Monday, December 31, 2012

12/31/12 Mishaps

"Remember the time you accidentally drove to Carson City?"

The kids love to tease me about my various mistakes and mishaps on our snow trips to the mountains -- and the material is plentiful. I kid myself about it of course, turning genuinely stressful moments into fond memories...but sometimes I wish there were just a fewer of them to joke about!

It is true that one year ago today, I missed a crucial turn-off on a drive from South Lake Tahoe to Incline Village in the Northern Lake Tahoe area, uniwttingly staying on U.S. 50. Everyone misses exits from time to time, but if you miss this one, a concrete barrier prevents a correction until you've arrived at the capitol of Nevada!

Then there's the trip that I didn't have a thorough checklist of snow items, and was missing one of Katrina's snow boots. And then hung Julian's soaking-wet jacket on a wall furnace and melted its plastic zipper into a useless mass. Same trip, the restaurant I'd planned on for dinner wasn't open for dinner, and the kids had to make do with oatmeal in a motel.

And that's just skiing. Don't even get me started on the mistakes I've made camping....the most recent one being leaving behind all the flashlights. SIGH.

I'm not sure this will top the Carson City debacle, but today I definitely added to the long list. Last night, when we arrived at a new rental house in the dark, I discovered how steep and icy the driveway was, but managed to back out -- and up -- out of it, to back in -- and down -- for optimal escape the next day. I'd backed out and up, turned around, then backed in and down in the dark. Low-traction skills? No problem!

Not quite. Conditions changed by late afternoon, and despite perfect visibility and being faced the right way, I just couldn't get enough traction to pull forward at all. The car slid back and into a snowbank at the side of the driveway, and my attempts to rock it free only got it more dug in. I tried digging it out with a shovel and putting wood strips under the tires, but that made no difference. The car was stuck.

Let's not forget this was a rapidly evaporating afternoon on New Year's Eve, I was alone with 3 kids, and we were almost out of milk! My panic was totally called for.

I invoked a "get out of jail free" card I've carried around for years and years and until today have never used: AAA. To my amazement, a tow truck showed up in under an hour!

The nice young man knew exactly where to hook up the car, and laughed sardonically that mine was the 3rd Subaru he'd pulled out that day, though I was the first who acknowledged that all-wheel-drive is no "stay out of jail free" card. I'd parked in a nonideal spot (backing into it at night), and squandered whatever teeny bit of traction I had when I first tried to pull out. I know all this, but apparently wasn't able to apply it right.

Gabriel oversaw the extraction, which was more dramatic than I expected. The car hadn't looked all that stuck, but it sure sounded like had been with all the creaking and groaning that went on when it was pulled free.

I am so not parking down that innocuous-looking, but car-sucking driveway, again!

This was a short drama in an otherwise terrific snow day. The kids played out in the snow all day, sledding, making piles of snow, of course snowball-fighting. It was colder than we're used to, and they came in often for breaks, but once they warmed up, were right back out.

This snow is way deeper than I ever remember dealing with as a kid in New York. It can be pretty hard to move around in -- you think you're walking OK, then suddenly you hit a soft spot and your entire leg sinks in. I had to laugh when the AAA dispatcher asked me, "How far from the pavement is your stuck wheel?" I had no idea!

I spent my share of time outside today shovelling snow too, outside windows so as to see outside. Snow piles up so high that it blocks the top of patio doors and windows. That's Truckee for you -- often topping the nations' cities for highest and deepest snowfall. Sometimes it amazes me that people live here, Mother Nature is so in control, it almost seems unnatural.

Unnatural or not, fortunately, snowplows and tow trucks are on the alert for people like me who insist on experiencing Mom Nature at her best!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

12/30/12 Pretty In Pink

Leave it to was such a struggle getting him to get ready for our snow trip this morning, that by the time I got him in the car, I was too frazzled to check on him. He was finally in the car, and sometimes, dealing with a kid like Julian, that's all that the moment.

But at our first stop at actual elevation, I discovered: he hadn't put on a "regular" jacket - he was wearing just a T-shirt and shorts when he strapped himself into the car. Gabriel and Katrina cottoned on to the concept that we were heading to higher elevations and lower temperatures, and donned appropriate gear (sort of) -- but Julian?

The kids all have ski jackets in the "snow bags" along with all their other ski stuff, which is never allowed out of my sight until a chair lift is immiment. But when you're heading to 8000 ft in January, you really need a "regular" jacket.

Fortunately for Julian, I have an entire bag devoted to spares. So when we arrived at our rental in Truckee tonight, with my car thermometer reading 18 degrees, at least we had an extra jacket.

Most people believe the humiliation for a 9yo boy having to wear a pink jacket would resolve his chronic irresponsibility, but I know better.

Thanks to my lack of trust, he does still have his "regular" ski jacket, and will not have to suffer the humiliation of wearing pink on the slopes -- but if somehow that jacket too escapes my rigor, he will have to ski in drag.

