a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    Today's monkey of the day

    This series of portraits is SO awesome. What's that got to do with monkeys, you ask? Why, it's portraits *of* monkeys of course!

     

    Thursday
    Nov062014

    Let's Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We? (Part 2)

    When last I wrote about figuring out how to get Dawdler Preschooler into a preschool, as in a "real" preschool, not the "preschool" room at her daycare, which is where she currently is, we were practically driven to drink by demystifying all the horribly disorganized information provided by the district. We have finally made a *little* progress, so an update. Spoiler: it's still nearly impossible to get through the red tape of getting information.

    Whenever we call to ask a question about something that's unclear from the crazy disorganized and inconsistent information that is scattered across the district website, individual school websites, and the state department of education website, we get asked "Have you checked the website?"UGH.

    We have narrowed it down to 3 preschools that have certified early childhood education teachers AND an after-school program. Y'know, for those of us who don't consider 7:40-11:40 a HALF DAY and have to keep working past 11:40. But when we try to schedule tours of each, we were told "Since the curriculum is the same at every district preschool, you have to choose one to tour." Uh, so entirely dismissing the critical point that the individual teachers and their levels of experience and commitment making all the difference in the world? Eh, any teacher will do as long as they follow the provided curriculum and lesson plans, I guess. (Sarcasm, in case that's not crystal clear).

    Even better though: one of those 3 options gives families a choice between a "traditional" preschool and a Montessori environment. So, maybe we should schedule our one and only tour at that one? "Okay, that's fine. You'll schedule your preschool tour with us, and then let me give you the number of this ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT to schedule a SEPARATE TOUR of the Montessori class environment." Oh, lovely. Two different people to call. And they can't coordinate tours on the same day because WHY WOULD YOU?

    But wait. So once we schedule our SEPARATE tours of the preschool and Montessori at the same school and want to talk with and observe the after- or before-school care (depending on if she goes to morning or afternoon preschool), that is scheduled, can you guess? By a third, entirely distinct department, here let me give you the number to schedule a tour with OMG, just STOP.

    We'll just save ourselves a crap load of time and headache and logistical nightmares and decide here and now to unschool? Let's just roll with that. I might as well put all this time & energy of tracking district contacts down and returning messages and waiting on people to schedule tours into planning out her K-12 curriculum.

    Kidding!

    Sort of.

     

    Monday
    Oct062014

    Once upon a time

    Dawdler Toddler Preschooler is really into fairy tales these days. This works to my advantage at bedtime since I'm particularly lazy tired and lazy. After we read 2 or 3 books, I can get her to cooperate with getting into bed and settling down by promising that I will cuddle with her and tell her a story. Even though I make up all my stories, they all MUST start with "Once upon a time..." and end with "...The end." as all good stories should. Yesterday, she turned the tables on me and asked "Mommy? Would you like to hear a story?" This is the first time she had offered to make up a story for me. Of course I would like to hear a story.

    Me: Is it about firefighters?
    Her: nooooo.
    Me: owls?
    Her: nooooo.
    Me: a baker baker?
    Her: Let ME tell the story!

    Sheesh. Okay. I'll be quiet.

    "Once upon a time, there was a little girl." So far so good. "...And one morning, her mommy left for work." Okay. "...And she was very sad...but then when her mommy came home from work, she was happy again! The end!" Uh. Cool story, hon.

    I would say I don't know what to make of that but I totally do. She's going through something. Just what it is, I'm not sure. I would say it's a phase where she's not getting enough Mommy time. Because she's crying when I leave for work every morning, pleading with me to stay "5 more minutes?" But that doesn't explain all of it because when I pick her up every afternoon, I'm dragging a sobbing screaming defiant 3 year old out the door as she's wailing "I sad about leaving! I don't want to go home!!!" and stomping her feet. Every single day.

