10:15 The kids and I leave for the beach.
2:00 We arrive home. I notice that the outside temperature registers 108F.
2:42 Ellie is naked and still sandy. I suggest that we take a quick shower and change into comfy clothes to go play some Wii.
3:17 Nothing is quick with Ellie, but at least now we're not tracking sand around the house.
3:57 Ellie and I come to terms regarding her choice of clothing. Jake has built and rebuilt an elaborate city using foam blocks, creating traffic, a parking lot, and an intricate tunnel system and using at least 20 cars acquired at his recent birthday party.
4:02 The blocks and cars quickly find their appropriate containers when it is suggested that there will be no Wii today, or possibly ever, if they are not removed from the floor.
4:07 I figure out how to set up Wii. The bunny game is loaded.
We I begin to play.
4:12 The power goes out. Each of us independently assumes that it's something I've done. Ellie questions the disappearance of the bunnies. Jake realizes the seriousness that is an afternoon without Wii, television and Daddy (out for the evening), and
begins to panic shows his concern.
4:20 After waiting a reasonable amount of time, I call the power company to check if this is a quickie or something more serious. The recorded message gives me no hope, but does indicate the exact geographical location of the outage - my neighborhood.
4:30 I reassure the children that we can still have fun without electricity! We make popcorn (real popcorn!) on the still operable gas range. Jake considers which toys must be plugged into the wall to work, and which will still operate on batteries. I explain, as only a Political Science major can, the difference between energy from batteries and the wall. Before he asks for better detail (or I have to call upon his Daddy or Auntie Banana to explain it to me because I can't just Google it), I suggest that we all sit down for a board game. We agree to play Candyland.
4:58 We have gone through all the cards once and I hide Plumpy so that the game will end before sunset.
5:02 I call the power company again. The outage has spread to more local cities. This is probably not good news. Now I'm going to miss Top Chef.
5:26 The block city is rebuilt, and I am considering options for dinner. I'm thinking of a post at Foodiepalooza about hurricane food, except, of course, my Internet connection is out with the power. I rummage through the cabinets to make a cold dinner.
5:57 Our cold dinner is followed by a lukewarm bath. It is hot and stuffy upstairs. I wonder how the kids will sleep?
6:51 Apparently, they'll sleep just fine. Ellie gave up fighting and managed to drift off without her usual Mozart. Jake and I talk for awhile, and I convince him that it's warm enough for him not to sleep wearing socks.
7:02 It's a good day for a power failure. The kids were exhausted. I call the power company again, and am disheartened to hear that there has been no update since 5:10. I am tempted to stay on the line to check with customer service, even though the recorded message says don't bother.
7:10 I open the curtains to capture the remaining light of the day. I find as many candles as I can (5). I wish our only working flashlight didn't moo. This is beginning to feel like Colonial House. I've forgotten the usual buzz and hums of my Modern House and find the stillness eerie.
7:18 There is an update at the power company! It's worse than they thought.
7:48 I seek out the best view from the house, searching for signs of light, of life. In the distance, I see houses aglow. I feel a line drawn in our community - those who have electricity and those who do not. The haves and have-nots. I consider that if we were currently on vacation in Las Vegas, we would have power and electricity. Las Vegas is never so dark.
I return downstairs. My mantle looks like a shrine. I am in a little tiny corner of my house, lost in the quiet. I flip on a light switch, hopeful.
8:00 Rafe calls. "Still dark?" he asks. I suggest he stay out later than planned, to enjoy the air conditioning, and did I mention that it was 108 today? In turn, he suggests that I do my best not to burn down the house with my scented votives.
8:12 Power is restored. I can still catch the later showing of Top Chef.
It is not lost on me that today marks the devastating anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I pause to consider the inconvenience of a few uncomfortable hours where my children are safe, my family is well accounted for, my city's infrastructure is intact and my life is not otherwise turned upside down.
I don't know what to do, but these bloggers have some ideas.
My wish for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast - to be rebuilt with as much love and care as Jake builds his little foam block cities.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
10:15 The kids and I leave for the beach.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Last Year, I invited all the kids in his preschool class, his playgroup, their siblings, and our friends with kids. I wanted to make sure there would be no omissions, no unintentional snubs. I wanted to be gracious to everyone who had past invited us to a party, and especially to those who had welcomed my little girl as an extra guest when she couldn't be elsewhere entertained. Almost everyone came, which netted us a group of about 30 kids, plus parents and family, so we hosted about 60 people at our home. We may as well have put up fliers up at every local park, playground and school offering free cake and goody bags. Not only was it a mob, it was not Jake's scene.
