Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mindlessness of Privilege

Last night, I was taking a big-picture look at my blog.  In particular, I was thinking about categories.  It occurred to me that in the past month of posting, probably the only category I didn't post in was "How White I Am."

Somewhere between surprised and sad and embarrassed, I decided that this in and of itself is a signal of how white I am.  I think about race and its effects on my family most days. But there are days when I can easily not and rarely a day when race related issues are really up in my face. Heck, I can go 29 days without a post mentioning race.

The mindlessness of being white is a privilege most of us white folks probably never fully recognize or understand.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Side Effects

Taking prescription medicines almost always come with side effects.  Taking two of them both designed to mess with my hormones creates some really interesting side effects (I'm taking domperidone and a birth control pill).  There's the lactation, for one.  That is not what either of these drugs were designed to do. But since I and others are using these drugs in a way they weren't tested for, many of the less threatening side-effects are not reported on the drug sheet that comes with the prescription.

This post is for anyone else out there inducing lactation and feeling a little bit crazy and out of control of their bodies. Because really, we are.  But it is nice to know someone else understands.

Last time I took the domperidone, I noticed that I gained between 1/2 and 1 pound a month. Talking with others who've taken the drug verifies that is a normal side effect.  I'm certain experiencing that effect this time, too. Thankfully, the weight seems to come off easily after the medicine is stopped.

Using the two drugs together, I've found that my neck and upper back muscles react very strongly to stress or exhaustion. Which means if I don't get enough sleep or take care of myself in stressful times, I get these giant migraine headaches. Even intense exercise will bring on a headache. A visit with my integrative manual therapist (like craneo-sacrial for the whole body) revealed that women on in vitro fertilization (IVF) drugs often experience the same tightness and migraines.

Perhaps related to the weight gain, I find I'm often resistant to eating protein, even eggs and dairy.  Protein avoidance is definitely new to me as I've spent many of the past years eating very low carb.

Taking all of these hormones is perhaps crazy and weird.  It certainly makes my body crazy and weird.  And, the prospect of sharing the incredible bonding I enjoyed while nursing my other two babies with a third child makes it worth it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cooking in Denial

Long, long ago when Bill and I were married, Teflon cookware was the prized object of the kitchen.  Non-stick and health because it required little fat for cooking, all the books and magazines recommended it.  We dutifully listed the whole Calphalon Teflon series on our registry and received most of it.

Fast forward over a decade and it turns out Teflon kills small birds and poses respiratory and cancer risks to those who use it.  

I know about the dangers of polytetrafluoroethylene (that's what they call it when it isn't trademarked) - I've been hearing this information via my various quirky health newsletters for years.  Yet each night at dinner time, you'll find me pulling out my Teflon lined Everyday Pan with my fingers in my ears singing, "lalalalalala I can't hear you lalalalala."  

It's not that I don't think the stuff is dangerous.  I just don't know what else to do.  There's the aluminum option, but coming from a family with history of Alzheimer's that risk is too high for me.  There's stainless steel, but it turns out it leaches something like 23 other metals that have undetermined safety levels.  There's straight-up cast iron, but it is heavy, hard to care for and doesn't come in the happy array of pan styles I need.  There's anodized aluminum, which sounds like it might be safe but I over-cooked beets in my one anodized pot and it lost all its finish and color which seems totally freaky and compromising to me.

That leaves, as far as I can tell, two options.  Ceramic lined cast iron (think Le Creuset) or a rumored line called Safe Pans (I think).  

One of my friend raves about the Safe Pans, from Australia (?).  They are apparently, true to name, safe.  Also the seem to come in good sizes that are reasonably priced. But for the life of me I can't find them on the internet. Hey friend-who-I-happen-to-know-reads-this-blog, maybe you could post a link to them in the comments section?  

Now Le Creuset defines sexy in the cookware world - amazing variety of shapes and sizes and eye-candy colors.  Super high quality, it lasts forever and can be passed down from generation to generation. Nobody in on the internet registers any safety concerns.  But I balk for two reasons.  Mostly, the stuff is expensive.  My Everyday Pan now goes for $64.  The Le Creuset equivalent (the iron braiser) runs $200.  The cost of replacing my entire cookware set would be phenomenal.  Still a factor, though less shocking, is the weight of these pans.  Cast iron is heavy and I wonder how I and the kids would manage working with such heavy pieces.

And here I am back where I started.  A house full of hungry people and likely unsafe pots that are actually in my kitchen ready to use.  I guess they'll have to do for another meal or 100.

How about you? Do you cook in the land of denial, too?  If not, what pans do you use?  Anyone think the concerns are all  red-herrings raised by a jealous industry?

Monday, September 27, 2010

3 days left!!

Not that any of us are counting, but there are only 3 days left in September.  That's a lot of blogs posts from yours truly.  And I think I'm going to make it through the month.  Wheeee!

What Are Bicyclists Thinking?!

