Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's in a name?

I have seen some crazy names in my time. Every year, I had at least 3 other Jennifers in my class. This meant some years I had to go by Jenny, sometimes Jennifer, sometimes Jen M.  I decided early on that when I had kids, they wouldn't have any name that was too popular.  My search for nonstandard names led to a lot of analysis over what makes good names. First and foremost I have to like it. It has to be pretty easy to recognize and pronounce. It has to have a strong meaning- whether that is it's traditional meaning or the meaning it has for us. Finally, it cannot provide easy fodder for children to make fun of them. I had Ciara's name picked out in college. Unfortunately, not too many celts live in the south, or west, where we were- so we fiddled with the spelling. She became Kiera, our little dark haired one. It fit her. 

Phillip was fairly easy, the biggest problem was when we found out he wasn't a Kiera. Of course we could have named him Kieran, but Kiera was my girl's name, I didn't want to use it in case we had a girl later. Plus that would get really confusing when I was calling them for dinner, or when someone asked for them on the phone.  Had I known then that I would forever be calling my children by the other kids' names- I wouldn't have fretted so much over names sounding too similar. Why not alleviate all confusion and just use the same name? Plus I like the name Phillip- It's convenient when I need gas in the car- or a screwdriver- and nowadays I have the littler ones asking why daddy and Phillip get their name on the TV and Kiera wants to know why they forgot an 'L'. 

Then I had my 3rd pregnancy. I found out I was far too tired and busy to fret over whether a name was too popular. We had a neighbor with a Lily and I loved the sound of it. Our wedding flowers-all 12 of them- were lilies. Stargazer lilies, my favorite. Who woulda figured we would end up with a Tiger Lily?  I love feminine sounding names. I never have been into frilly, lacey, bowy things, but for my girls names I like girly. I lived through the trendy periods of unisex names and creatively spelled standard names. I lived through- Is that Gennifer with a G? No actually it's a silent Q in front of the J. 

But then there was the 4th pregnancy. My creative resources for girls' names had been exhausted. We had no short list. The lists had all been crossed out the year before. We had no choice but to depart with disyllabic names. I didn't even take the time to check the top 10 names of the year, I liked Isabella. Apparently most moms that year did too. We could call her Bella for short, we learned that often times names fit children- you can't go wrong with a name that means beautiful. There must be a hidden meaning lost generations ago....perhaps..beautiful but clumsy...or pesky beauty.

Today we had parent teacher conferences. Had I half a brain when I was pregnant- I would have asked my teacher friends for the perfect name. They probably would have told me that Lily's are intelligent, inquisitive, and have a stubborn streak. Bella's are quiet but constantly challenging boundaries. We learned that Phillip doesn't really love horses- but that he has inherited his father's quick wit and general likeability. As usual he is doing fine in school and has the appropriate motivation. Kiera has shown much improvement. We are trying to find different approaches to help her process and learn with minimal frustration for everyone. She's still struggling in the standards based curriculum, and I think neither the test nor the standards adequately reflect  or enhance her learning. Either way- I will stay the course and hopefully give her skills she will need to succeed.  I was slightly concerned though after our meeting with Phillip's teacher. Kiera and the other girls had been quietly coloring at desks. Apparently one of the girls "borrowed" a pen out of one of the desks. Kiera quickly commandeered the pen to point out her sibling's shenanigans and absolve herself of any blame. We had run long in our conference and I wanted to return the pen to the correct desk and depart. Kiera offers up the pen and says it has a name on it, but it's just letters. Great. Apparently Kiera took all this visual processing difficulty we discussed about her to heart.  Phil takes the pen- "huh, it's not a name, it just has Abcde written on it."  Phillip and his teacher in unison say "oh that's Abcde(Absidee)'s" and point to the correct desk. Not in all of my name quests did I think to just write down the first 5 letters of the alphabet.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fluid Movements

Nothing says fun to me like an afternoon at the mall with 4 monkeys. Except maybe a root canal with a colonoscopy chaser. Even with my stronger, more patient partner leading the pack, it requires mental fortitude to keep everyone focused and on task. Generally I end up with a headache and by the time I get to the car, I realize I have forgotten the one thing that I needed and have somehow acquired many things that I don't need. That and apparently my children have restroom proximity sensors and when we get to the furthest possible point from any available restroom, they suddenly have full bladders.

 Phillip is back in basketball. His first game was today. We got everyone all packed up and ready to go. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it- but the game time call was good. The past two days I've struggled with a migrainish headache and some tummy trouble. I have a fairly sensitive system so it's always hard to say if it's just something I've eaten or a little virus. If no one else has any trouble within a day or two, I just assume it's me.  After 2 pieces of toast this morning- there was no reappearance or dramatic exit- so I cleared myself off for a public outing.

