A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Happy New Year!...?

OmegaMom has been wallowing in not having to do anything at all.  Small Mountain University is officially "closed" between Christmas and New Year's, though there are lots of folks who just ignore the fact, because either you take it off without pay or use up vacation days.

This year, I took the vacation days.  Did I do anything useful?  No.  I vegged out.  My brain rotted.  I ate bon-bons.  I read science fiction.  I laundered immense amounts of clothes.  I cleaned house, only to have it trashed within 24 hours.  I thought about blogging--honest, I did.  But the brain was stuck in neutral.

We had days' worth of alluring storm clouds, which left us with hardly any snow to speak of--the storm decided to dump three feet in northern New Mexico and Colorado instead.  Bah.  The dotter and I went out and made an itty-bitty snowman yesterday, out of what snow we had.

The OmegaFamily is starting the New Year in its normal way:  with a sick dotter and a sick mother and a sick grandmother.  Dotter is running a 105F fever when the ibuprofen wears off, OmegaMom has a scratchy throat, OmegaGranny was diagnosed this week with mild (damn well better be!) pneumonia.  Fun, fun, fun.

The end result is that, rather than requesting a dinner out for my anniversary tomorrow, I am about to beg OmegaDad for a day of him taking care of both his ladies.

So, anyways, dear readers (those of you who are left after a practically blogless week or those who are returning from vacations), here are my wishes for all of us to have a happy, healthy 2007, and I leave you with a collage of 2006:

posted by Kate @ 12/31/2006 05:38:00 PM   5 comments

Snippets

OmegaGranny has posted "Some Assembly Required", with lots of pics.  Be gentle--I look like a fashion disaster, but, boy, I sure was comfy!

PZ Myers loved his father.  A poignant post, with many comments filled with equally loving memories of parents or grandparents.  (Plus a disemvoweled troll or two, but that's par for the course.)

Twice the Rice notes that Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, an adoptee and a possible candidate for president, has suddenly been presented with information on where he was born.  Many adult adoptees are adamant that searching for birthparents is something that should be left to them, and them alone--but in this case, I'm sure some "helpful" member of the media will be haring off after that clue and doing the search for him.

When I peruse the "science fiction" section at our local bookstores (chain stores, all, alas), the majority of the books are fantasy or books related to TV or movie series.  OmegaGranny has a knack, however, for finding new SF.  When done with her books, she forwards them to me.  Right now, I am deep in Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Retrieval Artist" series, SF police procedurals with a twist.  In this world, humans and aliens live together in a delicate dance guaranteed by a variety of treaties that allow aliens to charge, convict, and punish humans for crimes that seem--to humans--to be incredibly arcane or ridiculous.  Miles Flint, a former police officer, has become a Retrieval Artist--someone who finds people who "disappeared" to avoid punishment for one of these alien-mandated "crimes".  He doesn't find them to drag them to execution--that's the job of "Trackers"; he finds them at the behest of friends or relatives.  Great fun and interesting stories.

RIP, Gerald Ford.  The Watergate scandal was my first foray into real political awareness; I can still remember my dad watching the Watergate Hearings obsessively.  I can also remember Chevy Chase playing the bumbling, tumbling President Ford as a caricature.  Jerry Ford put a close to the Watergate mess by pardoning Nixon, and lost any chance at re-election as a result.

posted by Kate @ 12/27/2006 08:54:00 AM   0 comments

The pinks and the primaries

One of the gifts that OmegaDotter received was a box full of fluffy, feminine, second-hand dance recital costumes, carefully garnered from eBay.  OmegaMom, on a quest, popped into her email on a regular basis, checking for the "Your watched item is closing soon!" messages from the mystic computer, then eyeballing the clock and scheduling a time to sit down, log in, and swoop in for the kill at the last possible minute, scoring spangled tutus and flippy skirts for much less than--as I now know--the cost of those costumes when new.  (The dance studio requested the deposit for the costume for the May dance recital shortly before Christmas...OmegaMom choked when she saw the price, then wrote a check.)

OmegaDotter happily seized on the white, flowing recital costume and pronounced it a bride's dress, then insisted on overlaying it with the flippy silver lamé skirt edged with black.  She opened presents in this costume, she played with her beloved horsies in the new barn and corral in this costume, and, later on, kept demanding a promise that she could sleep in this costume.

She was in Dress-Up Heaven.

Today, while cruising BlogPulse's top news stories, I came across a highly linked story titled "What's Wrong With Cinderalla?", in which a feminist mom with a three-year-old daughter confronts, and researches, the all-encompassing "Princess" trend--the Disney packaging of all the big heroines into one group, the Club Libby Lu phenomenon ("It's a Girl Thing!"), the Barbie princess brigade--and tries to figure out what it all means.

Is it an unconscious reaction by women raised in the 60s, 70s, and 80s against the dour feminism of the time?  Are girls today becoming more conditioned to the feminine, passive female archetype?  Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or simply natural?  And--as many moms have asked--what the hell is it with the pink girl's aisle of toys and the primary boys' toys?

