Monday, January 31, 2005

Update on Dad and Andrew

Andrew and Dean got home at 4:10 am. The next day Andrew was upset, as would be expected. The story (from both boys and at least 3 witnesses) is that they were just playing around and the teachers overreacted. The teacher that saw them is not known for being very understanding. I am not at all fond of him. We didn't punish Andrew because we think he was punished enough. I even got an email this morning from a mom whose two kids were on the ski trip. She said,

" I also wanted to tell you how upset Julia and Will were about the incident on the Pyle ski trip. While Julia didn't actually see what happened, Will said he wasn't really watching closely but he had the impression that Andrew and Sam were just fooling around. I don't know why I'm writing, except that I, too, felt upset that the teachers couldn't handle the kids' high spirits-particularly after a few hours sitting and waiting in McDonalds. Sam and Andrew are such good kids. I'm sorry that the trip turned into such a bad experience for them."

Dad is still in the hospital. One of the tests showed blood on his brain. This could be from lots of things, including stroke, the fall, cancer in some part of his body, or taking too many blood thinners. A doctor went to his room and asked him questions that sounded like a memory test (short term) and my dad failed it. He also didn't know the date, but said it was because he didn't have his watch on.

I called and talked to him yesterday evening and he was in very high spirits. I would almost call him giddy. He has always been gregarious, but lately he has not seen people much, for a variety of reasons. He doesn't wash, so people don't want to be around him. He apologized again for what happened this summer when he stuck Clare. I wonder if he has been worrying about it. I apologized for lashing out at him for it. It was not a good summer.

Ooooh cool

I made it into Neil Gaiman's online journal.

Here is what I said and his response.

In doing a search on the Narnia action figures by Gentle Giant Studios I saw that they are also doing Mirrormask action figures. I have only been reading your journal for a couple of months, so if you mentioned this, I missed it. am a brand new Neil Gaiman fan after hearing Coraline on a long car trip.)Dona

Not sure they've been mentioned for a while. So yes, Dark Horse are doing MirrorMask models (the ones in the pictures are early prototypes.)

Friday, January 28, 2005

The men in my life

A few months ago my son signed up for a ski trip with his school's rec club. The trip is this weekend. My son had to be at school at 7:15 to get all of his gear to school before the other kids arrived. They left for the slopes just after school today.

About an hour ago the teacher leading the ski trip called and said that we had to come up to get Andrew because Andrew was in a fist fight with another boy. This boy is a wrestler on Andrew's team and what probably happened was that they got to horsing around/wrestling and it got out of hand.

My husband is on his way to get Andrew. He is riding up with the father of the other boy, with whom we are friends.

Just before my husband left I got a text message from my mom and dad's next door neighbor saying that my dad fell and cut his head. I called the neighbor's cell phone and discovered they had all been at the hospital for the past two and a half hours.

I guess that my dad tripped and fell and cut his head open. My mom had a couple of beers and didn't think she should drive so she called the neighbor (who does not have a license) whose girlfriend drove them all to the hospital. The hospital is keeping my dad because his blood pressure is unusually low. They took xrays of his shoulder as well. He is on oxygen too.

My son and my father, both in trouble in different ways. Maybe this happened with my dad so I would realize how trivial the issue is with my son in the big picture. My son's problem will be an anecdote in his life, told at some point with humor. Whereas my dad's problem will never be told with humor.

They both are scared in their own way, Andrew about the consequences he knows he will face and Dad about...well maybe about the same thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The one that got away or "We'll Always have London"

Sometimes obsessions are good things, other times they just nag and nag at you until you do something stupid. This post is about something stupid I did because of an obsession.

Because I was planning marrying an Englishman, I did my student teaching in London. I planned on spending Christmas in Yorkshire with my fiance before heading down to London in January. Things had happened the autumn before I left for England and my fiance and I broke up just before Christmas leaving me a free agent for my three months in London. I was young and unattached for the first time in four years.

I met T one of the first nights at Southlands College in London. He was from the States as well. Actually he was from the town where my university was located (his father was a minister at a local church there). He attended a different University however. I remember thinking that T looked like one of the cooks at the restaurant where I worked and who I had kind of dated the month before. (Yes, I know I was engaged at the time - I said things happened!).

