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Showing posts from 2007

Like Glitter Falling in a Snow Globe...Except Noisier

It has been an utterly exhausting week. Of course, with Christmas, and visits to family, and visits from family, and all manner of joyful mayhem, it was bound to be exhausting. I feel 2007 limping to a close, and I'm thankful to get out with some semblance of my wits about me. One of my New Year's resolutions is to locate the rest of my wits and reinstall them: we'll see how that goes. In the meantime, here are some highlights from our past week.

We found an absolutely AWESOME professional easel for Vincenzo's Santa Claus gift, and we found it on Craigslist for about 75% less than what we would have paid for it at an art store. It's beautiful; looks like this. We couldn't have been more tickled with our find. And Samuel's godparents gave him a DVD of Hamlet, the Kenneth Brannagh version (you can read more about Samuel's continuing Shakespeare obsession in this previous post).

So, after the obligatory chaos of everyone opening presents and colorful …

Before, After, and In Between

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Christmas is upon us. Practically sitting on my chest, in fact. And Christmas is heavy.

It's been a noisy week in Lake Alatorre. We've had the school Christmas Program, a Basketball Tournament (we're in the Final Game! Yeah! Mixed Blessing!), baking til 3AM, last day of school, school parties, a birthday party invitation to honor, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating . . .

I am continually amazed at the ebb and flow of chaos and order around here. One minute, the dining room looks like this:



And miraculously, after a little elbow grease, it looks like this:


Lovely, isn't it? Lasts for about 10 seconds before it spontaneously combusts into mayhem once more.

There is so very much to do at this time of year. We are notoriously bad at taking care of things ahead of time, so we are once again down to the wire on a few gifts, important ones, too. Each year, I vow to start earlier so that I can spend these last few days before Christmas enjoying family and friends rather…

Tell Me Everything I Need To Know

Yesterday at school, Samuel went to the "Santa Sale," the annual opportunity for kids to buy cheap stuff for their families for Christmas. He bought some things for his brother and sister, and then apparently gave some of his money to his classmates. One boy told Samuel that if Samuel gave him some money, he would stop being mean to him. Well, we had to explain to our darling son that this wasn't OK, and that he should not have given money to the other boy just so he would be his friend. And that the other boy -- and anyone else he gave money to -- should not have asked.

Rick explained that this is what's called "buying friends," and we had to have a conversation about how this isn't appropriate, etc., etc. Samuel is pretty sensitive about things, and he felt really terrible about this. Unfortunately, he felt like he had done something very wrong, despite our efforts to reassure him that it was not his fault, that this was something he just didn&…

Fun Monday Ornament

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Today's Fun Monday is brought to us by kaytabug, and here is her assignment:

In the spirit of the season I would like to see your favorite Christmas tree ornament. Not to be confused with the WHOLE tree. I want you to zoom in and show me one or a few(you know I can't choose just one!) of your favorite ornaments. If you don't decorate a tree, show me your menorah or dreidel, Kinara, or Yule Log. I want to see your favorite decoration for this holiday season.

* * *

Once upon a time, there were two young people who were very much in love and had recently gotten engaged. They were carefree, full of hope and anticipation, giddy...clueless.

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments captures the clueless joy of my then-fiance and me perfectly, and I must thank my wonderful mother-in-law for making this ornament and giving it to us.



I love looking at this ornament and laughing at how much I didn't know then, and wishing for a little of that innocence today. Twelve years and five…

Fun Monday: I'm A Novice, so Bear With Me!

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I have noticed that everyone else linked back to our gracious host, and included her text of the assignment this week. A day (almost) late, I am doing the same now:


Today’s Fun Monday host is Robinella. Her assignment is this:

“In honor of exhaustion, color and self-love, I present you with this week’s assignment. I want you to dig through your blog files and show us your best effort. Why you consider it your best is up to you. C’mon, you know you have a favorite - show it to me one more time”.

