Friday, July 30, 2010

Pearls of Parenting Wisdom

Having raised a human to adulthood without his spending time in jail, rehab or a psychiatric facility, I feel competent to pass on my wisdom. Remember, pearls are the oyster's way of protecting itself from an irritant so its heart is garbage and treat this advice accordingly.
  1. Accept advice but listen to your heart. Read as much as you can stand and listen as politely as you can to strangers who intrude to correct your parenting. Now . . . does it make sense to you? Does it feel right? If not, ignore it. Half the world wants you to put a hat on your child, the other half thinks it's too hot for a hat. Some people think you should spank your child, some think you should indulge their every whim. No one really knows what's correct, so do what feels right for you and your child.
  2. Experts speak with confidence but no one understands your child like you do. Professionals base their opinions on general knowledge and statistical data but you are with your child more than anyone else. If the pros are telling you something that doesn't jive with your understanding, tell them why - and expect them to listen.
  3. Try your best but recognize the resilience of children. You are going to screw up. You are going to forget diapers on a picnic. You are going to lose your temper. You are going to be over-protective sometimes and inattentive sometimes. Make sure they know you love them. They will get over it.
  4. Your job is to raise a decent human being, not to protect him from all hurts and disappointments. When something bad happens to your child, your heart may break. You wish you could prevent them from experiencing life's cruelty. You can't and it's a good thing because how would children learn to cope with adult disappointments without practice?
  5. Your job is to raise a decent human being, not to be your child's best friend. You are going to have to make your child do things he doesn't want to do. You are going to have to prevent your child from doing things he does want to do. That's how we learn to live in a society and don't end up writing manifestos from a shack in Montana.
  6. Think hard before you say "no" but stick with it if you do. Is there a really good reason to deny your child an experience? Is it likely to hurt them or someone else? Is it against your religious or ethical beliefs? What's the likely result? What's the worst that could happen? Limiting your use of "no" gives the word greater meaning and eliminates a lot of unnecessary whining, pleading and arguing.
    But if you do say no and then give in to whining, you ensure that your pronouncements will not be taken seriously in the future. Being able to back your decision with good reasons may not convince your child that you're right but he will eventually learn that resistance is futile.
    Clear exceptions make the rule more potent. Do circumstances make something unacceptable now that might be allowed later or under different conditions? Is it just too much for you to handle right now? Is company coming? "You may not play that game now because it is time for school. Maybe you can play after school." Don't just say no. Roll like the Magic 8 Ball and respond, "Ask again later."
  7. Follow the same rules you set for your children. If you expect your child to be polite, be polite. If you expect your child not to hit, don't hit. I 'm not suggesting that your bedtime should be 7 p.m. if that's what you set for your child. But if you think a good night's sleep is important for your child, it is also important for you. "Do as I say and not as I do" is not cool.
  8. Your child is going to tell you that he hates you. Usually in response to a decision you've made that will ruin his life. He might really mean it at that moment but this, too, shall pass. It's time for you to be a grown-up and take it on the chin.
    9. It's OK for kids to know you're human. If you are sad or cranky, telling them how you feel validates their own feelings. If they hurt you in some way, tell them so in the same way you would like them to be able to tell others: "I know it was an accident but when you threw your truck, it hurt my foot." Wouldn't you rather your child was able to verbalize his reaction instead of retaliating? That's a lofty goal but what's a heaven for?
    10. Moms and Dads are really different. They often have diametrically opposed concepts of what is safe and appropriate. Dads push their fledgelings out of the nest and Mamas catch them if they aren't ready to fly. It works well as a whole even though it causes tension between them. You need to be a team. Don't expect to agree on everything but make a concerted affort to talk about your differences of opinion - in private to preserve the image of a united front. It's OK for kids to see you argue about other things but don't let them use your disagreements against you. Single parents have to do both jobs and need all the help we can give them.
    11. It's your teen's job to make life miserable. They need to push the boundaries and argue and sulk and be truly awful people. If they didn't you would never let them go and no one wants their 38-year-old son living in their basement even if he takes the trash out without complaining.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fun Things

These are some of the images I've been working on. They are illustrations for a Chinese Mother Goose. Aren't they amazing? I've been cleaning them and coloring them. The first one illustrates a rhyme about selling his fat little boy who, if you buy him, will keep your house safe from burglars. Just look at that little face! I'm getting obsessed with photos from China.

