Sunday, July 31, 2005

Back before Mermaid was born, I used to think I would have normal kids. Girls -- I thought I would have two girls, with stick straight hair like I had as a kid, that they would wear in little short bobs, like I had. I didn't really think about who they would be, just that they would be, you know, normal.

When Mermaid was preschool age, I got myself pretty convinced that I, personally, was not capable of producing a "normal" child. I loved Mermaid, of course I did, but she wasn't "normal" -- she had an as-of-then-not-identified disability. She might be "normal someday, she might not. We didn't know. It might be a genetic thing, it might not. We didn't know that either. I didn't let myself think about it very much and convinced Reasonable Man that if we were going to have another baby, we needed to do it soon. When I was pregnant with Enthusio, we found out that what made Mermaid not "normal" had a name: autism. I still didn't let myself worry about Enthusio until other babies his same age that I knew of were starting to use some signs or words. Then I was in a quiet panic for nearly two years, waiting for him to start really talking. He did -- but not before I'd had his speech evaluated and begun the process of getting speech services for him started. The following year was one long, figurative sigh of relief. He was "normal."

Nowadays, I don't necessarily believe there is any such thing as a normal kid. From the time Enthusio was a baby, I've tried to keep my emotional reliance on him being my "normal" kid in check. That's not fair to him. He's a child too -- he has as much right to bad days and all of that as Mermaid does -- as any kid does. Still, there was no way for me to foresee the way things have developed over time. Mermaid is lacking in social skills as a result of her disability, and sometimes her inability to empathize with other people scares me a little. She still has bad days -- terrible ones, in fact, where she'll argue that the sky isn't blue just to keep arguing. She also has the emotional skin of a rhinocerous. If she tries something new and she doesn't like it -- fine, she stops doing it and she lets it go. If someone isn't nice to her, whatever -- she avoids that person in the future. She is confident and independent and she knows what she wants. She knows exactly who she is and is happy with that person -- and she doesn't care what anyone else thinks.

These are wonderful qualities to observe in my child, especially after how much I worried about her when she was younger. Seeing the self-possessed individual she's developed into has helped me relax about her quite a bit, even though I know we still have a tough slog ahead in the teen years.

At the same time, over the past few years I've started worrying about Enthusio a lot more. He's a great kid -- sweet, loving, smart, open, enthusiastic, the proverbial light of my life. He is also almost completely unable to deal with frustration. He falls apart and cries when he's feeling hurt, angry, or wronged in any way, however slight. He gets picked on at school or whenever he's in groups of kids his own age, and he seems to have problems making friends with other boys.

This is hard for me for a couple of different reasons. One is that the ways I'm discovering he isn't "normal" are the same ways that I wasn't "normal" when I was a growing up. Hearing about what he is experiencing is a lot like reliving the worst parts of my own childhood. The other is that, after absorbing the blow of Mermaids disability and weathering all the difficulties of her early years, I think I had myself convinced, not that Enthusio would never have any problems, but that any problems he might have would be a piece of cake. And instead, the things coming up for him are not only exceptionally painful for me personally, but I find myself facing them without the help of a team of specialists I had to help me with Mermaid.

I seem to get myself good and worked up about this for a day or two every few months. This past Friday was one such day. This summer, as you know, Enthusio has been going to day camp. I hadn't really gotten the impression he was liking it all that much. When I go find him on the playground at the end of the day, he's usually by himself, or just on the edge of a group of boys who don't quite seem to be including him, and when I ask him if he's making friends, he doesn't really answer. We've heard about a boy named David who's been mean to him. He just seems somber and not himself when he gets home. Still, when I asked him if he wanted to continue for an extra two weeks, he said yes. So after puzzling over this for a few days, I started stressing and got out my copy of the The Highly Sensitive Child.

A few days perspective are telling me that I'm probably overreacting a bit. Enthusio is not a lost cause, and if I keep talking to him, reading, and going with my gut, who is better qualified than I am to help him grow up happy and healthy? I just need to remember that this parenting thing is going to keep throwing me curve balls, no matter what. Surely I've never been stupid enough to think I had it all figured out?
I've had some comments about not updating the old blog for a while. Here are my excuses:

1) I've been letting myself fall into that pattern of dreaming up long elaborate posts that I start and then don't finish. I know this is an issue for me and I try not to do it. So by the end of the day I resolve to finish both of the posts I've had sitting in the draft folder for the last few days.

2)I actually spent about 40 minutes finishing one of these posts this morning and then Blogger crapped out on me and lost what I'd written. Hmph.

I'm working on it...

