On staying silent

This past week has been rough for America, on top of an already rough year. I don’t think any sane American can look over the divisive political race or the devastating number of people shot through various means and think everything is peachy right now. I don’t have an answer or a solution or even advice for other people who are dealing with this; I can only speak for myself.

Through the past year, I found myself becoming more vocal about certain situations, and the more I tried to persuade people of the very logical and rational things I was saying, the more angry and frustrated I became. I made a conscious decision not to post anything about the political climate on my Facebook page because I didn’t want to draw in the ire of those who might disagree with me, or those who wanted to try to convince me of their opinions, nor did I want to offend people I really like and care about who have different opinions from me. It’s a well known fact that you can’t change someone’s mind by arguing with them on the internet, and if it isn’t a fact it should be. The internet gives us the ability to think through our arguments, planning with carefully researched data points and articles to reinforce our position, but to what end? The other guy is doing the same damn thing, and all it really does is bolster our own opinion of how right we are.

So, no more politics on my page. I was much happier, until last week. We saw some terrible events unfold last week, and I was truly devastated by them. Those of you who know me know I am extremely patriotic. I fly my flag, I support our troops, I teach my Girl Scouts patriotic songs, I place flags on veterans markers at the cemetery. I cry when I read about the death of a police officer, heck a police dog will have me bawling. I respect our law enforcement officers and I fear for the LEOs I know because their jobs are dangerous and getting worse every day it seems.

Strangely enough, if you believe that police brutality should be investigated and eliminated, to some people that means you are anti-police. This is not the case. The same as I believe doctors should not be given a pass on malpractice that injures a patient, a police officer should not be able to use excessive force in the performance of their duties. There are thousands of police officers who maintain ethics and standards every single day, regardless of the fact that they usually see Americans at their worst. They do not roll up on people in the best mood of their lives, happy and sharing lemonade and sunshine with all who cross their paths. The fact remains that the percentage of officers who find themselves in the spotlight or on the evening news is a very small percentage of officers in America, but these are the ones shaping the country’s view of how law enforcement works. These are the exception to the rule, and these are situations that warrant an investigation.

After the shooting of a man sitting in his car, I said something on a friend’s post. What I said at the time is not important. What is important is that a mutual acquaintance took offense to what I said. He not only argued at me in public, but then followed me into Facebook Messenger and sent me messages every day for several days. I repeatedly told him to stop messaging me, which he ignored, all so he could “prove he was right” about me. Whatever that means. He accused me of not supporting the police because I didn’t change my Facebook status to denounce the terrible shooting of police officers in Dallas, all while ignoring the fact that I hadn’t said anything about any shooting of any person.

Do I really need to publicly state that I am devastated, outraged and weep for our country?

I am, and I do.

Do I really need to justify myself to someone I have literally met one time for five minutes?

No, no I do not.

This has led me to evaluate how I use Facebook, and I think I’m going to stay silent for a while. I’ll be there, looking at posts and pictures, I might even like some. I don’t think, though, that I am going to be using it to define who I am for someone who doesn’t really know me. Facebook is something that makes you feel like you know someone, or makes you feel like you are keeping in touch with friends and family, when in reality people really only post what they want you to see about their lives. If you want to really get to know me, shoot me an email, find me at an event, make friends with me. I love coffee and wine, not in the same glass and not at the same time, but both are good with conversation. I’m not all that bad and I bet you aren’t either. I might disagree with you on something, but that doesn’t make either of us bad people. If we can talk about our opinions in a healthy fashion, it might actually make us better friends and stronger individuals. It’s amazing what actual conversation can do. Until such time as I don’t fear I will be harassed by someone who doesn’t know me, I’ll be staying silent.

 

Dancing Queen

2016 Recital 4

Thank you once again to Impact Dance Center in Los Alamitos for an amazing recital! Melody performed in three dances – I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, Pink Cadillac, and Space Cowboy.  Her love of tap dancing hasn’t ebbed at all, and we look forward to more tap and jazz lessons in the 2016-2017 season.

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Parenting 70s style?

