Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turning off

Sometimes I feel I have to be a computer geek to get Frost to turn off his computer. Here's how it goes:

Me: Frost, its time to turn off your game. Wind it down within 5 minutes.
Me: No, the time is up now. You have five minutes.
Frost (apparently cursing under his breath without the use of discernible swear words)

10 minutes pass.

Me: OK, turn it off.
Frost: I CAN'T
[He turns his back to me and cowers closer to the screen as if to protect the power button from me]
Me: You can, just QUIT or PAUSE.
Frost: I CAN'T. I will lose ALL MY PROGRESS and I have [earned 3 billion golden coins / gained eternal life / beaten the boss / discovered a secret level] and DO YOU WANT ME TO DO THAT????? DO YOU???
Me: Yes, you knew you had 5 minutes...
Frost: Well, there is no exit from this level. This STUPID GAME doesn't have a save / end / quit / pause button. I DON"T KNOW WHY. Can YOU see it?
Me: There must be one.
Frost. NO, there is NOT.
Me: Well, lose your progress then.
Frost: You want me to lose my progress (sad voice with strident undertones)
Me: I want to stop talking about it... and turn it off.
Frost: Ok Ok... I will turn it off.
Me: Ok.

[I turn away to attend to Wren who is trying to watch the game hero [goring a bear / flying through the sky / talking to a penguin] while [shrieking about candy / needing to poo / wanting a snack / wanting to watch Zaboo / needing me to DRAW A TANK RIGHT NOW. I draw a tank while making dinner, a snack, putting on the dishwasher and answering the phone.] In this way 5 minutes pass before I notice that Frost is still playing his game.

Me: What? The game doesn't jsut attack.
Frost: I was going to the exit and this guy attacked me!!! Now I can't quit.
Me: Well PAUSE and Daddy can figure out how to quit later [I often have to call Josh to counter this argument that "I can't quit". There is no PAUSE. I will be just a second.....
Me: You can't quit? Well, I can.
Frost: NOOOOOO!!!

[I stride over and grab the mouse, intent on TURNING IT OFF. My dramatic flair is compromised by the lack of an obvious control menu in the game. I can't find the browser. Argh! My eyes flick to the computer power switch which is covered by a plastic button because Wren used to turn it off at willl and anyway, you know you shouldn't hard power it down even in a moment of parental tantrum. I fluster around while Wren shrieks because I am now delaying in drawing the BOMBS for the TANK.

Eventually, I find a way to close the browser / game and it is gone.

Frost is belligerent and accusatory. I am belligerent and louder. I yell at him that he had many warnings and it is time to do his reading / game / hang out. He tells me to stop lecturing him and walks to his room sniffling and dejected.

I am once again the BAD GUY.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Vignette #1: Siblings
Frost was off school on Monday with a sore throat. He was lying languidly on the couch under a soft blanket when Wren came up to him.

"Say OW Frost." Wren demanded.
"Say OW."
"No," said Frost.
Wren bent over and picked up a nerf gun lying on the carpet. He hit Frost over the head.
"OOOOWW" said Frost.
Wren seemed satisfied.

Vignette#2 Seedy places
Frost had his top braces fitted today. They were uncomfortable and his gums hurt but the orthodontist only had tylenol capsules. Frost is not yet able to swallow a tablet with water so, after much weeping and complaining, we decided to try and buy some Tylenol on the way to school.

We were late so I stopped at a mini-mart attached to a service station. As soon as we walked in I realized it was not going to have Children's Tylenol as its patrons were unlikely to have ever spawned a (known) child.

The shopkeeper kept his eyes on the kids from the moment they came in. I was looking around in hope of finding medicines and he kept meeting my eyes as if to show he was watching me. I guess I look like the kind of person who might be going to steal a six-pack of beer, a wad of ribbed condoms or perhaps a single dose Ultra-Concentrated Excedrin. The kids were clearly kleptomaniacs about to steal wads of gum (or gun-shaped cigarette lighters) or some Energy Drink.

A man in a business suit pushed past us in irritation (like there was no other aisle) and then, after we had moved, pushed passed again with a curt "excuse ME."

All the while, a strangely out-of-tune radio was playing something jarring and foreign.

As we were leaving the store Frost asked me "What is a *exual *timulant?" I have eliminated the Ses in case a search engine records me as a lewd site. I explained that it was sometimes used by people who had trouble having sex.

Then I paused. "Do you know what *ex is?"
"YEES!" said Frost, exasperated.
"Well, last time I asked you said it was rubbing bellies together!"
"No, its... [Frost explains correct anatomical act.]
"I know what it is!" says Wren, who has been listening.
"What is it?" asks Frost, sensing the kind of wildly funny moment he is at pains to create.
"It is when you rub balloons all over your body and it gets covered in FUR. No, I mean HAIR. It is called 'looning!"

