Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random Updates

I have been trying to post something for the last two or three days, but I keep getting in my own way. It's past 11 PM right now, but I WILL get this done tonight. There will be no overarching theme, because I can't put thoughts together like that. Just consider this the equivalent of those "Deb Was Here" graffiti scrawls. (And, tangentially, everyone should know that I did not get that until I was in my twenties. I kept waiting for the secret code, until one day it hit me- someone just wanted to announce that they had been wherever. People like me should know about things like that so we don't feel like we're missing out on something.)

So, as promised, randomly:

+ I've got this laundry/dishes thing down to an almost science. About forty minutes of housework every night. Predictable- I like it.

+ Because the laundry is humming along so efficiently (meaning that clothing is cleaner more quickly), I weeded Jazmyn's, the boys and my clothing yesterday. Wow, what a pile. I would have taken a picture of the clothing piled high on the couch, but the boys kept jumping in it. Jazmyn was a trooper about picking her four favorite items from each category and then putting out the rest. Sam had a paper due this week and got a reprieve, but she's going in tomorrow. Michael is the one I really dread. Should I give him a reprieve because his birthday is on Saturday? But, I swear, the boys room felt like it was breathing a little better after we went through their stuff. As for me, I absolutely loved tossing things that I haven't worn.

+ I will make an envelope pillow case for anything now that I know how. I made one for my ripped up piano bench, and while it looks amateur, it looks much better than it did before. It makes me unashamed of my home. Now if I could figure out a strategy for my couch, I'd be golden. No, stop- I'm just trying to distract myself from the real project I want to undertake, which is essentially a duvet cover for the ebool (Korean futons) we sleep on. It's not a hard project- I'm sure I'll be a duvet cover abuser after that too.

+ Got a book called "Portfolios of the Poor" out of the library today. It was recommended by Science magazine, and I really like it so far. That makes me like Science magazine more. I like it when book reviewers have good taste. I haven't been able to look at The Economist the same way since they recommended "Constant Battles: Why We Fight". What a stupid book.

+ My library habit is getting bad. Somebody stop me.

+ Samantha and Jazmyn were watching "Hamlet" tonight because David Tennant was in a production of it. I think I love David Tennant. Because of him, the kids now like Doctor Who, Foyle's War and now Shakespeare. I'm going to send him suggestions for his next production.

+ The boys are obsessed with trees and dandelions. It takes us a long time to get from point A to point B because they want to stop and play with everything. It's cute, but frustrating sometimes. Tomorrow I'm hoping to take them to one of our green places nearby- very nearby- and let them explore the greenery to their heart's content for a few hours.

+ Structure is not their friend at this point. I'm trying to take a deep breath and go with it. That was very hard to do on Monday at Tumbling class. They might not go back.

+ They were on very good behavior (relatively speaking) today because I held out the promise of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Yoga class, playground, then a long walk to the bus. They even did worksheet pages. I did my job today.

+ Made my own macaroonish, dehydrated, chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Oh my God, they're really good.

+ I'm obsessed with Nori/nut cheese crackers now, and the kids like them too.

+ Hmm... where is my community garden's compost?

+ Racism and intolerance make people look small and petty, and I'd like one week without it. I bet everyone else I know would like the same. So what's the problem?

+ Farmers Markets start next month. So excited I could cry.

+ Challah costs between $4.90 and $7.59 around here. Tonight, I put up dough for two loaves tomorrow. They will be gone by Saturday morning, but if I bought two loaves from the store it would take them three days to finish. Go figure.

+ Oh my God, the BP oil spill is horrific, with potential to be worse than Exxon Valdez. 11 dead people and millions of gallons into the ocean waters later, a retraction of off-shore drilling commitments the Obama administration made had better be off the table.

+ I would love someone to make me a vegan, soy-free cream of mushroom soup right now. But I think I'll sleep instead.

Randomly,
Deb in the City

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's still her choice

I do not like the idea of the show "The Biggest Loser". I thought the idea of the office weight-loss pool was stupid, and the show seems like that idea, blown up. I don't like the idea of the psychological manipulation, and I don't like breaking people down for my entertainment. Oh yeah, it doesn't work. Most if not all of the previous winners have gained some of their weight back, in some cases a *lot* of weight. (However, it does seem like no one is as heavy as they were when they first got on.)

Of the two trainers, Jillian Michaels seems to have drawn the most ire. She's go-go-go, push it, feel the burn, fitness through blood, sweat and tears. In general, I can't stand that type of trainer, and I think they're wrong.

I have never been able to watch an entire episode of this show, and I have never bought Michaels' dvds. (Hey, even at my weakest I had my limits.) But it has not escaped my attention that she had a rough childhood, owing in part to being overweight. For the record, that is a *terrible* reason for anyone to suffer, much less a child.

Perhaps you have heard by now that Michaels gave an interview to Women's Health. She was asked whether she was going to have children, and she answered that she didn't want to put her body through pregnancy, but she did want to adopt.

And wow- today I've read more about this woman than I have ever read before.

I have four children, and those pregnancies were progressively more difficult. At 20/21, the morning sickness was pretty much over by the 12th week, enough so that I could help us move during that week (but I still threw up that day). I did have to get emergency hydration at about week 10- it's really awful when you can't handle ice cubes at the beginning of August- but that was just for a few hours. Two weeks after my 8lb, 9 oz baby girl was born, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. One of my sisters found the transition scary. I was too sleep-deprived and busy nursing to be really excited.

Five and a half years later, the sickness didn't go away until week 16. I needed emergency hydration, but this time a little earlier. Going to work was out of the question after a certain point. I did recover pretty well, but everything felt weird until about week 20. After my 7lb, 15 oz baby was born, I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight in the same two weeks. A little more excited that time, as I had to go to work.

Four years after that, something was different. I was a wreck by week 6, and by week 7 I had a feeling something was up. Was seen at week 8 for severe hyperemesis, and the ultrasound confirmed what I suspected. Twins. I was too dehydrated to cry. By week 9 I was going to be back in the hospital for two nights, and when I left I got a prescription for an anti-emetic. That, in case you don't know, is a drug that they give to people to keep them from vomiting. They are usually saved for chemotherapy patients, but lucky me, I got them anyway. I didn't throw up any more, but I still wanted to.

Morning sickness eventually subsided, but I didn't feel like myself for the rest of my pregnancy. I gave birth to about 13 and a half pounds of baby at 38 weeks. I did *not* bounce back within two weeks, and efforts to step up exercise and reduce calories resulted in ravenous nursing newborns. I sat tight for a while, but within six months I was back to myself.

All of which means that if someone says that she doesn't want to put her body through pregnancy, I perfectly, completely understand.

Pretend that pregnancy wasn't a potential hormonal nightmare. Yes, it does things to your body. I'm going to spare you details about the changes my body underwent, but they were there. I have a good body- Hell, I have a nice body- but it changed. It just did. Most do after birth. I don't have "baby weight", but my pelvis got wider, and I have stretch marks. I can live with these things, but even when I was teaching like a crazy person last year my body wasn't my primary source of income. I don't blame anyone who lives off their physical abilities for having to make life decisions with more calculation than I do.