Fun Monday: One of My Favorite Posts

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Today I am participating in a fun blogging thing called Fun Monday. The idea is that one blogger hosts, and picks an assignment for others to do if they choose to participate. The assignment this week was to pick a favorite blog post and simply repost it. This is the first time I've done Fun Monday, and it's nice to start on something simple! So here, without further ado, a reprisal of one of my favorite posts, from my not-yet-well-established blogging habit.

Just Another Fun Filled Day


Monday morning: Get up at 5:45 to make it to the grocery store when it opens at 6, because there isn't enough "lunch box" type food in the house for the school day. Stop on the way out the door because the baby has woken up. OK, so feed the baby first, drop her on the bed with dad, and off to the store. Think vaguely about what to make for dinner...give up on that one. Expend brain cells trying to balance nutritious lunch items with items the children will actually eat. …

Snack Time

Yesterday, while I was cooking dinner, Lola wandered into the kitchen and asked for a snack. Before I could say no, wait for dinner to be ready, she specified the snack she wanted: a clove of garlic.

So, being the nice mommy that I am, I peeled a whole clove of garlic and handed it over. She proceeded to munch away happily.

Dad's response? "Keep doing that when you're in high school, sweetie!"

Of course, she almost knocked me over a few hours later when she put her adorable little face in mine for a kiss...whew!

London Calling

Consider for a moment the very first task I must complete on a daily basis: GET FIVE CHILDREN OUT THE DOOR AND TO SCHOOL/DAYCARE ON TIME. It's a big job. Getting all five of them "processed" (fed, clothed, shoe-ed, equipped with lunch and ready to go), is enough to send me back under the covers pleading for the impossible: extra sleep, more time, and a magic wand. Some days, everything just clicks. I've learned that I don't have much control over when those days happen. It's like the Morning Gods just randomly decide that everything will go smoothly, no one will spill anything, shoes will appear exactly when I need them, no one will have a last minute library book to look for. Then there are the days when nothing goes smoothly.

Yesterday began shaping up to be one of those days. In particular, getting the boys up was monumentally difficult. Sometimes, it takes me 20 minutes just to get them to lift their heads off of their pillows. They can devote ano…

Family Photos

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While we were away for the Thanksgiving holiday, we took the kids to a school near Grandma Lola's house to play. It was great. Without the distractions of home, and work, and chores, and the next activity to get to, the only thing to do was play. Grandma kept Tallulah home, and the rest of us spent a few hours swinging, running, digging in the sand, spinning (and getting dizzy), playing soccer, and just generally enjoying the sunshine. Here, mostly for the benefit of our extended family, are some pictures of the kids:





Through My Daughter's Eyes

Lola's teacher told me yesterday that the class was talking about Mary, and how hard it must have been for her to make the journey to Bethlehem being 9 months pregnant and ready to drop. She (the teacher) described how it must have been very painful and difficult to ride the donkey while basically in labor. Lola piped up with something like: "My mom could ride that donkey; nothing hurts her, and she never got hurt with babies in her tummy!"

While I would like to think that this is evidence that she thinks I am superwoman, I'm sure she has heard me tell people how easy my pregnancies were for me. This has translated into "pain free" for her. Should I tell her now, or let her have a rude awakening sometime in the distant future? I believe this goes in the category of Things No One Ever Told Me And It's A Good Thing They Didn't Or I Never Would Have Done This.

This reminds me of the time, a few years ago, when in the space of one week, Lola's …

I'm Not Buying It

It's the Holiday season. One way I know this is that people are already wishing me "Happy Holidays!" Well, not people so much as companies. While I haven't started hearing this from individual folks, I have heard it from Honda of San Francisco, Lucky's Supermarket, and Rubio's.

I'm not buying it. I am not purchasing a Honda this year or patronizing Lucky's for the majority of my Holiday food shopping, nor am I believing that these companies are truly wishing me well. I think they just want my money.

And speaking of the Holidays: I know the secular trend over the past several years has been to refrain from saying Merry Christmas, to use the more generic Happy Holidays instead. Do the politically correct-os out there realize that they are actually saying "Happy Holy Days?" So while Happy Holidays may in fact be broad enough to include all of the religiously based celebrations at this time of year, it still conveys that these days are,…

I Want My Children To Be Happy

Oh, how I wish this were as sweet a sentiment as it sounds.

