Friday, March 14, 2014

middle school angst

Asher is only in the third grade but already petrified of middle school (thank you 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' book series).

Today, he heard some rumors swirling at lunch about the neighborhood middle school which sent him into a panic.

Asher:  Mom, I heard there are drugs at XXX Middle School.  I don't want to go there!

Me:  Asher, there are problems at all middle schools.  I'm sure everything will be fine.

Asher:  Oh.  Well... Mom?

Me:  Yes?

Asher:  What are drugs?

Eat Like A Japanese Exchange Student

Here is Yumi, mastering the art of the "American S'more."

I thought I was a pretty healthy eater until Yumi, our adorable and always agreeable Japanese exchange student, came to stay with us.

I don't eat much red meat, I try to load up on fruits and veggies, rarely to never drink soda.  We've successfully weaned our family off of fast food, except for rare occasions.   I do eat too much sugar, but everyone has their vice, right?

But Yumi uncovered all of my bad eating habits, exposing me as the ugly American eater that I am.

When Yumi first arrived at our house, she always sat down at the table when she ate, never snacked between meals, never asked for seconds.  She ate her meals painfully slowly.

I do none of the above.

On her second morning in our house, I was inhaling my breakfast at the kitchen counter while simultaneously packing school lunches and catching up on work email.  Yumi came up to me and asked, "Do I eat breakfast here [motioning to the kitchen counter], like you?  Is that what is normal for Americans?"


That became a constant question from Yumi to us. "Is that normal for Americans?"

Is that normal for Americans to drive their cars through the restaurant and pick up their food? (translation: use the drive through window)

Is that normal for Americans to go to the cafe (translation: Starbucks or equivalent) every day for coffee and treats?

So much food!  Is that normal for Americans?

Yes, we are freakin' fat slobs, ok?  And I thought I was better but now I just don't know.  Nothing reminds me of this more than when we all sit down together for dinner.  Yumi chews her food in this quiet, perfect (almost eerie) rhythm, while the Americans at the table sound like suffocating horses.

Please don't mistake Yumi's "normal American" question as casting judgment upon us.  She truly loves American culture and wants to understand it and embrace it with every cell in her 88 pound frame.  She stopped eating french fries with a fork.  By Week 2 in America, she was asking for seconds at meals.  Soon after, she was catching an earlier bus so she could grab a latte before her morning university classes. She has fallen in love with everything American from 'the Gap' to '7-11' (which they have BTW in Japan, but here you can buy yourself a hot dog!) to the 'Cheesecake Factory' to the movie 'Frozen'.

When Yumi discovered the show 'Glee' on our Netflix subscription, it was all over.  Every night after dinner, she settles down onto the couch with her electronic translator in hand, ready to take in all of the crazy American antics of the show choir misfits.  Watching Glee, for Yumi, is an active rather than passive hobby.  She frantically writes down American slang and used her translator to make sense of it.  Her face lights up and her body sways when they break out into song.   One evening, I made the unfortunate mistake of telling her that Cory Monteith, who plays the character Finn, had passed away the year before.  She sat up quickly in disbelief and shock, then quietly said goodnight for the evening.  I think she went downstairs to cry.

Tomorrow is Yumi's final day in America.  Last night, I went down to her room to ask a question and found her sprawled out on her bed, listening to Lady Gaga on her phone with a Coke in one hand and crunchy American Doritos in the other.   The transformation is complete.

I imagine Yumi returning home and her befuddled mother asking her in Japanese, "Is that normal for Japanese exchange students to return back from America as junk-food addicted Gleeks?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What's New in 2014

After an all-around fabulous year for Familia Guzman, 2013 ended really, really badly.  We are still dealing with much of the fallout, so I won't go into detail on the blog right now.... or probably ever.   But 2014 is looking up again!

This is what we're up to these days.....

Easy Ed just finished his first season as editor-in-charge of Seahawks coverage with a Super Bowl win!  And although he did absolutely nothing to contribute to their winning season, he did get to lead and edit  a book about the Seahawks season.  He also wrote a widely read and highly acclaimed blog post in the midst of 12th Man Fever.

