Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


The former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that if children attended Preschool they had a greater chance of going to college or obtaining a higher education than children that did not go to preschool. In the latest round of budget cuts before Governor Schwarzenegger left office he proposed to cut state funding to all child subsidized care except for state run preschools. He really liked preschools.

I really don't like preschools. I have always erred of the side of caution when asked about preschool for my kids because I know that my answer tends to get people riled up. I remember once seeing a picture in my favorite magazine, People, where the caption read, "Brittney Spears picks up her 1 year old and 2 year old from preschool" and thinking, "aren't they a little young for preschool? Isn't that just a nice way of saying daycare?" (Tomato, tom-ah-toe) But really I think that all the good stuff, the productive stuff, the stuff that really sticks in the formative years, is taught and learned at home, not hanging out with Jayden James and Sean Preston. (this is what I like to call: my opinion)

So we have signed our youngest child up for a Cooperative Preschool near where we live, what a novelty! And it is a bonafide Coop. I have to volunteer one day out of the 3 that my child attends per week. I have to belong to a committee that requires me to volunteer 10 hours per school year. And I have to volunteer in a general capacity 2 work weekends a year. And I have to go to meetings that are in the evening every couple of weeks and they are from 7:00 to 9:30pm or until the meeting is over. And I have to clean out paint containers. And I have to fill paint buckets. And I have to scrub play dough toys. And I have to make play dough. And I have to fill art bins. And I have to do much more.

My head is swimming right now with the amount of things I have to do to have my child go to this parent supported, hands on, process not product, discounted Preschool so that someday I can look back and feel good about how I gave my youngest child this opportunity in education. Because lets face it, she is not going to remember this Coop at all. Just like I can't remember the majority of grades 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. I originally relished the idea of doing homeschooling preschool with my youngest like I did with my oldest but the crazy eyes look I got from other parents when I used the word Homeschool as well as the fact that my youngest and I are so much alike and we would drive each other c-r-a-z-y pointed me in other directions. I also have to add that she is a very tall child and sometimes I get questions like "why isn't that 12 year old in school?" (this is what I like to call: exaggerating)

So she is going to preschool in a few short weeks. And if she doesn't end up going to college I guess we will know who to blame, although from the look of things, the former Governor doesn't need any more bad press, he is doing fine on his own. Just as I am sure our little one will do fine on her own, in Preschool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tiger Mother

Someone in my book club suggested reading the famously controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Since I love to read I figured that I would get it from the library in case it got picked as a book club read. Since it is a newer book, I expected to be 150th on the list, imagine my surprise to find that no one wants to read this book at my public library, I got it in 1 day! It might have something to do with the fact that over 50% of the town I live in is Chinese. Regardless, I got it today and dug right into it.

I flipped open to the first page and read the Tiger Mother's check list of things their kids could never do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a play date
  • 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 #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

I have to stop now and tell you that my mother is not Chinese, Korean or Japanese, she is good old Heinz 57 American mix that I like to call "White". She had a list similar to this list but not limited to these items. I remember begging to have a sleepover and not being allowed to until I was 12 and I was graciously allowed to sleep over at my 2nd cousin Wendy's house (Wendy if you are reading this, you now know why I reacted so strangely to spending the night at your house). I can't remember the details exactly but it seems to me that I only met Wendy about 20 or 30 minutes before I was told I could sleep over at her house. This most likely explains why I was so uncomfortable around her and why I was shocked and horrified when I found out she had two older brothers who would tease us and pick on us. And having never heard popular music and not being allowed to dance it will also explain why I didn't know what to do when I heard my first Billy Joel record and my cousin started to gyrate very rhythmically to the songs. I always wondered if Wendy wondered why her older and practically-a-stranger, fundamentally conservative and religious-in-a-vegetarian-no-TV-watching kind of way, violin and piano playing cousin was suddenly spending the night at her house. Regardless, she was very kind and polite and played with me and screamed at her brothers and told me I could scream at them too and asked her Mom to make Macaroni and Cheese out of the box for me because I wasn't allowed to have that at home. And we went swimming and I wasn't called fat by anyone in her family when they saw me in a bathing suit because Wendy and I looked a lot alike, we were both round and brown skinned. And I got to watch TV and go to sleep really late. And I developed massive crushes on not just one but both brothers (2nd cousins people!), And I ate too much sugar, I think. In short, I had the time of my life on my first sleepover. It would be at least 4 years before I was allowed to have another.

