Saturday, April 13, 2013

4/12/13 Blog Hiatus

Once again, I've been unusually quiet in this space. I've learned throughout my life that any sort of extended silence or inactivity from me tends to raise concern. "Are you feeling OK?" people ask. "You haven't said anything in 3 minutes!"

This time, it's deliberate. Though good things have been happening, the need to protect my privacy, re-establish autonomy, and create safety for freedom to speak and write openly have become too pressing to ignore anymore. Something I've considered for a long time is to take my blog private, or start a new private invite-only one.

I hate that idea. One of my favorite things about blogging is discovering the casual readers for whom my life is certainly not worth enough to bother with a sign-in of any sort, but might occasionally be worth a quick check-in. I've so enjoyed discovering who finds my ramblings interesting -- many completely unexpected. Every so often I discover that my musings bring a flicker of interest or even joy to the most surprising parties, and these discoveries are instants of glory to writers.

But my blog's open availability has become a liability, weighing on my freedom to express, to be honest, to explore my thoughts and feelings, to reveal a painful or amusing backstory behind the events I document. I think my introspection and free expression has long been my blog's best asset -- for me as well as for its hapless readers -- but I've felt too exposed for too long now, too restricted, too conscious that my words could be turned against me. It really struck me when I realized I felt more relaxed on Facebook of all places, where I have a thin illusion of control and choice, where the medium affords me a tiny bit more autonomy. It just isn't satisfying, and is a lot more work, having to edit carefully (mentally, and in the archaic composition window Blogger clings to) for fear of repercussions.

Throughout my life, writing has been the primary medium I use to develop thoughts, to focus ideas, to make false starts, follow insights, form connections, to eventually synthesize feelings into understanding. That certainly happens aloud too, but only at the graciousness of a good friend or family member who is prepared for an onslaught of rapid speech, scattered thoughts, and emotional energy. I've always purged my addled brain in writing, and so enjoyed blogging as part of that -- but now, the very freedom and openness that enables that cathartic exploration, has been compromised by memorialization, by awareness that my words are made permanent by the blog, and could be interpreted later as the way I am, rather than just how I was feeling at the moment.

(It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite movie lines: "Can anyone prove that they're sane?")

These days I'm not known for efficiency -- heck, I'm now three years behind on summer-visit photo books! -- so updating my blog method will likely have to wait until a wild hair strikes. But it'll happen -- writers can't help but to write after all -- and when it does, I'll have found a way to feel free to write and be myself again and feel safe in some privacy and autonomy, hopefully while still managing a way for casual readers to peruse photos. I realized it's a little self-indulgent to assume that anyone might actually miss my daily check-ins, but throughout my life, any sort of stillness or inertia from me has always demanded explanation!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

3/28/13 Update overdue!!

Isn't it funny how "getting behind" compounds itself exponentially? Once I'm behind one day in my blog, the barrier to entry is WAY higher the next day. After 3 days, I barely know where to start!!

Gabriel went on his 5th-grade Angel Island Overnight trip yesterday. I dropped him off uber-early at school, wearing his Civil War Re-Enactment "uniform." I'm still kicking myself for not snagging a photo of him in long pants with a red stripe, his backpack, and anticipation-filled smiling face. He looked so grown-up, even as he was embarking on a kids'-school re-enactment.

Gabriel of all kids isn't one a parent need worry about on an overnight trip. I'm proud that we've done enough camping that he's pretty self-sufficient about these things. Unlike most of his classmates, he's slept outdoors, set up a tent, struggled to cram his sleeping bag into its case, dealt with the countless snags of camping.

Of course, that doesn't mean I wasn't a little anxious about him....I thought about him a lot, wondered what he was doing, missed him intensely.

I got home late night and found some Angel Island items tossed onto a table, and had another painful pang of missing my firstborn. I'd talked to him a lot about the trip, bugged him many times to prepare his "uniform," insisted he collect and check off each item he needed, talked to him about the activities, then dropped him off super-early amidst other Civil-War clad 5th-graders. So I was looking forward to seeing him when he returned.

But the current split-week custody arrangement meant that not only didn't I see him when he returned from his trip, but by the time I have his attention again, days will have passed and he'll have moved on. I remember well how cute he looked in his red-stripe uniform, and wonder how the re-enactment activities went, if it was cold and his sweatshirt was warm enough, and how did he do with his injured ankle. But I won't see him until late tomorrow and the new memory will have worn off. I really regret this loss of continuity; kids live so in-the-moment, and these moments are so often lost by a schedule dictated an impartial legal agreement.

Back to grownups....

Everyone always says they're super-busy at work, but lately, I really mean it. Every job had its deadlines, and my job is quite flexible in many ways, but when my job is inflexible, it really is. When I have a training class, or an exam scheduled, there's just no way around that.

(In the work-world context that is -- it's nothing at all like the pressure of raising babies. If you're diagnosed with pneumonia, you cancel the training class and reschedule the exam, but you never ever stop taking care of your baby!)

Recently I had a one-week training class (which I had to miss some of to care of babies), then a crucial exam. In the grander scheme, these vendor exams I have to take are meaningless -- they're not "real" exams like in academia, but rather, "certification" exams that include questions like "what 3 options are available in a such-and-such drop-down menu..." Nothing conceptual, but passing the tough exam is important to my revered employer, to have a certain number of "certified" engineers on staff. So, sure, of course I'll do all I can to make it work, but it is incredibly time and attention-consuming.

