Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of year Top 5: Funniest Things our Kids Have Said

5) Seven-year-old: "What happens if one hipster goes into another hipster's territory?"
Dad:"Are you thinking of gangsters?"
"Oh, yeah."

4) Eight-year-old: "I bet when I get a masters degree in plant sciences I'll get a bunch of money."
Me: "Well, it depends on what kind of job you get."
8yo: "Wait, I thought when you graduate from college you get a bunch of money."
Me: "No, you have to get a job."
8yo: "Oh."

3) Eight-year-old : "This magazine is so old it has an ad for the iPhone 4S!”

2) Eight-year-old: "Personally, I think The Wizard of Oz is the worst movie ever. Except for some little kid movies."

1) Mom: “Guys, I need to have some quiet time to work on my writing.”
*90 seconds pass*
7-year-old: “Mom, can you put something about kung fu in your story?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sad but important

The first selection for the new MOMS club book group is very entertaining but also has a serious side: one of the main characters is in an abusive marriage. As the story moves along, a couple characters start to sense what's going on. This made me wonder if I could recognize the signs and if I have the tools to support a friend going through this. To that end, here are some tips for friends of abuse victims:

  • Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. 
  • Be non-judgmental; there are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times.
  • Encourage them to call a hotline like 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • Remember that you can not rescue them; ultimately they have to to decide what they will do.
Learn more from The Hotline.

Reflecting on this reminded me of the time I joined my first moms' club: just before I joined, one of the moms killed herself (or, as they put it, "lost her battle with postpartum depression"). I think some members of the group blamed themselves for not  recognizing the signs or doing more, which isn't helpful, but it did make me think about what I could do. 

Here are some signs of PPD:
  • Hopelessness about the situation getting better
  • Refusal to eat, or binge eating
  • Rage and resentment
  • Lack of bonding to the baby
  • Sense of numbness or disconnectedness
There are lots of resources for PPD sufferers (here's a state-by-state listing of support groups and a link to an online forum). If you think a friend has PPD, the best advice (based on my Internet research) is to physically be there for them, or call if you can't be there. Then encourage them to get help. And ask them what you can do for them. If nothing else, offer to hold the baby so they can take a shower or a nap. Bring them a meal. They probably won't turn either of those down.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Manic Monday

I’m calling Amy Poehler’s memoir a flop. It has its moments, but it’s no Bossypants.

I fear it may soon be time for The Talk with the 7- and 9-year-olds: Why We Don’t Watch the Second Indiana Jones Movie in Our House.

Why comment on a blog post or news story when there are already 200 comments?

Why can’t I reply to a comment on facebook?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Top Five “St Louis Things” I’ve learned about since moving here

Telling a joke when trick-or-treating
Gooey butter cake (stop stalking me, gooey butter cake!)
Bob Costas isn’t hanging around anyplace I go
Trivia nights
No one knows how to use four-way stops

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throw-back-thursday: Obama meets Bartlett.

Easiest blog post ever! Please enjoy this throwback to 2008 (that was a weird one, eh?). I'm just go write some West Wing fan fic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trick or Treat

Something’s been bugging me about Halloween. See, around here kids are supposed to tell a joke to get their candy (doing a little dance is an acceptable alternative; one of my favorites was the moonwalking girl).

Constipation jokes were popular this year. (What did the constipated hot dog say?) And there were a few Cubs-related gems that were very much appreciated by the recovering Cub fan that lives in our house.

But one joke bugged me then and bugs me still. More specifically, it’s my reaction to it that bugs me.

Middle-school-age Kid: “What’s the difference between a pencil and a girl’s argument?”
Me (frowning): “What.”
Kid: “A pencil has a point.”

How did I react? Did I yell at him, tell him to get off my porch? Say “No candy for you!” in my best Soup Nazi voice? Say, “No sexist jokes on my street, get outta here.” Alas, my confrontation-avoiding self frowned some more and tossed the twerp a Tootsie Roll and shut the door.

WhyTF didn't I tell him off or at least give him a lecture about how his joke is sexist and awful and he better think of a new one. Or something. I guess next year I need to have a script prepared. There are few feelings more disappointing then knowing you should have said something and didn't.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Basic Freedoms

It seems that there have been a proliferation of stories lately about about busy-bodies calling the cops on unsupervised children. These are school-age kids whose parents are letting them play out in the open without a caregiver in arms reach.

