Thankful Thursday: A Microblog

It is 1:00 pm and I find myself ridiculously happy, waiting to go pick up my son for his orthodontist appointment. The stress surrounding my son and his school and my dying dog has briefly relocated to my back burner. Before noon today, I had discovered the following:

  1. Upon Googling “Is popcorn fattening?” I learned that when cooked at home from seed kernels, with no crappy toppings, it can be a healthier snack than fruits or vegetables. Ha!
  2. A fabulous lipstick that is super moisturizing and under $10. And I paid for it with a giftcard.
  3. A pill pocket that my dog won’t dissect to remove the pill before gobbling up the pocket.
  4. My daughter’s favorite hot pink cow(girl) boots on sale in the next size up with free shipping.

It’s the little things…

neelah-boots

Bear With Me While I Obsess: School Tours Round 2

You are wondering right now if I’ve quit my job so I can focus full time on obsessing and complaining about my kids’ education. Rest assured, I have not.

My son emptied out his desk yesterday and brought home a meager 10 or so sheets of paper from the past few months of school. One was a holiday card he had written to us. It said “Dear Family, I hop you hav a grate krismas. Merry Krismas Ha Ha.” Heartbreak. If there was one word my son learned how to spell over the past 6 years, it was Christ. I can’t believe he left the Christ out of Christmas, addressed the card to “Family” and signed it “Ha Ha.”

Why do I have to do another round of school tours? Why is getting into a good school a “lottery”? What about those of us who never win things? The chances that I will win my kids a seat at a decent school are slim. The only thing I’ve ever won is a 6-week pass to a Stroller Strides class, and I’m pretty sure I was the saddest, dumpiest looking mother there and they set my raffle ticket aside for easy identification. This would be the quickest way for them to banish me from the smiling fit momma club, knowing I’d never follow through on 6 classes.

I’m drawn to unconventional ways of learning and institutional rule breaking. I’ve visited a couple of magnet schools focused on the STEM model of learning, an art magnet school which incorporates the arts into the district’s core curriculum, and a school for gifted and talented children. Next week I will visit a Christian school. I can’t decide which school is the best fit for my kids – I mean, will they be scientists, artists, social activist/engineers or pastors? And worse, will I once again fail to secure a spot at ANY of these options, and then they will just be regular kids? The last part of that sentence should be read in your sarcastic voice.

Last year, I was really excited to visit a dual language immersion school. At the last minute, I had a work trip and my PILL (partner in lawful living), had to visit in my place. Unfortunately, the school brought up unresolved trauma for my PILL, who excitedly reported back to me that the kids there are required to spend about 60-70 percent of their time in the “second language.” It brought him back to his early days of kindergarten when nuns beat him for not being able to speak English.

As I’ve been lamenting these past several weeks about my neighborhood school, I’ve also been reaching out to different parents to see how their kids’ experiences are at their various schools. All of their kids are loving their schools, yet all of them mention the difficult transition between the current school and our former private, small Christian daycare.  At this daycare, the teachers were amazing, learning was active and interactive, and according to my son, they didn’t have rules, had recess at least seven times a day (with access to 14 uniquely themed playgrounds) and could talk about God as much as they wanted. Two meals and snacks were included as part of the fee. I got to see my son’s teachers every morning and every night when I dropped him off and picked him up. He brought home enough school work and art work to fill a storage locker. His eyes sparkled most days and at the end of the year, he was honored as the “Number King” for writing his numbers past 5,000 over the course of the school year. Now he blends into a sea of khaki and blue and his teacher constantly reminds me that she can’t easily keep track of 20 kids and communicate regularly with all the parents when she has a class that large. Twenty? I will leave this here.

In conclusion, I’m praying for a miracle. That I will somehow find a school that my kids actually enjoy in their post daycare lives. And that I don’t have to have the “I’m going to drop of out school” conversation that I had the other night with my 6-year old for another 10 years.

Microblog Thursday: An Unsatisfying Break from Alliteration

Today was my afternoon off to pick up my son from school. It was a beautiful day, with temps near 50F and a bright, warm sun. When I picked him up and asked him how he wanted to spend the afternoon, I had a brief fantasy.

“Momma, I’d like to find a coffee shop with a patio and enjoy a hot chocolate while I tell you about my day.”

Instead, we took turns kicking down the snowman in the backyard and walked to 7-11 for a slurpee.

After we picked up his sister from pre-school, he suggested we all jump on the bathroom scale together to see how much we weigh collectively. Getting on a scale with two children with Asian genes was not my idea of fun. But I did it. For the children.

