Monday, March 28, 2011


Elena and I are having a thing. It's a math homework issue. She can't "get" money. And I can't "get" that she can't "get" money. It's so incredible frustrating for me, I hear my voice raising to fevered tone. I get all pitchy and whiny. I hate the way I sound. I find myself gesturing, very Italian-like with thumbs and fingers outstretched and spread emphatically to make their mathmatical point. JUST.DOESN'T.GET.IT.

Tonight, we had the frustrating exercise of doing the same problem a couple of times over to practice, repetition being the best way to perfect a skill. Every time was like the first. I could feel the tension rising up my scalp. I could sense the tears ready to spring forth from her ducts...and mine for that matter. And then, looking at her little upturned countenance, I had a flashback. The flashback was to me, in first grade, trying to understand the precursor to multiplication, groups of.

Mom was on her knees beside me on the rust (oh so Seventies) colored carpet of our downstairs playroom. She had the poker chips out and was making little piles of two or three or four. She was grouping chips in piles and then making multiple piles. She was using the term groups of. I did not hear groups of, I hear something else. Here is how it sounded to me...

Mom: "See Kristen, 4 little piles of 3 in each...4 grupsuf 3 equals....................."

Me, whilst staring at her completely blankly: "Um...3? 4? I don't know..."

Mom: No, no...see, pointing gently to the four little piles, "4 GRUPSUF 3"

Me: "What is GRUPSUF???"

I can literally remember the frustration and the knots I had in my stomach as she tried to teach me something I know she thought was simple. I could tell she thought I SHOULD be getting it. I wanted to get it. I was busy freaking out and constructing a large concrete mental block with the word GRUPSUF scribed across it.

Now I know why people hire tutors, so they don't have to have contentious relationships with their children over homework. So that these types of mental blocks are less apt to turn into family power struggles and so that parents can avoid completely freaking out that their kids are completely dense.

Ironically, my mother is now a tutor, dealing with everybody else's frustrated kids.
And, I am in sales and use math every day, although I still cannot say I use "grupsuf" all that often.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Back when I was married, all those many years ago, Patrick and I used to play a little game we made up called DOLS. When we were driving behind a car that was driving ridiculously slowly or weaving or careening off the road, we would call it...
D - Drunk
O - Old
L - Lost
S - Stupid

Then, if at all possible, we would try to catch up to the driver of the car to have our bet confirmed...many a losing moan was followed by, "Shoot! Blue hairs! I really thought they were drunk."

As of late, I feel compelled to add a new letter to the game. It's now become DOLTS
D - Drunk
O - Old
L - Lost
T - Technology Device
S - Stupid

It has become a frequent occurence to pull up beside a person weaving while texting on their iPhone or driving 12 mph while they set their GPS. Tonight, I thought for sure I had a confirmed D or T sighting. The Subaru in front of me nearly glided into the guard rail while entering the highway. When I was able to catch up, I noticed it was a middlish-aged fellow with a bird cage on the seat beside him. Unless that is a new form of car seat with which I am unfamiliar, I am going to have to consider myself a loser of that bet...I'm calling him S for safely people, there are DOLTS all around us.

What if Life had a Like Button

Imagine if you will, a world where strangers randomly "liked" things each other were doing. When people stopped for you in a parking lot, or were patient in waiting for you to vacate a parking spot as you buckled two kids into car seats, LIKE. If someone drove by with one of your favorite songs blaring, LIKE. This simple action of liking each other, with no "dislike" button attached, could boost so many self-esteems each day. It reminds me of this old You Tube ditty I loved when it first came out...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Message from God

There is an app on Facebook that generates feel good messages "from God." Clearly, I don't believe God is speaking to me through Facebook, nor do I believe God speaks to us in words (outside of our own heads) except for the Bible...but, I did find my message today disappointing. In case you can't read it, it says the app is on pause...Apparently God stepped out for a coffee...If God were REALLY talking to us, would there ever be a system failure?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mandies and Jennies

Spring! 2011 055, originally uploaded by Kikigill.

Close your eyes and go on a little trip with me...

It's 1982, early one morning and Sister Casey, who would've just turned 6 and I, 11 (almost 12, which is embarassing considering the story I am about to tell) would wake up and amuse ourselves, as we had done for the last four or so years playing together. During this time, we played with dolls.

"Wanna play Mandies and Jennies?" One of use would say and we would be off. Mandy, the blonde on the left, was mine. She and Jenny, the dark-haired sprite on the right were twins. Sasha, in the middle, also mine, was the "older teenage sister." (Of course I should have realized I was only a couple of years from being the "older teenage sister" myself and opted to play Intellivision instead, but oh well).

There were often pregnancies and births. There was a mom and a dad. They were weird cloth dolls that didn't "fit" exactly, but we made do. The mother was always having twins or triplets and often Sasha was pregnant at the same time. She was loose a teenager...just couldn't keep it in her pants. Little harlot!