Monday, July 25, 2005

50 Book Challenge: Harry Potter & Other Stuff

Okay, there's just no way I'm going to hit 50 books by the end of the year. Silly me, I thought I'd catch up during the summer. Turns out, this is the busiest summer of my life! Not only are there the many pre-wedding festivities of BLB and the Bride to enjoy, but I don't know what I was thinking, signing the kids up for so many activities. Day camp for Enthusio is great except for the fact that last night I realized I'd barely seen him in the last few weeks :-( Having him there is convenient but has hardly cut down on my driving -- between Mermaid's participation in swim team (daily practice plus bi-weekly swim-meets) and the DAC production of "The Wizard of Oz" (rehearsal twice a week has understandably increased to much more than that as the performances -- tonight and tomorrow night -- have approached), putting me in the car almost constantly. Pre-wedding festivities (last weekend, as you know, was the bachelorette cruise; this past weekend was the bridal shower, and a fine time it was!) are plentiful, and Saturday was a swim-meet in the morning, for which my parents came up, and then we went to lunch with them and to the pool.

So reading time has been limited, and I started out my summer with two long and somewhat difficult books: Children of God and Under the Banner of Heaven. Both very good, but not what you'd call light summer reading. Thus, instead of speeding through some frothy literary fun and adding to my list as I'd hoped, I've barely added a book title every couple of weeks.

My schedule did not prevent me, I am happy to say, from devouring the latest adventures of Harry Potter in two days. My assessment, unfortunately, is not good. In short, I thought the book was a major bummer. I'm not going to give away any crucial information at this point (unless my opinion is a spoiler for anyone, in which case, my apologies :-/), but I'll say this -- I can understand why things are set up the way they are to go into the final chapter of the series, but I still think it sucks. Also, I was disappointed in the way Harry's character was written. After the brilliantly-rendered sulkiness of a 15-year-old boy in book 5, I feel the author took a real step backward. In book 6, Harry is once again wide-eyed and bewildered -- there is little of the anger that we saw in book 5 and in my opinion, it should have, if anything, increased after the death of his guardian, Sirius Black, at the end of that chapter. In any case -- I am looking forward to an amazing 7th and final book, hopefully with a satisfying answer to any question you could possibly think to ask about the universe J.K. Rowling has created. I am still in awe of her talent, despite my feelings about book 6 and my very strong opinion that she could use some more forceful editing ("Too many adverbs!" she cried vehemently.)

Not everyone will share my opinion, of course, and if you want to read a detailed argument of why book 6 had to turn out the way it did, check out The Webbed Toe Yes, my husband, Reasonable Man, has joined the world of blog-writing. He twisted his ankle badly in a softball game this past week, which was his week off, and I knew he was bored, but I didn't know how bored until he told me he'd started a blog. He probably won't update it very often, if I know him, but his first real entry (after a brief introductory one) is pretty good. Don't read it if you don't want to know what happens in the new Harry Potter book though.

As for me -- I haven't decided what my next reading selection will be, but I'm thinking about the piece of chick-lit fluff currently sitting on my shelf...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Reasons I Haven't Been Online Much the Last Few Days:

1. I'm having the busiest summer of my life
2. Bridal shower on Sunday. The game I'm in charge of is AWESOME. (One of the other bridesmaids would rip me a new one if she knew I had revealed so much as the fact that there will be games at this shower in a place where the Bride would read it, but to her I say PHTHPBTTT!!!!)
3. Um, hello? Ever heard of this whole Harry Potter deal? You think I have time to post in my blog when there's 652 new pages of Harry to be read AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE?

Random thoughts about the bachelorette cruise before I forget them

1. Things I found out about Big Little Brother's fiancee, the Bride:
- she is a wild woman and does not shy away from attention
- she could probably out-cuss a sailor
- she is even more awesome than I thought she was before!

2. Some of the Bride's friends told me I reminded them of BLB. I took that as a major compliment.

3. I get no pleasure out of being completely blitzed, and I don't think I ever have. For one thing, whether I realize it at the time or not, I have never gotten absolutely, out-of-my-mind blotto without barfing. For another, as soon as I realize how drunk I am, the voice of reason is right there going "Stop drinking immediately. Get yourself some water. Sit down. Make sure someone knows where you are, etc." The only thing I want in that situation is to sober up immediately. And the next morning I remember it all in excruciating detail. Just once in my life, I'd really like to be that chick standing on a table, waving my bra around over my head screaming "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" and then wake up in the morning not remembering any of it. Is that so much to ask?

4. I missed Topless Titanic. Total bummer.

5. At the flea market near La Bufadora outside Ensenada, I laughed as I pointed out a tee shirt to the Bride. Emblazoned across the front of it: "Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck." A few minutes later, one of our cabin-mates, an excellent chick from Sacramento, came up to us, waving a tee shirt and going "look what I bought!" She said she probably wouldn't wear it out in public though.

6. The only people I've ever noticed wearing nautical/sailor-type clothes on a cruise were the people working the infirmary. Funny -- I never noticed the doctor on "The Love Boat" dressing like that.

