Friday, June 10, 2011

6/10/2011 working and playing

worked hard at home tonight, finishing up a busy week. then I had just a few hours to make use of a 40% off coupon for window coverings, expiring June 10. I usually don't pay attention to stuff like this but window shades are expensive!! 40% is a LOT. funny how I've waited for years to get real window coverings and then it boils down to the last hour.

ok i've had enough, good NIGHT to this week.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

6/9/2011 Kung Fu Discipline

Thursdays, we take Julian to Kung Fu, where in theory he learns precision and discipline. Overall I really like Kung Fu and how he learns physical control, how the teachers correct every last detail and put up with nothing, but Julian and his contant messing-around really test them.

Today when I picked him up, Julian's white belt was off him and tossed in a corner. I'd tied it myself before he left, so I knew it hadn't fallen off. I had a feeling this was a consequence.

I notice how the Kung Fu teachers watch parents furtively for their reactions, so I wanted them to know that I'm behind any discipline they have to administer to my little darling. At the end of Kung Fu class tonight, I instructed Julian in front of the teachers that he had to listen to them, and that they'd make him do pushups if he didn't listen.

Julian later explained that his white belt was off because he'd "had trouble" with a kick, adding "but I wasn't falling on purpose!" Uh-HUH. That explains why he lost his belt temporarily.

I'd have been in favor of permanently demoting him, except that the meaning would be lost on him and it'd cost me another $25 for another belt test. My last hope for discipline is shot.

I don't mean to raise a passel of conformists - there is value to challenging authority. I'm OK with behaving "sometimes" if a kid is smart about when. But they have to learn cost-benefit tradeoffs -- a fancy-schmancy term for "picking battles." Not happening here. Julian just messes around and can't quit. Even in $25/lesson Kung Fu classes.

What does it take to get through to this kid?!


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

6/8/2011 Car trouble

Gabriel's soccer team is SO awesome in some ways and SO lame in others. No team party this year; just a "practice" today in which the coach would hand out trophies.

I was running late from work, so first I picked up Katrina, then zoomed home to get Gabriel's soccer stuff at home (forgot it this morning), then planned to pick up the boys and get Gabriel to soccer.

But the last left turn I made before getting home with Katrina, I thought, "that's odd, the clutch feels really light." I didn't notice anything as I pushed in the clutch in again to put the car in reverse to park in the driveway, parked, then pushed the clutch in one final time to put the car in neutral...and it stuck. The clutch pedal just stayed there, stuck to the ground!!

Uh-oh. I wasn't going anywhere.

I was stunned by my good and bad luck. Did my car really just become catastrophically undrivable, with no warning, in my driveway?! It could just as well have died a few blocks away, turning an amazing irony into a huge pain in the ass!! (Note to moto-geek friends: YES I know it's possible to drive it without a clutch, but this was no time to learn, tons of stop-n-go traffic.)

But there I was, in my driveway, with a now-undrivable car. And I had to get Gabriel to soccer practice!

However, we do have the purple pickup. I rushed Katrina into the pickup, then got the boys, and zoomed Gabriel to his last "practice."

But no one was there....did I get the location wrong? Argh, I couldn't check my email, because in my hurry I'd left my iPhone in my disabled car in the driveway. On top of it, the A/C doesn't work in the pickup, a serious annoyance in a truck with manual windows and a screechy little girl who hates wind on her.

I took the kids home, where I found Dave working on my car (just a hydraulic line problem, he can fix it this weekend). I checked email: the team's field permit expired, so the coach handed out trophies at 5:30 today, which had long since passed. Fooey. Not that I care about stupid "participation" trophies, but I'd have liked to make the one little stab at ceremony this soccer experience has had!

Just last night I was working (again) on my Death Valley writeup, which reminded me how grateful I was at the time to know I had a reliable car.

Our first day in Death Valley, we rescued a poor guy whose battery had died after leaving his hazards on for a flat tire (what a day that must have been for him). I had the jumper cables, a working car, and hand wipes for him afterward, and he was pretty relieved! It was 102 degrees on a very long stretch of straight road with nothing around for miles. Death Valley is no place to have your car die.