We arrived at our rental house in the dark, but that didn't stop the kids from suiting right up and zooming out to play in the deep snow. Ah, I so feel like "I done good" as a mom seeing the kids' delight with simple joys in life like snow. Beaches and sand are a close second, but snow wins.

Nothing like popcorn, hot chocolate and a movie to cap off a long drive and a happy reunion with "SNOW!!" (as Katrina would put it).

Meantime, I have to say: pink is a terrific color on Julian!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

12/29/12 Letting Go

The kids and I made a circle pact a few weeks ago: anytime anyone is with Meow-stache, everyone else stays 10 feet away. She does a lot better with just one person at a time.

Today I gratefully showed around a very nice woman who will take care of my cats in our absence starting tomorrow. To my surprise, Meow-stache didn't scurry away, and in fact, watched the stranger intently. This lady is an animal expert, and approached my new BFF...I moved to join the party, but then realized: no! I had to invoke the circle pact! And so I just backed off and let them get to know each other without interference.

Such a nothing moment in most lives, but for a mother already adjusting to missing children and the loss of continuity of their lives, it was almost like a referendum. I've ever been a possessive or protective or involved sort of mom; I give my kids -- and myself -- a lot of space and mostly let them drive our interaction. Turns out, the hands-off thing doesn't work well with this new concept of "quality time" -- making the most of every moment, enjoy all of it, blah blah. Moments pop up and present themselves, we do things sometimes, but I've never made the most of every moment. There's always been a lot of just being in the same space passively without making it active togetherness, doing our own thing, being available to each other, passing in the halls. I like to listen to their activity in the background (well, until the boys turn it into a bloodbath).

Should I be on with them, sit and read books, play games, do puzzles? I've never been that way. Gardening, the occasional foosball war and of course baking together, but they might not want to do those things at any given moment and they're not things I do to be with them; they're just things I do. I miss hanging in the same space all the one-degree-of-separation mom-style doesn't work nearly as well half-time.

Meantime, I'll give myself credit for letting my nervous cat go meet someone else! And of course, I'm so so happy to have my children back close to me....and just around when that's what they want too.

Tomorrow we depart westward and upward into the beautiful snowy Sierras for a glorious week of winter! Nothing more spirit-refreshing than a trip to the mountains with my children.


Friday, December 28, 2012

12/28/12 The Watch

It's been a long time since someone was waiting for me by the door! But this is one funny face to be greeted with.

In an amusing coincidence, I needed to test my scanner tonight, and this was the handiest item to do it with: a note from Katrina she wrote a few weeks ago:

Dear Meow-stache, I
think you are crazy. Love,
Katrina. I also think you are
a little bit silly. And loveable.
I wonder if poor Meow-stache thinks about us as much as we do about her!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

12/27/12 The Morning Notes

My goodness, I'm overwhelmed at the outpouring of support, from friends, family and strangers alike, from my yesterday's heartfelt painful post. My gratitude and comfort is deep and sincere.

It's occurred to me before that writing about my angst and pain unwittingly gives the appearance of overweighting those emotions, and could present the impression that those dominate ones' life....and while there's no question that I have moments of being overwhelmed, in fact writer-types like me are most inclined to to dish at difficult moments. It's how we cope. I suspect all artistically-inclined people encounter the same phenomenon: angst drives expression. Van Gogh didn't do a self-portrait of himself with his damaged ear just for fun, after all!

So I'll balance my written ramblings with an amusing (?) writing-related anecdote. When I was 15, for some reason, I felt my day-to-day life was sufficiently tragic that I needed to write myself an inspirational note every night. I'd write a few words on a card that I folded in half, to prop up by my alarm clock, so that in the morning, the first thing I'd see was a positive inspiring thought.

On the surface, that seems about as trite as dotting 'i's with hearts, but where I am in my life now, that's actually a pretty darned good idea. Those of us in a traumatic period know that mornings are the what a perfect bridge from the relatively relaxed night before. I think I'll start tonight!

Wouldn't it be amazing to find the "morning notes" I'd written myself some 35 years ago -- it'd be so fascinating to see what was so important to me then!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

12/26/12 Sad Things

I was thinking today about grief and loss and trauma. Nice, light thoughts!

Four years ago, an acquaintance from Las Madres lost her 2-year-old son to leukemia -- her only child actually died in her arms. The loss was just unthinkable. I couldn't bring myself to attend his funeral, but did visit the child's grave later that day -- unfortunately while the gravediggers were preparing the site, thinking the coast was clear after the service. How uncomfortable my untimely visit made the heavy-equipment drivers who were preparing the grounds! After brief quiet moment, I slinked away.

