Come For a Visit, Karl

I’m really wistful for San Francisco the past few days, as I figured I would be eventually. Our first few weeks in Tucson, I thought I was going to be fine. I love our house, our neighborhood is great, we’re getting new furniture which is always way more exciting than it should be. We found a local ice cream spot and a sushi place, and I found a great girl to cut my hair, and I liked it here. I really did. I mean, I still do. It’s a beautiful place filled with lots of exciting new things. But now I’ve got pangs for San Francisco that I can’t brush off. And I think it all comes down to…the weather?

Hear me out here. This time of year, San Francisco is chilly and covered in a comforting blanket of fog. It’s cold enough to bundle up on the couch with your favorite sweater and a fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of Earl Grey. My favorite way of existing. But, it’s not so chilly that it’s snowing or that you’re housebound or anything. You can have a fire in the fireplace if you want to, just for the coziness factor, but you don’t really need it for heat. It’s perfect. San Franciscans love their fog. They call him Karl. He’s got a twitter account. I’m dead serious. I miss Karl.

My first weekend in Tucson, it got to 110 degrees. It went on like this for about 4 days, and I thought, this is it, this is how I die. And now, the forecast says it will be 117 on Sunday. 117 degrees! I didn’t even know that was a thing. So now, I’m out doing fog dances in the backyard, hoping something will come down our way from the city by the bay. (I’m not really doing fog dances. I would though, if I knew what they consisted of.)

And what’s more, I’m very dedicated and serious about my half-assed backyard garden, and I just got my new fledgling garden going in the backyard here. All the books told me I could plant beans, so I planted a shit ton of beans, and since beans sprout so quickly, there’s already a bunch of beautiful little seedlings there. And how do you protect bean seedlings from 117 degrees? I want to go back to San Francisco where all I could grow was fava beans, kale and carrots, but I didn’t care because I knew how to grow them every year, without fail. I have all these options now, but I have to be so careful about these heat spells.

All the locals tell me if I can survive June, I’ll be ok. The monsoons come and cool things off, and then the fall and winter and spring are perfect and warm and wonderful. So, I bought myself my first pair of shorts in over 20 years (no joke, the Mean Girls in middle school gave me a complex about my legs of all things) and I’m sucking it up. I get out and garden and do other strenuous things in the early morning and late evening, and the middle of the day is reserved for jaunts to places with air-conditioning and things for the kids to do. The best of which I have found to shamefully be a McDonald’s Playplace. But really, it’s amazing. There’s cushy leather chairs and wi-fi. I can sit on my computer or in front of a book, drink a bottomless cup of Diet Coke and the boys can play on a playground that won’t leave burns on their tender haunches. I’m sure there’s a better option out there, but for this total Tucson newbie mom, it’ll do for the time being.

Where are you Karl? I’ll pay your airfare! It’ll probably be the first time some of these people have ever seen fog in their lives and you’ll get to be a spectacle. Please come!

karl

The Playground Structure that Taught Me Something About Myself

Most of the playgrounds in San Francisco have been remodeled, rebuilt, revamped. And they look great, and modern, and they’re lots of fun. Take a look at these pictures of the completely amazing playground at Dolores Park for an (exaggerated) example.

There are a handful that have not been updated since, oh I don’t know, the 70s? 80s? The dangers and hazards at these things are a work of art, yet they oddly draw me in as a mom. They look like the playgrounds I grew up playing at. And I like that.

One such park has no official name, but has been dubbed by the neighborhood the Blue Boat Park, or more simply, the Boat Park. It’s close to our house, and is a neighborhood favorite, and we’ve been there many times for play dates, birthday parties, or just the Mom-needs-to-get-out neighborhood jaunts.

There’s a bunch of stuff at this park for the kids to play on, including, as the name suggests, an old blue boat that rests in the sand, a gloriously tall and skinny metal slide, old school monkey bars and wood, tons and tons of unfinished wood. There were, until recently some amazingly dangerous baby swings, but those have been replaced.

There’s one structure in particular that at first had me a little worried. It’s a wooden structure with a crazy, curvy, old school metal slide and a fire pole. The only way to get up in order to go down the slide or fire pole is to first go up a simple ladder made of metal tubes. Or to go up the slide the wrong way, a neighborhood kid favorite. The structure is also really tall, so you can’t lift your child up onto it.

 The tendency, I think, for a modern American parent is to go up on playground structures with their kid, at least the first few times. Especially if they’re under the age of 3. And especially if it looks like this one. But on this structure, you can’t. There’s just no easy way, or safe way for that matter, to do it. So, Bowie, like all the other kids, had to patiently wait until he was big enough and coordinated enough and brave enough to climb the ladder himself. And that day did eventually come.