I understand that everyone’s experience is different, but I am getting a little tired of the proliferation of articles comparing childhood in the 70s to childhood today. Parenting blogs glorifying the disco decade and lamenting how horrible today’s kids are seem to be missing the point. The 70s were not some Garden of Eden for children, the same as children today are not all tiny megalomaniacs. If a contemporary parent allows their kids to slack on chores, dictate what the family does on the weekend, speak disrespectfully or demand expensive possessions, it’s not because the 70s were wonderful. It’s because the parent allows it, end of conversation. There were rude, entitled little assholes in the 70s, too.

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Super safe bike jump

Yes, my 70s childhood was great – we played outdoors, read books, made up games, rode bikes without helmets, and did our chores. With the exception of the bike helmet, my kid does the same things, plus she is smarter, has better opportunities, and can be expected to live a longer, healthier life. She can’t conceive of riding in a car without a seatbelt or attending a gathering where all the adults smoke in the house and around the kids.

The next time you are tempted to shout “This, right here!” after one of those “the 70s were wonderful” articles, just remember what we had to wear, disco music, there were 7 channels to watch, and Corinthian Leather hadn’t yet been exposed as plastic. We lived with the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack, soaring inflation and an evolution of the two income family as a requirement rather than an optional status. A cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, and gays and minorities were routinely discriminated against, harassed, and assaulted. It wasn’t a perfect world by any stretch. However, the values we learned in the 70s are no different from what parents today have the ability to teach their children, but in some cases, choose not to. It doesn’t have to do with the decade, but with individual parenting choices.

In 30 years, there will surely be articles lamenting the way midcentury children are being raised and comparing them with millennial children. Hindsight is not only human nature, it is also a romanticization of how things were. Let’s not fixate on how parenting happened circa 1975, but instead focus on what we parents can do today to raise our children to be good people. If that means letting them have the more expensive shoes or clothes, that’s your choice to make, but own it as YOUR CHOICE. Don’t blame trends, or parenting blogs, or even the good old days. You are the parent your child will blame while they are in therapy. You are the parent they will either emulate or do the opposite of when they are raising their own little people.

It is easy to get caught up in the parenting one-upmanship (and I guarantee our own parents struggled with these types of issues too, but they managed, even during the wasteland of no internet during the 70s and the yawning decades of no tech before that) but please, resist if $200 toddler sneakers aren’t the right choice for your family. Want them to appreciate their privileges? Make them work for them, volunteer at a shelter, mow the lawn, whatever is the right thing for your family. Choose to raise your kids with the values you want them to have. Just because you have internet doesn’t mean they get to use it 24/7/365. They will appreciate your efforts as adults when they are hearing from other parents about how spoiled and undisciplined, outspoken and rude children are becoming; they will have the secret weapon of good choices in their arsenal to raise your grandchildren to be good people.

Introducing Nobody

My husband and I have a funny fascination with Japanese and Korean pop music (aka J-pop and K-pop). I’m not really sure why we are drawn to these, but we also love some wonderful Japanese dramas and are watching a funny Korean show called You’re Beautiful (about a girl who poses as a boy to save her brother’s job in a boy band, what’s not to love??). This is on Netflix, btw. Our favorite Japanese drama was called Haru to Natsu, and chronicles the story of two sisters separated by the Pacific Ocean and recaps their lives after they are in their 70s. It was one of the most emotional programs we have ever watched in any language. If you can find this program, it’s well worth the subtitles!

As for the music, the melodies are catchy, sometimes to the point of ear worm level, and videos have high production values. Here are some of our recent favorites.

Nobody by the Wonder Girls

Bubble Pop by Hyuna

Sugar Rush by AKB48

Stereo Girl by Super Baby Face

Heavy Rotation by AKB48

I My Me Mine by 4minute

Troublemaker by Troublemaker (Hyuna and JS)

 

Fairies

Melody continues to be fascinated by fairies and fairy gardens. Our outdoor garden is going to be demolished this spring due to some construction we are planning (both yay and boo), so this past weekend she picked up all her various fairies, houses, bunnies, benches, etc. But not to fear! We stopped by M&M Nursery in Orange for some nice indoor plants and moved the fairies inside!

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Fairy magic

You can see in this overview shot that Melody selected a palm, an African violet, some pink leafy things and a small evergreen (?) thing. I am not exactly the right person for naming plants, haha, but I can assure you that these were all recommended as able to thrive indoors. There’s a lot of detail in this garden, so let’s zoom in.

