Sunday, August 30, 2009

Arkaedi And Balance Of Loveliness

I try to treat my children fairly. I think I succeed, by and large, but there are a few areas where I am unsure of how to proceed. I don't want to treat them as interchangeable kids. I want to acknowledge and respect the differences, both as individuals and as a girl and boy, respectively. I have a feeling this will become even more important as they grow, and the similarities and differences are highlighted.

I get some strange looks when I talk about Viri being a big boy, or Arkaedi being pretty. I imagine some people are worried that I am projecting stereotypical roles upon them. To a certain extent, perhaps I am. I'm not always sure where to draw the line between traditional and repressive. I'm not sure I am even capable of doing so. I am a product of my culture, good and bad. I don't think a philosophical response to a visceral emotional stimulus is even a good idea. I try and mitigate the worst of my culture. I was lucky enough to be raised without racism or other hateful influences in my home, so I don't need to raise my own children above that. My parents did that work for me. To what extent do I need to work on my gender bias?

I know I will love my kids no matter what they do, or how they choose to live. I will, when they are old enough, try and explain to them I am pushing them to be the best they can be, not necessarily what I or anyone else imagines they should be. I hope they'll understand that. I have nothing but love and respect for my parents, for all the work they did. They wanted me to be me, and even when they didn't get what I was doing or why, they loved me. I imagine my kids will see the same thing, and forgive me if I do make mistakes. I'm sure I will; I'm not perfect.

A funny story about how I talk to my kids: Viri and I were leaving the restroom at a public park, and he had been pretending to be a chicken all day. I got yelled at several times when I said his name. "I'm a chicken! Call me chicken!" So, as we passed this group of grandmothers, I urged him along, "Come on, chicken!" "I'm not a chicken!" he yelled. The grandma's scowled at me. Great, thanks Viri, now it sounds like I was mocking your cowardice! They think I'm a jerk!

Now when they hear me calling Arkaedi a pretty princess they're really going to hate me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family Dog Minus The Dog

We have the perfect living situation for a family with small children. We live beneath a family with a dog.

Her name is Gaia, and the kids absolutely adore her. We adore her too, in part because it means the kids get a dog to play with and talk about while we don't have to take walks and pick up excrement. I love dogs; but I do not have the time and energy to care for one right now. Strangely enough, it's what many think about kids. (Or should. There are a few parents I know who don't spend the time and energy, but have kids anyway. Which is sad. At least a neglected dog would bite them.)

For us, it's one of the big perks of living where we do. From the kids' perspective, I think it is the one big perk. (The other being the ability to check the mail. I have strange children.)

Families with children, I highly recommend finding a part time dog as we have. Perhaps families with dogs could also benefit from our example. I may just set up a dog/child housing swap, pairing needy puppies with boys to wrestle, needy lap dogs with girls to chase around the yard. Everyone wins!

I'll take a small percentage of the monthly rent. Everyone wins!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Whole Game

I like heroes. I'm happy to celebrate the idea of a person, to praise an act or event as heroic. I enjoy the fancy that people can be great, and rise above their problems, making the world a better place. I know it is rare, and even among those people who do inspire greatness there are flaws. But I like to have heroes.

There is a great article about Ken Griffey Jr. online, one of my baseball heroes. He is a perfect example for me, a hero is just a guy who plays a game well. He played well, got hurt, got old, and now he is on the verge of retirement. He is a hero to me, not because of anything spectacular or noble. He's just a person who sought to play a game perfectly, and nearly succeeded. He doesn't have any delusions that he is better than anyone, and there are some great quotes about how easy he had it compared to Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. And he did have it easier. But what makes a person great is how they act when given opportunities, their humility or sincerity in victory and defeat. A hero is the best at what they are. The best, forgive the cliche, them that they can be.

There are people whose moral and spiritual greatness outshines any ballplayer. I will point these people out to me children as models. There are leaders who inspire millions. But when my kids ask me how to act, how to just be a person, I'll think of people like Junior. Just go out there and do your best, smile, love what you are and what you do. You can't ask for anything more than that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Promises, Promises

I've been reading some interesting historical essays about Puritans lately. Seriously. I have been doing that.

It really explains a lot about America, in both good and bad ways. I have such a hard time expressing my feelings about this country, in a large part because any complaint about the United States gets translated into "I hate all good things," and you're forced to go on the run from lynch mobs on the one side, and joining a hippie pot protest on the other. (Okay, not really. But it feels like that sometimes.)

The Puritans, the original Massachusetts ones, were perfect examples of everything good and bad about this country. Perhaps, as some of my recent reading suggests, that is precisely because they have become these traits, the same ideas are being passed on, and we live in a flux between the ideals of Puritanism and opposing forces. I don't know, and I don't presume to guess. I'm not a historian, or an expert on the time period. But there is no denying that we see some of the same frustrations today, the polarization and the pathological individualism, that plagued the founding of the country.