I had to summon my "computer virus guy" again to wipe clean an old laptop that, despite following all usual precautions, picked up a virus that completely froze it within 10 minutes of browsing. (Ironically, the exam I just passed, and much of the work-learning I've been doing, surrounds computer and application security.) I could make a whole career out of security if I were so inclined...instead I had to fall in love with a far less lucrative discipline (wireless networking). I attended a talk at a Forum my company hosted this week, that included an interesting comment from a vendor: "We don't try to eliminate security threats, but rather manage them, and make the economics fail for them." Good luck with that. I'm keeping my "virus guy" on speed-dial.

A full weekend is coming up, so please forgive me if I fall behind again!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

3/24/13 weekend chores

"Look, Mom!" declared Katrina this afternoon, "We're all doing jobs!" Indeed, I was doing yardwork, Gabriel was mowing the lawn, and Katrina was washing my car.

I'm not sure why she was so insistent about this job, but she took it seriously and worked hard at it for well over an hour!

And my car always needs washing, especially after ski trips.

Ski trip?! It's late March, and T-shirt weather has set in here in the South Bay. But I snuck in one last spring-skiing day yesterday anyway, at a favorite resort I haven't been to in years. This time, I got to ski with a friend -- a grownup -- and this time, the end of the day meant margaritas instead of hot-chocolate with marshmallows and "why did he get more than I did" and "GUYS stop FIGHTING" and "would you PLEASE take your boots off" and countless other details. It's great fun to ski with kids, but I have to say, at the moment the kind waiter showed up with "on the rocks with salt," and "what you you like for dinner, Ma'am?" I can't say I missed them all that much!

It was also TOTAL fun to ski with another grownup, a friend, who I know from motorcycling (though we never rode together), and who I know is adventurous, brave, experienced, willing to challenge herself, and who completely relates to the things that carry over from motorcycling to skiing. Motorcyclists, especially ones who ride dirt regularly, completely understand things like facing fear, knowing your limits, managing competitiveness and ego, balancing risk and reward -- even technical details like looking ahead and gauging your willingness for speed based on your ability to stop. Of course, any adventurer thinks about these things regularly, but if you're with someone who shares a strong interest in a particular discipline, you know how they think.

We had a great time, including a tough run in off-piste un-packed mogul-y "crud" under a lift ("West Coast Express"). (photo taken toward the end when it had levelled out -- honestly, it was a lot harder than it looks from this picture!)
(this is my friend, who also wore a white jacket and black pants, but is much taller than I am!)

This tough adventure made a relatively packed, well-traverse mogul-y black-diamond ("Jack Rabbit") seem completely fun and easy afterward.

My friend learned that if she was looking for reason or judgement in deciding whether or not to do something, it wasn't going to come from me -- as soon as she said, "Hmm, can we do this --" I'd say "Of COURSE WE CAN!" -- and off we were. Not all my male co-riders were always happy when I didn't give them a bail-out option....heh!

Spring has set in -- it was almost 50 degrees and we could sure feel it in the heavy rapidly melting snow -- but we made the best of it and had a fantastic time. Heck, I never liked skiing when it's cold anyway.

This photo is at the top of my former nemesis, "Lower Main" - this was so hard and scary 2 years ago, but SO fun yesterday. My friend is also a very very talented photographer, so I was so happy she got this terrific shot with my crummy point-and-shoot.

The mountains behind me are just beautiful, but I'm sad that they're not slathered with snow. You can definitely see how it's all melting away now.

Back at home, I was too tired today to get all the things done that were on my List -- seemed I could only drag myself outdoors to do outdoor manual-labor chores, which I did a lot of while Katrina was washing my car. Though yardwork tires me out, after being outside all day yesterday, it seemed more drudgerous to be inside. I'd better get over that fast, because tomorrow, it's back to the regular world, and there's a whole lot of indoors there!


Friday, March 22, 2013

3/21/13 Meow!

Gabriel has taken on this awful habit of "meowing" all the time. He enters a room and makes a high-pitched "meow" sound, answers questions with it, responds to requests with it, and just does it constantly. It's incredibly irritating.

Seems his new habit has struck a nerve at school too: I got a notice from his teacher that ALL the 5th-grade teachers have complained about his "meow" sounds: it distracts his "squad," makes him very annoying to interact with, and people are starting to worry that something's really wrong with him.

Gabriel has a long history of annoying his class with constant, repetitive, inappropriate sounds. In kindergarten, it was "POP goes the weasel!" and in 1st-3rd grades, it was the nonstop humming. He seemed to get a handle on it in 4th grade, but now his tendency to express whatever sounds are coursing through his head have a feline manifestation.

I talked to him at length about it, explaining that it wasn't just me being annoyed at his grating sounds -- now people are thinking there's really something wrong with him. I know there isn't, but I told him that he really, really, REALLY has to stop it. We shook on it....then I made fun of his floppy handshake, and he laughed and gave me the firm one of a young man.

Ironically, the real meow-makers are far far quieter, and much more judicious about the use of their vocalizations. The sound I hear the most from my squirmy shadow Meow-stache is, by far, purring.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3/19/13 Standing Room Only

Julian came home sick from school, but luckily I was prepared to work from home today. This meant a lot of time in the office .... standing up! The chairs were occupied all day!

The Nerve!!

Lots more to say, but I'm exhausted and I'm sure it isn't very interesting anyway :).


Friday, March 15, 2013

3/15/13 Lab partners

Tough, busy week. I've complained at various times about having to take stupid exams -- well now, I have to pass an exam that isn't stupid. It isn't hard conceptually, but means really knowing a product line well, and just I don't yet. So I spent this week taking an intense training class at home to prepare for the exam.

Fortunately, I had a diligent lab partner.

And company, though it meant I had to sacrifice a chair. The nerve!

I know, I don't get it either.

The question-mark tail says it all!

Lots of prep, practice, and memorization for me this weekend....But I'm glad to have some support!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

3/14/13 Online class pals

I've been at home this week working on yet another online class, in prep for yet another certification exam, by far the hardest one I've had to face.