7. At the Papas and Beers bar in Ensenada, I was hit on more aggressively than I have been in years by an extremely creepy Mexican man. To clarify -- he was not creepy because he was Mexican -- he was a creepy many who happened to be Mexican. Anyway, he came up to me, whispered "why are you so pretty?" and gave me some gum. WTF? A little while later, while scouting out a more comfortable spot for our group out on the deck, I inadvertently walked right up to him and subjected myself to his attentions again. Yeccchhh.

8. On the other cruises I've taken, I was always intrigued by the idea of having my hair braided in a cornrows-and-beads fashion like a lot of girls who have it done in Mexico, so this time I decided to go for it. I'd always suspected I was little old to be able to pull it off, and I was right -- I paid a couple of women $10 to do it in Ensenada, and it looked like ass. But since we had a bit of a hairdryer situation back on the ship (11 women and only one of us brought one), I decided to keep the braids that evening for formal night, as it made my hair pretty low-maintenance. In light of how ill I was for much of the rest of the cruise, this turned out to be a wise move.

9. Speaking of 11 women -- I've never travelled in a large group of women before, and it was fun if fraught with politics. Fortunately none of them really involved me, and while I caught wind of tension here and there, none of it really bothered me. Consdering the wide range of ages and personalities amongst the 11 of us, I think on the whole it went rather well. And most importantly, the Bride seemed to have a kick-ass time :-)

I guess that's it for now....

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Last night, after I'd unpacked and told Reasonable Man about my weekend of wild, drunken fun/misery, he laughed and said "you have this wild streak in you, but it only comes out when I'm not around to see it!" And he's kind of right. I have been living a delayed adolescence in the past few years (when I'm not carpooling, helping with homework, and fixing PB&J, that is), but I think part of that has to do with all the awesome chicks I've become friends with in that time, and all the fun times I've had with them. There is something about being out in a group of girls that kind of unleashes the wild streak in me, I guess.

Official Cruise Degenerate!

On the first day of the Bachelorette Cruise, I was so tired from having gotten up at 4 am to go to the airport that I found myself a lounge chair and a patch of shade on the pool deck, sucked down the last of my fruity frou-frou cruise drink, curled up on my side, and fell into a deep sleep. Sometime later, cruise employees became concerned about me and some of the girls in my party group had to let them know that I was just tired, not passed out from too much drinking.

On the second day of the Bachelorette Cruise, I actually did have far too much to drink, staggered around for a while, tried to fall asleep in a window seat outside the club where my party group was dancing, yakked all over the floor, and had to be taken back to my cabin in a wheel chair.

On the third day of the Bachelorette Cruise, I was so violently ill from the activities of the previous evening that I had to be wheeled down to the infirmary to get an injection to make me stop tossing my cookies. Though the doctor I saw agreed with my hypothesis that my condition was due to the debauchery of the night before, I was informed that on the off chance I had something contagious, I needed to stay in my cabin for the remainder of the cruise. Several hours later, feeling better and emboldened by my newly rediscovered ability to digest food, I busted out of my quarentine room and went to see the midnight comedy show with my party group.

I don't think I need anymore qualifications to declare myself the official Bachelorette Cruise Degenerate. Thank you, thank you -- it's great to be a winner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

50 Book Challenge: Trudging Along

I posted recently that if I read 4 more books in the space of about a week, I'd be on pace to finish reading my 50 books by the end of the year. I then took another couple of weeks to finish the book I was currently reading, Children of God, Mary Doria Russell's sequel to her well-regarded sci-fi novel The Sparrow, which I read around the beginning of the year. It took me a while to get through The Sparrow as well, so it didn't surprise me that its sequel was a long haul. I'm not really a big sci-fi reader, especially if there's a lot of sci mixed in with the fi.

Generally, I enjoyed Children of God, and I would recommend it to anyone who has read The Sparrow and wants to know what happened to the surviving characters. But I am struggling with the question of whether maybe, just maybe, Russell overplayed her hand. Her first novel takes place over the course of approximately 6 years in the life of the main characters (more time passes due to the fact that the main character spends time travelling at light speed) who travel to a distant planet to make contact with a civilization that was detected there, ending with shocking revelations about how the mission went terribly wrong. The sequel takes place over the next 40 or 50 years and answers pretty much every question about every character. It was an interesting, well-written read, and at the same time, I have to wonder if it was necessary. Interesting question.

Now I'm back to my regular stomping grounds of true crime -- I'm a third of the way through Under the Banner of Heaven, the story of murder in a family of Mormon Fundamentalists by Jon Krakauer. So far, good stuff!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

0 for 2

Yesterday I had the unsettling experience of arriving to pick up each of my children at their respective activities and discovering that each of them were distraught and sobbing. This is not a situation any parent enjoys encountering once on any given day, but twice was really too much.