The Puritans were not bad people, despite later attempts to paint them as such. They were idealistic, community minded, determined. These can be nice traits. When you look at the English colonial exploits in America and compare it to the Spanish and French, the Puritans look pretty good. They were less violent, more self governed, more interested in building their own society than simply filling the coffers of the church or crown. They weren't benevolent, especially by our 21st century standards, but they weren't that bad.

They believed in working hard, giving to the community. They opposed tributes to the crown, but not paying to keep the community afloat. I don't understand when modern people mean when they don't want to pay taxes or have health care. Isn't in our best interests if we do love our country that a certain, bare minimum level of public well being is achieved? We can argue particulars, of course, but do we have to argue the value of supporting each other and our own people?

The Puritans typified the ironic hypocrisy that frustrates so many Americans today; they were for religious freedom, and genuinely pursued that goal, while slowly growing more intolerant. They sought community, and founded solid social systems, while excluding everyone who didn't fit a narrow set of boundaries. It's the same strange paradox that we struggle to overcome today. "Love your country, dammit, but don't do anything that may have any slight social or cultural significance! That's UN-American!"

I want to love my country. In some ways, I really do. I mean I love a lot of the people. I love bluegrass and jazz. I love the land, and the beauty. I identify with the early Puritans, pushing away from England and looking for a new community of peers, spiritual and social. They turned to narrow doctrine and empty words before years had passed, and that has happened in a large part with the entire promise of America.

I'm an optimist. That doesn't mean I think everything is always great, or will be. But it does mean that I hold out hope that with intelligence and compassion, hard work and sincerity, it is possible for good things to happen. I don't know if I can wait for the promise of America to be met, but I'm willing to give it some time. I'm not totally closing the book on the country, despite the legacy of small minded people working against the best interests of the country. I'm also not sure, however, I can stand to read every page of the next few decades. Maybe I can cheat and skip to the denouement.

Oh wait, denouements are un-American. Damn.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Surely You Agree We Can Do Without Her?

Nature bothers me. I love nature. I enjoy being outdoors, seeing the view, smelling the fresh scents. I simply prefer, to the bafflement of my wife and peers, a sheet of glass between me, my warm coffee beverage, and solid oak furniture between me and the actual... you know... green stuff.

We went blueberry picking last week, and it was great fun. The kids loved it. We got a ton of fresh produce, and the kids got a lot of outside time. I try to spend as much time outside as I can, for the sake of the children. It's important to them, and their development. But I can't say I always like it. A part of me, maybe the part that grew up surrounded by more nature than coffee shops, really loves to spend time downtown, walking sidewalks and looking at buildings. I don't like the ugliness of our cities, I admit. They could be nicer. But I often wish for nicer buildings rather than more trees. I think my friends mostly wish for fewer buildings. It's a strange difference, but there it is. J dreams of fields of produce and trees, and I dream of fields from the view of a nice, environmentally built home downtown.

Don't get me wrong: I want to make more parks, save the greenspace. I know how important it is, to life and health of the planet. I'm not an anti-nature nutcase. I just don't need to be there. I support turning the entire country from Idaho to Maryland into a wildlife preserve, actually. (Congress? Get on that!) I just don't need to be there. Not every day. I really don't want to live there. An occasional visit, a trip with the kids, that would be lovely. Everyone will enjoy the unspoiled beauty, then I can pack up and go home to my dining room table, drinking tea. I'll be content that nature is out there, doing all right by herself.

Arkaedi and I spent the morning in Fremont, visiting the Flying Apron (Vegan!) Bakery, and it was perfect. I had a nice cup of coffee, Arkaedi watched people. It was lovely. She probably would have preferred a river, and some fields. I was content to sit on a sidewalk. I'm odd that way.

Space. The Final Frontier

The really unimaginable huge frontier.

Friday, August 14, 2009

She Makes Everything Cuter

We've had some time off this week, which means a lot of time with the kids. I really enjoy getting a chance to just watch my children interact. One advantage of having kids so close in age is seeing the familiarity and comfort with which they play. Viri feeds her from his plate without missing a beat, and she talks about him when he's in the other room.

Today she's at home with me while Mama and Viri are at the farm picking vegetables and riding tractors. She's rocking and singing a song about Mama and Viri. It's part of her magical ability to make everything cuter. We can just say the simplest thing, and she'll make it cute.

Viri was always interesting. He would say things funny, or strange. She says things cute. Right now she gathered up all of her trains, telling them each goodnight, and laying down to go to sleep. I told her goodnight and she blew me a kiss. She doesn't let up the cuteness for even a second. It is worth a trip to Seattle just to spend a few hours watching her be cute. "Papa kiss? Kiss me? Mama outside?" Everything is a cutely phrased question spoken at a pitch unimaginably high. Awesome.

