Saturday, February 19, 2011

Elementary School Drama

I found out yesterday afternoon that MiMi and two of her gal pals are in a second grade drama. One day you're in: we are bestest friends forever! And the next day you're out: you are no longer my friend!

Only when I found this out, I found out from MiMi's teacher and what seemed to be, one very angry parent.

I stepped into an impromptu conference, picking MiMi up from school, where the teacher was in the midst of talking to parent #1 about these falling outs between the trio of girls. It was news to me. And to sense the hostility from the other parent towards me and indirectly MiMi, was very upsetting to me.

Not in the boo-hoo way but in the WTF way.

The teacher said her solution was to "break apart" the friends. I don't particularly agree with the concept - I think it's a bit silly to be an adult and tell kids "you all can no longer be friends". But she's the teacher and if it's disrupting her class, I will support it.

But the other mother was just nodding very enthusiastically about the idea of separating them and adding her own comments about how she advocates this, yadda yadda yadda.

My feelings were hurt, more for MiMi, because this particular mother is the mother of MiMi's friend that she has had such a big heart for. This young girl has had an unfortunate time in her young life: her dad unexpectedly passed away, she had to switch schools for problematic reasons, she broke her arm, she had some skin problem, she hit her head on a brick wall, etc. etc. I have a profound sense of sympathy for this girl and to see her mom upset with MiMi just made me so sad.

The gist of the situation is: the girls fight, tears are shed, and then they are friends again. They are pitting one against the other: "You are my friend but _she_is not." MiMi apparently put a schedule in place to be friends with one girl on Monday and Wednesdays and the other girl on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I was initially shocked by this, when I repeated this story to Tim and then CJ, they both laughed at how she really tried to make a plan out of this situation.

I later received an email from the teacher, apologizing for the blindside. She thought I had been apprised of the situation from MiMi but then said she should have known better - they are, after all, only second graders.

Today, I took MiMi to a nearby playground at a Jacksonville, NC park -- after I had to walk away from watching CJ's volleyball team go down in a flame of fire (it wasn't that bad, apparently, but at that time, it was all gloom and doom). While she played, I decided to talk to her about the situation.

She told me her side of the story which was a lot more detailed than the very skimmed view the teacher gave me. But one part was identical from both the teacher and MiMi, just said very differently.

Teacher: I have been dealing with this child and parent because, well, there is some over-dramatizing of the situations that occur between the three girls.

MiMi: She hurt her foot, then she purposely kicked her foot again to hurt it and lied to the teacher and said that the other girl pushed her down. I know it's a lie. I was there. I know what she did.

Whoa. That's pretty serious. That's more than I want to deal with: someone hurting themselves then blaming someone else.

I told MiMi what her teacher wanted to do - to break the friendship up. But that doesn't mean she shouldn't stop caring for them...and that truthfully, she didn't need to stop being "friends" with them but rather, stop hanging out with them during lunch and recess. The issues that her friend (who she says lies) are bigger than she can handle and right now, we need to trust the teacher and let her make her assessments.

It's sad really, isn't it? That one: parents have to get involved in the first place. What happened to just letting kids duke it out (not literally :)? But two: that there is an 8-year-old girl who apparently is dealing with something deeper, IMHO, than just second grade drama.

Those Predictable Gideons

We drove to Jacksonville, NC yesterday for CJ's volleyball tournament. When we got to the hotel, MiMi started opening all the drawers. I asked her: "What are you doing?" She replied "I'm looking for the bible. Every hotel we go to always has a bible!" I told her to check the nightstand. When she opened it, I heard her sing "Hallelujah!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is a fictional novel written in first person by a character who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at age 51. It is a very horrific novel to read, especially knowing that this disease actually exists. It's bad enough that Alzheimer's exists at all, let alone affecting an age demographic that is still "young".

Reading this reminded me very much of Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson's, another dreadful disease. I thought about how this character and Fox would have to deal with symptoms of a horrible disease that affects "old people" as young people.

I cried a lot reading this. It is an emotional journey: reading this character's thoughts as they gradually fade. She knows she has it; we know she has it; and then we read her accounts of every day life as she knows it: with little memory.