I went to pick up Enthusio at day camp after dropping Mermaid off at play practice and running some errands. The core program at day camp ends at 4 pm, but you can pick them up any time up till 6:30, since it also functions as daycare. Mermaid's play practice starts at 4 pm, and over the past week, Enthusio has demonstrated that he is happy to hang out and play for a while after 4 pm snack time. Also, he's tired when I pick him up, and yesterday was particularly hot, so I assumed he'd prefer to go right home when I picked him up rather than have to go to the store with me. So I went to Rite Aid and Safeway and had a coffee before I got him. Thus, it was close to 5 by the time I went to pick him up.

I went out to the playground where the kids usually are when I pick him up, only to discover no one was out there. That was fine -- it was HOT and I didn't blame the kids for not wanting to be out there. I'd noticed some kids playing in a classroom as I'd passed through the school, so I assumed they were all doing inside activities. I stuck my head into a few different classrooms and he wasn't in any of them, so I headed for Enthusio's "Bunk". I could see as I was going down the hall that the light wasn't one in his classroom, but I figured I could at least go in there and grab his stuff so we wouldn't have to go back there once I found him. I opened the door to the dark classroom -- and found my son, running around and crying. His face had that really dirty, swollen look he gets when he's been crying a long time, and he ran over to me and hugged me. As we gathered up his things, he told me he didn't know where his group had gone or where he was supposed to be, and he'd been by himself crying in that classroom a long time.

Now, on the one hand -- the front desk and the camp office were right down the hall and all he'd have had to do was go out there and ask whomever was there to help him figure out where he was supposed to be. So we went down to the desk and I explained what had happened and in a very non-blaming kind of way explained to Enthusio in the girl at the front desk's presence that the adults at day camp are there to help him and he needs to ask for help if he's lost and no one wants him to sit in a classroom by himself crying if he doesn't know where to go. The girl at the desk agreed with me and told him it made her sad to know he'd been so upset. So now he knows what do to in that situation, and he calmed right down and was fine by the time we got in the car to go home.

On the other hand, it does bother me that no one noticed he was missing for however long (half an hour?). They make a big deal of the fact that you can't just drop off your kid or pick them up out front -- you have to walk them in and sign them in, then come in and sign them out at the end of the day. But when I go to pick him up, I just go out to the playground and get him, we get his things from his classrooms, and I sign him out -- usually without anyone taking any particular notice. I'm not worried about some stranger coming in and trying to take him, but it does strike me that the kids in the program are not especially well-accounted for after program hours, and that doesn't thrill me. I'm going back and forth about whether I want to talk to someone there about what happened yesterday or just keep reiterating to Enthusio that if he's ever unsure about where he's supposed to be or who is in charge at any given time, he needs to speak up and ask.

After Reasonable Man got home, I left Enthusio with him and went over to the Davis Art Center to pick up Mermaid. There was a short parents' meeting scheduled for after practice so I was planning to stay for that. When I arrived, the cast was working in a classroom with the door closed, but after I sat down to wait, the director emerged with Mermaid behind her, in tears. I immediately assumed it had to do with the time -- she gets pretty worked up when she doesn't get out of class right at the appointed time and that sort of thing -- but then she said she had a headache. Her director seemed very concerned, which was comforting after the whole day camp thing, and I gave Mermaid a Tylenol since she said her stomach wasn't bothering her yet (she threw up as soon as we got home). So that pretty much sucked. Mermaid often gets headaches when it's really hot, and I don't know if she had enough fluids during the day yesterday, so I'm really encouraging her to drink a lot today.

Both kids are fine today. Mermaid is still excited about doing her play and Enthusio was happy to go to day camp. But it made me feel bad. As I've mentioned before, I don't feel much in the way of guilt about putting my kids in the care of others. I know it's good for them to get out and be involved in activities with other kids. But this summer seems different, I guess because I've got them both so busy. I've never wanted to turn into one of those parents who over-schedules their kids in a zillion different things, and I've been careful to take each of their personalities into account when we picked their activities. An hour of swim practice a day, or that plus play practice a couple times a week, is plenty of activity for Mermaid -- she needs lots of down-time -- while Enthusio needs to keep busier or he gets bored and rambunctious. Nevertheless, I do feel the guilt really kicking in when I start to feel like they are unhappy or overwhelmed in their activities, much more so than I ever get when they are home -- which is pretty ironic when you think about it.

I Made It...

... to my exercise class. Now it's five minutes before 10 a.m. and Yahoo Weather says the current temperature is 77 degrees outside, but that's bullshit. We are going to COOK here in Davis today. But that's okay because other than dropping Mermaid off at swim practice and then picking her up an hour later, I don't have much reason to leave the confines of my air-conditioned house.

I Had a Plan

I had a plan, this morning, to get up at a reasonable hour (7:15), get on my workout clothes, fix breakfast for the kids and me, make Enthusio's lunch for day camp, drop him off, and take Mermaid with me to the gym so I could take the stability ball class at 8:30. This seemed like an even better idea than before when my clock radio turned on for the second time (I hit the snooze) and the guy on the radio announced that it was already 75 degrees out and it was going to be a hot one. Even more reason to get my workout done early. I arose, dressed, put in my contacts, and came downstairs, where I fixed myself some breakfast and drank a diet soda.