Usually I'm a pretty calm and sedate person.  But one of my very serious pet peeves comes out loud and clear when I'm driving.  Bicyclists who don't think they need to follow the rules of the road.

I saw it today.  Pulling up to a 4-way stop, I noticed a cyclist tailing the car in front of it through the intersection.  No stop.  Not even a pause.  Good thing the bus driver noticed him and didn't clip his back wheel as he slipped past.  I see people on bikes fly through yellow lights, weave in through heavy traffic to get to the front of the left turn line at a light, change lanes without signaling and regularly ignore stop signs.

All this cycling behavior really ticks me off.  Because I REALLY don't want to be the driver that hits them.  Traveling at 35 miles per hour, my minivan can do some serious damage to a person, especially one whose speed approaches 25 mph.  Being responsible for the death of another human being and living with the sadness and horror of such an atrocity is not something I care to experience.

Not surprisingly, I treat maneuvering two tons of metal through the streets at un-human speeds seriously.  I'm trained to be a careful driver. I had hours of driving under my belt driving with my dad by early puberty and a good high school drivers ed teacher.  As an adult, I scored high in a motorcycle safety course and graduated from a mini-truck driving course. All of these drilled safe car handling into my head.  I do my best to be attentive, present and aware of the entire driving scene around me.  But there is little I can do to help protect people who don't play by the rules of the road.

In case the idea that bicyclist are required to follow the same rules of the road as car drivers is a surprise to you, here is the City of Seattle regulation:

Section 11.44.020 RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF RIDER.  Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to a driver of a vehicle, except as to the special regulation of this chapter and except as to those provisions of the Traffic Code which by their nature can have no application.

Carless people putting me at risk of endangering their lives tend to turn up my volume.  So, if you're out driving around town and hear some manic yelling, "My car can squash your head like a watermelon!!!", smile and wave.  It's just me expressing my safety concerns to a near-by cyclist.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How (some) Homeschool Parents Party

image from
Last night, I hosted about a dozen other homeschool parents (sans kids) to a "Parents Night Out."  Besides the fun of sharing potluck dinner together, the purpose of our gathering was to create art!

Years ago in Florida at a similar gathering, I and a lovely bunch of mamas from the community at OneHotMama dyed playsilks.  Besides being fun, this was a very frugal move, considering that one can buy a silk scarf and the dye for about $4 when they usually cost about $12. My kids played daily with the silks for 5 years until the silk disintegrated.

With my ever-present "how hard can it be?" approach to new projects and a serious reluctance to overpay for new scarves, this summer I proposed the outing to our local homeschool yahoo group and got a huge response.  Many hours on DharmaTrading and plenty of phone calls to customer service later, I'd worked out that I really had no clue what I was doing.  Enter another mama who actually loved dying and knew what to do.  A short conversation with her lit my way and within the hour I'd ordered over 150 silk scarves and a rainbow of dye. Now the adventure was truly afoot.

Back to last night, we supped on the potluck feast and started our project.  Our start was a little slow while we worked out how to set up and what exactly to do with so many people, buckets, silks and dye choices.  And then people got comfortable with the project.  We saw beautiful designs, fun color combinations, people cheering successes and helping each other with problem solving.  Twelve people rinsing in only 2 sinks created little niches for chatting and those same 12 people trying to get at 7 buckets in a small space created plenty of intimacy.

At midnight the last friend left, having helped me finish cleaning up the kitchen.  I went to bed with a washing machine swirling with vinegar and over a dozen gloriously decorated silkies.  Better yet, the happy glow from a house full of laughing, learning, sharing friends.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Santa Claus brought me a new game for my stocking last Christmas.  Quiddler is sort of a combination of Scrabble and Rummy.  Bill and I love to play games together and for years had serious Scrabble competitions. Come kids, I lost the concentration required to actually beat Bill, so Scrabble had to go on hold. We've played other board, card and word games over the years, but I've always missed the word manipulations.

Quiddler requires short spurts of concentration and allows time for chatting or helping out a kid.  Because there are a set amount of hands, the length of the game is limited.  And I get to make random letters into words.  It is by far my new favorite.  Right now I'm ahead 76 to 49.  Hope my luck holds!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Music in My Head

Last month, I spend the weekend with a group of friends.  Suddenly, in a pause in the conversation, someone said, "Freeze.  What's the song going through your head?"

Mine was Sweet Jane by the Cowboy Junkies.  His was something obscure I'd never heard of but was tangentially related to the topic at hand.  One other person had something going.

What shocked me was that about half the people in the room didn't have any music going at the time - maybe 6 people. I can't remember a time that there wasn't background music in my brain.  And I can remember far back.

Often my internal song comes from the constant input of my external world.  Right now I'm REALLY working to keep hubby's horrible zombie song from becoming the standard track in my brain (it is just so damn catchy and the kids randomly burst out singing it).  For the past few years it has often been one Suzuki guitar song or another.  During the many years I worked in retail, my internal music came from the ever present top 40 radio stations playing through the speakers.  Sadly, for several office years, it was the muzak I heard on my way up the elevator in the morning.