Let me also say that after reading the first two chapters of this obnoxious and self congratulatory book I had to stop. I was drinking ice coffee at the time and I felt like I had acid refux which now I realize was just a physical reaction to Amy Chua's writing. At this point I flipped to the back of the book and read the fly and this is what it says:

"Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her first book, World on Fire: How exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, a New York Times bestseller, was selected by both The Economist and the UK's Guardian as one of the best books of 2003. Her second book, Day of Empire: How Hyper-powers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall, was a critically acclaimed Foreign Affairs bestseller. She lives with her husbands, two daughters, two Samoyed's and her 4 brains in a jar in New Haven, Connecticut."

Ok, I added that part about the 4 brains, but if you read her bio, you get a picture of who Amy Chua is and why she felt compelled to write about how great her parenting skills are and why she feels like she is the best Chinese American Mother of the century. I just need to warn those of you that are going to read this book about the 3rd chapter (and the last one I will read) that tells of a stand off with her 3 year old during the below zero winter months in Connecticut and how the 3 year old was outside, shivering and chattering in a light sweater while Amy was inside and the 3 year old was winning.

She said that she had to change tactics immediately and that she couldn't win this one. She said she was worried she would be locked up by the authorities for abuse. She said she started begging and bribing and really working to get her 3 year old back in the house. The line that clenched it for me as far as being the shortest book I've ever read was the last sentence of this chapter:

"But Lulu (the 3 year old) had underestimated me too. I was just rearming. The battle lines were drawn, and she didn't even know it." Oy vey!

With all due respect to Amy Chua, the book should really be called "I'm A Law Professor And I Write Smart Books With My Fantastic Education And I Decided To Write About Parenting And I'm Sorry To All The People Who Used Their Hard Earned Money To Buy My Book So Please Go And Check It Out From The Public Library Because There Is No Waiting Time If You Want To Borrow It".

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Doctor

Today I got to take my 4 year old in for a check up to a new doctor and a new system. I have complained loudly and repeatedly to anyone that will listen to me that my husband works for a medical hospital and yet when he went from being a resident to a staff vet at said medical hospital we had to seek cheaper health care because the one we were using we gouging us mercilessly. I have also said repeatedly and loudly that "everytime I write a check for rent or for health insurance I die a little inside" but I digress. So this morning we woke up, we got our best outfits on, shined up our faces, grabbed our new insurance cards and drove to a new Medical Center and parked the car.

There was a woman standing in the doorway that greeted me as I walked through the door. She asked me where I was headed and when I said Pediatrics she ushered me to a person who looked me up in a computer and sent us on our way. When we got to the Pediatrics Department there was no line and they did not hand me 20 pages of medical history to fill out. And the most shocking of all was there was no co-pay! NO CO-PAY!!! I don't want to incite panic in those of you that are reading this so if you really must know the name of this fantastic place, keep reading, I'm not through.

The medical assistant came and got me within 5 minutes of us checking in at the Department. She was very efficient and friendly as she took measurements, weight and blood pressure. She then took us to an examination room and told us the Doctor would be with us in a few minutes. I hunkered down, helped my little one put on the gown, got out some books and prepared for the wait.

Imagine my shock when as soon as I tied the last tie on the hospital gown, there was a knock on the door. The Doctor came in and first introduced herself to my child and shook her hand before she turned to me and introduced herself to me. I melted into the chair and then slid all over the floor.

She then charmed the pants off my 4 year old, had her laughing and smiling at the end of the visit and then gave me her email address and phone number in case I wanted to contact her personally. PERSONALLY!!! And the best part is, that we were in the car and pulling out of the parking garage by 10:34am (we got there at 10:00am).

Thank you Kaiser.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Campers

If you were at my house right now you would see my husband (who just turned 36 yesterday) sitting on the couch with his two children and his niece and nephew clustered around him as he reads book after book to them. We started with an old favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, then it was Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by Margret & H.A. Rey, and then Goodnight Me, Goodnight You by Tony Mitton, the next is a personal favorite, Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park followed by More Spaghetti, I Say! by Rita Golden Gelman and then The Little Puppy's Bad Day by Cathy West and finally Little Red Riding Hood by The Grimm Brothers.

