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" !


12/11/12 Communication troubles, redux

Well, my last post was quite the stepping-out! But cathartic....I guess. Finally, a tiny peep into my REAL world. Somehow, dishing publicly makes me feel a little less alone, less isolated, less misunderstood....and a little less guilty about leaning on just a very few very kind understanding people. (and you know who you are!!)

I've always believed that in the end, the truth comes out -- but that "end" seems so so far away. Meantime, the high road has been an impossibly steep climb.

Not surprisingly, yesterday's exchange didn't end there. This morning I got another text message from dad, quoting yesterday's blog post (he's reading my blog?!)

Shall we tabulate and balance our "designated, rightful, precious, unfettered time with them"? If so, after the Dec.30-Jan.6 ski trip we should have no problem with a few hours at the museum. Please just let me know how you wish to coordinate this accounting so this will be easier in the future. Thanks."

Frankly, I really have no idea what that worst it almost looks like a veiled threat to withdraw agreement for a ski trip I'd planned last August -- before he moved out -- for the kids' Winter Recess. At best...well, I really don't know.

But what's really striking -- to me -- is the ridiculing overtone created by "quoting" my heartfelt adjectives. How is it that quotes do that? "....rightful, precious" -- somehow the quotes add a sneering, condescending tone. I'm sure to outside eyes, I'm overblowing it. But not to his. He knows how to hurt me. I should be really used to having my feelings jeered at by now, but so far, I'm no better at brushing it off than I ever was.

The problem with our exchanges are so subtle, so pervasive. It's such a challenge describing to people what I'm truly up against. Without actually seeing the words, it's nearly impossible to convey the problems. Other people's views, opinions, advice, guidance, have always fallen just shy of seeing the actual words.

I'm sure I see and feel them more deeply than anyone. We certainly understood each others' language from the very beginning....arguably, it brought us together. A good friend told me once, with sardonic irony, that what brings people together initially often ends up being exactly what drives them apart. That was never more true than here.

Is it right for me to post his texts here? The breach of privacy weighs on me. No more so than because he violated my own privacy so deeply, so frequently, in so many ways, to so many people, in so many forums. So I'm very very sensitive to that. It's wrong. But I guess this one last time I can rationalize it by saying that right now, it's called for. I'm so tired of suffering in silence. I don't know how else to convey what I'm dealing with.

Regardless, I don't expect our communications will remain "private" for long. I'm searching for a way to convey facts and negotiate exchanges in a supervised, monitored, moderated, public forum. I think that's the best remedy to these painful, counterproductive exchanges: having someone ELSE intervene and tell us both what's right and what's wrong to say and do. I think a set of ground rules need to be established, and a neutral party enforce them. "Counseling" was already proven an abject failure -- I'm not interested in communicating my feelings beyond: "Stop involving the kids in our conflicts." I can't seem to persuade him of this -- perhaps someone else can.

But I well understand that these p*ssing matches are about as interesting to you all as knitting discussions, so I won't torment you all much more with them. And there's so much more to life than this -- I'm certainly ready for that!


Monday, December 10, 2012

12/10/12 Communication troubles

I've been quiet in my blog lately. Partly, I write a lot outside the blog now -- email, or just to myself. Writing has always helped me cope, and never moreso now.

Blog or not, behind the scenes, I'm struggling terribly with this new "co-parent" world. The kids' lives -- and mine -- have been torn in half, split between two places, two worlds. So far the kids seem OK, but I'm having a terrible time communicating with their dad.

"Communication is so important," everyone keeps telling me. "It's essential to establish a positive flow of communication." Yes. But the medium is only a small part of that -- content matters more. It seems extreme, but our communication is so poor that I had to limit the media in order to constrain the content. Meaning: no more email, it was too destructive. All our kid-logistics are communicated by texting on iPhones. But again, medium isn't the real problem. A situation arose recently that demonstrates this.

I'd agreed weeks ago to let dad take the kids to a once-annual "Psychotronix" movie festival next weekend, a special occasion they did together last year too. His movie-festival evening with them will be on "my" weekend, but so far these little trades haven't been a problem.

But then, he asked to extend that time to the entire Saturday afternoon, as early as noon if I didn't give them lunch. I wasn't comfortable with that -- school-free afternoons are a rare treat these days! I was already giving up my Saturday evening with my kids; I still wanted my afternoon.

But I've become very nervous about saying No. The odds of a harsh ungracious response are just too high. So I consulted with a couple people on composing a straightforward response, and waited until I had some support before answering. I knew there was a good chance he'd strike back, and I wasn't disappointed.

This is the exchange that ensued (via text):

Sat Dec 15th: Sorry, we have plans that afternoon. Please pick up @6:30pm as planned, and return them to Parnell, thanks.

What plans? - Julian

Conflicting plans mystery to Gabriel as well. I told them we'd try to arrange another time that they could go to the Computer History Museum. At least they can still go to the Psychotronix [ movie festival ].

In general, we should confirm first with each other before telling kids about possible event during other parents' time. It is not fair to kids or parent who has to say 'no.'

Open channels of communication will make it much easier to juggle challenges such as gauging interest with coordinating schedules.

(other related discussion occurred too, but that's the main thread.)

I was stunned. I've come to expect this, but it never fails to lacerate me anyway.

It might look benign to the uninitiated reader, but not only did dad tell the kids about his plan for the afternoon with them before confirming with me, but then he let Julian ask me what my plans were -- opening the door for a challenge. And since when is my designated time with them "coordinating schedules?" And "at least" they can still have the time I'd agreed to give up? Thanks a lot!

It makes sense to check with the kids first before asking the other parent to forfeit time -- gauging interest -- but without psyching the kid up or committing to it. And if the rightful parent does say "no," then the asking parent needs to be gracious: "Lucky you, mom doesn't want to give you up!"

But letting the kid ask me "what plans" is worse than ungracious, it's involving the kids in our conflict. It could create a situation in which the child might say "No, I'd rather do Dad's thing" -- even letting the kid choose which parent to be with, based on who the kid thinks will offer the most fun. Do I need to compete for my time with them now?

The truth is, I had no specific plans. I don't have tickets to an event. I didn't think I needed to. I thought we might get a Christmas tree, maybe make cookies or build a gingerbread house. Maybe we'd play some foosball. Katrina has a birthday party. I'd promised Julian a zoo visit sometime, but now I probably won't do that since they're going out that night.

My "plans" were to be with my children. I never thought I'd have to justify that.

So what about co-parent communication? Dave characterized my time with my children as "conflicting," a "mystery," something to "coordinate." Ouch, zap, stab. *I* thought it was my designated, rightful, precious, unfettered time with them. I never thought it was something that should garner even the slightest hint of complaint or questioning.

I want so so much not to be subjected to these contentious, unnecessary, painful interactions anymore. They've been such a hindrance, such a problem in the "communication" that everyone keeps reminding me is so important. But what can I do? I certainly can't go back to pages of it in email again.

I know someday the stabs will just roll off my back, that I'll develop a thicker skin...that someday I'll just roll my eyes and ignore them as they should be. But I'm too weak now. The wounds are too fresh and so very very deep...and get opened anew when my kids get pulled in.

To me, this is the main communication problem. Not text v. email. Basic consideration and common courtesy would say that the right answer to "Sorry, no," is simply, "ok, I'll pick them up at 6:30pm."

Even the simplest interaction can become so painful and difficult. I'm desperately seeking outside consultation.