Fortunately, I had some diligent lab partners.

It was nice having them around all day this week, though they kept stealing my office chairs. This will not be news to anyone who's spent any length of time around cats, but they sure do sleep a lot!!

Wonder if they'd be willing to slip me some answers as I'm floundering through the exam...?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

3/13/13 Scragglemuffins no more!

WAY overdue! Time for the boys especially to re-join well-groomed society.

Katrina insisted on her own attention too, not entirely necessary -- but what a pretty up-do in the meantime. Haircutters always gush about her healthy, swingy, body-filled, rich, beautiful hair. "I have natural highlights!" she declares proudly, not entirely sure what that means.

But my real mission was to rein in my shaggy boys, they hadn't had professional attention in months. And how handsome they all are!! (notwithstanding face-burns, goggle-shapes, and chapping from our ski trip last weekend! :) ).


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

3/12/13 What I want to be when I grow up

Before our hectic trip to the Sierras last weekend, Katrina left me a note -- a "private letter," really, but one so sweet that I'm making it un-private. Her career choice was important enough to write in a note to me -- in cursive, no less -- and roll up and tie with pink yarn.

And this was the message inside.

Dear Noemi,
I love being a
could try it to!
- Katrina
I am

Notice how she addresses me with my "real" name. She and her brothers all have a recent interest in my "real" name. We all joke that no one can pronounce it, including them! They're all realizing that the rest of the world knows me by a unique name that isn't easily said, even by them. I assured them all that "Mom" is just FINE.

If this is a passing fancy, it's a long one -- Katrina keeps talking about digging and becoming a "famous scientist" and discovering bones. With her, nothing is impossible -- I totally believe her!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

3/10/11 The Lost Hours

Another placeholder post until I have time and energy to post photos....

Today was a day of lost hours. First, losing an hour because of the time change. Luckily, modern technology being what it is, clocks advanced on their own and I was able to rouse the kids this morning at the new time.

This morning, despite the crunch time, I'd planned to pack out of our little respite in the mountains, ski until mid-afternoon, then change clothes and make the painful drive home, hopefully in time to beat traffic. But another lost hour intervened the afternoon, I skiied with all 3 kids, and once again, we got split up because of Julian. We got split up on the long approach to the lift, and I knew we hadn't passed him or any crash, but when Gabriel and Katrina and I arrived at the lift, no Julian. We waited about 5 minutes, but I knew he wasn't behind us. Where was he?! Again?! Finally I said, "screw this!" and went up the lift with Gabriel and Katrina anyway.

Distracted, I took Katrina on the last, and hardest run, of the day anyway, that she practically insisted on. This was "East Face," which Sugarbowl inexplicably has two runs named this, but this one was the easier groomer off the Mt Disney lift. Groomed, but steep and decently long for a single run. This is by far the hardest run Katrina has done, and while she was scared and needed a little encouragement, all those lessons kicked in and she knew what to do. She wasn't happy at times, but we had no emergencies and she was in control the whole time. Good for her!

But I was distracted and annoyed at missing Julian again. No more fun, we had to find him! I got us on another lift to return to the base, then on the lift, thought that we should go back to check the lift where Julian was supposed to meet us. This was really painful, Katrina was tired and very slow pushing on the various flat spots we had to traverse to get there. I was extremely irritated that once again, our afternoon fun was clouded by Julian's irresponsibility.

Turns out, Julian was at the lift, and had been all along, but when we first looked for him, he'd waited so far off to the side that we didn't see him, and he wasn't looking out for us. Usually he waits right in the lift line, not way off to the side, invisible amidst other people and not paying attention for us.

I was livid at this foolishness, it put a serious damper in the afternoon for all of us. I was too mad to even talk to him about it. And why bother? It's futile, he just doesn't care. This wasn't his only mistake, he's impossible all day long. When it comes time to put skis away, change out of ski boots and not throw snow in front of a busy lodge entrance or inside the lodge, he acts like he's never ever heard of the rules, and consistently breaks them. I'm just not taking him on any more ski trips for a while. Regrettable, because he likes it and he's pretty good at it. In fact, in his morning lesson today, he did his first double-black and was very proud of it.

The search for Julian accounted for another lost hour today. Then, on the drive home, we lost another hour at a massive backup on the main Interstate due to an accident. It was fun navigating around it on small roads and through little towns, but even past the accident, the traffic was still very very slow. We hit more stop-n-go at various highway lane-losses, plus a much slower than usual dinner at Denny's, then another delay because of a gushing bloody nose of Katrina. 6 hours of a horrific drive, we arrived home from Truckee. I was totally fried, hurried kids into bed, then gathered my remaining strength to unpack the car and prepare the kids' things for school the next day.

The ultimate indignity was having to set clocks forward after all this. Oh, what I wouldn't do for another hour today!

Lots of people manage "weekend" ski trips, but this wasn't the way. Still, the reasons I pushed it paid off: we happened to hit a terrific snow weekend, and all of us really drilled in our skills. But I'm very frustrated with the difficulty of handling Julian and Katrina at the same time; Katrina is still just 6 years old and can still get into day-ending snits. Julian.....well, there's just no explaining him. Gabriel is no problem, he's great to ski with and even likes to stick with me and Katrina while Julian is off getting lost somewhere. Gabriel even loaded all our skis on the car-rack by himself, without even being asked.

Seems too early for ski season to end, but even if this was it, it was a fantastic one. Gabriel and I really advanced together, Julian made tremendous strides (in ability, not in responsibility). And She went from spending the whole day on a Magic Carpet to skiing down non-intro black-diamonds (at least in snow, not ice, that changes everything). Winter and snow season is WAY too short!


