kids. When we checked in, the airline no longer had us all in the same row. Panic! But by some miracle, they had back-to-back seats available, which ended up being a terrific solution. Two of us sat in front of the other two, so Splig could kick the back of the seat all he wanted!

We decided to take the risk and bring Splig’s car seat. Although a similar experience a few years ago with the Cat kicking the seat in front led us to believe sans car seat would be better, we determined that Splig’s spliggly nature would be such that having him contained in the seat would end up being better. (Trying to contain him on the flight out had led to a cut in my mouth that is still quite painful!) Despite the bulk of having it as a carry-on, it was worth it.

The man sitting next to Spliggle on the first return flight had a nine-month old. So he understood the screams and sudden arm movements. Thank goodness! Unfortunately, the landing proved difficult, so Spliggle was screaming for a good fifteen minutes or so. But for the second flight, the landing was not a problem. Whew! Also, one man sitting near us told us he had children ages two and four, so he also understood. We had a small child sitting in back of us who screamed more than Splig, so it was fine!

Then one saving grace was Husband’s “Milky Way Plan.” We had trouble getting Splig to drink or eat during the takeoff and landing of previous flights, but Husband reasoned that Spliggie couldn’t resist chocolate. Plus, Milky Ways are chewy, so promote lots of jaw-mashing ear-popping action.

We had a bit of difficulty with the Cat. He was exhausted, but also wound-up from the activities earlier in the day. He was sad to be saying goodbye to his grandparents (they had been in the adjacent hotel room so they could spend time with the boys while Husband and I went to our events.) He was probably also nervous about the flight a bit. So he started to become aggressive and loud. He kicked the seat in front of him (mainly inadvertently, but sometimes as a point.) He even used some objectionable language that typically does not come out of his mouth. He growled and made claws with his hands, “hmmf”ing at us and telling us to go away. Finally, he was so angry at us that he fell asleep for the remainder of the flight.

Another potential disaster was that the milk I packed for the boys went sour. We discovered this while sitting on the tarmac before the 6.5 hour flight. The Captain announced that we were delayed and would be sitting for awhile. We soon learned that airplanes don’t have milk on them. When I saw the omission on the beverage list in the in-flight magazine I reasoned that surely they might have milk for coffee? Nope. No milk for kids. No milk for coffee. By some miracle, Splig was happy with some water, and I remembered I had some juice boxes of milk that the Cat happily drank. They slept long enough that they weren’t thirsty.

Relieved that the kids had made it through the flight, we then began another series of potentially trying events. We touched down much later than expected. We lost the Cat’s sandals and were scouring the plane before discovering them in Husband’s carry-on. Splig’s stroller wasn’t at the gate but we were told it must have been taken to baggage claim. I had to carry a spliggling-Spliggle all the way to baggage claim while also juggling my carry-ons.

They lost the stroller. They say it was never loaded onto the plane. After a search and some paperwork, we left with a cheap loner stroller. Hopefully our actual stroller will be returned to us shortly.

When we got to the parking lot, we discovered that navigating our belongings would be more difficult than anticipated. We had flown United out, but a US Air flight (by United) back. So we were in a different terminal in the middle of the night. The latter matters because it appeared the AirTrain was no longer running (though it may have been) and because if we had wanted to find help, it would have been tricky to find assistance. We knew where our car was, but the way the parking lot was set up, there were concrete barriers between each terminal type. It would not be a problem for a fully mobile person with luggage he or she could carry, but for a baggage cart, stroller, or a wheelchair, it would be impossible. We wheeled the luggage cart up to one barrier. I unloaded the cart to the closest portion of the United section while Husband drove our car closer.

At 2:45 am, we arrived back home. I went to bed at 3:30am. We awakened at 7am to prepare for Monday.

Amazingly, the kids did fine at preschool yesterday and maintained their sleep schedules. The Cat had a long nap yesterday afternoon, but then he awakened this morning at the regular time. Splig is happy, not congested, and back to a normal sleep schedule.

I am still exhausted, and I have a bunch of little things to do (and how they add up!) The laundry is almost done, the unpacking is done. I have some follow-ups from the Conference to do, and other such things. Then this morning, a second toilet overflowed (the first had right before our trip) and the sink wasn’t draining properly. So the plumber just fixed both toilets, a sink, and is now working on our slow-draining tub. While awaiting the plumber, Spliggle dumped a carton of chocolate milk on the floor. I know one isn’t supposed to cry over spilt milk, but oh did I want to given that I had just mopped up toilet water.

But things are returning to normal, and the recovery from the trip should be complete in another day or so!

Posted by karianna at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

Busy Days

(all links are to Flickr-photos)

Earlier in the week I was going to tell the whole story of how busy Tuesday was. But by definition, it was so busy I didn't have time to actually write about it. Then Wednesday ended up being pretty busy in its own right, along with its own stories.

There is so much to tell, yet not so much time in which to tell it! Such a dilemma! So I will tell all stories at once. Yippee!

I am currently back east at a conference for the co-ed Greek Society I joined as a college student and for which I am currently a Governor. It is much fun to be back on old stomping grounds to see old friends and meet new ones. Husband and I met the first time at this conference in exactly the same location ten years ago. At that point, he was a graduate member and I was a college student. It wasn’t until three years later that we “met” again and started to date.

Tuesday was packing day for our back East trip. We had never flown together as a family of four, though we had done several flights when we were three. The Cat didn’t remember his last plane flight and had been very concerned about going “too high” in an airplane. We were worried that he might make a scene while frightened. A combination of talking about it, purchasing a little airplane play-set, and reiterating that the goal was to see his grandparents (who are staying with us at the hotel so they can have grandson-time while we attend our conference) was our strategy. Although the Cat kept explaining that he was nervous, he slowly came around to the idea of being on an airplane.

I had set up a play-date for Tuesday at noon at the boys’ favorite park knowing that I would want to distract the boys as much as possible. I wanted to get them out of the house so as not to create new messes, and then get them tired out so that I could clean and pack while they napped. (The Cat will nap every few days, so it isn’t a given, but after a particularly physical day he will crash.)

Alas, my plan backfired in that it was raining Tuesday morning. The boys had already been at my play-date’s house, so it was “my turn” to host. I cheerfully told my friend that she and her son were welcome to spend lunch at our house. I was glad to get the break, but panicked about what that would mean for my cleaning and packing strategy.

The day before, the Cat informed us that his toilet was broken. We had a similar difficulty a few months back that had been helped by a particular bacteria-clog-eating drain de-clogger, so we poured that in the toilet. I had flooded the bathroom flushing the (uh, er, number-two filled) toilet while trying to get the toilet to work, so it took awhile to clean up the mess. Nonetheless, I had cleaned the whole bathroom and then left it to let the magic bacteria do its business. The plan was to flush it the next morning.

As I prepared for the unexpected play-date that next morning, I noticed that there was a slightly damp towel in the bathroom in question. I figured Husband had flushed the toilet and it had overflowed just a tad. I flushed again, hoping that everything would “level out” at this point and we’d be back to status-quo.

Instead, the whole thing flooded again. Big Time. So all the towels I had washed and dried the night before ended up on the floor surrounding the toilet.

But in the grand triage, it was the dishes-filled kitchen and the crumb-infested playroom that were most visible to our guests. So I did my downstairs cleaning duties before attending to the upstairs bathroom.

The next order of business was food. Splig was asleep, so I couldn’t go to the store. The bread that I otherwise would have used to make sandwiches had already been cut funny and for some reason I couldn’t get it to cut straight again, so that was out. Luckily, I found some carrot and zucchini sticks, crackers, and cheese, making a spread of snack-able things. I added some bananas to the mix. But that wasn’t enough. I made up some microwave veggie pockets and cut them in an attempt to look pseudo-fancy.

Luckily, my friend also brought along some food: some rice with black beans, chicken, and onions. It was a perfect thing to scoop up with the crackers! The boys ended up having a fabulous play-date (the Cat was so happy to be the host!), and I really enjoyed hanging out with my friend. Sure, I didn’t get any packing or cleaning done (for the cleaning I did in a rush right before the visitors ended up being for naught since the boys spread cracker-dust all over,) but the break was fine. I did have one freak out moment when I saw a bunch of corn on the table. I recognized too late that my decorative corn for Thanksgiving had been completely shucked and strewn about.

Both boys fell asleep at the end of the play-date, so I got my chance to pack and clean. I didn’t get everything done that I would have liked (such as the play-area in back of the couch,) but I did the vital things!

Wednesday morning, we left for the airport in good time. But traffic was much worse than anticipated. We made a panicked route change that I believe saved us a bunch of time. Thankfully, a delay meant that we didn’t have to rush to get to our gate.

Nonetheless, we were greeted with long lines at the check-in (so went to a sky-cap!) and were jostled around by the security screeners. We were next in line for one screener when he told us that since we had a stroller and since he was doing “double screening” that it would be easiest if we went to the opposite end of the security section to join a different line. A couple minutes later from our new line, we saw the people who had previously been in back of us sail through our original line. It was at least ten minutes more before we were cleared.

But we arrived at the gate with time to spare. Thank goodness for the delay! It gave the Cat the opportunity to view some planes in action, too, which helped.

What we didn’t anticipate was that Splig would be a problem.

Spliggle is a good-natured kid. But he was congested. He squiggled around (like his name) and tried to interact with other people on the plane. It was extremely difficult to hold him down. (We had forgone the car-seat because our earlier experience with the Cat flying had been that the airplane seats position the car-seats way too close to the seat in front such that even a child not intending to kick the seat in front in a malicious way will end up disturbing that person.) While eating, he was fine. But then he wanted to explore and be busy.