As a feminist, perhaps I should be ashamed of myself for getting the dotter that box of fluff.  Maybe I am setting her up for a lifetime of passivity, an all-encompassing, subconscious belief that girls should be fluffy and flirty and beautiful and submissive, seeking the approval of Prince Charming, rather than being assertive, intelligent, and self-fulfilled.

On the other hand...

Well, hell, girls like to play dress-up.  My mom did it.  I did it.  All my nieces and my cousins' little girls have done it.  A few feather boas, some glitter and spangles aren't going to swallow my dotter into the maw of submissive femininity forever.

What I don't like about the Disney, Barbie, and LibbyLu paraphernalia is that it's so...so...set in stone.  If you're going to play Cinderella, Disney proclaims, you have to dress this way, and no other; play this way, and no other.

Um, hell no.  Sorry, guys.  My princess will dress up in a mish-mosh of unmatched glamor, thankyewverramuch.  See, real dress-up requires creativity and imagination, not prescriptiveness and scripted play.  OmegaDotter spent a half-hour Christmas morning demanding I announce yet another dancer or ice skater (with a preference for the name "Sasha", after numerous viewings of YouTube clips of Sasha Cohen's 2002 Olympics long program).  Then she'd sashay out from behind the Christmas tree, do a half-minute dance (usually featuring the dancer falling down at least once, just like in Cohen's program), and retreat behind the tree, motioning me to announce her yet again.

The princess paradigm may, indeed, condemn some girls to a particular worldview.  But in this house, the frills combine with neighing, the fluff with faux karate kicks from Mulan, and the outside propaganda with some pretty strong parental counterpropaganda.  In the end, the princess will be who she wants to be, taking some from both sides.  Here's hoping there's a whole horde of girls who have that balance as they grow up.

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posted by Kate @ 12/26/2006 08:21:00 AM   3 comments

Christmas notes

"Some assembly required."

Those are the most fearsome words that a parent can hear, sending a frisson of fear down the spine.  OmegaGranny is going to have a lovely pictorial of "some assembly required".


The Barbie Jammin' Jeep ("some assembly required") has a radio.  The radio, when turned on, was tuned to NPR.  That is a Christmas miracle! 


Children of a "certain age" will not wait until mom and dad really want to wake up to dash out into the living room to see what Santa brought.  Santa brought OmegaDotter a wooden Breyer barn ("some assembly required"). 

 

It did not bring the same squeal that the BJJ did, but Spirit is now climbing on the roof of the barn, accompanied by a paint and many neighs, plus the sounds of Morning Edition.


Santa brought me a bunch of 60-minute massages.  Santa was very good!  (NO assembly required, woohoo!)

posted by Kate @ 12/25/2006 10:08:00 AM   2 comments

Merry Christmas to all.

From the Omega Family.

posted by Kate @ 12/24/2006 05:37:00 PM   0 comments

OmegaDotter Overdrive

Ice skating is on break until the week of January 9.

Ballet is on break until the week of January 9.

We've had snow & icky weather, so the kids are stuck inside at preschool.

Christmas is coming.

All of this adds up to an OmegaDotter on overdrive, with none of her usual outlets for her need to bounce, whack, jump, feel her body moving.

She "helped" me with the Christmas cards this morning, until I chased her off, because she had revved up to the point where her "help" was no help at all.

She talked non-stop all morning.

She bounced off the wall in the shower.

We drove down the hill to haul OmegaGranny back, and--THANK the Kozmik All--she fell asleep on the way there.  (She has reached a point where the daytime nap is phasing out.)

On the way back, she chattered.  She talked.  She sang.  She counted to 110 (with only a tiny bit of help).  She orchestrated a rhyming game.  She played "say a sound, then say a word that starts with that sound".  She sang some more.  She chattered.

Finally I persuaded her to be quiet, because "Mommy's ears and Grandma J's ears need a break."

I can't describe it quite well enough, but it's obvious she's on overdrive.  Luckily, it's a good overdrive.  Miss Louise, her occupational therapist, noticed on Thursday.  It's hard not to notice.  It's like she's on speed.

It wears me to the bone.  It makes me realize just how much she needs those outlets, and how much the OT has helped.

posted by Kate @ 12/23/2006 07:13:00 PM   4 comments

Kitten + Christmas Tree = Harried Humans

We finally put up our Christmas tree yesterday evening.

Our kitten immediately discovered the tree and its associated low-hanging danglies.  Hey, we have a five-year-old in the house.  This means we have lots of low-hanging danglies, all clustered together.

All within very tempting reach of our monstrous, lovable kitten.

So the poor kitten is banished to the bedroom during the daytime and when everyone's asleep, and is only allowed out while people are out and about the living room.

What we need is a SuperSoaker.  Or CatScram.  Or a helluva lot more patience.

As soon as I arrived home & released the problem child from the bedroom, he made a beeline for the tree.  He doesn't climb it--thank heavens for small favors--but those ornaments at the bottom are like fresh wildebeest to a starving lion.

Anyway, here are the fruits of our efforts.  Note the clumping of ornaments within easy reach of OmegaDotter.