Saturday, March 09, 2013

3/9/13 Lucky Ski Day

On ski days I'm most excited to blog, but most tired too! Funny, consider this a placeholder until I can edit and upload photos later.

And really, these posts are becoming downright routine -- our 5th ski trip of the year. This one is a little different since it is "just" a weekend, and is dedicated more to skiing than to hanging-out or playing in the snow.

But what timing....just as I figured I could pull this trip off, Mom Nature rewarded me with actual precipitation. As a result, there was actual snow on the slopes today, instead of that hard shiny slippery stuff that we've skiied so much on.

Since we're so familiar with Sugarbowl and all have scannable cards for lift tickets, we went back there again. I have it down to a science: we arrive in the morning, but not FIRST THING (snoooze....), in time to drop Katrina off at a group lesson. I unload the car, kids and boots at a convenient close place ("The Den"), get Katrina into her lesson, then while the boys are suiting up, I go park my car. Then the boys and I go do our own thing for just under two hours, pick up Katrina, have lunch (which I bring now, it saves a ton of time and money), then we all ski together in the afternoon.

That all sounds well and good, but there are always problems. Today I had to deal with an now-rare Katrina tantrum/fit. She was very irritable after lunch, bursting into tears when I said lightly that we should make up a name for us as a "ski team" since we four fit on a lift chair together. She suggested "unicorns" and her brothers denigrated that immediately, and it all went "downhill" from there. Then she was horribly offended at my suggesting we do "Donner's Way," her first black-diamond two weeks ago, saying it was too BORING and EASY. It took over half an hour to get her out of the fuss, and I was very very very frustrated at the waiting and the misery -- we have such short time to do this together, I didn't want to waste it with a tantrum. In another place, I could just ditch her and say "OK, I'm DONE, bye!" but you just can't abandon your 6-year-old on a ski slope, even though I know many parents wish they could sometimes.

Promising her to try "Vanderbilt," a short but genuine black-diamond on Mt Lincoln got her out of it. My relief was short-lived however, since as soon as we turned to head toward the lift, no Julian. He knew where we were going, so after some searching and waiting, I decided, "that's it, we've lost enough time as it is, we're going." So Gabriel and Katrina and I got on the substantial lift line to go up Mt. Lincoln, though I was distracted and worried.

Then when we were two chairs away from getting on the lift, Gabriel suddenly said, "Look! There's Julian!" He was on his way, but out of earshot. By then we were committed to the lift, so had to get on it. Yelling to him made no difference, but it looked like he was talking to someone in a red jacket...Ski Patrol. Great. Now they're going to chew me out for abandoning my 9-year-old.

So Gabriel and Katrina and I did Mt. Lincoln, where Katrina booked down Vanderbilt, a mogul-y ungroomed black diamond, as though it was nothing. She was so proud of herself, but I was worried about finding Julian to gush with her right away. At the bottom, I asked a lift operator to call Ski Patrol to see if they had him in custody....then Katrina had to go to the bathroom. It's just one thing after another.

Gabriel and Katrina and I took off our skis and walked a fair distance to a (luckily) nearby lodge, and then -- Ski Patrol showed up on a snowmobile with Julian. Thankfully, they'd responded to my telling the lift operator where we were, though oddly calling me on my cell phone never came up...? I thanked them profusely and defensively explained my anti-separation strategies: always know which is the next lift, stop at every sign marking at intersection. They were very understanding. Julian even admitted he'd heard us talk about which run we were going to, but he'd just ... I don't know, he didn't think it applied to him or something. Typical Julian: we all knew we were turning right, but inexplicably, he turned left.

The afternoon wasn't lost though. After reunion, we had just over an hour -- so I decided to go for Mt. Disney with all three. This mountain has a side with only black diamonds -- not Sugarbowl's hardest or longest, but the whole area warns off beginners.

The boys and I had done this many times on our last trip, but this was Katrina's first. And she had no problem with these runs either! The now-good attitude made a huge difference. "See Mom, no falls!" she exclaimed. I told her falling was fine, we all do it, but she still was insistent that she hadn't fallen.

We did "Donald Duck," which is groomed, and then took "Market Street," which isn't groomed but isn't as steep. By the time we got to "Market Street" though, it was getting crusty and icy, and it's a narrower U-shaped run, so Katrina had a harder time on it than she had on the others. But still, she did fantastically.

Gabriel isn't a problem to ski with, despite tendency to cut me off and ski right into my path. He and I did "Carl's Nose" today, a short double-black on Mt Lincoln, that was totally doable thanks to the snowy conditions. I wasn't nervous at all, though I think it was steeper than anything I've done. What a difference snow makes, I had a much much harder time at Squaw on "blue" runs, because it was so icy then.

The kids' advancement opens up a huge world to me -- that means I can actually ski with all of them....sort of. Actual ability and level isn't the problem, but things like a 6-year-old tantrum and a 9-year-old ignoring instructions can really dampen the day. What's it like not constantly waiting, shouting instructions, reminding, hurrying them along, re-directing, always having your radar on, and just skiing? I'm sure age will make a big difference -- next ski season they'll be 7, 10 and 12 and that's a whole other world. These past two trips have really drilled in their skill and interest, and next season they'll all be poised for real expertise.

We all ended up having a great day, despite the challenges. That's what being with kids is all about!


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

3/6/13 Dad's 80th

80. Wow.

Today, my Dad would have turned 80 years old. What a milestone that would have been, save for the robbery of Alzheimer's. Oddly enough, thanks to that dreaded disease, I'll never remember him as "old" -- just afflicted. He never had a chance to get old, since it was clear something was sapping his brain from about age 68. Far, far too young.

