Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "help"

A Little Montessori Goes a Long Way

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 in Featured, School |

A Little Montessori Goes a Long Way

If I could send my kids to The Waldorf of the Peninsula school, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I believe with my whole parenting self, that giving my children the freedom to find joy in their learning, the power of overcoming their fears and the strength of education is one of the greatest things I’ll do with my life. But education philosophy and budgets rarely match up. At $12,000 – $20,000 per year, per child, my hopes of my children being educated in the  Montessori philosophy are all but gone.

As the public school system in San Jose continues to decline to dangerously low funding, I find our school’s programs being cut — science, art, athletics — key cornerstones to a well-rounded childhood education. And, thanks to the not-even-remotely-helpful No Child Left Behind Act, our public school teachers are trapped by having to teach to test, not teach to learn. Even the greatest teachers around (ours included), can’t fight off an economy in peril and a broken school system. Teachers find themselves sneaking in art and music, wiggling around systems to find some creativity in their teaching and eek out moments of 1:1 time with kids.

Meanwhile, across town, for the cost of some family annual paychecks, children are learning by touch and feel and movement. Their worlds are filled with peace and balance and a basic belief that their brains are developing just as they should. It’s hard not to hate them. I want my kids to have that freedom to learn, despite our inability to pay $30,000 annually. I’ve thought about this a lot. If I cut our lifestyle down, could we afford Montessori? If I:

Gave up wine: $200/month or $2,400 a year. Nope, not even close.

Gave up organic food: $150/month or $1,800 a year. Why would I give up feeding my family organically?

Gave up both @la_gringa’s and my iPhones: $250/month or $3,000 a year. That won’t work.

If I went from full-time flexible consulting to completely full-time in-house, we’d be able to pull it off, but then, I’d need a nanny, aftercare and, most of all, wouldn’t be there to participate in the rearing of my own children’s lives. That might work for them, but what’s the trade off for having no mommy face-time?

After a year of jealousy, I’ve decided to bring a little Montessori to our home — if we can’t go to a developmental private school, the least I can do is bring a bit of it home to my kids. Although my plan is just coming into action, I’m finding Thing 1 and Thing 2 to be fully engaged in the new system. I’ve started with manipulatives: putting odd things in their art cart — a strange shaped item, a tool they don’t know how to use, a giant vacuum cleaner box. Next, I’ve planned time in their day to let them explore these things and others that they find interesting. When I take down barriers to activities, the kids seem to really respond. Answers that used to be no have turned to yes. Questions like “Can I make myself an Aztec warrior?” are answered with “Of course you can.” So far, I can’t believe how creative the kids have been, how receptive they are to failure, trial and error.

Next on the agenda is to loosen the physical restraints we put on our kids. A Montessori kid I know can climb trees all the way to the top. She has no fear. She’ll sit at the top of the tree, eat a snack and watch the world go by. I’ve seen other parents completely freak out at this kid (and her parents), but somehow I get it. This girl is in no more danger of falling out of a tree as others are from falling off a bike, or getting a concussion from a linebacker’s tackle. I want my children to reach for freedoms physically. Yesterday I told my daughter to go outside and climb a tree. She looked at me like I was nuts, and then, went and did it. A half-hour later she ran back inside, showing off her scraped hands and knees — “I was in the tree!,” she said, proudly.

Finances can keep us from attending private Montessori schools, but not from offering our kids the freedoms to explore the world the way they want and need to.  I’m working to get to the place where our home is full of  structured freedom — enough room to find their own way and enough structure to help them get there.

Three of my newbie tools:

Montessori for Everyone Blog

Children of the Universe book

Journey to Montessori Elementary video

Read More

Three Time-Saving Product Ideas for #FB

Posted on Sep 13, 2010 in Family and Friends |

Three Time-Saving Product Ideas for #FB

It’s hard to argue that Facebook, with 500 million active users, has succeeded in finding a simple — and addictive — way for people of all ages to communicate. Rumors fly daily about what the next feature will be, how #fb plans to steal your identity, your first-born, your future. But truly, all Facebook really steals from you is your time.

