Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Summer without plans... aka... every other summer

Where my sons will be this summer. Hopefully, in better, less
rainy weather... this is not summer weather, but it sure is green out!
We’re about a week away from summer vacation, and like every other parent in America, I’ve been busy making summer plans for the boys. This is what it looks like: we have no summer plans for the boys.

No summer camps. No sports. No music. No languages. No robotics camps or maker groups. I’m not even trying to force them to do the reading program, like I do every year.
I told them one thing: one morning a week is mine. They are going to be forced to do some local outdoorsy thing involving biking a dirt trail, hiking, going to a reservoir to swim in water, ride their bikes the full path, something, anything, that gets them out of the place they are sure they want to be: Their room. The garage. The basement. The computer.

Both boys despise structured activities of any kind. They always have, with the exception of Turbo’s good 3-year-run of gymnastics. Soccer? No. Music? No. Drama? No. Chess? No. Field trips? No. Climbing? No. Wrestling? No.

So fine. They win. They get a summer doing what they’ve wanted to do for years. I know this is what they want, because every year they tell me it’s what they want to do. Stay home. Sleep in. Lounge. Be bored. Ride their bikes to 7-11. Whine about the heat. See matinee movies. Go to the local, overcrowded city pool. Wander around looking for other kids to play with. Complain about the pool. Draw. Flop about the house. Watch reruns. Go on a few long camping trips.

It’s not a bad summer. It’s every summer I ever had growing up, and I loved my summers, though I do remember being bored a lot. I’m not looking forward to the hours of bored-ness. It’s probably good for them, though, a bit of boredom. I’ll also admit it shows a lack of ambition for my sons’ future. They’re not learning anything useful! They’re not developing valuable skills! They might fall behind in school!

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t believe in half the crazy things most parents believe in. School days are long enough. Childhood is fleeting. Intensive sports before middle school sucks the joy out of weekends and ruins play time. Growing up is about exploring the world and their place in it. Finding an identity and something to strive for. It’s hard enough to do that without adding Mandarin classes or nightly practices because no really, the children so enjoy it…

They do have ambitions, though, my boys. Pure ambitions not placed on them by anyone other than themselves. Engineer. Professional YouTuber. Scientist who studies space (space scientist - astrophysicist? whatever). Director. Comedian.

I can hear the thoughts now - oh they have tons of summer camps for those! You can put them in a maker class, and they have camps for kids on how to make movies, and there are space camps and theater… except no, because I don’t want to crush the dreams of my structure-despising, free-thinking, independent-minded sons just as those dreams are beginning to take form. I could send them, could tell them this will teach them how to do all the things they want to do, but it’ll feel like work to them: assignments and projects and guidance and following rules can feel like work. I’d rather have them dream of it, play around with it in their heads, and experiment with it on their own time, as they do with their Lego and Hero Factory creations, their drawings, their writing, the storyboards they create without realizing they are storyboards, the notes about monsters and creatures and powers and the descriptions and drawings of islands and planets and environments - all the world-building that goes on late at night when they don’t know they’re world-building, the introductions to a future YouTube channel that gets practiced when no one’s around, the creation of an online persona… all these are more valuable and useful to the pursuit of their future dreams than a structured class that will teach them what they can easily learn later, when the desire is more fully formed.  

Summer will include a lot of the above, in between fits of boredom, biking, and playing in the creek. Maybe we’ll even paint their room.

And I can’t help it, but a small part of me thinks it’s going to be a great summer for us, precisely because of its lack of ambition.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Everyone was cuter ten years ago

I was going to try to be funny, but I ended up reading through the earliest entries of my blog. I read a bunch of stuff I wrote about my kids and got all sentimental because when the blog started the boys were only 3 and still wearing fleece-y footed pajamas which I mainly bought for them because it made them feel like squishy stuffed animals when I hugged them. 