Julian's school counselor told me that he'd asked Julian how he thought he was similar to each parent. That's a very interesting question. How am I similar to each of my parents? I've always identified far more closely with my mother, partly of course because we're both women, but also much because we're both more literal, scientific, mathematically inclined, driven, compulsive. I never came close to my mother's success, but the inclination was there. Some real differences are there though -- my mother is even-tempered and consistent and controlled, whereas I'm more temperamental, impulsive and volatile. She's wonderful at music, and I'm middling at best. I'm compelled to write, and she is free of that burden.

But as age 50 looms, I realize how much more and more I am like my father. My own children will likely remember me halting all conversation at the sight of a beautiful meadow, or talking ethereally about the power of the mountains. This stuff drove us nuts as kids when my Dad did it, but whaddya know, I do it now too. Heck, they might even find me serenading a squirrel with a pennywhistle one of these days.

My Dad was very social, but deeply valued his privacy and alone-time too. He always built his offices "just so" -- out of plywood, but with all the surfaces, shelves, and cubbies he needed. My nesting instinct is exactly the same, I tend to surround myself with just the right little accoutrements and conveniences and greatly value my little carved-out sanctuaries. Whereas my mother, who has exquisite taste, I believe is much lower-maintenance. We all have our favorite spots of course, but my "way" about mine takes very much after my Dad.

I drove him crazy. He couldn't understand my rapid speech. My energy exhausted him. My readiness to resist and literally argue his carefully thought-through ideas irritated him. My trains of thought took too many twists and turns. He hadn't a prayer in any word game against me. He loved me dearly for these things, as intensely as they annoyed him. No one found more depth in off-the-cuff observations or ideas I had, no one laughed harder at things I'd say.

Though my Dad was raised in a different age in which expectations were different for daughters, and I was born at the tail end of that in 1963, my Dad never doubted me, never treated me like I'd have anything other than a bright, open, complete future. I never experienced sexism growing up, starting with my own father, and that greatly shaped my life and career. (Indeed, in my house growing up, it was always understood that the girls were stronger, smarter, more poor poor brother...! Yet now he's the adored family glue.)

Especially at this time in my life, I miss my Dad more than ever. I really could use his wisdom and philosophical chats, removed from the cares of the day-to-day -- never his forte -- to wrest me out of my emotional mire, to lift me up to see the bigger picture. Just like he did when I was little: he'd prop me up on his shoulders for a better view over the crowd. I so wish he could do that for me now, while on a long hike through the woods in Stephentown.

Today I heard a quote from Winston Churchill: "The secret to success is moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm" -- Dad and I would have mused about that for an hour or two. He'd have pondered the truth to it, roaring with laughter at my biting cynical doubtful remarks.

One of my favorite pictures of us together happened to have been taken in Breckenridge, Colorado -- mountains. I know if anyone would understand my new identification with altitude, it would be my Dad.

(circa 1991, I was 28 or 29)

Eighty would still have been far too young to take him....and though Alzheimer's slowly stole his mind for 10 years before it took his body in 2011, I'm no less lost without him.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

3/5/13 Lunchtime

About time he made his own lunch! Gabriel is 11 now, and really, he can make most of his own lunch. I just have to insist. Nowadays he's much more agreeable to such requirements, even making it fun by drawing a simple (he says "impossible") circuit on his lunchbag.

Completely unrelated, but I caught this great photo of our most beautiful feline, Zorro. Don't be fooled by his regal looks -- this animal is greatly loved and adored for his "inner self." He has a reputation for being very tolerant, very alert to imminent treats, playful....and just a little bit dopey.

He also has about the softest fur I've ever felt on a cat. He is dearly loved!

Our evening got off to a late start for the best possible reason: today is Bonne Maman's birthday! Calling her and chatting happily delayed dinner, but I can't imagine a better reason. Happy Birthday Bonne Maman!


Monday, March 04, 2013

3/4/13 Light Reading

Not sure why Gabriel decided to pick up this book ("The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy"), but he was engrossed in it for some time tonight?!

I picked up my old book for a moment myself, and came across a paragraph on "ataraxia" -- the state of being detached from the cares of reality. Uh-huh. No wonder the great philosophers were all men: because their women were dealing with raising children.

Speaking of reality, Julian seemed happy and unhappy at times to be re-united with his siblings tonight. I'm starting to think it's not so much about being around them, but his ongoing frustration at not being able to dominate his older brother. The boys compete fiercely for the attention of Zorro the cat, for instance, and Julian complains to crying that Gabriel "hogs" the hapless feline. Indeed, Gabriel will carry the compliant animal up to his bed and pet him all night long, shooing poor Julian away.

Unfortunately, Mommy-Meow-Stache is no help in resolving this impasse, as she has no interest in the kids' shenanigans. Instead, she follows me around and hides -- even in the bathtub.

She appears quickly when things are quiet, and then is my constant companion.

My tolerance for kids and complaints about cat-hogging was totally curtailed tonight by a brutal migraine. I'm grateful that severe headaches are no longer a day-to-day thing for me, but they're always a threat. This one startled me awake around 3am, and was intense and relentless and kept me miserably awake until I had to get up. I took a huge dose of tylenol with codeine around 9am, which made me really really tired the rest of the day, but did take care of most of the pain, even though I was still nauseous all day. I stuck it out at work, but boy I sure wished I could just have collapsed at home afterward -- only the luxury of the child-free. Maybe it's just as well that I had the kid-distractions, because I had no choice but to dig deep enough to run through the evening...and just enough energy surfaced to write this.

But I've had it now...bedtime!


Sunday, March 03, 2013

3/3/13 "Special Sunday" "Just Julian"

One strategy for dealing with Julian's ongoing behavior issues is to try some additional one-on-one time. I'd long felt he'd benefit from this, but experience has made me very cautious about suggesting any arrangement out of the ordinary. This time, the idea was supported by "multiple sources," which even if didn't include me, I'll take it.