Close relatives have told me in earnest that they are planning on having plastic surgery by the time they turn 40, so they need to plan ahead for it. Part of me is appalled. No one is touching me with a knife unless I'm disfigured or it's a matter of life or death. (And my definition of disfigured may be different from yours. The scar I have within my right eyebrow is something I can live with, but others may have already gotten a plastic surgeon.) But another part of me shrugs. They are in professions that don't reward good looks but expect them. They knew this going in, and they decided that it was a worthy tradeoff to be able to do something they had a real passion for. And I'm sure they'll dye their hair when they grey, because there is nothing those professions will punish more than a woman who is impolite enough to age naturally. Should that be changed? Absolutely. Unfortunately, they need to feed their families in the meantime.

But it sounds like there are other factors in Michaels' decision. Is it possible that suffering as an overweight child made her that much more protective of her body? Is it possible that she, like other people, has issues that we don't know about? Do we need to know about them in order to "forgive" her for her statements? Please, no; I don't think I could bear to read any more amateur, celebrity pseudo-analysis in the blogosphere.

It should be noted that she has also been criticized for using the word "rescue" when talking about adoption. She has been lambasted for that sentiment. I understand why critics would be offended, but all I can think about is the window of pictures I pass in Downtown Crossing sometimes when I'm with my children. The pictures are of children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted. Some of the children in the picture are 16. Others in the system are older. If they are not adopted, they don't always have a lot to look forward to. Sorry, I think "rescue" is a perfectly fine word.

I don't think I like this woman, but this tempest in a teacup has nothing to do with why. Let her not have a child for any reason she'd like, and let her adopt like everyone else who adopts. Maybe she's vain, maybe she's tormented, maybe she knows she's going to be really busy. It doesn't matter. It's up to her.

Deb in the City

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Remembrance

On April 23rd, my husband and I celebrate the day we were married. It was a Friday, we went to DC, then Alexandria, were forced to put our "race" down if we wanted a marriage certificate, then got married anyway. We stayed with one of my sisters, then went to get Thai food. It was a good day.

Yesterday, April 23rd, Michael and I went to Grezzo while my mother watched most of my children. No one harassed about our race, and we got to talk like a couple. It was a good day.

Yesterday was a Friday too. I was listening to one last bit of news with Sam when I heard that the search for the oil rig workers had been called off. They weren't going to be found alive. I shook my head, and happily spent the rest of the evening in darkness and today without computer, television or hot food. It is, in part, my way of remembering them, the miners in West Virginia and China and anyone else who risks their lives so that I may flip a switch and see in the light, be warm in the winter or travel somewhere faster than I could by foot.

On April 24th, people commemorate the beginning of the genocide of the Armenians that claimed 1.5 million lives. I read two eyewitness accounts, here is one of them. I've seen the Holocaust movies and read the accounts. I still covered my mouth when I read some of the details. But maybe the Armenians are part of why Europe and the Americans did little more than blink during the Holocaust 20 years later. They had seen it before, and when it was over, life went on. If you lived.

Only one person in my circle made mention of that today. She is of Armenian descent. It's not that my other friends are bad people- they're not. But they don't know about it, and it is a shame.

The Armenians are the Jews, the Rwandans, the Sudanese, the people of Guernica, the Comfort Women of Korea and Southeast Asia, the Native Americans, the Cambodians, those who died in Ireland during the Potato Famine, the Kurds (generations later), every African-American ever killed by a lynch mob. They are Matthew Shepard, Emmet Till, Anne Frank, Phoebe Prince. They are everyone who ever died or was persecuted because they were... what they were, and blameless. They should be remembered because- not in spite of- so many of them did not live to tell their stories. They should be remembered... because we cannot simply watch while people die slowly right in front of us.

Please, in your way, remember.

Deb in the City

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two shades of green

I wish I could have written more this week. It's been busy, and in some ways tough. I miss the tactile and auditory sensations of writing, and I miss the mental release of organizing my thoughts and putting them down (no, seriously, many of the posts here reflect some organization). I made myself feel a little better yesterday by finally writing some more reviews on Amazon, but it wasn't the same.

You will be happy to know that I have not been idle. On Saturday a kind new friend finally showed me how to use my sewing machine. The "finally" part isn't a comment on how long I've been waiting for my friend to show me- I've known her less than three months- but rather how long my machine has waited for me to get my act together. When one of my sisters left for the great hinterland known as journalism school, she gave me her sewing machine as a (very extended) loan. One of my other sisters showed me how to use it, but I got all jumbled up with the bobbin- if you sew, I bet you're thinking, "It's always the bobbin"- and I haven't been able to secure enough small child-free time with her to get her to show me how to fix it.

My friend gave up three hours of her time last Saturday to go over the whole thing, and fixed the bobbin in about fifteen seconds. Painful. And there were a lot of reminders to drop the footer. Embarrassing. But I now know enough to have practiced a few times, including cutting, pinning and actual sewing, and then of course breaking a needle. That's okay- it's good to have an excuse to buy more needles.

When I went hunting for fabric on Monday, I went to the wrong store. They didn't have fabric, but they did have knitting needles and yarn. So I picked up some of those. I am now 80 rows into a 50-stitch... blanket? We'll see. Knitting is easy, crocheting is easier. Seriously, once you cast on and then get past that first row, your golden as long as you can count. It's amazing how quickly the rows go, and very relaxing... as long as you don't have people jumping all over you.

I've been trying to get the laundry and dishwashing down to a schedule. Someone, when talking about time management in the non-Franklin Pierce way, noted that those were the two housekeeping tasks that people need to keep on top of if they don't want to lose hours of their time to housework later on. Very true, and for the first time I feel like I've got a handle on that. Which may not seem like a big deal to most, but I'm taking particular joy in this because I'm getting these things done with less water and energy than I used before, possibly as a result of trying to be more time efficient. I love those little bonuses.

I've also been to the compost heap at my community garden once or twice this week. I'm itching to finally put things into the ground, but I have to wait on other people. I really hate that.

And I've still got my children, and I'm keeping them. Jazmyn has been at "camp" at a friend's house for most of the week, but we didn't send her today because of the pollen. Damn you, pollen. Last year was bad, this year is not getting off to a good start either. It evens out by the end of May, but I might not last that long.

Sam "went vegan" a few weeks ago, and is increasingly interested in raw foods. Great! It's nice to have company, and it's also nice to not make a whole big pile of food or buy a bunch of things from the market that only I will eat. Not so great... she broke into a few hives around her eyes last night after we had some Vietnamese food. Suspected culprit? Soy sauce (we didn't eat the soy). What is *up* with soy these days? My sisters and I were absolutely fine with soy at her age and younger, but now of course I'm a mess. I don't think this a genetic issue, I think this is a food-processing issue.