The game was rather short. We were all quite surprised- about 20 minutes of play. Entertaining, but kinda left me feeling like- I showered for this? Don't get me wrong- I love to shower. I would shower daily, twice daily if I could. But quite frankly with four kiddos it's like the laundry- as soon as I get clean, someone wipes their nose all over me and I'm all gross again. Like at basketball games. We visit the potty no less than 3 times, they roll around on the bleachers and then climb all over me. Ew.

We all hop back in the van and Phil starts suggesting follow-on activities we could engage in. Movie? nah. Need anything from the mall? Yeah I could use some of that new fandangled  foundation/sunscreen/mousturizer stuff a friend recommended. I wish I would have worn more comfy shoes. Which mall? I don't care. By the time I look up we have already passed the exit for the mall closest to our house- it wasn't a question- we were on a mission- we're goin downtown.  Half way there the troops are getting restless. The post game juices they had have worked their way through. Bella is doing the potty hop in her carseat when traffic somes to a standstill.  wow- this is fun, I smile at my beloved who reads my mind. Why'd you let them have juice in the car? Because beloved, when I GAVE them juice- we were 10 minutes from home and we had not formulated the 40 minute car trip plan. I get my sardonic smile right back as he starts distracting them by pointing out random things like radio towers.

We make it to the mall and I grab the children most likely to sprout leaks and make a beeline to the nearest potty. As we work our way back through the mall, the kids are fluttering here and there. This is not fun. This is merely an exercise in how many times I can apologize to complete strangers for my children running into them while a perfectly good stroller sits empty. They need to get out and learn to behave in public, Phil tells me. No, not really- I think- they need to be caged and admission charged to see them. If they can manage not to erupt into total chaos- they will be rewarded with a trip to the arcade. Oh goodie gumdrops. Nothing brings about the migraine I've successfully been fending off like flashing lights, noise and errant children. Fortunately the arcade has industrial sized containers of antibacterial at every turn.  We play skee ball- at which, I rock. Lily throws a fit because hers isn't giving her as many tickets as mine. Phil points out that the goal is to get the balls in the holes, not on top of the net. I find that to be exceptionally amusing. Lily does not- I slowly back away from the explosive situation to locate Bella who is patiently waiting on the carousel for coins. She rides it 3 times and runs to me holding her stomach. I can understand, I want to puke just watching the thing. On cue, she holds her hands up and starts to puke. I don't know what error in the mommy gene causes this- but I cup my hands, not UNDER hers- but over so she can puke directly into my hands as opposed to just catching the overflow. Nice. This is nice. The 16 year old behind the ticket counter looks at me perplexed. Sadly enough this is not the first time I have been in this position and unfortunately it will probably not be my last. I calmly ask for paper towels and he nods like I had just explained the theory of relativity. I sense he wants to pretend the episode did not just happen, which I would love to oblige save for the handfuls of puke that I wish to no longer hold onto. I clean up the mess and empty about half the container of antibacterial over my hands and look for Bella, who is perched back on the darn carousel holding out her moist little hand for more coins. Phil and the other 3 meet up with us and I explain what just transpired. He shrugs- I guess it's time to go. Yep. Out we go. I don't want the kids puking, but I feel vindicated- this headache wasn't all in my head. It was probably some bug.Hopefully the others don't get it.  Halfway to the door he stops- you feel more like buffalo wings or cheeseburgers? If my eyeballs could have reached out of their sockets and whipped him- they would have. I shrug and point to Bella- who is hopping up and down chanting- I'm hungry, I'm hungry. It was dinner time. What's the worst that could happen? I could get puked on. Been There Done That, allright let's go. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

A dream.

When Phil and I started dating, it was well after we became friends. I never really thought about his skin color much, except for the fact that it was the absolute perfect color.  I know my parents worried, not about him or whether or not his skin was in fact the perfect color, but over the difficulties that would pose for me. Difficulties that would be brought about by narrow minded fools who litter our world. Yet such fools pose great difficulty for mankind in general, no sense in letting them ruin my pretty little love story. It really wasn't an issue for us. I knew there were a few girls in High school who liked to sing Jungle Fever at me as we walked by, but again that is an example of faulty logic. I wasn't drawing the lines, they were. Lines that were set up many many years ago. You can't just cross the line and look over- you must no longer see the lines.

