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

Posts Tagged "home"

House of Blues

Posted on Jan 10, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

House of Blues

I went on Twitter and DMed @la_gringa with capitalized swear words describing the latest in a fitful rage from our house upon us, it’s lowly unsuspecting dwellers.

This time, it’s the dishwasher that went from silent rinse cycle to Jabba-the-Hutt moans within minutes. And then it wouldn’t turn off. At all. I went to go outside to the power box, but I couldn’t. Why, you might ask? Because the side door is broken. Not the lock, the door. An expensive door, no less. An expensive door whose company (obviously for building shitty doors) went out of businesses. So now we need a new side door and a dishwasher/Jabba-the-Hutt killer.

Of course this is barely on the heels of the window this morning where my daughter exclaimed, “Oh look mommy, it rained in the kitchen.” Frigging million-year-old uninsulated windows just were no match for a winter’s night and a heating duct right next to it. No worries, the window (and most of them now in our home) are non-functional. The quaint 100-year-old house look isn’t so quaint when it all falls apart. Today I counted: only five of the 22 windows in our downstairs can actually open. The others are all broken, sealed shut or have busted pulleys (yes, that old). Oh, and the five that work? Four of them are poorly replaced windows with missing screens on most, the other one I jammed unlocked for safety.

I’d escape it all to my upstairs abode for a good marathon of Dog, the Bounty Hunter, but the TV there suddenly no longer has sound. I guess the LG is sick of the political rhetoric too and finally cut off the volume to save me from myself. Ah, maybe I’ll take a warm shower to relieve the stress of a falling apart house — oh wait, that won’t work, the (relatively new) grout is all dissolved away and new mold creeps in daily. I think I’ll pass on the cozy shower and go for a bath — nope. The drain stopper is broken and the towel rack fell down because the old lathen plaster can’t hold a screw. I’d use the downstairs shower, but it was constructed improperly and will flood the floor. I am convinced that a blind Bob-the-Builder and his estranged lover, Handy Manny built this house.

I feel like running away before I’m reminded that this house is more than most will ever have, with neighbors and friends surrounding me that I couldn’t dream of having. I hate my house until I remember that my children live one block from their grandparents and can walk to school. I loathe being here until I realize that if it weren’t for this home, we’d have never had all the fun that caused all this ruckus to start with.

Today though, I wish I had a little shack on the beach reading novels and watching the sunset while Mr. Roper fixed the leaky faucets.

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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

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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.

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Posted on Jan 9, 2010 in Featured, Silly |


We live directly between these two seismic activity sites. Red highlights earthquakes over 4.0. Red indicates the past hour; blue the past day.Putting batteries in the flashlights. After living through Northridge and losing almost everything in that quake, I’m a bit shaky over earthquakes.

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Vote on the Kitchen Color!

Posted on Dec 28, 2009 in Silly |

Paint Swatches

We are overhauling the kitchen and making a clean start for the new year. We put up a bunch of swatches that all look like something out of Put Me in the Zoo. Our buddy J showed up with some great ones that were a huge improvement. Ever heard of Devine Color? Me neither. It’s a line of female-owned and designed colors that were a truckload better than the nightmare you see in the photo.

The kitchen has a brown, black and gold granite countertop. The trim in the room is white. The floor is a golden hardwood. The accents will be white and one other spot color. We are now down to two choices: Olive or Cypress. Will you help us?

Option 1: Cypress. Cypress is a green color, it dries a bit on the blue side, believe it or not. The pros: it’s trendy and a warmer color. Downside: blue in a kitchen isn’t really a great idea (blue is not a food color and can tint the look of food). View Cypress.

Option 2: Olive. Olive is a green color too, but slightly more mellow and has more brown to it. It’s got a bit of a, well, olive tone. The pros: I like the idea of a natural color in the kitchen. Downside: it looks a little like 70s avocado shag rugs of my childhood. View Olive.

Okay, you have until Saturday, January 2 to place your vote!

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Feeling Right at Home

Posted on Sep 8, 2008 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves |

I’ve been waiting until I truly felt something to write about the kids first weeks in school, my seismic shift to being at home all the time, the advancements of La Gringa’s work beyond our little company. There’s been so much inspiration everywhere, just none that has sprinkled its dust on my urge to write.

My mom — having been a mother, a senior executive, philanthropist, paralysis and war survivor, wife, sister, friend and role model — has said for years:

Women can have it all, but not all at the same time.

I’ve never agreed with her, until now.

Somehow in the midst of female powerhouses from Dara Torres and the US women’s soccer team to Hillary, Michelle and yes, even Sarah Palin, I’ve suprised myself that my sole focus has been CEM (Chief Executive Mommy). Now all the women I just named are working *and* raising kids, and maybe they’re better at the multi-tasking thing than I am, but I’ve never been so certain that I am finally exactly where I should be — home.

I completely got off today on finding this Mr. Clean thingy that gets rid of wall scuffs, and tootled around the house getting rid of marks on my walls while blasting the TechCrunch 50 (#tc50) through the wireless speaker system in the house. I’ve shot off a few emails to clients, potential clients and past clients with ideas that have recently popped up that I have been unable to muster for months; and amidst the confusion of figuring out the mystery of laundry darks and lights, I’ve managed to flesh out a couple of business ideas I’ve had on the back burner forever. I even had time to RSVP yes to my first-ever PTA meeting for tomorrow night moments after chit-chatting with a VC buddy of mine about a business plan I was asked to read.

So yeah, I’m scaled back… waaaaay back in one job and ramping up like a fiend in the mom gig, but I’m liking the balance, I’m liking how much more creative I am when the pressure is less intense, I’m amazed at how much I truly, truly enjoy my time with the kids and how nothing comes close to the feeling of doing this job well.

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