Then the ear-popping began, and he started to scream. He could not be pacified. We tried many methods, all to no avail. Finally, he napped for a tiny amount.

We had a layover in Chicago. If our next flight hadn’t have been delayed, we would have missed it. But our new flight was delayed, too.

Unfortunately, our delays ended up being on-the-tarmac delays in addition to the simple boarding-late delays. This meant having to entertain the kids in an enclosed space for even longer amounts of time. It also meant that we didn’t have time to procure food during our layover. The kids had crackers and such, but Husband and I were ravenous (and of course the plane didn’t have any food other than pretzels.)

When we lined up to board our second delayed flight, one guy said, “Yeah, I’ll let you board first because you have kids.” I thought he was being nice, so smiled and thanked him. He then repeated himself, amending his statement to “because you have the nerve to bring kids on an airplane.” I just continued to board. Husband later told me that this guy (who shall henceforth be referred to as “AM” for “asshole-man”) had been on our San Francisco to Chicago flight, so had been witness to Spliggle’s screams.

AM sat in front of us. In specific, he sat in front of Spliggle’s seat. Crazy Couple sat in the other two seats in front of the Cat and me. Also in row 13 were old-childless-man and younger-glare-boy.

In Aisle 15 was I-will-kick-your-seats-because-I-dislike-you man and aloof-woman.

Spliggle squiggled around and tried to flirt with Aisle 15. I yanked him down and tried to distract him with chips, a blanket, a book, a DVD… anything. He sprang up, holding the top of AM’s seat, then patting AM on the head.

I was mortified and immediately said, “I am SO sorry” and held Splig down again. He screamed, “OH JESUS!” and another person apparently said something about needing peace and quiet, to which the Cat parroted, “I AM being peace and quiet!”

The whole flight was hell.

Spliggle screamed for most of the flight. Glare-boy kept glaring at the Cat (who was simply watching a video, doing absolutely nothing of remark) and more specifically, ME, because I am the mother of the loud noise. Husband held him tightly several seats down from AM (since there is NO way we were going to risk his wrath again!) But since Husband was sitting next to two people, it was difficult to keep Splig from kicking those people in his row. All of row 13 was hostile, as were the people in back of me in row 15.

Husband did a heroic job of keeping Spliggle from causing physical kicking/jostling of other passengers, but unfortunately the screams could not be stopped.

It was mortifying, humiliating, and frustrating.

I have been in airplanes with screaming kids before. At the least, I have looked over to see what the problem was. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve made an effort to either smile at the child or give a sympathetic look to the parent.

I have not glared at a screaming child. I have not made loud comments. I have not sworn. I have not made histrionic physical gestures to indicate my disapproval.

Rows 13 and 15 did all of the above. They were guilt-tripping the hell out of me and Husband. We were doing the best we could. We are not evil. Our kids are not evil. Rather, we had a very well behaved 4.5 year old (who held my hand during take-off and landing, asked many questions, and articulately talked through his fears) and a congested sixteen month old.

Yes, the screams were hell. Spliggle’s discomfort became many other passengers’ discomfort. But we were not taking a red-eye flight. We had set up our schedule in what we thought would be the best configuration.

A little boy in the back of the plane also had difficulty. I could hear his screams, but they were somewhat muted. The typical airplane noise is so loud that other noises become muted. So I know that probably only a third to a half of the plane heard the screams to the ear-piercing extent to which Splig was doling them out. Still, it was as though I was hitting everyone in the plane on purpose.

Old-childless-man called his wife on his cell, loudly recounting that an inconsiderate family had brought a screaming baby on the plane. The male of Crazy Couple kept turning around to glare at Splig and me. The female of Crazy Couple kept throwing her head in her lap. AM sighed loudly every few minutes.

When we landed, we were delayed on the tarmac because the jetway wouldn’t operate properly. We had to wait for an old-fashioned staircase to be wheeled up. Several passengers yelled things like, “This is icing on the cake!” “We’ve already had the plane-ride from hell!” and so forth, while taking the time to stare us down.

Sure, I agree with them. Spliggle’s screams were absolutely not fun. The delays were not fun. But we had not forcefully caused our child to scream. We were not sitting back doing nothing. It was obvious that we had our hands full and that we were pulling out toys, food, milk, and other distractions.

We let the others deplane before we gathered our belongings. A couple people gave us advice on what we should have tried. When we got down the jetway we had to go back upstairs, but there was no elevator. I had to lug Spliggle in his stroller up the staircase while Husband carried three large carry-ons. It was not fun.

While Husband picked up the rental car, someone passed by me and made a comment while sneering at me, but I was checking my voicemail (because another friend and fellow Convention-goer also had been delayed) so didn’t hear his remark.

Hopefully, we will see none of those people again in our lives. We have given them a great story about the plane ride from hell and possibly have made some decide (Crazy Couple, in particular) that they don’t want to have children. Husband says that we’ve done humanity a favor if that is the case. Still, it was embarrassing. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have been so overtly angry, insulting, and heartless as those who chose to guilt-trip me. But I know that my child was loud!

Splig will be pumped full of decongestant / anti-histamine on the way home.

But thank goodness that the Cat did a spectacular job of conquering his fears!

We got lost from the airport to the hotel. Ugh. (GPS to the rescue!) And then by the time we arrived, room service had just closed. Husband and I were ravenous. The only thing around was Wendy's. And I didn't realize they put mayo on their burgers. I HATE MAYO.

But today was much better: friends, drink, fabulous food, great conversation, and the boys love spending time with their grandparents!


Posted by karianna at 08:30 PM | Comments (4)

November 06, 2005

Chuggling Chocolate

While I was on the computer, Spliggle opened the refrigerator and started chugging chocolate syrup.

I think he may be on to something.

In the last week, my waist has shrunk (a little) despite the addition of Halloween candy in my daily menu. Perhaps it is not the chocolate that is the hero, however, but rather my increased vigilance in not eating other fattening foods while downing my Snickers (plus it really does satisfy!)

But then also, I’ve been drinking a glass of wine a day and therefore haven’t been hitting the beer as frequently.

Husband came home with some Delicato wine-in-a-box. Now we all know that boxed wine is typically synonymous with crap, Styrofoam cups, and college pseudo-classy dinners. Plus, I am from California, so have a little wine snob in me.

But this stuff is great. In fact, I hear it is becoming the “new thing.” Instead of awaiting a night when Husband and I are up to polishing up an entire bottle by ourselves, we can simply use the spout on the wine box. The system is air-tight, so the wine stays good for 30 days. When I want a glass of wine, I can “pour” (dispense?) myself one without sacrificing a bottle.

Instead of water coolers, we can have wine dispensers! Wine-in-a-box can be taken camping!

The trickle in the glass leaves some bubbles initially, but in a few minutes the surface is clean as any sophisticated pour. I was expecting a thin, watery feel with a weak (or bitter) finish, but instead this wine serves a full-bodied experience with an enjoyable after-taste.

Snickers and Wine in a box = the Karianna Diet!
Open-throated Chocolate Chugging = the Spliggle Diet!

Posted by karianna at 11:55 AM | Comments (7)

November 02, 2005

Flickr Fun

Awhile back, JenB asked us to post happy-flower-baby-animal pics, and so I went out and snapped a photo of the lone decent-sized flower in our backyard (surrounded by other little flowers.) I thought I might pick up a baby-horsie stuffed animal to stick in there, but then it rained and the flower isn't looking so hot anymore. (Besides, I can't compete with Jen's backyard, anyway!)

flower.GIF

But then today, a friend of mine told me about her brother-in-law who was just diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and another friend-of-a-friend who is about to have surgery to remove a (thankfully "benign") brain tumor. And bloggy people are going through cancer, and then Jenn S. wrote an incredibly well-written tear-jerker today about her ongoing difficulty with facing her mother's terminal illness. So I remembered my little photo. Above is my tiny offering of a little happy flower pic, taken with a cameraphone that decided to go bonkers after the sync.

Today we had a beautiful sunset. Of course, photos do it no justice, but it is another small offering of happy/calming photos. (Why is it that those stupid inspirational posters always have silly sunsets on them? Ah well, I will join the cheesiness...)

11 2 sunset.GIF

Meanwhile, I am fortunate that everyone in my family is healthy and happy. The Cat, in fact, decided to entertain himself by posing for my cameraphone with his silly faces (click for more on Flickr:)

funnyface.GIF

Posted by karianna at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2005

For the Best

This is the second week in a row that I have missed hockey.

Last week, I was throwing up and having other gastrointestinal difficulties. Although I once received a “Boot and Keep Going” award from my hockey team, I didn’t wish to repeat that honor. I slept instead of attending my game.

This week, I had a practice starting at 2:30PM. Husband was planning to take a shift from 4:30-7pm calling voters in preparation for the CA Special Election. It was going to be quite a kid-shuffle, but we figured out what to do so that I could attend my full practice and he could still get to the phone bank in time to do his political duty. He would drive to the train station. I would pick him up, we’d drive to my practice, he’d hang out with the kids while I skated, we’d drive to the phone bank, and he would take the train home.

What we didn’t count on was a jumper.

Our local highway is shut down because of police action surrounding a pedestrian on an overpass only an exit away from ours. The eastbound direction is completely shut, the westbound is crawling. We were going west. I watched as our ETA went from 2:15 to 2:20 to 2:30 to 2:35 before I realized that I had to turn back. As I have mentioned before, I am uncomfortable being late for hockey. I don’t like being rushed putting on my gear, and I don’t like jumping into drills when they are already in action.