I realized this past year how far we had not come in erasing the lines of discrimination when President Obama was elected. First Black president this, first black president that. It is monumental- but quite frankly I am embarrassed that it took until 2009.   There are plenty of qualified Americans who could be President, and quite frankly not all of them are white men. I do find it quite ironic also that President Obama is "from" Hawaii- my current homestead.  I was relatively unhindered by his "visit" over Christmas- Operation No Christmas Vacation some of the wives in other military branches also tasked with his security detail called it. My husband on the other hand earned a medal- woot woot(sarcasm intended) for his meritorious yada yada- while the President was here. I do appreciate my husband and I know he has a great work ethic. I am not devaluing his work- I am scoffing the reason he, the Air Force, Army, Navy, Guard and Honolulu Police had so much more work over Christmas vacation. $250 million in overtime for the HPD alone. Unfortunately active duty military don't get overtime, but some government employees did to help protect the president. If you ask, most of them will dutifully reply that it was an honor to serve the President. I respect that. He is an American icon, whether or not you agree with the politics.  I severely hope though- that the President saw, while on vacation here that Hawaii has a lot of work to do. I am slightly embittered by $250 million being shelled out for 1 family's vacation while thousands of families live in tents on the beach. Yes I understand there is this nubulous generation of income by the president coming here. I wonder if any of this income might be applied towards the education of Hawaii's children?  I love the laid back, slow pace of the island. When I go back to the mainland, everything moves I do not believe slow needs to be synonomous with stupid,uneducated, illiterate, or backwards though.

One of the main reasons the president's visit didn't affect me is because he stayed on the "affluent" side of the aina.  Which is ironic to me on a lot of levels that I won't elaborate on here. I live by the tracks. There are literal tracks. Physical lines that come to represent the figurative.  We were warned about this part of town when we moved. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking. People are people.  After being half of an inter-racial couple in the Florabama area- you learn that not all people subscribe to that theory and you do your best to navigate around their ignorance.  I used to get chided by little old women that I needed to put more sunscreen on my children, they were far too pretty to be too brown.  Didn't get those warnings, when Phil was with us! The looks said something a little different. I was surprised by some of the racism I have experienced here. It's covert, a look, a gesture. But it's still there. I know it's not the same everywhere on the island, but it does disappoint me.  I just don't understand it.  You can be proud of your heritage without alienating others. You can take pride in your beliefs without devaluing others. That is what I try to teach my children when they are called names based on their skin being a different color.

So I figured today was a good day to reflect. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. I think we as society have come a long way in the years since he first uttered those words to the tired, poor, huddled masses. But there is a long way to go. Skin color is a descriptor, but it does not define a person. Children see that. They are taught different. I remember after a preschool field trip, Phillip got to ride on a bus for the first time. He was so excited. They sat in seats without seatbelts. Who drove the bus? I asked . I don't know, but he had brown cheeks, like daddy.  That was the first time I realized, he knew there was a difference in skin color but it didn't matter- it was a descriptor- it wasn't a commentary on class or social status or education. I have hope. I hope there are others like me who try to see people for who they are and in turn teach this to their children. On that note- I will leave you with one of my favorite lines of Martin Luther King's famous speech- because when all else fails we can still dream.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!

I spent some time looking through pictures for a year in review smilebox. As many things that sucked last year- there were some really good things that came out of it. I found a couple of things to be true- we went to the zoo a lot last year and we really tried to make the best of the time we weren't at the hospital. I don't do resolutions. Resolutions are like sure fire ways to sabotage yourself. I'd be better off saying I will not watch what I eat and try to be less active. I will play less with the kids and do more housework. I will stress over the little things.

We never go out for New Years Eve.  It started one of the first years we were married. We lined up a sitter, got all dressed up to go out and our sitter stood us up.  So we put Phillip to bed and played games while we watched TV and had a ton of fun. From then on out it became our tradition. Mostly because I have extreme difficulty staying awake until midnight- especially armed with the knowledge that my wake up call will be tugging at me by about 5. A couple times we have invited close friends to join us or stopped by friends' houses for a little while. When we moved here to Hawaii, we learned of the crazy firework mayhem and that gave us even more reason to stay home outta the smoke.  So this year I got some fireworks, some "kid wine"- the really gross carbonated juice that the kids love and snacks. We played the game of Life- which was pretty funny and quite ironic.  Lil Phillip's word of the day was ironic-he kept throwing it around. We experienced a coincidence and he said- oh isn't that ironic? No. That's not ironic. What's ironic? Not that. Of the 20 some games we own, choosing to play the game of Life , that's ironic. But I guess we wouldn't be here if we hadn't chosen to stay and play.

Lily and Bella celebrated Colorado New Year with a toast to Grandma and were sent off to bed.

So here we are deep in the game of Life.  Kiera skips the University route(big surprise) and manages to land on every big money square there is. She flat out refused to get married. Phil didn't want to allow it- but I said there is no reason she had to. It's a game right? She later went on to adopt twins.  She had enough money to support them and we didn't have to field the awkward- I thought you had to be married to have kids discussion, again.  Phil became a doctor, and gradually worked his way to millionaire, Little Phillip and I struggled to get around the board- never quite getting ahead. That seems about right. 

The New Year came. We hugged, we kissed and I went right to bed. Grateful to see 2009 go and grateful to be able to look forward to a New Year. Mostly just happy for the promise of a new year.

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