PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

February 10th, 2006

Warmed By Her Own Sense of Justice

As some of you know, I have a daughter who can be quite challenging. She fits the criteria for a ‘gifted’ child, or a ’spirited’ child, and if I was inclined to apply New Age woo-woo labels, I’d probably even call her an ‘indigo’ child.

I know some of you perhaps have a better understanding than others of what having a strong-willed child is like. For the rest of you, here’s a small taste of what parenting this kid is like.

I got a call the other day from the wife, letting me know that our daughter had been suspended from school. She has been having a running conflict with a boy in her class, and it had apparently escalated.

Things took a nasty turn in the morning, when he picked up her bookmark from the floor near her desk, crumpled it up in front of her, and threw it away. She insists he knew it was hers, he insists he thought it was garbage. She apparently popped him in the face, and was sent to the office to cool down.

Later that day, with tempers running high, the two of them ran into each other during gym class. The gym teacher believes the collision was a genuine accident on his part, but of course given their history my daughter believed it was deliberate. She whipped him in the face with her coat, and at some point scratched his face with her fingernails. She was chasing him around the gym when the teacher had to step in and separate them.

So, long story short, she was suspended from school for a day and a half. Needless to say, this cannot happen again. She was grounded, and she lost the privilege to grow her fingernails out. And her mother wanted her to write letters of apology to the boy, the boy’s mother, and the gym teacher.

She’s been pretty quiet about the whole episode. She knows she screwed up. But her real opinion on the whole episode only became apparent when she was writing her apology notes.

To the mother:

“Dear Mrs. [XXXX], I’m sorry I hurt [the boy]. But you have to realize that he’s been seariously grinding on my nerves all week. I’m very sorry.”

So she was sent back to try again. Another of her efforts wasn’t much better:

Dear Mrs. [XXXX], I’m sorry about hurting [the boy]. I didn’t mean to hurt him that much. I’m very sorry.”

Sigh. Although she has been compliant and fairly meek (for her), it’s clear that deep in her heart, she knows he deserved it. And she isn’t going to back down from that easily.

And although I have to be sternly disapproving, a tiny little part of me applauds her. I would much rather have a daughter with fire in her heart, and a strong sense of justice, than a delicate flower that bends whichever way the wind blows. She can’t go on beating on people that tick her off, but I do want her to grow up committed to fairness. We just need to expand that sense of fairness and justice to include other people.

February 8th, 2006

Be My Anti-Valentine

Click on the image to go to Be My Anti-Valentine.

February 8th, 2006

A Little Young to Shave

I came home the other night just before my son got out of the shower. To be more specific, just before my son got out of our shower.

He is using his parent’s shower because the kids managed to pull their shower curtain rod out of the wall in their bathroom. Normally we would just put a temporary spring-tensioned replacement in, except this was an ‘L’-shaped curtain rod. We decided this repair could wait until we remodeled the kids’ bathroom, which desperately needs it, and they could use our shower until then. But I digress.

So, he’s in our shower, where my razor hangs on a little hookie thing. And his upper lip is bleeding, and he says he knocked my razor down and it hit him on the lip and cut him. Now, my razor hangs out of the way, sort of near the corner of the shower, and my son is pretty darn tall for a first-grader. Plus, he has three perfect little cuts on the exact center of his upper lip from the three blades on the razor. Right under his nose. I’m thinking that in order for him to accidentally knock my razor down and have it miraculously land handle down, blade in, right under his nose, the razor would have had to have more English on it than the bullet that killed Kennedy.

So I ask him: “Son, are you sure you weren’t just trying to shave with my razor?” Oh no, he says. He knocked it down and it cut him as it fell. “Are you sure that’s what happened?” Oh yes, he’s sure.

Well, I can’t press the issue, but I KNOW he decided to see what shaving was like and accidently cut his lip. Well, that should satisfy his curiousity for a few more years.

I recently downloaded a new ringtone for my cellphone. It’s an ‘old-fashioned telephone’, which means, it sounds like a traditional bell-based ring. I originally got it for novelty’s sake, and because I find the juxtaposition of the old-style telephone ring coming out of a cellphone humorous. I’m easily amused.

But what I’ve found is, whereas cute little snippets of digital music are either hard for me to distinguish from background noise, or are hard for me to identify as a ringtone, the sound of a ringing telephone bell is very nearly hardwired in my brain as ‘telephone’. It requires no thought at all to identify that particular sound and reach for my phone. But then, I am old enough to remember having a party line, and having to remember which ring pattern to answer. Not to mention hearing the breathing of a nosy neighbor listening in to our conversations. My children, on the other hand, are growing up with a collection of miscellaneous electronic beeps, chirps, and squeals that all mean ‘telephone’ to them.

I know there are other sounds that are similarly wired into my consciousness, sounds that simply don’t exist anymore. The pop and hiss of a stylus hitting a record. The shrill tone of the old Emergency Broadcast System alert. For that matter, the cacophonous warble of a modem handshaking with a server, which at one time I heard at least once a day, and now never hear (thank you, broadband).

