Saturday, February 09, 2013

2/9/13 The Life of My Name

I'm not sure how it started, but chatting at lunch today, I told Julian it would be fun if I could figure out how to write stories and download them to his Nook SimpleTouch reader. This was a birthday gift from me to him that is oddly special to me, even though it's his. He so loves to read, and it just seemed like such a perfect thing for him -- especially if I could write stories for it.

I started to talk aloud about how I'd write the story of his life, starting with "My name is Julian" and launching into the first story of his life, that he was named Adam at first. This morphed into one little anecdote after another about his names, which I recorded in short voice memos on my iPhone. Before I knew it, a story was taking shape. "The life of my name!" he declared. What a fabulous title, I loved it!

So we huddled together for about half an hour while I typed a first draft of the story, watching him laugh as I wrote things, changing wording if he seemed puzzled. I wrote it from "Julian's" perspective, but of course it's mostly my impressions. It was a perfect opportunity to show him the concept of writing a draft, not worrying about spelling or editing now, just getting content down, as I encourage him to do when he's writing his reports. Then I printed the draft for him to edit.

I feel silly blogging this when I haven't finished the story, but I guess the real story here is how this fun endeavour developed. What a special thing to have with my son! Now I just have to figure out how to "publish" it to his Nook. I'll update this post with the complete story when it's edited too.

I did the writing, but Julian's title is really wonderful.


OK, adding this: The story.

The Life of My Name

by Julian Doudna (ghosted by Mom)

Feb 10, 2013

My name is Julian

My name is Julian.

My name almost wasn't Julian.

The first story of my life is that I was named Adam for about 12 hours, right after I was born. Adam was the plan, but after I was born, my Mom kept looking at me and cooing, "Oh, my beautiful precious baby, Ju-- …. er, um, I mean, Adam." She looked at me and looked at me and looked at me and kept thinking, "You're not Adam. You're Julian!"

My dorky Mom just couldn't make up her mind.

The next day in the hospital, a lady came into the room and wanted papers to record my name for good. She looked at my Mom impatiently (probably thinking, "what a dork,"), and said, "SO? What's the baby's name?!" Mom says she just couldn't call me Adam. So I was Julian.

So this story could have started off with:

My name is Adam.

But it didn't.

I don't like being Julian

My Mom says that once when I was about 2, I said, "I don't like being Julian." She wondered if I had early self-esteem issues…and asked me a few times what I didn't like about myself, and I kept answering, "I don't know." Grownups sure ask some dumb questions sometimes. Of course I don't know!

Turns out, all I meant was that I didn't like my name Julian, not myself Julian. But I got over that. I like my name now.

Where my Mom got my name.

It's not like my name Julian just popped up in the hospital though. My Mom had done some research to find just the right boys' name, since she liked my older brother's name Gabriel so much. She wondered how she'd find another name that was unusual and distinctive, but not weird or hard to spell or say.

So she found a book at the library called "11,001 names For Your African-American Baby." I didn't know I was African-American! Mom says I'm not, but she liked the book. And that's what gave her the idea for the name Julian. She says it just grabbed her.

But then she and my Dad wondered if maybe Julian is too close to a girl's name, like Julia or Julianne. Of course, now, anyone looking at me (and hearing me) certainly knows I'm a boy! And never once in my life has anyone mistaken Julian for a girl's name. My brother Gabriel on the other hand, gets "Gabrielle" all the time. Sucker!

Girl's name If I had been a girl, I would have been named Natalie. I guess that's OK. My brother, if he'd been a girl, would have been named Elise. I so don't get that. Why a different girls' name for a different baby? Grownups really don't make sense sometimes.


It's a good thing I have such a cool name when I have such a stinky nickname. Would you believe, my Mom still calls me "Precious precious?!"

She came up with cute nicknames for my sister and brother, but my nickname is ridiculous. She kept saying I was the most "precious baby," so she got in the habit of calling me "precious". Well that's already dumb when you're 2, but when you're 9, it's downright ridiculous. In fact, she made it worse somewhere along the way by doubling to to "Precious Precious.." Like one 'precious' isn't bad enough? I mean, seriously! Is she trying to get me beat up? Speaking of nicknames, occasionally someone calls me "Jules." Blah, I don't like that. They always say, "You know, like Jules Verne." OK, so the dude wrote a great book about adventures and stuff, but so what. Doesn't mean I want to be called Jules.

Turns out, Jules Verne's middle name is Gabriel, my brother's name - another reason not to be associated with him!

Mom's favorite

I think my Mom secretly likes my name the best of all. She says she really likes its sing-song quality. And she uses it a lot: "JUUUU-LI-AN!" Luckily my name has that nice long strong sound that can be SCREAMED again and again: "JUUULIAN! GET BACK HERE NOW!" The principal sure knows my name really well!


Actually, my name isn't as common as you might think. Seems everyone knows my name, and never mis-spells it, but no one can ever find pre-printed things with my name on it. So while my brother got a cute mug with his name on it in cute bubble letters, I got a generic one with safari animals. Other kids can find license plates and things with their names pre-printed, but not me.