OK, if that's not chilling enough, two years later, a Mom friend from that same Las Madres group died suddenly from a stroke. That was really devastating, she was such a wonderful, warm, bright, energetic woman. I'll never forget the time she brought me a wonderful meal for a "Sunshine Service" when I'd just had a baby (Katrina, I think).

During her service, one of the saddest moments was during the bereaved husband's painful speech: suddenly their 3yo daughter cried out, "Daddy!" and ran to her father for a sobbing hug. It brought the house down. It just doesn't get sadder than that.

I couldn't take it, and left the service...But as I rushed through the parking lot trying to hold off my tears, I ran into, of all people, the mother of the lost child. She comforted me, and my guilt was overwhelming. This woman of all people, is comforting me?!

Well, I'm happy to say that she went on to have another son, who as far as I know is healthy, and her family is doing well. I'm ashamed to say I don't know about the little girl who lost her mother....she's about Julian's age. Which is 9, today.

But I'm the one who couldn't take someone else losing their child, or someone else losing their mother. I didn't even know these people all that well.

Now my own life with my own children has been suddenly cut in half. I don't know if what I feel is grief or loss. The feeling of trauma is more from the past, more insidious, seeping out from what I endured over the years leading up to this -- but the loss is more immediate.

It's not a complete loss like at those funeral services -- my children are still alive and healthy and happy. Is it just my grief about my loss then? Does it make sense to grieve when they're not really gone? Shouldn't I be grateful for the half-life I do get with them? Shouldn't that gratitude push away my grief about losing half their lives?

I couldn't take attending a service for an acquaintance's loss of a son, or stick one out for the loss of an acquaintance. How on earth would I ever survive a true loss of one of my own children?

Today, I just learned of another friend's marriage ending, and I'm in a deep funk on his behalf. This man was so devoted, so adoring -- he cherished his wife and family, something I barely dared to long for, knowing it wasn't possible. If his family couldn't make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Maybe my former partner was right that there is something wrong with me. Maybe my emotional needs are excessive as he said, and my feelings and reactions can be explained by the various syndromes and disorders he diagnosed me with. Everyone else was able to stand those funeral services, but I couldn't. And then there are the dreams...intense, short, clear, vivid, starkly symbolic. Recently I had a dream of watching a wedding band slip off my finger and roll away, and I wasn't able to catch it. Ouch. Do my reactions to painful events cross the line into disturbed, syndromatic? I always thought they were just strong reactions.

A onetime close friend said to me, upon learning of my family's ending as I did via Facebook, "At least you get some time to yourself now!" Is that really how simply people see this? I think that was a little insensitive -- what a thing to say to a mother about to lose her children. But maybe I'm too close to it all.

Are my feelings of grief and loss "too" strong to be merely reactions, and cross the line into disturbed? Would anyone say that to my friend as he is losing his family? If he cries in pain or or throws something in agony, will he receive sympathy or diagnosis? Do I take this all too seriously? What's "too" seriously?

I guess the answers are irrelevant. My feelings -- strong, valid, twisted, sick or not -- are there, regardless of what's "right" or "wrong" or if I'm in need of "help" as I was told many times. Today, I'm deeply sad for my friend's family ending....and intensely missing my beloved son on his 9th birthday. I think that's worth a tear or two.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12/25/12 More technical troubles

Ah-HAH! After all my wrestling yesterday with my home wireless network, only for my Roku to fail at the end of the day -- turns out, my Roku failure truly had nothing to do with my mistakes for once: Netflix Outage on Christmas Eve.

(Hmm, but another coincidence: Netflix blames Amazon for Christmas Eve outage -- "...the issue was the result of an outage at an Amazon Web Services' cloud computing center in Virginia" -- As someone who's now responsible for things like sufficient power supplies, this makes me shiver a little. Sure would like to know what -- or more likely, who -- failed in a major data center!)

OK, but those aren't the technical troubles I'm writing about.

I had grand intentions of starting out Christmas morning with homemade cinnamon rolls -- until my dough refused to rise. It did nothing more than an imitation of a giant hockey puck, no yeast action at all. Ick! I threw the whole mass away, it made a heavy thunk when it hit. What's wrong here? I've had nothing but rank failures in dough-rising lately, using the same recipe and ingredients I used as a "beginner," then with moderate success.

My Christmas pumpkin pie didn't work so well either. The top was crackled instead of smooth, and it didn't set right -- even Gabriel, who loves pumpkin pie, didn't finish his mushy, if tasty, slice (though Katrina was very complimentary). At least I was able to get these decorative dough leaves on there without sinking -- barely, because I didn't wait for the proper technical advice from my inspiring expert.

I didn't bother with a whole Christmas turkey, but did roast my usual lemon/onion chicken, filling the house with homey warm succulent smells. Happily, roast chicken is now one of the few things everyone agrees on.