Housework, gardening, cooking, sewing, knitting... I know what this sounds like, and my friend Dennisse's post yesterday made it undeniable. I would be dismayed if anyone looked at what I was doing- or trying to do- and felt that I was suggesting a return to a way of life that people clawed their way out of.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I am NOT anti-technology or innovation. I am very pleased to have access to a washing machine, and the electric sewing machine can be very useful. Do I need a Blackberry? Of course not, but I feel safer knowing that my children and I have cellphones so that I can let them do some things I wouldn't have been comfortable with before. The computer? This isn't the information age I dreamed about, but there are so many opportunities for learning available to people with access to the internet that I feel comfortable saying that it's a necessity. If true, that makes the lack of access to them an injustice.

But there is such a thing as too much, and the line between convenience and burden is blurrier for at least my family than we would have thought. Even without cable I could still sit in front of the television for at least 18 hours per day and be constantly "entertained". But that would come at the expense of reading, cooking, and that thing people used to do a few decades ago: talking. Or, worse, it wouldn't, and none of the activities would be as satisfying (that's my experience, at least). I could run my dishwasher, but then I'm using more water and more electricity. I'm also using more time. My dishwasher took about 40 minutes to run itself- I can get the same amount of dishes done in half the time. I could use my the dryer, but it's that much more electricity, and if the air can do it, I should let it. I could own (or lease) a car again, but gas prices and the need for repairs made that a headache financially and mentally. It means I can't get to another part of the state as the urge strikes me, but is it worth burning that much fuel just to satisfy a whim? I am filled with whimsy, just ask my family, and they will all agree that it's best when not all of them are satisfied.

This commitment is changing my family more quickly than I would have thought. Once again, the boys are down by 9. The girls are getting much more reading done. We're not spending as much money. (Yeah, I have to tell yet another toy story next time.) And I fell asleep in the middle of watching Food, Inc. last night on PBS.

But I'm not getting as much time to write... go figure.

Deb in the City

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Read this. It will make you a better person."

No, it won't. But neither will anything you buy, eat or admire.

One of the topics that came up in that book was the importance of media literacy for our children. They lack the experience and judgment to be able to interact with an advertisement (explicit or implicit) and not feel in some way compelled to consume the product being advertised, whether it's a Happy Meal from McDonalds or the latest Gameboy. This isn't because our children are deficient in some way. This is because sophisticated marketing strategies are being aimed at our children at younger and younger ages.

Maybe we should limit what's targeted at our young children (I know, legislation and regulation to protect them- crazy!), but since we cannot realistically expect all advertising to go away, we need to enable our children to start asking questions about what they see. Why was this ad made? What is the product being sold? What is the idea that's coming across? How does the product connect to the idea, and why is that going to work? It might be a lot to expect a three-year-old to understand what they're seeing (maybe they shouldn't see so much?) but five-year-olds can start, even mine. The basic premise behind most advertisements is that consumption of that product will make you happy or somehow better. It's actually a very simple concept. Kids can get simple, even when it's dressed up.

Before we start creating that class for the kids, we might want one for the adults as well.

I am not talking about the Snuggie, Ron Popeil's latest invention or those vacuumable plastic bags that you can store clothing in. Those are obvious, right? (Although I've heard that the Snuggie really does keep people nice and warm.) I'm talking about the sale of something much harder to acquire, and therefore that much more coveted. I'm talking about the lifestyle salespeople.

I teach yoga and Pilates, and I'm a vegan. I'm also eating more raw foods. Before I was a vegan, I was a vegetarian. (There's a difference- just ask a vegan.) I also used to have, well, a little problem with exercise dvds, which just goes to show that you can become addicted to anything. Not just yoga and Pilates, but also weight-training and cardio. Not only that, I spent a lot of time researching fitness topics and... dvds. It required all of the attention that reading a magazine required, so a perfect hobby for someone with distracting small children.

Very few vendors sold just a dvd with exercise choreography. They sold improvement. Lift those buns (God, I hate that word.). Shave those hips (can you imagine taking a razor to your pelvis?). Make your muscles longer and leaner (Do you know what that look like? Your longer muscles would be hanging off your unchanged bones.). Dressed up versions of "Be Stronger" and/or "Be Thinner". Some of the ideas were wrong, some were odious, but overall, you sort of knew what to expect. Change your body to look more like the one we're told we're supposed to have... and then you'll be happy.

Yoga was a slightly different kettle of fish. Make no mistake: power yoga didn't explode in popularity until people starting talking about the wonder of a yoga butt and that you could flatten your abs while getting in your cardio, relaxation and even meditation. It was the perfect multi-tasking workout. Yes, plenty of gym-goers are psyched to take a yoga class to relax and chill out, but gym owners didn't start offering them until they heard that they could sell it as a workout.

Fine, but yoga is more than just the physical, even physical relaxation. Thousands of people over hundreds of years have sought out yoga not to get the perfect butt but to try and achieve enlightenment. Not a requirement to get those long and lean muscles, but it's there for you, and those same people teaching on yoga for beginners dvds can also make you a happier person. Regular practice, ultimately, can make you a better person.

If anyone tries to sell you that bill of goods, run far, far away. Then look at that person from a safe distance. It won't take long to sniff out the hypocrisy.

Several years ago, there was a well-known yoga instructor who ended up divorcing his long-time wife. He had had sexual relationships with not one but two of his students. They ended up bringing a legal action against him, in effect charging that he had taken advantage of them.

On the one hand, that's totally ridiculous. The women in question were not only over the age of 16, they were over the age of 18. As I understood it, they were over the age of 25. If he was bad for them, they were at an age where they should have known better, and the legal action was, as far as I know, dismissed.

On the other hand, I was disgusted by the yoga instructor. Excuse me, yoga teacher. First of all, there's something really lame about sleeping with your students, or anyone else you're in a closed environment with who thinks you're all that, with or without the chips. Second of all, this guy held himself up to a higher standard in public appearances and magazine interviews. He was, of course, on a continuing journey, but he definitely held himself up as someone who knew what that journey was. He had arrived... and for the low price of $15 for his latest dvd, you could get there too.

Such stories are not uncommon in the yoga world. This entire post could be about that. What makes it so especially repugnant is that so many of these people, implicitly or explicitly, are selling a low-level of enlightenment along with their "practice", and people are buying these products by the box load because they want to feel good. Exactly the same reason a child wants to buy a toy.

There are several big "names" in the raw food world. While there are a number of raw food cookbooks that feature unattractive and watery recipes, a number of raw food "uncooks" have blown me away by their creativity and really delicious results. I have reviewed some of these books, and when I got onto social media I joined a few of these people's networks. I want more recipes and ideas.

I received friend requests on Facebook from over a dozen people shortly after that. Er, um, okay. Maybe they had some cool recipes and ideas as well. Yep, some of them did. But a lot of them are trying to sell me something. The juice fast! The green smoothie feast! Superfood du jour! My new book! I have learned some things even from those people, but the message is unmistakable: The outside world is so toxic, but I can fix it with my peaceful, loving, footprint-free products. Buy them, and you will feel so much better. With the exception of a handful of people whom I have found to be genuine and engaging- and who aren't trying to sell me anything- I tuned most of them out.