Several times a day, my brain attaches some lyrics to a conversation or situation.  You know, someone is telling me they moved last weekend with some help from their friends.  Then I'm all Beatles for the rest of the day.

So how about you?  Does you have an internal soundtrack?  What's playing right now?  Or are you quiet inside?  What's that like?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Do You Think About Blog Comments?

I follow about 85 blogs on my Google Reader.  Rarely do I comment on a post on any of these blogs, in part because it is a pain from my reader to click through to the  blog (wow, this reeks of a 1st world problem, doesn't it?).  Other times I decline to post because I fear that my voice or perspective would not be welcome to the conversation.  Sometimes I actually write the entire comment and then delete it rather than hitting the submit button.

Yet I find I really, really appreciate and enjoy comments to my posts. Comments are interesting, informative, sometimes just plain fun.  But they are always affirmation that my writing is not only being read but actually reaching people. Very rarely do I find a comment from someone to be unwelcome enough that I would consider not publishing it.

Some of the blogs I follow host entire communities and life-changing conversations in their comments section (NakedWithSockOn takes the cake for this). On other blogs the comments section is turned off or seeming completely ignored by the writers.

What I can't figure out for my own blog is how to handle the comments section. Should I respond to every comment or is that over-involved? What prompts you to post or not to post your thoughts on the subject at hand? How do the bloggers you admire handle their comments? What do you wish I would do?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Laundry Happiness

Turns out, I'm really pleased with our whole laundry system right now.

When we first take off our dirty clothes, we choose between the lights (lime green) hamper and the darks (black) hamper.  Each morning a child carries down the fullest hamper (they alternate - Theo is even days, Rosie is odd days).  Said child then notifies Bill that laundry is ready, and at some point during the day Bill runs a load.

Once clothes are clean and dry, they get either hung up on the clothing bar in the laundry room to prevent wrinkles or dumped into white hampers, which signify clean clothes.  Within a day or two J, our amazing housemate, folds laundry.  She deposits folded laundry, in their white hampers, at the top of the stairs at which point Bill usually trips over them and remembers to put the clothes away.

One of Flylady's maxims is, "Nothing says I Love You like clean underwear."  My favorite parts of this laundry system are the peaceful loving feeling of knowing there are almost always clean undies in my drawer, and the fact that at no point in the above narrative did you read the words, "and then I...".

Good system, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Last spring, I accidentally knocked my physical therapist's coat off the hook as I was hanging mine.  Bending to pick it up, I encountered the fluffiest, sleekest looking coat I've ever seen.  She let me try it on while she raved about its various features and comfortable warmth.

I've been obsessed ever since.  The object of my desire is a Patagonia "down sweater". The feather pack is warm, but not so puffy it looks like the Michelin Man.  The jacket itself is very light and stuffs down into its own tiny pocket, perfect for just dropping into my bag in case soccer practice or park day gets chilly.

I tried to run out and buy it, but apparently Patagonia only releases the "sweater" in the fall and every store sold out over the winter.  After months and months of stalking (and looking for sale prices), fall has come!!

Now I just have to pick a color. REI, here I come!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adult vs. Grown-up

Over the course of our life time, people age from baby to (hopefully) senior citizen.  However, I've noticed (and I'm sure you have) not everyone will manage to grow-up - if we define growing-up as becoming fully mature.

According to Neufeld, there are three drives to maturity.  These are internal drives that exist in each human being, and they develop naturally unless they are squashed. In order to mature each of us needs to achieve:

Adaptation.  This is when we let life change us.  It is the origins of the Serenity Prayer.  Basically we fully feel our frustration and sadness when life doesn't go the way we want.  Integral to adaptation are tears of sadness.  Researchers dehydrated different types of tears (I'm guessing something like sad, mad, happy, scared) and found that the toxins in tears of sadness are potent enough to kill a small rodent. We need, emotionally and physically, to get the frustration and sadness out of our system so we can move on.  The magic of really absorbing the futility of the moment is what comes next - new ideas and/or the knowledge that we can live through hard times and survive.  Neufeld calls these fruits resourcefulness and resilience.

Integration.  This is mixed feelings.  We are integrated when we can hold two feelings at the same time. As in, I'm mad that you dropped my iPhone in the toilet and I can feel my love for you at the same time.  Or I feel mad about how messed up the institution of adoption is and sad about the fact that a mama is going say goodbye to her baby and I'm so looking forward to being mama to another child. Mixed feelings lead to the virtues in life because they balance our negative moments with our caring parts.     
From Neufeld:
self-control = caring about our impact + impulses to react
patience = caring feelings + frustration
courage = caring about what we treasure + fear
consideration = caring for another + concern for self
forgiveness = caring feelings + impulses to get even
We are also integrated when we can see our friend's point of view and still hold onto our opinion. One of my favorite clues that someone isn't integrated is the 180 degree turn.  Friend hates the Beatles music until I mention how I grew up on their music and know the words to most of the songs by heart.  Then suddenly Friend has always been a fan of their songs.