My husband treats these children with as much and warmth and generosity as if they were his own children. My children treat their cousins with as much love and warmth and generosity as if they were their siblings. It touches my heart to see them sipping chocolate milk and listening to him read at the end of the day when I know he is tired and wants to just put his feet up or turn on the television. We have been camping for 3 days and are just plain tired and want to relax.

Those of you that read this blog regularly know that my sister and her ex-husband are both in jail in Oregon. Before they went to jail they had 2 children and while the children live with my parents in Northern California, we are the lucky recipients of them each summer for 2 weeks and sometimes for a few days around Christmas. We love having them and we take as much or as little time as we can get. This summer we got to take the kids camping with several other families and it was a lot of fun and a lot of work.

I have to be honest, this last week and a half was a stretch for me. I deal with ongoing anxiety issues and having too many people in my personal space can sometimes be devastating for me. I find that I can't sleep or focus or concentrate or be a nice person when I feel like I have too much going on around me. The kids were here, my folks were here, my brother is still here and he has a new "friend" and she is here and then some kids I babysit for the neighbor's, and so you can imagine that I was not exactly pleasant all of the time this week. I tried to count to 10. I tried to take deep breaths. I tried to not be bitchy. But knowing that I would be the one to entertain and cook and clean and organize and pack and wash and do all the things needed for 4 kids, 2 parents, a brother and his "friend", and the kids I babysit for the neighbor's, made me do what anyone else in this situation would do - I unraveled a little bit here and there. (mostly at my husband and mostly where only he could hear me) At this point I don't feel the need to explain the square footage of my house to you because even if I lived in a very large house - that many people would unravel me.

Here's the truth: I can be selfish. And I can be bitchy. And I can be particular. And I can be a clean freak. And I can be judgmental. And I can be conservative. And I can be in the middle of a massive panic attack, but I'm lucky to have a partner that I respect and admire and that makes me feel like I can take whatever gets tossed my way.

And that having been said, we are done camping for the summer. I need the next 10 months to prepare for next summer!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh Brother!

I was talking to my Mom last night and complaining about my brother. She tried to make very non partisan comments for a few minutes and then she tried to shush me and then she resorted to ignoring me. I got really hot at her response and so I went upstairs and complained to my husband. He listened to me, validated me and consoled me and then agreed with me. He did all the things that make him both the most perfect husband in the world and the smartest man in the world ever!

I settle disputes between my kids all the time. I listen to them complain about each other too. "I wanted to play with that Polly Pocket" or "I was going to play with that first" or "stop touching me" or "she is ignoring me right now" and I think I do a pretty good job of either resolving their issues or getting them to redirect their energies into something more productive. But I will admit that there are times I want to scream, pull my hair out, hide in the shoe closet or get in the car and drive far far away.

I wonder if there will come a day when my kids will come to me as adults and complain about each other or if they will work hard at resolving these issues between themselves. I don't usually complain to my mother about my siblings because I see her so infrequently and get to spend so little time with her I hate to waste my energy and precious time on something so trivial. And I figure that if I can't resolve the issue with my brother, what will my mother do?

I can't say exactly what my response will be when that time comes. I can say that I fancy myself a good communicator and have had a myriad of jobs that utilize my good communication skills. I have only met a few people in my life that stump me when it comes to getting a point across, one was an ex roommate named Star, one was my sister's ex-husband Norman and to be perfectly honest sometimes talking to them was like speaking Chinese to a German and vice-versa.

I do know that regardless as to the subject of my kids disagreement I will love them and hopefully support them until the hair pulling is over. And if not, I hope they have fantastic partners that listen, validate, console and agree with them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taking a Break

I had a chance to go to LA last weekend for a much needed Mommy break and to visit an old friend to celebrate her birthday. It was everything I hoped for and much more. Here is a list of the stuff I packed into a little more than 2 days:

Eating out (breakfast, lunch AND dinner)
Holocaust Museum
Drinks and dessert with friends
Wii games that involved some dancing
Walking dogs
Sleeping in
Watching whatever I wanted on TV
Wearing a new outfit and not spilling anything on it

It was impressive. You would think that I would be exhausted by trying to fit this much stuff into 2 short days but I'm here to tell you that I had a wonderful time. And I came home with some good swag and well rested. My girls were excited and happy to see me, I got lots of hugs and screams from the car when they saw me. I have had many "I love you's" in the last 2 days since I've been home. And it makes me realize that sometimes all a Mommy needs is 2 days in LA.