And then Haiti came close to disintegrating. The worst disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere in well over 100 years, and the worst place to hit.

My friends, the rank and file who are just people I know, were horrified. They tweeted, they posted status updates, they added links and they felt helpless.

The raw food world? A big, fat nothing. The silence was overwhelming, especially for a group of people who profess such unity with all things living and tout their products and lifestyle as the cure for what ails us. One person in that network posted something, and I was so touched I thanked him for doing so.

I could forgive people who didn't post anything about it but did post about what was going on in their lives, or what they did that day. Life goes on, as cruel as that is to say. But for those who found time to post about their classes or juice fasts but couldn't even write the word "Haiti"? That's past hypocrisy- that's just simple selfishness.

I called someone on doing just that and three months later they indignantly responded. As is their right. However, she failed to mention the context, and almost 20 people jumped to her defense. You can imagine the slurs leveled against me- think middle school.

I have some good friends who have my back no matter what. They would rise up for me if someone attacked me. People should have good friends like that. If all of these people were her close personal friends, good for her. But that wasn't what it looked like. A lot of the comments were... devotional. She's "fabulous with her fans, clients, etc. She's a First Class Lady." "We love you, and your awesome energy!" "they're just jealous of your beauty, your success and your obvious radiant kindness. Not many rise to your status being a sweetheart and some people can't stand it." The last person later admitted that she hadn't seen my initial comment.

I can be kind of a jerk (although I don't think I was one here). Jump all over me for something I've said... but shouldn't you know what I've said first? If this person isn't a close, personal friend, why are you automatically taking this person's word for it?

Does knowing how to make raw ice cream, dehydrated crackers or a really good salad make someone an expert on everything? Does being able to get into a headstand make someone an authority on everyone else's body? Are we going to jump every time these "lifestyle experts" say something, whether it's that someone else was a churl, that we shouldn't eat sugar/corn syrup/agave/fruit or should/should not lift weights/run/walk/do yoga? When do we start making critical judgments of our own? When do we start thinking again?

Is automatic acceptance of someone else's word- Apple's, Yoga Journal's, VegNews', Martha Stewart's, take your pick- the real price we're supposed to pay for happiness? Am I the only one who thinks that's too high?

Deb in the City

PS. I should say that I think there are things you can read that will make you a better person. "The Scarlet Letter", "The Brothers Karamazov", "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Jungle" changed my life in different but hopefully beneficial ways. Your lists might be different.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trying to be the adult

Right as I was deciding to remove my children from school, I was finalizing the arrangements for an afterschool group I had agreed to lead on Fridays. We're trying to instill healthy eating habits in the children through a combination of cooking and education. The girls are fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders. They are lively, intelligent and not always well-behaved.

It has disturbed me when they have been rude to the chef that we hired for this class. She is a generous person and has offered to come in for special planning sessions with the girls, free of charge. She sees what I see in them, but she has more experience and more ideas about how to harness their special energy.

But that isn't what bothers me most about these girls. There is one fifth-grader in the group. She is sweet, funny, and always participates. She is also on the heavy side, more so than the other girls.

I listened uncomfortably during two sessions when two of the older, more glamorous girls responded to some statements she made. They told her to shush, not to interrupt; they laughed at some of the things that she said; they snickered among themselves. They didn't talk to each other or anyone else like that. It's not quite bullying, but it's putting her in her place. You know, the place where she will remain vulnerable to people who are in some way "better" than she is.

In the weeks since I've seen these girls, the stories about bullying have exploded, particularly about Phoebe Prince. Most people I know aren't entirely sure that the children who bullied the girl should be criminalized, but we all agree that the adults failed.

We are nowhere near that with this group, but I don't want to get any closer. I don't want to be an adult that failed a child.

Today, when the girls came in, I read them the riot act about their attitude. They knew what I was talking about. I also told them that I didn't like the way that they spoke to each other. They didn't know what I was talking about. I bet they really don't.

The class began, run in large part by the chef. During the class, the snide comments to the younger girl began. I called them on it. They still didn't know what I was talking about. But I persisted. They stopped- for the most part.

I spoke to the chef after the class, and she nodded. It's always easy, she noted, to pick on the heavy person. She was glad I said something, too.

Let's get one thing straight: it is as awkward to police the behavior of tweens and teenagers as it is the behavior of adults, especially if they are going to argue back. But you have to do it, even if it makes you squirm. Maybe they'll get it if you keep pointing it out, maybe they'll just get that it's socially unacceptable. However it's done, we have to make sure that they do get it, because we are the adults, and they are our children.

Deb in the City
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is this the world we dreamed of?

A few weeks ago, I convinced one of my younger sisters to watch old Trek with me. It was mutual- no arm twisting. (She's very open-minded.) She liked it, but of course we discussed the lacking effects and props. Still, I reflected on my impressions as a young child when I looked at the crew's equipment. Tricorder. Communicator. Data pad (from the Next Generation- whatever they called it). In 2010, we've got those. Arguably, our Tricorders are much better, although I still think the Pad from the Next Gen is a better size than the iPad. (No progress on the Phaser, to my knowledge, and McCoy's medical equipment is still not standard issue, but I have no doubt they're working on it.)

They were the stuff dreams were made of, and in my dreams I was using this technology to, essentially, get more information more quickly. What was I doing with the information? I was solving problems. I was *doing* things.

Last night, my daughters were chirping about a youtube celebrity they follow. She's one of the Five (or 5) Awesome Girls. She's a Wizard Rocker, among other things. I've giggled in the past as they talked about this little crew- it seemed harmless enough. But then a few days ago they talked about how this girl had auditioned for America's Next Top Model. Worse still, they were talking about the winners of the previous ANTM competition in really specific detail. (You know, the way Trekkies talk about the episodes and characters.)

What?

I have said this before, I will say it again: When I was younger and heard about the technological breakthroughs we were on the verge of, I did not, in my wildest fantasies, think that it would be used to make it easier for us to play our games, watch our dramatic productions, listen to our music or sell ourselves and our products to children and teenagers. I thought that we were going to transform our youth with information- about science, history and other people.

I'm a moron.

This hasn't been a good day. A friend's post about the relationship between her child's behavior and a medical issue got me thinking about
why I felt so cranky, and I realized it was because I was having trouble breathing in that allergy way. That allergy to soy, specifically miso, way. (Why, miso, do you betray me?) And then I realized that I should stop yelling at Simon for acting out the entire day because he was doing so as a result of being heartbroken. (He can't see his friend for two weeks.) I've been go-go-go for twelve hours, including laundry, gardening, food shopping, travel on a crowded bus (with the Wonder Twins) and public humiliation. I just wanted a little peace when I got home.

We ate dinner as soon as we could (a bright spot- Sam and I had some yummy raw food), but the media wars began even before that. The boys and Jazmyn wanted to watch the Sarah Jane Adventures (think Doctor Who for tweens. No, wait. Think Doctor Who for eight-year-olds, kind of like the second season of the original Battlestar Galactica.). I, admittedly, had NPR on so I could listen to a discussion about whether or not the country was going to a VAT. Sam was already on the computer when I got home- I don't know what she was doing.