I have no idea how long I’ve been on Facebook. A long time. I’ve been a power user (Scramble games in the afternoon, stalk ex-boyfriends at night), to a casual engager (messages with old high school classmates that hated me back then, but seem to be excited to know me now). I’ve ditched Facebook completely for months on-end. I’ve used it for work, for clients and for self-promotion. I’ve used it as a voyeur, a supporter, a loneliness killer. Facebook is in world-domination-mode, and there is very little anyone can do to stop its momentum. But, we can curb our own.

I believe Facebook owes us the one thing we can’t get back: Time.

Here are my three product ideas for Facebook that focus specifically on helping us all curb our #fb obsession:

1. Self Timer. Set FB self timers so that you get logged out after X amount of time and cannot log back for Y amount of time. Just think: self-controls for the un-self-controlled. I’d allow myself a half-hour, with a forced 12-hour logout.

2. Give me a way to consolidate down my friends. Afterall, those of us who’ve been using the product long enough have added many people over the years we don’t really need anymore. Or, like me, FB is strictly personal now and not meant for workplace banter. Give users the ability to view, multi-delete and, ultimately, put friends into lists without having to do it one-by-one. That would save me time and get my people all sorted out. While you’re at it, FB could — and should — allow us to download our address books into a .CSV file.

3. Allow us to self-regulate spam and spammers. It’d be helpful to know who was a blabber, a spammer, repost-freak-o-matic. It would save a lot of time if the community was allowed to rank posts — display weighted versions. I know Most Popular is supposed to do that, but it’s not helpful or time saving. Give us the chance to see only truly relevant content. Oh, and if something is really spam, it would be very helpful to just go ahead and get rid of it for us.

At some point (and past the 2011 IPO, right @gseevers?), Facebook is going to have to become a time saver, not time waster. It’s going to have to be serviced-based, it will have to have an easy way to find good nuggets of information, and weed through the junk for us. They’ll have to find a way to let us utilize our own address books for efficiency in our offline lives.

Read More

Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

Posted on Sep 13, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

Five Phrases To Kill in Communication

They all have their time — groovy, neato, smooth, rad, gag me with [anything]. But coined phrases can move to cliches quickly. Clean up your chatter by nixing these five passe communication terms:

“In my wheelhouse”

What it means: What you are describing is what I have experience in.

Previous passe synonyms: “in my arsenal;” “right up my alley”

Why: Are you a train engineer? Do you ride choo-choos? Unless you are working on the chain gang, you have no business using this wildly over-used phrase.

Possible replacement: I have strong experience in this area.

Not possible replacement: I rock that shit.

“Social media guru”

What it means: I work in social media.

Previous passe synonyms: “community ninja;” “online whiz” or “social media expert”

Why: No one, but no one is a social media guru. Guru is reserved for spiritual leaders and maybe your yoga instrutor, not to self-describe your work online.

Possible replacement: “online marketer;” “social public relations”

Not possible replacement: “Hopeless online addict”

“Under the hood”

What it means: Investigate this topic further.

Previous passe synonyms: “into the nitty gritty;” “deep dive”

Why: Are you a mechanic? Mechanics are hot and greasy and work for near-minimum wage.

Possible replacement: “I’d like to research this topic further;” “understand the details”

Not possible replacement: “Under your hoodie”

“Signal to Noise”

What it means: Putting the highest quality to the forefront

Previous passe synonyms: “Cream of the crop;” “Streamline”

Why: Because you are not a radio. And if you are a marketer, you should assume that balancing communication directives are part of the job.

Possible replacement: “Clean communication;” “high quality coverage”

Not possible replacement: “Cut the crap”

“Close the loop”

What it means: Check with other people relavent to the subject to ensure you have completed the task and its needs

Previous passe synonyms: “circle back around;” “touch base with”

Why: Because you are a not a knitter.

Possible replacement: “Complete the process”

Not possible replacement: “Cover my ass”

Read More

A Shy Extrovert

Posted on Jul 12, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

A Shy Extrovert

You will call bullshit on me before you finish this sentence. You’ll roll your eyes. I know you will. But bullshit you not, it’s true: I’m the shiest extrovert you’ve ever known. Maybe you get it; probably you don’t.

I am a shy extrovert.

“You should meet so-and-so, she is extroverted and bubbly just like you!” Huh? Or one from this week, “You’re not afraid of anything!” And to my face once, “You’re such a people person!”

You don’t know one.single.thing.about.me.