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An Ode to Siri, My Trusted Co-Parent

The other day, I felt like I might have landed on a brilliant invention. An app you can use to have those difficult conversations with your child. Instead of having conversations about drugs, sex, and Donald Trump with your kids, why not just create an app to whom you can delegate that responsibility. I mean, there is an app for practically everything these days.

This flash of brilliance was brought on by my increasing reliance on Siri to engage with my children on challenging topics. Prior to discovering the vast knowledge that Siri possesses, I was trying to answer these difficult, and sometimes, ethically gut-wrenching, questions on my own. Now, when I’m weaving through difficult city traffic trying to make an appointment on time and my son asks me when the sun is going to explode, I just hand my phone back to him. It’s better that way anyhow as I won’t be tempted to respond to texts or check Facebook comments while driving.

Siri is proficient in discovering the biggest anything on Earth. From dinosaurs to trucks to sea monsters and poop. She can also find the smallest house or the oldest man on Earth. I have no doubt that she might have played a crucial role in finding Osama bin Laden.

biggest-biggest

The other night, when I briefly grabbed my phone from my son to send a text, Siri was in the middle of looking online to find out “what is the biggest boob on the Earth?” He swore up and down that he was saying “poop” and Siri got it wrong. He’s 6 years old, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

This morning, as I got out of the shower, I heard my daughter chatting with Siri. She was saying “Show me a picture of a bear eating a man.” I quickly threw on a towel and descended on her, snatching the phone without warning. She would have had nightmares for weeks.

However, it was on the way to church today that I concluded that Siri might truly be the best source of information for our family. My daughter yelped from the backseat that she had just swallowed some gum and asked what would happen. Naturally, I wanted to hand the phone back to her and say, “Here, just ask Siri.” It was here where my PILL, or Partner in Lawful Living (as opposed to Partner in Crime – you can draw whatever conclusions you’d like from the acronym) preempted me. According to him, now that she had swallowed her gum, she had to be very careful whenever she had the urge to pass gas. Should she fart while she was in Church Party, it was very possible that her back-end would blow a bubble, her leggings would expand, and her fart would smell like Juicy Fruit. And it would be embarrassing. My son joined in, full of tips on how to reduce the size, sound and smell of a fart. Apparently, this was not something he had learned from Siri, but had thought up the techniques himself and tested them and they worked. Tried and true.

After witnessing this conversation, I was determined that Siri would have had the edge on answering this question “correctly.” Although I did conclude that in the end, interactions with Siri, my PILL, and my forthcoming app will still all require adult supervision.

 

 

 

School Meetings and My Pagan Daughter

The long awaited meeting finally occurred and I hope some forward movement will happen regarding my son’s school situation. I went into the meeting in a state of hyper vigilance. I probably could have felt a speck of dust land on me, but I wasn’t nervous. My son’s teacher had already made cultural and economic differences an issue prior to the break, so I was prepared for some undercurrent and was particularly aware of how I was being perceived. My son is biracial but few people are aware of it based on his appearance. From what I’ve observed in my interactions with his class, he is one of two white “appearing” children, the other being a girl. On further thought, being one of the perceived culturally different kids in class could pose some barriers that might not be there if he blended in. I do know that his teacher is wrestling with her feelings about me and after I was invited to share our story about what was going on, she pushed back from the table, her body tensed and she sat back in her chair. I recounted the points I had shared earlier in email, what I was observing, and what I needed moving forward. Even though I felt emotional at times, and I am prone to bawl my head off in any situation, I refused to fall into the “white woman’s tears” syndrome in this context where I couldn’t afford to distract people and lose sight of the issue.

I know that school personnel in general are subjected to a lot of crap from parents. Based on earlier conversations with me, I know my son’s teacher went into this situation on the defensive due to that fact, as well as her perception that I am culturally ignorant and economically privileged (although if the latter is true, we would have never met in the first place because we would have lived in a nicer part of town with a higher performing school). I’m not sure if the meeting today made any progress on how we interact in the future and the perceptions we have of each other, but everyone at the table did agree to communicate more frequently and treat the resolution of the concerns as a partnership. Other staff will be looped in as to what is going on with the teasing and name calling, the principal has scheduled a formal “restorative” conversation with one of the boys who is at the center of the conflict, and my son’s teacher, at least for the next couple of weeks, will shoot me a brief note at the end of the day about how the day went and anything out of the normal both in terms of my son’s behaviors or others’ towards him. While the meeting was productive, the climate was awkward and tense between all of us in our different roles, contexts, and assumptions. I hope that what we have initiated can be a positive experience moving forward where the elements of that climate can transform. I appreciate the questions and concerns that have come my away about my son’s school situation and wanted to provide this update for people who are interested.