Thirty minutes later, I'm down here and ready to go. The children, however, are still upstairs sleeping.

If you have kids, you know that sleeping in is not a taste that, once acquired, you want to discourage in them. Weekends and vacations become a lot more pleasant once your children stop wanting to arise at the buttcrack of dawn, no? So, even though it's only one morning, I am loathe to go up there and mess with them. KWIM?

Nevertheless, I'm proud of myself for getting up when I said I would.

Hark! I hear a stirring from above...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Busy weekend

This past Thursday was the 60th birthday of my dad. And his twin brother, my uncle Clark. Here they are at my wedding 13 years ago -- aren't they cute?

My dad is on the right. He's wearing a tuxedo and my uncle Clark was wearing a funky outfit with one of his cool vests and they swapped accessories. See? How cute is that?

(BTW, don't ask me who that asshole posing in the lower right hand corner of the picture is. I have no idea and I don't know who invited him either.)

Anyway, we headed down to my parents' house on Friday night to celebrate the big event, and a good time was had by all. My dad followed his usual celebratory path of drinking several glasses of wine, telling me he loved me about 18 times, telling me how much he's looking forward to going camping with the kids and me next week about 25 times, offering to draw up plans for construction project we're planning to create a breezeway between our house and our garage, which he claimed will be "sexy," and spilling red wine on the white carpet, which has been a specialty of his for years. None of which I'm complaining about, because my dad totally rules. Rock on, Dad! My uncle Clark doesn't like to be fussed over but he seemed to have a good time too. It was a fun evening, capped by watching the jazz dance from Will's Winnie-the-Pooh play and both kids' performances from the talent show on video -- and then we headed home. We were all in bed by 11:30 that night.

Unfortunately, we had to be up early the next morning, as Rachel had a swim meet at 8 a.m. I think it was because they concentrating on the butterfly stroke last week at her practices, but the races she chose were the 25 fly, the 25 breast, and the 50 fly. The 50 fly! Man, the one was tough. So few kids wanted to swim it that they only had one heat. Rachel enjoyed this meet as much as she had the first, despite finishing last in each of her events again. I'm trying hard to stay low-key about the whole thing, but I have to say, it would be nice to see her finish ahead of at least one kid in one race before the end of the summer. At least she doesn't care -- it would bum me out a lot if it bothered her. I can live with it bothering me a bit :-/

When we got home, Ryan was getting ready to go to the office. Actually, he sitting there working on the computer, just as he had been when I got up in the morning, and when when we got home, he worked some more and then had a quick lunch and then headed to the office. Didn't come home till about 9:30 that night :-/ He is remaining cheerful about how much he's had to work lately, mostly I think because the end is in sight. The brief he's been killing himself to get done gets shipped out Wednesday, and then he'll take Thursday to get his desk or order, so to speak, and then starting Friday, he's off for a little over a week. So that's good.

I spent the rest of Saturday doing laundry, balancing the checking account, shopping online, and enjoying the commercial-free rebroadcast of Live 8 on MTV. Actually, upon realizing they were going to show a number of acts I didn't care about sitting through, I watched the second half of "Moulin Rouge," which I'd started the day before (that movie rocks if you have seen it) and then went back and scanned through what I'd DVRed of Live 8. Highlights for me: well, obviously all the Beatles songs sung by Paul McCartney and others (George Michael coming out to join him on "Drive My Car" seemed like an odd choice, but I like George Michael so whatever); when the guy who I guess was the lead singer of The Verve came out during Coldplay's set and they did a long, very cool version of "Bittersweet Symphony"; and seeing Robbie Williams whip up the crowd in London. I love Robbie Williams, and I know he doesn't have a huge following here, but seriously -- that British crowd was loving them some Robbie Williams. Anyway, that was really cool! I'd barely taken notice of Live 8 leading up to it, but after hearing about it last week, I was sorry I'd missed it, and evidently MTV had taken a drubbing for cramming so many commercials into the live broadcast, so it ended up working out well for me at least that they rebroadcast it on a day when I didn't have a whole lot going on.

Shopping I did: I found shower curtains for our master bathroom, and I got Mermaid a new bathing suit and a swim robe (monogrammed with her name) from Land's End. The shower curtain is significant because our master bathroom is the very last room in the house that has been left unpainted, and I'm anxious to get it done and I'd picked a general color scheme but I wanted something a little more concrete than "these three colors" as a jumping-off point. The shower curtain I picked is fabric, and I was about to order it from one place where they were ~ $50 a piece (and I need two because our tub is extra long), which was hard to swallow for a shower curtain -- but then I looked around and found them for less than half that on another site! So yay, Bullock's Framing & Decorating! Anyway, once I get the shower curtains, I can use them to pick paint colors and maybe think about some accessories...