Emergence.  Neufeld defines emergence as venturing forth, vitality and viability.  I'm still chewing on what this really means to me.  His examples have to do with children playing happily on their own and creating from their own minds.  Or as we grow, finding our own creativity, opinions and ideas. Neufeld says he thinks a relationship with ourselves is the highest point of emergence.  My take-away is that this is very complex and is the sort of thing we hope to begin to master before we die.  In order to be able to emerge, we need to be able to focus on ourselves and relax about our general safety in the world. For children, this means they need secure attachments with those who are responsible for us so they can be free from the concern of making those relationships work and can spend their energy figuring out who they are. Non-emergent people are our typical couch potato, I think, spending all their time watching TV, letting others' ideas flow in with no interests or hobbies of their own.  I'm guessing I haven't absorbed the larger idea of emergence.  Perhaps I'll write more later as my understanding deepens.

I love looking at this material from two perspectives - where am I at in my development and growth and where my children are.  Understanding this about myself, my kids, and others in my world creates lots of space for true understanding with creative solutions to the challenges through out our day. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Love My Civil Liberties

I do love my civil liberties, and this made me proud of our Constitution and its Amendments.  Also, more aware of my rights and how easily they can be eroded away.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Synonym for Labrador

Remember the new dog we got a few weeks ago? Turns out he's not actually a dog, he's an 80 pound walking mouth.

He puts everything in his mouth, if not to chew it to at least taste and feel it.  Books, the recycle bin, his toys, the kid toys, the couch, the dining room table, my butt, kids feet, the bathtub, everything.  Turns out, I come armed for information to deal with this.

Just shortly after Bill and I married, we decided to get a dog.  Being child free, I had tons of time to read and investigate having a dog.  I remember a few of my favorite books being The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, Good Owners, Great Dogs by Kilcommons, and some books I can't find that has Puppy in the title and a Dalmatian puppy on the cover. Once the puppy came, I still had loads of free time for puppy school.  Tella, the chocolate lab, and I finished canine good citizen training and began showing for obedience trials before I became pregnant with my human puppy.  The ensuing 26 weeks of laying on the couch and puking pretty much put a stop to our serious training. Always a sucker for dog training, in the past year Rosie and I have devoured the Cesar Millan videos (available at our local library!) plus one of his books.

All this to say I'm not new to the ways of teaching a dog what I want them to do and prevent them from doing what I don't want them doing. Still, I feel like an over worked hamster keeping this pooch in positive activities. After spending over $70 on dog toys and chew treats (because that's so much cheaper than buying a new couch or a new iPhone), here's my daily run down:
- Keep the dog on a leash near me at all times.
- Put him in a crate when I can't watch him.
- Liberally douse everything that can handle it in bitter apple spray.
- Give Mr. Mouth something else to do like sit or play fetch.
- Reward him for "bringing" things to me that he is trying to sneak off with.
- Wear the dog out.  Take him for a walk or through the ball for him until he's too tired to put anything in his mouth any more.
- Keep the house littered with things he's allowed to chew on.
- Teach him, through liberal treats and praise, the idea of "leave it."
- Remember to feed him.

So far we've lost a hose, several bags of charcoal (turns out I've got to watch him outside, too), one leash, one stuffed tiger, several legos pieces and one foam block.  Not too bad for the first two weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Very Girlie Post

I'm thinking about cutting my hair.  It is down to my shoulder blades now, and its starting to seem like work. Also, my hair seems noticeably there which becomes a sensory issue for me.  I notice I'm ending up with a pony tail most of the day recently, a look I don't love on me.

I like the length (as does my husband) and really enjoy how I can make my curls into ringlets.  What I don't like has to do with how frizzy it gets.  I transition from pretty curls or ringlets to Christmas Tree (think triangle here) overnight. Somehow shoulder length hair seems easier to restyle - or at least less likely to go Christmas on me.

Once there is a new baby with that strong grasp, long hair either needs to be tied back or disappear.  So cut in now or cut it later? Or maybe I'm just suffering the fall doldrums.  And of course, longer hair keeps me warmer in the chill of winter. On the other hand, long hair can be so sensuous and pretty.  I like looking and feeling womanly.

If you're reading from my blogger page, you can compare this current picture with my profile picture and the length I'm considering returning to (and yeah I know about that dangling participle).

Sigh.  At least I don't have to decide what to do with my beard.  Yet.

What do you think - is long frumpy or lovely? Am I too old for long hair? How do you decide when to cut your hair?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sometimes Things Go Well

Oddly, the start of our new homeschooling year seems to be going smoothly. Knock on wood.