In actuality, it couldn't be more selfish. I want my children to be happy purely so I won't have to listen to fighting, yelling, and whining.

Last night, beginning in the car on the way home from the 3rd grade basketball game, and continuing throughout the bedtime ritual, my children fought or yelled about the post-game snacks, who was sitting where in the car, how unfair it is that the 2nd grader can't be on the team, how unfair it is that next year is "1000 days away," how unfair it is that mom was hugging the howling 2nd grader and not "me," and a few other things my brain has no more room to contain. The experience left me weak and listless on the couch.

On the bright side, the cacophony did not start until the van door was safely shut, thereby creating the illusion that my children are really peaceful, loving people. That's at least something to be thankful for in this month of Th…

Stealth Parenting

If there was one thing I could change about what kind of mother I am, it would be how I feed my children. At least that's what it would be this week. I am one of those mothers who -- gasp! -- tends to cook one meal for the grown-ups and one for the kids. I am not proud of this. I am convinced that all those mothers who are able to get their kids to eat whatever they have prepared are miracle-workers, and am secretly afraid that the fact that my children do not eat the taco casserole or the baked fish or the lemon chicken pasta means that I am a bad mother.

Plus, this is one of those things that has an aura of shame around it, so much so that a "dig" at that kind of mother made it into the movie Dan in Real Life, which Rick and I got to see last weekend. (A great movie: go see it!) The main character is a guy who writes a parenting column, and at a family dinner, someone derisively referred to a woman as a short order cook for her family. I cringed inwardly. I can…

Shakespeare Days

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My 9 year old son is obsessed with Shakespeare.



Now, I know that's not something you hear everyday. It's not something I would have expected. It's a wonderful thing that we are having a spot of trouble managing.

Before I paint the full picture, let me also say that Samuel is obsessed with having his own cell phone, playing video games, playing sports, Captain Underpants, and various other very typical 9-year old boy stuff.

But this past summer, we enrolled him in a 2-week Shakespeare theatre camp, and life has not been the same since.

For about three days a few months ago, every chance he got, he would pull out the full text of King Lear, put the audio-version on our CD player, and follow along with the words. Not having 3 hours in a row to devote to this activity, he asked me to bring it along in the car, so he could listen and follow along as we drove around doing errands. When we got home, he would immediately put the CD in the home stereo and disappear behind the b…

And the Rap Sheet Gets Longer...

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Her criminal behavior continues. However, I now think that rather than reading about her in the crime blotter, I'll hear about her in those "Not-The-Brightest-Bulb-Criminal" stories that go around. Today, my lovely Elizabeth was sitting next to me...right next to me, in fact...when at a certain point, she covered her whole self with her blankey and proceeded to unwrap a package of whoppers.

(Some of you may rightly be asking, "Why hasn't this woman hidden or gotten rid of all of the candy yet?" I keep asking myself this same question. But then, I inevitably answer something along the lines of: "Because I like the chocolate, too, dammit, and because yes it's a 5 minute job but if you could see my list of 5 minute jobs you would understand that I could spend the next 10 years trying to cross off everything on that particular list and moving the candy just doesn't rank! Having enough socks for 14 feet ranks! Finding my hairbrush ranks! Mov…

You are SO Busted

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Our good friend Eric once remarked about Elizabeth that she was destined either to go to prison or become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (also allowing for the possibility that she could be a CEO who goes to prison).

Based on her behavior over the past few days, we seem to be leaning definitively in the direction of incarceration.

The night after Halloween, during the bustle that is our home each evening, Elizabeth was strangely silent. She crawled under the dining room table with a couple of toys to keep her busy, and remained there for a surprisingly long time. As Rick and I hurtled through the house processing people for bedtime and generally doing what we do, I glanced every now and then over her way. Her back was to me, and I thought, "How cute...she's really enjoying some little make believe game!"