Dinner ended and I started doing laundry things. I lost it when I saw Michael sitting at the table with Jacob, watching the predictable, overly-violent Fringe on his Droid while he waited for Jacob to finish. Then I walked into the living room. One of the girls was sitting on the computer and the other was watching the SJA with Simon, and they were both excited about Glee. Straw that broke the camel's back. No. Way. I despise that show. I think it trades in stereotypes and the main character makes me cringe. I root for the villain when I have to watch it. Oh yeah, I don't think those kids can act. No. Please! Okay, fine. Then you shut off every piece of technology when you're done. The jury is still out.

I realize the potential for irony- I am writing this on my laptop, and most people who read this are going to be doing so via Facebook. For what it's worth, I haven't been on my laptop since Friday. Yes, I have been all over my blackberry, but I have been using it to gather information more than anything else. But, yeah, I'm putting value judgments around how we use our technology, and I'm okay with it. I wanted this computer so that I could write, not so I could watch predictable television shows, listen to music, tweet or play games. I also wanted to use it for research, and maybe so I could reach out to like-minded individuals. I'm not Tolstoy, I'm not even Judith Krantz, so I appreciate that anyone reading this could probably find far worthier things to do with their time (there's always porn), and I'm grateful that anyone reads what I write at all.

I'm not better than anyone. But I think it's to my advantage that I'm not slavishly running off to watch the next installment of... whatever (I dare not offend anyone, but it is Tuesday night), downloading music like it's in danger of running out or playing World of Warcraft for hours on end (I swear, no one in my house has ever played that game... unless I'm being lied to). Maybe I can't converse with popular culture as well as others, but since popular culture has given birth to words like "commentate", "passivityness" and (my all-time favorite) "societal", I'm not sure what I'm missing out on.

It is a constant struggle to keep technology and still be able to use it responsibly in a house with children. Opening Pandora's box is as simple as showing them the search engine page or taking them to a library which has a shelf of DVDs. This is ultimately my responsibility, but it's not entirely my fault.

I think the world I envisioned so long ago is still not only possible but better. I just need to figure out how to sell my kids on it. That's sad.

Deb in the City

Monday, April 12, 2010

In observance of Shabbat

I am not at all a religious person. Reluctant atheist- I want to believe in a higher power and an afterlife, but I don't. I do believe that there is some divinity in all of us, and I do believe that some people have connections that go beyond family or previous acquaintance. I believe in the Chinese concept of chi and the Indian concept of prana; I believe in chakras and meridians. But as my daughter said last year, "That's science"- as in, it's not magical. It's bioelectricity- it's biology. It isn't proof of a higher being.

I decided to raise my children in the Jewish tradition because I felt I owed it to my ancestors. I didn't know if it made sense for a non-believer to raise a child in any religion, but Michael assured me that it would be okay. So we did.

There has been tension in our house between tradition and faith. I suppose I'm 2 for 2, and I don't necessarily take any joy in that. Samantha got up during her bat mitzvah and told the congregation that she did not believe in God. Our wonderful rabbi, who knew this in advance, gave the most wonderful talk afterward about (and I paraphrase greatly) how one could not believe in God but still be a member of the religion. The belief was in the people, the group, not necessarily the divinity. He made an already wonderful day even better.

His predecessor was the rabbi who welcomed us into the community. His take on religion was what you would expect from a man who matured in the 60s. The miracles weren't, he thought, that God parted the Red Sea or that Jonah survived the whale, but that the sun rose and fell every day, and with such precision. It was the regularity that was awesome, not the hiccups. That was a belief I could subscribe to without any fear of hypocrisy.

Years ago, when Sam was five and Jazmyn was brand new, I felt like we needed to step up our Jewish activity, but I didn't know how. I wasn't ready to join a congregation, but I wanted to do *something*. A Jewish colleague of mine who was a brand new mom told me that she and her husband had decided to start by simply lighting some candles on Shabbat, with some wine and challah thrown in. It was lovely, but simple. That sounded right. Michael agreed, and it has become a tradition of ours, to the best of our ability (the wheat thing threw me off for a while, I admit, and the kids have made it clear that we're a juice family, not a wine family).

But there is more to Shabbat. Those candles should be it for the next 24 hours or so in keeping with the commandment to rest. The only fire- and fire can also mean electricity. No work- but that doesn't always translate to a lack of effort. It's not a day to be idle, but it is a day to let things rest.

A book was recently published about a woman's exploration of Shabbat in her own life. In an interview I heard last week, the author noted that even though the early Jews were a relatively sophisticated agrarian society that lived, as did most, somewhat close to the edge, they still extended the commandment to rest to their animals and land. Hmm. God may have given them dominion over the earth and all of its creatures, but a wise caretaker understands that everything benefits from a bit of rest.

This jibed, of course, with some of what I'd read in State of the World about using our traditions to support our efforts towards sustainability. (Eventually, everything comes back to SOTW.)

In the midst of this, a friend on Facebook posted a statistic that 42% of our electricity is fueled by coal. Perhaps you have heard about the 120+ coal miners that were miraculously saved in China. Perhaps you have heard about the 20+ miners in West Virginia that weren't. It seemed that they deserved effort on my part to reduce my usage of energy.

I knew a way I could save 14% immediately.

I don't know why, but my family agreed to do it last week, with very little warning. There was some bitching after the lights went out- this is my family- but they were pretty good sports about it. Darkness was hard- maybe we'll use more candles next week. Then again, everyone was in bed by 10:30. *That* is a miracle in my family.

It wasn't a big deal not to have the radio on while I was in the kitchen the next morning, nor did I suffer for having the lights off while I showered in the morning. I didn't mind not checking my email constantly, and I discovered that the water from the tap can get very hot- enough to make miso soup.

The refrigerator and stove stayed plugged in, because that would have too difficult to undo. That's a big deal- the fridge eats a lot of energy. And four of us took public transportation to events that were using electricity.

There is a "limb" of yoga that asks you to engage in some sensory deprivation. That wasn't what this was about. This was about not using most of the electricity we use for one day. This was about giving our senses and our resources just a little bit of a break.

But we were not idle. Simon and I went to a math event at a Museum, and when I got home I showed the kids how to make a cool project using index cards and nothing else. Jazmyn and Samantha started and finished the latest John Green book. Samantha got her reading done for Philosophy. Simon and Jaz played Trivial Pursuit, and Jacob and Michael bought a fishing pole. There was conversation. It was good.

The lights came back on at 8:30, and it was both a relief and weird. Light helps us see, but it isn't always illuminating.

I know I need more of a plan about food, and of course there will be more candles this Friday. But I'm not holding my breath as I was last week. Having done it once and lived, I'm actually looking forward to it again.

Welcome to the majority of the world,

Deb in the City
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, April 08, 2010

They've seen worse

On Tuesday, when I went weeding, my neck was bothering me. I haven't been sleeping well, and I haven't been working out as much as I should. Yesterday it was bothering me even more, and then I was starting to have headaches. At that point it occurred to me that these things might be related to hitting my head on Saturday.