The children vary between excited and accepting of our work and routine instead of the all out mutiny I expected.  The smooth transition from summer to fall probably comes from a variety of things.

First, my kids are older.  Maturity makes a huge difference.  Actually, Theo's maturity makes a huge difference. A few days into our new schedule, he confided in me that this year he plans to do all of his work by the end of the year.  Apparently over the summer something happened in Theo's brain that made doing his work a priority. And since Rosie imitates 90% of what he does, she's into doing her work as well.

Second, I'm confident keeping a summer schedule prevented the usual shock of entering back into a full school year routine.  The kids' summer work list stood more as a place holder than an engine for getting lots of learning done, but it helped.  Each morning we were in town they did morning routine, chores, practiced guitar, did a 15 minutes clean-up of the house and worked in their handwriting workbooks - about an hour and a half of work.

Of course, figuring out to do light schooling over the summer points to another reason for these easy first few weeks: more expereince on my part.  We're beginning our official 4th year of homeschooling, and we did years of neurological growth programs before then.  I guess I've been mucking out how to make an agenda-packed day run smoothly with my kids for about 8 years now. Over the course of time the most important lesson I've internalized is the metaphor of the marathon.  The work I'm doing with my kids blossoms years from now.  Getting every detail and lesson just perfect right now looks good in the short sprint of the day, but if I make us all crazy and exhausted now how will I ever teach our life goals of peace, ease, connection and love of learning? In short, I'm becoming flexible with an eye to the long term.

Finally, a great trick I learned from the Neufeld course: steer into the skid.  If I know my kid is going to hate something, whine, scream and complain about it, I announce that to them before presenting the offending work. While it sounded at first like crazy manipulation, somehow it seems to magically give my children permission to feel their feelings, be known by me and let most of the drama pass.

It sounds like this, "Honey, next I am going to ask you to do something I know is usually hard for you, and you don't like.  And to make it worse, I'm going to ask you to do MORE of it than I did this summer.  I'm guessing you're going to feel really angry and want to scream and yell at me, and that's okay with me."  I assign the handwriting task and the response is, "Oh darn it Mommy.  That's going to be hard.  Where's my pencil?"  Weird but true. Of course, one should always be prepared to accept the angry shouting if that comes about, too.

Now that I've shared about our lovely first weeks and my guesses as to what made them so, I'm off to make copious sacrifices to both the parenting and homeschool gods in hopes of preventing serious retaliatory disasters next week!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Super Powers Activate!


With our first child, nursing was a totally natural, easy, and carefree process.  He was born to me, and my body did the things women's bodies have been doing for eons. He nursed until his little 3 year old self was too busy to sit still.

With our second child, despite the fact that she joined our family through adoption, I assumed the process would be equally natural, easy and carefree.  My thinking centered around the idea that making mommy milk is mostly a supply and demand process - baby nurses, breasts create milk.  Right when nursing a child after pregnancy, wrong when it comes to inducing lactation.  Determined to give my little sweetie the essential bonding and as much high-quality nutrition as I could, I turned to herbs, oatmeal, stout beer and finally pharmaceuticals.  Viola, the drugs delivered milk as promised. We enjoyed our lovely bonding nursing for 3 1/2 years when I declared us to be done.

Now awaiting number 3, I'm a wiser and more prepared adoptive mama.  I know about how adoptive nursing works, and I know about inducing lactation.  People in Canada researched and presented on the topic.  I've memorized the entire document, which goes by the name of the Newman-Goldfarb Protocol.

The thrust of the method is that I take a particular brand of birth control non-stop for 6-9 months to mimic pregnancy.  I also ingest a drug called domperidone (It was created for reducing nausea in cancer patients, only problem being the drug induced lactation in both men and women. As if fighting cancer wasn't bad enough without being engorged).  About a month before baby comes, I'm to pump every 2 hours to mimic a newborn's feeding patterns which builds supposedly enough production to feed the baby. I'm not making any promises on the pumping part.  We did okay without it last time and pumping rates very low on my list of enjoyable pastimes.

The Newman-Goldfarbs plan enthusiastically suggests that closely following the protocol will allow my body to provide most if not all of my baby's nutritional needs. Still, my trusty Lact-Aid supplemental nursing system and some new bottles are standing by in case baby needs a little extra along the way.

10 months into this hormone cocktail and the adoptive wait, I'm ready to drop my mild-mannered secret identity and feed a baby. It is one of my super powers, after all.

Fie upon the Evil Food Service Workers

May many tons of hot coal be heaped upon the evil food service workers that served me caffeinated black tea this evening when I asked for decaf.

It is 1:13am, I've been laying in bed for the past 3 hours and I am still wide awake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Whale of a Bummer

Tomorrow was to be our finale field trip fling of the summer.  I got 1/2 price tickets at Groupon for a whale watching tour in the amazing San Juan Islands.  The plan was to ferry over, camp at the fancy Lakedale Resort, visit the whales and spend a day exploring San Juan Island.