Monday, February 1, 2010


We are thinking about our roof. Josh has noticed that there is some water "getting in" through the roof to the lower eaves. I am going to consult some ruffers and see what they recommend. I am 40 something and glad this is the first time I have had to deal with a ruf repair.

The Zoo

Wren and I were the third family through the gates at the zoo today. The hippos were not yet visible, the giraffes were still locked away but the lions put on such a show that it was worth going for them alone. They roared and roared. Wren felt that they were roaring at us and wanted to go away but then said he didn't feel scared, really.

Also, I saw the lion get up and pee on a log. Now, when I say "pee on a log" you are imagining it peeing in a line like a dog or boy. Nothing of the sort. The lion just stood with its bottom towards the log and then pee sprayed out like an aerosol burst. Then he walked further and did the same thing on another tree.

It was like watching a whole new technology.

I may have got it on camera but perhaps not. I am going to make up a little film about Wren and the lions but it might take me a while to get it together.

Meanwhile, I shall leave you with some pictures of today.

I am feeling a bit stressed because Wren has been sick and Frost is now sick (and has been all weekend). He will not be in school tomorrow.

With all the sick from last week I am still not caught up from missing Heather's babysitting and now Frost is ill. Plus, I am organizing a Lunar New Year Celebration for our school and its in less than 10 days with tons to do.

Panic, panic.

Wren driving his 'truck' - a chair and an apple slicer.

The freaky lion with shining eyes (due to my flash).

Wren feeding his stuffed animal to the Chinese New Year lion.

Shannon, the Christian

If you are devoutly religious please do not read this. It is about my life and is not about you or your family except if you go to Bethany Community Church and drive a silver volvo
This morning, before Joshua was awake, I was driving Wren along 80th on the way home from the Zoo. We had enjoyed seeing the lions roar and the penguins swim so fast they leapt out of the water. Once again preferring 80th, we drove past Bethany Community Church and I starting wondering what I would have to do to pass for a Christian.

This church appears to be a perfect match for families. Looking in the window the congregation is young, up early, has kids, look happy, have a very full modern building (in the NW style), they have pictures of BICYCLES on the church website and if you google search the front page for JESUS it says Not found.

This is their 'Vision' - tell me if it doesn't sound cool? If necessary you can replace the word God with something you value to help you relate. The word 'coffee' works for me.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This attitude has been the guiding vision for the Bethany community, and through it we seek to invite people to [coffee ] God, to community, and to wholeness. As a result, everything that we do here at Bethany seeks to meet each of these three criteria."

Now, here's my guilty secret: some days I miss being a Christian.

How I found God and Had Fun
When I was a teenager I found religion at a Church Crusade (why they would use this word with its history, I dunno). The college guys played love songs to Jesus on guitar (which is the Lord's instrument) and the pretty girls sang. The sad girls wept and told you how they had been saved from sadness. The counselors pursued us for Jesus and made everyone feel very wounded and very special.

I had one of those on-off again relationships with God through my early teens and then around the age of consent, I joined myself to a fabulous community church. For the non-initiated, Community Churches are a kind of movement. Having been in that cult, I recognized Bethany as a community church from a mile away. Community Churches are post-denominational. They exist as a kind of "freedom loving" church movement which returns to the bible as a source of truth rather than to doctrine. They call on your to live for the Lord realio, trulio but don't go for steeples and big marks of the crucifixion. If you're a contemporary urban type who uses the words christ and god** when you're not smashing your finger in a drawer, then its the way to go.

The one I joined in 1981 is now called Glenridge and its a big deal in Durban, South Africa. When I joined it was a small outfit called The Invisible Church (aka Inviz). It met in a warehouse in an industrial area and was full of musicians and artists in tie-dyed shirts and thongs sharing intimate details of their lives.

I had found my spiritual home.

I have since learned that his form of Christianity is the exception rather than the rule. In the era of Googling, I found an article about Inviz titled:
Tripping on Jesus': the social dynamics and psychedelic religiosity of the Invisible Church in Durban, 1973-1983," by Glen Thompson.

I have been unable to get hold of a copy so I don't know about the cultural analysis but I shall say no more than that I felt a great harmony.

So where do I find this village to raise my kids?
Since I've been pondering priorities lately, I have to tell you that I am a big sucker for community and the question of community / spirituality has been on my mind. Being an immigrant not once, but twice, has given me a lot of of time to reflect on community. The post office can give you a kit to get your mail forwarded but they don't forward your friends. You can have been the most popular / successful / qualified person in the whole of Durban / Saigon / Ambon / Facebook but when you start in your new country your three dimensional self is a non-popular nobody.