But I'd taken the boys on far more desolate roads than that, confident in the knowledge that my car is reliable and well-maintained -- Dave takes meticulous care of it. But when your clutch dies out of the blue, it's pretty unnerving.

Dave points out this is a minor, if odd, failure, and he can fix it. This car has always been sort of lemon-y for a Subaru, and this hydraulic line problem really isn't related to the car's construction, but still, it gets me thinking. Financially I don't have the stomachh to buy another car, but today half of me is ready to say "screw it!!"


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

6/7/2011 LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!

School's OUT! Half-day, everyone dismissed after watching movies and loading up on candy, pretty much a continuation of the party theme of last week also. Honestly, why do we fret so much about 5 furlough days and a shortened school year? It seems like the whole last week and a half of school is a total waste anyway.

I took the day off partly because I had to (CDC closed today) but mostly because I wanted to. I spent the morning making phone calls to wrap up my father's affairs, then went for an unusually awesome run at Rancho San Antonio, one of my favorite places in the world. I got home just in time to finish my teacher thank-you cards, quick shower, zoom to school.

I really wanted to thank the boys' teachers profusely, since they both really went way out of their way to help us with them this year. Lots of extra effort, time, ideas, communication, and we really appreciated it.

Gabriel in particular has had the same teacher for the past 2 years, and we're really going to miss her. Not every teacher would tolerate his shenanigans the way she did, but she also saw his strengths and really tried to cultivate them. He says she's a "nice strict."

After school, we had lunch at home and then I took the boys to Inside Line Racing, an indoor remote-control car place at a nearby mall. My skin crawled at being inside a mall on such a nice day, but it was fun running the cars. The boys loved it.

We picked up Katrina a little early, where another teacher managed to get a photo of them in their "varsity" T-shirts. I didn't take the photo; I'm no expert photographer but I'd have moved to get rid of reflections in the background and fix the sun-on-the-camera problem. Still, the poses are delightful.

At home, the most marvelous scene developed: Julian playing "wall ball" against our neighbors' garage across the street, with our neighbors' two sons and another neighbors' two sons.

The two boys across the street are (as of today) in 3rd grade and kindergarten; the other two who live a few houses down are in 3rd and 1st grade. Also on our street and the adjacent court are a 1st-grade girl, a 2nd-grade girl, a 4th-grade girl, and two more kids in this age range who go to Collins.

Most have this: the ever-present non-English-speaking grandmother from the Old Country.

Katrina was also across the street, and I asked her how she got there. Though our street is very quiet (and WAY quieter now that our RV neighbors left), she knows she's not allowed to cross streets on her own.

Turns out, this is how.

She'd stand and holler for Julian to ferry her across, he'd stop his play and go get her! I disapprove of the running, but I'm glad they're following the important part of the rules (holding hands, looking).

I happened to catch the mom of the kids across the street, and actually met and talked to her. They've only been here, what, 2 years? It was time! She's terrific, and works at eBay. Like most of our newer neighbors, she's from China. She told me that their family and 4 others trade off picking up their kids from our school, then taking them to an after-school Mandarin academic learning center (there are zillions around here).

I asked her if she knew what went on two weeks ago with all the cops and firetrucks, a few days before the troublesome neighbors left, and she said she didn't know -- but two weeks prior, an iPad and a GPS were stolen out of her car! She knew exactly when, because they have a camera system that recorded her going out of their house carrying the equipment, then going back into her house to get something she'd forgotten, then coming back out again. (Unfortunately the camera was not pointed at the street so they couldn't see the activity in the car.) 24 seconds had elapsed, and her items were gone from her car. How awful!! I doubt it was the bad neighbors themselves, but they always had so many unsavory characters visiting and hanging around. She said that her husband wanted to move, but just in time, the patriarch of the parolees died, and his arguing sons sold the house and finally left.

We agreed that we should have a neighborhood party to welcome our new neighbors, a young Asian couple with a 14-month-old, though the woman apparently is a "native English speaker." We don't know yet when they're moving in, but we're encouraged by the (real) contractor trucks we've seen parked there.

I have a feeling we've underestimated how much our trashy neighbors brought the neighborhood down -- I think more than we really knew. With them gone, we might actually have the makings of a neighborhood. Now if only I knew Mandarin.