A little while later, here she was, out from her hiding place...and smelling like candy! One look under the table: THOSE WEREN'T TOYS SHE WAS PLAYING WITH! There…

Halloween Madness

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My goodness, who knew that Halloween could be so exhausting? I've been through a few of these holidays over the past five years, but apparently, I wasn't prepared. I don't mean the costumes -- those I had taken care of, or enough that I didn't have much to do the day before Halloween. Let's see, Tuesday had me making a fancy gold "R" bling necklace for my Brazilian soccer star, gluing Cinderella medallions on a pair of cloppy shoes, cutting the feet out of a 9-months monkey costume, so it would fit my 13-month-old, making a pirate flag...and a few other things I can't remember.

But that's not what did me in. What did me in was the Halloween parties at school, the over-the-top excitement in anticipation of trick-or-treating, the scheduling -- who is taking whom where and when do they need to be picked up -- the trick-or-treating, and finally, attempting to combat the sugar high of four hyped-up, strung-out candy junkies. Oh, and then being th…

Quilting Pride!

My aunt (and Godmother!) Carol is an amazing quilter. Actually, she's amazing at a number of sewing crafts -- she's made many wonderful gifts for my family, from dolls, to quilts, to stuffed animals, to afghans...she's very talented. And now, that talent has her competing for a $100,000 prize for a truly beautiful and intricate quilt that she first made as a gift for my uncle (her brother) and his wife.

The national contest she entered is called The $100,000 Quilting Challenge, and the goal is to showcase the best quilts in order to inspire and educate others about quilting and to promote quilting as a unique art. Carol once explained to me the dizzying process of qualifying, and passing through various stages of judging, and believe me, it's quite a process. I don't even understand it all, but I do understand that Carol's quilt has landed her in the running to be the Grand Prize Winner! WAY TO GO CAROL!

And here's where we all come in: WE CAN VOTE F…

How To Be a Cool Third Grader

1. Get a cell phone.
2. Get to school on time.
3. Get MacDonald's.
Apparently, life is about "getting."

Samuel brought this list to me this morning, right after I told the kids that I thought we were probably going to be late for school. I had decided that being late was preferable to stressing out the kids by rushing and yelling. I was just going to take it easy and not ruin everyone's morning by attempting to blast through breakfast, getting dressed, packing backpacks, etc. But I had not considered the cool factor, so it's good he brought me his list.

I thought the on time part was odd...because we are never late for school. Maybe he was building a list with at least one thing that would qualify him as cool, because he sure as hell knows by now that numbers 1 and 3 are pipe dreams.

At the risk of sounding like every generation of parents that can't believe the things kids are into "these days," I would like to know why cell phones and MacD…

Haiku for My Children

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Crying in the night,
Heart sinking at losing sleep.
Catching up with you.

***

You: force of nature,
Caught in rare quiet moment.
What is it you see?



***

Evening windows up.
Kids playing, shouting, running.
Neighbors hurry by!

***

Soccer game muddy.
Gives me dirty laundry, and
Boys that smell like earth.

***

Escape to shower
Revel in water, steam, warmth.
Can still hear mayhem.

***

Requiem for Elmo

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Parents everywhere, prepare yourselves and your little ones. I am sad to report a tragedy, one that will cast a pallor over many a small heart.

I entered my daughters' room this morning only to discover that beloved Elmo had passed. Lola had, carefully, thoughtfully, tenderly, laid him out in repose, almost as if she intended for family members to come and pay their respects.


Still to be determined is whether or not beloved Elmo's passing is the result of natural consequences or foul play. Perhaps he fell in Dorothy's bowl when no one was around. There is a rumor that Mr. Noodle has a dark side, and an investigation will need to take place to rule out any crime.

One only wishes that muppets could actually close their eyes; perhaps the scene I confronted would have seemed less gruesome if they could.

Please join me in a moment of silence for dear Elmo.

***

silence

***

I am having trouble "moving the body," so to speak. I would like to clean up a bit in there, …

Questions, Questions

This whole blogging thing is harder than I thought it would be! I haven't had any time in the past few days to post anything. We've had a busy, but relatively unexciting weekend of soccer games and general playing; Rick worked a long day on Sunday. Before I knew it, that time I was carving out to write got eaten up by feeding, cleaning, playing, and various other activities.