On a lighter note, my daughter has started signing her name accompanied by an image of a pentagram, or in some cases, the pentagram simply is her signature. Kind of like what Prince did in the 90s. “The child formerly known as.” There are several “mainstream” ways this can be interpreted (like my daughter, the pentagram appears to have been associated with Satan) so I am somewhat amused. I will leave you with a sample:

n-star

Circled Pentagram

A circle around a pentagram contains and protects. The circle symbolises eternity and infinity, the cycles of life and nature. The circle touching all 5 points indicates that the spirit, earth, air, water and fire are all connected.

-taken from http://www.angelfire.com/id/robpurvis/pentagram.html

Au revoir 2016! Phew!

I’ve been dying to write again! Every day I categorize my experiences, my thoughts, my interactions with the kids, into short stories. It has been so long.

Let me start by saying that I AM SO GLAD CHRISTMAS IS OVER! My mood starts a downward spiral shortly after Halloween every year with the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the new year starting. So much pressure occurs at the end of the year. The pressure not to gorge myself so that the only time I’m comfortable is when I’m wearing pants with an elastic waistband.  The pressure to make up for my perceived single mother with limited resources status and throw a great Christmas filled with the perfect presents for the kids. The pressure to start yet another “this is going to be the best year ever” kind of year.

On top of these routine stresses, this fall has also brought problems with my son’s new school. We will call what he is experiencing “not bullying” because it doesn’t fit the legal definition of bullying. Kind of like when you are at work and a police sergeant tells you he’d like the key to your “panty drawer” or a former sheriff asks if you are wearing underwear to make a point in front of his subordinates. It doesn’t make you feel real good but technically it’s not sexual harassment because they are not in positions of power over you demanding sexual services “or else”. “Not bullying” happens when your son’s classmate calls him names like “stupid, crybaby, dumb” or combinations of those terms but it’s excusable because the name caller hears those words at home because he was raised in a culturally different environment or he couldn’t possible be saying those things because he’s a nice kid who otherwise is always complimenting people. “Not bullying” happens when your kid gets picked on occasionally on the playground for the clothes he is wearing but since no one saw it except for your kid, it might not have really happened. “Not bullying” is when your kid is doing well academically and smiles a lot in class so whatever he is experiencing just doesn’t fit a definition that is actionable.

So “not bullying” causes your kid to mope around at home, burst into tears for minor issues, and refuse to get out of the car at school every morning to walk into his “safe environment” and tell you repeatedly that he doesn’t like his new school because he has no friends. I’m looking forward to meeting with his teacher and principal after the break to talk more about this concept of “not bullying”. I’m hoping we can find a mutually agreeable word that describes the discomfort my son is experiencing so we can engage in a plan together to help him finish out a more positive first grade year. Yes, first grade. We haven’t even hit middle school yet. I can’t wait to see what “not bullying” looks like in middle school.

The above has consumed a lot of my mental and emotional resources. Additionally, our beloved little whippet went into massive kidney failure this month. While her care blew up my credit card, she has come through to the other side and survived the “acute” event that occurred. Now she is about as much work as my kids, with a special diet, regular medications, and frequent clean ups of escaped bodily fluids (she is taking in a lot of liquids and therefore expelling them constantly). But I swear she is smiling most of the time and she is back to her  constant pacing of my home and racing around the backyard. Viva la Smoke!

Yes, my preoccupation with holiday stress and such has kept me silent lately. On a positive note, the silence has also offered some time to “listen” and I’ve gotten out and read more of my fellow bloggers’ posts which has been cool.

Not sure if I will be writing again before the end of 2016, so best wishes to all that check this post out for a happy and healthy 2017!❤️

Staying “parcours” With My Fitness Goals

It has been several months since I blogged – back when we were in the throes of camping adventures and expenses. Since then, my brain has been cluttered with experiences, organized into clip art-like images and quips as the days fly by. My son loves first grade and his new school. Every day he leaps out of the car and races across the school lot to the front door where the principal is usually standing, holding the front door open and giving high fives to all the kids as they enter the building. I usually walk him across the street, while my daughter remains in the back seat of the car, her face barely visible, peeking out over the top of the door as she looks out the window sadly. When I return to the car, she always sighs and says, “I miss my brother.” We then head over to her school, where she attends Pre-K. From what I hear, she continues to be the best helper, the sweetest student, a lovely listener, and a smarty pants. As soon as I pick her up from class in the evening and close the car door, she transforms into a gnarly troll.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to be more active. This includes ensuring that my kids stay active and trying to capitalize on their exercise by watching their activities from the sidelines. My eyeballs will definitely be in beach shape by next summer. Since I failed once again to register at our rec center when registration first opened at 7 o’clock on a random Wednesday morning, we were wait-listed for the gymnastics classes that my kids wanted to join this fall. Instead, we decided to try some fancy activity called Parkour. Derived from the French, “le parcours,” is an “obstacle course method of military training” and in more recent philosophy, “a means of reclaiming what it means to be a human being…teaching us to touch the world and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it” (Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge).