The Christmas spirit is just barely beginning to stir in OmegaMom's cold, stony heart.  The local law enforcement toy drive, lacking its normal pack-'em-up auditorium space, talked with the director of our department, who offered our cavernous hallways as an alternative.  So the past few days, we have been inundated in festive music, happy volunteers, and large heaps and mounds of donated Christmas toys.  While there's a certain amount of discomfort associated with this--making your way through cops and kids to get to the ladies' room, for instance--it just makes me feel all warm-n-fuzzy.

Most of the gifts are either purchased or delivered or on their way.  One hopes they aren't "on their way" routed through Denver.  When we arrived home from tree shopping last night, some quick maneuvers on my part and OmegaDad's part distracted the dotter from the huge box standing by our front door which had "Barbie Jammin' Jeep", with pictures, displayed all over it.  OmegaDad managed to sneak said large (did I mention it's humongous?) box into the garage after the dotter went to bed.

The last picture, while unflattering to me (I think I'm sticking a grim jaw out while deciding where to place an ornament, the comfy-but-unfashionable turtleneck is actually one of OmegaDad's, so is very large on me, and that butt...sigh), shows--very vividly--the bottom-heaviness of the decor.

So very, very tempting to a small cat...

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posted by Kate @ 12/21/2006 05:04:00 PM   3 comments

I drank the Kool-Aid long ago

I ran across this article in The Washington Post on This Woman's Work and The Daily Bastardette.  Marly (Bastardette) kindly linked to the comments to the original article.

The gist:  titled "My Father Was An Anonymous Sperm Donor", the article is written by a young lady who is at Gaulledet University.  She describes--rather clearly, in my opinion--what it was like for her growing up with absolutely no connection to her father.  No stories.  No memories.  No family history.  Nothing.  The commentary...well, it runs the gamut, from folks saying, "Wow!  Great article, Katrina!" to professionals (!!) saying, "My goodness, I'd never thought of that!" to other sperm donor offspring saying, "I certainly never felt like that!" (with the implication--or outright accusation--that Katrina was WRONG for feeling the way she felt) to people using her story to condemn lesbian and gay marriage, unmarried women having children, abortion, liberals, conservatives, and The Decline And Fall Of The Western World.

Read 'em, then come back.

It's interesting to see the point of view of The Man On The Street.  I read the article and said to myself, "Hunh.  Well-written, somewhat affecting.  Nice to see another donor offspring writing this up."

But it seems that the whole concept of donor offspring--and adoptees--having (gasp!) feelings for themselves about the way they came into the world and/or came into their families is...somewhat upsetting to the outside world.

Kozmik All forbid that an adoptee should want to find his or her biological family.  Why, that automatically means that the adoptee is:  bitter, ungrateful, raised by bad parents, unloving, unloved, angry, rejecting his or her "real" family, immature, psychologically damaged in some way, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I read the commentary from the "outside world" and am flummoxed.

This child we were blessed to be able to raise is a full and complete human being on her own.  She didn't spring, fully formed, from Zeus's forehead.  We didn't find her in a cabbage patch.  She wasn't delivered by the stork.

She has lots of my mannerisms.  She has lots of OmegaDad's mannerisms.  But there's yet another part of her that is always endlessly new and unfamiliar, which comes from her genetic makeup.

It will not be a commentary on my parenting or OmegaDad's parenting if she decides, at a later age, that she wants to try to find her biological parents.  It won't mean she hates us.  It won't mean she's immature or bitter or damaged or rejecting.  To be fair, I have to say it could mean those things.  But I've read enough commentary from adult adoptees and adult donor offspring to know that there's a very natural and very deep urge for people to want to know where they come from, what their roots are.

I grew up knowing where the notch in the back of my head came from--my dad had it, my brothers both had it, some cousins on that side of the family have it, too.  I know I look almost exactly like my Aunt.  I know that my mother's friends all said I looked like her, while my father's friends all said I looked like him.  I know that the practical, pragmatic part of my personality echoes many women on my mother's side.  I know that depression and diabetes run in my father's family.  I know that uterine cancer runs on my mother's side.  These are all pieces of my background that I grew up knowing...it's all part of my "place" in the world.

Love is not tied to biology--most people find someone (or multiple someones) to love in their lives who are not tied to them in any way biologically.  You can love a child wildly and deeply even though you have no "blood ties".

But I had the luxury of knowing that "place" in the world, that set of physical, emotional, biological traits that are so comfortable they fit like an old shoe.  Why should having my dotter want to find someone who fills in some of those gaps make me--or others--feel that she doesn't love me?  That the natural urge to fill in some missing pieces means that she's bitter or angry?

I dunno.  Like I say in the title, I drank the Kool-Aid long ago.  None of this is new to me, none of it is shocking.  But apparently it is to people who see adoption and donor conception from the outside looking in and are introduced to these concepts for the first time.

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posted by Kate @ 12/19/2006 08:50:00 PM   5 comments

Feels like the first time

Ah, snow.  Yay!  We had our first halfway decent snow today (4 inches at our house, with more forecast); OmegaDad, who leaves work at 4, got home with the dotter long before I did.  So, as I slowly drove up the hill, what should my wondering eyes should appear, but:

A happy girl on her "trainer" cross-country skis, getting her first taste of skiing. 