I didn’t think a whole lot about it, beyond our first day visiting that park, and being a little disappointed about it. Until the other day when I saw a mother trying as hard as she could to carry her small daughter up onto that structure. She tried and she tried until she realized that it’s not safe to do, and then she finally gave up. But she said, “The city should really just take this one down.”

What? A play structure that’s been there no doubt for decades, and has delighted thousands of kids, needs to come down because you can’t carry your 18 month old to the top?

Now, some parts of my momming are very Type A and helicopter-y. I will admit it. And it’s a constant struggle for me to try to keep all of that anxiety at bay and sometimes just let my kids be kids. But, until I saw this frustrated mom at the Boat Park, I had no idea just how well I was doing with that, and also how far I’ve come since being a new mom.

Once I figured out Bowie was going to have to tackle that playground structure on his own, that was it for me. I didn’t put any more thought into it. I didn’t think the structure was a hazard, or that the way it was built wasn’t fair to the smaller children, or that it needed to come down. I didn’t get worried when he finally did figure it out and went up there all alone. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my day.

That playground structure is a parental exercise in letting go. And I learned from that exercise that I can let go, when they’re ready, and when I need to. We’ll chat about this again when they’re teenagers, but for now, I’m proud of myself.

Friday Digest 2

1. So, August. It took forever to get here, but now it’s finally here. This is the last full calendar month I will be pregnant. I mean, even if The Littlest Dude is late, he’ll still be born before the end of September. And if he’s early? He could be born at the end of THIS MONTH. Ecstatic=the only word for how that makes me feel. Here’s some perspective for you: I’ve been pregnant for all of 2012. Yep. Found out right after New Year’s. Think about that for a sec. About ready for this to be over, and the next phase of my life to start. Even though it’s going to be a little bit crazy for a while.

2. After our horrid park experience at the beginning of this week (see last post), we had an amazing experience yesterday. Within minutes of us arriving, Bowie had a small (and I mean small) run-in with another boy around his age, and came up to me and deemed the other kid “mean and stupid.” My heartbeat sped up and I thought, “Here we go again.” And I prepared myself for another embarrassing exit. But, but, but…a few minutes later Bowie was playing alone and the other kid walked up again and pointed out some bird poop. Which they both found completely hilarious. And the other kid says, “Hey, let’s go slide!” Bowie says enthusiastically, “Ok!” And off they went. They went up and down the slide for a solid hour after that, and when I told Bowie it was time to leave, he said, “Not until I’m done sliding with my friend!” This for him was an amazing experience, I’m sure. Especially given that he’d gotten a bad impression of the other boy at first, but was able to overcome that. And given that a couple of times they disagreed on the rules of their sliding game, and they accidentally crashed into each other, and Bowie did fine. In the past, that would have set him off. I can envision him having a great final year at preschool. Which, let me tell you, was NOT what I was thinking just three months ago.

3. Speaking of preschool: 19 days until we’re back. 19 days. 19 days. 19 days.

4. Ran across this quote on Pinterest today: “If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.” Which piqued my curiosity. Not exactly a year ago today, but a year ago Sunday, I was having this conversation. So I have a safe assumption of what was on my mind. And I’m still healing today, but I’m so happy to have come as far as I have, and I’m so, so, so excited for our future, which I surely was not last August.

5. Holla at your girl for being featured on ChatterBlockSF on their list of Best Parenting Blogs in the Bay Area. As always, an honor. Still in complete denial of how many people actually end up here, and actually take a minute to read something. Amazing feeling, and means so much. Thanks to all my readers. And to be included with some of my own favorites (like Using Our Words and Rookie Moms) is so amazing.

And I leave you with probably the cutest dog video I’ve ever seen.

 

Sophomore Year of Preschool

This is Bowie’s second year at preschool. It’s a co-op preschool, so it’s totally run, top to bottom, by the parents. Well, there is a director, an assistant director and two teachers to guide us, but the rest of the stuff: supervising the children with activities, providing and serving snack, cleaning the school, purchasing supplies, fundraising, etc. We, the parents, do all of that.

It’s a tough thing to get used to, having it be YOUR school and all. But, I dig it. All the parents get to know each other, and a solid community is built. It’s great for the kids AND great for the parents. Anyway, whatever, I’m not trying to sell you on the school. It’s just that, there’s a lot to learn. And, we started late (in December) because another family had dropped out (hey, thanks by the way!), so it was even harder to fully fit in, having not gone through the official new-parent orientation and all of that. I felt like the new kid at school. For the entire year.

Dealing with the kids is especially difficult. There’s a whole philosophy and methodology surrounding how we take care of less-than-desirable behaviors. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find the right words to say, and to get the children to listen. A lot of times last year, I fumbled it, and a teacher or more seasoned parent had to step in, and it was…well, not embarrassing, but…just frustrating. I felt like a fraud or something. I was afraid they would think I didn’t care, when I really did, very much.