Anyway, back to T. T was the one all the girls wanted, both British and American. He was funny and cute and smart. His best friend was George and George liked my friend, Candy. We would eat dinner together in the food hall and then all have tea in someone's room. I must have discussed liking T with Candy at some point because one evening we went back to George and T's dorm after being out at a pub in London. We all ended up in T's room (no one shared rooms at this university) and suddenly Candy and George were gone. I went to follow them and they told me to go back to T's room because they wanted to be alone. I was upset, thinking that our fun evening was over, but then T said, "Come here" and kissed me. I was pretty surprised because I had never expected to "get the guy" that everyone wanted. After that, T and I spent a lot of time together.

One night we had tickets to see the London Symphony (or was it the Royal Symphony?) at the Royal Albert Hall. That afternoon, Marnie, one of the other American girls at Southlands asked me if I wanted to go with her to see Cheap Trick. Her cousin was the drummer and she had backstage passes and an invitation to an after the show party. I declined since I was going to the symphony with T. (yes I have kicked myself several times for not going with Marnie instead). T and I showed up late for the symphony and ended up going to a pub called "The Sherlock Holmes" . We had a good time that night.

Another night I remember was the "Fancy Dress Three-legged Pub Crawl" for charity. I don't remember what charity we got drunk for, but it was a memorable night. We got pledges from others to pay for each shot or pint we drank in each of several pubs. We dressed up in costume and were tied to a partner by one of our legs. T and I dressed up as Ugly Americans and came in last. (Did I mention it was also a race?).

T, Dona and Bob (aka the jolly green giant) during the 3-legged Fancy dress pub crawl.

I mostly remember getting drunk a lot and having the time of my life those three months in London. During that time, I fully expected that T and I would continue to date once he went back to the states. One night, not long before I was to leave he pretty much told me that was not going to be the case, that what we had in London was great, but that once we were back in the US we would not date. We might see each other again, but not as a couple.

I left in March of 1979 and we wrote back and forth once or twice. He ended up staying an extra year and once there was talk of a reunion. It may have happened. I don't know, but I was not there.

After all these years you'd think I'd get over it. I'm married and have great children and a happy life. I think what bothers me most is that I wasn't good enough for him.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Talking with my son

Several years ago a friend recommended I read the book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I kept on forgetting the name of the book and authors and never got around to reading it.

At book group the other evening another friend recommended Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by the same authors.

I was let loose at Barnes and Noble a few nights ago and ended up purchasing both of these books. I wish I had read the first one many years ago.

Earlier in the week I left the books on the dining room table, quite by accident. My son picked up the first one and wondered why I got it. Then several times afterwards he looked at me suspiciously when I spoke to him, asking, "Did they tell you to say that in the book?" I was never trying to follow the advice, in fact had not really read much of the book until two days ago.

Last night I did begin to use some techniques from the book:

Andrew had been banned from using his video games, television and computer for a minor infraction earlier in the evening. He was bored and plopped himself on the office floor, wrapped in blankets. I turned off the computer and looked at him and said that it seemed as if he was upset about something. He agreed with me and I used the "Oh", "Ummmmm" and active listening techniques. I said very little and he went on and on. After a while he remarked, "See, dad and I could never have a talk like this". I stupidly said, "I guess he should read the book," and Andrew seemed appalled that I was using the book techniques. I jokingly said, "You seem upset about that" and he said that it was not me and he likes me so quit using the book. He put the blanket over his head. So I did the only thing that made any sense. I got on the floor and got under the blanket with him. He asked me if the book also said to make a tent with your child and talk under the tent. I assured him the book didn't tell me to do that, or at least I had not gotten to it yet. We both had a good laugh and went on to have a nice talk about lots of things including the cool way your face looked all orangey red when you shone a flashlight in your mouth in the dark.

I do wish I had read this book when Michele told me about it in the last millennium. Perhaps it would have made a difference. I hope it is not too late now though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Grandpa's Poem

Poem written by Grandpa Green on the event of my birth. Posted by Hello

My Grandpa Green was an avid reader, loved solving crossword puzzles and wrote bad poetry. Here is a copy of a poem I found in his Wisconsin cabin after his death. My mom never really liked it as it hinted that she and my father might have actually had sex. I guess it was because it was her father writing about it that bothered her.

I guess he wrote it before he knew my parents had used creative spelling for my first name (Dona). I was named after my uncle Donald Leroy, but that is another post topic. Anyway in the poem he has written my name as Donna but x'ed out the second n in both instances.