But this whole idea about kids playing on their own, or discovering the outdoors, well, it's just been in the news these days, hasn't it? Yesterday's Chronicle had another article about kids being unused to -- even uncomfortable in -- the great outdoors. Another good read. Rick and I wish we could pick up and move somewhere rural and quiet and conducive to hours of outdoor play. Maybe we will someday...

***

And here's a small list of the questions I got yesterday from my oldest, after he and his brother spent time with some friends, two boys about their ages. These are kids we really l…

Overprotected Kids?

I just read this article on SFGate.com (website of the San Francisco Chronicle), and it goes well with my musings on when to let the kids play outside.

Our next door neighbor gave Samuel a copy of the book the article refers to, The Dangerous Book for Boys. Now we have to make the time and space for the kids to actually do some of the things in the book.

Next challenge: Fearless parenting.

Freakin' Mom

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I sent my kids to their after-school care program the other day, which we don't do that often so they aren't that used to it. When I walked in, Samuel came running over shouting "FINALLY!" over and over and over. It was a little touching and a little overwhelming.

Later that evening, he said to me: "Mom, when we were waiting for you to pick us up, I was wondering why you were taking so long, and I meant to say 'where's my crazy mom' but instead, and I don't know how this happened, it just came out, but I said 'where's my freakin' mom." He was bothered by this, because he knew he had said something approaching a swear word. (Is this a swear word? I think so...but I'm not really sure...)

Now, I could spend time and brain cells trying to trace back where he picked up this jewel -- I would admit to it if I thought he got it from me, and I don't really think this is one of his dad's preferred curses -- but I was suffi…

Craving Independence

As the kids get older, they, especially Samuel, are craving little opportunities to exert their independence. Sam wants, for example, his own cell phone and an ipod. Yeah right. Don't hold your breath, kid. He asked me how old I was when I got my first cell phone: I had to break the unfathomable news to him that I was around 28, and that there were no cell phones when I was a kid. (As if from a script, Vincenzo used the opportunity to ask if "they" had electricity when I was little.) So these are the no-brainers: sorry Sam, you have to wait until you are older.

But there are other things that Rick and I are struggling with whether or not to let them do. A boy from down the street knocked the other day and asked if the boys "could come out and play." Sounds like the quintessential childhood question. But I didn't let them go. We know the boy a little bit, not well, but well enough to know he's a sweet kid, very friendly and polite. But we don&#…

Blog Action Day: Slow Food!

Today I am participating in Blog Action Day. As some of you may know, today is the day that Blogger has set aside for bloggers to write about THE ENVIRONMENT, as it pertains to their life and blogs. So here's my contribution.

I have become more and more interested in the Slow Food Movement. This is the movement devoted to getting people more aware of and involved in the way food appears on their table, and how their personal choices about food consumption impact the community and the world. Slow Food means local food: buying your food from local growers and farmers.

At our house, one way we have switched to "local food" is by purchasing an organic veggie box from River Dog Farm. I absolutely love this box of veggies. My kids get excited about going to pick up the box (it's dropped off at a central site for local subscribers to pick up from), and often, the fresh bell peppers do not even make it back to our house. We get green beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, e…

NPR Envy

Every mother has a secret life.

The one she would rather be living on the days when the kids are fighting too much, when there are too many dirty dishes, piles of laundry, diapers to change, problems to solve. In other words, every day. This secret life is the one that looks fabulous, meaningful, and thrilling. Here is mine:

I want to be Linda Wertheimer. Or Michele Norris. Or Nina Totenberg. I want to be a correspondent for National Public Radio. Of course, this fantasy comes partly from an intense desire to do something OTHER than the many tasks I have to do each day. Here are the things that I am sure are not on the job description of an NPR correspondent:

1. Field the following questions: Why is she looking at me? Where is my yo-yo? Can I have ice cream for lunch? Why does he get to do all the fun stuff? Why don’t you let me do anything fun?

2. Spend the majority of your day cooking three meals for ungrateful and frightfully picky eaters; follow up each meal by cleaning …

You're Going to Do What?