I’d buy them fleece-y footed pajamas now, but I don’t think hugging them would have quite the same effect. Especially since I’d have to chase them down first and tackle them, and footed pajamas on a wood floor could be dangerous, especially if they're running away. Nowadays, I have to be strategic about hugs. Usually, if I stand at the bottom of the stairs when the boys first wake up, I can maneuver in front of them so they end up walking into me when they head for the kitchen. Then I can put my arms around them during that one small moment of disconnect between their still-sleeping brain and the waking world.  

Then I thought, wow, everyone was waaaay cuter nine, ten years ago....


I also read a bunch of stuff that was really REALLY important at the time of my blog that I’d completely forgotten about entirely. Stuff I wrote in my blog that was significant and noteworthy and looking back, reading it, all I could think is, huh. Weird. I don’t remember that… I wonder how much more of my life I’ve forgotten - all those pinky promises I can’t possibly keep because I’d forgotten what I promised. Full days, gone, beyond recall. It’s kinda terrifying, if you think about it. It means so many of our days are so without meaning we don’t bother recalling them. Or, I just have a bad memory.

THEN I became a little sad, because my blog wasn’t all that funny. Or interesting. While it was all cute and sentimental at times, at other times it was vaguely whiney, and not in a funny, hip, cool mom way, but like a whiny, mopey, bored overwhelmed mom way. I think I thought I was funnier.

More news about my cat:

Turns out I was right about his hips, and he’s taking pain medication and cosequin for cats, aka magic sauce for old animal bones.. Unfortunately, it can cause potty issues at first, which happened with Fat Cat. The boys were horrified to watch him drag his butt across our floor in a desperate, and not really successful, effort to well, get it out, out, out.... I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the sight, either, but I’ve never seen such looks of disgust cross the faces of ganky 12 year old boys who, apparently, are unaware of their own special sort of grossness. Had to chase cat with poop sticking out of butt. Had to mop floor. Still, the reaction of the boys was almost alllmooost worth it..

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kids videoing kids - it's a live-streaming world out there

My son came running through the door, furious. He was outside playing in a public area, when he noticed girls from his school ‘spying on him,’ he said. I looked outside, and sure enough, there they were, peeking around the corner. But there was more. “They’re videoing me, Mom. They’re videotaping me and my friends playing and it’s creepy.” 

Two days later, one of my sons' friend's came running up to me, upset because during an argument over an impromptu soccer game, one of the kids, another middle schooler, pulled out an iPhone and started videoing the argument and the calls from some of the boys to fight, live, on video. Despite repeated requests for her to turn off the video, she refused. He was more upset about being videotaped than the calls by the other kids standing around to start a fight.

This is the newest land mine we parents of today have to overcome: loss of privacy in a world where everything is made public, regardless of consent. Children do not necessarily enjoy being videotaped without consent, but it’s the new normal. We think our kids are numb to it. They’re not, but they don’t have any tools to deal with it. We’ve reached a point where technology has outpaced our ability as parents to respond, and can barely navigate the technology ourselves, must less teach our children how to navigate that technology. On one side, we have parents telling other parents not to put pictures of their children on social media while on the other side, the children themselves are doing just that, casually and without consent.  

It’s a new conversation we need to have, one we’re trying to have, but we lack solutions and practical measures. What can I tell my son to do when he’s in a public space and his peers are video-taping him? It’s not illegal, after all. What should we do with the teenager who videotapes something disturbing, and instead of bringing it to the attention of authorities, uploads it for the entertainment of his or her peers? Is that child responsible for inaction, if he or she had the power to report the incident but instead turned it into a disturbing, but sadly common entertainment - victimization, bullying or assault of a peer?  Our children are growing up in a world where they will not know any privacy, where every other day a new app that defies parental technology shows up, where eventually, parents give up in frustration and trust their children, not realizing how dangerous that is.  

Luckily, I live in a small neighborhood, and in both instances, the parents of the children intervened, ensuring the pictures and videos would be erased. In the aftermath, I’m struggling to find a way to help my sons understand a way to retain privacy in a world where everyone can be uploaded and sent viral.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fruit one day, gone the same day

The conversation we have every. single. night.
The setting: Kitchen area. Fruit bowl. Refrigerator.
Time: 3 p.m. through bedtime.
Characters: Twiggy boys who weigh less than my fat cat.
Situation: The boys have just finished a snack of 4 cookies each around 2:50 p.m.