Thursday is the day I tend to dread the most. I have a kids yoga class I usually have to take the boys to, and then Jazmyn's bass lesson (the hard part about the bass lesson is carrying the bass). This morning I decided that since my neck and head hurt, maybe I shouldn't jump around with preschoolers for half an hour. The community center agreed. And the director of Jazmyn's music program agreed that I didn't have to lug the bass around today, especially since Jazmyn is still recovering from strep. The makings of a good day, especially since I was finally due to get my stitches out.

Except that my doctor called in sick and the hospital and the insurance company weren't seeing the same primary care physician. I not only had to reschedule the appointment but I had to fix the discrepancy, even though I'd made the call last week. Five phone calls later, back and forth between insurance company and hospital, the hospital finally gave me an appointment with a clinical nurse to get my stitches removed. Only catch was that Michael was off in the hinterland working and Samantha had an appointment that conflicted with mine. So the boys were with me. It's good that my Blackberry can play youtube videos.

The clinical nurse heard "neck pain" and shook her head. She had magical powers that the admins didn't have and got me an appointment with a nurse practitioner. The boys got into medical equipment, but then the visit proceeded pretty quickly. The NP nodded when I explained what had happened and that my neck and head were getting sorer and my headaches, confusion and vision issues were... well, were. Whiplash, and a mild concussion, but nothing to worry about. I *know* there's nothing to worry about, because both the X-ray and CT scans came back normal, and serious issues are usually obvious immediately.

Simon hovered while I got my stitches removed, and then we left. I got them a treat, then we took the bus home. For some reason, I couldn't stop hugging and kissing them on the way back.

Unfortunately, the nurse didn't get all of the stitches. I'd usually be a jerk about it, especially after all of the trouble it took to go in, but she can be excused for all of the distractions in the office.

I'm going to ride the concussion for the next few days as my excuse for not wanting to do a few things and for the fact that my way with words is so (much more) lacking. But since I'm scheduled to heal in the next few weeks- and it's not that bad- I'll judiciously I milk it.

Not entirely a bad day, just so we're clear. Jazmyn started a new book and moved on with math, Sam got an A on her college philosophy paper, the boys had their second day in a row of quiet, spontaneous reading time and they built another structure. It's good.



Deb in the City

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The trouble with toys

I have four children, and before that three and later five younger siblings. I know about toys. I know that they are coveted and planned for or sometimes bought on a whim. But then, inevitably, almost all of them are discarded. By children, I should say, because many adults are more sentimental about their children's possessions than they are. Children can be ruthless once they've stopped loving something and cut it out of their rooms in an instant. I have tried to take advantage of that as much as possible, but my sons' room has more than I'd like. And Jazmyn is still holding onto a dozen stuffed animals.

I remember my father lecturing me about toys when I was somewhere between five and seven. It must have been that age range, because I stopped playing with toys at age eight. There was a toy I wanted and asked for, and I already had a lot of toys, despite the fact that my parents did not have a lot of money. He told me that when he was a little boy, children didn't have a lot of toys, but they really liked and took care of the ones they did have. He told me in that way that parents tell their first children things, in adult-speak. My feelings about toys didn't change, but I always wondered about this strange world he had lived in. Was it better than the one I inhabited?

Even as a little girl, I suspected it might have been. To this day, my favorite Disney movies are "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella", and not just for the romantic theme songs. When Aurora's fairies (the real stars) start making the dress and cake, and when Cinderella's mice and birds start altering her mother's old dress, I'm transfixed. I want to do that! And my favorite "Casper the Friendly Ghost" episode ever was when Casper made a little boy's Christmas by constructing an electric train set using plates, cups and a coffee percolator. So cool, and I got a rush out of those moments more than I did from any toy.

State of the World 2010's theme was consumerism. We've gone past the point where we can assert that everyone- all 6.8 billion of us- can aspire to the standard of living the Brahmins in India or Boston enjoy. If everyone lived like an American, the earth could only sustainably support 1.4 billion people. That's a little more than one-fifth of what we have now. If we all earned what Worldwatch describes as middle income- along the lines of what Thai or Jordanian earns- and consumed as much as they did, the earth's safe capacity is still 6.2 billion. Better, cleaner technology can of course improve the difference, but American and even European levels of production and consumption levels are not sustainable even with those improvements as measured by the amount of carbon those activities produce.

Translation: we Americans have to consume less to make it possible to share the earth with the 5.4 who are "over" our current levels of sustainability. If you're someone that's going to argue that no, the standard of living to which you've grown accustomed is more important than those people or the health of the planet, I've got nothing.

State of the World had a whole chapter on Education, and in it there was an article titled "Commercialism in Children's Lives". Has anyone had a two- or three-year-old ask for McDonald's food as opposed to, say, french fries or a hamburger? Have your children ever pointed to a sign and said "CVS!" before they could read or knew what the letters were? Or has your little girl asked not for a doll but for a Barbie? You know what they're talking about.

Children recognize brand names at younger and younger ages. That's fine in a vacuum, but nothing happens in a vacuum. They see it, they know it, they want it and they feel bad when they can't have it. Or, "the acquisition of materialistic values has been linked to depression and low self esteem" (p.65). While I don't know that most manufacturers intend low self-esteem and depression, it is a logical consequence of a strategy that tries to sell you a product contingent on the acquisition of happiness and a market in which there is always something else that will make you even happier, even better. And if you think that children are immune, then I guess the joke is on all of the toy manufacturers that spend millions of dollars marketing to them. If it doesn't bother you that our children are being marketed to, again, I've got nothing.

We weren't a big Barbie family, and while my husband and I have battled- fiercely- over the Batman action toys, the one thing we have always been unified on is a game console system, or lack thereof. We have never owned one, and we never will. We'll have been married seventeen years this month. In that time, there have been at least five major upgrades and brands in this category. Oh, how much money could we have spent! And that's not even counting all of the games.

It's not just because I'm cheap that we eschewed those systems. It's more that I don't like what children look like when they're more engaged with a piece of equipment than their imagination and possibly another person. But don't worry, I don't get to pat myself on the back too much. Between the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, my sons have found plenty of stupid things to play with on the internet, for absolutely nothing... unless you think it costs something to have a five-year-old demand a toy they've seen through these games or resemble a glazed over monkey while they're looking at a screen.

Obviously, being at home more is making me think even more about toys. (I'm a tortured, tormented woman.) I've resisted the urge to firebomb their whole toy box. Instead, I'm trying to think of what can be useful to us. My list is pretty small- so far, just Legos. I still like to build things, and most kids like to build. The boys have decided that they're too big for blocks, but Legos are still fun. I think they're more versatile as well. I had a breakthrough a few weeks ago when I realized how well they could be used for math games. You know those unit measurements kindergarten classes use? Legos can simulate those pretty well. Bring them on. (I promise, no one is giving me anything for writing that.)