There's a mom who was arrested after letting her 7-year-old walk to the park. Another was arrested for leaving her kids in a park while she waited in line at the food bank. Hitting close to home is this story about our old elementary school in California, where a kid the same age as our oldest is hassled by police while walking home. And perhaps most well-know, the mom who left her kid at a busy playground while she worked a shift at McDonalds and was arrested. (Sign a petition urging that the charges be dropped here.)

This concerns me greatly for three reasons: one, it furthers the trend towards postponing independence later and later; kids won't be able to control themselves or make any kind of decision for themselves without being able to perform basic tasks on their own.

Second, it's putting the focus on "stranger danger," when in fact kids are much, much more likely to be abused or kidnapped by people they know. (Here's some advice on talking with kids about a legitimate danger.)

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's allowing the most nervous and nannyish among us to decide how the rest of us should parent. Soon people will be calling the cops if they see a pregnant lady with a diet coke. It will be illegal to put your kid in a front-facing carseat before they're four.

Interestingly, the pro-lockdown people and those on the side of free-range kids don't fall neatly into red/blue camps. So that's refreshing. But then there's this frightening poll that shows that more than two thirds of American think parents who let kids 9 and under play in a park unsupervised should be arrested, and almost half think that should apply for kids under 12.

According to the Polly Klass Foundation, fewer than 1% of child abductions are committed by strangers. And crime has been going down consistently for 30-40 years. It seems people believe the world is somehow less safe than when they were kids and wandered around unsupervised for hours at a time. Much of what I've read and heard blames this on the "24-hour news cycle" and over emphasis on the kinds of crimes those in favor of child lockdown hope to protect kids from. If that's the case, this may be the most depressing legacy of CNN, local TV "news" broadcasting and the demand for insta-news.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Stars wrestling with
Sequoia tops for notice.
There--a streak. Good night.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Granite bowl. Soaring
cliffs. Magic under water.
If only it flowed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Undulating hills
Green and granite abundant
Ozark hike in spring

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A distant rumbling
Flashes change night into day
Electric evening

Monday, August 18, 2014

A silent landing,
quilt of unique perfection,
glistening petals.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Granite veins flow through
Seams of pine, washing away
My city worries

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pull, toss, pull, toss, pull.
A meditative rhythm.
Away, cursed weeds!


Sunset walk around
swampy lake. Dandelion
seeds decorate webs.

Simpson Lake paddle
Windless, cloudyish, so green.
Missouri summer.

Eight-foot sunflowers
Vines collapsing their cages
Verdant vegetables

Day of crying skies.
No swim camp means cranky kids.
Wish I could send moisture west.

Missing longtime friends
Wilting in the soupy air
Good time to paddle

Not sure which I'll miss
more : the mountains or my friends
Both so beautiful

Serenity now
At sunset in the moonlight.
Love. Beauty. Baileys.

Morning on the trail
Afternoon paddleboarding;
A perfect schedule

Beauty in lake form
Boulders, trees, peaks and storm clouds
Clear waves rippling

Spotting a rainbow
From a majestic vista
Making memories

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mama Kathy's Super-fun Backcountry Adventures, July 2014 edition

Tahoe and Yosemite get all the attention, but right in between them is perhaps the prettiest place I've ever hiked. And you don't need to fight any crowds or go through a bunch of red tape to enjoy it.

Some of my best hiking buds drove up from the Bay Area to join Arthur (age 8) and me at the cabin in Arnold we've been renting. We drove about 35 minutes up Highway 4 to Lake Alpine. On the way we stopped to sign in at the ranger station (no charge, no reservations needed). We started out from the Silver Valley Trailhead, headed east around Duck Lake to our campsite along the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.

This was the first two-night trip Adam and I had done together since we did Skyline-to-the-Sea when I was 6 weeks pregnant with Arthur.
When I was planning this trip, Adam asked me how far we were hiking. "10 miles," I said. "Each day?" "No, total." It wasn't long into our afternoon of hiking that he realized what a wise bit of planning this was on my part; kids who don't have a pack (of any weight) on their back are happy to run along the trail and scramble up any and every boulder they see. Putting a pack on their backs puts us at an average speed under 1 mph.
Bennett, age 6

There were many helpful cairns throughout our hike.

Amity's boys are just 6 months younger than mine. We've all hiked together many times. I'm so glad she could hike with us while we're in California!