My Middle Name

My middle name has a pretty cool story too. My Dad wanted at least one name to be related to British cars, which is why if my older brother had been an older sister, he would have been named Elise, after the Lotus Elise. So when I was on the way, Dad wanted my middle name to be Morgan, after a British 3-wheeler vehicle made in the 1930s. That's, like, totally forever ago -- I guess cars didn't even have four wheels then! But my Mom wanted my middle name to have a family connection. My older brother's middle name is James, after her father, for instance.

One day, my Mom was talking to her sister, my Aunt Stephanie, about this problem, and Aunt Stephanie said breathlessly, "Wait -- didn't you know that Dad's mother's maiden name was Morgan?!" Wow! What a cool coincidence! So my middle name is Morgan.

But I'm still not sure if it's after a crummy overgrown tricycle or my great-grandmother.


I think my name is going to sound GREAT when they announce the winner of the Nobel Prize someday!

the end

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

2/6/13 Middle School

One life's logistical challenges I'd been putting off fretting about was school next year: Gabriel is going to middle school, and the middle school I'm zoned for is about as far as possible from my house and still be in the middle-school district.

How would he get there and back?! The district is shaped long, and I live at one end, and the middle school is at the other end. My middle school is much too far to walk from home, much too dangerous to bicycle, and there are no public busses. Carpooling is unreliable, I don't know enough people, I can't contribute to a carpool either. A coworker told me about a bus that neighborhood parents arranged, but it would still involve driving Gabriel to the bus stop. Walking home is by far the most reliable method.

Then, things changed completely with a letter from the school district a few weeks ago. Attendees of our elementary school in a small area that includes my house, were given an option to attend a middle school that is physically closer. I'd wanted to get Gabriel in that school because of proximity, and it's also very close to elementary school and CDC, but since its test scores are higher, I figured it would be impossible to request a change.

But now, because of space concerns at the fine but far-away middle school I'm zoned for, suddenly there was the option of the closer middle school (with higher test scores, whoopee, whatever).

Here's a map. The school we're zoned for is named "Cup. Middle." The school we're not zoned for, but we suddenly have an option for, is named "Lawson." The kids attend Collins for grammar school, which is about a 1-mile walk from home.

I sent in the letter with the option checked YES for the closer not-zoned middle school, thinking it was merely requesting the option -- but I'm told that is actually final (not officially confirmed). If that's true, suddenly, the school landscape changes again!

Middle school will be very different from elementary, and from when I was in 6th grade. They'll have daily P.E., an 8th-grade mentor, electives, and online collaboration with classmates. My goodness, my newly-minted 11yo is really growing up!


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

2/5/13 Chicken Nuggets

Katrina, for some reason, took it upon herself tonight to help me with dinner. With characteristic brightness and charm and bouncy enthusiasm, she announced, "I'm going to help Mom with dinner!"

I was tired, it was late, I was stressed by work overload, and I was planning on a quick kid-food dinner, but her happy attitude was infectious. "OK!" I said.

And then, I learned the miracle of girls. I pulled out a bag of chicken nuggets and explained to her what to do: get a tray, put some aluminum foil on it, put the nuggets on the tray, put the tray in the oven, set the oven to 400 degrees. And she did it all -- focused, cheerful, full of happy adorable comments along the way.

Of course, I handled the hot-dangerous part, like turning the nuggets and pulling them out, but truly, my six-year-old daughter did darned near everything else. If it's possible, I think she was prouder than I was, exclaiming again and again that SHE helped with dinner, and SHE can make chicken nuggets now all by herself, and SHE is my best kitchen helper.

She sure is!


Sunday, February 03, 2013

2/3/13 Squaw 3: Back from Squaw!

Time to update and include all the wonderful memories and stories from our final day at Squaw!

Katrina was in ski school all day, so it was just me and the boys to continue to get to know this huge mountain.

It was really warm again today, something I object to philosophically because it makes skiing conditions not-so-great, but I really really don't miss the whole frozen-toes thing of my youth.

But after a full day of ski school yesterday, and being totally "in the groove" at our new home, the boys were ready for some serious skiing! I was really impressed with Julian especially -- he still always looks like he's about to fall over, but he's brave, he likes to go fast, he tackles features with no thought, and totally, completely enjoys it.

The boys took me to places they'd been to in their lesson yesterday, including this ancient and short chairlift at the beginner Belmont terrain park.

This park ("Belmont") is so small we could all just ride the life on our own and tackle the boxes and jumps ourselves.

I wanted to learn to ride a "rail," and tried to practice sideways sliding on boxes, including this one. Unfortunately, no one told me you're supposed to enter it from the side, not head-on. I rammed right into the front of it and tumbled head-over-heels, with one ski, crashing all over the box. Ouch!

Julian saw the whole thing from the lift. Later he reported that he too had had a "yard sale" crash.


Great way to depart the terrain park: via the half-pipe.

After lunch, time for some lower runs. How about Dead Tree Run off of KT-22. I'll say! It looked deadly! The boys peered over the precipice in warranted fear. What a lovely ridge view though.