So though technically I didn't have kids tonight, I gladly suggested I take Julian alone tonight when dad suggested some one-on-one time.

Lots can be attributed to beginner's luck, but Julian was all over it today, since he really likes feeling like he's getting special attention.

We talked a lot about his being the middle child, that he feels like Katrina gets a pass for being the youngest, and Gabriel gets extra privileges for being the oldest. Both of which are true, but I didn't get into why or how; I just listened and talked to him how he felt about those things, and how he could feel like he had his own "advantages."

Julian said he felt his anger was "funneled" into his misbehaving, or not concentrating, in class. I'm not sure I believe that exactly, but I totally took it seriously and talked to him a lot about his feelings, without once explaining or justifying grownups' point of view. It was tempting to say "well, when you don't listen, grownups do xyz" -- but I didn't. That wasn't the point at the moment. I listened to how he said he felt, asked him how he could feel better, and how he could remember his good feelings from tonight and apply them to classtime. He said many times how much he liked not having siblings around.

Julian himself came up with a strategy of practicing concentration on a flickering candle -- so I found a candle for him to practice on.

The first thing we did, however, was work on his next school report: a "how-to" report. He'd already chosen a project out of a science book he has, so we set up that experiment (how to make stalactites).

Then, believe it or not, I took him to the YMCA with me. He's been wanting to do this ever since he turned 9, which is the minimum age to enter the adult fitness center. He was all over it!

He even got some special time from a personal trainer, who happened to be a 3rd-grade teacher at another nearby school in our district. Perfect! I was amazed at how relaxed and happy he seemed afterward, gushing about how good he felt -- tired but alive. Exactly how I feel from exercise.

Cap that off with an extra-special yummy Pho dinner from a nearby uber-authentic Vietnamese restaurant (a new favorite of mine but only Julian appreciates it too), and it was a terrific evening.

Who knows if alone-time will help Julian's behavior troubles at school, but as he and I talked a lot tonight, it's a little like building muscle from working out: results are not immediate, but cumulative. So let's hope some more "Special Sundays" "Just Julian" time (from anyone) will help!

Gosh, how I do adore my son. Sometimes there needs to be a better word than just "love."


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2/27/13 Homework Helper

I'm not quite sure this counts as "help," but Julian sure preferred doing his homework with some company tonight.

Meantime, my company, who kept me awake purring much of last night, was happier hiding in my room.

Cats do add a bit to daily chores, but are overall very easy to take care of.

It's all the other stuff in life -- bills, changing over accounts and names, taxes, overdue holiday gifts (!! eeps!) that I'm perpetually behind in.

I learned a good lesson from an organized friend at UCLA once: get one thing done every day, even if it's a small thing (like paying one bill) and be happy with that. You'll end up getting everything done sooner than if you wait for it to pile up, because each task seems more approachable than a giant pile of them. I like that.

Tonight I packaged up some Lands' End clothes to return -- I guess that counts as my "one thing" done. Tomorrow, change a newspaper subscription -- ooh!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2/26/13 The Vigil

The cats sure miss the kids when they're not home!

Zorro (back of photo) mopes around, sits vigil on the landing, sometimes me-owing his pathetic little cry...

....while Meow-Stache darts around nervously, wondering when the chaos is going to re-appear, to run her back into hiding.

We're all anxiously awaiting their return!


2/26/13 The Thank-You

Whoever heard of getting an unsolicited thank-you note before you did something?!

Katrina wrote this darling thank-you note on the day we left for Truckee on Ski Week -- before our Ski Week snow/ski trip:

Dear Mom:, thank you for planning a ski trip. Love, Katrina. p.s. I love you :)

OK, does it get any sweeter than that?!

She also wrote her "Vacation" report (from Winter break) about our snow trip:

Over my vaction I went sking at Tahoe donner and Sugar Bowl. It was fun. I went to ski scholl It was a half day school. I worked on turning.

Next I skied with my mom. I went to the terrain parks. It was fun. I had so much fun sking!

Someone asked me today if I'd ever done fingernail-painting with Katrina. Is that OK?? Never done makeup, dress-up, nail-painting, shopping, or any of that normal "girl" stuff. Camping, skiing, skating, hiking, yes. that OK?

For what it's worth, I don't remember doing a lot of that "girl" stuff with my mom (who as a pianist always kept her nails short anyway), and we ended up with a fine relationship. I do bake and cook with my kids -- all of them -- does that make up for my inadequacies as a "girl" Mom?

But nothing makes me happier than seeing my dear daughter write in her "What I Did On My Vacation" essay that she skiied with her mom. I think I can be forgiven for the lack of nail-polish for that!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

2/24/13 home again....

Well, we had an unusually good pack-up this morning, pretty organized, and were out relatively hassle-free by 9:30. The packing is down to a science now, mostly. Car drives had been made easier with audio books, and a few backup sticker-dolly books for Katrina, and I find that chewing gum helps stave off sleepiness.

But I can still feel my blood pressure start to rise the closer we get to the Bay Area, as the numerous stresses and unhappinesses and longstanding lonelinesses creep back in.

This was not the way my life was supposed to be. Maybe I've been spoiled with a relatively charmed life with lots of successes and accomplishments and overall great relationships with friends and family -- yet none of that measures up to the devastation of my failed family.

I know the kids will survive it, everyone reminds me of that. Indeed I know their relationships with their parents individually is most important. So this isn't just about the kids, but me....and I had really really counted on raising them in that mysterious world of the intact family, living with them every day. I know that no family is ideal, and I'd already greatly adjusted my expectations -- every family has their challenges!