The first time I cried was when she couldn't find the bathroom in her own home and panicked, then couldn't hold back and wet herself just as her husband walked in. Humiliating and the first sign of her not-so-gradual decline.

Then when she looks at her beloved daughter Lydia, and mistakes her for the character she played in a play, not regarding her as her own daughter but a stranger? It just gets worse.

I was angry at her husband because, an agreed upon sabbatical, was no longer on the books because he decided to take another job. I don't recall Genova writing this conversation out but in the end, I realized that it was probably a discussion point that they both had before her symptoms deteriorated, and no one could actually verify that this was what Alice had actually wanted.

This is amazingly written by Lisa Genova, who, surprisingly to me, is a neuroscientist. How she could deftly write with right-brain creativity from a very left-brain science is baffling. While a few of the scientific explanations that Alice recites in her head, as to what is actually happening to her brain, it is never over-wrought with science that the reader can't follow along.

The consequence, of course, to reading this book is freaking out at my own forgetfulness. Just today, I realized that I skipped my coffee all together...I mean, I had to _think_ "did I or didn't I have a morning cup of coffee?" That's just today...every day there has been some sort of memory loss of something and I panic: OMG, I must have the disease!

Alice wrote herself five questions, once she found out she had the disease. They were easy questions: where do you live? what month is it? where is your office? what is your oldest daughter's name? and what is your daughter's birthday. She wrote herself: if you ever forget one of these questions, go the the file named "butterfly" and follow the instructions there.

Near the end, she finally did that. The file contained specific information on how to take a load of pills and end her life. On the way up to getting the pills, she completely forgot what she was up there for.

This idea is definitely something I would consider but I would have to somehow make sure that the pills were close to the file so that I wouldn't forget.

Sobering thought, I know, but man, what a horrible disease to live with - both for the family and especially, the victim.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Florence Goes Cold War

So...I mentioned how much I love Florence + the Machine. Another band I love love love LOVE is Cold War Kids. Back in 2007, they were on my playlist and I recently resurrected their songs to my playlist and play their songs over and over and over.

BTW, they also have a new album out.

Anyways, I "discovered" this band from some podcast on indie music. They aren't mainstream so imagine my surprise when I looked on youtube for any recent videos off their new album to see Florence + the Machine doing their version of Hospital Beds, one of many of my favorite songs from CWK. OMG. Florence singing Hospital Beds???? It was complete heaven for me.

Here is CWK's version (remember, this is a song from 2007):


Here is the beautiful Florence:


And on a different Florence note, I found this over the weekend, another great song Kiss with a Fist and her version on a BBC show. If you read my SNL post on Florence, then you know that I think SHE IS HOT with the most amazing legs ever. Well, this video showcases how beautiful Florence's legs are and how amazing she moves in 'em:

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

My sweet MiMi...she goes to her school library and picks out books *for me* to read. She had picked out a few that I told her I just couldn't read yet, like the last Harry Potter book. But I do read them and just recently, they have turned to "chapter" books. I read Stonewords a few weeks ago and last week, she brought home this one. I was still in midst of Rebecca, I'd just gotten Still Alice, and Just Kids is waiting for me at the library...along with the next Harry Potter at my bedside. *BUT* I think it's amazing that she thinks of me while she's at the library and her book choice for me takes precedence.

Fortunately, her choice was not only a quick read (182 pages), it was delightfully wonderful. DiCamillo writes her voices very much similar to Deborah Wiles, who wrote one of my very favorite books each little bird that sings.

India Opal Buloni moves to Naomi, Florida with her preacher dad. The book opens in the Winn-Dixie grocery store, with a mangy mutt on the loose. Opal (as her dad calls her) decides to "save" the much-sought after mutt and declare him as her own. She calls for him "Winn-Dixie" and he rushes to her side as if they had been together forever.

And the rest of the novel is her life in Naomi, Florida with Winn-Dixie: how she meets an amazing set of people, as the new girl in town. It is *so* good, so sweet, so heart-warming. There is not a single bad character in here - her dad is the most amazing fella, who preaches in an abandoned grocery store...where the patrons bring their own folding chairs to hear his sermon.