So, I turned back.

I arrived home (using back roads) at 2:40. The Cat was asleep. Splig was rubbing his eyes. So, it was for the best that they are now getting naps instead of being grumpy at the hockey rink.

Husband called, saying that he was driving to the phone bank and would take an earlier shift. This way, he would be home for dinner, wouldn’t be calling people during their dinnertime, and would have time to spend with the kids before their bedtime. So, it is for the best that he was given the opportunity to get an earlier shift. (Plus, he may be able to pick up some food from a yummy former favorite that was near his old job but no longer convenient for us. Hopefully it is open on Sundays!)

When I returned home, I heard a loud hissing noise. I went to the backyard and saw the hose was on full blast. So it is for the best that I got home to turn off the water!

Finally, although I would have wanted to skate today, it is technically for the best that I get some web-work done today. I have several projects and it would be nice to start out on Monday feeling as though I have already accomplished something.

Funny how some things just work out for the best.

Update

Nothing in the paper about the jumper. I don’t know what happened. We get stories about people’s cats, yet not about a potential suicide? Over the summer (the night before BlogHer, actually), we missed being in a major accident by about 15 minutes or so. The next day, there was nothing in the paper (nor in the day after that…)

However, as a Spliggle update – he started projectile vomiting, so it is definitely good that didn’t happen while at the ice rink! Fortunately, he is feeling dandy today and up for eating candy!

Posted by karianna at 02:51 PM | Comments (11)

October 17, 2005

Parking Etiquette

There is a large parking lot in front of my sons’ preschool. As you can imagine, the parents chose only the spots closest to preschool and leave enormous amounts of empty spaces elsewhere. Frequently, parents “create” spaces in front of the school rather than park 20 feet away. (Yet their bodies suggest that they work out plenty at “The Club” but apparently walking through a parking lot is too much to ask.)

Okay, okay, so I usually park near the school, too, but I’ve never “created” a space. If there is one there, I take it. Otherwise, I’ll go up a row or two. After today, I think I will permanently go a row or two away from the front.

(The main reason against this, which I am sure also factors into the other parents’ thoughts is that it is more dangerous for the kids to navigate through several parking rows rather than hopping right into or out of a car without having to cross other parked cars.)

At any rate, the large SUVs and minivans create very little space in which to manipulate between cars for loading and unloading children, strollers, backpacks, and art projects.

If I reach my van and someone else is already in the “aisle” unpacking her children, I wait the thirty seconds it takes for her to finish her job and pull away. For some reason, others can’t seem to afford me the same courtesy.

Most frequently, I get the sympathetic shrug as another mother jumps into the already occupied aisle and attempts to unpack her children’s things simultaneously as we play car door ballet. Sometimes, I will just let her take over the aisle rather than attempt the dual loading which I know is impossible.

Or sometimes, I will hear the mother say to her child loudly, “Well, it is busy here, but don’t worry we’ll be home soon.” Or “We have to wait for these people.” And I will hurry as fast as I can.

But today was in a class in and of itself.

I had my front door open, and the van’s side door open. I was throwing lunch boxes and art projects in the front door, then backpacks through the side door, and was about to place Spliggle in his carseat (through the side door) and fold up the stroller once it was emptied of the rest of its contents.

(I know better than to unpack the stroller before putting Spliggie in his seat because the first priority after ridding my arms of extraneous supplies is to get him out of the aisle for his own safety.)

As I lifted Spliggle up, a lady closed my front door, opened her front door, and pushed Spliggle’s stroller away (so it rolled towards the street) to open her daughter’s door.

The power in the aisle had shifted. She now had both doors blocking the aisle. I was between both, attempting to put Splig in his seat.

I moved her daughter’s door slightly so that I could retrieve the stroller. I threw the remaining contents of the stroller over the front seat (because I could no longer access my front door!) I then folded the stroller in the super-tight space that this lady’s car doors had left me. I manipulated around her daughter’s door, buckled in the Cat on the other side, and got in the front seat.

I chose not to turn on my car because I didn’t have any intention of backing up while this lady’s daughter was in the aisle. I didn’t want to put a child in jeopardy!

Once the daughter’s door was closed, I turned on my car and waited for the woman to board. (Again, why start to back up with someone so close to the car?)

I started to pull out carefully (looking for other parents and small children) as soon the woman shut her door.

She beat me to the punch, somehow turning her car on as she entered (maybe it was already on?) and peeling out backwards. She gave me a smug smirk as she drove away.

Okay lady, you won!

A couple minutes later, I saw her SUV heading off to the neighborhood with three-million dollar homes. I guess her inconsiderate, rude, and selfish behavior has led to some nice dough. But life won’t be so grand if you are in jail after running over someone’s kid with your irresponsible and reckless behavior.

I just don’t get it. Are those thirty seconds really that valuable? Are you really so cruel as to throw my son’s stroller in the street? What if my son had been in the stroller? What if another car had hit the stroller? Why are you so fricking important?

Yeah I am angry.

On the good side, I have a Secret Pal from my local mother’s club who has been very generous to me. Heath bar, Twinkies, a lime-coconut candle, some lime-coconut bubble bath, and some Twix have been left on my door step the last couple weeks. She also has been sending me adorable little e-cards.

In the midst of my busy work schedule and the stupid-ass-I-want-to-pound-her-into-the-ground bitch, it is fabulous to be remembered by my Secret Pal. Thank you, whoever you are!

(Meanwhile, I’ve had a blast leaving little goodies for mine!)


Posted by karianna at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

When it Rains, It Pours

Nope, weather's fine here. Hot in fact.

But I guess I am having karmic payback for the excellent wedding weekend I just had. I am eager to tell y'all about the weekend, especially as it ties into back-story. I have been composing such musings in my head. But alas, I am super-busy. From nice relaxation to super stress : such is this week!

I do part-time (quarter-time or less, really) webwork and accounting for an internet service providing company. I work from home. It is the "perfect" job for someone who is staying at home, but who wants to earn some "extra" money during the kids' naptimes and after their bedtimes (in other words, whenever it would be great to sack out in front of the tube!)

Typically, a single client will contact me throughout a week for a minor update. Sometimes, a client will have a major update, but usually it is the only client on my plate. On occasion, I have had two contact me at the same time, so things can get hectic. During major revisions, I essentially work the equivalent of a full day (or more) sandwiched between all the home and children duties. Usually, I have quick turn-around, because I can devote my attention to a single client at a time.

Today I had seven projects.

Seven.

True, some of them I knew about in advance (two). And two were dealt with within an hour, one within fifteen minutes. One can wait a couple days. One can wait a few days. But the psychological impact of having seven clients waiting for material all at once was pretty hefty. (Mix in the chaos of two little boys crumbling crackers all over the house, a severely dirty fish tank that absolutely had to be cleaned today because the fish were trying to escape, and bread that needed to be baked, and I've had a packed day.)

I am glad to have finished three today, along with a psuedo-finish for one (awaiting client input.) I will finish one tonight, then the other two will await the weekend.

Whew!

So in addition to making this update, please forgive me for grabbing a beer and watching Survivor (and Apprentice!) as I have a semi-leisurely dinner before I tackle another project. Girl's gotta breathe. Yeah and I will work out tomorrow or something.

Posted by karianna at 07:37 PM | Comments (6)

October 11, 2005

Back from New York

I was gone this weekend for a spectacular wedding weekend! There are tons of things to report, but not surprisingly, I am playing “catch up” with everything that lay idle during my time away. So, the detailed posts of stories and memories will have to wait a bit.

In the meantime, I have put up two Flickr shows:

The shots of my old neighborhood in the Upper East of NYC. It rained, but I still enjoyed the reminiscing.

The rehearsal dinner and wedding shots. One great thing about both venues was that they were lit in a cozy way. Alas, that meant low light that didn’t jive well with my camera, so many shots are not as clear as I would have hoped!

Posted by karianna at 12:59 PM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2005

Car Luck

I forgot to post several days ago that September 19, 2005 was the date that the statute of limitations on a minor car crash that I was involved in expired. Styro’s post about her recent rear-ending reminded me of the unfortunate incident of the distracted Bride.

In early September 2003, a coworker of mine was rear-ended on her way to work by a crazy curlers-wearing neighbor. She had a relative in insurance who instructed her of the various forms she would have to fill out and exactly how to document her medical expenses. My friend ended up with an $800 check for the very minor damage to her car. She laughed, saying she could barely see any damage, but that the insurance company wanted to make sure she was given enough money to make everything perfect. She happily deposited the money in her account to use for other reasons. She also bought an expensive car seat to replace the one involved in the crash. They had given her $250 for that purpose (in addition to the $800.)

Alas, she also had some neck pain, and went to the doctor for that. I am not sure of the result of that claim because I ended up no longer employed with that particular job (I was working at a preschool from which the Cat was asked to leave.) However, it appeared that she was going to be receiving a couple grand at least.

When I heard her tale, I was a bit excited: Wow, someone could cause super-minor damage to my car and I could get a big check? I secretly hoped that I would have the same “misfortune.”

Just a week or so later, I got my wish. September 19, 2003, I was stopped at a light. In my rear-view window, I saw a car coming full speed towards me. Fearful of hitting the car in front of me, I pushed HARD on the brakes. My knee jammed as the car hit me from behind.