But in the end, I just could no longer do what was necessary to sustain the relationship. It wasn't even a choice I made -- it was more like being physically incapable, like doing 60 chinups in a row or flying. I just can't. It will be a long time before I stop beating up myself over that. I should have found a way to fly. Nothing meant more to me than raising my children in an intact family, nothing. I'd set aside my own individual happiness long ago -- it meant nothing compared to giving my children a complete family. I did absolutely everything I could for years, far beyond what I'd ever have imagined possible, to keep my family together, and it still failed.

As much as I absolutely hate being away from the kids more than 3 days, I wonder if the transitions are harder on me than them. I know it's bad for them too, but as an adult with some concept of continuity it's arguably worse for me, because I never feel like I get any momentum with them.

The kids and I had such a wonderful trip together, but for me the last day together is always deeply burdened by the upcoming days without them. I'm their mother, I should see my children every day. Maybe the silver lining here is that missing them is a good thing, that I appreciate their company more, but it doesn't really work that way with kids. "Quality Time" is a parent concept, it doesn't mean a kid feels like baking cookies together at a given moment. And I've never been a super hands-on sort of mom. I just like having them around, and with plenty of opportunity to interact randomly as things come up.

I don't want my deeply dysfunctional marriage back anymore than my former husband does, but the shattered dream of raising my children full-time is very very hard to get over for me. I hate that half my life is spent intensely missing them, not knowing who I am or why, what my purpose is. Without work, I'd be completely lost.

I know this will get better -- it's been such a short time. I know I take things very deeply to heart and feel things very intensely, but that works both ways. I'm naturally buoyant and resourceful, and have a lot of experience with coping, thinking things through, finding positives and new passions. I've already come a very long way in pulling out of this. But it's a tough road, and it runs with many tears.


2/23/13: Ski Week day 3: Diamond Girl!

Today was the day Katrina was all excited about: "You PROMISED me to do Steamers today, RIGHT?!"

Her brothers were discouraging though. "You can't handle moguls." "It's too steep for you." "You need to be more experienced." But Katrina was determined. "We'll warm up on 'Donner's Way,'" she declared (the intro-black-diamond she toasted yesterday) -- and then, Steamers."

Honestly, Steamers isn't all that hard -- Sugarbowl's intro-black-diamonds are mercifully short -- but it's no beginner terrain, and in bad conditions, it can suck.

Incredibly, we had a little dusting of snow last night! But more incredibly, it didn't to much to improve snow conditions. In fact, I thought today was icier than yesterday, despite the smattering of new snow.

Katrina went to a lesson this morning first, which the boys and I ran into. The first half-hour of group lessons is spent doing triage and separating kids, and boy, this one was packed. I was intrigued to see that for "Level 3" kids, Katrina was well at the top end of skill, even though she looks so much smaller than most.

But I'm really happy to see that she runs no risk of being on the Magic Carpet all day now.

Still, it's best for the lesson if the parent-paparazzi goes away, so the boys and I went back to Disney for a repeat of our fun the day before. I was out-of-sorts and so didn't feel any great need to try anything new, and the boys were quite happy to stick to the run "Donald Duck" and run-offs from there.

Gabriel is skiing so well now that I felt compelled to take video of him.

Julian of course headed to the trees and insisted of some more video of him blasting through the powder, with varying success.

I won no points for style today, but I'm glad that I can sorta-breeze down the easier groomed blacks at Sugarbowl now, at least in today's conditions.

I have a new system for lunch now: bringing our own, and stashing it in a knapsack in the lodge. I'm not the only one with this idea -- the fireplace is piled with lunch-knapsacks!

I really like this method -- having sandwiches and granola bars for the kids not only saves me tons of money, but it saves me a ton of time waiting on line for overpriced crummy food, and best of all, it saves me the drudgery of waitressing in ski boots. And the kids don't mind at all, especially if I bring some leftover dessert from last night!

After lunch, time to fulfill my promise to Katrina: Steamers! For some reason, she was determined to do this mogul-y black-diamond off Jerome -- an intro-black to be sure, but not the easiest. She came up with the plan to "warm up" on Donner's Way first today, where again I was so impressed -- look at these almost-parallel turns! She breezed her way down Donner's Way smiling and chatting, like it was nothing (with protective oldest brother in hot pursuit)

(Note that I called "Bomb It!" right at the end -- this is our new game of "Bomb Attack," in which someone calls "Bomb It!" and we all have to race to the end. Not clear what the rules of this game are exactly....!)

Next run: Steamers! Right next to Donner's way. This run is short, but mogul-y and uneven, and I was nervous about Katrina being able to take it, but she was absolutely insistent. To think, two days ago I was stunned and thrilled when Julian did it, and now I was telling him, "eh, whatever, just meet us at the bottom, I'm watching Katrina!"

And she toasted it. No fear, barely any hesitation, just a few times that she stopped and looked ahead, and then just did it. She did GREAT!! Honestly, she was more confident and consistent than Julian was the first day we did this so many times. I was floored! Nooo problem!

I just don't know how much pride I have left, with both my younger two children tackling a non-trivial black-diamond mogul run with relative ease -- and their oldest brother practically yawning at it! My goodness, Katrina's sure come far from being stuck on the Magic Carpet all day.

They're all skiing so so SO well -- it won't be long at all before I'll have no one to ski with myself. Katrina declared yesterday that when she's a grownup, she'd be an Expert, and I told her with total honesty, "You'll be that well before you're a grownup!" Really, she's just 6, and had no trouble at all with an ungroomed mogul-y black-diamond today. Wow!