This year, I asked Jake which five close friends he'd like to have join us; when he couldn't commit to just five, I caved, and we invited seven. Because his is a summer birthday, I let the moms know a few months in advance that we were having a small party and that it would mean the world to my son if their children could join in our celebration (and I believe I did lay it on that thickly, in case you're wondering). Every child that came to the party was someone with whom we had a relationship, and wasn't there out of obligation. Rather than the screaming hordes from last year, Jake got to play with his closest buddies, and Ellie enjoyed the company of a special few younger siblings with whom she's also bonded. The total attendance was about half of last year's.
Last year, we did a Winnie the Pooh picnic in the Hundred Acre Woods (our yard, though not the least bit woodsy). We had a bounce house. We had an entertainer (with that many kids, I felt it was a necessity). There was a treasure hunt, a craft, a parachute - all great things at a kids party, unless you happen to be Jake, who avoids group activities at birthday parties as though they were opportunities to be stung repeatedly by a swarm of bees while cannons were being shot in the distance (not that these make sense together, but they are things that Jake would rather not experience).
This year, I asked around and found a great race car birthday party company (if you're local, and interested, let me know and I'll give you their details. Since they handed out their business card to every adult attendee of my party, I'll assume I've already advertised for them enough.) The pros came in, set up a variety of tracks in our yard, and let the kids play. And play they did, together, with my little guy. Everyone had a great time (especially my kid who would likely contest that he had the BEST time - he's competitive that way).
Last year, I printed my own invitations. I woke before dawn to make literally hundreds of cut-out sandwiches (two different kinds), most of which went uneaten. I had the big Costco cake and bought out the dollar store in party favors. By the time the party started, I was exhausted, and spent most of the party attending to guests. The most time I spent with my son was when he was so sad, he couldn't be a part of the party anymore.
This year, I made some key decisions early. Since it was a race track theme, we had race appropriate food. We served Jake's favorite foods - lemonade, hot dogs, chips, and watermelon - and no one even needed a fork! The cake was made of cupcakes, so we didn't have to take the time to cut it. The invitations were done online through Shutterfly, and I ordered only as many as I needed. Favors went with the theme (one Hot Wheel or Polly Pocket car per child, some stickers, a couple of lollipops, and a take-home craft Jake had begged for from the arts & crafts store). We were ready early and everything was easy. My only worry was refilling the lemonade and ice when they ran low.
Nowhere in the parenting literature does it say, "Try to be all things to all people, especially when celebrating milestones." I have been accommodating, probably to a fault, but I think I've learned my lesson. There is no point to including everyone if it, in turn, excludes the guest of honor.
I don't think anyone intentionally plans a birthday party to make their child miserable. Looking at the photos, I can't isolate many great moments from his 4th birthday party. Each shows a flurry of activity and a very serious boy looking a bit overwhelmed. This year's collection is sweet, and fun. Everyone, especially the birthday boy, looks to be having a wonderful day.
As for me, well, it looks like I came out the victor in a battle with a clown.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"Mommy, can you sit with us?"
No, I can't. Not right now.
I am in a flurry of activity. Too much to do, too little time. Place to place, thing to thing. Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go NOW. Come ON kids. It's time to get those little feet moving. Let's GO, people. MOVE IT!
There's not been a whole lot of daydreaming, drifting or lazing away these summer days. We are busy, but not too busy to wish my blog a happy first birthday!
A year ago, I started with a teeny little placeholder to create a space to write and call my own. I followed it with my first real post, added all my favorite MOMS Club President's messages (not content to only have them lining the cages of my friends' bird cages or recycling bins), then began the blog you've come to know and love, my
Mine is not the biggest blog, the most widely read, nor the most clever or prolific, but it is mine alone, and I can't say that about a lot of things.
It's time for me to switch from my state of constant motion to some serious inertia.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
A funny thing happened while I was parenting the other day.
I may have alluded to some of the challenges my boy had in school last year. When my pediatrician and school weren't able to give me the answers I needed, I went to my next best expert adviser: the Internet.
When you Google "tense, neurotic preschooler," you don't get much. Throw in terms like "anxious," "perfectionist," "cries about everything and nothing" and "easily frustrated," wade through all the b.s. about how great it is when your child has unreachable standards for themselves (at age four, mind you), and you might actually find something helpful, like I did in Rosemary Callard-Szulgit's Perfectionism and Gifted Children.
And the funny part?
While I read about the perils of giftedness mired with perfectionism (not an entirely great attribute at all, by the way), thinking about how I could use this information to help my boy and his teachers, and I was smacked in the forehead with a dose of reality: it's not just Jake, it's me, too.
From chapter one:
Adult perfectionists may also become workaholics. Because their internal locus of control is not secure, their self-esteem is tied to external rewards.
Um, hello. Did she read my Accomplishment Junkie post?