Honeycrisp, banana, cantaloupe - a fruit bowl with actual fruit
not yet eaten!

Boy: "Bananas! Apples! Melon! Yaay!"
Me: Just one"
Boy: "Just two?" 
Me: "One."
Boy: "Three?"
Me: "One."
Boy: "okay. And this sausage?" 
Me: "No sausage."
Boy: "Sausage?"
Me: "No. I said no. I mean no."
Boy: "Just this and one sausage? Only one? See? Just one of these?" (holding package)


Boy: "Jeez. You always yell. Okay. Just the one banana and sausage and the crackers and cheese you hid in the red plastic bin and a peanut. You can't say no to the crackers and cheese. I already found and ate the package."
Me: "Just the banana... DUDE those cheese and crackers were supposed to last the ENTIRE WEEK. Do you know that this is why we have no food?"
Boy: "Because you never grocery shop?"
Me: "What? No... I shop every day... just... just eat the banana."
Boy: "......soooo hunnnngrrrryyyyyyyy."
Me: "That's TWO bananas!... c'mon stop eating! I'm making dinner.'"

Boy: "No you're not, you're on your computer writing again. All you do...write write write."
Me: "I'm about to go make dinner."
Boy: "It'll take forever. You write forever. Sausage?"
Me: "Just eat the banana."
Boy: "And the sausage and maybe an apple? You know, we'd have more food if you found better hiding places."

Me: "No. No sausage. You already ate the banana. Where's your brother?"

Boy: "In the kitchen eating a bagel and the cantaloupe and the last of the cucumbers and the cat."


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

While I was away

I wasn't really away away. Just away from my duties as a blogger.

So, While I Was Away: 
**Yes, I steal liberally from The Bloggess, but I figure it's okay, because I'm nowhere near as funny as she is: You can scroll to not-deep thoughts if you're tired of the Bathroom Wars.

Deep Thoughts 

People are losing their minds STILL over who can use what bathroom. It's just a 'thing' our bizarre junk media can play over and over to instill paranoia and fear into our culture. I fear that this will lead to tomboys being kicked out of girls bathrooms and boys with long hair being kicked out of girls bathrooms, and then we'll have people concerned that lesbians are using female bathrooms and gay men using male bathrooms, and isn't that just awful because... I don't really know. See, this whole issue wasn't an issue until some buffoons made a law that made it an issue. Soon, we'll have  TSA-style screeners that will screen people prior to entering public restrooms to ensure that everyone is using the correct bathroom. I can see school districts implementing this - to keep kids safe from diversity, I suppose.  The best way to solve this problem is to make all bathrooms unisex with full doors. Sure, it'll cost more, yeah, but at least then we'd be able to move on and solve actual 'real' problems.

I've had a conversation with a parent who was wondering if her child was gay. It's pretty heavy stuff, because her child may not know, so she's gotta play it kinda cool. He is a unique kid, he likes girl things, but he likes boy things too. He does his nails and sword fights with the other kids. He hangs out with girls and plays with their stuffed animals. Then he runs off with the boys. I don't know that there's an answer until there's a definite recognition in the individual. I also think this generation of kids are really truly throwing gender classifications away. It no longer serves them and they are not under the same limits we were growing up. I look at my Bear, and I see my Bear. I see who he is as a creative, emotional, driving-me-crazy-currently 12 year old boy. He's different, but in ways that can't be classified or easily defined, just like this other parent's child. They all run around the neighborhood together, blissfully unaware of labels, categories, or heady discussions about sexuality. Oh, that's coming, but for now, we're in the sweet zone.