The gal who got out of the shiny black BMW was ever so apologetic. Her fiancé was next to her and he seemed pretty nice, too. She immediately gave me her insurance information and stuttered that she was getting married that weekend but would be available in a couple weeks if there were any questions.

I didn’t want to scare her, and I certainly didn’t want to cause problems for her, so I surveyed the relatively minor damage on my car, saw hers had no damage, and told her that the only reason I would be filing a claim would be because I wanted to get a new car seat. I told her I was concerned that car seats were supposed to be replaced after a crash. I was trying to be nice and fair, and reassured her that I wasn’t going to take advantage of the misfortune.

We went on our separate ways, my knee and shoulder throbbing. I was late to a breakfast meeting and the person I was meeting had left. I called her on her cell, and she was surprised, saying she knew I wasn’t the type to be late so she expected it must have been a car crash!

When I returned home, I called both my insurance company and the Bride’s. I wanted to know exactly what the situation was, whether my rates would rise for her mistake, what my rights were, etc.

My insurance company laughed at me when I asked about a potential rate-rise, saying that because I had made the call, the accident had been reported, so the damage was already done. Her insurance company told me to fill out an accident report with the DMV and told me that if I didn’t, my license would be suspended. Both insurance companies told me that I could not be reimbursed for the car seat because my son was not in the car at the time. (Nonetheless, I was concerned that the seat had been buckled into the car and had been jolted, perhaps causing strain to the plastic.)

My insurance company told me that the damage to my car had to be repaired at a shop an hour away and that I would have to pay for it, and then later be reimbursed to the penny. No, no amends would be made for the interest I would pay on my credit card while I awaited their reimbursement. Hers told me the nearest authorized shop was a half hour away, but again, I had to put the cash up front. They would provide a rental car for me. They wished to set up an appointment, but I didn’t know my work schedule, so I told them I would do it on my own.

Truthfully, her insurance company was fairly thorough. They kept calling me to make sure I was going to make the appointment to get the car fixed.

Alas, I played it wrong.

Both insurance companies asked about injury. I told both that my knee and shoulder hurt, but that I hadn’t yet sought medical care. I am too honest for my own good; I should have made a big deal about the pain.

But, I wanted to wait to see if the pain was just a temporary thing. I had a 2.5 year old boy on my hands that had been having difficulty; I couldn’t just skip off to the doctor.

When I saw the doctor once my knee started bothering me extensively (this was a couple weeks later,) I was X-rayed and told that it was arthritis.

Arthritis?

Why would I have arthritis “suddenly” after a car crash where I completely jammed my knee?

The doctor therefore would not sign off on a medical claim.

The nurse asked if I wanted some pain killer, but cautioned that the stuff she would prescribe would be heavy-duty, so she asked if there was any chance I could be pregnant.

I didn’t think I was, but something told me not to take the medication. So I didn’t.

In the next couple weeks, a couple things happened rapid-fire:


  1. The Cat was asked to leave the preschool. He had been disruptive to the other children. As a result, I lost my job there as well.

  2. I discovered I was pregnant with Spliggle

I wish I had gotten the car fixed immediately, while I still had the option of placing the Cat in preschool (on a day when I didn’t work) and before the nausea of pregnancy came over me. Hindsight is 20/20.

Instead, I became trapped in my house, lying on the couch, unable to get up without vomiting. There is no way I could have orchestrated a trip to the car repair place and picking up a rental car all while trying to control the Cat.

I kept putting off the car repair, hoping that I would be feeling better at some point. But truthfully, I was more concerned about my health and the Cat’s behavior. It was his preschool “expulsion” that had begun the whole recognition that perhaps the Cat needed some extra help, and therein began the whole series of appointments and paperwork and dead-ends. The car didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

But I filled out the DMV accident report diligently, and I purchased the Cat a new car seat since I didn’t feel comfortable using the old one. On the DMV report, I didn’t know the cost of the damage because I hadn’t heard from the Bride if she had anything repaired, and I hadn’t yet repaired anything. So I wrote a cover letter to the form stating that I had only made an estimate. The form was to be used if the damage was over $500. Since my friend's super minor damage was $800, I figured mine was at least that.

For fear that my insurance rates would climb, or that I would be charged for the fault of the accident, I did not list my insurance information under the section entitled “Insurance Iinformation for Claims.” The claim I would be making was for her insurance company, not mine. I didn’t want there to be any doubt. I included this in the cover letter as well, stating that I was completely not at fault.

Well, the Bride didn’t fill out that form. Since I had, I was deemed at-fault. Because I didn’t provide insurance information, I was deemed uninsured, and therefore the DMV decided to suspend my license.

So instead of a huge check and a new car seat gratis, I was left with raised insurance rates, a threatened suspension of my license, extreme knee pain, a scratched-up car, and out the money I paid for a new car seat.

The license suspension was thankfully dealt with rapidly by an amazing woman in my husband’s office. Then later when we discovered that I had been given “points” for an at-fault accident, the same woman cleared everything up. (It is nice having folks like that!) But the resolution to this occurred only a month or so ago because we were unaware that there had been a mistake until about six months ago.

I never got the car fixed. I never had the time. I was nauseated through the whole pregnancy with Spliggle, and my “extra” efforts were all going towards the Cat, who was no longer in preschool, so was at home with me always. It wasn’t until September 2004 that the Cat was back in school, and at that point, I had newborn Spliggle with me. Also, I felt sheepish about suddenly saying a year later, “Yeah, hey, wanna fix my car?” in case further damage had occurred through the parking lot* or something like that. I didn’t want to be accused of being dishonest.

So when the Bride’s insurance company called me to say they were closing the file, I didn’t protest. I knew I didn’t have the time or money to deal with it. I had plenty of other priorities.

And the knee? I had asked the Bride’s insurance company, but they stated that since I had told them I hadn’t seen a doctor (a couple days after the accident) that the claim was closed. I knew I had two years in which to file a claim, but didn’t because I didn’t know how to “prove” it given that in my chart is a note saying “arthritis.”

I didn’t even notice that September 19, 2005 had passed. It is officially over. I cannot do a thing. Of course, that car will soon be sold, as I had given it to Husband when I got my minivan (which has already been minorly damaged) and Husband just got his new Prius. It will be nice to be rid of one reminder that wishes sometimes come true, but not in the fashion one would have liked! (Unfortunately, the knee pain remains, so every time I creak up the stairs or have difficulty changing positions while sleeping, I am reminded of that day in some way.)

* = One day I parked at Target next to a car that wasn’t in its space straight. It was the only space available, so I shimmied in. There was plenty of room. But I was suspicious when I saw the steering wheel of the crooked car was covered in a towel with rubber bands and post-it notes. The dash also had notes on it and string, as if to provide reference points for the driver. I took down the license plate number “just in case.” When I returned, my car was dented up and the car next to me was gone. I was actually surprised! Even though I had thought “gosh, this is clearly a bad driver” I guess I didn’t really think I would be hit, even though I had thought to take down the license. Shaking, I asked a passerby if she had seen the car hit me. I took photographs and thought about filing a report, but the ultimate question would have been, “If you were so concerned about this person that you took down their license plate number, then why did you park there?” I couldn’t lie and say that I had seen the plate as the person drove away. I am too honest like that. Sigh. But it was a hit and run. The driver didn’t leave a note. I considered the options, and ended up doing nothing. Double Sigh.

Posted by karianna at 12:19 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2005

Urinetown Triage

Both kids slept in a bit this morning, so we were off to a good start. The Cat went to sleep early last night and it looked like he was well-rested. He was articulate when we were stuck in traffic. He said he was sad that we were going so slowly because we couldn’t get to preschool faster. It was very cute. He even sung some songs to keep us happy in the parking lot of the freeway.

Today was his day to put a “mystery” item in the letter box. This week is “A.” We weren’t allowed to do anything “obvious” like apple; they wanted variety. On Monday, someone brought an apple, and then others brought an arrow, an army man, and something else I forgot. I thought of “apron” since the Cat likes to cook. When we arrived, he put his name in the envelope as has become automatic, but was reluctant to stick the apron in the mystery box. I did it for him.

Today was also a day the kids would be having cupcakes in celebration of a classmate’s birthday. So we brought a cupcake for Arik to eat, assuming that the ones provided would have artificial flavors, et al. Husband made the cupcakes last night, then the frosting this morning. The Cat put sprinkles on them and we raced out the door.

The teacher had also mentioned they would be doing a cereal project (probably for week “C” now that I think about it: duh!) At any rate, I brought in some Cat-safe cereal today.

So in addition to the Cat’s regular bag and lunchbox, we had the apron, the cupcakes, and the cereal. Plus, I had mom’s circle, so I had my book for that, and Spliggle’s bag for childcare. I looked like a skycap.

Spliggle didn’t want to get out of his stroller at childcare. It was odd. He stood facing the stroller and buried his face in it, as though taking a nap. I brought him over to the turtles and he seemed happier.

Mom’s circle went well. We are discussing When Jesus Came to Harvard, by Harvey Cox. The book raises some interesting points about moral relativism, how people obtain moral direction, and a framework for tackling difficult questions. It is based on a course taken by all types of students: atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jewish, and other organized religions.

After my group, I picked up Splig (who had made a little art project!) and we went off to run errands. At Whole Foods, I picked out some black bean soup that I wanted to try for dinner. Monday I had tomato chipotle. Mmm!