Noe is up and running with his speech device, TouchChat on his iPad mini.  It is his "voice" and he is very motivated to communicate with it.  He is already requesting non-food items and social reinforcement independently.... such as requesting a break, or asking for help.... which makes me believe this will help him go further with his language than he ever has before.  One of his favorite things to say right now is "I want you to LISTEN to me!"  We're all ears, Buddy.

How does a 9yo kid in Seattle pass the rainy winter?  Playing for his school's Ultimate Frisbee team, of course!  Asher is also really enjoying his after-school cartooning class and continues to take piano lessons.  He gets up early most mornings to write stories and cartoons which I find bizarre but kind of cool.

Me?  I guess my big news is that I started a little small business side hustle teaching Lego robotics enrichment classes at local elementary schools.  I am starting small with two classes, but am already receiving bookings for spring classes.  I'm not giving up my day job anytime soon, but running a tiny business has been fun!  Oh -- and I'm training for another half marathon in May.  Some people impulsively buy shoes online....I impulsively sign up for races, forgetting the time commitment and the fact that I have the feet and knees of a woman twice my age!

Happy 2014!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Noe at 11

Noe in his classroom being goofy, last day before winter break!

Noe had a good birthday.  It was the first time he's had a party with other kids, even if they were his cousins.  And, honestly, he was ready to enjoy it.  I think doing it earlier with kids he knew less well would have stressed him out.

We were down in Portland, visiting my mom for Christmas, so we took everyone swimming at the nearby community center pool.  This pool has a great set-up.... a lazy river, a big slide, and a wading area for younger kids.  Luckily, some of my brothers and sisters helped me keep track of the kiddos and  everyone had fun.  Because some of the cousins were under-sized, I think I went down the slide at least 30 times in the 90 minutes we were at the pool. Noe went down independently and did a great job all around (only one whistle violation for standing on the wall!)

After swimming, we went back to my mom's for pizza and root beer floats.  Noe was in heaven.  He was so excited to blow his candles out of the pizza and after a long pause, blew them out with a big grin!  I even got him to sit down and open some of his presents.  He received a red scooter from grandma, and had a great time riding it for the rest of winter break.

I was teary-eyed through out the day.  I am so thankful he is happy and thriving at his own pace.  I am so thankful that my family loves and supports him, always finding ways to make him feel special and included.  Despite our ups and downs with Noe, we have much to be grateful for!

Five Myths of Sports Journalism

The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and suddenly Ed is the most popular guy in our neighborhood!  I feel like I am constantly running interference about what exactly he does for a living and how great ... and not so great... it is to work in sports.  As the long-suffering spouse of a sports journalist, I feel like I have my own unique perspective on the myths surrounding his chosen career.

Myth #1.  You must make a lot of money/make no money.  People assume one or the other, but in reality it is neither.  We are in the middle like most the rest of you folks.  Unless you are a popular columnist working for a national paper (lots o money), or working at a small town paper, or not yet established in the industry (no money), your salary is probably pretty average.

I think one negative way that journalism impacts family income is that the journalist in the family has such an unpredictable, non-traditional schedule that it puts a lot of pressure on the other spouse to be a consistent figure in the marriage and in the lives of their kids.  For me, this has meant only taking flexible and family-friendly employment opportunities and dabbling between part-time and full-time work, which I absolutely do not regret but has hurt my earning potential.

We aren't complaining. We live very comfortably and Ed loves his work.  When your dear father-in-law has hauled garbage for a living for the past 30 years (we're really encouraging him to retire soon!), a middle class salary and a cushy work desk to call your own are all pretty fantastic.

Myth #2.  You must get tons of comp tickets to sporting events..... I wish!  There is a huge conflict of interest when sports teams start doling out free tickets to media outlets, who are obligated to cover teams in an unbiased and professional manner.  So it doesn't happen (often).  I have gone to events with Ed, such as the 2001 Rose Bowl, but usually only last minute when another reporter doesn't show and there is an unclaimed press pass.  But then I get "shushed" by Ed when I say something because he is trying to focus on covering the game, but it is boring to just watch in silence, so then I go and make small talk with the free food tables, and when the game is over I am ready to go but Ed still has to actually write and file a gamer, so I wait...and it is just not the best live sporting experience.