Oh yeah, please not the Lego sets that have specially designed pieces and specific instructions that "let" you create, essentially, a doll, a dollhouse and/or a doll-mobile. Whether it's Harry Potter, Batman or the Little Mermaid, I'm so tired of toys that proscribe a certain story line. Most children will, as my husband said, explode the boundaries of the story line, but what characters and stories might they create if left to their own devices? It's an important skill, and one that's withering in our children. One of my sons' teachers last year bemoaned that her students didn't know what to do with an empty box. They were too used to being told how to play, whether by television or branded toys. Children *need* to play creatively. Creative play is a precursor to creative problem solving. I might call that skill part of what we use when we need to be, for lack of a better word, clever. And if that doesn't convince you, creative problem solving is something both successful adults AND successful standardized test takers need. (I knew we could all meet in the middle on this one.)

My family is the source of much bitterness over toys. I, as a very young parent, thought that it would be sufficient to say "Don't buy my child a toy" for my family to not buy my child a toy. But many relatives cheerfully, laughingly disregarded that, and my children came to expect them. Thanks! So it's only fitting that my family should actually have helped this weekend.

My mother, sisters and nieces came over for Easter this weekend. Especially after the playground debacle, it was easier to have everyone come over here, even if we were still in Passover week. My mother loves to give baskets to children, and the kids love to get them. This year, she was running around from place to place and had to bring all of her materials with her to set up in our kitchen. She also went to Starbucks and brought over some more boxes. One of my sisters set the boxes aside. She always kept them, she noted, because you never knew when they might come in handy. (Just so you know, that's my NYC sister- we are thrifty family to the point of stubbornness.)

After everyone had left, I looked at the big cardboard box, the two donut hole boxes, the three black plastic bowls that had held macaroni and cheese, the big paper shopping bag and the two buckets the boys had gotten for baskets. "Boys, come build something!"

Jacob was the only one who took me up on the offer- Simon was watching a movie with Daddy. Fifteen minutes later, he had built this awesome structure using not only those materials but also an old cellphone and some idiot bauble that was lying around. But that wasn't the really great part. He had the best, most elaborate story to go with it, combining Moses, Pharaoh, the Minotaur, Zeus, Posiedon and Pinocchio. Pinocchio not only helped Moses but also conquered the Minotaur- screw Theseus. Did you know that Pinocchio was so badass? Now you do.

I was psyched. Clearly, the lessons from Hebrew school and all of the Greek myth conversation in the house the last couple of weeks have not been going in one ear and out the other. This is my boy who is reluctant to read, but he is clearly still able to engage in a story. We'll take it. And to those who might think that I'm being hypocritical because this wasn't a purely original story with purely original characters, I hope you will see the difference between the archetypal Olympian Gods and Jewish patriarchs when compared to Batman. But, I know, some people are really into Batman.

Once again, no one should mistake me for having anything solved. As I was trying to write this morning, the boys were jumping up and down trying to get Michael to take them to Target and I was trying to convince them to go to the local toy store with more creative, less "branded" toys. I'm not sure who won. (Update: I totally did! The boys loved the local toystore, which had not only Legos, Playmobil and Bionicle, but also science kits, Wedgits, and building toys. We'll see what Sunday's trip brings.) And they were just hovering out the window, talking about Oreo (not chocolate sandwich) cookies. But at least they were excited about watching the trash getting taken by the trucks.

We'll take it,
Deb in the City

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Progress, for what it's worth.

Yesterday was a tear your hair out kind of day, and that was with people helping me. I mentioned my injury. Yesterday was also my friend's father's funeral. Manageable between me and Michael and my mother watching the boys for a few hours, but on top of that both girls suddenly came down with feverish, sore throat yuckiness. To top everything off, when I woke up my right eye was so swollen I could hardly see out of it. Vanity aside, it didn't feel safe to go drive the distance to the funeral like that. Long story short, Michael went to the funeral, my mother picked up the boys for a few hours, and I took the girls to the doctors (not as far as the funeral). It's strep. Blugh. This is why mothers are not allowed to be fragile. Other bad things are going to happen, and you cannot afford to slow down.

The only good thing about yesterday was that I got to FINALLY finish State of the World 2010. I'll write a review on Amazon later, but for now I thought it was overall thought provoking but that the Business chapter was lacking and that I was surprised by how much I was snapping my fingers to the Government, Media and Social Movements chapters. Maybe I'll go into numbers later, but the two subjects foremost on my mind after all of it are children's toys and media literacy. More at some later point.

I have a group of very nice, very understanding friends, and the mother of the child we're loosely co-homeschooling with kindly offered to take Simon and Jacob so I could rest. I took her up on her offer, but I didn't rest. I weeded my plot. That was much better.

I have so much more to learn and feel like an idiot in the garden most of the time, but the one thing I can do is weed. There is something so gratifying about taking a few hours to clear an unruly plot. Order out of chaos- for at least a little while.

I took so much joy in it that I did the bulk of the work with my bare hands, although I did grab the communal tools to get some stubborn roots, and happily used the wheel barrow for the final trip to the compost heap. I'm sure I could have done more, but this isn't so bad for three and a half hours.




What are we going to plant? Still to be determined. I'm toying with the idea of window farming and straight up indoor gardening, but that wouldn't work for carrots, potatoes and onions. Suggestions for any venues welcome.

Deb in the City

Sunday, April 04, 2010

As promised... Deb, you idiot

It's not just that I'm sometimes hard on myself. This, seriously, was an idiot thing to do.

Yesterday was gorgeous. Jaz and I started the day with a meeting at the community garden I just joined. We learned a little about the history of the garden and the gardeners behind it. Some people got emotional talking about Edward Cooper and Alan Cright (sp?), the founding gardeners, who were generous with both their time and resources. The people carrying the torch seemed really dedicated- I'm a little bit humbled. But they also seemed very nice.

We got to go outside and look with my friend at the plots she's going to share with us and another family. The boys and I will hopefully weed on Tuesday, then maybe start planting soon after. Jazmyn was getting quietly excited. She wants to plant lettuce, potatoes and strawberries. On our way out, we introduced ourselves to one of the board members. He spoke to Jazmyn and found out about the strawberries. He then showed us the communal patch and assured us that we didn't need to grow any of our own. I mentioned that we were homeschooling and that this was going to be part of her education, and his eyes lit up. He was a dean at a nearby community college- just let him know if she ever needed to take a class there. I smiled. It's the same community college where Sam is taking classes. He told me to let him know if we ever needed anything. I hope I don't make him regret his words.

We went home, jazzed about gardening and the weather. Michael asked if I could take the kids out until I had to teach. I had to wrestle Simon to the floor a few times, but he agreed. We went to the library- packed, even on a gorgeous day. They'd better not shut it down. Then we went to the bakery across the street. So ridiculously expensive for what it is- I told the kids we're not going there again (we'll see).

We still had some time to kill, so I guided them to the green path as an alternate route. On the way, the boys saw the playground. Sure, I said, we can stay for 20 minutes before I had to leave to teach.