We have all seen the movie, twice. The movie is very sweet too and almost an exact replica of the novel. However, the novel gives more insight to Opal's personality by having the ability to know her exact thoughts, which is missing from the movie. Both are worthy to see and read.

Another great book choice from one of the greatest, and most orneriest, little seven year old daughters I've ever had.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Tiger Mom

I heard the hubbub over this WSJ article, Why Chines Mothers Are Superior several weeks ago but it was just this morning that I had finally read it. I loved it. I may not agree with the entire thing but I definitely see myself in a lot of the "western" ways.

You must read this article. It's well written, funny and brutally honest. Essentially, a Chinese-American mother raises her children with a very strict discipline. The article starts with:
Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
The article continues with how the stereotypical Western mother concerns herself with how her child _feels_ (and therefore, implying mediocrity) vs. 'forcing' them to do well (and feeling proud for working hard).

I do think my generation is way too "nice" to their children. We are always listening to them: why are you angry, sad, blah blah? Express yourself, tell me what's on your mind; I don't care that you are three, TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL!

I'll be reading Amy Chua's book. I can't wait to see if I can relate to either side. I remember, in the WSJ article, Amy tells a story about disciplining her child, only to have the people around her look at her in horror. That's happened to me although I can't remember what story it was that made people look at me like that.

I read this article to CJ and MiMi this morning. They were flabbergasted right from the start, with the first part (the part I quote in the beginning of this post). I told them I had some new parenting practices to take on. They didn't think that was quite so funny.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Having A Ball

Our past two weekends have been filled with volleyball tournaments. The week fills us up with volleyball practice. I eat, live and breath volleyball.

I am not complaining. I love it. And I hate it too.

Last week: volleyball tourneys at North Raleigh Christian Academy, which is in the vicinity of our old 'hood. We had actually been there before, when CJ and R tried out for the volleyball team that was based there. If you didn't read that particular post, that is where we pulled up into the parking lot to be greeted by the Jesus van.

We started off well and won the first game. There was hope. But no, we ended up losing the next three games. I will say, I loved finishing my Harry Potter book in the "wanna-be-educating-house-of-the-lord". Nothing satisfies me more than being blasphemous.

Today's tournament took place in Oxford, which is about an hour north of us. We arrived around 8:15 on a gloomy, rainy drive on HWY 50. As I entered the gym, I was like "COOL!" Bleachers everywhere, although we had our own seats. When I went to ask where we could set up chairs, I was told that CJ's team was in a different pool, therefore, a different gym (in the same facility). When I found that gym, I found a vastly different gym: no bleachers, barely no room to put folding chairs, and limited lighting. That would be the place we would hang out until late in the afternoon.

The girls ref'd the first game. It was at this point that I was pretty psyched: enjoying the other teams playing; cheering for both teams; just excited about what the day would bring. Then the girls' turn to play came and it went downhill from there.

I started off cheering, then I went to grimacing, then silence. I was on pins and needles the entire time. Watching my girls play is like watching fricking ECU play football: one minute they're down by 100 points, then they come back and it's only by a miracle that they can pull off a win. Unfortunately, the win came at the very last but most necessary game. The losing team of each of the two pools would have to ref the play off games. Our last game was with the two losing teams: ours and the other one.

We pulled it out with a nail biting end but I was grateful because, as the coach said to the girls: I don't want to be hanging out in Oxford until 9:30 unless we are playing.

We didn't make play offs but at least we didn't end up being the losers ref'ing the play off games. We made it home by 4ish and we have a free weekend next week (except for Sunday practice) until the following week, where we start again with several weekends of all-day tournaments.

I'm not complaining. Well, I am. I want us to win.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This is my February book club choice, which hits the "classics". Funny as I had never, ever heard of this book. I was told that it would be similar to Jane Eyre, which I LOVE.

The first 60 pages won me over. An older rich arrogant man, much like my beloved Mr. Rochester, woos the very young, naive narrator of this story. It was a whirlwind romance that just swept me off my feet. I almost tweeted about it but kept myself in check, since I had approximately 300 more pages to read.

I am glad I did wait. While I didn't hate the book, it didn't do for me what Jane Eyre did for me, which was to bring me to the most wonderful world of enchantment.