I am a shy extrovert. I’m not sure how I came about it, but if you know me well enough, you know that I am deathly afraid of crowds, am wildly over-sensitive in social situations and can’t stand to be without @la_gringa at events. I can see myself sometimes, removed from the Me that is chatting away to a stranger whose name I will never remember. I know that I can hold a good conversation and tell a great story of this-or-that. I know that I say too many potty words in public. I can tell a dirty joke. I get hugs when I leave an event — probably from the busboy. Busboys aren’t selling themselves, they’re just working. I like busboys: they are human to me. I’m way to shy to connect to anyone else.

God only knows how many years of cotillion, etiquette class and social scenarios I’ve been presented with. I’ve conversed with Paul McCartney and the cook from Bill’s Cafe. I have interviewed celebrities from here to kingdom-come and had heart-to-hearts with some of the foremost brains I could ever imagine. But that’s work. I’m not my work, as most of you are not.

I’m tired of being called an extrovert. I try to not be offended by the title. You want to know what? I am deathly afraid of people and even more, animals (I am terrified by animals).  They both freak me out. I never can figure out what people are thinking. More importantly, I don’t know what they are thinking of me.  Extroverted people scare the crap out of me. They come right at me, full of bouncy eyes, electric handshake, calling me by name. I can never compete. I don’t do names, my eyes cross easily and I’m not certain at all of why someone wants to speak with me. People are just not my thing.

Engaging people is work. And, unless you are my spouse or one of my dearest friends, you’ll find me super bubbly! bright! conversational! Jesus, how annoying. Want to know what I’m thinking?  I am counting the seconds to sitting at a quiet barstool with my pals, not one of which finds me bubbly.

I’m a quiet extrovert. I don’t like chit chatting any more than you do.

Read More

Stop and Go

Posted on May 5, 2010 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Featured |

Stop and Go

All hell has been breaking loose for a few months now. As most of you know from my posts at SV Moms, I’m pretty open about most of my life and it’s awesomeness and even crappiness, at times, but not this. This is just personal and hard.

Every morning for four months, I wake up  wondering how, and if, my mom will wake up today.  My mom is really fucking sick. And, truth be told, she really is the only thing that matters to me minute-to-minute right now. My life is on automatic-pilot. I get done what I have to get done and go where I should and do what I should at the bare minimum I can do it. Everything is stopped.

My mom doesn’t have a disease you’ve ever heard of and there aren’t really any cool races you can do to donate money for a cure. There’s not a t-shirt or a fund, there isn’t a sparkly skirt to wear in her honor.  It’s not cancer where everyone knows someone who has it. It’s a lonely, mean, shithouse disease called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating PolyNeuropathy,  an unpredictable disease that attacks the body at-will. One day you might walk, the next, you are bound to a wheelchair. For hell’s sake, she was *just* dancing at my brother’s wedding six months ago.

Everything in our world has come to a stopping point. That is, until last weekend.

Last weekend I joined a group of 12 mom bloggers for a 200-mile run from Napa Valley to Santa Cruz. We’re not talking diapers-and-cheerios-type moms, we’re talking serious female writers who are on the forefront of a leading influential industry. As exciting as the run sounded,  by the time I made it to the team dinner, I was convinced that I’d made a huge mistake. I truly didn’t feel it was wise to leave my family. It’s just not a good time.

We left for Napa in the wee hours of the morning, and by the time @la_gringa set off for the first leg of our two-day journey, I understood that it wasn’t only a good time to be doing this race, it was The Time to be doing this race. It hit me that the Universe had given me these specific women, during this specific weekend, for a specific reason: they were here to let me GO.

And Go, I did. I ran four legs totalling 17.2 miles in 30-something hours at a pace of about 9:50. Every time I’d hop back in the van, I wanted to hug every single team member. They didn’t know the immense gifts they were giving me by the moment. They teased me about my runner’s high — every tree, person, view from the third row of the GMC van was more beautiful than the next. But, it wasn’t the endorphins at all, it was the joy of being in-motion. I’ve done a lot of racing in my time, every po-dunk 5k, four marathons, a haphazard 31-miler and dozens of 1/2 marathons. Each race comes with something special, but this one was different, it wasn’t a race I ran, instead, it was a freedom to run when my mom cannot walk. A freedom to GO when my whole world is STOPPED.