When we went to pick up the Cat from preschool, I already had my plan in mind: Splig would be tired, so he would take a nap. The Cat would either be so tired from school that he would curl up on the couch, or he would go play with trains. I would ride the exercise bike and watch the TiVo’ed final episode of Big Brother and any other fun stuff that I’ve forgotten has been recorded. I would then pick up the mess from the scurrying about in the kitchen this morning and the strewn National Geographics about the living room. Then I would work on some website stuff.

I violated the law that says that if things are already going smoothly, don’t dare make a plan or everything will come to a screeching halt!

Husband called while Splig and I sat in the car passing time before preschool pick-up. He mentioned that he had a challenging morning. I thought everyone else in the family was doing well, so was particularly sad he was having a tough day. He had had a cold the last few days, and has been doing a lot of work on top of it.

A few minutes later, I wheeled Spliggle out to a sitting area outside. The Cat’s teacher saw me and came over (the kids were in the classroom and out of sight.) She sighed, telling me that the Cat had a rough day. She described several incidents, said he had two time-outs and had difficulty sitting at lunch. He was shrieking a lot, and there was a problem over a truck. She described it as the worst day yet. I was thankful for her honesty and agreed when she said how frustrating it is to not know why the Cat is upset about something. I told her we had been trying frequently to cement, “Use your words instead of screeches so that we can understand what is wrong.” She nodded and patted my shoulder.

So much for the “good night of rest!”

Upon returning home, Splig was reluctant to take his nap. The Cat was wild and wanted to run around. I put on some TV, hoping he might settle a bit. Since he now had the TV, I started cleaning the kitchen. I’ll work out later, I thought.

As I returned some stray train cars back to their rightful place in the Cat’s train table behind the couch, I was shocked to see a puddle of pee.

While the Cat was potty-training, we had plenty of poo-smeared-on-the-walls and peeing-in-freight-cars incidents, but that stopped over a year ago (with a couple exceptions, such as an unfortunate infection the first week of school that led him to fear peeing in front of his new teachers whom I had told he was potty trained.)

As far as we knew, the Cat was fully potty trained except for frequent accidents at night. But we had been told that was normal for young boys and not something to worry about. I didn’t like that the Cat would fall asleep on the couch or the carpet when really tired and pee at that time, but it seemed in the same category as the nighttime wetness, so I didn’t believe a punishment would be appropriate.

About two or three weeks ago, I noticed little wet (or dried) circles on the carpet. At first, I thought it was milk. The Cat likes to dump milk on Spliggle’s head “to keep his hair down” and Spliggle likes to spray his bottle all over. But upon examination, I discovered the puddles were urine.

Then last Saturday, I picked up an inverted bucket in the middle of the carpet and accidentally tipped over a little bin from Spliggle’s “tool center” that was hidden inside. A yellow liquid spilled out. I was stunned and in denial until I sniffed it.

On Sunday, the Cat did the same thing with the other tool center bin, again covered with an inverted bucket. This time, I knew what it was and the pee didn’t spill out.

I believed that the Cat had been thoroughly talked-to and punished to understand not to do it again, so I was surprised to see the pee in his train area today.

But apparently, he saw a loophole. Don’t use buckets as potties, but apparently it is okay to just randomly pee on the floor. Or perhaps he was aiming for a freight car?

I looked around his area behind the couch. There were several puddles, and many of his toys were affected in one way or another. Meanwhile, the smell of pee from the couch was driving me crazy. (So much for the blot, blot, blot method!)

I sent the Cat to his room so I could clean. Spliggle started screaming from his room; he hadn’t yet fallen asleep.

The next several hours were a frenzy of activity. I would start picking up the toys in the Cat’s area to clean, then bring something into the kitchen and remember that I wanted to at least start the dishwasher. But to start the dishwasher, I’d have to load it with the dirty dishes strewn about. Oh, and I had forgotten the groceries in the car! Must put the milk away.

Well, except that pee is just soaking in behind the couch. Oh, but we need bread! Bread takes a little over 3 hours to make in the bread machine, so I should get it started now. But also, I have lots of laundry to do: all the blankets that the Cat has peed on, the covers to the sofa cushions, and random dishtowels.

But the bread!

To start the bread, I need to clear off a part of the counter. I need more wipes. To the garage to get more wipes! Huh, wonder why our (actual) cat hasn’t eaten her wet food? It is covered in ants. Huge trail of ants. Thousands of ants. Better get the ant bait. Open garage door to retrieve smelly hockey uniform to add to the laundry and to fully apply ant bait to the various parts of the trail. Forget to close garage door until several hours later. (Thank goodness we live on a court. I don’t think anyone stole anything from us, but having our stuff on display for several hours makes me uneasy.)

I totally failed at triage. Too many items were priority one and I was scatterbrained. But somehow I got it all done. Unfortunately, this meant Spliggle was sadly ignored when he got up every half hour from his micro-naps. I went upstairs to give him a new bottle and change his poopy diaper, but I couldn’t let him downstairs in the midst of the house being torn apart. It was terrible, but Splig was safer in his crib. (And he should have been sleeping, anyway!) When I finally let him downstairs, I stuck him in his high chair to eat and watch TV, safely away from my family room activities.

Meanwhile, the Cat was bouncing off anything and everything. He thought the carpet cleaner was cool and loved watching me clean. I told him it was very difficult and kept iterating how only to pee in the toilet. He kept saying, “I’m sorry.” He then said, “I’m difficult!” To which I said, “This is very difficult. I am cleaning a lot because you peed on the floor and on the couch.” He said, “I am difficult. You are difficult. We two are difficult.” If I had been in a better mood, perhaps I would have smiled. Later, he kept telling me that he was "sad at me" and would hmphf. I was fearful of sending him to his room since he would probably wake up Spliggle, so I ignored his requests to stop cleaning to bring him milk and to play.

From around 2:45pm to 8:15pm I cleaned and sorted toys, picked up dishes, wiped down counters, vacuumed, made bread, did laundry, killed ants, put groceries away, fed fish, steam-cleaned the carpet, and cleaned the upholstery. I took two email and water breaks, plus fed the boys (please don’t mess up the kitchen floor that I vacuumed!)

At 8:15pm, I read email and caught up on blogs. I then picked up the National Geographics and started reconstructing the family room on the dry portions of the carpet. (The couch will remain deconstructed until morning, as will a padded bench and accompanying pillows that had also smelled suspect)

But I didn’t get to that black bean soup until 9:45pm. It was yummy.

So, I deserve a nice bath, right? And maybe I don’t need to do the exercise bike since I was on my feet all day? Especially because I threw out my shoulder while picking up toys, yet it was somehow thrown back in with the rhythmic motion of the vacuum and carpet cleaner? (It still aches, though.)

Oh, but too bad I clogged the bathtub with the carpet-cleaning muck. The declogger takes 6-8 hours. So no bath for me. (Perhaps a warm shower?)

Fortunately, now both boys are asleep and the house is clean. I think I still smell pee, but it might be in my head. I didn’t clean one hundred percent of the toys because I couldn’t. The priority was to get it off the carpet and couch. Perhaps I will go bucket by bucket tomorrow. I think the board books might be affected.

Interestingly, I did not yell today. I just kept trucking. I don’t know if it was because I recognize that the Rita, Katrina, etc., stuff going on is so much larger than a pee-covered carpet, or because I was zenned-out from my Bible study this morning, or what. Don’t get me wrong – I was very angry and frustrated – but for some reason, I handled it better than I would have thought.

And of course now that it is over, I can see some humor in the situation, but most of all, I have a clean family room and kitchen, if only for a night!

Posted by karianna at 10:51 PM | Comments (3)

September 20, 2005

In Pursuit of Education : Part Two

Saturday evening, I attended a 25th anniversary celebration for an independent school out in my area that serves infants through 6th grade. It is a school I have been looking at for the Cat (and by default, Spliggle too.) On advisement from an enthusiastic parent, I had gone to one of their open houses a couple months ago and was thoroughly impressed with the headmasters and their educational philosophy. They have lots of animals, an organic garden, and three different play structures, each for a different age group. The “classroom rules” are consistent: the same for each grade level. The “routine” and patterns of learning are similar for each grade level (yet suited for maturity level.) This consistency would be amazing for the Cat.

The friend who had recommended the school has a daughter with an auditory-processing disorder (who happens to be the same age as the Cat.) She had mentioned to me how the school had been accommodating to her “special needs” and how the overall structure and educational philosophy took into consideration different learning styles.

I was impressed during the open house, and I was even more impressed Saturday evening. It was like a wedding! They had a dance floor, little white lights, marvelous food, and even better companionship. I perused photographs of the children and staff, and chuckled at the green and red elves in the holiday play and smiled at the sea of blue-plaid uniforms lined up in front of the Washington Monument: the uniforms were the same, but the faces were all different colors. I interviewed parents for their impressions. They were all so complementary that I wanted to sign up my boys on the spot! They were not snooty or dripping with diamonds as the stereotype may dictate.

The Headmasters were fabulous, as I had remembered from the Open House. The speeches made on behalf of the school were wonderful. One teacher had herself attended as a child, and now her children attend. The Headmasters’ twin daughters also teach at the school and have their children there. Everyone involved with the school who I met was articulate, friendly, and enthusiastic.

I saw in this celebration the same pride and excitement that I feel about my high school. It is certainly tempting to send my boys there.

But then on the other hand, I wonder. Independent schools are expensive. And by sending my children to an independent school, I am sending a signal about our public schools. How can I help improve public schools if I send my children to a private school? I want what is best for the Cat, and since I know that his future teachers are going to need to be a bit flexible to accommodate his need for routine and initial adjustment period, my gut reaction is that the independent school is better for him. It is a “family” that I believe he would trust once he acclimated. The smaller class sizes would give him the opportunity to seek help if necessary. I am concerned that he would be overwhelmed and lost in public school.