OmegaDad had filled up his (chip-less) digicam with just enough pics for us to get a look at some Good Form, and OmegaDotter raising victorious ski poles in glee.

Alas, OmegaMom (that would be me) was in no mood to slap on the skis and join in the fun; while leaving the office, I had tromped merrily down the sidewalk to the parking lot only to have one foot slip out from under me in just the right way to land right smack dab on my left knee-cap.  So I have spent the past few hours with an ice pack draped over the knee, contemplating my once-per-year snow/ice accident with grim amusement and fatalistic resignation.

We are supposedly due for another 4 to 8 inches.  Hah.  I'll believe it when we wake up tomorrow morning with all that snow.  So far, our snow season has been a dud; people in Seattle, fer gosh' sake, have gotten our normal amount of snow.  By now, we should have had up to 24 inches of snow.  We've had 3.5 inches of snow since September 1.

For those who are missing the snow the same way I am, here's your very own snowflake maker.

posted by Kate @ 12/18/2006 08:53:00 PM   4 comments

Who co-opted whom?
Lately, OmegaDotter has been serenading me in the car as we whiz around from place to place. On the way down the hill to see the Nutcracker with OmegaGranny, she favored me with an array of Christmas carols (Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Joy to the World, Rudolph the Rez-Nosed Reindeer--yes, he's "rez-nosed", not "red-nosed"), then the old standbys (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, I'm Looking at a Little Bumblebee, the Alphabet Song), and then segued into her latest: I may never MARCH with the infantry RIDE with the cavalry SHOOT with the artillery I may never FLY over the enemy But I'm in the Lord's ar-MEEE! Ahem. When I was growing up, I learned this song as: Great green gobs of Greasy, grimy gopher guts! Mutilated monkey meat! Little dirty birdie's feet! Great green gobs of Greasy, grimy gopher guts! Gee, ma, I want some more! Setting aside the insidious earworm-ishness of the song being applied to religious propaganda, my question is: Who co-opted whom? Was the "Lord's Army" first? Or "Greasy, grimy gopher guts"? These are the questions that occupy my mind while driving down the highway. The Nutcracker was splendid. We were surrounded by fifty kazillion little girls in gorgeous holiday dresses. Most of them red in one way or another. The dancing was beautiful, the music fun. OmegaDotter lasted through the entire performance, though her commentary at the end was, "It was too long!" There were scary parts. Bangs and booms as Herr Drosselmeyer played his magic tricks. A phalanx of creepy red rats' eyes beamed onto the walls via magical theatre lighting. The sword fight with the rat king (though this choreography had Clara doing in the rat king with a giant mousetrap, hurrah for feminism!). OmegaDotter hid her head in my shoulder during these events, and continues to comment on the scary rats' eyes today. Today is Great Grandma's 103rd birthday party. She's still going strong, though her short-term memory is now dribbling away, and we find ourselves responding to the same questions and comments many times during a visit. But she's still sharp as a tack otherwise, plays Scrabble with OmegaGranny, dresses up for Halloween (and wins prizes for creativity!), and looks like we might actually be able to celebrate her 104th next year, after all.
posted by Kate @ 12/17/2006 09:53:00 AM   4 comments

How can something be so glorious and so sad at once?


Sara Krulwich/The New York Times 

In New York City, a building that has been a street art landscape for two decades is going to be converted to million-dollar condos. (New York Times; I think it requires a login.)

The developer, as a tribute, invited street artists to come do their artwork inside the building--with the proviso that the artwork would be covered over, cleaned off, torn out, painted, etc. once the construction workers moved in and development of the condos started.

This weekend is the grand event.  The building, at 11 Spring Street, is open for public viewing of the artwork for three days (it started Friday, and goes through Sunday).

Sic transit gloria artifex.

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posted by Kate @ 12/16/2006 10:06:00 AM   2 comments

Being different - schools

The OmegaFamily is--in a slacker kind of way--investigating schools for kindergarten next year.  (OMG.  How on earth did my child become old enough for me to be writing these words??)

There's the issue of what the school atmosphere is like.  Do they make learning fun, or is it going to be a case where school extinguishes the desire to learn?  This is one of OmegaDad's bugbears; one of his favorite phrases is "children are born knowing everything; we teach it out of them."  He doesn't mean it in a sardonic way (as in, "those darned kids think they know everything!"), but means that children are born with that innate desire to learn. 

He tells tales of his childhood that indicate that, except for a very few teachers, the majority of his time spent in public school was mainly...marking time.  He was...different.  In high school he spent a year wearing a serape and sombrero to school every day, to make a statement.  He remembers his high school English teacher to this day, because she nourished his love of poetry and writing and literature, so much so that he entered college determined to get a major in American literature.

(Then he discovered that college lit majors are litarary snobs.  He dropped out.  When he returned to college many years later, he got himself an ag degree, then a master's in soil science.)

I was sent to private schools.  I don't know whether that made much of a difference, but we did have some outstanding teachers who didn't fit the "teacher mold".  Even so, I found myself marching to a different drummer; in history classes, I wrote mini-romance novels, and in English I experimented a lot.