Yesterday, we took the kids out to breakfast (Ryan was feeling bad about having not seen them all day Saturday) and then a sitter came over, and we took off for San Francisco to see "Les Miserables" at 2 pm. That was pretty cool! I love seeing plays, and I especially love musicals, and this one was pretty amazing. I thought I only knew one song from it -- "On My Own," which Michelle Kwan skated to several years ago -- but I recognized a couple of others too. "On My Own" was still my favorite song, though, sung by what turned out to be my favorite character, Eponine, the doomed daughter of the sleazy innkeeper and his wife, in love with Marius, who loves Cosette. I thought Eponine was much cooler than Cosette, but she was kind of too cool for Marius too, and she was doomed and all, so I guess that was part of why I liked her.

Ryan and I were starving once the play was done around 5, so we walked around a bit and ended up at Morton's Steakhouse, a very upscale restaurant. They had this "verbal menu presentation," which means they bring out this cart with raw steaks, raw vegetables, and a live lobster with its claws taped up so it can't attack you, so they can show exactly what you can order. I could have done without that! The poor lobster tried crawl off the plate while he was sitting next to me, and I couldn't blame him, I have to say. Also, I was pretty relieved when the waiter handed us printed menus when he was done, because there was no way I was going to be able to remember everything he'd told us. I had filet mignon, and Ryan had some cut I can't remember, cooked cajun style, plus we shared an order of mashed potatoes, and then we shared a really amazing chocolate cake with Godiva chocolate sauce inside. Mmm! Very nice. We discussed the play and the characters and all through dinner and enjoyed ourselves. Had a nice nice drive home in the red machine, spent some time with the kids before we put them to bed, and then caught a new episode of "Six Feet Under."

All in all, a very nice weekend :-)

Friday, July 08, 2005

How Much Independence?

A couple of weeks ago, we were driving along and Mermaid, who is 10, asked me, "Mom, when will I be able to go to the store by myself?" It is a question I've been pondering ever since then. When I was 10, I had been allowed to ride my bike to the shopping center approximately 2 miles away and spend the afternoon there for a year or two. With friends, of course, but unsupervised by adults nonetheless. The store Mermaid is asking about is a 2-minute walk from our house, and she's talking about walking over there by herself to get something we need in the house, not hanging out there for any length of time.

It seems like I've been having conversations about this sort of thing with other parents I know a lot lately. We all (unless we had those parents who were always driving us places, which I did not) got ourselves back and forth to school or to friends' houses, walking or riding our bikes, from fairly young ages. Starting in third grade, I used to walk or ride my bike over to the house of my best friend, who must have lived at least half a mile away. Starting in first grade, I used to walk to school a mile away accompanied only by other first graders. I don't think any of the parents thought anything of this.

And yet, I don't know any parents around here who let their kids walk to school without an adult. You can practically see the school from our upstairs windows and my two kids have never gone there unescorted. Everyone says, well, things are different now -- but as far as I know, no kids have ever been taken between here and our house, or in the surrounding areas, and when I really think about it, I wonder what exactly is so dangerous? We even have a tunnel that goes beneath the street, making it so that virtually the entire journey would be taken on bike paths rather than on the street. And if I didn't want them to have to use the tunnel, I could easily escort them across the street, which is close to the house, and then stand there and watch them ride all the way to the school from there. Same with going to the store, as a matter of fact, although there is a major intersection to cross on the way there as well.

So on the one hand, I think it would probably be fine to let them go back and forth to school on their own, or maybe even let Mermaid go to the store. In some ways, she is very grown up, and if you tell her a rule about something like that, she is going to obey it. On the other hand -- Mermaid is developmentally disabled. It sucks, but it's the way things are. She is grown up in some ways and very naive in others. And it can be hard to predict when those others are going to crop up.

I know that we have a tendency to treat her like she's younger than she is. It's been going on for a long time -- for instance, on her 3rd birthday, it suddenly occurred to us that she didn't really need to keep sitting in her high chair for meals anymore, and we went out and bought a booster seat (by contrast, with her younger brother, we weren't even bothering with that booster seat by the time he turned 2). In the last few years, she's occasionally started asking to be allowed some kind of freedom or another: to play out front without an adult, to stay home alone while I run a quick errand, that kind of thing. Each time, it's gone fine. I suspect letting her take a 20-minute walk to Safeway to pick up a loaf of bread would go fine too. But for some reason, that one is harder to swallow.