I guess the upshot is that I didn’t picture myself ever attending a private school (Part One,) but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me socially and academically. Likewise, I didn’t think I’d be one of “those parents” who sent their kids to an independent school, but if we decide to go that route, it very well might be the best thing that ever happens to the Cat.

Posted by karianna at 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

In Pursuit of Education : Part One

Saturday morning I went to an Alumni Association meeting for my high school alma mater. I am the co-President, although the other President is so involved in the school activities and such that I am more of a “silent partner” who fills in when he cannot make meetings. I enjoy the role because it enables me to sit on the Board of Trustees, and I think my contributions there are more valuable than those towards the Alumni Association.

I absolutely love my high school. I am eager to be able to put more effort into it once the kids are a bit older. Each year that I have been on the Alumni Board and Board of Trustees, I’ve started out telling myself that I will attend every meeting and do all my “homework,” but inevitably, a conflict comes up, and family comes first. When the kids are more independent, maybe I will be able to feel that I have made more of a contribution. But every little bit that I can put in makes me glad. Walking through those halls brings back such wonderful memories.

The public schools in my area growing up were excellent, or at least that is what people said. My husband was later shocked at some of the stories I told him about junior high (such as there not being enough substitute teachers so that we had a fireman “teach” our Algebra II class for two weeks, or that my eighth grade history teacher just had us watch films every day to keep us busy,) but I believe I had a strong solid elementary school education.

My parents saw the academic and social decline in junior high at the same time that my older cousin went off to “a private school in the city.” We were a bit perplexed that my aunt and uncle would send him to a private school an hour away when his local high school was one of the best in the state. My cousin was angry. He wanted to be with his friends.

But quickly, we heard amazing stories. My cousin loved it at his new school. He was actually challenged. His new friends were bright and friendly. When a group of them came “out to the country” to visit him at his house (I believe for a chorus retreat) my aunt was impressed and pleased that the kids cleaned up her kitchen after dinner and always asked how they could help out.

My cousin told me I had to apply. There was no question.

With two days notice, my aunt offered to drive me to take the SSAT: Secondary School Admissions Test. I hadn’t prepped for the test, and was pretty nervous. The others in the classroom were “career private school attendees” who asked me to which other schools I was applying, and what school I was currently attending. I felt sheepish admitting that I was a public school gal, and that I was only applying to one “private” (I later learned to call it “independent”) school. I definitely felt out of my league, but felt I had nothing to lose.

When I visited the school for my interview, I was surprised at how polite the other students were, and how respectful the teachers were of the students and vice-versa. I had stepped into an alternative universe where learning and interacting with material was a noble pursuit. The kids weren’t all “nerds;” some were outgoing, all were friendly, many were stylish, all fabulous folks who happened to be highly intelligent. The word “diversity” is overused, but that is what I was greeted with: all shapes and colors and cultures. And the kicker is that it was spread out fairly well socio-economically as well. Truth be told, there were probably more rich white kids than there were other types, but for an independent school, we were exceptionally well balanced when compared to other private schools and to the makeup of the city as a whole.

I was ecstatic when I was accepted, though it did seem a bit awkward to grasp that I would be attending a “private” school!

Those four years were incredible. I didn’t feel pressure from social cliques. I felt comfortable in my group of friends and didn’t have longing for any “popular” kids because really such a thing didn’t exist. I was introduced to new ways of thinking and became more “worldly” than I was in my relatively small town an hour away. It was cool to be smart.

When I went off to college, the cliques returned. The notice of someone’s skin color returned. Attention to one’s wallet size returned. I found my niche in a “co-ed literary society” which was a Greek organization that had started out as an all-male fraternity but that had become co-ed in the 70’s and had split off from the all-male arm in the early 90’s. That group was great for me and I felt comfortable in that environment. Overall, college was okay, but I missed the supportive atmosphere of my high school.

When I returned from my adventure back East, I jumped back into the alumni activities and set out to become more involved in the school. It had made such a difference for me academically and socially that I am adamant about continuing its pursuits and encouraging others to attend. It is one of the most popular independent schools in San Francisco, and the caliber of students it attracts is outstanding.

Therein lies a bit of a problem, however, because one aim of the school is to be accessible and to not be snobby. Fortunately, the admissions staff is spectacular at finding students who (like me) never pictured themselves as being “private school” material. There is a “sliding” tuition scale (and nobody knows who is paying full price and who is paying a great deal less, and nobody cares.) The kids today are just as wonderful as I remember them being when I was there. Incidentally, this school has been instrumental at starting a (public) charter school in the city. It is important to spread the educational philosophies and methods beyond just the tiny population of independent school students.

I have the first Board of Trustees meeting of the school year this evening, and I am rearing to go! I get that warm, fuzzy feeling when I walk down the halls and when the Headmaster talks, although I feel really old because he started his employment at the school the same year I was a freshman, and he is in his 18th year now!

Posted by karianna at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2005

Driving Barefoot

I was looking on amazon.com to see if I could find a book that I recall from my youth that was something like “Fortunately, Unfortunately.” It was a collection of little stories in which something bad would happen that would turn out to have a pleasant effect and vice versa. The events of the last several days have been similar in that things that I expected to go poorly went better than expected, and vice versa.

Wednesday was especially like that.

Wednesday was the first day of school for the Cat. Given his difficult orientation day, I was concerned about his behavior. Although I was embarrassed during the orientation, there were fewer families in attendance than the actual classroom population. There would be many more potential witnesses to the Cat’s behavior on the first day of school.

My husband and I had spoken to the Cat Tuesday evening to prepare him for the first day. No shrieking. No grunting. No screaming. Use your words. Say “hi.” And each time we talked about it, the Cat would say he was sad or nervous. We practiced with stuffed animals. We rewarded him with chocolate chips when he would respond, “hi” instead of grunting. After he had a belly filled with chocolate chips and as best an understanding as we could hope for, he fell asleep. Before he went to bed, he requested that Daddy bring him to preschool along with Mommy.

I set my alarm. It didn’t go off the next morning.

30 minutes off schedule, I raced around preparing lunches for both boys. Although it wasn’t Spliggle’s turn to go to preschool, I would be attending Mom’s Circle that morning, and Spliggle would go to church daycare. The preschool is on the church’s campus even thought it is a secular program. Everything was perfectly planned: The Cat drop off at 9:15am, then Mom’s Circle at 9:30am. I tried to pull myself together as much as possible. I’d be meeting some parents for the first time, and some new Mom’s Circle participants. I wanted to look good: first impressions and all. Miraculously, I was done with the preparations on time! I could leave!

But Husband said he needed at least 10 minutes. I was a little confused. After all, even if he were going to meet us at the church to say goodbye to the Cat, it would take me a few minutes on “the other end” to unpack everyone from the van. I figured I could leave now, and he could catch up with us.

He was going to come in the same car. Didn’t I remember that the Cat had said he wanted his daddy there?

Oh. Um, how would you then get to your office?

I knew that I couldn’t make it to Mom’s Circle if I were to drive him to his office. I could drop him off at the train station, but even then, I was worried that I would be late.

I had completely misunderstood the previous night’s conversation. Of course Husband didn’t know about Mom’s Circle because I didn’t think it was relevant. So I didn’t mention it. The idea that he would say goodbye to the Cat was the only thing that had stuck from the conversation. I just assumed the easiest thing for everyone involved was to take separate cars.

Stressed and worried, I packed up the kids in the car and we hung out for Husband to finish up his morning routine.

On the way to preschool, the Cat and Husband sang songs and talked about how if the Cat didn’t screech and said “hi,” he would get a special treat. The traffic parted, and we arrived at preschool early.

Early? After missing my alarm and leaving the house late?

I was amazed.

The Cat said, “hi.”

I was more amazed.

Unfortunately, nobody actually heard him say “hi,” since he said it very quietly as he entered the classroom and to nobody in particular, but it was a start. He didn’t crawl on all fours. He didn’t screech. He didn’t grunt.

He ran over to the trains.

On the sign-in table, there were cards for the kids to pick up. Each card had the child’s name written on it. They were to find their card, then deposit it in an envelope on the wall to signify that they were signing themselves in.

I was concerned about this part. I knew the Cat would want to just play with trains. But I encouraged him to go over to the table. He grunted a little bit, but easily selected his card, then thrust it towards his envelope. He then collapsed several feet away, saying, “I can’t do it! It is too hard!” But at least the teachers saw that he knew which envelope was his. The teacher then helped him place the card in the envelope.

Other kids were putting on more of a “show” in being defiant to this routine and/or being unable to identify their name, so even though the Cat didn’t do it perfectly, I was relieved that he had done better than I expected.

Daddy, Spliggle, and I left, satisfied that the Cat had not screamed. A little grunt, yes; but otherwise using his words.

We made record time to the train station and back. Mom’s Circle hadn’t started yet. As I brought Spliggie to child care, I saw the Circle leader pulling into the parking lot.

I was amazed.

Mom’s Circle went well. We had some new faces, which is always fun. We will be discussing “When Jesus Came to Harvard” by Harvey Cox. As I mentioned in my 100 Things About Me, I attend a Presbyterian Church, but enjoy aspects of all different types of faiths and do not claim to be “right” in my interpretation of who/what God is and all that. I am liberal politically and do not support many of the so-called “Christian” political movements. Mom’s Circle is a fun time for me to think about various spiritual aspects of my life, how Christian thought is or isn’t relevant to certain cases, and for me to meet other women in my church community.