Have a nice nap, Pretty. Wake up as cute as ever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hearts And Fests

We got some culture on yesterday, as me and the kid and the Jaime headed down to the Seattle Ratha-Yatra. Herc and Sarah did nice posts about them as well, I would read them. I'm not an expert on the Vaisnava path, certainly, but as I understand it the purpose of the festival is to get the deities out on the streets, so everyone can see them and be reminded of the Beloved. It was a small gathering for such things, but a really nice group.

One of the things I love about Seattle is the opportunity to expose my children to interesting ideas and people. The ratha-yatra, and the thousands of other little and big festivals and services in the city, give my kids the chance to learn that the world is a big place, with a diverse and wonderful population, all playing and working and worshiping in unique ways. The city is a human place, built by people, and it can really be a place that helps a person's perspective expand, with the right mindset.

Viri had an interesting response to the event. At first, he wasn't very interested, and he was ready to go home. When we got home, he crawled up in my lap. "Papa I was surprised when they played music so loud. I was scared. Then my heart jumped out of my chest. I liked it."

Well. I think that was exactly the point. Good job son.

I don't know how long we'll be in Seattle. We may even move to a small town next year. But I do think I have a responsibility to get my kids out there, learning and experiencing the world. No matter where I live, I will be attending festivals, driving to museums and parks, and giving my children the opportunity to explore the world. When they're old enough, they'll be off do grow on their own. For now, it's up to me to make their hearts jump out of their chests.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Brunch Has Conquered Us

The Vegan Brunch book, which I mentioned here already, and everyone should now have purchased and be cooking from, has given us another meal of joy and love.

Today was frittata and flannel hash. Which gave me the opportunity to have a lovely meal and also say odd things to my kids. ("Here Arkaedi just eat fruit, I'm going to eat your floor hash.") The next few weeks, with Jaime's time off and this book, I plan on gaining several hundred pounds. When I go to the gym I'm going to be on a strict work out routine, and instead of donut demons I will be fighting off the brunch faeries.

(Wait, brunch faeries sounds like something else. Nevermind. Brunch goblins?)

Either way, we have been captured. I, for one, welcome our new brunch overlords, and look forward to serving them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Waffles: Not Just A Vehicle For Butter And Syrup

My good friend Ryan sent us the most amazing cookbook. It's called Vegan Brunch, and it has the perfect late morning brunchables. As the Simpson said, it's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch. You don't get everything you'd get at breakfast but you get a good meal. I highly recommend brunch.

The book is by the authors of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, another must have recipe book. This picture is of J's vegan "omelette," filled with peppers and vegan sausage and covered in a lovely sauce. The sauce was so lovely, actually, that we made it and put it on everything for a week. J's making another batch for me tomorrow. It was quite a nice sauce.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Jaime

Fifteen years ago today I was walking down the aisle myself. Granted it was an outside aisle. And I didn't dance. Which everyone should be grateful for, I promise you.

Happy Anniversary, J. I love you more and more each day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

That Viri Is One Bad... Shut Your Mouth!

My kids had an amazing day. Arkaedi Sue was sweet and cute, talking up a storm about everything in one and two word phrases (Thank you, Papa, officially her first three word phrase, is amazing every time I hear it.) And carting around two babies. ("Babies eat? Babies milk? Thank you me.") Arkaedi now has said and done 1.46 trillion of the top 2 trillion cutest things in the history of the world. And these days she's doing it in pink shorts and an Ichiro cap. Perfection. Days like this remind me of how amazing my kids are and how much I love them.

We had a difficult kid at the daycare today. As in, biting kicking fighting difficult. (He was also the first kid under five I've ever heard call someone names. Names like 'poop-head' but still. How does he learn verbal insults? I've dealt with hundreds of kids and never heard that from a 4 year old.) Viri was the defender of the downtrodden. Viri stood up to him, protecting the other kids when he hit or bit. He told me once that he was going to stop him from being mean. "I'm going to tell him stop hitting or throwing things. And if he does it again I'll stop him." Keep in mind this is a kid much older, if only slightly bigger, than Viri.

What impressed me was that A) Viri never resorted to violence himself, short of one exasperated shake of his hands at the boy, and B) Viri seriously did not back down. Once, the boy was charging, screaming at Viri, and Viri planted his back foot and stuck out his arms, letting the boy run into him. It was as though the boy had hit a wall. And Viri didn't hit, or bite, or anything. He just held him there until he backed away. Then, he said, "I'm not going to play with you. I'm a little scared of you." You and me both, son.

It was a long hot day, and tomorrow J begins the three day board exam trial. It was nice to have a sign that we're on the right parenting track. I'm making mistakes, sure, but when push quite literally comes to shove my kids are alright. And that's at 3 and 1. Good job kids.