This year, we’re kind of old hat. But, I didn’t expect it to feel that way. I still expected to feel a little out of place, a little nervous, a little unsure. As I started meeting some of the new families, I saw myself in their faces. They were all nervous and unsure, afraid of doing the wrong thing.

My first workday back (we do one workday per week), I fell right back into the routine. Only this time? I knew what to do. I knew what to say. I knew where to find stuff. I knew when to step back, let a teacher handle it, and not beat myself up over it. What is this strange feeling? I think they call it…CONFIDENCE.

I think it’s one part experience, one part of the kids knowing who I am now and respecting me as an adult at the school, and one little part of knowing I’m not the new kid anymore, and I need to step up to help those who are.

Yay for a second year at preschool that so far feels like it will go a whole lot smoother.

Soda

I was born in Northern Illinois. By the fifth grade, I would also live in Green Bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Cincinnati and northwestern Wisconsin. (Yes, that’s a lot of moving. I swear I will blog about that one of these days like I keep promising.)

We moved to Cincinnati during my second grade year. One of my first assignments at my new school was to make a collage of magazine photos, newspaper clippings, what have you, for the letter “P”. I found a gigantic picture of a can of Coke, and slapped it on there. “P” for “pop”.

I proudly presented the assignment to my father, who told me sheepishly, and with a little sorrow in his voice, “They call it ‘soda’ here sweetie.”

I was dumbstruck. Different words for the same thing? This is madness.

After 3 years in Cincinnati, we moved back to the “pop” saying folk in Wisconsin. I had a southern accent to kick by then, but I got right back in the habit of saying “pop.”

Fast forward 15 years, and I move to California. It is SODA here, no acceptions. I let “pop” slip once, and the gal had zero idea what I was talking about. “I don’t think we serve that here.”

Now, when I am back in the Midwest and someone says “pop”, at first I don’t know what that is. And I laugh. I laugh, because my 2nd grade self wanted to cry. So funny how different we all are in these big, wide United States. Even with our words.

Pop. I mean soda. I mean...whatever.

Into the Mouths of Babes

All of my blog drafts lately have been long, ranting messes. Thus, their lack of “Published” status. I don’t enjoy reading angry run-on blog posts, and I reckon most other people don’t either.

That said, I haven’t published a post in a while. So, I’m just going to talk about something sucky that happened at the zoo today, and if it gets a little ranty, well, sorry. Mostly, I just want to see what other moms think of this.

Bowie and I went to one of the handful of food stands they have at the zoo. I had brought food for him, but not for myself. So, I ordered the chicken strip basket, comes with fries. Got the kid a juice. We sit down at our table, he’s drinking juice, I’m eating food. He’s eating some of the cheddar bunnies, applesauce, cheese stick and raisins I brought. But, he is picking up a French fry every now and then.

A mom comes over with her brood of 4, and from what I could surmise, her mother-in-law. She denies her son a snack from the food stand, they’ve just come to sit at the tables and eat the lunch they brought. Totally fine. But, then she goes on a long tirade on the food at the zoo, deeming it “some of the worst stuff you could put in your body” and “probably even dangerous, this place CAN’T be clean.” And she gives them each a big thing of Yoplait.

Eventually she notices us, we’re only a few tables away. I get a long, purposeful stare from her, and a look at our tray followed by a dramatic and audible “TSSSSK.” But that wasn’t it! She KEPT giving us the stinkeye, probably a half dozen times. And, she started saying things to her kids like, “Doesn’t it feel so good to eat healthy foods? We’re helping our bodies with this healthy food!”

I mean, let’s just push aside the fact that the healthy food she was having them eat is riddled with sugar. And let’s also bypass the totally useless passive-aggressive method of delivering her “message”. And, let’s instead focus on the fact that, from her vantage point, she couldn’t see the food I’d brought for Bowie and put on the tray for him to eat. She also got there long after I was finished eating, and there was a fair amount of food leftover. So, from first glance, it looked like I had intended for my 3 year old son to eat all of that fried, greasy food. But, the whole time she was there, not once did he put a fry into his mouth.

If she was truly that concerned about the food that a complete stranger’s toddler eats, then she could have tried a little harder to assess the full situation. That’s the whole thing about judging other people: most of the time you have no idea what their situation is, you have no back story, you have NO IDEA. And it’s best to just leave well enough alone.

What’s more, we are at the ZOO. If I want to let my son have some junk food during our fun day out at the zoo, then what the hell business is it of hers?! We certainly don’t eat like that all the time. When I go somewhere like the zoo, or an amusement park, or the movies, somewhere fun like that where going is kind of an event, I like to indulge a little. If my kid eats a handful of French fries at the zoo, he’s not doomed to poor health for the rest of his life. I know it’s not great for him, I know it’s not the most nutritious lunch, but I’ll make up for it at dinner.