Recently, I made mention of it to my mother and she told me how she used to hate that game...How it turned every room in the house upside. Now, my memories may be colored by many things, but I do remember how completely elaborate the scenery and sets for these guys were. Beds made out of fifteen washcloths wrapped in a pillowcase. Kitchens where we prepared "real" food products. Just to emphasize the scope of elaborate and why this game might have messed up every room, look closely in the picture above. See the socks Sasha is wearing? Yup. I sewed them for her.

Do We All Have SADS?

I know I am prone to be a cantankerous wretch in the PMS gets worse, my interest in socializing, unless it's with the covers of my bed or my computer, drops to nil. However, I wasn't aware of how much this impacted all of us. Spring is in the air today and almost every Facebook status smacks of it:

"I saw the first crocus of the season. Wahoo spring!"

"Happy Friday!!! :) It feels like summer outside! So now it feels like I should be on summer vacation"

"feeling like I won the lottery today. gorgeous spring day"

"Didn't realize it was going to be this beautiful out!!!! Gotta get dressed and go out with the girls!!!!"

"What an awesome day! It's going to reach 70 degrees! Woohoo!"

"Oh, what a beautiful morning..."

What do you think?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Tonight I told Grandmommy about my memories of the button box and Liam got his box out to show her how fun buttons could be (which of course she was old hat at!). "Let's play a game, Mommy, with these buttons!" "Look at this one! Isn't it so pretty!" Grandmommy, the sneak that she is, went and produced her button box. The one! The only! The star of this morning's blog.

It turns out it is a handpainted tin that was given to her Christmas of 1948 by her godmother, Tat. We know this because it has her name inscribed on the top and Tat's signature on the bottom with a little evergreen bough...all handpainted. There is also a hand-sewn liner made of lovely paisley fabric. The buttons still hold interest, to the youngest generations, to me, and to her.

Grandmommy's Button Box and Grandma's Trinkets

When I was a little kid, I was full of energy. I should have probably even written that sentence like this...When I was a little kid, I had A LOT OF ENERGY! Anyhow, I remember spending a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfathers would run me like a puppy...Grandfather let me ride in the little trailer behind his lawn mowing tractor letting me get showered by the grass confetti. Grandpa worked me in his garden, snapping peas, digging trenches...they treated me a bit like a grandson, but I loved every minute of it. I was calm when I was engaged in a project. Heck, I'm still like that! The grandmothers knew this trick as well, but their projects were different. They taught me to thread a needle, embroider at a young age using a burlap patch, sew on a sewing machine, and help hanging the laundry. But, at times when they wanted to shower or grab a tiny bit of down time, they each had a special little collection. I knew where it was. I could go and get it and play with it.

Grandma had a funny little white cardboard box, the kind a cheap bracelet might come in at Macy's, with two rubber bands crossed around it like a package. Inside was the most delightful collection of tiny little plastic animals. Tiny little monkeys, giraffes, and elephants in pink, orange and yellow translucent plastic. I thought they were treasures. Toys! Like Cracker Jack prizes! At the time, I had no way of knowing that they had been carefully saved from fruity drinks over the years. Each animal was once a drink marker, but now made one grandchild very, very quiet in play. I particularly remember these being the animals that would come out when Grandma needed a shower, which was perfect because my interest in them would last about the duration of one good, long hot relaxing shower. After five kids, Grandma must have learned a trick or two.

Grandmommy, my mom's mother, had a dusty, black tin full of buttons. She knew a trick or two, too. Just the miserly feeling of running my hands through the button piles made me feel rich. I would spend hours sorting and categorizing. Choosing some as favorites, casting others off as worthless...old shirt buttons in plain white for example. I bet, to this day, if I were to pick up this button box, I would be able to remember exactly which were my favorites and why. To be a really good button, you had to have some glitz, be bigger than the others, or look like candy.

Last weekend, on a lark, I picked up a wooden box and plastic bag of buttons at the craft store for my kids. As always, I spent way too much at the craft store. The buttons and button box totalled $7.00 at most. It is BY FAR the favorite purchase of that day. I got a bunch of projects to do, but we still haven't even cracked them. After days, the button box continues to amuse. I'm just glad the button box can hold a candle to the Wii and DS.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blog from the Past

I just found this "offline blog" I wrote on my computer while traveling. Funny, never actually blogged about any of these things I don't think.

It’s amazing how much less creative I am when I am offline blogging. I know I am a Praise Junkie (PJ), so maybe it’s the promise of connectivity that spurs me on? Maybe having a virtual audience makes me perform better? Who knows? All I know is that I am sitting here in Laguardia Airport, trying to find my writing mind. The thoughts are there, up there in the white space on my mind. I just seem to be having trouble getting them out. It’s kind of a constipating feeling.

So, instead of a well-formed, interesting blog, I will tell you all the ideas for blogs I have had in the last week. “But you have been blogging in the last week!” You interrupt to protest.

