Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wren is weaned

Wren has not had any milk for two days. He still asks for it occasionally but will accept no and a pair of snuggle bunnies with soft shirt and the promise that the door will be open at naptime.

Frost is doing well at school (socially) but battles handwriting issues.

More later. I am giving priority to coffee and a book.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gobo is a Good Gun

This morning Wren and I went to Uwajimaya to replenish our stocks of inari wraps, onion tofu and bubble soda for Frost. It was a trip pitted with weirdness, starting with...

The Part where Wren Announces Gobo is a Good Gun
As we entered the store we saw a large display of the specials including Strawberry and Classic Ramune soda (not the favorites), burdock root and beech mushrooms ($1.50 a package!!!). Wren begged me to buy some burdock root (gobo) but I was reluctant because I have no idea how to eat it. That didn't bother Wren who just wanted a few roots to wave around. We walked around the store arguing about how he had to hold them UP and AWAY from my eyes while he felt that they were GUNS and had to be waved around.

I asked an Asian women how she cooked burdock and she waved her hands helplessly at her mouth to indicate she couldn't really speak English. Then she said "like vegetable."

I am going to try and eat it like a vegetable even though Wren spent the drive home gouging a hole in it with his fingers. When I asked him why he was doing this he said he was "looking for bones."

Then there was...

The Part in which we Discover Beard Papa's Cream Puffs and the Milk Tea
I have to give a rave to this new cream puff kiosk at Uwajimaya. If your child loves the cream puffs on the conveyor belt at Blue C Sushi this is the place for you to go for tea. Sure you have to sit at the mall-like plastic tables in the food court, sure you make have strange tea but these cream-puffs are delicious. I can vouch for both the vanilla and the chocolate one and the lady in line said the green tea one was great.

I also enjoyed my tea although there was some difficulty ordering it. The menu lists Earl Grey tea and Earl Grey MILK tea. I like (cold) milk in my tea so I ordered MILK tea. The sales-person tried to explain to me that MILK tea was made with 50% milk and 50% water. That sounded ok so I said "yes". Well, it turns out that its more like a tea latte. They make a strong tea infusion and then mix it up with milk. Its very hot and very milky. I think it would be safer to order regular Earl Grey and then ask for milk if that is how you like it!

So, we carried our MILK TEA and cream puffs over to a table and this leads into ....

The Part In Which I Insult an old lady
with a Mental Health Issue

We sat down opposite a woman much older than me wearing a pink sweater embroidered with flowers. She had black hair with gray threaded through it and was eating some kind of bun in a plastic wrapper with HAWAIIAN printed on it in red lettering. When Wren sat down he stared at her in silence.

Wren has good instincts while I tend to be overly chatty.

The woman immediately admired Wren and smiled and chatted to him. She was doing very well in her admiration so I asked her if she had a grandchild. She said she had no children or grandchildren and was from Hawaii and her sister worked here. She added that her hair was gray because she had fallen over three times and the paramedics had come. They had taken her to hospital and put her in a CAT scan and an X-ray and then her hair had gone gray. I said I sympathized.

Around this time a women with a child sat down next to us. Her child looked the same size as Wren so I asked how old she was. She said she would be 3 in December. We started comparing dates and it turns out that Sofia was born on December 15th at Swedish while Wren was still in the NICU. They were there in the same huge storm! She was also still nursing (I had just weaned Wren).

In the middle of this conversation the Hawaiian woman interrupted to tell me that she was not old. That her hair was greay because she fell over. I said that I didn't think she looked old. She said that I was rude to call her Grandmother. I apologized but mentioned I asked because she seemed so comfortable with Wren.

There was a pause - one of those moments in the conversation in which you realize you are sliding from mutual understanding to a form of speech in which I you are simply an object which has intruded on someones internal dialogue. That nothing you say matters. That none of your words can gain purchase on this hill of ice.

The lady says that she is not old. I nod. That she is NOT my Grandmother.
"How old are you anyway? You look old! I could not be your grandmother!"
"I am 42"
"See, you are old. This woman is young. She is... what? Are you 25?"
The other woman adds that she is actually 35.
"Well, you look young. This one [me] looks old. She should not say I am her grandmother!! My niece is not 42!!! She is 25. How can I be her Grandmother!!! My niece is 25!"
I agree she is far too young to be my grandmother but no words make any difference now. I have somehow insulted her by implying a great age when in fact her age is less than 70. "How old is YOUR mother anyway?" So, she is in her 60s? Well, still, she is not much older than that! Definitely people think she is but she IS NOT. I was very RUDE. I should not be such a RUDE PERSON. I sigh and buy Wren an apple juice I do not want to buy and he does not really want either. The lady waits for me to return.

I wish the damn milk tea wasn't so hot that I can't leave.

Finally, the old lady's dialogue circles into a form of brevity as she recycles the 'facts' again and again until reaching the conclusion that I am bad, rude and a bit stupid. She leaves.

THe Other Mother woman says she often sees this person in the area, that she often carries a doll on the back of her pack.

I know this is sad and puts the story in perspective. Still, despite compassion I felt unsteady and my milk tea tasted better in peace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dave Matthews at the Gorge (weeks ago)

A few weeks ago we drove up to Moses Lake, WA so I could attend a Dave Matthews concert at The Gorge Amphitheater along with a group of friends from Frost's old school. It was a few weeks ago but I so rarely attend anything of this scale that I could not resist posting some pictures.

Firstly, I had no idea what a huge deal The Gorge is. It is situated on the banks of the Columbia River Gorge and has a fabulous view down cliffs and sharply falling rocky hills to the river swelling in the distance. It is scenic in scale - the kind of thing you that you see in Chinese Landscape Paintings - haunting and vast.