I was "different"--different parents (Bohemians, quasi-hippies), not stylish, interested in learning and playing with words, and intelligent.  The years of seventh grade through junior in high school weren't really fun; I didn't fit in, I didn't have many friends, I wasn't popular.

I learned, looking back, somewhat "in spite of" being taught.

So that's one consideration.

The other consideration, of course, is the diversity factor.

The problem is that the two don't necessarily mesh.  The school that sounds most interesting is one of the less diverse schools; the public school that we'd be assigned to is one of the most diverse, but has the worst academic reputation.

What to do, what to do...

(There's also the newly added factor that OmegaDotter's very most favorite teacher in the whole wide world, who is leaving next Friday to start student teaching, will be student teaching kindergarten at--the public school she'd be assigned to.)

In an interesting convergence, schools and teaching have been subjects on one of the boards where I hang out; they have also come up in some other areas (notably, Clicked, a kind of round-up of what's popping up in the blogosphere, which I read religiously).

There's the story of the mother who found out, from one of her older sons (who discovered it by accident), that her youngest, in kindergarten, was being forced to sit at a desk all alone, right next to the teacher, for a month.  She hadn't been informed.  Her youngest thought it was because he was "bad".  His schoolmates thought so, too, and were ostracizing him at recess and lunch.  An urgent conference with the vice principal and the teacher in question revealed that the teacher had done it because it "helped him focus".

There's Paul Graham's essay, "Why nerds are unpopular", which rings a big bell with me.  One of the points he makes is that kids make choices about what's important to them, though they may do it unconsciously.  Nerds aren't interested enough in being popular to put in the work that being popular requires.  They're more interested in reading, playing with computers, doing experiments, taking apart machines, that kind of stuff.  Another of his theses is that school is mostly about keeping kids away from the real world, in comparison to earlier years, when apprenticeships made kids part of the real world.

There's Steve Olsen's "How the public school system crushes souls".  His wife spent a year during high school sitting in a bathroom stall during every lunch hour, because she couldn't handle the way she was mocked and made fun of for not having friends to sit with at lunch hour.

There's Josh Shaine talking about "Underachievement from the inside out", where he describes a constant litany of "if you only applied yourself/if you only did your homework/if you only..." to the point where he assumed something was very wrong with him.

There's a blogger who is close to graduating from college (she's waiting on her very most final grades), who cried upon her father's shoulder when returning to college, because she was so afraid she wasn't "intelligent enough" to do it.

OmegaGranny was a nerd.  Uncle Grump (her husband) was an uber-nerd, if ever there was one.  OmegaBro was a nerd.  All of OmegaDotter's teachers tell me how strikingly smart she is...and I worry:  is she destined for "nerdship"?  Or will she become the girl who hides how smart she is, so that she can be popular?

posted by Kate @ 12/15/2006 05:07:00 PM   3 comments

Stuff

A quick question--I've noticed on my sitemeter that some folks are trying to leave comments, but when I go check on my comments, nothing new has shown up.  If you're having problems leaving comments, could you let me know by emailing me at omegamom_01 at yahoo dot com?  Blogger has been having problems lately (like, say, migrating my blog over to the new version, which still isn't happening), and I'm getting grumpy about it.  Dawn, over at This Woman's Work, passed me a coupon for her hosting site, and I'm thinking of splurging on a new site...

Maybe it'll help with my blogger's block.  I've come across a few things I want to write about, but then I sit down at the computer and look at the blank screen, and nothing comes out.

While I don't respond that often to comments--in fact, I'm horribly bad about it--I really do appreciate them.  For instance, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy when I got all the commentary on my "four years" post.  I'm just so glad we've discovered this way to capture that smile on the dotter's face, because that's what we see so often, but it's so hard to catch.  She is so beautiful to us, and I like to share it.

Aside from that, like I said, blogger's block.  Bah.

Some snippets:

A short stroll in a Chinese National Park.  Don't click if you've got a problem with heights.

A not-so-safe-for-work chocolate Santa.

Did you catch the Geminids meteor shower?  How was it in your area?  So far, my peeks haven't produced a single meteor.  Bah.

I'm joining the folks who aren't feeling the holiday spirit.  You'd think, with an almost-five-year-old in the house, I'd be chock-a-block full of Christmas cheer.  Nope.  Dunno why, but it's just not happening.

posted by Kate @ 12/13/2006 10:24:00 PM   4 comments

"...Something strange happened..."

We were driving to the grocery store from ballet class; OmegaDotter had a small scrapbook of photos from one of her grandmothers.  It being too dark for her to see it, she declared, "Now.  Pretend I'm Miss Bethany, and I'm reading a story."

"Okay!  Tell a story!"

"Once upon a time there was a little mouse, who didn't have a hole to live in..."

"Oh, no!  Poor mousie!"

"No hole.  So she went looking for a hole.  She found a mitten.  She crawled in and cleaned it up and it was clean and nice and she lived there.  Then there was a frog, who didn't have a hole, so he went looking for one.  He found the mitten, too, and he went in to live there.  But the mousie got angry.  "You're mean and bad!  You didn't knock on the door or ring the doorbell!  You go away!'  Then he began to cry--"

"The froggie?"  (Mom is confused.)