Love all the amazing rocks and boulders. So dramatic and beautiful.

Our first day of hiking was pretty easy, and we enjoyed many amazing boulder features along the way. It wasn't a day of big views, but there was lots of beauty.

We found an established sight just south of the river. We got there fairly close to dark, so there was a lot of work to do. This included hanging bear bags (canisters aren't required here, like they are in Yosemite). We all had watched the video on a clever method of keeping your food out of bears' reach. There were no problems, except that I had managed to bring two bottles of sunscreen and way to much food (including a good 3 pounds of candy) so my bear bag weight about 10 pounds.

Water-filtering and boulder-jumping site.
 For some reason there's all kinds of grazing allowed in the wilderness, so we heard a cowbell jangling loudly for much of our time at the campsite.

We slept in a little too long Saturday morning and didn't get on the trail until almost 10. It's a good thing we only planned to do 5 miles, since we had some issues pretty shortly after we got started.

On the trial again Saturday morning.

At the ranger station, the ranger had told us that a fire a couple years back had felled some trees, obscuring parts of the trail and the junction we needed to take west at Rock Lake to Elephant Rock. As a result we were nervous about finding our way to the correct trail and spent more than hour on a wild goose chase. Once we got to the trail junction we found that the ranger had give us some poor guidance.

The ranger told us we would have a hard time seeing the junction, the post would be gone, and the lake would be hard to see from the trail. None of these were remotely true.
 However, the lake was beautiful and many of us swam our cares away.

 Then we made our way down the trail to Elephant Rock. The trail was steep and rocky and less shady than it had been before the fire. We were glad to be going downhill instead of up in the afternoon sun.
Elephant Rock
 Elephant Rock was pretty impressive.

After our late start on Saturday we decided to get up at first light.

Here's my attempt at a photo of the moon in the early morning light.
 We were on the trail before 7!

Bennett with a view of Elephant Rock.

Amity was the head of the local orienteering club in Michigan.

Our group (except Bennett, who refused) at Duck Lake.

There are a few cool rundown cabins at Duck Lake.

Ready for the steep final push up to the trail head from Duck Lake.

I don't know how many times Arthur has told me how awesome and fun and great our trip was. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Tahoe adventures

When we decided to move to St Louis, we agreed to spend a month every summer escaping the smothering humidity in California. We started our first annual trip with a bang during a July 4 weekend trip to Carnelian Bay with three of the families we miss the most.

We bought a long weekend at a huge house at the Restore Hetch Hetchy fundraising auction in 2013. The house is on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Carnelian Bay and sleeps 18. We were joined by the Haberlachs, Binkerts and Franklin-Colers.

Athena and Lila at the table.
We had some difficulties in the first few days with 17-month-old Helen fighting a bug of some kind. She was fussy and grouchy, the opposite of her normal smiley self. Early Friday morning her fever peaked at about 104.5 and Nathan took her to ER in Truckee. The doc there determined that she didn't need any meds and said she should have Tylenol and Motrin to keep her comfy and she would get over it. She got pregressively better in the next few days and was giving everyone smiles and giggles every hour she wasn't asleep.
Helen spent a lot of time laying like this on Daddy, and some times falling asleep on this couch.

Friday midday she got some healing Vitamin D in a canoe ride with Mom, Amity and Arthur.
She fell asleep bent over in the canoe shortly after this.
The Binkerts brought four different rafts and canoes; the Haberlacs and Franklin-Colers brought some too, and much time was spent floating and paddling around the bay.

Amity and Arthur on our little paddling outing. 

Sunset from our backyard.

Marc helped many of the kids cast some lines.

Could that boy be better-looking??

Soccer time.

Sweet girl feeling better.

 I suggested sharing the dinner-making duties, as we have during big Schrenk family gatherings for the past few years (there are 23 of us now!). Each family chose a night to make dinner. We had tacos, chicken pot pie with a vegetarian quiche, spghetti and meatballs, and chili.

After our experience in Lake of the Ozarks, Arthur had his heart set on jet skiing on Lake Tahoe (OK, I really wanted to do it, too!) Amity was nice enough to watch our littler kids so we could go on the outing.

Haberlachs (I think; we were flying)

Arthur and me on the jet ski.

Binkerts, before Nate dumped them.

In short, it was a great weekend in a spectacular setting with some of our best friends. We're so glad one of the other Restore Hetch Hetchy board members decided to donate it!