After dinner, I had a very interesting conversation with Katrina about dreams -- as people close to me know, I have very intense and vivid dreams sometimes, that create feelings that follow me for days. Katrina showed me how she wakes herself up from dreams with her fingers on her eyes -- she said that makes the "pictures" go away, but she can still hear the "voices" for a while. I asked her about the feelings that dreams leave you with, and she said with certainty, "For that, you just have to go back to sleep, and the dream feeling will go away." She talked with remarkable insight and clarity about dreams and how they affect you, and appointed herself my "Dream Advisor." These were no childish ramblings, they were considered and thorough thoughts -- so much so that it actually ran chills down my back at one moment. It was almost like my father was trying to speak to me through her.

Christmas was another exercise in bounty and plenty -- er, perhaps plenty of excessiveness, but a fun success nonetheless. No one can complain about boredom for a long long time -- including the pampered kitties!

(photo courtesy of Gabriel and my iPhone -- not bad for either!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

12/24/12 Technology Troubles

I got Julian -- who will turn 9 in two days -- what I thought was a pretty cool birthday gift, a coveted electronic device, and planned to have it all set up and ready to use before giving it to thim.

Instead, I spent far too many hours today trying to figure out why I couldn't get this device to do the most basic operations, like download its content. One of the worst problems, I traced to a very unexpected bug -- yes bug, and I don't use that term lightly -- in the wireless equipment I'm using at home, which isn't anything you'd ever pick up at Fry's. One perk of my job is being handed all sorts of free demo enterprise-grade stuff, but it doesn't work the same way as it does "home" stuff. That means it sometimes also has "enterprise-grade" problems too.

It took all day, but once I pinned down the problem in my home network, I spent about an hour panicking about a customer in Texas using the same stuff, and I'm bracing myself for a crisis when their business re-opens after the holidays.

So what to do? I just want to connect to the Internet to download stuff. It's one thing to disappoint your CEO by picking inadequate network gear, but another thing entirely to disappoint your son on his birthday.

So I worked on workarounds on and off all day, taking extended breaks for silly chit-chats, foosball games, and woodworking demonstrations with kids. I was so happy to have them home, if even for two days. But how frustrating that even 2 milliseconds should be spent not connected to the Internet.

The truly final straw was when my beloved Roku stopped working. Incredibly, despite all my machinations, I'm pretty sure it's just a "Roku" problem, since I could take the same wire that plugs into the thing and plug it into something else, and it works. That's how Katrina watched her dear "Dora" tonight, on a teeny little laptop. Meantime, my technical troubles relegated my sons to an old-fashioned DVD. Oh, the indignities!!

I sure had a nice day with my kids today though, basically doing....well, really, very little, if woodworking guidance and foosball competition count for anything.

I even made a steak for dinner, for the first time in many months. I relished in its sizzly sounds and pervasive smells, and the intracacies of making a perfect pepper crust... it made me feel so at home. Even though only one kid will deign to touch my carefully crafted pan sauce, it still makes me smile to imagine future days when all my grown children will look forward to coming home for the same intangible joys, the sounds and the smells... and perhaps sometimes the delectables, while chuckling good-naturedly about their childhood rejections.

Meantime, I must just get some silly apps downloaded!!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

12/23/12 Rainy RAINY day!

Good heavens -- and I do mean heavens, did it rain today.

I think here in the Bay Area, we get those "pouring cats and dogs" sort of days once every 5 years -- and today was one of them. Just when you think it can't rain any harder, suddenly something blows in and send everyone scurrying for cover.

Of course, it had to be one of the biggest "shopping days" of the years, and only made competition for primo parking even fiercer. I braved one place after another, figuring the rain would slow down at some point, but it only kept getting worse.

What a missed opportunity to hide inside all day, reading in front of a fireplace!!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

12/122/12 Enjoyment

Rainy Saturdays mean a spinning class instead of running. But I always welcome the break and the rainy day!

The spin class is taught by a funny, cheerful guy with a longstanding following, and his classes are fun and popular -- so much that his wife always attends class too. They've been married over 30 years and have a grandson, who the instructor shows pictures of in every class. During class, the teacher makes jokes and says things about his wife, like kidding that she's going to lead the class in the next sing-a-long. She laughs and shyly accepts the attention, never certain what he's going to say, but comfortable in his adoration.

It got me thinking. The few couples I've known who've been together for multiple decades have obviously survived a lot. They're past the stresses of childraising, they've come to terms with their differences, time has made major issues fade. And they enjoy each other.

During spin class, I thought about that for a while: being "enjoyed." Being appreciated...well no, appreciation is different, that implies a specific action that should be acknowledged.

When I think about things like this, I know how much I am my father's daughter. My Dad would have spent hours philosophizing the finer points of "enjoy" versus "delight" versus "surprise" versus "appreciation." (I always knew he totally enjoyed me, even while I drove him crazy....)