Despite my optimism about this younger generation throwing gender classifications out the window, I'm sad that we haven't yet risen above the internet and media's obsession with ridiculously unhealthy and unrealistic photoshopped and de-humanized portrayals of women. The majority of women are trying to lose at least ten pounds on any given day, haven't seen a size under a double digit since Jr. High, and still, still, beauty is a wafer-thin reed that has no signs of life on its face - no laugh lines, no scars, no stray hairs, no pores. I think pores are passe. Someone, help me eliminate my pores!

I'm also a little tired of women getting attacked online for having an intelligent voice or opinion. This Internet Bully Monster we've created is to the point where, by now, I'd think we had some laws in place. I understand that technology moves faster than law enforcement, but still, there's little that can be done aside from publicly outing the offenders, but the damage to not only women, but our culture as a whole, is significant.  It goes beyond adults, though, because children can be cruel to each other, and it's really easy to be cruel online. I don't believe we have satisfactory tools in place to help parents help children understand the effects of their online actions.

We can't move forward as a society with so much hate going on. I think there is a deep illness in our society. There are people trying to throw the country back to a pre-civil rights time. Corporations have more rights than actual human beings. The divide between rich and everyone else is beginning to remind me of the robber barrons of the 19th century. Fundamentalist beliefs are crippling and interrupting any serious attempts to move forward as a society that respects race, gender, sexuality, religion, civil rights for all etc etc. Most of you are with me on this, so no need to preach. It is scary, though, to see it.  I hope people remember to vote out the current members of Congress, and insist on term limits and campaign spending laws!

Not Deep Thoughts

My keyboard went completely bonkers insane and started randomly typing not letters, but strange symbols. I think it was first alien contact. Or my computer is possessed. But it's probably alien contact. Now, I'm typing on the teeny keyboard that comes with Mac computers rather than my awesome, comfortable, mechanical keyboard that is huge and has bright red lights.

My poor fat cat Bounder has to go on a diet. He went to the vet today and had an x-ray and his hip joints are inflamed. I got him fat cat stairs, but my friend, who's way smarter about animals than me, said I should have gotten a ramp, and now I fear I wasted $30 because he won't use the stairs. How will he ever climb the bed? Poor guy.

I'm addicted to Liz Ryan's Human Workplace articles. I am now feeling my awesome, bad ass self after months of her columns and good advice. It's kinda creepy, but she's really on to the whole concept of working at a place where you are valued, allowed to thrive and shine, and treated like a human, not an industrial-error drone-bot. Soul! Humanity! All that stuff.

I found the perfect job that i won't get because it's too sweet - a not-full time job with full time benefits and pay. One can dream. Of course I applied, because Duh, but, no bells to indicate this was to be my fate rang. I use these jobs to practice my cover letter writing skills. I write amazing cover letters.

I'm supposed to plan a trip to Yellowstone, but I'm not really sure I want to go to Yellowstone again, so I'm procrastinating, which means we'll end up not going anywhere and I'll have to schedule a random trip in September and try to convince the kids off-season vacations are the best.

Scary Mommy is my dream. I'm dying, dyiiiiinnng to get an essay, just one, published there. I will not stop until I succeed. That, and an essay in Brain Child Magazine. I can totally do this!

My characters in my YA space adventure keep running off on me and doing things not in my outline. Jerks.

That's what happened while I was away!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Life of my own design (me…me…me…)

Cat muse says 'were you trying to write? I think you were trying to write.
Cat muse is like, don't talk about you, why does it always have to be about you?
Cat muse wants his own blog.

Husbear and I were talking today, and I told him I wanted to live a life of my own design. Ever since the boys were born, every decision I made about work was determined by the needs of my family and my children, which is not unusual for mothers. Even leaving the Air Force was for the benefit of my family - I couldn't leave my daughter as much as I would be asked to if I stayed in. But now, the children are older, I'm, apparently, in the beginning stages of some weird 'woman phase' that will apparently drastically shift my attitude in the next few years, and I'm free of the burdens of a stressful, unrewarding job where pay day is the only happy day. I've got an oddly different view on my future now. I feel like a college grad again, looking out at the big bad world - but unlike a new college grad filled with excitement and anticipation, I'm more like the college grad of yoda, looking at the world like - hmm. impressed, we are not.