The evening started wetly with a huge downpour which tested the limits of my new gortex raincoat. Thankfully we had VIP passes to a 'party' yurt which had a bar which had beer and rum and some mixers. I loathe beer so I had various permutations of rum and juice to wash down chips, cookies and veggies with dip. The party tent was hot and steamy with wet people squeezed into a happy intimacy but I met a few interesting folks and waited for the rain to rain and for various opening acts to open.

Watching Dave perform was eye opening. I know he is a cult performer but it was interesting to see him in front of a vast crowd (they said almost 28 000). There was tremendous energy and while his music is obviously fabulous - particularly his haunting lyrics - I found the celebrity machine the most interesting part of being there. The fans in the row behind me knew his entire repertoire and could predict what song he was about to perform based on instrument, setup and who was on-stage. They gave a running commentary about what the mix said, meant, felt like, reminded them of. It was eerie.

I won't go into my reflections on celebrity right now but it was a strange experience both great fun, exciting and vaguely disturbing. What is it in humans that elevates some among us to god status?

Day 4 of School, Day 1 of Homework

Frost received Homework today. As far as I can figure he is supposed to do:

* 20 minutes of his own reading [record page number start and end]
* 5 minutes of math-fact games [Frost was asked to work out his own plan to learn these.
He chose games and a mad minute practice test.
We actually played Flip for 20 minutes and Josh plans to play Math bingo with Frost tomorrow]
* 10 minutes of math worksheet practice [on the day's lessons]
* 10 minutes of WRITING in his journal [he can write whatever he likes]
* Practice on a wordlist of 20 words for a spelling test on Friday.

The words are:
awkward, and

It is very hard to help Frost with homework while Wren tries to help Frost with homework. I ended up giving Wren a Diego while we worked it all out. Frost's major impediment is the lack of fluency in his writing. Still, he wrote a sweet entry in his journal:

Today I'm looking at Wren. He drinks chai.
He wants Chai. I get Chai. I drink Chai.
Mum works on dinner. Its yummy. I like it.

First day of Preschool

Wren attended his first preschool class today. Afterwards he said he was going to go back, with Mummy. I said I would come sometimes. He was very busy at preschool - trying all the activities but most enjoying a big red chicken puppet and playing with a toy garage. He also liked the game "washing up" at the sensory table which involved squeezing water onto a table with sponges and using a squeegee to push and pull the water around the table surface.

Wren is among the older children in the class which makes a distinct difference to all my previous preschool experience in which Frost was among the youngest. Now I can be superior and enjoy singing and clapping along while the younger delinquents yell, run amok and body slam into each other in the circle center. Wren copied all the hang gestures and even tried words on some songs like Twinkle Twinkle. He talked nicely to the other grownups when they asked him questions and was generally a perfect little chap.

The Issue of Praise and Control
The whole idea of a successful child being one that does not cause trouble for adults brings to mind a book I am reading by Alfie Cohn. Its called Unconditional Parenting and has as its premise that our parenting should not rely on so-called soft control techniques like praise, time-out and reward, withholding affection in response to undesired behavior and other popular strategies to modify behaviour. His focus on is motivation and the whole child. Now, I haven't reached the chapter on alternative "unconditional" strategies to socialize our kids but my inept attempts to not rely on reward and conditions have failed.

The Battles over Allowance
A while ago we tried tying Frost's allowance to the performance of chores. This worked very well for a while and he industriously performed his chores (with complaint). I recall him calling out that it was "torture" while I was explaining our strategy to a friend. After a while he said that he would rather not do chores and not receive allowance as he had enough money and didn't like them.

I explained that chores were also about being part of the family and helping out so he conceded to doing chores "when I asked" and to doing recycling regularly. Allowance was not reinstated.

Last night he asked what he would have to do to receive allowance again.

Joshua and I had a "meeting" with Frost who suggested he receive allowance incrementally based on how good he was at doing chores. I said that I wanted chores to be out of a sense of collaborative responsibility to his family. Joshua thought this was funny and said that people don't do things without a motivation. Least not things they don't WANT to do. Frost agreed. He said he wanted to be GRADED on his chores. I tried to explain that I didn't want to judge him doing chores. I wanted help and hopefully he would know if he was doing a good job. I would like to hear how he felt about it. Frost said this was a burden, that he might know how well he was doing for a day but then he'd forget, especially his attitude. He said that he may forget not to complain and nag about chores so it was better that I give him a score each week. Josh said that the incremental allowance and the scores were like levels in a game, with rewards and might work well for Frost. I was appalled. I said I had just read how bad extrinsic rewards were as a motivation for behavior, that people need to figure out their own motivation. Both of them looked at me blankly. Joshua added that the only reason he did chores was because I bitched about it if he didn't because I like a clean organized house but neither he nor Frost really have the same standard.

I am confused. I shall have to try harder after Chapter 7.

Status quo is that Frost is going to keep his room clean, do recycling and do chores on request. We are going to have a performance review every weekend to evolve our understanding of performance (and reward). Allowance is reinstated as an independent (variable??) factor NOT A REWARD.

Stumbling into the Day
If illness is an allegory then I am truly stumbling in the dark (in my job search / parenting / diet / meditative practice). This morning I woke to Wren's 6am crying, got up and promptly fell over. In my pre-dawn haze I thought I must have tripped over last nights discarded clothes or the piles of bedding that have been displaced by the recent fall-heatwave. I stood up and fell over again. The third time I landed on Joshua. When I made it out the door the corridor was leaning at an odd angle, like walking in the galley of a ship listing in a storm. I was also beset with seasickness.

According to my doctor (who I saw for a TB test required for preschool) I have fluid in my inner ear, should try benadryl or another antihistamine if it persists. It has improved.