The poem is hard to read in the picture, so here it is in html:

To Donna Lee - My First Grandchild

Broadcast it to the Universe
So to all it may be heard,
That Donna Lee Patrick arrived
On August twenty-third.
From fooling around
Between Patsy and Elvin.
They received a wee bundle,
Straight from Heaven.
Her Dad asked for a boy,
But it was not
He could readily tell 'cause
It had a ----- pink bootie
Her eyes are brown and
So is her hair.
When she arrived there was
An inch of it there.
She is very tiny
But so is her mother.
Now try again
So she can have a brother.
(Walter Tyler Green)

Popularity - Part I

I know from experience that popularity is a driving force in adolescence. I was not popular in junior or senior high school and even today have bad memories of those who were. But this post is not about me and my experiences. It is about my middle school children and their experiences.

My 13 year old daughter uses the word "popular" at least once a day. She is not popular. She would not mind being popular. She won't wear certain clothes because popular people wear them and she would be a poser if she wore them. She won't wear her hair in certain styles for the same reason. One of the first topics of conversation she has with her Illinois cousins each time she sees them is popularity. It seems her cousins are popular. Her best friend from elementary school is popular, or at least knows a lot of popular kids. That makes my daughter no longer such good friends with this girl.

My 12 year old son seems to be popular. His sister says he is. He seems to think he is. Popular people do not use Chap Stick®. My son has chapped lips. His bottom lip has a crack that looks very painful. I suggested he take a tube of Chap Stick® to school today and put it in his pants pocket. He looked at me as if I just suggested he go to school nude. Then I recalled a conversation my daughter and I had about, you guessed it, popularity (and Chap Stick®):

DAUGHTER: I like lip gloss.
ME: Not me, I like Chap Stick®.
DAUGHTER: Only people who want to be like Napoleon Dynamite use Chap Stick®.
ME: What about boys? What if a boy has chapped lips?
DAUGHTER: They lick their lips. No one but nerds use Chap Stick®.
ME: Oh. That is stupid.

So my son is at school today with a painful crack in his lip because he refuses to use something that will help but is "social suicide".

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Mr. Tumnus and Charlie Fink

Lisa Snelling's Charlie Fink reminds me of a plaster sculpture I had in my yard for years until he finally disintegrated from rain and weather. He used to be a statue of a faun or satyr. I called him Mr. Tumnus. My dad called him Mr. Numbnuts. I bought him at K-Mart for $10 when I was a teenager. Recently I found him again on the Internet, but he was much more than $10. Now that I have a lamp post in my yard I could do with a faun.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Neil Gaiman

In October my daughter and I attended (actually, I worked and she pouted) the National Book Fair on the Mall in Washington DC. I worked in the children and teens and children pavilions but never got to walk around to the other ones. Next year I plan on not working, just enjoying.

On the way out I allowed Clare to look in the Book Sales tent. When she was finished she mentioned that she wanted a book called Coraline. She had heard of it from a friend. A few weeks later she was at a book store and we tried to buy the book but it was not in stock. The book store sales person wrote down the name of the author, Neil Gaiman. I looked him up online, but didn't buy the book. I did suggest to people that they give it to her for Christmas though.

We like to listen to books on tape on long car trips, so this time I checked out from the library the audio version of Coraline read by the author. We all found it to be delightful and I made a note to pick up more of his books when I had a chance.

The other day I bought myself Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of short stories by Gaiman and Good Omens, a novel written with Terry Pratchett. I began reading Smoke and Mirrors the night I got it and am in love with the writing. I wrote the following on 100 words:

January Batch - 13

Sometimes, discovering a new author is like falling in love. If that is the case then I must be in love with Neil Gaiman*. His writing is so refreshing and readable that I cannot seem to get enough of it. We listened to his Coraline on the drive to Illinois and I recently bought myself two of his books, Smoke and Mirrors and Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett. Something about his writing, his voice, tickles my insides and makes me feel good all over.

*Of course I am not really in love with Mr. Gaiman -- just with his writing.

What I like about Gaiman is mostly his humor. He writes in a style that is amusing and clever and intelligent. Another reason I like him is his accessibility. He has a journal on his site that he updates regularly. Recently someone wrote him and asked about literary agents. He answered her in depth on his blog so she and anyone else interested in the subject could learn from him and his experiences.

I hope someday to see him on tour. Had I known of him, I could have seen him in October when he was at the very book fair where I worked in the science fiction and fantasy pavilion. Until then I will just have to watch the cybercast (click on Neil Gaiman under Science Fiction and Fantasy and wait for the real player popup) instead.