I've also been researching the genealogy of my father's birth family. It is so hard to stop when you find one name and it leads to another and another.
I've been cooking some although Chris's only comment so far has been that I am a tidy cook. It's hard to cook for two people who have different nutitional needs. I wander down the grocery aisles trying to find new options. I made turkey chili and cornbread from scratch yesterday. It's hard work to imbue ground turkey with flavor.

We went to Pleasant Hill's Blues and Brews Festival on Saturday. $40 for as much beer as you want from lots of different breweries.
Not much there for me since I am allergic to beer and it was too hot to stand around in the sun. (Sorry, people who live where it's really hot. Just remember redheads are sensitive.)
Chris stayed longer to listen but I don't think he drank $40 worth of beer.

In the garden, my sunflowers are starting to get baby flowers. The only pumpkin doesn't seem to be growing, still no eggplant or melons and the butt pepper is starting to turn yellow so I don't think it's going to get any bigger. All in all, I'd have to say that the garden hasn't really paid off. But it is fun.

Learning New Stuff Is Hard

Robin and Pat lit a fire under me to get my bracelets sold and make my business successful.
So I spent most of last week on 
  1. putting branded price tags on each bracelet,
  2. adding small images for all currently available bracelets to the web site
  3. creating large images on separate web pages for all available bracelets
  4. linking all images to paypal
  5. linking my paypal account to the bank and, finally,
  6. posting the revised web page.
Doing each of these things was difficult to figure out at first but quickly became repetitive and tedius, not to mention time-consuming. Don't even ask about all the new passwords I need to remember: online banking, paypal, webmail, website.
THEN, by popular demand, I had to create an etsy page. MORE passwords! Etsy is much easier and allows for credit cards but they charge about ten times as much as paypal alone.
But I got my first online orders! And I had to create receipts and financial records and return labels. Whew!
I really appreciate the support of my friends. It will be even more fun when people I don't know want to buy stuff.
Now, I'd better go make something to sell.

Who Knew Oakland Had a Nice Museum?

Seeing a painting by Arthur Mathews at the DeYoung reminded me how much I loved the paintings of that time. So I convinced Chris to go to the Oakland Museum of California on Sunday.

It was closed for a couple of years for extensive rennovation and reopened in April.

It is beautiful, spacious and well-laid out.
Only a limited portion of their Mathews collection was displayed but they have a great collection of craftsman furniture and decor.
There was a lot of modern stuff that didn't really turn me on but it's a very eclectic collection.

The History Museum was even more fun. Vignettes trace the history of California from its first inhabitants, through the gold rush and the WWII internment camps. Lots of cool vehicles from various eras. This was one of my favorites items: spin the wheel to determine your fate. Kinda reminds me of the Oregon Trail game.
It's defintely worth a trip. In fact, we joined since a special Pixar exhibit is opening in a month.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I am all about the culture.

Last Friday, I went to SF with Chris and spent the morning in his office working on some old Chinese illustrations. We had lunch at the Asian Art Museum and I spent an hour or so in the afternoon, meandering around, photographing faces and patterns.
Then I went to the SFPL. Even being in the library for a short time made me realize how nice it is not to have to deal with crazy people reeking of urine.

After Chris was done with work we went to the DeYoung for the Birth of Impressionism exhibit. We had tickets for 7:30 but got there at 6:30. On Friday evenings, admission is free (except for special exhibits) and they have bands and ballet demonstrations and art projects for kids. It was packed.
I had some tea with lunch that contained something I was allergic to (Earl Grey with bergamot?) and felt lousy so the crowds were a bit too much for me. Chris was listening to the docent but I couldn't bear the crowds.
I really needed something to eat. The DeYoung Cafe has a fancy prix fixe menu ($15) but I just got chips. Chris got some slimy mushrooms and a tiny bottle of wine.
Since the exhibit was about the birth of Impressionism, a substantial portion of the exhibit focused on the popular works of the time when impressionism was still shocking.
I had seen most of the paintings before but not this one that I really liked by Cezanne of Maincy Bridge.
After the museum closed, we went to a nearby Chinese restaurant that someone recommended to Chris but there was a long line. We wandered around for about an hour looking for someplace good but not too crowded. We finally headed over the bridge but by that time many restaurants were no longer serving. We ended up at Nex which is next door to Mua on Webster. They had only been open for a few days. The decor is grungy cool and the food was good. I had pizza and Chris had Steak Frites. There was a loud party of drunken men and women nearby that included a woman whose laugh could have pierced a flak jacket. The waiter was wonderful, kept touching Chris and gave us desert. It was an incredibly rich chocolate concoction with whipped cream and, unfortunately, hazel nuts. I ate it anyway and, by the time we got home, my lips and tongue were numb.
When walking back to the car, we noticed a huge number of people heading to Mua to dance. The women almost all looked like streetwalkers and the men looked like pimps. When did I get to be such an old lady?