I’ve been home from the race for two days. Mom was admitted to the hospital this morning. She’s not well. It’s not good. As I pack up to head over to the hospital for the umpteenth time this afternoon, I take with me new gifts of GO. From my Heather, the ability to laugh through this; from Marie the excitement of working things out; from Christine the ability to steadily put one foot in front of the other to get to tomorrow; from Linsey the wisdom to walk, not run the toughest of hills; from Jane the subtle ability to stay-the-course even on the windy road; from Van 2, that lying under the stars can inspire; and from my dear @la_gringa the reminder to put my shoulders back (or in, as the case might be) and keep GOing.

Read More

If I… Were Mayor of Willow Glen

Posted on Apr 5, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Were Mayor of Willow Glen

Oh, to live in Silicon Valley where the people are smart and the wine is good; to live near brainy outdoorsy people with a passion for technology; to be surrounded by people who want everything from their socks to their spouses to be organic and free-range.  To live in a town alive and busteling. Er, scratch that last part. In the past five years, I’ve watched my town, hit hard by recession and overlords, fall to the bare bones of small town business. It’s not that we’re without hope, we’re full of hope, but we’re also full of economic fear, distrust in our landowners and, most of all, frustrated by the very community we love to be a part of.

If I was the mayor of Willow Glen (not that we have one), I’d:

* Create a 3×3 Program. Loyalty is tough when finances are challenged. Everyone wants a deal, and I get that. I shop at Costco for my TP just like everyone else, but we, as a local community, from the leaders to the laypeople can participate in a one-year 3×3 program. The idea is to shop at three Willow Glen businesses three times per week. For me that would mean going to WG Coffee Roasting for my coffee a couple times, picking up a birthday card at Fleurish, getting a birthday gift at Treehouse in the Glen, meeting a friend at The Grapevine for a drink and getting takeout from Juquilita’s taqueria. It’s not hard, right? And how does this happen? People get 3×3 cards, get stamped when you hit each destination. After being a 3x3er 3 times, you get couponed for exclusive 30% off savings at a local store. Incentivize customers with 3×3 promos in town.

* Give the landowners a solid smack on the ass. It is one thing to treat business like business. It’s another to take down an entire community of small businesses owners during a recession and opt for empty store after store in lieu of short-term lease modifications. It’s important to stand your ground, make your money and be a true capitalist. But be an opportunist too. Give worthy businesses one-year lease bridges that allow for them to stay in business while you still can pay your land fees. Call it charity, call it community building, call the press, make your company full of capital and power also the company of the community. Let the retailers and leasers be your evangelists and in return, get more than rent, get loyal customers for life. Why? Because you were with them when the chips were down. Because you are part of Willow Glen. Because Willow Glen is a part of you.

* Get two anchor stores, one on either end of Lincoln Avenue. After my Go Local mantra, you’re wondering why I’d be pitching Big Business in our small town community. It’s the economy, stupid, as LeBush once said. We need to anchor our town with appropriate anchor stores that are designed to weather economic times and have the wiggle room to stand side-by-side with competitors. Los Gatos just added a JCrew. We need something like that here. Anthropologie ? Banana Republic? I’m not talking Target, here, I’m talking highly customizable corporate entities. I’d bet my comfy suburban house that an anchor store would bring more business to our local mom-and-pop shops.

* Fire the WG Business Association. Now this is going to get me in trouble. I don’t mean to be political; truly I don’t even get the politics in Willow Glen. The business association acts as a dysfunctional representative of the businesses in our town and worse, lacks understanding of what the people that shop at said businesses need. The business association should be experts at helping bridge the gaps between the two entities. I’d scratch the whole thing, fire everyone. Then I’d hire my buddy G to run it. G is a small business expert, an honest guy, a community organizer and certainly politically savvy enough to  never write this post. With that, I’d create an organization joint-run by people and businesses, I’d the WG Elist for extremely valuable Community Recommendations  (and only that), and I’d be on the frigging street talking to the community every single day in an endless effort to keep business flowing in our town. I’d create a Business Association that was of distinct and clear value to the community it serves.

There is a place in community building that involves loyalty, two-way communication and mutual respect. If I were Mayor of Willow Glen, I’d work my damnedest to cultivate all three. Bummer, there’s no such thing as Mayor of Willow Glen. We’ll have to leave the community building up to ourselves.

Read More