In any case, I did let her have a bit of a trial run this past week. After her swim practice on Tuesday, we went to the shopping center so I could get a pedicure at the nail place just a few businesses down from Safeway. She is usually famished after swim practice, so I gave her some money and had her walk over to Safeway by herself and buy a bottled smoothie. I went over exactly what she needed to do wrt paying for it and all that, and she listened with a patronizing look on her face, because after all -- how many times has she gone through the check-out at Safeway with me? Anyway, she did just fine -- she was proud of herself, and I was happy she'd been able to do something like that without having to cross any streets. Who knows, maybe one of these days, I will send her over to Safeway for a loaf of bread :-)

Yeah, it was going to happen:

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This just in:

You know, it's all fun and games till someone gets their legs chewed off...

(Compliments to my brilliant friend Becky!)

Day Camp

Yesterday was Enthusio's first day of day camp. I'm not sure if I have actually mentioned it here in this space, but I know I have mentioned it maybe or a million or a zillion times in the last month since I signed him up, to everyone I meet: he's going to day camp! At the private school that is a 2-minute walk from our front door! With flexible drop-off and pick-up hours! He gets to swim an hour a day, plus play sports and do arts and crafts and go on field trips and other fun stuff! So yay, day camp! All through July!

Yesterday I took him over there in the morning. As we approached the building, he said "Mom, I'm a little nervous." I said that was okay, people get nervous about new things, and I decided to stay with him for a few minutes as he was getting settled. We went inside and told the lady at the desk it was his first day. She looked up his classroom (or "Bunk") and pointed out the door to us, and before I could give him a kiss or even say goodbye to him, he had run off down the hall and gone in, backpack thumping his back as he went. So great, I thought. For Enthusio, telling me he's nervous about something new is not unusual behavior, nor is jumping in feet-first anyway, so I figured all was well and I went about my business.

At 4 we went to pick him up, and we were directed to the backyard area where they were having snack. About 50 kids, all wearing hats, were hanging around picnic tables, and popcicles were being handed out. I scanned the crowd and couldn't find Enthusio -- I finally had to ask my daughter to point him out. He was playing some kind of game that involved jabbing with two other boys, and I went and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked happy to see me. I asked if he'd gotten a popcicle, at which point he dissolved into tears. "No, they cost a dollar!" he sobbed. I tried to calm him down and assured him that I had a dollar and he could get one, feeling annoyed that I hadn't been informed about the dollar popcicles ahead of time. The camp counsellor in charge of the popcicles went about obtaining the one he wanted (they'd already been taken back to the freezer) and assured me that he would have been given one either way but she'd already asked him to wait a minute and calmed him down once (she said all this in a nice way). Whether that meant they would have given him one and then demanded a dollar from me at the end of the day, I don't know, but it did make me feel a bit better to know he wouldn't have simply been left empty-handed in a sea of popcicle-eating children. Note to self: everything not expressly mentioned on the page I read costs extra. Whatever.

We went home and I gave him some time to recuperate and enjoy his popcicle before I asked him: "So, Bud, how was it?"
Not good. I mean, this is Enthusio we're talking about. If anything is remotely good, you are going to hear about it. Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not feeling guilty about sending him to this place. Yes, it's essentially really fun daycare, and yes, I'm home and can provide him with nurturing and stimulation and all that crap that mothers are supposed to provide. Yes, I have been telling people that I signed him up for day camp so his sister and I can have a relaxing summer. Yes, I've been looking forward to him starting there. Yes, yes, yes. BUT. I also did it because I thought it would be fun for him -- way more fun than staying home with the girl and me. She and I are very much on the same wavelength when it comes to relaxing summer days. We like to sit and play on the computer, listen to music, maybe take a nap (okay, that last one is mostly me). Enthusio prefers a more active day. He likes to ask questions. He likes to run around. He likes to make noise. I like those things too, but MY GOD. Since he started school, it seems like I can't do enough to keep him stimulated on the days when he's home, and as a result, he spends a lot more time than I would like watching TV and playing on the computer. So while, YES, I was expecting to enjoy the peace while he was away at day camp, and guilt-free, I might add, obviously I saw benefits in it for him too. I thought it would be fun.

I will, however, feel guilty having him there if he hates it.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not yanking him out because he seemed less than thrilled on his first day. Obviously the dollar-popcicle incident took some of the wind out of his sails, and it's a long day (9-4) so I would have been surprised if he wasn't exhausted by it. After he's had a few days to adjust, it's likely he'll start thinking it's great. But if he doesn't, that's okay too. I'm not going to make him go every day for the next four weeks if he can't find anything in it to get excited about after he's had some time to get used to the whole thing.

After all, we do call him Enthusio for a reason.