This morning I woke up to discover 2 sick kids.   Despite huge amounts of whining, begging and pleading on their parts, absolutely nothing can convince me to take 2 sick, medium-sized kids tent camping for 3 nights and out on a boat in the cool Pacific Northwest fall for 4 hours.

Dang it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Yankees Hat - 4 Time Winner

Meet my Yankees hat. Its old and faded and maybe a bit ugly.

My brother gave it to me years ago when he lived with us and our TV still worked.  A former New Yorker, he would subscribe to the Yankees Network and somehow had the whole family worked into a baseball frenzy.  Over the years, I realized that I am not a big baseball fan or even a big Yankees fan (though Derek Jeter really is a hottie) unless I'm watching with my brother.  His knowledge of the game and all the politics created my fun and interest.

Still, the Yankees hat sticks with me.  I wear it day after day, rain or shine.  It serves many purposes:
- Sunglasses.  My hat keeps the sun out of my eyes, doesn't smear when my kids touch it and doesn't break when people or dogs step on it.
- Umbrella.  The hat makes a great umbrella. It keeps the rain off my face, preserves my curls and doesn't blow away in the wind.
- Pony tail holder.  Not too tiny and always easy to find.
- Conversation piece.  Wearing a Yankees hat in Seattle never fails to create a moment of friendly banter in my day.  People just can't resist.

Probably the best part of the hat, though, is that it reminds me of my brother and all the fun I've had cheering with him over the years.

Now look at my hat again.  Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Girl Genius Book 9!!!

Is finally out.  Theo and I have waited with baited breath.  Can't wait to hold it in my hot little hands (hint, hint Bill).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm a Chicken

One of the things I don't like about myself is how much I dread and avoid conflict.  I don't think speaking up, telling the truth or confronting someone about a wrong thing they have said or done should be that hard.  But for me right now (and for the past 40 years), it is.

Funny how having kids brings us to confront our deepest fears and worst weaknesses.  Sigh.

Remember the issue about the insensitive Girl Scout volunteer?  Well, after all your lovely ideas and suggestions, I went ostrich and just let the whole thing pass.  However, the new scouting season approaches, and it turns out she's spearheading the group.

Time to put on my big girl panties.  I'm hosting the planning meeting at my house, and I'm going to invite her to come over 30 minutes early so we can talk about my concerns.  I figure the worst that happens can be either I die of fright or she quits working with the group.  Best case, she turns it around and gets some cultural and situational appropriateness or she quits working with the group. Mostly I'm hoping for something in between.

Parenting - the most intense skills development workshop ever.  Do you think I could put this on my resume some day?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Holy Cow!

Welcome Unshelved Readers.

My dearly beloved husband linked to me from his blog on Wednesday, and you came.  Wow did you come.  My usual blog hits hover pretty steadily around 20 per day.  The last few days have been over 1000.  Woof!  Talk about jump in readership.

I was planning a fancy blog celebration when my subscriber numbers finally drifted up to equal my age, figuring it would take quite a while to work my way up from 22 to 41.  Thanks to you all they jumped from being young adults to retirement age this week.

Whooooo hoooooo!!! (how's that for a fancy celebration?)

Thanks for coming, and its an honor that you're choosing to stay and read.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

PS.  Warm, warm thanks to you loyal 22 out there that have so kindly supported me over the years.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marking Progress

As with just about everyone else in the country, our homeschooling family started the swirl of fall this week.  Classes started up, we added in the bulk of our daily school work and soccer began.

Soccer is kind of crazy around here.  Maybe it is everywhere.  Practice twice a week for even the 7 year old!  Thankfully Rosie's coach models perspective as well as passion and decided to only hold the team to one day.  Plus games, and of course games are at different places on different days.  That spells 5 days of soccer in the week all said and done!

I think Theo could smell the intensity last year when we took him to his first practice.  For the first time ever, he completely balked at starting an activity.  We drove him to practice, got him out to the field and he freaked.  Wouldn't leave my side, wouldn't look at or talk to the coach, wouldn't talk to me about what was going on, started sneaky hitting me.  In the end, I made a bunch of empathetic guesses about how he was feeling and struck a deal that he would try 3 practices and then didn't ever have to return if he so chose.

This year, I dropped him off at the coach's house for carpooling, and he barely remembered to tell me goodbye on his way to engage with coach and son.

What a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Queen Big Mama in Charge of the Universe

This morning I was pulled from the far, far away land of dreams by some loud, obnoxious, repetitive sound.  Emerged enough from the deep fog of sleep to put two thoughts together, I figured out it was the alarm clock I set last night.

Almost 10 years of life as a stay-at-home-mom and homeschooler with a working-from-home husband, I'm accustomed to the luxury of waking up more or less when my body fills most of it's sleep debt.  Travel turns out to be the only time I set an alarm as those picky people at the airport don't hold planes for my personal sleep needs.