To that I would respond, “You’re right, my reader, I have been. But not BIG blogs. Big Sky thinking. No, just little stories of silly things the kids said or the digger I took where I ended up with mayonnaise on my face.”

In the last week, I have been thinking about blogging about:

1)Teenagers, the use of “like” and imprecision of speech at that age. Is it a mask behind which they hide? Do people actually get more and more precise with their descriptions and speech as they mature?
2)Boys who love trains, trucks and vehicles vs. those who love balls. Does the preference, as my mother predicts, mean something about their future personalities? Ball lovers being inclined towards extroversion and vehicle lovers being quieter, introspective types?
3)Overload of choice. I have been reading some articles recently about how overloaded we are as consumers by choices. Studies have shown that when the choices become too voluminous, we shut down. The complexity of choices overwhelm us and we rebel, deciding to not make a decision at all.
4)The ridiculousness of the word “green” and how it is woven into every ad campaign, new product development process, and pitch. People say 2008 will be known as the “green” year. This strikes me as completely inane. I believe strongly in the cause, but this beating a dead horse is getting so irritating. Yesterday, I saw a vodka advertised as green. I ask you, how is one vodka any greener than another? OK, sure, there are some corporate practices that could “help” one vodka to be greener, but this one had no good reason. How about financial institutions, banks and the like? Money is green. I think that’s where it ends.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sometimes It's the Littlest Things...

Knock, knock...there was a rap on the door at 7:00 tonight. In bounds a friendly dog who immediately starts sniffing the place out. I don't blame the young man who brought the dog up to our door step for thinking he had found the dog's family by the smiling, happy face on the dog. Even my children seemed in on the charade, scrubbing the dog behind the ears as if they had known him for years. Chasing him around with squeals of laughter. But no, I assured the 22 year-old looking guy now standing in my kitchen, this was not my lost dog.
Clearly, this was SOMEBODY'S dog though. He was well fed (fat) and had a nice collar and tag. He was certainly one point he almost jumped into my arms while smiling. He was jubilant. He was a blessing. So what if it took the kids an hour to calm down. It was worth it. Every doggy hair on my sweater and every sweet lick on my face.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Hedge Maze Theory of Parenting (a reprise)

I recently read this FABULOUS Psychology Today article and am reprising an old blog on the same topic. Love that we use terms like "sanitized childhoods" and "helicopter parenting" to describe the latest parenting fad. Look at this brilliance:

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

"Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."

And, then the KikiGill theory:
Imagine if you will, our lives like a maze - a very complex hedge maze (you know the kind where you might wander around for hours hitting dead end after dead end). Then imagine if you already have mapped a good part of the maze yourself. You know where there are dead ends and false starts. There are certain ways you just know won't work.

Now, imagine seeing someone we love, struggling with a part of the maze that we have often struggled with ourselves. Don't we want to shout at them, "Hey, that's a dead end down there!" or "Turn around, you're heading nowhere?" Of course we do, it is natural. We want them to know what we know and offer them shortcuts through their life. If we could, we might just take a big mower and mow a path right through the center of the maze for them so it will be easy for them to find the other side.

As parents, we have to remember that it is our children's job to learn that maze themselves. We have to keep them safe and clothed, fed and loved, but we cannot make them go or stop at will. In fact, part of that hedge maze for them is learning to escape their parents' grasp. When they are little, they might duck out of sight for just a moment and they might come running back to the beginning to kiss us or tell us about their day. However, as they grow up, they may hide for days in that maze. We have to let them go and trust that, when they come out the other side, they will be smarter and more adept at "life" for it!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo...
Catch a tiger by the toe...

Remember when all the problems of your world could be solved by this rhyme? It was unquestioned by all involved. It was unequivocal. It was just easier then back in the day, when I was small. "Awww man! I am NOT it. BUMMER!"

Why do I bring this up? Tonight, I told the kids I had had enough of them going to bed in a sea of stuffed animals and they had to choose four stuffed animals with whom to sleep. As tough decisions came up, I heard Elena muttering softly..."If he hollers, let him go...Dolphin gets to sleep with us!"

Now, I am imagining if the great powers of the world used such a system. Millions of dollars in summits, accords, peace talks and treaties saved by Palestine and Israel and the USA. Hey, it works on playgrounds!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Can You Imagine What He's Imagining?

In the car today after dropping sister off at school.

ME: "Liam, pretty soon you'll be coming to Elena's school for Kindergarten registration!"

Liam: "Yeah, I know! I heard kids at school talking about getting their registration packets in the mail."

ME: "Yup, and when you go, you get to take an assessment test"

Liam: "What's that?"

ME: "Well, you'll sit with a teacher and do some math and some reading and some..."

Liam: "...Talking?" (then muttering) talk talk talk, I can talk talk talk....

ME: "Well, yes, talking, too."

Liam: "OH GREAT! I LOVE TALKING!" Then it's quiet for a few seconds, followed by, "And I might have to jump over something really high and I might win?"

ME: "Well, maybe. I don't remember my Kindergarten registration."