Congrats to the grads!


Monday, June 06, 2011

6/6/2011 Standing Up

I had a really nice, relaxed weekend overall...but in other ways, it was very dark.

I'm haunted by the evil I face at work, and then mega-haunted by how it haunts me. First, I get intensely frustrated at being criticized for things I was doing well, because I was doing them, and well. I was also dogged by the irritation at hearing a coworker say he stands up to Mr. Horrible about relatively benign things (such as Mr.H's total disregard for people's time, always being late, demanding people go to things with little notice) -- but I don't dare to do that after being accused of insubordination. I can't stand it, but my (male) coworkers' observations of sexism might well be true.

Then it bothers me that I'm thinking about this on a weekend at all. Don't I have more important things to worry about? Such as my errant sons, grieving my father, cleaning out the garage, scrapbooking? Yes, of course. But isn't there a point at which I have to accept that the way I am is the way I am, and that I have a hard time releasing my mind and spirit from intense unresolved situations, and that my mind spins on them, occasionally arriving at an answer?

My friend Amy from college, who sadly I have not seen since college, even though I was a bridemaid at her wedding, posts to Facebook:

"You've got enemies? Good, that means you stood up for something in life."

I can't explain exactly why that appeals to me so much, but it does say something. Many people in this world suffer, and make their families suffer with them, because of a closely held principle. My situation isn't nearly as extreme as standing up to the Taliban, but it has elements of that, and certainly the family suffering is part of it. And me too -- I know rationally that my ridiculous work situation doesn't deserve more than one brain cell firing of thought after 5pm, but unfortunately, the way I'm wired, I just care too much about things being done right. For some reason, my friend's quote hits home.

But tomorrow, I really will set aside principle for the things I know are more important -- it's the last day of school, and I'm taking the day off to pick up the boys and celebrate their passage to 2nd and 4th grades!


Sunday, June 05, 2011

6/5/2011 Easy Sunday

Very low bar for success today -- and we met it!

My goals: quick workout at the Y, get the boys to write thank-you cards to their teachers, more house cleanup (that was a VERY lofty goal actually), and then let them watch Harry Potter And the Sorceror's Stone. Gabriel and I had watched it together last night anyway, but of course he'd want to watch it again.

Julian and Katrina, like yesterday, were not with the cleanup program until the movie was really in their faces. I said "3:00 and the movie goes on, with or without you!" Julian stepped up, and magically, his PROBLEMS with cleanup vanished. He got his jobs done fast. Katrina refused and insisted she didn't want to watch the "dumb movie" -- until the TV actually went on. Then, wailing, she said she was in a HUGE HURRY to get her work done. This included folding and putting away her laundry, and picking up hundreds of yarn scraps from snipping an entire skein of yarn into tiny pieces.

In the end, everyone got to see Harry Potter, and the house is ready for the cleaners tomorrow. Yay!

Gabriel had it easy today, since he'd helped me so much yesterday. While Julian was cleaning up and Katrina was putzing, Gabriel made banana bread, with guidance and occasional lifting and reaching from me, but for the most part, on his own. He's very proud of his creation!

Gabriel is slowing getting some toys back, but I'm really amazed at how he doesn't seem any more bored than before most of his toys were put into a box in the garage for horrendous behavior last week. He's spending more time on the piano, for starters.

Unfortunately, I missed Gabriel's Spring Concert this year because I was back East for my Dad's service, but I've gotten a lot out of it indirectly because he's been playing one of the songs his class sang on the piano at home. This isn't a complex song, but I still can't help to be impressed that he can play it, even though he didn't play it in the concert. It's not a huge deal for an experienced pianist to pick up a song this simple, but a kid who's had only a few months of lessons, years ago?

Maybe I'm too much of a musical amateur myself, but it still blows me away that he does on his own, just for the heck of it. I asked Dave how he learned it, and Dave said, "he heard it." It's eerie sometimes; it's like he's just wired differently.

The song is about Peace, called "Circle The Earth."

My son making banana bread and playing piano, and his siblings cleaning up after themselves for once -- now that's magic!