Also, ever since I read The Last Policeman,  I've been obsessed with the idea that possibly, a giant asteroid could, even now, be on its way, ready to collide into one of our oceans or continents, ending life as we know it, and any hopes of my ever succeeding as a writer… unless I really pursue it with a vengeance now. See? See how I made the end of the world about me? It's why cat muse is so grumpy. I don't make any blogs about him.

Okay, maybe not necessarily an asteroid crashing into the world, but the idea that really, our time here is limited, so what we do now has to matter. We can't wait for a mythical tomorrow, because while tomorrow of course will come, there will also be a tomorrow where we do not show up. This macabre thought has kind of pushed me to be a bit more adventurous, and bold in my thoughts about what I really want to do. I've been applying for jobs that have a positive impact on society- that matters to me. I care about what I do personally, and the impact the organization I work for or with, has on society. I know I need to work for people that are inherently good, as well.  So, the asteroid. The tomorrow I won't be a part of. The minutes, hours, days I, we all, have left.

The question isn't 'are you doing what you want?' because the answer is only yes if you're on vacation, really. I want to be drinking a fruity umbrella drink by a clear blue sea. The question is 'are you doing work that inspires you?' 'are you doing the work you were meant to do?' 'are you somewhere you are valued?'

If not, make a plan and flee. I wish I'd done so sooner. I don't beat myself up about it though, everyone generally wishes they figured out things sooner than they do. Save us all the introspection time that follows.

Today, Husbear and I talked about what it would take to allow me to really pursue a career of my own design. For the past six or seven months, I've taken baby steps in a few areas I thought I'd want to expand into: freelance writing, web development, and of course, my own fiction writing (which will never go away). Today, we talked about what it would feasibly look like if I spent the next few years pursuing writing as a living vs. writing as a hobby, and the cost-benefit of doing so to the family in terms of satisfaction, income, family time and so on. It's an interesting position to be in. So many if's, can you's, will you's, how's, do you really want to's,  and so forth, but I find that the more we talk about it, the more we consider it, the closer I am to the 'right answer.' For the past six or seven months, a clear direction hasn't really manifested, much to my dismay. Surely, I keep thinking, by now I'll know! Nope. I find that's not abnormal though. Only in our hyper-fast, hyper-aggressive, do-now-or-die mentality is seven months a long time. Serious questions requiring serious thought don't take a week to tackle.

I keep getting closer to the 'right answer.' I keep asking the right questions. I keep talking to people doing what I want to do (albeit far away and more successfully!) And, as I tell my Husbear often, I have this time in my life here, this time and space available, and it's clear it's because I'm meant to be here, to have this space, to help transition into something that, for the first time, is more for 'me' than for the good of the children and family. Though I am impatient to reach an internal resolution, I think 'what would I tell a friend in the same situation' and the answer 'it'll come. be patient.' , what do I want to do with that time?  What do you want to do with the time you have? If the asteroid shows up, will you be thinking, damn, if I'd known this, I would have left earlier/started sooner/changed this…

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Weird side-pony-tail self

Conversation with Husbear:

Me: "I'm thinking of the whole simplify movement. I've researched Urban Homesteading!"
Husbear: "Huh?"
Me: "Remember? Lets get to simplicity, so we can live a life where we enjoy the time we have at home instead of stressing out over work and stuff?"
Husbear: "Yeah."
Me: "It's about the long term."
Husbear: .... no longer paying attention
Me: "I'm going to Urban Homestead. I'm going to save us money by baking my own bread and growing my own vegetables and herbs in container gardens, and I'm going to stop buying non-processed and convenience foods. Then, we can save at least $3,000 a year on food, and I'd have fun with it."
Husbear: "yeah, I can see you enjoying that,  with your weird side-pony-tail self and all. Sure. Go do it." 

weird side-pony-tail self?