We were planning a second run down Steamers, but Katrina took a nasty fall on the easy ridge run on the way. It happens; you get a lot of speed, catch an edge, boom. I arrived after the fact, and found her holding back tears as she was trying to reach for her skis and poles, and complained of her hand and head hurting. I did a quick triage, and she seemed OK physically, but she was upset -- and done. "Is this like what happened to Kate?" she asked through tears, about our friend who was far more seriously injured a few weeks ago. "No, you're fine, sweetie girl," I assured her. But I knew enough not to push a freaked-out kid. She is just 6 years old, after all. She's no complainer -- if she says she's done, she means it. So I told the boys to take one more run, then to meet us at the Den where we could all de-ski-gear ourselves and load the car.

She had smacked her head hard, even leaving a small blood spot in her helmet. I think the helmet helped more than hurt....? But it must have been a nasty fall. Another reminder of how easy it is for a day to turn around from total fun to (potentially) total disaster.

In theory, the boys can load the skis now. In practice, it still takes a lot of reminding and nagging and yes, yelling, to get them to actually do it, but at least they know how.

We headed home a little early, but overall, got in a full day. Totally worth it!

All the houses I've rented have their pros and cons, but I can't say this one is my favorite. It's a little far, it's clutter and cramped, and filled with foofy-smelling things, a ton of candles but very poor lighting overall. Still, all places have their plusses, and I loved my view from my bed in this one. Few things I like better in life than waking up to this view.

It seems just as we get things down to a science, it's time to go. Thank you, Ski Week! Another great experience and memory. I'm proud to say I think I've instilled a permanent love of snow and mountains in my children -- and if this ever matters to them in the future, they all have a good solid foundation in skiing!


Friday, February 22, 2013

2/22/13 Ski Week day 2: Disney Day!

Oh my, I think I've had the most fun skiing yesterday and today afternoon than I EVER have! With both my boys!

Yesterday we did 360s, moguls, trees, rollers..lots of laughing, showing off, playing together....Does it GET better than that? Time is so short...won't be long before my growing sons will have nothing to do with old Mom, so I'm determined the make the most of it now!

We really wanted to go to Mt Disney, and did so during Katrina's morning lesson. But it takes a few lifts to get there, and back, so 2 hours is gobbled up fast. Still, the one run we did had us hooked, and we had to go back after lunch.

I couldn't get an all-day ski school reservation for Katrina, so got the idea from another Mom (a French one who lives a few blocks away in Sunnyvale!) to put Katrina into a separate afternoon lesson. But Katrina was not happy about this plan, she wanted to ski with us after lunch. I persuaded her by promising hot chocolate, a taco for dinner, and that we'd do whatever she wanted to tomorrow, and she angrily agreed. "Oh FINE."

After lunch the boys and I took right off for Disney, and headed straight for the backside. We discovered "Donald Duck" to be groomed with just enough snow to keep it from being an ice-sliding traverse, with some fun ungroomed detours. This is wide and predictable, but it's still steep! Julian did GREAT. He gets himself freaked out sometimes, but handles it with courage and aplomb. (Nothing fazes Gabriel!)

Gabriel really nailed the 360 thing, way better than I can. Now he makes it a point of going around multiple times, and more impressively, he can do it on any terrain, like on Donald Duck. Not me! (Not yet! But I will!)

At the bottom of these runs were some "optional routes" through the trees, and you could always count on Julian finding his way there. He doesn't look very steady, but isn't afraid of falling and as discomombulated as he can seem, he makes his way through!

When it was time to head back, we tried a new run: "Nancy's Couloir" or "East Face" -- not sure which one it was. It's right next to the top of the Mt Disney lift and pretty much goes straight down, and it's groomed. It was steeper than I expected, but my Squaw lesson helped prepare me for that and I wasn't scared. Julian got himself psyched out, he needed to stop a lot (always on his rear end), but was never unsafe or out of control. Gabriel....well, Gabriel. Nothing fazes that kid! He loved it.

On our way back, we met up with Katrina's lesson. She'd forgiven me for putting her in it, and seemed to be doing great. She was right behind the instructor, and honestly though she's still very committed to the pizza-wedge, she actually looked like the strongest skiier in the group -- right behind the teacher, moving with confidence, able to change direction easily. It amazes me sometimes seeing my little, little girl just blasting along like there's nothing to it!

In fact, it looked like her teacher was going to take the group down Donner's Way, Sugarbowl's "intro" black-diamond, but the one boy in the class kept falling and the teacher thought better of it.

But Katrina was so excited about having done "half a black diamond" that she was dying to do it again! So after her lesson, she wanted to ski some more, and I said, OK, let's take you all the way down Donner's Way! I thought she could handle it. She was thrilled and couldn't WAIT.

First, Mom gets a precious picture! For once, they cooperated!

Katrina in front of her first black-diamond sign!

And here she goes! Really, very anticlimactic. She had no trouble with it, even though she's still doing mostly "pizza" in her skiing. She WILL learn, and she's been thinking a lot about what her instructors tell her, but it takes a while for that click moment to happen (like Gabriel and his 360s).

But she did GREAT -- no fear, no falling, no complaining -- she was actually chatting happily the whole time. She needs to lose the kid-pizza-wedge thing to advance to anything harder, but she's ready.

Julian joined us from "Steamers," the black-diamond mogul-y run we'd done yesterday, that's right next to Donner's Way, and I got a real treat of a photo: all 3 on the black diamond!

But now Katrina wants to do Steamers tomorrow!!

The easiest way back to the Den where our things were is to ride up a lift again, and work our way down Mt. Judah. This time, the boys didn't complain about having to wait for Katrina, there's not a lot of waiting anymore. Another year and she won't need lessons every time either.!

What a turnaround from the days of being stuck on the magic carpet all day! I just love skiing with the boys, and with Katrina's enthusiam and building skill, it won't be long before I'm no longer "ski-sitting" her either. WHAT FUN!!