Welcome to the new Walnut Creek Library

I am a bit sore from all the gardening over the last couple of days so I spent this morning at the new Walnut Creek Library. The children's room has a bug theme with caterpillar stools and insect decor. It has a stroller parking lot and lots of nooks and crannies for the kids to hide. The kids room also opens directly onto a lovely fenced in garden area.
The library is so big and the book return is hidden so they really need a greeter at least until everyone gets used to it.
The Friends book store is really nice and carries some new books (maybe for discussion groups?). There is not much to distinguish between the library and the bookstore so I foresee some issues.
I stopped by the SFPL last week and their Friends book store has a section of ephemera, probably just pages from old books and magazines that were donated. What a great idea! They charged $15 for an image that most groups (especially Bonnie) would have tossed. This is what I bought. It's from a German book on human evolution from the 1880s.

Release the Kraaken - I mean - ladybugs.

I bought some ladybugs to fight the bugs already living the high life in my garden. You are supposed to release them at night because they can't fly then and are more likely to discover the buffet of delicious insects in your yard rather than seeking greener pastures.
You are also supposed to put them in the refrigerator for a half hour before you release them to slow then down. I didn't. As soon as I opened the package, they rushed me. They're cute and all but you can feel each foot of each insect crawling up your arm.
And, speaking of going to crazy lengths to help plants, this is what I had to do to save the catnip for at least a week. Within 5 minutes after I planted it, Al had dug it up and was apparently trying to injest it through his fur.

The rest of the herb garden looks pretty good. I've added chives and coriander, neither of which I've grown before. I can't wait until Mike comes home to use them in cooking. Anyone want some fresh, organic thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary, tarragon, sage or oregano?

And I finally have my very first pumpkin, after years of trying. I have no hope that it will grow to maturity but it's more success than I've achieved so far. Still only got one zucchini. What's up with that? Usually, they are very prolific.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dark Secrets Revealed

I talk to the computer. More specifically, I argue with Dreamweaver:
"Why did you do that?"
"Where did that thing go?"
"Why won't you do what I want?"
"Stop doing that!"
When I'm being rational, I know that it is doing exactly what I ask and that I am doing sommething wrong. But who wants to be rational? This is one of the web pages I've been designing for a client.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Pepper Looks Like a Butt

Yeah, you read that right. What's up with this pepper? It's the only one I've gotten so far. Is God trying to tell me something?

This garden seems different than my past attempts. None of the plants seem to be going crazy with the leaves but they are making fruit. The cherry tomatoes don't usually make it into the house. I pop 'em like candy while I'm watering.
The only plant that seems really exuberant is the pumpkin which hasn't set a single fruit yet. But the flowers are beautiful (and maybe delicious but I am determined to wait for at least one pumpkin.)
Maybe everything seems to be growing more slowly because I'm home (the watched kettle theory).

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy NOT going to Hayward every day?

I might whine about still not having enough time to do everything but my stress level is almost non-existent. I think of all the things I don't have to worry about and -ahhhhh... it's like sinking into a nice warm bath.

I think that the cats enjoy having me around, too.
Yesterday I made enough new bamboo "beads" to make 20 bracelets. I'll make the bracelets today when Robin comes over.

I worked on Tiam's pictures in the evening. I'm restricting my Wu research to evenings. Otherwise I get obsessed.

I spent several hours updating my blog. What if all I did all day was write in my blog? Then I'd be writing about writing, like a mirror reflecting a mirror. How's that for philosophy, Mike?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Relaxed Sunday- July 4

July 5 was a more relaxing day. We picked Mike up from the Bethesda Metro station and met Deb and Bill for brunch at the Old Georgetown Grill. Then we returned to the Kurans' and just hung out for a while. Deb and I worked on her family tree and the boys read the paper.

After much debate, we decided to go see the new Karate Kid. A good time was had by all, although Mike was temporarily worried about Olivia's reaction to the violence.
Jaden Pinkett Smith was great and Jackie Chan actually acted.
We saw the movie at the Rio Center in Gaithersburg and went to Guapo's for dinner after. The entire time we were eating, Olivia kept saying, "I want to ride the paddle boats" over and over and over. She wouldn't eat or have a conversation. She twisted Mike's arm until he consented. They paddled up and down and around the lake. Actually, I'm not sure that Olivia could really reach the pedals. Mike was drenched with sweat by the end.
It was a great trip, all in all. Anyone going to DC should make very good friends with Deb and Bill. They are the best hosts. Staying there combines the best of hotels and being home.