Why do this to myself now?  Especially now that my kids can wake up and pour themselves cereal or yogurt and play for hours?

So I can be the Big Mama In Charge.

Since January quite a bit of my learning time has gone to an intensive study of Gordon Neufeld's material.  His basic theory covers attachment - postulating that our primary human need is for connection with others.  One of the main realizations I've taken from the 22 hours of video lessons and 10 weeks of discussion group is that my kids need to be able to feel totally safe in my care.  They need to believe being their mama isn't too much work for me, that nothing will jeopardize our relationship, and be sure that I have a plan for their well being.

When my kiddos wake up first, scrounge for food and create their own structure for how to spend their time, it becomes almost impossible for me to wrest the direction of the rest of the day away from them.  Our day becomes a long series of bickering and power struggles with both parents and siblings. I think starting their own day out communicates, however subtly, that taking care of them is too hard, and they must work to meet their own needs.

When I get up, get dressed, take a few minutes to myself and start breakfast before they come down, they treat me as Queen of the Universe*.  They listen, they help, they do! My educated guess is that the kids see their needs being met, they know there is an adult in charge with a plan, and they relax into that care.  The tone of these first moments of the day sets their little systems to either feeling nurtured for and compliant* or anxious and demanding.

Clever being that I am, I've managed to circumvent the getting up part by asking my morning lark of a husband to be the Man of the Morning.  Thus reaping the benefits of Queen of the Universe without the ugly early morning issue. Sadly the Man left for NYC yesterday, leaving me - and the alarm clock - to rise to the challenge of starting the morning off in charge and in peace.**

But I can handle it. I'm the Queen Big Mama in Charge of the Universe!
Wish me luck and send coffee.

*For everyone's sanity and good perspective, please keep in mind that this Queen of the Universe can still be an idiot poopy-head and my compliant children may still scream in agony when asked to get out their handwriting.  But these are mere hiccups on our day rather than the defining tone.
**Anyone else notice that accidental, yet clever, play on words?  Hee hee hee!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roller Coaster

Adoption is a roller coaster.

Tonight, while tucking Rosie in, she plaintively informed me that she felt sad.  Bracing myself for the usual complaint about lack of truly cool toys or begging to sleep in our bed, she told me she really wishes she could still be living with her first mama.  And she'd like to spend a couple of weeks with her first grandma.

Yeah, I agreed with her, it's sad and it's a bummer to be so far away from them and miss them.

She talked a little about what she'd do with them - talking, hugs, sitting on their laps and reading books.  Then we blew them kisses goodnight.  She seemed happy and relaxed as I kissed her good night, the heart ache passed for the moment.

Rosie is so clear about who she is at this moment and what she wants and needs right now.  I so deeply hope this knowledge of herself will get her through the darker days of adolescence and adulthood.

It is such a big ride for such a little girl.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

This Saturday, Mason joined the Barnacle crew!

Described as 75 pounds of handsome, he is a one year old black labrador rescued from a high kill shelter in Idaho.  Aside from being truly handsome in that dorky lab sort of way, Mason is one mellow and awesome pooch.

Our family took the ferry over to Port Orchard to meet him and instantly fell in love.  At first sight he showed all the right signs of friendliness and moderate levels of activity, plus the tendancy to sit when confronted with odd sites (the huge black cow down the lane qualified as very odd in his book.) With a lovely, thick, soft coat, some level of leash training and few obvious commands in his vocabulary, it is clear he lost himself from a careful, loving home.

The weekend whizzed by in a lovely mishmash of getting to know Mason and teaching him about our home and family. I think we're all going to be very happy together.

Welcome, Mason!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Why Underwear

Here is one of the more random things I learned this summer.

Underwear exists for a reason.

I figure at least several of you reading this are thinking, "well, duh."  But as a parent, I try to pick my battles around most things that create resistance from the kids.  Our modern culture seems filled with so many random rules, I prefer to hold my ground for the more meaningful ones.

Coming from Montana, I guess I always figured panties served as a second layer of protection for my bootie from the harsh chill of winter (can't explain much about the summer reasons, though).  So when certain short members of the family began fighting putting on unders, I just shrugged it off.  Winters just aren't that cold here.  Recently, though I learned better.

If you're squeamish, this is the point at which you might like to move on to the next task in your day.

Turns out, underwear serve two purposes.  First, they absorb any little extra drops of urine that a good wipe might miss.  Second, they act as a protective layer between the world and our more funky parts.  Underwear end up being a nice little social convention that keeps our everyday interactions with others fresh. Basically, it keeps people from being too stinky.

Pretty random, isn't it?  But good.  Good to know.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Racism Defined from

From previous posts, I'm sure you've gathered I really enjoy and support their mission.  Most of what prompted me to add their blog to my RSS feed came from my deep admiration for their succinctness regarding the identification and definition of what racism and it's resulting symptoms are.