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Details, details

From the right side you can see the pink leafy things a bit better, the kitty keeping watch by the front door of the house, and the mailbox just waiting for a note. The pink fairy is holding a picnic basket. Is she heading out to meet a friend? There is a beehive on the far side so the violets will be well pollinated, and beyond that a small fairy boy swings over the side of the planter. The pebble path has captured some of the sparkly jewels that fall from the fairies when they fly past.

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A hidden garden in the miniature garden

True to their natures, these bunnies got into the vegetable patch, but Mr Dog spied them and they are scurrying away!

The captivating thing about fairy gardens is that the imagination can do so much with these tiny figures. As she created this vignette, I was thinking back to a mermaid garden I imagined and I wonder if I will be able to create that at some point. Melody has two books on fairy gardening, but there are many on the market with hundreds of clever bits and bobs to display along side your plants. If you ever find yourself in Orange, stop by M&M Nursery on Tustin Ave. They have many beautiful fairy gardens that are thriving, magical and oh, so creative! If you don’t live locally, you can shop their online store too.

Girl Scouts: Money Management Game

Our troop has grown a little this year and we have several new members who have not sold Girl Scout Cookies before. They are excited and so enthusiastic! It has really inspired some of our continuing members to step up their game and try harder to achieve their goals.

As a leader, it isn’t always easy to teach or lead the girls to cookie sales success. Especially for Brownies, they are still in the realm of needing to be lead to their goals to some degree. They are not always good at math. They don’t always grasp what Cookie Share is or does. They sometimes forget that we raise money for fun AND to give back to others. For our first meeting covering cookies, I made them a poster to help with some of the information they need to remember. We plan to use this at our booth sales and show a bar chart of our troop goal achievement.

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For our second meeting, I wanted to be sure they knew their math and money management. It’s easy to get confused when giving out change or having to count money, so while a parent would be helping during individual or booth sales, it is important for the girls to know this information. Fortunately for us, cookies are priced at a good multiplication factor – $5 per package. I found a game online that I adapted for the girls.

Money DiceCookie Game 1

Each of these images was printed on card stock paper, then cut out and taped together to make a 2″ square die. For our troop we focused on the cookie die. I also provided play money for each girl consisting of 2 5s, 2 10s, and 1 20. Here’s how the game worked:

  • Each girl gets an envelope of play money with $50 in it
  • Girls pair up by two and each pair gets one die
  • One girl plays a customer, the other girl plays a Girl Scout, and they switch back and forth
  • The customer rolls the die which will tell her how many of which variety of cookies she will purchase. The Girl Scout will tell the customer how much she owes. The customer pays the Girl Scout
  • Switch sides and the second girl plays the customer while the first girl plays the Girl Scout. Repeat the rolling of the die as above
  • Continue until one of the girls has earned all the money, or one girl does not have enough money to pay for the cookies on her roll. Money can be intermingled in the girl’s envelopes
  • The girl with the most money wins

We played this as a tournament – we had five pairs of girls, then the winners played each other. The girls loved the dice and so they were given out as prizes at the end of the meeting along with the play money. The girls learned visual recognition of the cookie varieties as well as reinforced their knowledge of common pricing in a selling situation.

The game can be expanded for older girls to use more money and to keep track of the number and type of cookies “sold” during the game. I feel really good about this game! Feel free to download the images and use them yourself. I didn’t make up the game, but I did adapt what I found online into something my girls could work with, you can too!

Gift Review: The USA Time Line 4D Puzzle

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A gift under the tree this year, this is a review of the USA History Over Time 4D Cityscape Puzzle model 40008, available from multiple retailers, including the National Geographic online store and 4DCityscape.com. The puzzle is intriguing, offering to teach first the order of westward expansion, then the order of statehood, and finally the great national landmarks in their order of creation or inception. The puzzle was a gift to Melody, but with 806 pieces in the base layer, she became frustrated and I did most of that part. The instructions say to organize the pieces by color and then put them together in the various territorial expansion. However, with Mexico and Canada being the same dang color, that was tricky, and as we all know, puzzles don’t always lend themselves to good organization! The edge pieces along Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic were often difficult to determine if they really matched and we took those sections apart numerous times during the assembly. We ended up working West to East on the puzzle because that’s just how the pieces presented themselves. Ocean was difficult, but we muddled through. The base puzzle has several different sizes and shapes of pieces, from large cross-shaped pieces to your standard small connectors.