We stuck to the "easiest" way down from KT-22, which were double-blues (including my new nemesis, icy moguls).

The boys on "Saddle," from the KT-22 lift. Icy and mogul-y, but they both did great. (Julian in the red helmet and green jacket.)

I thought this was "Saddle Face," a black-diamond, but looking at the trail map I think this was actually just "Saddle," a double-blue. Still, icy moguls are no beginner terrain. Julian especially made some real leaps this trip, he's much faster and braver than he had been, if not quite as confident or smooth as Gabriel.

Even on "Home Run" back to the Squaw base and Village, there was no shortage of amusement on the side of the runs. Julian actively and eagerly sought anything different he could....if not elegantly!

I had to pick up Katrina at 3:15 and had juust enough time to make a quick run up KT-22 again, but fate -- and a snowboarder -- intervened.

At the very bottom approaching KT-22 (technically a green), Julian and a snowboarder were on a 90-degree collision course as Julian barreled down the last part of a ski run toward the lift...I saw the rider coming but figured one of the two males would back off....hah. I keep underestimating testosterone and overestimating male judgement!

Julian's skis took out the snowboarder's board -- no body collision , but it put them both down. Julian at barely 50 lbs can tumble like a piece of popcorn and not notice it; the full-grown much-heavier snowboarder took out a bunch of SLOW signs (same type that my friend's daughter hit) and was down for a few moments, stunned.

We had to wait for ski patrol to check out the situation. In a few minutes the rider was moving, and kindly apologized in a foreign accent for the trouble. Guess it helps to weigh 5 times more! It wasn't until then that it occurred to me that technically, it probably was the boarder's fault. But Julian totally should have seen it coming and slowed down. Doesn't matter whose fault it technically is when one person could/should have avoided it. Sigh. So much for my one last run up KT-22.

Katrina was done when I picked her up at 3:15, so no more "last run" with her. I didn't blame her, she'd been in all-day ski school for 3 straight days now. I sent the boys up "Expedition" lift while I picked up Katrina, but they came down wide-eyed and frustrated: "Solid ICE, Mom!" Still, I was beaming with pride that I could send my sons up a lift I'd never done and basically know that if they didn't come back in one piece, it was because they'd been tearing each other apart -- but they can ski it.

That was it! Back to our hotel condo -- really fabulous accomodations for a "hotel." I hate hotels and elevators, but there were perks: it was cleaned every day, and it was a condo, not a motel room. It had a nice balcony, a bedroom with a queen for me and two bunkbeds for the kids in the other bedroom, so it fit us just fine. And so nice to have some help with kitchen cleanup!

I decided to give the kids dinner, pack up, and make the drive home at night. While doing so, I noticed Gabriel's ski sock. Wow, he's actually worn it out. Guess we've done this whole snow/ski thing more than I thought!

Amazing how different boys and girls are. All I had to do was tell Katrina once or twice to put away all her snow stuff, pack her clothes into her knapsack, take a bath, and get into PJs for the drive back. She had a question or two, and happily made comments about her tasks as she went along, but before long, she was done. Julian -- nowhere close, but he keenly observed his sister say that she was going to pick Curious George to watch, or something, so he stepped up too.

Gabriel? Something got him into a snit, and when I was done with my shower, he was still sitting defiantly on a chair, refusing to budge, unable to recount what was the original trigger, and hadn't even started getting ready while the rest of us were done. I had no patience for this, and forced him through a quick shower angrily, after which he helped me tote things downstairs with irritation. Honestly when it's just me and all 3, especially dealing with a hotel, an underground parking garage, and swipe-cards for access every step of the way, you really do need others to carry their things. I'm tired of their constant expectation that I'm their valet. Katrina was by far the most cooperative, even enthusiastic, finding a way to carry her clothes, her snow stuff and her favorite animal all together. Her brothers?? Forget it!

Somehow I got everyone, everyone's snow stuff, clothes and skis packed in the car, with a lot of help, and we were off at about 6:45pm. I don't mind bailing early from a place I've paid for: I got my moneys' worth! We used it for popcorn, hot chocolate, tracking down Julian in the Children's Room; we took baths and changed and packed, had dinner, got ready to do. And everyone was anxious to see our acts (no one moreso than me, since I'd unwittingly learned how much Mommy-Meow-Stache means to me on our trip up...I really wanted to see her!).

But Mother Nature wasn't done with us and cats.

A stunning event on the drive home: I almost made roadkill out of a full-grown mountain lion. No kidding, a genuine wild lion ran out in front of my car. I thought for sure I would hit it, but somehow just barely missed. This was at 7:21pm in I-80 West, just before the sign that warns that Alta, CA is 1 mile away. Ironic that the trip started with a troublesome cat, and could well have ended with one too!

Despite the huge cloud of missing the family who we'd planned to do this trip with, and fretting about their daughter's injury, it was a terrific experience. It definitely opens my mind about large "glitzy" resorts -- my instincts are with the small, more intimate, less-crowded places, but who cares once you're out on a run? There's room for all. It'd take us weeks to get to know Squaw -- and without ever moving the car! I'll take it!