I think the word "enjoy" connotes relaxation, a total lack of effort, ubiquity, naturalness; that feeling happy about something or someone is a guttural response, lacking analysis and rumination; an uncontrived, unadulterated good feeling. We enjoy pets that way, for instance....(well, until they poop on our beds).

Have I, as an individual, ever "felt" enjoyed? Sure, by friends and family, and sometimes by coworkers too.

But what by about by a life's partner, someone you spend every day with, share the little bits of life with, who sees all sides of you? That's a much higher standard than a friend afternoon catching up over coffee enjoying your company. Maybe "enjoyment" is such a high standard that it should be reserved for people who don't actually have to live with each other.

Still, I think I do remember feeling truly "enjoyed." I do remember things I said randomly laughed at, being smiled at for no other reason than I was just being me, being accompanied on a silly endeavour just because a mood hit. That's feeling like you're creating enjoyment for someone else just by being yourself. That's really, really hard to remember or imagine right now, but it does ring bells from days far, far it's remarkable seeing how clear and natural it is for other people.

Saturday morning spinning is still a compromise to running, but I do so enjoy seeing this man truly enjoy his revered, cherished wife -- of 30+ years. (Dad, I know you're laughing good-naturedly at me right now!)


Friday, December 21, 2012

12/21/12 Disaster Recovery

Two days ago, two days before the biggest holiday of the year, a "disaster recovery" project at work hit. "Disaster recovery" data centers are intended to take over when calamaties hit the primary sites -- think Hurricane Sandy. Why did the NYSE shut down for two days!

And suddenly, I get pulled into this project, to be completed before years' end (!) as networking representative. That means designing and recommending routers, firewalls, switches, load balancers, and possibly several other sorts of things as well, all the while feebly protesting that network designs don't happen overnight.

The sudden, drastic, impossible workload during the holidays might seem like a reason to complain bitterly, but in fact, I'm delighted, excited and having a blast with the challenge, whether or not I meet it.

Perhaps because disaster recovery is a very current theme in my life right now....!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

12/20/12 Christmas Kats

A new favorite place to hide: under the Christmas tree!

The kids are very excited about presents. Reminds me of my gift-counting days as a kid....Katrina is the most organized about this, of course.

Whee! We're very excited about Christmas!!

Uh-oh....Santa, you're on notice: even though you're in doubt, you'd better not disappoint. But at least there's something under the tree for the Christmas Cats -- including them!!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12/19/12 The Indignity

This poor kitty...not only does he have reputation as being not super-bright, but he's subject to all sorts of teasing about his pathetic, wistful little mee-ows.

And now, his nickname "Dude" has morphed into the downright disrespectful "Doodle."

He takes it all in stride though, never hisses or bats, never runs (unlike his nervous mother), and just seems to hang out and take it all in stride. Not bad for a Doodle. Totally lovable, if not particularly dignified.


12/19/12 Holiday potlucks

This week at school is largely about holidays and celebrations and "multi-cultural" learning, which is sort of amusing considering that the vast majority of "culture" at our school is from India. Even the Indian moms complain that it's hardly multi-cultural -- and the few other Moms from other cultures seem not to have sufficient English to chime in.

But I don't mind at all, especially when it comes to the food. YUMMY! These moms can cook!

Spicy and flavorful and exotic...oh wow. I had to laugh when I saw no fewer than 5 other teachers raid Julian's classroom "potluck" today for the wonderful food -- including Katrina's teacher, who'd just hosted such a potluck herself the day before!

I had such a nice time chatting with the Indian moms (as they almost all are) at Julian's class's Holiday MultiCultural Potluck, asking about the food and recipes, nosing into their culture and lives. One of Julian's table-mates' Moms told me about how they'd moved here a few years ago from Massachusetts, and she felt tremendous pressure at school. We had such a great time talking that, that once again, I left feeling like I'd made a true friend. I chuckle all the time at being a total racial and cultural minority at this school, but I really like the Indian moms. Calm, honest, free of hangups -- and boy, can they cook.

Eek, no closeup photo should be allowed for a woman of my age -- let alone an iPhone closeup -- but, for my son's sake...

One more holiday potluck to go, but unfortunately, parents aren't invited to tomorrow's 5th-grade potluck. Rats, I'd love to have a 3rd day in a row of Idali, Saffron rice, Samosas and all sorts of other things I can't begin to name, but are super-yummy!


12/19/12 Brigidieros

The week before Christmas is a busy one at school, but not so much about learning! Well, not in traditional schoolwork terms anyway. Mostly, it's about holiday potlucks and celebrations and special events.

Gabriel's class is doing something about celebrations from different cultures, including a potluck tomorrow, and he was insistent about making Brigidieros. Believe it or not, this is a treat from Argentina -- which Julian just did a report about -- and wasn't in the "Argentina Cooks" recipe book I bought.

But Gabriel found a recipe online, and insisted we make it tonight. Which we did. It was more labor-intensive than ingredient-intensive, but an insistent 10-year-old can stand over a pot and stir it incessantly, then roll things in coconut. Which we did.