Spliggle had a blast in the child care. The new child care teacher had made little “journals” for each child. Every time they attend, they will add an art project to the journal. I was pleased at how well-organized she appeared. Spliggle didn’t want to leave.

As we left, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the Cat on the playground. I hoped he wouldn’t see us. He didn’t. Whew.

The next order of business was to purchase food for a meeting Husband and I were hosting later that evening for us and two friends from the Greek Co-Ed Society from college in which we had met. Trader Joe’s to the rescue: lots of quick, easy, yummy food! I knew I wouldn’t have too much time to cook before the meeting. I knew there were dishes in the sink and some other bits and pieces to be cleaned up back home. I figured I would have about 3 hours before the meeting. I had considered making a Wolfgang-Puck style salmon pizza that works well for hors de oeuvres but is substantial enough for dinner, but I was concerned I might not have enough time, so I didn’t purchase the ingredients.

Meanwhile, Husband had phoned suggesting that I pick him up from the office after getting the Cat. That would mean he could get back home in time for the meeting and we wouldn’t have to worry about possibly meeting up later at the train or bus station.

Thumbs Up. Good plan.

I returned to the church about 15 minutes before pick-up time so that I could discuss the impending in-school evaluation from that government-sponsored organization I had mentioned before. Quick recap: to keep within their 120 day “resolution” period, we reluctantly scheduled an office evaluation for this Thurs, then an in-school evaluation for next Wed. So I wanted to talk to the Director of the preschool to let her know she’d be receiving a call from this center, and to ask permission to have the evaluation.

On my way to the preschool office, I saw the Cat’s class walking towards me. Ugh! Not again! He said, “Oh mommy, let’s go home!” Fortunately, I was able to tell him, “No, go with your class and I will see you in a little bit.” And he followed his teacher. Whew!

My conversation with the Director was reassuring: other kids in the preschool had gone through similar evaluation processes; it wouldn’t be a big deal.

When I picked up the Cat, I saw him sitting in a circle with the other kids, making a diamond with his hands while singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Sitting + In the Circle + Singing +Doing the hand-movements = Huge Victory!

He saw me and promptly broke off from the circle, but it was good while it lasted. The teacher said he had a good day with one little outburst. I was relieved.

I told the Cat that he could have a “special treat” since he had been a good boy on the first day of school. He pouted and said, “Mommy, I sad because I shrieked one tiny bit when Mommy left.” I talked to him a little bit and told him I was very proud of him for being honest with me. I told him that overall he had done a great job and because he had done well, he would get a special treat.

We went to Whole Foods to get more food. Both boys did well, although the cute shoes that I had worn in anticipation of looking nice were beginning to dig into my feet. And Spliggle grew several arms at the checkout at the same time the debit machine was acting up, so paying for our groceries became somewhat of a circus.

We went to Toys R Us to pick out the Special Treat. (Annie and Clarabel) The Cat was still reluctant about choosing a toy because he was concerned that he didn’t deserve it.

annieclarabel.GIF

As I consolidated the Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and various empty bottles, lunch boxes, and other such things in the back of the van, I noticed Spliggle’s backpack and lunch box weren’t among the multitudes of stuff acquired throughout the day.

It was already later in the afternoon than I had expected. The Whole Food and Toys R Us trips had taken a bit longer, and I needed to pick up Husband from his office and go get ready for our meeting!

But I needed to find Spliggle’s backpack and lunchbox. I knew Husband wouldn’t mind having more time at the office to get things done anyway.

I realized the logical place to have left it was the church. I knew I had taken it with us out of the child care, but didn’t remember actually putting it in the van.

Traveling about 15 miles back to the church, searching the church office, and then going to the preschool office to retrieve the backpack added much more time than I would have hoped. But we had it! (It had been left in the middle of the parking lot.)

After walking up the stairs to the Church office, around the church parking lot, and to the preschool office, my feet were in shreds.

I took the shoes off, and drove barefoot to Husband’s office. The Cat fell asleep.

We arrived home at 5:45. Our meeting was at 6:30pm.

Husband suggested I make potato-chip-encrusted salmon. He offered to go to the store (and take Spliggle!) while I tidied up the house. He had transferred the sleeping Cat to our bed and put on “Boohbah” for him.

I checked the phone messages. One was from a friend who would be attending the meeting, “Yeah, it looks like my client meeting is going to be earlier, so I was wondering if I could come by your house around 5pm?”

What!? I didn’t call her back because I was already rushing around trying to get things in order for our meeting. I figured if she showed up on the front door, it would be fine, but I also imagined it was “too late” to call her anyway.

By 6:30, I had pulled off the following:

meetingtable.GIF

The only thing not actually in the picture at 6:30 was the salmon; it came about 15 minutes later, but still before the guests arrived.

Thank goodness for horrific traffic! My apologetic friends were sad to be stuck in a parking lot that was supposed to be a freeway, but I was thankful for the extra preparation time.

The meeting went brilliantly, and it was fantastic to have some time to chill with some friends.

The Cat awakened and joined in. One of my friends works with kids with various behavioral differences and remarked that the Cat seemed like a typical 4 year old to her. She was amazed when I was recounting some of the evaluations we’ve had. Her take on the situation was reassuring.

I went to bed much happier than I would have imagined given Wednesday’s rough start (and that at times during the day I was so stressed I felt like hurling!)

Posted by karianna at 09:43 AM | Comments (1)

August 29, 2005

Brother Karianna

I read Mother GooseMouse’s post from last night which referenced Meghan’s from a couple months ago. Both discussed regrettable experiences in Sororities. Rather than clog up their comments with a long missive, I’ll write my thoughts here:

I was part of a Greek organization in college. It wasn't Pepto-Bismol pink, nor were there guilt trips for not attending every single social event or not participating in competition with other Greek houses. Admission wasn’t “exclusive” in the must-have-the-right-fashions sort of way. Rather, it was a self-selecting group: if people enjoyed the rush events, they would probably enjoy the house as a whole; if they didn’t mesh with people at Rush, then they wouldn’t show up to other events, and therefore would take themselves out of the process.

I got lucky and found a group of writers, scientists, and musicians who had their social moments and their study moments. Oh, and we were a co-ed house. So the things one would expect on extreme ends of the gender spectrum from a stereotypical Greek house were lessened.

Although there were certainly some rich folks, there were modified dues for people who were on financial aid. Nobody but the Treasurer knew who was paying what.

We didn't look down on people for skipping events to study (although the saying was, "When you look back at this night, will you remember being with your friends, or being in the library?") Sometimes I chose the event, sometimes I chose studying.

If anything, knowing an event was coming would make me better prepared in my study habits so that I could get a "break" when the social time happened. It was a nice balance.

In my experiences, being a part of that group allowed me social and academic support that I don't think that I would have received otherwise.

No, not everyone was happy. No, we didn't get along all the time. (There were some impressive yelling fights!) But the majority of the members got "something" out of it. Sure, we have our jokes about people who pledged, then “disappeared,” but I think people figured those had joined only to get housing, or found out the house wasn’t what they expected.

Members of the house also had friends outside of the house: through band, religious organizations, a cappella groups, and other extra-curricular activities. Frequently, some of these friends of friends would later Rush, but even if they didn’t, the friendships remained.

When I see publicity surrounding movies and books that go "undercover" at Greek organizations and "reveal" horrific pledging activities, I am saddened that some people who may have otherwise considered a fraternity or sorority may pass out of fear that all organizations are like that.

On the other hand, our society was filled with people who didn’t think they would ever pledge a Greek House, and that may have been why it was so successful.

Still, when I reveal that I am an adult Governor of the Society and that many of my best friends are people who were in my organization, the eyes roll and the assumptions fly.

I assure you that not all organizations are like Mother Goosemouse or Meghan describe. I guess I got lucky! I wish they had, because they seem like down-to-earth, fun people who may have really enjoyed the place I joined.

No house can be “perfect” for everyone. Fortunately, the house I found ended up being exactly what I needed. (And I met my husband through it!)

I will now go sacrifice a chicken in penance for discussing the Society in public. Oooba-Doooba!

Posted by karianna at 08:12 AM | Comments (7)

August 26, 2005

Bleachin' My Way to the Eighties

I am not a crafty person. In some ways, I would like to be. I make my kids birthday party invitations myself and do little cutsey favors and such. But I am not one of those heavy-hitters who goes to Michael's every weekend.

I just learned to knit last year and have enjoyed making lots of scarves. Of course, I live in California, where nobody needs scarves. I am about a quarter of the way through a sweater project. For Winter 2007, maybe?

But I have gotten inspired by The Cut, Wickedly Perfect, Project Runway, and other shows where contestants pull things out of their asses. So I decided to bleach mine!

I've seen those amazing Rock & Republic and other designer denim brands with the rips and the bleach and the crystals. But $275.00?

I had a pair of boring dark blue jeans that had acquired holes in the knees from working at the Cat's cooperative preschool (the one he got kicked out of; not the one he attends now.) They used to be "prim and proper" type denim, so the holes made them look "off." As a result, they have been set aside for a few years.

But I decided that I wanted to try an experiment in tie-dye bleach. I had nothing to lose.

Plus, it made a terrific project to do with the Cat while Spliggle took a nap yesterday. The Cat was angry at me for defacing the jeans. He saw me bundling them up with rubber bands and complained: “Not acceptable. That is why Daddy is going to get really, really mean.” He insisted that I call Daddy to ask permission. (Since when does he believe that Daddy is the ultimate authority? Pout.)