    It's gotten to the point that other parents stop and ask "Is she okay?" Or even worse, the dreaded "What's wrong with her?" I try to understand that it just comes from a place of "awww, poor thing" concern, but really? Can we rephrase that? It usually comes from a parent whose child never acts up. So, good. Congratulations that your enlightened 3 year old is articulate to the point of being able to clearly explain the origins of their tantrums so well that you can simply use some Jedi mind trick to head off their explosive emotions. But the best I get when I try to talk to her about it is a consistent answer of "I sad about leaving. I want to stay and play with my friends." No amount of logic or explanation or consoling has worked. I've tried every trick in my book: distracting her with silly jokes, timing our exit to coincide with friends' departures, trying to make our exit a game, ignoring her attention-seeking behavior, & using a calm, soothing tone in which I offer bribes for cooperation. No matter what I do it just escalates.

    But even if I knew what was going on inside her little mind, I'm not sure I would think anything was 'wrong' with her. She's a very clingy, sensitive girl. She hates transitions, spending the first few minutes after we arrive somewhere or the last few minutes before we leave a place or activity crying or trying to make herself invisible. She can be very emotionally volatile. In other words, she's THREE. It's hard for 33 year olds to hold it together all day so I can only imagine how intensely difficult it can be to be three. Listening to grownups all day, following all kinds of rules as you try to sort out & communicate your feelings and needs...It sounds exhausting! She always has a great day at preschool so all I can figure is she uses up all of her self-control just by *being* all day. By the time we get there in the afternoon, she just doesn't have any emotional control left. And that's okay.

    I really have no other guesses as to why she's like this every afternoon. So until we can tease out what the root of the tantrums is, maybe I'll just start to answer other parents' questions with stories. I could tell them that she hates going home because of the scary clowns we invited to live with us. Or the ex-cons who babysit every night? Or how we like to watch The Ring with her for fun after dinner since it's scary movie season? But the truth is:

    Once upon a time there were parents who wished they knew how to keep their little girl from getting so heart-breakingly upset when they go to work. And who want to help their child be more cooperative with going home at the end of the day. The end!

    Friday
    Oct032014

    Unfiltered thoughts: Nina Garcia

    Me, explaining why Nina Garcia just plain sucks: She's just so bitter. I'd be surprised if anything makes her happy. Ever.

    My Better Half: I can guarantee you she finds contentment & joy in *something*.

    Me: Oh yeah? Like what? She scowls at & finds fault with absolutely everything.

    My Better Half: First, she's *supposed* to find fault with everything. But I bet she googles videos of sad crying babies. That's the sort of thing that brings her warm fuzzies.

    Me: Good point. About the sad baby videos that is.

    Wednesday
    Oct012014

    Tempe bike enthusiasts: just stick to your URL, please

    When I'm in a hurry, I usually tell people who aren't familiar with the Phoenix area that I live in Phoenix because it's just easier and faster than explaining that I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area but good GOD NO I do not live in Phoenix, UGH!

    Phoenix serves as adequate shorthand for a ton of satellite cities that all merge together in one giant sprawlopolis. But if I have time and/or am not lazy, I'll actually take the time to explain that I live just outside Phoenix in Tempe. It's an important distinction.

    Phoenix is enormous. It's more than 500 square miles big. Its growth has been made possible through nearly unchecked annexation of land since World War II and 20th century car-centered geography. Low-density housing developments seep farther and farther out from any urban center, leaving gaping holes in between - with all the residual effects. Basically, it might be the world's least sustainable city.

    Tempe, on the other hand, is much more compact. It is constrained on all sides by other cities, and so it leaned towards infill development and higher population density rather than sprawl. Something about it just feels more like a community than a giant city. It also just feels much more sustainably-minded than Phoenix. We have a solar water treatment plant, one of the city's golf courses is about to become a farm, and one of the big reasons we love living here instead of our giant sprawling neighbor is you can walk or bike just about anywhere you need to go yearround most of the whenever it is below 100 (so maybe 3 months a year). Now it's not just us that recognize the 165+ miles of bikeways- we just got named the 17th most bike friendly city in the US. We have this whole awesome bicycling community group here who's

    Oh Jesus their acronym is TBAG.

    I will now shut up about how hip my city is.