In the hopes of keeping my thinking and communications clear, I copied these definitions into my email so I could revisit them from time to time (I'd link to the exact page, but now I can't find it). Take a few minutes and read over them, it might help you see your world differently this week, too.

Institutionalized racism:  a form of racism and institutionalized discrimination that takes place in institutions of societal power and influence. These policies and practices are generally set in place and remain unwavering because:
  1. they have been in place for decades/centuries, despite the evolution of civil rights
  2. they are advantageous to the people who are part of this institution, whether they know it or not
The difference between individual bigotry and institutional racism lies in the set policies and practices of an organization that actively or unintentionally discriminate against an ethnic group and subsequently disadvantage that particular group or race. We want to make the distinction between individual 'racism' (eg: bigotry) and institutionalized discrimination, which is a pervasive societal system.

Discrimination: A distinction based on the personal characteristics of an individual resulting in some disadvantage to that individual.
Prejudice: most commonly used to refer to a preconceived judgment toward a people or a person because of race, social class, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. This judgment does not need to have any basis in fact.
Bigotry: A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
Colorism: is a form of discrimination in which people are accorded differing social and economic treatment based on skin color. Colorism occurs across the world and can occur within an ethnic group or between different ethnic groups. In most entertainment industries–including Hollywood–lighter skin tone is given preferential treatment and darker skin tone is considered less desirable. Oftentimes, heroes are cast with lighter skin and villains are cast with darker skin.

I Suck At Finances

While this is by no means a sudden revelation, it dawned on me this summer that right now in my life, I suck at finances.  The part of finances that requires attention to detail on a regular basis.

Actually, I'm sort of a disaster at anything that requires my focused time and attention, because honestly I make no space in my life for such things.  Mornings and afternoons are scheduled to homeschool work and activities.  The gaps of time that I leave unscheduled for children to play and create, I seem to fritter away instead of scheduling time for the work for which I hold myself accountable.

The poor results create waves of anxiety and frustration for me.  The avalanche-worthy mountain of paperwork that is my desk, the constant fire-fighting of taking care of things that should have been done yesterday, the fines from late-paid bills, even the stress of never really quite understanding where we are in the broader financial picture.

Years of being organized and great at attention to detail reminds me that my skills for getting things done exist.  Somehow, I'm not making time or priority for important tasks.  What I struggle with defining is why I don't make time.  Am I lazy?  Are my expectations for what I can do in addition to a full homeschool day totally unrealistic?  Am I creating to do's that are actually unnecessary? Do I spend my time on the wrong tasks?

These are questions I'm not even sure how to find answers for, though I keep looking.  How about you? Do you struggle with similar issues?  How do you handle the drone of logistical tasks in your life?  Any insights to share with me?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Tent Camping

Bill and I love road trips.  We once spent 9 months RV'ing around the country.  That trip hugely influenced us in our decision to homeschool our the theoretical children.  We traveled 30,000 miles and experienced many great adventures.

Now with 2 kids and RV-less, Bill and I still love the idea of road trips.  So this summer we decided to try a 3 week trip.  Our destination was Pact Camp in Monterey, with plans to camp back up the Pacific Coast to Mt. Rainier where we'd meet with about 30 other homeschool families for the mother of all car camping experiences.

As homeschoolers, we spend a large amount of time in the car.  The kids and I are clear on what makes car travel fun and bearable.  We packed the minivan full of books, drawing materials and snacks.  In the end, the driving part was a breeze, especially as Bill brought the first 2 Harry Potter books along to read aloud.

What took me by surprise turned out to be the assembly process.  With an RV, we'd pick our spot, back in and spend a few minutes settling our rig.  Done, time to play.  Leaving is equally simple. With tent camping, we'd pick our spot, drive in and spend the next hour unpacking our gear, setting up the tent, setting up our bedding, setting up our "kitchen."  Which was fine the times we arrived early and settled in for a few days.  And a SUPER giant drag the times we struggle with traffic, pulled in close to supper time and then needed to move out early the next morning.

Next year - because I love road trips and hope to do several next summer - I'll plan our travel differently so that each stop involves at least 2 nights stay, with several much longer stays so that the set-up amortizes better.  I'm pretty sure next year Bill plans to buy an RV.

Funny how married people don't always carry the same goals and expectations. Secretly, I'm sure I'm the more realistic of the pair, but I hope he's the one who's right!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September NaBloPoMo

Well.  The rain has set in (Honestly, it's summer, it's August, it's pouring rain and 67s degrees out.  Do I get some sort of winter credit for this?  Like say a trip to Arizona in February? Somebody please talk to the rain gods for me and straighten this mess out.).  Our school schedule starts up again in a few days.  My summer, though cold and cloudy, filled my brain with new information.

Sounds like time for a NaBloPoMo.  For September, I commit to blogging everyday.  I'm also going to add a new category, "What I Learned On My Summer Vacation."  Because I learned a ton and because it amuses me to no end.

Hope you enjoy the ride!