Unfortunately, the 5th-grade doesn't invite the parents to the potluck, so I won't see -- or taste -- the spoils! But it was fun to do.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12/18/12 Prowlers beware!

Someone is always on the prowl for perpetrators!!

I'm quite certain this is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen in my life (with apologies to Sebastian).

We're becoming quite the pair of pals! She sleeps with me sometimes now, and always follows me around. Though she nervously scoots away at the slightest sign of activity, she re-appears cautiously within moments. Definitely a Type-A, but totally my new bud.

12/18/12 Minority Report

Today I went to Katrina's classroom's "Winter Potluck," to which all parents are invited. Katrina wasn't expecting me, so she was sitting at her table in the back of the room when I arrived and didn't see me at first.

(So sorry, no photos -- my "new" camera is on the blink, and I forgot my crummy "old" camera. I now wish I had taken something with my awful iPhone camera, because I know from family how comforting it is to see photos of happy 6-year-olds right now, in light of the horrendous tragic events in Connecticut this week.)

The moment I walked in the door, I was accosted by a kid: "Are you KATRINA'S MOM?!" I've never been to this classroom during the day, I'm not one of those super-volunteer-type of Moms who are well-known in the classroom, and I'd never seen the kid. "Yes I am!" I told him, "Where is she?"

As I made my way back to Katrina's table, I was accosted twice more by little people: "Hey, are you KATRINA'S Mom?!"

Katrina was delighted to see me, and we launched right into 1st-grade chatter, until her "Tiger Table" was called up to indulge in the fabulous spicy potluck.

Alone momentarily, another girl I hadn't seen yet saw me and said, "Oh, are you KATRINA's MOM?"

This time, I put the bright little thing on the spot and said, "Yes I am -- but tell me, how did you know?" The girl hesitated, looked around, and then said, "Well, you're the only other American here!"

Two other (Indian) Moms within earshot, and I, totally cracked up. It was all we could do to contain our laughter! We were all instant friends.

Indeed, looking around Katrina's classroom, it was striking. I was one the only other Mom there without a saree, or long thick black hair, lovely dark skin, an exotic accent, and knowledge of the wonderful flavorful food. There was one other Dad, but he was clearly Asian, and I heard him apologetically explain to another kid that he doesn't speak Mandarin (I think he was Vietnamese).

I've had years of experience with being a minority at this school, so it shouldn't faze me at all anymore, but it's still striking sometimes. Looking around the classroom, Katrina looks so, so different from her classmates. She's the whitest and the blondest -- and obviously her Mom stands out enough to invite curious questions from classmates.

It also seemed that none of her classmates knew she had two brothers, let alone at the same school. They were all verrrry impressed!

I so enjoyed chatting with the friendly kind Indian moms, especially about food.

Being a "minority" (and only in a good way) was on my mind because of this:

Last week, I attended a technical conference in San Mateo with a coworker. This particular coworker is unusual -- on first glance, one might assume he's African-American, but he's not American at all, he's just African. From Kenya, he has extremely dark skin, a heavy accent, quaint expressions -- and a deep resume. I've never known such a geek, such an enthusiast, so bright, so complete. He's really exciting to work with. Even though I'm not personally thrilled by application-level virtualization, he enthusiastically tolerates and inquires into my affinity for wireless -- and good-naturedly laughed at me for my routine airtime-sniffing-analysis at the hotel where the conference was (and sheesh, I hadn't even pulled out my prized spectrum analyzer).

Anyway, entering the room, he and I made quite the odd pair, especially from the same company. 99% of the attendees were white men, so here one company sends a black man and a woman. I wanted to ask him, "Do you ever feel like a minority?!" Not that he'd care or spend any time on it -- he didn't grow up a minority and doesn't seem to believe barriers exist for him, and really, he's so unbelievably capable, they don't.

I've been a minority in one way or another most of my life. I was raised in Brooklyn in a black (that's what we called it then) and Puerto-Rican neighborhood, and then have been a woman in the computer science/engineering world throughout my career, and now my children are one of a tiny handful of Caucasian-race children in their classrooms.

I do know that's not the same thing as being a "minority" all the time, but still, it's a constant reality. Not a bad one at all... but sometimes I wonder: what would it be like to be like most of the world and not be a minority?


Monday, December 17, 2012

12/17/12 The "Message Language"

Katrina claims that Meow-stache can understand her "message language," including reading notes Katrina writes.

Ok, that's a stretch, but what could make a network-engineer mother prouder than hearing a term like "message language"?! That's protocol!! Ahh, a chip off the old block!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

12/16/12 Decorating

The kids and I decorated our Christmas tree today. It was fun, Katrina was so excited! She was dancing around, talking constantly, "Mommy, I'm just so FULL of Christmas happiness!!" Every little thing we did --untangling lights, sweeping up pine needles, finding ornament hooks -- seemed to thrill her.