From what I can tell, it involves falling, rolling, leaping over obstacles, jumping off of tall structures, and skillfully maneuvering a balance beam. Perfect for 6-year old boys. The gym is owned and operated by a former “American Ninja Warrior” which I guess is a popular TV show. We are not easily impressed, but I was so jazzed after being a bench warmer during the class my son tried for free that I enrolled him for a month of classes and me and my daughter for a one-time, one-hour class. Upon expressing my interest in the “parent-tot” class, the coach gave me a once over and asked if I knew that the parent would be expected to be active during the class. I guess I must have looked more like a slob than I thought. “Well, yes. Of course,” I said, and gave him the once over back. Tall, skinny physique capped with a head of floppy hair that he manages by removing and replacing his hat several times throughout the class, sporting a wristwatch with a too-small face that is probably custom made for scaling tall buildings with his bare hands. Little did he know that I performed a perfect cartwheel this past summer at the park and wow’ed my kids. They talked about it for days…and I heard about it for weeks from my chiropractor.

When I’m not involved in fancy French sports, you can find me at 24-Hour Fitness, fighting with weight machines, plodding along on a treadmill and listening to Drake on my free Spotify account. Lame. Last month I even got hit on. By an 80-year old man carrying a portable oxygen tank who tried to persuade me to vote for Donald Trump. I swear people, this was not my life 10 years ago. Things have changed. Mentally and spiritually for the better. Physically, not so much.

 

That Time When Buying Camping Equipment Forced Me Into Foreclosure

I’m sitting in a Freddy’s restaurant eating a hamburger and drinking liquid poison (Pepsi), after a solid workout where I burned at least 300 calories according to the machine I was on. My nose is red from crying and I am THAT guy. Sitting alone at a table, positioned where I can see all the doors to know who is coming and going. When I ordered, the peppy cashier who is currently singing along to the oldies, could not have rolled his eyes any louder at me when I responded to his “how ya doin?” with “I’ve been better.” Look at me, man. I clearly just walked in from the gym, sweaty and wearing spandex. How many of your customers make a beeline here after their workouts? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

This week has been HELL. Aside from the  world exploding around us, I have felt more crazy, sad and alone than I have in awhile. I am preparing for a camping trip with the kids and just spent more money on sleeping pads than my monthly car payment because the air bed I ordered online this week is defective. Or I can’t install batteries correctly, which wouldn’t surprise me.

I feel more socially and professionally awkward than ever. I’m thinking I might feel better if I invest in a nice, recycled brown paper bag and place it over my head when I go in public. Participating in a national training for work this week made me feel way out of my element. Totally humbled to work alongside such talented people in my field.

I engaged a parenting coach this week to help me manage my interactions with my daughter more effectively. I hope to preserve what’s left of my mind. Since I don’t seem to know anyone who encounters the same level of insanity with their daughter regularly, I may keep friends and strangers alike posted through blogging just to get stuff off my chest.

Thanks for listening, social media world. I know this post has not been uplifting or encouraging. Freddy’s Dirt and Worms sundae is looking damn fine about now. Let’s rally.

Chin Hairs, Chronic Pain, Stuffy Noses and Memory Loss, No Problem

I’ve been on this serious regimen of health improvement over the past month, ever since the visit to my doctor. At the prompting of some readers and friends, I opted to give a chiropractor a go. If you have mentioned to me over the past month that I need to try this, nice work, you have had a profound influence on my behavior. I have also been seeing an acupuncturist thanks to another friend of mine. All of this has been made possible by a healthy balance in my health flex savings account at work, which I need to drain by the end of the state’s fiscal year (June 30) with a couple months’ grace period. The balance in this flex account has been a huge source of angst for me, because as you may know, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Yes, I am switching to an HSA for next year to avoid this in the future.

I’m starting to see a big difference in my overall attitude and the way I feel physically. A lot of the nagging back and neck pain has been reduced and instead of experiencing big dips in my mood, the dips seemed to have lessened. Small dips. This has helped (to some small extent) to manage my reactions to my tiny trolls better.

My son has been tracking with me on this self-improvement mission. He is continually relaying valuable information that he acquires through watching commercials on TV.