Emmet and Minor (1993, 357-58) found that perfectionists were most concerned with (a) the best preparation for the future and the most potential for future advancement; (b) not being ordinary (the desire, need, or both, to accomplish more in one's career than the average person; (c) ability (in most cases, the concern that one does not have great enough ability for a particular occupation); (d) making a difference (work must be meaningful and make a difference in the lives of human beings); (e) sense of accomplishment; and (f) true to self.
Chapter five provided me a list of some common behaviors and delightful quirks (my words, not hers) of gifted perfectionists, and a few struck a chord more loudly than others. (Perhaps you read The Look?)
- Are highly critical of others
- Are highly critical of self
- Are very controlling
- Can't have fun or really enjoy a game because they must try to win (more Jake than me)
- Are extremely sensitive
- Focus on the one thing that is wrong rather than the multitude of things that are right
- Are chronic worriers
- Take on more tasks than they can ever realistically do or do well in the allotted amount of time
My name is Karen, and I am a perfectionist.
The worst part as I see it, is that I'm not even the good kind of perfectionist. I'm not the superbly ordered, do everything on my list before bed, thorough to the point of overkill kind of perfectionist. No, sadly, I'm the "if I can't do it better than everyone else, I might as well not try" kind. I'm the procrastinator, the self-doubter, the pleaser.
I can give you example after example of things I've quit or done poorly because I was afraid of failing, or even worse, succeeding and still not being good enough. Tap lessons when I was seven (and how watching every Broadway musical and episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I wish I'd stayed), my written-the-night-before-the-deadline application to Stanford (coupled with my refusal to apply to other outstanding schools where I didn't think I'd be admitted), a summer not spent abroad, bad relationships, poor paying jobs, hiding in my blog-shell. I keep a lot at of things at arm's reach - relationships, goals, exercise, weight loss, writing, career advancement - because I'm afraid of getting too close and letting someone down, even if that someone is me.
I've also made some really good choices. I married well and have lovely children. I am a confident parent and a loyal friend. Because I am constantly questioning myself, I am willing to consider many perspectives and am open to new ideas. When I make a decision (even one that's been over-analyzed, wrangled with, and dissected from every angle), I am steadfast and driven.
While I may have joked that parenting Jake is like parenting myself, I am fully aware that we are indeed unique. Lucky for him, he will benefit from my experience as a similarly misunderstood kid.
We'll make a lot of mistakes together. Nobody's perfect.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
While I plan to continue my blogging hiatus for a few more weeks, it is the content of the next few weeks that has drawn me back to Blogger like any of the moths that seem to find the one light on in my house.
Jake is starting Kindergarten in three weeks. THREE WEEKS!
It's no surprise. I applied to schools. He was accepted. I came to terms with our new arrangements. We even began paying tuition (!).
June turned into July, the kids finished summer camp, and we took a little vacation. We came home to find The Information Packet. And the Information, it is daunting. It started with a letter that began:
I trust that you are enjoying leisurely summer activities.
AAACK! Are they for real? Is it really so very serious? And formal?
It went on to tell me (in so many words) that my boy would be in for a long day (please drop him off at 7:45, and come back to pick him up at 3:00), and would be held to dress standards ("modest and appropriate" are in, shoes with wheels are out!). There are also school supply lists (folders, people, for
homework research memos dissertations whatever it is that 5 year old kids are doing these days), and a zillion other standard forms to return in the next few days. I am, again, overwhelmed.
But the thing is, it's not an "overwhelmed" of panic or anxiety. It is the weight of a huge decision Rafe and I made, and are reasonably confident that it will be a good path for our children, that has now come to fruition. My brilliant husband and his genius sister, Auntie Banana, went to a similar school, and value the kind of education, challenge and preparation the school gave them. Giving our kids the same kind of experience has been agreed upon since before they were born.
Though I was California public school educated through college, I would have killed (though probably not the best metaphor) to have gone to private school like this as a girl, so enamored was I of the girls who got to wear uniforms and take the train into the city from the precious town of Peekskill, New York. My parents probably would have sent me, too, if not for the realities of boarding school and being away from home that scared me enough to stop asking (if I ever even asked out loud). That I made my way as a big fish in a big pond was probably just fine anyway and prepared me well enough to stay afloat at a huge university and on to graduate school (where I found out that private school was not quite what I'd built it up to be).
I've begun the gentle preparations with my boy, planting a few seeds to help him succeed in his new school. I am reminding him that it is okay to make mistakes, that the teachers are there to help him learn. I've also suggested that other kids might be learning things that he already knows. I've told him that his Daddy and I think a lot about what he likes, and that this school should be a really nice place for him to be, just as his preschool was, and just as his summer camp turned out to be.
It's his time now.