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Once completed however, the base layer is beautiful and interesting. I didn’t remember the Gadsden Purchase and had not known the bit of land above the Louisiana Purchase had been ceded by Great Britain. Had this been the complete puzzle, I would have been satisfied. It took three or four days of an hour here and an hour there to complete. But, once the base layer is complete, there is a second layer of foam pieces in the shapes of the states. Users are directed to assemble these in the order of statehood, but that really didn’t work for us. We just put them together. :-) Melody was very involved at this point and was insistent on doing the assembly. The foam pieces for the most part are very sturdy except for very small states, such as Maryland with its skinny portion around the Bay and Alaska’s finger. These pieces easily became bent. There are four call-out sections for Delaware, Rhode Island, South Manhattan and Washington DC. The foam pieces were slightly warped in some cases, the larger the piece the more warped it was. I’m looking at you, Texas.

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The next series of pieces were the plastic landmarks to be inserted into the foam pieces. I have two gripes about this sequence.

First, the pieces are formed on the sort of plastic rails you find in model kits, which is fine. They are numbered according to the landmark poster included with the puzzle. Still fine. However, the font is so tiny as to be nearly indecipherable, and in some cases was not etched on the outside edge but inside the piece. This led to us needing a flashlight to first see inside the tiny figures and then hunt for the numbers. They are also not in any sort of organized collection, and I couldn’t really figure out why some were silver, some matte brown and some a bronze color. Weird. The Statue of Liberty is the only item that shipped separately and green. It goes without saying that one of our most recognizable landmarks needs no special instructions.

My second gripe about this section is that the poster offers no help in finding the location of the various landmarks on the puzzle. Yes, they are numbered on the poster and on the piece, but there is no number on the puzzle. The foam pieces have “placeholder” blocks in a beige color that are to be popped out and the plastic item inserted in place. The placeholders sometimes have an obvious shape (L-shaped buildings and round auditoriums, for example), but they are not numbered or named. Let me tell you, one lighthouse looks a lot like another when all you see are round dots in a sea of foam puzzle pieces lol. We ended up having to google many of the landmarks just to find out what state to search. With 93 landmarks, this part of the puzzle was both very interesting and very tedious. First searching multiple plastic rails numerous times since the pieces are not organized by number, then looking them up on google, then having to actually take the puzzle apart, remove the placeholder block, insert the item, then put the puzzle back together was a process. We ended up pulling out the landmarks for 10 items in a row, then placing them before starting over with the next 10. We placed the landmark on its corresponding picture on the poster.

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You can see that the names of some of these locations are sometimes rather mundane. I can’t tell you how many Old Grist Mills there are on google. The more we handled the foam pieces, the less tidy they were going together again. Some of the small tabs became mashed and wouldn’t lock into place after a while. One item just did not fit into the allowed space and we ended up accidentally tearing the surface paper forcing it through the hole. One casualty of the process of breaking out the landmark pieces was the Las Vegas sign. It broke in half unfortunately.

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The puzzle instructions also indicated that once the foam layer was made, it should be tacked in place using two sided tape. However, I do not recommend this at that stage. It was far easier to push the landmark pieces up from the back side of the foam pieces than mash them down through the top side. Plus, removing the placeholder blocks was at times a struggle because even though they were laser cut, they still had to be dug out of the larger piece, and some of those spots were quite small. The most effective way to remove the placeholder block and insert the landmark was by holding the individual state in our hands. This necessitated the constant disassembly of the foam layer of the puzzle. The kit did include some double sided tape, but it was so dried out it just flaked off its sticker sheets. Oops.

Even with all these sorts of nit picky complaints, we enjoyed this puzzle quite a lot. There are other 4D puzzles available for major cities worldwide, such as London, Paris and Tokyo. I think if we were to take on one of those other puzzles we would apply our learnings from this kit and probably be more satisfied. So, if you attempt one of these 4D Cityscape puzzles, I recommend the following order of assembly:

  1. Assemble the base layer by color but do the edges last.
  2. Organize the foam layer by regions but only assemble the pieces in general sections.
  3. Break out the landmark pieces and organize them numerically.
  4. Insert all the landmark pieces and then assemble the foam pieces into the top layer.
  5. Stick the foam layer onto the base layer if desired.