"No!  The mousie.  Then..."

Silence.

"FIRE!!!"

(Mom almost yanks the car off the road, then realizes it's still the story.)

"Oh, no!  The mitten was on fire!  The fire was getting bigger and bigger!  But then it went away."

"Whew!"

"Theeeennn...something strange happened..."

"Oh, my!  What?"

"A big, bad storm!  Mommy, what's a 'storm'?"

"It's a lot of wind and rain and thunder and lightning."  (Mommy turns onto the expressway.)

"Oh.  Well, the storm blew away!  And theeennnn...something strange happened..."

"What?"

"A giant!  He tried to catch the mousie and the frog!"

"Oh, no!"

"Yes!  But they got away.  Theeennnn...something strange happened..."

"Hmmm.  What now?  Poor mousie and froggie!  They're having a very bad day.  Can't they go to sleep or something, and stop having horrible things happen?!"

"A truck ran over them and they were squashed flat!"

"Um.  Oh, dear."

"Theennnnn...something strange happened..."

"MORE?!  They're already squashed flat!"

"Shhh!  A fly was flying around their heads, and the frog caught it and ate it, and they weren't squashed flat any more."

The End.

posted by Kate @ 12/12/2006 10:50:00 PM   4 comments

I will survive!

After watching "Ice Princess" this evening, and eating homemade beef-barley soup, the dotter and OmegaDad are boogy-ing around the living room to Gloria Gaynor, having already done some guy-slings-girl around moves aping the movie.

While my formative years were spent listening to classic rock and soul and folk, I reached the dancing years during the Disco Era.

I have, therefore, a sad, sad fondness for disco.

A cherished memory is when I was working in the Small Mountain University IT department support team...one year, during the slow period after the end of winter semester, someone started blasting "Stayin' Alive" from their computer.  A whole slew of late-30s and early-40s IT support staff appalled and astonished our more modern student workers by disco-ing down the hallway.

What can I say?  We were tainted at an early age.

"Ice Princess" is a bubble-gum movie, all about a young physics whiz (female, of course) who, to wangle a scholarship to the Harvard physics department, takes to digitizing the local (extremely good) ice skaters and working out the phsyics of ice skating.  Then, of course, she discovers an innate and awesome talent for skating, stops wearing her glasses, puts on some makeup, becomes a hottie, and comes in second in the regional competition.

Oh, yeah.

At least she retains her nerdly habit of babbling physics equations when she's nervous, thus turning off the hockey jock and retaining a small modicum of geekiness.

She does, however, give up her Harvard scholarship for her dream of ice skating competitively.

The subtext of the movie is moms who make their kids live their dreams.  The protagonist becomes buddies with the daughter of the local ice skating coach, who, though being coached intensely by her mom, doesn't really want to skate.  The protagonist is being raised by a die-hard feminist single mom who ridicules ice skaters' slinky costumes as yet another way women let The Man keep them down.  In the end, the ice skating coach's daughter rebels, giving up skating, and the uber-feminist college professor sneaks into the regional competition to watch her daughter score.

So, while it's couched in adolescent rebellion, there's a semi-valuable lesson behind the movie.  I am all too aware that what I like to do, the dotter may not.  So here's my pledge:  I will always try to be aware of whether I am pushing something on my dotter that, in reality, I want to do.

If she wants to go to law school, cool beans.  If she wants to be an auto mechanic, equally cool beans.  Just so long as she's the best lawyer she can be, or the best auto mechanic she can be--and that she enjoys what she's doing. 

That's the important thing.

(My Technorati tag add-in is still wonky.  Grr.)

posted by Kate @ 12/10/2006 09:12:00 PM   2 comments

Four years

It's hard to believe that it's been four years since we first met OmegaDotter.  So much has changed, in her life and in ours.

Nanning, China, 12/8/02.  A little 10-1/2 month old girl.  Scared, quiet, determined.  A 43-year-old woman.  Scared, trying not to cry, overjoyed.  A 41-year-old man.  Fascinated, overjoyed, thrilled...scared.

We've done a lot of growing, all of us.  Through teething, learning to walk, learning to talk, tantrums, giggle-fests, quiet night talks, beboppin' in the living room, visiting museums, going to school.

What will the next four years hold for us all?  Who knows.  It's always an adventure.

Tonight, at dinner, we were talking a teeny-tiny bit about China (Mulan has been featured the past few nights Chez OmegaFamily).  She said, "I didn't have a family..."  I told her the whiz-bang digest of how we met her.  She finally said, "I chose you."

We chose each other, Lovey.

Then:

Now:

Happy "Metcha" Day, OmegaDotter.

Last year's "Metcha" Day post.

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A puppet, a princess, a pawn

At OmegaDotter's school, Miss Melody introduced the kids to Ima Hillbilly, her handmade puppet used to read stories to the children and draw them into the stories.

Then, Miss Melody had the kids make their own story-telling puppets, using whatever they wanted to decorate them.

This beautiful girl is the result.