I wonder what associations my children are wiring into their memories, what sounds they are filing away as significant, that may someday be just as obsolete as some of my sense-memories now are. What sounds will be nostalgic for them?

February 7th, 2006

Kitty Pics

I’ve been prompted to take cute pics of our kitties. Which is a bit challenging, because when they aren’t moving too fast to get a good picture of them, they tend to look surly/sleepy. Ah, well.

These are the shortest and hairiest members of our family. Click on the photo to go to my flickr account for other sizes/other images.

This would be Seeker:

This would be Shadow:

This would be both of them sleeping:

And this would be both of them after hearing the camera click:

February 6th, 2006
February 5th, 2006

Isn’t that curious…

I watched the Super Bowl this evening. Gosh, I’m just so proud of those fine athletes in blue and green, those NFC Champions. I really think they outplayed the Steelers, at least during the first half. In fact, the only quibble I may have had with the game was THE BLOODY OFFICIATING.

Now, I’m not a football fanatic, and I don’t watch it all that often. But it seemed to me that an awful lot of calls went against the Seahawks. And oddly enough, always on critical plays. Perhaps more than could be explained by a purely statistical distribution.

Far be it for me to impugn the skills of those fine gentlemen in black and white stripes. After all, they surely earn more vitriol and invective on any given weekend than anyone outside of an IRS auditor. Actually, I bet even IRS auditors aren’t as despised as referees.

It’s a hell of a stressful situation. Having to make split-second decisions in front of thousands of fans, I don’t envy them. Most of the time, I give them the benefit of the doubt. Even when an instant replay shows the ref on the ground was perhaps mistaken, it could have happened to any of us, in the heat of the moment.

But it really did seem as if every time Seattle made a great play, SOME FREAKING REF THREW A YELLOW FLAG.

Oh well, I’m sure Seattle will make it into the Super Bowl some other time. Maybe even before I die.

February 3rd, 2006

This is Not a Cashless Society

I went walking at lunch today, because I haven’t walked in a while and it was only raining a little bit. I took a lap around the river, then grabbed a quick bite to eat. As I was walking back to my office I thought to myself that an iced mocha would be a mighty tasty treat for a Friday afternoon, and so I headed for the next Starbucks.

As an aside, I should point out that when I say ‘the next Starbucks’, that’s precisely what I mean. Not ‘the Starbucks’ or even ‘the nearest Starbucks’, for they are far too ubiquitous for that. No, I mean the very next one along my intended route. But I digress.

There was a young man entering the building just ahead of me. A young woman was coming out at the same time with her hands full of caramel mochafrappa-something-or-others, and as she pushed the door open it tapped him on the shoulder. He shot her a look that was, well, it was equal parts shocked and petulant. Although she said she was sorry, he sure looked like he wasn’t satisfied with her apology. We went on into the store.

Now, I know exactly what I want. And I know exactly how to order so as to minimize the amount of time I have to actually spend in Starbucks. But I found myself in line behind Petulant Boy, who was nervously playing with his hands as he spoke to the woman behind the counter.

“… um …. I got a hot caramel macchiato yesterday … no, it was iced … but I wanted it hot … and I called the store … um … and the lady told me … I just had to come in and you would give me another drink …”

The lady behind the counter was quite professional. “Can you tell me the name of the person you talked to?”

“… um … Abbie … I think …”

“I’m sorry, there is no Abbie working at this store. And if someone had taken that message, they would have left me a note, or an email, explaining the situation. And nobody left me a note, so I’m sorry but I can’t help you.”

Petulant boy started to get a whiny tone in his voice. “…um….I called the store… the person I talked to said … um … I would get another drink ….”

“Are you sure you called this store? Because we don’t have an Abbie working here. Did you call another store by mistake?”

” …um … maybe … but I bought my drink at THIS store.”

“I’m very sorry, but unless someone left me a note, or you have a receipt, I can’t give you another drink.”

” … um … ”

First of all, my daughter is a MUCH better liar than this guy was. Perhaps she should give lessons. Second, I wish I could live in HIS universe for a while, where apparently all you have to do is make a vague assertion about some error in service at some unspecified previous time and you get free stuff!! Wheeee!!

Petulant boy, who was now Sullen Boy, then asked for a glass of water. And I got my iced mocha, which I actually paid for myself. And oddly enough, if they had given me the wrong drink, I’m pretty sure I would have brought it up before I left the store, while I still had it in my hand, rather than calling them up the next day and hoping that I would get a free drink using magic pixie dust.

If Petulent Boy wants free coffee, he’s going to have to put in his time panhandling for latte money like all the other sullen kiddies.

February 2nd, 2006

Sometimes It Hits You Out of Nowhere

So I was having lunch with some coworkers, and one of the younger associates was discussing something he had been doing back in grade school.

“That was in fifth grade, so it would have been 1985.” he said.

I looked at him. He didn’t look like an infant.

“You were in fifth grade in 1985?” I asked. He thought for a moment.

“Yeah. In 1985, I was in fifth grade.”

I sighed. “Damn, I’m old.”

“Why?” he asked. “Where were you in 1985?”

“My second year of college.”