A Capitol Third

We celebrated Mike's 25th birthday at Brasserie Beck. I was a little concerned that Olivia might be intimidated by the food. I shouldn't have been. She ate most of our "shared" chicken dish and then gobbled a mess o' Mike's mussels. She doesn't like french fries - unless they have parsley. And the rest of us each got one bite of the chocolate cake for dessert before she finished it. She was such a charming, grown-up dinner companion.

We wandered over to the mall to watch the rehearsal for the Capitol Fourth. It was much more low key than it would be the next day. Kids were running around, doing cartwheels and playing tag.

Jimmy Smits was charming, although it was confusing sometimes since he was being filmed as if it were the fourth.
We heard Reba McEntire, American Idol David Archuleta, John Schneider and classical pianist Lang Lang as well as cannons, cannons and cannons.

July 3: Mt. Vernon Is Not a Band

Mike chose to spend his birthday at Mt. Vernon since we hoped it would be less crowded than the Capitol area. Neither of us had been there although Chris had unpleasant memories of johnny cakes from a prior trip.
The weather was perfect to wander aimlessly around the estate. However, a sign warning us of a 50 minute wait to get into the mansion inspired us to head directly to line up in front of the mansion. Fortunately most of the line was in the shade but, after 90 minutes, we had exhausted all conversational topics.
The line ran next to one of the gardens so I snuck away to take pictures of flowers.
So after 90 minutes we entered the mansion, and were marched through like we were on an assembly line. The docents repeated the same speech every minute and did not welcome questions.

On one hand, I understand that they wanted to keep the line moving and avoid longer waits. On the other hand, I really wanted to get my money's worth after waiting for an hour and a half. And we weren't allowed to take pictures which made me very sad.

However, after waiting in yet another line to see Washington's tomb, I began to understand the ban. People took a really long time taking pictures. Does it seem a little rude to take pictures of a person's final resting place?
We wandered down to the Potomac and walked along the banks, visited the demonstration farm. Is it just me or does this woman look like a Vermeer painting?
We had to head back to the Kurans' to get ready for Mike's birthday dinner.
On the whole so far, this trip has been frustrating. We end up spending more time getting to places, finding parking, waiting in line and then hurryong off, not spending enough quality time enjoying the experience.

Danny and Dog

We met Debbie at Danny's house where Olivia had a lot of fun with his new puppy, Yama. Look at that Smile! She loves animals so much! She is not intimidated by puppy energy and enthusiasm.

Olivia went home with Deb and Danny came to dinner with us at Againn. We ate outside because the weather was so lovely. I had a delightful cocktail called a Pimms Cup with vodka, english cucumber, mint, lemon, ginger, angostura, and seltzer.Very refreshing after being out in the sun all day.
We love spending time with Danny and admiring his most recent caving injuries. He really lives.
We learned a lot about him,  even though Chris and Mike have known him for most of their lives, including his dream to retire to Tanzania.
Look how handsome he is! Any single ladies love the outdoors and crawling through dark, dank caves?

Going to the Zoo Zoo Zoo

We met Mike at the zoo when he got off work since he lives nearby. He is so cute with Olivia and she loves him sooo much. We are suddenly chopped liver.
We saw the cheetahs, Olivia's favorite and then spent most of our time in the Bird House, my favorite-NOT!
But I was very brave.
It was quite interesting to observe the animals I love most - Chris, Mike and Olivia. Three "only" children, all heading in separate directions, completely confident that everyone else will follow them.
Who is the most tired? A clue: it isn't Olivia!

DC, Sri Lanka and Mexico in one day

On Friday, July 2, all the grownups were working so Chris and I woke Olivia up and went looking for breakfast. Our third option was successful and we had a yummy breakfast at Original House of Pancakes but the search made for a late start getting to downtown D.C. Then the long, long search for a parking place.

We were hoping to go the American History Museum (at least I was) but we ended up at the Folklife Festival. First, Olivia and Elvis rode the carousel. Then we watched some dancers from Sri Lanka.
We practiced our Chinese writing and Olivia and I had our names in Mongolian script which looks like a combination of Chinese and Arabic. By then Olivia was hungry again so we bought some Mexican food from a guy with a great moustache.