There was a request for help pseudonyming my daughter in this space before. Never mind -- I'm just going to call her Mermaid.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


So, after running around like a bus driver with my head cut off for the past two weeks, today begins a week of relative relaxation. In the last two weeks, my schedule has included:
Two trips a day across town to the Davis Art Center for Will's play practice
One or two trips a day (depending on if we stay to watch or not) across town to the pool for Rachel's swim practice
Trips to the gym
Having people over for dinner three times
One trip to the Bay Area to help plan a bridal shower
Having houseguests for two nights
One book club
Attending parties at the homes of two different friends
Attending the performance of Will's play
Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting right now

Now don't get me wrong. This is all fun stuff. In fact, in case I failed to appreciate how much fun all this stuff is, in direct contrast to my experience is that of my husband, Reasonable Man, who has been so utterly bogged down at work the last couple of weeks that he went in to the office and worked all three days this weekend. So -- not complaining. Really. I love having friends and family come to the house, and this weekend was awesome -- my brother and his fiancee were here and we took the kids to the pool both afternoons and hung out and relaxed, and in the evenings we watched DVDs and it was great.

Nevertheless, today is quiet, with Enthusio having started daycamp this morning, and now it's just the girl and me here and it's pretty fabulous. And tonight it will just be our little family here having dinner tonight and that will be pretty nice too, just because it's been well over a week since we've done that, and you know what? A quiet evening at home with the family can be a nice change of pace for a gal with an active social life like mine, you know?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Celebrity Items of the Week

Okay, so Brooke Shields is now blasting back at Tom Cruise for the things he said about her taking anti-depressants to deal with her post-partum depression with an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, and I said "yay" to that. Someone needs to call the man on his shit, and it's gotten to where I almost wish he'd personally attack me in public just so I'd have an excuse to call a press conference and rip him a new one. I guess that's not going to happen, though, so this morning I have to live vicariously through Brooke Shields and her Op-Ed piece I haven't actually read.

Here's my problem with Brooke Shields though. I know she went through hell with the PPD and all, and she certainly has my sympathy for that. What I'd like to know, however, is, why did she jump on the Celebrity Mom "life is bliss now that I have a baby/this is so much better than being a high-paid, pampered actress/look at my spotless home, gorgeous baby and perfect life but ignore the fact that I probably have a staff of 12 people to make it possible" bandwagon for the first year of her daughter's life if it was so miserable? Because that's just gross. Like those things don't seem phony as it is -- how many magazine covers did Brooke get with her "finally I have my miracle baby!" story, and it turns out she was crawling around in the murky depths of PPD the whole time? I'm going to have to argue that perpetuating the myth of the perfect, blissed-out new mom at the same time one is battling crippling post-partum depression at least approaches the level of crap Tom Cruise is currently spewing about the dangers of psychiatry and anti-depressant medications. I haven't read Brooke's book about her PPD experience and maybe I should, as I'd like to see if she deals with this contradiction of image and reality at all.

Speaking of Celebrity Mom Profiles: two of the most egregious examples I've ever seen have hit the presses in the past month. First, Joan Lunden, looking very blonde and airbrush-perfect on the cover of Good Housekeeping, with her two sets of twins, toddlers and newborns. Clearly the woman is completely insane, but still, if that's not the worst case of maternal oneupmanship in the history of momdom, I don't know what is. Second, and possibly worse: Kelly Ripa, in a top that bares her perfect little midriff, declaring "My body is so much better since I had kids!" on the cover of TV Guide. Okay, a) this is not why I subscribe to TV Guide and if I wanted crap like that being delivered to my mailbox, I'd subscribe to women's magazines, and b) do you think it's maybe possible that the reason Kelly has a better body since she had kids is that she also has become a higher-profile and higher-paid celebrity/actress in that time and has more money to spend on things like a personal trainer, a nutritionist and a cook, as well as more pressure on her to remain tiny and thin? Ugh. Go away, Kelly.

In other news, I wish I'd had this blog two years ago, because if I had, I would have proof of the prediction I made about two years ago. It had recently come to light that pretentious, competent yet hugely over-rated actress Gwyneth Paltrow had cozied up to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and my husband pointed out that the two of them were the whitest people he'd ever seen. I replied that it was true that they were well-matched physically, and therefore it was shame that he would probably break up with her and end up with Jennifer Garner instead. My logic was thus: Gwyneth had once been engaged to Brad Pitt, who eventually went on to marry Jennifer Aniston. Gwyneth was also involved Ben Affleck, who was, at the time I made this prediction, engaged in a low-profile, low-key romance that no one probably even remembers with a little-known actress named Jennifer Lopez. Given this evidence, it seemed safe to say it was likely Coldplay Chris would also move on from the more uniquely-named Gwyneth to another famous Jen, and Ms. Garner, of "Alias" fame, seemed like the biggest Jen on the horizon at the time.

Now, as we all know, my prediction did not come to fruition. Coldplay Chris impregnated Gwyneth, married her, and now they have a child named after fruit. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are divorcing. Ben and J. Lo never made it to the altar in the first place. After their break-up, J. Lo wasted no time rushing to marry former flame Marc Anthony, while Ben actually took a few months to heal and reflect before becoming involved with the woman he has now impregnated and then married -- Jennifer Garner.

Don't I deserve bonus points or something?