I briefly chatted with another mother. Less than 5 minutes later, Simon called me over to lift him onto a swing. I got up, started to walk over and smacked my head into something metal. I swear, I didn't know it was there. Makes sense, sort of, because I hit my browbone, right above eye level. But my first thought was "that was so stupid."

I stepped back, then came to the ground. I didn't fall or pass out, but it's something you do when you're in a lot of pain. My second thought was "I hope I didn't break anything." My third thought was, "don't get up just yet."

The kids were kind of stunned, and the other mother started coming over. She started explaining to the kids what happened as I felt something wet on my face. Then red drops started trickling into my eye and onto my hand, my jeans and the ground. I panicked a little bit. "I'm bleeding! Sam, call Daddy." She did, but she didn't understand why I didn't immediately just go to the hospital. Tried to explain about getting everyone home, tried to keep to myself that at that point I might need a little help.

Simon started screaming and crying. The other mother ran to knock on doors. I had Sam call the school- not teaching today. Made it to the bench, and argued about the hospital again. Then the other mother arrived with a very nice couple who brought water and a first aid kit. Michael arrived on his bike just as they were cleaning me up. Michael calmed Simon down. Everyone else was still scared. Big cut right in my eyebrow, but maybe a special bandaid would work?

I thanked everyone, then we walked towards home. Longest walk of my life. Sam grabbed onto me and did not let me go. I started quietly freaking out that I couldn't tell where the boys were (limited peripheral vision). And the bright sun was killing me.

Finally home. Out of the bloodstained pants, with an ice pack and water. Michael and Sam insisted on the ER. No. I didn't want to take a cab and pay $100 for an hours long visit to find out that I could live without stitches and that I didn't have a concussion. Michael paused. That is what always happens. But then when I asked him to help me change the bandaid and he saw what it looked like underneath, he didn't care. We were going. I agreed. He's not "that way".

I got there at 3:30. I left at 8:45. Does that surprise anyone? I sent Michael home at 5, because while Sam can handle people for a little while, I knew at that point I'd be there longer.

Hmm... Maybe I fractured my eye socket, which was sore to the touch. Maybe I fractured my cervical spine, which was a little tender. A CT scan and X-ray later, of course I hadn't done either. The most painful part was when they cleaned the wound out. The novocaine (sp?) shots and stitching were relative pin pricks. Oh, right- tetanus booster. Have you had yours?

Stitches out on Thursday- by my regular doctor, because I'll remove them myself rather than go to the ER by choice. Everyone was nice, but wow... 5 hours.

I am grateful to be home, and I am grateful that this was a minor trauma. I am grateful that this was only a $100 visit, because they did a lot. (Well, that's what my insurance card says, at least.) And my gratitude and I will try to stay home and out of trouble for one day, "try" being the operative word.

Happy Easter,
Deb in the City
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, April 01, 2010

It was a good day after all

It occurs to me that I might come off as too chipper in this space. I'm not, really. My children and husband will be happy to tell you that. But when I pause to reflect- something I usually have to do before I compose my thoughts- I am humbled by how much I really don't have to complain about, and certainly not when I compare myself to most people.

But that was not my attitude at 4:30 AM this morning. Michael and I had finally carved out a place to sleep without children, or so I thought. For the last three nights, both five year old boys have climbed into essentially a twin-sized space with us. We've both woken up in the middle of the night to find ourselves contorted and at the edge of the beds, and one or both of the boys at an angle. Last night was the best so far- I woke up because Simon kicked me in the face. That was a jolt, to say the least. Just like a caffeinated shot, it kept me awake for about an hour. Which would have been okay on some days, but today Sam had to hand in her Philosophy paper at 8:30 AM, and I had to teach at 10 AM. Oh yeah, Michael also had to work.

I convinced Michael to drop off the boys with the other homeschooling mom we know- I could not handle them today with the preschoolers- and went to renew my T pass. Of course, there were problems with the kiosks, and I missed a train. I hate being late, but I still had two good classes and managed to wake up a bit.

And then... I got my hair cut. This is always exciting for me, but even more so since I get it done every four months, literally. The woman I see has always done a great job on my hair. I've been happy enough that I've convinced my mother to see her, even though she doesn't live that close by, and my two daughters as well.

Good hairstylists are like good baristas and bartenders- they're good listeners and good conversationalists. She's seen me enough that we know about each other's families and whatnot. Today, I told her about my children's homeschooling and she told me about her niece who is being cared for by her mother. Those two stories ended up in the same place.

Her mother used to teach kindergarten at a Catholic school in our little part of Boston. That school is now closed. It worked out somewhat for the family- she's now available to watch two of her grandchildren- but nobody likes to see a school close, especially one that served more working class families than the ones that stayed open.

My hairstylist kept describing her niece as a sponge. At the age of three, she went with her grandmother to school in anticipation of being formally enrolled next year. Between the grandmother and the principal, they agreed that she'd skip K1 and move into K2 the next year. Then the school closed. The parents scrambled around to find something for the child to do, including a preschool program that met 3 days per week for 2.5 hours. I have never, ever understood the usefulness of those programs, and certainly not if anyone needs it to help with childcare. After going through a few more options, they reluctantly decided that the child would spend time during the week with the grandmother and her baby cousin, even if that meant they'd have to compromise a little on the "intellectual" side.

Well, left to her own devices, this four year old child is now reading, writing and doing addition and subtraction. When she doesn't want to do that, she's putting on her own dance numbers and running a gym class. She is perfectly happy having her grandmother and cousin as her audience (she sees children her own age during the week in other activities). Unbeknownst to her, she's designed her own homeschooling program.

We both agreed that was an awesome demonstration of what a child is capable of- and that her parents are going to have a big, huge problem next year when they enroll her into public school. Don't even think about getting her promoted- her birthday is in late August, and with the way teachers and most other parents are these days, the parents will be lucky if the school allows her to enroll in kindergarten.

Of course I hate to see someone facing some of the same issues we've had, but it's nice to have (just one more) conversation about homeschooling that shows it to be a viable option.

So what did I do with my newly shorn and stimulated self? I dropped off food scraps in the compost heap, baby! (Sorry, but I'm really excited.) No, it wasn't fun having Jazmyn drag around a bag of food scraps while I labored under her bass, and I didn't love the steep uphill climb to the garden, but I was so happy to finally be rid of that. I was awed when I looked at the existing pile and saw a small lettuce head poking out. Wow. Life recycling itself, and I was finally adding to that. Uphill with a heavy bag wasn't fun, but then I enjoyed my empty-handed downhill journey that much more.

But the best part of the day? Some of the little squash seeds I planted on Saturday are starting to grow. I gasped when I saw it on my windowsill, and I called Michael over for validation that I wasn't seeing things. I wasn't. This is an even bigger deal (think, Joe Biden big) since my soil was kind of lousy and I had to come up with all kinds of tricks to enrich it. There's still a few things that can go wrong before I transplant, but for now, I'm going to be happy. Very sleepy, but happy.

Thinking good thoughts about not getting kicked in the head tonight,
Deb in the City