When he sees me get the tweezers out:

“Momma. You know those black hairs on your chin? I saw on Grandma Sosa’s TV that there is a machine that can zap those and make them fall right off your face.”

When I was struggling with allergies:

“Momma. I saw on Grandma Sosa’s TV that they have medicine that can help your red, itchy nose feel better. Do you know that?”

This morning on the way to school:

“Momma. Did you know that over the summer kids can lose 400 things of learning because they are not in school? Kumon helps your children remember so they don’t lose all of those things.”

I almost died. “Did you see that on Grandma Sosa’s TV?” I asked him.

“No. Actually I saw that on your TV.”

Have I mentioned that my kids are brilliant? I know some of you who know them personally might have some knowledge that would give you room to debate this. Don’t.

I am also trying hard, so hard to get some time to myself. Literally this usually ends up being time WITH myself, which is not always very exciting, but maybe it is allowing me and the kids some space to appreciate each other more and to recharge. ❤️

Annoying the world. One person at a time.

Today I met my neighbor for the third time in three years. I’m not sure why I don’t see her more often. After our brief reunification, I decided that she really needs to move into my head. She came over wanting to see how my security doors were installed.
“Now this doesn’t make much sense. The hinges are on the outside. That’s just not where my mind goes when I think of security.”
Crap, I think. She’s right. Why haven’t I noticed that in the 3 years they’ve been installed? Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. My burglar came in through my window. I doubt people would stand outside a house with a screwdriver when they can just knock a window AC unit in and climb through.
“Let’s go look at the front door, too” I offer, hoping the outside hinges were an anomaly. Nope. We stand outside, chatting for a few more minutes. Somehow the conversation goes from security doors to homelessness to home remodeling and meth labs, AC BTUs that won’t blow our old electric wiring, belly dancing to treadmills and exercise. My favorite topic. Unsolicited, she offers advice.
“I just moved a treadmill into my house. Craig’s List. That’s all you need to do.”
“Well, you should see my house. Nothing more can fit in there.”
“It’s a lifestyle choice. Put it in front of the TV. You either do it or you don’t do it.”
I just then notice the lettering on her T-shirt. I try not to stare at women’s chests. Lord knows we experience that enough from men without our sisters doing it too. Her shirt says “Annoying the world. One person at a time.” I believe it. Meanwhile, a man who I assume she knows is poking around her front door. She follows my eyes.
“Hey. HEY!!! What are you doing?” She screams across the street.
“Uh oh hey yeah I’m looking for a guy. Uh, a Hispanic guy and yay-high.” He motions with his hand, kind of ducking and dancing back and forth on his feet. Real descriptive.
“Yeah well that guy doesn’t live there.”
“Uh sorry about that. My bad.” Man shuffles off down the street. Neighbor looks back at me.
“I think I love you.” I tell her. Bold. Confident. Guts. I’ve learned the hard way not to talk to people like that.
“I’m a single woman. I know who is supposed to be on my street.”
Shoot. I’m falling short. I have no idea who is currently living in the house directly to the west of me. I ask her.
“Oh yeah. Great guy. He’s subletting from Mark. You know the people with the two big pit bulls?”
Yes. Yes I remember the pit bulls. They hunted me in my yard one day. One stood next to me, quiet, unmoving. I remember I stood just as still, not breathing, the fear emanating off of me, seeing my life flash before my eyes before his owner called him off of me.
“Yeah he has a daughter. Real nice people. And that guy….” She points across the street. “He thought my yard was giving him weeds and he mowed my lawn and put weed killer in it.”
Nice. I need to spend more time at home. Perhaps I could get free lawn care if I let my weeds grow long enough.
My neighbor continues to chat on and I start to drift away…lifestyle choice…single woman…confidence and boldness. I am hit with the sudden realization that I’m boxing myself in. Metaphorically speaking. Nothing else can fit in my house because I’ve crammed my house full with all sorts of “furniture” (excuses and notions about what life should be like for a person in my circumstances). Putting a treadmill in front of my TV because I’ve got too much furniture in my living room is really the least of my issues. And the woman from across the street, the one who is annoying the world one person at a time, is unraveling my tightly coiled mindset in my yard, right in front of my insecure security door.
It is amazing how one mundane conversation that takes place in less than five minutes can shine light on my dark thought processes about who I am, what my life is about, and what I willing to do and not do and for what reasons I make those choices. Not unlike the doctor’s office last week where my excuses about my inability to take care of myself weakly rolled off my tongue and floated away, dissipating immediately, like popped soap bubbles. Convicted is how I’ve been feeling lately, in most areas of my life. I need this feeling to keep building momentum.