I still reign over light placement on the tree, but I've completely handed over ornament-hanging to the kids now.

A nice piece of normalcy....I'm looking forward to more!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

12/15/12 Cookie-making

I had a peaceful time with Katrina this afternoon, as I eventually relented to dad in our conflict about my afternoon with the boys, in face of threatening words about upcoming ski trips.

Of course, this called for some cookie-making! Katrina is so much fun to work with on these things, she's full of enthusiasm and happy words and laughter.

And cookie-eating of course. With some Nutcracker-watching inbetween while we waited for cookies to cool. What could be more Christmas-y than that?!

I really missed the boys though, they like making cookies too.


Friday, December 14, 2012

12/14/12 The Ballet

Last weekend, dad graciously agreed to let me have a few precious hours of his time with Katrina, to take her to a performance of the San Jose Youth Ballet's Nutcracker. But then, to my amazement, when Julian heard about it, he wanted to go too?! Whoever heard of an almost-9-year-old boy anxious to see a ballet? But, OK!

I was so grateful that dad allowed them both to go with me, giving up some of his precious Saturday afternoon time with them. That was so greatly generous and appreciated.

This wasn't exactly a professional performance, but no less time and love went into it. I knew about it from a longtime friend, who was actually in it herself, in a non-dancing role. Also, her 5th-grade daughter was in it, in three non-dancing roles this year. They've done this together for the past three years, and I can see what a wonderful thing it is to do for a family. Their sweet Dad acted as an usher and general helper, and I had a chance to catch up with him before the performance and during the intermission, which was great.

Julian and Katrina and I went to the Saturday 6pm performance, and it was absolutely wonderful. I had more fun at this than I ever had at a truly "professional" Nutcracker performance!

For starters, the audience was mostly family and friends of the performers, and was wonderfully animated and enthusiastic. It was held at the San Jose Mexican Heritage Theatre -- not a stuffy venue at all, in fact, sort of in a not-great area in San Jose. We had to park pretty far and walk in the dark from the weird parking lot to get in there.

Katrina was pretty reserved during the show, but Julian was actually rocking and grooving to the music!! I thought his favorite part was the Mouse King and the fight scene, but later he told me his favorite was "the girl in the red bikini" -- the always-sensual "Arabian Coffee" (pretty sure this music was also in Fantasia, though I forget where). I think Julian liked that one as a favorite mostly because of the classic genie-like costume with the halter-top.

I did have one complaint though -- which proved to be unfounded. One of my absolute favorite pieces, Waltz of the Flowers, was choreographed with a soloist during the three "chorus" sections of that piece. Nooo!! The Flowers can't be stationary during that part! That's now how I remember it!!

But, memories are fickle things. Even the gold standard shows, at best, two pairs during the "chorus" part -- and still with most of the Flowers standing idly by.

Barishnikov/Kirkland Waltz Of the Flowers

Ahh, I so love watching this ballet. All three kids watched these excerpts with me too, and were riveted.

The amazing thing about it is, ballet is so hard to do, but I recognize -- and worse -- have done almost every move in it myself, and can name most of them. Incredibly, most of those moves in a super-professional advanced ballet are practiced in plain old intermediate ballet classes, as I took for many years -- just at a much, much, much higher level. That's not so true for hip-hop or jazz, where many of the moves just aren't attainable by the ordinary masses like myself. But there's nearly nothing in this lovely, beautiful, supremely danced Waltz of the Flowers that I haven't done too....just very very badly.

(....and right-oriented....I notice even Gelsey Kirkland does all her turns to the right -- all of them. What if you're left-oriented, like I am? It's as odd as being asked to write with the wrong hand. Well, good thing I was never professional --in baseball being backward is is a good thing, but not so much in dance.)

Funny thing is, years ago, I read Gelsey Kirkland's biography, from which I learned that during the filming of this classic Nutcracker, she had a cocaine habit and a very dysfunctional relationship with Baryshnikov. As angelic and perfect as she looks in the videos, the real story is that nothing is perfect, and everyone has their secrets!

Still, it was so nice to see a delightful Nutcracker with two of my children -- what is more Christmas-y than that?!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

12/13/12 VIP Visit! -- for AIDAN!

Hey hockey nephew -- look who came to visit at my office!!

This was no imposter, he's the real Sharkie, San Jose Sharks mascot -- straight from the San Jose HP Pavilion! (My company sells a whole lot of HP stuff, so we have special status.)

Then again, it's looking like poor old Sharkie won't have much to do this season anyway (NHL Lockout )....but I'm always happy to help him out!


12/13/12 Gaming the system

One thing they warn you about with two households is kids manipulating the parents against each other. Actually, they do that in one household too, but it's easier to get away with in two. Gabriel and Katrina aren't crafty types by nature, but Julian has a little of that in him. And he's learning to work it.