When we attend events as a family, I am always trying to get Ed to flash his work badge at the entrance so we can get in free, but he is way more ethical than me, and won't ever do it.

Myth #3.  You must sit around and watch sports all day at the office.  Well, this is partly true.  There is downtime during games when there isn't much to do but watch and wait for the outcome. But when it's over and reporters begin filing their stories, it is GAME ON!  There is a lot of pressure on deadline.  Not life-or-death-I-am-a-surgeon-and-have-a-human-heart-in-my-hand kind of pressure, but the newspaper has always come out and no one wants to be the one to end that streak.  Or have their headline show up on some journalism blog because they left out the 'l' in public.... you get the idea.

Myth #4. You must love the home team and always root hard for them.  Ummm... No!  More
wins equals longer hours and more work.  I can confidently say that journalism spouses root against the home team in almost all instances.  Reporters and editors?  It is more complicated because it can be fun to ride the wave of a popular and winning team.   At this point of the Seahawks season, I would love to see the Hawks win the Super Bowl (before last week I wanted them to lose! I know...I'm awful!).  Ed will be working long hours regardless of the outcome and a win will bring more notoriety and money to the newspaper.  And Ed will get to publish a book he has been working on since August!  The book is contingent on a Seahawks Super Bowl victory.  He will finish it the night of the Super Bowl and send it off for publishing early the next morning.  It will be on store shelves by the Wednesday following the Super Bowl. #shamelessplug

Myth #5.  Newspapers are dying; better get an Internet job.  Well, it depends on the specific newspaper or website you are referencing.  A truer general statement would read that newspapers have been unforgivably slow to embrace Internet technology and many have not or will not survive. Web journalism has also struggled to find a profitable business model despite delivering content in  technologically savvy ways.  Since Ed has his heart set on staying in journalism, our strategy has always been to find jobs at media outlets with strong financials who are looking (and moving towards) the future of the industry.  This is where my MBA has come in handy, and it hasn't let us down (yet).   We've had just about as many friends laid off from Internet companies as we have from traditional newspapers, so I am unsure where one would find the most job stability.  My opinion is that in a few years, the remaining newspapers and sports internet sites won't look much different from each other in content or delivery of content.

I sadly admit that I don't follow sports nearly as closely as I did when I was younger.  I still love my Blazers and love to catch a good college basketball game (both men and women).  We usually make it out to a pro baseball game or two each summer and I'm starting to follow soccer a little more closely.  But mostly, it isn't a huge part of our private life.  Part of that is just the busyness of a life filled with kids and work and friends.  But we also purposefully close ourselves off from it all.  For example, we have been living in Seattle for nine months and still haven't bothered to buy a television set.  Ed needs to take a breath.  And honestly, sometimes I resent it. The time it steals from our family and our relationship.   The unorthodox schedule which has claimed our weekends, date nights, and evenings spent together eating dinner and doing homework with the kids.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Seattle Life - 6 Month Review

The Seattle Big Wheel

A solid six months into our Pacific Northwest experiment, Seattle feels like home.  For me, it is just the right amount of new adventure and cozy-warm-blanket familiarity.  Noe loves the parks and playgrounds, the ubiquitous water, our frequent bus rides around the city.  Asher would probably be happy anywhere, but has embraced the history and geography of Seattle as only his little nerdy self could do.  Ed just loves his job.  Seriously....who gets PAID to go to Redskin Seahawk games?  And his ten minute commute to the office.

Asher 'contributing to his city'
at the infamous Gum Wall

Here are some of the things we've found to be unique about our not-so-little gray city in the fog.....

So friendly.  Traffic is horrible, but someone always waves you in (I had to relearn the "courtesy driving wave").  There is a lot of politeness going on in this city....especially the polite smile.  My mouth muscles hurt a lot.  They are clearly out of smiling shape after a decade on the East Coast.

We went to Ed's department BBQ at the end of the summer.  I wasn't really looking forward to attending, figuring it would be a lot of forced, stiff conversation or a brag-fest, which has been my experience at previous other unnamed newspaper events.  But everyone was SO friendly and fun.  Most of the afternoon I spent trying to figure out everyone's angle .... What exactly did they want from us?  On the way home it finally occurred to me.  Oh, they were being nice.