First, the story spoiler: Rebecca is narrated by a woman who is never named. I thought I missed her introduction when I read Maxim de Winter, upon meeting the narrator, say to her "You have a very lovely and unusual name". I couldn't find it and while I almost read into it on wikipedia, I decided against it and deal with either 1) finding out her name later in the book or b) looking it up after I finished it.

Max and the narrator eventually marry and much of the novel takes place in Manderley, Maxim's estate in England. The new Mrs. de Winter has to live within the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter, who bears the same name as the title of the book. She feels incompetent to live in the shoes of the now-deceased wife, who was the most beautiful, the most capable, the most talented, the most socially engaging person ever to exist.

The welcomed romance was very limiting. What was impossible to deal with was the madness of the unnamed narrator, who continued to create outcomes of situations that never existed: 'oh the servants must be thinking this of me and here is how the conversation must go' and then there would be great detail of every conversation and thought the servants, or the people around Manderly, would speak of. It was soooooo annoying.

And while I can deal with the era of a woman being meek to men, it was insanely frustrating in this novel because, in the first 60 pages, the narrator was pretty strong-willed...well, at least in her mindset. But as a married woman, she continued to lack any confidence and would plead with her husband, as she knelt as his feet, to be kind to her; to not fight. AAAAACCCCCK!

While I enjoyed the book, I skimmed many a'paragraph due to it's long, drawn out descriptions...but especially the parts of made up scenarios that Mrs. de Winter thought out in her head. I found those so unnecessary, yet it proliferated the pages over and over and over.

The end? It was quite sudden. It was a strange way to end - so abrupt when the novel opened with an aged couple, Mr. and Mrs. de Winter. There was no farewell from the narrator who opened the book; it just simply ended with the lasting image of Manderley. I would have liked to have known what became of them.

During my search for information on Rebecca, before I aborted the plan, I did find that Alfred Hitchcock directed the Oscar winning 1940 film Rebecca based on this novel. I was puzzled as, you know as much as I do, Hitchcock is a thriller dude. It's now on my netflix queue, to find out how the book looks on film.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Are We There Yet?

"There" being somewhere other than this oddity of the day I have had. I feel like I have entered an alternate universe, or just going senile.

Not a biggie, but first thing this morning, I realized that I had forgotten to renew my membership with a professional society. I had stuffed the envelope from them into my bag, as a reminder to register at home. I had filled it out at work only to realize I left my corporate credit card in my 'other' bag at home. The deadline, without penalty, was January 31st. I figured out my mistake today, February 1st.

I packed my lunch and got MiMi off to school in record time. It's always 'nice' to be reminded...MiMi says: 'wow, this is the earliest we have ever left to go to school!' School starts at 9:15; I live five minutes from the school; I left at 8:55. You do the math.

When I got to work, I ransacked my car looking for my lunch. I brought EVERYTHING to my car; I was sure I had brought my lunch. But alas, it was nowhere to be found so I pouted. I don't like 'settling' for anything, which is normally what happens when I fail to bring my own lunch.

OK. I'll deal with it.

As I approach the entrance to my building, I am flipping through notes in my head, about what I was doing the rest of my day. It was then that I realized I left my fucking WATCH at home, for my track workout. This is the second week in a row I have left it *and* the third thing to-date that I have forgotten *some* *thing*.

I make it through my workout - which I wasn't very happy about doing. When I'm done, I'm happy. But while I ran my 3x1 miles on the track? I was screaming in my head.

Now I have to hurry and shower to make a 1PM meeting, missing lunch. This must have been on my mind when I washed my hair with body wash. WTF is wrong with me today, I think to myself.

I make it to the building where the meeting is at, only to wander every corner of the floor, trying to find this meeting room. Once I find it, I am congratulated for finding it, since it's not easy. Hmmm...perhaps you should have mentioned that in the meeting request???

Then I rush home to get CJ and MiMi for volleyball practice. I told CJ: let me make my coffee, grab my book and a cookie (CJ made these wonderful chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies the other night; one was in my lunch :( ). As we drive off to volleyball, CJ reminds me that I had forgotten my cookie. GREAT.

The day is not done yet but I hope this is the last of my odd Tuesday. Let's get back to normalcy tomorrow, please, which is already stressful enough.