I know its not only forriners who have this experience. My friend Laurie, a veteran of many-moves as the wife of an aspiring (now tenured) academic, tells me that she is exhausted with the work of making and losing friends to moves. Like so many people I have met in Seattle, she is From Somewhere Else (actually, California which accounts for 9% of Seattle immigrants). According to this article using data provided by the Puget Sound Regional Council about 42-43% of Seattle's population is US born non-native Washingtonians but in the '05-07 data 20 percent were foreign born.

Now, granny and grandad living in California can't provide childcare but they can come for holidays and birthdays. If you really need them, they can shoot on up here for under $500. Having relatives on other continents is only good for conversation with strangers. When people say that it takes a village to raise a child they don't mean a Global Village or a family in the virtual cloud. They mean a nice local network of people who live in huts near yours and can look after your kids when you need to do Life.

That's what I saw when I drove past Bethany. There was the village waiting to claim me.

Family Friendly Believers Inc
Keeping an open mind I wondered how other religions would work for my family. I am a buddhist but its not family friendly round here. The Sangha I was part of tried. They had a family group, they do an annual picnic, they mention kids occasionally but while buddhism is a family religion in Asia, round here it is full of single people and older divorcees. It also attracts people who like to gaze in their navels and as you parents know, there is nothing in a navel but skin and fluff.

If you didn't care about community it could work well. Buddhists teaching is that mindfulness is practiced in the midst of life and buddha was careful to point out that one did not need to become a monk to reach enlightenment. Here is my practice of parenting:
Arising: Children shrieking.
Notice: children shrieking. Notice: shoulders clench. Notice: aversion. Notice: reaction. desire to yell at them to stop.
The desire becomes overwhelming. Decide not to notice.
Notice: I am reacting. Yell at them.

Clearly, some of the boddhisatvas of my generation had families because there has been a spate of books published to help you practice the path of mindful parenting. Still, without a noisy, supportive, loving structure that welcomes kids its hard to show your kids what its about and the practice of community becomes something on your To Do list rather than a source of sustenance.

I have enough to do already so I am struggling with my buddhist practice (not the fundamentals though).

How Important are the Fundamentals?
When I stopped being a Christian at first I was scared. I wasn’t scared that I was wrong but I was told that God took it very personally and would roast me extra long because I’d had a relationship and broken up.

Then I was sad that I wasn't In The Team anymore. Janine Dawson and I did it together and we were both going, like "what, are we allowed to just decide not to believe that anymore? Can't we still be friends with you?" I am sure cult therapists have a word for this as some stage in deprogramming. You stand on the abyss and if you leap you have to start to find the earth all over again.

Since then, I have been a bit leery of Faith.

I know that some of you feel it works. You believe in the religious part and if you do all things take care of themselves. That’s true. It is very comforting. But really, are you that obedient? Would you really drink the koolaid? If the pastor of your cult started to believe in child sacrifice would you still take Junior to Sunday School?

Methinks not.

I believe that faith and culture are not clearly defined. We believe what we are accustomed too. Take me, I really wanted to be a Wiccan for a while. I tried hard but by bejesus those Wiccan's can be kinky. After a year and various run-ins with Wiccans I had to admit that however appealing the spiritual practice and the connection with nature, the culture was just too matriarchal and love-honey for a girl like me.

Now Judaism is different, for community Judaism rocks.

There have been times in my life in which I have inspected my family tree looking for a mysterious female Jewess so that I might discover that, after all, I am Jewish (through that name-switching maternal line). I really love the way that Judaism recognizes the culture of Judaism as more than religion, that they are intertwined, that there is a whole Secular Jewish movement.

That's what I am grasping for. I want to be a secular christian. I feel the lure.

You know. I have had lots of devout Christian ancestors. If it was secular, I could join Bethany, I'd dress Frost and Wren in their Sunday Best and attend service at the Chapel where I can drink coffee and enjoy the casual atmosphere while I listen to the sermon. It would exort and encourage me to reflect on my life (and hey, who gets enough time to reflect) while the kids (from nursery to 6th grade) enjoy the "Children's programming at all services

I guess that was the daydream as I drove along 80th NE without the strumming of guitars in my ears or the prospect of a gang of nice pals to hang out with after service

Instead, Josh rewired the kitchen and Wren and Frost made a big mess with bathwater, styrofoam, comic books and blankets. We now have way too much wattage in the kitchen and are considering removing the new fixture and replacing it with a more compact single or double bulb ceiling fixture. The light was so dazzling that it reflected in the screen of the computer and Frost kept wincing. We finally removed 3 of the bulbs from the 5 bulb slots and it is tolerably lit.

I could try make a little metaphor of this and point out that "let there be light" is all well and good but, sometimes, life is more gentle lived in a half-gloom. Least thattaways your monsters can rear from the screen without reflection.