Beauty. Portland is more livable, but Seattle is beautiful.  I still have frequent moments when my breath leaves me for a second   Last month, it was the leaves turning colors along the lake.  Today, it was clear and cold and the snowcapped Cascades and Olympic mountains were stunning. The combination of mountains, water, and cityscape is pretty unbeatable.  The parks and beaches within city limits are pretty amazing too.        
Carkeek Park.  Close and one of
our favorites!

Style.  I'm still trying to figure out my personal Seattle style, which has been fun. It has involved Keens, scarves, puffy vest jackets, layers.  I've always hated wearing makeup.  I love that most women don't wear much here.  I've also seen many older women with striking gray hair.  Natural is beautiful.

Marijuana.  It is in the air, on the buses, everywhere.  Legally.  I don't have any problem with people smoking responsibly, but pot smells like dead skunk to me.

Frugality.  There is a lot of money in Seattle.  But for a big city, there is a lot of frugality as well.  My days of having a fantastically-stocked Goodwill to myself in NoVA are o-ver. Saturdays and thrift stores equal a complete madhouse in Seattle.  Same with Freecycle.   I've given up trying to actually get something for free on the site and just give things away.

Seattle Gray. I spotted a shade of gray during a recent trip to the paint store called Seattle gray...and yeah... the shade perfectly captured the dominate color of the city.  I think it's majestic, tranquil, slightly eerie.  It is also impossible to tell what time of day it is outside.  It could be 7AM, noon, or 4PM and the sky looks exactly the same.  It makes it very difficult to get out of bed in the mornings.  One can easy to understand Seattle's fascination with coffee after spending a few days in Seattle Gray.      
Gray on Green Lake
Diet. We eat more fish, it is cheap and fresh here.  There are summer gardens growing everywhere, renegade gardens in public spaces and along sidewalks.  I picked a summers worth of blackberries along the lake's edge, herbs at the 'free u-pick' neighborhood garden, and got a crate of free tomatoes from our neighborhood school's garden.  As for treats, there is an awesome hot chocolate place called Chocolati and a Ben and Jerry's near the lake.  We still have a lot of restaurant exploration to do.  The high sales tax in the city makes it less fun to spend money on non-essentials.

Apparently, North Face will sponsor your bike commute?

Seattle Green. I like this aspect of the city but it can be a bit stressful.  Did I sort my recycling correctly? Is my food organic enough? Will people judge me if I drink from a disposable plastic water bottle?  There are lots of people riding bikes, but not a great biking infrastructure.  Portland is more militant green than Seattle, but for a bigger city, Seattle's environmentalism is pretty impressive.

UW campus.  We spend a lot of time
here for Noe's autism therapies.

Lost Pets. It is crazy how many people are losing and then frantically searching for lost dogs and cats in this city!  Every telephone poll in my neighborhood is wrapped inlayers of photos of perky dogs and cats who have lost their way.  The boys and I get flagged down at the park and on the street all of the time by people slowly driving the streets of North Seattle, "Have you seen Fido?" they ask.  I've even seen dedicated Facebook pages to lost pets with HUGE rewards.  I haven't figured out if there are just greater numbers of cats and dogs here, impassioned owners, or if there is some crazy factor that increases the likelihood that you will lose your pet in this city.

Enjoying a sunny day at Green Lake

Friday, December 6, 2013

Familia Guzman Dino-vember

I said an emphatic 'NO' to Elf in the Shelf when those obnoxious little elves hit the shelves.   Mostly because it felt like 'one more thing' to buy and keep up with during the holiday season.  But when I saw this, I thought....we can do this!  And we did (for a week)!  We used dinosaurs from the kids' toy closet.  Ed and I worked together to come up with fun nightly scenes of chaos and destruction (and we blatantly copied the originators as well).

Noe was 'eh' about the whole thing, but Asher LOVED it!  He was SO AMAZED by the dinosaurs antics and you could see his mind trying to logically solve the puzzle of how these toy dinosaurs could create middle-of-the-night chaos.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from that week.....

Dino breakfast cereal heist

Taking the plunge

Morning beauty routine

Strummin' Ed's guitar

Art class