Her hair is pink feathers.  Her hands and feet are bright yellow felt starbursts.  Her body is black fur.  Her eyes are pink buttons.  And in the midst of the abdominal decor is a fish--no doubt just eaten.

Beautiful Girl's arms wave delightfully when you jiggle her.

I am in love.

I have also broken my Technorati tag plug-in in Live Writer. Aargghh!

posted by Kate @ 12/07/2006 06:43:00 PM   1 comments

Heat death

We cranked up the wood stove last night, to avoid another frigid night on the home front.  Since the air intake for the central heating system is in the living room, and the blower system worked just fine, this produced plenty of nice warmth to circulate through the house.

The furnace dude has come and gone.  After twiddling and fiddling, he determined that the pressure regulator on the carbon monixide venting system was on the fritz.  He fixed it temporarily and is ordering a new switch.  Anyway, now we have nice hot air coming out of the heating vents, woohoo!

For some reason, this makes me think of James Kim.  Of course, I've been thinking of him and his family for a week now.  Hereabouts we get families that get stuck in the snow on a regular basis--once a year, once every two years.  Usually they're found before anyone dies.

But Kim's story has struck me more closely--a father, a mother, a four-year-old daughter, a baby--stuck in the snow, trying to figure out what to do.  Except for the baby, that could be us.  I first encountered the story in Blogging Baby...then I kept hitting bloggers mentioning the story, some of whom actually knew the Kims.  It makes it more personal then.

The question I have is:  is the "stay with your car" the best advice?  Kim stayed with the car for a week before setting out on foot.  Already weakened by cold, lack of food, stress...I don't know.

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posted by Kate @ 12/07/2006 09:45:00 AM   1 comments

Baby, it's cold INSIDE

Grrr.  After arranging to be home this morning, no furnace repairman showed up.  I called.  It turns out that the dude who rescheduled me rescheduled me for tomorrow morning.  And told me "Wednesday".  Today is Wednesday, isn't it?  (I'm losing track of the days.)

The residual heat in the house is seeping out, bit by bit.  It was 5F last night.  Now the furnace is struggling (mightily) to keep the house at 60F.

I'm grumpy.

And cold.

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posted by Kate @ 12/06/2006 09:58:00 AM   1 comments

Spilt milk

It's one of those days.

Or two days.

Let's see:

The furnace is acting wonky.  It heats...sort of.  We get almost up to 67F, with the furnace cycling on and off like crazy.  We've had this happen before; it was something to do with the doodads that inject the gas into the burners.  The furnace folk are supposed to show up tomorrow morning.

The fish in our aquaria are dying.  We had fifty kazillion guppies.  Now we have twenty-five kazillion guppies, and they're dropping like flies.  "Dropping" is the operative word here--most fish, when they die, float up to the top; these fish are sinking to the bottom.  We've got some fancy full spectrum fish-water treatment stuff that the folks at the pet store recommended for all sorts of fish diseases (like "hole-in-the-head" disease).  Our fire-bellied newt, who we have had for years now, is behaving like he, too, is affected.

Then last night, in the middle of the night, while Mr. OmegaMom was removing dead guppies from one of the fish tanks, OmegaDotter comes crying hysterically out of the bedroom.

It seems that our monster kitten (grrr!) had knocked over the half-filled cup of milk sitting on the bedside table right on top of OmegaDotter's head.

So we had to strip beds and calm a miserable and frantic dotter in the middle of the night.  (Well, hell, I'd be hysterical if I were awakened by a torrent of milk splashing all over my head!)

So this morning I had to haul her into the shower with me...after consideration, I had figured that a shower would be quicker (infinitesimally so) than bathing her, then showering myself.

We did, in the midst of all this, get to see the dotter and various adorable kidlets perform Christmas carols at the school pageant last night.  Pics to come.

Addendum:  While I was putting the dotter to bed, the monster kitten came and laid on my laptop keyboard.  This resulted in the monitor being switched to minimum resolution.  Easy enough to fix, though a pain.  But now I find that if I want to comment on someone's blog, the following keys aren't working:  c,v,h, and n.  ARGH!  They work fine in Live Writer, Notepad, TextPad...

I hate computers.  I hate cats.  Grrrr.

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posted by Kate @ 12/05/2006 10:22:00 PM   1 comments

Thinking, doing--theory and practice

Richard Querin has a post up discussing the balance between "thinking"--the theory side--and "doing"--the practical side, when it comes to university educations.  Taking a stand, he comes squarely down in the middle (as do I).

It seems that the view of universities as commercial enterprises, with a "customer" to satisfy--the student--is not limited to Small Mountain University.  There's a certain amount of grumpage amongst the professorati at SMU about the current approach; they feel that the students are being catered to by dumbing down curricula, by snazzing and jazzing up the core courses, and that the view of education as a goal in and of itself is disappearing.  Nowadays, the education is marketed as a means to an end:  that lucrative job, be it in business or genetic engineering or construction.

Richard points out that the year he spent working in construction was much more valuable to him, as an engineer, than most of his degree work.

Yet, at the same time, I have to sing the praise of the theoretical.