Yesterday morning, the boys got into a horrendous conflict, involving an old camera phone that dad gave Julian. The boys were messing around taking pictures of their below-the-waist parts instead of getting dressed for school. I scolded them numerous times to stop and get dressed, but they just kept laughing and showing each other their porn pictures. Next thing I knew, something had gone wrong and Julian was shrieking because Gabriel had attacked him, and they were going at it fighting. It was now past 8:00am and still weren't dressed.

I took the camera phone and ordered them both to get dressed. I had to stand over Gabriel while he seethed, something about Julian breaking a promise. I stood guard between them until Gabriel was dressed and out of the room.

Downstairs, Gabriel attacked Julian again -- again something about a broken promise -- more fist exchanges, shoving, name-calling. I had to stand guard again between them again as the clock ticked away on a rainy morning, which always adds 5 precious minutes to drop-off time.

Gabriel left the breakfast table, but held us up again when it was time to go -- where was he? I ran upstairs to find him hiding in my bathroom -- with Julian's phone, deleting a photo or something. I must have set it down and he found it. And he still wasn't ready for school.

I took Julian's phone from Gabriel and stuck it in my pocket, then told him that if he hadn't been attacking Julian, I'd be talking to him now about his complaint. I told him I understood that he was very upset about something Julian did, but we really had to leave and would have to settle it later.

Somehow I got the boys piled into the car (Katrina was peacefully waiting, buckled in) and we drove to school in stony silence, arriving just in time. It had been a bad morning. I hate that, because I had to say goodbye to them: dad was picking them up that night and I wouldn't see them again until Friday night.

That night, I got a text from dad. Julian had been talking to dad about his phone. The message said that the camera phone dad gave to Julian is very special to him (Julian), that Julian was proud to show it to me, and that Julian said it'd been taken from him -- could we please have it returned.

Nice going, kid!

I love the twist about how he was proud to show me his phone. Hardly -- he was using it to take butthole photos!

Actually, for once I hadn't even officially confiscated it -- I hadn't gotten that far. Usually my confiscations are a grandiose affair, with big gestures and grim pronouncements and stern ultimatums -- a big show. This time, I just stuck the thing in my pocket when I found Gabriel with it.

And thank goodness I did. Imagine if Julian had taken it to school, and it had been discovered filled with photos of little-boy-private-parts?! Cripes.

But Julian knew what to do. Leaving out the part where he and Gabriel were doing toe-touches to shoot their best version of a colonscopy, he wailed to dad to swoop in on his white horse and rescue him from Mean Old Mother (hmm, now we know the acronym expansion for "mom"!). This isn't the first time he's fudged facts in his favor and and tried to undermine the authority and decisions of the other parent. It's just so much easier now.

Of course, I'm not buying it. Julian has to work out the return of his phone with me. That discussion will start with what constitutes appropriate photography (let's just say...leave out the anatomically-correct fraternal 'X's please!), and end with yet another token agreement from him to get ready for school without being told 100 times. And maybe one about making promises to your fist-wielding older brother.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 Zorro Stories

A new favorite pasttime is telling "Zorro Stories." Our two cats are very very different from each other, even though they're mother and son. We like to tease the son that he's not exactly the brightest bulb in chandelier.

Like this. He likes to hide under a blanket to ambush Meow-Stache.

But forgets about his tail! Some hiding!

She's onto him though. Then when he does succeed in pouncing on her, he gets a mouthful of fur, and spends ten minutes trying to pffthooof it off his mouth. Tough without fingers!

They sure fight a lot. Sometimes it's for real; other times you can hear purring.

Fortunately, Meow-stache has plenty of hiding places.

Ahhh, finally, a catnap.

And a place to hide from my pesky son. But there will surely be another Zorro Story to tell tomorrow!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12/11/12 Birthstones

Julian stunned me yesterday with a total out-of-the-blue kid question: "Mom, where's your wedding ring?"

Ulp, what?! I answered him quickly, "Why do you ask?"

He said, "I don't know, I just want it...just so I can have a piece of Mom."

The sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces could probably be heard from Alaska.

Expertly, I gathered myself, smiled, hugged him deeply, and said, "You ALWAYS have me!!" Then....flash.... "what I need is a 'mother's ring' -- so I always have a piece of you!"

This led to a fun discussion of birthstones, whose month was what birthstone, and what color each one was. I ended up printing Katrina (who is very category-oriented) a page that listed the birthstones and photos of each one.

Thanks goodness December has been upgraded from turquoise to something semi-transparent -- that makes "mother's rings" a little more palatable. Turquoise was fun searching for on the streets of Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1974, but I'm a little "done" with that as something to wear...for now.

That particular photo doesn't show traditional "opal" for October though...I can't find the actual one I printed for if anyone asks about her birthstone -- and she will remember - it's "opal" !