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These are the words that would go with this face, if she knew what I am contemplating:


I am about to wean her from breastfeeding. Half by choice, and half by circumstance, and 100% a big deal for both of us.

It's just happening naturally, between her sleeping through the night, mornings getting crazier, needing to put her down before the older kids go to bed, having her at daycare three days a week...the opportunities for regular feeding times have dwindled. Yesterday, I did not breastfeed her at all; that was a first. It just happened that way.

I am mourning a little bit about this; I will miss her little warm body curled around my middle, her little fists beating my chest to make the milk flow faster, her sweaty head growing heavy with sleep crooked in my arm. I'll miss the sound of her little gulps. I'll miss the feeling of the milk flowing out of me and into her. I will, in short, miss having a baby. It seems that once they stop breastfeeding, they start growing u…

Homework Hell

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I am a reasonable, intelligent, dare I say compassionate person. I have the ability to tackle new projects, organize events, and guide small children through a long day. I know how to bandage a scrapped knee, make toast, resolve an argument, write an email and get dinner started ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I am, in short, capable of many things.

Then why, oh why, is it utterly impossible for me to be patient with my son when he is doing his homework???? As I write this, he is doing math at the table next to me. And I am trying desperately not to scream and jump out of my skin as I watch him day dream, pause, get distracted, take off his shoes, put them back on, adjust his paper, sharpen his pencil, take a drink of water, and generally STALL. I WANT TO SCREAM. We have been doing homework for 1 hour and 15 minutes so far, and he still has 10 math problems to do. He's gotten through two other assignments and half of this one in that time. The poor kid HATES doing home…

Here Kitty Kitty

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When I was a kid, so the story goes, I would pretend to be a cat, and my mom would put bowls of milk on the floor for me. I would only come to "Kitty." At least, this is what my babysitter, who wrote a paper about me for her high school child development class, claims. I do not remember this. I think it's very neat that my mom played along with the bowls of milk and all. And mom, you'll be happy to hear that the practice is alive and well at my house, only I have both a cat (Lola) and a dog (Elizabeth).



Reminder to self, and to anyone else who would like to learn from my mis-steps: When attempting to settle your squirmy children down for bed, best not to give in to the temptation to be silly, as I did this evening. What possessed me? I do not know. For some unfathomable reason, when I was getting the boys to brush their teeth, I decided to do so in a French accent: "Take your teeeeth into zee bathroom, and brush them." Which then, getting sillier…

Childhood, Brought To You By...

I worry about the impact of commercialism and consumerism on my kids. Actually, I worry about it a lot, and I don’t think I worry about it enough. The older ones especially are very aware of and intrigued by brand names, logos, companies that seem “cool.” Lots of people will say this is just normal. But it’s SO prevalent these days, and SO insidious, that I suspect that we don’t even know what damage is being done.

Since pretty early on, we have talked to the kids about commercials. While they don’t watch any regular programs on TV, we do watch sports. Soccer especially, lots of baseball, basketball…and the commercials for sports are fairly intense. My then 6 and 4 year olds had a conversation in the car one day about what make of car is the best, and I know they were basing their opinions on the ads they have seen. So we tried explaining to them that a company will make its car (or whatever) look absolutely great in a commercial, because the people who own the company want y…

For Lack of a Better Idea

I've been trying to think of what to write about all morning, and I'm coming up with nothing. Probably because I'm not having such a great day...kind of blah and blue and uninspired. So I decided just to tell a few stories. These are a random bunch, with no particular connection except that I hope I remember them FOREVER.

Story #1:
Back in the day when we were a family of four (or maybe five, I do sort of lose track), we were experiencing some pretty gnarly sleep deprivation. Which, if you have experienced it -- parents, medical professionals, POW's -- you know how disorienting it can be. We were also being subjected to Raffi music in high doses, which, now that I think about it, could also be used as a strategy for wearing down POW's. Our boys LOVED Raffi, and we did too, at first. But there are only so many times a parent can get excited about "The more we get together, together, together..." Conversely, there is no end to how many times a small c…