My degree from Cal State Hayward was in computer science, not computer information systems.  Typically, a CIS degree comes from the business school at a college or university, while the CS degree comes from the math department.  So the CS degree includes an awful lot more theoretical courses, while the CIS degree focuses on real-world applications and includes (ugh!) economics and accounting.

Currently, I wist after some background in accounting; I am working on interfaces with our accounting system, and when the accountants talk I am lost in a jungle of double-entry bookkeeping, trying to figure out which bucket which dollars should be dumped into.

On the other hand, shortly after leaving school with my brand-new degree still hot off the press, I discovered the value of some of that "theoretical" stuff I had been learning.

I was on a small team working on a (then) very cutting-edge on-line backup system.  One member of our team was a guy who had worked for many years in an auto manufacturer's IT department, programming their accounting system.  Unsatisfied with the money he was making in our little company, he moved on, and I took over some of the user interface he had been working on.

One piece was a listing of files that had been uploaded, sorted alphabetically by name.  Previous programmer had tested it out and all worked hunky-dory--until we started working with hundreds of filenames.  Then, suddenly, the screen started working slower and slower and slower.

What on earth was going on?

I delved into it.  Carefully stepping through the code, I found that the place where it bogged down was in the sorting routine.  So I took a look.

Now, I'm not going to bore you with techie talk here, but the least efficient type of computer code to sort anything is called a "bubble sort".  It's also the most obvious, and also extremely easy to code.  There it was, turning that display screen slow as molasses.  Oh, it worked just fine on 10 lines of test data...but when confronted with more, it got progressively slower and slower.

In one of my theoretical courses, we spent eight weeks examining different sorting algorithms.  Our professors beat "don't use 'bubble sort'!" into our heads.

So there I was, fresh out of college, faced with code that someone who had been working for 20+ years had written, and realizing that--ohmigosh--that theoretical hooey actually meant something, and was useful.

I pulled out my textbook with the four chapters on sorting algorithms (yes!) and mathematical discussions of the efficiency of each one, dived in, selected one that had a much higher efficiency rating, coded it in, and suddenly that screen--that had bogged down on a mere one hundred items to sort--ran lickity-split on thousands of items.

At the same time, I've learned many things on the job that were never covered in my courses. 

So, like Richard, I come down squarely in favor of both thinking and doing, theoretical and practical when it comes to college coursework.  But how do you convince students--who see themselves as "customers"--that, yes, the boring theoretical stuff can also be important?  Because they've been sold on the idea that Biology Is Fun--so much so that it's hard to realize that you need to learn the basics, boring as they are, first.

While talking with one of the other moms waiting outside the ballet class, she and I heard some kid talking about math homework.  She turned to me and said, "Y'know, I always heard people asking, 'What good is this stuff?  Am I ever going to use it?'  And I just think--I use it.  Every.  Day."

I do too.  But it's hard to say how, when it's woven into what I do all the time so much that it becomes unconscious.  The same with my theoretical courses--I realize that I use bits and pieces from them all the time in my everyday work.

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posted by Kate @ 12/02/2006 08:58:00 PM   5 comments

Memories

Johnny recently posted about early memories, wondering just how likely it was that children adopted from China have specific memories.

As I understand it, the consensus is that there are emotional memories, subconscious memories, but not "snapshots" the way adults have memories.  That said, I can safely say that OmegaDotter (almost 5) has memories from when she was two, specific memories that she can describe in words ("Remember when we went to that party...?"  "Remember my friend Miss K., she has two boys and animal heads on the walls and a horse you can ride...").  This always surprises me, because it seems like so long ago in childhood lifespan.

On the other hand, she hasn't described anything from when she was 1, so it's not likely she has "memories" (of the snapshot type) from her time in the orphanage.  Limbic memories, emotional memories--that I'm sure of, because she is so terribly afraid of being alone.

The earliest memory I have is some time when I was three.  OmegaGranny, Uncle Grump and I were in an airplane, flying to see the grandparents in Florida.  OmegaGranny can chime in in the comments, because I may have the year incorrect, but I think it made an impression on me because Uncle Grump never came down to Florida with us.

Another very early memory:  OmegaGranny and I taking the train down to Florida.  Mom made a bed for me on top of her suitcase, and I thought it was way cool.  Four years old?  Five?  I'm not sure.

Then, from when I was five:  watching the other kids "graduating" from my church preschool.  They got to carry the crepe paper streamers as they walked down the aisle in church side by side; I didn't.  (I couldn't--I was "too young".)  Waaahhhh!  I'm sure all my quirks and neuroses stem from this one incident of feeling Left Out.  Hah!

These are all snapshots, vignettes of life.  There's no real context, no memories of "before" the memory or "after" the memory, just little still life pictures with some information attached as to what was going on.

From that point on, the memories grow.

It makes me wonder what little snippets of OmegaDotter's early life will stay with her.  For us, as adults, her life is a continuum; we have memories of meeting her, of wandering through Nanning and Gaungzhou, of coming home, of her learning to walk, to talk, dancing, growing.  Most of that will disappear from her memories as she grows older, with only little tidbits sticking.

What are your earliest memories?

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posted by Kate @ 12/02/2006 07:43:00 AM   2 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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