Click on the photograph for more pictures of the result:

tulipjean.GIF

It is definitely reminiscent of the whole acid-washed 80’s. I am not a rock star grrrl, and I do not wear tie-dye. But I thought that having a blend of blues and white on the bottom might end up being kinda cool. I figure I’ll pair them with a really conservative cable knit sweater or something so that I don’t look too “out there.” I searched for some slouchy-ankle boots, because I think that might work with this “look.”

Either that, or I will resign myself to the fact that they look eighties and maybe I shouldn’t be wearing something that was in fashion when my hair resembled a satellite dish.

But it was a fun project!

Posted by karianna at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

Day of Relaxation

All summer our family has intended to take an excursion with my parents to an aquarium three hours away. Finally, we coordinated our schedules, and a date was set!

Two days ago, my mom suggested that perhaps I skip the trip, and instead have an entire day without kid-responsibilities.

I thought about it for a bit. After all, I was looking forward to going to the aquarium. It would be a nice family activity, and the photo-taking opportunities would be fantastic. But having some “me” time won out!

Today was that day!

Of course, no day of relaxation can begin in a relaxing mood. That just wouldn’t be right! I was awakened to Spliggle’s orations from the other room. He smelled a bit off, so I bathed him. Mmmm. Yummy Johnson’s Baby Shampoo smell.

I brought him downstairs and started to make the kids’ lunches. Less than a minute later, Spliggle was covered in my husband’s Diet Coke. Ooops!

Back upstairs. Another quick bath. New clothes.

Back to the kitchen, I continued making the lunches and ensuring each boy had enough milk to get them through the day. The camera was charged and packed. Extra diapers and wipes were stowed. Random particles in the van were cleaned. Stroller – check. The Cat’s shoes – check.

Meanwhile, the Cat was being nasty. Spliggle was getting into his trains. Spliggle was walking the wrong way. Spliggle had to go play with something that wasn’t green. I took Spliggle upstairs. No! Spliggle has to be downstairs, or the Cat has to be upstairs. The Cat just couldn’t stop pestering his little brother. He said he didn’t want to get his clothes on. He didn’t want to go to the aquarium, even though it was with his favorite people in the world – Grandma and Grandpa.

We realized he was nervous that I wouldn’t be with him. This was a surprise to me, since he constantly complains that Daddy isn’t around, and Go Away Mommy! On occasion, he’ll snuggle with me, but typically Daddy is the one who gets the attention. Daddy reads the bedtime story every night.

Last night, the Cat requested that Mommy read the bedtime story. We had told him earlier about today’s plans, so he apparently was already mulling over the concept that I wouldn’t be with him. Husband told me that he had mentioned something about someone getting lost. Maybe he thought he was losing me.

It is flattering, but surprising, too.

We knew that once he saw his grandparents, he would probably forget about my absence, but in the meantime, we had a scared misbehaving boy.

Time for them to go!

He poured milk on Spliggle’s head.

Back upstairs. This time, I just sponged off his head. I told Husband to tell my mother that even though he has a sticky head, he was bathed and I attempt to keep my son clean.

Time for them to go!

“Oh, where are Spliggle’s shoes?” my husband asked.

Um. Yeah. That. Hmm. The whole purchasing-shoes-for-Spliggle is an errand that had been pushed around a lot. It is hard enough to purchase shoes for the Cat, much less have the Cat in that environment while Spliggle gets some. (On the other hand, maybe if the younger brother gets it, the older brother will want it. Hmmm. Maybe I will try that.)

My husband was stunned that our youngest son didn’t own shoes.

“Um. I will go upstairs and see if I can find something that will work.” I stuffed some of the Cat’s old sandals onto Spliggle’s large feet. He toddled around, falling every few steps.

Well it is a start. We’ll go get some “real” shoes in time for school starting in a couple weeks.

Time for them to go!

Husband came back a few minutes later – he forgot the directions to the place. But he had the membership cards. So that is good.

Time for them to go!

I had scheduled a pedicure and brow-waxing appointment for 10:30. I didn’t have quite as much time as I would have liked to get ready. (What was I thinking with a 10:30 appointment? I should have done it for the afternoon so I could have gone back to bed!) Nonetheless, I threw something together (got to look semi-hot for going to the spa, but not impede the services being done.)

Darn. I forgot to get cash earlier.

I headed towards the only drive-through ATM in the area, which is a bit out of the way. I forgot that I could do a walk-up because I don’t have kids in the car to be fried or stolen. That ATM was broken. I realized I was free to do a walk-up, so drove to another bank across the street. A strange guy was there, but he had a bank uniform so I guess he was a security guard. I got my money and ran.

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment* about the left-side pain / cyst, so Daddy took the kids to the park using the van. When I had Husband’s car, I thought about filling it up since I saw it had only about a quarter-tank left. But, I decided that he would probably want me to come get the kids so he could go to work, so I instead went straight to the park to meet up with him. He’ll fill it up on his way home, I figured.

But it was at a quarter of a tank when I started it this morning. After going down the street to the end of our neighborhood, it had jumped down to an eighth of a tank. I started to panic a little bit, but figured there would be enough there to get me to the spa. Nonetheless, I turned the A/C down and tried to coast as much as possible. I am sure these actions had a negligible effect.

The last stoplight before the spa was very long. I could hear the gas being eaten. I approached the parking garage to discover that men on ladders were blocking the entrance. Painting. So I drove around to the back entrance. Is that a monthly-pass entrance only? No, but the sun was hitting the area in such a way that I found it difficult to descend into the garage (it looped downwards). I hoped I wouldn’t hit the wall. I didn’t.

Whew! I arrived to my appointment 10 minutes late, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Eyebrow lady indicated I had waited a bit too long between appointments. Bad me.

Pedicure lady was thankfully quiet today. Sometimes I like the chit-chat, but today I wanted to just relax. It was nice. I thought about ordering some champagne or something, but decided in the end to just sip some lemon-water.

bluetoes.GIF

I went for blue toes!

The next part of my day was a series of errands, the first of which was filling the gas tank. I wanted to combine “relaxation” with “productivity” so that I could feel good about the day as a whole.

One errand involved going to my parents’ house. I thought about grabbing a deli sandwich, then eating it at my parents’ house, as I usually do when I have the kids. They play, I eat. No, I decided. One of Noah’s Bagels' incredibly yummy Portobello mushroom bagel dogs would be a good lunch. That would be nice.

Wait. I could eat it there!

Oh.

I realized something Much Better.

I could eat sushi!

Husband dislikes sushi. The kids aren’t yet ready for in-restaurant dining. This was my Big Chance.

It was a little odd being a single-diner. But I enjoyed my food wholeheartedly. Food critics use terms like “symphony of flavors,” and this was that. I had one roll that was spicy, but had a honey sauce on it. I hate honey, but in this context, the sweet juxtaposed the spicy perfectly. It truly was a “symphony” as a single ingredient could not be pulled out of the incredible mesh of flavors. The balance was exquisite. Nothing overpowered anything else.

The presentation was phenomenal, too. Alas, I had only my camera phone with me, and I didn’t think to take a photo until I was halfway done with my first roll. Plus, I didn’t want to seem so conspicuous, so I whipped out the camera, snapped, and threw it in my purse.

yummysushi.GIF

When I was almost done, a mom and her two girls aged around 3 and 5 came into the restaurant. The girls immediately knew the types of sushi they wanted. I was stunned. The Cat eats crackers and peanut butter. There is no way he would willingly eat sushi. But these gals ordered up a storm. Meanwhile, their mother educated them about their choices: squid, octopus, and spicy tuna. Be sure to order edamame, she reminded them! They come in their own little carrying cases. Did they know that miso soup was made of fermented soy beans? I did not. Thankfully, I had finished my delicious miso soup prior to this revelation. Did they know that tofu was also soybeans? No, you may not order Sprite; get sparkling water!

After my amazing meal, I ran my errands. I popped into a store to try on some clothes, but nothing was quite right. The shoe selection was modest. I saw a gorgeous dark leather satchel that was $200 more than I wanted to spend, so I left it on its hook, but I picked it up several times to sniff it. I decided to wait until the inevitable Labor Day sales before actually purchasing anything or tempting myself by going into other stores.

So I am back at home! I have done a little cleaning, a little email, a little web-surfing. I must admit that I thought of my family frequently throughout the day. Husband had told the Cat that if he missed me, he could call me. He hasn’t called. I understand why, because I am sure that the day’s adventure has been too exciting to remember what had concerned him earlier.

I cried when I heard Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” because of all the death. Just the other day, I had been admitting to my mommy friends that I get nervous when my husband takes my boys and I am not in the car. If we are all together, fine, I die too. But today was particularly tough because my parents are in the van too. Parents. Husband. Kids. Just about everyone I care about most on this earth. So yeah: I had my irrational moments today of missing them and hoping that they remain safe all day.

But all in all, this day has been fantastic. I have definitely had panic moments: “Oh, was I supposed to pick up the Cat from preschool?” “Is that Spliggle crying?” but I have enjoyed the silence, too.

I can do anything. I am FREE.

At least for another couple hours!

*Results of that appointment:
The cyst they had seen two weeks ago was gone. The doctor has put in a referral for a full ultrasound with X-ray to investigate the left-side pain. He gave me a prescription for new birth control pills in an attempt to even out the hormonal issues I’ve had in the last month and a half. So that is progress!

Posted by karianna at 06:34 PM | Comments (2)