That woman acted as if she saw us every day, for every meal, and saw the same lack of nutrition in front of us each time. What she should have reminded herself of is the fact that she’s never seen us before a day in her life.

Have you ever encountered something like this? Not just with food, but with any of your parenting? I hear a lot online about moms getting judged, but this is the first time it really happened to me. And such a seemingly innocuous situation. Would you feel the same way if you saw us sitting at the zoo today?

Annoying Neighbors

There’s this bird that lives in the general vicinity of our backyard. Or else he just likes to hang out here. A LOT.

This bird is very talented, and he can imitate a multitude of noises that he hears around him. His favorite noises to make are car alarm noises and the sound of a garbage truck backing up.

This is all fine and well, and fairly amusing and impressive. But, when he’s going full force right outside of our bedroom windows in the morning, I’m driven to do something I normally would never do: shoot something with a gun. Shoot something dead.

Because, we’re not talking 7 a.m., 6 a.m. or even 5 a.m. We’re talking TWO A.M. here people. He wakes us all up at 2 or 3 a.m. and then the cats and the kid think it’s time to get up, because the birds are chirping after all!

I really hope this birdie finds a new home. Fast. Or maybe the Lady Kitty will catch and eat him. One can only hope.

10 Randoms

Because I’m too scatterbrained at the moment to pull together one complete post. And these also happen to be put together in a free association kind of way, no logical order. Enjoy.

1. Don’t forget, if you make and sell goods, then you can be featured on the SocialMoms Facebook page. Just email me a link for your store or product, and I’ll check it out! You get a full week with your product featured on the Shop tab. It’s great exposure! (Pssst…I am the moderator for the Shop page, so it’s kind of a done deal if you contact me, FYI.)

2. I need to hear from people who had a three year old that wasn’t potty trained yet. Just for my sanity. Because there’s only a tiny shred left. If I have to mop up one more pee puddle…  So, THIS is why God invented wine.

3. I kind of feel like I could be having PMS. Which would mean, period imminent. Which is great news, since I’m probably the most anxious-to-be-pregnant-again woman in the history of time. Wish us luck as we embark on this scary, exciting roller coaster ride.

4. I am over the moon that Jane Pratt is back in the saddle. Were you a fan of the magazine? Then check out her new site: http://www.xojane.com/.

5. Summer in San Francisco is cloudy, foggy and grey. It’s already mid-May, and we’re still having rainy days. I think our winter and our summer are going to blend together into one depressing, sunless season, completely bypassing spring. Though, at least we aren’t getting snow. Or floating away down the Mississippi river.

6. The preschool, God love ’em, is having literally their third bake sale SO FAR THIS MONTH this coming Saturday. I’m baked out, people! I didn’t even like it that much anyway, now I loathe it. At least I’m getting better at it, I suppose. And the school year is over in T-minus 17 days.

7. Speaking of baking, I had some zucchini sitting in my fridge, a recent impulse buy from our delivery service, and it was starting to turn. I have never successfully made a loaf of good zucchini bread, so CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I made this recipe from the always lovely Smitten Kitchen, and it was pretty good. That one, I kept for us. The school got my mediocre carrot muffins.

8. Bowie is obsessed with Cars. And when I say obsessed, I mean OBSESSED. But, the resourceful little ball of adorableness doesn’t have an actual Lighting McQueen to play with, so he carries around any red Matchbox race car he can. And, he has dubbed some of his other Matchbox cars to be other characters in the movie. It’s amazing, his ingenuity. If only we could keep that kind of simplistic satisfaction as adults.

9. Can we take a minute to talk about the latest news with Arnie? It’s funny, I think when the news of his “secret baby” broke, everyone in California went, “Oh yeah, well that’s Arnie.” The rest of the world is shocked. His disappointed constituents? Well, we feel like we should have known it all along.

10. I’d love to tell you the miscarriage was a distant memory, but it’s not. I know I just wrote about how awesome I was feeling, but right after I published that post, I had a string of terrible days. I float back and forth between hope and despair, sometimes within a range of five minutes. People keep telling me that one of these days, the bad days will be fewer and farther between. We’ll get there.

Ummmm…get me Mother Nature.

Some of you may recall me complaining a while back that our snow levels had fallen to 500 feet, and as a result we got snow in San Francisco for the first time in 30 years. And I was all “I left Wisconsin for a reason.”

Well this morning, another SF weather anomaly: a flipping tornado (my new-thing-learned-today: if it’s on water it’s a water spout). At the beach. Yes, the beach we live 8 blocks from. Behold: